In effect the entire future of the UK is now heavily dependent on the decision making of a political party that thinks gay marriage is a sin and that got 292,316 votes at the last election. The Green Party got almost twice as many votes with 525,435.
Right from the start of the Brexit process many of us have been pointing out that there are only two possible styles of leaving the EU. One style is to follow all the rules but not make any of them. That is the option that our Prime Minister is trying to sell to her party and to the country. It solves the border problems but is a completely pointless exercise which simply weakens the UK. The other style is to have a hard Brexit. That means different rules, regulations and tariffs which automatically means border checks, giant lorry parks and the need for a proper border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Boris, cake and eat it, Johnson is busy telling us all that in the modern world you don’t need a border because you can do all the checks at the point of origin with wonderful new technology. That technology only exists in his own mind. How do you control the movement of agricultural produce across a border by technology checks at the point of origin?
When there was a hard border with checkpoints between Northern Ireland and Ireland it was a smugglers paradise with the IRA in particular making very significant income out of exploiting the different tax and regulation regimes on both sides. Has Northern Ireland really reached such a pitch of harmonious understanding and gentle good citizenship that no one in that country would try and make money over fiddling Boris’ wonderful new regime?
Theresa May has tried really hard on Brexit to delay making any difficult choices, to detoxify those choices and to deliver the most banal Brexit she can manage. She correctly sees that as a lot less damaging for Britain than pursuing dreams of a new boom period for UK companies being generated by lorry parks on motorways near Dover and serious financial losses for any manufacturing companies that rely on parts coming in from Europe. That’s virtually every manufacturer in the UK of any size and complexity.
Trying to become a great trading nation by having your leading manufacturers lose a lot of money and a lot of their custom is not a great strategy. So May now has to decide. Does she face down her enemies and try and sell some kind of compromise deal or does she cobble together the best deal she can, with as many delays and fudges as she can, and try and get that through Parliament.
If she wants to preserve her own political future there is no choice at all. If she goes for the hard Brexit option her career is over. None of those who believe in the merits of this outcome want her to lead it and she simply cannot sell this outcome to the British people as any kind of success after what she has repeatedly said about how damaging it would be. By contrast she could try and sell a bad compromise deal and tell us all what a genius she has been if she gets us past the end of March and nothing much happens.
That means her alliance with the DUP is going to have to end. It also means she is going to have to face down a fresh wave of resignations and probably try and win a leadership contest within the Conservative Party. Given the divisions between her rivals and their high level of incompetence she is more likely to win a vote amongst Conservative MPs than lose it. Given the divisions amongst the Labour Party she might just win a vote on Brexit. Her best bet is, however, to go to the SNP and ask what their price would be for abstaining.
The future of this country therefore depends on the outcome of bizarre political machinations within a deeply divided Conservative Party, on finding yet another solution to the problem of the political and economic divides on the island of Ireland, on defections from other parties and on striking cynical deals with parties that want to prevent a damaging hard Brexit.
In other words we are about to have our future decided by obscure backroom deals. Nothing could be further removed from “strong and stable” government. Nothing could be more remote from “letting the people decide”.
There is, of course, one way out of this mess. We could hold a second referendum and see whether people want a hard Brexit, May’s deal or to call the whole stupid thing off and start addressing the concerns of people in the real world.