Friday 22 February 2019

No-Brexit Brexit's looking better all the time

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

With a heavy heart, last week I had to correct an error made by the BBC's Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg. She had quoted Keir Starmer's line at the British Labour Party conference, that "Nobody is ruling out Remain", and she had tweeted: "Impossible to imagine this a year ago."

I felt obliged to point out that I was imagining this two years ago, in these pages, when it seemed to me that the only viable real-world solution was that there would be no Brexit. Or to be precise, the No-Brexit Brexit. Which is essentially Brexit with most of the bad bits of Brexit taken out - which is basically everything about Brexit taken out.

In this vision which was "impossible to imagine a year ago", the UK would Remain for most practical purposes in the EU, though they might be pretending that they are doing something else. And life would go on.

In my imaginings, I was guessing that eventually the UK would choose a solution other than self-destruction. That however they managed it, the UK would decide "not to disembowel itself with a rusty hacksaw", figuratively speaking. Though the purists among the Brexiteers may prefer to go for this literally, or at least to have others go for it, while they make their own arrangements which ensure it will personally cost them nothing.

Now I accept that sometimes a people will indeed become perversely self-destructive; that nationalism is such a degenerate force, it can make oblivion seem like a reasonable alternative to the making of some agreement with your perceived enemy.

But I felt that in making any prediction, especially in relation to such an advanced country, you have to regard the possibility of massive self-harming as unlikely, regardless of the result of some cretinous and - as it now turns out - fraudulent referendum.

So when Laura Kuenssberg says that nobody was imagining a year ago that Remain would still be in play, not only is she being factually inaccurate, she is not seeing that perhaps the reason for this, is that the political hacketariat seem so rarely to be able to imagine anything. So narrowly do they define what they do, it never entered their heads that this concept of Remain would still exist in late 2018.

And perhaps these failures of the imagination, help to explain why they keep getting things wrong.

They have also given energy to the Brexiteers, by neglecting for a long time to allude to the notion that the UK didn't actually have to do this, that there might be some way out of it. That there was this other option of the No-Brexit Brexit out there, looking better all the time.

Looking like a winner indeed, given the response to Keir Starmer when he raised the matter as delicately as he could at the conference of a Labour party being led by ideologues as indifferent to the real-world problems of working people as a Jacob Rees-Mogg or a Baron Lawson of Blaby.

The applause started tentatively and then grew into an ovation, as if Starmer's words had given the crowd permission to literally stand up against the badness and the madness of Brexit. To defy their own Euro-phobe Jeremy Corbyn, who, like any ideologue, has this pathological inability to admit that he was wrong.

And you sense that the more the No-Brexit Brexit is spoken of, the more people will be standing up for it. Because it's just getting too real now, the delusions can't be sustained any more. On RTE's Prime Time, Richard Downes went to Switzerland in a juggernaut, to find a morass of bureaucracy at the border - the point being, that the Swiss model is one that is actually favoured by the Brexiteers.

The larger point, is that Switzerland is situated on planet Earth, and thus it can never supply a solution for the Brexiteers, no more than any arrangement about the Irish Border can. Indeed, we have been inclined to see our border as some kind of a special case, when in truth the only thing that is special about it, is its actual existence in the known universe.

Brexit is not a plan, or a policy, it is more akin to a disorder. And you can't really legislate for that. It is the malaise of nationalism mixed up with a bit of disaster capitalism, and it seems to have a particular appeal to some of the worst people in the world. It is too primitive to be accommodated by the rules of modern countries. It is not a strategy, it is a fever dream.

So the moment it makes contact with any kind of reality, it disintegrates.

Yes, the odds against the No-Brexit Brexit have shifted dramatically since I wrote about it in 2016, but the case is really only starting to be articulated by the likes of Starmer - there's been too much talk about "preparing for Brexit", and with it the implication that it is possible for rational human beings to "prepare" for something that is little more than an atavistic con job.

Preparing for the No-Brexit Brexit is what people of goodwill should be doing, mainly by talking about it. Keir Starmer just mentioned that Remain was still an option, and it brought the house down. Last week Emmanuel Macron said that the UK could stay in the EU "for sure", if it changed its mind. The Government should be saying this all the time.

Talk them down off the ledge, they will appreciate it in time. Unlike anything else that springs to mind at this stage, it might even work.


Watching Tiger Woods winning again last Sunday night, I was reminded that Tiger is a bit like The Beatles, in that they are both under-rated. Yes they are universally regarded as being great. But there is perhaps not enough understanding of just how great they are.

If there had been, Tiger would not have been excoriated in the way he was, for a few lifestyle issues which were nobody's business but his own, and that of his then wife Elin - it was justified by the jackals who pursued him on the grounds that he had been "hypocritical" due to his supposed cultivation of a "squeaky clean" image, when anyone who had followed him would have known that Tiger was famous for cursing and swearing and spitting and banging his clubs and being whatever is the opposite of "squeaky clean".

No, this was an indictment of a culture which had lost its way, which couldn't recognise that here was a bona fide genius and not just some celebrity chancer, a culture which couldn't tell the difference between what matters and what doesn't matter.

Indeed he was the polar opposite of a celebrity chancer, the polar opposite of a Trump - Tiger really did all those amazing things, with his 14 majors he didn't have to tell 14 lies just get his heart started in the morning.

Which brings us to the only way in which he has been a disappointment to me. No, I don't mean that public apology which he never should have made about the "cocktail waitresses" and so forth, I mean his apparently easy acceptance of Trump. Not that this makes him any different to any other leading US golfer, it's just Tiger is better than that.

Then again, there's this old saying in the game of golf, that when they're giving out the talent, even the genius, the gods always hold something back.

So maybe this is what they've held back from Tiger - this awareness that he represents everything that Trump is not, leading us to wonder if one of the people who don't understand the scale of the greatness of Tiger Woods, is Tiger Woods.

No doubt he'll get over that too.


Next week RTE will be continuing its first Champions League campaign without either John Giles or Eamon Dunphy on board. There is much executive tomfoolery in this world, as we know, but in the modern era, in the face of the stiffest competition, this idea that RTE's football coverage might somehow be improved by the absence of Giles and then Dunphy, is probably without parallel.

It is truly unforgiveable, not just because it leaves us without Giles and Dunphy, but because it also takes away Gary Cooke's impersonations of them - I expect that "Apres Match" will be advised to "move on" from the two Founding fathers, lest we be reminded of old times, and much, much better times.

But Gary Cooke, after a suitable period of mourning, will be playing a character who is somewhat different in disposition to Giles or Dunphy, yet whose contribution to our culture is no less than theirs in certain ways - Michael Jackson is The Man In The Mirror, the title of a one-man play written by Ken Sweeney and due to be performed in the new year.

It also features the character of Ray O'Hara, the taxi-driver who "minded" Jackson and became his friend when Jacko was here for six months in 2006, recording in Grouse Lodge, Co Westmeath.

Being from Westmeath myself, I've always felt that this period in Jacko's life when he was knocking around Moate, being driven in a Volkswagen people-carrier, has been under-appreciated. The story of the friendship between Jackson and O'Hara was the subject of an award-winning radio documentary in 2013. Next year will be the tenth anniversary of Jackson's passing, but he will live again in the person of Gary Cooke - and every night after the show, he will be driven home by his old pal, Ray O'Hara.

Sunday Independent

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