The truth about the Brexit endgame

Very perceptive commentary by Rafael Behr about the magical thinking embodied in yesterday’s voting in the House of Commons:

There are two possible reasons for pursuing that strategy. One is stupidity: failure to grasp what the negotiations so far have actually been about and how May’s deal was their logical outcome. The second is cynical vandalism: knowing that the plan will fail and hoping, when it does, to pin blame for a chaotic no-deal Brexit on Brussels intransigence. In truth it would be the fruition of Eurosceptic zealotry.

It is sad to see self-styled Tory “moderates” taken in by such a con and alarming to hear May indulge it in the Commons as a “serious proposal”. Her next move is to Brussels, in a quest for something that two years of negotiation have already failed to uncover. But it seems the way to unite Tories these days is to expunge the period 2017 to 2018 from memory. May still acts as if Brexit is something that must be settled to the satisfaction of the Conservative party first, and only then shared with the rest of Europe. The British public is at the very back of the queue.

Such obtuseness infuriates continental leaders more than the intent to quit their club…

And so it should. They thought that Theresa May was some kind of pragmatist. What they didn’t see was that when she took the referendum result as her personal mission

she also anointed herself with sacred oils of Brexiteer mythology. Her inscrutable demeanour and robotic speeches conceal a fervour that would be instantly identifiable as demagogy in a more expressive politician. At first, the prime minister’s rigid mask tricked Europeans into thinking she was a reasonable and capable person. It had a similar effect on the domestic audience. May’s bland style flattered a collective belief in the innate moderation of our politics. Her parochial mediocrity has nurtured the complacent assumption that the worst cannot happen here, that we are, at heart, a pragmatic nation not given to fanatical lurches. MPs imagine parliament as a political equivalent to the Greenwich meridian – the zero line from which other countries’ deviations are measured. We are slow to notice when the whole enterprise drifts wildly off course.

So, when you boil it down to its core, the strategy is — as Behr says — to have a chaotic no-deal exit for which the British can blame the EU.