There seems to be a strengthening correlation between the impact Brexit might have on our lives and the growing public disinterest in how this fiasco has evolved to become something far more divisive and sinister than anything in play when less than half of Britain voted in June 2016. This, if understandable, may not be prudent. It is as if the capacity to chart the quicksands of Brexitiannia has been worn away by the disappointment, the relentless dishonesty and toxicity of it all. The process has lasted almost as long as the longest siege in modern history — the siege of Sarajevo which lasted from April 5, 1992, to February 29, 1996.
That brutal example of what happens when nativist nationalism supersedes reason and the capacity to work with — and respect — neighbours may not feature on the House of Commons agenda today when it resumes after its summer recess. Rather, that house will argue bitterly over prime minister Boris Johnson’s decision, if you can really believe it was his, to suspend parliament for more than a month so a hard Brexit might be imposed even though Johnson has no mandate for that kind of cliff jump.
The Commons may not discuss either the uno duce, una voce threat to deselect Conservative MPs who might dare be moved by conscience to oppose a hard Brexit. However, that diktat will animate conversations in the Commons corridors or at least it should as it is symptomatic of the anti-democratic concentration of power epitomised by the sacking of an adviser to chancellor Sajid Javid without his knowledge by Dominic Cummings, an unelected official who is not a member of the Conservative party.
Those same conversations will undoubtedly touch on Johnson ally — occasionally — Michael Gove who, over the weekend, refused to guarantee Johnson’s government would accept legislation to block a no-deal should the Commons enact such a law. Unsurprisingly, Labour’s John McDonnell accused Johnson of running an “elective dictatorship” while former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown warned that crashing out of the EU threatened food supplies and costs.
These provocations may achieve Johnson’s aims, if you can really believe they are his, to have a general election before no-parachute day on October 31. What that might lead to is in the lap of the gods as no sensible person would dare make a prediction because at nearly every step in this implosion the worst-case scenario has transpired.
Ireland’s capacity to influence events is limited. What we can do though is to take a deep breath and face reality despite the Government’s failure to prepare for what looks like a no-deal calamity. It has been, up to now at least, possible to understand why Government was reticent to fuel speculation or pessimism but that is no longer plausible, especially as October 8 is budget day and that budget will be defined by Brexit. Calamity may not be avoided but chaos can, or at least it can be minimised. It is time, there are only 58 days left before the huffing and puffing might blow the house down, to look the monster in the eye so we can work to minimise the damage. Let’s balance British recklessness with Irish prudence.