“O Parsi who fled the ancient land
With nothing but the Holy Flame in hand
You spread your lustre on Indian soil
With sacrifice and constructive toil
You saw life through Ahura’s prism
And initiated India’s capitalism
You justly claimed you were self-made
— Building empires from the opium trade
You contribute so much to India’s cultures
And end up Alas! as the shit of vultures."
From Thus Spake Bachchoo
When does a farce threaten to turn into a tragedy? When it’s being played out in the politics of what is, while this is being written, still the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Players take the stage only to leave it in disgrace. The public, whom they are there to entertain (represent?) boo or cheer as the mood takes it. The plot is so intricate and the action and inclinations of the actors so volatile, that no one knows what the final scenes of Act III will be or even how many scenes there are likely to be.
Every day for the last two weeks at least — the opening scenes of the possible final act played out — nothing is certain. The balance of plausibilities of the outcome change, tipped one way or the other by statements emerging from Britain’s government, from the heads of government of Germany, France and other European Union nations, from the leaders of Britain’s Opposition parties, from members of Britain’s Tory Party whom Bojo’s weirdo “adviser” Dominic Cummings has expelled from the parliamentary party for voting against a government motion and from others including as the old song goes, Uncle Tom Cobley and all.
If this were a web serial called Brexit: Britain’s Russian Roulette, (BBRR) it would be packed with what we in that trade call “cliff-hangers”. These are designed to keep the audience interested in seeing the next episode — which trick of course BBRR may have forfeited as the audience on both sides of the channel are bored and will have switched off. The present cliff-hanger arose from Wednesday evening’s meeting between representatives of the EU and the UK to try and thrash out a deal. Leaks to the media swung one way and then the other, with statements saying they are really close to agreeing to a deal on the terms for Britain’s exit from the EU and then that there is still some distance to go and no time in which it can be resolved because…
And now Boris Johnson announces that it’s done. He has a deal. But that, gentle reader, is only scene two of the final act of this pantomime. That’s because the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of the Protestant faction of Northern Ireland, which has 10 votes in the Westminster Parliament on whose votes Bojo depends to get even just short of a majority, has expressed skepticism about the details of the deal.
At the time of writing, Bojo hasn’t published the details of the deal but statements from the DUP’s spokesman in Westminster say it’s not one they can vote for.
The previous Prime Minister, Theresa May, brought a deal back from the European Union, a Withdrawal Agreement whereby, to put it as its simplest, Northern Ireland would for all commercial exchange purposes stay within the EU for as long as the EU deemed necessary. This agreement failed to get through the House of Commons three times. After the third rejection, it was deemed a dodo and Ms May subsequently resigned.
One of the key characters in that drama of rejection and resignation was one Jacob Rees Mogg. I began this column, gentle reader, adopting a simile comparing the politics of the UK to a farce, but with the entrance of Mogee on that stage, the simile becomes redundant, as this fellow is in his dress, speech demeanour and pronouncements straight out of a second-rate caricaturing 19th century comedic play. He was the chairman (he would object to the terms “chair” or “chairperson” as unacceptable modern innovations) of the European Research Group.
When Bojo became PM, he appointed Jacob to be the leader of the House and Rees Mogg, as a member of the Cabinet resigned his chairpersonship of the ERG. He will consequently vote for anything Bojo proposes, but his former group, whose votes brought down Ms May, could split, with some ERG members possibly dissenting.
The important scene of the farce will be enacted on Saturday when the DUP will have to decide if it stays true to its rejection of the Bojo-EU deal or put their votes behind it.
The leaders of the Opposition, notably Jo Swinson, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, have declared their opposition to the deal. Her pronouncements, even before the details of the deal are published, reject it on the grounds that it will certainly ruin the economy of the UK — the farce will turn to tragedy if the UK leaves its main trading partner on these terms.
Other characters will have their say on Saturday, among them Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Labour, who will certainly oppose the bill but, having dithered for three years over taking a clear stance and offering his party clear leadership over Brexit, will not carry all Labour MPs with him.
Then there is the Scottish National Party with 36 members.
They will certainly vote against any deal as their official position is to stay within the European Union. If the UK does leave the European Union, Scotland, under the leadership of the SNP, will demand independence. The majority of Scots will vote to become an independent country and one of the tragic consequences of Brexit will be the break-up of the United Kingdom.
Not that English Brexiteers care. They’d tolerate it as long as they can keep European workers out of England.
A current poll could ask them if they would still vote for Brexit if it results in the compulsory slaughter of their first-born. The result, which I can predict, could be out on Sunday....