Queues, higher costs, dissatisfied populations, and aggravation. Looks like post-transition Brexit has followed its inexorable path to misery.
Or has it? The specific logic arguably suggests otherwise.
Millions of EU citizens losing their rights in the UK was not a certainty of Brexit. Additional customs checks at the border with Continental Europe were not set in stone, even with a UK departure from the EU Customs Union. Both were probable but not inexorable. The exceptions carved out for Northern Ireland exemplified the reality of absolute flexibility. Anything was possible even it was contextually not probable.
Would it have been politically tricky to have taken different decisions in relation to the ongoing UK-EU relationship? Almost certainly. But there was always a choice, which of course never features with inevitability per se.
The concept of inevitability is the rabbit that gets frequently pulled from the political top hat. It is the first port of call for many a bureaucratic bandit – a convenient ace to mask an unwillingness to act on any given point. In the lengthy Brexit negotiations, both sides spoke of ‘inevitable consequences’ on the ground that they did not wish to give. Everything else was purportedly ripe for a waiver by the other party.
Inevitable becomes the label that gets swiftly slapped onto stuff that nobody wants to change. When there are gains to be made, anything goes. It’s all about slippery manoeuvring, but it fosters compliance with the masses.
Taking the Brexit example one step further, it is not even correct to speak of the consequences of Brexit, let alone inescapable ones. We have only the consequences of choices made in the wake of Brexit. In the same vein, Project Fear was not an accurate depiction of unavoidable consequences, but a souped-up, weaponised anticipation of likely political choices. Some of it happened, some of it didn’t. None of it was inevitable, though. It all flowed from political choice that at any juncture might have gone in a different direction.
It may seem like semantics and splitting hairs, but there is an important distinction here between what must follow and what must follow decisions we make.
Political expediency conflates the two.
Once we differentiate between these, the posturing of politicians who prioritise ideology over pragmatism and certainly any consideration for their citizens becomes crystal clear. And both the UK and the EU have been balls-deep at that caper. And they are still thrusting.
Reject it, and we open up possibilities that we at present arbitrarily rule out. You would think that a fresh page in the wake of a torpedoed economy might be worth a shot at the very least. But in the absence of effective and constructive opposition, the sleepwalk along the path of least resistance will continue unabated. Fabricated barriers and constraints that are framed as ineluctable will swiftly put paid to any injection of vitality. We’re spiking our guns.
Will anybody step up to the plate to burst the bubble?