The UK Government has been taking a public beating recently for reneging on the Withdrawal Agreement, but perhaps for once this is not quite what it seems.
I recall reading a fascinating paper – written by a hardcore feminist – that railed against the ‘No means no’ mantra. Her argument was a cogent one. If we accept that all matters of consent boil down to the articulation of a key word, that’s what a potential transgressor will shoot for. Therefore, in spite of all the overwhelming contextual cues, consent is seen to have been obtained if the other party can be cajoled into saying ‘Yes’.
It was powerful for a number of reasons, but for me it exemplified how the demands of the real word become subservient to the processes we cherish. We adhere to some methods religiously because that allows us to not have to think. That can present grave problems because we take our eye off the fact that they either no longer work effectively or in some cases manifestly work against us.
All this brings me to the Withdrawal Agreement and the current raging arguments, particularly the one that says that the UK must honour what it negotiated and signed. But must it? For once, perhaps UKG is living in the real world?
Maybe the UK did agree to sign in bad faith, but they said ‘Yes’ because at that point they had no other option to do so in order to live to fight another day?
How would we normally characterise consent following coercion? Let’s not forget that the gun being held to a party’s head does not have to be tangible.
We’ve heard so much about the ‘strength of the EU27’, so who could blame Frosty for, ahem, levelling up through a dab of guile? If you had read Barnier’s memoir, you might have been convinced that the negotiations had had the UK over the (EU pork) barrel, and that it was all a jolly good Euro-jape. It was abundantly clear that the EU had gone in not to strike a fair deal but the overwhelmingly best deal for themselves. That is of course precisely what Frosty the No Man is seeking to achieve now.
It does make you wonder if it’s reasonable to describe a rapist as a party with a strong negotiating position? Or to allow a rapist to draw a line under the matter at the conclusion of the act just because the other person had delivered their ‘yes’?
You see, no does not mean no, just as yes does not mean yes. No words alone can gloss over a poor deal or an abuse of power and prevent us from thinking or re-thinking an issue.
That unchlorinated chicken is now just coming home to roost. Unless, of course, you preferred some chilled meats?