The British Prime Minister, Mrs Theresa May, has said repeatedly that “Brexit means Brexit.”
Actually, let’s go back a bit.
Back in 2015, former Prime Minister David Cameron promised the British public a referendum on the country’s membership of the European Union. The referendum was booked for June 23rd 2016, and the public would be asked the simple question:
“Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”
The options were:
“Remain a member of the European Union”, or
“Leave the European Union”
Apparently, the simpler question of “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union? Yes or No” caused some issues.
Anyway, by a majority of 51.9% to 48.1%, the Leave campaign won. A large portion of the country was outraged, but the Leave camp told them to shut the hell up. A petition signed by over 4,000,000 people for a narrow majority to result in a second referendum (started a month prior to the referendum by a Leave campaigner, but let’s not talk about that bit) was debated in Parliament, although nothing was done about it. And today, Nigel Farage, “interim” leader of the UK Independence Party, said that there would be anger if MPs took issue with the execution of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. He has often called on the public to respect the narrow majority, but let’s not mention that he did go on record to say that he would call for a second referendum if the majority was 52 – 48 in the Remain camp’s favour.
I think you can guess which camp I was in.
After the vote was announced, David Cameron resigned as Prime Minister and within a few quick weeks, Theresa May was appointed in his place. Even though she assumed the government’s position of remaining in the Union, she is respecting the outcome of the vote and looking to activate Article 50 in March 2017.
She has repeatedly said that “Brexit means Brexit”. And now we’re back where we started.
This meaningless tautology is frustrating to some of us because this is all we have as to the government’s plan for Brexit. The reason it’s so frustrating, at least to me, is that the term “Brexit” was simply a catchy amalgamation of “Britain” and “Exit”, meant to refer to Britain’s exit from the EU. Just as “Grexit” was the catchy amalgamation of “Greece” and “Exit”. So basically, “Brexit” is Britain’s exit of the Union. So “Brexit means Brexit” means “You voted to leave the EU, and we will leave the EU.”
It doesn’t say what will happen afterwards. And it’s frustrating because we weren’t given a say on what was to happen afterwards, only whether we would remain a member of the EU or not. Which means that leaving the EU and becoming a member of the EEA (European Economic Area, where member nations are basically afforded the benefits and responsibilities of the EU, without the say in how the Union is run) is achieving that promise of “Brexit meaning Brexit” – we will have left the EU. But then, that promise can be kept by activating Article 50 now, declining to enter into negotiations, and just walking away, leaving the UK with no links to the remnants of the EU whatsoever.
This is basically the difference between a “soft” Brexit and a “hard” Brexit. Either we’re a part of the EU in all but name or we’re out completely, bye bye see you don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you thank you very much. And we, as the British public, are no closer to understanding what “Brexit” means.
Except that it means “Brexit”.
Today, the government lost a battle in the Courts (which it is appealing in the Supreme Court) which means MPs are going to be required to vote on what the government is wanting to bargain for and what its line in the sand is before Article 50 can be activated. Once the process starts, it can be stopped, but once it is finished, there is no turning back.
I think the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, put it best in his piece in the Guardian: “Voting for a departure is not the same as voting for a destination.” Now, with the Conservatives at the helm to steer us where nobody had planned on going before, I’m just hoping that we don’t end up like the Mars Spirit rover …