Peter North, 06/10/2020  
 


There's been more debate about Excel spreadsheets than Brexit today. As far as public debate goes, it's a non-subject. We can put to bed any notion that Brexit would revitalise politics. It got a little juicy for a time, but we're now back to endless trivia and tedium. It's as though silly season never ended.

That, I suppose, is something to do with the pointlessness of further discussion. No deal warnings are unlikely to be heeded any anyone, much less the government. Industry can pipe up about tariffs and port delays, insofar as they understand them, but it has no impact on the outcome. The die is already cast.

Be it a slim deal or no deal, Britain is out of the single market and the customs union and some controls and some tariffs will apply. It could have been different but it isn't - so why expend any further energy on something over which we have no control?

That, though, goes some way to illustrating the point that Britain was never apathetic about EU membership. Remainers often tell us that a referendum was unnecessary being that it wasn't a public concern - but all that really says is that the public doesn't debate that which it has no direct or indirect say in. If EU membership really were a non-issue, we wouldn't have seen such a turnout at the referendum.

That it has since become once again a dead issue is hugely convenient to the Tories, at least for the time being, but it is a poor reflection of our democracy that, having made the decision to leave, the public are once again excluded from any further decision making on matters of national importance.

This is bad news as far as Brexit goes but there is a real danger the same will happen as regards Covid, where the public become so bored of it, and debate so inconsequential, that we'll simply switch off and allow government to do whatever it pleases. Disaffection by design.

It is little wonder, then, that our media treats politics as entertainment. As far as the public is concerned, politics is politically themed entertainment. Personalities over policies. Anybody who needs and demands more from politics tunes out completely. Then as we return to the dismal spectacle of two party politics, exchanging one band of amateurs for the next in an ongoing carousel, the only logical choice is to unplug completely and think about something more productive.

To a point, we could afford to do that while members of the EU being that the inherent constraint on sovereignty, and having the difficult questions settled, made it safe to do so. But that safety net/brake parachute is no longer there. Apathy isn't an option.

Going forward, one would like to think that as of January the case for democratic reform would make itself, having been railroaded into the most destructive version of Brexit imaginable, but sadly there is no-one there to push for it. Proportional Representation is as far as the Westminster imagination can stretch - and it is only ever offered by parties in opposition, never in power.

This is perhaps the greatest tragedy of Vote Leave having failed to adopt a plan to convert the Brexit momentum into something lasting and valuable. If there is to be reform then it will take a new movement building from scratch. If by next year we still have a public willing to tolerate what is done to us we shall know that political engagement is a waste of energy.







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