One of the features of the greatest religious schisms of the past is that they often seemed to revolve around what look, to the outsider, like relatively petty differences of doctrine, but they consumed absolutely those involved in them. Today’s Great Brexit Debate within the UK cabinet bears more than a passing resemblance. We are told that they are today debating between two options, neither of which solves the Irish border problem, and neither of which is going to be acceptable to the EU27, but both of which are presented with increasing zeal by their respective supporters.
Brexiteers of both denominations are trying to pretend that finding the best method of making it easy to cross a hard border with the Republic is in every sense the same thing as not having a hard border at all. I’m not sure whether this redefinition of ‘same’ from what it used to mean when I was young owes more to George Orwell and newspeak, or Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty. I’d like to think that it was some clever form of satire, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that they really do not understand that ‘no border’ and ‘easy border to cross’ are not at all the same thing, and that no amount of mangling the language can make them the same.
After months of trying to avoid coming up with a firm proposal on anything, during which they have been kicking the tin down the road and pretending that that amounts to agreement, things are finally coming to a head. Brexit has become a religion, with fervour replacing logic and one set of true believers denouncing their own government as heretics or worse. In the process, the Conservative Party’s MPs and Ministers are engaging in a very public and utterly pointless row about which of two unworkable alternatives they will ultimately ask the EU27 to formally reject. Can someone please remind me again: precisely how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?