Image description: The front of a maroon UK passport, with writing and the UK version of the royal coat of arms in gold. The writing reads: European Union. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
At the end of last year I realised that my UK passport would expire in seven months. I thought about where we could all be by then—in the UK, crashed out of Brexit with serious civil unrest; in the US, consitutional crisis and deeper divisions—and concluded, Fuck that, I’m renewing right now while at least some government is functioning.
I got the new passport yesterday. I am still, on paper at least, a citizen of the European Union. And for the next ten years I’ll be able to gaze at my passport and remember fondly the Good Old Days when Kelley and I could have lived and worked in 29 different countries. After Brexit, it will only be only three: US, UK, and Éire/the Republic of Ireland (the UK has a very long-standing arrangement—outside the Good Friday agreement, beyond the EU—that its citizens may live and work in Ireland).
So, after Prime Minister Theresa May’s historic Brexit deal defeat in the Commons—the worst government defeat since, well, maybe ever—what happens next?
First of all, from my perspective the current leadership of both Labour and the Conservative parties appear to be incompetent, and the Lib-Dems haven’t a hope of forming a government. So let’s set aside for now the question of who will be in power later this year (or even if there will be a United Kingdom to take control of).
What should happen now, in my opinion, is a year-long extension of Article 50 with a second referendum planned for late summer—this time with formal debates that are publicly fact-checked in real time. The preponderence of evidence in favour of remaining in the European Union would, naturally, be so overwhelming that the good citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would, of course, vote to unilaterally withdraw Article 50, and no one in the UK will ever talk about withdrawing from the EU again, The end.
Why, yes, that is a fairy story! Not only would a years’s delay fuck up EU parliamentary elections in May, and so be very unlikely to be endorsed by European lawmakers, but British politicians are a venal bunch, not really interested in the public good. And UK citizens, on the whole, are an easily manipulated mob who believe what’s most convenient—with a particular fondness for tall tales of Great Britain mighty world stature.
So what will happen? Anything from the dissolution of the United Kingdom, to a return to rationing; from the collapse of civilisation as we know it, to a deep economic recession; from serious civil unrest, to a new Golden Age; and from aliens intervening for the sake of the planet, to…nothing much at all.
If I had to bet, though, perhaps a brief (and because of those EU parliamentary elections it would have to be brief—60 days?) postponement of Article 50 implementation, vicious Parliamentary squabbling, a UK Commons vote on a very slightly softened UK-EU divorce settlement, and a bitter, seething citizenry aware of challenging times ahead. But in fairness you should know I’m almost always wrong about this stuff. So, yeah, no clue.
One thing I do know with bedrock certainty is that people in the UK, especially those already leading a marginalised existence (the ill, un- and underemployed, old, and disabled), are suffering.1 This suffering will only worsen in the face of political tumult.
So, all those who voted to Take Our Country Back to some mythical, magical era of magnificent superpower autonomy, are you having fun yet?
1 Some are dying. Late last year a disabled man, who had been refused his benefits, died due to refeeding syndrome—which is what happens when someone has starved so severely for so long that, when given food, their metabolic system collapses in chaos. To set this in context, it’s the kind of thing that happened when Americans liberated Nazi death camps at the end of the second world war and handed rich rations to the starving prisoners. And then there are all those pensioners who die in cold weather because they can’t afford to keep their flats warm.