“Irrevocably and Forever” is a curiously emphatic phrase which turns up in otherwise dry legalese. United States law not only waives “the performance and discharge of any and all obligations and restrictions” in the cases of amendments to bylaws, but does so “irrevocably and forever.” On 25th November 1802, Count Ferenc Széchényi donated his collections “for the use and benefit of my dear homeland and people, irrevocably and forever.” The phrase crops up in all sorts of discussions, from secession to forbearance agreements to international treaties.
Forever is a long time for something to be considered irrevocable, and according to the European Union Court of Justice, Article 50 is not something which can be issued “irrevocably and forever.” It is, it seems, something which can be withdrawn by the United Kingdom, should it wish to do so between now and the 29th of March next year.
So the question becomes not if the UK can do it, but if the UK will do it.
A lot of people really, really want the UK to remain in the EU. I do – I campaigned for it. Many are now campaigning for a second referendum, a third general election since 2015, or for the UK to simply abandon the project entirely, on the basis that it was “only advisory.”
But say a miracle happens. Say some huge revelation occurs which utterly destroys the legitimacy – if ever it had any – of the referendum campaign. Say the Opposition Party finally evolves a spine – or at least a notochord, raising their collective tenacity from a rabble of sea squirts to a handsome colonial tunicate. Well, what happens then? The Dark Forces behind everything that’s happened with be enraged, inciting their useful idiots to rebel and revolt – but that’s to be expected, and to be met head. The prospect of a second referendum doesn’t go away, either – it’s just a different side starts demanding it, to affirm the earlier decision, which they will maintain was democratic and fair regardless of what comes to light. The cowed mainstream media, especially the likes of the BBC, will continue to find themselves up to their necks in the mess. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the people of Scotland will continue to be sidelined and ignored for as long as their interests are viewed as secondary to the interests of the UK as a whole.
There are plenty of reasons to oppose the UK leaving the EU. But for many people, cancelling Brexit just means “taking their country back.” To go back to a Britain that made sense: a Britain that they felt comfortable, happy, and safe in. To return to a time when you could disagree with one of the two major parties, but you at least knew where they stood, and they weren’t tearing each other apart from the inside. It’s a Britain that may have existed for them, but it sure as blazes didn’t for me, for hundreds of thousands of my fellow Scots, and I’d dare say millions of people in the UK suffering from decades of negligence, incompetence, and merciless neoliberal ideology.
Cancelling Brexit – whether via referendum, or general election, or whatever – will be utterly meaningless without wholesale change, irrevocably and forever, to the very nature of the United Kingdom itself. The EU Referendum vote was simply the checkmate of a long game of chess that only one side knew was playing at all: going back one move doesn’t undo the dozens beforehand. The mistakes of the previous referendum – the disenfranchisement of EU citizens and 16-17-year-olds, the capitulation to anti-immigration rhetoric, and the cowardly deference to one’s superiors so cynically co-opted by the biggest elitists of all – cannot afford to be replicated. Not only can we not afford to go ahead with Brexit, we cannot afford to go back to the way things were either.
We are seeing the reality of our predicament.
We have the would-be Prime Minister going from courting Nigel Farage’s base to wooing the hypocritical sectarian dinosaur-deniers who were literally just working with the hated UK Government, which offends me profoundly on behalf of all the Catholics in his party who I know personally and deserve better:
Richard Leonard and his cohort can talk about the Scottish Government mitigating the UK Government all he wants, but he cannot escape the reality that Westminster is doing everything they can to mitigate Holyrood themselves:
And let’s not forget both parties’ most eager little helpers who’ll work with the party of PFI and the Iraq War in sending Scotland’s money back to Whitehall (because arguing about what is best for Scotland does Scotland no good whatsoever, right Christine?), and they’ll work with the party of Dickensian nostalgia as long as they get a few measly victories, but they refuse to countenance working with a party that won’t give up their most valued, precious, defining belief:
I guess when you’ve already sold your souls for ministerial positions, you look at those still with theirs with disgust and bitter envy.
At this stage in the game, it’s clear: the UK Government Party, the Opposition Party, and the Coalition Party are willing to work with literally any other party – be it UKIP or the DUP in the first two’s case, or the parties who would do deals with UKIP or the DUP in the latter’s – as long as they aren’t those terrible separatists in the SNP.
We’ve done our best, but this is England’s battle. That much is evident by Channel 4’s “Real” Debate, starring politicians that represent English constituencies – not one from Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. Our latest contribution – the notion that you can change your mind within the period between notifying that you’re leaving and you actually leaving – will be met with hostility and accusations of “meddling,” even though this is exactly what they wanted for Scotland in 2014, isn’t it?
How’s this for a new treaty. “The Government of England recognises that Scotland is a country, and hereby waives any claim to control over its resources, people, and institutions without its explicit and informed consent, irrevocably and forever.” Gordon Brown and his ilk tried to fool us into thinking a Vow like that was possible with a No vote.
But there’s only one way to make that happen.
Irrevocably and forever.