Timothy Garton Ash: "We have six months to foil Brexit. And here’s how we can do it.”

Historians in the News
tags: Timothy Garton Ash, Brexit



Timothy Garton Ash is a historian, political writer and Guardian columnist. His latest book is "Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World."

If all goes according to the Brexiters’ plan, we will wake up exactly one year from today to find that Britain is no longer a member of the European Union. In practice, we anti-Brexiters have just six months to avert that outcome. For if, in its “meaningful vote” this autumn, the British parliament decides to accept whatever interim deal has been cobbled together by British and EU negotiators, that will be the effective point of no return.

Brexiters see this and now have a strategy of Leninist clarity: do whatever it takes to get Britain to that point. Even Nigel Farage is now on this Brexito-Bolshevik line. The end justifies the means. Never mind what compromises you make over the transition period, never mind which of your own previous red lines you cross, just get the country through the door marked Out. Everything else can be sorted out later.

Anti-Brexiters, by contrast, have 10 different plans and therefore none. If we don’t get our act together we will be defeated, amid a fog of confusion and deceit.

Defeat would probably look something like this: by hook or by crook, by nudge and by fudge, the British and EU negotiators reach a form of words this autumn. Seemingly unbridgeable differences like those over the Irish frontier are somehow finessed, by a combination of genuine compromise, complex solutions and verbal ambiguity. The “framework for the future” is vaguer than an Anglican prayer, with lashings of Brussels fudge and the deafening clang of cans being kicked down the road.

Our EU partners finally agree to this, in the wee hours of a European council meeting scheduled for 18-19 October, because that is the EU’s characteristic culture of compromise, because they just want to get the whole damned thing out of the way so they can concentrate on all the other pressing issues facing the EU, and – let’s be clear – because they know that once Britain is legally out, its negotiating position will be even weaker than it is today. ...

Read entire article at The Guardian

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