On the brink

So, after what seems like an eternity of negotiation, but has actually only been a few months, a Brexit deal is finally on the table. At 585 pages it doesn’t lend itself to instant reaction, but from what I can tell it seems to propose some sort of EU-lite arrangement, which is far from the worst possible outcome, but still a pointless act of national self-harm.

That, of course, is assuming that Theresa May can steer the agreement through Parliament, which is not at all certain. Labour is set to vote against it to bring down the government. Hard-core Tory Brexiteers will oppose it in favour of the no-deal clean break they desire. Pro-Europeans from all parties may calculate that, if this deal fails, the resulting political stalemate will leave a second referendum the only way forward. It’s hard to see where the support to carry the plan through will come from, unless sufficient MPs are unnerved enough by the threatened chaos to accept a flawed arrangement rather than risk something worse.

My feeling is that things may just work out in the way I predicted back in January; May can’t get her deal through Parliament, the government collapses, Labour win the resulting election by promising a second referendum, and the nation votes to stay in the EU. I’m still planning to stockpile a lot of tinned food though…

Remembrance Day 2018

When I was younger there seemed to be a clear distinction between the general cultural perception of the two global conflicts of the 20th century; while everyone agreed that defeating the Nazis in WW2 was an unequivocally just cause, WW1 was almost universally viewed as a senseless affair that had sent the youth of the nation to their death for no particular reason.

A century on from the end of the Great War everything is much more fuzzy. The tone of today’s Remembrance Day events, while not exactly celebrating war, does convey the idea that there was a nobility to the sacrifice of the fallen, and that no further comment is needed, certainly nothing that questions why they fell.

This is understandable to some extent; the political upheavals of the 19th century which primed the conflagration that finally ignited in 1914 are all but incomprehensible today, and simple human stories of loss and resilience are much more accessible. However we must not allow our instinct to support the men and women who went off to fight in that war (and all the wars since), commendable though it is, to be used to silence criticism of war itself.

There is an irony in the fact that, as our leaders gather to put on a show of respect for the millions who died in WW1, the structures that have kept the peace in Europe for the last 60 years are being dismantled, and the world is moving back towards the sort of Great Power politics that led to disaster a century ago. We owe it to the dead, and the living, to oppose this, and ensure that never again do workers kill workers in a capitalist war.

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