After two years Brexit is still just a matter of words. We can take our pick – we can even cherry-pick: Chaotic? Confused? Treacherous? ( Trump-style) treason? Constructive conversations? The EU’s ‘founding principles’? Or the famous ‘Brexit means Brexit’.
‘Brexit means Brexit’ is not the kind of definition you will find in Dr Samuel Johnson’s great (and first ever) dictionary of the English language – or in any of its many and illustrious heirs. As we have seen again over these last weeks, there are any number of ways to Brexit.
It’s a bit like saying a woman’s frock (old fashioned word there!) is red. Is it cherry red? Or rose, wine, blood, ruby, scarlet, apple, brick, crimson, blush, candy or lipstick red?
The most recent word to confuse us non-politicians – whether by design or by accident – is ‘deal’.
The proposals drawn up and presented at the famous Chequers meeting and agreed there – for a few hours at least – by the cabinet and turned into a White Paper and then altered somewhat by Brexiteers in Parliament, are being referred to as ‘the deal’.
The MP for North Wiltshire calls it a capital-D ‘Deal’ and says it was ‘beefed up’ in the White Paper: ”It bears little resemblance to what most normal people had hoped Brexit would mean.”
‘Normal people’? Before it ends, this is going to get even dirtier and very much nastier.
But such words matter. This MP also claims that ’52 per cent of the people voted’ for Brexit – that is fake history. It was 52 per cent of those who voted.
It is only a ‘deal’ as among the cabinet and Tory MPs. It is a proposal to the EU.
The White Paper calls for a ‘principled Brexit’ – which the government’s French version has been translated as a ‘virtuous Brexit’! Tee-hee. What is a ‘principled Brexit’ when ‘Brexit means Brexit’? Oh well…
But to call this proposal a deal is grossly misleading (BBC please note). Calling it a deal may warm the hearts of some warring MPs.
The problem with referring to it as a ‘deal’ is that it sets up quick headline responses – such as ‘EU rejects May’s deal’. And that leads us straight onto blame games.
It will end up being ‘all the EU’s fault’…not Cameron’s fault, not the arch-Brexiteers’ fault, not the voters’ fault, not Mrs May’s fault, or the fault of illegal campaigning, or the fault of campaign lies, or the DUP’s fault or the Kremlin’s fault… just the EU’s fault.
Er, isn’t it us who is leaving the EU? Isn’t that what the word Brexit means?
Some journalists have even gone so far as to call it ‘the settlement’ – that is almost more misleading as it implies general agreement across politicians and across the nation. It might be called a settlement if it had settled the party factions. It has certainly not done that – anymore than the referendum did.