Welcome to contemporary British politics! A realm of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with string, and more and all and only your very favourite things; where little shops, china cups, and virginity are each saved and strawberry jam served in all of its varieties; a veritable world unto itself, and one of never-ending happiness, where come day or night, even in rainy old Blighty, you can always see the sun.
And you won’t need to call up no shrink either, because if any troubles do present themselves – better simply to ignore or forget. There is no room for debate or disgruntlement here, no place whatsoever for the sort of ill temper that manifests itself as a dissenting point of view. You might think that British politics by its very nature is oppositional. But if you’re not all aboard the Brexit train you’re not only a ‘Remoaner’ but one of the ‘Enemies of the people’, and you’d better get off at the next stop and set sail for the Continent instead.
The Brexit train is perfectly content as it trundles along its circuitous route, enjoying the environs of the south and the great British countryside, stopping occasionally for tea and scones and to show willing once in a while an Indian or Chinese. But oh dear and oh no! Upset tummies! But wait! There can be no cause here for any sort of upset!
That’s why when the Exiting the European Union Committee – the name of the House of Commons select committee responsible for overseeing Brexit – met this week after conducting interviews with the aim of publishing a 155-page report on the impact of Brexit, a third of its members simply walked out.
The select committee has 21 members made up of MPs from all parties, including the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, and the Democratic Unionists. It is chaired by Labour’s Hilary Benn, and was appointed to scrutinise the expenditure, administration, and policy choices of the Department for Exiting the European Union, headed by secretary of state David Davis.
It is not unusual for select committees to experience differences of opinion, and even to publish minority reports where a faction dissents from the majority view. In this case however Brexit-supporting MPs absconded altogether, and refused to countenance the publication of the report in what amounted to an unbecoming fit of pique.
Their rationale was that the report was ‘too gloomy’. Leaving the single market, rising costs, and potential tariffs, an end to the ability to travel freely and settle, an inflexible workforce and diminished rights for extant workers, a higher education sector stripped bare, a narrowing culture, an unhappy union, prospective border trouble – can’t everyone see that Brexit will undoubtedly be for the best? Try again Hilary! Or simply sit back and let the good times roll.