Sketch: It's fitting Brexit is being marked by a 277-mile march across England, led by Nigel Farage

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 7 March 2019 in Comment

When you think about it, resigning is really the only thing anyone in UK politics seems to agree on

Image credit: Iain Green

How are you choosing to celebrate the Festival of Brexit? Party balloons and a street party? Or stockpiling tinned goods and body bags?

For quite a few senior members of UK politics, it seems, the most fitting way to celebrate has been by resigning immediately. People forget that when they talk about a lack of consensus at the top of UK politics. It ignores the shared love of resigning.

When you think about it, resigning is really the only thing they all seem to agree on. Boris Johnson and David Davis resigned because they disagreed with the agreement they agreed to. The new set of former Labour and Tory MPs in the Independent Group resigned in an attempt to stop Brexit, while George Eustice, the former DEFRA minister, resigned to speed it up. Meanwhile Philip Rycroft, permanent secretary at the UK Brexit Department, has announced he will resign his post the day after Brexit. Presumably because that will be the job done.

So how would resigning from your position of influence help increase your influence? It did feel like a move from the same school of thought as the people arguing UKIP could be defeated by giving them everything they wanted.

And for his part, Nigel Farage – an early pioneer of resigning – has announced plans for a Brexit protest march from Sunderland to London. Why he chose to start in Sunderland, rather than further north, is currently unclear, though it may well be because, of the last two occasions he came to Scotland, one saw him trapped inside a pub, hiding from a braying mob, and the other saw him trapped in a room, wishing for a braying mob, while then UKIP Scotland leader David Coburn talked, at length, about how confusing he finds bin collections.

So what’s the plan? Introducing the march, Farage accused the House of Commons, which he’s never managed to join because he’s failed to win a seat seven times in a row, of “betraying the British people over Brexit”. Adding further detail, Leave Means Leave co-chair John Longworth, a man who somehow manages to look both surprised and pleased to have been let outdoors, said the march was aimed at protesting any delay to leaving the EU.

A 14-day, 277-mile march across the English countryside, with Nigel Farage in charge of navigation. If you didn’t know the context, it’d be as likely to be the pitch for a reality TV show as an effective form of political protest. They should definitely film it. Maybe get Bear Grylls involved to provide advice on foraging for grubs and plants after the food runs out. Marching, with Nigel Farage. Brexit survival, with Nigel Farage. Eating nettles, with Nigel Farage.

Yes, the proposals are still pretty hazy, but it seems his intention is to lead this meandering human caravan across the length of England, like some sort of Eurosceptic pied piper. Though at present, it’s still unclear whether his plan to do the whole thing by walking is part of a dramatic protest, or just a rational response to Chris Grayling holding responsibility for the transport system.

At least when David Davis was predicting a Mad Max-style dystopia we were working on the assumption there would be cars available. And actually, that pied piper bit is probably unfair. Under-24s found the pied piper far more convincing than they do Nigel Farage. Also, he was happy with the concept of living and working in Europe.

But while Farage, Eustice and Longworth fought for freedom from an institution the UK chose to join and is being allowed to leave, eyes north of the border turned to the question of Scotland quitting the UK. Again.

And it’s here that the Tory approach to self-determination took an interesting twist, with reports suggesting that any Section 30 order would be flat out refused by Downing Street. As one minister told the BBC: “Once you’ve hit the iceberg, you’re all on it together.”

The first thing to say is that, without a name attached to the quote, it is impossible to know whether the source had yet quit government themselves – either in support of, or opposition to Brexit. But, if nothing else, it raised real questions over their understanding of maritime evacuation procedure. ‘Staying in it together’ is actually the opposite of official advice. To be honest, we’re probably just lucky that particular minister is in government, rather than in charge of Arctic shipping. Stay in your cabins, everyone! No, don’t get in the lifeboat, we’re in this together! Women and children last!

Maybe that’s the lesson from all this. You can leave government any time you like, but to leave a ship that’s hit an iceberg would be irresponsible.

So that’s the Brexit Festival basically sorted, then. Farage leading a wailing trail of Eurosceptics across the industrial heartlands of England and everyone else is trying to either flee the UK or quit their jobs.

Except Chris Grayling. He’s staying on.




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