It is said of Obama that his every promise had an expiration date. That way of phrasing it seems almost too kind – as if each promise once had value and then lost it after it expired. Some promises are only ever meant to be believed – they are never meant to be kept.
MPs of all UK-wide parties voted to hold the Brexit referendum – but for many, the promise to leave the EU if Leave won was only ever meant to justify remaining in ever closer union when Remain won. The believe that we would have left had Leave won was expected to have great value – to remainers after Remain won, justifying their putting an end to the carping criticism of a minority of MPs and those stupid voters. “We’d have left if you’d won, so shut up” was to be the essence of politics thereafter.
Now, after both major parties campaigned in 2017 on a promise to honour the result, blood has finally been squeezed from a stone – and promises they do mean to keep from Remoaners. Their bill is astonishingly frank (for them) in its determination to give power over Brexit to the EU. Their refusal of an election makes equally explicit their intense desire not to give that power to UK voters. The difficulty of defeating the deep state is that they will not openly stand to fight and so risk being beaten. It’s a sign of how much has been achieved that people so given to deceit are being so open.
I hope Boris, Dominic and others have foreseen, and are masters of, the procedural and constitutional technicalities needed in the next few days between now and prorogation. But, however that turns out, I think their enemies too caught up in this fight to see beyond it. They imagine that, if they can only delay leaving forever, they can get us back to the grudging attitude of a few years ago, when most people did not like the EU but most thought it was as inevitable as bad weather, and was merely an add-on to Britain, not a replacement. I think their own antics are ensuring that that particular Humpty-Dumpty cannot be put back together again.