How Extending Article 50 Solves Nothing

Whilst the rest of the world gets things done, as in New Zealand, Britain slams the table demanding ‘more Brexit, now!’. I say ‘Britain’, yet there are likely few Britons picking up their papers and quivering with excitement for the latest instalment of Brexit Island. This week, after the PM’s plan to send her lamb of a deal to the Slaughterhouse of Commons yet again was scuppered, she and her cabinet arrived at the conclusion that an extension to Article 50 (the mechanism initiating Britain’s exit from the EU) would be necessary. Whilst this in no way guarantees there will be an extension, it seems likely the EU will grant one. After all, Brexit Island must be the funniest show they’ve ever seen, if a bit repetitive at times. No wonder Britain is renowned for its comedy.

To somebody flicking through the headlines, the extension of Article 50 (or a ‘Brextension’, if we must stay on-brand) may seem to be another step towards confirming a deal. Just a bit more time to work stuff out, right? Two years was always an ambitious time-frame, especially considering the finest mind available in the UK for these unprecedented negotiations was David Davis. He was no doubt chosen for his commitment to the Brexit project, but belief is nothing without the ability to execute, and the Conservative Party’s ability to execute anything but the welfare state is fledgling at best. No amount of resignations or reshuffles could have avoided the moment we’re in now, and simply asking for more time will not get us out of it, especially a paltry three months.

This extension is not a step forward, even by Brexit standards. This extension is in fact a direct consequence of Brexit’s inability to move forward, a quality that renders the UK the QWOP to the rest of the world’s Usain Bolt. The developments we have seen over the course of our political fever dream have been the results of the many different factions putting out their own first steps. Rather than building a ladder, politicians and activists have tossed their sticks away and formed a bonfire, a flame we can’t even use to burn bridges with the EU because they refused even that. Even the heat just reminds us of the inaction over global warming coming as a consequence of all of Westminster’s bandwidth being sucked away by factional disagreements. Where did two years go?

Disregarding the possibility of not getting it at all, an extension of three months would simply be three more months of the past two years - party infighting, indecisive votes, and soundbites galore. If Brexit were about generating short-lived vernacular, we’d be thriving by now. Even an extension of two years, something that’s been floated, would likely require either another referendum or a general election. A second referendum would solve little on its own (barring the near-miracle of the result being vastly one-sided, and I mean vastly), and we all saw how the last general election went. Even just shrugging and tossing the matter away (as we would do with something this emotionally draining and destructive) wouldn’t address any of the issues that produced the result to leave in the first place. There is no good answer here.

Do we need an extension? Certainly. Will it help? I doubt it, although this whole process has been nothing if not full of twists and turns, so strap yourselves in and get ready for another exhausting instalment of Brexit Island!