When I was working in Nigeria I knew a French manager who was, putting it charitably, rather weak and scared of his own shadow. As is common in oil companies, especially big French ones, he’d been made a manager largely due to his age and nationality. One day he decided to give one of his Nigerian subordinates a rather useless administrative task to do. The Nigerian was also a manager, and also useless, at least when it came to his job function. Apparently he ran a few other businesses on the side and was a chief somewhere, but these involved doing more than just showing up. Have a guess where his efforts went?
Anyway, the Nigerian said he’d do this task but never bothered. There then followed a pantomime whereby every few days the Frenchman would ask the Nigerian if he’d done it, and the Nigerian would say no but he’d do it today, and then he’d not do it. This went on for over a year and it became a running joke between me and a former colleague who witnessed it. The Frenchman seemed to think there were practical reasons why the Nigerian hadn’t done this task, whereas I knew after the second or third week it would never get done. The Nigerian didn’t want to do it, and he’d worked out the Frenchman would never compel him to.
Over the years I’ve formed a phrase which I like to deploy which says if something was going to get done, it would have been done by now. There comes a point beyond which it isn’t going to get done because someone either can’t do it, or doesn’t want to do it. Yesterday one of my professors asked me what was happening with Brexit, and I said I didn’t think it was going to happen. If those in charge wanted to leave the EU everything was in place for them to do so on 29th March. Legally and politically, it was all aligned for them, but they didn’t. Why not? Because they don’t want to, so they’ve come up with one fudge after so they don’t have to. Yesterday’s agreement to extend the deadline to 31st October keeps Britain in the EU another six months, after which another fudge will be found.
A lot of Brexiteers now find themselves in the position of the Frenchman, asking someone again and again to do something they long ago decided not to. They need to accept that the phase of Brexit which began with the 2016 referendum is over. If that was the route to Britain leaving the EU, we’d be out by now. A new route will have to be found.