On political paralysis, British intellectuals and the wisdom of Victorians

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By BAGEHOT

THE AUGURIES for next week’s Brexit votes are not good, to put it mildly. The European Reform Group of hardline Eurosceptic MPs is divided into two camps: those who are willing to compromise with the prime minister on condition that they get everything they want; and those who are not willing to compromise even if they get everything they want with a cherry on top (one Leave-supporting politician I know tells me that about 30 of his colleagues are now clinically insane). The DUP, Northern Ireland’s largest party, is in high dudgeon—or perhaps I should say even higher dudgeon than usual—about being disrespected. The Labour Party shows no signs of putting country before party.

So it looks as if we’re heading for yet further paralysis. The prime minister will suffer a heavy defeat in Tuesday’s vote on the withdrawal deal; parliament will vote against a “no deal” Brexit on Wednesday; and then, on Thursday, it will vote to extend Brexit. With no clear plans about what to do with this extension, Britain will have set itself up for another period (length to be decided) of paralysis and drift, culminating in another cliff edge. A particularly distasteful form of Groundhog Day.

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