The Withdrawal Agreement will be no easy lesion to resect

The Withdrawal Agreement will be no easy lesion to resect

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Tuesday 30, July, 2019

CALOR, Rubor, Dolor, Tumor.  The new Leader of the House Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg would of course know the meaning of these four words famous in medicine.  He would also appreciate my double spacing after full stops.  They are the main descriptors of any inflammation found in the body. Is it hot? Is it red? Is it sore? Is it swollen?

The Withdrawal Agreement and especially, but not only, the Irish backstop certainly fits the bill for being inflammatory. A foreign body that our own is rightly rejecting. It is now making our democracy quite ill. 

Is there a doctor in the House? Can anyone lacerate the proposed legislation rather than merely tergiversate as the PM accused Corbyn of doing?

Surgery is not easy. Surviving it even less so if care is not taken. It is not about cutting things out which is of itself very easy to do. It is about making sure everything is put back together afterwards, with minimal blood loss and hopefully without whazzing through surround nerves, tissue or arteries in the process.

As one of my former tutors taught me about carotid (neck artery feeding the brain) dissection one must never dissect the artery off of the patient. I asked naively how else were we going to remove the dangerous clot within? He answered that we must instead dissect the patient off of the artery. Sometimes surgery is so delicate that for a few moments what is bad matters more than what is good because what is bad is what can and will go wrong without the utmost care and attention. 

The Withdrawal Agreement is exactly this kind of problem.  The new government would be well advised to dissect Brexit from the Agreement, and not the other way around. Taking the Agreement off the table as a Government Bill carries great risk. Of course it could trigger a vote of no confidence but maybe I have found another danger.

Could taking the Withdrawal Agreement out of Government hands instead hand it back to Parliament to vote on as a ready-made private member's bill?

Remainers have proven themselves well-read and resourced in parliamentary chicanery. (Then again so have brexiteers. It was a private member's bill that won us the 2016 referendum in the first place.) It would be a sweet revenge served cold if remainers voted through the agreement to avoid a "no-deal" Brexit.

Surgery is all about approach to the lesion and to successful repair of the defect remaining. As another tutor put it to me, it is 99 per cent anticipation and 1 per cent operation. I couldn't agree more. Time is short, very short for elective surgery but Brexit is now an emergency.  

Last minute slashing will make a butchery of the process and a dead patient renders the most successful operation redundant. Often damage control is first exercised in emergency surgery to stem bleeding and sepsis, with a formal complete and careful resection at a later date

As many doctors throughout the years have said,

"A surgeon should have an eagle’s eye, a lion’s heart and a lady’s hands"

To be fair we have had one lady's hands on this already but lionhearted and eagle eyed Theresa May was not. In DexEU the new PM has created a team of old and new, somewhat experienced and somewhat eager, but patience is the virtue that will win a Brexit we can be proud of. 

I have argued before that formally leaving via the EEA would give the UK about 18 months to pull itself together, plenty time to negotiate preliminary deals with others and hold a general election of Brexiteer’s terms. The British government has to decide not if the Withdrawal Agreement is resectable (it is) rather if the patient is operable. The choice of operation will be crucial.

In the end some surgeons may bury their mistakes, but we much prefer a survivor!


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