Helen Martin: Why Brexit reminds me of Edinburgh tram fiasco

Theresa May (Picture: Getty)
Theresa May (Picture: Getty)
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Theresa May must feel that somewhere in the world, a voodoo practitioner has created a grey-haired doll wearing a baggy Black Watch trouser suit, and impaled it with pins from head to toe.

It’s difficult to imagine how she can sleep at night and cope with such pressure and stress.

But that’s the price super-ambitious people must pay when, regardless of the circumstances, their goal is to be in charge.

The top job at the worst of times is a deadly situation compared to safely snuggling down in the lower ranks.

So far, even if there were to be one or two little victories in future, Brexit is turning out to be a disaster.

Just like Edinburgh’s tram fiasco, there are so many different people to blame along the route that the mess is becoming more complicated day-by-day.

At the heart of it is the conflict and difference of opinion throughout the UK. For if she and her team ever do reach exit agreements with the EU, it’s a certainty that we won’t all be happy with the outcome.

Her claimed goals – to unite the people of the UK and have us all work together towards Brexit in a just, fair and equal society – were ridiculously naïve.

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Britain has never been just, fair and equal. And when it came to the referendum, inequality was built in with a voting system that was doomed.

The Union involves four nations who have major differences in geographical lay-out, core industries, climate, culture, needs, priorities and population size. On top of that, London (which has even less in common with the rest of the UK) has now claimed its place as an entity separate from the rest of England.

What are the chances of a Brexit deal that would be satisfactory to everyone, including London and each country involved?

Yet the referendum was based on the traditional one-man, one-vote across the board. The inevitable result was that England’s vote would dominate the rest. How can that constitute a democratic Union of countries working together?

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This isn’t an argument for Scottish independence. If every member of the UK – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and perhaps London – returned its own verdict, the decision could have been based on a different type of majority. Either all voting “leave” or “remain” even by a narrow margin, four out of five or even three out of five, would have been a fairer, more representative result taking each the specific positions and needs of each area into account.

Many people south of the border still refer to the UK as “England” and vice versa, and regard Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as “regions”. Through no fault of their own, very many have no idea that Scotland has different legal, school, police and NHS systems and nor do they understand the bulk of devolved and reserved matters.

In general, their understanding of Northern Ireland is scant, to say the least.

Indeed, signing up with the DUP, and failing to foresee from the start that the Irish border would be a major problem, would suggest that even Mrs May wasn’t altogether clued up.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But if potential withdrawal from the EU had begun with England’s recognition of the other member nations in the UK, we – and the Prime Minister - may well have avoided this nightmare.