LONDON – For those British who believe leaving the European Union will be a disaster, it seems that the world will not end on March 29 after all. It could also end on April 12th. Or possibly May 22nd.
Brexit dates and the facts keep changing. And if you've given up trying to understand what's happening with Brexit, get in line. It's a challenge for everyone, journalists included.
This nation has developed Brexit fatigue. London accountant John Tuite admitted, "I'm still very confused. I've been trying to keep track of it."
Russell Robinson, a technology company executive said of Brexit, "I'm fed up with it."
So while Britain remains and divided as ever over Brexit, most agree they want this ordeal to be over. "It's gone on far too long. I think everyone is getting really fed up," newspaper seller Kristen Murrell believes.
London resident Patrick Whittome said he wants "a resolution frankly because probably like the rest of the country I'm bored with it. I would like a deal or a no-deal. But I just would like it to come to an end."
Is Britain Headed for Catastrophe?
But what kind of end? And why has the British government put the army on standby? Does it fear pro-Brexit protesters like Pam Watts, who said, "If you want riots in the street, if you want people like me out there actually talking 'revolution,' fine, go ahead, take Brexit away."
And is Britain really barreling towards catastrophe? Or could this be another Y2K type event, when there are a lot of scary predictions, but nothing really happens? The leading expert on Brexit, Dr. Richard North, says it's still not clear how hard Brexit will hit the British economy, but some worst-case forecasts have Britain's gross domestic product shrinking by more than 10%. And North says it all could have been prevented.
"We're looking at a catastrophic failure of government," North told us, "It's an extraordinary . ASlevel of incompetence we're witnessing. One of the most important political issues of the century so far has been completely mismanaged."
World Class Incompetence or Sabotage?
This could have all been avoided if the British government had acted differently. The question from some is, was this simply incompetence, or was it sabotage?
"I don't know whether it's complete incompetence or whether Mrs. (Prime Minister Theresa) May has a cunning plan," said Gerard Batten, head of the UK Independence Party, which backs leaving. "You could argue that its complete incompetence, but I find it hard to believe that the head of government and the entire civil service can be this incompetent. I think there is a plan to not make Brexit happen," Batten said.
But Batten does not think terrible things are going to happen to Britain after Brexit as many have forecast. And some suspect that all the scary stories and government paralysis are a strategy to stay.
London commuter Russell Thackeray is one of them. "I think the government have a strategy, and the strategy is to do nothing and to achieve their ends. And to that extent they achieved them," Thackeray said.
At Alfred Enderby's fish smokehouse, owner Patrick Salmon voted "leave" and still thinks that the referendum vote should be respected.
"Europe is not like it was, we've evolved and as grown-up people, we should be allowed to make our own choices. We don't need Nanny (referring to the European Union) anymore, she can go away, Brussels can go away."
The British Voted For the UK To Leave, But Will It?
Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg says, "We decided to leave. We voted to leave. (The British public) didn't vote for an agreement. They voted to leave and the law has us leaving on the 29th of March with or without a deal. And MPs now come on and say 'Oh nobody in Parliament wants no-deal.' Well, they shouldn't have voted for the Article 50 Act and the Withdrawal Act. They seem to not have read the Acts of Parliament that they voted for if that was their position because that is the law that Parliament passed."
Batten says, "If you really wanted to leave the European Union; if we had a patriotic Prime Minister and government, we would have left the week after the referendum."
But it's still not clear when or if Britain will leave the European Union. What is clear is that those responsible for botching Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May's government, will pay a high political price for it.