Pulling the Brexit Trigger: Who Will Pay the Penalty?

Brexit Trigger: taking the shot

Imagine that pulling the Brexit Trigger was all just a huge game of football. Not just any game, though: the deciding game that could see the Away team relegated if they lose.

The Away team arrive on their big blue bus, parking next to the Home team have bus, which has been painted with a slogan about winning by 350 goals on the side. It seems an outlandish claim, and nothing is given to show it is even possible: but still it glares at them.

‘Swarms’ of Away fans – who have a reputation for taking up much needed seats in the ground, eating all the food, and bringing violence and crime to the game – arrive at the ground peacefully, ready to get the game going.

The Game begins.

Twenty-two players run around a field, frantically kicking a ball around, rolling around on the floor, screaming expletives at each other, and ignoring the rules when they think they can’t be seen by the referee. There are poor shots, misses, and free kicks – where walls are built to prevent goals going in.

By the end of the second half, the score is level at 4 all and the match goes to extra time. Having used all their substitutes during the match, and injury to a player on the Away team means they have to carry on with just 10 players. It’s now 10 players Away .v. 11 players Home on the field for extra time. No more goals are scored during extra time, but having spent all their substitutes, an injury for the away side leaves them a player down.

Suddenly it appears that a goal is scored by the Away team, but it’s unclear whether the ball crossed the line.  The referee is unsure, and refers to the assistant referees for their opinion. They recommend putting it to the 4th referee or even goal line technology, but pressure from the home team players makes them nervous, so they back down. The Home team’s protestations prevent the goal, and the score holds at 4 all.

There’s only one option left.

Penalty Shoot-Out

The match goes to a penalty shoot out. Not all people like these because they seem so random, so unfair, so sudden. When a match has been so close, it seems wrong to hand the win over two hours of football on such a tight margin as the split seconds of a penalty shoot-out.

So, what hangs on this game? If the Away team lose the game they will find it harder to hold their heads high and come to future matches, and might not even be welcome in the Home Team’s stadium at all. Due to the risk, fans could find that travelling to the Home team’s ground could cost a lot more, and higher priced tickets and passes might be required. They won’t be able to use their usual season tickets any more and will need to buy a special ticket to gain access to the Home team’s ground.

The repercussions spread far beyond this one game. Indeed, they are far more complex than a meagre penalty shoot-out can ever really cater for.

But what if this game didn’t just affect this season? What if the result affected the next 5, 10 or 20 seasons? That’s an awful lot to hang onto one penalty shoot-out. What if the game will also decide all the other leagues such as the FA cup, the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, and European Super Cup?

Then it spreads into the Euros and the World Cup.

…all hang on this one penalty shoot out…

So what’s Next?

No-one knows what will happen during the course of the penalty shoot out. If the Home Team win, the effects of the aftermath will be decided between the manager of the winning side – the Home team – who hasn’t even been in the job for a whole season yet. She has sat on the benches for years, and played some matches, but she’s never been a coach, or trained as a referee. Above all, she was never even selected to be the manager, she just fell into the position because no-one else really objected.

It’s safe to say that she’s not too worried because she is personally wealthy enough to survive on her own without football.  She even has her own bespoke £1000 manager’s tracksuit for TV and other media appearances.


Imagine that happening in the world of football. Every game for the next few decades being affected by one penalty shoot-out now. Football fans would be up in arms, screaming “unfair,” protesting that surely we cannot make a decision solely on such knife-edge conditions.

And yet here we all are, waiting for the Brexit Trigger to be pulled, and there’s not a peep from anyone. Even when anyone does speak up against specific conditions, they are called a “troublemaker” and silenced (or sacked) in a way that would be totally unacceptable in any other employment situation.

So the Brexit Trigger will be pulled when Theresa May decides she wants to, now that the House of Commons voted to simply ignore recommendations of the House of Lords. But the vote to do that, although won, was still only one on a 54/46 ratio in the commons.

Should a slender win really be a “win”?

As I argued in the the quality and validity of our democratic process over the past year has been hung on “wins” that are far too close. If such massive constitutional changes are treated in such a fickle manner, we don’t just stand to alienate half the country with the Brexit Trigger, we risk enacting change that could substantially unrest the entire fabric of the society.

Take the decision of the commons to refuse the vote of the Lords as example. 46% of the MPs who cast a vote did not support that motion. What if those 46% of MPs represented the largest constituencies of the country and therefore the losing side actually counted for a significant majority of the population. Did all the MPs vote on behalf of the constituents? Did they even consult them? If they didn’t consultant their constituents, did they really have a mandate to provide such a vote in the Commons?

Of course MPs cannot go back to their constituency over every issue, but surely a huge constitutional change as pulling the Brexit Trigger should warrant at least an invite to advise to representative how “the people” would vote.

Or it would if we were in a true Democracy.

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