Tuesday, 28 August 2018

A Song and Dance about Brexit

Sometimes, you've got to marvel at Theresa May. As she visits South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya to drum up post-Brexit trade agreements (and signing an agreement to preserve existing EU trade arrangements should the UK crash and burn without a deal), she can't help looking the fool. No, not the impromptu awful dancing, which nevertheless impressed some, nor her super awkward interview with Michael Crick. It's the dogged persistence, her insistence in the face of stark reality that Britain is on course to get a good Brexit deal.

Let's enjoy a brief precis of what's happened these last couple of months. We had the all-singing, all-dancing Chequers deal. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, by trying to please everyone she pleased nobody. Brexiteers were spitting feathers, it gave Boris Johnson the excuse he needed to jump ship, and remainers were far from impressed. Meanwhile, despite sending the cabinet to trot around Europe to plead special treatment, her plan didn't survive contact with the enemy. Sorry, our European partners. Not that taxpayers' cash and jet fuel had to be expended to find this out. Brussels has been pretty upfront about why May's plan wouldn't fly, not least because it threatens the integrity of the EU itself. As the Daily Express fulminates, how dare Johnny Foreigner put their interests before a deal with the UK. Don't they know we invented trade?

Things are far from happy in the cabinet either. Thanks to Labour's summer of scabbing, media attention has been diverted elsewhere. Were it not for this, perhaps more holiday hay would have been had with Philip Hammond's warnings that no deal means trade takes a hit (like, duh) and public borrowing could shoot up by some £80bn. I have little time for Hammond and his works, but even the Tories have to deal with the truth occasionally. Unfortunately, Theresa May is not interested in acknowledging the real state of play. At least publicly. Trapped in the strong and stable silliness of her own making, and haunted by the lady who was not for turning, May must pretend control over her fractious cabinet and act as if Chequers is a going concern, even though it's last night's chip wrappers. And so rather than demonstrate flexibility, she is pantomiming the whole my way or the highway routine. Which is why we have her approvingly quoting the head of the WTO, who said the talks "won't be a walk in the park, but won't be end of the world either". That might go down well with right wing editors, but they're not the ones in line to pay the costs of Brexit.

And so, here we are. Two months away from the final round of crunch Brexit talks, seven from the UK's departure from the EU, and there is no sense of progress, no sense May - who is now heading up the negotiations - has a clue about what's she's doing. Hold on to your hats. There's no point making like the PM and dancing around the point. Tory idiocy and complacency is making sure it's going to get worse, and all without the hope of it getting better.

1 comment:

Speedy said...

Kudos to the EU, however. By sustaining a coherent negotiating position they have steered the Brexit bullshit onto the rocks. They are not prepared to sacrifice the EU (however imperfect) on the altar of nationalist delusion.

A "no deal" is now by far the likeliest outcome, although it won't be dressed like that: a pre-Christmas fudge will be agreed that will look not unlike Chequers in order, incidentally, to defend EU trading interests (they could also do without tariffs), so worst of both world for UK.

There may be a referendum at some point, but it will only be between accepting the deal or no deal. It is worth recalling that Leave won more votes than any other UK election and they're not all dead yet: it is easy to tumble down the rabbit hole of Guardian-Indi-social media reading and have the impression it may happen, but it is highly unlikely, not least because people prefer to wed themselves to their mistakes rather than admit they have made one. The politicians largely understand that.