Thursday 10 December 2020

Playing the Brexit End Game

Ah, you've got to love evasions and symptomatic silences. Reflecting on Wednesday's trip to Brussels, Boris Johnson said "we'll have a solution that's much more like an Australian relationship to the EU than a Canadian relationship with the EU. That doesn't mean it's a bad thing ...". A refusal to call no deal no deal, and then putting a brave face on matters is now the new Tory line. Okay. Whether this is theatre before a very Johnson climbdown (like last time) or not a bluff, both speak of utter failure. This moment is the culmination of a process 41 years old, of a disastrous dismantling of the country's social fabric to butress the power and line the pockets of the miserable minority interest the Tories stand for. Twice the Tories have purposely trashed the economy and wrecked living standards for this most frivolous of ends, and now they stand on the threshold of doing it a third time.

The question is how do the two main parties manage the politics. Because British politics is perverse, Johnson is in a good place to spin his lackadaisical and unserious trade negotiations as something positive. Or, at the very least, not damaging. The "Australian relationship" bullshit is going to fly because the media feeding the Tory base will do their stenographic best to convey the right message. The border down the Irish Sea agreed by Johnson over the body of his one-and-indivisible UK posturing didn't upset the Brexiteers, though we shouldn't be shocked given the mindset, so why would the end of this complete waste of time be any different? There are two ways Johnson can keep the ship steady amid the shoppy seas crashing against our independent coastal state.

The first, whether it's climbdown time on Sunday or full speed to the cliff edge, is the preservation of his authority. If he keeps control, spins it the right way, and isn't seen to be craven in surrender or clueless in "victory", the price paid is going to be negligible. This is a Prime Minister, you will recall, who has survived 62,000 Covid deaths without copping responsibility for his criminal negligence. More slippery than bananas on ice, not only can he lever his institutional advantage to deflect blame, problems at the ports and import delays can always get pinned on an EU determined to "punish" the UK for its instransigence. Herein lies the second aspect of Tory strategy going into the new year. Johnson is in trouble if the consequences of Brexit, deal or no, impacts directly on and is seen to hit the core Tory constituency. Food prices rises are one thing, as per Tesco's warning, but the real biggie is medical supplies and, crucially, the Pfizer vaccine manufactured in Belgium. Military airlifts are the order of the day, we've been assured (more theatre!), but if this impacts the roll out then the usual spin might not be enough.

I say might because in this moment of crisis it falls to the Leader of the Opposition to articulate discontent. The question is, will Keir Starmer do it? He's pulled his punches thus far on Coronavirus, and the shadow cabinet divides over the decision to vote for Johnson's deal (assuming he has one) are hardly best kept secrets. Saying the Brexit debate is now closed is one thing, but having the adroitness to exploit the crisis of the Tories' making is his great great unknown. You don't have to be the Oracle of Delphi to imagine Keir rising to the dispatch box to make this, again, all about Tory incompetence and nothing else. Despite no deal being the express objective of the European Research Group and sundry unattached Tories, all of whom are on the Johnson wagon and have been flattered and courted by his clownish countenance. The Labour leader has to step up and challenge the politics. Droning on about how this Brexit outcome is damaging to Britain is easy and pointless, that's the usual Project Fear stuff. The trick is demonstrating concretely how Johnsons is making life worse for those who voted Tory this time last year. Their message thrives when the consequences of their actions means making life worse for "other people". It's Keir's job to set out how what happens next will make them pick up the tab for their government's recklessness and cynicism. If he fails, just like the Covid-19 bodycount, Johnson and the Tories will get away with it.

Image Credit


PeterFlowerdew said...

My / our faith in the present opposition just accelerates our plunge over the abyss.
Facebook is and has provided a sounding board for public opinion, and us our only hope for a groundswell of opposition against our present administrations, both state and opposition.This is going to be where any future action stems from, so keep posting your views and ideas.

Boffy said...

On the present tack, Britain Is Headed For An Iraq Style Deal, not an Australian style deal.

Boffy said...

Whenever there has been a decision to be made, Starmer has conveniently come down with a requirement to self-isolate and stay away from parliament. So far, he's played the role of Johnson's wing man or second lieutenant, not just on Brexit, but on lockdowns, on protecting UK war criminals, and all other aspects of jingoism.

The cretinous line on Brexit is already lined up. It is that they would have to vote for a Deal to avoid No Deal. But, Labour should vote against both, on principle. If voting against whatever deal Johnson comes back with means that his Brexiteer nutters have a majority for No Deal, that is his problem. Labour should demand a vote on both any deal, and on No Deal to avoid that.

But, if the Tories refuse that then labour cannot simply vote for a lesser evil, or abstain. It must vote against Johnson's deal. If he is left with a catastrophic No Deal, that is his problem, and he will have to carry the can for it. Labour would be stupid to tie itself to all of the damage that Brexit will do to workers. Yet it seems likely that is precisely what the arch-Remainer, whilst Corbyn was Leader - Starmer - will do, now that he is Leader.

What a bunch of unprincipled, opportunist, careerist cretins.