Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Course set for failure


Theresa May once said "no prime minister" could ever sign up to the backstop, all the while repeating "No deal is better than a bad deal". Not long after she was pushing a withdrawal agreement with that same backstop in it, and went quiet on that infamous slogan. When asked then if no deal was still better than a bad deal she would duck the question entirely. "What I have said, is that we are working closely with our European partners to blah blah blah..."

So what changed? Quite simply, reality caught up with her. She realised we have no leverage and even a bad deal is better than no deal. The delusion could not withstand the barrage of reality.

Of course the Brexiters would not put up with this. They deal only in delusion and self-deception and if ever there was an ideal figurehead to represent such a position it is Boris Johnson, here and now. The man who famously does not do detail, instead imploring us to believe harder in the greatness of Britain. He's singing their tune and they love him for it. Now he's in command he's making all the same noises as Theresa Version 1.0.

The question is now whether we will get as far as a post-realisation Boris Johnson. Ordinarily a PM making his way into Number Ten would have the facts spelled out by a senior civil servant or adviser, but as we know, there has been a gradual purge of anyone who knows the ropes and Johnson has now recruited one Dominic Cummings. That should keep reality at bay for a time.

There is really only one crucial difference between May and Johnson (insofar as it matters). Johnson believes that no deal is a credible threat and that we have nothing to fear from no deal. When you deal only in rhetoric and bombast, why would you accept for a nanosecond that things might be a little more complicated than they appear?

But then Johnson is also operating on the assumption that we have a report written by a very clever important person from the Institute of Clever and Important People saying we don't need a backstop so if the EU won't do a deal the fault lies with beastly intransigent foreigners. We need to show them who's boss.

That then puts us firmly on a no deal footing. By the looks of it we're getting a cabinet of true believers which means we will essentially have an anti-knowledge government hell bent on executing all of the worst ideas to leak out of the Tory right think tank sewer. Even Liam Fox faces the chop for the crime of acknowledging the reality that those "bumper deals" are not coming any time soon. 

Meanwhile, the message from Brussels is not so warm. Donald Tusk writes "On behalf of the European Council, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I look forward to meeting you to discuss - in detail - our cooperation". That "in detail" is hanging there, heavily pregnant with unambiguous ambiguity that only a career diplomat could muster.

I take it to read that the EU side is not in the mood for bombast and bluster, and if there is to be a deal then it requires a serious commitment by the UK, and one which they seemingly assume Johnson is not capable of.

If Twitter is anything to go by, the Tory party faithful seem to think that because Boris believes in Brexit, the EU will climb down from their position and reopen the books on Article 50 for the sole benefit of Johnson. Not in a billion years do I see this happening. But then this is no longer about outcomes. The right are cock a hoop today, not especially because Johnson is their man, but because he "triggers" all the right people. We have regressed to pure tribalism - which is why this handover looks more like a tinpot junta than a British government. 

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