Wednesday, 11 March 2020

No time to be playing silly buggers.

There was a budget yesterday. It barely registered with me. From what I gather it was the usual drab accountancy with a few cash grenades thrown at various problems. It really separates the men from the boys as regards to who pays attention it. This Westminster circus guff is lifeblood for the girlie reporters and the tribal gossip merchants who give performance reviews of speeches. To me it's all tiresome at the best of times, but especially at the moment when the real news just doesn't stop rolling. There are travel restrictions popping up all over Europe and Italy seems to be approaching breaking point. Even Johnson has moved from the "do nothing" phase to "social distancing".

The change, says The Guardian, raises the prospect of measures such as home working, school closures, limits on gatherings, and a scaling back of non-urgent health, police and fire activities. The government’s coronavirus plan states that possible actions include “population distancing strategies such as school closures, encouraging greater home working, reducing the number of large-scale gatherings”. Whether or not this translates into any serious moves remains to be seen. My feeling is that it's too little, too late.

There was some Brexit chatter on the wire yesterday, largely in anticipation of the government publishing its own draft of a trade deal. Basically. it's a stunt. A set up. It'll be an issue illiterate screed that the EU cannot possibly agree to (and they know damn well it wont) just so they can resurrect the "EU intransigence" meme - which the Tory tribe will obligingly swallow wholesale and retail to anyone who'll listen. The government has cherrypicked elements from various EU FTAs it likes as though EU FTAs were an a la carte menu - without understanding the fundamental philosophy or rationale behind them. That classic blend of Tory arrogance and ignorance.

This would be alarming were we not used to it by now. This fits with the behaviour we have come to expect, but what is is alarming is that the government is seemingly operating without having factored in the rather urgent point that coronavirus is carving a hole in this political space-time continuum. They don't seem to have registered that it is likely to cause a serious global economic crisis and the inevitable protectionism that follows will make trade deals hard to find. This is no time to be playing silly buggers.

They will though. No doubt the Tory tribe will point to the ineffectual response to Corona by the EU and cite the regional stresses as further evidence that the EU is imminently about to implode. If the government does change tack, they will accuse Johnson of using CV19 to betray Brexit. 

I'm of the view that the government must rethink its Brexit strategy as nothing is the same now. EEA Efta seems an even smarter idea than ever - but that's wishful thinking. Even when we're knee deep in the dead, as far as the Brexit grunters are concerned, there will be no requirement to modify our approach.

The one hope I do have is that the seriousness of the situation will cause some Tories to wake up sufficiently so there are at least a few dissenting voices. If the Tories continue to inhabit this parallel universe then we are in serious trouble. I don't see how the current wall of denial can be sustained with reality banging loudly on the door. Something has to give sooner or later. 

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