Friday, 20 September 2019

No change.

While the Telegraph and others continue to indulge the myth that we are edging closer toward a deal, the UK position remains the same as does the EU position and there is no meeting of minds. Steve Barclay has once again reiterated the UK's impossible demands. This is going nowhere.

This brings us to the question of an extension. Methinks that Boris Johnson will have to go through the motions under the Benn Act, though at this point I wouldn't be at all surprised if he didn't. The bigger question is whether the EU would even grant an extension.

As much as there is no sign of serious engagement from the Johnson administration, the only reason to delay further is to wait out a general election to see what happens then. But would talking to a new administration produce different results? After all they'd be dealing with Comrade Corbyn whose own command of the issues is not in any way an improvement. He wants a customs union where the UK would have a say in future EU trade deals and a "close relationship with the single market". Neither of these demands can be accommodated. They are not on this planet. 

In the event of a Corbyn government, EU negotiators would yet again have to spell out the Janet and John basics to a clueless British government that has no idea what it wants to accomplish or even what the basic components do. More likely, though, they would yet again be dealing with Boris Johnson where the outcome is much the same. The only reason to give an extension is so to absolve itself of any blame.

Beyond that there doesn't seem any reason to extend. Even if Johnson's demands were met there is no sign of coherence from the commons and no guarantee a deal would be ratified. There is nothing in it for them. There is only an outside chance of Brexit being reversed and if that happens the EU is stuck with a politically dysfunctional member which at heart is not on board with the project. There is also the small matter of the EU being as bored and frustrated with this as the British public are. They have better - or certainly more productive things to be getting on with.

My hunch is that they will extend but with a sense of weary exasperation but there is no chance the time will be used productively either by parliament or the executive. Number Ten is never going to get to grips with the issues and nor is parliament. That Labour still doesn't have a coherent Brexit position tells you all you need to know. Nothing has been learned.

That is ultimately why failure is inevitable. Public debate doesn't take on board anything nor does it reach any settled conclusions. Somebody high profile will yet again suggest emulating the Swiss border and we'll go all around the houses yet again debunking it, for something like the ninth time. The media will run with it simply to fill airtime - adding further confusion in the process. If there is an argument for "clean break" it is only that we lack the talent and coherence to do anything else.   

Meanwhile there is a belated realisation in the wake of Cameron's memoirs that the EEA Efta option was always the most sensible way to do it but that realisation has come far too late to be of any use. Ultimately MPs were too invested in stopping Brexit to turn their attentions to viable outcomes. When we do crash and burn it will most certainly be a collective failure. Both the media and politics can take equal share of the blame.

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