How do you parody all this? How can you add mockery to the daily activities of those who rule over us? All you can do is report it, along with some of the comment and cartoons, so we can look back and remember how we got to wherever we are by then. Where will that be – don’t ask David Davis, Minister for Exiting the EU, who cheerfully admitted to the Brexit Committee that he hadn’t a clue about where we were going. He is, however, in a great hurry to get there.
Ingram Pinn in the FT
Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox, the three horsemen of the Brexitocalypse appointed by Theresa May to take us over the Brexit cliff-edge, turned out in force on Sunday ahead of the crucial Brexit showdown in the Commons. The context was twofold – Theresa May’s assertion that no deal with the EU was better than a bad deal, and the right (or not) of Parliament to have a say in the negotiations, or at least in the end-result.
The gallant crew were not exactly singing from the same hymn-sheet on the “no deal” scenario. Johnson said “I don’t think that the consequences of no deal are by any means as apocalyptic as some people like to protest”. Fox said of a “no deal” result that “Of course it would be bad, not just for the UK but Europe as a whole”. Davis said “Parliament had better do as we tell it, or else” (I paraphrase, a little).
So the most positive thing from any of them is that a “no deal” Brexit would not be apocalyptic. Try applying that to any other decision-making in public or private life:
“I commend this budget to the House. Its results will not be apocalyptic”.
“Vote for me – I promise the outcome won’t be apocalyptic”
You get the point, as the Three Mountebanks apparently do not.
The Tory enforcers did their stuff – one imagines a job offer here, a hint of retribution there, and perhaps a promise of a “visit” from David Davis for the most conscience-struck, brought them into line for the votes.
Jeremy Corbyn fails to show up for his own demo
Jeremy Corbyn, the confused old fool who leads Labour, ordered his MPs to vote for a Tory Brexit without safeguards for EU citizens, organised a protest outside to shout for the opposite, and then failed to show up for either the vote or the demo. No, I don’t understand either.
Corbyn could have done something useful. Instead, I picture him roaming Westminster in a storm, a compendium of Lear, Lenin and Albert Steptoe
Theresa May – coming out, ready or not
The upshot is that Theresa May is free to push the Brexit Article 50 button just as soon as she likes. Those who fought to “take back control” have willingly ceded control to May, and to the Three Mountebanks, untrammelled by a supine Parliament and, it seems, by any preparation, planning, facts, projections or predictions as to what will happen – more on that below.
To Remainers like me the whole thing is a disaster. I’m not sure I’d be too happy as a thoughtful Brexiteer either (there are plenty of unthoughtful ones, those dim, rude creatures who shout down any Brexit doubts with shouts of “suck it up loser” or worse, but I am willing to accept, as they are not, that others can hold a view opposite to mine and yet be sincere and intelligent about it).
Davis, Johnson and Fox have three things against them: they have quickly resiled from the promises they made, and the hopes they raised, before the referendum; the best they can show for nine months work is the unsubstantiated assurance from one of them that the outcome will not be apocalyptic; and they lack the personal qualities – the tact, the manners and the negotiating skills – to take on the human side of complex treaty-making.
Theresa May, despite the veneer of competence which the others lack, is no better with people than they are. They share a well-publicised contempt for their EU counterparts and sneering condescension at their negotiating position. May always makes me think of a colonial administrator, armed only with a swagger stick, facing down the unruly natives. When a tweeter put up a copy of the famous picture of General Gordon on the steps of his residence in Khartoum, I could not resist drawing attention to the parallel:
Liam Fox asserts that his department is not staffed by third-raters
Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade also had thoughts of Empire. His department is busy, or so he says, lining up future deals with the wider world outside the EU. Our trade agreements with Africa and Asia, it was said, will help make “Empire 2.0”. The storm which followed was inevitable: anyone might have predicted that this expression, with its obvious implication that Britain would sit smugly at the centre of a network of trading arrangements, would go down badly, especially in India and Ireland.
There is a large body of bien-pensant, generally leftish, and not necessarily stupid, people who have been brought up with an automatic reflex to condemn the Empire. They resist any attempt to persuade them that 350 years of trade, medicine, railways, education and the rest had any merit or that a more nuanced reaction may be needed. They will just refer to slavery, General Dyer at Amritsar and Partition and consider the demolition job done.
It seems that Fox’s “Empire 2.0” bollocks came from his senior civil servants rather than him, and he hastened both to disown the expression and to assure us that the people in his department are “not third-rate”. So we have a team of not-third-raters dealing with a future which is not apocalyptical. That’s good to know.
Scotland – who would wrench a country out of its biggest market?
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, lobbed the Scottish independence grenade into Theresa May’s already toxic Brexit mix. Patrick Blower in Yahoo News put it this way:
Theresa May immediately criticised the move. Politics is not a game she said. How silly to wrench a country out of its biggest market. Indeed Mrs May – what sort of idiot would do that?
The shyster David Davis
David Davis appeared before the Brexit Committee. It is nine months since he was wrenched from well-deserved obscurity to lead us out of the EU. His boss is about to press the button to initiate the process which, in two years, will bring us to a position which is at best “not apocalyptic”. We are used to politicians lying, hiding things, dressing things up in shadowy euphemisms, but there was no dissembling from Davis. He just stated flatly what his department hadn’t done, hadn’t thought about and, by obvious implication, didn’t care about.
Davis knows we are quitting and is past having to hide the difficulties. This car salesman knew we were going to buy his nice little runner anyway: no, he didn’t know anything about that noise from the clutch; he had no idea if the car had been clocked; it was quite possible that it was two write-offs which had been welded together. Just stop asking questions and sign here.
It stops being the source of any merriment at this point. We know David Davis to be a bullying shyster. He knows we know. And he doesn’t care.