Richard North, 18/12/2018  

To those who so grandly place themselves above the common herd, and find in Brexit such tedium that they are driven to the state of ineffable boredom, Sam Hooper has the answer – not that higher beings such as the languid Ryan Heath could possibly stir himself to read it.

This notwithstanding, one could be forgiven for throwing one's hands up in exasperation and walking away - at the antics of our political classes and their inexhaustible displays of ignorance.

Even prime minister May was troubled by the antics of Jeremy Corbyn who, yesterday announced his intention to table a motion of no confidence which turned out to be something different from what it appeared to be.

In the context of the alarums and excursions currently obsessing the House, the prospect of a "no confidence" vote has a special significance as it is this device that could bring the whole show down, deposing the current government and bringing on a general election.

And, with Mrs May having announced the new date for the Brexit vote – now set for the week commencing 14 January - it was Corbyn's turn to respond with an expected motion to bring on a no confidence vote. But when he spoke, it was to demand a pre-Christmas vote, leaving us hanging with a number of "will he, won't he?" moments, before declaring that the prime minister had "led the country into a national crisis", and lost the support of her own cabinet.

Of the expected motion, there was no sign. We had to wait for Points of Order, just before six pm. But when he then announced his "no confidence" motion, it did not follow the format required by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 necessary to trigger an election. Instead of declaring "no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government", as is required, he couched the motion in the following terms:
That this House has no confidence in the Prime Minister due to her failure to allow the House of Commons to have a meaningful vote straightaway on the withdrawal agreement and framework for future relationships between the UK and the European Union.
Bizarrely, for a vote to be taken on the motion, there must be a debate. And since Corbyn is not allocating an opposition day, the time needed has to be agreed by government business managers – which isn't going to happen. The little demonstration was a meaningless charade.

Despite that, it is still afforded the front-page treatment by the legacy media, with the Guardian playing out the soap opera for all it is worth. "Labour and the Conservatives", the narrative runs, "were embroiled in a high-stakes row over whether to stage an immediate vote of no confidence in the government after the opposition chose not to table a binding vote on Monday night".

And there we have the classic "biff-bam" confrontation as the paper tells us that: "The opposition accused Downing Street of 'running scared' because it had refused to allow time to debate an alternative, non-binding no-confidence vote in Theresa May as prime minister – while the Tories hit back, saying that Labour had 'bottled it'".

The Telegraph is little different, running a story headed: "Theresa May dares Jeremy Corbyn to call vote of confidence that could bring down Government", having Downing Street sources dismissing Corbyn's action as a "silly political stunt". And, true to form, The Times carries an almost identical headline, as it declares: "Theresa May dares Jeremy Corbyn to call vote of confidence".

A longer headline in the Mail has: "May dares Corbyn: No10 rebuffs Labour leader's calls for a vote of no confidence in HER - slamming his 'silly political games' and demanding he tables 'proper' motion against the government", telling us that, "a cynical Labour attempt to embarrass Theresa May backfired last night".

These games and playground-level exchanges may keep the media happy but it contributes exactly nothing to the debate and takes us no closer to resolving the issue of whether Mrs May's deal should be ratified. If there is room for boredom, it is here, as the politicians prance and posture, never getting close to the concerns of the people who will suffer from their neglect.

Meanwhile, in what passes for the real world, the Department of Transport has tweeted the news that Chris Grayling has signed "a new air services agreement with Switzerland, following agreements with USA & Canada".

It goes on to say that the UK and the European Commission "are clear". Flights, they say, "will continue post-Brexit in ANY scenario. Consumers should continue to book with confidence". There is a reference then made to a letter from Mr Grayling to the aviation industry which states that, "both the UK and the EU have made clear their desire to ensure flights between the UK and EU continue in any scenario".

With that, the Secretary of State  says that he believes "both the UK and the EU have a determination to retain the aviation links which bring such significant economic and cultural benefits for both sides".

This is the substantive part of the letter, which expressed nothing more than a "desire" that flights between the EU and the UK will continue. But this is a long way from the situation where flights "will continue post-Brexit in ANY scenario". Clearly, in a "no deal" scenario, they won't.

Then, checking back to the detail of the Swiss deal, we find this report that tells us that if London and Brussels manage to reach a deal for an orderly Brexit, the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU will continue to apply to Britain through the end of 2020, the statement said.

But, it says, "in the case of a "no-deal" Brexit, those agreements will no longer apply to Swiss-British relations". On the face of it, the Department of Transport tweet is not one on which we should place any reliance.

Nor, it would seem does the aerospace sector have any confidence in the arrangements being made. We are being told that Bombardier and Cobham are among more than 200 UK aerospace manufacturers which have applied to come under the jurisdiction of regulators in other EU countries in preparation for a possible hard Brexit.

In a somewhat simplistic report, the Guardian tells us that aircraft parts from the UK can currently be used across the EU if the country's aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), has approved them.

But, if the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 without a transition deal the approvals will no longer be valid, meaning that new parts made by British firms will need third-country approvals like those currently used by non-EU countries, unless they have registered with regulators in EU states.

This is close enough to capture the essence, but we're still lacking the detail of the full extent of safety arrangements which may keep aircraft from EEA states out of UK airports, and prevent UK registered aircraft flying to European destinations. Without the safety issues settled, that would also exclude Swiss destinations.

The contrast between these two news streams could not be more acute. On the one hand, we have the pathetic, childish soap opera dominating the headlines, while, on the other, technical issues - which will have a real impact, on real people's lives - go begging.

As the clock ticks down to Brexit, we desperately need our politicians to focus, and more than ever we need reliable, well-founded information to guide us through the shitstorm that looks set to descend upon us. And all we get is this perennial soap opera as the politicians play their games.

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