Richard North, 09/07/2019  

I was listening to someone who might be described as a "senior Brexiteer" the other day – as one does. He was getting animated over Singham's Alternative Arrangements Commission (AAC) and the claim that there was far more flexibility in applying BIP inspections than had so far been indicated.

With direct personal experience of moving eventing horses around Europe, he noted that the EU was "very relaxed" about enforcing its requirement for one hundred percent inspection of the horses when they crossed the borders, having found that they didn't even have to be sent to BIPs. And if the EU could be prevailed upon to drop its rigid requirements in this sphere, he averred, there should be no problem in getting them to relax their regimes on the Irish border.

This Brexiteer's personal view was that the major problem with the Brexit negotiations had been the British government's "negative" stance, failing to put such possibilities to the EU negotiators.

He felt that Barnier was a reasonable man and, had the idea of a single epidemiological zone been put to him by the UK, it would have been favourably received. And that was why he felt that there was still scope for further renegotiation – issues with which the EU would probably agree had not yet been put to the negotiators. If this was now remedied, we could see an entirely different outcome to the Brexit impasse.

What is especially interesting about these comments, though, is that our swashbuckling Brexiteer seems to be completely unaware that his movement of horses is currently governed by the Tripartite Agreement, something which I covered in February 2017 and which was followed-through by Booker only days later, with additional articles such as this one and this.

Although badly covered by the London-based legacy media, the Commission has since confirmed that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Tripartite Agreement will no longer apply to the UK.

As of the withdrawal date, before UK horses can be allowed into EU Member State territories, they will be "applying mandatory border checks", including veterinary checks, at the first point of entry into the Union territory. Horses will only be allowed into the EU-27 via border inspection posts, each animal requiring a completed veterinary certificate and having to undergo documentary, identity and physical checks.

This was set out by the Commission in February 2018, but the UK was slow in acknowledging it, not finally doing so until 22 February 2019, with the notice updated in April 2019.

Clearly, reliance on a concession for horses which is to be abolished once we leave with a no-deal Brexit, is going to have its limitations. The Commission is hardly going to accept this as a model for further concessions, when it has already marked it down for abolition.

Where the full rigours of EU law are to apply to horses, one can only expect equal treatment for the rest of the livestock industry, with potentially devastating effects, something I was pointing out in January 2017.

Yet, despite very real adverse consequences of a no-deal Brexit, the extreme Brexiteer fraternity have moved into high gear in an attempt to convince others that this is a credible option. Peter has drawn together some of the latest initiatives, culminating in a piece in the Spectator by David Paton, asserting that "A Halloween no-deal Brexit is no longer a scary prospect".

With a similar piece by Robert Tombs, which I looked at as well, alongside Pete I have no difficulty seeing the authors relying on the "same handful of lies and sleight of hand techniques that chiefly rely on the ignorance of Spectator readers".

But, when one takes in my Brexiteer and his horses, there is quite evidently room for another interpretation of what is going on. Difficult though it is to appreciate, we could be dealing with the genuinely ignorant – people who simply don't know what they are talking about, even though they think they do.

We saw this in particular with Shanker Singham where, in his first appearance in front of the Treasury Committee, he made so many unforced "rookie errors" that my fellow witness, Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, observed that had he been employed even as an intern, his services would no longer be required.

When we see a more confident Singham currently spouting his brand of nonsense in public, this is perhaps not the glacial control of a practised liar, intent on deception. Rather, we have a man with serious but well-concealed learning difficulties, who is so thick that he doesn't even begin to understand how wrong he is. This is the innocence of the baby, as expressed by the fool, who simply doesn't have the wit to tell a conscious lie.

And if this sounds extreme, how otherwise does one explain the man's stance on mobile inspection teams? On reading an EU law provision which permits "mobile official control team", to provide staff for dispersed BCPs performing controls on consignments of "unprocessed logs and sawn and chipped wood", he interprets this as a block exemption allowing vets to do "beyond the border inspections" without resort to BCPs.

The obvious conclusions one must allow is that he is either telling an outrageous, demonstrable lie, or suffers serious comprehension/learning difficulties.

Much the same might be said of Brexiteers who continue to trot out the GATT Article XXIV canard, given the detailed rebuttal once again, this time in Prospect Magazine, which has WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo tell us that: "If there is no agreement, then Article XXIV would not apply, and the standard WTO terms would".

Since its first emergence, however, the argument has morphed into a conviction that the EU will come to an agreement because it no more wants tariffs on goods than does the UK.

As the heart of this lies an unshakable belief expressed by many Brexiteers that they can rely on the "they need us more than we need them" dynamic. Whatever logic or [lack of] experience might tell them, they are convinced that, at the very last minute, the EU will roll over and offer us a workable deal, without the backstop, simply because the EU needs us so much.

Their view is that they need to do nothing but hold the line. It just then needs the EU to be "pragmatic" and allow UK goods into their system without any of the controls applied to goods from third countries.

This again is influenced by an extraordinary level of ignorance. Not for a moment is there any recognition that any concessions made to the UK will also have to be made to the EU's other trading partners, potentially prejudicing the integrity of the Single Market. Never mind that it confers benefits on the UK which are not afforded to fully paid-up Member States – which the EU has said it will never do.

What we also get from the extreme Brexiteers is a complete lack of self-awareness. According to their narrative, the other side is producing unmitigated lies but they are offering nothing but the unvarnished truth.

They believe the "Europhile civil service" is blocking their message in Brussels and, if the likes of Barnier were presented with their solutions (the AAC), which were properly explained to them, then they would be welcomed with open arms. That their case is built on falsehoods, ignorance and possibly lies – where a difference can be determined – would never occur to them.

Thus, while everyone else is plagued with uncertainties, as we plunge into the unknown, no such doubts afflict the Brexiteers. They have that one, unbreakable certainty, that they are right in everything they think and do.

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