Richard North, 24/08/2019  

Many times, I have remarked on the madness infecting what passes for the Brexit debate, so much so that the subject defies rational analysis. As far as I am concerned, Brexit has now become a matter of personal survival.

Mrs EU Referendum is dispatched daily to build up the stockpile of toilet rolls, instant coffee, sugar, canned and dried goods and all those items deemed essential to modern life. On top of that, we have invested significant funds in improving domestic security, as no help can be expected from the police or the other forces of law and order in the event that things go belly-up.

This is by no means the first time I have addressed such issues, although I don't do it that frequently. The last time I mentioned that the inevitable response to Brexit must be personal – on the basis of sauve qui peut - was in May last year. And I've hardly laboured the need for stockpiling, even if that is the most sensible response to the continued uncertainty.

Perhaps the most significant change in my provisions is the elimination of candles from our list and the substitution of multiple LED lanterns, permanently on trickle charge from USB couplings. I'd recommended this to Boiling Frog and he followed my advice, just in time for him to be well-prepared for a power cut in the wake of the cooling tower demolition at Didcot. With enough lanterns, there is plenty of light for most normal domestic activities. And they can be recharged from modern cars, which have USB sockets.

Sadly, that seems to be the extent to which rationality can be applied to Brexit. When you end up with a national daily newspaper affording space to the idiot Greg Hands to extol the virtues of his Alternative Arrangements Commission (AAC), you know full well that logic has departed the scene.

If anything, that has been the one thing that has come over from Brexit – exposing the fundamental ignorance of our political classes and our media. This has proved so extensive that there seems no possible cure.

We must accept that ignorance is a feature of our political life, which must be factored in to the response to any developments. It is unwise to expect either politicians or the media correctly to analyse or interpret developments, or to provide advice that can be relied upon.

That said, I constantly amaze myself that, night after night, I am able to produce an essay on the theme of Brexit, ranging from 12-1500 words, totalling something like 1.5 million words since the referendum, without a break.

Of late, though, it gets harder and harder and I have increasingly to resort to mind tricks in order to deliver the goods. On a thin news night, as the midnight hour beckons and I have yet to write a word, I tell myself that, just this once, I will compromise and just write one paragraph, resorting to the age-old device of bloggers – the open thread.

But once I have written one paragraph, I tell myself I might as well write another. And with that done, I write another until a complete page is done. And with one page, I reason, I might as well write another and, with two down, I might just as well finish the job and write the third.

Most often, I find myself starting to write without the first idea of my theme, or how the piece is going to end up. And far too often this year, I've seen the sun come up before I've been able to complete my post. I'm looking forward to the longer nights so that I'm not going to bed to the strains of the dawn chorus.

Increasingly, though, a sense of desperation pervades my thinking as the likely outcome of a no-deal Brexit becomes more certain. What is really most startling is that there is any doubt. The path on which Johnson is set inevitably has us leaving on 31 October, and there is no possibility that we face anything other than a no-deal scenario.

What we can't predict is how the detail will pan out. Breaking away from the most comprehensive experiment in political and economic integration is a unique event. And since so many people in authority have little idea of what is entailed in our EU membership, it can be hardly surprising that they have less idea of what might happen when we leave.

Nevertheless, it is possible to make a fairly good estimate of where the headline issues lie, although this seems something beyond the wit of the media and the political classes.

And when self-importance is matched by profound ignorance, you get the likes of Greg Hands sounding off about food and animal checks "away from the border", and if the regimes on plant and animal regulations diverge, "mobile units to carry out sanitary and phytosanitary checks far from the sensitive frontier".

But if, in this event, it is the Mail which is platforming ignorance, it is not on its own. We had The Sun yesterday earnestly claiming that the EU was "brainstorming tweaks to hated Irish backstop to avoid No Deal Brexit after Boris Johnson insists it must be scrapped".

A plan under consideration, we were told, would see the scope of the backstop whittled down and largely confined to covering livestock, plus animal and plant products. Thus, an EU source told The Sun: "That's where Boris is already having success - at least we're thinking at the highest levels about alternatives".

Under this "compromise solution", Northern Ireland would mirror Brussels rules on animal and plant health to allow "seamless" trade in agricultural products. But, in return, Brussels would agree to take a "controlled risk" on all other goods crossing the border from the UK into Ireland.

It took a matter of hours before Twitter demolished this story, but only the wildest of ignorance could have allowed it to be published in the first place. Not in a million years could this be a realistic proposition. However, if we are prey to the ignorati, almost anything goes – except accuracy. To determine what is going on, and to do the research which will keep us on the straight and narrow, is far too much like hard work. Speculation on the basis of fantasy politics, is so much easier.

Nonetheless, an unexpected degree of realism seems to be afflicting the Oaf. Down in Devon yesterday, he told reporters that people "shouldn't get hopes up too soon" about prospects of a Brexit deal. But, considering that he is the one that has been pushing the optimism button, he is the last one to talk.

The perspicacious Guardian, however, has divined that Johnson's comments "suggest he thinks some of the reporting of what he achieved this week has been over-optimistic". He is saying that, while the "mood music" when he visited Berlin and Paris was "very good", [Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron] could see that we want a deal.

According to Johnson, they can see the problems with the backstop and, clearly Angela Merkel thinks that the solutions can be found within 30 days. Actually, Johnson says, what she meant was if you can do it in two years you can certainly do it in 30 days.

For all that, we are still on the no-deal shtick, with the prime minister in office prattling about having "an arrangement that allows the whole UK to come out of the EU and have frictionless trade at the border in Northern Ireland". There are lots of ways that we can make sure that happens, he says, but to persuade our EU friends and partners, who are very, very, very hard over against it, will take some time.

That is where reality departs, of course. And it doesn't matter how many times you repeat the mantras, if Johnson is determined to ditch the backstop, then we are leaving on 31 October without a deal.

If there is a theme for me to write, therefore, it is how nothing changes. The moment the Oaf took office, we were set for a no-deal Brexit. If I could be bothered, I might write about that, except that there is a faint glimmer of dawn on the horizon – unless it's my imagination. I think I will have to rely on making this post an open thread.

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