Richard North, 22/11/2020  

It's Monday or Tuesday that we were supposed to see a deal, and the Financial Times gets Peter Guilford to tell us that everyone wants a deal, so we'll get one – albeit at the last minute. Just about everybody reckons we're in the final throes and about the only new news is that we've signed up a continuity trade deal with Canada.

As to Guilford, he has "little doubt there will be a Brexit deal, although the EU's skill at playing things down to the wire is legendary". Together with Britain's apparent unpreparedness, this is causing widespread jitters in the press and on social media, and uncertainty in the economy and among businesses, yet for Brussels this is a normal day at the office.

The EU Commission's job, he says, is to broker deals between forces bigger than itself, within Europe and outside. It has nerves of steel, the hide of an ox and no fear of cliff edges.

The problem he perceives with Brexit is that the referendum was seen in EU circles as a reaction to grievances largely unrelated to EU membership. The EU assumes that, even down to the wire, London does not know what it wants — but needs to make voters feel sovereignty has been restored.

Thus, when the Commission finally puts its negotiating steamroller into top gear, it could face some surprises. But even then, Guilford thinks the Commission will be prepared for any eventuality and will have done its crisis planning – which is more than you can say for the British government.

Meanwhile, I've got to the stage with The Great Deception rewrite where I'm having to draft the conclusion, without yet knowing the ending, while leaving the last narrative chapter unfinished until I get details of the outcome of the talks.

With nothing much in the legacy media to entertain us, all we have is Nick Cohen in the Observer writing about "a Churchillian delusion" that is sustaining Brexiteer fantasies.

I doubt very much whether he appreciates the irony (he certainly doesn't mention it) of this Churchill reference, when the "Europeanists" have for many decades been calling in aid his speech in September 1946 in the Great Hall of Zurich University, as the effective launch of the movement which led to the European Union.

It was then, of course, that he declared that "we must build a kind of United States of Europe", so there is a double irony. While the "Europeanists" are happy to co-opt him as their intellectual godfather, many of them reject the idea that the EU is a proto United States of Europe. Some will even deny that that was ever the intention.

Nevertheless, it is rather off that both sides of the divide are enlisting Churchill to their respective causes, with Cohen reminding us that Johnson said during the 2016 referendum campaign that "Winston Churchill would have joined me on the battle bus".

Johnson also claimed that the EU shared "the same flawed ambition to unite Europe that Hitler pursued", pointing to what he saw as parallels between the choices that confronted "his beloved Churchill", and Britain, during the Second World War and the decision facing voters in the referendum.

Actually, Hitler never wanted to unite Europe – he wanted to dominate it and exploit it, but not unite it. His ideas of racial purity precluded that, with his thinking confined to building the greater Reich. Although some of his entourage favoured the idea of a united Europe, Hitler eventually banned any discussion of the idea.

However, Johnson did have some sympathy with the idea that the EU was a successor to the Third Reich which is why, in 2003 when he was editor of the Spectator he allowed John Laughland (author of a book which pursued that thesis) to write a scurrilous review of The Great Deception and refused to allow Booker the right of reply to correct the many errors in it.

One of the reasons why we wrote TGD was to take on the "Nazi creation myth", which was quite popular at the time amongst a growing band of Eurosceptics. Whatever the many faults of the EU, there is no evidence whatsoever to support the idea that it borrows its structure or ambitions from the Nazis, and we thought that pursuit of this thesis could damage the Eurosceptic cause.

And while Johnson obviously is happy with the role model of Churchill in 1940, putting two fingers up to Nazi-occupied Europe, this is the same Churchill who during the early stages of the London Blitz ruled that the London Underground should not be used as shelters, having armed guards posted at the entrances to stations during air raids, to prevent Londoners taking refuge.

It was only when desperate shelter-seekers swept aside the guards at Liverpool Street Station, at the height of an air raid, and the soldiers had the good sense not to open fire, that Churchill's government finally relented and officially permitted people to take shelter in the Underground.

This, of course, does not fit with the Johnsonian myth of the great leader, but then it's probably more in line with the behaviour of the man who seeks to emulate him, putting people in harm's way in pursuit of flawed policies.

But, if this is all that is preoccupying Cohen at this late stage, then we've come to a pretty poor pass. It perhaps reflects the current situation where there is little new to report, or say, on the subject of Brexit, until we get these damn talks out of the way.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

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