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Brexit: a scorched earth policy

2017-06-13 06:30:57

I'm getting extremely weary of the nonsense being spewed out from the politico-media nexus about staying in the customs union. The degree to which this virus has lodged itself in the brain of the collective is tiresome in the extreme, and there seems no way of rooting it out. 

But it does point to the sickness pervading the establishment - that they absorb so easily false information and repeat it endlessly without the slightest understanding that they are perpetrating a falsehood and parading their ignorance.

So pervasive and uniform is this error, though, that it acquires a status all of its own. So often is it repeated by so many that there is virtually no "above-the-line" figure left who appreciates the nature of the error and why the whole idea of staying in the customs union is wrong.

It is thus only us, the untertanen, who remain unafflicted by this virus and are able to see the extent of the infection, and how deeply it is embedded.

Once could devote a whole blogpost explaining the error but, of course, we've already done that, not once but several times. To the above-the-liners, it doesn't make any difference. These people are totally impervious to information – to correction. That they could be wrong does not constitute part of their mental make-up.

This is why they are making such a brilliant job of Brexit – why we are bang on target and why are so clear about want we want for the UK and how we are going to achieve it. Surely, all these clever, above-the-line people, the ones who are so totally error-free (in their own minds), deserve nothing but praise and our wholehearted admiration.

But there seems to be one person who doesn't seem to be all that impressed, a man who goes by the name of Michel Barnier. Viewing from afar the utter chaos and confusion pervading the Brexit process, he is now warning the UK that, if it doesn't get its act together, and soon, it risks crashing out with no exit agreement.

"Next week", he says, "it will be three months after the sending of the Article 50 letter" – the letter that was supposed to trigger the formal exit negotiation process, starting the two-year countdown. 

Far from hitting the ground running, though, Barnier observes that, "We haven't negotiated, we haven't progressed". He adds: "We must begin this negotiation. We are ready as soon as the UK itself is ready". London, he says, must start talks "very quickly” and appoint a negotiating team that is “stable, accountable and with a mandate".

However, as if we didn't already know, it has become manifestly clear that we are not ready. David Davis is delaying the talks scheduled for 19 June, a day on which there was supposed to have been the Queen's speech, which may or may not also be delayed.

There is no clarity, whatsoever, about the line the UK wishes to take, and there is utter confusion as to the final objective, or even whether whatever objective it is that we decide upon will be final or transitional.

The Conservative party itself is in disarray, while high profile figures, pace Dominic Lawson in yesterday's Mail spout utter tosh about the "Norway model". As an indication of how the brains of these luminaries have ossified, he tells us that, adopting this option presents "three difficulties":
It means the UK would still have to pay billions of pounds a year into the EU budget. It means we would still be subject to ‘freedom of movement’ — so no control over immigration. And it means the British parliament would still be subject to a higher judicial authority, the court of the European Free Trade Association, which is a mere transmitter of the decisions of the European Court of Justice.
This is a man who has not moved his position for four or five years. The debate has completely passed him by as the establishment mantras remain locked, immovably in his brain. Not even an earthquake would move him.

In that sense, Barnier is piggy-in-the middle. We are actually starting to have the debate about the type of Brexit we should have had before the referendum, suppressed when the idiot Dominic Cummings on the one side, and Arron Banks on the other, dodged the bullet and refused to commit to an exit plan.

While the "soft" and "hard" brexiteers battle it out – mostly arguing from a basis of zero knowledge - Barnier stands like a jilted bride at the altar, lamenting: "My preoccupation is that time is passing, it is passing quicker than anyone believes because the subjects we have to deal with are extraordinarily complex". He adds, with forlorn simplicity, "I can't negotiate with myself".

Reflecting the turmoil on the UK side, Barnier says that, once his three initial points are addressed, he is then open to discussing all options on future relations - even if they differ from Theresa May's original vision of "leaving the customs union and single market".

"I don't know what hard Brexit or soft Brexit means. I read yesterday 'Open Brexit' too! Brexit is withdrawal from the EU - it's the UK’s decision. We're implementing it", he says.

This is a man who keeps in his office a mug emblazoned with the legend "keep calm and negotiate". So far, he's been able to keep to the first part of the dictum, but the second is proving elusive. Even if Mrs May is able, eventually, to field a negotiating team with some sort of a mandate, she has absolutely no way of making it stick.

As long as Westminster remains in its febrile state, no sensible person would put money on Mrs May staying in office for the duration of the talks. That she will be deposed is a given - it's simply a matter of time: days, weeks, or perhaps months. Not whether, but when.

Under such conditions, the "colleagues" cannot be certain that any agreement reached will stick. No sooner settled, then it could be undone by her successor. And they will hardly be able to resist trying it on, exploiting Mrs May's weakness – a process which may serve to hasten her demise.

And none of this is helped by the pathetically superficial level of the Brexit debate in the UK. With the media permanently locked in at key stage one, and the politicians no better, the chances of a coherent position being reached seem increasingly remote.

We are beginning to have to confront, for real, the prospect that the Brexit process is too complex for our political classes to manage. They have neither the intellectual capacity nor the knowledge to set up a sensible position and stick to it.

Furthermore, as the delays accumulate – if we do not actually crash out, there is the danger that the UK is sucked back into the Brussels orbit and Brexit is abandoned. A possible outcome is that the process is delayed for so long that the "colleagues" come back with an amended treaty which gives us "associate membership" in all but name, keeping us trapped as a second-class member of the Union.

One can, therefore, understand the siren calls of the "ultras" for an immediate, clean break. But these are the people who would drive us over the cliff edge, the fear of which will actually prevent us making the final break.

On that basis, the only certain Brexit is one that commands the assent of the majority, and the support of sensible former remainers. A self-harm Brexit will be resisted from all quarters, with the risk that we are locked in to the EU forever.

Quite how we deal with the competence problem, though, it not one for which we have ready answers. Clearly, with the political establishment not up to the job, ordinary people and businesses are going to have to take a more active role in demanding sensible measures, and fending off the zombies.

And there, there is the glimmer of a possibility. The likelihood is that, this autumn, we will be seeing another general election. In anticipation of this, it can be made abundantly clear to Conservative MPs that they are in the Last Chance Saloon. If they continue to mess us, they will find the nation voting for Corbyn, not as a matter of choice, but to punish the inadequates currently in power.

A botched Brexit, Conservatives need to be told, will have them out of power for a generation. If they play games, we the people are just as capable of a scorched earth policy as any Russian general. And Corbyn has made himself a usable weapon.