There was a delightful piece in La Républicain two days ago, headlined, “Theresa May mange son chapeau” (Theresa May eats her hat). It was an amusing and entirely apt header to a piece confirming that the British Prime Minister had hastily wiped her capacious feet on another red line, and “accepted” the principle of an extension to Article 50. (By the way, it also confirmed this rare Slog scoop of last week that Brussels already knew she was going to do it; and vindicates the predictions I made here on the 25th February).
But that’s enough wiseass I-told-you-so from me. I have little doubt that somewhere further down the line and post-extension agreement, May will try and broker a deal with Jeremy Corbyn concerning the Customs Union and/or a Second Referendum.
Mrs May’s favourite lies from the day she walked into Number Ten have been “Brexit means Brexit” and “Honouring the result of the 2016 Referendum”. For these reasons she ruled out various actions, and drew various red lines we must not cross. These were:
- Getting a better deal than No Deal
- Leaving the Customs Union
- Limiting the Irish backstop period
- Under no circumstances having a Second Referendum
- Leaving on March 29th.
It would have been a quicker and far less painful process had she rationalised the rules/lines metaphor by simply ruling out all the red lines at the outset.
As predicted, May has generously sprayed the “blame” around her Cabinet and the House of Commons for forcing her to retreat, but absolved Oliver Robbins for any culpability in the “negotiation” of a deal that leaves us with none of the democratic rights of being EU members and most of the chains around our ankles. This is not entirely surprising, as the PM has no control over the man from Whitehall whatsoever.
What I have to smile at, however, is that our ever-ready mandarins (those stout men and true who’d put all the necessary arrangements in place for No Deal Brexit) yesterday supported the extension via various leaks to the media admitting that they “weren’t ready”. Doncha love ’em? They were unready in 1914, all over the place on Sykes-Picquot 1925, unready over Czechoslovakia in 1938, surprised by Dunkirk in 1940 and dithery over Palestine in 1947, riddled with Soviet spies in the 1950s, the architects of educational destruction (and educators of architectural destruction) in the 1960s, over-generous with our oil in the 1970s, complicators of every privatisation in the 1980s, desperate for us to join the euro in the 1990s, purveyors of padded shoulders to the NHS in the Naughties, unready for a Leave vote in 2016, and unready for Brexit in 2019.
Indeed, the true bond that lies between the Prime Minister and Whitehall is best explained on this remarkable dimension of consistently arrogant incompetence. As their latest joint venture rumbles along to the same inevitably anti-democratic swamp of cockups May left behind her at the Home Office, one could also be persuaded that the mainstream media are equally inept.
But I am not persuaded of that. To be sure, the puerile “analysis” offered by those on-camera with big hair or bumfluff beards is the sort of speculation one might expect to hear in the prefects’ room of a minor public school. However, the editorial drive behind what passes for The Narrative is that same uneasy mélange of corporate State mendacity and Leftlib commercial naivety that drove me away from Britain six years ago.
The two elements of it preen each other in a straightforward manner: billionaires spread money around to suggest that their EU club for billionaires and bureaucrats is really a paradise of love-based Global Villagism…..and the Eunatic radical chic cadres soak it up like so much industrial-quality blotting paper.
As I argued here two days ago, the average skilled artisan, blueish-white-collar wage slave, part time working mum and long-suffering 1950s born female State Pensioner-without-her-pension is far too smart to swallow such slow-death bromides as if they might be a cure for naked anxiety about survival. This is because they lack the anaesthetic of large bonuses, privileged pensions – and the educational track record to secure lucrative Non-Exec Directorships and private health insurance.
I was pleasantly surprised that most of the comments on yesterday’s Slogpost were either in broad agreement with it, or at worst prepared to acquiesce in the inevitability of losing the Brexit battle.
But I would be saddened if people got the wrong end of the stick about me accepting a battle is lost. The wise general makes a tactical withdrawal from a lost battle in order to regroup and recruit in order to win the bigger war.
The British, EU, mass media and NATO élites can have their Pyrrhic victory on Brexit. It will gain them little beyond the widespread opprobrium of the majority of Brits still uninfected by the disease of knee-jerk internationalism. And when the EU collapses ignominiously – with no Sovereign power to hold responsible for the debt owed to bond speculators around the globe – let them (for a change) find themselves in the frame for being the authors of several responsibility in the case of unsustainable debt.
I doubt if any single person resident in the UK has ever tapped into the vein of commonsense frustration now endemic among the wise Briton with quite the same clinically hilarious accuracy as German comic Henning Wehn did last night on the BBC’s Question Time programme.
In a few short riffs (and one question to the audience) he deconstructed the complication of the Brexit process down to three simple observations: Mrs May has nothing new on offer, MPs flatly refuse to accept No Deal, and hardly anyone has changed their mind since 2016. This (he suggested engagingly) surely meant that neither extension nor Second Referendum would solve the impasse.
What Mr Wehn demonstrated in his contribution was that, as well as being a straight-up and funny observer of political affairs, he has also in his life collected, nurtured and retained a huge slice of wisdom.
Brussels knows perfectly well that, without the backstop being incorporated in the Withdrawal Agreement, it will not pass the Commons. They will not offer that simple concession, because they don’t want any closure on Brexit – such would give them an insurmountable income problem to add to the Italian, Hungarian and Polish truculence on the subject of austerity, adoption of the euro, and mass migrancy into the European Union.
The Junckers, Verhofstadts and Barniers want the UK to ask for an extension….and then offer them one with longer timescales and further blackmail monies to be paid: anything in fact to keep the Blighty cash-cow on board, and the image of inflexible Commission power intact.
Because the minute one or both of those realities becomes apparent, then the EU hierarchy is sliding down a black piste at the end of which is the cliff-edge before the chasm.
People who really care about getting a world in which there is duality not hegemony of power, an expansion not contraction of direct democracy, practical devolution and more personal responsibility for self-determination should let the precocious little tug Remain attach itself to the keel of SS Eutanic.
But they must decide to be organised and nimble when moving in to pick up the pieces, and build a recovery based on WTO rules. Simply moaning about how useless, greedy and corrupt the current governing class is will not change anything.
Incessant harrying, a willingness to be obstructive, a coordinating hub and more media-based activism alongside determined investigative journalism……all these things will at last show the apathetic, the desperate and the alienated that we can rid ourselves of the leeches on our backs.
But from here on, the canvas is European freedom, not UK Brexit.