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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hypocrisy and lies: A Brexit story

I have stopped watching Question Time on the BBC, I have too much respect for the safety of my television. Last night as Brexiteers lined up to condemn Theresa May's deal as a sell-out, the red mist descended again. I hadn't felt that way since I last dived for the remote control as David Dimbleby introduced Nigel Farage for the nine thousandth time.

Brexiteers like Boris Johnson who had made promise after promise about taking control just under two and a half years ago, who had offered us £350 million a week for the NHS and trade deals galore, and who ignored warnings that any future deals would tie us in as mute partners to regulations and rules they were railing against, are now chewing on their own dust.

They were wrong on every single point and they cannot stand it, so what do they do? They blame others and rail against the inevitable as if none of it were their fault. Why did they think that the EU would abandon their own interests to accommodate their little Englander positions?

Why did they believe that peace in Northern Ireland should be abandoned in pursuit of their ambitions?

How can they have been in key positions in government for much of these negotiations and wash their hands of the incompetence and the infighting that has left the UK an international laughing stock?

This piece in the Guardian by Tom Peck puts it far better than I can. He points out that the deal appears to contain within it much that is unsatisfactory to Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson, and everybody else who has spent much of the last two and half years lying about the fantasies of Brexit. The UK, it would appear, will remain in a customs union with the EU until such time as a better option is found, and Northern Ireland may remain in one even after that:

So down they came, to a hastily arranged news conference of sorts, to fire the starting gun on what already looks set to be the most shameful chapter of the Brexit story so far. Which is the people whose utterly shameless lies have landed the country in this unimaginable mess, seeking to put as much distance as possible between their actions and the inevitable consequences of them.

There was Jacob Rees-Mogg, saying that this deal will make the UK “not a vassal state but a slave state,” when the words he was looking for were, “Sorry. This is my fault.”

Several weeks ago, Mr Rees-Mogg called the TV cameras to a Committee Room in the Commons, where he waved about an utterly risible document described as the “World Trade Deal.” In the morning he’d claimed that crashing out of the EU with No Deal and trading with the rest of the world on WTO terms would be worth “£1.1trn” to the UK economy. By lunchtime, he’d said he had no idea if that claim could possibly be true.

Faced with a choice between reality and taking ownership of his own outrageous lies, it is no surprise the latter should find itself beyond the pale.

Next there was Boris Johnson, to announce that, “This is just about as bad as it could possibly be.” And he’s right. There will be no bumper weekly payout for the NHS. There will be no bonanza of free trade deals, with America, with Australia, with New Zealand, India, China, Canada and everybody else, because most of those countries have already objected even to the terms on which Britain is seeking to re-join the World Trade Organisation.

There is just reality, a concept which, being the identical twin of the truth, Boris Johnson has never made even the faintest acquaintance.

If he thinks this is a failure on Theresa May’s part, there was, of course, not even a moment’s pause to reflect on whether any of it could be his fault. Not even whether it is his more than two decades worth of lying about the European Union finally coming back to haunt him. Theresa May, perhaps, might have fared better in these negotiations had she not lost her majority at the last general election. Whether she might have done better in that contest if her most high profile minister at the time had not spent the last year as a walking advert for government by rolling embarrassment is a question there is barely time to consider.

Some of us have been saying for years that because of the multi-national nature of trade, our dependence on the EU, and the difficulties of forming trade agreements elsewhere, then if we do not remain in the single market the UK economy will crash badly. The situation with Northern Ireland left the UK Government with no choice but to acquiesce to that logic.

Where is the official opposition in all of this? Tom Peck is absolutely right when he says that Jeremy Corbyn, that supposed man of great principle, will not stand in the way of anything that might return him to Downing Street, whatever the cost.

Boris is right, this deal leaves us subject to EU law without any power to change it. How else did he think it would turn out? The logic now is indisputable, we must  stay in the EU so that we can at least exercise our veto if needed. If Parliament cannot determine that then the people must be given a chance to have their say.
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