Tuesday 20 October 2020

Brexitwatch: Kent's Brexit bogs - is Boris Johnson planning his greatest double cross?

There's a story doing the rounds that the UK could rejoin the EU in short order under Article 49. I personally do not give it a lot of credence. Nor do I think we should arrogantly assume that other EU members would want us back after the way we've behaved over the last four years.

Still, it does make you wonder. As I've noted many times, anything you say about Boris Johnson has to be highly speculative because you can't believe a word he says. 

So why is Johnson's government building 'Farage Garages' all over the place to accommodate lorry drivers stranded by Brexit, and why is Kent being turned into a public toilet that you'll need a passport to get in and out of?

Is this just the inevitable result of a no-deal Brexit or whatever lousy bare bones deal Johnson manages to do?

Or is it to ram home to the Brexiters what a disaster leaving the EU is going to be (Kent voted 59% for Brexit in the referendum), and to soften them up for an eventual application to rejoin or at least to agree a relationship that keeps us in the Single Market and the Customs Union? After all, it's quite clear that Johnson knows perfectly well that Brexit is a thoroughly foolish idea for the UK, however much it may have advanced him personally.

I don't believe this is Johnson's game, and I wouldn't put any money on it, but he knows that if he is not to go down in history as the UK's worst ever (and possibly last) prime minister, then at some point he needs to pivot away from disaster.

Thursday 8 October 2020

Brexitwatch: The Level Playing Field Mystery

'Watson. As you know, at the root of the art of detection is observation.'

'Of course, Holmes.'

'So why did I not observe it? Did I not follow the Brexit referendum campaign as closely as any man?'

'You did, Holmes.'

'So why did I not see the Level Playing Field, which we are now being told is the reason we cannot reach agreement with the European Union?'

'Perhaps because it was never there? Perhaps because "We need to leave the EU so we can hand out shedloads of hard-earned taxpayers' cash to 'businesses' run by mates of Dominic Cummings" might not have been an effective slogan?'

'And particularly not on the side of a bus! Capital, Watson!'

'But Holmes do you think the Conservatives had to conceal the fact that they wanted to use your money and mine, and the admirable Mrs Hudson's, to prop up unviable businesses because they have always said that lame ducks must go to the wall, that you can't buck the market. Indeed, wasn't Johnson saying the other day that the private sector always knows better than the state?'

'Though Cummings thinks he knows better than everyone. Watson, you excel yourself.  But there is another hypothesis, or indeed several.' The great detective paused to take a deep draught from his pipe. 'Suppose Johnson knew nothing of any of this during the referendum campaign? Suppose Cummings concealed it from him? Or suppose Cummings himself did not know about it, and that the idea came to him only after he watched 'Dragon's Den', saw the dragons, and thought:"I'd like to do that." Or suppose Cummings could see there was a danger of the EU and the UK reaching a sensible agreement, and decided that must be stopped at all costs, and that the Level Playing Field was just a useful pretext?'

'So what's the answer, Holmes?'

'That, Watson, is the mystery, but I wager the solution will bring no man any good.'

Friday 2 October 2020

Brexitwatch: why Boris Johnson may go for 'no deal'

On 27 September, I put the case for why Boris Johnson may cave in and make a deal with the EU. Today I look at why he may be forced to settle for 'no deal'.

I was watching a clip from Johnson campaigning before the 2016 Brexit referendum. In the space of about 50 seconds, he promised: 1 Brexit would be 'win-win'. 2. There would be no tariffs. 3. There would be no trade barriers. 4. The City of London would continue to have the same access it has to now to the EU.

No deal that Johnson can achieve could possibly fulfil even these promises. To say nothing of all the others that were made - that we could have our cake and eat it, we could enjoy all the benefits of EU membership without any of the responsibilities, that it would make the UK better off, provide more money for the NHS etc, etc.

So the danger of a deal for Johnson is that it will be measured against the promises he and his acolytes made. And, therefore, perhaps the safest thing is to have 'no deal' and try to put the blame on the EU.

Certainly Johnson's government has been working very hard at that. The UK is reneging on treaties and breaking international law - that's the EU's fault. The UK's doctrinaire refusal to compromise means no progress is being made - that's the EU's fault, etc, etc.

So here is one reason why Johnson may feel 'no deal' is his safest option, and there are others which I will examine in the coming days - always remembering the health warning: because you cannot believe a word Johnson says, it is very hard to predict what he will do.