Britain’s painful and protracted divorce from the European Union (EU) grinds on.
You don’t need to be blessed with clairvoyance to figure out that Brexit is going to cause economic damage to both the parties. The EU is going to lose the second biggest contributor (after Germany) to its budget once the UK leaves. As for the UK, barring the bonkers Brexiteers from the Conservative party—madder than a stadium-full of hatters (on acid)—no one thinks that Brexit won’t cause significant damage to the country’s economy.
The latest twist to what is already a high-octane melodrama is the shift announced by Comrade Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, the main opposition party in the UK, in its position towards the customs union. A couple of days before the Comrade’s speech, Labour’s Brexit Secretary, Keir Starmer (who wears the lugubrious expression of someone who buried his mother in the morning), announced in a television interview that under a Labour Government, Britain would stay in a customs union and single market. Starmer also informed in the BBC interview (with the air of the doctor breaking the news of advance cancer) that free movement of people would have to end; however, he added, there would be ‘easy movement’ of people (the doctor explaining that there were first-rate hospices). He neglected to explain what this ‘easy’ movement would look like.
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, who, by consensus, is born in the wrong decade and in the wrong country—he would have been so much happier if he were born as McDonnellowich and been Stalin’s henchman—revealed himself to be a cunning linguist, and helpfully clarified that Starmer used the indefinite article ‘a’ instead the definite article ‘the’ while discussing customs union and single market.
What did McDennellowich mean? His leader, Comrade Corbyn—once described by an Iranian freedom of speech, whom Corbyn inadvertently exposed in an interview on live Iranian television and who ended up spending time in Iranian prison (reputed to be only slightly better than Luton), as a useful idiot—clarified a day later in a speech, while inexpertly reading from the autocue. Labour would negotiate a bespoke customs union (and presumably a bespoke single market) with the EU.
Comrade Corbyn invited us to believe that under the bespoke customs union there would be frictionless trade between not just Northern Ireland and republic of Ireland, but also between the UK and the EU. The good news does not stop here. The UK will be able to strike bilateral deals with other countries (while remaining in ‘a’ customs union) at the same time, and EU bureaucrats would nod their heads, give an indulgent smile, and say, ‘Go on you rascals!’
Quite how this ‘bespoke’ arrangement would look like Corbyn did not care to explain in the speech, perhaps because he was keeping his cards too close to his chest, or, more likely, because he had no clue (McDennellowich had not explained that to him). But we are not to question this. We must have the faith that the Messiah will deliver. If you don’t you are obviously a capitalist traitor, who, no doubt, supported Iraq war and Blair.
Corbyn’s about-turn on customs union predictably raised the hackles of the Tory nutters who are in the grip of Revanchist fury (turned on themselves) ever since the referendum happened (almost two years ago). The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, took himself to air, the BBC Radio 4, the next day, and removed the last vestiges of doubts from the listeners’ minds that his grasp of Brexit was slightly worse than Donald Trump’s grasp on . . . well, pretty much everything. When the interviewer Mishal Husain (she of seductive voice) asked Johnson about the border between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland, Johnson launched into a long-winded blather, which, even by his high standards, was a spectacular twaddle. He compared the border situation between Northern Ireland and the Republic Ireland to that of two Burroughs of London, and went on to crow how he, Boris, when he was the mayor of London, saved the situation by bringing congestion charges! Husain, unwilling to accept that the foreign secretary was serious, asked Johnson whether he was serious, and Johnson assured her that he couldn’t be more serious. I have seen and heard a few interviews of Boris Johnson (which always leave the interviewers, from Jeremy Paxman to Mishal Husain, shaking their heads in disbelief), and have always wondered whether he is like a not-altogether-stupid-but-lazy-as-f**k pupil, who never takes the trouble to prepare the subject, and hopes to get through by verbiage (hoping that bullshit, when continued without pause, will always baffle brain). It rarely works, but Johnson seems incapable of learning and changing his indolent ways.
In the BBC interview, Johnson was frothing at the mouth at what he saw as Comrade Corbyn’s treachery over the customs union (guessing, probably with good reason, that the ‘useful idiot’ would be persuaded, next, by Starmer (and those in Labour who have some brains) to change his stance over the single market (replacing with ‘a’ single market). Johnson, no doubt trembling with righteous indignation, accused Comrade Corbyn of cynical opportunism, because Corbyn had shifted Labour’s position to that announced in Labour’s manifesto in the 2016 general election: Labour would leave the customs union. Johnson accusing Corbyn of cynical opportunism is a bit like Trump accusing the North Korean potato-head of being mentally deranged. It also suggested the innocent assumption that people bother themselves with manifestos of political parties (and remember them after a year). Finally, it also indicated that Johnson had not cottoned on to the difference between the definite and indefinite articles, as elucidated by the linguist McDennellowich (to be fair to Johnson, no one had).
The trouble for Johnson and Dr Fox, the International Trade Secretary (he is an idiot, alright, but difficult to see what use he can be of to anyone), is that so far there is not so much as a whiff of the free trade deals we have been hearing so much about, and which Dr Fox is presenting to the heads of different countries round the globe (including but not limited to the dictator in Philippines, who once referred to Barak Obama as one can only assume his (the dictator’s, not Obama’s) favourite part of female anatomy).
It was left to Sir Martin Donnelly, a highly experienced civil servant, who, until last year, was the permanent secretary in Dr Fox’s Department of International Trade, to tell some home truths to the fantasists in the two parties. Brexit and giving up membership of single market and customs union for future free trade deals elsewhere, Mr Donnelly said, was like giving up a three-course meal now for a packet of crisps and promise of future. Three-fifth of the UK’s current trade, Mr Donnelley explained, was with the EU or countries with which the EU (as a bloc) has preferential deals with. It beggars belief that the hard Brexiteers are prepared to piss on this in the delusion that the rest of the world is queuing up to strike deals with the UK. As for Corbyn’s nonsense about ‘frictionless trade’ Donnelley warned that it is not even a legal term. Having your cake and eating it, as Donnelley rightly observed, is not an option in the real world, not that it will penetrate Corbyn’s thick skull.
Theresa May might go to India and wear as many bright-coloured saris as she wants, or she might go to China and pose next to the Chinese dragon (looking only marginally more scary), there is no sign, yet, that these two Asian giants are in a mood to give any definite assurance to the UK. As for America, with whom the UK politicians fondly believe we have a special relationship, with Trump in the White House, we will soon find out that the special relationship is the same as the McDonald’s has with cows. Trump does not believe in special relationships. He believes in deals. And any deal Trump has anything to do with has only one winner. Trump.