Johnson and co still want to have their cake and eat it - GulfToday

Johnson and co still want to have their cake and eat it

Tom Peck


Peck is The Independent's Political Sketch Writer.


Dominic Cummings, Michel Barnier.

No progress, then, in the latest round of Brexit talks, with both sides blaming the other.

Would you really want it any other way? How quaint to think that, once upon a time, this kind of thing used to be maddening. Now it serves as a comforting reminder of times past.

Absolutely zero advancement in the Brexit talks is the only constant in our lives. Once upon a time, Britain’s Trident submarine commanders were instructed to listen out for the BBC World Service, and if it could not be picked up, it was reasonable to assume the country no longer existed, and it would be up to them to retaliate.

Today, complete Brexit paralysis is the most reliable certainty out there, to the extent that should any meaningful breakthrough actually occur, it could accidentally trigger a nuclear war.

We know where we are with Brexit, which has already become a kind of I Love the 2016s late-night Channel 5 nostalgia fest, in which the last 19 remaining members of Goldie Lookin Chain sit in front of a green screen background spitting scripted lols about the “Breaking Point” poster.

Back when we chose to shoot ourselves in the foot, shooting oneself in the foot was considered a stupid thing to do. Now, it’s barely worth even worrying about. From the range of available options these days, you’d probably take it.

Michel Barnier gave a press conference saying he was “disappointed and surprised” by the lack of progress, as he has done almost every month since he was appointed the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, shortly after the 1815 Congress of Vienna, when he was just 28 years old.

His UK counterpart, David Frost, doesn’t give press conferences. Instead, he issues statements, then holds anonymous conference calls with journalists on which the things he says cannot be attributed to him. This is the Johnson-Cummings method: blatant untruths can be namelessly inserted into the general information ecosystem, for which no one can ever actually be held accountable, because no one ever actually said them.

The last time anyone from the UK government gave an actual press conference about Brexit was on 24 January, when Boris Johnson went to Brussels to sign his “oven-ready” deal, for which it turns out the oven is not ready.

The UK’s current strategy is to make unreasonable demands then brand the EU unreasonable. All Frost can ever say is that all he is asking for is the same terms the EU has given to Canada, Japan and various others with whom it has signed a free trade agreement.

And all Barnier can ever point out is that the UK is not Canada, is not Japan. This time, he explained that the UK won’t sign up to EU standards on haulage, won’t have EU tachographs fitted, won’t obey rules on working hours, it just wants to make its own rules then come into the EU and do its own thing, undercutting EU businesses, and can’t understand why the EU isn’t having it.

Because trade still remains all about proximity, and it will always be so. It is why the UK does more trade with Belgium than it does with China, and it is why the ever-unquotable Frost is talking disingenuous garbage when he says that all the UK wants is a simple free trade agreement and the EU won’t do it.

Johnson and co still want to have their cake and eat it. Failing that, they want to blame the EU for the straightforward impossibility of their being able to deliver on the lies they told four years and a hundred thousand lifetimes ago.

And when it all goes wrong, will anyone even care?

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