Thursday’s Telegraph has a further example of how navel-gazing has become the main activity of the Westminster Village. This time it’s David Campbell Bannerman, a Eurosceptic Conservative MEP – who was twice not quite the leader of UKIP.
His article, ‘How Theresa May can avoid a Brexit bloodbath in seven simple steps’, outlines a possible route to salvation for our maladroit Prime Minister and is based on his concept of ‘Chequers 2’ which he thinks gets round the obstacles that rendered Chequers 1 (as he would style it) dead in the water. The chief attraction of this is that it might preserve the Conservative Party at the next election.
Which is where Campbell Bannerman, like so many of his political colleagues, completely misses the point. I didn’t vote ‘out’ to save the Conservative Party. I didn’t vote ‘out’ for any reason other than to get us out of the EU. I accepted that there may be some costs – and if one of them was the lacklustre bunch who currently sit on the government benches then, frankly, I’m over it already. I suspect that many of the 17,410,711 others who voted ‘out’ had performed a similar calculation. Like me, they may have decided that trading with the EU on the same terms as India, the United States and China, to name three of the nations who have no trade deal with the EU but manage to do plenty of business there (i.e. under WTO rules, which is what ‘no deal’ means) is viable. If we could get better terms, fine – but the reality was, is and always will be that Brexit is not compatible with the four central freedoms. If, as is increasingly clearly the case, the EU is unable or unwilling to move on them, there is little point in wasting time dreaming up possible deals, be it EEA, the Norwegian or Swiss models, Canada plus, Canada minus, Canada double plus or Chequers 1, 2 or 359. We should simply be looking at how we will reinstate our borders with the minimum adverse impact on passing trade or the (regulated) movement of people.
This can’t be that hard – most goods moving to most countries do so without the EU’s processes. Most goods coming to the UK from outside the EU do exactly this. If the mandarins in charge can’t sort it out, sack them and hire some who can.
The internal Irish border is a little more complicated, but only a little. It is also an Irish problem – we’re their biggest trading partner and most of their goods for export pass through the UK. They are motivated to find a solution too. The lack of a hard border (whatever that may mean) which is, we are told, a fundamental part of the Good Friday Agreement, can probably be accommodated – although the unfortunate endemic Irish reluctance to move on from the past to a brighter future will cause a fair bit of wailing. Those who predict the restarting of ‘the Troubles’ should perhaps reflect upon the changed view of terrorism since the late 1960s and remember that the British security forces destroyed the IRA. Sinn Fein (for younger readers, the political wing of the IRA) used to have a slogan of ‘the ballot box and the Armalite’. But, as many of them found, carrying an Armalite rifle in defiance of the rule of law became suicidal. Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness worked that out when the number three in the IRA, Dessie Grew, died in an SAS ambush. The peace process ensued – it’s just a shame that it took them so long to realise.
Seriously, what rational person would choose to take on the SAS, MI5 and the rest of the British Armed Forces? Irish Republican terrorists (Provisional IRA, Real IRA, Continuity IRA and the INLA, IPLO and the rest of the alphabet soup of murdering, drug-dealing scum) and the loyalists (even worse) got there in the end. And that was in the days before cell phone tracing, drones, facial recognition cameras and all the other technology that routinely thwarts terrorism in the UK. A new or revitalised Irish terror organisation would be a death cult.
So, once again we’re facing political solutions to problems entirely created by politicians, whose only solution is to create more politics. As they say, to a man with a hammer every problem looks like a nail. We don’t need more politics to deliver Brexit, we need less. Which is, of course, why most politicians fear Brexit.
As for saving Mrs May or the Conservative Party, what is the point?