SUNDAY was once a day of rest, but there is no escape from Brexit. Yesterday’s plea for faith came from Jacob Rees-Mogg, writing in the Sunday Telegraph exhorting Brexiteers to trust Boris, whom he compared to a 19th-century bare-knuckle boxing champion turned coal merchant and publican called Tom Cribb. (Yes, Google is my friend too.) I think JRM is being a tad hasty – BoJo is far from a world champion, hasn’t yet won a fight and a successful retirement is a long way off although an ignominious death in a ditch may be close.
If Boris can emerge from the EU ‘tunnel’ negotiations with Brexit on the Lancaster House terms (immediate end to jurisdiction of ECJ, no free movement), an exit process that is expeditious and not in exclusive control of the EU, well done him. If he manages to get a start on a sensible mutual trade deal, even better, indeed huge kudos to him.
If he manages to get the EU to say this is absolutely the last negotiation, take it or leave on 31 October on WTO terms, and he gets the EU to explain to their lackeys on the benches of Westminster and in the Speaker’s chair, fantastic. Or if he gets the EU to throw a hissy fit and say no agreement is possible and there is therefore no point in extending, at least we’re out.
There are some problems. For a start, as described by Liam Halligan in the Spectator, Brexit without a deal is potentially devastating for Germany and, as the faltering German economy is the one that props up the euro, the rest of the eurozone. It’s not great for Ireland, for whom the most sensible (and, given the history of Irish politics, least likely) solution to a WTO Brexit is for Ireland to leave too. Were it not for Hilary Benn’s misguided Act, BoJo would be going into the talks holding all the cards; as it is (and this of course was Benn’s intention), he is fighting for his political life and the Conservative party’s future in its current form. The interests of the nation (getting Brexit done) are likely to be subordinate to that.
The main cause for concern is that both JRM and BoJo voted for the worst deal in history, no doubt persuading themselves that they could sort it all out later. Their commitment to a viable Brexit is subordinate to their political instincts. Assuming for a moment that the EU tunnel does not leak and an agreement is reached, we’re going to have precious little time to read it before MPs vote.
Meanwhile the nemesis of the Tories (and the Remainers), the Brexit Party, is building its electoral machine and sharpening its arguments for a WTO exit. JRM can plead and invoke unlikely historical precedents as much as he likes; what he should be doing as Leader of the House of Commons is leading our elected representatives into delivering Brexit, which is what 80 per cent of them said they would do.
Am I the only one hoping that the Queen’s Speech dissolves this national disgrace and forces an election?