Jeremy Corbyn has announced that he wants the UK to stay in ‘a’ customs union with the EU, which in some indetermined manner is different from ‘the’ customs union. The difference, according to Jezza, is that the UK will not passively accept all the EU’s rules and will continue to make its own trade deals, scenarios which the EU has already said are not viable options. It does sound suspiciously like another version of cake having and eating, but at least it’s got the Tories choking on it. So that’s a result.
It’s not that the Leader of the Opposition has suddenly been converted to a soft Brexit, he remains as much of a hard Brexiteer as he ever was. It’s just that he sees the prospect of defeating the Conservatives in a vote on the issue in the Commons, thanks to a number of Conservative rebels. Labour’s position on Brexit has shifted slightly in the direction of common sense, but it remains as confused and incoherent as that of the Tories.
It’s not that difficult to be less confused and more coherent on Brexit than the British Government. The calibre of the British government’s thinking on the tricky issues thrown up by Brexit can be illustrated by Boris Johnson’s latest pronouncement on the thorny issue of the Irish border. There’s a contradiction inherent in the UK leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market and the UK’s treaty requirement to ensure that there is an invisible and infrastructure free border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The UK Foreign Secretary has got confused between that crucial issue and the 1940s movie Passport to Pimlico. It’s an easy mistake to make.
Boris was able to manage the London congestion charge when he was mayor and ensure free movement of goods and people between the boroughs of Camden and Westminster, so clearly the Irish border issue is all about dealing with traffic congestion. I always thought that the London Troubles was a reference to the difficulties of people on low wages or the average salary finding affordable accommodation, and not to mounting tensions along the Walthamstow-Newham demilitarised zone. I lived in London for many years, but never noticed the sign on the North Circular Road saying You Are Now Entering Free Hammersmith, and there was a distinct absence of paramilitary groups who were bent on blowing up the Number 26 to Neasdon in order to keep out non-compliant goods from Shepherd’s Bush. So either this was just poor observational skills on my part, or Boris Johnson was talking bollocks again. My money is on the latter.
It’s almost as though Boris Johnson is blithely indifferent to anything that doesn’t nourish his bloated sense of sense-importance and rampant careerism. Well I say ‘almost’. I mean ‘exactly’. It’s exactly that. You’d think that a basic understanding of the distinction between an international frontier between two sovereign states and an administrative border between two London boroughs would be a prerequisite for becoming Foreign Secretary, but apparently not. Someone should point out to the Foreign Secretary that number plate recognition technology is a) the kind of hard infrastructure on the border that the UK has pledged not to introduce in Ireland, and b) can’t tell you what’s in the car boot or on the back of the lorry.
It might also be helpful to point out to the Foreign Secretary that the implementation of the London congestion zone took many years of planning, and the delivery, installation, and operation of complex IT infrastructure and payment systems. Despite that, many people inadvertently fall foul of the rules. There are only 13 months to go until Brexit and the UK hasn’t even started to plan for the new Irish border Oyster Card.
Not that it would do any good, he’ll just go and claim that Brexit will give millions to the NHS or invent something about the curvature of bananas. Again. The only thing that prevents Boris Johnson being the most ludicrous and risible politician in the Conservative party is that it also includes Jacob Rees Mogg. That pair plus David Cameron make a compelling argument that Ofsted ought to put Eton into special measures.
Still, we shouldn’t complain too much, Boris has just given Scottish independence supporters some very useful verbal ammunition. He is now on record as saying that he thinks that the issue of the Irish border is as easy a problem to solve as the border between London boroughs inside and outside the congestion zone, and we can remind him of that when he makes dire threats about the Scottish-English border during the next Scottish independence referendum.
Meanwhile Liam Fox, or to give him his proper title The Disgraced Former Defence Minister Dr Liam Fox, has been having a go at a former senior civil servant in his own department, Sir Martin Donnelly, who claimed, not unreasonably, that the UK leaving the EU and the Customs Union and Single Market was like swapping a three course meal for a packet of crisps. Liam is insistent that Brexit is crunchier and more filling than a mere packet of crisps. He has something more like Hula Hoops in mind, or possibly Monster Munch, and he’s determined that the UK can do a free trade deal with Doritos, or even hold out for a meal deal at Greggs. However the problem for Liam is that we don’t get the packet of crisps immediately, all Brexit is offering is a vague promise on the side of a bus of a packet of crisps at some undetermined time in the future. There’s no guarantee that we will actually be getting any crisps, and if we do the chances are that they will be genetically modified chlorine bathed crisps that taste like crap and which no one wants. The only thing that we can be sure of about Brexit crisps is that they’re incredibly cheesy.
From the British government in the past week or so we’ve had Mad Max Brexit, Oyster Card Brexit, and Better than a Packet of Crisps Brexit. And still the Labour party can’t make a serious dent on these idiots in the opinion polls. The Government isn’t fit for purpose, the Opposition isn’t fit for purpose, the UK isn’t fit for purpose. Let’s get ourselves ready, let’s get ourselves organised. We need to prepare the independence Passport out of Pimlico.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Due to the weather, tomorrow’s The National Roadshow event in Peterhead has been postponed. Forecasts expect a foot of snow, high winds and -10C temperatures for the North East. The event will be rescheduled. Sorry for the inconvenience.
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