Tuesday, 1 November 2016

A New Policy of Appeasement

A New Policy of Appeasement

I am not one of Jeremy Corbyn’s greatest fans, but I think he hit the nail on the head when he said:

“I do not believe we'll get the best deal for this country by using threats, hectoring or lecturing of the European Union. For these negotiations to succeed, the Government frankly needs to adopt a slightly more grown-up approach.”

“For the negotiations to succeed, Britain needs a plan. What is clear to everybody – from European leaders, non-governmental organisations and business – is that quite clearly the Government doesn't have one.”

And Nicola Sturgeon has said a meeting with Theresa May at Downing Street about the government’s response to Brexit was “deeply frustrating”.

“I don’t mind admitting that parts of the meeting were deeply frustrating. I don’t know any more now about the UK government’s approach to the EU negotiations than I did before I went in to the meeting,” she said.

I feel her frustration. All that has emerged so far has been posturing. Presumably to satisfy her Tory Eurosceptic critics, Theresa May has pushed for a “hard Brexit”, which means no compromise on immigration and hence no automatic access to the single market.

Then the pound dips, and May promptly says that she is not advocating a “Hard Brexit”, but a “Smooth one”, whatever that means.

And on the one hand we are told that Parliament will get to debate the Brexit plans – even if it does not have a final say – and yet David Davis says that they cannot be revealed as that would be playing our hand too soon. It makes Brexit look like a game of Poker. No wonder Corbyn called for a “grown up approach”.

On “Have I Got News For You”, Ian Hislop said that we were no longer allowed to talk of a “Hard Brexit” or “Soft Brexit”, but a “Smooth Brexit”, rather like coffee, although clearly not Italian coffee which would be subject to tariff barriers.

As the Wall Street Journal comments:

“With only a thin majority in Parliament, the premier faces a vociferous group of euroskeptic lawmakers in her party that seeks certainty that she is pursuing a hard break with the EU and that Britain will regain control over its borders. But she also is trying not to alienate the vast number of businesses calling for minimal disturbance to Britain’s trade relations with EU partners.”

Meanwhile talks aimed at establishing a free trade zone between the EU and Canada initially broke down. and only scraped in at the last minute. As ITV News reported:

“Given that the vast majority of the EU is strongly in favour of approving open trade with Canada, a failure would bode badly for Britain as it tries to forge its own deal to keep open trade links after it leaves the bloc."

Reporting on the resistance to the deal by Belgium, the Telegraph commented:

"The Walloon intransigence has underlined the extent to which trade has become politically radioactive as citizens increasingly blame globalization for growing disparities in wealth and living standards. Across Europe and the United States, opposition to trade has become a rallying point for populist movements on the left and the right, threatening to upend the established political order."

In the meantime, Theresa May says one thing to appeal to Hard Brexiters, and softens her stance to appeal to businesses; she appears more and more like a weather vane, blowing this way and that to appease different factions.

There is a Doctor Who story, one of the worst ones, called “Underworld”, where the crew of a space craft have both their ambitions and their goals summed up in a rather meaningless phrase: “The Quest is the Quest”.

Whenever there are doubts about their mission, and some of the crew are questioning whether to go on, the Commander of the space ship quells all opposition by just reminding them that “The Quest is the Quest”.

It is meaningless drivel of course, and the writer wants to illustrate that the crew have in fact rather lost their way. If all you can fall back on for support is a tautological slogan, what chance is there of success?

“Brexit means Brexit”

It is looking for all the world that the “Brexit plans” are being drawn up by the team who produced (for an earlier generation) “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.

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