Dishonest Boris

Brexit negotiations have begun?  That seems an odd question after three years of negotiation and a deal that was struck.  Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks of non-existent reopening of these talks.  Yet, nobody in Brussels has seen any plan.  No details have been offered, other than a demand that the EU 'drop the backstop' for the Irish border, and this is all typical of the deception that is Boris Johnson.   He blusters in the House of Commons accusing others of 'betrayal' or 'surrender'.

The problem is not that politicians lie to us. The problem is that they have not the courage to tell us what we don't like to hear. The government knows Brexit will hurt millions of people in the UK, but they won't acknowledge it. They know it is set to seriously harm our economy and competitiveness in the world but won't tell us. They can't tell us the reality because it would destabilise the markets. So we are stuck in fantasy land.

We go on with the belief, I would say delusion, that somehow all will be ok, but it won't. Even if we take the most optimistic scenario of Brexit from economists such as Patrick Minford we are in for a severe knock.

Just as in war, everyone becomes an expert. In the comfort of their armchair in front of the television, it is easy enough. Suddenly people who haven't a clue will pontificate on economics as though their judgement carried the same weight as expert analysis by economists. And so the economic forecasters are dismissed as 'doomsayers'.

Of course, we can look to the 'new opportunities' Brexit could create - but opportunities for who? My prediction is that it will not be the poorest who will find any benefit or opportunity. Nor will it be middle-income earners whose jobs are on the line. A 'hard' Brexit would take us out of the single market, but what is the price of a soft exit? We don't know, but there will be a price.

There is a kind of blind stupidity to the Brexit case that runs something like 'Europe needs Britain more than we need Europe'. It sounded good and was used by Farage regularly over the years. It is meaningless twaddle - a politician's sound bite. We could rephrase it "Britain needs Europe as much as Europe needs Britain." It is still useless. What isn't meaningless is that almost 50% of our trade is in the single market, and that is why a hard Brexit would be devastating to our economy.

We have no plan for Brexit, and nor can the government find any coherent consensus on what it will seek from it. Mrs May had no idea and no mandate. The reason she used the mantra 'Brexit means Brexit' is because it doesn't. She knows that, but she hasn't the courage to tell us.

But, there is a further stupidity. Imagine someone putting a hole in the bottom of a boat. You have, say, thirty minutes to take to the lifeboats and get everyone to safety. Everyone runs around frantically looking for the lifeboats and finding none. That is no-deal Brexit on 31st October. The captain of the ship hollers 'don't worry, think of the opportunities!'.

Of course, those who think remaining is better should carry on making that case.  That is vital to our democratic process.  The case for remain is a good one.  There is also a strong case for leaving the EU.   Those who think we should remain would do well to consider that case.  In the end, the best way forward will be through some compromise.

Thus, we need a deal for Brexit.  First, because when we leave, we would need to negotiate a trading relationship with the EU, our biggest partner, just as we would need to arrange one with the USA and other regions and countries.   It isn't a choice between the EU or USA.  It is making arrangements for trade with both essential trading partners.  Listening to our politicians, you would think there was a choice.  The choice isn't whether we have a trading relationship, but what the nature of that relationship will be.

Any deal must find a solution to the Irish border problem.  Logically that would involve a customs arrangement to keep the border open.  It is the only way to avoid the backstop and the issues with it.  Listening to Boris Johnson, you would think that it was all simple.  It isn't.  The border issue is central to the peace process in Northern Ireland, and we have a treaty with the Republic of Ireland to keep it open.

The UK could make a deal involving a customs union and alignment with the single market.  The British people could then have the final say with the choices to remain or leave without a deal.  Instead, so many in the Brexit camp talk of 'betrayal'.   Such hyperbole is nonsense.  Taking the question back to the people could never be a betrayal.  What would be a betrayal is a government, Boris Johnson, single-handedly deciding what it was voters want and then pushing it through by stealth and ignoring the will of parliament.

The setting of timetables and deadlines is also bonkers.  Where we need sensible negotiation and sorting out of complex issues, we have bluster and grandstanding.  We have political posturing.  The detail matters and taking time to get it right is what is needed, not haste.  Haste has bedevilled the process from the outside.  Hasty invoking of article 50 was unnecessary grandstanding.  For that, both Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition were responsible.

Instead of the mad scramble to invoke article 50, we should have set up commissions to examine the potential consequences of the options available.  That at least would have been informative.  Instead, we have unpublished assessments and argument, and frankly, nobody knows what will happen.  We are being led in the dark.  We need transparency.

Brexit has been poorly handled.  Mrs May should never have tried to take ownership of Brexit.  She tried to win the 2017 general election with the 'tough and strong' label.  She would lead Britain out of the union and 'no-deal was better than a bad deal'.  Disastrous rhetoric, setting up the EU as an enemy in the negotiations.

Mrs May then went on to produce a profoundly wrong deal, unacceptable across the divide.  She refused to negotiate a compromise with Labour until it was too late.  By then, she had set up red lines that could not be crossed.

Now, we have a Prime Minister intent on leading the UK out of the EU with or without a deal.  Setting a deadline means no agreement because there simply isn't time to negotiate one.  Boris Johnson accepted the challenge to find a solution to the Irish border problem.  To date, he has failed, and few believe he is trying.  He talks of a last-ditch deal struck at the final hour.  Yet, none is being negotiated in any serious way.  This is dishonest.

Parliament has now seized the agenda from the government.  Let's see where that leads.  But at some point, it has to be put back to the people.  For that, we need a deal.

Our politicians must heal the divisions of Brexit, not to use them for party advantage or their enhancement.  Those divisions may break our union, the UK.   Sensible leaders would understand that the people of Scotland voted to remain and to shut debate down means they lose a voice in the process.  This is another reason using the hyperbole of 'betrayal' is so wrong.

The Prime Minister is a leader of a minority government propped up by the DUP.  The DUP does not represent the views expressed by the majority of people in Northern Ireland who voted to remain in the EU.  To shut debate down with the slogan 'the people have decided' and 'let's get on with it' denies them their democratic voice.

We need leaders to heal the divisions between young and old.  The overwhelming majority of young people voted to remain.  It is their future more than it is ours.  Shutting debate down denies them a say.  That is not a democracy; shutting down debate becomes a dictatorship.   This is why using the ploy of proroguing parliament is wrong.  It it is done for the sole purpose of denying our elected representatives a say.  In doing that it denies us all representation.

Clinging tenaciously to the referendum result betrays the truth.  It was close. The leave camp talk of an 'overwhelming majority'.  That was far from being the case.

Honest leaders would tell us that, not shabbily exploit it.  Our current Prime Minister is unfit to lead our country because he refuses to represent us all.  He seeks an advantage.   Boris is like a schoolboy debater.  He blusters, and for him, the truth has no real significance.  It is what Boris wishes to make it.  He hides from it, rather than faces up to it.   He attempts Churchillian rhetorical flourishes, but without Churchill's careful use of the English language.   Churchill became war-time Prime Minister becaue he was not afraid of the truth.  He spoke for most in parliamet across the party divide in warning of Hitlers menace.  He divulged information leaked to him by anxious civil servants warning of the impending tragedy of appeasement of Hitler.   This isn't Boris Johnson, the schoolboy prankster.  


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