“With ambition and pragmatism and energy on all sides, we can get there in October,” says Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab. For which we should read that it’ll all work out fine so long as others are prepared to pander to British exceptionalism, accommodate the UK Government’s incompetence and accede to impossible demands which demonstrate only that the British political elite doesn’t comprehend either the EU’s position or their own situation.
The implication is that, while the British side is working hard, being realistic and bringing innovative ideas to the process, Michel Barnier and his team are being lackadaisical, unhelpful and obdurate.
But that was always going to be the spin. In the entire Brexit process the UK Government’s approach has been concerned less with ultimate outcomes and more with the eventual apportioning of credit and blame. It’s not about what the final ‘deal’ actually is. It’s about how it can be made to appear to the relatively tiny number of English voters who decide elections in this Great British Demockracy. And, of course, how it can be painted and polished to look like it’s what is being demanded by the snarling factions within the British Conservative & Unionist Party. A title which looks more and more grotesquely ironic by the day.
The problem is much the same for British Labour. As in all things, they must differentiate themselves sufficiently from the other British establishment party to maintain the illusion of real parliamentary opposition and meaningful electoral choice whilst appealing to the same small section of the electorate. This perennial problem now featuring the added dilemma of which Tory faction they should be differentiating themselves from.
What the British parties have in common is the idea that Brexit is a presentational problem. If the two sides – by which I mean the UK and EU negotiating teams and not the Tory party factions – appear to be talking about different things it’s because they are. Michel Barnier and his team are concerned with the practicalities of the UK quitting the EU. Dominic Raab and the sack of fractious rats he’s been left holding are mainly worried about how the latest episode in this farce will play in the media and among those vital voters.
Raab got his soundbite suggesting it’s the EU which lacks “ambition and pragmatism and energy”. For him, that’s a good day’s work.
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