There are too many metaphors, which brings endless amusement, but the words of Thomas Hobbes must come to mind at every step:
To these Uses, there are also foure correspondent Abuses. First, when men register their thoughts wrong, by the inconstancy of the signification of their words; by which they register for their conceptions, that which they never conceived; and so deceive themselves. Secondly, when they use words metaphorically; that is, in other sense than that they are ordained for; and thereby deceive others.
Word-games must stop and straight talk be turned to action.
The time is passing swiftly and two breeds of beast are bellowing in the herd: the hell-bent opponents of Brexit and those who accept it but are most fearful of a no-deal result. Both are panicking, because in just over two months, the clock stops ticking (mixed metaphors, sorry) and Britain is free of Brussels, with or without a transition arrangement and with or without a trade deal.
Exit Day (courtesy of Mrs May’s dithering) is now 31 October; the date Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg and began the Reformation: that date is celebrated across Protestant Europe as Reformation Day, and it should be introduced in the churches of Britain too. This metaphor was the start of an insightful article by ‘His Grace’ on the Cranmer blog this morning.
It should not be hard to fix the Withdrawal Agreement, dead as it may have been declared, but as far as the Eurocrats are concerned it is not dead but resting. The terms of Boris’s ‘Three Theses’ suggest a reformation of Mrs May’s agreement rather than burying it, but it needs fixing. The question then is how to persuade those in Europe to take him seriously.
Firstly, there is no single European mind: “Brussels” is a collection of bureaucrats, politicians out to grass and needy national politicians, each with their own ideas and their own sources of information, or misinformation, each with a greater or lesser understanding of how Britons think and how our political system operates, each with their own personal priorities and each with variant degrees of devotion to or cynicism towards to the Projet européen.
The hope is that the various powers in Brussels will see sense at the last minute, concede enough to allow Boris Johnson to sign something he might get through Parliament, and all breathe a sigh of relief and start taking about the long-term trade agreement presaged in the Political Declaration. If common sense governed, then this would follow easily. Common sense though is a particularly British phenomenon.
Those in their seats in Brussels may be afraid to step out of line publicly and be seen to let the side down. National leaders may be more pliable. Frau Merkel is looking shaky for one, but is unpredictable (not something frequently said about German leaders). The Italian government, to the extent Italy has a government, is an enigma even to itself. When you get to Austria Hungary and thereabouts you realise how diverse the backlot of Europe is, and how easy it is for smaller countries to take their lead from the larger.
One key would be cracking the unconvincing unity of the main parties in Eire. They at least have British common sense, which one would hope will surface when they see they are about to bring about that which they most want to avoid.
Whom they listen to is crucial. If it is the likes of Elmar Brok, spouting on Newsnight last night, the position is hopeless: they do not believe Boris after all he used to write about them in The Telegraph, they think he really wants a no-deal hard Brexit and that he would be overturned by the House of Commons anyway. For giving Brussels that impression so as to shut their ears, Members of the House should be shut in the pillory for months (that need not be a metaphor). Herr Brok sounded honest and plain-speaking: he genuinely believes he position he set out.
Brok also repeated the figures, long since discredited, for the effect of a no-deal Brexit as an argument that Britain must concede. One good point he made though was that the Backstop wording was a British proposal; it is indeed written in Mrs May’s voice. The point though is that it was rejected and its author was rejected, defenestrated as they say in Prague, albeit metaphorically.
That is just one voice though. Others must surely be more worried by the coming European recession. Even a temporary arrangement to carry both sides over will help their economies (which presupposes that they care about their economies).
Westminster is another game.
- Fixing the Withdrawal Agreement
- The Withdrawal Agreement: a commentary
- Treason, stupidity, recklessness or hypocrisy?
- Westminster in the exit endgame
- For the Record by David Cameron
- All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class by Tim Shipman
- Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union by Harold D. Clarke, Matthew Goodwin and Paul Whiteley
- Brexit: How the Nobodies Beat the Somebodies by Sebastian J. Handley
- Brexit and Ireland: The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response by Tom Connelly
- Beyond Brexit by Vernon Bogdanor
- From Partition to Brexit: The Irish Government and Northern Ireland by Donnacha O Beachain
- Brexit: Its Necessity and Challenge by Tony Kosuge
- Rising Tides: Facing the Challenges of a New Era by Liam Fox
- By Boris Johnson: