Thursday, 17 June 2021

Fearing the truth or trying to ignore it?


The point about the exceptionalism of English nationalists is that it’s exceptionally exceptional, but it still takes a very, very exceptional kind of exceptionalism to spend months negotiating a deal in excruciating detail, declare it to be the best deal ever in the whole of human history, and then refuse to implement it because it’s such a rubbish deal. Even more exceptionalist is to then expect the partner with whom the deal had been so painstakingly negotiated to agree that actually implementing it is unnecessary because, well, because the UK is so very exceptional. And because sausages. Oh, and also because some of the more extreme loyalists, whose degree of loyalty can apparently be directly measured by their propensity for violence against the state to which they proclaim said loyalty, who were promised that the deal to put a trade border down the Irish Sea meant that there would be absolutely no border checks or controls whatsoever and were silly enough to believe that any utterance from the mouth of the exceptionalist PM could bear any relationship to truth, might vent their anger by further violent demonstrations of loyalty to the state.

It’s wrong, of course, to make light of a very serious situation, but the consequences of the deal signed by the UK Government were obvious from the outset, and signing a legally-binding deal with another party in the expectation that the UK could then wriggle out of it by firstly ignoring it, then refusing to implement it, and then seeking to use potential violence by groups whose views they deliberately ignored in the first place in an attempt to blackmail the other partner into dismantling its own regulatory regime is much, much worse. The phrase used yesterday by Cummings to describe the English Health Minister (“Totally f*****g hopeless”) looks like an understatement when applied to the government as a whole.

As ever, the Labour leader managed to ride to the rescue. Faced with a hopeless government, the last thing we need is a hopeless opposition, but Labour can generally be relied upon to provide that last thing. Starmer managed to say both that the deal signed by the UK Government – a deal which he and his party supported by voting for it in parliament – must be implemented and there is no scope for major renegotiation, but at the same time there should be no border checks either in the Irish Sea or across the island of Ireland. Whilst he’s critical of the government for signing the deal which he supported, he neither wants to change it nor implement it in full – it’s hard to see what the difference in substance is between him and Johnson. They have, though, arrived at the same position by different routes. Johnson doesn’t care about the truth, whilst Starmer actively fears it. Johnson lied about the deal to get himself out of a tight spot and never had any intention of implementing it; Starmer knows that avoiding borders ultimately involves re-entry into the single market or something very similar but fears telling his voters that simple truth. Both are left arguing for the impossible.

No comments: