Tuesday 21 August 2018

Maybe not a bus this time...

Last week, the Foreign Secretary told us that leaving the EU without a deal on the future trading relationship "would be a mistake we would regret for generations", but was forced to follow that up later the same day with a ‘clarification’ that what he apparently meant to say was that it was the rest of the EU which would regret it, not us: “it would be a big mistake for Europe because of inevitable impact on long-term partnership with UK”.  In the land of make believe inhabited by the cabinet, it seems that the smaller party to the negotiations, the one which would in the event of ‘no-deal’ be left with no agreed trading relationships with anyone, would do just fine but all the problems and regrets would be felt by the larger partner.
It’s part of a pattern in which the government of a country of 65 million thinks it can make credible threats to a trading bloc of 450 million.  Hunt has managed to excel himself with the weakness of his threat to those horrid Europeans: give us what we want, or "Inevitably that would change British attitudes towards Europe".  Take that, Juncker!  I’m not sure quite whose attitudes he believes would change, though.  Most of those on the Brexit side of the debate seem to be already convinced that the EU bosses are an unelected dictatorship which hates the UK and wants to punish us for daring to leave, whilst those on the Remain side are already clear in their own minds that the consequences we face are being caused largely by the intransigence and red lines of a UK government which has followed a policy of cakeism from the outset.  A messy divorce might harden those attitudes on both sides, but I don’t see it changing them.  His words are just another empty threat, like all the others which have preceded them.  
Meanwhile, other Brexiteers are busy urging Hunt’s predecessor to take another bus tour around the UK, encouraging grass roots Tories to rise up against the so-called ‘plan’ which emerged from Chequers.  He’s currently declining to participate.  That's reasonable enough; I find it hard to believe that even Boris would be daft enough to repeat that stunt, given how badly it has subsequently backfired.  Even he must, surely, see how open to ridicule it would leave him, even if fear of ridicule is not something that generally deters him from doing something.  
What was notable about the proposed grand tour, however, was that it wasn’t aimed at the population at large.  The target audience this time is only grass roots Tories; the rest of us are considered irrelevant in what has always been, first and foremost, an ideological battle within the Tory Party.  Purely coincidentally, these are also the very people he needs to vote for him if he is to realise his leadership ambitions.  Perhaps it won’t be a bus this time, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t find another method to travel the UK whipping up his party’s membership against the plans of its leader.  After all, for him, this has never really been about the EU at all.

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