If there is one concession to be made in these so-called EU negotiations, it is that both sides have an act that they could take on the road. What a masterclass in double-speak and spin-tastic melodrama. Both camps have known for years how this was all going to play out, and it has been one continuous, ongoing, circular cycle of pompous positioning. All this at-the-brink kerfuffle is simply tweaking the optics, which just need to be fine-tuned in accordance with the emerging world situation.
After all, Europe is one lumbering compromise. It has to be, in order to cohere 27 countries consumed by centuries of simmering hatred into any sort of viable co-operation. While the facade preaches unity, there are no allies in Europe – only clusters of nations with mutual interests. There are however a smattering of principles that give the Beurocratic administration their required tit-tape, and this is why there needs to be an adroit presentation of the outcome.
Remember John Major stating to the Commons that the idea of talking to the IRA ‘churned [his] stomach?’ It later transpired that they had all been merrily jabbering away, not only at the point that greyballs addressed the House, but for years. This is what shyster Janus politicians do.
When all is said and done, a ‘deal’ (if we even truly understand what that means) must involve compromise. And for that reason, every deal will necessarily be ‘bad’ for somebody. Let’s not forget that the whole complexity of the Leave/Remain dilemma was always boiled down to single prioritised issues in the minds of the electorate, whether that be the economy, sovereignty over laws, freedom of movement etc.
Nobody needed 4 and a half years to work out what would work and what would not. All this transitioning has happened purely because the cover of negotiations supported the risk-free continuance of the status quo. And like Status Quo, these blaggards know only a handful of chords.
But a sneaky peek under the tarpaulin reveals that the Internal Markets furore has been quietly put to bed, and the Northern Ireland hard border issuette discreetly resolved. What is more, the EU has unveiled its contingency planning to maintain flights between the EU and the UK, so you would have to wonder why they would not be doing precisely the same across a range of goods and services? Well, they doubtless are, and this would have to be in close co-operation with the UK.
It all sounds like the practicalities of a deal even if it has not yet been committed to a face-losing treaty.
Expect these ‘contingencies’ to bed in and last for the foreseeable future, and a lot of it will be Micawberist delaying tactics – keep much of the same, dress it up differently, and wait to see what turns up. And of course, something always does. Or the context changes. Or people just forget stuff, which carves out the path for a (E)U-turn. Mais oui, there will the odd sensationalist bump in the road with some tit-for-tat tariffing that will pop up and be subtly offset with some form of surreptitious state aid.
All enough to keep the Brexit cult and the psycho-federalists content in their adjoining padded cells.
If anything other than froth and bubble is being aired, it might be the UK chancing its arm on a few issues, given that the COVID mess has in some ways levelled the playing fields (guffaw) on post-transitional adverse impact. But in all honesty, getting Brexit done is now critical if only to clear the decks. It must already sharply sting that the weighty responsibilities of the checkered premiership are impinging on those long Chequers weekends.
So off to Brusque Hell it was for Johnson and a not-so-subtle, seafood-dominated spread. With many in the UK looking forward to the end of lockdown and perhaps a meal out or even seeing a band, the only band that Johnson should be contemplating is a gastric one. At the photo-call, it was an even-money bet between the talks and his DNA breaking down, such is his button-bursting dishevelment. If the UK’s position was not unravelling, his suit most certainly was.
We should however not be too perturbed by the outcome of this Euro-farce. The challenges presented by the COVID recovery are overwhelmingly more pressing, and there is neither a deal nor a vaccination for that.