Mince, a toad and a sow’s ear

When Dominic Cummings, the former director of Vote Leave, called David Davis, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, “thick as mince, lazy as a toad and vain as Narcissus” he was kind of missing the point. Even if Davis was as wise as Solomon, as busy as a bee and as humble as somebody too humble for you to have even heard of, it wouldn’t matter.

The main problem with Brexit isn’t the competence of the people trying to carry it out. The problem is that the flawed idea is predictably falling apart at the proof of concept stage. Arguing about the who’s the best person to deliver Brexit is as pointless as arguing about whether Alice or Bob could brew a better pot of tea in a chocolate teapot.


What’s in Mr Tumble’s spotty bag?

According to the headline writers, David Davis “uses spy-proof briefcase to stop snoopers accessing Brexit secrets.” Which does make me wonder what he keeps in there in there. I’m guessing:

  • One copy of How to Make Friends and Influence People (unread)
  • Several packets of extra soft tissues, for those meetings where you go in telling everybody how you’re going to show the other guy who’s boss, then have to slink out in abject humiliation and cry yourself to sleep
  • Lots of Prozac (see above)
  • A few of those old Commando war comics from the good old days, when Britain’s opponents did the decent thing and died yelling “Donner und blitzen!”, rather than just looking pitying and exasperated like these dastardly Eurocrats
  • A pair of noise-cancelling headphones, to be worn for the whole duration of the Brexit negotiations
  • A large supply of spare underpants (brown)
  • Several passport application forms from countries that still have a chance of not turning into ungovernable basket cases after March 2019



Image © BBC, but I’m, saying fair use. So there.

Oi! Davis! Where’s your Dunkirk spirit?

Christopher Nolan’s wartime epic, Dunkirk, goes on release next Friday. Although the Second World War and the Dunkirk evacuation in particular loom large in Brexit mythology, it seems to me that the Brexiteers haven’t learned anything very useful from their obsession with this part of history. Which is a shame, because David Davis, in particular, could benefit from a bit of the old Dunkirk spirit.

The reason why Dunkirk is worth remembering and celebrating is because is represents a particular brand of courage. The courage needed to face up to reality when a plan isn’t coming together. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) had been outmaneuvered and beaten. There was no realistic prospect of it achieving its strategic goals.

The British were faced with two options – reinforce a hopeless position and waste more blood and treasure, with no prospect of victory, or plan an orderly withdrawal, saving as many as could be saved from death or capture. We only celebrate Dunkirk as a success because the British chose the latter option, saving around 198,000 British and 140,000 French and Belgian troops.

As well as the many, Britain saved the few, when Fighter Command’s Hugh Dowding resisted sending more pilots to France and withdrew the ones already there – if he’d thrown more of his men and machines at the battle of France, he could easily have lost the Battle of Britain.

David Davis, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator is now in the same position as the BEF, in chaotic retreat, outmaneuvered by an opponent he has no realistic prospect of beating. The courageous thing to  do at this point would be to put the needs of the country first and save what can still be saved, rather than putting the nation in peril by throwing away its remaining reserves. Seriously, David, take yourself off to the movies and think hard about what you see:


Be careful what you wish for

You know the United Kingdom, that country which had to leave the EU because the EU was constantly forcing rules and policies on it? Was this the same UK which:

  • negotiated the creation of Regional Funds, then complained that Regional Funds were stupid and the UK should be allowed to spend its money how it likes
  • led the way on coordination of foreign policy in Europe, then complained about having to collaborate in some areas of foreign policy
  • renegotiated the Common Fisheries Policy, then complained that the revised CFP had damaged its fishing industry
  • headed reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, then complained that the CAP had always been bad for the UK
  • secured an agreement to fine community members which didn’t live up to their responsibilities, then complained that it was terrible the European Court of Justice could fine the UK when it didn’t live up to its responsibilities
  • pushed for former Communist states to join the community, then complained that the EU was full ex-Communist bloc citizens
  • helped to bring WEU defence programme into the EU, and led greater defence collaboration, then complained that the UK has no idea why the EU needed a military, or why it was pushing for further defence collaboration
  • voted to speed up Turkish accession (and was the only country fighting for that by 2010), then complained that the EU was pushing for Turkey to join
  • convinced the EU to adopt energy-efficient lightbulbs, then complained that the EU was forcing energy-saving lightbulbs on the UK.
  • negotiated opt outs, then complained the EU forced the UK to do things it didn’t want to, because the UK had lost 76 out of 2,466 votes (those 76 lost votes included ones the UK didn’t even take part in because they were in the area of its opt outs)
  • secured open voting reform, then complained that the EU had forced the UK to replace unanimity with Qualified Majority Voting?

Examples courtesy of this splended Tweetstorm, which includes citations.

Ties, Toblerone and jam tomorrow

If you got to the hashtag #brexitopportunities on Twitter, you’ll find plenty of people competing to make fun of the Brexiteers’ desperate attempts to talk up the fantastic opportunities which allegedly await us all in their brave new post-Brexit world.

Alternatively, you can cut out the middleman and just listen to the Brexit bunch’s own suggestions about the golden opportunities that lie ahead. They’re inadvertently more hilarious than most of the ridiculous suggestions being made by people who are deliberately trying to be funny:

Tory backbencher Peter Bone, who complained last week that a relaxation of the rule on wearing ties in the House of Commons could damage the “esteem of Parliament”, prodded Speaker John Bercow with a trade question about the neckwear. “Mr Speaker, you will be delighted to learn that the British tie manufacturers export millions of pounds,” he said.

“Could the Secretary of State suggest how this house could promote the wearing of ties to increase exports?”

[Disgraced MP Liam] Fox responded: “I suggest that we can lead by example and I can say that this was made in England,” gesturing to the label on his own tie…

…Ties are not the first niche product pro-Brexit MPs have promoted as the Government explores new opportunities for post-EU trade.

Boris Johnson highlighted a manufacturer in his constituency of Uxbridge which produces “the wooden display counters that are used to sell the duty-free Toblerones in every Saudi Arabian airport”.

“If we can crack markets like that, think what we can do when we have free trade deals with America, where they still have a ban on British haggis,” he said.

A Defra document released when the department was run by Andrea Leadsom last year highlighted tea, jam and biscuits, which could be targeted at Japan.

Another suggestion, last October, saw the Department of International Trade itself tweeting: “France needs high quality, innovative British jams & marmalades”.

Karl McDonald in iNews

Meanwhile, in other news:

Leaders from Japan and the European Union on Thursday announced their agreement on the broad strokes of a trade deal that will cover nearly 30 percent of the global economy, 10 percent of the world’s population, and 40 percent of global trade.

The EU and Japan must be kicking themselves for not coming up with a world-beating plan like simply walking away from their biggest markets, then rebalancing their economies to tap into the insatiable global demand for ties, jam and airport display cabinets for duty-free Toblerones.

“Wonks on the edge of a nervous breakdown”


Chris Deerin at CapX has noticed something:

Reader, it is my duty to say it: oh shit. I have scanned the horizon for a hero riding to Brexit’s rescue and found none. I have spoken to politicians, civil servants, academics, experts both at home and abroad, and have identified an overwhelming consensus: Britain is screwed. Even my Brexiteer friends are behaving like wonks on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

The situation is so grim, that for the first time since June 23, I wonder whether the country might rethink. The polls suggest the mix of fear and uncertainty, plus the show of blatant incompetence put on by the Government, is cutting through. Fifty-four per cent of voters would now vote to Remain in the EU. Sixty per cent would like to keep their European passport. Unsafe though predictions are in these complex times, I bet these numbers will go up rather than down.

No shit, Sherlock.

The cake is a lie

This week started on an optimistic note. There were signs that the Brits were becoming slightly less delusional about this whole having-your-cake-and-eating-it idea.
That was from Dan Roberts in Monday’s Graun.

But, no, the UK’s head of financial regulation, Andrew Bailey, apparently didn’t get the memo:

Does Brexit have to mean abandoning the benefits of free trade and open markets in financial services? It should not.

Does it require membership of the single market to get the benefits of free trade with the EU? No.

Does Brexit mean abandoning the use of regulatory co-operation to ensure sufficient alignment of standards and outcomes so that open markets can prevail? It should not.

Shouldn’t it? The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, begs to differ:

I have heard some people in the UK argue that one can leave the single market and keep all of its benefits. That is not possible.
I have heard some people in the UK argue that one can leave the single market and build a customs union to achieve frictionless trade. That is not possible.
The decision to leave the EU has consequences and I have to explain to citizens, businesses and civil society on both sides of the Channel what those consequences mean for them.

These consequences are the direct result of the choice made by the UK, not by the EU. There is no punishment for Brexit and of course no spirit of revenge. But Brexit has a cost, also for business in the EU27, and businesses should assess with lucidity the negative consequences of the UK choice on trade and investment and prepare to manage that.

Maybe David Davis can expain to Michel Barnier why the EU should grant Andrew Bailey’s wish list and let the UK contiue to enjoy the benefits of EU and single market membership without any of the obligations. Second time lucky? I’m not holding my breath.