Richard North, 21/05/2018  

There is a certain amount of wibble going on about Emma Barnett's interview with Barry Gardiner yesterday on the Marr Show, with Barnett standing in for the witless hack who is apparently indisposed.

Gardiner, of course, is Labour's shadow international trade secretary, and he was charged by Barnett to explain Labour's policy on the single market. All she managed to do, though, was conform something we already knew- that Labour's policy is so far lacking in coherence that it gives incoherence a bad name.

Perversely, on the list of transcripts, the date given for the interview is 13 May – last week. This is when Nick Robinson stood in for Andrew Marr, the list thus making it appear as if Barnett and Robinson were co-hosting the show.

I missed the Robinson spectacular last week, which is perhaps just as well. The only thing consistent about him is that every time he opens his mouth, he confirms himself to be a vacuous fool.

Thus, when it was his turn to stand in for Andrew Marr, he interviewed Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney. But there was no intellect at play, We simply had an automaton mouthing questions at an Irish politician, only to demonstrate that he was almost incapable of understanding the answers.

In the early stages of the interview, Coveney reminded the egregious Robinson that Mrs May had agreed there would be no border infrastructure of any kind on the island of Ireland, no related checks or controls.

"That means", said Coveney, "we're not talking about cameras and scanning system and drones here. It means we're talking about a political solution that allows for regulatory alignment in a way that prevents the need for border infrastructure".

One was almost sense the rusty cogs, creaking and whirring in the Robinson brain – a masterpiece of microscopic engineering. The mere utterance of "regulatory alignment" triggers a semi-automatic diatribe, straight out of the BBC Today playbook.

"That", burbles Robinson, "would sound to many people like you're merely restating the hope. Hope one we hope the UK doesn't leave at all. Hope two we hope they stay in the single market. Hope three we hope they stay in the customs union. But the government are not doing any of those things".

One wonders how long the script advisors worked on that one, and how long Robinson had to rehearse the precise wording, but however long it took, the BBC collective spent exactly no time at all on devising anything sensible.

This is, in fact, the first and only mention of the single market in the entire interview, and a clear aberration. But it is only one of three mentions of the term "customs union".

The second comes later in the interview when Robinson accuses Coveney of a lack of flexibility, telling the Irish foreign minister that he sounds "awfully like a man who's saying let's hope the British parliament votes for the customs union which we've always wanted".

However, when Coveney returns to repeat that he wants "the outcome of there being no physical infrastructure on the island of Ireland and no related checks or controls, Robinson leaps on this to imply that he would be happy if parliament voted for a customs union.

At this, Coveney gives up, telling the fool that he's said from the start that we believe if we had a shared customs space or shared customs territory, which would need to be negotiated, that would help to solve a lot of the issues that are stalling these negotiations right now".

And that's enough for Robinson. He's got precisely nothing out of Coveney that we didn't already know, and reinforced in less-educated viewers' minds that the customs union is the issue of consequence.

Now, with a week gone by since Robinson put his oar in, we're no further forward. In fact, we're steadily regressing as the imbecile collective that masquerades as the British media has steady converted the Irish question into one of the UK adopting the customs union.

This culminates in a fatuous piece in the Guardian which has the vile Johnson blathering about he and "his fellow Brexiters" still expect Mrs May to deliver a deal that avoids triggering the "backstop" that would keep Britain aligned to the customs union beyond 2020.

From an issue about "regulatory alignment", which the media never understood – and was far too complicated for their little brains – the "backstop" has now become in the words of Johnson, the "customs backstop" – putting it firmly in the comfort zone of the zombie media.

As copy writers dig themselves in deeper, not understanding the basics, they produce endless gibberish that harbours so many contradictions and infelicities that it can only be a meaningless jumble of words. It is very difficult for the hacks to explain things clearly if they themselves have little understanding of the things about which they write.

Someone who should know different – but doesn't – is Daniel Hannan, now usurping Booker's spot in The Sunday Telegraph, to deliver his own brand of gibberish.

Totally lacking in self-awareness, he complains of Tribal MPs, accusing them of "doing the EU's dirty work". This is an odd charge, given Hannan's attachment to the "Ultras" who are doing more than any other group (apart from the government) to prevent the UK reaching a sensible Brexit settlement.

Never having been slow to parade his ignorance, Hannan generously offers his "take" on what he calls "the preposterous row" about the Irish frontier.

A confident British government, with a united Parliament behind it, he says, could have been both firm and friendly, saying to the EU: "We won't put any hard infrastructure on our side of the line, and we will work with you on any reasonable proposal that will allow you to do the same on your side".

You would have thought that someone who has been an MEP as long as he has might know something about the EU and the way it works. As long as I've known him, though,. he has only ever swanned into Brussels to stay in the most expensive hotel in town, then to have dinner with his Tory chums and collect his expenses, ready to return with his mind as clear of any troubling detail as it has ever been.

This idiot's idea of a "reasonable proposal" is a "comprehensive UK-EU trade deal based on the mutual recognition of standards", something which he takes straight out of the Legatum/IEA playbook. He doesn't have the wit to understand that mutual recognition – in the sense that he describes it – works in the EU only within the framework of the Single Market. This is the very thing he would now have us leave.

The sheer arrogance of this is underwritten by Hannan's closing remarks, where he transfers the blame to parliament for the UK not seeking to implement something that even Mrs May knows is a non-starter. And, having rather taken a shine to the word "preposterous", he uses it again (a sure sign of a sloppy writer), to assert that we have "ended up in the preposterous position of making what happens on the Irish side of the line our responsibility".

At least in this piece, Hannan is not blathering on about "trusted traders" – which is perhaps just as well. The Irish Independent has hired Carol Lynch, a partner in BDO Customs and International Trade, to tell us about the difficulties in acquiring that status.

It is, she says, "a very comprehensive and time-consuming process", taking "six months to prepare an application and put in place the required procedures". Following the application, she says, "it can take another six months to actually obtain authorisation. Due to this you would need to start this process a year before you require authorisation".

This is addressed to Irish readers but, for the UK there is the added fun of trying to get mutual recognition of any UK AEO scheme. This is where the term "mutual recognition" really does bite. For the UK scheme to work in respect of exports to EU Member States, the EU must accept our systems, all of which depend on the exchange of electronic data.

For that to happen, the UK must gain the status of "data adequacy", under the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, something which is by no means automatic and is far from being assured.

In other words, we are still up the creek without a paddle, yet all we get is the prattle of our zombie media, and the inane mouthings of our ignorant politicians. And, to cap it all, a Tory donor is asking us to believe that Mrs May's "incompetence" is deliberate.

I could almost wish that was true.

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