Richard North, 19/08/2018  

We have come to the point with Brexit where it now seems impossible to have an adult debate – leaving the various protagonists to regress into a series of infantile disputes which have nothing to do with the issues at hand.

Part of this (in fact, most of this) is Mrs May's fault. Having failed throughout the process to offer leadership, she is now hanging on by her fingernails to an already discredited Brexit plan which leaves nothing for anyone else to support – or even discuss.

In that political vacuum, virtually anything goes – but mostly tedium. The continuity remainers, under the guise of the People's Vote, purport to campaign for a referendum on the final deal, but are actually seeking to re-fight the referendum they so dismally lost.

They are now joined by the loathsome Farage who asserts that he is returning to active politics, to re-fight the case for leaving the EU alongside Leave means Leave – thus completing the circle of futility which will keep the babies in the media fully engaged and relieve them of the need to report on grown-up issues.

Since neither side is in the least interested in the mechanics of leaving the EU, that means the obvious casualty will be any discussion about how the government should manage the exit process.

But since Mrs May has long ceased listening to anyone outside her inner circle, there is little point in engaging in a public debate about Brexit. Anything which emerges will be studiously ignored and have precisely no influence on events, which seem set for an inexorable slide to a chaotic "no deal".

That in itself should be sounding alarm bells, except that the born-again leave protagonists favour this outcome as it most closely approximates their desire for a "clean break" with the European Union, rebooting our international relations in order to convey us to a land of sunlit uplands, sprinkled with fairy dust and populated by unicorns.

On the other hand, the continuity remainers talk up predictions of chaos and actively pursue the prospect of a rapidly-deteriorating Brexit process, in the hope that this will lead to an eleventh hour recantation and a return to the bosom of Mother Europe. Nothing short of continued membership of the European Union is their objective.

With both sides engaging in their fantasies, reality has taken a long break without having purchased a return ticket. As the media descend into inconsequential gibberish, it would be wise to stay away. A post-referendum Britain has nothing to offer it, and lacks the capability to focus on anything in the political sphere which requires knowledge and sustained intellectual activity.

Against this background, it is completely pointless trying to predict the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. It is easier to take a stab at guessing what will not happen, debunking some of the wilder doom-laden forecasts.

Even today, the Sunday Times is at it, retailing a prediction that flu vaccine may have to be airlifted into Britain to prevent a winter crisis in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This, apparently, is according to Hugo Fry, UK chief of the French drugs giant Sanofi who tells us that the extreme measure may be needed because of the threat of crucial supplies being stuck in border queues.

Currently, Sanofi distributes the vaccine by lorry from Val de Reuil in Normandy, and has decided to increase its drugs stocks in case Britain fails to secure a deal before leaving the EU in March. However, we are told, vaccine for winter 2019-20 is not available for stockpiling because it has not yet been made. It would normally begin arriving in the UK in the preceding August but all-purpose experts have warned that a "no deal" scenario could result in long queues at borders because of customs checks.

This is the sort of mindless copy, written on autopilot, that our witless hacks are extruding in great quantity. But, assuming that we do have queues at the borders in March and April, it is pretty certain that things will have settled down by next August when Sanofi will be bringing in new supplies.

What this rather conveniently illustrates for us though is the almost universal inability of the legacy media to identify the Brexit pinch-points and where the difficulties might arise. I have yet to see one journalist who understands that the main issues come with exporting UK goods to EU Member States.

As regards medicines, the UK is unlikely to face any immediate shortages as a result of Brexit. Perversely, it will be EU Member States which will be most affected as products manufactured by UK market authorisation holders will not be accepted for circulation within the Union.

Such is the severity of the potential consequences that one assumes the EU will come up with an emergency "fix" which will ensure that supplies can be maintained, until a longer-term solution can be found.

I have already suggested that this could involve unilateral action on the part of the EU, treating the UK as if it was still a member of the EU for the purposes of importing certain goods. This may apply across the board, with temporary approvals in place until EU-based suppliers can be found.

When it comes to the UK, it will be up to the our government to decide what check are imposed on goods coming into this country. And while any number of all-purpose experts are already arguing that WTO rules will require checks to be imposed, if the situation demands it, the UK will take whatever action is necessary to safeguard our immediate interests.

In more general terms, with the media focusing on a very limited band of adverse effects, logic would suggest (if that applies any more in this country) that the government will devote much of its energy to headline manipulation. It will take the pressure off those areas which will be most watched – in the expectation that the more damaging, longer-term effects will not be noticed until it is too late.

Meanwhile, politicians will continue to bicker – mainly because that is what they do. And Mr Rees Mogg and his fellow travellers will hatch their little plots, united in their ignorance and their determination to spread their poisonous lies.

Yet, these people cannot prevail. What they want simply cannot be delivered. Their "WTO option" will not provide a working basis by which we can manage our relations with the EU or the rest of the world. And although they intend shortly to regale us with their alternative plan, the net effect of this will be to give the pundits something to debunk at the fag end of the silly season.

If one was to attempt t make sense of all this, one would guess that the parties meeting in Brussels are now in the main concerned with damage limitation. The effect of the publication of the "technical notices" may be to illustrate quite how mad the "no deal" scenario really is, paving the way for a political fudge that will get us past Brexit day without the world falling apart.

Although parliament may be puffing itself up to a crescendo of self-importance, its demands for a "meaningful vote" on whatever fudge is cobbled together are largely futile. Any vote will be on the basis of "take it or leave it" and, after a degree of ego massaging, the assembled MPs will cave in and "take it". Anything else and they take the responsibility for the chaos, with obvious electoral implications.

The same, incidentally, goes for any referendum. Assuming there was time for one to be organised and a campaign to be run – which there isn't – any rejection of what would be on offer would automatically leave us with a "no deal", rendering pointless the whole idea of a plebiscite.

That there are people who are prepared to devote time and money to this device is merely a sign of the madness gripping this country. That madness will be further evident on the coming Thursday when Brexit secretary Dominic Raab is scheduled to give a speech, setting out the Government's plans for a no-deal.

Raab will be saying that: "It is the responsibility of the EU to ensure its consumers and businesses are not harmed", whence he will declare that: "The UK Government believes this is best achieved by both sides taking a non-disruptive approach and will be encouraging cooperation with the EU on no-deal planning".

One really does wonder whether our ministers actually listen to the words they speak. He is apparently planning to tell us that, in the event of "no deal" with Brussels, he expects London and Brussels to strike up a deal on how to manage our joint affairs in the absence of a deal. This, it would seem, is the ultimate in "cakeism" – a deal to end all deals.

It is hardly possible to describe this in terms anything other than "mad". Rationality is lost. We are in the land of the insane.

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