Richard North, 27/06/2020  
 


Having written yesterday that everything that possibly could be said has already been said about TransEnd, it's a little bit difficult to turn round the next day and write something brand new about … TransEnd.

But, I suppose, Angela Merkel's direct intervention in the game does have a certain novelty value, even if her comment does reside deeply in the "No shit Sherlock!" range.

I mean to say, as the vernacular goes, do you really need to be Chancellor of All Germany to work out that the "UK must live with the consequences" of weaker ties with the EU? Or is it that you have to be Chancellor of All Germany to make a statement of the bleedin' obvious like that, and still get it turned into a Guardian headline?

Perhaps I need to modify yesterday's statement a little bit. How about: "everything that is worth saying has already been said about TransEnd"? You would have serious difficulty in arguing that it's worth saying that the UK will have to live with the consequences of its (or Johnson's) actions. I think we could have guessed that without any assistance from the Chancellor of All Germany.

One has to admit, though, that Frau Doktor Merkel has a tiny point when she says that: "We need to let go of the idea that it is for us to define what Britain should want". It is, she says, "for Britain to define – and we, the EU27, will respond appropriately".

There has been an element in the talks, ever since Mrs May lodged the Article 50 notification, of the tale wagging the dog (yes, I do mean tale), and it's about time that the egregious Johnson did the decent thing and spelt out exactly what it is that he wants. That, of course, means that it's never going to happen. "Johnson" and "decent" are not words that can co-exist in the same universe.

Mind you, if the COAG (Chancellor of All Germany) wants the British government "to define for itself what relationship it will have with us [the EU-27] after the country leaves", then she could be waiting for a very long time. To get the right answer, three hurdles must be surmounted, and it is by no means clear that Johnson could straddle any of them.

The first thing he has to do is work out for himself what he actually wants from the EU. And if that isn't insurmountable, he must define it in terms that the EU would be prepared (or likely) to accept. He must then buy into the sorts of conditions that the EU will demand.

Not just one, but all three numbers must click, before the lock opens, and we haven't even got past key stage one. That means, the COAG says, that we must live "with a less closely interconnected economy" – less closely interconnected with the EU-27, that is.

"If Britain does not want to have rules on the environment and the labour market or social standards that compare with those of the EU, our relations will be less close", she says. "That will mean it does not want standards to go on developing along parallel lines".

Yesterday, it was evident that the Financial Times had spun the wheel and it stopped on "optimism", which had the paper telling us that "hopes are rising that EU and UK could find compromise". So, today, the wheel stops on "pessimism" for the Guardian.

That paper has thus rearranged the paragraphs to come up with the narrative that "Negotiations between the UK and EU are in deadlock over whether Britain needs to tie itself to the EU’s developing state aid rules and common environmental, social and labour standards in return for a zero-tariff trade deal".

Woe is us … we are well and truly domed. And it gets worse.

Merkel’s ambassador in Brussels, Michael Clauss, recently said he expected Brexit to command most of the political attention in the autumn, fanning British hopes that Germany's six-month EU council presidency could push the negotiations back to the top of the political agenda before the transition period ends on 31 December.

But Frau COAG now, apparently, thinks differently. Ignoring the attention-seeking Johnson, she has vowed to devote most of her political energy during the presidency on rallying EU member states around a joint economic response to "a challenge of unprecedented dimensions" posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

One can never be sure how a sociopath such as Johnson will take to having his tantrums ignored. It is said, though – of ordinary mortals – that you're nobody until you've been ignored by a cat. By the same token, no British prime minister is up to much until he (in this case) has been ignored by a Chancellor of All Germany.

However, if the experience elevates his status, it doesn't do much for the prospects of UK PLC, which will find itself out in the post-Covid wilderness, battling to get its goods accepted on the other side of the Channel, having to beat off rampant French customs officials, veterinarians and plant technicians, before it can sell inside the Single Market from which it has so recently departed.

Then, according to Politico (there's always one), Germany is going to take control of Europe and run it as its own private fiefdom. For the average Breitbart reader, that doubtless means jackboots down the Champs-Élysées again.

However, unless we're thinking of delivering our exports in Lancaster bombers again, no amount of anti-German rhetoric is going to improve the situation. But, when push comes to shove, that's probably all Johnson has – rhetoric, which will so very easily take on a negative or nationalistic tinge as he gets stuck in the mire.

Interestingly, after the whole world has been talking about it for months, the Telegraph has just worked out that combining the worst elements of Covid-19 with "Brexit" (it actually means TransEnd) isn't a terribly good idea.

Quick off the mark as always, their resident genius thinks they might be "about to collide", sending another "conflagration" steaming down the tracks. It must be something in the water that is somehow delivering us into the hands of the bleedin' obvious. The worst of it is that you have to read a lot of drivel to get there.

Since almost everybody now expects a no-deal TransEnd, talking about the possibility of a collision is somewhat moot. The discussion might be better focused on the consequences of the perfect storm – except that there is only so much speculation one can indulge in before one begins to bore oneself.

The one novelty about the situation though, is the RTE observation that: "Those parts of the economy that have suffered least from the Covid-19 Crisis will likely be most affected by Brexit in the new year". They mean TransEnd, of course.

Where the crisis is really going to strike though, is after 31 December, when the media will be at a total loss. They will no longer know how to label their stories. By then, even the meanest of intellects (and there are a lot of they) will have realised that we have left the EU, so they should no longer be using the Brexit moniker. Perhaps "post-Brexit" might be in order.

Anyway, with post-Brexit blues, COAG throwing a wobbly and ignoring us, and then Covid (or is it post-Covid) on top, we could be in for a pretty miserable time. Maybe someone could have a word with BMW for us. They'll tell COAG what to do, and then all our problems will be solved.






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