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Brexit: in the hands of fools and knaves

2016-07-15 05:42:25

Even his fellow journalists knew of his "lying and conniving" and treated him with circumspection. In 1994, as Brussels correspondent for the Telegraph, he was within an ace of having his press accreditation withdrawn.

As Sonia Purnell wrote in her book, Just Boris, he "had become such a pariah amongst EU officials that no one would talk to him any more. He was by then a caricature figure, and he had to go".

Now, this disgusting man is our Foreign Secretary. There is no way this serial liar can be regarded as an asset, nor of any assistance in the process of leaving the EU. Having campaigned on the basis of multiple lies during the referendum, he brings nothing but further discredit to the United Kingdom. It is shameful that he has been appointed to this great office of state.

Meanwhile, another part of the "team", David Davis, is claiming that we will be out of the EU by December 2018. Yet this is alongside Phil Hammond telling us that the UK will drop out of the Single Market, offering us the prospect of prolonged negotiations which cannot possibly be finished by the end of 2018.

Thus do we find the Financial Times observing that the politics and policy now becomes less about "will" and more about "capacity". Whether Brexit will happen will become the servant of whether it can be made to happen. As of today, there is no policy shape to Brexit. There is only shapelessness. And unless shape can be given to the great Brexit adventure, it is an open question whether it will happen.

And with May having set up a team which is being one openly described as one set up to fail, we too must question precisely where we are going. Davis quite clearly, has no idea what he is talking about, less so from his piece in Conservative Home.

This is a man who, as a former Europe Minister has had a better opportunity than many to learn the ropes. Yet he is still talking in terms of "continued tariff-free access" to the Single Market, with not one mention of non-tariff barriers. "Once the European nations realise that we are not going to budge on control of our borders, they will want to talk, in their own interest", says Davis.

"There may be some complexities about rules of origin and narrowly-based regulatory compliance for exports into the EU, but that is all manageable", he adds.

"In the improbable event of the EU taking a dog in the manger attitude to Single Market tariff free access", he then says, insisting on "WTO rules and levies, including 10 percent levies on car exports", this man actually tells us that "the British government will be in receipt of over 2 billion of levies on EU cars alone".

One struggles to understand whether he realises that the tariffs are paid by the EU importers. And that if we, on the basis of MFN rules, choose to reciprocate, we will be obliged to impose tariffs on vehicles from every other country. Nor, under WTO rules, can we preferentially subsidise our own indigenous car industry "to make it more competitive if we so chose", as this is a distortion of trade.

Nevertheless, Davis does go on to write that, "WTO rules would not allow us to explicitly offset the levies charged", thereby negating his own point, watering it down to say: "but we could do a great deal to support the industry if we wanted to". But when does "support" become subsidy? Davis does not say. This is the sort of incoherence, though, which should long have been consigned to the dustbin - alongside Johnson's stupidities on regulation.

All of this thus prompts The Times to suggest that May has given the Brexit portfolio to Johnson, Davis and Fox on the basis that "It's your mess. Now clear it up". They will now have to redeem their promise to the nation, except that their chances of doing so are slim, mostly because they have no real idea what their promise was.

With typical legacy media arrogance, writer Philip Collins refers to "the serious problem with the advocates of leaving the European Union - They have no real idea what 'good' looks like. They don't have any definition of success. They agree only on a single thing, which is that Britain would be better off out of the European Union than in".

In the claustrophobic world of the media, the particular becomes the general, as the squalid London-centric bubble fail to define the "fiendishly complex question" of how we leave and what the settlement may be". As far as Collins understanding goes, if the "bubble" doesn't know, nobody knows. And tarred with that brush, it seems most of us are "not even particularly interested" in the Brexit outcome. The gains "are all philosophical and psychological". We are accused of getting annoyed "when you ask them what it was all for".

Such is the grip of the media, though, that we have Andrew Pierce of the Mail writing that Davis is "clever, tough, and a veteran Eurosceptic with knowledge of his brief more than a match for the Brussels bureaucrats".

As always, therefore, the epicentre of the confusion is the "bubble", with the "leaver" claque well-represented by the trio of Johnson, Davis and Fox - three people who could not be less suited to the task in hand. We are in the hands of fools and knaves. And as confusion reigns, this cannot be the way forward.