Home > Opinion > A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ….
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ….
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …. Brexit happened. Remember Brexit? It was here, it happened; yes, really. Only a week ago, so why would you remember? Pinch yourselves, it really did happen …. Oh Yes It Did!
A week is a long time in politics? For Boris Johnson eternity passes between breakfast and lunch. Boris Johnson therefore expects you have already forgotten Brexit, because if you remember, it is unlikely that the news for him will be encouraging. After all, it went so well; a deal with a signature for gung-ho Boris to wave in public was everything he aspired to achieve, a bar set so low even the PM could fall over it: but that celebratory party is over and he needs to move on. The media have moved on, to the next Boris U-turn stunt; and the politicians are busy burying their heads as deep as they can in the new pile of hastily cobbled government-issue sand. Brexit is forgotten already, not least by him. If you missed the Brexit deal performance altogether, then you should be disappointed, because this was the most successful live, staged show of the Christmas season; even if it was the only live, stage show, based on a fictional event, that made it to opening, and closing.
Tom Kibasi, in the Guardian (30th December, 2020) ‘The threat of a no-deal Brexit was nothing more than a hoax’; very acutely describes the techniques used to sell this elaborately choreographed, no-deal ‘deal’ with the EU to the British public: “The threat of a no-deal Brexit has always been a hoax – and it has been one of the most successful deceptions in British political history. It was never a real option but has systematically lowered domestic expectations for a deal and allowed the government to avoid any serious scrutiny. Boris Johnson played the role of no-deal madman with aplomb, as if he had been born for it. Which of course he believes he was.”
Kibasi’s piece describes a programmed, planned deception. It becomes a more compelling explanation when his analysis is combined with the way Britain spun its game-playing to the British public, and planned it so carefully, so precisely toward, but not beyond the very, bitter end of 2020. The end-game being a last moment result, just in time for the long Christmas to New Year holiday, in order to ensure the total elimination of all serious scrutiny in Britain of whatever deal was proposed; for the unaware, unprepared British public was the only (unknowing) participant in this elaborate faux-negotiation, whose baffled interest in the unfolding farce was the whole point of the British Government’s elaborate late-night pizzas charade. The British government’s purpose was to sell its own people a bottle of smoke, clinched against-the-odds by a sudden, last minute agreement. The EU were in reality little more than disinterested onlookers to a private, family ritual dance that was understood only by insiders; redundant participants in a pointless, endless divorce that was in reality over before it began.
At Christmas the PM’s Conservative Cabinet know perfectly well everything in Britain is closed, and this applies ‘a fortiori’ in 2020’s distracted Covid-Christmas. Notice that the Government ensured it never offered Brexit ministers up for public interrogation on the EU proposed final deal; the newsroom media staffs in post over Christmas are notably thin on the ground, news programmes are reduced to mere, sporadic headlines. Parliament is not sitting (save for five hours to pass the deal in short order!), the academics are off, the lawyers are at home. British business is simply distracted, desperate for any certainty only a few days from 2021; still immersed deep in ignorant darkness of what to do, and being lectured by Government advertisements to be ‘ready’ for 31st December, as if it would be all their fault if they are not and given no idea what to do: ready for what? Do what? Britain was shut, and Covid-19 had done the rest; nobody in Britain knew anything, and that is just the way the Government wanted it.
Leaving no grubby smear unused, the EU was even blamed for the ‘last minute’, ‘take it to the wire’ nature of the denouement; claiming the EU’s alleged tendency to stretch things out to the bitter end before concessions are made in EU negotiations; a double benefit to the British chancers, because this trick also makes it look as if concessions of substance were actually being made at the last minute by the EU. They weren’t, but this is Britain; nobody notices, and nobody cares. In any case, the whole farrago of supposed late-night, last minute deals as the standard fare in Europe, are actually functions of deals between EU members, but are by no means necessarily the case for trade negotiations between the EU and 3rd party trading partners; like Brexit Britain. Such 3rd party negotiations more typically end …. when they end.
The test of that truth is resolved by a simple question. Who set the deadline? Who made it an issue of substance? Not the EU, who would happily have offered an extension, save only that it was likely to lead anywhere worthwhile. That expectation died the death of a thousand British self-inflicted cuts a long time before; ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, and the EU could see that for Britain a bad deal is just about any deal at all, save only for one solitary benefit Britain really wanted from an EU deal – the desired signatures on a piece of paper, for Johnson to wave to the cameras. We have a deal! The image beautifully sums the essence of the Conservative Party.
It was the British who insisted on ‘taking it to the wire’, quite deliberately, quite calculatedly; because they needed this to be a drama turned into a crisis. The crisis, and its last minute resolution was just a cheap British trick. It was the British alone who were determined that Brexit must be over by the 31st December deadline, from the beginning; no matter what. And so it turned out; the rabbit was whisked from the hat, just-in-time to ensure the British public would be kept closeted in the dark over the holidays, until the deal was ratified, signed, and given sovereign assent without anyone in Britain understanding anything, about anything of the deal itself.
The last minute declaration of triumph, snatched from the jaws of defeat was part of the manufactured spectacle, a Brexit UK Drama Production with instant general distribution; with two purposes, purely for its home audience: the first based on the phoney spin that Britain was tough and the EU blinked; the second, in order to ensure that Britain was closed for Christmas. No wonder the Government was so desperate that everybody had a half-normal Christmas – if Christmas had been known to be cancelled early, the British people may then have been more curious about just how rotten this ‘no-deal’ deal actually was, or even ask some pertinent questions about its nature. The problem was, nobody could point to anything in the deal that would conceivably have made the EU blink. When the City contemplates at length the total silence on financial services in the deal; it will be the British government which blinks, as it vaguely contemplates what ill-understood consequences the deal may eventually have for the future of the Conservative Party, once the effects start to show in London. Who drew the dreaded short straw in Cabinet, and had the job of telling the City Remembrancer the bad news ….?
The starting point for this deal, is exactly the same as the finishing point, or the content of any other deal that may have been possible. This strange outcome is best understood using a very simple methodology, in order to understand what actually unfolded: the final deal was always going to be whatever deal the British could actually deliver by the deadline of 31st December; it didn’t really matter what it was: a deal, a signed no-deal, a bad-deal, an empty deal, any deal were all the same to the British Government – the content was a great deal less important than the political optics, because they were confident they could sell anything to their constituency back home, given only, first; no close scrutiny before signature and assent; and second, the one thing they craved from the deal – the signature of both parties on a deal.
There had to be a deal to have a signature. Without a signature there is no triumph; you can only ‘Get It Done’, if you get it done. There had to be a triumph to celebrate, a piece of paper to wave; with the assured media roll-out of the trustworthy headlines: ‘Taking Back Control!’, ‘We Did It!’; we had to declare a victory, show we ‘sorted out the EU’ for the flag-wavers back home; lots of Dunkirk-spirit rhetoric, and a Christmas holiday so comprehensive, so empty it ensures that little happens in the UK outside Covid-19 (which is virtually out of control and in any case absorbing all the public’s interest), and therefore little – other than the pandemic – can actually affect the plan: whatever deal that could actually be cobbled together, bound and signed for the deadline was all that mattered; nothing else. It had to a signed deal; no-deal with a signature, if all else fails.
The Britain-EU deal we have, was available to Britain almost any time Britain was ready to sign it over the last four years; it appears to be as thin and limited as that; but who really knows, because we are all still trying to work out what it contains? It was easy for the EU to make this offer, because there isn’t enough in it of real substance from an EU perspective to warrant all the drama, unless the British were deliberately stalling. It certainly didn’t need four years, and last minute theatrical drama to produce something that in terms of any good news for Britain’s economy is 1,200 pages of smoke. All of these late-night pizzas were no more than puffed-up TV spectacle, sold by the British, ahem ‘media’ (the PR arm of British government) to their own people. This was just more Johnson high-wire, British flag waving, theatrical guff: to ensure that the result finally produced and oversold, would arrive too late to be challenged in Britain. This deal is so bad (save to the ERG, who have in any case already left Earth’s gravitational pull), it required to be signed on behalf of Britain, while the public was still blind to its content and consequences; and pass into law hastily before the ink was dry. We will find out slowly what it really means, and how bad it is; like the old Chinese water torture, drip by drip.
This deal is the ‘next-to-no-deal’ deal. Even ‘no deal’ requires that a deal is done. The illusion that we in Britain are free-wheeling, buccaneering, trading ‘atoms-in-the-void’ is restricted to the lurid fantasies of the calculatedly primitive, exploitative techniques of the gutter press (whether tabloid or broadsheet). Even WTO terms would still have required some form of agreement with the EU, simply to regularise the processes of trade; and then we will go on negotiating with the EU, for years and decades to come.
When Singapore-on-Thames arrives here – through Act of Parliament just passed on the EU and ‘internal market’, or Freeports, or statutory instruments, or other neat prerogatives that conveniently by-pass Parliament (you didn’t think they actually need Parliament henceforward did you, save to assist in misleading You?); you will find out that buccaneering the British way, in delicious irony was invented by the Tudors; private enterprise highwayman of the sea, operating with papers under commission from the sovereign power: the privatisation of naval power for personal gain. Sounds familiar? This was free-market private enterprise, secretly supported by the sovereign power in Britain, long before neoliberalism. The Stuart age in turn provided the prophetic introduction to the terminology of neoliberalism for this effective delivery of British chaos-for-loot everywhere we sailed, and we sailed everywhere; the word the Stuart age came up with is ‘privateer’; but it goes by another, more accurate explanatory term everywhere else in the world, even now: ‘piracy’. Britain was not inclined candidly to admit it was just in it for the swag; and it struggles to acknowledge the nature of its seamy past, even now. You, however are now the first, expendable victims of the modern privateering pirates, who are currently running amok in the government of Brexit Britain.
You have just been scammed, by your own Government. Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away there may yet be some integrity in government, but if Britain is your current measure of appropriate standards in government behaviour, I wouldn’t bank on it.