It’s not just Brexiteers who feel trapped in a Hotel California state of never leaving . They have trapped the rest of us with them in this long anguished nightmare . Their inability to agree with the Withdrawal Agreement or indeed to agree what constitutes an acceptable Brexit has created stasis for all of us .
Their frustration about , as they see it , the EU ‘check out procedures’ has led to the desperate play of crashing out without settling the bill , or making any future arrangements.They have stumbled by default upon what they now present as their consistent belief .
The Crash Out Strategy
The No Deal crash out ‘strategy’ is presented as remedying the failings of the previous administration. It’s demonstrating our seriousness that will bring the EU back to the negotiating table – we are told .
However the Brexiteers don’t like the sting in the tail . In the form of the natural public concern about the implications of the Johnson/Cummings intention to crash out of EU without a deal . 59% of people are worried about supplies of medicine for instance.
Facing Two Ways
Johnson/Cummings are having to run their narrative in two directions simultaneously.
To the EU the line is we are deadly serious and you need to be very worried because the consequences will be dire for all .
To the UK the line is we are deadly serious but trust us there is nothing to worry about – just a few bumps in the road . We have got this covered . We have turbocharged No Deal preparations unlike the last lot . In addition we are going to splurge over £100m on a publicity campaign just to remind you how totally we have this covered .
It hasn’t taken long for the inherent conflict between these two lines to emerge .
The Yellowhammer Leak : Deploy the Govester
Gove has been trotted out to contain the damage from the leak of Operation Yellowhammer . It set out for the Johnson Cabinet in early August the ‘base case’ assessment of the effects of a No Deal crash out .
By way of background apparently this report went to the first ‘XO C’ttee’ which Gove chaired – held in the COBRA meeting room . The venue was chosen no doubt to convey how everything was now covered and totally turbocharged. This lot are no slouches when it comes to window dressing . However substance is a challenge for them . It doesn’t come naturally. In fact they seem to avoid it like Green Kryptonite
While the Govester is applying the turbocharger at every opportunity hopefully steroids are being avoided , even as a metaphor. They have a tendency to change behaviour with aggressive effect . Frankly these Brexiteers are already intoxicated enough on their own jingoistic bluster .
Two Shocking Indictments
Yellowhammer exposes in considerable unvarnished detail the likely effects of a No Deal Brexit . Besides all the obvious potential for delays to supplies of food , particularly fresh food which is critically time sensitive, and medicines there are two shocking indictments of the course Johnson/Cummings are taking :
Yellowhammer On Business Readiness
The absence even now , after 3 years , of any settled destination casts a huge blight of uncertainty on businesses’ ability to plan . No Deal is self evidently No Answer .All the same issues will re-present themselves after a damaging and undemocratic crash out .
Yellowhammer on Northern Ireland
Leave Never Had Plan
Sadly the Leave Campaigns never seriously considered the UK’s land border much less had a plan . They have retrofitted some magical thinking from Shanker Singham and served it up with a dose of bluster and threat . They define the whole debate in terms of customs duties and trade , with their trump card being the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) never refers to the border . While this is literally true it is difficult to think of another point of such fundamental importance which has been so spectacularly traduced and misrepresented in the whole Brexit Debate .
GFA is about Peace Not Trade
The GFA is about peace not trade . It is centred on identity . It is a brilliantly creative exercise in assuaging long-standing tensions by enabling people to be British or Irish as they choose , and to see a Border or not . Johnson with his casual talk about ‘some light friction at the border’ tramples all over this carefully created masterpiece without a second glance at the damage he is doing as he scoffs dinner with his DUP partners in masterly misdirection .
The Yellowhammer leak is highly inconvenient and damaging to the Johnson/ Cummings ‘strategy’ which relies on creating a sense of unstoppable inevitably about the Brexit Crash Out . Whether Johnson believes this pell mell rush to crash out will provide a shift in the EU position is debatable. Certainly he is doing next to nothing to engage in a serious exploration of what is possible. He has no alternative proposal to put . Cummings’s efforts and messaging don’t go beyond heaping blame upon the EU for their intransigence while , in fact , remaining entirely intransigent . Nothing he has said or done detracts from the notion that his goal is just to deliver a crash out Brexit .
The Govester Goes To Work
Gove used the standard techniques to downplay the leak . The assessment was out of date ( to be fair it is literally days old ) ,Next it was a worst case which will never happen (it isn’t ) and then the situation has been changed out of all recognition by the turbocharger which Gove himself – too modest to take credit of course- has applied ( it hasn’t).
Secondly he deployed the bitter ex employee line always favoured by bosses who find themselves on wrong end of an uncomfortable leak . This one runs something like this : those shirkers never pulled their weight and got on with the job .Now they are just trying to deflect blame on to the chaps who have rolled up their sleeves and got on with it etc .
You Can’t Govern By Headline
Johnson and Cummings have displayed considerable verve and energy in the way they have run their Brexit Crash Out Campaign. Message discipline has been strong and the media opportunities to convey direction and activity have been well paced . However as Ed Davey pointed out today in response to Priti Patel’s decision to end Freedom of Movement from Day One you can’t govern by headline .
Collision With Reality Approaches
There is no substance behind any of this . No plan to take the country to a settled future state . Maybe the Yellowhammer Leak is a turning point and indicates what will be an increasing problem for the Johnson/Cummings crash out strategy. Their posturing behind headlines is colliding with reality and being revealed as a confection of bluff , bluster and blame . Johnson and Cummings will shortly be running on empty . The key question is will the scrutiny they face be focused and rigorous enough to show them up for what they are ? Time to hold Johnson and Cummings to account.Relentlessly