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You Turn if You Want to… EU’s Not For Turning

You Turn if You Want to… EU’s Not For Turning

Or is it? MP’s should be voting yet again in a couple of weeks on any changes Theresa May gets out of Europe to Britain’s withdrawal deal. Though as our political correspondent Peter Spencer reports, she’s got what looks like a brick wall to eat her way through.

’Tis but a scratch.

If you haven’t seen the Black Knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail you haven’t lived.

Spoiler alert if you’re about to Google it – the Black Knight’s life chances were also slimmed down when King Arthur chopped his arm off. Calling it just a scratch was a bit of an understatement.

But not far from where Theresa May’s at on Brexit.

Remember the commons vote a couple of week back on her departure deal? The biggest reverse suffered by a British government since the Roman invasion. Or something.

She didn’t actually say ’tis but a scratch’, but in pressing on regardless she might just as well have done.

And when it came back to the commons a few days ago MP’s voted to let her have another go at Brussels, but only after she’d gobbled up her own insistence that it was out of the question.

‘It’s only a flesh wound’. Once again, she and the Black Knight were being as silly one another.

European leaders immediately proved the point by chopping off her legs.

Not literally, obviously. But telling her, as they did, to go whistle amounted to the same thing.

You can see their point. It all sounds suspiciously like the annoying English trick of saying the same thing over and over again, only more and more loudly, on the assumption that the foreigner will eventually get it.

The image has also been conjured of the captain of the Titanic asking the iceberg if it wouldn’t mind budging up a bit.

So what the hell does happen next?

It’s been suggested some among the twenty-seven nation states might break ranks, or blink or whatever, but no one’s holding their breath.

Others cling to the leaking little life-raft that there could be just a teeny bit of movement in the European Commission itself. Somewhere.

There’s something almost quaint about the idea that the so-called Northern Ireland backstop – the insurance policy to prevent a resurgence of the blood feud that tore the place apart for so long – can somehow be redesigned. God knows how. No one’s worked that out yet.

In the meantime, the whole ghastly process is spawning a whole ghastly vocabulary.

Zopa. Zone of possible agreement. For example, finding a new high-tech alternative to border checks between the north and south of Ireland. All someone’s got to do is invent it and we’ll be sorted. Yerright.

The Malthouse Compromise. This would involve delaying actual departure (not within our gift) AND reworking the backstop. God knows how.

The list goes on. A crazy echo of the chaotic presidential run-off between George Bush and Al Gore in 2000. Suddenly commentators were breathlessly spouting about ‘hanging chads’ and ‘butterfly ballots’. As if any of it meant anything.

Wake me up when it’s all over? Doomsday looks closer.

The only insight I can offer is that Britain crashing out of Europe without a deal is, as of now, looking marginally more likely. With all the scary implications that go with it, that multiply by the day. Putrefying piles of waste everywhere. An exodus of businesses and jobs. Whitehall unable to cope with unexpected emergencies.

Schedule slippage on the Friday 29th March departure date is definitely a runner. If the EU 27 will allow it.

At the same time, the second referendum is currently looking a fair bit less likely.

Though the possibility of a softer Brexit, with Britain more closely tied to Europe in trading terms is still hovering around. Jeremy Corbyn would like that.

This tallies with Theresa May’s attempt to bolster opposition support for her strategy by dangling a bung to Labour-voting leave constituencies.

Sound vague? Well it bloody well is.

At least our rubbish MP’s are going to be punished. Put in detention throughout their entire February break, so they can knuckle down to the huge dollops of legislation needed to make any sense of the post-Brexit world. They’re very cross about it. Excellent.

For all the good it’s likely to do anyone, however, if the EU does not let us delay our departure, they might just as well be made to write out a thousand times ‘I am an Inselaffe’. Brilliant German word. Means island ape.

Plenty of Europeans must be thinking that’s a fair description of the lot of us, the way we’re carrying on.

Doubtless some are saying General De Gaulle was right when his response to Britain’s attempt to get into the then Common Market was ‘non’.

He vetoed us twice back in the sixties. And we only did manage it thanks to the valiantly Europhile efforts of the then Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath.

A phrase from Shakespeare’s Macbeth may now be resonating, both among exasperated Europeans and hardcore Brexiteers: ‘This blasted Heath’.

Daresay some would go further down the Bardic route. They could try ‘Be-slubbering beast-eating abomination,’ or even ‘puking hell-governed malignancy’.

And, given the total shambles we’re now in, there may even be remain-leaning folk who wonder whether any of it was worth the trouble.


Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his wonderful takes on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.

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