ABHI Membership

ABHI Brexit Update: Too Much, Too Late

There was a sketch in the last series of BBC Radio 4’s wonderful programme, Dead Ringers, that had then Brexit Secretary, David Davis, portrayed as Theresa May’s “Brexit Bulldog,” reporting that he was sat on his full price DFS sofa eating his 1 for the price of 2 Domino’s pizza. It was a jibe that the self-styled “Master Negotiator” was anything but. In fact, his main skill seemed to be the infallible ability to mess up and disadvantage himself in every conversation he had. If life mimics art, then political satire is often indistinguishable from the truth. Just ask the Ukrainians.

It has been if Dead Ringer Dave had written a pamphlet on how (not) to do things and handed it to the PM. She then devoured the contents and has adhered slavishly to its principles. She had been trying to bring back her deal to Parliament. That deal. The deal. The deal that has been agreed but refuses to be ratified. The deal that was implicit in the Future Partnership and Position papers that emerged over the summer of 2017. The deal that the Cabinet was embarrassed into agreeing at the toe curling Chequers Summit, a gathering that will launch a thousand dissertations. It is the same deal that had already been rejected three times, so bringing it back for a fourth looked like a bit of a leaky strategy.

But where she had outdone even Dead Ringer Dave, is that she had thrown in compromises to the deal. Loads of them. Randomly. To be fair they have been ones that both sides have been imploring her to make over months, if not years. And they were are all in there. A second referendum, a fudge on customs and the Irish border, workers’ rights, environmental protection, the whole shooting match. The problem was that now it was too much, too late. There was so much, aimed at appealing to everyone that she had come up with a deal that crossed everybody’s red lines, and proposed things that have already been rejected by Brussels. She had come up with something that absolutely nobody could support. An achievement that should not be underestimated.

And that is what finally did for her. Andrea Leadsom’s resignation, the 35th such in May’s tenure, was probably the last straw. As Leadsom departed the ’22 were meeting in secret. Ominously, Jeremey Hunt asked for a meeting. She now knows how NHS Chief Executives used to feel. Support ebbed away in much the same way the Severn Bore ebbs its way East. And so, this morning, the PM walked into the Downing Street sunshine to face the world’s media. She will step down on Friday 7th June and on Monday 10th the wacky race will begin.

I do not know what she was thinking with the compromise. Maybe she was after more records, trying to better her own biggest ever defeat for a sitting Government. Maybe she had a tenner at Ladbrokes that the deal is so bad that it will get no votes whatsoever. In the week that brought us Eurovision, maybe this was her homage, her nul points. (Did you notice, by the way, we came last. There is more to Brexit than what happens between Dover and Calais.) To get nothing, she would have had to vote against herself. That would obviously be ridiculous, had she not already done so in this debacle. You will remember her walking through the opposition lobby, amid much hilarity, signing souvenir bottles of wine for Labour MPs. Ministers were at it too. Standing at the dispatch box advocating a government position, only to turn around the next minute and vote against it themselves. It is the stuff of make believe. Just ask the Ukranians.

She must be ready to go by now. John Wayne was famous for protracted death scenes. They would often start with an injury at about the halfway mark before he eventually expired, laying prostrate on some piece of earth or at the bottom of some ocean as the final credits rolled. But old Big Leggy has nothing on our Theresa.

So, what next for the PM? I am convinced she has a glittering career ahead as a stand-up comedian. I am serious. Like them or not, those that reach the very highest echelons of political life have a charisma and ability to communicate few are blessed with. They are also good at learning a load of made-up stuff and reciting it like they believe it is real. As PM you get to practice that weekly in the Fun House during the Wednesday morning knock about, where you can also try out your technique for dealing with hecklers. She will also get some sympathy. You know us Brits, we love the underdog and we really love the heroic failure. Gordon of Khartoum, Captain Scott, Eddie the Eagle, Gareth Southgate, national treasures all. Never mind all those golden post boxes everywhere, that is just showing off. But what we adore most is the ability to laugh at one’s own misfortune. The humility to put your hand up and say I made a proper Horlicks of that, and then have everyone rolling around in fits as you reveal just how stupid you have actually been. I reckon I could write her publicity now. “The return of the Maybot! A one woman show, so hilarious you will be laughing all the way to the food bank. Soon to be Perrier Award nominee, Teri May presents Peace and Prosperity – My Part in Their Downfall.” Book early.

That is herself sorted, what next for the rest of us? Actually, I really do not care. Not for a few days anyway. It is half term and as I write I am on the way to a picnic to mark the end of “Themed Week” at my daughter’s school. After that we are off to (hopefully) sunny Spain, whilst they are still welcoming us in at least. Not that we will be able to afford to do much when we are there, what with the pound and everything. There is more to Brexit than what happens between Dover and Calais.

I had it in my mind that this would be some sort of election special, but I have lost the plot about what is happening. I do not think the Tories are even bothering. The remain vote will be split between the Greens, now that normal people can vote for them with a straight face, those who have fallen in love with Uncle Vince’s Bollocks to Brexit approach and a few idealists and romantics who will stick with Labour now they appear to be backing a second referendum. Farage’s mob and others who do not believe there should be a European Parliament anyway, look likely to be sending the most people to sit in that Parliament. The comedy potential of that if we end up not leaving is almost infinite.

So, given that this time next week I will be up to my eyes in Jamón ibérico and Ribera del Duero, my old mate Will Culliford from Lexington Communications will be guesting in this slot. Will will make sense of the Euros for you and try and explain what it all means for Brexit, if anything. I will raise a glass of Estrella Damm to him. Adios amigos.