We’re on the perihelion of the government’s Brexit cycle – when the official position is closest to Rees-Moggness. After Hammond’s “slip” at Davos, admitting that a soft Brexit is what we’re headed for, May has to assert all manner of hard Brexitiness, with Downing Street telling us now that we will definitely be leaving the Customs Union. There will probably be a customs union of some sort between the EU and the UK – a red, white and blue customs union, if you will. You see, it’s important to understand that being in THE Customs Union – very bad. Being in A Customs Union, one in which we maintain tariffs and standards in line with every other country in THE Customs Union and can technically make our own trade deals with other countries so long as the EU signs off on them all is different. Don’t you see it? Clear as day.
You’ll know the government is actually serious about leaving the Customs Union when they say something along the following lines: we think striking our own free trade deals and not having to rely on whatever the EU comes up with is so important, it trumps the Union. If, in the end, Northern Ireland has to leave the UK in order for this to be the case, that is a price worth paying. Of course, they really, really can’t say that now that the DUP is propping up the government. They could, of course, say that leaving the Customs Union is so important they are willing to risk bringing down the current government and face another general election – but they aren’t going to do that either.
One of the funniest things about Brexit is that one of the things that motivated the vote to Leave was a desire for more honesty from politicians. Except that it’s caused them to be more flaky with the truth than ever instead. Law of unintended consequences, I suppose.
Meanwhile, Brexiteers have worked out everything I wrote in the first two paragraphs above and are thinking of what to do about it. That’s where we got news from the Times over the weekend about a proposed Brexity-double-plus-good triumvirate, with Boris as PM, Gove as Deputy PM and Rees-Mogg as chancellor. There is a special kind of genius in that combo – it is literally the worst amalgamation of people and jobs you could construct out of the current parliamentary Conservative Party. Any move you make, you improve things slightly. Put Gove in the Treasury and Rees-Mogg DPM. Better. Gove as PM, Rees-Mogg as DPM, BoJo in the Treasury. Better. Not much better – giving Boris any sort of real job is a bad idea, but it is still an improvement. Hell, even Rees-Mogg as PM is slightly better, if only because it will cause the approaching explosion of British politics to hurry up and get here. Why is there now such a quest for the bottom of the barrel in Westminster?