Yesterday was like watching politics through a fairground mirror. While normality, and sensibility, reigned out the outside, proceedings were bizarrely distorted through the looking-glass.
Boris Johnson gave his keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference and, in all credit to him, was far better than he’s been over the last few weeks. Watching him yesterday, you’d think that Brexit was all but resolved, a mere dotted line left to sign before we trotted off into the sunset, flipping the bird at Brussels on our way out.
But, a few hours later, that all flew out of the window. Johnson sent the EU what he deemed to be a “Final Offer” deal.
While the EU has not publicly responded negatively to the offer, it is widely reported to have been furious with it behind closed doors.
So while Boris’s speech dazzled his adoring fans, the optimism might well be short-lived.
And who could have predicted that?
Preaching To The Converted Conservatives
After a few weeks of weak public performances, when put in front of the home crowd, Boris began to show some of his old, indefatigable spark.
Yes, Boris was far more like himself again. And, as you’d expect, the right-wing media loved it.
But, as per my article on Tuesday, it simply doesn’t matter. Not one jot. All the optimism, the bravado, the bluster – all irrelevant.
Because the fact of the matter is, despite the slogan of “Get Brexit Done,” it simply isn’t Boris’ decision to make. It is Parliament’s, based on the assumption that the EU will give them a deal and/or an extension.
A deal takes two to tango, however. And while the EU may or may not be ready for a ballroom dance, Johnson is currently acting like the drunken uncle at a stag-do having a stab at breakdancing.
Deal With It
This afternoon, the government sent a new offer to the EU for a Brexit deal. The messaging coming from the Tory media machine this evening is simple – “This deal gets Brexit done. Back it.”
And, according to reports, some MPs from both the Conservative and Labour sides who want to leave with a deal are ready to back it. Which is great!
Assuming the EU accepts it.
Sadly, yet predictably, this is desperately unlikely – the offer is nothing short of insulting.
It contains customs checks across the Irish border, a requirement of as-yet uninvented technological advances, and requires the Northern Irish government to approve it. The Northern Irish government, for clarity, hasn’t been sitting for two and a half years, so is very unlikely to approve it any time soon.
Because it currently doesn’t exist.
Considering that all of these issues were raised way, way back in the days of Theresa May’s premiership, the fact that Boris has sanctioned a proposal that entirely fails to resolve any of them is nothing short of embarrassing.
Or, at least, it would be, were it not a part of an almost more embarrassing plan.
Johnson is trying to blame the EU for failing to give any concessions in the spirit of finding a deal. This, despite the fact that the EU’s negotiating partner, us, has wibble-wobbled from every conceivable position about what “Leave” actually means since June 2016.
But Johnson’s premiership has never been about Brexit. It has only, ever, been about winning an election. By putting this nonsense in front of the EU, he has, for all intents and purposes, said, “This is it. Take it or leave it, and leaving it means No-Deal.”
The EU, through a mixture of damage-limitation and probably pity by this stage, would rather no-deal didn’t happen. It would be devastating to the UK, damaging to the EU, and no-one would win from it.
To be clear, it would not be a clean break. A no-deal Brexit would result in years-upon-years of trade negotiations with the EU, all from a weakened bargaining position.
Yet here we are. Joris Sodding Bohnson, throwing the ball in the EU’s court, ignoring everything that’s happened over the last three years, and claiming that it’s their responsibility to concede to it.
Pull the other one, it hangs lower and has bells on.
So What Happens Now?
The EU, unlikely to want to unilaterally call Boris a moron, will wait for Leo Varadkar, the Republic of Ireland’s prime minister, or Taoiseach, to do it for them in pretty words.
Then, the EU themselves will say that the proposals are meaningless.
Johnson did, to some extent, precipitate this by stating that these proposals were “a broad landing zone,” allowing for more discussion to take place.
But you could consider slap-bang in the middle of the Atacama Desert as a broad landing zone, yet you’d still promptly die, no matter how much you pleaded with the sun itself for an oasis.
It was a final roll of the dice, and Boris will roll snake-eyes. Next comes the onslaught of “The EU didn’t like my decent proposal” bollocks, followed by an election campaign of lies, followed by a hung-parliament and yet more confusion and anger until the mid 2020s.
Assuming the EU don’t tell us to just piss off.
At this stage, it’s not unconceivable that they might just do that.
Christ. What Else?
Well, Parliament’s being prorogued again next Tuesday, which is always fun, as the government has learned.
This time, it’s only for three days, and is entirely defensible – for all of Parliament’s words, they haven’t done all that much scrutiny since returning.
Mostly because Johnson has been far too cowardly to face them, and is apparently too terrified of scrutiny that he refuses to stand before them and defend his views. By proroguing next Tuesday, Johnson will only have faced one PMQs in his entire 9-week premiership.
Tells you a lot about those who support the Prime Minister that they don’t want him to face even the most basic level of scrutiny.
But, hey ho, that’s the world we live in.
Is There Any Good News?
While our MPs have been back, they have been able to discuss a truly remarkable piece of legislation about domestic violence.
Theresa May had a pretty crappy premiership. This, I would argue, is uncontroversial.
But she did try to make a legacy for herself by creating legislation to protect those trapped in abusive relationships, which is unquestionably a dignified and much-needed proposal.
As such, because of prorogation being deemed illegal last week (*trumpet sounds*), a bill that she worked tirelessly on wasn’t dropped, but instead was reintroduced to Parliament. Yesterday, MPs debated it again, and it was a stark, much-needed reminder that, actually, our system does work.
May herself gave an impassioned speech on the Bill, full of care and emotion. As utterly crap as she was as Home Secretary and as tainted her reign as PM will be, what this writer considers to be her true colours came across during yesterday’s speech.
Additionally, if you can spare a few minutes, watch Labour MP Rosie Duffield speak openly, candidly, and heartbreakingly about her own experiences of an abusive relationship.
This is what our Parliament should be. A chamber full of people who care, deeply, about the issues and rights of their constituents, who are unafraid to speak out against injustices, and who work tirelessly against them.
What is heartbreaking is that this is what the vast majority of our Parliament already is. It is just a few, a sad few, who have driven us to the precipice of madness.
The ones who get the most screen-time and the most publicity through hyperbole and division are, in our current times, the ones who are most influential.
But, deep down, our system works. And it works well. Those who wish to distort the system for their own gains (Johnson) are told to piss off and stop being so stupid by the institutions (the legislature and the judiciary) that make our constitution, and our nation, Great.
We’re in the Brexit end-game now. There will be a colossal fall-out from it. Leave or Remain, Business or Community, Right or Left – there will be nationwide discontent, whatever the outcome.
But at our core, our very centre, is a room full of elected Members of Parliament, across both sides of the House, who really do care about the people, rather than themselves.
The days of those who lie and obfuscate for their own gain are numbered. How much damage they will do on their way out depends on what happens next.
There is a bright future out there, after Brexit.
How we get there is yet to be seen.