Predictably, the EU big shots were quick the following day to declare that negotiations for The Deal could not be reopened following the Commons’ amendments votes on 29th January. At the same time, those around Parliament and Wapping of a particularly blasé disposition, dismissed such stentorian pronouncements from Brussels with the observation, ‘they always say this and then strike a deal at the eleventh hour.’ They may be right, but there was never any real need for such a stand-off to emerge.
I don’t mean that the whole issue/dilemma/dispute – whatever you want to call the Brexit terms negotiations – could have been avoided, simply that a bit of discretion could have worked wonders. It’s not an especially arcane operating principle – you’d probably use it when dealing with a particularly tricky problem at work, within the family or when you’ve been personally compromised. So not to deploy discretion for a huge issue played out on the international stage would surely be rather silly? And yet . . . British politicians, the UK Media and Jim-from-Penge all insist that each and every step along/across the negotiation path be trumpeted to all and sundry, and then analysed, criticised, contextualised, unpacked, reassessed, debated, . . .
. . . which might, possibly, be not so bad if the negotiation was governed by matters of fact, metrics and logic. Whereas, however theoretically unwisely, it will to a considerable extent be driven by the egos of the protagonists, concern for the esteem of organisations, pride in getting one over on an opponent. Even all that’s not too bad if it’s behind closed doors. However, throughout the tortuous progress of Brexit the Press and Broadcast media in particular have excelled themselves in seeking out and ventilating the details of every step in the process. Thus the challenge to the position of the main EU players – both personally and as champions of the federal vision – was fully evident before any meeting was commenced – little wonder then that intransigence was encountered.
Likewise the more general notifications of intent. How savvy was it for so many voices to be talking – and everywhere to be heard via the broadcast media – in Westminster, post-voting, about the PM’s now-scheduled return to Brussels to ‘reopen negotiations.’ Surely it would be good manners and tactically astute to suggest, (and request), a meeting to the other party prior to loudly announcing it and beginning a new round of speculation about what could be achieved. All this did was to put the EU players in the spotlight and in a position where they would be very mindful of not showing any signs that cast them in a submissive role.
This idiotic mania for everything to be out in the open was nowhere better evidenced than by the lobbying by some for a declaration that the ‘no deal’ option had been removed from the table. Whether or not one feels that such a form of Brexit is desirable, I’d expect any adult with life experience to appreciate that removing the bottom line option in a negotiation is as self-helpful as having a pre-meeting nitric acid and tonic buck-me-up. It’s difficult to believe that some Labour – and indeed some Tory – politicians do not understand that, but many apparently don’t. So, it has to be asked, is Yvette Cooper simply naive, or has she been driven barmy by Egregious Ed?
Along with my call for discretion, I would suggest that Leavers show a little patience. We have been ensnared in the EU for several decades and it should be acknowledged that, however misguided they may be, nearly one in two people here wished to remain thus entrapped. So a sudden and ‘clean’ break is not a realistic aspiration. Instead, consider the ‘May Deal’ a Step 1, similar in concept to the establishment of a space station in orbit to support interplanetary journeys. Subsequently, and progressively, having established a partial outside-EU existence and avoided the Remainers’ worst case scare-scenarios, further distancing steps would be feasible and indeed easier . . . and eventually, yes, there really would be life on Mars!