After what appeared to be reasonably cordial meetings between the EU's Michel Barnier and our government, a whole load of angst has appeared on the table. Barnier's new language has been interpreted as threatening and discourteous by David Davis but refuted by Barnier himself. So what can we glean from all this ? The EU, having made what our government thought were some conciliatory moves during Barnier's London visit have reverted to aggressive declarations which are tantamount to saying 'obey EU rules or else we'll blockade you, stop your trade, ground your flights and fine you.' Nice people, eh ?
Perhaps it's naive of us to think that the EU are going to engage in a friendly and collaborative manner. After all, Britain's departure will hit their bank balance hard and certainly have a significant impact upon the way their subsidies are paid out. Add to this the emerging attitudes of some of the Eastern European members - notably Poland, Hungary and Romania - and their evident dislike of the way in which the EU controls everything they do (having traded communism for the EU perhaps they are wondering whether they've merely swapped one totalitarian ideology for another), then we can see significant cracks in the EU's ability to continue as it is. Germany's key role in Europe is also quite wobbly. Having taken five months to agree a rather shaky coalition, Angela Merkel is no longer the European supremo she once was and as the coalition already shows signs of fracture with Martin Schultz's resignation from their cabinet this can only weaken Germany's role in Europe. Which might suit Emanuel Macron's ambitions well as he sees himself at the head of a resurgent France, leading the way for the EU. History has, however, taught us a little about short, ambitious Frenchmen so let's not hold our breath on that one.
For Brexit does this take us closer to a no deal exit or to a sort of associate membership of the EU, with all the costs and downsides of that (subservience to the ECJ, unrestricted EU immigration, inability to make trade agreements elsewhere are just a few of the negatives that would likely remain in force) but little benefit other than possibly securing some sort of free trade arrangement....who can tell right now, but what is becoming more evident is that the choice is becoming clearer.
We either leave, in totality, without a trade deal, cease our subscriptions, withdraw our divorce settlement and quickly move onto WTO trade arrangements until such time as we secure other international trade agreements. This would give us immediate sovereignty, border controls and the freedom to engage with the wider world. There would be disadvantages in this concerning inward investment and potentially interest rate rises (which even now we know are going to rise) but we would need to judge the plusses against the minusses to reach that position. The flip side is a semi-continuance of what we've already got. The debate must surely become one of what exactly we want Britain to be - an independent, sovereign state controlling its own affairs but remaining on cordial and friendly terms with its neighbours or a jig-saw piece in an increasingly federalist minded EU with little ability to engage outside of the European sphere on almost all trading matters.
On the face of it, it is an easy choice. But we do need to weigh up what could be lost as well as what could be gained by making either choice. Politically, the government would lose massive ground if it were to betray the ethos of Brexit - and let us not overlook the fact that political party advantage is as much to do with this debate as anything else might be - so we might imagine that the cabinet will, in extremis, walk away from any Draconian conditions the EU might wish to impose, go for total Brexit and survive politically (for a time ?). Or will it make some sort of EU deal that provides the notion of Brexit but little of its actuality ? It's a tough one, politically, for many of us have an instinctive dislike of a potential Corbyn government - the Conservatives only trump card - which would possibly make Tory HQ think that they could get away with a watered down deal. I sincerely hope not. A watered down deal with little to commend it would not be in this country's best interests - despite what the fervent Remain camp believe. If the EU won't play, then let's play elsewhere.
Trumpy is bemoaning the insidious manner in which social media - and indeed all media - can destroy the reputations of prominent people. I have a 'smidgin' (my invented word) of agreement with him. Trial by public clamour is something that went out in the late Middle Ages and we should not encourage it back into use. If individuals have done something which the rest of us don't like the sound of then there should be a proper investigation by those charged with such responsibilities and a legally binding verdict arrived at. The law is not something for wild accusation and sensationalism to support and the principle of innocence until proven guilty is surely the very bedrock of Western judicial practice. Freedom of speech is good - in principle - but we risk endless trial by uninformed public opinion at our peril if we permit the character assassination of individuals whom the media choose to target. If the individual is proven guilty, then the rightful consequences follow. But if not, the individual has the right to be discharged with relative anonymity so that gratuitous media speculation cannot ruin what the law has deemed to be innocence.