Yet another Commons vote on whether Brexit should be subjected to a final parliamentary scrutiny and potential veto takes place later today. The Remain rebels in the Tory Party are still rattling their sabres and some Labour MP's are twitching to also enter the fight against the government. The dispute goes on, the chaos goes on and the total absence of realistic leadership goes on. If ever there were to be a description to define what went on in the Brexit negotiations then the UK would find itself embarrassed to a degree on its strategy, conduct, skill and objectives. A bigger mess than this you would find it hard to find.
And let us not forget the EU. Every move, every utterance, every fibre in their collective body has been negative, obstructive and designed solely to punish Britain for the audacity of choosing to leave. Apart from Barnier, the smooth but uncompromising voice of the EU in the negotiations, there has always been the background string pulling by Juncker and Selmayr to entangle the negotiations in order to weaken Britain's resolve and extract the most penal settlement possible. They are, collectively, arch-bureaucrats so bedeviled by rules, regulations and process that the realism of Brexit has not really been a consideration in the welfare of the remaining 27 members, that is, a pragmatic and functional settlement with Britain that will disadvantage the least number of EU states. Not to be. Bureaucracy and blindness prevail in Brussels.
And so we will have a parliamentary vote later today. If the government wins the vote that is no assurance that they will manage to get a satisfactory deal in Brussels; if they lose the vote then there arise the very real questions of votes of no confidence in the government and the disruptive ramifications of that. All-in-all, we may well be looking at a scenario where no deal can be struck and Britain just leaves the EU on 29th March, 2019 - no strings attached. I have mixed feelings about this possibility - if we have that clean break then we have to start our new trading deals from scratch and forge our own way - which is perhaps the every ethos of what Brexit was about, but we will be intact, not obliged to pay the EU any penalties and free to create our own future. Conversely, a trade deal with the EU would have been advantageous but as I reflect upon this very comment I know in my heart of hearts that the EU would never slacken its grip upon Britain and Brexit would be a quasi-version of the aspiration for ever more.
These are changing times, important times. It would be quite nice, however, to have some confidence in our leadership.
Trumpy has now pulled the US out of the UN human rights council remit. On the face of it that looks like a knee-jerk paddy that we have become accustomed to from this president but much as it pains me to actually agree with Trumpy, I think he's right. For decades the UN has been viewed as some highly positioned diviner of what is good and bad in our world. Their agencies undoubtedly do many good things at grass-roots level but the inability to act against the realism of bad world events has become notorious. Too often it has failed to intervene on human rights, genocide, famine and beligerence and its forces have been obliged to stand-aside and observe catastrophe's unfold before them, powerless by lack of mandate to step-in. This is the real travesty of the UN - an organisation as bedeviled by bureaucrats as the EU. The US will not be backing out of its commitment to assist in desperate situations, but it will not do it through the auspices of the UN. Perhaps we also should take stock.
In China, Kim Jong-un and President Xi have pledged to work together to forge a new way forward in peace and prosperity. I hope they are as good as their word but past experience has taught the West that what looks like 'agreement' in the Far East is a concept based upon entirely different cultural and geo-political considerations to those of our sphere. Nonetheless, we should applaud these first signs of peace in a troubled region.
The 'upskirting' row has now taken on new dimensions. Proposals to be put out in a government White Paper banning the taking of gratuitous upskirt photo's by weirdo's is now to include clauses that make it an equal offence to take a photo up a Scotsmans kilt. I'm all for that protection. It's best we never know what a Scotsman might wear (or not) beneath.