In the quiet wings of the stage, Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier have been nattering on over the terms of any special deal Britain might get with the EU. I wish Mr Raab success but there is this nagging feeling that he will only push as far as the Chequers mandate allows him. If that is the case we will have a poor and unsatisfactory Brexit outcome. If, on the other hand, he pushes for maximus Brexitus then we might get something akin to that which most people voted for. However, as usual, the Irish border and the ECJ are the apparent sticking points - if the Chequers deal gets through then we'll have the ECJ ruling our law making for ever more and the Irish border issue will drag on into eternity whilst squabbling sides refuse to budge. If this were to be the deal that is eventually brokered then we'd only be half out of the EU, still paying money in, ruled by their courts and beholden to countless regulatory controls but, the big BUT, we'd have absolutely no voice at the EU's high table. This is Boris Johnson's vision of vassal status - one that I share. Short-term we might get some free trade latitude but the fact that we continue to pay vast sums of money into EU coffers seems to me to negate any trade benefit. - we gain, we lose = status quo !
But let us not overlook the peculiarities of EU behaviour. They also have their red lines, not least their obsession with protecting the single-market bubble. If Britain wants a special trade deal then it is effectively asking for access to the single market. If that is the case the EU's price tag for that access will be high. How much, we don't know. What we should hopefully be considering is whether the benefit is exceeded by the cost. Somehow, I don't think that's how politicians think !
Corbyn is still up to his eyeballs in rebellion and uncertainty. I'm no Labour supporter (nor a Tory one for that matter) but as an outsider looking in there seems to be a caucus of party members with unions and a liberal sprinkling of whanabee pressure groups all pushing for a mandatory adoption of the IHRA conditions defining anti-semitism, one of which denies any criticism of Israeli policy because this would be considered a racist endeavour. Corbyn's position appears to be a reluctance to accept this condition on the basis that it marginalises the voice of Palestinians - with whom he has a special relationship - and gives Israel a carte blanche political freedom to do whatever it likes within the British political foreign policy sphere (limited as that is these days) by waving its racist card at any critics. It strikes me as reasonable to separate religious and ethnic issues from those of state foreign policy for when the state becomes the voice of all these elements it ceases to be recognised as an internationally responsible and accountable state. Israel sees itself as special - but that should not be the issue that dominates the debate for every country in the world that subscribes to the UN Charter should be accountable for actions perceived by its peers as being unacceptable. Toothless as the UN may be, it is,for the time being at least, the only global organisation that can call a state to account. Life is, alas, not so simple and with enormous US backing we are unlikely to see the UN challenging that 'special status' in Israel. But I empathise with Corbyn - for entirely different reasons to his - insofar as we should not offer the political protection of a flat and rigid interpretation of anti-semitism that allows state freedoms of action that are not accountable. Anti-semitism we should all deplore, but we should be open to free comment on Israel's behaviour without the race card protection it currently enjoys.
Crossrail is running behind schedule and will no doubt be charging the government for any overrun expenditures. It is yet another example of how government procurement of private sector services and products is hugely out of touch with the realities of bringing those products and services into use. The notion that the government must always seek 'value for money' is laudable in itself but this almost always means that the cheapest bidder gets the contract. As we all know in this life, the cheapest isn't always so and is seldom the best product for the need. This is repeatedly demonstrated by the catastrophic procurement obsessions of the government and the civil service - NHS computer systems, aircraft carriers, HS2, smart motorways and now Crossrail are but a few examples where cheapest is most definitely not value for money. Will they ever learn, we might ask ?