Political uncertainty in parliaments across Europe abound. After five negotiating rounds there seems to be only minuscule, secondary progress in the Brexit saga.
We are not surprised at all by this as both sides of this negotiation have been reluctant in the extreme to reveal anything of each other’s strategies, bargaining chips or points of leverage. Add to this that on the British side we have politically partisan politicians (whom, incidentally, are made up largely of Remainers on the Brexit matter) negotiating from an orthodox governmental position with unelected bureaucrats of no political affinity and representing an amorphous institution with exceedingly foggy boundaries - then it is not hard to see why the momentum hasn’t got out of first gear yet.
Some might say that there are reasons for all this and that unless one side or the other defines their position with absolute clarity (I tremble at the usage of any reference to ‘clarity’ as this constantly reminds me of the Government sound-bite oft used by ministers to say nothing whatever) then there will, quite patently, be a waiting game to endure until one side capitulates and reveals all. Maybe so, but we cannot wait forever. Neither is it to anyone’s benefit to stretch this somewhat comedic bantering between the parties out in such a way as to be utterly pointless. Do these people actually think the public of 28 European nations are gripped by this inanity with such passion as to actually believe anything that is being reported back to them ? Absolutely not, and it is increasingly insulting for the negotiators of all sides to imagine that there won’t be a public reaction to this agonisingly ineffective drama.
Previous posts have argued for a more professional approach with skilled and committed leadership to bring about the best deal this country can get, for we will never achieve the best outcome with partisan politicians negotiating with bureaucrats. The synergy is absent, the terms of reference to both are incompatible and the objectives mired in political goo. We now have just 17 months left to resolve this satisfactorily. We have spent almost as much time achieving next-to-nothing and we should now recognise that we need to pick up the pace here with a leadership (and team) that is on board with the objective of these negotiations for Britain (because our current negotiating team clearly haven’t committed themselves to that) and that has the vigour, guile and experience to negotiate with a bureaucracy (as distinct from a parliamentary democracy). I know who I’m talking about for that leadership role as do many others - but conservatism and Conservatism and a vocal Remainers lobby block any such move that would remove the political flavour out of this process and empower that leadership candidate with authority they can only dream about. But that authority is essential (to that correct candidate) to making positive and meaningful progress for this country. We are, as a governed nation, currently approaching these negotiations with a foolishness that is so monumental that if it weren’t so important it would be a wonderful script for a Whitehall farce theatre production. Let us all get real here.
That lack of reality also seems to be a persistent fog over Washington. The style with which - on this occasion amongst many - the presidency is tackling its relationship with Iran is alarming as well as astonishing. The open and almost visceral hostility that has arisen between President and Secretary of State is equally disturbing. The open threat made to the Republican Party to expunge those in Congress and the Senate that don’t obediently follow the ever confusing tirades the President produces is extraordinary. In Westminster and in Whitehall there is still that fanciful notion of a ‘special relationship’ that somehow magically favours Britain in its vassal servitude to the US. This is, of course, bunkum. Whatever we might rightly admire in the US (and there is plenty) there is no special relationship, and arguably never has been. Our politicians and diplomats run around in a frenzy at every presidential utterance, either to give unqualified support to or, more often these days, to discreetly avoid any criticism beyond an odd word or two. Woe betide we’d ever say anything a little bit strong to the Americans - it might damage the ‘special relationship’ ! And as their president messes with trade, tariffs, former agreements and unilaterally raises the drawbridge against all foreign competition, we sit and wring our hands carefully phrasing our mild displeasure at his actions. We cannot change what happens in the White House, but we can stand on our feet and fight for our own industries, businesses and voice proper concern at the behaviour of that powerful but seemingly unregulated office. Forget the ‘special relationship’ (you can bet there’s similar relationships being fawned over around the world) and let us start fighting for our own. If America doesn’t like it, tough. We should have the courage, and grit to stand up to bullies - that’s why we vote governments into power.