Richard North, 21/07/2019  
 


So this is the week when it all happens, the week when the United Kingdom has imposed on it a new prime minister. That will leave Mrs May to field her final PMQs on Wednesday, whence she will travel to Buckingham Palace to tender her resignation to the Queen.

An hour later, her successor will be in residence at No. 10. And assuming it is to be Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson – who hopes to secure 60 percent of the vote - he is expected to make his first speech as prime minister at about 5pm.

In the meantime, speculation is rife as to what we might expect from the imposter on Brexit, although it may well be that the Iran crisis forces its way onto the top of the political agenda.

As we have seen so often before, the media is regressing into well-worn grooves, with the Sunday Times trying out the staggeringly tedious canard about Johnson doing a side deal with key Member States and cutting out the Commission from the loop.

We saw an element of this in the early days with Mrs May, when it seems she seriously expected she could cosy up to Merkel and Macron and carve out an agreement with the Franco-German motor which would then be presented to the rest of the "colleagues" for endorsement, with the Commission quietly falling into line.

The naivety of this expectation is quite staggering, but it is somehow imbued in the Tory psyche that the EU is, at its very heart, a community of nations, which can override its supranational elements as long as there is sufficient political will and resolution on the UK side.

Mrs May, confronted with an almost unprecedented degree of unity from the Member States, was very quickly disabused of the idea that she could cut out the middle man. But the politicians and the media have learnt nothing from the experience. It seems that, before we can make any progress (if there is any to be made), we must go through the process all over again.

Thus we hear from the usual media suspects this weekend that the Johnson "team" is in contact with figures from five EU Member States, even to the extent that we are told to assume that they are "secretly wooing" the prime-minister-to-be in "a bid to thrash out a new Brexit plan that would avoid a no-deal disaster".

At the tip of the spear, so to speak, is Simon Coveney, Ireland's deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs. According to the Sunday Times interpretation, he is indicating that Dublin "is prepared to compromise" – although we quickly learn that the Irish backstop, is "not up for negotiation".

Although he makes it clear that his country wants to avoid a no-deal Brexit at all costs, and writes that Britain leaving without a deal would cause huge damage to Ireland, this is just more of the same – a reiteration of an unchanging position which could allow for cosmetic changes to the political declaration but leaves the Withdrawal Agreement untouched.

Despite this, we are supposed to be reassured by the news that "senior Irish politicians and diplomats" have held "peace talks" with two of Johnson’s cabinet allies in recent days, although we are not in any way informed about the content of those talks.

In addition, the ST would have us believe that "German and French figures, as well as the Dutch and Belgian governments", have also established contacts with the "Johnson team", supposedly signalling "an intention to do a deal".

On the Irish front, Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general, met his Irish counterpart, Seamus Woulfe, and the Irish ambassador, Adrian O’Neill, last Monday. It was then that the Johnson mantra was delivered, to the effect that the UK "will pursue a no-deal Brexit unless the EU gives ground".

I don't think anybody – apart from the Johnson team – is under any illusions of what the outcome of this might be. But one assumes that Johnson's learning curve might approximate that of Mrs May, with the possibility that he might have realised by the end of the summer break that his strategy isn't going to work.

But a sign of the delusion that grips those around the Oaf comes with the additional news that James Brokenshire, a former Northern Ireland secretary, has also talked to Irish politicians. One of those wonderful anonymous sources – this one "in Johnson's transition team" is claiming that the Irish are "rethinking their position".

Another is suggesting that the talks could pave the way for a bilateral deal with Dublin that would render the backstop irrelevant, although – needless to say - Irish sources "downplayed" that prospect.

The same is being said of ambassadors from Belgium and Holland, who last week met Andrea Leadsom, who is now firmly in the Johnson camp. They, or so we are told, have "signalled a desire to come to a new deal". And, amid this delusional stuff, we get Johnson being "urged" to invite the French president and German chancellor to Chequers for talks, as if they are going to come running.

For the rest, there is no let-up in the general tedium, which can only intensify over the coming days as we are saturated in speculation on the actions of a man who, at best, is unpredictable and who might be better described as totally erratic and prone to acting on whims. It is a little difficult trying to predict what the man-child might do when he probably doesn't know himself.

For all that, there is plenty to keep the Westminster media claque occupied, which will probably make the legacy media unreadable for the next week or so. It's a pity sometimes that life isn't a bit more like a Netflix film, where you can fast-forward through the boring parts to find out what happens.

Better still, it might be a good idea to put Johnson on fast forward, so we can see him thrashing through his repertoire, only slowing him down in the unlikely event that he starts making sense. And while we are about it, we can do the same with the media. Perhaps if they printed all their speculation on one day, we could then be treated to much more informative blank pages for the rest of the week.

As far as blogging goes, I'm almost tempted to set them an example that they could follow. It might also be an interesting experiment to see whether it affects the general thrust of the comments.

Assuming that Trump hasn't turned Tehran into a glass-coated car park by Wednesday, we might also be entertained by the prospect of up to six Tory MPs jumping ship, to join the Lib-Dems, leaving the anointed one without a workable (or any) majority.

This could have interesting consequences which have yet to be addressed. In theory, the Queen could only hand over the reins of office to Johnson if he can assure her that he has a majority government (whether by coalition or not), in the absence of which she herself might suspend (or even dissolve) parliament and instruct Johnson to call a general election.

That is also very much part of the current speculation set, which partly explains why people are deserting the media in droves. I've even got to the stage where I'm not bothering even to look at the BBC news. And switching channels affords no relief … we just get a different brand of ignorance and speculation, most often based on exactly the same content.

One small joy is that Whitehall sources are reporting as saying that the Oaf was left "visibly shaken" after being briefed by civil servants to expect civil unrest if he goes through with his threat of a no-deal Brexit. Considering his lacklustre performance during the London riots, we can be fairly confident that Johnson won't handle unrest better than any other part of his portfolio.

Yet we have also been regaled by the news from another senior government source, in what must be an exceedingly leaky ship, that importing fresh food through Dover would be only the third highest priority in the event of no-deal. Clean water only comes fifth. Top of the list are life-saving drugs, followed by medical devices and fresh food. Nuclear power plant parts are then given priority over the import of chemicals to purify drinking water.

According to this source, contingency planning provides for 8,500 troops to be deployed to deal with transport blockages and possible civil unrest and the Ministry of Defence is training staff to deploy to ports to deal with traffic jams – assuming they haven't already been deployed to Iran.

By then, though, Iran might have secreted a dirty bomb in Whitehall, as its contribution to reducing traffic congestion in London, whence Brexit might undergo a change of pace for a while and take a back seat in our politics. That would be something else to blame Brussels for.






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