Puppets

True Colours V

PuppetsOne notable side effect of the Brexit referendum has been to force everyone in public life to show us their true intentions, hence the title of this blog series. If the last four years have achieved nothing else, they have demonstrated beyond any doubt exactly what we’re dealing with both at home and on the Continent.

Publication of the Internal Market Bill this week seems to have shocked many commentators, although it shouldn’t really be a surprise. While the amended Withdrawal Agreement was less egregious following the re-drafting of the hated Irish Backstop, it was still a fudge that couldn’t square the circle of the EU’s internal market and the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement. However, despite its manifest shortcomings, the Withdrawal Agreement served its political purpose and made Brexit a reality.

Anyone who thought the matter of Northern Ireland wouldn’t rear its head again was being extremely naïve.

To put it simply, it was never possible to reconcile the EU’s single market requirements with the Good Friday Agreement. The first demands checks at the border while the second makes them illegal.

Both Remainers and Brexiteers have played fast and loose with this inevitable legal paradox when it’s suited their ends. However, from the perspective of having left the EU, the UK’s decision over which treaty to favour is a very simple one.

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Alphabet letters

Our Alphabet Soup is Rotten

Alphabet lettersDonald Trump’s threat to freeze World Health Organisation funding has sparked a flurry of press interest and comment from around the globe. Not surprisingly, these hot takes on the situation range from “orange man bad” on one side of the aisle to “4-D chess” on the other. In fact, neither of these knee-jerk responses teaches us anything useful as they miss a much bigger and far more revealing picture

Whatever you might think of the President’s current attitude to the WHO, taking a step back to gain a wider view shows that far from being some Trumpian outlier, questioning the legitimacy of the WHO is in fact part of a wider pattern of dissent. The sense of weariness, disenchantment and growing hostility towards the alphabet soup agencies entrusted to run international affairs with no direct democratic mandate is now palpable, especially here in the West. Everywhere we look, nationalism is on the rise as once unimpeachable institutions are revealed to be rotten with corruption, incompetence and shameless self-interest.

This shouldn’t be surprising really, as Oscar Wilde pithily pointed out how bureaucracies primarily exist to meet their own needs and only secondly to execute the functions they were designed to carry out.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look.

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Dice on stock prices

EU Solidarity was a Fair Weather Fantasy

Dice on stock prices“Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall.” Varys of Lys

So now we know. Now we know for certain that when the chips are down, Brussels has neither the authority nor the inclination to act when it really matters. Right across the continent, borders are going up and countries are looking to their own institutions for answers and action to combat the Coronavirus threat.

The current crisis has finally exposed the myth of European solidarity for the dangerous fair-weather fantasy it always has been. As Italy and Spain struggle to cope with the spiralling crisis, their calls for medical and financial aid from Brussels have effectively come to naught. Despite decades of tall talk about being stronger together, this crisis has revealed that the EU’s obsession with ever closer union was only ever driven by a pathological lust for raw political power. When the chance finally arrives to put these lofty ideals into action, both Brussels and EU member states are nowhere to be found. Platitudes about solidarity lie trampled in the dust as countries pull up the drawbridge and leave the stragglers to fend for themselves in a display of self-interest that will not soon be forgotten by Italy, Spain and many others across the continent.

In fairness, it’s only natural for nations to look to their own security in a situation like this, and it would be foolish to criticise them for acting in the best interests of their citizens. Still, it’s very telling that in times of real crisis, the most enduring and efficient power structure remains the much maligned nation state, not the EU, the UN, the WHO or any of globalism’s impotent alphabet institutions.

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Broken mask

True Colours IV

Broken maskNow we see you!

Ever since the Brexit referendum of 2016, I’ve been writing at length about how this whole process has been immensely helpful in peeling back the layers of doublespeak and obfuscation that have calcified around our political and media class for decades now.

Despite the fine words about democracy and respecting the referendum result, many of us suspected that when push came to shove, the establishment would never actually allow this country to leave the European Union…under any circumstances.

We were right.

Faced with the unprecedented situation of a government and Prime Minister genuinely committed to implementing the largest democratic mandate in British history, the last veil of deceit has been torn from our hideously deformed body politic. The naked opportunism, dishonesty and contempt for the intelligence of the electorate are even uglier than many of us would’ve liked to contemplate.

Now we find ourselves in the ludicrous position of a Parliamentary class screeching about a supposed prorogation “coup” while arbitrarily awarding itself new powers to legislate. When they’re not doing that, they’re attempting to drag the judiciary into the political process by legislating from the bench when the politics doesn’t go their way. At the same time they refuse to allow an unreliable electorate to break the deadlock. Having whined about a general election for literally years, MPs have twice baulked at letting the great unwashed finally deliver their verdict. I think we all know why.

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Blue passport

Brexit Blue is now a Thing

Blue passportSymbols matter.

We all know they do, despite the fact we often pretend they don’t. This enduring truth was never more sharply defined than during the recent spat over the UK’s intention to revert to blue passports after leaving the European Union.

Hailed as a step forward by some and derided as a regressive irrelevance by others, it’s been instructive to observe not only the varying reactions to this announcement, but also the surprising depth of passion and feeling it’s evoked on both sides of the Brexit divide. It’s interesting to note that the change of colour will in no way affect the passport’s function (except perhaps within the EU itself), but that’s done nothing to cool the heat on either side of this increasingly bad-tempered debate.

That’s the trouble with symbols. They wrap so many deep-rooted ideas together that they become stronger and more enduring than the multitudes whose lives they touch. Just think of an iconic brand like Coca-Cola, which has become much more than just a fizzy drink and is now an essential part of America’s cultural DNA. It’s become a proxy symbol for the very idea of America and American culture worldwide.

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