There is no good news coming out of Brexit. Just today, we were told that Dutch car-makers have been warned by their Government to wean themselves off British-made auto parts, which they have been advised will in future be unacceptable on products bearing a Made in the EU label.
We also learned – as listeners to the The Archers have known for some time – that UK fruit growers face an acute labour shortage over the summer period as East European pickers look elsewhere for seasonal employment. Good news, surely, for all those putative pickers from East Anglia who at last can hope to fill strawberry punnets for the crowds at Wimbledon.
Also this week, representatives of the ports of Calais and Zeebrugge, plus the boss of Eurotunnel, told MPs that if nothing is done to sort out the problems facing lorry drivers operating to and from the Continent post-Brexit, tailbacks could extend as much as 50 miles into the Flanders countryside.
Finally, we were informed by David Davis, whose job it is to find solutions to all this, that his plan to solve the Irish border question, based on technology yet to be developed, was unworkable. In fairness, Davis also confessed that he wasn’t put in charge of the UK negotiating team because he was an intellectual, reminding us of his boast last year that he didn’t have to be clever or know much to do his job.
On the financial services front, it is now expected that only around 5,000 City jobs will move from London in the run-up to B-Day, March 29. Banks and other financial houses, it turns out, are mostly holding fire in anticipation of a last-ditch miracle or, more likely, an extended transition period. But, according to the London Stock Exchange, the exodus could soar to more like a quarter of a million, mostly highly-paid jobs, by 2024 if we end up with either No Deal or a hard Brexit.
But we must not be downhearted. If there is icing on the cake that we wish to eat and have, it is the news that Nigel Lawson, one of the high priests of Brexit, has been forced to admit that he has applied for permanent residence in France. A hypocrite – lui? The cherry on the top of said icing would, of course, be an announcement from Jacob Rees Mogg that he is opening a European branch of Somerset Capital Management in Paris to take advantage of the “new reality”. You laugh now, but just ask Nigel.
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Just about every week for the last two years, the Tories have insisted that there is no chance of no deal and that a managed departure remains very much on the cards, granting British exports – though not services – frictionless access to the European market. How they arrived at this optimistic conclusion has never been made clear, but much, if not all of it, has to do with the parlous state of the Conservative Party, which just now resembles a volcano about to blow.
The Prime Minister likes to talk about the good-sense, win-win deal she will somehow extract on the final day of the Brexit talks. “Just you wait,” she implies. “All will be well.” Yet, in anticipation of a parliamentary rebellion led by Boris Johnson and Rees-Mogg, she has set her face like putty against continuing membership of the Customs Union, the only mechanism that can guarantee free and uninterrupted entry to Europe for British goods.
For his part, Jeremy Corbyn – who in reality wants us out bag and baggage from Europe so that he can get on with transforming us into a Marxist state – now claims to favour a bespoke “internal market” that would keep Britain out of the actual Single Market while maintaining many of the advantages of membership.
Well, good luck with that.
To cap it all, what now seems to be emerging from Downing Street is support for what might be termed a No Brexit Brexit, whereby our agreed transition arrangements, including acceptance of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, will extend indefinitely into the future. The fact is, neither the Government nor Parliament have the least idea how to proceed. They’re lost.
Our negotiators, led (if that is the word) by the increasingly hapless Davis, have, in effect, given up. They have been out-thought and outmanoeuvred at every turn by the once-derided Michel Barnier, who at the EU summit later this month will call on Europe’s leaders to turn the screw one more time and bring the curtain down on what has proved a debilitating and humiliating farce.
All this, mark you, at a time when the EU has never been weaker or more riven by internal division. The only thing the 27 seem to be able to think straight on this summer is Britain and Brexit, which – unless Italy’s populists raise a last-minute objection – they want out of the way, done and dusted, on their own terms, so that they can get on with more pressing problems. It is a measure how far down the totem pole Theresa May has fallen that our exit is no longer considered existential, merely an irritant.
In case you think I am being unfair, here is a selection from what my online thesaurus provides by way of synonyms for the word “shambles”: dissaray, bedlam, botch, chaos, confusion, disorder, disorganisation, hash, havoc, madhouse, mess-up, muddle and hodge-podge.
Which of these, would you say, is not appropriate to Britain’s approach to leaving the EU? I would say they each deserve their place, with botch, confusion and muddle as the mots-justes.