Brexit

Ultra-boring PMQs eclipsed by theological row

BY Finn McRedmond   /  6 February 2019

Madeleine K. Albright, Taylor Swift, Donald Tusk. What do they all have in common?

No, they are not all international pop superstars (sadly), nor do they all hold senior positions in the European Union (regrettably in the case of Swift and Albright).

They’ve all, to varying reception, assigned a “special place in hell” to different groups. Madeleine K. Albright famously to “women who don’t help other women” and Swift in much the same vein. Donald Tusk at a press conference with Irish leader Leo Varadkar this morning spoke of a “special place in hell reserved for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan of how to carry it out safely.”

Varadkar got in on the action – but in a less biblical sense, and in a more minor-but-embarassing-tech-blunder sense – when he was picked up over the microphones telling Mr Tusk: “They’ll give you terrible trouble in the British press for that.”

The EU then hit full high-church-drama-mode as Guy Verhofstadt tweeted this evening: “Well, I doubt Lucifer would welcome them, as after what they did to Britain, they would even manage to divide hell.” Goodness, yesterday we were concerned about splits in the Tory party. Today we are talking about a tear in the metaphysical realm.

A special place in hell maybe, but reality in London feels a bit more like purgatory right now. With no-deal sort of taken off the table (thanks to the Spelman amendment last week), and no deal currently on the table, politics is in limbo. Not least because Theresa May is now in Brussels seeking to renegotiate a non-negotiable deal. Government is stuck in the intermediary stage between death and purification of the soul.

Let us hope that May’s Withdrawal agreement can be redeemed by repentance, God’s forgiveness, and a little help from the ERG.

But we need not get so caught up with the metaphysical realm, as hell truly seems to be a place on Earth, at least to anyone witnessing the spectacle of PMQs this afternoon. While Corbyn is busy getting dissed by congresswoman AOC, and Theresa May has been off in Northern Ireland doing goodness knows what, it was up to David Lidington and Emily Thornberry to take up the mantle in the Commons today.

Lidington, May’s de facto deputy, and Thornberry, shadow foreign secretary, tussled over Brexit. Thornberry towed the party line and repeatedly endorsed a customs union solution to the impasse, while Lidington managed to say a lot but convey almost nothing. The only takeaway is that there was very little to takeaway from the exchange – unless you hadn’t realised that Labour like the customs union yet.

Brexiteer MPs were keen to express their discontent with Tusk’s comments. Sammy Wilson of the DUP made the best attempt at keeping the absurdity going, releasing a statement that claims “Tusk and his arrogant EU negotiators” have “fanned the flames of fear in an attempt to try and overturn the result of the referendum.”

“All he will succeed in doing is stiffening the resistance of those who have exercised their choice to be clear of Tusk and his Trident wielding cabal,” he added. So if the chicanery of the day did not seem silly enough, Wilson has furnished us with an image of a Poseidon-esque European Council, flouting Brexit with their control of the, er, seas?

Drama of biblical proportions – doesn’t sound like Brexit.