So the government is finally revealing its Brexit plans – and they are even sillier than we thought they’d be

Now we can enjoy the thrill of wondering what else will be revealed. It might even be a giant mechanical parrot that flies across Europe identifying goods heading for the Irish border, squawking ‘that needs VAT paying on that, truckload of onions, truckload of onions’

Mark Steel
Thursday 03 October 2019 18:49
Boris Johnson address British parliament on his plan for Brexit and Irish border

In the end, sorting out the backstop was easy. All it took to get round the problem of a hard border in Ireland was to have two hard borders instead. But these will be simple, as they’ll be at unspecified places, so maybe they can change every week so everyone gets a go at being a border which is fairer.

So one might be in Cork, and the other in a branch of Nandos in Eastbourne, where you can get half-price Peri-Peri chicken while you’re having your lorry investigated by customs officers. Or it could be in Qatar, as they seem to host most things they’re clearly not equipped for.

The difficulty of how to avoid checking goods as they cross the border has also been solved, by declaring it will be done by “new technology”, without getting bogged down in what that technology is.

Now we can enjoy the thrill of wondering what they’ll reveal. It might be a giant mechanical parrot that flies across Europe identifying goods heading for the Irish border, squawking “that needs VAT paying on that, truckload of onions, truckload of onions”.

To simplify matters even more, this agreement will be ratified by a Northern Ireland Assembly that hasn’t existed for three years, so they might as well tell the EU the scheme will be voted on every Tuesday by the Knights of the Round Table. That might work more smoothly – until it breaks down because Lancelot went up the wall about petrol duty – but it would fit in with their aim of being “creative”.

It’s a symptom of how the government has become really cute. When it’s asked how it could legally take us out of the EU without an agreement, when that would be illegal, it says, “Ah, we have a plan.” Several ministers have elaborated on this policy, by adding, “we’re not saying what it is yet”.

This is lovable, like when a six-year-old tells you they’re building a rocket out of pencil shavings and ear wax, so you ask how it will fly and they tell you “I’m not saying yet”. So Michel Barnier’s reply to the proposals should be “ah, have you got a plan, that’s sweet. Well then Boris, write it out neatly and I promise I’ll read it as soon as I’ve finished making dinner.”

It’s a mystery how the Irish aspect of leaving the EU has become complicated, because the border between Ireland and Britain has never been an issue before. For example, David Davis was asked at the time of the referendum how we would deal with problems it could create in Ireland, and said, “We’re Britain, we know how to sort out Ireland.”

This seems obvious, as the largest party amongst nationalists in Northern Ireland is Sinn Fein, and while I don’t speak Gaelic, I expect Sinn Fein translates as “fair enough Britain, whatever you say is alright with us mate”.

If you were cynical, you might feel there’s no expectation these proposals will be accepted, but when they’re rejected by the EU, the government can say, “There you are, you see. We spent almost 10 minutes working out a compromise, carefully written on the back of a leaflet that came from Sky about their winter films package, and the stubborn EU STILL won’t agree.”

To make this endearing, Boris Johnson acts as if his peculiar suggestions are a great historical pronouncement, like the American Declaration of Human Rights, and there will be paintings of them all signing it with a quill while he doodles a picture of a racing car over clause 7b.

One aspect of our new relationship with Europe that seems especially heartfelt is the insistence we end “freedom of movement”. Priti Patel was particularly emotional about this, winning a huge roar of approval at the Conservative conference for shouting they will “end freedom of movement once and for all”.

Other people round the world consider it some sort of advantage to be free to move where they fancy, but Conservatives are tougher than that, and scream with delight, “YES, at LAST, we’re all going to be stopped from going where we want.”

To become even more popular with her members, Priti Patel should now promise to kidnap them all and put their head in a sack and drive them on a back of a truck to an unknown destination and drag them to a basement and secure them to a length of iron pipe screwed into the wall.

Because we’re in new exciting times when Conservatives tell us we have to leave Europe to “prevent riots”. What a thrilling development that the Conservative Party now sees riots as a healthy tool for influencing government policy. Maybe Jeremy Hunt and Esther McVey will reveal they threw petrol bombs in Tottenham in the 1980s to demand British Rail was sold off to private investors.

The People’s Vote campaign needs to take notice of this. Instead of marching and putting pictures on Instagram of them knitting EU flags, they should announce they want a second referendum by Wednesday or they’re smashing the windows at PC World and walking off with a 78-inch TV.

Because this acid trip we’re on is the new normal, in which we’re led by someone who explains his thinking in interviews with answers such as “ah, ah, yes, this is very much, if I may, we had 17, er 17, the biggest democratic vote in ipso facto, 17.4 million in, in all human, or indeed animal, history.” And he’s known for his great skills as a communicator.

You couldn’t blame the EU if their response to these proposals was a prescription for heavy medication, and a request to come back in a few years’ time when we’ve got better.

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