There’s a scene in ‘Jaws’, when Quint, using a rod and reel, is battling with what he thinks is the shark. He turns to Brody saying: “I don’t know, Chief, if he’s very smart or very dumb”.
These exact words crossed my mind last night after I’d had a chance to digest the day’s events with regard to the government’s proposed ‘backstop’ idea pertaining to the Northern Ireland border. Is Theresa May very smart or very dumb? Let’s look at both options together.
Here is a transcript of what the government published yesterday:
‘The UK is clear that the temporary customs arrangement, should it be needed, should be time limited, and that it will be only in place until the future customs arrangement can be introduced. The UK is clear that the future customs arrangement needs to deliver on the commitments made in relation to Northern Ireland. The UK expects the future arrangement to be in place by the end of December 2021 at the latest. There are a range of options for how a time limit could be delivered, which the UK will propose and discuss with the EU.’
Expects? That’s not a legal time limit! I expect the local supermarket to open at 8am. It doesn’t mean IT WILL open at 8am. We know Theresa May is a Remainer; she’s implementing a Brexit policy she, ultimately, doesn’t agree with; and she’s doing her level best to ensure that we remain tied closely to the EU in some way, in direct contravention to the promises made in the referendum. By doing so she’s potentially condemning the Conservative Party to decades in the electoral wilderness in a manner even more pronounced than the disastrous premiership of John Major. Without a cast iron guarantee on an end date, there is no incentive on the part of the EU to agree to a comprehensive free trade deal. Or is there?
For the only card May now has left to play in these negotiations is our money. If the notion that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ holds true, it may, just may, be possible the Prime Minister will use fiscal leverage as a bargaining chip to get the EU to come to its senses on a trade deal rendering all our borders as free-flowing as they are at present. I’m not saying I particularly agree with this train of thought, but it could be possible.
Thus, in the final analysis, is the Prime Minister smart because she’s clearly outplayed David Davis over his manoeuvrings and threatened resignation, as well as holding her financial cards to her chest for use in future discussions? Or is she dumb because her perceived weakness compels her to constantly buckle to practically every demand made by Brussels? In truth, we don’t know what will happen in the future. Even so, I’ll allow you to come to your own conclusions. I’ve already done so.