Brexit: Nightmare before Christmas?
It was another hard day today for the UK, with David Davis giving evidence to the Brexit select committee, and admitting that Brexit could have a great impact on the British economy similar to that of the 2008 credit crunch or 1930s Depression. He referred to Brexit as a “paradigm change” while at the same time explained that no impact assessments on leaving the EU have been completed by any government officials.
In the meantime, at the Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) today, May appeared to be, according to the Guardian, “borderline delusional,” especially when she mentioned the “very good progress” in the Brexit talks. She gave the impression that she was “oblivious” to the possibility of the negotiations ending badly and hinted that the solution to the Irish border was to delay it as much as possible so that talks move on to the second phase. The Irish border question was treated as part of phase two of the negotiations, even though no side has ever given such assurance.
But there were some flickers of hope, as Theresa May managed to get the DUP’s Arlene Foster on the phone. It was said that Arlene was playing hard to get, declining May’s calls for 24 hours, but eventually giving in early on Wednesday morning. However, the DUP was shocked at the way the whole Irish border situation was handled by May and explained that it needed more reassurances from the UK that Northern Ireland will get the same deal as the rest of the UK. Foster has agreed to visit May in London and examine the details of the agreement, as long as there is “a credible deal on the table.”
At the same time, Sinn Fein warned that because of the Tory/DUP pact, Ireland should not become “collateral damage”: “The solution to Britain’s Brexit crisis in Ireland is clear. The north of Ireland should have designated special status within the EU ensuring that we remain within the customs union and the single market ... This is a common sense, practical, and achievable proposal and does not change the constitutional position of the north.”
Corbyn: “The tail really is wagging the dog”
From the side of the opposition, the government seems to be in a “shambles,” with various political figures offering different interpretations and answers to the various issues. The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that from Boris Johnson’s infamous phrase to the EU to “go whistle,” a response to the issue of the financial settlement, to May’s slogan “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” the whole situation is chaotic and May needs to provide answers. Corbyn criticised May for the whole DUP fiasco, and said that what is happening is that “the tail really is wagging the dog.”
David Davis' lies
Ministers today from all sides of the house raised concerns regarding David Davis’ contempt of parliament about the Brexit assessments. The Commons speaker, John Bercow, explained that after today’s David Davis’ hearing he will see the committee’s conclusions when they are ready and return to the Commons. Once he has the committee’s reports then he will be able to decide whether to allow MPs to debate a contempt of parliament motion regarding David Davis. MPs were invited by Bercow to write to him on the issue, but he clarified that this was primarily the Brexit committee’s affair. According to Chuka Umunna, Davis had claimed on 20 October that he had an assessment of 51 sectors and that he was looking at them. However, today, Davis admitted that the government didn’t look at the impact of Brexit on a sector by sector basis. Umunna said that the Commons has been “misled.” The Lib Dem Tom Brake agreed with Umunna, while Labour’s Seema Malhotra was concerned with Davis’ lies and how it was possible for someone to argue one thing initially, and then say something else altogether.
In general, MPs claimed that the government was “dysfunctional," with evidence ranging from Davis' bluff, to the DUP's reaction and May’s lack of clarity on absolutely everything categorised under Brexit. The latest embarrassment revolves now around Davis’s false claims of undertaking work in “excruciating detail” on the economic consequences of Brexit and admitting today that such collection of data is simply inexistent. As Rafael Behr argued today, the revelations on the lack of any Brexit assessments show that “the whole of the government’s Brexit strategy is built on lies and obfuscation.” The rest of us are just aghast and left wondering: “Is the whole of the government’s Brexit strategy built on lies and obfuscation?”