It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was billed as "Super Saturday" after all. Parliament was meeting for the first time in over thirty years to resolve the Brexit matter. To the amazement of many, Johnson had returned from Brussels with an agreement before the October deadline. The withdrawal bill was to be put to the house, ERG were in the camp, Corbyn had been wrong footed? What could go wrong?
I decided to apply for an extension and publish the Saturday Economist on a Monday morning. In this way the clarity offered by the weekend proceedings in Westminster could be shared with readers. Decisions made, the way forward outlined, we would be leaving the EU, deal agreed. Reclaiming our sovereignty, taking back control, securing our borders, Brexit done and dusted, free to trade with the rest of the world, rebuilding the trade empires of yore.
The day started well. England beat Australia convincingly to proceed to the semi finals of the World Cup. Excitement was building as the All Blacks dismissed Ireland. Next up the trip to the mother of parliaments for a serious, honest, intellectual, exchange of views and opinions. The house would sit and rise to the occasion.
Johnson set the tone, It was time to heal the rift and unite warring factions. The surrender bill had been surrounded. ERG had won, just get over it. The deal was clear, Northern Ireland would remain in the single market but would be part of the UK customs union and part of the EU customs union. There would be no hard border, just a line drawn in the waters of the Irish sea. No EU tariffs on goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland but EU tariffs on goods moving from Northern Ireland into the EU. Johnson had returned with a "lexicon of ludic loops". A collection of words and phrases not necessarily in the right order.
The debate soon deteriorated into the perils of chlorinated chicken and hormone impregnated beef. Labour feared US troops withdrawn from Syria would soon be running the NHS. The paucity of debate was measured in that Theresa May was afforded the best line. It was her "sense of déjà vu "which brought the house down. How those backbenches enjoy a touch of European irony.
Then came the Oliver Letwin amendment. A cunning plan to scupper the Johnson move to secure agreement before the 11:00 pm deadline. It was a "wizard wheeze". The move was passed with 322 votes for and 306 against. The Prime Minister would be obliged to climb into the ditch of despair and send a letter to Brussels requesting an extension.
And so it was. The Prime Minister was obliged to send a letter to Brussels requesting an extension beyond the October 31st deadline. The Benn act demanded the PM send the letter but nothing on the statutes to say he had to sign it. The missive left Downing Street unsigned, scented with a stink bomb with drawings of a large penis with a "Bollocks to Brussels" message for good measure. How those public school boys enjoy a good laugh.
A further letter explained it was not really his idea, he didn't really want an extension anyway. Please ignore the other letter. We won't need an extension, the withdrawal agreement would be put to the house this week. Jacob Rees-Moog would smooth talk the process. We are leaving at the end of the month. Gove is in charge of "Operation Yellowhammer". He has a bet with Matt Hancock to that effect, a pecuniary incentive, the wagers of sin. The Mogg has been long Sterling since the start of the month for good measure.
And so it continues, into the week. A sense of exhaustion evident. BBC held a Newsnight special, a chance for Emily Maitlis to shout at politicians, expressing the frustration of a nation. Today Sky News announced a Brexit free news channel. Let's hope Question Time makes the same move.
The Saturday Economist move to Monday undone by events. Cynics might suggest I was too busy watching rugby and missed the deadline. Well it was a one off, it won't happen again. Not even next week as we line up in the semi finals against New Zealand, kick off is at 9:00 am plenty of time before we hit the press send deadline. Who knows, by then we may even have an agreement ...
That's all for today, have a great week ahead. We will be back on Saturday with more news and updates. Yes and may be some economics ...
The Saturday Economist
John Ashcroft publishes the Saturday Economist. Join the mailing list for updates on the UK and World Economy.
|The Saturday Economist|
The material is based upon information which we consider to be reliable but we do not represent that it is accurate or complete and it should not be relied upon as such. We accept no liability for errors, or omissions of opinion or fact. In particular, no reliance should be placed on the comments on trends in financial markets. The presentation should not be construed as the giving of investment advice.