Did the spat between these two powerful men drive us into the Brexit cul-de-sac?


YOU’LL have to excuse me for a moment: I’ve just heard that arch Brexiteer and Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith being peevish on the radio. And that always puts my mood out of kilter.

The UK has, you see, shuffled another inch up the cul-de-sac known as Brexit Avenue. Or, as the Daily Mail would phrase it, Britain has taken a huge step to prosperity. Never mind all the scaremongering and cynicism of the Remainers, HMS Great Britain is set for a smooth and amicable departure from the EU, the paper insists.

Such optimism strikes me as being a bit previous. Yes, we all want this Brexit business to be over, but proclaiming Brexit a victory before it has happened (and after two years of slow-motion squabbling) seems to be pushing it.

It is as though Captain Scott had declared his expedition to the South Pole a great success before he even set off. “We are confident of a smooth and amicable journey to reach the South Pole before anyone else,” as Scott never said.

In the event, Scott’s ill-fated expedition reached the South Pole only to find that Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian party had beaten them to it. Devastated, Scott and his men started their journey back, but never made it.

“I am just going outside this Brexit debate and may be some time”

Even those famous last words  spoken by Captain Oates – “I am just going outside and may be some time” – when, uffering severe frostbite, he walked  into the freezing conditions and was never seen again, are disturbingly adaptable to our current situation

It is tempting for me and, I suspect, many others to echo Oates, minus the heroic stiff upper lip: “I am just going outside this Brexit debate and may be some time.”

In this scenario, the role of the gallant Captain Scott falls to David Davis, our bluff and bumbling Brexit Secretary, a man whose demeanour suggests that he has just swotted up on that day’s business on the ride over. That’s on a good day; some days it looks like he hasn’t bothered to read a word.

The latest Brexit agreement to be heralded by Davis features a few significant climb-downs, including one over fish that has upset the ardent Brexiteers, whose fizzing fervency is a constant whatever the setbacks.

Sadly, it is not thought that the fish will throw Rees-Mogg overboard

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, had been demanding a renegotiation of the fishing quotas, but the UK has rolled over on that one.

In protest at this concession, Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg boarded a boat on the Thames and threw environmental caution to the wind and dead fish at the House while sailing past  Parliament. Sadly, the fish were unable to mutiny in the face of such madness and throw Rees-Mogg overboard.

Long since cast into the rolling deep, of course, was former prime minister David Cameron, whose blithe self-belief got us into this Brexit mess in the first place.

Cameron and his nemesis, master of the flagship Daily Mail Paul Dacre, fell out after Cameron suggested that the editor “cut him some slack” over Brexit. When that was not forthcoming, Cameron reportedly asked the Mail’s owner, Lord Rothermere, to sack the avidly pro-Brexit Dacre in the run-up to the referendum.

Dacre, who remained unsacked, heard about this and commanded his Dreadnought destroyer to stoke the boilers with even more pro-Brexit fuel

Thus did a spat between the prime minister and the all-powerful editor help to shape the stormy political seascape we now see around us.

And with the admiral overboard, the crazed cap’n steers full steam ahead for Brexit!


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