14th July 2018
Protesters in London object to the visit of US President, Donald Trump
The current UK heatwave, or what used to be known in the past as Summer, seems to have addled the brains of both inhabitants and visitors to these sceptre isles over the past week. As TV drama it would have been reviewed as far-fetched, implausible and unworthy of the high standards we have come to expect from British TV culture.
Yet the improbable political soap around Brexit continues to throw up new plot lines and unlikely character twists on a daily basis. A bit like the most intricate Scandi noir, it is not always possible to know what is going on exactly, but it is still sufficiently gripping to make you want to know the outcome.
UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, must have thought last week that the main drama was behind her and she could look forward to a satisfactory denouement. At a four hour session in her country retreat at Chequers last Friday, May cajoled and coaxed agreement from a recalcitrant Cabinet around her Brexit ‘vision’, published later in the week as the White Paper, The Future Relationship Between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
The news on Friday night was that they had all signed up and yes, May was right, this is the way forward to an acceptable UK Brexit. By midnight on Sunday the Secretary of State with responsibility for Brexit, David Davies, had resigned from the Cabinet, unable to sign up to May’s vision.
Unable to miss a ride on any passing political merry go round, bungling Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, decided to catch a ride out of the Cabinet chamber and back onto the Tory backbenches, proclaiming in characteristically histrionic style that the ‘Brexit dream is dying’….
May attempted to swat aside the loss of two Cabinet ministers in less than 24 hours and published the White Paper anyway. Dominic Raab was appointed as the new Brexit Secretary and given orders to get the White Paper up and running in the House of Commons. MPs who dutifully assembled to hear the new boy on his first day in the job were disappointed to find that, while the Secretary of State was about to make a statement, there were no copies of the White Paper for them to scrutinise.
The Speaker suspended the session and MPs rushed off to scurry around the darkest corners of the House of Commons print room (or wherever White Papers emerge from) before emerging with boxes full of the worthy document. Distribution followed and scrutiny ensued…..
Enter stage right, the fool….
A stock element of Elizabethan drama first time round, the Fool seems to have taken on a new lease of life in the second Elizabethan age, not least in the form of the current President of the United States, Donald Trump.
Trump arrived in the UK with all of the pomp and ceremony a non-State visit allowed, which included meeting the Prime Minister, taking tea with the Head of State and having dinner with business leaders. Quite how this will be topped if there is a formal state visit remains to be seen. In any event it appears that the UK is all too willing to suffer fools gladly, especially if they are going to make a trade agreement.
However, this fool was not going to do that, according to an interview he gave to that high powered journal of record, The Sun, because Theresa May’s White Paper was rubbish and left the UK too close to the EU for comfort. He also thought Boris Johnson would make a good Prime Minister and did not think that Theresa May was any good a negotiating deals. That sorted, the fool, who had already told NATO leaders that they did not spend enough on weapons for his liking, set off for tea and cake with the Queen, making sure he and his wife got a nice pic for the photo album.
The joint press conference between Trump and Theresa May, looking as though she could be sick at any moment, saw Trump proclaim that all of the bad things he had said about May were simply ‘fake news’ and that the UK/US relationship was ‘super special’. He also said she would do a good Brexit deal, so it turns out that he was just kidding about the other stuff all along. That’s alright then…..
Trump is such a fool that he believes, in spite of the thousands on the streets protesting against his presence, that the people of the UK love him, so he jetted off to Scotland to play golf, in preparation for his summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Somewhere in the middle of all of this there is a discussion going on about the White Paper, the UK’s negotiating position on Brexit and whether the EU will even tolerate it. Maybe some rain in the coming weeks will help dampen things and proper political discourse will emerge. Unfortunately, history suggests that the Summer is not the time for that.