So, Boris has a deal, a Christmas gift for the nation. And what wonderful choreography! There will be general rejoicing and goodwill to all men – and women and the non-binary.
It turns out that all the posturing of the past weeks, the ridiculous pretence that no-deal was the most likely outcome, was precisely that, a pantomime concocted for public consumption, a theatrical sword fight that showed both sides were serious and could claim victory when the deal, which was never in doubt, was announced.
The conversation must have gone something like this:
Johnson: You know we will do anything for a deal, Michel, but the public have a thing about fishing, so would you mind if we play up our four new fishery protection vessels (you know they don’t really exist), a bit of gunboat diplomacy for the people at home? Of course, we will agree to all your demands in the end.
Michel: Not at all, Boris. Go ahead. Emmanuel will do the same for the French fisherman, threaten blockades and all that. We will complete the window dressing in time for Christmas Day.
But in truth, faced with the latest Covid restrictions, the new strain, the threat to quarantine Britain etc. the public have had enough of Brexit and just want it over. They will accept any deal – and Boris knows that. Even May’s abomination would have passed muster at this stage.
It is impossible to tell yet whether it is a good deal or not. The devil is in the detail, and the detail is embedded in 2000 pages of legalese which nobody has yet digested. Free movement? Who knows? All we have is hearsay. But there is something a bit fishy, not to say stomach churning, about the chorus of spontaneously orchestrated praise that has greeted the announcement of the compromise deal in the Telegraph. Even the normally level-headed Janet Daley announced, ‘The UK has won its sovereignty from a grieving EU. This is as good a deal as we could have dreamed.’ Good grief, you would think that Boris had led his people to victory.
Allister Heath strikes a more cautious note when he writes that although he hopes that this deal is better than no deal, he keenly awaits the verdict of Martin Howe, the Eurosceptic lawyer, whose forensic analysis of the small print of May’s grotesque surrender document contributed much to its demise. But more importantly, he poses the question, ‘What will we do with our new freedom?’
So, will free trade accompanied by tax cuts and free movement of ‘the brightest and the best’ succeed in ‘turbocharging’ the British economy? Or will it just amount to sticking up a ‘Britain for Sale’ sign, and drive us further into the hands of the Chinese? Do we want to be turbocharged? And whose interest will be served by the ‘Global Britain’ agenda – the liberal elite, or the people?