You may have missed this, but last week UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted that “…Melton Mowbray pork pies, which are sold in Thailand and in Iceland, are currently unable to enter the US market because of, I don’t know, some sort of Food and Drug Administration restriction.”
The thing is, Melton Mowbray pork pies are not sold in Thailand and Iceland, as confirmed by The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association, who probably know what they’re talking about.
The pie currently holds EU protected status, which means that only 10 manufacturers can legitimately claim to produce the most famous of pork pies. Ironically, this protected status will, in all likelihood, be lost if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, leaving the door open for any number of non-UK manufacturers to claim they are the real purveyors of pastry products whilst actually making piss poor parodies of the pork pie, and thereby increase the risk of job losses within our own proud ground pork industry.
“Why are you talking about pork pies, Jez?” I hear you ask. I bet you’re thinking it’s just an excuse to post this:
Well, you’d be wrong.
It’s because, deliciously, Johnson had been caught telling pork pies about pork pies.
Question: How can you tell when Boris Johnson is telling a lie?
Answer: His lips are moving.
As I write this, our undemocratically elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson (remember when Brexit was all about standing up to those pesky, supposedly undemocratically elected EU ministers?) has stepped out of No 10 to make an annoucement, which had widely been expected to be that he was calling an election.
Of course, he said the opposite, and that he really, really doesn’t want to have an election. No: what he wants is to either be able to negotiate a new deal for Brexit with the EU, or failing that, to leave on October 31st without a deal.
That would be a different deal to the one which he voted in favour of at the third time of asking, by the way.
I think what he wants is a little more complicated than that, though.
What I don’t think he wants is to go down in the history books as the Prime Minister who took the UK out of the EU without a deal, because deep down he knows just how catastrophic that would be for our economy.
And how do we know that a No Deal Brexit is going to be catastrophic? Because today the Goverment launched its campaign to get us all ready to leave the EU at the end of October. It’s called Get Ready for Brexit and is reportedly costing the taxpayer around £100 million. That’s roughly double what the National Lottery spends on advertising in a whole year. Call me a cynic, but you don’t spend that kind of money on something which is going to be as great as leaving the EU was described to us as being in the build-up to the referendum.
For example: you’ll recall how former Brexit Minister Dominic Raab was derided for failing to understand the importance of the Dover-Calais crossing? Well, his replacement, Steve Barclay doesn’t seem to be that clued-up either: just last week he tweeted this:
Good idea Steve! Best to do it now, with two months left until the deadline, rather than, say, at any other time in the last three years!
It’s not just the Dover-Calais border which is going to be problematic post-Brexit, of course. The main bone of contention, of course, remains the Irish border, where the back-stop is written into the Withdrawal Agreement which Theresa May failed to get through Parliament on three not-very-different-really occasions: Johnson wants it scrapped, but the EU insist that there must be something in place to maintain the integrity of the Republic of Ireland, who will not be leaving the EU anytime soon
Johnson insists that he has several viable alternatives up his sleeve – I actually saw one (not credited to Johnson, I must admit) which suggested that the Republic of Ireland should temporarily give up its EU status so that no border checks are required, like the problem was all their making – and he told EU leaders as much when he did a flying visit last week, along with his attendance at the G7 summit. Their unified response was: “Okay, let’s hear them then”. Given that most of these have already been suggested, and dismissed as unworkable, I think we can understand their scepticism.
Nothing has been forthcoming as yet.
So what we have here is the biggest game of chicken you can imagine; Boris doesn’t want us to leave on No Deal, but he believes that to have any kind of leverage with the EU, he has to make them think that we are prepared to walk away without a deal, and that as a result they will make concessions. It’s a case of who’s going to blink first.
But it isn’t simply a case of staring down the EU, for there is – at last – some cross-party unity in trying to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal, and there can be little doubt that blocking them was the reason that Boris got the consent from Her Maj last week to close down (prorogue) Parliament in an effort to shut down any opposition to the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
Don’t forget, that after the recent by-election in Brecon, the Conservative Party has a majority of just one, so he cannot afford any dissention amongst the ranks.
Obviously he didn’t say that was the reason for doing it (although he inadvertently alluded to it a day or so afterwards), because to openly admit it would be accepting that, having banged the drum in the build-up to the EU Referendum in 2016, citing “taking back control” of our sovereign Parliament as one of the main reasons for leaving, it would be rather inconsistent to then close Parliament to prevent it doing the job he claimed he wanted it to do.
It was interesting to note that certain Conservative MPs – Gove, Rudd, Javid, Hancock, Leadsom, Truss, Morgan – who, in the race to become leader of the Tory party, or since, had all been quite out-spoken against and critical about the idea of proroguing Parliament, now, satisfactorily bribed with positions within the Cabinet, were suddenly unavailable to do any press interviews.
I do love someone who uses pop records to make a point. It’ll never catch on though.
What I think Johnson massively underestimated was the outrage which prorogueing Parliament provoked across the country, and the determination of those MPs who wish to prevent No Deal are. For just because Parliament isn’t sitting, there is nothing preventing them from meeting elsewhere, which is exactly what I have read they are doing, the resourceful little scamps.
Over the weekend, there were whispers and rumours that any Conservative MP who rebelled against the Goverment by voting against them would have the whip withdrawn; in other words in the event of an election, they would not be permitted to stand as Conservative MPs. Instead, they would be replaced by a candidate who is fully on board with the party’s position.
And this tells us a lot. It reminds us that all of this has never really been about the EU, that’s just the backdrop against which all of this has been played. It’s never really been about curtailing immigration either, as there’s been nothing stopping us doing so for years had the inclination been there – certainly nothing the EU is insisting on anyway – our governments simply haven’t bothered to implement the rules which the EU have introduced. It hasn’t even been about dodging the EU laws to close tax-avoiding loop holes, although that’s certainly a benefit the likes of Jacob Rees Mogg would enjoy.
No, all of this has been about the survival of the Conservative Party, firstly in the face of the challenge from UKIP which led to then-Prime Minister David Cameron (who, allegedly, also had a somewhat unsavoury relationship with pork), and now it is about the challenge from the party which has replaced UKIP, The Brexit Party, led by the same (self-appointed, undemocratically elected to the position of party leader) foe, Nigel Farage.
It’s not just the EU that Boris is trying to out-stare: it’s the whole of the British electorate, or, more specifically, those who are likely to switch from voting Tory to Brexit Party. He needs them to think that his position on the EU is the same if not stronger than theirs, which he hopes will nix any allegiance swapping ideas those pesky pensioners might be having.
And that’s why I think we’re probably going to have an election before the 31st October, whilst Johnson can still maintain the facade that he wants No Deal, and whilst he can point the finger elsewhere: he’s told us he doesn’t want an election and now, if the cross-party conglomerate are succesful in blocking No Deal before Parliament closes, then the finger can be pointed squarely at them.
Whatever happens next, the sad thing is that it’s too late to put all of the division, the hatred, the racism which Brexit has unquestionably stirred up back in the box.
More soon. Undoubtedly.