The game of Brexit chicken

Waikato Times - - Opinion - Gwynne Dyer Daily Tele­graph: Gone With the Wind

There’s no need to prac­tice bleed­ing, as the sol­diers say, but the British gov­ern­ment didn’t get the mes­sage. Last Mon­day, it paid 89 truck-driv­ers £550 each ($930) to sim­u­late the im­mense traf­fic jam that will hap­pen in Kent if Bri­tain crashes out of the Euro­pean Union with­out a deal at the end of March.

The driv­ers had to bring their ve­hi­cles to Manston, a dis­used World War II-vin­tage air­field in Kent, where the gov­ern­ment is plan­ning to park 4000 big trucks if a ‘‘no-deal Brexit’’ on March 29 leads to new cus­toms checks on trucks head­ing for Europe.

Ev­ery ex­tra two min­utes’ de­lay at cus­toms, say the ex­perts, would mean an­other 15km of trucks backed up on the roads lead­ing to the crossChan­nel ter­mi­nals.

So the driv­ers parked their trucks on the air­field, then drove down to the port in con­voy while the traf­fic-con­trol ex­perts mea­sured . . . what? This wasn’t the 10,000-truck grid­lock jam­ming the roads that might hap­pen in late March. It was a sin­gle file of 89 trucks driv­ing se­dately along an un­crowded road. It looked like an ex­er­cise in pure fu­til­ity, a Potemkin traf­fic-jam.

Yet it did have a ra­tio­nal pur­pose – a po­lit­i­cal pur­pose. It was be­ing staged to per­suade the British pub­lic, and es­pe­cially the British par­lia­ment, that Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment re­ally will take the United King­dom out of the EU with­out ANY deal if par­lia­ment does not ac­cept HER deal.

May’s deal is al­most uni­ver­sally dis­liked. The Re­main­ers hate it be­cause they don’t want to leave the EU at all, and the Brexit hard-lin­ers in her own party hate it be­cause it keeps Bri­tain too closely tied to the EU.

Never mind the de­tails – they are al­most the­o­log­i­cal – but the up­shot is that May can­not get par­lia­ment to pass the exit deal she made with the EU, which would at least keep the trade flow­ing. She just doesn’t have the votes. And she can’t get the EU to amend the deal ei­ther.

The op­po­si­tion to her deal in par­lia­ment is so strong that she can­celled a sched­uled vote on it a month ago be­cause she was bound to lose it. She is now com­mit­ted to hold­ing the vote on Jan­uary 15 – but she still doesn’t have the votes. So she is threat­en­ing to jump off a bridge, and take ev­ery­body else with her, if they don’t back her deal. It has be­come a game of chicken.

The cha­rade in Kent is part of a gov­ern­ment show-and-tell cam­paign to prove that she re­ally means it.

So are the pre­dic­tions that the chaos at the Chan­nel ports will be so bad that Bri­tain will have to char­ter planes to bring scarce medicines in, and that su­per­mar­ket shelves will be bare (Bri­tain im­ports 30 per cent of its food from the EU), and that zom­bies will rule the streets. (I made that one up, but you get the pic­ture.)

The prob­lem is that no­body be­lieves her. May has ma­nip­u­lated the par­lia­men­tary rules and sched­ules to make it ap­pear that there are no le­gal al­ter­na­tives ex­cept her deal or a cat­a­strophic nodeal Brexit, but she just doesn’t con­vince as a sui­cide bomber.

In­deed, there was a vote in par­lia­ment last Mon­day night that blocked the gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to make tax changes con­nected with a nodeal Brexit with­out par­lia­ment’s ‘‘ex­plicit con­sent’’.

That doesn’t ac­tu­ally mean that it can­not hap­pen, un­for­tu­nately. Par­lia­ment can block her deal, but un­less it can agree on some other course of ac­tion Brexit hap­pens au­to­mat­i­cally on March

29 – with­out a deal. And that re­ally would be nasty. How nasty? Wil­liam Hague, a for­mer leader of the Con­ser­va­tive Party, summed it up well in the

‘‘I don’t know what will fol­low a re­jec­tion of [May’s] deal . . . a con­sti­tu­tional sham­bles, a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum sham­bles, a nodeal exit sham­bles, a Cor­byn [Labour gov­ern­ment] sham­bles. I just know that it will be an abysmal sham­bles.

‘‘Peo­ple who say that the deal is the worst of all worlds haven’t un­der­stood how bad things might get,’’ Hague con­cluded. As May her­self ad­mits, a no-deal Brexit is ‘‘un­charted ter­ri­tory.’’

So what will re­ally hap­pen when par­lia­ment starts vot­ing later this month?

There will al­most cer­tainly be more than one vote, as the 650 mem­bers of the House of Com­mons, no longer con­strained by party loy­alty – it’s too im­por­tant for that – swing this way and that.

But there may not be a ma­jor­ity for any spe­cific course of ac­tion, in which case par­lia­ment will prob­a­bly end up vot­ing for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

May has sworn that she will never al­low that, be­cause it would be a be­trayal of the 52 per cent who voted ‘‘Leave’’ in the first ref­er­en­dum in June

2016. But in the end she prob­a­bly will al­low it, be­cause she is not a sui­cide bomber. Ted An­thony’s de­pic­tion of Hatty McDaniel’s char­ac­ter in as a happy slave who adores her mas­ters is a trav­esty. It is un­likely that some­one whose own par­ents were born into slav­ery would play the char­ac­ter like that. Mammy is quite ca­pa­ble of speak­ing her mind and show­ing dis­ap­proval and fre­quently does both. And for some­thing like half the film, she is free. Her char­ac­ter has depth and wis­dom and won the ac­tress an Os­car. She is known to have said that she’d rather play a maid for $700 a week than be one for $7 a week. She also asked if peo­ple ex­pected her to play the glam­our girl and sit on Clark Gable’s knee.

‘‘I don’t know what will fol­low a re­jec­tion of [May’s] deal . . . a con­sti­tu­tional sham­bles, a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum sham­bles, a no-deal exit sham­bles, a Cor­byn [Labour gov­ern­ment] sham­bles. I just know that it will be an abysmal sham­bles.’’ – Wil­liam Hague

The films Glory, Cold Moun­tain and The Beguiled were set dur­ing what war?

In Bri­tain, what do the ini­tials NHS stand for? If your lug­gage tags dis­played the code let­ters LHR, what air­port would you be fly­ing to?

Who or what is PSV Eind­hoven?

Jes­sica, an in­stru­men­tal tune by the Allman Brothers Band, was the theme for what pop­u­lar BBC tele­vi­sion se­ries?

How many United States states have names that start with ‘‘South’’?

El­iza Doolit­tle was a char­ac­ter in what play by Ge­orge Bernard Shaw?

What fa­mous New York build­ing sits on 6.5 hectares of land pur­chased in 1946 with a do­na­tion from phi­lan­thropist John D Rock­e­feller?

A cusec is a mea­sure­ment of what?

The al­bum Johnny’s Great­est Hits, re­leased in 1958, spent 490 weeks on the Bill­board chart. What was Johnny’s sur­name?

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