CHRISTO­PHER BOOKER THE LAST WORD

If the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions are a game of chess, Theresa May is dan­ger­ously close to check­mate

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Back Page -

Two years ago, af­ter Theresa May’s fate­ful de­ci­sion that she wanted us not just to leave the EU but to shut our­selves off from “fric­tion­less” ac­cess to the ex­port mar­ket which pro­vides one pound in ev­ery eight we earn as a na­tion, I wrote that we seemed to be em­bark­ing on a game of snakes and lad­ders where we were de­ter­mined to avoid ev­ery lad­der that might help us to climb the board to­wards the de­sired goal, and to seek out ev­ery snake which would slide us back down again to square one.

An­other sport­ing anal­ogy since used by oth­ers has been that which chess play­ers call zugzwang. This is where a player reaches a po­si­tion where any sub­se­quent move will be dis­as­trous for him.

Such is the po­si­tion we have boxed our­selves into to­day, where MPS are this week faced with a choice be­tween the devil and the rag­ing sea. On one hand our MPS can vote for a deal im­posed on us by the EU, which would leave us much worse off than we are now. On the other, we can drop out of the EU with “no deal” for what Mrs May only coyly calls “un­charted ter­ri­tory” al­though she must now re­alise this would be a far greater dis­as­ter than her own “bad deal”.

The real prob­lem, of course, is that our politi­cians have got them­selves into such a hope­lessly ill-in­formed mud­dle that there is no longer a Com­mons ma­jor­ity in sup­port of any next move we might make. The var­i­ous vo­cif­er­ous fac­tions all know what they are against, but they can­not agree on any pos­i­tive move that might dig us out of the gap­ing hole they have all un­wit­tingly con­spired to get us into.

We still hear one lu­natic fringe claim­ing that, if we leave with­out a deal, we can some­how just rely on those fa­bled “WTO rules”. In my view that op­tion doesn’t ex­ist – with the WTO merely pro­vid­ing prin­ci­ples, which can only take force when used to shape a for­mal trade agree­ment.

An­other bunch clam­ours ever more loudly for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum, which would take months to set up and plunge the coun­try into an even more toxic state of chaos than it is in al­ready.

For two years these groups have been tear­ing them­selves apart over one lit­tle bub­ble of make-believe af­ter an­other, to the point where we now seem be slid­ing by de­fault to­wards the worst pos­si­ble op­tion of all: an eco­nomic, so­cial and po­lit­i­cal catas­tro­phe far greater than most peo­ple have yet be­gun to imag­ine, as we shall only dis­cover when it hits us.

The fault for this lies squarely with our en­tire po­lit­i­cal class. Locked away with the me­dia in their West­min­ster bub­ble, they never be­gan to un­der­stand the re­al­ity of what we were up against, and how much of this mess could sen­si­bly have been avoided. One can­not think of any time in his­tory when the stand­ing of Bri­tish politi­cians, ei­ther with the pub­lic at large or in the eyes of the out­side world, has ever – quite de­servedly – been lower.

De­spite his un­nerv­ing re­sem­blance to a mad bull ram­pag­ing through a china shop, there have been ma­jor po­lit­i­cal is­sues on which, in his will­ing­ness to defy pre­vail­ing lib­eral group­think, Pres­i­dent Trump has got it hero­ically right, and for good rea­sons.

One was his de­ci­sion to pull the US out of that make-believe event, the Paris cli­mate ac­cord, be­cause he recog­nised that, for all the self-de­cep­tion of the West, the rest of the world, led by China and In­dia, never had any in­ten­tion of re­duc­ing their CO2 emis­sions. An­other was his de­ci­sion to pull out of the equally fraud­u­lent nu­clear deal with Iran, which never in­tended to ob­serve it, and only used the West’s un­freez­ing of the coun­try’s as­sets to fi­nance its role as the ma­jor spon­sor of ter­ror­ism and desta­bil­i­sa­tion all across the Mid­dle East.

But the mad­dest thought ever to en­ter Trump’s wild and whirling head was his ob­ses­sion with build­ing a wall along the Mex­i­can bor­der. So long as he stuck with it, this seemed more than any to be the is­sue which would fi­nally catch him out.

The Democrats in their own way may not be any bet­ter than Trump. But in those dis­mally de­grad­ing scenes in Wash­ing­ton and the Oval Of­fice we are look­ing at the be­gin­ning of the end of eas­ily the odd­est Pres­i­dency in Amer­ica’s his­tory.

We now seem to be slid­ing to­wards the worst op­tion of all

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