Of all the chicanery surrounding Brexit, my favourite example yet is the ferry company without ferries. The Government is handing £13.8m to this company in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Hey, I don’t have any ferries either, but I am happy to accept a government grant to help import Spam or whatever we are going to be living off.
In June 2017, while grimly electioneering, Mrs Maybe told a nurse who’d not had a pay rise in ages that there was no magic money tree. Then she stumbled on a whole forest of magic money trees. She first entered that munificent wood to find a billion to bung to the stern men and women of DUP; and that deal to keep her government afloat was only the start of it. Just how much is Brexit costing us?
Now Mrs Maybe seems to have magicked up fourteen million quid to give to Seaborne Freight, a firm lacking the means to carry any freight.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling blithely brushed away a question about this largesse on the BBC Today programme the other morning, saying that it was right for the government to support small business.
Ahem, how does a ferry firm without the means to float anything help in the event of a no-deal Brexit? It pledges to hire some ships, that’s how. Another bit of magical Brexit thinking.
This story took a bizarre twist yesterday when it emerged that the freightless freight firm appeared to have copied the terms and conditions on its website from a pizza company.
Part of the text on the website read: “It is the responsibility of the customer to thoroughly check the supplied goods before agreeing to pay for any meal/order.”
Perhaps Failing Grayling – for variety’s sake, let’s call him Flailing Grayling instead – was ordering a pizza when he came across the company. And maybe he didn’t notice that £13.4m was on the steep side for a margarita. Or maybe that’s just London prices for you.
Joking aside, and maybe humour is all we will have left by April, Theresa May’s approach to Brexit is to bore everyone to submission or death, or whichever comes first. She is aided in this joyless journey by an opposition that doesn’t do much opposing when it comes to Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn has his own complications. He has always claimed to be beholden to his party members. Now that those self-same members appear to be favouring a second referendum, Corbyn is doing the deaf ear trick.
And here’s another grumble. Before Christmas Corbyn demanded a no confidence vote in Theresa May; and where did that get him? Nowhere, but it did stiffen Tory sinews.
All of which leads to this thought: is politics the right way to untangle ourselves from the Brexit thicket? Party politics got us into this mess; mostly Tory party politics, although plenty of Labour-supporting areas voted Leave.
Just imagine if we could all agree to look for the best non-partisan escape from a no-deal Brexit. It won’t happen now, but the two-and-half years spent squabbling without getting anywhere could have been devoted to setting up a citizen’s assembly, like the one assembled in Ireland before the abortion vote.
That way we may have found a non-political solution to what is very much a political problem.