Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, has speculated that there might be “a special place in hell” for those people who promoted Brexit without having “even a sketch of a plan” for how to deliver it. If he is right, who is most likely to end up roasting in the eternal fires?
David Davis: An ardent Brexiter from the first hour, Theresa May’s bluff and blustering first Brexit secretary was nonetheless so blissfully ignorant of the EU’s workings that he promised, a month before the referendum in June 2016, that Britain would be able to negotiate individual trade deals with Germany, France, Italy and Poland (the EU, as the government has since learned, negotiates collectively). Within minutes of a vote for Brexit, Davis predicted, German CEOs would be “knocking down Chancellor Merkel’s door demanding access to the British market”. Davis also reckoned that within a couple of years, “before anything material has changed, we can negotiate a free trade area massively bigger than the EU”, blithely assuring the House of Commons in October 2016 that there “will be no downside to Brexit, only a considerable upside”. If you have “a good eye and a steady hand, it’s easy enough”, he said.
Boris Johnson: One of the prime promoters of the sunlit, unicorn-rich uplands that await once Britain has freed itself from the shackles of an EU on the brink of collapse, the former foreign secretary pledged Brexit would permit “continued free trade and access to the single market” while allowing the UK to “take back control of huge sums of money, £350m a week, and spend it on our priorioties such as the NHS”. The cost of leaving “would be virtually nil, and the cost of staying would be very high”, he observed during the referendum campaign. And of companies’ more practical concerns about the possible impact on their bottom line, he reportedly observed: “Fuck business.” Brexit, Johnson proclaimed – quoting Shakespeare’s Brutus – was a time for Britain “not to fight against the tide of history, but to take that tide at the flood and sail on to fortune”. [Continue reading…]