Our government’s overuse of the word ‘opportunity’ in relation to Brexit is beginning to grate. At a recent meeting of the European Scrutiny Select Committee — for which a more accurate moniker would be the European Scathing Select Committee, given how dyspeptic, hostile and Brexity it is — the question of ‘opportunity’ in brave, new Brexitannia was very much to the fore of members’ minds.
The committee is chaired by Sir William Cash — Bill, to his friends. For those unfamiliar with him, he is like a posh version of Clive Dunn’s Corporal Jack Jones character in ‘Dad’s Army’. His attitude to the EU is very much “they don’t like it up ‘em, they don’t like it up ‘em!”
Bill oozes British exceptionalism from every pore. Indeed, an overweening sense of British superiority appears to be the sole qualification for being on this committee. It is to be noted that most of the time ‘British’ in this context means ‘English’, but they will occasionally throw their arms around the devolved home nations too, when it suits their purpose.
Appearing before the committee was unelected bureaucrat David Frost, elevated to the Lords so that he can serve, in uninspired fashion, in prime minister Boris Johnson’s D-list cabinet. There, in addition to Brexit, he has nicked some roles from Michael Gove. It wasn’t so much an ideological hatred of unelected bureaucrats that drove Johnson to espouse leaving the EU then; just a common-or-garden racist hatred of foreigners in unelected positions.
“What are your top three priorities in your new roles?” asked Bill.
Frost counted off his four main responsibilities:
- managing the overall relationship with the EU (oh dear);
- conducting the effective conduct of business (is that a tautology, or does he mean he is conducting those who conduct business with the EU?);
- third-country trade issues (that’s all our trade with the EU then); and
- the opportunities (there’s that word again).
Within these various roles, his three priorities are:
- Northern Ireland
- Getting the overall relationship on the EU on a decent footing
- The opportunities
He then gave us the extra little detail that by ‘opportunities’ he meant trying to identify ways to do things differently, because he feels that is what will make the biggest difference to our economy moving forward.
At this point, I had already formed the suspicion that Frost was talking about the Singapore-on-Thames wet dream of pro-Brexit Tories. It can be summed up by this equation:
BBO = (LTE + MDfC) — (LW + NtNPS + LtNCP) = 0
- BBO is Brexit Benefits and Opportunities
- LTE is Low Tax Environment for the über-wealthy and corporates;
- MDfC is Massive Deregulation for Corporates, so they don’t have to bother about those pesky workers’ rights, consumer standards or environmental protections that get in the way of their profits,
- LW is Low Wages for poor people;
- NtNPS is Next to No Public Services for the less affluent; and
- LtNCP is Lower to No Consumer Protection.
However, there was no time to muse. Bill had perked up at the word ‘opportunity’. He was like a delirious man on his last legs, wandering in the desert in search of an oasis to quench his thirst for what seems like an eternity, and now seeing something shimmering before him.
“What specific opportunities do you hope to maximise? How do you see your contribution to strengthening the union?” asks Bill, bright-eyed at the prospect of that sunlit oasis up ahead.
“It’s a huge opportunity for the whole country and for the government to identify opportunities and move them forward,” comes the reply from Frost.
Enter the Ministry of Opportunity
What?! Has somebody switched the channel to a re-run of a Monty Python episode? You can just imagine John Cleese sitting behind a desk at the Ministry of Opportunity, spouting absurdities to a beleaguered small businessman, probably played by Michael Palin, until he loses the will to live.
“The opportunity of Brexit is the opportunity to look for opportunities.”
PALIN/SMALL BUSINESS OWNER
But what opportunities? Can you give an example?
Give an example? No. That’s your job.
PALIN/SMALL BUSINESS OWNER
It’s our job to come up with half-baked policies. It’s your job to make them work. Well, don’t just sit there snivelling. Get on with it. Right. This meeting is over.
PALIN/SMALL BUSINESS OWNER
But, but —
(herding him out of the door)
Come along now, don’t dawdle. Next!
That’s not quite how Frost put it, but he may as well have done. He claimed there are two groups of opportunities.
Ooh! Get him. Not just opportunities, but two groups of them.
How exciting. Tell us more…
- Issues already announced – genuinely reforming, genuinely consistent with deregulation and the spirit of Brexit.
- Oh. You mean ditching our farming, food and environmental standards for the sake of a paltry trade deal with Australia that will yield up to 0.02 per cent of 2018 GDP by the end of the next 15 years (if we’re lucky)?
- Whipping MPs to vote away parliament’s right to scrutinise trade deals properly so that we can’t do anything about this stitch-up?
- Curtailing our right to judicial review so that we can’t take this (or any future) government to court when its decisions inflict damage on us?
- Emasculating local democracy by centralising planning decisions away from those who have to live with them into the dirty little hands of ‘Honest Bob’, the poster-boy for property development dodginess?
- Quietly privatising the NHS behind our backs by selling doctors’ practices to US health insurance giants?
- Crushing our right to protest, so that we cannot manifest our dismay at these so-called reforms?
- That’s the spirit of Brexit as we’ve experienced it so far: leave everybody far worse off than they were before; except for those whom Emperor Boris touches with his gold-tipped sceptrum Augusti, as a sign they are to be rewarded with a non-competitive, lucrative contract by which they charge the public purse double the going rate for whatever product they fail to supply.
- Not to forget indulging Priti Patel’s favourite hobbies: persecuting refugees, bullying and breaking the ministerial code with impunity.
- Identify the next wave of things we want to do.
Ah. That’s a bit like going UFO spotting on a foggy night. Or any night, really. Enough said.
Next came the astonishing revelation that Ian Duncan Smith (IDS) and his team are trying to identify opportunities for regulatory reform.
“Obviously, we’re just beginning… We’re off on a journey to bring huge benefits.”
Here he goes again. A Tory promising jam tomorrow. They’ve been doing it for five years now. Will we never learn?
Technically, an opportunity just means an appropriate or favorable time or occasion to do something that you want or must do. However, in the English language it is a very positive word and carries the connotation of ‘a chance for greater success’. In essence, it is a positive risk – one where the outcome is favourable to you. The Tories have mercilessly dangled this woolly word before our eyes without it ever crystalising into something practical, measurable and life-enhancing. In other words, they have used it to gaslight us.
Benefits? Don’t get me started…
As to benefits — don’t get me started. ‘Benefit’ is an even more positive word, and the lies are correspondingly worse. We were repeatedly told by the VoteLeave gang, for example, that a benefit of leaving the EU was that we would be able to control our own borders. Yet we appear to be the only country in the entire world that has found it impossible to shut our borders during a lethal pandemic. That is why we did not have one covid patient zero; we had thousands of them.
In its wisdom, our government has let in 1.59 million people in the first four months of this year. Now it knew about the Indian mutation on April Fools’ Day, but resisted, resisted, resisted closing the borders until the Indian Government told Johnson not to be so daft, of course he couldn’t come on a jolly while half the Indian cabinet was covid-positive, and the border was finally closed on April 23.
That something that Bill saw shimmering before him? It was just a mirage. There are no Brexit opportunities. There are no Brexit benefits.
To be doubly sure on this point, local Devon MP Anne-Marie Morris, in the Select Committee meeting, asked the most long-winded question ever, on Brexit benefits deriving from ‘reforming’ regulation. In response, she got a huge serving of platitude pie, with no pastry, because Brexit Britain has to watch its weight, and no filling either, because this government doesn’t believe in hand-outs.
“Yeah, so I mean obviously, this process is just beginning across government, and the, you know the new committees driving this forward are just beginning their work… The whole government is mobilized … and we’re all fully behind making things happen,” waffled Frost.
“The impulsion from bodies like IDS’s committee and so on, will be important in helping us move things forward.”
In conclusion…the dead parrot
That, my friends, was the political equivalent of the dead parrot sketch. These Brexit benefits and/or opportunities are no more! They never were and they have ceased to be! They have expired and gone to meet their makers! They’re stiffs! Bereft of life, they rest in peace! If you hadn’t painted them on the side of a bus, they’d be pushing up the daisies! Their metabolic processes are now history! They’re off the twig! They’ve kicked the bucket, they’ve shuffled off their mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!!
THIS IS AN EX-BREXIT BENEFIT AND/OR OPPORTUNITY!!
We’ve been listening to this nonsense for FIVE YEARS. To mix my metaphors, opportunity is not knocking for Brexit Britain. Nul points for David Frost.