John Downing: 'Big truck 'war game' at Dover adds farce to B-Day build-up'
Supporters said the Dover trucks "war game" was supposed to be a practical exercise in planning for the worst. Critics dubbed it just another off-shoot of "Project Fear" by so-called "Remoaners" who failed to adequately scare voters into voting against quitting the EU in June 2016.
The reality is that the exercise, where a large phalanx of trucks parked up at an old airport some distance from the mammoth Port of Dover, and then diverted back to it using side roads, was dubbed something of a farce. Kindest estimates by the truckers' representatives was that, barely 11 weeks from 'B-Day' on March 29, this was too little and too late.
Transport representatives were not impressed with efforts to manage an expected enormous truck queue on the English side of the ferry crossing points. That is expected when French customs officials step up controls to protect the EU single market if a no-deal Brexit happens.
Less than two hours' drive to the north-west, assuming a road not congested by trucks stranded by a Brexit-driven hold-up at the English Channel, Theresa May was having one of her busiest days at work in London. After she launched a new 10-year plan for the NHS, which pledged to save an extra half a million lives, she was back at her Downing Street HQ preparing drinks and nibbles for a group of Tory MPs who had already astonished her with advance delivery of their ingratitude.
Many of these recalcitrant Tories had already made it clear they were not for turning when it came to their deep-seated opposition to their party leaders' draft EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement. A post-holiday glass of wine and some nibbles were not going to lead them on the road to Damascus.
It is now expected the Westminster ratification vote, postponed on December 10, will happen on this day next week, January 15, or the following day. It will be lost on that day. Then it will very likely be rerun a fortnight or three weeks later. What would have changed by then?
Well, perhaps very little indeed. But there could be helpful words from the EU to reinforce major falls in the value of sterling.
Such EU words of comfort would additionally clarify that the British general backstop, and the specific Northern Ireland backstop, are not really intended for use. And in extremis any backstop would be temporary.
There may be additional encouraging words about the mutual EU and UK intent to conclude a good EU-UK post-Brexit trade relationship as soon as possible. There may even be some talk of instruments to give legal status to political guarantees from Brussels and the other EU capitals.
Ample precedents, on the use of international law in this regard dating back to 1992, can be drawn on to make this last point more forcefully.