Wednesday 16 January 2019

Editorial: 'Gove and hague bring some sense to brexit absurdity'

Editorial

Editorial

If it's true the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humour in it, then fair play to Tory Environment Secretary Michael Gove. He skittishly compared MPs waiting for something better than Theresa May's Brexit deal to "50-year-olds at the end of the disco who have turned down all other offers and are waiting for Scarlett Johansson to come along".

Mr Gove's jape even wrung a few more quips in the same spirit from cabinet colleagues. "Or Pierce Brosnan," Amber Rudd chimed in. While Justice Secretary David Gauke suggested Labour MPs were "waiting for Scarlett... on a unicorn".

If ever there was a case of humour as the affectionate communication of insight, Mr Gove nailed it. Brexit has provoked many reactions, but laughter has not been one of them.

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It has felt like the whole union is trapped in a mood of despondency at being held helplessly to ransom by party grandees. The gallows humour of Rodney Dangerfield springs to mind: "I remember the time I was kidnapped and they sent a piece of my finger to my father. He said he wanted more proof."

If the Conservatives can find something to laugh at amid the gloom perhaps, just perhaps, we are nearing some kind of turning point. For it was also heartening to see former party leader William Hague putting some blue water between himself and Boris Johnson writing in these pages.

Mr Hague's practical common sense and honest appraisal makes for a hugely refreshing change from the diet of delusion that has dominated the Brexit menu.

In a sober assessment he argues: "It would be a very big risk for the livelihoods of a huge number of people, and if you're in government you don't subject those people to such a risk unless all the alternatives are truly terrible."

He also points out: "Major risks and uncertainty for businesses and families were not part of the promises presented to them."

Even at this late stage, with less than a week to the parliamentary vote, it would be a game-changer to focus on what is actually deliverable and obtainable as opposed to what was written in the sky by Brexiteers whose agendas and interests could never be part of an agreed script.

There has been some talk of delaying Article 50 and playing for more time. As Foreign Minister Simon Coveney put it, Ireland would not necessarily stand in the way.

However, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on a visit to Dublin yesterday was probably closer to the truth in admitting he did not really want to think about "the possibility of extending Article 50".

Should Westminster reject the deal, he added, it will be "a very difficult situation indeed". So maybe Mr Gove is right, it's time to get on to Central Casting.

Irish Independent

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