At the end of another long day that has changed absolutely nothing, all that can be known for certain is the following:
Some people walked through some doors. Some people banged on some walls.
Most of those people are idiots. The rest are psychopaths.
These, really, are the only uncontested facts. Apart from the fact there hasn’t been a Brexit deal. Everyone knows that. But did anyone, really, expect any different?
Walking through doors and banging on walls days used to be rarefied things in Westminster. They are the days when Tory prime ministers go and address private meetings of their backbench MPs, and try to convince them everything’s going to be fine.
The seated ones bang at their desks. The standing ones bang on the walls. On the other side of the wall, dozens of journalists interpret the tone and timbre of the banging for meaning, like Darkness at Noon in lanyards.
Then they argue with each other on the internet about who knows what about what’s been said inside.
The only thing that can be known for certain is who walked in and out of these rooms, in pursuit of a Brexit deal that still hasn’t been done. The stakes being played for in these rooms are high – all of our little lives and livelihoods – yet the people playing with them could scarcely be lower.
The country’s economic future, waiting around for sign-off by Mark Francois. He bobbed and weaved his way up to the Number 10 door in the mid afternoon as if ten minutes late for Pie and Pint night in Wickford Wetherspoon* (*there is no Wickford Wetherspoon currently, but Francois is personally lobbying for one).
What was said behind that door we cannot know. We can only know that the country cannot move forward without Mark Francois’s say-so. A man whom three years ago his own next door neighbour might not have ever heard of, now rendered a household name by Brexit, or to give it its working subtitle: The Insatiable Rise of The Idiot.
In and out with him went chief self-appointed spartan Steve Baker, wearing an open-necked shirt.
It’s hard to know whether this was a deliberate choice, to treat viewers of the news channels to a flash of his small crucifix, as a reminder of a well worn story around Westminster. More than one person claims to have seen him, on more than one occasion, undo his top button, press said crucifix to his lips and declared that Brexit, “is for him! It’s for him!”
So yes, psychopaths and idiots. And on that subject, next in and out were the ladies and gentlemen of the Democratic Unionist Party.
Their Brexit spokesperson, Sammy Wilson, didn’t think the deal on offer was good enough for the unionists of Northern Ireland.
“The UK and the EU are about to find out what the Good Friday Agreement means,” he said.
At what point Mr Wilson himself found out what the Good Friday Agreement means is not immediately clear, as by the time of that historic day in 1998, the DUP had already walked out, having refused to sign up to it.
Northern Irish politics is extravagantly complex, but what is a simple fact is that the DUP want a hard Brexit but no hard border.
It is an unsolvable problem for somebody else to solve, their role being to sweep in periodically and say ‘no’ to the latest extravagantly complex attempt to meet their impossible demands. The stages of evolution to find their unicorn first involved Theresa May placing a traffic cone on a donkey. Now it’s been painted white, sprayed in glitter and Iain Duncan Smith is said to be exploring “technological solutions” on how to bestow it with the gift of flight but it still won’t do.
In the mid afternoon, Boris Johnson went in to a meeting of backbench MPs. He told them he was not yet at the summit of Everest. “We are the Hillary Step,” we are told, he said.” The summit is still shrouded in mist.”
It is hard to know which is the more unfortunate aspect of this particular metaphor. Is it that “Mount Everest, the mountain every man wants to climb” is how he once referred to his technology instructor Jennifer Arcuri?
Is it that the final ascent from Everest’s famous Hillary Step to the summit is strewn with frozen corpses that are too dangerous to recover?
Or perhaps it’s that the Hillary Step, at which Boris Johnson now claims to be standing, was destroyed in an earthquake four years ago?
It’s none of these things, really. It’s the sheer ingenuity of likening Brexit to an ascent of Mount Everest. On the unlikely chance we do indeed make it to the top, Cummings, Gove Johnson and co will pause and breathe in the wonder of their stunning achievement. And then it will be a matter of seconds before it is stunningly obvious that it’s absolutely terrifying up here and if we don’t get down right away we’re all going to die.
At time of writing, customs is the sticking point. How do you keep the Irish border completely open, and still somehow prevent people who want to dodge paying VAT (ie the entire population) from driving goods across it?
The short answer remains the same as the long one. It can’t be done. If it could be done, Norway and Sweden would have done it years ago. It can’t be done.
There remain various types of Brexit. Some will persuade Labour rebels, like the return of the so-called “Level Playing Field” on workers rights and protections, but they appal the ERG in equal measure.
The whole thing is Johnson running up and down over the fulcrum between Brussels and Westminster, and side to side between various commons factions, trying to balance a T-shaped seesaw that simply cannot be held steady.
No one knows what is coming in the coming days. No one is even sure if the House of Commons special Saturday sitting will even happen. At one point, on Wednesday morning, it looked like the very same people who took the government to the Supreme Court for shutting down parliament were themselves planning to have it shut down on Saturday, in case it voted for something they didn’t like.
Oh well. Who even cares anymore? It’s all auto-ironic now. All the rest of us can do is hang about, watching the doors shut, listening to the walls bang, waiting for the idiots finally to give their stamp of idiotic approval to the single stupidest thing any once sensible country has ever done.