Men and women in business face many risks and hazards. Those who persist never lack the courage to tackle the big challenges. Often they can cope with adversity but sometimes they cannot avoid succumbing. The one thing business people rightly abhor, and struggle most to cope with, is total uncertainty. And the current state of non-play on Brexit brings us vastly more of this total uncertainty. The situation, with 46 days left to B-Day on March 29, leaves us all with few clues at all about what is happening and where this will land. Business people on the islands of Ireland and Britain, and beyond on mainland Europe, cannot even guess what is happening next with little more than six weeks left. This is a flagrant abuse of enterprising people and their beleaguered employees and can no longer be tolerated.
Late on Tuesday, the Labour MP David Lammy tweeted these words: “I just want to run through the corridors screaming ‘wake the **** up people’”. He’s right to feel that way. I know that British politics is meant to be conducted – by politicians and commentators alike – with polite restraint, all hints and understatement, but when madness surrounds us, then it makes sense to get mad. And make no mistake, what we are witnessing is a collective insanity. We now learn that the British army will put 3,500 troops on standby to manage the fallout from a no-deal crash-out from the European Union on 29 March. The health secretary has announced that he has become the world’s biggest purchaser of fridges, so that the UK will have sufficient storage capacity for perishable medicine. In the same vein, he has chartered a dedicated NHS plane to ensure medical isotopes – vital for cancer treatment – can be flown directly from Holland to Britain in the event of a no-deal exit.
The European Parliament has voted to recognise Venezuela's acting president Juan Guaido, and urged the European Union to follow suit. It does not change EU policy, but adds to calls for the EU executive and its member states to join the United States, Canada and Brazil in backing Guaido. Four major European member states have told Maduro to call those elections by the weekend or they will recognise the opposition-backed parliamentary speaker. The motion urges Brussels accept Guaido as "legitimate interim president of the country until new free, transparent and credible presidential elections can be called in order to restore democracy." The text was proposed jointly by the major political groups in the parliament, and backed by a 439 deputies against 104 "no" votes and 88 abstentions.
The BBC has blamed “human error” for a suggestion on its News at Six that Theresa May would be flying back to Brussels for more Brexit talks in a second world war Spitfire. But the explanation has been greeted with scepticism by some who saw the incident as an example of pro-Brexit bias at the BBC. At the end of Wednesday’s evening programme viewers were shown black and white footage of the iconic planes as newsreader Sophie Raworth summarised the prime minister’s plan to reopen Brexit talks with EU leaders. As the footage of the planes was played, Raworth read: “Theresa May says she intends to go back to Brussels to negotiate her Brexit deal but EU leaders say the deal is done and they will not reopen talks.” The editor of the programme, Paul Royall, said the Spitfire clip had been intended to be a foretaste of an item about a new Battle of Britain museum at Biggin Hill in London. In a tweet he blamed the mix up on human error and joked he was “pretty sure” that May would not be travelling to Europe in a Spitfire.
THE HOUSE OF Commons has voted to back an amendment seeking to replace the Irish backstop with unspecific “alternative arrangements”. MPs yesterday evening backed supporting new alternatives to avoid a hard border in Ireland which would ditch the backstop altogether with. [For an explainer on the backstop, click here.] Meanwhile, the EU has ruled out renegotiating the withdrawal agreement it struck with Theresa May’s government. Sabine Weyand, deputy to EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, said yesterday that Britain risked crashing out of the EU without a deal “by accident” because London can’t decide what it wants.