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The current state of Brexit reminds me of John Cleese minus the laughs

2 0 0
19.03.2019

In his 1986 film, Clockwise, John Cleese’s doleful character got to the point a few decades in advance of the Brexit tragicomedy. “It’s not the despair,” moans Brian, whose life disintegrates as he tries to get to Norwich in time for a conference. “I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.” Impeded by diversions, reversals and acts of the unsparing gods on the railways and motorways, Brian is reduced to a victim of circumstances, wondering how an orderly life veered into the realms of the absurd.

Brexit has now entered the Clockwise phase, in which every glimmer of hope of reasonable resolution is duly buried under an avalanche, just when things were looking up. This time last week it was Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, phrasing his legal advice on the Irish backstop, after the Prime Minister negotiated a tweak with the EU in an attempt to bring the DUP onside to support her deal and peel away Eurosceptic resistance in her own ranks.

Whether or not this had much hope of success, it was clumsily undermined by Cox, whose phrasing of his legal opinion was guaranteed to kill off any progress. Now it is the turn of the Speaker, John Bercow, to play the part of the Greek Furies, with his ruling yesterday that blocks Parliament from being asked to vote again on the same issue (Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement) in a single session.

All of this is convention and interpretation (inevitably under an unwritten constitution). And ultimately, as this newspaper has........

© Evening Standard