BREX FACTOR: Cash-in merchants facing a bonfire of the Brexit vanities
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Steve Anglesey on the commemorative tat celebrating Brexit and the Brexiteers of the Week.
'A delay to Article 50 is not inevitable,' declared the soothsayer Liam Fox the other day, prompting Expedia's servers to crash as scores of political journalists began searching for 'cheap holidays around March 29'. If Mr Easiest-Deal-In-Human-History says something is on schedule, you can bet it will arrive sometime after the sixth Game of Thrones novel, the third Stone Roses album and a coherent Labour disciplinary process on anti-Semitism.
Danske Bank now puts the chances of an Article 50 extension at 85%, while punters on Betfair say the likelihood of an on-time Brexit is just 18%. While this might sound like 100% good news for Remainers, spare a thought for the British industries who will suffer as a result.
From signed photos of nicotine-stained man-frog Nigel Farage to yellow safety jackets with 'Brexiteer' on the back, there's a large amount of commemorative Brexit tat available on Amazon and Ebay. And a subset of it is emblazoned with the day on which we are supposed to leave the European Union, which for Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay's information is March 29 (in a select committee late last year he put it at March 31).
If Theresa May's deal fails to pass and we have to ask the EU for more time before it fails to pass again, what will happen to the beautifully-crafted keyring emblazoned on one side with 'Brexit 29.03.19' and on the other with a fitting quote from Sun Tzu's The Art Of War: 'In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity'? Will it end up in landfill with the 'Happy Independence Day 29th March 2019' enamel Brexit badge? Or will it be hastily rewritten to read 'In the midst of chaos, there is also Chris Grayling'?
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What will become of the numerous March 29 t-shirts, with slogans proclaiming 'Happy Brexit Day' and the like? Some manufacturers have established a recycling system where merchandise made for the losing teams in, say, the Super Bowl is immediately shipped to areas of natural disaster or poverty in order to clothe the desperate.
So it is possible that one day in the future, a refugee may land his or her dinghy in Dover after a perilous journey of thousands of miles and walk towards our friendly immigration officers while sporting a 'British Independence Day 29/3/19' hoodie.
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- 10 Roman Kemp: Depression and coping with George Michael's death
The biggest potential loser in all this, however, is the Royal Mint. Last October, they unveiled a new 50p Brexit coin, to be released in the following spring and to be etched with the message 'Peace, Prosperity and Friendship with all nations' – the words 'except you EU gits' apparently did not fit.
Unluckily, it was also designed to display the date March 29, 2019, which perhaps explains why it has yet to appear in circulation.
So what happens now?
A spokesman for the Royal Mint told The New European that 'we cannot share any information with you at this moment in time due to this information being under embargo'. Asked when the embargo would be lifted, they replied: 'Unfortunately, we cannot disclose this information with you at this moment in time.'
This cloak-and-dagger stuff does leave the nagging doubt that, on top of all the other needless Brexit expenditure, we are about to scrap and recast millions of 50p pieces because Theresa May is a rotten prime minister who couldn't get a rotten deal to enforce a rotten referendum past her rotten party.
And how are the Royal Mint supposed to afford this latest Brexit meltdown? After all, it's not as if they have a licence to print money...
One of life's great mysteries is why, despite a CV resembling the closing minutes of Avengers: Infinity War, people continue to ask Iain Duncan Smith his opinion on things.
The architect of the bedroom tax and disability support cuts, so bad at being Tory leader that Michael Howard was thought to be a better bet, he lumbered back into the Brexit debate with a Telegraph article entitled 'British governments have lied about the EU for decades. This deal is the final deceit'.
The D-word was used four times in his piece, with IDS accusing successive administrations of 'a collective deceit' and a 'habit of denial and deceit'; and demanding that 'Brexit should signal a return to honest politics.'
Readers with long memories might recall that soon after Duncan Smith was elected Conservative leader in 2002, it was revealed – contrary to claims in his biographies on the party's website – that he had not attended the University of Perugia in Italy. In fact, he went to a language school in Perugia where he took a short course in Italian but did not finish his exams and obtained no qualifications.
The website also boasted that IDS was 'educated at Dunchurch College of Management'. This turned out to be a staff college for his former employers GEC Marconi, where he attended six separate courses over several years, each lasting no more than a few days each.
Returning to the present, Duncan Smith popped up on Bloomberg TV this week to claim: 'If you look at the polling it's quite clear that the vast majority want to get out now, even if they voted Remain, and just get on with it… All the polling tells us categorically – and the same in my constituency – that the majority are happy to get out without a withdrawal agreement, that gets the highest scoring of the lot.'
In fact, the last six national opinion polls to have asked about Brexit find Remain winning by an average 53%-47%.
As to 'the vast majority want us to get out now', YouGov's latest poll (fieldwork February 22-23) shows only 19% believe leaving without a deal would be a 'good' outcome, with a further 13% rating it an 'acceptable' and 54% calling it a 'bad' outcome. Many more people support a Norway-style deal (26% good, 23% acceptable, 30% bad) and staying in the EU after a second referendum (39% good, 7% acceptable, 41% bad).
Now, what was that about a 'habit of denial and deceit'?
Brexiteers of the Week
4) Chris Grayling
The minister predicted in February 2016: 'It's not us that loses financially if we don't have a free trade agreement, it's Germany and France and other European countries, and that's why of course there will be a free trade agreement that allows all our business to trade freely to and from continental Europe. It will take a relatively short period time in my view because they lose financially.'
Luckily enough this was a rare misstep from Grayling, whose subsequent career has been smooth and gaffe-free. Apart, that is from the rail electrification farce, the timetable cock-up, the drone fiasco, the Seaborne Freight debacle and the Eurotunnel catastrophe.
None of this you would know from the MP's website, which features in its 'latest news' section the revelation that he 'has become the new 'Species Champion' for the UK's native hedgehog'. How long before the spiky critters are extinct?
3) Nigel Farage
A big week for the NSMF, who launched the 277-mile March To Leave before it was revealed that he wouldn't actually be marching all the way. 'His full involvement cannot be divulged,' said a spokesman, blaming 'security' issues.
'Core marchers' will have to stump up £50 to get close to Farage, but those who want to get even closer can opt for gold tickets to his gigs in Hull and Durham in June. Just £220 guarantees you a private meal with Nigel, during which he will whip out his tongue to catch flies, mosquitoes, and moths while you enjoy scampi and chips.
Let's hope these events are every bit as successful as Farage's dates in Australia last year, which saw him draw fewer than 500 people to the 2,500-capacity Brisbane Town Hall and his Sydney gig get downsized to a smaller venue with less than half the tickets sold, despite the Tix.com website offering seats at 40% discount.
2) Esther McVey
An unexpected highlight of the March To Leave video came when the former work and pensions secretary was supposed to rail against 'all of the melee in parliament – the bickering, the navel-gazing and trying to reverse the referendum result'.
Except what the Tatton MP actually said was 'nasal-gazing'.
An innocent error? Or is finally recognition from Esther McVey that after 'inadvertently misleading' the House over universal credit and feeling she had the right to object to a lowering of the minimum stake for fixed odds betting terminals despite having accepted hospitality from a bookmaker, she really gets up people's noses?
1) Sam Allardyce
Big Sam's 67 days in charge of England shows that he's a master of the quick exit, so no surprise to hear him ripping into Theresa May's handling of Brexit.
Allardyce told Talksport's Mike Graham that he admired Donald Trump's way of doing things, claiming: 'He has done more for America than we could ever imagine, in turning their economy around.
'Their economy is booming. And we are making a complete and utter mess, looking so stupid at the political level, it is embarrassing. It is embarrassing with what we are doing with Brexit.'
During his managerial career, Allardyce once told a reporter: 'There are scientists who will tell you that spirit, because it can't be measured, doesn't exist. Bollocks. It does exist.' Sounds like a 'people have had enough of experts' man to us!
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