Among the array of anti-EU voices out there on the right, none has been more consistent, or indeed louder, in its desire for the hardest of Brexit options than James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole, one of a number of similarly oriented pundits given a platform at the increasingly alt-right Spectator magazine.
"Gay marriage" ... "Global warming" ... "Bird-slicing, bat chomping eco-crucifixes" ... "Red meat conservatism" ... "not bothering to check facts" ... "refusal to listen to anyone else" ... "over-confident bluster" ... "on-air humiliation"
For Del Boy, exiting the EU and having to trade on WTO rules is nothing to be afraid of. In this, he is not alone: others, among them mercenary hack and paid lobbyist Isabel Oakeshott, former UKIP Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, tedious TalkRADIO bore Julia Hartley Dooda, and whoever pens editorials for the Murdoch Sun have told anyone who will listen that having to trade on WTO terms is a wonderful opportunity.
To this end, Delingpole was allowed by the BBC to make a short film for Andrew Neil’s This Week last night, extolling the virtues of a WTO Brexit. His problem came when Neil, aided and abetted by MPs Caroline Flint and Sam Gyimah, took his claims apart in very short order indeed, showing that The Great Man didn’t know what he was talking about.
Brillo kicked off the discussion. “If we leave on WTO rules, would we then still unilaterally have zero tariffs on everything coming in from the EU, the way it is now?” This was the most gaping of bear traps - at least, for someone who did not know his subject.
Del Boy almost immediately knew he was in the poo. “I’m not sure … I just, no …”. Caroline Flint was more certain, which was not difficult. “I don’t think you can, can you … They can’t give you preferential tariffs”. What say Del Boy? “We’re going to take a hit, but it’s a hit worth taking”. Said no advert on the side of a bus, ever.
Sam Gyimah was already thinking on those lines. “Did you say that during the referendum? We’ll take a hit, and it’s a hit worth taking?” Del had another go. “Everyone out there in the country, who voted Leave, is not thinking ‘Y’know, what we really voted for was kind of half-in, half-out’”. But he was evading, and Gyimah wasn’t having that.
“Did you tell people that their jobs could be on the line? Did you tell people during the campaign? You’re saying that we’ll take a hit, as though we all take a hit … did you tell people that?” Have another try, Del. “I’m saying that you can’t leave the European Union without consequences … inevitably, like in a divorce there’s going to be issues”.
Caroline Flint decided to wade in. “You haven’t answered the question, that as far as I understand, if we leave without a deal, and then we’re on WTO rules, then we cannot be given preferential treatment in terms of any tariffs”. And then Brillo re-entered the fray.
“If we did leave on WTO rules, we would have to put tariffs in things coming in from Europe, because if we didn’t, if we continued tariff-free, we would then have to be tariff-free to the whole world. Under your WTO rules, you can’t pick and choose. If there’s no tariff on what you’re [Ms Flint] giving me, or exporting, there’ll be no tariffs on what he’s [Gyimah] doing. So if you did that, why would anybody do free trade deals?”
Delingpole was bust. He hadn’t done his homework. He was not in command of his brief. But still he continued. “That’s the base position, that’s your starting position, and [you] negotiate from there”. No you sodding well don’t. And Brillo told him so.
“President Trump has already said that he’d be happy to give us a fantastic deal” began Del Boy - the ultimate concession of defeat is to suggest anyone can trust Combover Crybaby Donald Trump as far as they could chuck him - before Neil put him straight.
“Let me just clarify this … if, because I’ve already given the Europeans no-tariff access to the British market, under your WTO rules I have to give the Americans tariff-free access as well. Why would they need to do a free trade deal? They’ve got the free trade”. Busted.
To which Del Boy could muster only a meek “I don’t know the answer to that”, to the sound of Sam Gyimah cracking up in the background. Delingpole’s performance was lamer than the lamest argument from the lame faculty at the University of Lameness.
And although there was, no doubt, much momentary hilarity at seeing another Europhobic gob merchant get his comeuppance, the thought soon entered that this bullshit could, and should, have been called out before - like before the referendum.
The public have been fed a pack of lies by not only James Delingpole, but a whole array of pundits at the Spectator (hello again Andrew Neil), the Sun, Mail, Express, Telegraph, Times and elsewhere. Know-all WTO boosters have been booked by the BBC in embarrassingly large numbers. Only yesterday, we had the head of Airbus shouted down by an anti-EU Tory MP who suggested he knew more about Airbus than its CEO.
So while it is good to see the snake oil sales force exposed for the sham it has peddled to the electorate, we have to ask why this has not been called out rather earlier. Next time one of that sales force peddles the “WTO is no problem” lie, it has to be called out. Every time. Any more gobshites who don’t really know what they’re talking about have to be challenged and exposed. And the BBC should stop treating them as credible voices.
The future of this country is not a Westminster bubble game. I’ll just leave that one there.
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