10 December 2018

As No Deal approaches, the Government must start treating us like adults


If no deal was such a catastrophe, why isn’t the Government preparing for it like a catastrophe?

Theresa May seems to have painted her government into a corner where it’s trying to convince MPs and the voting public that a no-deal scenario is one with catastrophic implications that are, however, not worth making serious preparations for. A curious position indeed.

Let me paint you a picture of a hypothetical scenario. Imagine, if you will, that our government tells us there is a catastrophic outbreak of flu on another continent which poses a very real threat to the people of the United Kingdom should it ever land on our shores. Now imagine our government tells they are working very hard to make sure it doesn’t land here, but also that apart from a few technical notices, it makes no serious preparations for the likely situation that the infection spreads to the United Kingdom.

Ask yourself, how seriously would you take the threat? If you do take the threat seriously, what do you think about the competence of a government whose preparations do not match their words?

Whilst, not a perfect analogy, I think this illustrates the vast chasm between the government’s rhetoric and action. No-deal Brexit seems to be a cataclysmic event that the government seems to be preparing for with a shrug. Is it any wonder voters do not take the Government’s warnings seriously?

Cabinet ministers and May loyalists have ramped up the dire warnings. Food and medicine shortages, a drop in GDP, hard borders, terrorist attacks, conquest, war, famine and death – all are apparently looming on the horizon unless MPs get behind.

What they think will scare the public into backing the Prime Minister’s deficient deal, will only make the public realise that the executive has neglected their duty to adequately prepare for an outcome that was clearly a distinct possibility for anyone who has been paying even the slightest bit of attention to how the whole process has been playing out.

Ironically, had the Government made serious preparations for a no-deal scenario, Mrs May would almost certainly have been able to come back with a more palatable deal that wouldn’t need to rely on apocalyptic warnings and threats to get past the House of Commons.

One gets the sense that Number 10 is hoping that the public sees no-deal, and the obstructionists who are enabling it, as an existential threat to our country. In their glorious, stubborn wisdom, the British public refuses to have their opinion dictated to them by people with fancy titles.

Let’s be very clear, people will blame Mrs May and her government for not preparing for a very likely scenario. Not the EU, not the referendum, not Boris, not the bus, not Aaron Banks, not the Russians. People will blame the Prime Minister and her government. That’s because the British people realise that no-deal is only a catastrophe if the government has failed to properly prepare for no-deal.

It is time for the Government to start treating us like adults. They should either match their actions with the rhetoric by seriously ramping up no-deal preparations or tone down their rhetoric to match the lacklustre approach to no-deal preparations.

Decisions taken in the next few months have a significance that will echo through time, shaping the destiny of our country for decades, if not centuries. History will not look kindly on a government and a Prime Minister that failed to prepare for a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.

Verster du Plessis is deputy chair political for Kingston and Surbiton Conservatives and works in corporate communications.