Listen, we’re going to have to talk about Brexit. Yes, we know there’s more pressing matters at hand, not least worrying about how on earth TFSR is going to fulfil the “sparkly” dress code brief at next week’s Christmas party, and also of course Donald Trump’s latest hand-grenade lobbed in the direction of international diplomacy (more of which later), but we’ve not had a Bumper Brexit Edition of The Friday Speed Read for a while and, frankly, the time is now.
In the early hours of Friday morning, TM the PM and David “Pour aller à le trade deal s’il vous plait?” Davis jumped on a Ryanair (not true) flight to Brussels for a spot of Christmas shopping, a few tall glasses of excellent Belgian lager and the small matter of standing next to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as he announced that sufficient progress has been made in the Brexit negotiations to move to the excitingly-named Phase 2 (coincidentally the name of a Torquay nightclub in the mid-90s) of the talks.
Phase 2 will feature discussions about a future trade deal between the EU and the UK as well as a Saturday night medley of the hits of Ace of Base and a 2 for 1 deal on WKD.
To be serious for a moment, the fact that a deal has been reached on EU citizens’ rights, post-Brexit payments to the EU and the Northern Irish border is a little bit of a Christmas Miracle on Downing Street and one that, at the start of the week, seemed as unlikely as this sentence being of a sensible length. It’s also a victory for beleaguered TM the PM who had endured the mother of all kickings from the press just a few days earlier.
Rumours emerged on Monday that agreement on the future Northern Irish border had been reached only for TM’s “friends”, those jolly folks of the DUP who maintain her parliamentary majority, to very loudly declare that there was in fact no deal. Tuesday’s front pages took a run-up and then booted the Prime Minister from all angles: “May’s push for deal ends in chaos” said the Telegraph; “Brexit divorce derailed at 11th hour”, observed the FT; the Mirror used capitals to ensure everyone understood their pun: “DUPed” it shouted and The Guardian also blamed the Ulster Unionists: “DUP wrecks May’s Brexit deal”.
We can only assume that tomorrow’s headlines are going to make more pleasant reading for TM the PM as she nurses a hangover after a massive celebratory sesh around the bars of Brussels with DD sporting reindeer ears and Michel Barnier in a jumper that plays the tune of “Oh Tannenbaum” every time someone utters the phrase “falling back on WTO tariffs”.
Away from Brexit, the other major story of the week was Donald Trump making good on a campaign promise to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and begin the process of moving the US embassy to this holy, divided and highly contentious city. This decision was taken in true Trumpian style, i.e. in defiant contradiction of pretty much everyone on the planet (save for many in Israel) who had told him that it was a terrible idea and likely to lead to violence and the metaphorical (and perhaps even literal) torching of decades of fraught diplomacy in this most unstable part of the world. TM the PM joined many world leaders in denouncing decision and the British press were largely in agreement with this sentiment, although it must be said that some were a lot more vehement in their agreement than others.
There was an unwelcome return of terrorism to the front pages on Wednesday with the Telegraph, Sun and Mirror all leading with a foiled-plot by UK-based terrorists to assassinate Theresa May in Downing Street; meanwhile on Thursday the Mirror revealed that Prince George had been “targeted by Jihadis”. In such a febrile context, you do have to wonder about the timing of new Defence Secretary’s Gavin Williamson’s comments this week suggesting that UK terrorists who’ve gone to abroad to join Islamic State should be hunted down and killed.
Elsewhere, the week has seen a whole lot of newspaper rumpus about Strictly (suspected racism, extra-marital affairs, sequins) and I’m a Celebrity (bullying, fee size, bugs) as well as the reveal that this-year’s must-have Christmas gift is a 2018 Vladimir Putin calendar. That’s right, according to Moscow’s TV5 news (and therefore guaranteed to be true) the twelve full-colour photographs of cuddly Vlad (highlights – Vlad looking at the sky; Vlad leaning back in his chair; Vlad carrying a large gun while not wearing a shirt) is flying off shelves in the UK “like hot cakes”.
One Amazon reviewer commented: “Ever since I hung this up my email isn’t working correctly – I keep having to update my password.” (We can’t match that gag so let’s move on).
Oh yes, the weather is still happening and still making front pages – here are some highlights from the week: “Arctic Freeze to Blast Back”; “90mph Killer Storm Batters UK” and “Freezing Chaos to Last Days”.
All of which gives us our best imaginary band name for a while: “Hello Wembley! We’re Freezing Chaos and we’re here to batter you with mid-tempo covers of the hits of Abba”.
Finally, Marks and Spencer has unleashed a new type of avocado that contains all the mushy green goodness of the original but without the life-baiting hindrance of inedible skin or a ruddy great stone in the middle. And thank goodness they have because we’ve had it up to HERE with preparing our own fruit (is it a fruit?); this is 2017 in case you hadn’t noticed.
Coming soon to M&S are skin-free bananas, apples that leap into your mouth automatically and self-raising underwear (of the type presumably worn by Paul Hollywood).
We’ll leave you with this gorgeous piece of animation from the BBC which has out-John-Lewised John Lewis and done so for a fraction of the cost.
See you one week closer to Christmas.