HENRY DEEDES: PM looks giddy as he brandishes Brexit deal
HENRY DEEDES: As he brandished his Brexit deal, the PM had the giddy look of a child – mid-sugar rush – itching to open his stocking
There he stood in front of a brightly decorated tree, somewhat flustered and doggy-chopped, his mouth slightly crooked, caught somewhere between smirk and smile.
It was obvious he wanted to appear magnanimous in his hour of triumph but the eyes betrayed him.
With Boris, it’s always the eyes. Buried deep in their sockets they twinkled mischievously like two bulging comets exploding across a clear night sky.
Christmas Eve and in his highly personal video address to the nation, the Prime Minister bore the giddy look of a child, mid-sugar rush, just itching to delve into his stocking.
The Prime Minister bore the giddy look of a child, mid-sugar rush, just itching to delve into his stocking. After 1,646 days since the UK voted to leave the European Union, the deed was done
And, frankly, who could blame him?
In his hands he clutched a ‘small present’ filled with ‘glad tidings of joy’, something he promised would bring ‘certainty to business and travellers’.
It was a heaving, groaning 2,000-page trade deal forged only hours earlier, as that puff of white smoke finally billowed across the Brussels rooftops.
Yup, that’s right. After 1,646 days of agonised wrangling since the UK voted to leave the European Union, the deed was done.
The ‘oven-ready deal’ the PM had promised us had now become ‘the feast – and full of fish!’
Naturally he made light of it. Passed it off as a cinch. The weighty document, he said, would make ideal reading for a ‘sleepy post-Christmas lunch moment’.
What a peppy tonic this message was. For so long during this pandemic we’ve grown used to a forlorn figure delivering his daily deluge of horror.
Plus there’s always a danger during these landmark announcements of coming across like a self-important blowhard.
Shortly before 3.30pm, the PM took to the Downing Street lectern and declared the new dawn we had been waiting for
Instead, Boris chose to mark this crossroads moment in our island’s history by treating us to a much-needed cabaret act.
Here was the old Boris. Fizzy. Playful. A tad goofy.
He acknowledged we had been robbed of our traditional Christmas ‘full of crackers and snogging under the mistletoe’. And left us in no doubt that tough times lie head.
But for now. Brexit? Mes amis, c’est fini. Oh, how we’d been made to wait though.
Excitement had built steadily since Wednesday evening but by lunchtime on Christmas Eve we were warned that negotiations were in danger of spilling over into Christmas Day.
Amazing how the prospect of having disruption to their yuletide claret gargling can focus those Eurocrats’ minds.
Shortly before 3.30pm, the PM took to the Downing Street lectern and declared the new dawn we had been waiting for.
He announced he had struck ‘a great treaty’ which allowed the UK to ‘take back control of our destiny’.
From now on we would be able to set our own laws, our own regulations. At long last, we would now be free of jurisdiction from the dreaded European Court of Justice. Strike up the Elgar!
By Boris’s low sartorial standards, he almost looked presentable. His suit was only mildly crumpled.
Around his neck was a haphazardly arranged tie adorned with fishes. A little nod to us regaining control of our waters? Naturellement.
By contrast, the four union flags arranged behind him looked as though they’d been starched and ironed by a Sandhurst cadet.
Was this his finest hour? I would say so. When you think of all the doubters, all the naysayers who taunted him that a deal couldn’t be done.
But once again, like some jammy last-minute reviser, the PM had yanked a Christmas miracle out of the bag.
Say what you like about this shambolic, exasperating and unreliable man, betting against him on the big occasions remains a lousy strategy.
Yet there was no strutting. No cocky victory dance. Instead he struck a conciliatory tone. He was emollient, diplomatic.
No mean feat considering the unseemly fish slapping he received over dinner from the EU’s courtly chief Ursula von der Leyen only two weeks ago.
Boris admitted our relationship with Europe had often been ‘fractious and difficult’. Not ‘arf! But we were bound together ‘culturally, emotionally and strategically’.
To our erstwhile European brethren he insisted: ‘We will be your friend, your ally, your supporter.’
Was this how they saw things over in Brussels? At the Christmas Eve briefing the mood over there was, if not entirely sombre, certainly more sepia-tinged.
Frau von der Leyen gave a dignified speech in which she professed no joy, only relief. ‘Parting is such sweet sorrow,’ she opined ruefully. Classy.
One can’t imagine her thirsty predecessor Jean-Claude Juncker being quite so graceful.
Next to her stood her chief negotiator Michel Barnier, the ultimate EU bureaucrat shuffling forlornly like someone whose girlfriend had given him the heave-ho on New Year’s Eve.
But for Boris, this was his crowning moment. As he wrapped up his speech at No 10 on Thursday, he told us he had solved the question which had ‘bedevilled British politics for years’.
It was now up to us ‘to realise the immensity of this moment and to make the most of it’. He couldn’t resist a dig at us lizards in the media.
‘That’s the good news from Brussels – now for the sprouts!’ he joked. ‘Er, sorry the Press.’
Ho, ho, ho. Considering the kicking he’s endured this year from us I think we can take that one on the chin.
Someone asked how Sir Keir Starmer should vote when the deal appears before Parliament next week.
‘Of course he should vote for this excellent deal!’ Boris chortled, flashing another fangy grin.
You felt he was looking forward to that encounter when Parliament convenes next week.
And then he was off, one would have hoped, to a glass of something cold and crisp and possibly very dry from the Downing Street refrigerator.
No sooner had the PM left, those Remainiac woodpeckers were already looking to peck holes in the deal.
Nicola Sturgeon stepped back from trussing her goose to demand another independence referendum.
Meanwhile, Nigel Farage sucked his gums and insisted he could have got a better result.
But for most of the country, you suspect, the overall feeling was one of relief. Brexit is done. Hallelujah!
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