By Chris Allnutt
We cannot even pay businesses to stay in the UK. Last week it was revealed that £80 million worth of government support couldn't convince Nissan to manufacture its new X-Trail vehicle in Sunderland. It's just the latest grim benchmark in a Brexit process which deteriorates further every day into pork-barrel politics and dodgy dealings.
The £1 billion bung offered to the DUP set the tone for this path of greased resistance, as the branches of the magic money tree were miraculously extended to prop up a weakened Conservative party. It was astonishing. In the run up to the country's most important negotiations for a generation, Theresa May showed she was willing to shell out £100 million for the talents of Nigel Dodds and Sammy Wilson.
And she is now pursuing that strategy wherever she can. A controversial knighthood for Brexiteer Sir John Hayes in November had already attracted criticism, followed by a gong for Sir John Redwood in the New Year – not that the latter appears to have helped her.
And now reports have emerged that May approached Labour MPs about increased funding for their constituencies in exchange for support in the next Commons vote. It's unclear whether the prime minister has run out of Tory backbenchers to bribe or she simply can't tell the difference between the two sides on Brexit.
To be clear: money that hasn't previously been made available to address regional inequality is now being offered with strings attached – strings that the government's own impact assessments say will hit areas like the North East and Midlands the hardest.
As for the untold sums already spent on No Deal preparations, it speaks volumes that the best case scenario sees the wasted money as nothing more than an expensive appeasement of hardline Eurosceptic MPs. Because if we do crash out, it'll be a drop in an ocean painfully devoid of working ferries.
Against an ever-expanding backdrop of dark money and spending violations that continue to marr the original decision to exit the European Union, May is still pushing for Brexit at any cost. But it doesn't even work. She can't even bribe it through. It's hard to know whether we should be reassured or horrified.
It's a kind of unparallelled incompetence. This deal is so manifestly disliked that incentives need to be issued in the first place, and so damaging that the incentives don't actually outweigh the potential losses.
If the government spent half as much effort negotiating and preparing Brexit in good faith as it has encouraging politicians and companies to get behind the deal, we might not be weeks from tumbling out of the EU on non-existent terms.
We're trapped on the island of broken promises and the deal on offer solves nothing. It delivers neither clarity nor closure. The government has been reduced to spilling bundles of cash in a last ditch attempt to get over the line – with no certainty as to what awaits us on the other side.
We are staggering blindfolded towards a Brexit no one voted for, silenced by those who know leaving is no longer the will of the people. We should call things by their proper name. That smell is the stench of corruption. It’s time to think again.
Chris Allnutt is a campaigner for Our Future, Our Choice. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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