Brexit trade talks: a prediction

UK – We don’t like our deal

EU – Why not?

UK – We only get 95% of what we want

EU – It only gives us 95% too

UK – We want a new deal that gives us 100% of what we want

EU – But that means we only get 90% of what we want

UK – Yes, but we don’t care. We hate you.

EU – Bit rude

UK – We elected people to go to your meetings specifically to say we hate you

EU – We noticed

UK – So we want a new deal, and we want the deal in 11 months or we cancel our existing deal

EU – Wait, what?

UK – We’ve put it into law: you give us 100% of what we want in 11 months, or we walk away with 0% of what we want

EU – Er… suits us!

UK – Wait, what?

EU – Perfect. Do it. Walk away

UK – No, hold on, wait: you have to negotiate, so Boris can win

EU – Why? Right now you have 95% of perfect, and we have 95% of perfect. If we negotiate, you get 100% and we get 90%.

UK – That’s right

EU – But if we don’t negotiate, we still have 95%…

UK – Woah, hold on

EU – … and you have 0%

UK – But… no, you’re not meant to say that!

EU – And if we don’t have a deal, we don’t have to put up with you sending people to our meetings to say you hate us

UK – The Daily Mail made us do it and then ran away!

EU – So we’ll just sit it out for 11 months

UK – Fine, we’ll go and make a great deal with the US

US – Yo suckers

UK – Could we have a trade deal please, sir?

US – Sure thing. We want 100% of everything, plus 51% controlling share in the NHS, and you get, let’s see… 60% of what you have now

UK – Not good enough

US – Bye

UK – What?

US – Bye. Talks are over. Bye

UK – But we haven’t got a deal!

US – We are 26% of world trade, making deals with EU (20%) and China (17%). We don’t need your 1.8%.

UK – But we really need a deal, the EU outsmarted us

US – We know. Some of us can read. Not Trump, obviously, but the rest of us. Try India

UK – Hi India, remember us?

India – Oh fuck, these guys again

UK – We want a trade deal

India – And we want to vastly increase the number of Indians who can live in the UK

UK – We can’t do that. Turns out we’re, like, properly racist

India – That is brand new information!!

UK – So can we have a deal?

India – Sure. Join the queue

UK – Who’s in the queue?

India – USA, China, Brazil, EU, Korea, Canada, Australia… basically everybody. We’re kind of a big deal now.

UK – So you’ll be ready to negotiate in, what: 11 months?

India – Ha ha ha ha ha

UK – What did we say?

India – 11 months? Try 11 years. This shit takes ages, bro

UK – But we had a timetable of 11 months with the EU

India – And how did that work out?

UK – Erm…

India – Try China

UK – Can we please have a trade deal?

China – Sorry, who are you?

UK – We’re Great Britain

China – Great, you say?

UK – Well… once

China – It’s not ringing any bells. Do you have another name?

UK – United Kingdom

China – United, you say?

UK – Well… once

China – So you want a trade deal?

UK – Yes please

China – Why did you cancel the one you had with the EU?

UK – We couldn’t deal with foreigners telling us what to do

China – So what do you want?

UK – A deal

China – With who?

UK – Foreigners

China – And why can’t you get one?

UK – Cos we don’t know what to do

China – Did somebody drop you as a child?

UK – We just want a trade deal worthy of our status

China – You’ve got one

UK – No we haven’t

China – Yes you have. With the EU. You don’t need to renegotiate your trade deals: you need to reassess your status. Cos you’re not a mighty nation, you’re a small, wet, heavily indebted island on the edge of a globally important trading bloc… which you left, you goons

UK – So, what do you suggest?

China – Aw, mate. You already know …

EU – Hello again. Here to rejoin?

UK – Yes, and on the same terms as before.

EU – Oh, I don’t think so, sunshine. Say goodbye to your rebate, hello to the Euro, and bonjour to the Schengen area. You are so dumb.

UK – We hate you


Today is #WorldKindnessDay, and what an absolutely terrible thing it is.

Today, on World Kindness Day, 590,000 Britons rely on Foodbanks, and I just spent £19 on a bottle of wine for the weekend.

I probably deserve to be slapped more than any living human. After reading parts of this, you may decide I need to be kicked too. Form an orderly queue.

But if you’re a typical Briton, you probably just spent £3.50 at Costa, and maybe another couple of quid on a blueberry muffin to nibble. You probably do it daily. Five quid, just for a comfortable lunch for yourself.

Maybe another couple of quid for a chocolate bar on the way home, or a beer after work.

£3 to upgrade your Netflix to a very marginally higher resolution.

£20 a month on coffee pods that taste pretty indistinguishable from coffee from a jar, but have the added advantage of make your kitchen worktop smaller and less useful.

None of these things make you a bad person. They don’t make you unkind. They are normal – certainly more normal than a £19 bottle of wine.

These are the tiny things we do to make life feel better. Most of us don’t even think about it: we pitch our small extravagances to our own budget, and whether it’s a blueberry muffin or a bottle of Dom Bouchie Chatellier Pouilly Fume, we make ourselves believe it is normal and fair. We don’t think about it until somebody makes us.

Sorry: I’m here to make you. The eternally wonderful Michael Carty made me think about it, the bastard, and now I’m passing on the misery. Happy World Kindness Day.

This year, in the world’s 7th richest economy, just one of the many charities for the poor will hand out 1.2 million food parcels for families who can’t afford to feed themselves.

That’s just one provider. There are hundreds doing this work. There are millions dependent on it. You don’t know them, cos they can’t afford WiFi and they don’t have phones. They don’t pop into the pub and tell you about it. They aren’t in your office. They aren’t at your child’s recital. They aren’t visible in your social circle, because they have so little that even food is often beyond them.

And, by extension, food is beyond their children too.

But it’s not just food. That’s the urgent need, of course: but those who find themselves experiencing the sharp end of austerity politics also need the small comforts that make life bearable.

They need a toothbrush and a comb. Tampons. New socks without holes in them, and maybe some handwash. Their kids need a selection box at Christmas, and a toy.

You may sit in your warm home with your clean clothes and your brushed teeth, and protest that a selection box for a child in abject poverty isn’t a need, but if you think that, you’re a monster.

We have to help. Stop arguing: we just do. These are human beings.

Two years ago I was working in an office with 150 people, and on the way into work I read in the paper about the urgent need for donations to the local foodbank.

Almost all of my colleagues were on higher than average wages. It was an IT business, and every person there was lucky to be born with whatever the hell it is that makes IT people operate the way we do: a hundred years ago we would have been useless to man and beast, but by 2017 we were being showered with money for pushing a few bits of data around in a computer.

And it sort of sickened me. I sickened myself, with my posh wine and decent shoes; and although I was taking a bus to work, and hadn’t had a holiday for 2 years, I knew without doubt I could afford to give.

So I decided to cause some trouble. I briefly considered going via the official HR channels, but I knew it would take a month, and Christmas was coming, and I thought: sod it. I bypassed official channels, sent a direct email to every employee telling them that I was coming to their desk at 11am, and they had better give me £5 each for a foodbank, or I wanted to know why.

I got really bollocked. I can’t even tell you how bollocked I got.

But I also got £980 in cash, in one morning, from a bunch of genuinely generous and thoughtful people. Many gave £20. One guy gave £68, as I remember, which was every single penny of cash he had on him.

I sent £800 of the takings to The Trussell Trust and, with a couple of sympathetic colleagues (none of whom were from the HR Dept), I borrowed a van, took it to the nearby Tesco, and bought an absolutely huge amount of stuff, which I delivered to a church hall in Macclesfield, then left before it got embarrassing.

You wouldn’t believe how much you can buy for a fiver. I’m the sort of pretentious arsehole who spends £19 on a bottle of wine, and I have to confess that it’s been several years since I’ve looked at the price of any item I bought in a supermarket. I’m extremely lucky. I know I am. But this time I got close, looked hard, and found every bargain I could.

Even in Tesco – and I’m sure there are cheaper places – for £5 I could buy either:

  • 22 tins of beans
  • 10 tubes of toothpaste
  • 15 packets of chocolate buttons
  • 10 bottles of washing up liquid
  • 7 pairs of socks
  • Or 8 kilograms – I mean it – 8 kilograms of pasta

A fiver isn’t much. OK, I admit it: it might be a lot for you. It’s a lot for millions of us. But for me it’s not much. I know I sound like a complete dick, and I’m prepared to take all the mocking you want to dole out.

But for almost everybody, a fiver isn’t much. Not between now and Christmas, when the need becomes greatest.

This is why the charming, delightful and spectacularly irritating prick in my conscience Michael Carty is running #fivequidfoodbank.

So please, forego the Costa and blueberry muffin. Do without a chocolate bar on a couple of nights. Buy cheaper wine, cos you’re a bloody working-class knob from East Manchester, and can’t tell the difference, so who the hell do you think you’re kidding.

And spend that money on those in desperate need.

Today is World Kindness Day. And it’s awful that we need to be reminded. And it’s awful that it’s only one day.

But today, for one day, be kind.


The exploits of Boris Johnson

You can’t call them achievements. They’re exploits. As in: you’re being exploited by the character of Boris Johnson, a man who is – genuinely – our Prime Minister.

The more you know about him, the more you’re sure he should be in prison.

I fully expect to add to this on an almost daily basis.

  1. Spread the lie about EU law on straight bananas
  2. Spread lie about EU banning prawn cocktail crisps
  3. Invented lie about EU introducing mandatory smaller coffins
  4. Invented lie about EU demanding plastic wrapping around kippers
  5. Lied that 80 million people from Turkey would come to UK if we didn’t leave EU
  6. Then lied that he’d lied about Turkey
  7. Sacked from The Times for inventing a quote then lying about having invented it
  8. Found guilty of misrepresenting facts by IPSO
  9. Sacked from Tory front-bench for lying about an affair
  10. Accused of misuse of public funds, and possibly corruption, because it appears he gave £126,000, for no valid reason, to an American lady he boasted he was having an affair with
  11. Recorded discussing a plot to break a journalist’s ribs and give him “a couple of black eyes” in a conversation with his friend Darius Guppy, a convicted fraudster
  12. Referred to Commonwealth citizens as “picaninnies“, racist term for black children
  13. Described black people as having “watermelon smiles
  14. Forced by Telegraph to apologise for describing the people of Papua New Guinea as “cannibals”
  15. Suggested reinstating British control over former colonies – essentially restarting The Empire
  16. Campaigned to have a deal before we leave the EU, and to stay in the Single Market


  1. then sacked 21 of his own MPs, including the longest-serving MP and Winston Churchill’s grandson, for voting for exactly what his leaflet promised – get a deal before we leave the EU, and to stay in the Single Market
  2. Wrote offensive poem about the President of Turkey, then “apologised” to him by complimenting his washing machine
  3. Questioned the repeal of the ban on producing information about homosexuality
  4. As a journalist, wrote an article scoring delegates to the Labour Party conference on his “tottymeter
  5. Said “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts
  6. Described gay men as “bum-boys
  7. Said “Islamophobia — fear of Islam — seems a natural reaction
  8. Wrote that the UK must accept that “Islam is the problem”
  9. Referred to Muslim women as looking like “bank robbers” and “letter-boxes”
  10. Blamed Hillsborough on Liverpool fans, then described the victims as “whingeing scousers”
  11. Found to have broken the Ministerial Code by failing to declare income
  12. Said Libya could be the new Dubai if they “clear the dead bodies away
  13. Recited racist colonial-era poem in Buddhist temple, and had to be stopped and castigated by the British Ambassador
  14. At the World Islamic Economic Forum in London in July 2013 said that Malaysian women only attended university in order to find husbands
  15. Got a British Citizen, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, jailed in Iran because he made a false statement about her
  16. Bought water cannon that are illegal to use in the UK at a cost of £218,000. They were sold for scrap, unused, for 3.4% of their cost
  17. Increased rough-sleeping by 130% when he was Mayor of London
  18. Spent £53m on a garden bridge that had absolutely zero construction done.
  19. As Mayor of London, spent £60m on a cable-car – the most expensive ever built – that has an average of 4 regular users
  20. Claimed he had introduced Oyster cards. They were introduced 5 years before he became Mayor
  21. Falsely claimed he had made serious youth crime fall, when Met figures showed the opposite
  22. Promised £350m a week for NHS, a lie, which the UK statistics authority says is a “clear misuse of official statistics” (at time of writing, owes the NHS £58.7 billion)
  23. Had police called to his house during his actual job interview as PM
  24. Refused to take part in any debates when campaigning to become PM
  25. Said “fuck business” when presented with concerns about Brexit
  26. Refuses to admit how many children he has
  27. He isn’t even called Boris. His friends and family call him Al. Boris is a character he plays for your entertainment.
  28. Broke the law by illegally proroguing parliament to shut down debate
  29. Broke the record for the most parliamentary defeats in a day, then next day, broke it again
  30. Has been accused of 2 acts of sexual misconduct. Entirely coincidentally, he has said investigations into accusations of sexual misconduct were “spaffing money up the wall
  31. Called himself The Hulk because he wanted to appear tough, then refused to take part in a press conference because he might be jeered at
  32. Lied, on camera, about there being no press present when confronted by a distraught father in a hospital
  33. Said, on camera, that claims of death threats against female PMs were “humbug
  34. Days later, denied that he had said death threats against female MPs were “humbug”
  35. His own brother resigned because he said Boris’s government was against the national interest
  36. His own sister says he is “highly reprehensible
  37. Made an undertaking to the Scottish Courts that he would abide by the law. Less than 4 hours later, tweeted that he wouldn’t. So he’s either lying to court or lying to the public.

Climate change

Built of an unsailed warship;
Grown of a door that will now never open;
Made of a cluster of courage unshown,
the oak hangs, ancient, in the orange air.

The summer storm is over now, boiled to nothing by a rage of sun that once warmed me.

By my side Baxter sags back home.
His heart, like mine, is a begging bowl.

But still the noise: within a canopy heavy with wet sorrow dew, rain taps on, hidden from all.

Baxter feels it, and stands askew by my side.

The climate of my life has changed. This oak cracks in the heat, and must remain at a stand.

Weep: it’s our next Prime Minister

Current candidates for Prime Minister are:

1 Boris Johnson

Artfully dishevelled tribunal-magnet whose ego can be seen from Venus. Caught on tape conspiring to break journalist’s ribs, up in court for electoral fraud, and described as the worst and laziest minister in modern history. Obviously: favourite.

2 Dominic Raab

Dead-eyed “shifty colonel” straight out of central-casting, who resigned in protest at his own achievements, and whose remarkably honest pitch is to abolish parliament and become a dictator. Makes 72-year-old Tory youngsters briefly moist, and they love it.

3 Michael Gove

Haunted Pob action-figure with suspiciously powdery nostrils. In a crowded field, also described as the worst minister ever, but is considered relatively progressive because he once grudgingly agreed that burying the planet under plastic bags might damage profits.

4 Penny Mordaunt

Magician’s assistant, working class person’s best guess at what “gymkhana” means, and possible minor Addams Family character. Primarily famous for not being as ludicrous as Gavin Williamson, and her ability to swear for 37 minutes without repeating herself.

5 Andrea Leadsom

Successful conscience donor, effortlessly terrible melted waxwork of Thatcher and – lest we forget – handsomely beaten in the last leadership election by the most inept PM for 100 years, where her pitch was “vote for me, I’m fertile”. Was 53 at the time.

6 Jeremy Hunt

A Picture of Dorian Gray if Dorian Gray was a venomous Murdoch apparatchik bent on auctioning your health to… I’d like to say the highest bidder, but he’s not that competent. Third of the pack to be described as worst minister ever.

I had 7 attempts to type his name in a way that wouldn’t get me suspended from social media

7 Rory Stewart

Undoubtedly the smartest, but still dim enough to join in this fiasco. Has the bearing of a man who phones in sick because he went out in the wind and got a runny eye.

8 Sajid Javid

Feral gonad who ejaculates raw ambition, and will let babies die in a refugee camp to please the Daily Mail. So ruthlessly efficient he reused most of his first name for his last name. The other 3 horsemen of the apocalypse can’t fucking stand him.

9 Esther McVey

Physics-defying vacuum which actually repels ideas. Breakfast television’s loss is also everybody else’s loss.

10 James Cleverley

One-man campaign to disprove nominative determinism, who actually gave up his leadership ambitions when he realised – and you should read this out loud, cos it’s amazing – that he’s considered less capable than McVey.

11 David Davis

Not standing, to be honest, but I listed him to afford me the opportunity to say: David Davis, so good they named him once.

12 Sam Gyimah

Filibustered to block pardons for gay men, filibustered to stop the teaching of first aid in schools, made up lies about censorship in universities. In other words: perfect Tory material, except black and a Remainer, and therefore toast.

13 Matt Hancock

The answer to the question: whatever became of the volleyball from that Tom Hanks On A Desert Island movie? His passport photo is the curtains behind him. His x-ray says “404 error”.

14 Steve Baker

Complacent cyborg created from bits of old psychopath in a socialist laboratory, and designed to say ludicrous things that turn the world against capitalism. Went rogue. Now says ludicrous things of his own devising.

15 Mark Harper

Some are born obscure. Some achieve obscurity. Some have obscurity thrust upon them. For Mark Harper, it’s all three. You will forget Mark Harper exists by the time you’ve finished this sentence.

The winner will be selected by membership of a party that gets more donations from dead people than live ones.

120,000 will be able to vote, or 0.2% of the electorate. Their average age is 72, and 20% of them voted for a different party last week.

The loser, obviously, is you.

This is hysterical

When my dad reached 65, the whole family, plus dog, went on holiday as his retirement gift.

We were a working class family from Manchester, and even though dad was a highly skilled engineer who had worked on missile systems and the world’s first supercomputer, he never received the kind of salary that bought international travel. That’s how much we valued the manufacturing sector in my dad’s day. Plus ça change.

So as a treat, we flew him to Edinburgh, carefully coordinated our journeys so one of us could meet him there in a rented people carrier, and then we spent the week touring The Highlands, as he’d always dreamed of.

We had rented a quiet cottage near Ft. William, settled in, had a few drinks, and went to bed.

That was 30th August 1997. I can be sure of that date because, in the small hours of the next morning, Princess Diana died in Paris.

I remember my mum waking me with the news. I got dressed, and stood in the cottage’s small lounge with my family, watching the rolling news for half an hour. It was sad.

And then we made sandwiches and set off on our holiday.

When the week was over, the cottage owners arrived to collect their keys, and were in tears, which stunned me. “What a terrible time to have a holiday”, they said, while we shuffled our feet and looked around awkwardly. “It must have been awful for you”, they said, and we looked at each other, puzzled, because we’d sort of… well, we hadn’t forgotten about it, exactly, but…

Diana and all her attendant dramas were, for me and my family, like a soap opera we didn’t watch. To be honest, we didn’t watch any soaps – we were a bookish, nerdy kinda family – but we definitely didn’t watch royal soaps.

Obviously we knew who the main cast-members were, but we didn’t care very much about them. We didn’t follow the details of who was shagging whom; didn’t care what Major or Butler or Celebrity Gal-Pal had sold what story to what tabloid; didn’t notice how tragic the eye makeup had become during any specific skiing holiday.

I felt no emotional connection to Diana. I wished her no harm whatsoever, but she didn’t enter my consciousness very much. I don’t buy tabloids, I tend to skip celebrity gossip, and I’m vaguely republican in a shrugging “does it really affect me” kinda way. To this day, I genuinely have to concentrate to remember which one of “the boys” is heir to the throne and which is only tangentially related to Charles. I know they’re called Harry and Wills, and I recognise their faces, but their names are interchangeable in my mind.

Diana was as important to me as, say, John Lithgow is to you. You are aware what he does, he seems quite nice, and you’d be surprised and saddened if he was killed by a roaming gang of photographers in a Parisian underpass one Saturday night. But that’s as far as it goes.

So the blubbering reaction of the holiday cottage landlords a week after her death perplexed me. I assumed they must be particularly ardent royalists, or have, to a crippling degree, some sort of congenital emotional diarrhoea. But this was just a taste of the ocean of histrionic slurry awaiting me as I drove back to Manchester again, on the day of her funeral.

The world had gone fucking mad.

Perhaps you still admit to being one of the lunatics, in which case you’re rare, and this blog will infuriate you. Sorry about that.

But I maintain you’d lost your collective minds. Literally millions of people were stood on the streets wailing and rending their clothes. I saw them actually tearing at themselves in grief, on streets in Eccles, for Christ’s sake. Lairy Mancunians called Gaz, Gaz and Gaz, with faces like a knuckle and knuckles like a ball-pein hammer, sobbing en-masse outside the Pig and Fetlock.

On arrival home, my neighbour, a man I scarcely knew, ran from his house in his underpants to throw his arms around me and cry, while I stood patiently holding my suitcase and wanting a wee. It was as if every single person in Britain had been given a puppy for a month, and then had to watch it being fed backwards, alive, through a bacon-slicer one morning, and I’d turned up just as the procedure was ending.

It bore no relationship whatsoever to the actual event, which in essence was: the pretty star of a popular reality show died in a car accident, and then show was unceremoniously cancelled while you were asleep.

Great for the press, though. Sold a lot of newspapers. The BBC’s Jennie Bond must’ve had a field day.

Could the insane coverage perhaps explain the insane public response? Hmmm, I wonder.

It’s possible I was always going to be immune from the cataclysm of weeping that descended over the nation, due to being a bit of a geeky cynic; or perhaps my family was like the guy in Day Of The Triffids, and our isolation from events during that critical week left us the only ones unaffected by the blinding meteor shower of Dead-Diana-Mania.

But today, I meet almost nobody who admits to being swept up by it all. Sad, sure. But hysterical? Nobody I meet was hysterical. Yet at the time, millions were.

Globally, 2.5 billion watched the funeral. Literally half of the people in Britain watched it, and almost a quarter of us had to take time off work due to the grief.

So surely at least one person in 10 would today admit to being part of the festival of sobbing. But no: practically everybody seems to remember their husband, wife or friends being overwhelmed, but they themselves were models of British dignity, detachment and reserve.

I report this because in my life I remember two instances of mass hysteria, and two instances of mass political protest. And, like a Venn Diagram, mass hysteria and mass political protest overlap in Brexit, right now.

The hysteria is Diana. The protest is Iraq. The cause, with Brexit, Iraq and Diana, is wildly inaccurate and demented press coverage.

54% of us supported the invasion of Iraq a month or so before it started. Today, 38% remember doing so. The war was built on lies, had no plan for what happened after victory, was widely predicted to be a disaster, stoked by loathsome right wing press, secretly promoted by even more loathsome American right-wing pressure groups, opposed by almost every expert, brought millions of protestors onto the streets, nearly broke the governing party, and revolted most of Europe… but scraped together a tiny public majority at one key moment, which then fell apart during implementation.

Good job we’ve learned our lesson, eh? Won’t make that mistake again.

Brexit feels like a cross between the manufactured consent of Iraq and the manufactured hysteria of Diana. And just like them both, Britain is already feeling embarrassed that it got so carried away and has been taken for such a fool. Our cynicism for Britain’s press knows no bounds 99% of the time, but come a war, come a celebrity death, or come a chance to feed our 1000-year-old suspicions about the bloody French, and we’ll lap up any bullshit The Daily Mail spoonfeeds us.

It’s time to slap ourselves in the face, realise the bollocks we’ve just fallen for, and stop this demented moment of collective hysteria. Cos tomorrow, you’ll deny you were ever taken in: but like Diana’s untimely death, Brexit is permanent.

Brexit cannot break the Iron Triangle

In all the chaos surrounding Brexit, I keep coming back to the same, simple fact: this is essentially a basic failure of project management.

Experts are out of favour right now, but what I’m about to tell you is not expert knowledge: it’s something you instinctively do every day, but perhaps don’t have a name for.

But in Project Management, something I did for 22 years, there is a name for the decisions we all make: The Iron Triangle.

I’ve managed projects to deliver everything from air-traffic control software to stock management and distribution for the world’s largest toy manufacturer. I’ve worked on software for Intel, Microsoft, international charities, hospitals, pension services, banking and warehousing.

At the start of any project, I would draw this diagram. It’s called The Iron Triangle because it has three points, and describes an absolutely unbreakable rule: you can only have 2 things from the Iron Triangle.

Never all three. All three is impossible.

I would show this to the client, and ask: which of these three things do you want to sacrifice.


The reason you can’t have all three is simple: imagine you have a project to build and launch a spaceship.

You can have the spaceship quickly and cheaply: but if you do, we have to reduce the number of things it does. There won’t be enough time or money to do everything.

This is sacrificing quality.

You can have the spaceship cheaply, and with all of the promised qualities and components (speed, payload, safety, etc). But “cheaply” means we have to employ fewer engineers, and can’t invest in the latest tools, so it will take three times longer to complete.

This is sacrificing schedule.

Or you can have your spaceship with all of its qualities and components, and very fast: but that means we have to throw thousands of engineers at it; pay overtime; invest in the latest time-saving gadgets. And that means it will be very expensive.

This is sacrificing price.

I’ve described a complex project: building a spaceship. But the same rule governs something as simple as building a shed in your garden. If you want it cheap, you have to make it yourself, and that means it takes time, because you’re not an expert carpenter. If you want it fast, you can pay an joiner to build it, but that costs more. If you ask your mate Dave to do it, because he’s free on Sunday and has a drill and a book on woodwork, it might be quick and cheap. But the quality will suffer.

You may not have heard of The Iron Triangle, but in every aspect of our lives we make these decisions constantly: price, speed or quality.

The fundamental problem with Brexit is not that it’s impossible: nothing is impossible, and if Remainers tell you it is, they’re not being honest. Of course we can leave the EU. Obviously we can.

But we cannot leave the EU on the basis it was sold to us.

The entire Leave campaign was built around the promise that leaving the EU would be fast, cheap, and give you all of these benefits. It was politically expedient to tell you that, and it won the referendum: but it’s false. And voting to build a spaceship (or deciding you need a shed) is nowhere near as complicated as actually doing it. So at this stage, it really doesn’t matter who won the referendum. I know Leave won it. I’m not arguing about that: what matters is how to deliver it.

We have experimented for 2 years with breaking the Iron Triangle – and this should not shock anybody who has ever attempted to build a shed – we have found it cannot be broken. The lie underpinning Brexit still needs to be resolved.

Theresa May’s deal attempts to resolve it by sacrificing quality. She offered Brexit cheap and fast, but only by slashing away at the things the project was intended to deliver.

And Leavers hate it.

Remainers have repeatedly explained the costs of Brexit, and the price Britain will pay in jobs, investment, cuts, debts, tax increases, security, the NHS, or any combination of those things.

And Leavers hate it.

And finally, there are moves in Parliament to extend the schedule, so we can attempt to meet the quality and price requirements.

And Leavers hate it.

Leavers hate these things because nobody has told them that they have to make a choice. The “what do you want to sacrifice?” question I asked of clients at the beginning of a project was always difficult; but failing to have the conversation made everything far more difficult later. Theresa May should have told voters the truth from the start. She should have set up a cross-party group to find solutions, and she should have set them the task of explaining The Iron Triangle to the public, and ascertaining what the public actually wanted to sacrifice, so we all knew what to expect.

But she didn’t, because she’s a terrible leader who isn’t honest with the public, the press, her party or – probably – with herself. Jeremy Corbyn didn’t explain the Iron Triangle either, for the same reasons. In fact, I can’t find any example of a politician or journalist explaining this, possibly because not one of them has any experience of actually doing this shit.

Avoiding awkward conversations is not leadership: it’s the abdication of leadership, and it’s been going on for far too long in a crisis that is both highly predictable (most people predicted a crisis from the beginning) and highly unpredictable (you can predict chaos will occur, but not what form that chaos will take).

We have no option now but to ask “the client” to choose what to sacrifice. And “the client”, in this case, is the Leave-voting public. We’ve tested to destruction the theory of delivering three mutually incompatible things, and all we’ve found is that it’s impossible – which we knew from the start, but kept on pretending. And now we’ve got even less time and money than when we started, and the question still needs to be faced. The difficult conversation with the client must happen.

It’s your project, Leavers. And this is your Iron Triangle: so it’s up to you to decide what to do.

If you’re a Leaver and are reading this, you may have decided that you want all the qualities you were promised, and don’t want to pay more tax or lose your job: so you’ve decided to extend the schedule. That’s the decision I’d make too, if I was forced to pick a form of Brexit. We don’t have money to sacrifice, not by a long shot; and a limited Brexit has already been rejected by everybody Theresa May has asked.

But there’s really no time-limit on Brexit, except a random one we decided for ourselves. Schedule is the thing that’s easiest to sacrifice.

(Although one year won’t do it: if we need to train to replace the 10,000 EU doctors and 60,000 EU engineers and computer scientists that we rely on every day, we need to start training 11 year old British kids right now. We don’t even have the teachers or schools to do that; by the time they’re qualified, we’ll be able to leave the EU with minimal cost and disruption; so we should plan to leave the EU in 15 years, not 15 months).

But even if you make the choice to sacrifice schedule, at best only 1 out of every 3 Leave voters would agree with you.

Others would demand we leave with all the bells and whistles in 60 days, regardless of cost. Some would insist Brexit should be fast and cheap, and they’re prepared to give up some of the promises made. And obviously, many would completely fail to agree with the premise of The Iron Triangle, and continue to vote for the impossible, then blame reality for being treacherous. As a vocal Remainer on Twitter, I bump into these people constantly, and frankly I’ve given up attempting to reach them. If you want Brexit, it’s your job to reach those people. They simply will not listen to Remainers.

You may not want a Second Referendum, and I don’t blame you for that. It has the potential to be incredibly divisive; and as the question is currently framed, I’m not convinced it will resolve anything.

But the only way to decide which impossible, Iron-Triangle-Breaking part of the Brexit promise we sacrifice is to ask the public.

A People’s Vote could specifically ask voters to choose:

  • Leave the EU now, based on Theresa May’s deal (sacrifice Quality)
  • Postpone Brexit to give us more time to prepare (sacrifice Schedule)
  • Leave at once with no deal (sacrifice Price)
  • Remain in the EU (decide the project is pointless if it doesn’t deliver those impossible promises, and cancel it)

There’s no avoiding this. The decision about the Iron Triangle will happen, whether you vote on it or not. Either we have another referendum and the public decides, or Parliament makes the decision, and you end up feeling cheated.

Or, as is increasingly and terrifyingly likely, the decision is made without any control by anybody – not you, not me, not MPs, not Theresa May – as we crash out without a deal. And that’s the equivalent of the spaceship crashing into a mountain 10 seconds after lift-off: it will be the only impact big enough to shatter every corner of the Iron Triangle, costing us vast amounts of money, a generation of time, and every aspect of our quality of life.

And nobody voted for that.