EQUIVOCATION

Walking away with No Deal:

A short practical lesson in equivocation by Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee. (BBC Radio 4 ‘Any Questions’ 18-01-2019)

# in the case of the sort of transaction described in this 30″clip, No Deal refers to a return to a status quo, to a time prior to the encounter, and of course, it is canny and prudent to remind the other party that one might not ‘seal the deal’ and walk away at any point in the negotiations.

# in the case of Brexit the same words mean something quite different: a ‘No Deal’ is not a return to a status quo (returning to a status quo in this case would be ‘No Brexit’), but nothing short of a revolution, away from the status quo, with significant and lasting consequences to both parties.

(So in my opinion It is much more akin to a holding to ransom: unless you give me what I want, I will do something which we both know is potentially destructive, to you especially, and to me too, at least in the short term. I don’t myself want to do it though, but some of my close friends do….)

As a exercise in rhetoric, it is effective and more subtle that it seems at first: I can feel sympathetic to the response to the first situation as likely to be correct, sensible and rational. The Brexit negotiation, including the option of ‘walking away with no deal’, (even if I sense that is of a different nature to buying a car or a souvenir) also demands all our attention and bargaining power. This is the trick: the two situations share poignancy, urgency, potential for conflict, and fear of losing. So although the two meanings could be said to be opposite (no deal = back to status quo, and no deal = major change), I can be drawn towards some perceived equivalence.

But it is a false equivalence, the two situations are radically different in nature and the mild ‘common sense wisdom’ of the one cannot and should not be applied to the other.

Therefore it is not a valid argument for ‘No Deal’ to be included, or not included, in the list of possible Brexit options.

During the radio program the other politicians didn’t pull Graham Brady on this. Only one journalist, Anne McElvoy, had a stab at challenging him.

 

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