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Welcome to Declassified, a weekly column looking at the lighter side of politics.
“Life is sailing on the sea of time, but only the sea remains” — haiku by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, 2009.
“Ready to put a tiger in the tank but not to buy a pig in a poke” — tweet by European Council President Charles Michel, 2020.
Yes, if the quality of language coming out of European Council HQ is anything to go by, then the Brexiteers were right and the European project is indeed doomed. Michel committed his crimes against idioms after a meeting with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Parliament President David Sassoli and occasional British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to assess progress on the Brexit talks, and borrowed the first part of that tweet from Johnson, who said both sides should “put the tiger in the tank” — a throwback to old adverts for petrol giant Esso, meaning to refuel with something powerful.
Old-school slogans aside, Declassified can reveal the rest of the discussion in full:
“Any progress on Brexit?”
But a lack of progress doesn’t mean that Brexit isn’t returning to the front of people’s minds now that the coronavirus pandemic appears to be receding in many European countries.
Conservative MP and Brexiteer Bob Stewart, for example, is concerned about freedom of movement — not for him, but for his “French-speaking dogs.”
During a parliamentary debate on Brexit negotiations, Stewart raised the topic of pet passports, saying, “Our two French-speaking dogs cross the Channel several times a year on a pet passport.”
In response, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said (in French), “We always defend the rights of dogs.”
Asked by Declassified for comment on their owner’s statement, Stewart’s dogs, from Alsace, simply said, “Nous sommes contre le Brexit.”
Of course what Stewart, Gove and their fellow Brexiteers really want is for Britain to once again assert its dominance on the international stage — and it seems to be happening already. In a throwback to the days of Empire and the introduction of disease to foreign lands, this week two New Zealanders managed to reintroduce coronavirus to their country — which had only just declared itself COVID-free — after returning from Britain. What a fine example of Global Britain reminding its former colonies not to get ideas above their station, just as the two sides prepare for trade talks.
“Special offer! Yours for €5. May stop you getting coronavirus. Won’t stop you talking nonsense.”
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Last week we gave you this photo:
Thanks for all the entries. Here’s the best from our post bag (there’s no prize except for the gift of laughter, which I think we can all agree is far more valuable than cash or booze).
“Will horse trading ever stop in the EU?” by Maria Laura Franciosi.
Paul Dallison is POLITICO‘s slot news editor.