John McTernan is head of political practice at PSB, a strategic research consultancy. He was a speechwriter to ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair and was communications director to former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
(CNN)It is normally an iron law of politics that there is always a deal to be made.
All countries employ talented, intelligent and inventive diplomats to ensure that there will be an agreement.
So why is this not the case when it comes to Brexit? It is not that there is a lack of political understanding of the possibility — indeed the need — for a deal, at least on the part of the 27 countries that will remain member states of the European Union after the UK leaves.
Nor is there a lack of talent on the UK’s side. The negotiating team is brilliant, committed and energetic. Or at least the civil servants are: The problem is the politicians.
I remember taking my son — then four — to Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons in London. He observed in silence the parliamentary give and take from the Visitor’s Gallery. But afterward, when asked by his Member of Parliament, Tessa Jowell, what he had thought of the whole thing, he responded thoughtfully: “If we behaved like that at our nursery we would have time out.”
The baying, the catcalling, the noise was all to him bad behavior that cried out for discipline. For a long time politics restricted its childish behavior to these limited set pieces. But that is no longer true. The only way to understand modern British politicians as they address Brexit is to realize that they have infantilized politics.
Firstly, there is the banality of the discourse. Former senior civil servant Sir Martin Donnelly quipped that leaving the European Union because trade might be better outside was “giving up a three-course meal [now]… for the promise of a packet of crisps in the future.”
Faced with this well-expressed and logical point, International…