Heard the parrot joke? A genteel old lady was so desperate for a talking parrot that she bid for one at an auction. Bidding rose to £1,000 but she won. Anxiously she asked the auctioneer: “Can you guarantee it talks?” “Talk?“ said he. “It’s been bidding against you for the last half hour”. Call the parrot Polly the Remainer and the lady Theresa and you can seen how we’ve spent a year negotiating among ourselves before even beginning to negotiate with the EU’s parrot, Barnier, who can only say “No”. Brexit is a tale of two parrots. We’re unlikely to get anywhere with either. However far Theresa retreats from her red lines, Polly the Remainer will squark to stop her leaving the cage. However far she reduces her already weak negotiating position, Barnier can only say “no”. That’s no reason to despair. The parrot master, the EU, faces three even bigger problems with no real idea about what to do about any of them. Brexit is the smallest. The larger ones are the refugee problem, where none of the “partners” will take their share, leaving Germany to be flooded. There’s the euro which isn’t working but imposes austerity and high unemployment on weaker economies who won’t go on suffering for ever. Finally comes the European army: France wants one, which must be why Macron called his party La République En Marche. None of the others want to pay for it. Four horsemen of the apocalypse is three more than a ramshackle union with no government. No brain can cope with all at once. So it unleashes a parrot’s chorus, parrots to deny reality. Anything else would require a wholesale reconstruction or disintegration of the whole enterprise and it can’t face either. So how do we deal with this menagerie? The only way is to state our demands clearly. Then, if the parrot chorus keeps saying “No”, leave with no deal to trade as most favoured nation, boosted by a devaluation which is inevitable in or out. Back this by an industrial strategy and aid to manufacturing to boost it to seize the opportunity. All the other threats – no planes, no medicine, no exports, rising food prices, queues at customs and floods of terrorists pouring in as the Romanians pour out – are just scare talk. They’ll bluster but they can’t and won’t act on any of it. They’re in too big a mess to want to make things worse by starting a trade war with us just to discourage the others. With so many problems, they’ll need to transfer their monosyllabic parrot to saying no to Italy, Hungary, Poland, Greece, Spain and Tom Cobleyland. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to cheer up all their other discontented members by showing them John Cleese’s dead parrot sketch. In English.