Tuesday October 31
Things are heating up in Catalonia after the Attorney General of Spain, José Manuel Maza, recommended prosecution against Catalan separatists – including Catalonia’s deposed regional president Carles Puigdemont – on charges of rebellion, sedition, and misuse of public funds.
Last Friday Madrid responded to a Catalan declaration of independence by voting to invoke Article 155 of the Spanish constitution and take direct rule of the region, pending a fresh set of elections in the coming months. Spanish leaders had initially suggested that Puigdemont would be free to run once again for office, but the tone changed yesterday after calls for his prosecution.
In response, Puigdemont and allies fled to Belgium where it is thought they may seek to claim political asylum. Theo Francken, the country’s Secretary of State for Immigration & Asylum, initially welcomed an application but Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel subsequently warned against “fanning the flames” by offering asylum.
International criticism of the Spanish government has been muted, with political establishments wary about fighting back against the suppression of political opposition in Spain. Nigel Farage, however, hit out and said that “any pretence that Catalans can have free and fair elections on December 21st has been destroyed by the charges of rebellion and sedition.”.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Belgium, a trio of Remoaners made a secretive visit to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels. Former Deputy PM Nick Clegg – who was so unpopular in Sheffield Hallam that he lost his seat earlier this year to foul-mouthed manchild Jared O’Mara – led a group consisting of himself, Ken Clarke, and Labour peer Andrew Andonis, but refused to open up about the nature of their meeting.
Nigel Farage responded brilliantly, as usual, demanding his own meeting with Mr Barnier. Farage, speaking on behalf of the 17.4m Brits who voted to quit the failed EU, speaks for Britain with much greater legitimacy than the trio of bitter losers who met with Barnier yesterday. Farage pointed out that Barnier is “listening to a group of people who want to stop of delay Brexit”. Only time will tell if Mr Farage will get the same treatment.
Asked if he was attempting to put the brakes on Brexit, Clegg joked that he wished “it were that easy”. Comments about attempts to block Brexit have taken on greater significance, however, now that government ministers have conceded that a Brexit deal will indeed need the support of parliament in order to be legally binding, giving bitter Remoaners yet another chance to undo the will of the British people. They will discover that there are bitter electoral consequences if they try to meddle…
Monday 30 October
Although, the Guardian does have an opinion piece entitled: ‘Is a second Brexit vote possible? Yes – if the people want it’. Subversion in the name of democracy is still is still subversion.
Another anti-Brexit newspaper, the FT takes a slightly more subtle approach. In recent weeks, it has been reporting on the impact of a no-deal on border controls. The latest piece focuses on implications for the other side of the channel.
In spite of the UK’s huge goods deficit with mainland Europe, in the event of a no-deal, the likes of Calais, Rotterdam, Zeebrugge, Hamburg and Gothenburg will need to triple the number of staff, space and IT resources to cope with the added volume of imports from the UK that need to be checked at the border. Upping these resources is not something that can be done overnight.
For instance, in Germany and France it takes two and three years respectively to train up a new customs official. In the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden it takes around a year before new recruits are able to man border checks. Much like our deficit, this counts as leverage – a no deal would be catastrophic for these ports located in highly influential members of the EU27.
On the subject of trade, Westmonster strikes a far more optimistic note, highlighting a report from the Change Britain think tank which estimates Britain will receive a £2.7bn windfall per annum once it strikes trade dealswith key economic partners.
“EU membership has given us a raw deal when it comes to trade. Brussels has failed to sign deals with many of our largest trading partners at a considerable cost to UK exporters, yet is happy to keep proceeds generated from the UK’s imports,” commented Labour MP Gisela Stuart.
“After we leave the Customs Union, we can become a beacon of global free trade”.
The Independent is stretching significance more than a tad with its report on a plan by Labour and Lib Dem peers – who outnumber the Tories in the House of Lords – to amend the Government’s Data Protection Bill with Article 8 of the EU’s ludicrously meddlesome Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The amendment is being framed as a bid to guarantee rights Brexit would otherwise deprive us of. Sounds like obstructionism to us. Labour complain about giving the government necessary powers to assure an orderly Brexit and then waste everyone’s time causing headaches over naval-gazing legislation. Madness.
The Independent also mourns an 11% drop in visas granted to professionals coming to work in the UK from overseas. 125 visas were granted in the year ending March 2017, down from 140. Could it be that the Home Office is listening to voters? God forbid.
Missed Friday’s news roundup in the Leave.EU weekly newsletter? Click here to catch up.
Finally, Theresa May formally launches this year’s Poppy Appeal today. Read this inspiring story about war veteran and Auschwitz survivor Ron Jones, who at the age of 100 still goes out to sell poppies.
Friday 27 October
There is no Brexit news today, unless that is, if you are a Remainer, in which case there are plenty of juicy quotes and nuggets of information littering today’s press on how the cabinet is divided on absolutely everything and Britain is doomed to all sorts of Armegeddons, not just the standard economic one, which stubbornly refuses to materialise.
Here’s one quote from an EU diplomat, courtesy of Politico: “How can you negotiate with this? Fox says we will be fine without a deal … Johnson says the same … Then Hammond says he will not give the money to prepare … Then May says no, we’ve already spent it … How can you negotiate? It cannot be like this. The outcome is bad for the EU, bad for the U.K”.
It comes after Boris Johnson went off script at an event in Poland, guaranteeing EU citizens’ residency rights “whatever happens”, a story only the Guardian (yes, only the Guardian) picked up on and even then, several days after Johnson had left Poland. The official line is that the continuation of existing rights is conditional on the EU granting the same to British expats living in the EU27. Bearing in mind the man in question is Boris Johnson, surely a certain amount of interpretation is required. The fact that UK citizens living in the EU are outnumbered three to one by their opposite numbers resident in these isles means the combined population of 4.8m expats will continue to live after March 2019 as they do today.
The UK has the leverage on this point and is the party to have said those rights are guaranteed so long as the EU plays ball and it will. When it comes to residency, “whatever happens” is a much narrower range of scenarios than Remainers like to fantasize. The Johnson story (for want of a better word) rides off the back of David Davis’s similarly over-hyped suggestion in a Commons select committee hearing on Wednesday that Parliament may not get to vote on the Brexit deal.
The statement was later corrected by Davis and the Prime Minister herself, which should have been the real story. Following the Prime Minister’s ill-advised plea for a transition deal – an option the EU had twisted the negotiating mandate in favour of in the first place – the fact of the matter is, there is probably not enough time between now and March 2019 to negotiate both a transition and the longer-term arrangements. Inevitably, whatever it is the UK agrees with the EU, it will not be remotely formalised until Britain is outside of the bloc. No-one knows this more than Davis.
Secondly, and most importantly, the people voted for Brexit. Parliament has a duty to limit interference, especially when it is so unashamedly against the popular will. The political class has a tactic, use the liberal media to defame the prospect of an independent Britain flourishing while vainly hoping for a recession and use the vote Davis placed a question mark over to undo our destiny, hence the outrage over his comments. It is unfortunate Theresa May did not stand behind her Brexit Secretary.
The cabinet is of course divided, but there is only one truly dangerous fissure, the one created by Philip Hammond. He is the one who must go. He should take Amber Rudd with him. Westmonster has picked up on today’s only item of note. According to Michel Barnier’s adviser Stefaan de Rynck, “the EU27” are now preparing for a no deal. “We are preparing for it, that is for sure, the 27, but it is not something we in the negotiation room want to bring in that negotiation room”, De Rynck told an audience at the Institute for Government.
It is important to stress the EU 27 because, without a deal, there is nothing much for the EU to do, in other words, what preparation? In such a scenario, Member States will have to adapt customs capacity and procedures to handle imports and exports from and to the UK, that is about it. De Rycnk and his like pretend of course the EU will be required to exert lots of important leadership. For Brussels to be spectating from the sidelines is detestable.
Thursday 26 October
Time is the theme of the day. Depending on your perspective, not enough of it, and not enough respect for its habit of ticking away. The Times quotes arch-Remainer doomsayer Sir Ivan Rogers, who criticized the Government for triggering Article 50 without first forging an agreement on how the negotiations would be structured. “My advice as a European negotiator was that that was a moment of key leverage and if you wanted to avoid being screwed on the negotiations in terms of the sequencing, you had to negotiate with the key European leaders and the key people at the top of the institutions and say: ‘I will invoke Article 50 but only under circumstances where I know exactly how it is going to operate’ ”, he told the Commons Treasury select committee yesterday. There’s no denying the former Ambassador to the EU’s treasonous credentials, but he has a point. Article 50 does not require negotiations over the divorce to precede replacement trade talks, but that is the sequence the EU has imposed, putting pressure on precious time and providing the EU with the upper hand as the Britain reaches deep into her pockets in order to get phase two trade negotiations underway. The Prime Minister should have tried harder for parallel discussions. The EU’s negotiating mantra of “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” makes a mockery of the sequential timetable we are faced with. Rogers is also being naïve however. The EU was under no obligation to listen to us until Article 50 was triggered. During the extensive period between the referendum and formal submission of Britain’s intention to leave, Theresa May’s primary focus should have been on ramping up our own leverage by investing in no-deal contingencies. The EU would be out to screw us at every opportunity, that is the way Article 50 is written and it is how the EU has behaved towards the United Kingdom since joining more than forty years ago. For more evidence, look no further than the Guardian’s revelation that the Government’s much sought after transition arrangement will last no longer than 20 months, ending in December 2020, just in time for the conclusion of the EU’s current seven-year budget cycle. Does that mean we can knock off a couple of billion from May’s £20bn gift? Don’t bet on it. The irony is that the shorter a transition period, the more pointless it is, and a transition is a terrible idea in the first place. As Lord Howe QC points out in his excellent deconstruction of Article 50, other parts of the EU treaties and clauses in the WTO’s statute, the ‘implementation period’ described by the Prime Minister in her Florence speech is impossible. Pursuing a transitional phase is further complicating an already maddeningly over-complicated negotiation. The nearest the Government can hope to achieve is an entirely separate trading arrangement, one that is big on open borders, which would then (hopefully) give way to a true Brexit. Such a scenario would mean two sets of changes for British businesses, belying the stated purpose of transition – to make adaptation to sovereign rule as easy and simple as possible. We should only be considering one transition, from EU rule to independence and it needs to be quick. Following Tory whip Chris Heaton-Harris’s investigation into embedded EU-bias in our universities, the Daily Mail has published a thorough account of the extent of campus brain-washing. “A professor got quite aggressive towards us when we were running a street stall in the run-up to the vote. He said we were ‘doing the same thing the Nazis did’. We complained and subsequently received a letter of apology from him”, said one student who manned a Leave stand at Durham University. Well worth a read.
Wednesday 25 October Following huge victories for common sense in Austria and the Czech Republic, Hungary’s patriotic leader Viktor Orban is newly emboldened. Yesterday he hit out at the European Union for attempting to erase markers of national identity, warning that the Hungarian way of life is “under threat by those seeking to make European nations identical”. “If freedom and national independence are lost, then we will be, too. Soviet rule pushed us into a space without history; it wanted to destroy our past and our culture” said Mr Orban. He was speaking at an event intended to remember an anti-Soviet uprising of 1956, and drew harrowing parallels between the EU and the old USSR. “We wanted to believe that the communists’ dream to turn us into Homo Sovieticus could never reemerge. But now we are stunned to see the forces of globalisation prying at the door working to mould us Hungarians into Homo Brusselicus.” With the Eurocrat elites continuing to fight tooth and nail with the increasingly influential Visegard alliance on the pivotal issue of illegal migration from the Middle East and North Africa, perhaps we won’t have much longer to wait before leaders like Mr Orban see the wisdom of Brexit and join us outside this corrupt bloc. Perhaps those tensions will only be exacerbated by the most recent delusional comments of Turkish tyrant Recep Erdogan. “A Europe without Turkey is only going to face isolation, desperation and civil strife. Turkey does not need Europe. Europe is the one that is in need” he said, adding that “Turkey and its full membership is the cure for their chronic problems.” Turkey’s aspiration to EU membership was a significant theme in the Brexit referendum, and the idea of piling 80m more people into the dysfunctional European Union must strike fear into the hearts of Hungarians, Poles, and Czechs. Meanwhile the BBC’s once-respected flagship current affairs show Newsnight hit out at Leave.EU chairman Arron Banks last night with a disgraceful “report” filled with smears and fake news. But the devious report did have one major selling point: after broadcasting the biased attack, Newsnight host Evan Davis was forced to read a statement given to the show by Mr Banks. “It comes as no surprise that Newsnight would join the party at this late stage with their own particular type of trashy News of The World journalism” read Evan Davis. “After allegations of me being a Russian spy, part of a worldwide conspiracy to subvert democracy, the only surprise is how long it’s taken for Newsnight to have a pop at me.” “BBC Fake News is alive and well.” Priceless. After embarrassing Newsnight, it’s no wonder that paranoid Remoaner MP Ben Bradshaw remains silent on Banks’ challenge to a televised debate. Tuesday 24 October State of play: if everything had gone according to plan, and the EU had not demanded such ridiculous sums of UK taxpayer cash, an agreement to move onto trade negotiations would have been made at the October European Council of last week. Instead, the Prime Minister has met the EU halfway (it may be only a quarter of the way) with a promise of £20bn obliging the EU to fudge its decision on whether to push forward. Trade talks will not start imminently, but preparations towards them will, indeed they already have. Phase two should be rubber-stamped at the next (informal) European Council summit in December. The UK and the EU now find themselves in a twilight period, with the EU preparing for trade talks to commence while keeping an eye on wrapping up agreement on residency rights, the Irish border and of course that blasted divorce bill. This is in fact how a negotiation should look, lots of parallel discussions occurring all at once. It has been revealed the Prime Minister plans to take advantage of the current state of flux with a diplomatic charm offensive. “We need to influence their position, through conversations in both Brussels and in the 27 capitals”, a UK official told Politico, which also reports planning towards a UK-EU FTA in Berlin and Stockholm. No need to get excited though. Theresa May’s chief EU adviser, Olly Robbins undertook the same mission in the run-up to last month’s Florence speech. In spite of all the goodies offered by the Prime Minister – later upgraded to include continued ECJ jurisdiction – the response was lukewarm. May will no doubt be playing a more forward role as part of this initiative, but we should not get our hopes up. Nevertheless, there is an opportunity here. Mrs May will be tempted to get the chequebook out, but she should remind herself that this less procedural period in the Article 50 negotiations is a good opportunity to divide and rule the EU27. Get the likes of the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland and Hungary onside and break the Franco-German axis that has tormented Europe for the past millennium. There will also come a point when the EU begins to panic over the prospect of a no deal. Michel Barnier said so himself yesterday when he also revealed he will step down before the talks are wound up – an ominous signal that this charade will endure well into the 2020s. “We do not wish it [a no-deal] at all, we do not work on it, but we do not exclude any option”, said Barnier, “such a scenario would cause us problems, and even greater ones in the United Kingdom”. Wrong on the second point, the reason why the EU is not planning for a fallback to the WTO is that, under such a scenario, the dysfunctional trade bloc would be marginalised. A virtual vacuum in commercial relations would limit the consequences of Brexit to national authorities unilaterally adapting customs capacity and expanding ports in order to manage the flow of trade efficiently. This is a commonly ignored strength in the UK’s negotiating position. The EU has to secure a deal if it is going to remain a player. No wonder Barnier described securing a replacement trade deal as, the “most important” thing. He has a habit of contradicting himself. In the same week he has said a trade deal can be sorted out by October 2018 and affirmed that a trade deal would take years and years. Which is it? Following the leak of Theresa May’s dinner with Jean-Claude Juncker at which she supposedly “begged” the European Commission president, the German Chancellor has flung herself into the fray. “Angela Merkel is furious at these reports. It is known that she has lost patience with the British Conservatives but the last thing she wants is for Theresa May to be replaced in the middle of the Brexit negotiations”, a “well-placed source” told the Times. Merkel was supposed to have promised to get the leaker, Juncker’s chief of staff Martin Selmayr fired after the last post-dinner divulgence in April. Could it be that she instead kept Mr Selmayr, who took the unusual step of denying responsibility while David Davis is said to be certain it was him, in the mix to cause yet more trouble? Europe’s most powerful woman has neatly used the untidy affair to make it clear she wants May to stay in office.
Monday 23 October Last week, we covered EU leaders casting themselves as a loving and thoughtful bunch, eager to offer comfort to an isolated British Prime Minister. With the EU summit out of the way, the façade has now dropped. The “we are going to achieve a good outcome” rhetoric replaced by the more familiar imagery of a defiant continent blowing to bits a beleaguered Britain. What utter Fantasists. Another dinner, another leak, and yet again, published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (see Westmonster). Six months after revealing details of a toxic dinner at Downing street attended by Juncker and his entourage, the German newspaper has a fresh set of quotes from an unnamed source present at Theresa May’s return visit this time last week. Mrs May is reported to have “begged for help” and “seemed anxious to the president of the Commission, despondent and discouraged”. As for Merkel, Macron and Juncker’s, it is all about the money, of course. “All three insisted on further progress, especially on the sensitive issue of money, before there could be direct talks about the future. Brexit was not wanted and they could not solve the problems of the British for them, they said dryly in the chancellor’s office”, reports FAZ. The leaker’s contribution even extends to Juncker’s description of Mrs May’s appearance, particularly, the “deep rings” beneath her eyes. That might have something to do with being the leader of 66 million people and the world’s fifth largest economy. Not something a consistently sozzled former Prime Minister of tiny Luxembourg would know much about. Last time, the perpetrator was believed to be the man permanently propping Juncker up, his Chief of Staff Martin Selmayr, an EU fanatic who convinced EU27 leaders to not meet any of David Cameron’s failed renegotiation demands. Last week, the Sun reported that, following the April dinner, Angela Merkel promised Theresa May that she would get Mr Selmayr fired. Merkel’s office has said the claims are “entirely unfounded”. Hard to escape the notion Selmayr felt burned by Cole’s article and needed to vent anger through yet another graceless leak. Either way, this latest act of defamation is typical of Brussels’ sordid playbook. Depressing to think these people represent us all over the world trying (and we emphasise trying) to get trade deals signed. The sooner we’re out, the better. March 2021 is not soon anyone’s book though. The actual date of departure looks more distant by the day. Yesterday, five of the UK’s biggest business groups called on Brexit Secretary David Davis to agree on a transition deal as soon as possible. “Without urgent agreement many companies have serious decisions about investment and contingency plans to take at the start of 2018,” wrote the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce, manufacturing trade body EEF, the Institute of Directors and the Federation of Small Businesses. Lest we forget, the CBI – by far the most influential of the five – campaigned obsessively to Remain, joining up with George Osborne’s made-up doomsday economic forecasts. Once upon a time, it even campaigned for Britain to join the Euro. Oh dear.
Friday 20 October Theresa May has not received the “sufficient progress” award she so craved at the EU summit in Brussels , but some ever so nice words of encouragement were delivered by Angela Merkel at a press conference late last night. This summit was marked in the EU’s deliberately slow negotiating programme as the earliest possible opportunity for EU leaders to decide whether to move onto trade talks. It has been known for some time now that, in the EU’s eyes at least, negotiations have not progressed far enough, in spite of May’s offer of a whopping £20bn a month ago in Florence. With impending disappointment writ large, the EU, together with the 27 national leaders have sought let the Prime Minister down gently. First, there was last week’s leaked draft conclusions to this summit, which kindly set out plans for a treasonous transition deal. Yesterday, the Guardian revealed a concerted effort to be nice. “There are ways to say it kindly and encouragingly, or less kindly and less encouraging,” said one diplomat. But that is where the goodwill ended. May’s after-dinner speech last night, during which she pleaded with her counterparts to follow her in making compromises towards an “outcome we can stand behind and defend to our people”, was met with silence. In the absence of sniggering – a common feature of the PM’s late night ten minute Brexit talks – the BBC has interpreted the reaction as positive, that’s taking a bit far. The only occurrence of note reinforced an already well-known truth, Angela Merkel rules Europe. While other EU leaders unusually refused to speak to the media after the late-night dinner, the German Chancellor strode over to a solo press conference: “I have no doubt that if we are all in clear minds… We are going to achieve a good outcome. As far as I am concerned, I don’t hear any reason to believe that we are not going to be successful,” she told reporters. Threats on this side of the channel to pull out of negotiations and prepare for a no deal have clearly made a deep impression upon the European elite, Merkel included. Today, David Davis joined the chorus. According to the Times, he will present to the Cabinet a positive case for complete independence from the failing bloc. A move that looks increasingly sensible. The EU’s current touchy-feely stance fails to mask its savage determination to plunder the UK for a £60bn-plus cheque, which, to its credit, the Government is reluctant to hand over – a weaker administration would surely have capitulated from day one. The Establishment needs to give serious consideration to the transition period, which Brussels will see as a huge gesture of goodwill on their part – indeed it already has in the form of the leaked draft conclusions. Even if the Government utterly betrays the country’s sense of dignity and continues to succumb to EU rules and rulings post-2109, sealing a deal with the kind of certainty and consistency businesses crave is impossible. The City of London wants a transition deal struck by Christmas, but such an arrangement is far from straightforward, requiring amendments to 750 treaties with third countries in addition to inevitable wranglings between the EU and the UK (as if there are not enough). A senior EU official quoted by the FT describes the transition concept as “fool’s gold”. The Government has a duty to provide the greatest possible certainty. Discounting formal relations with the EU beyond 2019 is the only definitive vision it can provide. Davis needs to step up.
Thursday 19 October Following interventions from Conservative MPs Iain Duncan-Smith and James Duddridge, a letter has been delivered to Theresa May calling on the Prime Minister to begin preparations for a No Deal scenario if the EU refuses to progress negotiations to trade and a future relationship later this week. The letter, organised by Leave Means Leave, has been signed by a number of prominent public figures including John Redwood, Major-General Julian Thompson, Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin, and former Chancellor Nigel Lawson. They suggest that “we should formally declare that we are assuming that we will be subject to WTO rules from 30th March 2019” if the EU refuses to budge after a summit later this week. “No deal on trade is better than a deal which locks the UK into the European regulatory system and take opportunities off the table”. A No Deal is looking more likely than ever, with diplomatic sources revealing that EU leaders plan to rebuff calls to move talks onto trade. One source claims that “there are ways to say it kindly and encouragingly or less kindly and less encouraging”, highlighting concerns on the continent that too tough a line could damage Mrs May’s domestic credibility further and cause more dysfunction in the Brexit process. Mrs May meanwhile will take the floor tonight to repeat offers made in her Florence speech. Downing Street claim that “she will urge fellow leaders to focus on the shared opportunities and challenges ahead and encourage them to move the conversation on to focus on the future partnership and implementation period so that they are ready to engage in that discussion as soon as possible”. But if the Florence speech failed to move European leaders to mutually beneficial talks when she first made it, merely repeating its contents at a summit seems hopeless now. Some had expected European leaders to use this summit to grant a mandate to negotiator Michel Barnier, allowing him to move Brexit talks onto a productive conversation about the future trade relationship between the EU and an independent United Kingdom, but others remained sceptical given Mr Barnier’s obsessive focus on squeezing money out of the British taxpayer during the first phase of talks. That scepticism caused a debate within the Conservative party, with Amber Rudd calling a No Deal scenario “unthinkable” while James Duddridge replied that “far from being unthinkable, a no deal would be my preferred [choice]”. Last night’s letter will apply further pressure to the Prime Minister, echoing calls by former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King to prepare for WTO rules, while stubborn moves made by European leaders at the upcoming summit will further embarrass naïve Remainers Hammond and Rudd in the cabinet.
Wednesday 18 October Next time you come across a Remainer preaching the holiness of the European Union, we suggest pointing to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, who last night dismissed Theresa May’s €20 billion divorce bill offer as “peanuts” on Newsnight. The former Commissioner (Tajani is the archetypal EU apparatchik) is by far the most senior EU official to go on record and give an approximate figure of how much the UK “owes”: “We need our money back, as Mrs Thatcher said 30 years ago…Twenty billion is peanuts. The problem is 50, 60, this is the real situation.” The real situation Mr Tajani is you have been corrupted by Euro federal fantasies as you’ve flipped from one EU institution to the next. The real world is made up of nation states whose debts are documented on balance sheets and enforced under the law, where are the EU’s balance sheets? British liabilities are listed nowhere, repayments are not enforceable. Article 50 is no Versailles Treaty, there are no war reparations argue over. It is the United Kingdom that has been propping up flagging EU finances, which we should add, never get signed off. “We are united. Where is the unity in the U.K.? There are many different positions,” added Tajani, smugly. We shall see how united Europe is when a shroud of regret descends on the continent for being too greedy in its demands for hard-earned British taxpayer cash, scuppering the prospect of a trade deal in the process. But if Tajani’s optimism is grossly inflated, there is no denying the divisions in Theresa May’s cabinet and the harm they are causing. “It is quite a difficult negotiation when people who want to leave the European Union in Britain don’t really seem to agree among themselves what that actually means,” Irish Taoiseach Theo Varadkar told the BBC. The obvious solution is to dismiss Philip Hammond and other ardent Remainers from the cabinet. The British people have already charted a course out of the EU, no good will come from slowing that process, especially if it plays into the hands of the European Union itself. The mass media, of course, examine this issue from the other direction, calling for Boris Johnson’s head. After mauling his Labour counterpart Emily Thornberry at the dispatch box yesterday, that position looks even more ridiculous. Boris is not alone of course. Riding out in front of the pack are Conservative backbenchers Iain Duncan Smith and James Duddridge, who both call for a no-deal to be considered as much more than a way of strengthening Britain’s hand at the EU negotiating table. “If the UK continues in the European regulatory environment or Customs Union, then countries around the world will shrug and say we aren’t serious about free trade,” writes Duncan Smith in Brexit Central. Well worth a read. Duddridge tweeted yesterday: “Far from being unthinkable, a no deal would be my preferred [option] to achieve a fast, clean and boring Brexit. The sooner we get on with it the better”. Earlier in the day Amber Rudd described leaving the EU without a deal as “unthinkable”. Rudd needs to join Hammond in heading for the exit door from Cabinet, leaving the believers to deal with the business of Brexit in the interests of Britain.
Tuesday 17 October Dinnertime with Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker resulted last night in a joint statemen calling for Brexit negotiations to “accelerate over the months to come”. The missive went on to refer to a “broad, constructive exchange on current European and global challenges” and praised “a constructive and friendly atmosphere”. But, of course, nothing of real note came out of the dinner. Commentators were quick to point out the hollowness of the joint statement, which did nothing more than pay compliment to the meeting without highlighting substantive progress. Mrs May had hoped to break the so-called “deadlock” in negotiations with this encounter, but none of the reports thus far point to such an achievement. The government will instead have to wait for an EU summit later this week, when EU leaders may give Michel Barnier a mandate to begin talks on future trade relations with an independent United Kingdom. It’s obviously in their interests to kickstart serious trade talks and protect a healthy trade surplus with the UK – but don’t underestimate the power of Michel Barnier’s single-minded obsession with sucking ever more money out of the UK taxpayer. Unless the EU’s chief negotiator leaves the summit later this week willing to play ball, the case for walking away from the table and striking out on our own becomes ever more attractive. Things are looking better elsewhere on the continent though. Following Sunday’s huge win in the Austrian legislative elections for 31-year old populist Sebastian Kurz, it now appears that Mr Kurz – presumed to be the next Chancellor of Austria – is planning to forge a powerful alliance with Hungary and Poland to resist European Union lunacy on migration policy. Hungary and Poland have been at the forefront of the fightback on EU policy for months, standing against an unsustainable system that combines porous external borders with a foolhardy attempt at imposing migrant quotas on unwilling member states. Kurz echoed many of their messages during his successful election campaign, running on the motto “stop illegal immigration” and making it clear that “rescue in the Mediterranean Sea cannot mean a ticket to the heart of Europe because as long as rescue at sea leads to people being able to come to Austria, Germany or Sweden more and more will set out.” The pitch seemed to appeal to Austrian voters, just like it’s catching on in Germany, France, and the Netherlands. In fact the Polish government has seen its popularity surge to record highs of 47% as the European Union continues to ramp up rhetoric against the conservative nation, including an unsubtle threat from European Council President Donald Tusk in August that the country’s “European future” is in question. The EU continues in its attempts to force its own priorities on proud European nations, but the inevitable resistance is finally emerging. It could gain traction in the Czech Republic this weekend as Andrej Babis’s ANO is set to storm elections there. Babis is another critic of EU migration policy who also opposes his country joining the disastrous single currency, warning that it “gives Brussels another area for meddling”. His group is predicted to take a quarter of the vote – double that of the next most popular party.
Monday 16 October The awkward charm offensive continues. Theresa May will attempt to draw upon more of that ubiquitous goodwill from her Florence speech tonight as she meets with her EU counterpart, Jean-Claude Juncker for dinner in Brussels. Also in attendance will be Michel Barnier, Juncker’s Anglophobe chief of staff Martin Selmayr, David Davis and Olly Robbins, May’s EU advisor who laid the groundwork for Florence. Downing Street claims the event has been in the diary for “a little while”, however, it does not show up in Juncker’s diary. Clearly an effort to break the deadlock in negotiations after last week’s failed fifth round of talks. May cannot expect to achieve where Davis failed, that is, unless she intends to get the chequebook out and yet again neglect to demand concessions from the EU. A pledge to invest in no-deal contingencies in the Commons last week would have helped her cause would have done her negotiating position. Will the Brexit story, starting after the referendum, be one of a series of missed opportunities? But it is not all doom and gloom. The EU is set to face another crisis after the anti-immigration Freedom Party of Austria secured a historic second place with 27.4% of the vote share in yesterday’s general election. The result was made all the more remarkable after the normally more moderate Austrian People’s Party, which came first with 31.4%, adopted many of the Freedom Party’s policies. The right-wing APP is led by 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz, now the world’s youngest leader. Like Marine Le Pen, the Freedom Party scored highest among younger voters indicating a systematic shift under future generations towards common sense governance. Brussels will struggle to figure out where it fits in Europe’s emerging political landscape. Another reminder of why capitulation at the Brexit negotiation table would be an act of outright treason. It is only a matter of time before the EU is brought down a peg by the Member States, or disintegrates altogether. Article of the day: The outrageously pro-EU FT have an unusually frank assessment of the possible outcomes of the fraught negotiations by their columnist Wolfgang Munchau: As a long-time observer of the EU, I also know that failure is often a precondition to subsequent agreement. Think about the French and Dutch referendums on Europe’s constitution treaty in 2005, or the near-ejection of Greece from the eurozone 10 years later. Disappointment more often than not precedes success. This does not mean that gridlock in the Brexit negotiations is irrelevant. But the contours of the final deal often do not become visible until late in the process. Click here to read some of Munchau’s other insights, not all of them are as palatable.
Friday 13 October Remainers’ desperate faith in the corrupt EU was has been restored this morning after a European Council document generously calling for the ground to be prepared for the trade phase of Brexit negotiations was leaked. No need to get too excited though. For one, the recommendations are merely Council draft conclusions. Drafts never bear much of a resemblance to the final version. Secondly, this is the absolute least we should expect after the United Kingdom has pledged between £20bn and £40bn. And with an interminable transition deal already surrendered, the EU is naturally in no rush to accelerate proceedings. More than anything, the ecstasy over this thinnest of thin gruel says more about our establishment’s lack of respect for their own country. Clearly, the reaction on this side of the Channel has been conspired by Brussels. Is it any coincidence that the leak occurred less than a day after the Michel Barnier’s excessively gloomy (even by his standards) performance alongside David Davis at the post-negotiation press-conference in Brussels? The EU’s chief negotiator told a visibly bored press corps, “we have reached a state of deadlock, which is very disturbing” and that there was no question of “concessions”, underlining exactly why the Florence speech was mistaken move. The EU is a predatorial negotiator, the more you give, the more they expect. It looks like the ground beneath Philip Hammond’s feet is finally beginning to give way. Following yesterday’s call from former Chancellor Lord Lawson for the current occupant of the position to go, describing his actions as “very close to sabotage”, the FT reports Theresa May is increasingly fed up. “[The chancellor] can’t help winding up the sceptics”, said one friend of the Prime Minister. “Every time he behaves like this, it gets harder in Brussels. He lets his vanity get in the way of doing the job”. Mr Hammond has been undertaking Brexit obstructionism for months and months now, but the threat he represents to a beneficial exit became apparent to the PM on Wednesday. In previous Cabinet meetings, both Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt had made it emphatically clear Britain needs to spend on no-deal contingencies immediately. Then, at a meeting on Tuesday, the point was rammed home by Michael Gove. Nevertheless, the next day, in a brief article for the Times (covered by Brexit Brunch) and a Treasury Select Committee hearing Hammond insisted he would be withholding spending until the “last point”. During Prime Minister’s Questions later that day, Theresa May sought to calm concerns, saying money was being allocated. The PM saved her Chancellor on that occasion, but his days are surely numbered. The EU withdrawal bill, which was supposed to be debated next week, has been pushed back following a deluge of 300 amendments. Labour claim at least twelve are supported by Tory Remainers. Sir Keir Starmer is stubbornly sticking to the “too many powers to the Tories” line and blatantly hoping to derail Brexit in the process. Disgraceful.
Thursday 12 October Brexit Secretary David Davis and chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier are set to deliver yet another press conference at 11am today, outlining progress made during the latest round of talks on our departure from the European Union – the fifth round to date. Recent outings have given viewers a distinct sense of déjà vu as Davis naively hails “decisive steps forward” while Barnier single-mindedly repeats demands for British money. Mrs May’s Florence speech several weeks ago suggested a willingness to hand over approximately £20bn of British money to cover pre-existing obligations under the EU’s current budget plans, but rumours in the run-up to the Conservative party conference suggested that she would buckle and cough up £40bn once the annual gathering had ended. But even though the Prime Minister may be planning to sell out to Brussels, don’t expect the script to change much today – EU sources report a “constructive mood” and nothing more, with no major breakthrough in the discussions despite initial suggestions that this could be the point when talk turned to trade and a future relationship. But does it even matter that no progress is being made? After all it’s now emerged that the European Court of Justice could block a Brexit deal anyway, potentially rendering any amount of hoop-jumping for European elites utterly fruitless. Sir Konrad Schiemann, who represented Britain on the court until 2012, said that “any agreement that is made between the EU and Parliament is subject to challenge in the European Court of Justice on the subject of the parties who have made that agreement”. Isn’t it time the government saw sense and just walked away from this sham once and for all? After all, new polling from Sky shows that 74% of people favour a walkout rather than submission to a bad deal from Brussels – and any deal that requires the UK to fork over billions to fund EU waste must surely be considered a “bad deal”. It seems that Lord Owen – the former Labour foreign secretary who broke away in 1981 to form the pro-EU Social Democratic Party – was absolutely correct when he said yesterday that “the centre ground is with Brexit and this is very hard for the elite to understand that their favourite project has been rejected by a large number of the British voters”. But while the battle for Brexit continues, we do have good news to report. It has emerged that the so-called “white widow” Sally Jones, an Islamic State propagandist, was killed in a US airstrike in June. Jones was a British-born convert to Islam and former punk rocker who joined her jihadist husband Junaid Hussain in 2013, becoming one of the most notorious recruiters for the radical group. Good riddance.
Wednesday 11 October “Britain will leave the European Union in March 2019, and we will also leave its customs union and its single market”, opens Philip Hammond in a piece for the Times, but as Leave.EU revealed in yesterday’s blog, the Chancellor is finding out imaginative ways of keeping the UK in both post-Brexit. Scandalously, he claims, “the government and the Treasury are prepared. We are planning for every outcome and we will find any necessary funding and we will only spend it when it’s responsible to do so”. Monday’s Treasury document on future options for customs regimes is jam-packed with options for various outcomes, but not a single penny has been spent on adapting and enlarging existing systems. There’s not much reading between the lines here. Mr Hammond is planning for only one set of options, a deep customs arrangement, which would bar the UK from meaningful trade deals with the rest of the world. If he, Theresa May and David Davis fail to set up that kind of arrangement before the transition deal ends, it will simply never end. Brexit only in name. The Chancellor makes his pre-budget appearance before the Treasury Select Committee at 9.45, but do not expect a grilling, the committee is chaired by arch-Remainer, Nicky Morgan. Following the Government’s formal acknowledgement of the possibility of a no-deal, the Sun has collected a number of quotes from unnamed cabinet figures with estimates as to the likelihood of that outcome. Two Leavers say 50/50, while a Remainer puts it at a slightly more optimistic 40%. One of the two Brexiteers added: “No proper leadership means departments have stopped preparing for no deal, and they are using our lack of a majority as an excuse. “It is killing our negotiating hand, as the EU is watching us very carefully and they can see just how little we’re doing too.” The article also reports Philip Hammond has signalled his intention to pledge more funds to Brussels if trade talks with the EU have not begun by the New Year. Catastrophic. It should therefore come as no surprise that not the slightest rumour of a breakthrough has come out of Brussels where the two negotiating teams are coming to the end of their final session before the European Council Summit next week. That has not stopped Michel Barnier from jumping the gun and begin pushing for the disgraceful post-2019 transition period. The Times glowingly reports Barnier’s dogged endeavour. Of all EU nations, the one that has benefited the most from a devalued currency under the Eurozone, Germany refuses to grant an extension until it sees a firmer financial commitment from the UK. “Germany wants more and it wants it more or less in writing,” said one diplomat.
Tuesday 10 October It was widely reported yesterday morning (including in this column) that the Prime Minister would not be making any further climbdowns during her appearance in Parliament. How naive we were. Someone who could never be described as such is Jacob Rees-Mogg who raised the question of whether the ECJ would continue to reign supreme after March 2019. A transition deal “may mean we will start off with the European Court of Justice still governing rules we’re part of for that period”, responded Theresa May. Oh dear. Mrs May had said the “ball” was now in the EU court, but Brussels has no incentive to supply return gestures while it continues to be showered with gifts. Anyone willing to give Mrs May the benefit of the doubt would be disappointed to learn from a trade and customs white paper published yesterday revealing the Government’s intention to stick with the EU’s import duty regime. Adopting EU legislation as part of the EU withdrawal bill is a necessity, albeit a regretful one, applying the same tariffs is not. But the White paper is also a source of realism and optimism. For the first time, we are presented with evidence of Government thinking towards a “no deal” scenario with proposed “pre-notifying” and “self-assessing” measures to limit the burden of re-imposed customs checks on EU imports. But according to British officials, contingency planning is still at an early stage, reports the FT. The Government is yet to invest in the necessary real estate, IT systems and personnel to put an independent customs regime in place. What on earth have they been waiting for? The truth is, trade will with the bloc, outside of both the Single Market and the Customs Union will be easy. A bizarre virtue of European integration has been its obsession with needless accessories. Free-movement, the single currency and a foreign policy have created so many headaches, the primary task of market-building has been neglected. This makes the devotion of Remainers in Whitehall all the more baffling. They, more than anyone, know how utterly bankrupt the European project is. Committed to obstructing the popular will they remain however, their primary tactic of screaming with anguish at the supposed costs of Brexit without providing evidence will be totally undone by that nuisance called the truth. We can expect much more delaying and disguising before any real planning occurs. This charge goes well beyond the civil service of course. Obstructionism is just as rampant in Downing Street where Philip Hammond’s influence grows by the day. “I think if it came down to a choice between the chancellor or the foreign secretary she would be closer to the chancellor,” says one Downing Street insider in the Times today, amid escalating rumours of a cabinet reshuffle designed to nullify the one Minister preaching optimism and common sense, Boris Johnson.
Monday 9 October Upon resumption of Parliament today, Theresa May will pledge to make no further concessions to the EU, the ball is now in their court. Not much of a statement when the earth has already been promised. Three weeks on from the Florence speech, David Davis’s team are said to not have heard not a peep from the Brussels. It is taking a hell of a long time for them to wind up that return of serve. Talks in the EU capital resume today. Come the habitual Davis-Barnier press conference on Thursday, perhaps we’ll know more, but don’t hold your breath. If there’s one thing the EU excels at, it is prevarication. After all, this is an institution that took fifteen years to agree on a definition for chocolate. Talk across the channel is doing nothing dent that unenviable reputation. On the one hand, we have Danish finance Minister, Kristian Jensen, who told the Guardian yesterday, “we are now on the same page” and on the other, Nathalie Loiseau France’s EU Minister, who said there is absolutely no chance of moving onto trade discussions by the end of next month. Note that, like the EU, Mrs Loiseau delights in Brexit pessimism. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is said to be considering a cabinet reshuffle as a means of settling Brexit divisions she had hoped to bridge during last week’s party conference in Manchester. Both Philip Hammond and Boris Johnson are prime candidates for neutering. Good luck stopping Boris from repropagating the Brexit position. Johnson vs. Hammond is no contest. Brexiteers have come out in force, attacking the treasonous Chancellor. One former senior minister told the Times: “Hammond is a complete nightmare and is frankly her [May’s] biggest problem. He pushed and pushed and pushed her over [the Florence speech] to water it down. If he has his way, we’ll still be shackled to Europe at the next election with no chance to rebuild”. Another former minister and leading Brexiteer added: “If she moves Boris then Hammond will have to go too, but there are a lot of people who think she needs to get rid of him anyway”. And a Johnson ally said that if fired, he will “just say no”. On the other side of the benches, the Labour party continues to convince the media they could do a better job of Brexit, despite refusing to set out any conditions or limits. Sir Keir Starmer writes in Politico today: “Labour is working in the national interest, while the Conservatives are too busy arguing with one another to even see the national interest”. Cannot argue with the latter point, but honestly, how dumb does he think the public is. Worth a read, if you can stomach a vivid portrait of an even more divided Labour – not to mention pro-EU – government. The deluded Starmer should take stock of Bernard Jenkin’s excellent piece for the Guardian: “No government could sustain a policy of Brexit in name only, which is what some seem determined to pursue, flying in the face of the clear referendum result”.
Friday 6 October Pressure on Theresa May is ramping up as former Tory chairman Grant Shapps MP has asserted that his colleagues are “perfectly within their rights” to call for Mrs May’s resignation following her disastrous performance in June’s general election. Mr Shapps went on to admit that he was actively involved in the move to oust Mrs May, and confirmed that up to 30 Tory MPs also favour of a change of leadership. It comes in the wake of a keynote conference speech that was supposed to relaunch her leadership on the national stage, but ended up in chaos. Speaking to 5Live’s Stephen Nolan, Shapps warned that “she should call a leadership election. This is a view I’ve held for quite some time. Quite a lot of colleagues feel the same, including five former cabinet ministers.” As a significant figure within the Conservative Party, Mr Shapps’ decision to go public with his criticism of the Prime Minister will lend credibility to the idea that her time is up. Conservative Party rules require 15% of the parliamentary party to write to Graham Brady, the chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee, to trigger a leadership election without the resignation of the incumbent leader. With the current size of the parliamentary party, that would mean 48 MPs are needed to force Mrs May’s decision. Sky News’ Tamara Cohen claims to have been told by sources within the parliamentary Conservative party that there is a “50% chance TM will resign by Friday”. We won’t be getting our hopes up, but wheels are certainly in motion. If Tories want to win again, they’ll use this opportunity to choose a leader who can speak to the nation by genuinely believing in Brexit. But while chaos ensues in the British government, Polish President Andrzej Duda has shown real strength by hitting out at Brussels elites over the ongoing migrant quota controversy. His hard-line government is enjoying great popularity in Poland and his stock is only set to rise further after giving a clear warning to the EU that “we do not agree to being dictated to, against the Polish people’s will, as regards the quota system, as regards forcible relocation of people to Poland”. The resistance is part of a broader push around Europe for greater autonomy, with the Catalan independence referendum from last weekend acting as a beacon for those around the continent who want more control over their own affairs. Later this month two wealthy regions of Italy – Lombardy and Veneto – will vote in referenda on regional autonomy, led by Matteo Salvini’s Eurosceptic Lega Nord party. We’ll find out the results on October 22, but it’s clearer than ever that the establishment’s plan to centralise power in Brussels has gone completely off the rails.
Thursday 5 October Theresa May’s grip on power is more tenuous than ever after a disastrous speech at the Conservative conference, during which she battled a serious cough while the set fell apart behind her and security allowed a comedian to rush the stage to hand the Prime Minister a P45. She had hoped to relaunch herself on the national stage, apologising for her humiliating performance in the general election and taking responsibility for the shock defeat. She went on to announce new policies on energy prices and investment in affordable housing – both of which had a distinct whiff of Labour, perhaps as penance for the toxic social care policy wheeled out earlier in the year. The embarrassing spectacle encapsulated the position of our lame duck Prime Minister, muddling through incompetently while chaos ensues around her. After losing the general election in June, and her authority as Prime Minister along with it, her government has been fraught with division as bitter Remoaners Philip Hammond and Amber Rudd seize on Mrs May’s weakness to push for a soft Brexit con. Prior to the speech it was understood in Tory circles that the parliamentary party would allow the Prime Minister to stay in Downing Street for up to two years, letting her see out Brexit before being replaced in the top job. But the Telegraph is today reporting that around 30 MPs are preparing to move against the Prime Minister, with some expecting a letter calling for her resignation before Christmas. One minister warned that “things are moving quite quickly. Conversations are being held. The plates are moving more fundamentally now. She has to decide.” Brexit legend Nigel Farage spoke for many when he warned that “May is so useless that if she stays there will be a Jeremy Corbyn government”. As Corbyn begins to rally his once divided party following an unexpected election triumph, Theresa May struggles to bring order to the party of government. The usual round of public sycophancy came from the usual suspects, with Europhile Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson describing Mrs May’s “battling performance” as “a metaphor for service and duty and resolution through adversity” – but only time will tell how loyal her colleagues really are behind closed doors. Boris certainly didn’t seem too impressed by the performance, being chided by Amber Rudd for failing to stand for applause. Meanwhile, on the continent, the hard-line approach of the EU on the so-called “Brexit bill” was reinforced by the French economic minister Bruno Le Maire, who warned that “we, Europeans, say to the British: ‘We want our money back.’” Mr Le Maire must not know the UK – a huge net contributor to the EU – has paid in over half a trillion to the failing European project during our membership. How can we British be expected to make serious progress when confronted with such profound ignorance? It’s time for the government to stop messing around and walk.
Wednesday 4 October The FT reports the red lines set by Boris Johnson over Britain’s dangerous transition out of the EU will be broken. Pro-Remain cabinet ministers have said the “implementation” period will last well beyond Johnson’s suggested limit of March 2021, continuing onto the end of the year and possibly through to the 2022 general election. “It could be helpful”, said one minister, “I can’t think of a single cabinet minister who supports him [Johnson]”, said another. Officials in Brussels confirmed the criminally extended timescale, claiming it would help to resolve the “exit bill”. By resolve, do they mean not getting the UK to pay out more? In Florence, the Prime Minister pledged to continue paying into the EU budget while the UK remained in the Single Market, but outside of the EU. An initial outlay of £20bn looks set to stretch to £30bn or more and that’s before the added payments for dubious liabilities Theresa May has also promised are considered. In short, a catastrophe and an utter betrayal of the public will. Yesterday, the European Parliament voted 557 to 92 (29 abstentions) in favour of a daft resolution for the EU to postpone the second stage of Article 50 negotiations, which concern a replacement trade arrangement. In true European Parliament style, the resolution was a dreamt up as a desperate means to try and shape the Brexit process, even though the institution has no formal role in the negotiations. Later this month, the European Council will decide whether “sufficient progress” has been made, and thus, whether negotiators can proceed to the trade stage. No doubt someone will pile credit on the European Parliament in the event the Council votes against Theresa May, despite all the goodies offered in Florence. Someone who would have no doubt struck a harder and more effective line with the European elite is Liam Fox. After months of speculation over whether Downing Street has sanctioned contingency planning for a no deal with the EU, the International Trade Secretary told Newsnight: “We’re conducting extensive reviews across Whitehall on contingency if we don’t reach a deal. But we’re certainly not going to be telling those we’re negotiating with and certainly not on TV what those contingencies might be.” Dr Fox’s boss will close a damp party conference with her leader’s speech today. In what is expected to be a more emotionally driven address, Theresa May will urge upon her colleague to do their “duty by Britain” and “shape up”. “Not worrying about our job security, but theirs. Not addressing our concerns, but the issues, the problems, the challenges, that concern them,” she will tell a packed-ish conference hall. According to the Sun, Mrs May will make two further policy promises in a bid to steal some of Jeremy Corbyn’s momentum, the cap on energy prices promised during the general election and a council house building drive. The Government plans to join forces with housing associations to build hundreds of new homes, particularly for young people. But the Prime Minister will no doubt be ruing her decision to focus on dry non-Brexit related policy commitments after the Foreign Secretary, yet again, stole her thunder. At a fringe event last night, Boris Johnson hailed the war-stricken Libyan city of Sirte’s potential to be transformed into the next Dubai, once they’ve cleared “the dead bodies away”. Uncouth, yes, but judging by the screams of disgust echoing throughout today’s media, one would be forgiven for believing Mr Johnson was the one murderously rampaging around the North African state. No, that would be ISIS, perhaps we should stay focused on the real threats out there.
Tuesday 3 October The start of the Tory conference was overshadowed yesterday as police in Las Vegas continue to search for a motive behind the horrific slaughter of at least 59 people in the Nevada town two nights ago. The shooter has been identified as Stephen Paddock and Islamic State have claimed responsibility, identifying Paddock as a recent Muslim convert. They have dubbed him Abu Abd al-Barr al-Amriki and claim that he was responding to a recent call to arms broadcast by ISIS leader al-Baghdadi, which may also have been responsible for a weekend of terror on the European continent. American authorities nonetheless remain suspicious of the claim. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this disgraceful attack. At home Philip Hammond’s speech at the Conservative conference went down atrociously as he demanded that we stay “closely linked” to the EU a little over a year after the British people decisively voted in favour of leaving. Ditching the government’s nominally pro-Brexit script, he warned that our vote for national independence had “created uncertainty so investment has slowed”. Once again the Chancellor is talking down Britain and putting his own Europhilia first. He boasted in the morning that Boris Johnson was not unsackable; luckily for voters in Runnymede and Weybridge, Hammond isn’t unsackable either. While Hammond’s speech was easy to ignore, Jacob Rees-Mogg stole the show at a Bruges Group event ahead of which he handled a noisy left-wing protester with aplomb. The protester, who had entered the hall screaming “Tories out” in an obvious attempt to disrupt proceedings, was thrown off by Mr Rees-Mogg’s willingness to engage in civil discussion and instead resorted to petty name calling and personal attacks. Mr Rees-Mogg went on to deliver a superb address to a packed hall calling for a “generous, tough, conservative” Brexit. Once again he proves himself to be serious leadership material in spite of the attacks and snickering from the anti-Brexit press. Moggmentum continues to build! It’s certainly time for a tough pro-British leader like Mr Rees-Mogg, especially as the European Parliament plots to condemn the UK for our approach to EU negotiations thus far. You’d think the institution would be positively delighted by Mrs May’s surrender of British taxpayer money in Florence a little over a week ago, but they are nonetheless set to vote on a motion attacking the British position on the Brexit bill, which they claim has “seriously impeded” talks. Bizarre.
Monday 2 October Philip Hammond deepened his Remainer credentials on the Today programme this morning after refusing to rule out staying in the single market no later than March 2021. No surprise to anyone of course, but renders all the more disturbing Politico’s report this morning of Theresa May’s increasing preference for Hammond’s Brexit position. According to insiders, the Prime Minister is “leaning” towards a permanent agreement that would see UK legislation shadowing the reams of burdensome regulations spewed out of Brussels, a clear restriction of the nation’s sovereignty not to mention democracy. Other officials claim that while May accepts the principle of regulatory alignment, she is adamant the UK will not be a “rule taker” like Switzerland and Norway. The third way, the PM’s ideal scenario, whereby rules and standards are mutually recognised as “equivalent” by the EU, is a no-hoper. The EU is not in a strong enough position to refuse Britain a trade deal, but it is unlikely to go out of its way to give the UK a comfortable setup (we’ve already seen enough evidence of that.) without attaching an unholy amount of strings. All of this points to continued fudging. Hammond is said to be acting like a man possessed to get a commitment from the Prime Minister to his cause and cabinet agreement along with it. With Boris Johnson fighting for a true Brexit to come into force two years after we legally leave the EU at the latest, this too seems highly unlikely. Perhaps events will steer the course in Johnson’s favour. According to the Mail, EU leaders have assured Mrs May trade talks will be underway before Christmas. The claim runs contrary to last week’s volley of threats and warnings. Jean-Claude Juncker said the next stage of negotiations arriving anytime soon would be a miracle. But with the European Council Summit – when EU leaders will decide whether to proceed to that stage – fast approaching, signs of real progress are emerging. “There is a growing sense of people feeling a bit more momentum and wanting to get on to looking at the future partnership”, said a senior Tory source who confirmed the Prime Minister believes talks will begin by Christmas. The least we should expect after between £20bn and £40bn has been pledged. Amazing what an outrageous amount of money can do. Across the Channel, Madrid’s brutal and entirely unsuccessful attempt to obstruct yesterday’s Catalan referendum has caused an almighty headache for Brussels. European Parliament Vice-President Ramón Luis Valcárcel, a member of Spain’s ruling Partido Popular, attempted to spin the fiasco which saw hundreds of voters injured on the streets of Barcelona as a “coup against Europe”. Goes to show how contemptuously the EU elite views the people. Juncker, Tajani and Tusk all refused to comment.
Friday 29 September European Union officials are holding tight for the end of the Conservative Party conference, with reports suggesting that they expect Theresa May to surrender even further to Brussels once her annual appearance has been and gone. The Times claims that Mrs May is likely to submit on a future role for the European Court of Justice while the so-called “Brexit bill” could expand to £40bn. European officials are said to be allowing Mrs May a chance to regain momentum within her own party by delaying the deal until after the annual conference; after a failed bid for a larger majority earlier this year and continuing chatter about her chances for survival as Prime Minister, she needs all the help she can get. It goes without saying that continued submission to the European Court of Justice is an unacceptable betrayal of the Brexit vote last year, allowing foreign judges to continue holding sway over the UK, and supporters of paying huge sums to the European Union have yet to explain why the UK owes this corrupt club another penny after handing over half a trillion during the course of our membership to date. The fresh reports come after it was alleged that Mrs May “took dictation” from the EU for her major speech in Florence last week. There she gave in to pressure from pro-EU forces within her own cabinet by accepting the faulty premise that the UK needs a so-called transition deal with the European Union. She went on to engage in airy talk about the UK meeting its obligtations – which in plain English means more British money being sent to Brussels. If she surrendered this much before the conference, imagine how much she’ll be willing to give up once she no longer has to face down party activists. Talks have continued since then and those who watched yesterday’s joint press conference between David Davis and Michel Barnier likely experienced déjà vu. Once again Mr Davis continued to insist that progress had been made while stubborn Mr Barnier continued to demand that the UK pay the EU huge sums of money in the years to come. Luckily for Mr Barnier, and unfortunately for the British taxpayer, it appears that Mrs May is about to cave in. Meanwhile on the European mainland Emmanuel Macron takes a page out of the Marine Le Pen playbook by taking a hard line on the out-of-control illegal migration that has blighted France in recent years. His government plans to double the legal permissible detention time for illegal migrants to 90 days, giving the administrion more flexibility to seek their removal from the country. Macron apparently wants to introduce the new rules during the first half of next year and hopes to calm continued populist outrage about the nation’s porous borders by ramping up expulsions for illegal economic migrants. After years of impotent gesture under his predecessor Francois Hollande – during which migrants camps were emptied and razed only to pop up again months later – it remains to be seen whether Macron too is all talk and no action.
Thursday 28 September Having clung to the leadership of his party for more than two years, Jeremy Corbyn took to the stage at the Labour annual conference yesterday to declare that Labour was “now the political mainstream” and “on the threshold of power”. Having been dogged by challenges to his leadership from senior figures for most of his tenure at the top of the party, Mr Corbyn’s triumphant arrival was symbolic of the sea change in the party as a whole as one-time critics like Tom Watson rallied around a leader who earlier this year capitalised on Theresa May’s pathetic general election campaign and defied the odds to force a hung parliament. The speech met with mixed response from the press, with Guardian columnist Gaby Hinsliff warning at one point that “we are into the Light Ramble Through Areas Of General Interest To Me phase which all Corbyn’s speeches reach eventually”. Among the topics discussed were private sector rent controls and the “forced gentrification” of neighbourhoods, along with empty words about uniting the country after our exit from the European Union and the usual rant against capitalism. On the issue of Brexit, the former Eurosceptic – who betrayed the cause last year when he campaigned to Remain – cravenly accepted the premise that the UK needs a so-called “transition deal” that will see us continuing to pay into the EU coffers for years to come. He went further than even Mrs May by promising to “guarantee unimpeded access” to the EU single market under a Corbyn government, eschewing the need for measures to bring down our current unsustainable levels of mass immigration. He says he wants to unite the country on the issue, but thus far it appears that all he wants to do is shore up the shrinking Europhile vote. Surrender on the single market is an insult to the 17.4m Brits who voted to leave the EU in our historic referendum last year. Meanwhile BBC veteran Nick Robinson has gone on the attack against the alternative media. In a Guardian opinion piece published ahead of a lecture to be delivered tonight (the choice of publication is telling, especially in light of evidence that the supposedly neutral broadcaster buys 1,300 copies of the left-wing newspaper every week), he warned about the erosion of trust in the mainstream media as more and more people turn to social media and young news outlets. Among the culprits, he lists our friends at Westmonster – the surging news site that gives the public the kind of stories that the BBC refuses to report on. We’ll take that as a compliment!
Wednesday 27 September “Angela Merkel is the new François Hollande”, wrote German broadsheet Die Zeit, following Emmanuel Macron’s excruciatingly euro-federal speech in Paris yesterday. Evidence (if it is was ever needed) that once Mrs Merkel rejoins the stage ruling Europe as Queen alongside King Macron, Europe will be well and truly stuffed. In a two-hour speech on European reform delivered at the elite Sorbonne University in Paris Macron listed one barmy pledge after another: a common budget for the Eurozone, a common defence budget with an “intervention” force in place by 2020, higher budget transfers, a standard corporation tax carrying punishing sanctions for non-adherents, an intelligence academy and a chain of EU universities, to name but a few. The Hungarian Government has been heroicly trying to restrict the influence of just such a university founded by George Soros, enraging Brussels in the process. In Bruges and Warsaw, the EU has two production lines of its own, supplying the many thousands of bureaucrats “needed” to justify its vast civil service. The French President also directed his attention towards the UK, eyeing up the possibility of Britain re-joining his reformed EU empire. “In a few years, if they want, the United Kingdom could find its place…in this reformed and simplified EU that I’m proposing”, he said. “I can’t imagine that the United Kingdom could not find its place”. The speech received an ecstatic reaction in Brussels. But even the most fanatical conceded much of what Macron proposed is either already in place and malfunctioning, or awaiting implementation. The prospect of Britain re-joining this mad scheme is utterly deluded. In London, Donald Tusk met with the Prime Minister at Downing Street. Coming just a few days after the Florence speech, the European Council President took the opportunity to emit the standard positive language, describing the new tone from London as “constructive” and himself as “cautiously optimistic”. The least we should expect after Theresa May promised the world. Tusk’s visit was not limited to pointless platitudes, however. He also sought to isolate Boris Johnson, one of the only defiant voices in the cabinet. “This shows that the philosophy of having a cake and eating it is finally coming to an end … at least I hope so. That’s good news”, he said, a deliberate dig at Johnson’s pro-Brexit flag-waving. Tusk’s smug line was given added resonance by a revelation in the Telegraph published a few hours later. According to an EU official, the Prime Minister had been forced by Brussels to pledge two years’ worth of budget transfers to the EU’s swelling account. Tusk’s visit served as a declaration of mission accomplished delivered on enemy territory. “The Commission pretty much dictated the section on the financial settlement. The wording was exactly as the Commission wanted in order to convince member states the UK was serious about breaking the deadlock”, the official was quoted as saying. The sniping attacks via EU backchannels continues, dividing the Conservatives and uniting a Labour Party that still scandalously refuses to commit itself to a Brexit position. “Never has the national interest been so ill-served on such a vital issue. If there were no other reason for the Tories to go, their self-interested Brexit bungling would be reason enough”, Jeremy Corbyn will say at the Labour conference today. “So, I have a simple message to the cabinet: for Britain’s sake, pull yourself together or make way”. What that “way” means in terms of national independence come the conclusion of his speech this afternoon, who knows.
Tuesday 26 September Yet again, yesterday’s opening press conference to the latest round of negotiations, held by David Davis and Michel Barnier, was an awkward affair, the ruthless dys-functionality of Brussels bringing down to earth the unwarranted jubilation brought about by the Prime Minister’s speech on Friday. “For me, discussing a potential period of transition can be done only if we have found an agreement on an orderly withdrawal,” said Barnier. The EU’s chief negotiator also resoundingly quashed the prospect of continued British payments to the EU coffers over the two years plus transition period counting towards the big fat divorce bill he and the rest of the EU is angling for. “We are not going to mix up discussions on debts and past commitments, subjects which are part of the orderly withdrawal, with a discussion on our future relationship”, he said. David Davis fought back, arguing added payments would be conditional upon agreement towards a trade deal before attempting to add an optimistic note: “There are no excuses for standing in the way of progress”, he said. On the contrary, following the array of concessions – not to mention the plea for a transition and the added complications that brings – delivered in Theresa May’s speech, we can expect many excuses in the near future. Speaking of excuses, as optimism over the Florence speech crumbles before their eyes, the Government is now looking to the German election result for an explanation for the next snag in the Brexit talks. The Times reports concerns the EU will struggle to agree a joint-position while the German Chancellor is pre-occupied with coalition talks. Come the next European Council summit next month Barnier needs to declare “sufficient progress” has been made in order to trigger the next stage of negotiations, which will focus on a replacement trade arrangement. The fear is that the absence of a German government at the table will delay a decision. Nonsense. While the grassroots fightback by the third-placed AFD Party was greater than expected, the prospect of both the anti-establishment party and Merkel’s previous coalition partner the SPD helping to form the next government had already been ruled out. The calculus over what coalition to form is the same post-election as it was pre. However long it takes, it was ever thus. The rest of the German establishment are united in their dislike of the AFD. Merkel may have lost seats, but there will be a sense of urgency to wrap things up quickly as a signal of defiance. Furthermore, there is no requirement for a German Chancellor to be at the summit to give their say so, the onus is on Barnier to give his blessing. Excuses, excuses. On these shores, at the Labour conference in Brighton, the party continues to dillydally over its Brexit position. Former Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale said she was “embarrassed” by yesterday’s decision not to hold a vote on which direction to take. Hardly a party “for the many” if ordinary members do not have a voice. The muddy waters were further soiled by Emily Thornberry (surprise surprise) who refused to rule out staying in the single market.
Monday 25 September A political earthquake struck Germany last night as Angela Merkel’s seemingly eternal grip on power slipped further away. While clinging to office, likely with the cooperation of the Greens and the Free Democratic Party, she bled votes to the insurgent Alternative for Germany (AfD) and lost 65 seats in the Bundestag. Her former coalition partners the SDP, led by one-time European Parliament President Martin Schulz, also lost significant support and achieved their worst result in history. They have since ruled out forming another coalition government with Merkel. The AfD meanwhile won the highest share of the vote of any new party in post-war German politics, attracting over 13% of ballots in initial estimates and taking 94 seats. With a 5% hurdle in Germany’s proportional voting system, the night was a major electoral breakthrough and saw the Eurosceptic group win respresentation in the Bundestag for the first time. They are reported to have placed second in former East Germany too, highlighting the overwhelming strength of support in many regions of the country. The party won support with the same kind of populist platform that contributed to the shock victory of US President Donald Trump and led Marine Le Pen into the second round of the French presidential election earlier this year. They took aim in particular at the permissive migration policy championed by Merkel in recent years, which has seen a massive influx of refugees without the consent of ordinary German citizens. Echoing the famous “lock her up” chants that dominated Trump rallies in the closing days of his presidential campaign, the AfD have already vowed to use their position as the third largest party in the German parliament to launch an official inquiry into Merkel’s decision to open the nation’s borders in so reckless a manner. Newly elected member Stephan Brandner promised to “send this old wreck to jail”. At home the warfare between factions of the Cabinet continues despite Mrs May’s hopes to have healed them in the run-up to her poorly received Florence speech. Philip Hammond is once again on the attack with a major ally calling the Foreign Secretary “simple-minded” over his unease over longer-term submission to the European Union. Hammond, who campaigned to Remain and appears to harbour sympathies with the corrupt bloc, is allegedly pushing behind the scenes for an extended three-year transition with support from fellow Remainer Amber Rudd. Isn’t it time the people took power back into their own hands by deselecting these out-of-touch Europhile elites?
Friday 22 September This week in politics began a with a 4,000 word article and ends with a 5,000 word speech. A new chapter in the Brexit saga will begin today as Theresa May addresses a small crowd gathered from across Europe in a church in Florence at 2.15 pm UK time. The contents will not be music to the ears of Brexiteers increasingly impatient with the Government’s fudged-thinking and pessimism. The Prime Minister will not be putting a finger on a precise figure, but there’s no disguising that by the end of today, the EU Establishment will be expecting a windfall of at least £18bn. Britain will remain in the falsely entitled Single Market for a further two years. The original excuse for handing over extra hard-earned taxpayer cash was to avoid disrupting the EU’s current seven-year budget cycle, which ends in December 2020. But the transition will not end until March 2021. It appears our leaders – including Boris – are happy to lob an extra £2bn in the EU’s direction as a yet another gesture of goodwill. Goodwill is to the EU, what water is to a desert. Furthermore, a transitional period, originally framed by May herself as a necessary measure to avoid a ‘cliff edge’ is anything but. After 2019, the UK will continue to not only pay into the budget, free movement shall also remain in place, complicating the issue over the cut-off point for those EU citizens who will be allowed to remain resident. The Financial Times claims the Prime Minister will offer to enshrine in the exit treaty the rights of EU citizens eligible to remain in the UK. This too will be viewed as thin gruel in Brussels. Hellbent on defying the people’s will by attempting to block the EU withdrawal bill, the Labour Party will be emboldened. What difference does it make whether the laws we are subject to are presided over by British or EU institutions when they are EU laws they will argue, convincingly. By far and away the most essential measure for avoiding a cliff edge is the withdrawal bill, the attention should be focused on that, not staying in the single market for longer than is absolutely necessary. Make no mistake, come this afternoon, our position will have been weakened. The EU will refuse to recognise the transition payments as part of the divorce bill and will therefore continue to stall negotiations in anticipation of more finance. And a fragile government will have exposed itself to two more years of de facto EU membership. 2021 will arrive a full five years after the referendum. By that point, the insulated elites will be all-too-ready to argue the referendum result voided by the passage of time and the absence of real change. History will surely look back on today’s speech as a missed opportunity for strategic advantage. When the British Prime Minister could have used Florence as the ideal stage to promote a separate model for pan-European cooperation, one based on commercial interests recognising the sovereignty of the nation state foremost. An opportunity to resoundingly declare Britain is happy to go it alone, pledging to do everything to support businesses at home as they adapt to liberation from EU restrictions. If only the tone struck by Boris Johnson’s article had borne fruit.
Thursday 21 September The Conservatives have struck an underwhelming compromise over much-needed stance in favour of a harder Brexit taken by Boris Johnson in his in the Telegraph article on Saturday. The Foreign Secretary has changed his schedule to join the Prime Minister for her speech in Florence on Friday, presumably to nod approvingly in the background to the various items he has managed to force in. Needless to say, Leave.EU does not expect to be overwhelmed. As this update is being written the cabinet finds itself locked in a prolonged discussion over the contents of the speech. Contrary to the FT’s front page piece yesterday, Theresa May will not be pledging a specific figure amount of money to hand over to the EU, the other half of the Boris compromise. That will disappoint the EU. The papers are plastered with quotes from Commission officials expressing dismay over payments as “low” as £30bn. What planet are they on? “Goodwill gestures are not enough – it is very doubtful that EU member states would consider that offer to be sufficient progress on its own,” a senior EU official told the Telegraph. “What is crucial to Europe is that the UK makes a formal commitment to honour its specific past liabilities – even if the exact amount of those liabilities is left to be decided at a later date.” Brussels insistence on agreeing on a “methodology” – i.e. identifying which liabilities the UK should pay – rather than identifying a precise figure is utterly laughable. The fact is, the United Kingdom has no legal obligation to cover made-up liabilities, and after handing hundreds of billions, does not have a moral one either. We therefore find ourselves in a ridiculous state of affairs whereby the UK government resorts to plucking out generous figures to tempt Brussels into breaking the deadlock in negotiations and the EU saying it is much too low. On no occasion has Brussels indicated what exactly the UK should be paying for. The merry-go-round points not only to the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s eagerness to extract as much money out of the UK as possible, but also his well-known tactic of running the clock down on the very brief two-year negotiating period under Article 50. Barnier has been holding private sessions with business leaders and high-ranking politicians from across the EU27, during which he is unusually candid about the trade deal with Britain while trotting out the usual line over the lengthy period of time it will take to negotiate. Compared to the withdrawal negotiations, it will be a “painful, not pleasant, and costly” divorce, he is reported as saying. Barnier’s austere posturing has clearly spooked Chancellor Philip Hammond and several others in the cabinet, successfully laying down the foundations for an interminable transition period. But the former EU Commissioner should take note. Scaremongering was the Establishment’s tactic of choice during the EU referendum and we all know how that ended up. In today’s Telegraph, Brexit heroine Gisela Stuart airs her concerns over the telepathic connection between the Eurofanatics in Whitehall and their Commission counterparts determined to force Britain into a dodgy trade deal. “They [Whitehall mandarins] claim that this is vital for our trade with Europe. Such arguments are frankly insulting. Countries around the world trade with the EU without letting Brussels control how they regulate their domestic economy”, she writes.
Wednesday 20 September Boris Johnson told the Guardian last night he will not be resigning following a four-day campaign to unsettle the Prime Minister and force her into implementing the people’s will. “I am mystified by all this stuff. Not me, guv. I don’t know where it is coming from, honestly. It feels to me like an attempt to keep the great snore-athon story about my article running. I think that is what is going on”, the Foreign Secretary said following allegations he’d threatened to resign if the Prime Minister pledged to take the United Kingdom into a Swiss-Style deal with the EU at her forthcoming speech in Florence. As party conference approaches, the Tories are desperately attempting to close ranks and undo the discord fomented made by Johnson’s manoeuvres, which began with his 4,000 word article published on Saturday and calling for a Brexit giving no quarter to Brussels. Johnson’s intervention appears to have had some effect without being conclusive. The cabinet is expected to sign off on the content of the speech today, intended to breakdown the deadlock in negotiations with the EU by offering to continue with payments to the EU during the transition period, but not after. 2020, that’s until when May intends to continue shovelling cash into the EU’s coffers according to the FT, amounting to £20bn in total. Like the father approaching his unpopular child’s big birthday bash, Olly Robbins, the Prime Minister’s top EU adviser, has been darting around European capitals to drum up enthusiasm for Florence by promising the outrageous expenditure. We can only hope Robbins is a rogue agent. Guido last night dug up an old article he wrote as a student defending the Soviet Union and regretting the lack of “alternative to the mad excesses of modern capitalism”. By that logic he must loath the lavish lunches laid out every day in the EU institutions. “it’s ironic that for the past 40 years Britain has remained a champion of free trade while lacking the freedom to truly practice what we preach. All that is about to change”, writes Liam Fox in Brexit Central today. He makes the important and often ignored argument that Britain needs to expand its global trade position in order to bring about necessary structural changes to the national economy. Optimism abound you might think? Let’s not be too hasty. Tony Blair is still alive and kicking, and calling upon the most advanced scientific techniques to inform Bloomberg there’s a 30 percent chance of Britain reversing its decision to leave the EU. Where he plucked that figure from, only the devil himself knows.
Tuesday 19 September Expect the Cabinet divide to grow even larger over continued payments to the EU now that sources have revealed that Whitehall officials are considering paying £45bn to the European Union once we leave the failing bloc. It comes on the back of a weekend of division between those like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove who fought for Brexit in last June’s referendum – and join the majority of the British public in being opposed to further payments – and a cabal at the top of the government alleged to include Amber Rudd, Philip Hammond, and Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood. Boris has publically reaffirmed his commitment to Mrs May and her government but senior figures spy the high drama of a potential leadership bid. Johnson and May are set to clash over the bill in New York this week as they meet at the United Nations following Theresa May’s successful trip to Canada to begin discussions of a post-Brexit trade deal with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They were clear that a deal would be arranged quickly and would take CETA as its basis – but free of the fetters of European protectionism, significant progress should be possible over the existing EU pact. Meanwhile the EU is struggling with its own divisions as patriotic Hungarian premier Viktor Orban hit out at Germany for its permissive migration policy and its insistence that the rest of Europe follow its path to disorder and chaos. Lashing out at controversial EU refugee policy, Orban said: “Today, pro-immigration countries wish to settle the difference between the two sides by recommending that we too become immigrant countries, and if we refuse, they force it on us. We want a Hungarian Hungary and a European Europe.” He went on to slam sinister activist billionaire George Soros – the Hungarian native with whom Orban has been locked in conflict for some time. As Orban continues to resist EU overreach on matters of migration, he stands out as an example for other countries who wish to retain their national identity against the machinations of the forces of globalism and European technocracy. With thousands of migrants continuing to reach Europe’s shores through Greece, Italy, and Spain every month it’s time for leaders to wake up and heed the powerful message that makes Orban such a popular figure in Hungary before it’s too late.
Monday 18 September Tensions continue to grow in the Cabinet after Boris Johnson’s re-emerged in the Brexit debate in a major way over the weekend. Penning an opinion piece in the Telegraph, the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson once again hailed the opportunities of Brexit while casting doubt on the split allegiance of Britain’s youth and rallying against the huge Brexit bill allegedly being prepared behind closed doors in Number 10. The intervention drew outrage from the usual opponents of Brexit with Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable (who also accidentally let slip his delusional ambition to become UK Prime Minister while leading a dead party) calling for the Foreign Secretary to be sacked. But fellow Brexiteers Michael Gove and Priti Patel rallied around the Uxbridge MP, highlighting a strong divide on Brexit at the heart of the government. Now Boris is set for a New York showdown with the Prime Minister over the £10bn a year payment she is rumoured to have agreed to establish a “transition deal” which will see Britain trapped in the most oppressive structures of the European Union for another three years after our formal exit from the bloc by April 2019. He – like most of the British public – consider such a surrender totally unacceptable. What a breath of fresh air it is to have a senior member of the Cabinet speaking a little common sense and standing up for the British taxpayer. Meanwhile arrests have been made over the failed Parsons Green tube attack. An 18-year-old and a 21-year-old have been arrested thus far, with reports suggesting that both entered the country as refugees and were raised in the same foster home. The 21-year-old suspect has been named as Yahyah Farroukh – a Syrian migrant who eeked out a living as a nightclub promoter. The 18-year-old is also believed to be a refugee, this time from Iraq. The younger of the pair is rumoured to have been a subject of constant police concern, with neighbours of the foster parents recalling a constant parade of plain clothes police visiting the home. It turns out that United States President Donald Trump – who was roundly condemned by the Prime Minister and Home Secretary Amber Rudd for “speculating” that the culprits were known to the authorities – was absolutely right yet again. If only our own politicians faced down this problem with such honesty…
Friday 15 September The tectonic plates of Establishment opinion are shifting, but still not quickly enough to catch up with the public. Any doubts over the unpopularity of mass immigration, have finally been annihilated by an Ipsos Mori poll which found it to be unwelcome the world over. Only 10% of people in Italy, 11% in Belgium, 14% in France and 18% in Germany and as little as 5% in Hungary – which forms part of the EU’s external border – feel that immigration has had a positive impact. The global average is just 21%, propped up by Brexit Britain of all countries, where 40% of respondents were positive. Politico reports today that Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, despite being loathed by the Brussels elites, is beginning to change policy Europe-wide. A senior official is quoted as saying, “nobody will admit it in this town, but yes, Orbán’s narrative is prevailing”. And you do not have to look far to uncover the evidence. According to the Times, France and Germany are now pushing for the Schengen free-passport zone to be paused for periods of four years at a time. This revelation comes after yet another attack on French servicemen. A soldier was attacked this morning with a knife in Paris. Even Jean-Claude Juncker has joined in on the rational desire for stronger borders. Inserted in his otherwise alarming speech for more Europe and less democracy on Wednesday, the Commission President said: “When it comes to returns: People who have no right to stay in Europe must be returned to their countries of origin”. But of course, Juncker, Macron and Merkel are all well behind voters’ preferences. What Europe needs is to get rid of free movement altogether. Sovereign national governments should decide who comes and in and out and for how long. The European elite will never come to that realisation. Europe is not only starting to see sense over borders. Asked whether Britain would be sent to the back of the trade queue, Investment Commissioner Jyrki Katainen replied: “Forget this nonsense. As soon as we know about the future arrangement, negotiations will start then”. Investment is a key component of the EU’s trade strategy so Katainen’s views count. Having only joined the EU in 1995, his native Finland is not a Luxembourg, a Germany, or a France, but a dynamic, trade-focused economy, on the record as being the most alarmed by the amount of good after bad money thrown into Greece. As the founding EU members begin to see sense over the Brexit vote, supported by the pro-trade players throughout the rest of Europe, optimism towards a decent trade deal can only grow.
Thursday 14 September The next round of Brexit negotiations will be pushed back a week to make way for a grand speech delivered by the Prime Minister in Florence. Theresa May is trying to figure out how to reenergize discussions following a deadlock over EU demands for a generous divorce settlement. Known for her landmark speeches (the “nasty party” in 2002, the Policemen’s Union in 2014 and Lancaster House at the beginning of this year) Mrs May appears to value the former trade centre’s renaissance heritage. The Tuscan city will act as a symbol of pragmatic, largely commercial pan-European relations, underpinning both the breadth and limits of what cross-continental should look like. The Prime Minister would be wise recognise that speeches have their place and heed the advice of the likes of Lord King though. Appearing on Newsnight, the former governor of the Bank of England proposed a second “capable” team of civil servants be assembled to focus on maximizing the benefits of Brexit should the EU decide not to sign a trade deal. Disdainfully questioned on his equivocal position during the referendum campaign by host Evan Davis, Lord King replied: “In the long run, I didn’t think the economic consequences would be very different if we left than if we stayed in just the same way that I don’t think joining transformed the British economy. “I also said that if you’re going to enter into a negotiation it’s very important to make that the other side of the table knows you have a fall-back position that you’re capable of delivering. That requires you to make clear publicly what the fall-back position is. We’ve been waiting for over a year now and I must say that I’m not very impressed by how much of the fall-back position has actually been stated and implemented.” Captain of British industry, James Dyson appeared on the Today Programme this morning to buttress Lord King’s assertions adding that his company already pays the WTO tariff to sell goods into the Single Market before explain that the Single Market is anything but (click here to hear what he said, well worth a listen). Brexit superstar Jacob Rees-Mogg appeared on LBC this morning to strike out at the Jean-Claude Juncker’s stupidity in pushing for more Europe when the rest of the continent wishes for anything but: “a United States of Europe is Juncker’s dream, but it is everyone else’s nightmare”, he said. Another star in the form of Ringo joined in to proudly declare his optimism over Brexit. “I think it’s a great move to be in control over your own country”.
Wednesday 13 September The Government secured an important victory in the House of Commons last night as an amendment to the House’s Order of Business over committees was passed 320 to 301. The amendment was introduced to enable the Government to hash out the technical details of the EU withdrawal bill in House Committees speedily. Under normal circumstances, the composition of committees should reflect the Commons. The Conservatives have had to tamper with the system as they do not enjoy a Commons majority. Naturally, Labour, who oppose the EU withdrawal bill on the grounds the Government should not be given too much power, are energetically against the committee amendment. As so often, the casual observer could rely on Jacob Rees Mogg to provide much-needed perspective: “What we are dealing with is purely administrative, not highfalutin constitutionalism. We know, because the Queen’s Speech was carried, that in the House there is a majority for the Government’s programme,” he said. Nigel Farage is in Strasbourg today for the EU’s tawdry State of the Union address delivered by Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker. In a meandering speech (they always are) on the future direction of the EU, Juncker appealed for European solidarity shortly before making a less than subtle dig at Hungary and Poland by calling for the application of the rule of law. Over the past year, both Budapest and Warsaw have implemented policies that brush with much of the wishy-washy content of the EU treaties without breaking any of the more robustly worded single market regulations, incensing Brussels. These are plainly not issues of rule of law, but the Brussels elites are damned if they care so long as they portray the independent policies of sovereign governments as heinous to the Guardian readers and their cross-channel equivalents. Poland incidentally, was issued with a one-month ultimatum yesterday over its judicial reform: reverse them and accept some refugees for good measure or be hauled before the European Court of Justice. They must be petrified. Farage was alone in jumping on Juncker’s low blows. “The way you’re treating Hungary and Poland is a reminder of living under the Soviets and the communists,” he said to applause and boos from a majority of MEPs entranced by Juncker’s gushy rhetoric. In other news, UK unemployment has dropped to 4.3%, the lowest since 1975, shortly after the UK joined the EU. A report by the Fundamental Rights Agency – an EU organisation no less – found anti-Semitism in the UK to be at extremely low levels by European standards. And the Henry Jackson Society published a report ranking the UK as the number one soft power in Europe, second only to the US globally. Listening to the pro-EU media, you would be forgiven for thinking Britain is drowning in economic stagnation, social backwardness and a severe regression in international prestige. Maybe they should check the facts.
Tuesday 12 September The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons last night, in part due to seven Labour rebels who defied Jeremy Corbyn’s whip and stood up for the British people. Kate Hoey, Frank Field, Ronnie Campbell, Kelvin Hopkins, John Mann, Dennis Skinner, and Graham Stringer backed the bill, while other Labour figures like Caroline Flint abstained to allow the bill to pass. Frank Field spoke early in the debate, warning his Labour allies that voting for the bill was “the only option for the referendum result to be implemented”. Ms Flint, who backed Remain in last year’s referendum but made a commitment to her constituents to cut migration at the last general election, was heckled by Europhile Labour colleagues in the House of Commons as she spoke out against efforts to kill the legislation and pleaded for openness from the government. The bill passed shortly after midnight with a vote of 326 to 290, while Labour’s wrecking amendment was thwarted in a 318 to 296 count. It will now pass to the committee stage where it will face further scrutiny, allowing conscientious MPs like Ms Flint to influence the legislation without standing against the will of the British people as expressed by last June’s referendum. What a shame that most of her fellow Labour MPs showed their true colours last night by attempting to subvert the largest democratic exercise in the history of our nation. Meanwhile, Norway went to the polls yesterday. The big winners were Trygve Slagsvold Vedum’s Centre Party – a Eurosceptic group that wants to pull Norway out of the EEA and replace it with a simple free trade agreement with the European Union. They piled on eight seats in the Storting while all three of its major competitors lost ground. As Brexit gets fully underway, even the people of Norway are turning against the Remoaners’ beloved Norway option. Will they keep trying to sell it to the unimpressed people of Britain?
Monday 11 September MPs will vote on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill tonight with Brexit Secretary David Davis warning that “a vote against this Bill is a vote for a chaotic exit from the European Union”. He went on to stress “that there will be no unexpected changes to our laws after exit day and that is exactly what the repeal bill provides”, but Europhiles aren’t buying it. Ex-Eurosceptic turned Brexit traitor Jeremy Corbyn has ordered his party to vote against the bill, although a number are poised to defy the Labour leader and back the legislation. Remainer Caroline Flint, who served as Europe Minister under Gordon Brown, is one of them: “I believe Labour’s job is to improve this bill, not kill it.” Unfortunately, her view is not representative of many in her party who have acted like sore losers since the referendum – and now they’ve finally convinced the leadership of their party to join their quest to obstruct our exit from the corrupt European Union. The Lib Dems meanwhile continue to challenge Labour to match an even higher standard of contempt for democracy by calling for Corbyn to sack front bench rebels who back the government’s bill. Their demand comes after a weekend of impotent protest against Brexit in London during which Lib Dem leader Vince Cable made a star appearance. Chief Remoaner Gina Miller is throwing her weight around in the courts again, forcing the government to concede that they will seek parliamentary approval for the £1bn of public funds promised to Northern Ireland in their negotiations with the DUP. Given that the Tories and the DUP have a majority in the House of Commons – the very alliance the settlement was intended to seal – it’s hard to envisage what Miller intended to achieve with her latest obnoxious intervention into public life.
Friday 8 September Brexit minister and arch Eurosceptic Steve Baker is alleged to have put his name to a letter attacking the Government’s transition policy. “Thanks for everyone’s support,” wrote Mr Baker to Eurosceptic Tory colleagues over WhatsApp following his debut at the dispatch box in the House of Commons. Baker and his fellow MPs, all members of the pro-independence European Research Group are said to have interpreted his message as an endorsement of the letter that argues, “when we leave in 2019 we need to make sure we are well and truly out”. The letter, which was due to be published in this Sunday’s papers, was leaked on Wednesday. Baker was joined by Treasury aide Suella Fernandes MP, who made her disapproval of the Chancellor known in commending the letter. “In normal times Steve Baker’s encouragement to sign this letter would be a sacking offence,” said a Government source who was rather less optimistic about Fernandes’, a form chair of the European Research Group, chances of staying in her job. Indeed, these are not normal times. Baker is fighting for the democratic will of the people against a mighty fifth column in the cabinet. He deserves credit for everything does towards that objective. Meanwhile, the liberal media is howling with despair over the latest development in the Labour Party’s obsession with Henry VIII powers for the purpose of adopting endless amounts of EU legislation in time for March 2019. Under “motions relating to House business”, the Government aims to twist the rules to ensure key committees are occupied by a majority of Tory MPs even though the party does not have a parliamentary majority. Under the EU withdrawal bill, the committees will oversee the adoption of secondary legislation without the need for Commons approval. The House will vote on the motion next week. The Labour party will cry foul. But if the Party’s MPs are not mature enough to engage with the EU Withdrawal Bill properly, they have no moral grounds to complain when they get cut out.
Thursday 7 September Parliament began the second reading of the EU Withdrawal Bill today. The Labour Party is persisting with its disgraceful decision to vote against it. In an interview with Politico, Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer once again pedalled the line that the Government cannot be allowed to rule by decree. Denying the public will, surely that is a far greater crime. The elitist Lords are on Sir Keir’s side, describing it in their report released today as “an unprecedented and extraordinary portmanteau of effectively unlimited powers upon which the Government could draw. They would fundamentally challenge the constitutional balance of powers between Parliament and Government and would represent a significant—and unacceptable—transfer of legal competence”. Faced with this sentiment currently stinking out Parliament, together with a scathing headline in George Osborne’s evening Standard, David Davis returned fire when opening the second reading debate today: “I don’t read the Evening Standard, I have to tell you, and it sounds like with good reason… if I’m going to take lectures on rule by decree, it won’t be from the editor of the Evening Standard”. Yesterday’s Daily Update suggested that Wednesday’s leak of a Home Office paper proposing strict limits on EU migrants was purposefully allowed into the ether by the Government to create negotiating space with Brussels for a big ugly compromise. Whether that was the case or not remains to be seen, nevertheless the EU was all too eager to interpret the entirely unofficial document as a bargaining chip at the earliest possible opportunity. An EU official told the Times yesterday that a transition deal would be out of the question if the UK were to persist with the migration restriction outlined in the document. “Limits on numbers of people or categories of migrant worker are incompatible with single market access, whether in a transition or the future, as the EU has spelt out as a red line,” said the insider. It is a useful measure of the sanity still in abundance here in the United Kingdom and absent in the gilded corridors of the EU that the idea of a sovereign nation exercising a selective immigration policy is rightly deemed completely rational here, and utterly preposterous over there. Then of course, yet again, there’s the threat of restricted Single Market access. With the exception of arms, North Korea’s dangerously mad regime is allowed to import from and export to the EU whatever it wants. Unless posing a threat by means of every conceivable industrial and agricultural good it impossible to be denied access to the EU market.
Wednesday 6 September A leaked Home Office document laying out in detail the Government’s future immigration policy regarding EU nationals has sparked elation and mutterings of confusion in near equal measure. The paper makes a welcome departure from the Conservative Party’s obsession with pleasing low-cost labour hungry businesses by laying down provisions for businesses to look to the domestic labour market before exploring recruitment options further afield. Crucially, the paper distinguishes between high and low-skilled workers, with the latter heavily restricted in their ability to join the UK workforce, stay beyond two years, and bring family members from abroad to join them in the UK. The document, leaked by the Guardian, contradicts the Government’s public preference for a transition deal by proposing implementation of the various recommendations immediately after Britain leaves the EU. The confusion is compounded by comments from a Whitehall insider published in the Times: “This [document] was drawn up by Home Office officials still working to Theresa May rather than Amber Rudd. She has been working to modify this significantly and it is not where the government is any more.” According to the source, Theresa May, who as Home Secretary oversaw a historic increase in immigration, now finds herself leading the argument for a less open immigration policy against Brexit campaigners Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, supported by the current Home Secretary, Rudd. May’s own dubious credentials as an advocate of a more selective immigration policy would indicate the document was deliberately leaked by Number 10 to act as a sign that a soon-to-be independent United Kingdom fully intends to exercise its repatriated sovereign powers at the earliest opportunity. A show of force to a Brussels elite revelling in pot shots over how “stupid” the referendum outcome was. Or is Remainer May simply reclaiming the starting position of her January Lancaster House speech, which has since been undermined by successful calls from within her own cabinet for a post-Brexit transition period? Even though the document has not been approved at cabinet level, its length (82 pages), recent composition (last month), and its publication a Remain respected newspaper have encouraged the mass media to treat it as an official document, a status reinforced by the Government’s existing position on immigration, which is limited to the future of EU migrants already resident in the UK. Rather than being a spring bud of future government policy, is the leaked paper, in fact, an opening position on the future of UK-EU migration, one that is open to compromise? With the Article 50 negotiations currently at a standstill over the loathed divorce bill, a commitment Johnson and Gove essentially promised during the referendum campaign would never be made, this Tory Government has every incentive to divert attention to the other prize in the EU’s sights, continued free movement.
Tuesday 5 September Welcome back to Leave.EU’s week-day updates, here to unpick the good the bad and the ugly of Britain’s historic withdrawal from the European Union. Following Monday’s revelation in Politico of Brexit Secretary David Davis’s preference to speed up the tempo of Article 50 negotiations – from one week on, three weeks off to week-by-week – the Government has announced its intention to publish a flurry of new position papers. A paper on science and innovation will be published on Thursday. Positions on external and internal security, and fair and open trade are to follow next week. The release of these documents will come either side of the second reading of the Withdrawal Bill. The behaviour over Davis’s counterparts over the channel has been rather less businesslike, with the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier claiming British voters need to be taught a lesson about what it really means to leave the single market over the weekend before Jean-Claude Juncker’s attack dog, Martin Selmayr described the Brexit decision as “stupid”. Even the Armani suited wonks in Brussels are getting tired of these petulant tactics. One senior EU official is quoted as saying, “Imagine if DD said something aggressive and stupid about the EU and then denied saying it,” adding, “they’ve all come out swinging. One does wonder why they’ve chosen now to up the rhetoric.” Why indeed. Davis’s request to set aside more time to lock horns at the negotiating table hints at an impasse over the EU’s outrageous divorce bill demands. Another EU official told the Times: “We said we can have more rounds if they want. If they have substance. But frankly, we have run out of things to explore”. Davis has already pledged to cough up some taxpayer cash to the EU on “moral”, if not legal grounds. Are we to expect a theatrically extended deadlock after which the popular Brexiteer will emerge having claimed he did everything to avoid writing yet another fat cheque? Beyond the nitty gritty of the UK’s exit from the EU, International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox has admitted he is not making progress he would like to be, citing a lack of his own department. Encouragingly, if not surprisingly, the arch-Brexiteer said a number of countries had said they would like to “move directly to a new free-trade agreement”.