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Friday 31 January 2020 – Brexit day

The momentous day has arrived. At 11pm this evening, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. Brexiteers deserve to treasure the moment, which a duplicitous Parliament once fought so hard to stop altogether. The shackles are off, soon we will once again a free and sovereign nation.

“This is not an end, but a beginning…a moment of real national renewal and change,” Boris will say in a broadcast later today. He has taken ministers up to that bastion of Brexit, Sunderland for a one-off cabinet meeting as a show of national unity where he’ll record his rousing message. To mark the occasion, the prime minister has approved a tax cut, the threshold before paying National Insurance will rise from £8,628 to £9,500.

The good news doesn’t stop there. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo congratulated the UK on escaping the tyranny of Brussels. “You can do things differently now. That’s fantastic” enthused Pompeo yesterday whilst promising Britain and the United States could now put together a “gold standard” free-trade agreement.

The EU will unveil its draft framework towards trade talks with the UK on Monday. On the same day Boris will deliver a speech accepting Michel Barnier’s original offer of an “off-the-shelf” trade deal like Canada’s.

The PM’s been pre-empted by the leaders of the EU’s three main institutions who’ve penned an op-ed in the Times saying a Canada deal – which would heavily favour the EU27 as it’s strong on goods, weak on services, Britain’s trade balance is the other way around – is off the table unless the UK signs up to equivalent EU regulations.

“Without a level playing field on environment, labour, taxation and state aid, there cannot be the highest quality access to the single market,” warn the presidents of the European Commission, Council and Parliament.

It’s an awkward stance that Boris is taking advantage of. A standard FTA has always been on the table. It was originally positioned as a supposedly alarming reminder that if Britain leaves the Single Market, that’s all she’ll get. Now that Theresa May’s fallback position – which turned out to be disingenuous – has become Boris’s first preference EU leaders are desperately trying to rebrand their earlier pronouncements. In pointing out Brussels’ blatant editing of its position, Boris is making the Eurocrats look amateurish and spoilt. More of this to come.

It’s an interesting example of the value of having a newspaper man and a talented politician at the helm following May’s dire tenure at Number 10. Boris knows how to poke holes and plot messaging strategies better than anyone.

And it’s not as if the EU are any good at defending themselves. The European establishment is visibly saddened by losing a member state. The bloc prides itself on being a club countries want to join. That’s evidently not the case when some are leaving. This PR setback was unavoidable, but the Times piece contains unforced errors that will be repeated again and again:

“The past few years have brought us closer together — as nations, as institutions and as people. They have reminded us all that the EU is more than a market or economic power but stands for values that we all share and defend.

“This is why the member states of the EU will continue to join forces and build a common future.”

“All share and defend” Seriously? Brussels is currently locked in a bitter dispute with the Polish government after hounding the ruling Law and Justice party for years over judicial reforms. The administration in Warsaw is universally popular. This is a clash of ideals which points to anything but shared values.

Sticking with Poland, Ed Balls visited the proud Eastern European nation in last night’s episode of his surprisingly watchable series touring Europe’s populist hotspots. Speaking with coal miners, the former education secretary admitted he understood why these men who work in tougher conditions than any snowflake here could imagine are so favourable towards their own government. Poland’s economy is almost entirely powered by coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, how does that fit in with Brussels’ green agenda, proudly displayed by the three presidents:

“All this gives us a renewed sense of shared purpose on the defining issues of our times. As set out in the European Green Deal, we want to be the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, creating jobs and opportunities in the process.”

We wait for Brussels’ negotiating framework with bated breath.

#FakeNews of the day: in its somber reporting of Brexit day the Today programme this morning repeatedly claimed the UK was pivotal in creating the Single Market. Hold on a sec, if that was the case why haven’t the Remain campaign argued the EU project, at the core of which lies the Single Market, is an Anglo-Saxon free market endeavour? Such an argument would help persuade swing voters that we truly are influential in Brussels.

It’s because it’s total nonsense. The Single Market came about because after decades of excellent growth on the continent – in actual fact recovery from the Second World War fuelled by the Marshall Plan and massive advances in technology developed elsewhere – Europe stagnated. Federalist European Commission President Jacques Delors exploited the panic by arguing for a single currency. Once the mad idea gathered momentum it was only natural there’d be a move towards a single market, how else can nations share the same currency when they aren’t tied into the same political and economic bloc. Indeed this is the problem the Euro faces today, not enough political and fiscal integration and it’s not like there hasn’t been a lot.

This kind of nonsense from the Today programme is a classic Remainer tactic. Exploit the lack of knowledge voters, particularly Remainers ironically, have about European integration.

At the Question Time eleciton debate Jo Swinson claimed the UK was pivotal at the Paris climate talks from within the EU. Simply not true. Britain is less committed to reducing fossil fuel dependence than many far more influential EU countries, including France and Germany. 

Finally: To finish on a positive note, whichever way you’re celebrating this evening, the Leave.EU team wish to congratulate you on a very hard battle won. Bring on independence.