LEADING THE WAY OUT OF THE EU

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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.