Friday 21 September 2018
At Wednesday’s summit dinner in Salzburg, Theresa May took her first opportunity to sell the abysmal Chequers plan directly to her EU counterparts. Hungary’s Viktor Orban was alone in offering moral support (see quote below) a gesture the prime minister’s aides later described as unfortunate, such is his unpopularity with the Euro-elites that contrasts so sharply with his hero-like status at home. The rest of the EU27 venomously rejected Chequers. It is now dead.
According to today’s papers, it wasn’t the derisory contents of May’s plan that blew it but the prime minister herself. The first error was her forceful op-ed in German paper Welt, which she read out during her paltry ten-minute slot at the dinner. EU leaders were apparently offended by the article’s “aggressive” tone. We’re led to believe she then lost diplomatic points for dismissing outright EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s plan for a customs border to be wedged between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, even though that idea was binned long ago. Reports of Liam Fox taking the laudable step of re-regulating British agriculture to facilitate trade deals with the US and Australia are also thought to have ruffled delicate feathers.
Nonsense! We always knew Chequers was going to get chucked. The likes of Barnier and his compatriot Emmanuel Macron have said so. The normally supportive President of the European Council, Donald Tusk had refused to endorse it, and that’s before we get to the countless comments made by smug EU diplomats over the summer.
The revelation from this week’s summit was not that Chequers is bad, but that May and her advisers really are as naïve as we’ve long suspected. How on earth did they think the Salzburg summit would serve as anything other than a ruthless takedown of the PM’s proposal, exerting maximum pressure right before the Tory party conference? They should have been prepared to absorb the inevitable shock, not turn up in Austria with extra dynamite.
“Enough is enough, time to tell the arrogant, unelected EU bullies where to go. No British Prime Minister should be treated like this,” tweeted Nigel Farage. Quite. May was only given ten minutes to make her proposal on Wednesday, hardly appropriate at such a critical stage in an era-defining negotiation. The Remain side have now become so desperate, they’re using Macron’s gloating remarks to drum up support. Pathetic!
In today’s retaliatory speech May herself vented her disgust at the EU for slamming Chequers without a counterproposal. She should have gone a step further and hardened the line taken in yesterday’s post-summit press conference when she said, “If… it is not possible to reach a deal, then the British people can be confident that we will have done what is necessary to ensure we make a success of leaving the European Union, regardless of the terms on which we do so.”
The campaign towards a no deal must now gather greater momentum. “I believe this will go down to the wire… if we stay strong, keep the threat of No Deal on the table, then we will manage to achieve something that we actually want,” Blue Wave President Steven Woolfe told Sky News this week. “I think we shouldn’t be afraid of a free trade deal on the basis of World Trade Organisation,” said Jacob Rees-Mogg to the Express, adding:
“That is opening up trade with lots of other countries, there are opportunities to take it further and it would allow us to get on with the rest of the world sooner because it wouldn’t have an implementation period.”
Tuesday’s report by the government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), may prove to be a game changer. The report draws the distinction between high-earning migrants providing a net benefit to HM Treasury and those that do not. Open borders mean it is impossible for the authorities to differentiate between the two. The report recommends a prejudicial, skills-based immigration policy. Common sense to readers of this newsletter, but as the Salzburg fiasco has demonstrated, that’s not something to be expected from the metropolitan establishment. MAC deserves huge credit for smashing the liberal consensus. You can read our breakdown here, and this rousing editorialby Westmonster’s Michael Heaver.
Following on from last week’s stunning verdict in the High Court against the pro-Remain Electoral Commission in favour of Vote Leave, the EC sheepishly announced it had failed to find Ukip at fault in its punishing investigation into suspected “impermissible donations”.
Even if the EU refuses to change, signs of positive transformation are beginning to appear at home. Chequers is dead, long live the no deal.