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.