Thursday 7 June 2018
This edition of Brexit Brunch kicks off with a rousing column in Westmonster by Andrea Jenkyns, Conservative MP for Morley and Outwood.
Drawing inspiration from Margaret Thatcher’s dogged pursuit of a fat, and richly deserve, EU rebate Jenkyns states: “I now believe the time has come to say publicly that we are willing to walk away and withdraw our £39 billion divorce settlement if we aren’t happy with the final deal. After all, history has proven Brussels cares about its budgets necessary for its expansionist vision.”
The only news story in town this morning is the prospect of David Davis’s resignation if Mrs May does not get her act together.
As soon as the government unofficially revealed its intention to keep Britain in the Customs Union beyond the transition period, until a technologically-led solution could be found to both the Irish border and Britain’s busy roll-on roll-off ports like Dover and Holyhead, we at Leave.EU knew that this second period would not be “time-limited” as originally assured.
This is Davis’s bone of contention. Downing Street is said to be drafting an amended version of the previously agreed “backstop option”, whereby Britain would remain in the Customs Union and essentially the Single Market in order to avoid the introduction of border infrastructure on the island of Ireland, a red line for both the ailing prime minister and the EU. The backstop would still be for a time-limited period, but no specific date will be set. Brussels will not allow it. British subjugation to EU rules and its external tariff – meaning no independent trade policy – would, therefore, continue indefinitely.
From the outset, it was clear the EU would not commit to an arbitrary date. Britain’s negotiators, particularly the lead, and Theresa May’s Brexit Sherpa Olly Robbins, are reading this additional red line as gospel – they said the same about Thatcher’s rebate, but that didn’t stop the iron lady from getting a better deal. Rather than advising the government to play hardball and threaten a no-deal, Robbins is treasonously telling the government to lie down and take it.
As for Davis, according to associates, he feels he has been “treated appallingly”. At this stage, it is not entirely clear to what extent his beef with May encompasses the way in which he has been shunned from the driving seat of the negotiations to Robbins’ benefit, the increasingly dreadful concessions being made, or both.
Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are also said to have “significant concerns” about the latest climb down. Nor is it clear how much intent is behind Davis’s indirect threat of resignation – although Westmonster report this morning he has IDS’s backing. He certainly has previous, and under May the revolving door in and out of the Cabinet is well oiled.
Davis will be making a written statement in Parliament today. Hopefully, we will know more then.
The BBC’s Europe editor Katya Adler has been feeding Brussels’ views on the tortuous (non)decision-making and back peddling over what to do about Ireland in time for the crunch summit at the end of the month. Typically, the EU is just reiterating its red lines, but is also starting to panic the two-year article 50 negotiating period will end up being solely consumed by withdrawal. The escalating civil discontent in Westminster does nothing to drive the process forward. The EU is conscious, the prime minister will eventually have to turn up with her position in Brussels where Michel Barnier will be seeking to take further chunks out. What’s going in Westminster is simply a warm-up act.
Time to negotiate a trade deal is running out. On Newsnight, the influential former German finance minister and enforcer of Greece’s painful austerity/bailout programme, Wolfgang Schäuble claimed the rest of Europe would agree to extend the negotiating period – Article 50 contains a provision for this, provided all of the EU27 approve. This is how desperate our situation is: Brussels is inadvertently worried about a no deal, not because we are threatening it, which we should be, but because our government cannot decide on the Brexit it wants.