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Friday 6 March 2020

Last week, the battle lines were drawn. This week the two sides dug in for a long fight that won’t see any major incursions until at least June. As usual, Leave.EU is hunkered down for the drawn-out battle, the last Brexit campaign on the block.

On Monday, Britain’s EU negotiator David Frost led his team of a hundred officials to face down opposite number Michel Barnier and his bureaucrats for round one of trade talks.

Discussions were held in English. Round two will be held in London, the first-ever Brexit negotiation on our soil. Whatever happens over the next nine months, it won’t be like the dark May days.

Barnier cut a solitary and frustrated figure at Thursday’s press conference – Frost had wisely opted to go home.

The arrogant Frenchman didn’t bother to hide his contempt for the Brits: Why do they refuse to extend the negotiating period? Why can’t they just do as they’re told and stick with the European Convention on Human Rights? How could those Anglo-Saxon cretins decide to run their own economy and not stay suffocated by EU rules? Can’t they just lie down and let us plunder their fishing waters?

“We will defend on our side of this negotiation, the interests of our citizens, of our consumers, European workers and European businesses,” said Barnier as he tried to summarize opening talks that had clearly come to nothing. 

Surely those interests mean protecting European jobs, in which case it’s high time for Brussels to look past its demented ideology and protect the current volume of UK-EU trade by offering Britain a standard deal like the one with Canada. Jobs saved.

With rich and poor EU states rowing over who’ll cover the next trillion Euro budget, the migration crisis spilling over again, the Euro causing the usual problems and now Coronavirus – Italy shut its schools this week – doesn’t the EU have enough problems? Just give the Brits a trade deal and move on!

Apparently not.

This is why Leave.EU is still campaigning and why we ask you to continue supporting our work. Just because the EU’s negotiating position is utterly stupid doesn’t make it any less real.

Brexiteers know better than anyone how fanatical these Euro types are. We cannot afford to bet on them blinking, which means our side, for all the encouraging signs we’ve had from Boris, might still U-turn and go full May-tive.

We’ve received important reminders in recent days of the many quislings populating Whitehall, sabotaging their own side to try and give their allies in Brussels hope. The civil service has declared war on Priti Patel, one of the country’s few genuinely popular politicians. In Downing Street, Boris has assembled a coalition of willing advisers and Cabinet ministers, but the ambition for independence stops there. For every David Frost there are hundreds of Olly Robbins and Philip Rutnams.

We’ll know more in July, the cut-off point for Britain to extend the transition period. Boris has already made a do or die pledge: Britain will leave the Single Market this year, no later. But will the Coronavirus act as a handy excuse to delay? Brussels certainly wants it to.

By July 1st, the two sides are supposed to agree on a new fisheries policy too. For the EU, there’s nothing new about it. Their negotiating mandate demands the status quo. Again, idiotic in the extreme, why on earth would a sovereign nation with an ambitious agenda to re-assert itself on the world stage agree to foreign vessels catching half of the fish netted in its own waters? We’re not as weak and feeble as we allowed ourselves to be in the 70s.

Brussels says there won’t be a “future partnership” without a fisheries deal first so we could be preparing for a WTO deal in just a few months’ time. The omens are good.

British fisheries have reason to be optimistic too. On Wednesday, environment minister George Eustice – formerly a Ukipper – assured MPs Britain would be taking back control of her waters. More Royal Navy vessels are being deployed to patrol the Channel and stop EU boats from disrupting trade following warnings by French fishermen that they’ll blockade Calais and other EU ports.

Fine! we say, and we hope Boris will stand firm, but there are no guarantees in politics, which is why we urge you to keep following and supporting us as we approach this critical period.