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Wednesday 18 September 2019

Could Boris Johnson’s setup in Luxembourg on Monday prove to be a watershed moment? The Eurocracy are clearly panicking they’ve take it too far. Meanwhile, pro-Leave allies are capitalising on the cynical ploy, correctly pointing out the EU does not have Britain’s interests at heart.

“Xavier Bettel’s speech yesterday did not serve the European cause,” tweeted Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German foreign affairs committee, on the prime minister of Luxembourg’s ill-judged decision to embarrass Boris by stationing their joint press conference next to a heckling crowd. The British PM duly abandoned it.

Bettel’s “public venting ignored that a deal is still in everyone’s interest. Even without a deal there will be a post-Brexit life, which means that right now everyone needs to behave in a way that avoids animosity,” added Röttgen.

He was not alone. The “main problem is that this only reinforces the them versus us narrative that Johnson has used before,” an EU source told Times Journalist Bruno Waterfield. An EU official also accused Bettel of using the conference “as a platform to raise [his] own profile”. He’s certainly succeeded on that count, not in a way he would have wanted though.

Coming in from the other direction, US ambassador, Woody Johnson has cited the childish incident as yet further proof the Brits are better off out.

“He [Boris] knew he was walking into a trap,” said the Ambassador at a private lunch in London yesterday. “He knew this was a set up. Of course he knew, but he’s British. He said: ‘What the hell. I can do this’.”

“Some had cast doubt” on the British people’s decision to leave the EU, Johnson added. However, “the US administration believes it’s the start of a new golden era for the UK.”

Bettel is playing the role of man in the room of EU leaders desperately trying to come up with something that will add urgency and momentum. While his ideas are bad, the other men in the room have no ideas. Jean-Claude Juncker addressed MEPs this morning to say the bleeding obvious.  

There is a “real and palpable” prospect of No Deal Brexit, said the European Commission President after lamenting the lack of progress since Boris Johnson’s arrival at Number 10. That’s not his fault, but the EU’s after Boris said a deal could be done if the Irish backstop was removed.

Juncker said he was not “emotionally attached” to the backstop, but he still believed in its objectives.

Of course he does, Ireland has long represented the EU’s cynical means of keeping the United Kingdom in its orbit. No surprise then that Juncker called for “EU unity”, namely solidarity with Ireland.

Labour Party HQ will be familiar with that sense of malaise. Having already committed to a second referendum, leaving how the Party would campaign deliberately vague, Jeremy Corbyn has fudged even further.

In a Guardian op-ed today, the Labour leader sketches out a neutral position, aiming to take the advantage back from the Lib Dems, who are no longer committed to a second public vote, a bizarre volte face having campaigned aggressively for another vote on the grounds of democratic accountability. Democrats by name only it would appear.  

Corbyn is taking a leaf from Harold Wilson’s playbook. In 1975 the Labour prime minister held a referendum on EEC membership without campaigning for either side.

The comparison is flawed. Britain has been in the European Union for almost thirty years, back in 1975 we’d only been in a Common Market of nine nations for two years. No mass immigration, no big budgets, no common defence or diplomatic service.

The world has changed, Britons want decisive leadership and Brexit delivered – we voted for it after all (see tweet of the day). Corbyn is offering the exact opposite.