Monday 2 October
Philip Hammond deepened his Remainer credentials on the Today programme this morning after refusing to rule out staying in the single market no later than March 2021.
No surprise to anyone of course, but renders all the more disturbing Politico’s report this morning of Theresa May’s increasing preference for Hammond’s “soft” Brexit position. According to insiders, the Prime Minister is “leaning” towards a permanent agreement that would see UK legislation shadowing the reams of burdensome regulations spewed out of Brussels, a clear restriction of the nation’s sovereignty not to mention democracy.
Other officials claim that while May accepts the principle of regulatory alignment, she is adamant the UK will not be a “rule taker” like Switzerland and Norway. The third way, the PM’s ideal scenario, whereby rules and standards are mutually recognised as “equivalent” by the EU, is a no-hoper. The EU is not in a strong enough position to refuse Britain a trade deal, but it is unlikely to go out of its way to give the UK a comfortable setup (we’ve already seen enough evidence of that) without attaching an unholy amount of strings.
Hammond is said to be acting like a man possessed to get a commitment from the Prime Minister to his cause and cabinet agreement along with it. With Boris Johnson fighting for a true Brexit to come into force two years after we legally leave the EU at the latest, this too seems highly unlikely, the fudging looks set to continue. The Prime Minister and her advisors are said to be all too aware that the moment she comes down on one side will be “the moment of maximum danger”.
Perhaps events will steer the course in Johnson’s favour. According to the Mail, EU leaders have assured Mrs May trade talks will be underway before Christmas. The claim runs contrary to last week’s volley of threats and warnings – Jean-Claude Juncker said the next stage of negotiations arriving anytime soon would be a miracle. But with the European Council Summit – when EU leaders will decide whether to proceed to that stage – fast approaching, signs of real progress are emerging.
“There is a growing sense of people feeling a bit more momentum and wanting to get onto looking at the future partnership”, said a senior Tory source who confirmed the Prime Minister believes talks will begin by Christmas. The least we should expect after between £20bn and £40bn has been pledged. Amazing what an outrageous amount of money can do.
Across the Channel, Madrid’s brutal and entirely unsuccessful (see tweet below) attempt to obstruct yesterday’s Catalan referendum has caused an almighty headache for Brussels. European Parliament Vice-President Ramón Luis Valcárcel, a member of Spain’s ruling Partido Popular, attempted to spin the fiasco, which saw hundreds of voters injured on the streets of Barcelona, as a “coup against Europe”. Goes to show how contemptuously the EU elite views the people. Juncker, Tajani and Tusk all refused to comment.