LEADING THE WAY OUT OF THE EU

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Wednesday 19 June 2019

Following Dominic Raab’s relegation from the Tory leadership contest late yesterday afternoon, Boris Johnson appeared on stage for the BBC leadership debate as the lone true Brexiteer. By the end of the evening, those credentials had pretty much evaporated. Like Michael Gove, a Leaver in name only, Boris looks vulnerable to failing the will of the people. He is still the front runner however, by a long way.

Asked by former Tory voter Lee Ward from Norwich, “can you guarantee that you will be able to get your Brexit plan through the Parliament by the 31st of October,” Boris’s response was vague.

“We must come out on the 31st of October, otherwise we face a catastrophic loss of confidence in politics. We’ve already kicked the can down the road twice, and I think the British people are getting thoroughly fed up.” So far so good, although “we must” is a far cry from “we will”.

It got worse. It was “eminently feasible” that Britain could make it out of the EU by the end of October, Johnson later said, not even a commitment. When pushed on the Irish backstop, he followed Sajid Javid, a Remainer who is pledging to take Britain out of the EU by November, in bringing up the implementation period, hinting very strongly that his plans are no better than extremist Rory Stewart’s. Boris’s strategy looks to have been laid bare, a rehash of Theresa May’s treaty using his standing in the party to leverage votes in the Commons and his know-how of Brussels from his days as a correspondent there to eke out a non-binding commitment on the backstop of some sort, most likely a time limit in a separate document.

Under a Boris premiership, the No Deal envelope will be on the table, but its contents will be cast onto the ground.

“Do you believe any of those candidates will deliver a WTO Brexit on 31st October? If you don’t, nor will Brussels,” tweeted Westmonster’s Michael Heaver. This leadership race has taken a very worrying turn.

Worrying for Brexiteers and deeply frustrating for grassroots Tories. Labour are about to commit electoral suicide with a firm commitment to a second referendum in “all circumstances”. The pathway is open to reap the rewards. Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party will real the rewards. Lee from Norwich now votes for them instead of the Conservatives.

A paper is being drawn up by Jeremy Corbyn’s head of policy advocating a confirmatory ballot ahead of all other priorities, namely a general election. “It is a moment”, a senior Labour source tells the Times.

The decisive factor has been Labour’s disastrous performance at last month’s European elections.

“It is a question of getting on the front foot now or having it forced upon us at conference. I’ve previously been sceptical but I don’t think there is a choice anymore,” says a member of the shadow cabinet.

“I think we are about to get there. It will depend on exactly how the proposal is formulated as to how contentious it is. But we have been moving in that direction for some time and I expect we will formally sign off on it,” says another.

The final announcement is set to be delayed by the party’s Bolshevik bureaucracy, but the cat’s already out of the bag. Last month, shadow chancellor John McDonnell admitted a general election wasn’t on the cards. “I will do anything I can to block no deal Brexit. So yes if, as likely GE not possible, then I support going back to the people in another referendum,” he tweeted. Earlier this week, deputy leader Tom Watson called Labour the “party of Remain” even though that’s complete hogwash – see video below.

The political scene on this side of the Channel is defined by weakness. What makes that doubly worrying is the EU is turning the screw. The Times reports the bloc is using its negotiations with Switzerland over financial services as a warning to the UK that none of the Tory leadership hopefuls can expect a better deal.

“We simply cannot accept any further attempts of foot dragging and watering down internal market rules, especially in what is probably the decisive phase regarding Brexit,” warned Austria’s EU Commissioner, Johannes Hahn in a private communique. Hahn is presiding over the talks with Switzerland, which have no direct relevance to Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

Hahn added that blocking Swiss access to EU financial markets “may be just the warning shot across the bow they need.”

Switzerland has negotiated a trade agreement not dissimilar to Theresa May’s. The Alpine nation is in the customs union and is part of the free movement policy, in return, it has access to some financial markets. The British government has held back on immigration so, for the time being at least, the trade deal envisaged only covers goods. Thad looks set to change.

The way things stand, Theresa May will go down as one of Britain’s most successful negotiators to the EU. Truly horrifying.