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Thursday 30 May 2019

A judge has ruled Boris Johnson appear in court to face accusations of criminal misconduct while in public office over the Vote Leave campaign’s infamous £350m a week to Brussels bus. The maximum penalty is a life sentence. On that basis, David Cameron should be chained up immediately for misappropriation of funds for his £9m leaflet.

Naturally, Boris’s appearance before a judge, which could be blocked by the public prosecutor, has been brought about by a Remain campaigner.

“Hello Boris Johnson,” says Marcus Ball in a fundraising video. “I am a private prosecutor, and I have a problem with lying politicians.”

If that’s the case, Mr Ball has his work cut out (see below), but of course, he’s only interested in Boris, because he’s only really interested in Brexit and stopping it. Ball describes himself as a crusader against fibbing, arguing he isn’t the least bit politically motivated, which is what Boris’s defence team are accusing him of, and rightly so. It emerged yesterday that Ball had previously vowed to “prevent Brexit” in a personal blog and crowdfunding page, both now deleted. Who’s lying now?

Jacob Rees-Mogg made an appeal to Max Hill, the director of public prosecutions: “The DPP is independent and he ought to look at this because this is a deeply unsatisfactory precedent,” adding that the case is “an abuse of process.”

Several other Tory MPs slammed the Remain campaign for trying to substitute the court of public opinion for the criminal courts. Read more at the Telegraph.

The top Brexit story is Michel Barnier’s predictable insistence that it’s the EU/May’s deal or Remain.

“If the U.K. wants to leave in an orderly manner, this treaty is the only option,” the EU’s chief negotiator told the New York Review of Books in a statement aimed directly at contenders for the Tory leadership vowing to renegotiate the deal.

“If the choice is to leave without a deal – fine. If the choice is to stay in the EU – also fine. But if the choice is still to leave the EU in an orderly manner, this treaty is the only option. This is all that our legal constraints allow.”

Barnier’s narrow range of options shows why Nigel Farage’s policy on EU withdrawal is right on the money. The only acceptable option of the three is No Deal. If the government adopt that position, Brussels will sweat, and the likes of Barnier will be forced to assess their phoney “legal constraints”.

On that note, we encourage you to read this account of Theresa May’s disastrous negotiation, which the EU was able to turn into a masterclass in exploitation by marking down red lines on spurious legal grounds, couched in EU “process”, that Olly Robbins and the rest of May’s team in Brussels, dared not to touch.

Back to Barnier, the man Emmanuel Macron is pushing to replace Jean-Claude Juncker opened up the possibility of renegotiating the Irish backstop, but only once the Withdrawal Treaty has been signed:

“We said that after the withdrawal agreement is accepted, we can immediately start work on a long-term solution for the Irish border. It was a British proposal to build the backstop into a UK-wide solution—to make the whole of the UK (including Northern Ireland) part of a single customs territory until we find a solution. The backstop is insurance, in case we do not find this solution.”

Barnier’s comments are well timed. Appearing on ITV’s Peston last night, Jeremy Hunt said he would further delay Article 50 (see above) if he was unable to forge a new consensus with Brussels by October 31st, Britain’s current exit date, a negotiating pitch as hopeless as May’s.

Hunt is now in freefall. If this column by a Spectator journalist is to be believed, Dominic Raab is now enemy number one among pro-Remain Tory MPs, taking the heat off of Boris, although the media is doing a good job of that by informing the public the former foreign secretary might be appearing in court just at the moment withdrawal talks re-open with Brussels. Rory Stewart has admitted to smoking opium in Iran – as if doing it in an Islamic republic makes it acceptable – although he’s inexplicably received support for the Tory leadership from conservative commentators like Isabel Oakeshott.

Michael Gove is the remaining front-line contender for whom no-one has managed to land any major blows, which is deeply concerning as he will no doubt use Barnier’s backstop offer as an opening to totally rebrand the deal. As a vastly more effective communicator than May he is likely to make inroads she could only have dreamt of.