LEADING THE WAY OUT OF THE EU

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Friday 30 November 2018

The outrage over the Bank of England and the Treasury’s spurious economic “scenarios” – with the figures being manipulated to the nth degree they’ve not been presented as “forecasts” – continued last night as Jacob Rees-Mogg went to the heart of this country’s current political crisis, the breakdown in public trust in our misleading, agenda-driven institutions.

“The problem is that people are right to be distrustful, for there is an effort both to frighten and to pull them into acquiescing into a non-Brexit Brexit,” said Rees-Mogg. Westmonster have a full write-up.

Theresa May is in Argentina for the G20 summit where she hopes to hold six bilateral meetings with the aim of getting valuable soundbites out of world leaders praising her deal on the grounds it will deliver expanded trade.

Judging from pre-released segments of her statement, the PM herself will only go as far as saying the deal is good from a European perspective, a continent accounting for an ever-diminishing share of global output. Her lack of ambition smacks of the poverty of her negotiated settlement with Brussels, which she will today describe only as “good”, adding:

“Our relationship with the EU will remain close. A free-trade area with no tariffs, fees, charges, quantitative restrictions or rules of origin checks will protect jobs, including those that rely on integrated supply chains.”

Her accomplice in this doomed mission is Liam Fox. Ushered into the Today programme studio this morning, the international trade secretary vividly illustrated why he’s backing the withdrawal deal. “Members of the Cabinet who don’t vote for the deal won’t be members of the Cabinet,” he told listeners. He was less clear however on why the rest of us should.

If the deal manages to secure parliamentary approval, two massive question marks hang over Britain’s future as a trading nation. First, when will the backstop be drawn to a halt giving way to a permanent trading arrangement, which will supposedly leave us more loosely tied with the bloc, and what will that relationship look like.

Fox had no clear answers to the former and when pressed on the worrying content of the political declaration, which states the future UK-EU “economic partnership” will be based around the existing customs arrangements, he succeeded in making the scenario look even worse.

Britain will align with EU regulations to facilitate trade with the wider world, said Fox, leaving the issue of whether we would have control over the flow of goods into our market unanswered. Sounds a lot like Chequers version 1.0, under which HMRC would try and offer discounts on import duties to third country exporters while remaining in the EU’s Customs Union.

The pathetic plan has already been dismissed by Brussels, and will a second time around. However, in the here and now, both May and Fox’s priority is to convince the public that, somewhere down the line, somehow, Britain will regain its trade independence, even if that’s highly unlikely under the terms of May’s arrangements. The prime minister’s motivation is simply to get her rotten deal across the line, while Fox needs to make his title look valid.

He is not alone in trying to sell the unsellable deal from the lofty heights of Cabinet. Today’s FT reports his nominally pro-Brexit colleagues in the inner circle are being mobilized by Number 10 to bring no deal Tory MPs onside. Michael Gove and Geoffrey Cox have been designated the two chief ambassadors.

To extinguish demands by Brexiteers to see the government’s legal counsel on the deal, Cox will be wheeled out to the Commons on Monday for a heavily redacted briefing.

“It had better work, it’s our last chance,” said a minister. With the number of MPs to have come out publicly against May’s deal now reaching 100 (see Telegraph front page below), the minister is not wrong.

Last chance, but not last try. Government whips are also reported to be threatening to cancel Christmas if MPs vote the deal down. The threat is empty, to delay recess to make space for a second vote, the government would have to secure a motion in parliament. Such a motion will not pass.

Speaking of motions. Hillary Benn’s amendment to the meaningful vote has received the backing of other high profile fifth columnists like Dominic Grieve and Sarah Wollaston. Sir Keir Starmer is also onboard.

The amendment first seeks to rule out a no deal. As it’s non-binding Benn has also sought to tamper with the follow-up process set out in the EU (Withdrawal) Act. Under the Act, in the event the meaningful vote fails a “neutral motion” will be tabled to give MPs a chance to thrash out all their deeply held, but highly unrepresentative feelings for European integration. Benn and co want the motion to be amendable, paving the way for the Commons to rally behind an awful alternative. Imagine a Norway-Turkey hydra.

If that sounds delusional, ensure to give the Guardian front page a glance. The lefty broadsheet makes great play of government plans to relax conditions on non-EU doctors seeking to work for the NHS. Yes, that’s how a normal migration policy works, you fill the gaps in the workforce with those skills that are in deficit. It’s called common sense.

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