Friday 19 October 2018
Another European summit, another farce. At the end of a week eventful and disturbing in equal measure, Brexiteers find themselves mystified by Theresa May’s plea for an extension on an extension to trade negotiations with the EU, and the nonsense of a backstop on a backstop over Ireland.
And while we’re on the subject, in spite of her claims to the contrary in the Commons on Monday, the double backstop fiasco is a mess of Mrs May’s doing. It was she who pledged to keep Northern Ireland in the Single Market if all other solutions towards an open border failed before proceeding to spawn the Chequers monstrosity, a proposal doomed to fail.
The prime minister is now trying to win favour with the EU in order to swap the existing backstop for a “Temporary Customs Arrangement” – the use of the word temporary means it cannot, by definition, act as a backstop. The customs arrangement is the more descriptive term being used for the innovation/implementation period, originally set to last from Brexit day to December 2020, not anymore.
At the European summit in Brussels on Wednesday evening, the PM requested from her European counterparts an extension to the transition period. In response, Angela Merkel said the EU needs to show more flexibility, the least we should expect for another £10-18bn windfall to add to the £39bn. Beyond that, EU leaders uttered the now customary “we still want a deal, but…”
Off the record, France’s odious president Emmanuel Macron seconded Merkel’s command. Jean-Claude Juncker has told EU leaders they need to focus on a deal that will get through Parliament for that is the Remain voting prime minister’s biggest challenge. But for all the talk, no concessions will be coming our way. Instead of a termination date on the soon-to-be elongated transition period, we will be offered “tests” and “review clauses”. Once these conditions are met, perhaps in a century or so, Britain will be set free. The bloc will wither and die before we leave, even though we voted to do so long ago.
The British media and political establishment are working together to present staying in the EU in all but name as palatable. It is the only pathway out guaranteeing what the government likes to call “frictionless trade” while ensuring the United Kingdom remains indivisible. Never mind that it will also mean Britain becoming an EU colony with no control over her laws, borders and trade (yes, we would have to remain in the Customs Union too).
Ruth “Remainer” Davidson’s resignation threat if Northern Ireland is given special status has spooked Downing Street – she is angling for the whole of the United Kingdom to stay in the EEA. Tory backbencher Nick Boles is suddenly a media favourite, posing as a reasonable voice, even though his views are indistinguishable from the Soubry set’s – in August he said he would vote on “whatever motion that will achieve the result of stopping a no deal Brexit.” This week Boles has been recommending the Norway option, a flagrant denunciation of the referendum result.
Having previously said he admires Norway and Switzerland, which has a similar EEA-type arrangement, Newsnight tried to taint Nigel Farage with the Boles brush. “They are tiddly little countries who found their own relationship with the European Union, we are a country of 65 million plus people, the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world and we voted to become independent,” the Brexit hero fired back.
The October summit was supposed to be the occasion when the terms for withdrawal – agreed in principle almost a year ago – were finally signed. Fortunately for the Remainers, any agreement will now have to wait until December at the earliest, meaning a Parliamentary vote will go right to the wire in January or perhaps even later, giving time for the less hardy Brexiteers on the Conservative benches to be worked over by the whips.
It is now known that several Labour MPs will defy their whip and vote on a government deal so long as it’s big on Single Market integration. There are also rumours of the SNP abstaining, which could easily drag May’s agreement with Brussels over the line.
All of which means the DUP remain pivotal. “Such an extension would cost the United Kingdom billions of pounds, yet our fundamental problem with the EU proposal remains,” was Nigel Dodds’ spot on assessment of May’s request to the EU27. Like Davidson, they abhor special status for Northern Ireland, but that’s where the similarities end.
The Ulster Unionists could yet rescue the referendum, but so could the 17.4m. In the aftermath of the summit, Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries quickly mobilized support behind David Davis as interim leader. In spite of the growing momentum behind May’s farcical negotiation, the Tory leader’s position is more endangered than ever, a vote of no confidence is imminent. By joining the Conservatives, you can help steer the ensuing leadership contests towards a sovereign Brexit.
In the meantime, our Blue Wave campaign to make the Conservatives conservative again by pressurizing Remainer Tory MPs continues to escalate. Any support you’re able to provide could prove vital in altering our nation’s destiny for the better. The support we have received so far has been truly magnificent, which goes to show the massive strength of support behind independence. In humiliating the nation, Theresa May is creating more problems, not less.