LEADING THE WAY OUT OF THE EU

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Tuesday 11 September 2018

Today’s Sun reassures us the much-needed alternative to Chequers being cooked up by Brexiteer Tories will be published after rumours surfaced of infighting over its content possibly preventing its release.

Details are already surfacing, particularly around the niggly question of the Irish border. This blog has long argued we should follow the example sketched out by former Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny: checks away from the border for large consignments with smaller deliveries ignored. This appears to be the model Jacob Rees-Mogg and his European Research Group are aiming for.

According to the Sun, “flying squads” of customs and excise inspectors will roam Northern Ireland checking heavy goods vehicles, a concept known as “inland clearance”. Checks would also be performed at import destinations such as factories. The document will be published “in the coming weeks” says the Sun.

In the meantime, Rees-Mogg and the Economists for Free Trade Group will set out their pitch for a WTO Brexit, which is expected to create an astonishing £1.1 trillion windfall for the UK economy over the fifteen years after withdrawal.

“Our trade with WTO countries has grown four times faster than our trade under single market terms,” Rees-Mogg told the Telegraph.

“Trading on WTO terms has been hugely successful and prices would go down by as much as 8% for some basic items such as food and footwear, meaning it would provide the biggest benefit to the least well-off.”

Yesterday Brexit Brunch reported the EU27 will bend slightly their negotiating guidelines in favour of Chequers-based compromise, packaged in a vaguely worded political agreement – they don’t want to push May so far she falls after being an ever so pliant negotiator. Michel Barnier later stated that a withdrawal deal was “possible” within six to eight weeks. According to the Times, Whitehall officials believe Barnier has indeed warmed up to the British pitch. Unlikely, this is the doing of the Member States.

Spurred on by an indirect endorsement of Chequers, the prime minister has ordered ministers to visit at least two constituency associations to drum up support, a ploy that could easily backfire.

Finally, allies of Boris Johnson have told the Guardian he will continue to “throw rocks” at the Chequers plan all the way up to the party conference in a bid to get the disastrous policy withdrawn. On the surface, Johnson is deploying the same strategy as his pro-Leave Tory colleagues who are vocally backing the PM while lobbying her to chuck Chequers.

“Is he going to lead the ERG and depose her now? The answer is no,” said a Johnson ally. “His plan is still to show what he believes are the failings of Chequers and get her to change her mind and revert to Lancaster House.

“…He doesn’t want to be fronting any leadership challenge, that’s not what he’s interested in. He’s interested in changing the policy, not the prime minister. Everyone knows he eventually wants to try to become leader. But not now.”

Not now, but soon, surely.