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Friday 13 July 2018

Last night marked the second historic event in the space of a week, but on this occasion, Brexiteers were the ones rubbing their hands with glee. President Donald Trump’s explosive interview with the Sun, in which he severely criticized Theresa May’s handling of Brexit, ruled out a trade deal with the US if the Chequers plan is installed, and praised Boris Johnson, was published during last night’s gala dinner at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

Here are a few choice snippets:

“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal… I would say that that would probably end a major trade relationship with the United States…”

“…I would have done it [the Brexit negotiation] much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me. She wanted to go a different route. I would actually say that she probably went the opposite way. And that is fine. She should negotiate the best way she knows how. But it is too bad what is going on…”

“…The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one the people voted on. It was not the deal that was in the referendum…”

On Boris Johnson: “I like him a lot. I have a lot of respect for Boris…I was very saddened to see he was leaving government and I hope he goes back in at some point…I am not pitting one against the other. I am just saying I think he would be a great prime minister. I think he’s got what it takes.”

“…You have a mayor [in Sadiq Kahn] who has done a terrible job in London…Take a look at the terrorism that is taking place. Look at what is going on in London. I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism. I think he has done a bad job on crime.”

The timing of the interview and its tone has sparked a furore over the leader of Britain’s main ally breaking with diplomatic protocol. The media are having a field day. What commentators are forgetting is that Trump is correct: the Brexit the 17.4m voted for is not being delivered. Britain cannot unilaterally sign a trade deal with the United States while it remains part of the EU’s external border.

Trump is an unconventional president for a reason. The American people, much like we Brits were tired of the internationalism doused in find words and poor deeds. Trump takes a different approach, speaking openly and honestly in order to get results.

Ever since Friday’s humiliating proposal for a future trade relationship with the EU, padded out in yesterday’s white paper, the government has been doing a desperate job of pretending Britain’s trade independence will be restored. It has taken a foreign leader to obliterate that notion. We owe the Donald a tremendous debt of gratitude.

Yesterday’s white paper was expected to add flesh to the bones of the Chequers proposal, but there were contradictions, most worryingly, disputes between UK and EU courts will be “referred to the European Court of Justice for interpretation.” The statement made on Friday implied stronger independent arbitration.

“This white paper has not needed age to turn yellow,” commented Jacob Rees-Mogg. “There are very few signs of the prime minister’s famous red lines. It is a pale imitation of the paper prepared by David Davis, a bad deal for Britain. It is not something I would vote for, nor is it what the British people voted for.”

Rees-Mogg’s powerful European Research Group are now exploring ways of making a statement to the government in an effort to get more of David Davis’s ideas, namely a conventional free trade agreement into Britain’s economic pitch to Brussels.

According to the Times, they are now eyeing up the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill, which returns to the House of Commons early next week. The bill enables the government to set Britain’s customs regime after Brexit. The ERG could reinforce a Labour vote against it, provoking yet another crisis for Mrs May, one she would surely not recover from.

It is not clear yet whether Labour will aim to vote the bill down, abstain or go on an amendment spree. They will certainly not seek to collaborate with patriots on Conservative benches, but an opportunity may still arise. Certainly, it is the government on the back foot now. The prime minister’s whips are manically trying to figure out how many Tory backbenchers would take a stand and whether the government could be defeated. Given Labour’s secrecy, they will be tempted to kick the can down the road by delaying the bill’s return until after the summer recess. How very untrumpian.