4 May 2018
Yesterday’s local elections failed to provide the Labour surge that Jeremy Corbyn and his allies had hoped for as former UKIP voters, who had backed the Eurosceptic party in huge numbers in 2014, flooded back to the Conservatives and rejected Comrade Corbyn’s customs union betrayal.
It should be a massive wake-up call to Theresa May, who is currently debating whether to pursue a phony “customs partnership” herself or deliver the real Brexit that 17.4m Brits voted for. Given her newfound reliance on UKIP supporters, it’s high time she realised that her party will be finished if she decides to stab Britain’s pro-Brexit majority in the back.
She ignores us at her peril. As polling expert Sir John Curtice pointed out this morning, around 70% of Conservative voters are now people who voted Leave in the referendum. If she continues to treat us with the same contempt she’s displayed over the last 21 months, the next general election will be very ugly indeed.
It’s more important than ever for the Prime Minister to wake up and fight for Brexit following yet another repulsive intervention from the civil service. A briefing presented to the cabinet’s Brexit sub-committee allegedly insisted that Britain remain shackled to the European customs union until 2023 – seven years after our vote to leave – because of phony concerns about customs technology. What a farce.
“If we are still in the customs union by the time of the next general election in 2022 it will cause a catastrophe at the polls because we will not have delivered Brexit,” one senior Brexiteer warned the Telegraph today. Let’s hope Mrs May works this one out too, before we end up with Corbyn in Number 10.
The latest civil service intervention wasn’t the only customs union news this week. After parliament tried to rob Britain of its destiny as a global trading nation, it was the government’s turn to step into the breach and win back ground – well, that should have been its intention at least.
Refusing to acknowledge that the customs union is a black and white issue – either you’re in it or you’re not, in possession of an independent trade policy or dependent on the EU’s poor excuse for one – Theresa May persisted with her imaginative fudge known as the ‘new customs partnership’. Note also that May’s Brexit Sherpa, Olly Robbins, has been pushing the partnership plan in Brussels for some time now.
Last week we issued reports of a “clear consensus” in cabinet against Mrs May’s mad idea, but it took the resignation of Remainer Amber Rudd and a forceful intervention by the European Research Group, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, to head off the prime minister’s disastrous plan.
Rudd’s replacement at the Home Office Javid Sajid was one of two nominal Remainers in the Brexit war Cabinet to reject the customs partnership. May and her fellow Europhiles lost the vote 6-5. Rudd would have made the difference in Remainer favour. Thanks heavens.
Like the 30-page document sent to Downing street by the ERG the night before, Javid and his fellow defector Gavin Williamson took issue with the customs partnership model being totally unprecedented. From dispatch to delivery, such a system would require every shipment of goods crossing borders within the existing customs union to be tracked, a prospect so fanciful it is impossible to imagine how it might work. Even if it did, the EU would not accept it.
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The practical considerations could have easily been swept aside if it wasn’t for the 60-odd Brexiteer MPs lined up behind Rees-Mogg. The document is reported to have come with threats of a Commons rebellion if the prime minister stuck with her partnership plan. Mrs May did not take heed of the advice. Fortunately, others did.
Nevertheless, May refuses to accept defeat. Chief Whip Julian Smith was surreptitiously added to the 11-man inner Cabinet to push the numbers in her favour. Smith’s failure to make the difference has been compounded by a warning to his boss that she does not have the votes to defeat a customs union amendment.
Re-enter the Lords, who not content with the first victory in this proxy war over customs – for what is really at stake is our independence – piled on yet more debilitating amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill this week. On Monday an amendment tabled by Viscount Hailsham giving parliament control of the negotiation, in the event it is rejected by October’s meaningful vote, passed 335 to 244. Hailsham is perhaps better known as Douglas Hogg, the MP who claimed expenses for cleaning his moat.
The government was also beaten 205-181 by a Lord Dubs proposal to give unaccompanied “child” refugees located somewhere in the EU the right to join their parents in Britain.
Hailsham’s proposal and its successful passage through the upper chamber seriously calls into question he and his fellow peers’ sanity. Parliament is not even a negotiating body. Why have an executive branch called government if parliament can muddle its way through on a case-by-case basis? Oh yes, that’s right, because it’s impossible.
Then on Wednesday, the customs union returned to the agenda as Lord Patten’s amendment to preserve the Good Friday Agreement by ruling out “new border arrangements” passed 309 to 242. The petition for the abolition of the House of Lords is now up to almost 130,000 signatures. The motion is now set for debate in Parliament on 18 June.
And for more insight into the customs union along with the government’s not so encouraging preparation for controlled borders, check out the latest item on the Leave.EU blog: Customs contingences not ready for March 2019 say HMRC chiefs.
The EU took a step back from slamming into Britain’s negotiation this week to concentrate on its own ill-thought out plans. The EU Commission issued a proposal to fill the “Brexit budget gap” by not only increasing each member state’s contribution but increasing the overall amount.
Under the Commission’s plans, the budget would increase from 1% of the EU’s economic output to 1.114%, a staggering €1.279tn over eight years. “The economic wind in our sails gives us some breathing space but does not shelter us,” said Jean-Claude Juncker. Make no mistake, with a recession on the horizon, the EU is conscious it needs to get its hands on as much money as it can now with the vain hope of winning hearts and minds further down the line as it hands out cash like confetti.
The budget ball is now in the member states’ court. The inevitable horse trading will not be insulated from Brexit however. More nasty demands for Sterling are coming down the line, brace yourselves.
The Leave.EU Team