Friday 8 September
The latest edition of Leave.EU’s weekly Brexit roundup.
They say patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. If that’s the case (and it certainly isn’t) a term scandalous enough to describe the likes of Barnier, Selmayr, Juncker, Verhofstadt, Van Rompuy and Tajani is yet to be invented.
Michel Barnier began this week’s EU-led insult offensive by telling an audience in Italy that our patriotic decision to leave the EU warranted a lesson in what leaving the single market really means. It may have escaped the French elitist that the British electorate knows very well what leaving means after more than two years of very public debate.
Barnier was followed by Jean-Claude Juncker’s influential crony, Martin Selmayr, who described the referendum decision as “stupid”. Minutes from the second round of Article 50 negotiations in July released later in the week revealed concerns of Juncker’s over the “stability” of Brexit Secretary David Davis – this, from a man known well beyond Brussels for his fondness for getting merry on the job.
Not to be outdone, Guy Verhofstadt yet again criticized the British public’s will as “deplorable”. Antonio Tajani, the President of the EU’s pointless parliament chipped in with the startling (irony alert) threat of asking MEPs to delay the assessment that “sufficient progress” had been made in the negotiations from October to December.
Only in Brussels do barely accountable politicians focus on pointless labels for events that are yet to materialise. They should be either hunkering down and getting the job done or, in Tajani’s case, shutting up. The European Parliament is at best a marginal actor in the Article 50 negotiations. It is inconceivable that a majority of MEPs will vote against whatever Davis and Barnier hash out.
Even Herman ‘Who are you?’ Van Rompuy resolved to emerge from under his anonymous rock and repeat Mr Tajani’s accusations.
The backdrop to these volleys of vituperation is the ongoing deadlock over the EU’s ridiculous demands for an almighty divorce bill, along with the commencement of the second reading of the EU Withdrawal bill.
The EU’s prospects of getting Britain to cough up look even dimmer following the publication of a report this week revealing the EU is in fact in deficit to the tune of £9.3 billion. Meanwhile, the unity between the EU27 that Brussels is so desperate to present is crumbling.
David Davis reported over the weekend that the French had been far more cooperative during the last round of negotiations. French dreams of being Germany’s only geopolitical rival after Britain’s departure from the bloc have collapsed. The objective now is to make Brexit as comfortable as possible for the UK as only Germany will benefit if Britain is driven away from signing a comprehensive trade deal. Nothing scares France more than German Hegemony.
In the House of Commons, David Davis kicked off the second reading of the EU withdrawal bill, confirming he would not take up the option on an EEA rule allowing non-EU countries like Norway and Iceland to restrict free movement while remaining in the single market. “In many ways, it’s the worst of all outcomes,” said the Brexit secretary.
Thanks to Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, Labour have managed to hold onto a sliver of Brexit credibility since the referendum. It all but disappeared this week after the party pledged to vote against the bill. Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer and his allies are using concerns over the powers the bill will bestow upon the Government in order to pass secondary legislation as an excuse to try and block it.
It would appear Sir Keir is unaware that the unelected European Commission has wide-ranging powers to pass secondary legislation with only minimal scrutiny by the EU legislatures. Someone should ask him whether he would rather have a democratically elected British Government or an entirely unelected EU bureaucracy passing delegated acts.
On Tuesday, the liberal establishment was left breathless after a leaked Home Office document drafted for the Prime Minister proposed treating EU citizens wishing to live in the UK the same way as their non-EU counterparts – shock horror! Nigel Farage described it as a “big step in the right direction”.
The Tories found themselves in an internal spat with Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove against the document and the Prime Minister, who as Home Secretary allowed record numbers of migrants into the country, in favour. A Commission source quickly smacked down the contents of the leak, threatening to deny Britain single market access. Not a likely outcome when even North Korea has access to the EU market. Labour did not respond at all.
Down at the grassroots level, Philip Hammond, the target of a Leave.EU campaign to get him deselected, descended from his high tower to tell our chairman, Arron Banks, he was confident the endeavour would fail. “I will always act in the best interests of the country and my constituents as I see them,” he said. Working at the bidding of the EU to secure a ruinous transition deal doesn’t look much like our best interests.