The former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Arch Remainer Philip Hammond, a.k.a. ‘Spreadsheet Phil’, has put pen to paper and written an extraordinary article that was published today in RemainCentral (where else), i.e. The Times. Please sit down before reading and remove all cups and mugs with tea or coffee from your vicinity. Do not throw bricks at your PC screen.
Hammond is off to a blood pressure raising start with his headline “To say that people voted for hard Brexit simply isn’t true” (link, paywalled). One would of course like to know who is saying that. One would also like to mention that Mr Hammond ought to know what people voted for because he was there, in government, when the text and the legislation for the EU referendum was prepared and voted for in the Houses of Parliament.
Furthermore he ought to remember that people also didn’t vote for a ‘soft Brexit’ or a Brexit which would be BRINO, the WA May presented to the HoC on three occasions, losing that vote three times.
One wonders what else Mr Hammond has conveniently forgotten when he was Secretary of State for Defence, then for the Foreign Office and last for the Treasury as Chancellor … Now let’s look at the text:
“Since the new government took office three weeks ago I and many of my like-minded colleagues have chosen to keep quiet and give the prime minister the time and space to set out his plan to deliver a Brexit deal. But now it is time to reiterate our support for Boris Johnson to deliver on his public and private commitments towards a deal and his assurance that no-deal is a “million-to-one” chance.” (link, paywalled)
That’s how to be obsequious while sticking a knife in … These ‘private commitments’ he mentions are rather mysterious though. Are we back in the times of secretive government, presenting us peasants with done deals only which we have to swallow, like it or not? Next:
“The move from demanding changes to the backstop to demanding its total removal is a pivot from a tough negotiating stance to a wrecking one. The unelected people who pull the strings of this government know that this is a demand the EU cannot, and will not, accede to. Not just because they will be stubborn in their defence of the single market (although they will) but because the fragility of their own coalition of 27 means that any attempt on their side to reopen the package would see their unity collapse. They will not take that chance and the smart people in Whitehall know it.” (link, paywalled)
Notice how Hammond takes a swipe at ‘unelected people pulling strings’, meaning Dominic Cummings, while glossing over the existence of actual, unelected string-pullers in the EU. Moreover – we should have expected this – he’s full into “The EU won’t like it” mode. We know by now that this was and is the way Whitehall has thwarted every negotiating initiative. He continues:
“So those of us who desperately want to believe this Conservative prime minister is committed to negotiating a deal that will protect our future prosperity need to see evidence that it is happening soon. Because no-deal is not an acceptable outcome and after three weeks in which the government’s narrative has gone more or less unchallenged, it is time for us to explain why — by busting two great myths.” (link, paywalled)
The three weeks Johnson has been working on Brexit are obviously far too long already – weeks clearly being longer than years, in Hammond’s estimate. Again, obviously, nobody wants a no-deal Brexit, us plebeian Leave voters excepted. Now for those ‘myths’:
“The first is that to reject a no-deal exit is somehow to challenge the expressed will of the British people. It is not. In 2016 the British people were invited to vote for a Brexit with a deal, and by a small margin they did so. They were told that a deal to protect Britain’s trade with the EU — our largest export market by far — would be “easy” to do. To pretend now that 2016 Leave voters voted for a hard no-deal Brexit is a total travesty of the truth. As the BBC’s “reality check” had to remind Dominic Raab, now the foreign secretary, the possibility of no-deal was not “regularly raised” during the referendum campaign. Michael Gove put it best in March this year when he said: “We didn’t vote to leave without a deal. That wasn’t the message of the campaign I helped lead.” (link, paywalled)
And there’s the first lie: we were not ‘invited’ to vote for a Brexit with no deal – it was a simple, binary question. I remember that ballot paper, and so do you. What Hammond is doing here is to use arguments made during the campaign as if they were promises given. It’s strange how all remainers, from Hammond down, always forget to mention the dire warnings given by the then PM, a certain Mr Cameron. When Hammond writes next:
“So let’s be clear: as things stand today there is no popular mandate for a no-deal Brexit and no parliamentary mandate for one either. The hardliners may make the most noise but they are not the most numerous. Most people in this country want to see us leave in a smooth and orderly fashion that will not disrupt lives, cost jobs or diminish living standards, whether they voted Leave or Remain in 2016. Parliament faithfully reflects the view of that majority and it will make its voice heard. No-deal would be a betrayal of the 2016 referendum result. It must not happen.” (link, paywalled)
he clearly shows that he has a very selective memory. He continues:
“The second myth that needs busting is that a no-deal exit will be painless. Some key figures in the government have even absurdly suggested that it will make us better off fiscally and economically. It won’t. The central tenet of the hardliners’ position is that Britain will mitigate the economic effect of trade barriers with the EU through trade deals with third countries. But all credible economic analysis shows that the losses will far exceed the potential benefits. And when our American friends talk about doing a “great trade deal”, they mean a trade deal that is great for America — one that opens the UK’s food market to American agricultural produce, produced to American standards, in a move that will destroy British agriculture. Even then, the powerful Irish-American caucus has warned clearly that Congress will not allow a trade deal if a no-deal Brexit puts the open Irish border at risk.” (link, paywalled)
It’s a pity then that Mr Hammond apparently hasn’t heard what John Bolton, Advisor to President Trump, has said yesterday. It was only in all MSM …! And finally:
“It is equally the threat to our precious Union: the clear risk that a no-deal exit will collapse the fragile peace settlement in Northern Ireland and lead ultimately to a border poll, and the inevitability that a change in the status of Northern Ireland would lead to a further referendum in Scotland and the likely break-up of the UK. So, far from being a powerful independent United Kingdom making its voice heard on the world stage, the reality would be a diminished and inward-looking little England, inexorably squeezed between the emerging economic power blocs.
So it’s time for our government to demonstrate its commitment to a genuine negotiation with the EU to achieve a deal that will maintain Britain’s trade with its nearest neighbours, protect British jobs and ensure our future prosperity. The clock is ticking.” (link, paywalled)
Hammond rolls out the ultimate Project Fear item – the break-up of the Union, garnished with the old smear of Leavers being ‘Little Englanders’. This says more about Mr Hammond than about Brexit. He is so full of fear, so frightened of losing the cosy nannying from Brussels that he’d rather trample on the will of the people. He has projected that fear onto every single anti-Brexit pronounciation and prediction. He is cloaking this fear with an overweening sense of privilege which allows him to be wilfully blind to the alternative, the proper Brexit.
Had he and his Remain colleagues not blocked Brexit at every opportunity, had they spend their time on working for a smooth and proper Brexit, we would have overcome the difficulties already. But he doesn’t trust us the people and he doesn’t believe in this, our country.
Why should we believe a man who clearly struggles with his memory and who is so fearful that he probably asks an EU diplomat every morning what tie he should wear to please Brussels!