Our suspicions were raised earlier this week when Boris Johnson talked about “a transition period” after we leave, for certain, on the 31st of October. As the old saying has it, ‘fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me’ – we’ve been fooled by Ms May 180 times, so we are rather sensitive to such utterances. Enter Mark François MP, of and from whom we’ve heard much this year and of and from whom we hopefully will hear more.

Here’s a paywalled article about him, written for the DT by Stewart Jackson who was a Conservative MP from 2005-17 and was Chief of Staff to Rt Hon David Davis MP as Brexit Secretary 2017-18. The article (paywalled link) has the brilliant title “Mark Francois is demonstrating to the EU that the Tory Party has its own non-negotiable backstop”, thus fully deserving of a closer look! Here are some lengthy quotes:

“Having known him for a quarter of a century, having fought adjoining hopeless Labour seats in London in the Tories’ annus miserabilis in 1997, you’d be hard pressed not to select Mark Francois, the pugnacious Rt Hon Member for Rayleigh and Wickford, if you had to choose an MP to stand at your shoulder in the most vicious political firefight.

Often mocked on social media by the sneering knee jerk Left and Remain EU cultists for his shoot from the hip, uncompromising style, Francois is nevertheless a rare thing in the Commons: A former Defence Minister and Opposition Spokesman on Europe, who battled the Labour Government’s subterfuge and duplicity on the Lisbon Treaty in 2007 and who actually understands how the European Union works, he is also a man who – unfashionably – is imbued with ideological principle. He has the capacity to connect with ordinary voters and the courage to resile from the lazy communitaire received wisdom of the liberal Europhile classes who inhabit too much of the commanding heights of public discourse across the media, business, government and academia and to stick to a firm line, irrespective of the consequences.  

History will record that he was among 28 so called “Spartans” who helped sink for a third time Theresa May’s pitiful Withdrawal Agreement on March 29 and in so doing, despite huge pressure from the whips and the Conservative Party machine, rescued the UK from perpetual supplication, economic stagnation and national humiliation as a de facto colony of whatever geopolitical behemoth the European Union is likely to become.” (paywalled link)

Stewart Jackson next looks at the current situation, after Johnson’s talk about transition periods:

“Today, Mr Francois and, one assumes, a chunk of the European Research Group he speaks for are putting Boris Johnson’s newly minted administration on notice that he’s no patsy and that October 31 is not to be regarded as a “work in progress” transitionary milestone but the exit door to a clean break from the European Union, some 40 months after the British people voted for that outcome.

The predictable ill-discipline and schism the Right is famous for? Not necessarily. Perversely, this may be good news for the government. Francois is shoring up the right wing flank and demonstrating to the EU that the Tory Party has its own non-negotiable backstop, endorsed by over half the Conservative membership and the party’s MPs. The messages are clear: May’s deal is as dead as a dodo. Tickles and tweaks won’t cut it. It’s not just the backstop.

No Deal is now normalised in a way that would have been inconceivable barely a few short weeks ago.

A former whip, attuned to the imperceptible rhythms and mercurial changes of allegiance in the Commons and acutely aware of who has the numbers and who controls the timetable, Mark Francois can do the maths like anyone else: As the clock ticks down, he sees the chances of the Remain rump blocking Brexit in Parliament vanishing like Alice’s Cheshire cat at each No Deal announcement, each meeting of the Brexit War Cabinet and every robust utterance of the Prime Minister.

The smack of firm government, leadership, clarity, a united Cabinet, rising poll ratings and an actual choreographed day to day plan – absent in Theresa May’s unlamented Keystone Cops twilight – feeds through into the City, business and commerce and even the CBI may be catching up – although not, sadly, the BBC. (paywalled link)

Indeed – why would the BBC take note? Or should that question be ‘when will the BBC take note’? More:

“With the appointment of Jacob Rees-Mogg as Leader of the Commons and Mark Spencer as Chief Whip, Team Boris have bought a howitzer to the Parliamentary knife fight in September. No one, even John Bercow, is as smart as Rees-Mogg at using Commons procedures to get his way – in this instance, to thwart the Remain true believers in their kamikaze last stand. He fully understands the power of the Executive and Royal Prerogative.

Serendipity is such that the EU and especially the Germans, who have too often misread the mood of Parliament and the British people, are beginning to take the October date seriously.

{…] It’s astonishing that despite the bellicose rhetoric aimed at their nearest neighbour by the Irish PM and client media, playing to the domestic anti-Brit gallery and the egregious bad faith in bypassing former Brexit Secretary David Davis via weekly parallel text negotiations between Foreign Minister Coveney and our former Deputy PM, David Lidington, our Government still remains resolute in defending the Common Travel Area, Good Friday Agreement, Irish voting rights and no hard border between the countries post-Brexit. Leo Varadkar has foolishly bet the ranch that the UK will capitulate and if his reckless gamble goes wrong and we default to WTO trade, his government may crumble, and the Irish beef and dairy industries will be grievously weakened, as will the wider economy in the Republic and that’s before the EU “regularises” Ireland’s benign tax rates.” (paywalled link)

These last paragraphs are somewhat speculative but with the EU one never knows …:

“In essence, the Prime Minister retains the initiative, for now: If he can hold his nerve and his government survive as a coherent administration till the party conference season in mid September, then No Deal will become the nailed on default option, having already been priced in by the financial markets who are closely watching key contingency arrangements.

The EU 27 will, at that juncture, feel the cold sweat of panic. Alternatively, the EU can put pragmatism and realpolitik before theological adherence to a lost cause and use the October EU Council to offer the UK a new deal. Or No Deal really will happen, representing not just economic damage to them and their huge trading imbalance with the UK but a profound geopolitical failure too.

Time is short. The UK will be ready for no deal by October 31. The PM will not seek an Article 50 extension. Parliament cannot stop Brexit and there won’t be a second referendum.

Does the European Union want to take the risk?” (paywalled link)

On past form, I wouldn’t bet on the EU not taking that risk. Also on past form, I wouldn’t bet on the EU ‘offering a new deal’ which would surely be the May WA dressed up in fancy clothes.

That’s where we need Mark François coming to the fore, rallying his Spartans.


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