They cannot leave well alone, ‘Our MSM’: they simply must keep stoking the atmosphere of fear and hysteria. It’s now back to ‘Brexit-Fear’ as ‘Covid-Fear’ seems to have been put on the back-burner for the moment. Today though we’ll disregard that simmering Covid madness and concentrate on Brexit because the two broadsheets have, for once, provided us with extensive material.
For starters, having come back from their holidays, the Brussels rumour mill has produced some interesting stuff. The DT has this headline:
“Exclusive: Michel Barnier to be sidelined by EU leaders in bid to break Brexit deadlock – Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, is to pave the way for heads of EU countries to intervene in the talks” (paywalled link).
Delving into that ‘exclusive’ report, this looks more like a last-ditch attempt by Brussels diplomats to frighten the horses than something cast in stone. It’s speculation – so don’t open the champagne as of yet:
“European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is set to be sidelined by EU leaders in a bid to get a breakthrough in the negotiations about a trade treaty with the UK. Representatives of the bloc’s 27 member states expect Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, to pave the way for heads of state and government to intervene in the deadlocked talks in a September 16 flagship speech. EU leaders are hoping that by stepping in to get the talks moving, it will help bridge the deep divides between the two sides, allowing Mr Barnier and his UK opposite number Lord Frost to agree the details.” (paywalled link)
Interesting, isn’t it: Frost and Barnier allegedly being relegated to work for the EU ‘leaders’! Brussels does not appear to believe the next two rounds of talk between Frost and Barnier will be productive, which is why Brexit will not be on the agenda of the EU summit on Sept 25th. The Brussels reasoning for the alleged sidelining of Barnier and Lord Frost is interesting albeit somewhat puzzling:
“Mr Barnier had been lobbying for leaders to get involved but those overtures have been rebuffed by Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, who is unhappy with the lack of progress in talks. […] However one EU diplomat said they expected Mrs von der Leyen to “set the scene to sideline Barnier and Frost to find a high level political solution”. Mrs von der Leyen, German chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country holds the presidency of the EU, and Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, are then expected to take over the talks for Brussels.” (paywalled link)
Is it because M Charles Michel didn’t want all those EU leaders to be involved, never mind cher Michel, because he hopes to become the ‘saviour’ for the EU? Or does he and Ms vdLeyen hope that negotiating with Johnson will be easier? Not a forlorn hope, that, given Johnson’s performances these last months in regard to Covid! Perhaps they think that Macron and Merkel, the actual EU rulers, will be more than capable of wringing concessions out of Johnson. But then the Brussels rumour mongers simply had to row back:
“Despite the building pressure, failure to break the Brexit deadlock in trade negotiations in London next week will not be “fatal” to the chances of striking the agreement before the no deal deadline, EU diplomats said. One said: “We always hope for progress but aren’t holding our breath. The next round would be good but absence of progress there won’t be fatal. This will be different if the second September round also fails.” (paywalled link)
It seems that Brussels is extremely relaxed about these next rounds failing! RemainCentral also has a Brussels report, under a deceptively anti-Brussels headline: “Brussels accused of derailing talks by seeking UK law veto” (link, paywalled). Here is the report to go with that headline:
“The European Union is demanding a potential veto on Britain’s post-Brexit laws and regulations, senior government officials have claimed. In what is described as the “single biggest stumbling block” to a deal, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier is said to be insisting that the government must agree not to implement any change to UK legislation that could distort trade with the bloc without first consulting Brussels. […] Lord Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, is understood to have rejected the approach. He has argued that the EU must show that any change to UK rules and regulations has distorted trade between the two, in practice rather than in theory.” (link, paywalled)
Following that, their Brussels correspondent then uses acres of pixels to tell us what the EU believes. That goes towards explaining why Brussels is so relaxed about the next rounds of negotiations failing, and why they believe Johnson is ripe for caving in. He describes how his EU ‘sources’ want us to understand how these negotiations should proceed. That also throws a light on that ‘Barnier will be sidelined’ report in the DT. It’s a nicely calculated attempt at ‘divide and conquer’:
“For the European side the issue is not Lord Frost, Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator, who is acutely aware of the timetable. “He understands the time constraints but not the rest of Downing Street,” a senior European diplomatic source said. “Johnson thinks the October deadline is pure tactics. That could be a fatal misunderstanding.” The prime minister tends, according to diplomatic sources, to believe that at the 11th hour, EU leaders will hold an emergency summit and thrash out a deal.” (link, paywalled)
Note how they puff up Lord Frost. Also note the use of ‘tends to believe’ – as if these EU ‘sources’ are taking the rumours from Remain Whitehall and our Remain MSM for the truth, especially when it comes to what Johnson might do.
Interestingly though, having lauded Lord Frost on the one hand, these ‘sources’ (are they the same ones? Who knows, they’re all anonymous!) then pull the rug out from under him while lauding cher Michel:
”The EU is baffled over Lord Frost’s refusal, or inability, to provide any details of the government’s future “state aid” or subsidy policy. Quietly without a public statement, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has given a lot of ground to Lord Frost, retreating from his political mandate which requires full alignment with EU state aid rules under the enforcement of the European Court of Justice. “He would be crucified if he discussed the details of what he has conceded,” the source said. “He needs to know as a matter of trust what the UK’s subsidy principles will be. Otherwise he is stuck.” (link, paywalled)
Does this mean secrecy must prevail to protect cher Michel, and never mind that this secrecy means Lord Frost and by extension we are supposed to buy that pig-in-a-poke? It would seem so, especially when RemainCentral next quotes other ‘sources’, again attempting to undermine Lord Frost – even unto smuggling in a reference to Cummings:
“Many on the European side believe Downing Street is bluffing on subsidies because there is so little evidence of a policy debate to ditch the present model that, whatever the view of Dominic Cummings, would split the Tories down the middle. “Surely if he was dropping such a key tenet of modern Conservatism then Westminster would be ringing to the sound of battle,” an EU official said. It is feared that Lord Frost, at the behest of No 10, is prepared to take the talks to the brink, risking a no-deal exit if the clock runs out. “Johnson is playing a game of extreme brinkmanship,” the source said.” (link, paywalled)
So what is it? Is No 10 stiffing Lord Frost’s spine, or is No 10 only ‘bluffing’ while Lord Frost might be amenable to Barnier’s demands? These Brussels ‘sources’ – those anonymous ‘diplomats’ and ‘officials’ – must be spending a lot of time trying to read the tea leaves assumed to be found at the bottom of all those Westminster teacups! I humbly suggest that these can only be Remain tea cups though.
Finally, being conscientious journalists and giving space to ‘the other side’ for the sake of looking fair, RemainCentral also reports the view of some Brexit heavyweights:
“Some senior Tory Brexiteers are starting to call on Boris Johnson to consider repudiating the Withdrawal Agreement he signed with the EU last year to put pressure on the bloc. David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, said that if EU intransigence meant the UK was going to end the transition without a free trade deal then Britain was under no obligation to pay the remaining part of the divorce bill. “We can repudiate it and see them in court is my view,” he said. Iain Duncan Smith […] said the EU had shown “bad faith”, adding: “The EU has to be prepared to bend. If they don’t bend they don’t get a deal.” (link, paywalled)
Given that Michael Gove and his team have been working very hard on preparing us for a WTO Brexit – something conveniently overlooked by ‘Our MSM’ but demonstrated by the deluge of amended instructions and statements about all and sundry published by the government – it looks as if the EU ‘faith’ into their own predictions, their hope into a soft Johnson, ready to be manipulated by the likes of Ms vdLeyen or indeed Macron and Merkel, might be misplaced.
Perhaps the possibility suggested by our friends at facts4eu some weeks ago might turn out to have been prophetic: that Lord Frost is only waiting for the best political moment to slam the door on Barnier, Brussels and the EU. Let’s hope so!