Was it ‘I came – I saw – I conquered’ for Johnson, coming back from his visits to Merkel and Macron? Was it ‘BoJo the buffoon’ bumbling along on the world stage? Or was it all a clever spectacle put in scene to calm Leavers and Remainers alike so everybody can go and enjoy their Bank Holiday weekend?
According to our MSM, it was all of that. Here’s the image of Johnson punching the air when getting out of his car at No 10, and the photo of BoJo-the-clown putting his foot on a (probably priceless) piece of furniture at the Elysee Palace has winged its way around the world – but here’s the video clip showing that Macron actually encouraged him to do so.
The MSM even engaged ‘body language experts’ to decipher who ‘won’, Johnson or Macron, while taking a long time to actually decipher what those two had to say to each other. We now learn that negotiations are possible. However, Macron’s spoken words are revealing. Note the way he gives with one hand and takes away with the other:
“Emmanuel Macron last night held out the prospect of changing the Brexit deal – but warned he will not allow a ‘total reshuffling. […] As he hosted Boris Johnson at the Elysee Palace yesterday, Mr Macron said: ‘We should together be able to find something smart within 30 days if there is goodwill on both sides.’ But he added: ‘We will not find a new withdrawal agreement within 30 days that will be very different from the existing one.’”(link)
In other words, “we’ll talk, but don’t expect much change”. There’s more – take note of the last sentences:
“Mr Macron, who has taken a hardline stance throughout the Brexit negotiations, yesterday played down his reputation as the ‘difficult leader’ in Europe as he gave Mr Johnson a warmer welcome than expected. ‘I’ve always been presented as the hard boy in the group but it’s just that I have always been clear: A choice was made and we cannot just ignore it,’ he said. ‘We have to implement a decision taken by the British people.’ (link)
“We“ – that is Macron and Merkel – “have to implement …”! That’s how the wannabe Napoleon sees himself. He’s the only one, with the help of Merkel, who can do the business.
Before you think that this is irrelevant, keep two points in mind. One is that Ms Merkel has re-interpreted her thirty-day-ultimatum. She didn’t mean it, it was ‘only symbolic’ (here). The other point is that, as we ought to know by now, the EU King and Queen are happy to make us talk because they know that they can always say ‘nein, non’.
Our strong misgivings are justified when we suspect that they, with the connivance of Johnson, will come up with that last-minute “deal” which is a re-written May WA. Here’s why:
“Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, had raised hopes when she told Mr Johnson on Wednesday that it was still possible to avoid a no-deal, challenging him to come up with an alternative to the Irish backstop within 30 days. The French president adopted Mrs Merkel’s suggestion. He said: “No one will wait until October 31 to find the right solution. We should all together be able to find something smart within 30 days if there is goodwill on both sides.” However, he added: “We will not find a new withdrawal agreement within 30 days that will be very different from the existing one.” (link, paywalled)
Indeed not! Here is another quote reinforcing our mistrust:
“Mr Macron hinted at negotiation challenges ahead by insisting a guarantee against a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic was “indispensable”. […] For the first time, he suggested the Withdrawal Agreement thrashed out by former prime minister Theresa May and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier but repeatedly rejected by MPs could be redrafted. He said: “We will not find a new Withdrawal Agreement within 30 days which will be very different from the existing one. It is just that what Michel Barnier has negotiated can be amended while complying with the integrity of the single market and stability in Ireland – then we can find a solution.” (link)
This means that not only is the Backstop not going to being removed but that it will be tarted up, just as the ‘non-negotiable’ WA will be getting a nice cosmetic do-over at the same time.
The flurry of activities described by the DT headline “Boris Johnson demands fresh Irish border plan as he seeks ‘turbocharge’ search for Brexit solution” (paywalled link) is meant to make us feel good about Johnson ‘doing something’:
“Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, and his officials will now be ordered to “turbocharge” work on how to find alternative arrangements to the Northern Ireland backstop. Their work is expected to focus on examining proposals in a 270-page report drawn up by Greg Hands, the former Tory minister, and Nicky Morgan, now the Culture Secretary. […] The work on alternative arrangements for the backstop plans will add a new impetus to reopen negotiations before the European Council summit in October, where Mr Johnson will hope to secure a new deal.” (paywalled link)
Doesn’t that mean there was already a plan on the Backstop? Nothing new then? Remember also that Mr Hands and Ms Morgan are Remainers. Mr Hands explains their work here. His points about alternative measures are certainly interesting, but not precisely new. Can something old really be “turbocharged”? Now see this:
“However, Mr Macron’s note of caution was mirrored by a senior Brussels official who told The Times that the prime minister’s proposals for an alternative agreement were not “realistic or feasible”. [… ] The Brussels official said that Mr Johnson’s pledge to remove the backstop from the withdrawal agreement and replace it with a commitment to establish alternative arrangements was “miles apart from what is realistic and feasible”. (link, paywalled).
Ah! So the Backstop plans were already known – unless they were leaked to Brussels officials during Johnson’s visits. Nothing new then from Johnson and nothing new in the EU attitude – smoke and mirrors as usual.
Fraser Nelson has an interesting interpretation of the current situation in a paywalled DT comment which we will look at in detail later today, giving it the “FROM BEHIND THE PAYWALL” treatment.
While Brexiteer MPs have warned Johnson that they may not vote for ‘a deal’ which only ‘strips out the Backstop’ (paywalled link), others have pointed out that a VoNC is getting less likely while Johnson is in obvious negotiations with the EU (link, paywalled).
However, Phil Hammond, the arch Remainer, is not giving up. It was too much to hope that the Tory Undead would accept their defeat graciously …:
“Tory Remainers who are intent on stopping no-deal are preparing to hold their own talks with Brussels in an attempt to delay Brexit, The Times has been told. The rebels, who are described as the “Remain alliance” and are led by Philip Hammond, have been working on plans to push through legislation that will force Boris Johnson to request an extension of the Article 50 process.” (link, paywalled)
If that isn’t sufficient to make one want to throw bricks at one’s TV or PC screen, then what about this:
“One Tory rebel said that the group would hold its own discussions with Brussels and European leaders about the length and terms of any proposed extension to ensure it was accepted. The MP said that Mr Hammond, the former chancellor, had retained an “extensive” list of contacts from his time in office, which included leaders and finance ministers from across the European Union. “The next step is likely to be something that seeks to direct the government to seek an extension,” the MP said. “They will need to have an idea of what extension they should be asking Brussels for.” (link, paywalled)
Hammond and his allies can’t even come up with their own proposals on how to keep our country subjugated – they need Brussels’ advice. It’s not just Hammond:
“Greg Clark, the former business secretary, David Gauke, the former justice secretary, and Rory Stewart, the former international development secretary, have also retained their international contacts from their time in office.” (link, paywalled)
Isn’t there a word for those who negotiate with an opponent behind the back of their government at a time when that government is in negotiations with that same opponent?
And won’t the Mandarins in the former departments of those ‘Remain Allies’ also have ‘extensive’ contacts with their EU opponents? How do we know they are not undermining the Johnson negotiations as well?
Are we witnessing a new ‘grand deception’? That’s why we must stay vigilant and