Ed. note: There won’t be a ‘Your Daily Brexit Betrayal’ column for Tuesday 14th January 2020. Viv is ill.
Allow me to go off-topic, right at the start. I was shocked and saddened to read in today’s papers the obituaries for Sir Roger Scruton who died yesterday of cancer. He was 75 years old. This obituary is not paywalled, so you can read it yourselves. The paywalled DT writes:
“Sir Roger Scruton, who has died aged 75, was a philosopher and academic variously identified as “one of the nearest things Britain has to a public intellectual”, Britain’s favourite “token reactionary” (his own description), and even “the thinking man’s skinhead”. As one of the most contentious figures in British public life, Scruton operated as an academic, journalist and prolific writer, and a lightning rod for criticism and abuse from the political Left. […] Scruton was a man of parts, some of which seemed irreconcilable: barrister, aesthetician, teacher at Birkbeck College (part of London University with a tradition of a working-class intake), editor of the ultra-Conservative Salisbury Review, and enthusiastic fox hunter. He used to ride to hounds wearing Enoch Powell’s old hunting clothes, although the jacket split the first time he used it.” (paywalled link)
The concluding paragraph in The Times’ obituary rings bells for some of us:
“In ‘How to Be a Conservative’ (2014) which was part polemic, part elegy, he wrote about how he thought the British had “surrendered education to the socialists and our sovereignty to Europe”. While mostly serious, he was amusing in this book about what it felt like to be part of a conservative counterculture. “In intellectual circles, conservatives move quietly and discreetly,” he wrote, “catching each other’s eyes across the room like the homosexuals in Proust.” (link, paywalled)
I admired Sir Roger Scruton for not caving in to the Establishment’s demands, for his clear thinking, for his unashamed conservatism – for what can best be called ‘fortitude in adversity’. May he rest in peace and may God console his wife and children in their grief.
And now to Brexit … While the MSM are still choc-a-bloc with Megxit articles, the various ‘sources’ seem to believe that nothing much can now happen to Brexit. Given that it’s now up to the Lords to have their say, one has to dig around deeply for Brexit articles. Here’s the ‘harvest’ from yesterday:
Item: the Irish Foreign Secretary Mr Coveney told Andrew Marr that Johnson’s deadline is ‘unrealistic’ and that we recognise that we’ll be ‘worse off’ after Brexit – here’s the link. Yeah right, We and of course Johnson’s government had no idea … Thank you, Ireland, for reminding us! Perhaps Mr Coveney would do better to prepare for talks with Stormont which is now back in business?
Item: Bill Clinton … He inserted himself into the Brexit debate because Stormon has now been re-opened:
“Bill Clinton has used the reopening of the Northern Ireland assembly to make a thinly-veiled dig at Brexit. The former US President waded into British politics today by telegraphing his concern that the country’s divorce from the EU could unravel the peacekeeping efforts of the Good Friday Agreement.” (link)
Ah well – Mr Clinton (friend of Tony Blair) just had to remind us that he was still around! We and Johnson’s government must surely listen to one of the former ‘most powerful men on earth’, may his reputation be ever so tarnished …
Item: one of M Barnier’s top sidekicks, the German Martin Selmayr who has now become ‘the Commission’s man in Austria’, was collared by a Times journalist. Here’s what Mr Selmayr said:
“The European Commission heavyweight dubbed “the Monster of Brussels” by British officials has said he thinks Boris Johnson can thrash out a trade deal with the EU by the end of the year — as long as the government is properly organised. [He] said: “If the UK is as well prepared as the commission, then you can do an agreement by the end of this year.” The remark, with its subtle sting in the tail, is classic Selmayr. Few in the EU institutions believe the UK is as well prepared as they are for the talks.”(link, paywalled)
I had to rub my eyes when I read the next bit – was, as we have always said, the Project Fear scenario just smoke and mirrors, to frighten us into Remaining? Astonishing:
“But Selmayr’s words, and his refusal to be drawn into any further barbs, indicates a willingness by the EU to do business sometimes absent from talks over the withdrawal agreement. His guarded optimism that a deal is possible is echoed in private by senior officials in Brussels and ministers in London, even if it is a “narrow and shallow” arrangement.” (link, paywalled)
There are some other interesting observations in that article, hints that perhaps, just perhaps, Johnson’s timetable isn’t that unreasonable:
“On Friday the European Commission began co-ordinating internal meetings to thrash out its negotiating mandate. It will then be handed to its chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, who has stayed in post, to thrash out with Johnson’s point man, David Frost, and his team of 40 civil servants across Whitehall. The EU’s internal process will continue until March. Ministers and officials say the UK will actually have its ducks in a row first. A succession of meetings of Johnson’s inner Brexit war cabinet will work out Britain’s negotiating position “in the next fortnight”, according to one insider.” (link, paywalled)
Well well well – this is indeed published in RemainCentral! Have they, have our Remain Mandarins seen the light? Has the GE result, the verdict of us Leave voters, finally penetrated into Whitehall, making clear that yes, we knew what we voted for, and yes, on the third time of asking we’ve reiterated that we want Out – and that, perhaps, what’s going on in France and elsewhere on the continent might happen here as well if we’re thwarted yet again? Anyone remember the fuel protests? That was only 12 years ago …
There’s more, about ‘level playing fields’ and ‘deals’. Interestingly, RemainCentral not only quotes the usual thumbscrew-wielding EU officials, but also gives space to more moderate EU ‘sources’, or ‘insiders’ or ‘confidants’:
“Some [sources] predict a political smash-up before the summer and some in Brussels think Johnson will tell voters that, in order to get the best and most comprehensive deal, he will need more time. “There will be a crisis moment in June or even by the end of May,” said one EU source. “Johnson could extend for one or two years and say he wants to be more ambitious.” But in London, ministers and No 10 aides are adamant this won’t happen. “They think because we have a big majority that we can extend,” said a cabinet minister. “The reason we have a big majority is that we promised not to extend. We are definitely not extending. Boris has made that clear. There is iron in Boris’s soul.” (link, paywalled)
Are these some ‘famous last words’ – until Johnson does extend? We’ll have to wait and see and I for one am rather mistrustful, being mindful of the saying about slips between cup and lips … The next quote is also significant:
“This message has got through to the realist element in EU institutions, where there is a recognition that, unlike in the May years, they know where Johnson is coming from and that can lead to a more honest assessment of the trade-offs on both sides. One EU official made clear that a simple deal is doable, and even if it fails there will be no “cliff edge” departure for Britain because both sides put in place emergency side deals. These would have kicked in if there had been no deal last year and will provide a safety net again.” (link, paywalled)
Well! Will you read that again! There will be no cliff edge – and there was no cliff edge! Words fail me! Can we now string up those Remain doomsayers by their thumbs? But a warning had to be inserted at the conclusion:
“Even so, time is tight, not least because all 27 EU nations will have to ratify the deal, unlike some bare bones trade deals the EU has done. […] Frost and his team hope to do a deal that can be negotiated with national governments rather than one that will require national and regional parliaments across the EU to approve it as well.” (link, paywalled)
Let the rump EU members squabble amongst themselves! If it has now dawned on some EU diplomats that they cannot afford to waste time by creating Project Fear scenarios because we’ll be out one way or the other by the end of this year – provided we trust Johnson not to cave in! – then it’s all good.
Meanwhile, the HoL will start their scrutiny today, and I’ll hope to focus then on some of the items of the HoL Report mentioned on Saturday. Today the sad news of Sir Roger Scruton’s death deserved pride of place.
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