THE CALM BEFORE THE BREXIT STORM?
The week is off to a, well, ‘interesting’ start. There are two important dates for this week’s diary. One is that Johnson will meet M Juncker today, the other is that tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear the appeal by the Miller-Major lot regarding the legality of Prorogation.
One other Brexit ‘theme’ is of interest: the decision at the LibDem’s AGM. Paywalled reports are here and here, the non-paywalled ones are here and here. That decision – to revoke Article 50 and thus kill off Brexit should they receive the majority of votes and form a government – is certainly ‘interesting’!
They’d do that without having a 2nd Referendum: we Leave peasants mustn’t be asked again, unless the promise of a 2nd Referendum might attract voters in the coming GE. Seats won, this promise can of course be dropped.
Meanwhile, there were accusations of racism (here) as a LibDem candidate said her prospective constituents in North Devon voted Leave because there wasn’t much ‘diversity’ there and they were’ isolated’ so didn’t know much about the EU. Oh dear … the Libdems still regard Leavers as bigoted little Englanders.
The leader, Ms Swinson, gave a nice impression of shilly-shallying on yesterday’s Andrew Marr show (here) when she ruled out forming a coalition with Corbyn or Johnson – but not a coalition as such. Such decisiveness!
Yet another former Tory MP (Mr Gyimah) has joined the LibDems because there weren’t ‘many people like him’ in the Tory Party. What could he have meant by that?
Allegedly even more Tory MPs are preparing to jump ship (link, paywalled), but names are not being named. We can take all those pronunciations for what they are: blatant attempts to get re-elected, blatant attempts to gain votes in a GE with a shiny manifesto which then will be ditched.
It’s all a game to them, calculated to get the largest number of trotters into the HoC trough. In their leading article today, The Times observes:
“This relative recovery has led the party leadership into hubris. The Lib Dems have announced that, in the unlikely event that they won an overall majority, they would revoke Article 50 without even the mandate from a second referendum. The first way to look at this shift is to ask whether or not it is wise, politically. Perhaps the Lib Dems fear that Labour will soon move to a clearer Remain position and that its own policy needs to keep moving to be distinctive. Perhaps the party leadership feels that a straightforward pledge to revoke will lock in its core vote and please the activists. It may well achieve that, but surely at the price of alienating reasonable Remain voters who think it illegitimate to cancel one referendum without seeking an equivalent mandate in another.” (link, paywalled)
One other item about that LibDem conference: Mr ‘liberal’ EU, Guy Verhofstadt, was the ‘star’ invited speaker (here), telling the crowd that the nation state is over:
“In the world order of tomorrow, the world order of tomorrow is not a world order based on nation states or countries, it’s a world order that is based on Empires”
Read the whole thing, it’s hilarious, especially since Leavers have always been labelled as ‘little Englanders dreaming of their past Empire’, whereas it’s perfectly natural to dream of an EU ’empire’, because ‘old British empire’ – bad, ‘new EU empire’ – good. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t mention that huge federation, the Commonwealth, which would receive such enormous boost once we’re Out.
Quentin Letts sums the AGM up in his sketch for The Times:
“Jo Swinson, biting her lip, said: “We are in a very divided place.” A Lib Dem activist from Twickenham added: “We find ourselves in a dangerous place, a sinister place.” Actually, we were in Bournemouth. Almost every autumn this blameless seaside town is invaded by party-political obsessives and this year it is the Lib Dems, several of them in EU blue-star tam o’shanters and yellow “STOP BREXIT” T-shirts. The average age has not dropped much. Folk were hobbling around on double ski-sticks with hearing aids, crepe shoes and hessian bags.” (link, paywalled)
Nothing much to add to that, is there, when we see the official photo from that AGM, gracing the articles linked to above. What a non-diverse, elderly crowd the LibDems are …!
The other piece of news is Johnson’s visit to Juncker this afternoon. BoJo assured the readers of the DT that he is working flat out to achieve that new Brexit deal (paywalled link, also here) of which nothing is known except surmises that it might be somehow related to the Brady Amendment, i.e. about the removal of the Backstop. Or something like that.
In an interview in Germany, Juncker of course had to reiterate the EU mantra about no proposals having been made, with a nasty little swipe at Leave voters:
“Asked what he thought Mr Johnson’s goal was and what the prime minister was planning, Mr Juncker said: “We do not know what the British want in detail, precisely, and we are still waiting for alternative proposals. And I hope we get them, but time is running out.” Asked whether he thought the British were bluffing with the no-deal scenario or whether he believed they meant it seriously, he said: “There are many in Britain who have a positive view about a no-deal without considering what the impact would be, both on the islands and on the Continent. It would be a hopeless chaos and it would take us years to put things right. Those who love their country — I assume there are still patriots in Britain — would not want to wish their country such a fate.” (link, paywalled)
Somehow Mr Juncker has got his wires crossed there: it’s the British patriots who voted Leave.
Then there were excited hints in the MSM that Johnson has ‘a secret plan’ (e.g. here) which is known only to three people. Unsurprisingly, details of that ‘plan’ have not been forthcoming …
Furthermore, there were reports that even the ‘hardcore’ Brexiteers, the ERG, might vote for a tweaked deal. Johnson had invited them to a jolly meeting at Chequers (here). Four ERG members allegedly said they might back such deal. Here’s the report in the Times:
“On Friday, the prime minister invited 12 MPs — Brexiteers and remainers — to Chequers for what was described as a “lovebombing” session amid a change in mood on the back benches. MPs say even Mark Francois, an outspoken member of the ERG, has told friends Eurosceptics might have to back a deal “with lipstick on it” because the alternatives are worse. In a hint he might accept a new deal, Steve Baker, the chairman of the ERG, said: “The prime minister should prepare for glory.” (link, paywalled)
Next, we read that this remark was ‘then’. Today Steve Baker clarifies:
But today he makes clear that he will oppose a deal if it amounts to Brexit in name only and is prepared to be kicked out of the party. “If the deal is so bad I have to vote against it, I will not be concerned by the loss of the Conservative whip because the Conservative Party will be in its death throes,” he said. A prominent figure in the ERG said: “The political risks are now so profound that the vast majority of us are prepared to reluctantly concede that if he brings a deal back that is at least tolerable, we will look at it.” (link, paywalled)
Of course they’ll ‘look at it’ – if they will vote for it is another matter. They and we have to wait for the outcome of today’s talks with Juncker, we’ll have to wait for the outcome of tomorrow’s High Court judgement on Prorogation, we’ll have to wait to find out if there’s any substance to all those ‘secret’ plans which are so secret that the MSM can only report that they exist. Or do they? Perhaps they’re just rumours from ‘sources’ …!
Regarding the Backstop, Lord Trimble has written an important article for ConHome which you might like to read while we wait.
Today, unlike the Monday a week ago, might yet turn out to be the calm before the Brexit storm, bound to kick off by Wednesday at the latest. We’ll not let ourselves be fooled though, and will
Photo by Andrew Middleton