Fascinating – utterly fascinating: we’re ten days away from the crunch vote in the HoC on Ms May’s WA, depending on that ‘Cox Codpiece’ or ‘codicil’ or whatever they’re going to call it to ‘remove the Backstop’ – and the ‘Brussels Correspondents’ in our esteemed MSM have nothing to report this morning!
It’s fascinating because in the past weeks we’ve seen how ‘Brussels sources’ are happy to leak juicy titbits to influence opinions, policies and negotiating strategies to all our MSM. Perhaps it’s our friends in the MSM who are suffering from ‘Brexit Fatigue’ … Perhaps it’s injudicious to report how our Attorney General is hitting his head against the Barnier brick wall – who knows!
The only article I found was in a German paper (here), but you need a machine translator. It’s an interview with Mr EU Barnier himself, and his remarks, namely that ‘the 27 EU member states are becoming impatient with the UK’, surely are important enough to clobber the ‘hardcore extremist Brexiteer MPs’ with? Or those MPs who demand an extension? M Barnier said that in principle the EU member states might vote for it – but only if it doesn’t kick the Brexit can further down the road: ‘there must be the will to solve the problem’.
But then M Barnier, as always, says ‘non’. That backstop will stay – of course it’s not a trap, sez he, and of course they’re happy to put in some affirmations and clarifications – but there won’t be a time limit, there won’t be a unilateral exit clause for the UK. There could be an undertaking about a time limit through a future treaty on future relationships, in the form of an interpretative document, ‘combined with a letter from the UK Government’.
Of course, we all know how diligently the EU keeps promises and adheres to their own Laws … so what could go wrong … the abomination that is the WA will then be in force thanks to the turncoats on the Tory back benches … Yes, I am looking at you, Messrs Rees-Mogg and Johnson!
The next piece of ‘backstop news’ also comes from ‘a source’ – not in Brussels, oh no, from ‘inside the ERG’ (paywalled, here). According to that source, having Nigel Dodds MP (DUP) as one of ‘The Nine’ (The Eight have been joined by another non-MP lawyer) scrutinising what ‘cod piece’ the Attorney General might bring back from Brussels is vital, because ‘if Dodds agrees then that will convince MPs to vote for the WA ‘Deal’.
More, from another ‘source’ in the ERG, bigging up that group-of-nine:
“One source told the Telegraph: “Cash and Howe are hardline. They hate everything about the withdrawal agreement. What if they present a minority report and the rest don’t agree with them?” And what if Cox goes off script? The highly regarded former barrister, described as “a man of honour and integrity” by those who know him, will not want to be seen as the lawyer who changes his legal advice to achieve political objectives. Having already advised MPs that the back stop will “endure indefinitely”, it is surely going to have to take the “substantive, legally binding” changes Raab has called for to get him to change that advice – or risk comparisons with former Labour Attorney General Peter Goldsmith, who famously changed his legal advice on the Iraq invasion under former Prime Minister Tony Blair. As one ERGer put it: “What we won’t accept is smoke and mirrors from Geoffrey and knowing the man, nor will he. If he looks at what he’s achieved and says it isn’t enough to make him change his legal advice then the PM may find she hasn’t got anything new to present.” (paywalled, here, my bold)
Translated, this means if Cox, Cash, Dodds and Howe ‘agree’ then Ms May has won … and my trust in the integrity of those MPs is rock-solid … not!
Perhaps some more ‘Brexit’ ministers should just leave the Cabinet? Mr Eustice has written a nice article for the DT (here, paywalled) where he accuses the EU of not acting in good faith – but puts the blame for that on our own negotiators. It’s worth quoting at length:
“The reason the EU have not acted in good faith during these negotiations is that they do not think we are serious about leaving or at least they think we are too scared to leave without a deal. They can smell fear. They see in the body language of our negotiators a sense that we will only ever do what the EU grants us permission to do. They see us continuing to respect their trite and ostensible legal impediments and procedures even though we are leaving.”
Strong words indeed, and Mr Eustice is quite scathing:
“See how readily we accepted that it would be unlawful to negotiate a future partnership until after we have left or how it would be unlawful for us to commence formal trade negotiations with third countries until we have left. They do not see steely resolve or us wielding our power. Instead, we look biddable and the craven actions of those in Parliament who want to thwart Brexit are mainly to blame. Decades of slavishly following EU law and fretting about infraction risks has had an understandable impact on the Whitehall machine. The culture of perpetual legal jeopardy that exists has undermined our self-confidence.” (my bold)
Amen to that! So why did he stick it out until the last minute? Why did he keep quiet? The Remain ministers open their mouths at the drop of a BBC hat! Of course, this same attitude of ‘slavishly following the EU’ has permeated not just Whitehall but our MSM, as anyone who listens to the BBC can attest.
Meanwhile, our MSM are focussing on the court intrigues billowing around the TIGs, speculating about more Tory MPs joining them:
A senior Government minister has approached The Independent Group of MPs, it has emerged, […] The unnamed Minister of State wrote a letter to a senior member of the group saying they “agreed with everything you have done” opening the possibility of a hugely damaging defection away from the Conservative party. (paywalled link)
So policy-by-leaking is alive and kicking provided it’s about self-absorbed Tories who put ego before party before country. That, dear friends, is News? Well …
Meanwhile, over at RemainCentral, a.k.a. The Times, there’s a brilliant example for a self-fulfilling Brexit Prophecy. This is their lead article today (paywalled): “Easter holiday prices plunge as Brexit fears put off travellers” – yep, after years of Project Fear:
“Tour operators are offering “unprecedented” discounts on Easter holidays amid a slump in bookings caused by fears of Brexit travel chaos. Concern at the prospect of Britain crashing out of the EU has helped to push down the price of trips to European destinations by a record 24 per cent.”
Oh dear – how sad …
Perhaps those tour operators ought to sue The Times and the BBC for promoting Project Fear. Any bets on canny Brits now snapping up those discounted deals?
Enjoy the weekend and don’t forget: KBO!