Summertime: the Silly Season
It definitely is the famous ‘silly season’ when papers are grabbing at any ‘story’ just to get “Brexit” into the headline, such as The Times (paywalled today: “Andrea Jenkyns, Brexiteer from swing seat, learns very painful lesson”. It’s about her crashing back and hitting her head while swinging on her chair. Yes – that’s “Brexit News’!
Other ‘Brexit News’ are that the Ollie-Robbins replacement David Frost is travelling to Brussels today (see here, not paywalled): travel news are so important! We are also told that the Taoiseach said he was not going to let himself be bullied (here and paywalled here) – good-oh! In the paywalled report we also find these profound statements by Irish politicians:
“Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald accused Mr Johnson of being “complacent” about the damage she said Brexit could inflict on the island of Ireland. “His course of action, which seems to us that he has set the compass for a disorderly and a crash Brexit, we have challenged him very strongly on that policy, […] We set out very clearly that this would be catastrophic for the Irish economy, for Irish livelihoods, for our society, for our politics and for our peace accord.” Nichola Mallon, SDLP deputy leader, said Mr Johnson was “hurtling” the region toward a “catastrophic” no-deal Brexit. “It is very clear he views and understands the situation through the eyes of the DUP. […] He just retorted with Brexit nearly every question you asked him, nearly every point you made he gave us bluff and bluster around Brexit.” (paywalled link)
Yes, well, as we’ve been told already in the Bible – there are none as deaf as those who do not want to hear … and none as vocal as those who cannot argue. In real Brexit news, we read that Sayid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has doubled the fund to prepare for No Deal Brexit to £2bn (here and here, and paywalled here and here). The DT reports:
“Mr Javid announced £2.1 billion in extra spending for this year, on top of an existing £2.1 billion set aside for Brexit. The new money will be funded by dipping into Philip Hammond’s £26.6billion warchest. The Chancellor said: “We want to get a good deal that abolishes the anti-democratic backstop. But if we can’t get a good deal, we’ll have to leave without one. This additional £2.1 billion will ensure we are ready to leave on October 31 – deal or no deal.” (paywalled link)
Next, the report in the DT provides details about where that money is going to go:
“The new money, which will be detailed in the next Office for Budget Responsibility forecast, includes an immediate £1.1billion cash boost and an extra £1billion fund which departments will be able to dip into if they need more money. It will be used to fund an extra 500 border force officers, provide support at ports and provisions for the event of traffic jams near the border. Of the money, £344 million will go on border and customs operations, £434 million for medicine supplies, £108 million to support businesses and a £138 million public information campaign.”(paywalled link)
Obfuscation reigns: it’s not clear if that money is coming from a new budget later this year, or if it’s coming out of that ‘war chest’ of £26bn which Hammond had amassed for ‘Brexit’.
However, there’s an unprecedented ‘first’: we suddenly get to hear from a ‘source’ inside the Treasury! It’s as if the secret Brexiteers there suddenly felt they could raise their heads above the institutionalised Remain parapet:
“A Treasury source said the announcement marks “a real cultural change” in the department.“Sajid Javid’s first act as Chancellor is to really grip no deal preparations. This would normally take months to agree. The fact it’s been done in a week is incredible, a testament to his determination to get things done which didn’t exist before” (paywalled link)
Well well well! Of course, Remain MPs have had to wade in, with a rather extraordinary intervention:
“Yesterday MPs revealed plans to launch an inquiry into the money the government is “throwing” at Brexit. The Commons Public Accounts Committee said there is “not enough time” to spend the money effectively before October 31.” (paywalled link)
In other words, let’s not prepare for Brexit on Halloween because there’s not enough time to spend allocated money: what a perfectly sensible argument for staying ‘In’!
Next, RemainCentral got a Remain MP to write about how terrible this all is, and for good measure also published an article by the Labour Shadow Health Minister blaming the crumbling infrastructure of NHS Hospitals on money spent for Brexit preparations (paywalled link): let’s not do Brexit because of ‘our NHS’!
Here then is Guto Bebb, Remain MP for Aberconwy (Wales) writing: “What was the point of austerity if we now blow it on sparing Brexiteers’ blushes?” (link, paywalled). His virtue-signalling is of the finest:
“The fiscal rectitude and sacrifices of the past decade are going to be frittered away, not on improved public services, better defence or even in efforts to deal with the real issue of income inequality, but on what is seen by our new government as a much more important project: saving their own reputations. The promises made in 2016 by Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Michael Gove — the central players in this desperately inadequate Government — have simply not been delivered.“ (link, paywalled)
Ahem – wasn’t Mr Bebb part of this government? Does his firm Remain stance mean he’s innocent of not fulfilling the promises made in the 2017 Tory Manifesto on which he was elected? More:
“[…] rather than honestly owning up to their predictive failures, our new leaders seem hell-bent on simply turning on the fiscal taps to ensure that a reckless no-deal Brexit is mitigated as much as possible. Think about that, to protect the reputations of a few individuals at the heart of government, the hard-earned reputation of the Conservative Party as a party of fiscal rectitude is to be thrown away. Even worse, the sacrifices made by the British people to repair our public finances are also going to be betrayed.” (link, paywalled)
Yes, that’s right: we must not do Brexit because we must save the reputation of the Tory Party for ‘fiscal rectitude’! Apparently, Bebb hasn’t heard of 17.4 million Leave voters. Next Bebb lists all the tired smears against Brexit and Brexiteers, concluding:
“I really do wonder what to make of a Conservative government that has accepted the need for tough choices even in defence and national security for a decade suddenly finding that money was no object after all. […] Economic damage to manufacturing, agriculture and financial services also appears to be a price worth paying for Brexit, as is the future of the Conservative Party. However, let’s be honest, what future does exist for a Conservative Party intent on abandoning the Union and losing our long-held and hard-earned reputation for sound public finances and a strong economy? Never has so much been sacrificed by so many to protect the reputations of so few.” (link, paywalled)
Sad, isn’t it when a famous quote is bent to support a failed argument – and falls flat … It would be good to hear the Tory Party’s Guto Bebbs defending our continuing membership in the EU as they’re so concerned about ‘austerity’ and our economic crash in the case of Brexit when EU economic news (here, not paywalled) point to an economic crash in the EUrozone.
Never mind – we’ll make do with the series of Diary entries on economic issues penned by the unsurpassed Sir John Redwood over the last week (here). You’ll not find those examples in the MSM!
Today is an important day for the future of Johnson’s government and indeed for Brexit: the by election in Brecon and Radnorshire. Tomorrow we’ll know how Leave and Remain voters have decided and can interpret and speculate to our heart’s content, but today we’re all ‘in purdah’ and mustn’t say anything so as not to influence the outcome. Meanwhile we’ll just