By now everybody knows: Johnson has sent his Brexit Plan to the EU, with a covering letter to M Juncker. That, in normal times, should have been that – but we’re not living in normal times. These are the times of betrayal, of plots and court cases and if you think the plotting is over, you better think again.
This is what happened yesterday: Johnson held his key speech at the Tory Party conference where he presented this breakthrough deal which some unhelpful minion had already leaked to the DT the night before. The government, helpfully, has made the text of both the letter and the paper available online, you can read them here.
As the Johnson plan went properly public it was immediately declared unworkable by some opposition MPs who said it was a ‘tactic’ by Johnson to ‘force’ the EU to reject it and for us therefore to be able to leave with No Deal.
There’s also a rumour that allegedly No 10 told Brussels that, if they don’t agree, Johnson would not attend that EU Commission meeting later this month. You can read all about yesterday’s events in this article which is not paywalled, and you might like to read the brief assessment by the unmissable Sir John Redwood in his Diary today.
Reactions here at home by Brexiteer politicians were cautiously optimistic. It seems Johnson might be able to get this Deal through Parliament should the EU agree to it:
“The prime minister looks increasingly likely to get his deal through the Commons after the Democratic Unionist Party, hardline Tory Eurosceptics and some Labour MPs indicated that they were prepared to back it.” (link, paywalled)
There is of course one big hairy fly in this ointment beside Brussels, and that is Dublin:
“It means that Ireland is now the main roadblock to solving the problem of the border. Mr Johnson made it clear in his calls to European leaders that unless they accepted his proposal in full or began intense talks by Monday, the chance of a deal would have gone. He is expected to make a statement to the Commons on Thursday, then fly to Berlin on Friday for talks with Mrs Merkel.” (paywalled link)
And what do our “EUropean friends and allies” think of this Johnson paper? Not a lot, apparently, according to ‘sources’. The remark by Barnier supersedes his earlier one (link) which was cautiously welcoming of the Johnson proposal:
“Michel Barnier privately gave a searing critique of Mr Johnson’s plan, […]. According to someone in the room, chief negotiator Mr Barnier said: ‘The EU would then be trapped with no backstop to preserve the single market after Brexit.’ (link)
Good grief – the EU ‘trapped’ by us? And how on earth are the EU ‘preserving the single market’ when most of the world is, to my certain knowledge, not a member of the EU? Here are other ‘informed’ voices, unsurprisingly found in RemainCentral:
“Proposals to break the logjam over the Irish backstop were rejected as “unpalatable” and a “non-starter” by Northern Ireland business leaders yesterday. […] Business scepticism was shared by political and civic leaders from north and south of the border […]. Critics said that the consent arrangements in the proposal handed the DUP — through the voting arrangements of the Northern Ireland assembly — a veto over any closer future alignment with the EU.” (link, paywalled)
Here’s the Taoiseach, still insisting on the Backstop:
“After a telephone call with Mr Johnson last night Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, said: “The proposals do not fully meet the agreed objectives of the backstop. […] The people of Northern Ireland, by a clear majority, voted against Brexit. The majority of members of the Stormont assembly want the backstop and the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland do not want customs posts.” (link, paywalled)
It’ll be interesting to see if Varadkar will manage a careful climb-down should the EU deem Johnson’s proposal acceptable. Liam Halligan, writing in the paywalled DT, has this excellent assessment and a warning:
“The backstop was always a contrived hoax – cooked up by Dublin and Brussels to keep the UK in the customs union. New infrastructure on the Irish border could indeed be targeted by sectarians, but no such infrastructure is needed. Today’s barely visible frontier already copes with different currencies and tax rates. But while Johnson has put forward productive and reasonable proposals, Varadkar has painted himself into a corner. As a result, I see almost no possibility of any deal before the crunch EU summit in a fortnight. Brussels will then signal its willingness to grant an extension – why not, given the prospect of £1 billion a month and potentially a second referendum? That would leave Johnson with no choice but to confront the Benn Act and the Remainer Parliament that created it. This Brexit impasse, ultimately, will have to be solved not in Dublin or Brussels but closer to home.” (paywalled link)
Note the reference to our continuing payments to Brussels should there be another extension! A billion quid per month are not to be sneezed at, especially given the gloomy economic assessment by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the DT this morning:
“As Boris delivers his ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ proposal to Brussels, the eurozone has its back against the wall. Germany is in recession. Europe’s industrial slump is deepening. The European Central Bank is a broken and exhausted institution, whatever the theoretical – and irrelevant – possibilities of extreme monetary stimulus. […] The eurozone is paralysed. The Stability Pact, the Fiscal Compact, and the apparatus of fiscal contraction – written into treaty structures and the EU Acquis – render it chronically incapable of generating its own domestic demand. It relies on Anglo-Saxon and Chinese demand to stay afloat. […] The question that EU leaders must ask themselves […] is obvious: can they risk the unforced error – indeed the chosen error – of a no-deal Brexit on top of everything else?” (paywalled link)
It seems they are prepared to take that risk. No surprise then that EU ‘diplomats’ and other ‘sources’ are already plotting to get that extension letter when – not if! – Johnson’s proposal will be rejected by the Remain HoC:
“ Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee and a senior Christian Democrat, said that an extension would be needed because Mr Johnson’s latest Brexit plans were “not serious and violate the law”, both in terms of the EU’s single market and the Benn act. […] “Not least to protect the sovereignty of the British parliament, EU should give long extension.” (link, paywalled)
It is always so deeply gratifying to hear of the deep concern EU politicians, especially German ones, have for our Parliament! The economic facts described by AEP above have of course nothing at all to do with their zeal to get another extension! Here’s how this may still come to pass:
“Many senior European diplomatic sources said that the request for one extension until January 31 could come from “the head of government or head of state” which means either the prime minister or a representative of the Crown, embodied by the civil service. […] A Whitehall source told The Times that the extension letter could be sent by Sir Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, or Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s ambassador to the EU, should the prime minister refuse to sign or send it.” (link, paywalled)
You can be certain that the Remain Cabal will make sure such begging letter will be sent – and it will be accepted:
“According to diplomats, no European leader — not even President Macron, the most hardline — has reached the point of wanting to veto an extension and force Britain out. “Europe will have no other choice if there’s an extension request than to grant it,” said an official. “Politically, I don’t see how we could refuse it. The Europeans don’t want to take the responsibility for no deal.” (link, paywalled)
And there, in that last sentence, you have the reason for the Brexit impasse. None of them, from our own home-grown Remainers to the colluders-with-Brussels in the HoC to Varadkar and Brussels itself wants to take responsibility for Brexit, with or without a deal. They are frit.
A No Deal Brexit would be an economic catastrophe – for the EU. The £39bn would not be forthcoming at a time when the EU is in deep economic trouble already. Better to drag the UK down with them than do something for their own €-zone – and blame “Brexit”.
The Remain Cabal here at home would rather bring Johnson to fall and get an unelected Corbyn into No 10, installing a socialist Britain where everybody will be made equally poor. That is the madness of the Remainers and the EU dinosaurs who cannot do other than say ‘Nein’.
So keep your champagne on ice: this Johnson proposal does not quite yet a Brexit make. My foul weather warning for Brexit yesterday remains in force.