And here it is: the little piece of paper, declaring ‘peace in our EU time’, negotiated at the last minute by our modern Chamberlain, Ms May, and the modern dictator of the EU, M Juncker …
And here it is: the EU, as always, does some sort of deal when it’s five minutes to midnight. One might ask, in the voice of a strict teacher: why haven’t you done this earlier? But that would miss the point: last-minute deals with the EU mean the EU wins because everybody agrees to what is bovine excrement just to make it stop. And it’s definitely not ‘better late than never’ …
And here it is: the MSM in full ‘she done it’ mode – check out the headlines – with the Remain Tories thinking this’ll get May’s atrocious WA through the HoC later today. The horsetrading and arm-twisting en coulisse this morning will be epic.
So – will it work?
Let’s leave the triumphant or gloomy tweets and proclamations from the usual suspects aside for the time being, and concentrate on the little remarks and reports sprinkled throughout the texts which show what has really been going on and what we ought to make of this last-minute ‘breakthrough’.
Let’s start with this remarkable crumb of information: to achieve this ‘legally binding’ document, Ms May went to Brussels accompanied not by the Attorney General, but by Mr Olly Robbins:
“Insiders said that her government started the day in Downing Street “in a panic” with a “blank piece of paper”, unsure where the Brexit negotiations would end up. Olly Robbins, her Brexit negotiator, rather than Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general, was in Brussels trying to salvage a deal. After months of pressure from Brexiteers to replace negotiating officials with politicians, it appeared an odd tactic.”(paywalled link, my bold)
No, that’s not odd, it is in fact indicative of what we can expect from that ‘agreement’. The first press statements of MPs show that it may not be quite the plain sailing Ms May was wishing for. Some think it’s sufficient, others think it’s a ‘step in the right direction’, e.g. the now firmly fence-sitting JRM, others think it’s not sufficient, e.g. Mr Steve Baker and Mr Nigel Dodds, DUP. The ERG will wait for the verdict of the “Star Chamber’:
“A group of eight Tory and DUP MPs, led by Sir Bill Cash, is set to meet today to pick over the legal meaning of the documents released overnight. One member of the ERG said that he felt that nothing had changed but that it was “all about the verdict of the star chamber” — the group of eight.” (paywalled link).
Mr Corbyn will advise Labour to vote against the ‘deal’ because ‘nothing has changed’.
Ms May indulged in some fluffy but meaningless words at her press conference last evening, invoking what The Queen said:
“MPs were clear that legal changes were needed to the backstop. Today we have secured legal changes. Now is the time to come together, to back this improved Brexit deal, and to deliver on the instruction of the British people,” (paywalled link)
Fluff and more fluff! Smoke, mirrors and sound and fury signifying nothing.
So what is in this fabulous ‘declaration’?
Scroll down here for a basic summary. Here is the official text, in dense, EU legalese. And here is the text presented to the HoC on which the MPs are going to have to vote later today. This snippet from Ms May’s statement yesterday is important:
“Third, alongside the joint instrument on the Withdrawal Agreement, the United Kingdom Government will make a Unilateral Declaration that if the backstop comes into use and discussions on our future relationship break down so that there is no prospect of subsequent agreement, it is the position of the United Kingdom that there would be nothing to prevent the UK instigating measures that would ultimately dis-apply the backstop. Unilateral Declarations are commonly used by states alongside the ratification of treaties. The Attorney General will set out in legal analysis the meaning of the joint instrument and unilateral declaration to Parliament. Tomorrow the House of Commons will debate the improved deal that these legal changes have created. I will speak in more detail about them when I open that debate. (link, my bold)
“Dis-apply” the backstop? Gawd …
I’m not a lawyer, but even I can see the glaring trap in this last-minute-agreement. First of all, the EU ‘assurance’ is based on a letter from Tusk and Juncker of January this year, now made ‘legally binding’ – how, I don’t know but am sure the legal bigwigs will explain later today.
Why that letter couldn’t be made legally binding then – good question! We’re of course meant to forget all the nastiness that had come out of the EU in the meantime … and we are meant to believe that now the EU will play nicely. Of course they will! After all, they want to ‘find a solution’ by December 2020 …
And what about this ‘unilateral declaration with legal status’:
“Britain has put forward a “unilateral declaration” with legal status in international law emphasising the temporary nature of the backstop. This would clarify that Britain believes there is nothing in the Brexit deal to stop it seeking to exit the backstop if the EU fails to live up to its commitments to find a replacement.” (paywalled link)
Again, I am not a lawyer, but to me this reads fishy in the extreme. Does anybody here really believe that a May government will ‘exit the backstop’? Lawyers will have a field day …
Note well that this tawdry spectacle is meant to hide the enormous flaws in the original WA. It is meant to get that abomination through the HoC and save Ms May’s hide. It is BRINO, with a few new bows and flowers attached to it. It is nothing but the prettification of the great Brexit Betrayal.
And let’s not forget that Juncker will be gone come the new EU Parliament, with Herr Selmayr taking over. He’s been keeping in the background, but came out with this statement which shows precisely the timetable the EU is working towards:
“During a briefing to European ambassadors yesterday he said that an extension would have to be a “one-off” and could be short if Theresa May gets the withdrawal agreement through the Commons, or long enough for UK elections and a new government” if she fails. […] He believes that a British election or referendum is the most likely outcome but not until after the summer.” (paywalled source)
That, dear friends, shows me two things:
1. this surrender paper is nothing but a ploy by the EU to get the WA BRINO settled.
2. If that doesn’t work, then they expect a GE with all that entails, e.g. a Corbyn government and a second referendum – just as Tony Blair advised M Macron would happen if the EU were to sit tight.
So – prepare for a long session this afternoon, watching proceedings and the vote in the HoC. Expect the worst. We’ll keep you updated.
17 days to Brexit – or will it be BRINO?