After yesterday’s last hustings in the BoJo-Hunt campaign hosted by The Sun and talkradio, (no, I didn’t watch either … there’s only so much guff and hot air one can ingest without serious damage to one’s health!) we’re now hopefully ready for the next phase in the Brexit proceedings. After the Tory votes have been counted, of course, and we know for certain that BoJo will move into No 10.
There are a few preliminary glimpses of what the next phase might hold. We’ll look at them below. Meanwhile, the scandal of the leaked memos is trundling along and that is also deserving of some attention. The main item today though is taking place in the EU Parliament.
It’ll be a long day for the MEPs, starting at 9 am and ending, after suitable times for breaks, ending this evening. From 6pm to 8pm, the EUParl will vote on the New Juncker, Ms Ursula von der Leyen. She must win with a majority of the votes. If not, there won’t be a New Juncker and the heads of state of the EU member states will have to go back to the drawing board. Go here for the agenda of this week and the link to the EUParl live Tv if you want to watch.
While the BoJo-Hunt thingie went on its merry way, the current DexEU minister, Mr Steve Barclay, visited Brussels for a chat with M Barnier last week. This went mostly unnoticed in the MSM, but now the Brussels ‘sources’ seem to have decided on how to present this meeting.
Their ‘take’ looks to be carefully orchestrated to warn of a BoJo premiership while at the same time giving the impression that Brussels is of course not interfering with the Tory members’ decision, of course not! Here is the report in The Express, RemainCentral (paywalled) reporting the same using identical expressions:
“Brussels is preparing for “brutal” talks with the next prime minister after the Brexit secretary told Michel Barnier five times during a bad-tempered meeting that the withdrawal agreement was dead. Stephen Barclay left Mr Barnier, the EU’s lead negotiator, astonished and dismayed in a “confrontational” exchange last Tuesday.“ He told Barnier that the withdrawal agreement was dead — not once but five times,” a senior EU diplomat said. “If this is what is coming then we will be heading for no deal very quickly.” […] One senior diplomat close to the negotiations said it was the most hostile encounter in three years since the Brexit referendum, adding that Mr Barclay had seemed to “tear up the previously constructive approach taken by Theresa May”. (link, paywalled)
So there we are: Ms May’s ‘constructive approach’ is now dead, and Brussels’ plans to keep us in, through the May Vassalage Treaty, is also dead. It seems that many of the Remainers in the EU and here are now waking up to the fact that a No Deal Brexit could indeed happen.
We all know that the outcome of a GE will be totally unpredictable. Arch Remainer William Hague suddenly comes out with a scenario of what might happen when we wake up on the 1st of November with the No Deal Brexit:
“This is actually the biggest problem with a no-deal Brexit: that it would not be possible, without a new and very different parliament, to do what was desperately needed afterwards. As things stand, this country is too divided, and Westminster too deadlocked, to make a go of it. Success would depend on more than just optimism, but having a decisive, determined, and powerful administration, implementing a robust national plan. That is impossible today. (paywalled link)
In other words: even if Parliament agrees to a No Deal Brexit, it wouldn’t work once we have it. There’s more:
“[…] it is time to consider a scenario in which it is Brexit itself that necessitates a dissolution of parliament. For leaving the EU, with no deal, and then finding ourselves becalmed and rudderless on the global ocean, would be the worst of all worlds. Many Conservatives believe that a failure to deliver Brexit is their biggest threat, and certainly that is a serious one. But delivering it without the power and authority to make the most of it would be the greatest calamity of all.” (paywalled link)
That looks like a very novel ‘Project Fear’ attempt. Mr Hague seems to believe that the HoC Remainers would keep on thwarting the will of the electorate by doing everything to make Brexit a total failure. One wonders if the Remain Civil Service will help them, shelving their ‘impartiality’ by working for Remain rather than for us.
Two intriguing items have been reported in regard to the memo leaker. They are both rather disquieting. Here’s the first item:
“Police hunting for the ‘mole’ who leaked Sir Kim Darroch’s confidential memos criticising Donald Trump are scanning the phones of journalists to trace the ‘Kim Philby-like’ culprit, it emerged today. Scotland Yard is said to be using ‘the full force of the state’ to track the person who leaked the diplomatic cables sent from the British embassy in Washington to the Foreign Office in London.” (source)
Read this carefully and let it sink in: in order to find the Foreign Office memo leaker, phones of journalists are scanned, using the methods of the counterterrorism police. This is hammered in in the next paragraph:
“The Met has refused to comment on claims they are checking calls and texts made by the reporters who revealed that Sir Kim called Trump’s administration ‘clumsy and inept’. Officers from the Scotland Yard counter-terrorism unit […] are said to be combing over data provided to them by phone companies. They are using satellite technology to track journalists’ movements at the time of the leak this month, it is claimed.” (source)
Journalists are treated as if they were terrorists, their movements investigated, their phones checked, as if they are the suspects of a huge crime. Words fail me!
The next report illustrates how and that Ms May’s fingerprints are all over this scandal. It’s in the paywalled DT, so I shall quote at length:
“The Prime Minister’s official spokesman declined to back criticism that the police should not be telling journalists what they could print, only saying that Mrs May believed in a free press. […] The spokesman was asked ten times to condemn the Met’s threat to newspapers from publishing leaks but said: “The Met have issued two statements both of which are a matter for them. I won’t be commenting on either.” (paywalled link)
Of course he wouldn’t comment. The next ‘no comment’ statement is unintentionally revealing:
“Neither Number 10 nor Scotland Yard will say what contact Assistant Commissioner Mr Basu had with Downing Street or the Cabinet Office before releasing his statement.” (paywalled link)
It’s a terribly important ‘state secret’ then, which we – the journalists now being ‘investigated’ or indeed we peasants – must never learn about! Here’s why:
“The decision to prosecute followed an official “Gateway” process. Under this, a panel chaired by the Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill assesses whether there is “intelligence/evidence” to “suggest” a breach of the Official Secrets Act or “compelling grounds to suspect a serious offence.” (paywalled link)
Oh look whose name has just cropped up! It’s Ms May’s Mandarin handler! Well I never …! Next, an elegant attempt at obfuscation:
“It is understood the panel can make a recommendation after legal advice from the Crown Prosecution Service and police but Downing Street said the decision on whether to investigate was taken by Scotland Yard. Sources denied the Cabinet Office played any role in Mr Basu’s statement, which was based on the Official Secrets Act section three. This states that a civil servant is guilty of an offence if they make an unauthorised and disclosure of information that “damages international relations.” (paywalled link)
What is worse: a PM and her top Mandarin ‘secretly’ nudging the counterterrorism police to use the full panoply of counterterrorism measures to investigate journalists – or a police commissioner deciding himself, after reading some articles, that ‘a crime’ had been committed by those reporters so he investigates them as if they were terrorists?
I hope you’ve also noticed that suddenly there’s no mention of investigations into who the mole actually was. Is that now another ‘Official Secret’? Have the Civil Service chiefs decided that they can find that leaker themselves, no police investigation needed? Or do they perhaps already know the ‘mole’ and are protecting him, just as in the Huawei scandal where suddenly everything went quiet when it looked as if a certain Mandarin might have been the leaker?
Isn’t it time to stop giving Whitehall a free pass, spreading the veil of secrecy over their blunders and leaks? And is this latest exercise not so much an attempt to find that Leaker but one to discourage and intimidate any journalist not willing to toe the Whitehall line? You decide!