Sir Keir Starmer, Labour Brexit Shadow Minister


It’s definitely summer holiday time! It’s already raining at INDEPENDENCE Daily Mansions and BrexitCentral, an invaluable Westminster source, is on a twice-weekly only publishing schedule while our MSM are scraping the bottom as well, with a fine example of a click-bait headline in The Express (link) where “the EU will …” becomes “the EU could”, according to one Whitehall Think Tank. 

I can only agree with Richard Littlejohn’s assessment (here) that the ‘Project Fear’ providers simply cannot stop. Do read the whole thing – Littlejohn is off to a good start writing about ‘turns unstoned’ …

In contrast, the knaves and plotters in the HoC seem to feel they’re running out of steam (link) – or so Sir Oliver Letwin thinks:

“The alliance of MPs trying to stop a no deal Brexit have admitted that Boris Johnson and his cabinet of Brexiteers could triumph in taking Britain out of the EU without a deal. Sir Oliver Letwin told the BBC this morning that infighting among the Remainers could leave MPs struggling to form a majority to stop Boris Johnson’s plans.” (link)

Well, I somehow can’t find it in myself to trust Sir Ollie in this. I think the heavyweights Hammond and Starmer will cook up something, such as that Starmer letter (see below). Meanwhile our new PM was in Scotland for some more useless talks, reported thus in RemainCentral:

“Boris Johnson left by the back door of Nicola Sturgeon’s official residence yesterday to avoid protesters after awkward meetings with the first minister and Ruth Davidson, leader of Scotland’s Tories. Mr Johnson met the Scottish National Party leader at Bute House in Edinburgh […]. About 200 protesters booed, swore and waved pro-independence flags as he arrived. Only one “pro-Boris” placard could be seen. He left via a basement and passing the kitchens, apparently to avoid the protests. It was Mr Johnson’s only interaction with the public despite allies having briefed that he would prove his popularity on the streets after he won the Conservative leadership contest.” (link, paywalled)

Oh dear … the No Deal Brexit and BoJo are now going to be evaluated by Johnson having to wade through hordes of screeching Remainers? If that’s the case then I do not wonder that the following Brussels News (link) are disregarded by the Remain ‘Project Fear’ protagonists:

“The European Commission are preparing to remove the rights [to access EU financial markets] for Canada, Brazil, Singapore, Argentina and Australia because of claims the countries no longer regulate credit rating agencies as strenuously as Brussels. […] Britain’s financial services hub fear that they could suffer the same fate after Brexit without a permanent regime being negotiated. Any future access would be through the EU’s so-called “equivalence” system – whereby Brussels deems Britain’s rules to be aligned closely enough to its own. […] Equivalence is used by firms in the United States, Singapore and Japan but was not designed for a whole global financial hub on the EU’s doorstep. The EU previously rebuked attempts by former prime minister Theresa May to secure a more permanent access deal after the UK’s EU divorce.” (link)

We recall that the EU tried this with the Swiss at the end of last month, who then retaliated by closing down their financial markets to the EU at the beginning of this month. We’ll have to wait and see how this latest EU muscle-flexing is going to play out.

Continuing with the theme of muscle-flexing, here’s what Labour’s Brexit Shadow minister Sir Keir Starmer has been doing. It’s in the paywalled Times:

“Britain’s top civil servant has been warned by Labour that Whitehall faces a public inquiry under a Corbyn government over a no-deal Brexit. Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, has threatened to hold the civil service to account if it does not sound the alarm over Boris Johnson’s proposals. He has written to Sir Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, demanding that all permanent secretaries obtain written letters of instruction from ministers for no-deal plans that do not “represent value for money”. “(link, paywalled)

Labour is concerned about misuse of public finances? Will wonders never cease …! I am not aware of Tory Shadow ministers having made similar demands. 

However, Sir Keir is not worried about spending money, he is, of course, worried about spending money on preparing for No Deal Brexit. I wonder if his friend and colleague from the opposite benches, Mr Phil Hammond, has given him this tip. Here’s more:

“Sir Keir said that the prime minister’s promise to make Brexit happen on that date “do or die” was not a necessity but a political choice that impartial civil servants needed to resist.” (link, paywalled)

That’s amazing! The hypocrisy is outstanding: paying billions of taxpayers’ money to the EU must not be ‘resisted’ because of the holy grail of Remain – but preparing for No Deal is of the devil … Sir Keir writes:

“[…] it is vital that there is clarity about when political decisions are taken concerning the UK’s departure from the EU, and if they are being made against the express advice of senior civil servants. This will be particularly relevant in the event of any future public inquiry or investigation into this matter.” (link, paywalled)

He seems to think that a GE is inevitable and that Labour will win it. That’s the background to his sabre-rattling. RemainCentral offers the following interpretation which I think is not far off:

“Sir Keir’s letter reflects a growing concern among MPs that after the bruising criticism of civil servants by Brexiteers such as Dominic Raab and Jacob Rees-Mogg they will now embrace Mr Johnson’s no-deal agenda. Sir Mark is understood to have told the prime minister that Whitehall would get behind his plans to spend whatever is needed to prepare the country to leave without a deal on October 31.” (link, paywalled)

Goodness me – Whitehall is now being criticised for adhering to their code by supporting the new Johnson government? Our Remain opposition seems to believe that the much vaunted neutrality of Whitehall can only be permitted if the government adheres to a Remain policy and does not even think about preparing for a No Deal Brexit the Johnson government is planning for. Sir Keir’s reasoning is utterly delightful:

“Sir Keir said that Brexit represented a choice that repeated government forecasts had found to be “bad for the economy, bad for the public finances and bad for the taxpayer”.“I would therefore request that you write to all permanent secretaries to remind them of this responsibility,” he wrote. “I would also ask for an assurance that all ministerial directions relating to no-deal plans will be published as soon as they are issued.” (link, paywalled)

Let that sink in! He demands that, Johnson Brexit policy notwithstanding, Whitehall has to adhere to the various Project Fear forecasts with which they have bombarded us during the last three years as if they’ve been cast in stone.

I think we can detect the fine hand of a certain former chancellor in  the writing of this letter. Sadly we’ll now never know the answer from Sir Mark Sedwill because Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s advisor, has told them that there must be no more leaks …

The take-home message is that a No Deal Brexit looks to become reality. The Remainers in the HoC seem to recognise that there’s not much they can do in the HoC, that their only ‘weapon’ is a GE and that therefore preemptive threats about inquiries into Whitehall are in order.

Finally, in an article in The Times (paywalled) Stephen Booth of the “Open Europe” Think Tank makes a rather interesting observation:

“Perhaps a new deal with the EU is still possible but the government is surely correct to press ahead with its preparations for no deal. There comes a time when the real choices need to be confronted. MPs have tried and failed for over three years to nuance the referendum result. We’ve had endless debates about membership of customs unions, the single market, “hard” or “soft” Brexits. Their miscalculations and failure to compromise have turned this into a binary choice, which, ultimately, it always was. Everything else is a detail. If we are to leave without a deal, botched statecraft by governments in the UK and the EU will be partly to blame, but it will be an even greater failure of our elected representatives in Westminster.” (link, paywalled)

It’s always satisfactory when high-powered pundits come to conclusions which we Leave voters, uneducated and stupid as we are, have already reached ages ago!

In the next weeks I hope to find similar nuggets of Remain and Leave instances with which to entertain ourselves. Meanwhile let’s enjoy the summer – or is it autumn already? – and keep vigilant!




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