Mr Cox, the Attorney General blessed with a booming but mellifluous voice, is off to see M Barnier later today. As we all know, it’s about the Backstop, and about the so-called “Star Chamber” of the ERG: will they accept what he comes back with?
A little vignette in the DM caught my eye this morning – apparently Mr Cox tweeted an image of the Duke of Wellington … That made the DM commentator Andrew Pierce ask if that wasn’t a bit mischievous, as it referred to Waterloo … Oh dear. No, it wasn’t, because the tweeted image (it’s in the article) is of the Iron Duke in his much later years, when he was a Tory politician and PM. That historical reference seems to have eluded Mr Pierce. In any case, even Wellington would not have prevailed at Waterloo had the Prussians fought on the side of Napoleon, as they do now in the EU. So don’t mess with the Iron Duke where I can see it – I will call you out! Now back to today’s affairs.
Since there’s ‘nothing to see’ until Mr Cox comes back, the attention of our MSM has turned to the ERG again, the ‘hard core ultra Brexiteers’. According to The Times (paywalled), they’ve warned Ms May not to try and present them with a last-minute fudge:
“Tory Brexiteers told Theresa May last night not to ambush them with a last-minute legal deal with Brussels on the Irish backstop and expect them to vote in favour of it next week. Leaders of the hardline European Research Group (ERG) said after a meeting yesterday that they expected to see details of any agreement struck between Geoffrey Cox and EU negotiators well before next Tuesday’s “meaningful vote” in the Commons. They added that they would back a compromise only if they had the time to consider it in “good time” to “form a judgment in advance of a vote”, adding: “Our primary objective is a proper analysis.”
Translated, this means: “give us enough time and we may come up with a compromise we can sell.” More smoke and mirrors, I’m afraid. Our ‘friends’ in the EU – the fabled ‘Brussels sources’ – have already declared their position:
“According to Brussels sources, work on the assurances must be completed this week ahead of the next ‘Meaningful Vote’, which is expected to be held on March 12.” (link)
Are they in cahoots with the ERG by any chance?
Far more infuriating is this passage:
An EU diplomat familiar with the Brexit talks insisted Brussels would not allow a text to be presented for MPs to vote on unless pre-agreed by the bloc’s negotiating team.”(link, my bold)
So Brussels now decides what our elected representatives are allowed to vote on? This, dear friends, is what Remainers want: diktats from the EU … rub their noses in it!
The ‘ultra-hard core etc Brexiteers’ have furthermore come out with some forceful statements in the run-up to next week’s crucial vote. They don’t seem to be too confident that Mr Cox will come back with something palatable:
“Theresa May has been warned she must whip her MPs to keep a no-deal Brexit on the table in a vote next week as Geoffrey Cox travels to Brussels for make-or-break talks with EU negotiators. Senior Eurosceptics are convinced Mrs May will lose a vote on a revised Brexit deal on March 12 because they do not expect the Attorney General to win meaningful concessions on the Irish backstop. They are now planning for the votes which will happen on the following two days, when MPs will be asked whether no deal should remain an option, and whether Brexit should be delayed. (paywalled link, my bold)
One would like to know who these Cabinet ministers are, and why, unlike the Remainers, they are keeping their heads below the parapet:
Two Cabinet ministers are among senior party figures who have told the Prime Minister that allowing MPs to block no deal would be a disaster because the EU will treat Britain as a soft touch. It came as Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, faced a backlash from his own colleagues over plans to “blackmail” them next week with the threat of losing a larger than expected Brexit dividend if they vote against a deal.” (paywalled link, my bold)
Well, what about that then! Buying votes on the one hand while threatening to take money away if the vote isn’t ‘correct’: is that how our ‘betters’ in Cabinet now decide issues of national importance? Blatant bribery and monetary arm-twisting – how far have our Remain politicians sunk! Just what one expects from conniving knaves …
There was another interesting development which hasn’t made it into the MSM so far. It’s an article by Martin Howe QC – him of the ‘Star Chamber’ – who explained why risking an extension to Article 50 would not be the end of the world: “An Article 50 extension would betray the referendum result and should be opposed; but if it is forced through we are still enormously better off than with Mrs May’s deal.” Do read it – his arguments are quite compelling.
However, the fact that he did write this essay at this particular time makes me ponder: does he, like some Tory Brexiteers (see the quotes above) think that Mr Cox won’t come back with a proper solution to the backstop? And does he and those Tories expect Ms May to lose the vote next Tuesday, with the HoC then voting to extend Article 50 on the following day? Is he thus preparing us for the next stage?
It might also be a warning to the EU and M Barnier, that such extension won’t be to their liking. After all, there are the elections to the EU Parliament in May. M Macron has already gone into full electioneering mode, writing a letter published across the EU member states – scroll down here to find the text – and while he foams about Brexit, it’s obviously about not voting for the ‘bad populist parties’ come May.
One would like to think that the prospect of five more years of Nigel Farage in Brussels might concentrate the EU minds wonderfully when sat across the table from Mr Cox this afternoon …
24 days to Brexit – KBO!