Closed down until ‘further notice’, i.e. until we pay up?
Today was the day when Barnier and his crew were supposed to arrive in London for the second round of the Trade negotiations. It’s not happening for the obvious reason – ‘that virus’ – and of course, the Remainers were out in force, en coulisse.
So today I’ll not write about ‘government and that virus’, I’ll describe how ‘Our MSM’, i.e. the usual suspects, pushed their Remain boat out. While we knew last week that these talks would not take place as planned (link), it was quite extraordinary to read how yesterday’s actual Government announcement was reported, namely that there will be no talks, no video conference. Why Brussels and London seem to have been incapable of setting up a video conference will become clear below.p
Let’s firstly look at the actual government press release (link) which came out yesterday afternoon and was faithfully reproduced by the Express. The last sentence in that press release is important:
“The transition period ends on 31 December 2020. This is enshrined in UK law” (link)
Take special note of that sentence. That is clear-cut. You can read the whole text in The Express (link), published shortly before 5pm yesterday, where Joe Barnes, their Brussels correspondent, also wrote:
“Both sides had been working on contingency measures after it was agreed talks between over 200 officials should be shelved to avoid further spread of the coronavirus. They opted to hold the negotiations via videoconferencing but have since called off the plans. It is understood the proposal was ruled out because it would still require officials to gather in small rooms for long periods of time. Both Brussels and London have urged people to avoid all non-essential contact with others while they attempt to curb the spread of the virus.” (link)
Why one needs to ‘gather in small rooms’ to read emails isn’t explained. It looks as if a mechanism for ‘working from home’ either here or in Brussels was not set up to keep these talks on track – perhaps on purpose?
I suspect, cynical so-and-so that I am, that EU officials balked at a situation where papers and drafts are being exchanged and redacted electronically. Perhaps M Barnier would even prefer to have all those drafts and papers being exchanged by courier after they were written by hand on fine paper? Perhaps he even longs for the time when Ambassadors wore nifty uniforms with lots of gold lace?
Using electronic data transfer – something so many workers are now having to do ‘from home’ so that Microsoft’s ‘tool’ for this crashed all over Europe on Monday (link) – is apparently too technically complex for those Brussels officials …
Next, the DM’s article on the cancellation of the talks (link) seems to have been redacted to include the Government press release after Dominic Raab spoke in the HoC that same afternoon. Take note of this passage which has the pertinent item, probably inserted later, after the Government statement had been released, and after the authors had digested the article in the DT:
“A government spokesman said this afternoon that the ‘transition period ends on 31 December 2020’ and the deadline is ‘enshrined in UK law’. However, the Telegraph reported that the government is now increasingly resigned to the fact that an extension will ultimately have to be agreed.” (link)
Having thus set the scene for the Remain article in the DT, let’s now take a closer look at it. The authors are the two Arch-Remainers on the DT staff: Peter Foster in London and James Crisp in Brussels. They seem to have been able to collaborate despite That Virus – strange, isn’t it …!
The article was published shortly after 3pm and I can’t help feeling that they and their ‘sources’ wanted to get their Remain retaliation in first, before the government press release was published. There are some extraordinary passages in that article which put paid to the argument that in Brussels officials cannot be expected to work together ‘in small rooms’ because of That Virus:
“Detailed Brexit trade negotiations planned for this week were cancelled with Government sources indicating that the UK is preparing the ground to seek a mutually agreed extension to the talks in the coming weeks. As the coronavirus crisis deepened, senior Whitehall sources also confirmed that civil servants who had been working on Brexit “no deal” preparations were being actively redeployed into virus crisis management.” (paywalled link)
Obviously, those “government sources” remain anonymous, but note, for starters, how ‘government’ and ‘senior Whitehall sources’ become interchangeable when Remainers want to cover their tracks. The next passage is extraordinary in the way ‘sources’, i.e. gossip, and the thoughts of the Remain authors are being jumbled together:
“EU sources said hopes of conducting a full negotiation round via videolink had been crushed by the Covid-19 outbreak, which has put large swathes of Europe into effective lockdown and limited the ability of EU diplomats and officials to prepare for the talks. Although a final decision has yet to be made by Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, The Telegraph understands from highly-placed sources that the Government accepts it will need to seek an extension before the June deadline expires.“ (paywalled link)
To me, this looks as if those ‘highly-placed sources’, with the help of the DT Remainers, are trying to bounce Johnson in demanding an extension. This next bit, from ‘EU sources’, is stunning:
“In Brussels, EU diplomats met in person on Friday to discuss changes to a draft text presented by the bloc’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, but have now resorted to discussions via email, which are much slower. “We haven’t had time to properly go through our own text,” said a source familiar with EU deliberations. […] A second EU source said the maximum expectation now was for a teleconference in which both sides formally shared their draft Free Trade Agreement texts before going away to read them.” (paywalled link)
Those EU Diplomats ‘didn’t have time’ to evaluate even their own texts because of ‘slow email’ – but they did meet ‘in small rooms’ to discuss changes? Well! Next though, if you wanted a lesson in how to muddy waters when driving your agenda by publishing gossip, see this passage where I emphasise the authors’ labels for their ‘sources’:
“A Downing Street source said it was “totally untrue” that an extension was under consideration, adding that “no conversations” had taken place about it. However a source familiar with UK thinking said a decision to seek an extension was likely to come fairly quickly following the sharing of two drafts, which would highlight the fundamental differences that remained between the sides. With coronavirus pressures building fast, the UK source, with knowledge of the new political thinking, said the expectation was that a British request to extend would emerge “sooner rather than later”. Senior Whitehall sources said the scale of civil service redeployments was “still in flux” but confirmed that two directors-general – one grade below Permanent Secretary – had already been moved from Brexit to Covid-19 duties.” (paywalled link)
What is ‘a UK source’, ‘familiar with’ and ‘with knowledge of the new political thinking’? It could be anyone, even just the authors themselves. And obviously, a ‘Downing Street source’ can be disregarded …
While I am suitably impressed by the seniority of those ‘senior Whitehall sources’, peasant that I am, I think that “Downing Street” can now easily trace back to those sources and give them a bolloxing. A pity (not!) that vanity either of those DT authors or of those ‘sources’ has made them visible to other insiders.
And now – the real reason why Brussels officials, in contrast to Brussels correspondents, cannot be expected to work from home to drive these negotiations. It’s money, and this argument is cleverly hidden under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic impact:
“The EU side, which warned that the timetable was dangerously tight even before the Corvid-19 pandemic, is expected to agree to any UK request for more time. […] Any extension would be a “flextension” which could lapse as soon as a deal with Europe was concluded if coronavirus passed over more quickly than expected. As part of an extension, the UK will also need to agree some form of continued payments, since the current £39 billion Brexit bill only covered the period up to the end of 2020. However, EU sources said they expected discussions to be “formulaic” and non-politicised.” (paywalled link)
There it is: nothing can be done in Brussels because of That Virus, but the EU will graciously accept an extension request for two years because: money! More money from us to prop up the severely damaged EU economies: just what the doctor ordered! Right at the bottom of their article, to show how impartial they are, the DT quotes Mark François:
“Leading Brexiteers reacted with scepticism to suggestions of an extension. Mark Francois, the chairman of the European Research Group, said: “Fortunately, modern technology such as video conferencing and Skype facilitates negotiating – even at a distance. While senior ministers will obviously be concentrating on Covid-19, there is no reason why senior officials could not continue to make progress on the free trade agreement so that we can conclude a deal in good time and without the need for any extension.” (paywalled link)
Indeed – but asking civil serpents to work harder is a no-no, even ‘in times of war’, as this pandemic has been labelled. As for the EU, this couldn’t be better: why would they work harder to facilitate these negotiations when they can stop working and get their hands on more of our money! This DT article shows plainly how our civil serpent traitors and the EU officials work hand-in-glove to achieve their objective: sabotaging Brexit.
It’s only a few more weeks before we learn if Johnson caved in to his oh-so-efficient and knowledgeable ‘senior Whitehall sources’. Strangely enough, this is right in the period where all over 70s are having to stay at home. Will Sir Bill Cash, will Sir John Redwood be made to comply and leave the field to Remain? More interesting times ahead – so stay vigilant and