Let’s start the day with a giggle! Some of us have long suspected that numeracy is an art hugely neglected by our educational establishment. Even counting on one’s fingers seems to be too difficult.

What has that got to do with Brexit? This: one of the top news is that in ten days, British officials will no longer attend EU meetings routinely:

“The process of Britain leaving the European Union will start in just 10 days’ time after UK diplomats were ordered to dramatically reduce contact with their EU counterparts. British officials will withdraw from hundreds of official meetings in Brussels as the deadline for leaving the EU approaches and will “only go to the meetings that really matter”, Steve Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, said. Instead the UK’s 180 EU-based diplomats will go to meetings that affect the UK’s key interests in areas such as security, defence and finance. The “Brussels boycott” will start on Sept 1, just days before Remain-supporting MPs return to Parliament and are expected to look for ways to stop the UK leaving on Oct 31.” (paywalled link)

The Times (link, paywalled) reports this with a typical Remain twist in their headline: “Brexit work starts in 10 days, but EU won’t budge on the backstop” while The Express (link) elegantly circumnavigates the difficult question of how many days there are to the 1st of September.

The giggle comes courtesy of the Daily Mail: “Britain will break off most contact with EU in NINE DAYS to ‘focus on leaving’” (link), writing  in the text right below that:

“The government has toughened its negotiating stance with the EU for the second time in 24 hours today, telling Brussels that British officials will stop attending most meetings from September 1 to free up time to work on Brexit.”

Oh dear …! Still, let’s not be too harsh – at least they’re all clear that “Work on Brexit” is now official. What this means in practice is this:

“An estimated 800 meetings are scheduled in September and October but Britain will now only attend around a third of them. Mr Barclay said: “This will free up time for ministers and their officials to get on with preparing for our departure on Oct 31.” (paywalled link)

More clarification on what ‘our men and women in Brussels’ have been doing over the years and now won’t:

“Steve Barclay, the Brexit secretary, said: “An incredible amount of time and effort goes into EU meetings with attendance just the tip of the iceberg. Our diligent, world-class officials also spend many hours preparing for them, whether in reading the necessary papers or working on briefings.” (link, paywalled)

Meanwhile, Mr Tusk has rejected Johnson’s letter about the backstop, as expected. He did so – in a tweet:

“Donald Tusk, European Council president, hit back, saying “those against the backstop and not proposing realistic alternatives in fact support reestablishing a border. Even if they do not admit it.” (paywalled link). 

For another little giggle, or perhaps smirk, here’s Jacob Rees-Mogg’s answer as he was doorstepped by SKY news asking him about that Tusk tweet yesterday:

“Mr Rees-Mogg smirked at the question, before dryly replying with a raised eyebrow: “You’ve got to be careful with tweets” (link)

Nice little video clip in that link! Here is the official reaction to Mr Tusk’s latest ‘njet’, reported in the paywalled DT:

“A Downing Street spokesman said: “We are deeply invested in the peace, prosperity and security of Northern Ireland and always will be and we have been clear that we will never place infrastructure, checks, or controls at the border. But it is clear that unless the Withdrawal Agreement is reopened and the backstop abolished there is no prospect of a deal.  It has already been rejected three times by MPs and is simply unviable as a solution, as the PM’s letter makes clear. We are ready to negotiate, in good faith, an alternative to the backstop, with provisions to ensure that the Irish border issues are dealt with where they should always have been: in the negotiations on the future agreement between the UK and the EU.” (paywalled link)

Eagle-eyed Brexiteers will have spotted the key word: ‘negotiate’. Most of us are very suspicious about these ‘negotiations’, see yesterday’s column. Nigel Farage, writing in the (paywalled) DT today, is one such suspicious person:

“I truly hope that Johnson’s letter to Tusk is just part of him being seen to go through the motions, while really wanting a clean-break Brexit on October 31. I would cheer from the rooftops louder than anybody if he secured Britain’s independence. But when I read his letter, and Tusk’s response, my first sense was one of fear that a great stitch-up may be coming. That feeling has not gone away.” (paywalled link)

Nor has ours, Nigel, nor has ours! Today Johnson is going to Germany, to meet Ms Merkel. It’s going to be a very hot day in Berlin, with lots of sunshine and high temperatures outside. Indoors, Johnson will tell Ms Merkel:

“{…] that parliament cannot stop Britain leaving the European Union without a deal on October 31. […] tThe prime minister will warn the German chancellor over dinner in Berlin that there will be no Brexit agreement unless the EU backs down and agrees to scrap the Irish backstop. The tough approach comes after Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, highlighted attempts by Remainer Tory MPs to stop a no-deal Brexit during a one-hour call with Mr Johnson on Monday night. Downing Street believes that Brussels is unlikely to enter into negotiations over a new agreement while parliamentary attempts to stop a no-deal exit and potentially bring down Mr Johnson’s government continue.” (link, paywalled)

To be extra helpful, RemainCentral sacrifices a whole herd of pixels to chew over that question, under the headline “Can MPs stop a no-deal Brexit on October 31?” (link, paywalled), concluding that perhaps they can, but “it’s not straightforward”.

They repeat the scenarios from a VoNC and a GNU to Johnson just sitting it out. Their preferred option is that the HoC do what they did in March when they forced Ms May to ask the EU for an extension. It might just work again – or it might not:

“But MPs will need to make sure that any emergency legislation they pass is watertight. For example, if they simply compel Mr Johnson to ask for an extension to Article 50, they leave open a path for him to reject any extension that the EU offers.” (link, paywalled)

While the politicians here, in Brussels and in the EU member states play their games, I was amazed to read that, despite Brexit and despite all of us going to die when crashing over the Brexit cliff, in real life investors are flocking to the UK:

“British technology start-ups are enjoying an unprecedented investment boom, shrugging off concerns over a no-deal Brexit. High-tech companies have received a record $6.7 billion (£5.5 billion) in new funding this year, 50 per cent more than the same period last year. They are on course to secure more than $11 billion by the end of the year, easily eclipsing last year’s total of $8.7 billion, according to official figures. The data, from the government’s digital economy council, suggests that Britain remains the most attractive country in Europe for overseas tech investors.” (link, paywalled)

You don’t say! Of course, since it’s RemainCentral reporting these news, the Project Fear sting just had to come:

“The government’s Operation Yellowhammer dossier into the effects of a no-deal Brexit included a chilling warning for the sector. No-deal could “disrupt the flow of personal data from the EU, where an alternative legal base for transfer is not in place,” it said. Britain’s digital economy relies on the transfer of information between data centres here and the EU. According to the document, it “could take years” to restore data-sharing arrangements. However, these concerns have not dampened investors’ enthusiasm for the raft of “unicorns” — private companies worth more than $1 billion — to have emerged in Britain over recent years. Over the past two decades UK-based entrepreneurs have built 72 unicorn companies, according to separate government research. That compares with 29 in Germany, and 26 in India. The US and China created 703 and 206 respectively.” (link, paywalled)

I do wonder how long the Remainers will play their games, not only of trying to thwart Brexit but of bad-mouthing our country. Nothing, it seems, will be good enough, ever!

While we leavers think these are good news, we must not let ourselves be bamboozled by Johnson stunts. We must not lose sight of the now repeated statements that there will be ‘negotiations’ if the EU can be scared into them.

I repeat what I said yesterday: it is eminently possible that there might be a last-minute ‘agreement’ and we’ll be presented with ”A Deal” – the WA in new clothes, with lipstick on. This will be the same, Merkel-inspired vassalage treaty. That is the stitch-up Farage mentions. So, as always, we will






Photo by Nick Kenrick.

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