From Boris-Bounce to EU slump: the Brexit Betrayal puzzle is taking shape. First we hear that Johnson, in his visit to wet Wales yesterday, made reassuring noises. Then we hear that his opposite part in Ireland didn’t, insisting that the Backstop is there to stay, accompanied by supporting noises from the off in the USA. Finally we hear rumours about the economic ‘difficulties’ facing Macron and Merkel.
Fitting this together means there’s a new set of arguments which the Remainers should be forced to answer. Everybody in the Westminster Village may be on their holidays but Remainers have not gone away. I propose it’s time for Leavers to work on Leave ‘Project Fear’ scenarios, demanding answers from Remain.
But before we get into that, here’s a huge warning signal, if one were needed, coming straight from the horse’s – sorry: the PM’s mouth:
“Boris Johnson has said that the UK could stay in the customs union and single market for another two years, as he appeared to suggest what a Brexit deal struck by his Government could look like. The Prime Minister described the chance of a no-deal Brexit as “vanishingly small” as he visited farmers in Wales on his tour of the UK. […] Mr Johnson was describing a scenario in which the UK manages to strike a new deal before Hallowe’en, which would see Britain then enter a transition period before a free trade agreement is reached. Under the putative plan, the existing one-year “transition period” in the Withdrawal Agreement would be extended by up to a year to allow a free trade deal to be negotiated, but there would be no backstop after this period. This could involve an additional payment to Brussels. However, he emphasised it was the EU’s “call” if they wanted to strike a deal.” (paywalled link)
Non-paywalled reports are here and here. Are we already seeing the first paw of that ‘no ifs no buts’ cat being slowly let out of the Brexit bag? To test the waters, as it were? Look carefully at what this Boris “Leave or die” suddenly means:
- Staying in the customs Union and single market for two years;
- Using the despised WA as backbone for whatever the current PM concocts;
- No Backstop after that period, i.e. a Backstop during that period;
- More ‘extra’ payments.
Is this the ‘Leave no ifs no buts’? Is that ‘testy’ phone call with Mr Varadkar just smoke and mirrors then, to make both look good in front of their separate audiences? The Times reports:
“Downing Street said that in a testy call between the two men Mr Johnson had repeated his public pledge to take Britain out of the EU on October 31, “no matter what”. The spokesman added that Mr Johnson had made clear to Mr Varadkar that any deal must abolish the backstop. However, Mr Varadkar’s spokesman said that the Irish prime minister had told Mr Johnson that the backstop was necessary as a consequence of the UK’s decisions.He said that Mr Varadkar had reiterated the EU position that Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement would not be renegotiated.” (link, paywalled)
You can find a non-paywalled report on that Varadkar phone conversation here. We might therefore ask if such a time-limited backstop might be the ‘sacrifice’ the EU could demand from Ireland, especially when balanced against that transition period of two years where we would still have to pay our EU dues, just as we’re paying them now.
Add into this the ‘noise from the off’ coming from the USA. While the new Foreign Secretary Mr Raab is focussing on the Far East for new trade initiatives, the new Trade Secretary Liz Truss is turning her eyes to the USA (here) where she will have to convince US politicians that the Good Friday Agreement is not in danger:
“A Transatlantic trade deal will be ‘all but impossible’ if the Good Friday Agreement is undermined, a group of prominent Irish-Americans have warned. A committee set up in the US to protect the peace treaty said it was ‘deeply concerned’ at Boris Johnson’s call for the backstop to be ditched from the Brexit deal. […] The intervention is a fresh headache for the new PM as he seeks to find a way of securing Brexit.” (link)
I won’t insinuate that this intervention comes from an anti-Trump conglomerate who would be happy to put any spokes into any Trump Trade wheel – and Ireland has always been a very handy instrument for them to bash the UK with.
The question of the Backstop has been written and talked about endlessly so I’ll only reiterate the one, vital point which all the Backstop Aye-Sayers somehow never seem to grasp: it is meant to last indefinitely, preventing us from doing our own trade deals without EU interference and can only be removed by the EU if they so wish. The operative expression here is ‘indefinitely’.
What this could mean in practice is illustrated in a report on the fabled Trade Deal between the EU and Mercosur, the South American Trade Block:
“The EU reached the provisional accord with the trade bloc founded by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay in June, ending two decades of talks and committing to boosting free trade amid rising global protectionism.” (source)
Yes, you read that correctly: it took the EU twenty years to conclude this deal which still needs to be ratified. And now M Macron is – unhappy:
“Paris […] has voiced concerns over the risk of a surge in South American agricultural exports to the bloc, welcomed a “good” deal but stressed it would remain “vigilant”.” (source)
That is the reality of EU Trade ‘negotiations’. I’m sure Remainers can explain to us why our being tied to the EU thanks to the Backstop is a ‘good thing’. If they come with the argument that trade deals are obviously so terribly complicated that even the mighty EU needs twenty years to negotiate them, then please laugh them out of court – especially when you read the following report – not paywalled – about France’s economy:
“French President Emmanuel Macron has been stunned by a dramatic weakening of the economy – amid fears of an imminent euro plunge. The French economy has almost ground to a complete halt, with concerns that a hard Brexit could spark an economic crisis throughout the eurozone. The French office of national statistics revealed the country’s economy stagnated in the second quarter of 2019. “ (link)
At the same time, Germany’s economy isn’t looking brilliant either:
“Unease about the global economic outlook has knocked consumer confidence in Germany for a third consecutive month, according to the country’s largest market research institute. Consumer confidence in economic activity fell to 9.7, down from 9.8 in June but in line with economists’ expectations, according to the latest GFK figures. The reading was the lowest since April 2017. […] Fears about a recession in Germany have been compounded by weak business confidence, which also slumped for a third month in a row in June.” (link, paywalled)
Here’s more on France where the outlook is similar:
“Weak household spending similarly weighed on France’s economy. According to official figures, growth slowed to 0.2 per cent in the three months to June, down from 0.3 per cent in the previous quarter and below a consensus forecast of 0.3 per cent. Insee, the French statistics agency, said that household consumption growth had slowed to 0.2 per cent, down from 0.4 per cent in the previous period. Until now the French economy has proven more resilient than some of its eurozone neighbours because it is not as dependent on exports and so is less exposed to the swings in the global economy.” (link, paywalled)
Obviously, it’s all because of Brexit, right? I wonder if our Remainers can see that albatros yet to which we’ll be chained thanks to the Backstop. I wonder if Johnson understands that his weakening stance on ‘Out’ means that our economy will be dragged down as well.
Another piece of news, sailing in just under the radar, is that the German Supreme Court has decided that it is ok to hand over the supervision of the whole Eurozone Banks to the ECB, now under the leadership of Madame Lagarde.
That means in effect that Germany, as strongest Eurozone state, will have to pay for any crashing EU bank (paywalled German article) because’ EU is good and more EU is even better’. Guess who will also be made to pay, eurozone or not, for as long as we’re tied to this economic albatros …
I hope you can connect the dots of today’s Brexit Betrayal puzzle. I hope you’ve noticed that there’s a black hole where we ought to have seen a report about what our DexEU minister, a certain Mr Barclay, has been doing. Perhaps he’s on holidays, sitting out the Boris Bounce …