So Ms May went to Brussels yesterday and came back. That’s it. A bit like this Nursery Song. No ‘result’, no nothing, except that ‘the Backstop will stay’ (DT, paywalled) and M Juncker telling her to come back later this month, after she’d done some more homework.
Suspicious person that I am, I can’t help wondering if Ms May and her helpers had been secretly informed, over ‘back channels’, that this was going to be the outcome and thus decided to postpone the HoC debate planned for St Valentine’s Day. Anything is possible in this Brexit Soap Opera!
Today’s papers show that our esteemed journalists, pundits and “Brussels Correspondents” are as clueless about what went on as we all are. When even the serious Remain Central paper The Times has just one “Project Fear” article on their front page (“Weakest Growth in a Decade, Warns Bank”) and the DM wastes hordes of pixels on ‘analysing the body language’ of ‘Hell’ Tusk, M Juncker and Ms May, then you know that this trip was a pointless waste of time and resources.
Some might think that there must have been serious talks behind closed doors – well, I beg to differ because we’ve surely learned by now that Brussels loves to influence our debate here at home by judicious leaking from ‘diplomats’ and ‘sources in the administration’ and ‘high-ranking Brussels negotiators’. This morning? There’s nothing – except some more ‘Project Fear’ items. The most horrific has to be that Roaming Charges could be raised for travelling Brits … oh let’s abandon Brexit immediately!
The one about low growth is strange because of what is studiously left out, namely the huge economic downturn in the EU, especially Germany, described by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the (paywalled) DT: “Germany falls into ‘recession’ as Brussels slashes EU growth forecasts”. Must be the fault of Brexit … at least, that’s what German industrialists are already claiming (here).
There are some delicious ‘Reverse Project Fear’ items though. One is a report that the Dutch government is stockpiling drugs in case of No Deal – drugs coming from the UK! One might regard this as prudent preparation, but nooo ….
Then there’s the news about something truly awful: civil servants are preparing a “Doomsday List’! So what’s this all about then? Do sit down so you don’t faint – it’s a “list of tax and tariff cuts dubbed ‘Project After’ is prepared by ministers to boost the economy in case of No Deal Brexit”. The (paywalled) DT reports:
“Britain will cut taxes and slash tariffs under secret plans drawn up by officials to kick-start the economy in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Sir Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary, has led a cross-departmental team examining the “economic levers” that can be used to make Britain more competitive. The plans, which have been drawn up under the codename “Project After”, include a series of aggressive policies to help the UK “steal a march” on the European Union. The most significant measures include cuts to corporation tax and VAT along with further tax relief to encourage more business investment. (link)
How perfectly horrifying!
Since there was nothing to report or leak about Ms May’s visit, pundits have had to tart up their previous articles, e.g. about the EU ‘fearing Brexit becoming a success’ (DT, paywalled) and, regarding an extension of article 50, that “Brussels fears the return of Nigel Farage” (here). I’m sure they do! Personally, I hope he uses his next speech in the EU Parliament to give ‘Hell’ Tusk what-for. Can’t wait! We must make do meanwhile with this enjoyable comment by Quentin Letts. Have a read!
On a more serious note, the incomparable Sir John Redwood writes in his Diary today about the dangers contained in the WA, asking the question we’d all like to have answered:
“Why would we want to sign a one sided agreement giving the EU all it wants, without anything firm on the future partnership which might contain things we want?”
Indeed – why would we and why should we?
His proposal comes as no surprise:
“The government has to tell the EU there is no chance of passing the current Withdrawal Agreement, whatever might be offered by side letters, reassurance, clarifications or strengthening of the Political Declaration about a possible future agreement. […] The government should table a comprehensive free trade agreement. Under GATT rules if the EU agrees to talk about this the UK can then leave the EU on 29 March without needing to impose new tariff and non tariff barriers on EU exports to us, and the EU would do the same for our exports to them.”
Now you understand why Remain Whitehall Mandarins wanted nothing to do with Sir John Redwood! They were probably ‘advising’ Ms May not to give him any role in their Brexit Surrender Negotiations since he would wreck them!
Finally, there’s an essay I’d like to draw your attention to. It’s in ‘Conservative Home’, by Alex Morton (link). He describes that Remainers think “Brexit is impossible” and that for them:
“ […] if the EU will not give ground, the only real option is to cancel Brexit and put this whole sorry mess behind us. Not because there has been inadequate preparation for No Deal, but because Brexit is somehow impossible in a very fundamental sense.”
He points out that this kind of reasoning leads inevitably to this question:
“If Brexit is impossible, what hope is there for other difficult tasks in politics, such as reforming public services, controlling immigration, increasing living standards? Will it all be parked in the ‘too difficult’ box? Or will the lesson that our elites learn be that we should never trust the people to make their own decisions?”
I agree with his conclusion:
“Brexit is not impossible. But if we abandon the idea, and declare it impossible for our political system to deliver, then we are effectively declaring to the voters that the political system itself is not fit for purpose.” (my bold)
That is the stark warning our politicians and pundits ought to think about in the coming days and weeks – but they won’t.