Nothing really earth-shatteringly Brexity happened over the weekend, except the usual 2nd line of politicians populating the airwaves, peddling their favourite version of Brexit. If you really want to or need to know who ‘represented’ the Tories check out ConHome. Far more interesting than the common Tory Party squabbles are the ones inside Labour, where Dennis Skinner (!) has been labelled “Tory scab” (!!) by the far-left (here), led by their poster boi Owen Jones. One couldn’t make it up … Then there were reports that some “Labour rebels” are planning to resign the whip and perhaps form a new party, together with Tory and Lib ‘rebels’ (here). One wonders if that former PM, a certain Mr Blair, would join them …
On the Tory side Boris Johnson (paywalled) declared that the ‘rumours’ of a snap June GE, leaked by some Tory insiders, were just a ploy to get everybody behind Ms May’s ‘deal’ because nobody in LibLabCon actually wants a GE.
The same clique fighting to keep May in and Brexit out have been muddying the waters some more by declaring that involving MPs belonging to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s ERG in an ‘Alternative Working Group’ is going to wreck Brexit (here and here):
“Conservative MP Nick Boles has hit back at Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group (ERG) and accused it of a plot to torpedo Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The former Tory minister believes the ERG is determined for Britain to leave the EU without a deal and will vote down any deal Mrs May secures with Brussels. He was responding to a tweet from ERG deputy Steve Baker, who warned of “trouble ahead” over Mrs May’s new Brexit plan. In last week’s Commons vote, MPs voted for “alternative arrangements” to the Northern Ireland backstop.”
Those would be the ‘alternatives’ Ms May was so coy about when presenting her Plan B to Parliament at the end of last month. Cast your mind back: she was asked repeatedly what these ‘alternatives’ were, and refused to answer. So now we know: she didn’t have any …
This group will meet today. Ms May will present ‘something’ on the 6th of February and Parliament will debate and vote on St Valentine’s Day.
The Times (paywalled), a.k.a. ‘Remain Central’, also writes that “Backstop Hardliners” are ‘setting Ms May up to fail’, reporting that she is trying her best by setting up that ‘Alternative Working Group’. You have to read this to savour the full flavour of the skulduggery going on:
“Yesterday, in an attempt to avoid further splits, at least temporarily, Downing Street announced the creation of a new working group to examine the so-called Malthouse compromise that was agreed upon last week between Brexiteers and a group of Tory remainers […] At the same time Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general, has been asked by Mrs May to look at the “wording and legal effect” of potential changes to the backstop in the withdrawal agreement. It is these changes that have now all but been ruled out by Brexiteers.”
All fine and dandy you might think (and I couldn’t possibly comment …) but not when you read this ‘reasoning’ (same source):
“The Conservative Party’s fragile Brexit truce was close to collapse yesterday after hardline Brexiteers ruled out two of Theresa May’s proposals for solving the Irish backstop question. Eurosceptics said they would not accept either a unilateral withdrawal clause or an end date to the backstop as a compromise to reach a deal with Brussels. Instead, they insisted the prime minister must demand that Brussels scraps the backstop “entirely” and replace it with electronic customs and regulatory checks to avoid physical infrastructure at the border.
Last night one cabinet minister told The Times that the hardline approach was “non-negotiable” and was “setting the prime minister up to fail”. The minister added that while Downing Street had to pay “lip service” to the plan, it had already been extensively examined in Whitehall and rejected. “It doesn’t protect the Good Friday agreement, it isn’t practical for business and it is not negotiable with Europe.” (my bold)
This statement is interesting:
“Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, said: “Neither a unilateral withdrawal or an end date solve the problems of the backstop. Replacing the current backstop entirely is something all sides could accept.”
I wonder if Mr Baker and Mr Rees-Mogg are playing ‘good cop – bad cop’ …
Then there’s this report (here) saying that ‘insiders’ (one assumes from Ms May’s cabinet Office) were telling Tory Brexiteers that Ms May is set to break another promise she made to them.This second promise broken by May is that she will not re-open the Backstop:
“They claimed insiders had told them No.10 is instead likely to push for a “joint interpretative letter” that will allow the PM and Attorney General to claim the backstop will be time-limited or temporary. Hardline Tory Steve Baker said such a move would immediately lose the PM the support of at least 50 of the Eurosceptic MPs who handed her a rare Commons victory just last week.”
The EU is of course stirring the pot, as a piece of gossip reveals (here) that Brussels would be prepared to make a “substantial concession” after that vote in Parliament on St Valentine’s Day – should May survive it! That ‘substantial concession’ is about a possible time-limit to the Backstop to five years. That’s five more years for us to be in vassalage!
With all the leaks, gossiping and skulduggery going on, just to ‘save’ Ms May and to ‘deliver BRINO’ on the one hand and to keep us in forever on the other, I do wonder if all those who are again peddling their own best solutions have actually read the 585 pages of the WA. I suspect they haven’t – with the exception of those in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s ERG. Sadly, those staunch Brexiteers seem to be bent on being conciliatory so as to keep Ms May in 10 Downing Street because, as BoJo wrote (see above), none of them want a GE.
So it’s for us again to be relentless in harrying our Remain MPs and strengthening the back of the Brexiteer ones. Email them, again – and again – and again. Organise rallies in your constituencies: we’re the grassroots, it’s up to us to make them deliver the Brexit we voted for.
And finally, for your information, here’s the fabled “Malthouse Compromise” of which we hear so much – read it!