50 days to Brexit and counting! It’s one more day closer to Brexit Day – but don’t yet put the non-EU-champagne on ice! It’s another day full of uncertainties and sleights-of-hands. Mr Tusk’s “Hell” comment has been all over the MSM, but the real ‘hammer’ (sorry, the language used in the MSM is getting to me) came late last night and early this morning. It’s that Ms May is “planning to delay” the debate in the HoC planned for St Valentine’s Day next week – until the end of the month. This piece of news yet again provides the keen observer with an object lesson on the matter of spin and on what the papers deem to be really important.
The main point on which everybody is agreed is that Ms May is going to Brussels today, to do battle about the Backstop with M Juncker and “Hell” Tusk. So far, so simple. But wait – The Times (paywalled) warns:
“Downing Street believes that the prime minister will receive little sympathy from Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the commission, as they meet for the first time since her Brexit plan was defeated in the Commons. […] While Brussels may allow a change to the withdrawal agreement, in the form of a legally binding letter making clear that the backstop insurance policy is temporary, this will not emerge until much closer to the March 29 Brexit deadline […]. (my bold)
Several papers report, more or less veiled, that Ms May hopes that Brussels will ‘help’ her to defeat the Brexiteers who set up the Malthouse Compromise. The DM writes that this delay is proposed so that the EU will give way on the Backstop. The Express reports that this delay is planned because Ms May will not be able to finalise her WA/Backstop negotiations with the EU. The Sun has this to say:
“But ministers close to No10 told The Sun that she secretly wants the EU’s help to abandon the new plan, dubbed the Malthouse Compromise. […] One Leave-backing minister said: “The PM needs Brussels to kill off Malthouse quickly. She can’t do it herself, she knows the EU has to do it for her or the ERG will never forgive her. But until that happens, she won’t be able to do the new deal that the members states want to do too now.” (my bold).
What a clever piece of skulduggery, accompanied by smoke-and-mirrors!
The papers all refer to this article in the DT (paywalled), so I’ll also quote from the original because it mentions the crux of the matter. The question of the Malthouse compromise is secondary:
“Theresa May is preparing to delay a second vote on her deal until the end of February, a month before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU, in a move which ministers believe means an extension of Article 50 is now inevitable. Julian Smith, the chief whip, is understood to have signalled in Cabinet on Tuesday that the vote will not be held next week, as previously expected, because the Prime Minister will not have renegotiated her deal in time. The vote is now being planned for the week starting February 25, prompting a Cabinet split amid concerns from Remainers who fear it will increase the risk of no deal.” (my bold)
If you were hoping that Ms May and her government are cunningly running down the clock so we can leave in 50 days with no deal, and up yours, EU – think again. Here’s another pointer to what that ‘cunning plan’ really is about (same source):
“One minister told The Telegraph they have stopped personally endorsing the Prime Minister’s claim that the UK will leave the EU on March 29 because it “makes us look ridiculous”. They have instead taken to saying it is “Government policy” that the UK will leave the EU on March 29 because they believe Article 50 will have to be extended.” (my bold)
The HoC will still vote on amendments next week, one being a ‘new and improved’ Cooper Bill, aimed to extend Article 50, which Ministers, according to the DT, think will again be defeated. However, the chief whip, Mr Julian Smith, warned: “that John Bercow, the Speaker,could attempt to undermine the Government’s plans and force it to hold the vote sooner.” (same source) – so there might be hope yet for a debate.
The first conclusion is that everybody – EU, Government, some Big Business, Parliament – is still howling about the end of the world should there be “No Deal” while on the other they are all preparing for it, even the EU (see yesterday’s column).
The second conclusion is that the much-vaunted Malthouse Compromise has now been revealed as a sop to Tory MPs, utilised by Ms May to demonstrate that ‘she has listened’ to MPs but the bad EU won’t let her implement it.
This leads to the final, inevitable conclusion: it’s yet another show of smoke-and-mirrors, prepared by Remain May and her willing helpers here and in the EU to make one thing inevitable: an extension to Article 50 with all that implies.
That is the goal for which she is willing to make herself look weak and stupid in the face of “Hell” Tusk, Juncker, and the EU, on the international stage. And that’s why our MPs are taking Brexit so seriously that, according to The Sun, “they ‘sloped off at 3.27pm – more than four hours earlier than usual for a Wednesday.” despite the huge backlog of Brexit-related legislation.
And our weak and feeble MPs – Tories, Labour, regardless – still think that tinkering at the margins will get us the Brexit we voted for!
‘One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them’ seems appropriate here …
There’s an excellent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the DT today. As it’s behind a paywall I have written a summary in a separate article here.