Predictably, the ‘ISIS Bride’ story is being skilfully utilised to take our attention away from Brexit. So is that ‘Labour Split’, that entity “The Independent Group” (TIG) – (see yesterday’s article. This is influencing Brexit – but not in the way pundits thought: not by changing majority votes in the HoC but by providing a “Project Fear” for politicians in the Tory Party. That’s in contrast to the attitude of Corbyn who is, officially, just ‘disappointed’ (see here) and having lost another of his MP to the ‘TIG’ yesterday is apparently neither here nor there.
The Tories however are now in panic mode. It’s not that some Tories (the well-known remainers Anna Soubry and Nick Boles, for example) are now allegedly plotting their own “Leave”, nor that a former Minister, Ros Altman, now in the HoL, is ‘prepared to join’ the TIGs (here, paywalled), it’s about how Ms May and her Brexit handlers are using this panic mode to push through her WA, with Backstop.
It is all rather complicated, and with the exception of the Telegraph, none of the Remain papers have taken the trouble to analyse how this is going to play out. To start with, Ms May is going to see Monsieur “the Hand of God” Juncker later today. She is hoping to ‘secure a new deal’ which is the old deal, but with a little something added to the Backstop. That little something is a codicil worked out by the Attorney General, Mr Cox of the booming, mellifluous voice. That codicil aims to impose a time limit to the backstop but not removing it, as Brexiteers demand.
Let me quote from the paywalled article in the DT:
“Last night there was growing speculation that the deal could be signed off by European leaders at an EU-Arab summit in Egypt this weekend, which the Prime Minister is now expected to attend. The Telegraph understands that Mrs May has asked Mr Cox to write to MPs once a deal is secured informing them that he has changed his legal advice on the backstop. If a deal is secured this weekend the Prime Minister could bring forward a meaningful vote as soon as next week, Government sources told The Telegraph.” (my bold)
All us highly suspicious Brexiteers note immediately that this codicil is meant to pacify the ERG Tory MPs. We don’t even know yet if the EU will agree to it, never mind learning what will actually be in it. I am very much reminded of the ‘change in legal advice’ by the then Attorney General in Blair’s Labour government which gave Blair the green light for the Iraq war. It seems the Tory Remainers in the Cabinet think what worked for Blair will work for May …
There’s more, and while it’s speculative, it is obvious to me that this is the timetable the Remainers are planning to set in motion:
“Should Parliament back her deal it would avoid the threat of mass resignations by ministers who want to support a backbench bid to force the Prime Minister to delay Brexit in the event that a deal cannot be reached. Richard Harrington, a pro-European business minister, yesterday said that Parliament would “take control” if the Prime Minister failed to secure a deal. […] Downing Street had been braced for a backlash from Eurosceptics after Cabinet was told that plans for the “Malthouse compromise” will be delayed until after Brexit.” (my bold)
You’ll notice that this is not really about ‘avoiding an extension’ – that’s what ‘delay Brexit’ means in practice. It’s about avoiding the Cooper/Boles amendment. It’s about preventing Tory remainer MPs joining the TIGs.
It is not about securing us the Brexit we voted for!
Read carefully: the Malthouse Compromise, including scrapping the Backstop, would be delayed until after we’ve signed up to the WA, to become a EU vassal forever. I do wonder if the May Cabinet is full of intellectual pygmies – or if they think that, since we Brexiteers are all stupid, we won’t notice until it’s too late.
The ERG however are keeping their beady eyes on this abomination of a ‘deal’:
“Tory Eurosceptics still harbour significant concerns about Mr Cox’s Brexit compromise. Steve Baker, a leading member of the European Research Group of MPs, yesterday described it as a “Cox codpiece” just hours before meeting the Prime Minister to discuss her plans. On Mr Cox’s plans to write a letter to MPs, a senior Conservative source said: “The Prime Minister seems convinced that a letter from the Attorney General telling MPs that the backstop will be time limited will be enough to persuade them to vote for the withdrawal agreement. […] The ERG are hopping mad about it. They can’t believe the PM thinks this will be enough to win them over”. […] However privately Tory Eurosceptics have savaged plans for a legal text drawn up by Mr Cox. One compared the plans to “vomit” and said that Eurosceptics who support it are “weak. (my bold)
At least, according to the report I’ve quoted from, it seems to have dawned on the Cabinet that we would leave on WTO terms if there’s no deal while Mr Hammond again said that the only way out is an extension to Article 50. It seems to have escaped their attention though that the EU is the other player across the table here. The years of ‘negotiations’ should have taught them that the EU is not willing to give an inch. The ‘noises from the off’, inevitably from German and France, indicate this:
“Michael Roth, the German minister for Europe, said: “There can be no limit to the backstop, there can’t be an automatic expiration of the backstop.” Nathalie Loiseau, the French Europe minister, added: “Time is pressing. The UK’s exit . . . will take place on March 29 because she hasn’t given any signals that there will be a delay.” (paywalled link)
While we have to wait until tonight to learn about the fate of the ‘Cox codpiece’, it’s obvious that Ms May and her Remainers will do anything and everything to achieve two goals: to get her disastrous WA through the HoC and to somehow prevent her Remainers from joining the Umunna TIG.
Brexit has now been reduced to a party-political playball.
That means: once more into the breach, dear friends – email your MPs!