The Prime Minister claims it is the ‘patriotic’ duty of MPs to vote for her non-Brexit deal. Nothing could be further from the truth.
New ComRes polling commissioned by Leave Means Leave shows that by far the public think a WTO Brexit, not the Prime Minister’s deal, honours the 2016 referendum. Just 14% of the public think May’s deal delivers Brexit, compared to 54% of voters who think it doesn’t (including 62% of Leave voters).
MPs are elected to carry out the will of the people – that is the most patriotic duty our parliamentarians hold.
Theresa May’s own 2017 manifesto said “No Deal is better than a bad deal”, and by now it is clear not only in MPs’ eyes but in the British public’s eyes that this is a bad deal. A senior No. 10 source dismissed this mantra when I put it to them last week, but if Downing Street were serious about delivering Brexit they would take Britain out of the EU on 29th March on WTO rules.
Our polling clearly shows that Conservative voters also back No Deal, with 66% saying they agreed with the statement ‘In order to get the best deal with the EU, ‘no-deal’ must be put back on the negotiation table’.
The most shocking figure from our polling is that 56% of Conservative voters agree with the statement ‘The Government seems to be in favour of remaining in the EU and has set out to thwart Brexit from the beginning’.
Any future Conservative leader may want think about this very carefully.
The truth is that those 56% of Tory voters have a point. The Government’s constant backtracking and blurring of red lines has created an atmosphere where trust has broken down.
That’s a major reason why the Prime Minister will struggle to get her deal through, because by trying to play off each side she has destroyed her own credibility. This is getting through to the public too.
When asked whether they agree with the statement ‘MPs voting to delay Brexit has pushed my faith in politicians to an all time low’, 54% of the public said yes, whereas just 24% disagreed.
This lack of trust in our political leaders, and our supposed representatives in Parliament, drips poison into the public psyche. The mood among Brexiteers since 2016 has been spiralling downwards as the Prime Minister continues to humiliate herself and her country on the world stage.
But it’s not just Theresa May causing the public to lose faith, it is the anti-democratic MPs who are using every trick in the book to frustrate Brexit. 2016 was the first time the people won against the establishment, and now after years of infighting and manoeuvring the elites are beginning to hold the upper hand. Whether that’s John Bercow giving direct advice to Remain-backing politicians on how to take over control of Parliament or Tony Blair advising the EU to frustrate Brexit, the Westminster elite are in full force in trying to betray Brexit.
The only way out of this is to leave on 29th March.
John Bercow blocking another meaningful vote means it is now Theresa May’s duty to go for a World Trade Brexit, which is the most popular option for Brexit voters and Conservatives.
It is time for Theresa May to fulfill her patriotic and solemn duty to take Britain out of the EU on 29th March – otherwise public trust in her party and the political system will continue to collapse.
ComRes surveyed 2,033 British adults online between 15th and 17th March 2019. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. Voting intention questions were also weighted by past vote recall and likelihood to vote and all other questions also weighted by 2016 EU Referendum results.
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It’s the beginning of another critical week that will likely define whether Brexit happens at the end of next week (as it currently should, on the basis of the law of the land) or if there will be a delay for some as yet unspecified reason and for an as yet unknown period.
I know many of those Conservative MPs who opposed the Theresa May’s deal last week have spent the weekend agonising how to vote if and when it is brought back to the Commons, subject to pressure from a variety of sources giving them distinctly different advice.
On the one hand, they are told by some that blocking a deal that would see the UK formally leaving the EU in a matter of weeks would provoke a backlash from voters who want Brexit delivered. Moreover, they are told that they risk no Brexit at all since it would likely lead to a long extension to the Article 50 period during which anything could happen. Indeed, they are reminded that campaigning most vociferously for the deal to be voted down right now are the so-called People’s Vote campaign, sensing it as their best opportunity to reverse Brexit altogether.
On the other hand, they are advised by others that if they back the deal, there will be a public backlash some months down the line once it becomes clear to voters the constraints which it places on the British Government over the coming years. In other words, that what was a bad deal last week remains a bad deal this week. Martin Howe QC puts this case on BrexitCentral this morning.
Much hinges on whether the Government would put to Parliament in a week’s time an Article 50 extension under whatever terms might be offered by the European Council at the end of this week – and whether it would be passed.
Theresa May promised the Commons last Tuesday:
“If the House votes for an extension [which it did in principle on Thursday], the Government will seek to agree that extension with the EU and bring forward the necessary legislation to change the exit date, commensurate with that extension.”
Those inside the Government lament that despite Thursday’s motion not technically being legally binding, this promise at the Despatch Box effectively gives the Prime Minister no choice but to proceed with such an extension. But what if the terms offered are so punitive or outrageous as to clearly be against the UK’s interests – not to mention in breach of oft-repeated manifesto commitments? Is it conceivable that she would stand up to Brussels and refuse to go ahead on those terms? But then even if the Government relented, would the Remain-dominated Commons not find a way of forcing the Government’s hand in some way?
That said, any legislative move to extend Article 50 would be taking place just a few days before the legal exit day. Would there be sufficient time to get it through Parliament? And if the terms of any extension were indeed punitive or unreasonable, could the Commons yet vote against it, prompting the default of an exit on WTO terms on 29th March?
So many questions… Yet what is clear to me is that it is the antics of those recalcitrant Remainers inside Parliament – and indeed inside the Government – who openly campaigned against a no-deal Brexit and voted accordingly in the Commons last week which have undermined the UK’s negotiating stance to the point that none of the remaining options which the Government says is left available would be acceptable to the majority in the country who voted for Brexit. All in all, a thoroughly sub-optimal situation.
The post The questions with which Tory Brexiteers are grappling right now appeared first on BrexitCentral.
The following is an open letter to Theresa May from Cllr Bob Perry and a host of other Conservative Party activists (as listed at the bottom)
Dear Prime Minister,
We write to you in an absolute state of despair as to what is happening to democracy in this once great country of ours. We use the term “once great” as that is how we will be viewed, going forward on the world stage, if the will of the people is not implemented in full by leaving the European Union on 29th March 2019, as directed by the people on 23rd June 2016.
We understand and respect your strong desire to leave with a deal, your deal; but may we politely remind you that the British people did not vote for a deal – they voted to Leave.
When you took office you stood outside Number 10 and stated loudly that “Brexit means Brexit”. The British people expect you to honour that pledge. Failure to do so is a denial of democracy itself and you personally will be held responsible for that great act of betrayal.
The events of the past few days have shown the utter contempt in which parliamentarians hold the people. The relentless attempts to cancel Brexit by any means is shameful and deplorable. Vote after vote, amendment after amendment, are all based around denying the British people the independence for which they they voted. The mere thought that a Conservative Government, led by you, could put forward an amendment to delay Article 50, effectively denying the will of the people, is unforgivable.
With just under two weeks to go, we implore you, Prime Minister: do not allow an extension to Article 50 and do not make a further attempt to push through your deal as it simply does not deliver the result of the referendum that you and your Cabinet keep trying to fool us into believing it does – it dos not.
We fear that if you continue on this disastrous trajectory of tying us to the EU at any cost, you are condemning the Conservative Party to political oblivion for generations to come. You will take the highest blame of all, as you and you alone will be remembered as the Prime Minister who denied democracy; please do not let that be your legacy.
If your conscience cannot allow you to change course and deliver the will of the people, as mandated to you, we would urge you do the right thing for the country and stand down to make way for a leader who believes in Brexit and is strong enough to deliver it.
Cllr. Bob Perry, Chairman, Hornchurch & Upminster Conservative Association
Cllr. Graham Williamson, London Borough of Havering
Della Jones MBE, former Dorset County Councillor and Chair, Conservative Women’s Group
HH the Lord Parmoor, President Wycombe Conservative Association
John Waine, former Chairman and Borough Councillor, Nuneaton Conservatives
Ken Worthy, Claygate, Hinchley Wood and Weston Conservatives
Tony Tucker, former Conservative Party employee, Shaftesbury
Christine Daniels, former Chairman, Ledbury Conservatives
Eric Lowe, former Chairman, Brentwood Conservatives
Angela Morris, former Chairman, Sutton Coldfield Conservatives
Annabelle Meek, former Chairman, Rutland and Melton Conservatives
Anthony Atkinson, former Executive Officer, Somerton and Frome Conservatives
Alan Chapman, former Deputy Chairman and Bradford City Councillor, Shipley
Mary Hayter, former Chairman, Ledbury and Old Gore Conservatives
Pam Whitehouse, Deputy Chairman, North West Hampshire Conservatives
Howard Ward, former Chairman, Winchester Conservatives
Gladys McRea, former Chairman, North Wiltshire Conservatives
Dr D Ratliff, Northumberland Conservatives
Donald Morton, former Constituency Officer, Watford Central Conservatives
Patrick Corbyn, Cheltenham Conservatives
Ron Barker, Malvern Conservatives
John Fifield, Chairman, Northwich Conservatives
Henry K Kemp, Somerton and Frome Conservatives
Richard Mackenzie, Kingston upon Hull Conservatives
Robert Flunder, Hornchurch and Upminster Conservatives
Anthea Kemp, Somerton and Frome Conservatives
Gillian and Richard Luedicke, Andover Conservatives
David Rees, Culmstock Conservatives
Ian Hunter, Alresford Conservatives
Dr G M Augustyn, South Basildon and East Thurrock Conservatives
Mike Hall, Reading Conservatives
Edgar Danielyan, Postgraduate Research student in Philosophy, University of Buckingham
Roger Duckworth, Cowes Conservatives
Joanne Peake, Hornchurch and Upminster Conservatives
The post Prime Minister, you will be held responsible if Brexit is not delivered as you pledged appeared first on BrexitCentral.
On 2nd May, people across most of England go to the polls to elect which party runs their council. This are the most important elections in years, the choice between Conservative-run councils, keeping taxes low and investing in people and services; or Labour under Jeremy Corbyn laying waste to services and higher taxes to fund undeliverable promises, penalising the poorest in our communities, spreading hatred and fear due to Corbynistas taking control of Labour constituencies, driving out hard-working moderates and replacing them with hard-line Marxists with a sense of entitlement; or the Lib Dems and others out of touch with reality, focused only on denying the people the outcome of the largest democratic vote in British history.
It’s also the first post-Brexit election, or so it should be.
In 2016 when we had our People’s Vote, we mandated Parliament and the Government to leave the EU and 11pm on 29th March 2019 was the moment set for that event when Article 50 was triggered. Failure to deliver on this democratic mandate would consign the Conservative Party to the dustbin of history.
Many councillors and activists would go it alone, and the country would be plunged into its biggest political crisis in history. The Conservative Party would be seen as a party of betrayal, not the party of the people. We simply have to deliver on what people voted for, no delay, no fudge, Out means Out, and Out on 29th March 2019 at 11pm, not months or years later.
The choice is very simple, leave with a deal – the Prime Minister’s deal, amended to get rid of the backstop – or no deal. It’s like going into a chip shop for tea: you either have fish and chips or you don’t, you can’t have the fish and go back later for the chips because that’s not a proper tea. In fact it’s not tea at all, and that applies to Brexit: you leave with a deal or you leave without a deal, it’s a simple choice, take it or leave it, like the fish and chips – it’s not possible to have any other outcome.
Democracy must be upheld and respected, both in terms of voters’ wishes and the wishes of Conservative Party members, both activists and councillors, who have been clear from day one what it is we want. The failure of some of our MPs to grasp this shows that our party is in need of democratic reform. Local Associations should have the power to select and deselect local candidates for Parliament – people with a connection to the local community, not people thrust into all corners of the country by CCHQ, staffed by people who have never done a real job in their lives, who live in a bubble outside of reality, in a system where who you know and where you came from is what counts. We want a greater say in where our party is going, the chance for ordinary working class local people to stand for Parliament, where our voice is heard once again at conference as opposed to the ‘we talk, you listen’ conference we have now. In simple terms, we want our party back, our wishes respected and our voices heard.
The Prime Minister has shown real leadership on Brexit, despite voting Remain, a decision I respect. She realised that the majority in our country voted to Leave and has repeatedly said she will deliver Brexit and, unlike some, I believe her. Now is her chance to show she meant it, to prove the doubters wrong and deliver a deal that lets us leave the EU fully or else we leave with no deal at 11pm on 29th March. Anything else is not respecting the will of the majority.
We the people, the heartbeat of the Conservative Party, want Brexit, we want change and above all we want our voices heard. If the Prime Minister delivers, she will go down as a great Prime Minister. But failure to deliver would mean her likely going down as the last Conservative Prime Minister – not just for a generation, but possibly forever.
The post Failure to deliver Brexit would consign the Conservative Party to the dustbin of history appeared first on BrexitCentral.
I have noted before that here in Kent, we in the Canterbury Conservatives find ourselves on the electoral and geographic ‘front line’ of Brexit. Hundreds of local voters, activists and party members have asked me to describe our situation, in particular for the benefit of Conservative MPs in advance of today’s votes.
The Conservative Party’s goals are exactly in line with the national interest. Defending and winning our target seats is key to keeping Jeremy Corbyn out of Downing Street. Grassroots Conservatives given the opportunity to reinvigorate local campaigns are stepping up – we have one of the largest doorstep operations in the country and party members (myself included) have donated as much time and money as they can to the national effort, too.
Getting Brexit wrong would undo our hard work. Endorsing a bad deal or delaying Brexit would be a hammer blow to activists’ morale and voters’ faith in mainstream politics. People believe that if a Brexit date is removed from the European Union (Withdrawal) Act of 2018, then this House of Commons would never put it back. The dismay would be felt in the forthcoming local elections and at the next general election. Whatever happens, the public thinks the Conservative Party is ‘the Brexit party’ – so, rather than trying to wish it away, we have to deliver it.
Conservative voters follow the Brexit debate. Most believe the risk of short-term economic disruption is dwarfed by the threat of long-term political trauma. People know that no-deal temporary status quo arrangements are already agreed in areas like financial services, the Common Transit Convention, energy interconnections, haulage, data transfers, cross-border rail, aviation, visa-free travel and others besides. They also believe that during an ‘Implementation Period’ the Commission would force MPs to present the British public with growing financial obligations to the EU, a restricted electricity Capacity Market, reduced tax relief on London’s service economy, limited third country trade and so on – all while the Commons has no say in the EU institutions.
It is daunting to imagine that from next month MPs might have to tell people they must obey instructions from the very EU institutions they have voted to leave – and even more daunting to then ask voters to re-elect those MPs. People do want a good and new relationship with the EU after Brexit. A bad deal or a delay would make that harder. So to Conservative MPs I say: please keep faith with the voting public, your activists and members.
The post MPs be warned: a bad deal or delaying Brexit would destroy voters’ faith in mainstream politics appeared first on BrexitCentral.
While the events contained in the following tale are imagined, the author contests that they bear an uncomfortably close similarity to reality…
We join Sir Toby Amadeira returning to his West Country constituency of Crumblybottom to meet some of his local Conservative Association officials. He is in high spirits after a good week: having publicly threatened to resign from his job as Minister for paperclips at the Ministry of White Elephants, he is still in his job and the Prime Minister has changed her policy. A few media interviews and well-placed articles by him and his colleagues seemed to rattle her enough to promise a vote on an Article 50 extension if her Withdrawal Agreement doesn’t get passed. He muses that we may yet be able to kill off this Brexit business!
He is therefore in a good frame of mind as he alights from the train in Crumblybottom and walks to the constituency office. The meeting he is having is a regular one he has to help maintain his profile in the constituency and – with the local elections coming up – to catch up on the work required to try and dislodge the last Lib Dems from Crumblybottom Council.
In the office he is met by Caroline, his association Chairman; Sarah, the Deputy Chairman (Political); and Sue, the local agent. After the usual pleasantries Caroline opens the meeting…
Caroline: We have been watching the goings on in the Commons with increasing dismay.
Sue: We want Brexit and the Prime Minister’s deal is not Brexit – it is Remain in a Brexit wrapper.
Sarah: We all campaigned for Leave and won – and you promised as a democrat to respect the vote and make sure it was enacted.
Caroline: Now by forcing the PM to put No Deal to a vote you are effectively seeking to take No Deal off the table, which was our only hope of escape from the PM’s awful proposed treaty.
Sarah: By your actions we may end up having elections to the European Parliament and I have to tell you that if that comes about, there is nobody in this association who will campaign for the Conservatives. We may not work for the Brexit Party, but we will all vote for it.
Sue: As I see it, Toby, the Conservative Party is finished if you vote for an extension of Article 50; people will see it for what it is – a way to derail their 2016 vote and they will be justifiably livid.
Sarah: You promised to deliver Brexit and that means, as the PM has said repeatedly, No Deal is better that a bad deal. The proposed treaty with the backstop and many other hostages to fortune is a thoroughly bad deal. We therefore need to take the only route of escape and that is by going WTO on 29th March.
Toby: Feelings are obviously strong on this, but I didn’t realise that you felt that strongly about it.
Caroline: At the start of the Second World War, MPs were all for suing for peace with Hitler and it was the people who made sure that the country fought and ultimately won. We are at a similar point now but this time we have two Conservative parties: the one in the country, despairing of the one in Parliament, seeing WTO as the only option, whilst those sitting comfortably on the green benches are happy to surrender to the EU.
Toby: But Caroline, the chaos of No Deal would do us far more harm.
Sue: If you lot got your act together, any chaos would be minimised and we know that most of the scare stories are way over done. Toby, you have to look long term and after some initial bumps we will be able to fully benefit from Brexit in a way that will never be possible with the PM’s deal, which just extends the state of purgatory we are in at the moment.
Sarah: We know from the motion passed at the recent meeting of the National Convention that most of our colleagues feel the same way. However, you in Parliament don’t seem to get the message.
Caroline: Now the PM wants to promise Labour that we will keep labour laws in line with those in the EU in order to tempt Labour MPs to back her flawed deal. Are you not even Conservatives any more…?
The post A cautionary tale of disconnect between the Conservative Party in Parliament and in the country appeared first on BrexitCentral.
I left the House of Commons last Wednesday night more disillusioned with politics and politicians than ever before.
Faced with unhelpful amendments, signed by MPs on both sides of the House, the Government caved in to their demands since, had they gone through, they would have delayed Brexit or killed it off altogether. As I told MPs in my speech, a divided Commons is a sure comfort to a bureaucracy that’s intent on preventing us leaving.
These times remind me of May 1940, when the people of our dear country were prepared to fight, while most MPs sought appeasement.
Today is no different, although now we must stand up against stifling rules and regulations, which still threaten our freedom. Remain in the EU, and we will lose our borders, laws, currency and control of our destiny.
We are told now that the people did not understand what they were voting for in June 2016. What piffle! They knew exactly what they were doing, and this ongoing democratic deficit is going to harm politics, trust in politicians – and give rise to a possible Marxist government.
The problem is that we have forgotten what a precious gift freedom is. The EU has remained benign for many years and complacency has set in. Now, as we know, it wants to centralise into a truly federalist state, ruled from the centre. This is not in our country’s interest. How often have I heard that same refrain from Remainers!
Yes, we’d rather leave with a deal, but clearly an obstructive EU is not going to give us a fair one. They want to punish us to deter others from leaving – and there I have some sympathy – but as the EU continues to implode, there will be an exodus as calls for democracy and accountability grow.
Regrettably, where we need leadership, we have none. This Remain-orientated Government never had the will and courage to really leave the EU. Instead, they vacillated and capitulated, aiming to stay as closely linked to the EU as possible.
The Prime Minister’s deal, as it stands, does not deliver Brexit, and everyone knows it. The only way to force it through the Commons is to keep bringing it back until the very real threat of no Brexit at all forces MPs like me to vote for it.
The word ‘betrayal’ is a strong one, but that is what is being levelled at us by constituents. The Conservative Party, if it ever hopes to win the next election, must deliver Brexit in full, or face annihilation.
Again, as I said in my speech, a united Commons could deliver a good deal. To be fair, there are a few colleagues who have genuine concerns about a no-deal departure. But, for the majority, Project Fear is a fig leaf covering their real intent.
No deal would be bumpy, there is no denying that. But, we’d be free to chart our own course, create an economy that encourages investment and strike trade deals around a world that is rapidly changing. As a country, we’ve faced far bigger challenges and not only survived, but flourished. We will again, if we have the courage and integrity to honour what we have been instructed to do.
Finally, Article 50 is our only lifeline to freedom. You have been warned.
The post Too many of my fellow MPs have forgotten what a precious gift freedom is appeared first on BrexitCentral.
Following the passing of the Brady amendment in January, the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox QC, is currently engaged in talks with the EU in search of a legal change that will ensure the Northern Ireland backstop cannot endure indefinitely – what some have termed ‘Cox’s codpiece’.
And the fate of the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal – when it is put to another meaningful vote within the next fortnight – is likely to hinge on whether what he brings back from Brussels cuts the mustard with Brexiteers on the government backbenches.
So I can reveal today that as they await a breakthrough in the talks, Tory eurosceptics have assembled a panel of eight lawyers – seven of whom are serving MPs – to examine forensically whatever proposal is forthcoming and judge whether it makes the deal acceptable.
- Sir Bill Cash – Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee whose knowledge of constitutional law has been oft-shared in the Commons during his 35 years in Parliament
- Dominic Raab – Former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union who resigned to oppose the Brexit deal as currently drafted and whose legal career included time advising on EU law both as a solicitor with Linklaters and at the Foreign Office
- Nigel Dodds – DUP Deputy Leader and the party’s Westminster Leader who was a prize-winning Law student at Cambridge who was then called to the Bar of Northern Ireland
- David Jones – Former Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union and Secretary of State for Wales who worked as a solicitor for more than a quarter of a century before entering politics
- Suella Braverman – Ex-Chair of the European Research Group and former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union who resigned to oppose the Brexit deal as currently drafted, she practised as a barrister for a decade before becoming an MP and holds a Masters Degree in European Law
- Michael Tomlinson – Former Deputy Chairman of the European Research Group who was a barrister prior to entering Parliament
- Robert Courts – European Research Group supporter who was also a barrister prior to entering Parliament
- Martin Howe QC – Chair of lawyers for Britain and the only non-MP of the octet, he was called to the Bar in 1978 and appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1996 and is arguably the most prominent eurosceptic barrister, having amassed an immense knowledge of EU law during his legal career
The inclusion of Dodds in the group is especially significant, since an acceptance of any change to the deal from the Government’s confidence and supply partners in the DUP would likely pile pressure on Tory backbench Brexiteers to follow suit.
A source close to the group explains to me: “Tory MPs from the European Research Group may have vehemently voted down the Prime Minister’s deal, but they are equally keen to back a deal if the necessary changes are forthcoming to make it acceptable. This is a serious group of respected legal and political minds who will be as well equipped as anyone to make the judgement as to whether whatever Geoffrey Cox negotiates merits their support.”
The post Meet the eight lawyers who will judge whether ‘Cox’s codpiece’ cuts the mustard appeared first on BrexitCentral.
On Saturday, I proposed the following motion to the Conservative National Convention – a meeting of the most senior members of the Voluntary Party, at which the Prime Minister later spoke:
“The National Convention supports the commitments the Prime Minister has made to the country to honour the European Union Referendum result of 2016 that having triggered Article 50 we will leave the European Union on the 29th March 2019. Another referendum, a delay beyond the European elections, taking ‘no deal’ off the table or not leaving at all would betray the 2016 Peoples Vote and damage democracy and our Party for a generation.”
It passed by an overwhelming ratio of 5:1.
The reason I decided to organise and present this motion is that I felt that our Prime Minister, who is working exceptionally hard to deliver Brexit, needed to know that Conservative Party’s grassroots are behind her in that endeavour.
The message is clear: the party needs to honour the commitments that have been made regarding the EU referendum. From David Cameron’s pledge that the result of the referendum would be binding – and therefore would be implemented – to the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech, and of course the 2017 manifesto and the campaign promises that were made.
We must be in no doubt what Brexit means. During the campaign itself both sides were clear that a vote to Leave meant leaving the Single Market – so freedom of movement would end – and that we would leave the Customs Union – so that we could become again a global country and negotiate deep and far-reaching trade deals with the rest of the world. It is therefore essential for future trust in the democratic process that the Government and Parliament deliver on these promises and deliver Brexit on 29th March – the Brexit that was promised, not Brexit In Name Only.
It was an honour to speak on Saturday straight after Sir Graham Brady who, in an excellent speech about positive Conservative policies for the country, also discussed his amendment. His amendment, and the legally binding exit mechanism from the backstop that it specified, has to be the basis for the Withdrawal Agreement to be agreed, in order to meet our commitments.
It is a mark of our great party that MPs with differing views of Brexit have come together to agree the Malthouse Compromise and I hope that this offers the Prime Minister an alternative positive solution to pursue, since it does offer an effective route out of ‘no deal’. Whilst none of us actively want ‘no deal’, it is absolutely essential that it is kept on the table, otherwise we seriously reduce our negotiating tools with the likely result we would be forced to accept the Withdrawal Agreement, which would risk us entering a Customs Union under the backstop that we cannot get out of unilaterally.
Some of the terms being thrown around at the moment, including by the BBC, to describe anyone who wants to deliver Brexit as promised (i.e. leaving the Customs Union and Single Market) – as a ‘hardline’ Brexiteer, disloyal, an extremist, not prepared to compromise – are just plain wrong. We are simply ensuring that the promises the Prime Minister made to the country are delivered upon, so that trust in politics itself is not undermined, and that the Conservative Party is not reduced to breaking the ‘deal’ it made with the British people – to act upon their instructions on 23rd June 2016.
I find it absolutely incredible that the three MPs who defected last week, together with a few Remain-supporting ministers and ex-ministers, can say without a hint of irony that we Brexiteers are disloyal. Let’s be clear, it is they who have altered their positions; changing from ‘we must implement the will of the people’, to complete opportunism now which ranges from barely disguised moves to thwart Brexit, to calling for us all to vote all over again in a re-run of the first referendum.
The Conservative Party has committed to delivering Brexit on 29th March and it must do so for the good of our great nation, the future of our democracy, and for our party. Then we can start to work together to create the next episode in our country’s great story.
The post The Conservative Party’s most senior activists overwhelmingly back a Clean Brexit on 29th March appeared first on BrexitCentral.
Many areas of life are so complex that trying to come up with an overall account of the many and varied forces at work is almost impossible. Both writers and academics tend therefore to take the sensible decision of only analysing niches and particular aspects of the whole.
But occasionally someone steps forward and tries to illuminate the whole thing. One thinks, in economics, of John Maynard Keynes and his General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. Naturally, the general theory did not quite live up to its billing, but it still succeeded in highlighting the impact of hitherto unappreciated factors such as a deficiency of demand and the “animal spirits” of potential investors.
In physics, work continues on a so-called “theory of everything” that I cannot pretend to get my head around other than to say it is clearly ambitious.
So, at the risk of falling flat on my face and having my every contention disproved in the coming weeks, I feel the time has come to offer a general (political) theory of Brexit.
I think I have finally figured out what is going on sufficiently to at least have such a theory. Though, as you will see, that theory does not lead to a definitive conclusion about what will happen. Anyhow, let me set out its main constituent parts.
Point One: Theresa May wishes to reach a final endpoint of Brexit – a new equilibrium if you like – that involves a customs union with the EU. Her ministers such as Greg Clark and Philip Hammond have in fact given big corporate employers private assurances that this is what the Government is advancing towards.
But she cannot be open about this because a customs union is a particularly red rag to at least 80 of her MPs and any whiff of Brexit dilution or betrayal causes general outrage among most Tory voters.
So she has decided to take baby steps and take them slowly too. A huge deception of the British public is in fact in progress. Thus May was happy to agree not only the indefinite backstop but also the EU’s preferred sequencing of topics for agreement, with the Northern Ireland border and the financial settlement sorted out before any commitments on trade.
She did this because she wants to lock negotiations onto a path that inevitably leads to a customs union with the EU – despite this being the opposite to her stated policy – however unhappy this makes Brexit purists.
So she absolutely does not want a sunset clause date in the backstop or a unilateral exit mechanism and despite the Brady Amendment passing, has not even asked for either of these things to be inserted into the Withdrawal Agreement. Either of them would allow the Moggites in her party to argue for leaving the backstop to pursue a genuinely independent trade policy if or when future relationship talks get rough.
However, a codicil to the Withdrawal Agreement carrying legal weight and stating the backstop is not intended to be permanent does work for her because it allows for a formal customs union to be mutually agreed later as the way out and that is something that both May and the EU prefer to the backstop in any case.
As EU deputy chief negotiator Sabine Weyand put it: “We should be in the best negotiation position for the future relationship, this requires the customs union as the basis for the future relationship”. As Olly Robbins, the UK chief negotiator, put it in corroboration in comments overheard by the journalist Angus Walker, the backstop was always intended to be a bridge to the final arrangement, not a safety net for the Irish border.
So the policy that May is pursuing, albeit not openly declared, is in fact remarkably close to the one that Labour formally advocates – a permanent customs union that somehow has a bit of give in it letting the UK pursue other trade agreements around the world.
Point Two: There is in fact a large natural majority in the Commons for May’s policy and intended end state. But it has not coalesced into a real thing for two reasons. First, she is unwilling and unable to explicitly set it out because of her own secretive nature and for fear of causing uproar in the Tory grassroots and among pro-Brexit Tory MPs and ministers. Secondly, about half of the natural supporters of this deal are Labour MPs. As such they have been whipped against it by their party leadership.
Given May’s secretive nature and her Tory status, she would indeed be asking a lot to expect “soft Brexit” Labour MPs to back her deal without her openly setting out how it ends with a customs union. As we have seen, she has not surmounted these hurdles yet.
Point Three: Jeremy Corbyn and his inner circle are Brexiteers all day long. They do indeed consider the EU a corporate club that would prevent them from imposing “socialism in one country”. But they are aware that 95 per cent of Labour MPs, about 90 per cent of Labour members and maybe 75 per cent of current Labour-leaning voters are Remainers, many passionately so.
There are a variety of outcomes that Corbyn and his team would be content with. One would be a chaotic no-deal exit if they could be sure that the Conservatives would get the blame and be split by it. Such an outcome might increase the chance of a future Corbyn-led government entirely unencumbered by EU rules on state aid and all the rest. But it carries a big risk of May successfully wrapping herself in the flag, unleashing a wave of patriotic support and actually rising in the polls; a non-violent “Falklands factor”, if you like.
Another good outcome for Corbyn is Theresa May postponing Brexit in clear breach of her promised 29th March leaving date. This would be bound to gain massive traction with the electorate at large, being not about some arcane jargon regarding customs unions or single markets, but being a date in everyone’s diary. It splits the Tory Party and puts Corbyn in the driving seat for the next election, whatever the Tories eventually salvage from the ruins of their reputation. I think this is in fact the best outcome for Corbyn and the one he is working towards.
A third goodish outcome for Corbyn would be May’s deal going through with Labour votes in time for Brexit to take place this spring. This splits the Tory Party and disillusions its supporters and leads inexorably to the kind of “soft” Brexit that Corbyn has promised Labour supporters he will fight for. But it does not hurt the Tories nearly as much as if May has been forced to delay Brexit first and Corbyn will in any case be loath to explicitly endorse May’s deal.
Point Four: Labour MPs who opposed Brexit in the referendum are now deeply split into two tribes. The first recognises Brexit must formally happen but just wish it to be “soft”, i.e. embracing a customs union. The second shares Tony Blair’s messianic zeal that Brexit can and must be stopped altogether via the so-called “People’s Vote”. These MPs, probably numbering 150 or so if you count in SNP, Lib Dems, hardcore Tory Remainers etc, need Brexit delayed significantly in order to have any chance of success.
Oddly, this means that in the very short-term, their interests on this coincide with Corbyn’s: defeat May’s Withdrawal Agreement all the way to 29th March and make her postpone Brexit.
Point Five: But this is a huge call. Nobody knows for certain that Mrs May will be able or willing to call off Brexit just a week or two before it is due to take place. This would be a political calamity for her with her political tribe. It would almost certainly lead to a massacre of Conservatives in the big round of local elections on 2nd May. It would be an ignominious decision to take. So there is a chance that, backed into a corner, May would indeed wrap herself in the flag and go “No Deal”.
Point Six: This is where an intriguing and for me very worrying possibility arises. That mainstream Labour MPs who would be content with a “soft” (customs union) version of Brexit but appalled by No Deal decide at the eleventh hour to swing behind May’s deal en masse, reckoning that it will eventually take the country to their desired end state. Most such MPs detest the Corbyn Labour regime, so would regard it as an added bonus that them doing this might make Corbyn appear to have lost his grip on their party. Given that May’s deal passing under such circumstances also splits the Tories long-term as the future partnership talks wend their way towards a formal customs union, it would seem a winner all round for them.
However, it would need at least 100 Labour MPs to back May’s deal to get it through and unless the People’s Vote brigade acknowledge that the game is up and go down this route instead, those numbers look very ambitious.
So, what will happen? My advice is not to focus on the obvious cross-party political dalliance between the pro-EU People’s Vote zealots like Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry, but any similar dalliance emerging between the more pragmatic likes of Nicky Morgan and Lisa Nandy. Henceforth the number of Labour MPs backing May’s deal has been very small. But a lot could come over at once as the pressure escalates. And escalate it will. May is keeping a poker face – about the one key political skill she can claim genuinely to have mastered. She is indeed running down the clock. This is going to mid-March at least.
And this is where my general theory of Brexit proves to have its limitations. Because we are dealing with a situation in which multiple groups have multiple interests and imperfect information about each other or the likely political impacts of each possible path.
Would “no deal” help the Tories politically (as I believe) or be a disaster for them (as Oliver Letwin believes)? Will May be able to give sufficient informal assurances to Labour MPs that she is going to deliver a customs union in the end? Might May’s stubborn streak mean that in her mind her 29th March deadline is an actual red line which cannot be rubbed away?
So all I can give you is my view of the probabilities, give these underlying and inter-playing currents.
My odds: 40% that Labour MPs will break in big enough numbers for May’s deal in the next three weeks or so to get it through.
Another 40% that not enough will come across and that May will indeed ask for and be granted an Article 50 extension either of her own volition or because some version of Yvette Cooper’s amendment has been passed that arguably compels her to do so.
And alas just 20% that, having been backed into a corner, May has the guts to stick to her word on 29th March and on no deal being better than a bad deal and delivers a WTO Brexit that genuinely fulfils the instruction given to the political class by the British people on 23rd June 2016.
Yet unless this final path does transpire, we will soon be in need of a General Theory of Brexit Betrayal. I will do my best to oblige.
The post Theresa May is secretly seeking an EU customs union – my general theory of Brexit appeared first on BrexitCentral.
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