IT’S been reported that after the Cummings sacking the EU were hardening their demands in the Brexit ‘talks’ – hardly surprising, as Johnson’s dismissal of his field marshal at the height of battle was in effect a white flag to Barnier.
And we heard that the government is postponing the Internal Market Bill till the end of the month. This means that the controversial clauses in the Bill, ensuring that the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be applied so as to insert an EU customs border between the UK and Northern Ireland, will be unnecessary if the UK and EU strike a trade deal soon. That signalled a climbing down by government and appeasement of EU aggression. It certainly signalled that government did not mean it when they said it would be happy to walk away and trade on WTO terms if EU demands remained intolerable.
This trajectory seems to be confirmed by Steven Swinford and Bruno Waterfield reporting in the Times on Saturday:
‘Civil servants have begun drawing up legislation for a Brexit deal that will need to pass through the Commons and Lords at “breakneck pace”.
‘The Cabinet Office has a team of officials working on the future relationship bill, which will enshrine any Brexit agreement in domestic law. “There’s increasing expectation of a deal,” one Whitehall source said. “We need to be ready to get it through parliament.”
‘Ministers discussed holding weekend sittings in the Lords to help get the deal passed by the end of the month.’
Ominously, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen is quoted as saying the negotiations were making progress, albeit slowly. ‘After difficult weeks with very, very slow progress, now we have seen in the last days better progress, more movement on important files. This is good. There is now substance where you can go through . . . word for word.’
The Times continues: ‘Over 90 per cent of a draft legal text is complete, but with many square brackets around clauses where issues such as road haulage or energy are conditional on a wider deal or where political agreement is not yet forthcoming.’
But, again ominously, we are told of yet more outrageous EU demands being considered: ‘One new sticking point is an unconventional EU demand for a review of new fishing quotas after ten years that will be linked to the wider trade deal, potentially triggering a repeat fisheries negotiation or crisis in 2030.’
Otherwise the only hitches seem to be the translation of this vast text into the EU languages for ratification. And so, for Boris Johnson, ‘job done’ as he signs the UK into the vassalage he vowed to fight at all costs. Once again, ‘Georgie Porgie ran away’ when the EU boys came out to play.
Ben Habib plausibly suggests that the EU have been toying with Johnson, knowing his indecisive character and moral cowardice in the face of a crunch decision. They saw him cave in October 2019 and are watching this again, enjoying his indecisive deficit, knowing he just cannot take the decision to quit, cannot stick to his own deadlines.
Since Johnson has several times shown he is not prepared to walk away, as he has threatened, the EU have the game won and can tease him as they humiliated the clueless and trusting Theresa May with the cake without any cherries – and there really are no cherries on the cake for this very bad deal being accepted by Johnson.
The EU have the UK trapped with no end point in the outrageous Withdrawal Agreement. As the Telegraph’s Juliet Samuel put it, they get the right to our fish and we get to obey all their regulations in return. That sums it up. Any ‘deal’ will do for the EU, as long as there is one, not a ‘no deal’ exit in which the UK could argue the illegitimacy of the WA as breaching Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
And we need to note that the EU is in a desperate situation. Southern Italy is bankrupted by Covid and even the vast German funds cannot bail it out. Moreover, for the first time since Brexit the EU shows signs of splitting: Poland and Hungary are refusing to agree to the bailout funding for Covid unless the EU lifts its conditions of legal obedience. The EU very badly needs its UK trade surplus and all connectivity to allow it to regulate UK affairs. And the City of London is going to survive Brexit even on WTO terms. The UK would be in a powerful position to reverse the flow of aggression and threat on to the EU if it had had a determined and skilled negotiator from the start.
The few chinks of light are a trade deal with Canada being fixed, and David Frost himself, the last man standing against the advancing EU cohorts. Guido said in the link at the top of this blog: ‘It has been noticed that in yesterday’s Twitter thread David Frost took on a personal commitment to protecting control of our laws, saying “That has been our consistent position from the start and I will not be changing it.” Personally defending the red lines as Government as a whole wobbles – Frost would rather resign than capitulate on the core mission of Brexit.’
England expects: nothing from Georgie Porgie, but a lot from the heroic Lord Frost.