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TCW’s Brexit Watch: The war goes on and Johnson needs shoring up


BREXIT Watch seems now to be a matter of being a kind of private eye, detecting what is happening behind the scenes. The public is being told that the government is holding fast by its December 31 deadline. Negotiator David Frost has presented the UK position as that of a sovereign state in its stance with the EU. He makes it clear that political sovereignty is paramount, therefore ruling out handing over to the EU controls over its fishing grounds and the economic annexation of Northern Ireland. Prime Minister Johnson has again reaffirmed the axiomatic base of the UK negotiating stance that the UK is an independent nation state and cannot bargain with control of its territorial waters and a province of its sovereign integrity.

According to the Financial Times: ‘Downing Street said Mr Johnson believed that while talks might continue, it was unlikely both sides could come to an agreement that did not recognise the UK’s status as “an independent state”. “Clearly there will need to be some political movement on the EU side,” a Downing Street official said on Monday, which suggested that heads of government would have to intervene to revise the bloc’s negotiating position.’ 

Mr Barnier has become angry at this stance and accuses the UK of failing to ‘make progress’ in yielding on those issues, as if the EU is a higher power whose demands are somehow unquestionable and non-negotiable. It is EU intransigence that is stopping any fair trade agreement, and coronavirus has nothing to do with it.

At the same time the press reports that ‘sources’ close to government say the UK is preparing to ask for an extension yet again. And we hear that the Brexit trade negotiating unit itself is split: the politicians being keen on leaving, the civil servants remaining just as Remainer as they were in Theresa May’s day.

It also appears that ‘Sir Huawei’ (aka Sir Mark Sedwill), still king of the Whitehall power bloc which fought against a WTO exit last year (and never replaced by Prime Minister Johnson) is pressing for an extension to Brexit on December 31. The split in the Brexit unit is reported in detail by City A.M. along with stories of pressure from big business and finance – essentially voices of technocratic globalisation – demanding and expecting an extension. Their expectation is that however late in the day it might be requested by the UK (which is the EU’s expectation as well), the PM will ultimately ‘choke’ at the endgame, as he appears to have done with the revised WA and the betrayal of Northern Ireland.

But the arguments against an extension grow by the day. City A.M. tells us that Angela Merkel is resurrecting a financial transaction tax for all EU member states to pay the coronavirus bill threatening Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal in particular. This tax, dubbed the Robin Hood Tax, is one that the UK has been fighting off for years, since well before the referendum was even on Mr Cameron’s radar. This is a new and compelling reason to stick to the December 31 deadline, come hell or high water.

Michael Gove has reasserted the UK’s determination to stick to the deadline, arguing that a fair trade deal can be reached quickly since it is a matter of using ‘off the peg’ agreements with other nations such as Canada and spatching them together as a comprehensive agreement with the EU, reports the Times.

Yet, significantly, he also said that no-deal preparations have been stood down, surely vital to keep up pressure on Barnier and to ensure that an eleventh hour face-off won’t need to result in the PM caving in. Stopping all WTO preparations in case of no deal being reached on December 31 is surely a dereliction of civil service duty to cover all eventualities.

The reasons to go on 31 December and escape the EU neocolonialist fate that Mr Barnier plans for us have been spelled out with exceptional clarity and cogency in the latest edition of Briefings for Britain. A recent letter to the Times by high-flying financiers and academics argues that an extension would be ‘an act of incalculable self harm to the UK’. A powerful analysis by international trade expert Tony Lane details Brussels’ aims to entangle Britain in a neo-colonial trading relationship to prevent the British economy being seen to prosper after Brexit. Brexit and The Pandemic: How Brussels Uses Covid-19 Those in Britain arguing that Covid-19 calls for an extension, wittingly or not, are indeed playing Brussels’s game.  

In the same Briefings for Britain edition, ‘Titus’ reminds us chillingly of the desperately bad position the UK is in under the WA signed by PM Johnson and need to escape this as soon as possible. He points out: ‘For the United Kingdom to meekly submit to an extension of the Transition – which the EU would soon look to extend further – will only encourage it to believe that it was right first time: the UK will agree to anything to avoid a “no deal”. The present debate on extending the Transition may well serve the same purpose as the EU’s “sufficient progress” demands did back in 2017.  It is the canary lowered down the mine to test whether the United Kingdom is desperate enough to agree to terms wholly outside the norms of international relations to avoid any risk of “no deal”.’ 

The intellectual arguments for a clean break on December 31 are now incontrovertible. David Frost and PM Johnson have only to hold their nerve, and make no deal preparations in the probable outcome of the EU not wanting a fair deal of any kind, merely political control and the UK’s billions. PM Johnson does need shoring up, as does David Frost: but it seems they are getting Remainer subversion from Whitehall. The war for Brexit is very much alive.

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Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw
Timothy Bradshaw is a Theological lecturer and Anglican clergyman

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