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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Highlights"

Changing the Prime Minister, in itself, would solve nothing

If we can congratulate Cabinet members on nothing else this morning, we can at least do so on their ability to speed read under pressure.  In less than a morning, they somehow managed to master all 585 pages of the Brexit Draft Withdrawal Agreement, all without recourse to independent legal advice.  Plus the seven pages of the Outline Political Declaration – a mere bagatelle by comparison.  Yes, that’s right.  The Government wants us to hand over the best part of £40 billion for fewer than ten pages of unenforceable text. And our future negotiating leverage into the bargain.

But let’s stick for the moment to the Withdrawal Agreement.  Don’t judge it before you’ve read it, its backers said yesterday.  That they were already supporters betrays that they had made a judgement themselves.  By the same token, they should have conceded that reading a document of that length takes rather more than a few hours.  None the less, we will take their advice.  Unlike a mass of newspapers and commentators, we do not pretend to have done so in full.

So we will make no comment for the moment on whether the Northern Ireland backstop has survived, with its implications for Scotland and the Union.  On the UK-wide or Great Britain backstop, and whether the latter can practicably leave it, de facto if not de jure – with all the consequences that has for our freedom to strike trade deals worldwide.  On whether that seven page declaration points towards Chequers, Canada, Cheqada – or anything bankable at all (and if there are any safeguards for the money).  Above all, on whether the whole package leaves us, in that neat reversal of William Hague’s famous saying, out of Europe, but run by Europe.  Or on, if you prefer George Osborne’s brilliantly malicious assessment yesterday, whether or not the EU has Taken Back Control.

We will pause to make only one observation.  Theresa May’s claim that the agreement would allow us to take back that control – of borders, law and money – is already under siege, at least as far as its second part is concerned.  Paul Waugh of the Huffington Post has already found 63 references to the European Court of Justice in the draft.  Ending its jurisdiction was at the heart of the EU referendum result.  The Conservative Manifesto committed the Party to it, not that most of its members need any persuading.

Where Waugh has trod, others will follow.  As we write, Martin Howe will be pouring himself another cup of strong black coffee, surrounded by gutted candles and legal tomes.  He will have laboured overnight to craft his assessment.  So will others.  By lunchtime, the Withdrawal Agreement will have been wrenched open, gutted, filletted, and its innards displayed to the world.  One thing is certain: bits of these will not look very appetising.  The Prime Minister will have passed them over in her statement yesterday evening.  One senior ERG member told this site yesterday that the agreement is like a Budget that will unravel on day two.

We are not at all sure that he is right.  This morning, it looks rather more like one of those Budgets that went to pieces on day one.  Today’s splash headlines make bleak reading for Downing Street.  How could they not given the Cabinet’s verdict, which is all over them, and on the inside pages too?  Dominic Raab was palpably unhappy.  Geoffrey Cox compared the agreement to a life raft made up of oil drums and a plastic sail.  Michael Gove thinks it is bad, but that no deal would be worse.  Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt pushed at May to take if back to the EU for re-drafting.  Liam Fox dislikes the backstop.  Penny Mordaunt wants a free vote, so that she can oppose the agreement.  Esther McVey actually called for a vote, clashing with the Chief Whip and the Cabinet Secretary.  How on earth can any of the disconted third of the Cabinet, or more, look voters in the eye and claim they are content with it?  How can they go out and sell it?  It is significant that, yesterday evening, none of them were due to take to the airwaves this morning.

One last point on that Cabinet meeting.  Reporting of it has tended to divide members up into supporters and opponents of the agreement.  This is understandable, but flawed.  The Cabinet makes, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, collective decisions.  And as McVey has discovered, it does not vote.  Nor do its members shape the minutes.  If its members are unhappy, they must either wait to be cheered up, or resign.  Those whose discontent spills over into opposition, like McVey, have not quit – so far.  Do they really intend to stay in office, hoping perhaps that the agreement collapses, or that the Commons votes it down, saying nothing about it at all?  Such a position would be worse than dishonourable, in a manner of speaking.  It would be ridiculous.

By then, events may well have overtaken them.  Perhaps Graham Brady will announce today that he has received 48 letters, and that a confidence ballot in Theresa May must be held.  Maybe he will not.  Perhaps it will come later, or not at all.  But if it does, and she wins it convincingly, her troubles will be far from over. As matters stand, it is very unlikely that the agreement can get through the Commons.  Even if she survives a ballot, she might not be able to survive that.  The combination of a future Commons vote on the agreement and aleadership contest, ushering in a new Prime Minister, would be like a cutting-edge experiment with two new chemicals.  There is simply no knowing what it would bring.  We believe that a Conservative Prime Minister, faced with this Commons, can carry through Brexit if intent on it – even a no deal one, given the legislative state of play.  But it is possible that the mix could blow the laboratory roof off.

Our position on May’s leadership is well-known.  Like our members’ panel, we believe that she should not lead the Party into the next election.  Enraged Brexiteer MPs are itching to get her out now.  The sum of their view is that there is a lie at the heart of her policy – that she does not believe her own words; that no deal is better than a bad deal.  For this reason, they say, we are not properly prepared.  Downing Street and the Treasury have dragged their feet, and conspired to spring a new choice on the Cabinet yesterday: May’s Deal, a chaotic No Deal, or No Brexit.

One doesn’t have to take a view on the agreement before aceepting their point.  But they should reflect that changing the Prime Minister, in itself, would solve nothing.  A new Conservative leader would face the same old Commons.  He or she would need a new plan – Canada, plus or minus those three pluses; Nick Boles’ Norway-for-Now; or perhaps a transition to No Deal, as proposed by some Cabinet Ministers.  And given the numbers in the Commons, logic also points to a general election, sooner rather than later, to get a majority for change.  That runs the risk of a Corbyn Government – and, more pressingly as far as some Tory MPs are concerned, the loss of their seats.

Some Leavers will be tempted to join many Remainers, and say that this humbling pass, this evident humiliation of May’s leadership and of British statecraft, is the inevitable consequence of Brexit.  Our response is uncompromising.  The British people are entitled to vote to leave the European Union.  If they were now to be told that they can’t, because our politicians aren’t up to negotiating it; or the commanding heights of our institutions are against it; or government is incapable of planning for it – in short, that they must “come to heel”, in John Kerr’s illuminating phrase – what would that say to the British people about the state of our liberal demcracy and parliamentary government?  The potential consequences are so far-reaching that there is no need to spell them out.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

May’s Deal 1) Andrew Feldman – Party members must back it and her. Let’s not give Corbyn the crisis he craves.

Andrew Feldman is a former Chairman of the Conservative Party.

In recent months, I have spent time talking to business leaders in the UK and around the world. They all have two questions for me. Is there going to be a Brexit deal? Is there a chance that Jeremy Corbyn will become Prime Minister? My reply is always the same. That those two questions are inextricably linked.

If there is a sensible deal, then it is likely that the UK will enjoy an economic boost, releasing pent-up investment from a period of deep uncertainty. Businesses based here would stop sitting on their hands and commit to the new factories, warehouses and capital projects that we need. Investors abroad would once again feel confident that the UK was ‘open for business’, and would seek out the immense opportunities that we offer.

If this happens, the prospects of Corbyn being elected recede dramatically. Improving economic growth and confidence would facilitate continuing high levels of employment, wage growth and investment in public services. The Conservatives would secure their hard-won reputation for responsible government, fiscal prudence and effective management of the economy.

On the other hand, if there is not a deal, and a chaotic exit from the EU, the picture will change dramatically. Businesses will not only sit on their hands, but may start to withdraw activity from the UK. Investment from abroad may be replaced by dramatic divestment. Now of course, over time things may settle down. But there will undoubtedly be a risk of serious economic dislocation – causing substantial job losses, slowing growth and curbing the ability to improve public services.

And of course, Corbyn and John McDonnell are desperate for that to happen – some kind of shock to the UK that can help to win them power. Ideally, they want to force an early general election, because the Conservatives can’t agree on a plan. Failing that, they would take a violent and disorderly departure from the EU, leading to a recession – and then to election victory at a later date.  Chaos and uncertainty are their route to power.

This is more than ruthless ambition; it is rooted in ideology. Karl Marx predicted the inevitable demise of capitalism as part of the great tide of history. Frustratingly for him, it never happened. Living in England until the end of his life, he marvelled at the ability of the British to adapt their system. To accommodate the needs and demands of their changing industrialised economy. His theory did not predict the peaceful emergence of the NHS or the welfare state. He died miserably ruminating over his unfinished sequel to Das Kapital.

The Marxists in Britain have been continually disappointed. They have lurked at the fringes of Labour politics for many years. Unfortunately, they have now entered the mainstream. They are waiting to seize their moment to impose their already discredited ideology on generations who have not experienced its horrors first hand.

It is the duty of the Conservative Party to stop this happening. A Corbyn-led Labour Government would be a disaster for this country. And although Brexit is undoubtedly a seismic event; there is no need to for it to lead to a Tsunami, destroying all before it. The Conservative Party has faced momentous moments before. The reaction has always been pragmatism. Evolution not revolution. Steadiness and deal-making.

In her speech in Birmingham, Theresa May reminded us of this legacy. She asked her Party to come together in the national interest to deliver a solution to the Brexit conundrum. To help her to thread the needle of respecting the democratic result of the referendum; of preserving our proud Union; of keeping the economy on track and business on side, and of finding a fair basis for trading with our close neighbours and allies.

We are leaving the EU: the referendum result must be respected. As with all marriages, it may end with sour words and slamming doors. But once the anger has subsided, we need to come together to work out the future, to protect the interests of the next generation. We need to be grown up enough to accept that although we are going through a divorce, we cannot just walk away from our responsibilities and move on. This can take time and involve ongoing obligations.

And as the Prime Minister reminded us, it is not just Conservatives who need to stand firm. Our friends in the DUP know what a Corbyn Government could mean. They know that his well-documented Republican sympathies would risk the break-up of the Union. He longs for a United Ireland with the same passion that he dislikes the United Kingdom.

So we need to make sure that we rally behind the Prime Minister and help her to deliver a sensible, measured deal. We need to do this to frustrate Corbyn and McDonnell. We need to do this in the national interest. And we need to do this to keep Marx spinning in his grave up in Highgate.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

May’s Deal 2) Rebecca Ryan – It endangers Leave. Now the 51 MPs who have pledged to Stand Up for Brexit must keep their promise

Rebecca Ryan is Campaign Director for Stand Up For Brexit.

The Conservative grassroots are feeling betrayed. Over the past year, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with activists at every level of the party who are totally outraged by how Brexit has been handled. The reactions range from utter disbelief to volcanic rage. Membership cards have been cut up. Tools are being downed. Since the Brexit referendum, which so many members were so delighted to finally be offered, and were so passionate about delivering – hence David Cameron’s majority in 2015 – the grassroots have been slowly frozen out. The result is that the Brexit which so many of us thought we were fighting for could be slipping away.

All of this could have been avoided had the membership, the beating heart of our party, been listened to and supported. It’s often said that the cliche about cliches is that they’re true. The cliche about party members is that we’re sometimes over-zealous, but that we believe in the cause, and are prepared to give up vast amounts of our personal time and money to try and keep the Conservative Party in office and advance its interests. To expect the Party leadership to at least attempt to reflect our views should not be too much. In fact, a healthy two-way relationship between the senior Party and the troops on the ground is absolutely essential.

Ever-centralising control has not worked. The answer to the Conservative Party’s current and future problems is not for the leadership to hunker down and enclose itself in a bunker, but open its ears and listen. We know that when the leadership works in tandem with the wishes of its members, great things can be achieved: our victory in 2015 is evidence of that. But when it stops listening and goes off in its own direction, problems swiftly occur; our near-defeat by Jeremy Corbyn merely two years later is evidence of that. We should not be afraid of recognising that, at the height of our modern success in the 1980s, associations were far more autonomous and the dialogue between activists and senior party figures was much more open. Messages were sent – both ways.

My Stand Up For Brexit campaign has given me unparalleled access to the Conservative Party on the ground. Our mission is quite simple: to raise MPs’ awareness of the discontent amongst members of the public, Conservative activists, Assocation Chairmen and party members over the Government’s Chequers White Paper. We ask MPs to Stand Up For Brexit by rejecting Chequers, and delivering the Brexit that was promised at Lancaster House and in the Conservative Manifesto. That means leaving the Single Market, Customs Union and European Court Court of Justice overview.

Given Theresa May’s statement last night, and the letter subsequently issued by Jacob Rees-Mogg, I feel confident that the 51 Conservative MPs who have pledged to uphold these key tenets of Leave will stick by their promise. Naturally, I am deeply disappointed by the path that the Prime Minister has chosen. It seems to be the very opposite of what the British people voted for and our Party is committed to deliver. A permanent customs union with the EU, without any guaranteed means of leaving it, is simply unacceptable. It’s hard not to conclude that the current policy is the result of a leadership which has become totally detached both from the Conservative family as a whole, and fro, the wider electorate.

It is time for “the troops” to be taken seriously in the running of the party; we are not just there to deliver leaflets. I know that any mention of ‘party reform’ can be terrifying for senior figures, who fear losing control to curtain-twitching village fete organisers. But that’s a stereotype – it’s not what the conservative membership actually is. Supporters of my campaign come from every part of the party. They’re southern, northern, white, black, gay, bisexual. Everybody is represented, and united in wanting the best for our country through a Conservative Party which is sensitive to the electorate and fulfils its promises.

To achieve this, local associations need to expand their appeal, and in particular, start engaging with 30-55 year olds. We become naturally more conservative when we approach 30 and start looking to settle down. Eighteen year olds are often focussed on in political debate; they are great assets and do fantastic, energetic work. But we need the machinery and vitality to appeal to the “establishing a career”, “just-having-children-and-setting-up-home” demographic. They are our core vote. They need to be harnessed.

Being committed Conservatives, we are worried about damaging the party and, therefore, are squeamish about questioning its decisions and structures in public. As part of our campaign, we had 45 Association Chairmen and senior party members commit to oppose Chequers on the first morning of this year’s conference. They were the brave ones; many more feel nervous about coming forward publicly. A culture of distrust is crystallising between the membership and our Parliamentary representatives. That is unhealthy, and needs to be dealt with. Principles and political careers are not always the happiest of bedfellows – but the grassroots admire those with principles, and are worried that too many of our MPs are abandoning them in favour of possible preferment. 80 per cent of the membership are Brexiteers. 70 per cent of Conservative voters support Brexit. And yet 70 per cent of MPs are Remainers. How has this huge disconnect been allowed to happen? And what can both sides – the volunteer and the professional Party – do to change it?

Ultimately, we need to take the climate of change that delivered Brexit and use it to reinvigorate the Conservative Party at every level. Rather than letting those who leant us their vote disappear off into the disengaged horizon, we must deliver on their expectations, and seize their newfound but rapidly dissipating interest in democracy to remould the Conservative Party into a responsive and engaged vehicle for all. And that happens by re-empowering the grassroots.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

May’s Deal 3) Alex Morton – If the Commons rejects it, here are three alternatives

Alex Morton is Director of Policy at the Centre for Policy Studies, and was a member of David Cameron’s Downing Street Policy Unit.

As you read this, MPs at Westminster will be ploughing through the 500-page text negotiated by Britain and Brussels, and deciding whether or not it is something they can sign up to. There is still a reasonable chance that the deal gets through. But if Parliament or the Conservative Party decide that they cannot live with it, something else will have to replace it.

The first thing to say may sound like a statement of the obvious: the only options that aren’t on the table for the Conservative Party are a second referendum, or simply giving up and deciding to Remain. The 2015 manifesto promised to honour the referendum result, and the 2017 edition promised a hardish Brexit. Just one in five Conservatives think the decision to leave the EU was wrong. To go from a Leave referendum result to overturning it and remaining in the EU would split the party, as the Corn Laws did. It is also disingenuous to claim you are really concerned with EU control in areas such as goods regulation under May’s deal…and should instead return to being one of 28 countries making decisions, and also sign up to ending the financial rebate, open borders, Eurozone membership etc.

This leaves us with three real options, each of which have their own positive and negatives:

  • Co-operative WTO exit.
  • Hostile WTO exit.
  • EEA membership or similar.

Co-operative WTO exit

A co-operative WTO exit would see the EU and UK co-operating to sign various side agreements to keep trade flowing and limit economic disruption on everything from planes to imports in key areas like foods and medicines. In effect, it would be a bit like Canada Plus, in that it would seek to rapidly nail down what was necessary and then over time flesh out the rest. EU nations have various reasons to go along with this rather than see a hostile WTO exit:

  • A major EU/UK falling out would have major implications for the EU economy, and for global trade. Donald Trump is hostile to the WTO, refusing to appoint judges (which is slowly causing chaos in the organisation) and bending the rules. If the EU tried to pursue a hostile WTO exit, this would embolden Trump and destabilise multilateral trade.
  • A EU/UK fallout would also have a strong knock-on impact on NATO. If the EU was genuinely attempting to slow or stop exports/imports to the UK, the UK would almost certainly feel obliged to take retaliatory action, such as removing troops from the East and North of Europe.
  • If there is a Eurozone crisis in the next few years, with the City of London destabilised and alternative centres not yet having emerged, it would be a disaster for the Eurozone’s economy (something that everyone bar France realises).
  • UK support for countries in the Mediterranean on everything from Syrian refugees to Royal Navy helping with the migrant crisis or in Libya would have to end.
  • Potential turmoil in Northern Ireland. While the majority of the blame would fall on the British, it is unlikely that Ireland would welcome having to enforce a hard border.

Most of all, if the EU acts as aggressively as possible it may destabilise the EU itself. Member states are still angry or upset that we voted to leave, but many of them also distrust the European Commission. They will grasp that if it bullies the UK today, it may turn on them tomorrow.

Apart from the impact that even a co-operative WTO exit would have on UK businesses in terms of supply chains etc, an obvious drawback is many of our liabilities seem likely to fall payable regardless. In a Co-operative WTO scenario, we would probably end up paying a large amount to buy goodwill, as well as whatever it takes to help smooth over any costs associated with trade friction in Northern Ireland, in return for fewer checks on small-scale movement of goods and people.

Even with a co-operative EU, there would still be a short-term shock to our economy, even if this, in the long run, is balanced by other gains.

Hostile WTO exit

Despite the points above, the EU may not be able to reach sufficient consensus around a co-operative WTO exit, in which case we face a hostile one.

A hostile WTO deal is not an easy prospect, even if it is not as hard as some ‘stop Brexit’ groups claim. The sloppy claim that ‘the UK is Mauritania’ is incorrectly arrived at by going through the WTO database and seeing which countries have zero additional trade deals on top of WTO rules.

But if country A only has one trade deal with country B, it still trades on WTO rules with the other 190-odd nations of the world. Further, many countries have only limited side deals but manage to trade quite widely with one another under WTO rules around this. There are also general global trade provisions around non-discrimination, and since our framework would be based on the EU’s on day one, we could argue that interpreting the WTO treaty in a way that imposes additional burdens where our rules align is illegal and a hostile act.

That said, we’d have to accept that this scenario is very complicated, hire the best possible (expensive) people, and prepare for a fairly sizeable shock to the economy. A hostile WTO exit also risks spiralling out of control, with both sides reacting to the other’s moves in a chain reaction.

All this is before you even get to practical issues, such as capacity at Dover. The much smaller Dutch economy hired a thousand extra customs staff months ago to cope with the potential consequences of Brexit. We need to press ahead with similar measures, co-ordinate essential supplies like food and medicine, and ensure that, however uncooperative the EU is, the most important goods and services will keep flowing. And time is short.

This is not an ideal situation. It would have grave drawbacks for the EU, but would also cost the UK substantially.

The EEA and a temporary, partial customs union

The third option is the EEA – either formal membership or, more likely, just replicating the relationship. This also probably entails at least a partial temporary customs union membership.

Those such as Nick Boles argue for an EEA option by claiming that it would take us out of the growing political project while maintaining economic ties. No Eurozone. No European army. No common refugee policy. No fisheries and farming. Above all else, an end to ‘ever closer Union’.

EEA and a parallel reduction in non-EU migration could have been enough for many Leave voters in 2016. In addition, some argue that this option could be a stopgap while we consider others. Yet for some Leave voters, it might not be enough to feel the vote in 2016 has been honoured, and it might not entirely resolve the Brexit issue for some Conservatives either.

For the EU, this option would have the benefit of removing a troublemaker without the UK gaining total freedom. The UK would be mostly out rather than mostly in, but it would be hard to see it as a total victory for Leave. Immigration could be restricted (EEA is focused on workers’ movement, not all citizens), but not for most workers. Nor would we have control over areas covered by EU goods and services regulation – as long as we were part of the regime we would be a rule-taker in some areas rather than a rule-maker, with restricted freedom to operate an independent trade policy.

So where will we end up?

None of these options are perfect – and it may well be that the Prime Minister’s deal gets through and attention turns back to domestic politics.

But fairly soon, those opposing the deal need to nail their colours to the mast rather than just continuing to claim we can have the best of all worlds without May’s deal. They need to choose a direction – even if, as the joke goes, they wouldn’t start from here. And they need to be confident they can hold a Government together until March 29th, and persuade the Conservative Party and the wider country to back their proposal. We wait to see if enough MPs believe that to be the case.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

May’s choice today. The possibility of her Government collapsing soon…or the probability of it doing so now

Imagine for a moment that today’s Cabinet rejects the draft Brexit deal negotiated by Sabine Weyand and Olly Robbins.  While there would still be time for an agreement to be reached later, both the UK and the EU would step up No Deal preparations. The timetable gives them no option to do otherwise.

Pressure for a second referendum in the Commons would increase.  The Government would be drawn into an accelerating conflict with MPs who support one.  Their number would doubtless grow, including on the Conservative benches.  It is possible to believe that ways would be found to bring Commons business to a standstill, thus piling pressure on Theresa May for a second vote.  Hardline Remain-backing Conservative MPs might write en masse to Graham Brady demanding a confidence ballot on her leadership.

None the less, Jeremy Corbyn is clearly opposed to second vote, and the group of Tory MPs backing a second referendum remains small.  In short, the best betting is that, in these circumstances, the balance of probabilities is that the Government could make it through and deliver No Deal, for better or worse.

Readers will see where all this is heading.  The possibility of its collapse soon, in the unlikely event of the draft deal being rejected by Cabinet today, must be set against the probability of its collapse even sooner if Cabinet accepts the deal instead.  The DUP hates the idea of Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street as Prime Minister.  But if the alternative is to swallow the partition of the UK, as it sees it, under this Government then it is likely to exit its confidence and supply arrangement with the Conservatives, formally or informally.

ConservativeHome understands that this point will be made to the Prime Minister this afternoon.  The question at stake is not only whether the proposed deal is good for Britain and honours the referendum result.  It is also whether or not her Government survives with its majority intact.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Raab, Cox, Gove, Fox, Mordaunt – all these Cabinet members, and others, should prepare to resign today

As this month began, we set five tests for any Brexit deal that Theresa May might recommend to her Cabinet members.  They were as follows:

  • Would it hive off Northern Ireland?  Will there be either an an exit date or a unilateral escape mechanism from the backstop?
  • Does it threaten to break up the Union?  If there isn’t, and Northern Ireland is effectively to be kept in the Single Market, won’t that boost the SNP’s campaign for Scottish independence – and the break-up of the Union?
  • Would it trap the country in a customs union?  If Great Britain is to be put into a parallel customs union, will there be either an exit date or a unilateral escape mechanism from it?
  • Does it hand over money for nothing? Since a future trade deal will be covered by an unenforceable political declaration – not the Withdrawal Agreement – what safeguards are there against  shelling out £40 billion for nothing?
  • Chequers or Canada? Given that the political declaration is likely to be written in vague, Cheqada terms, which future does it really point to – Chequers or Canada?

In the wake of the Prime Minister summoning Cabinet members for one-to-one meetings yesterday evening, with a full Cabinet meeting due tomorrow, it is possible that there are reassuring answers to all these questions.

But it is more likely that, as we wrote then, the proposed deal would wreck the prospect of meaningful trade deals, hand over £40 billion for no bankable gain, and potentially threaten the break-up of the UK.

It is early days to draw definitive conclusions about the draft agreement’s contents, but it is clear that the planned settlements for Great Britain and Northern Ireland will be different.

And Sabine Weyand suggested to a meeting of EU ambassadors yesterday that the deal would effectively keep the whole UK in the Customs Union, force EU access to our fishing waters, and align us to Single Market rules.

Such a settlement would breach the Conservative Manifesto commitments to leave the Customs Union, and arguably the Single Market too – and threaten the survival of the Government if the DUP withdrew all support.

At any rate, it is evident that the Prime Minister is no longer driven by the belief, in the famous phrase from her Lancaster House speech, that “No Deal is better than a Bad Deal”.  Evidently, she is desparate for a settlement.

In a sense, then, one can scarcely blame her for seeking to bounce the Cabinet today.  Its members are being given this morning only to examine 500 or so pages of the Withdrawal Agreement alone before it meets this afternoon.

It will be impossible for them to undertake the full timely study of this text, plus legal advice about it, within this brief time-frame – let alone to get independent advice about what it all adds up to.

It follows that when May proposes the immediate approval of the draft deal today, Brexiteering Ministers have no option but to seek to persuade the Cabinet as a whole to withold that approval – even if that means missing the November deadline for a summit.

On our count, Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab, Gavin Williamson, Liam Fox, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Esther McVey, Natalie Evans, David Mundell and Penny Mordaunt have all variously asked questions or expressed doubts about where the deal is going.

Add Liz Truss, Andrea Leadsom and Geoffrey Cox to the list – all these are entitled to attend Cabinet, though they are not full members – and one reaches 14 of a total of 29, just under half.

Of course, it is the Prime Minister who takes the voices and shapes Cabinet minutes: its members don’t do anything so crude as cast votes.  In short, if she is determined to make the proposed deal the basis for a summit, Cabinet members aren’t well placed to stop her.

Which leaves only one course open to them.  If those resistant to approving any deal on the basis of a single meeting aren’t heeded, they will have no practicable alternative but to resign.

Our article of a month ago was headed: the Cabinet must stand ready to take back control.  Today may be the last chance that its members have to do so.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Damien Phillips: As Merkel calls for a “real, true” European army, Cabinet members must grasp the threat that this deal poses to our security

Damien Phillips is a public affairs consultant. 

Julian Thompson, the Major-General who led the commando landings during the Falklands War, and who now serves as Chairman for the Veterans for Britain campaign group, has been closely following the development of UK defence and security policy since the EU referendum – and his observations are disturbing as we move towards the Brexit negotiation ‘endgame’.

He believes that “the UK has been ambushed over post-Brexit defence arrangements. The withdrawal proposals would keep the UK in a range of programmes and policies led by the EU. This proximity cannot be granted in the terms that the Government’s proposals suggest: we would be under EU power. The practical consequence is a loss of UK sovereign foreign policy autonomy and a loss of UK political powers over its defence establishment.”

The ‘KitKat Tapes’, revealed earlier this year, showed key Whitehall officials boasting that the defence and foreign policy deal sought by the UK on Brexit would be akin to a chocolate layer hiding UK ties to Brussels. Caught on tape was Alasdair Brockbank, Defence Adviser to Oliver Robbins.  He claimed that civil servants are actively working to keep the UK in the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

Brockbank also said that the plan is for the UK to opt back into the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs programme after the transition period comes to an end in 2021. Such an outcome would entail the UK being much more directly under the auspices of the European Court of Justice than the Prime Minister would care to admit, since the ECJ oversees large swathes of EU judicial programmes, such as the European Arrest Warrant.

The EU views security and justice as inextricably linked: its Justice and Home Affairs Council has the explicit aim of creating an “EU-wide area of freedom, security and justice”.  And only yesterday, Angela Merkel called for a “real, true” European Army.

So far, the Government has presented UK cooperation with the EU on such matters as uncontroversial and desirable. May’s Chequers proposal aims for an arrangement that provides “a legal basis for future cooperation on the basis of existing EU law enforcement and criminal justice tools”; one that is underpinned by “the principle of mutual recognition and trust between member states.”

However, senior officials on both sides of the Channel are suffering under a dangerous delusion about the integrity of EU members. Take, for example, the soon-to-be anointed President of the Council of the European Union, effectively the flagship nation of the EU, which rotates every six months. From January 2019, the position will be held by Romania – recently derided by Due Process, a leading cross-party NGO, as the worst human rights abuser in the EU. Its rule of law crisis has now become so grave that the former Director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, has called for dramatic action to restore confidence in its judicial system amid escalating concerns about how its so-called anti-corruption drive has fundamentally undermined due process, basic human rights – and long been manifestly corrupt itself.

The former Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, wrote to Romania’s President to express his outrage at the “continuing damage to the rule of law in Romania being done under the guise of effective law enforcement”. He highlighted the widespread intimidation of judges, defence lawyers, and witnesses. He also rightly decried the unconstitutional phone tapping, the forced confessions and the unfair judicial processes presided over by the former Chief Prosecutor of the Romanian National Anticorruption Directorate, Laura Kovesi. She is the prosecutor hilariously lauded as “Miss Justice” by the pro-EU Economist magazine, who erroneously claimed she had been sacked for ‘being too good at her job’.

Back in the real world, a series of secret protocols uncovered by Romanian journalists show unlawful and widespread collusion between the Romanian intelligence services and every single arm of the Romanian government and judiciary, going back as far as 2005. They reveal a country that is ruled by a shadowy, unelected cabal of intelligence officers and one that has barely moved on from the days of the old Communist deep state.

Figures from across the UK’s political spectrum have been warning about the dangers of close judicial and security cooperation with EU members like Romania for several years. These include Andrew Robathan, the former Conservative Defence Minister, and David Clark, the former special adviser to Robin Cook. Indeed, their views are further reinforced by the prescient warnings of John Scarlett, the former head of MI6, as well as others in and around Britain’s intelligence community.

Security and justice are both areas in which the UK should be much more discerning about who it cooperates with and to what extent. Richard Dearlove, another former MI6 head, pointed out, “Britain is Europe’s leader in intelligence and security matters and gives much more than it gets in return.” Our European partners can be unreliable and, in cases like Romania, dangerously compromised. Germany is another example. Its increasing dependence on Russian energy, particularly with the two countries pressing ahead with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and a worrying pro-Putin tendency starting to dominate at the highest levels in German politics, is at odds with the UK’s justified hostility to the Putin regime.

The Cabinet may thus end up backing today a very bad security deal for Britain. It is not inconceivable that Theresa May, and those senior civil servants set on a Brexit in name only, could exploit the Cabinet’s ignorance of the real facts on the ground to weaponise the seemingly uncontroversial need for cooperation on these issues during today’s discussion of the deal overall.

A comprehensive soft Brexit package that covers trade, foreign policy, security and justice is thus set to be presented by the Prime Minister, at the eleventh hour as a fait accompli. Potential Cabinet opponents may thus be manoeuvered onto a political killing ground – pressured into voting for a take-it-or-leave-it deal, pre-emptively labelled as weak on Britain’s national security and soft on crime if they don’t back it, with conveniently timed dire predictions made about the threat to the UK if collaboration on security and justice with the EU should cease due to “Brexiteer intransigence”.

To head off this potential ambush, Cabinet members must arm themselves with the arguments and the evidence that a proper Brexit is vital for UK defence, our national security and for the integrity of British justice. Should they fail, the consequences for the country may be grave.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Damien Phillips: As Merkel calls for a “real, true” European army, Cabinet members must grasp the threat that this deal poses to our security

Damien Phillips is a public affairs consultant. 

Julian Thompson, the Major-General who led the commando landings during the Falklands War, and who now serves as Chairman for the Veterans for Britain campaign group, has been closely following the development of UK defence and security policy since the EU referendum – and his observations are disturbing as we move towards the Brexit negotiation ‘endgame’.

He believes that “the UK has been ambushed over post-Brexit defence arrangements. The withdrawal proposals would keep the UK in a range of programmes and policies led by the EU. This proximity cannot be granted in the terms that the Government’s proposals suggest: we would be under EU power. The practical consequence is a loss of UK sovereign foreign policy autonomy and a loss of UK political powers over its defence establishment.”

The ‘KitKat Tapes’, revealed earlier this year, showed key Whitehall officials boasting that the defence and foreign policy deal sought by the UK on Brexit would be akin to a chocolate layer hiding UK ties to Brussels. Caught on tape was Alasdair Brockbank, Defence Adviser to Oliver Robbins.  He claimed that civil servants are actively working to keep the UK in the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

Brockbank also said that the plan is for the UK to opt back into the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs programme after the transition period comes to an end in 2021. Such an outcome would entail the UK being much more directly under the auspices of the European Court of Justice than the Prime Minister would care to admit, since the ECJ oversees large swathes of EU judicial programmes, such as the European Arrest Warrant.

The EU views security and justice as inextricably linked: its Justice and Home Affairs Council has the explicit aim of creating an “EU-wide area of freedom, security and justice”.  And only yesterday, Angela Merkel called for a “real, true” European Army.

So far, the Government has presented UK cooperation with the EU on such matters as uncontroversial and desirable. May’s Chequers proposal aims for an arrangement that provides “a legal basis for future cooperation on the basis of existing EU law enforcement and criminal justice tools”; one that is underpinned by “the principle of mutual recognition and trust between member states.”

However, senior officials on both sides of the Channel are suffering under a dangerous delusion about the integrity of EU members. Take, for example, the soon-to-be anointed President of the Council of the European Union, effectively the flagship nation of the EU, which rotates every six months. From January 2019, the position will be held by Romania – recently derided by Due Process, a leading cross-party NGO, as the worst human rights abuser in the EU. Its rule of law crisis has now become so grave that the former Director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, has called for dramatic action to restore confidence in its judicial system amid escalating concerns about how its so-called anti-corruption drive has fundamentally undermined due process, basic human rights – and long been manifestly corrupt itself.

The former Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, wrote to Romania’s President to express his outrage at the “continuing damage to the rule of law in Romania being done under the guise of effective law enforcement”. He highlighted the widespread intimidation of judges, defence lawyers, and witnesses. He also rightly decried the unconstitutional phone tapping, the forced confessions and the unfair judicial processes presided over by the former Chief Prosecutor of the Romanian National Anticorruption Directorate, Laura Kovesi. She is the prosecutor hilariously lauded as “Miss Justice” by the pro-EU Economist magazine, who erroneously claimed she had been sacked for ‘being too good at her job’.

Back in the real world, a series of secret protocols uncovered by Romanian journalists show unlawful and widespread collusion between the Romanian intelligence services and every single arm of the Romanian government and judiciary, going back as far as 2005. They reveal a country that is ruled by a shadowy, unelected cabal of intelligence officers and one that has barely moved on from the days of the old Communist deep state.

Figures from across the UK’s political spectrum have been warning about the dangers of close judicial and security cooperation with EU members like Romania for several years. These include Andrew Robathan, the former Conservative Defence Minister, and David Clark, the former special adviser to Robin Cook. Indeed, their views are further reinforced by the prescient warnings of John Scarlett, the former head of MI6, as well as others in and around Britain’s intelligence community.

Security and justice are both areas in which the UK should be much more discerning about who it cooperates with and to what extent. Richard Dearlove, another former MI6 head, pointed out, “Britain is Europe’s leader in intelligence and security matters and gives much more than it gets in return.” Our European partners can be unreliable and, in cases like Romania, dangerously compromised. Germany is another example. Its increasing dependence on Russian energy, particularly with the two countries pressing ahead with the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and a worrying pro-Putin tendency starting to dominate at the highest levels in German politics, is at odds with the UK’s justified hostility to the Putin regime.

The Cabinet may thus end up backing today a very bad security deal for Britain. It is not inconceivable that Theresa May, and those senior civil servants set on a Brexit in name only, could exploit the Cabinet’s ignorance of the real facts on the ground to weaponise the seemingly uncontroversial need for cooperation on these issues during today’s discussion of the deal overall.

A comprehensive soft Brexit package that covers trade, foreign policy, security and justice is thus set to be presented by the Prime Minister, at the eleventh hour as a fait accompli. Potential Cabinet opponents may thus be manoeuvered onto a political killing ground – pressured into voting for a take-it-or-leave-it deal, pre-emptively labelled as weak on Britain’s national security and soft on crime if they don’t back it, with conveniently timed dire predictions made about the threat to the UK if collaboration on security and justice with the EU should cease due to “Brexiteer intransigence”.

To head off this potential ambush, Cabinet members must arm themselves with the arguments and the evidence that a proper Brexit is vital for UK defence, our national security and for the integrity of British justice. Should they fail, the consequences for the country may be grave.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Daniel Hannan: May’s deal. It leaves us facing colonial rule from Brussels, of the sort imposed on Bosnia following the Yugoslav war.

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.

Try a little thought experiment. Can you imagine a Brexit outcome so appalling that Leavers would rather stay in than accept it, and Remainers would rather leave cleanly than accept it?

It’s quite a challenge, but let’s have a go. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Britain ended up with all the costs and obligations of EU membership, but with no voice, no vote and no veto. Suppose we had to accept all the EU’s rules – on technical standards, on environmental protection, on labour law – but no longer had any say over what those rules should be. Suppose we had to submit to a trade and tariff regime designed solely to benefit the other 27. I hope both sides could agree that such an outcome would be the worst of all possible worlds.

And yet, if reports are to be believed, that is where the talks have ended up. First, under the transition, we shall explicitly be non-voting members for two years. As Brussels has spelt out with brutal clarity, the only change will be that Britain loses its Commissioner, its MEPs and its vote in Council. Then, under the backstop, that status, or something very like it, will be imposed on us in semi-perpetuity.

Surely no one, Remain or Leave, can favour such an outcome. As regular readers will know, I have been arguing since polling day for moderation. I was prepared to accept any compromise – including EFTA and including Chequers – provided it restored the supremacy of our laws. But the purgatory that now beckons is surely, by any definition, worse than either staying or leaving.

How have we come to this point? Through cowardice and lack of vision, I’m afraid. From the start, our objective was simply to reach a deal – any deal. Our negotiators, shell-shocked by the referendum result, approached the talks in a spirit of damage limitation. They never seriously contemplated walking away, and the other side smelt their desperation.

To be fair, our officials were not helped by the noises coming out of Westminster. How would you expect EU negotiators to react when senior British politicians urge them to hang tough and force a second referendum? We might view Tony Blair, John Major and Nick Clegg as has-beens but, believe me, they are seen in Brussels as men of influence.

So we fell into a pattern. Britain would make some new concession in the hope of unlocking a deal; Brussels would pocket the concession and demand more; and – incredibly – British Remainers would cheer. The UK agreed to hand over more money than was due; accepted the EU’s absurd and illogical sequencing; made an unconditional security guarantee; offered to copy EU standards; and promised not to be more competitive than its neighbours. Each time, the EU brusquely demanded “more movement”. Each time, Britain rushed to comply.

Which brings us to where we are – facing colonial rule from Brussels, of the sort the EU imposed on Bosnia following the Yugoslav war.

I am not one of those Brexiteers who half-favoured no deal all along. On the contrary, I was proposing moderation on this website even before the vote, and have repeated that call many times since. But, paradoxically, Britain’s reluctance to countenance no deal has made such an outcome likelier. We have reached the point where the terms on offer are less attractive than either a WTO-based Brexit or a second referendum.

This last point is critical. I suspect that two contradictory arguments will now be wheeled out before wavering MPs. Europhiles will be told that the deal, backstop and all, is better than “crashing out” on WTO terms. Conversely, Eurosceptics will be told that, if they don’t approve the deal, Parliament might vote to extend Article 50, thus imperilling Brexit. These two lines of argument can’t both be true, of course; and, in reality, neither of them is.

Talking of Bosnia, I recall a conversation some years ago with the EU’s High Commissioner there – the man with the power to sack local politicians if they didn’t toe the approved Brussels line. He told me, in a pleased tone, that the Serbs thought he was too pro-Muslim while the Muslims thought he was too pro-Serb. “If they are all unhappy,” he concluded, genially, “I must be doing something right”. “Or maybe if everyone is unhappy,” I responded, “it’s because you’re doing something wrong”.

Well, that’s the point we reached with these talks. We’re invited to believe that if Boris Johnson and Jo Johnson, from opposite ends of the Brexit spectrum, both oppose the deal, it can’t be too bad. In fact, both Johnsons oppose it because it is a lamentable failure of statecraft. Boris was no Brexit headbanger: he came out for Leave only after the EU refused to give David Cameron any powers back. And Jo is no Remoaner: he has spent two years in government trying to deliver a reasonable Brexit. If neither of them will back the deal, that tells us something.

There is still time – just – to recover our position. As things stand, the backstop has no legal force. The moment it finds its way into a treaty, it will be binding. If any MPs or Cabinet Ministers oppose the current approach, now is their chance to act. There won’t be another.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Raab, Cox, Gove, Fox, Mordaunt – all these Cabinet members, and others, should resign tomorrow if necessary.

As this month began, we set five tests for any Brexit deal that Theresa May might recommend to her Cabinet members.  They were as follows:

  • Would it hive off Northern Ireland?  Will there be either an an exit date or a unilateral escape mechanism from the backstop?
  • Does it threaten to break up the Union?  If there isn’t, and Northern Ireland is effectively to be kept in the Single Market, won’t that boost the SNP’s campaign for Scottish independence – and the break-up of the Union?
  • Would it trap the country in a customs union?  If Great Britain is to be put into a parallel customs union, will there be either an exit date or a unilateral escape mechanism from it?
  • Does it hand over money for nothing? Since a future trade deal will be covered by an unenforceable political declaration – not the Withdrawal Agreement – what safeguards are there against  shelling out £40 billion for nothing?
  • Chequers or Canada? Given that the political declaration is likely to be written in vague, Cheqada terms, which future does it really point to – Chequers or Canada?

As the Prime Minister summons Cabinet members for one-to-one meetings this evening, with a full Cabinet meeting due tomorrow, it is possible that there are reassuring answers to all these questions.

But it is also possible that, as we wrote then, the proposed deal would wreck the prospect of meaningful trade deals, hand over £40 billion for no bankable gain, and potentially threaten the break-up of the UK.

It is very unlikely that May has called that formal meeting of all Cabinet members tomorrow on the same basis that she previously called informal meetings of some of them – in other words, to test the water.

It looks as though she has summoned it to recommend whatever has been agreed by Sabine Weyand and Olly Robbins.  Otherwise she would scarcely be calling some of its members one by one as we write.

“I can rely on your support tomorrow, can’t I, Dominic?”  (Or Penny; or Michael; or Penny: please insert a name of your choosing at will.)  That is surely the purpose of these individual meetings – to square tomorrow’s Cabinet before it happens.

One can scarcely blame May for the attempt.  But one would surely blame any Minister with doubts about whatever is being proposed – or even merely questions – if he or she does not answer in roughly the following terms.

“Naturally, Prime Minister, I want to support you.  But, obviously, I can’t make any commitments until I have made a full timely study of the text of the proposal and the Attorney-General’s legal advice about it – 500 pages of the Withdrawal Agreement alone, I’m told.

“I don’t see how any of us will be in a position to do that on the basis of a few hours’ reading tomorrow morning and a Cabinet meeting tomorrow afternoon – because that doesn’t give us enough time to undertake that full timely study.”

If May then proposes, at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting, that it immediately approve the draft deal, such Ministers would have no option but to seek to persuade the Cabinet as a whole to withold that approval – even if that means missing the November deadline for a summit.

On our count, Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab, Gavin Williamson, Liam Fox, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Esther McVey, Natalie Evans, David Mundell and Penny Mordaunt have all variously asked questions or expressed doubts about where the deal is going.

Add Liz Truss, Andrea Leadsom and Geoffrey Cox to the list – all these are entitled to attend Cabinet, though they are not full members – and one reaches 14 of a total of 29, just under half.

Of course, it is the Prime Minister who takes the voices and shapes Cabinet minutes: its members don’t do anything so crude as cast votes.  In short, if she is determined to make the proposed deal the basis for a summit, Cabinet members aren’t well placed to stop her.

Which leaves only one course open to them.  If those resistant to approving any deal on the basis of a single meeting aren’t heeded, they will have no practicable alternative but to resign.

Our article of a month ago was headed: the Cabinet must stand ready to take back control. Tomorrow may be the last chance that its members have to do so.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com