The Prime Minister and the Chancellor are both Remainers; some Brexiteers including MP Jacob Rees Mogg are doubting May and Hammond’s intentions.
The House of Lords has been enacting a string of changes to the EU Withdrawal Bill, prompting accusations of “saboteurs”. A majority of peers want to give Parliament a “meaningful” vote on the outcome of negotiations with the EU. They want Parliament to have the final say. So should the Commons disagree with it, the Lords could then reject it. Will the Bill with changes get to the Commons for approval before the EU Council meeting on 28-29 June? If it is not approved that would embarrass the government. If it does not make it before the meeting does that suggest approval needs delicate lobbying? Both the parties contain euro-sceptics and euro-centrics; would cross party sceptics combine and risk bringing down the government, would Europhiles combine and lose the trust of their constituents who voted to leave the EU? Andrew Bridgen MP has even hinted that an autumn general election could be on the cards if Tory rebels vote against the government. The abstainers will be telling, ideologically and career-wise.
The EU’s Michel Barnier continues his bullying tactics for continuing with a customs union/single market, threatening that the Irish border could be a deal breaker as jointly Barnier and Ireland’s Taoisech Leo Varadkar demand no hard border. Theresa May’s “Customs Partnership” has been ridiculed as meaningless and unworkable by Brexiteers and some members of the Cabinet. The new technology, “Maximum Facilitation” proposal has been quoted by HM Revenue and Customs as costing £20billion a year.
Sir Ivan Rogers, the former British ambassador to the EU, is sceptical that the EU would accept either the partnership or the “Max Fac” proposal. In his lecture at the University of Scotland, Sir Ivan said, “No single post Brexit model will work for all. But if we want, in areas, genuinely to go it alone—or have to, because we cannot accept the jurisdictional and dispute resolution implications of staying in agencies run at the EU level in which our voice is lessened—then we have to be going full tilt in developing that regulatory capability at huge speed, rather than assuming the EU is bound to give us both associate membership and a serious role from outside in policy setting, when the only way that can happen is if we shift our red line on jurisdiction questions.”
The Good Friday Agreement that allows for Northern Ireland’s present system of devolved government and the border issue are being promoted as connected; scaremongers say the border issue could potentially trigger a border poll for the reunification of Ireland, but at the moment there is no evidence that a majority wants this. The Lords have made an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill that includes the intentions of the Good Friday Agreement to protect one of the most successful peace processes of modern times.
Barnier appears to be enjoying stirring up dissent in Westminster; Henry Newman, Director at Open Europe claimed “(EU) Commission maintains it negotiates only with UK Government but listens to all. In fact it is playing British politics & intervening in parliamentary debates. Yet too few UK commentators treat its statements as anything other than neutral gospel truth. This must change.”
The Prime Minister and the Chancellor are both Remainers, some Brexiteers including MP Jacob Rees Mogg (JRM is also chairman of the European Research Group and the most articulate voice on Brexit) are now reluctantly doubting Theresa May and Philip Hammond’s intentions. There is a suspicion that May is intentionally plotting failure. This week Andrea Jenkyns MP, resigned as a Junior Minister, saying, “Currently, there are 21 members on the Brexit committee, only seven of which voted to leave the EU. It is my opinion that the reports produced by the committee have been unbalanced in favour of us either remaining in the EU, the Customs Union or delaying our departure. I, therefore, feel I need to spend more of my time doing all I can do to correct this imbalance and be a robust voice for the benefits of Brexit.”
Nobody knows what the actual preparations for a “no deal” are. According to JRM, the December 2017 backstop position makes us a “vassal state…and is essentially a trap”. JRM says “the money is our strongest card”. So no deal is equal to no money.