Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Brexit in 17 days' time - does anyone believe that?

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The House of Commons will hold another vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal tonight after she flew to Strasbourg by RAF helicopter late last night and agreed with the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker three 'tweaks' to her Withdrawal Agreement. All this, of course, is amateur dramatics.

Will these three documents persuade scores of Tory and DUP MPs to change their mind and back the deal?

Much depends on the Attorney-General and whether or not he advises the House that we could still end up parked “indefinitely” in the backstop. BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg heard he was “agonising” over this last night, which sounds like he will say that the tweaks are not enough to prevent a backstop forever. I cannot see how they can be.

It is impossible for an international court ever to rule that the EU is not acting in good faith in not ending the backstop on the ground that technology enables a frictionless border. No such technology is used on any border in the world.

If the House votes no, tomorrow the House will vote against leaving with no deal and the game is up. With no power to leave without a deal we have to do what we are told.

A delay is necessary as we are supposed to exit in 17 days but a shortish delay changes nothing. The decision is made at the very end of the period allowed for negotiation - a delay just delays that moment.

A long delay means another referendum. No-one knows with what result.  A long delay and another referendum is what Martin Selmayr wants, Bruno Waterfield reports. So does  Mr. Blair, who is advising President Macron and important people in Brussels.

If the ayes have it (meaning the House votes yes), Britain has been forced into something like remaining in the customs union and single market. 

The backstop is relatively unimportant. What is important is that, like every country in the world that is not in a customs union, the UK should have some sort of customs barrier with neighbouring countries, including the Irish Republic. Allowing Irish nationalists to hoodwink her on this is the gravest of Theresa May's many very grave blunders.

Readers know I favour at this stage leaving with no deal or leaving with, for a time, a Norway type deal that allows free movement of EU and EEA citizens into the UK. 

NOT Norway Plus which prevents customs on the Irish border and which is what Jeremy Corbyn wants. That means remaining in the customs union.

Daniel Hannan, Christopher Booker and Richard North, who all argued for leaving the EU for decades and understand the details, always strongly favoured the Norway option. Now, since it seems not to be on the table, Mr Hannan very reluctantly favours leaving with no deal and Mr North, with disgust, favours Mrs May's plan as the least disastrous of the options. Mr Booker, who is dying, always agrees with Mr North.

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