Friday 18 October 2019

I back Boris's deal with gratitude - the option of leaving with no deal will still exist

I always thought Boris could pull it off against all the odds, inheriting a terrible bargaining position from his grossly incompetent predecessor, and in the face of the serried ranks of a Remain Parliament and civil service, the Benn Act and Lady Hale. 

I was sitting outside a cafe in Piata Amzei, enjoying the warm sunshine and reading the news, when I read that President Juncker had said that there will be no further postponement of Brexit. 

I laughed out loud so loud and for so long that the girl at the next table looked round. 'It's about Brexit', I said. I can't remember enjoying a piece of news more since I got a telegram aged 17 telling me I had won a scholarship to university.

Alas, Herr Juncker's remark was just flim-flam, it turned out. He has no power over whether a further delay is granted. It requires the unanimous consent of the 27 member states, who will not want to force us out with no deal. Though if our gallant Magyar friends do so they have great cover by quoting Juncker.

And does the deal still look a good one this evening?

Yes, I do back Boris's deal. It might be that leaving with no deal would be better or it might be worse, but I cannot see Parliament voting for it. Not even the next Parliament with somewhat fewer anti-Brexit Tory MPs. 

As Margaret Thatcher was wont to say, there is no alternative. For the time being.

No deal will not go away.As John Baron, a Brexiteer Tory MP, said on TV 

“if trade talks are not successful, we could leave on No Deal terms”. 

His saying that made it harder for the Government whips to try to get enough Labour MPs to vote to pass the deal.

I think Boris gambled by going for this deal and hoping the DUP would feel unable to vote against it. This is how he works, and how all gifted politicians work, by intuition, not by rational planning.

It was obvious to me that Boris wanted a deal rather than to leave with no deal. He wants to win an election and that a good deal is his best chance. I was very surprised that such acute analysts as Charles Moore simply did not know whether Boris wanted a deal.

He said a deal could be made in the last days and it has. He said the Irish would negotiate unilaterally and they did, that the EU would reopen the deal and they did. Shame on all the people, including Rory Stewart and innumerable people in the Independent and Guardian who said, with Olympian disdain, that these things were not possible. Shame most of all on Hilary Benn and his Benn Act that made Boris walk naked in to the conference chamber without the threat of no deal. Shame on Tony Blair, Lord Mandelson and Dominic Grieve.

Does Boris really expect the deal top pass the Commons tomorrow? I doubt he expects it but he hopes it will and wants to force it through by hope and faith and in the case of vacillating MPs charity. determination,  He wins in any case, as the man who did everything he could and was defeated by a political class that did not want to honour the referendum result that they promised to honour when they stood for election last time.

One whip is reported as saying, 

“It’s a tricky operation because on one hand we are telling Labour MPs is a case of deal or no deal and on the other we’re telling Spartans it’s a case of deal or no Brexit". 

In fact no deal seems unlikely for now - but no Brexit is still a real possibility, if a new government is formed for example led by John Bercow or Ken Clarke.

The DUP think they have been hung out to dry by Boris, after they conceded the principle of customs checks in the North Sea. 
But he is keeping his promise to take the whole UK out of the EU, Northern Ireland included, with a new customs arrangement capable of being replaced in the future, if so desired, by Stormont.

But the DUP have been very stupid. They have foregone a wonderful deal they could have made with the EU and Westminster for slowly being talked into assenting to the deal. The deal will help the Northern Irish economy much more than leaving with no deal would, and in particular would favour Protestant farmers.

Ruth Dudley Edwards said in the Daily Mail,

"A hard-line but pragmatic Unionist friend wrote the following to me today:
"‘Here,’ he said, ‘is what I would say to the DUP. Get real! This [Brexit deal] isn’t ideal, but it could put Northern Ireland in a terrific position as a gateway between the EU and the UK/world economy.
"‘Also, our position in the UK is frankly shaky – the medium-term outlook demographically is terrible and the DUP aren’t to be the olive branch Unionism needs into RC communities and people in GB have limited patience. So in short, shut up, DUP.’"

I suspect no Tory MPs in the end will follow the DUP's lead.

Former Official Unionist First Minister of Northern Ireland Lord (David) Trimble backs the new Brexit deal and certifies that it is ‘fully in accordance with the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement'. As we all knew.
Yesterday's deal is significantly different from Mrs May's. It gets rid of the backstop rather than renaming it and it enables the UK to make free trade agreements with the USA and other countries. The EU had been talked into believing a customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would breach the Belfast Agreement and lead to violence. it would never be possible to rid them of this idea which Theresa May confirmed when she promised not to have a customs barrier in Ireland. 

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard dislikes the deal but thinks we should settle for it and points out that if Boris wins the next election after the deal is agreed,
the negotiating dynamic with Brussels will be different in 2020. The EU will not be able to play off Westminster tribes against each other so easily. The cliff edge for the UK will be less severe since the May/Johnson deal does resolve a string of technical issues such as nuclear ties under Euratom or landing rights for aircraft, etc.

This makes a WTO walk-out more plausible, and therefore more menacing for the EU as it tries to preserve its £95bn trade surplus with the UK (while offering no reciprocal access for services, of course).
Olly Robbins was overheard in a bar saying the backstop would be a bridge to a deal - a deal that would pretty much be like remaining in a customs union with the EU. Boris's aim is to have a free trade agreement with the EU without the EU's excessive regulation. I hope for Canada dry but doubt the EU will wear it - but we shall have the threat of no deal to help persuade them.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Oh what a shame you deleted your expression of pleasure that a deal had been reached.