eu summit responses

Boris Johnson got his bad Brexit deal. Now, parliament can get on with rejecting it
Sean O’Grady, Independent, Oct 17 2019

Credit where it is due. He got his deal. The Shawshank Redemption-style odyssey is almost complete, or so we are led to believe. Where only a matter of a few months ago the European Commission insisted that the withdrawal agreement could not be renegotiated, it has been renegotiated. Where the EU stated that the Irish backstop was the only way to meet the requirements of the Good Friday Belfast Agreement and the integrity of the EU single market, now it is not the only way. And, on the other side, where an economic border was once regarded by Theresa May and every Tory MP, including Boris Johnson, as “something no British prime minister could ever accept.” This prime minister has accepted precisely that. So we have come a long way in a few days. Those who said the EU only agrees things at the very last moment look vindicated too. A “free trade” agreement is in the offing, something too many folk will mistake for full access to the EU’s markets, though it is nothing of the sort. Still, this is no moment to rejoice. It is not the first time a breakthrough deal has been struck in Brussels, only to die in a ditch at Westminster. Not at all. There is many a slip between cup and lip. The DUP have made it plain that they at least will not support an economic border between their part of the UK and the rest of it. Today, goods can move freely from Belfast to Birmingham or Brighton and back. In future, it will not be so frictionless. In the long run, the DUP sense rightly that the centre of political gravity will shift with the centre of economic gravity, towards Dublin.

Arlene Foster and her colleagues are used to resistance. It is in their DNA, as the saying goes. “Ulster Says No!” is an old slogan, and this is hardly the first time a bunch of Tory politicians in London have sold them out. The DUP and their Spartan band of Tory allies have the power to scupper the deal “as it stands.” As it stands, they have little choice but to do so. Without the DUP on board, and with legally unenforceable safeguards on environment and workers’ rights removed in the Political Declaration, no self-respecting Labour MP will volunteer to support Johnson. They’d be swiftly deselected if they did. Second, this is moment of democratic outrage. A new Tory prime minister with no electoral mandate, selected by a tiny group of activists, is about to take the UK out of the EU on harsh hard Brexit terms, whether the British people like it or not, and indeed whether the House of Commons likes or not, as well. The hopeful sign is that at last the opposition parties will unite and succeed in attaching a second Final Say referendum to any “deal.” There should be a substantial majority for this in the Commons, according to the past indicative votes. Of course, a new referendum would take time, and be prey to the manipulations of Dominic Cummings, but it would at least be a democratic seal of approval for what is now proposed. The chances are that it would be rejected in favour of Remain, but it might easily swing back to Leave and the Johnson deal. No matter: Either way, the British people would have their say.

There will be many attempts to paint the Johnson deal as superior to the May deal, and one that achieves all the objectives of all concerned, as if by magic. In reality, it is the kind of hard Brexit once dismissed, Britain outside the EU customs union and single market, and end to free movement of labour, added red tape, added delays, added barriers to British business and people living, working and doing business with our largest trading partner. The car industry, aerospace, agriculture, the City and much else will suffer badly. Only the absence of tariffs and quotas on goods makes it a better deal than WTO terms, the only alternative deal still favoured by some in the Johnson circle. Yet goods represent only about 15% of the British economy in any case; in services, especially financial services, there is no guarantee that the UK will enjoy anything like the unfettered access it does today: Far from it. The Johnson deal is a bad deal, done for bad motives and with bad consequences. It splits the UK into two economic zones, it deprives us of our ability to make a living, and it has no direct democratic legitimacy. It deserves to be rejected by parliament and people.

Here’s why Boris Johnson’s plans have every chance of falling apart
Tom Kibasi, Groon, Oct 17 2019

Boris Johnson stands triumphant, having successfully edited Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Not for the first time, a man has claimed the credit for a woman’s work. But has Johnson really solved the Brexit conundrum, or is this yet another tissue of lies? Will his proposals stand up to scrutiny if parliament convenes at the weekend? Here’s why Johnson’s plans have every chance of falling apart. The first weak point is still Northern Ireland. The plan for maintaining a stable alignment of regulations between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland might seem reasonable: Stormont is set to get a vote every four years, with a two-year cooling-off period. But looking into the future, this quickly collapses. What happens when the rest of the UK decides to follow a different regulatory path, as promised by this hard-right Conservative government? If there can be no land border, there would have to be regulatory checks in the Irish Sea to maintain the integrity of the single market. Moving the regulatory border to the Irish Sea would be a significant and practical step towards reunification. It therefore makes sense that the DUP will not back it.

The political limits of “one country, two systems” are obvious. But the real mistake is to analyse this deal on its own terms, rather than those of the national interest. Important as it is to question whether it is coherent and durable, that also misses the point. Johnson’s deal is predicated on the fiction that Britain has more to gain from new trade deals with faraway countries than from maintaining frictionless trade with our nearest neighbours, which already account for half our trade, as part of the world’s most powerful trading bloc. The government’s own figures show that a hard Brexit, outside the customs union and single market, will leave every household more than £2k poorer. Brexit is best understood as a prism through which an argument about the future of the country has been refracted. That’s why the argument over the level playing-field provisions in the political declaration is so important. For the ERG, the strategic purpose of Brexit has always been to deregulate at home in order to strike trade deals with Pindostan and emerging markets, since most modern trade deals are less about tariffs and more about regulation, and their political goal is to realign Britain from the EU to Pindostan. Meanwhile, wavering Labour MPs have sought assurances on high standards, workers’ rights and environmental protections, which are all essential to keeping Britain a social democracy with a mixed economy. But both versions of the future cannot be true. This isn’t a matter of opinion but logic. Britain cannot be Sweden and Singapore at the same time. It can’t be in the Pindo regulatory sphere and the EU sphere simultaneously.

So how has Johnson done this? The key is the different status of the withdrawal agreement and political declaration. While the political declaration will enter domestic law, it is only a statement of intent, and lacks the enduring status of an international treaty commitment. Johnson can therefore promise the ERG that after winning a majority in a general election, he will set aside the political declaration and pivot towards deregulation and a sweetheart trade deal with Donald Trump. The ERG have plainly been led to believe that Johnson’s deal will allow their version of the future to flourish, or they would not be supporting it. Labour MPs will have to think very carefully and ask themselves if Johnson is lying to them and the British people, or if he is instead lying to the ERG. Those who vote for his deal will not just have to believe what he has said. They will have to trust his future intentions and ability to deliver on them. If Johnson succeeds and proceeds to sell-off the NHS to Donald Trump while slashing workers’ rights and environmental protections then history will put any Labour MPs who allowed it to happen in the top tier of the useful idiots of our era. And all to deliver a deal that weakens our economy, diminishes our influence and divides our country. It is an awfully large gamble to take on a man whose rise to power has revealed a void where moral character should belong.

MPs win bid to vote on second Brexit referendum in Saturday parliament showdown
Lizzy Buchan, Independent, Oct 17 2019

MPs have won a key parliamentary vote paving the way for a Commons bid to secure a second referendum on Saturday. Ex-Tory backbencher Sir Oliver Letwin led a successful attempt to allow backbench MPs to amend Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans, in a knife-edge vote that passed by 287 votes to 275. MPs also approved a rare Saturday sitting to scrutinise Mr Johnson’s new plan but the government’s proposal for a short debate on a motion to either “approve the deal or approve a no-deal Brexit” were derailed by the backbench victory. The move now clears the way for pro-EU MPs to force a vote on a second referendum, by tacking on an amendment calling for another public vote on the prime minister’s Brexit blueprint. Sir Oliver said the plan would allow MPs to move any amendment to the government’s proposal and for them to be voted upon, if selected by Speaker John Bercow. He suggested that it could close a loophole in the so-called Benn Act, which requires the PM to seek a Brexit delay if he does not have a deal by Oct 19. The law only compels the PM to seek an extension if MPs fail to pass a motion. Sir Oliver told MPs:

That will enable those of us, like me, who wish to support and carry through and eventually see the ratification of this deal, not to put us in the position of allowing the government off the Benn Act hook on Saturday, but only at a time when the bill has been taken through both Houses of Parliament and legislated on.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Commons leader, said Mr Johnson would make a statement at 9.30am on Saturday and take questions about his talks with the EU. He suggested MPs would be offered the chance to either approve a deal or approve a no-deal Brexit. The Brexiteer said he would support the plan, as the prime minister deserved credit for his “remarkable success in a deal that all of us can support.” He said:

It is a really exciting and positive deal. It removes the undemocratic backstop. It is a huge advance for the whole of the UK. It will ensure we are one single customs territory. I am aware of the details of the deal.

This Brexit deal still won’t ‘get it done.’ Only a referendum can do that
Polly Toynbee, Groon, Oct 17 2019

The red hand of Ulster says no. Their “blood-red line” has been crossed by putting a hard customs border down the Irish Sea, dividing them from the rest of the UK. They have lost the veto they wanted, reduced to a vote only held four years after the dual customs union comes into effect, aligned with the EU, and even then they would have to wait for another two-year cooling-off period. These devilishly good DUP negotiators usually succeed because their No Surrender reputation has the other side of the table believing their stony faces are unmovable. But this time it looks as though Boris Johnson has thrown them under another of his mendacious buses. Of course this could be a last-minute DUP bluff. There are rumours not only of a new medical school and a motorway, but also a daintily gift-wrapped “peace fund” paid by the UK with EU contributions via the Irish government. However, the biblically well-versed DUP won’t be trading their birthright for that mess of pottage.

If no means no, that’s a heavy blow for Johnson, but even with DUP votes he can’t know if there are the numbers to push the deal through parliament. Johnson is back exactly where Theresa May was at Chequers, with an EU deal agreed only to be blocked at Westminster. It would be a dose of his own medicine, as he was her prime rebel. Besides, his deal is far worse than May’s for the many Tory soft-leaver MPs who were once assured the UK would always keep close to Europe. This makes all borders rock hard, a lethal barrier to vital just-in-time trade. ERG Europhobes may like this deal better than the last, but they have been mainlining hopes of a no-deal crash out. Will they follow the DUP lead, as they once promised? Then up jumps Nigel Farage to declare “the ‘new deal’ is not Brexit,” frightening the life out of Tory MPs in marginal seats. Johnson chose to try to appease the ERGs, abandoning hope of those 19 Labour MPs who wrote to Jean-Claude Juncker, backing a deal if it met their red lines. None of the red lines required by Stephen Kinnock and the others have been met, as “level playing field” alignment on regulations is moved from the withdrawal agreement into the non-binding political statement. As Downing Street asserts through a source to Robert Peston:

Britain is out of all EU laws. We will be able to change our laws in a huge number of areas from product standards to fishing rules and farming subsidies where we are currently bound by EU rules.

Just so. That is precisely what the Europhobes always wanted, the deregulated purpose of the whole Brexit fandango. Food safety and working conditions, traditionally well ahead of UK standards, will now be at the mercy of this Brexit government. Very few in Labour could tolerate that. This deal unites Labour, and even fires up Jeremy Corbyn to cast aside his ancient scepticism and at last put his shoulder to the cause of killing it off. Today Labour was calling for a confirmatory referendum: ask the voters if this is really what they want? As Corbyn says:

This deal risks triggering a race to the bottom on rights and protections: putting food safety at risk, cutting environmental standards and workers’ rights, and opening up our NHS to a takeover by Pindo private corporations.

There is a tide in politics, a natural surge towards resolution after years of excruciation and paralysis. Is the Get It Done sentiment so strong at Westminster that it will sweep aside doubters on all sides? MPs know that nothing is “done” if they sign up to Johnson’s deal: it’s only the beginning of unending torment over the economy-defining negotiations on customs, tariffs and regulations, where as an outsider the UK will have the weakest hand. Brexeternity beckons. Johnson may not get his vote, and his own absurd “die in a ditch” pledges will make a forced extension a humiliation. The last chance to get his deal agreed would be to accept the Kyle-Wilson amendment for a confirmatory referendum ballot, which would see the Commons overwhelmingly pass it. That ends the impasse once and for all. If leave wins again, the agreement is ready to sign the next day, and those long, hard, future negotiations begin. If remain wins, Brexit could be stopped in its tracks. Labour would whip its MPs to back it, along with the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru, plus a growing numbers of Tories of the Dominic Grieve/Justine Greening variety.

Many shudder at the prospect of five long months of a referendum campaign that would be more bitter, more mendacious and savage than the last. But as hundreds of thousands of People’s Vote marchers file past parliament as it sits on Saturday, the worthwhile prize is a vote to stop Brexit dead: 204 polls for the past two years have put remain ahead, only seven for leave, with 15 ties, according to YouGov analysis for the Evening Standard. A packed Labour for a Public Vote meeting in the Commons last night discussed ways to run a grassroots campaign, making the remain side a fiery insurgency, with greater input from young people and women; it could hardly be worse than the 2016 fiasco. But if leave were to win, that too would be a necessary catharsis. Remainers would just have to live with it, in the hope of drawing gradually closer to Europe again over the years. A referendum can’t resolve the deep national rift, but it can clear the fetid air that has asphyxiated all political life.

Yes, it’s a deal that makes us poorer and hands power to sociopaths, but if we can’t trust Boris, who can we trust?
Mark Steel, Independent, Oct 17 2019

This new deal with the EU raises many issues, but here’s one that some people have overlooked. If Boris Johnson’s ex-wife wants to finally get proper maintenance for their kids, she should become a DUP MP, she’d be given a billion quid by Tuesday. It makes sense at the next election for us all to vote DUP. Then in areas such as Epsom, the mayor could announce:

This year, instead of a parade led by the Women’s Institute, we’re going to hold an Orange march through the kitchen of Mr O’Reilly who we think is Catholic.

Then they’d receive £50m every time they threatened to vote against the government. These are the tactics we must hope secure approval for Boris Johnson’s deal. It’s so important it’s passed, that you can understand him saying:

Right, here’s the deal, there’s no point in dragging things out by looking at it, there are quite a lot of numbers in there and they always hold things up.

So we shouldn’t get bogged down in the details of the deal, such as what’s in it. The main thing is it’s been approved by Boris Johnson, and if you can’t trust the word of Boris Johnson, who CAN you trust? This must be how he’s won round Conservatives who have, in the past, been slightly sceptical about the EU. For example, Jacob Rees-Mogg said that Theresa May’s deal made us a “vassal state,” like Britain under the Roman occupation. So presumably this deal has removed the clauses about how we have to provide galley slaves for the Spanish, and look after Angela Merkel’s chickens on a Sunday. Others such as David Davis made declarations like:

This deal literally sells all of us off to an Albanian trafficking gang.

All the same, they’re really excited about this one because while it’s basically identical, there may or may not be a clause in it about fish. Luckily there have been studies made on the likely impact of what is believed to be in the deal, with the economic group UK in a Changing Europe estimating our public finances will shrink by between £16b and £49b a year compared to what it would’ve been. Some people object these studies are inaccurate, which is why it makes more sense to listen to alternative studies, such as the one from Gary who works in IT, and recently announced his findings:

That’s bollocks, that is! My granddad never trusted the fucking French, and he was fucking right!

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates each household is already £1,500 worse off as a result of Brexit, so the prime minister can reassure us his deal is excellent news, because it will give us as much as 30 per cent of what we already had. It’s a similar rate of success as someone informing you:

I’ve spent the last three years searching online to change your gas supplier, and I can finally reveal I’ve found one who will charge only £1,500 a year more than the one you had before.

But this is only the start, we can and must build on this now we’re free to shrink by whatever amount we choose, without having to consult the Germans first. Not only that but this deal assures us we’ll be rid of the wretched Freedom of Movement. And I for one am SICK of being FREE to move where I WANT. If my kids want to work or study in Spain, I want them to be told:

NO. You STAY where you ARE. If anyone wants to go anywhere different they can go to the Co-op.

And crucially, the tricky issue of Ireland has been resolved. Through vigour we have secured agreements from the EU they were never willing to consider before. For example, Boris Johnson said no prime minister could ever sign up to a border in the Irish Sea, but now through determined negotiating, he’s got them to agree to a border in the Irish Sea. Hopefully he’ll be as vigorous with Donald Trump, and insist so strongly that he will never sell off bits of the NHS to Pindo companies, that Trump ends up agreeing to buying all the NHS for Pindo companies. But most importantly, this deal represents a return to our beloved democracy, in which we’re free to make our own laws, in line with our glorious parliament. Instead of sneaky dealings behind closed doors, we can go back to making decisions by giving hundreds of millions of pounds to Presbyterians so they vote the way we want. To be fair, no one can accuse the DUP of not meeting the people, because this week, before being invited into Downing Street to discuss Johnson’s deal, they had meetings with the UDA to see what they thought. Maybe this is why Conservatives attack Jeremy Corbyn for “meeting Sinn Fein leaders in the 1980s.” They think he should still be meeting the IRA now, and to no longer consult them is a bit rude. Perhaps if the deal goes through, we’ll see a new spirit of cooperation between the government and loyalist gunmen, and the UDA will pop into Downing Street directly, with Johnson saying:

Would you, er, ipso facto as it were, care for an Earl Grey, Mr Mad Dog?

And he replies:

I find it difficult to drink tea through a balaclava, so I do.

So the main thing is not to spend any more time pontificating how we make the country into a poorer and more doolally tinpot outfit, with a handful of sociopaths creaming off everything they can grab with no regulations whatsoever. What the whole country wants now is just to GET IT DONE.

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