30 Sep 2018

Tory leadership hope to avoid conference brusing ahead of crucial EU talks

EU officials were braced for some EU bashing at this week’s Tory Conference. Jeremy Hunt certainly delivered that. The born again Leaver compared the EU to the old Soviet bloc countries that built walls to keep their people in. It’s hard to imagine a line of argument that could be more guaranteed to offend many EU leaders.

Mr Hunt also revealed that he’d met Henry Kissinger on a recent trip to the US. It’s a reminder of how ill-judged some elements of the Remain campaign were in the 2016 referendum that Mr Hunt said Dr Kissinger had been approached to back Remain in the referendum. Not sure that would’ve swung the West Midlands or firmed up Richmond-Upon-Thames either.

The leadership is hoping that Mrs May can get through this week with some domestic policy announcements, some patriotic language about taking on Brussels and about defending the union of the UK. Senior critics of Theresa May’s approach seem ready to make threatening noise but not to deliver the killer blow to her policy here. They have their eyes on the October EU summit when they think the EU will either reject Chequers themselves and trigger a stand off or crunch a deal that involves major concessions to the Chequers plan bringing the UK even closer to the EU’s institutions and rules.

One of the dangers for the PM is that the anti-Chequers campaign gets so much momentum, so much wind in its sails ahead of the “deal or no deal” vote in the Commons that by the time Mrs May tries to define it as moment of destiny,  Brexit or chaos, others will have defined it already and hardened their opposition with unalterable public pledges.

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