18 Dec 2017

Waiting for “B + 1” Day

Theresa May accidentally called the trumpeted “implementation period” a “transition” in the Commons today. “That’s a tenner in the swear box,” one adviser said.

Mrs May had spent her late morning at the Brexit Cabinet Committee. It opened with a presentation by the official in charge of negotiations, Oliver Robbins. Mr Robbins outlined an approach that imagines 3 buckets: one for issues or sectors where the UK wants to stay following EU rules, another for areas where we might want to shadow them but with a different approach, a third one is the bucket for areas where we very much want to diverge from the EU.

I asked one who was at the meeting: “Which bucket ended up most full?” I was told we weren’t at that stage of the exercise and this was outlining an approach, ministers weren’t throwing anything in yet.

It doesn’t sound like the Cabinet Committee then descended into a riot. Everyone spoke from the corner of the argument you would expect. The new addition to the committee, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, has advertised that he is on the Brexiteers’ side of the argument (closer to a Canada solution, not wanting to hug the EU too close).

Some Brexiteers sound like they have had a change of tack, feeling that they can’t realistically diverge too much from the EU post Brexit and post Transition, given the balance of forces in this Parliament.

Brexiteers talk of a relentless focus now on getting Brexit itself. All else can wait for the day after, or as it has been tagged in some talk amongst the Brexiteers “B + 1.” That sounds like an allusion to D Day + 1 but its was presumably thought “B Day + 1” didn’t sound so stirring as a slogan. We’ve already seen that focus lead Brexiteers to come behind a divorce settlement with the EU that yields a lot more ground than they had previously supported.

Now some Tory Brexiteers are talking about being willing to accept the idea of a further period of alignment for some sectors that follows the end of the Transition. This could be the outline of a Cabinet consensus which would then be put up to the EU27 to see if they could accept it. It’s not at all clear that they would. One pro-Brexit minister said a rejection by the EU27 would suit him fine. His side would’ve shown willing. They’d tried, they’d not been obstructive. Then it would be time for their preferred option: a more distant, conventional Free Trade Agreement approach.

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One reader comment

  1. H Statton says:

    (written on 19th December 2017)
    Ah, the UK’s bucket list… We want one bucket containing a cake from which we can eat whenever we want, one bucket containing cherries from which we get to pick the ones we fancy, and if it all goes pear-shaped, we’ll have one bucket to kick at the end of all this Brexit chaos.

    As the referendum result wasn’t the vox populi, I wouldn’t feel ‘betrayed’ if a second referendum was to be called over the nature of the Brexit deal, and a few others probably feel the same way.

    As for Theresa May stating “[a second referendum] would be betraying the British people, Parliament gave them the vote, [it’s] up to us to deliver.” May in part resurrects her former bloody mindedness; her receptiveness to democratic process waning again. Cue sound bites.

    Some of yesterday’s comments: Iain Duncan Smith’s sardonic words, “Businesses will just have to get by” (post-Brexit); Theresa May’s, “not a case of less trade. It’s a case of a different type of trade” (wanting free trade with other countries at the same time as retaining EU trade relations – which means EU rules and regs.), that “access would continue as now”, but not being “in the Single Market or Customs Union” after Brexit. It’s like a pick ’n’ mix.

    Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin’s chipped in with, “No deal has a negative connotation, but I actually think it will be good.” So no, I definitely wouldn’t feel let down if some MPs questioned May’s front bench about exactly what the hell they mean by any of this. That is, after they finish fighting amongst themselves.

    The Tory ‘traitors’ are doing their job. They are democratically elected representatives of the people and it is their duty to question the machinations of government on behalf of the people. They represent ‘the voice of the people’. If they believe the Government is not acting in the best interests of the country it is their responsibility to point this out. If anyone is being patriotic, it is the ‘rebels’, certainly not the Brexiteering sheep.

    Daily Mail Editor, Paul Dacre, may sit next to May at a dinner party, but he does not sit on the front bench in government calling the shots; at least not publically. The carriage of The Hate Mail has become completely derailed. Its ‘reports’ are an abomination, naught but isometric character assassinations.

    Andrea Leadsom implying media corporations should be ‘more patriotic’ in supporting Brexit is supercilious. I cannot think of a more unpatriotic idea than to call for impartial media outlets to fall in behind and blindly swallow Brexit. What self-respecting organisation would suffocate its integrity on the exhaust fumes of ‘the will of the people’, be content not to scrutinise motivations, ideas and plans for a post-Brexit UK.

    John Bercow: “The Chair is calling upon members to vote as they think fit… they have an absolute bound and duty to vote as they think fit… In voting as you think fit, you as MPs are never mutineers, never traitors, never malcontents, never enemies of the people”
    The cabinet can’t agree among themselves on what they want. A “bespoke deal” of our choosing is completely unrealistic. The non-starter of a cherry-picking exercise has been reiterated many times by the EU. I for one am starting to suffer intense episodes of déjà vu. I could have sworn I’d heard a resounding ‘no!’ to the UKs perverse insistence of special dispensation.

    If we want to continue trading with the EU it stands to reason we abide by EU rules, it’s glaringly obvious. If we want to let chlorinated chickens swim across the pond…

    From a Christmas cracker:
    Q. How do you make an Eton mess?
    A. Tell him Brexit’s been cancelled.

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