This week people across the country will be reunited with friends and family for the first time since the lockdown began. We must hope that the extraordinarily good spring weather continues and that we can all look forward to glorious summer of six-person barbeques.
By contrast to the tranquil summer skies, the newspapers have been enjoying a full-on storm in a teacup, with the saga of Dominic Cummings’ two car trips dominating the front pages all week. The upshot is that Cummings will stay, and though the government’s poll-ratings have taken a hit, it is likely that the public as a whole care less than journalists in London assume. With the polling damage done and awkward press conferences endured, the government and opposition can get back to more important matters: the ongoing Covid crisis and Brexit negotiations. For the latter at least, it is good news that Dominic Cummings remains on the team.
Brexit negotiations continue, with the admirable David Frost still emphasising that there is no reason for an extension. Michel Barnier appears to be panicking that the UK will really go for ‘no deal’ -sorry ‘an Australian deal’. Today the Sunday Times reports Barnier accusing the UK of not sticking to the letter of the Political Declaration. He seems to have forgotten that the EU insisted that the PD was non-binding, precisely so that the EU did not have to promise a free-trade agreement.
As we discuss on the website this week, there has been some progress on the question of the Irish border, with the UK government publishing a paper setting out its plans. The paper takes a minimalist approach to the Irish Protocol, while respecting the requisite legal obligations. This arrangement is relatively satisfactory to the DUP, although Brussels and Dublin appear concerned by the lack of customs infrastructure. The exact implications of the UK’s proposals depend on the outcome of negotiations for a free trade agreement, but the government has certainly made significant progress towards a light touch regime.
Meanwhile, President Macron has announced an 8-billion-euro rescue package for French car producers on condition they do not move production abroad. Even so, Renault is considering closing 4 plants plus its Nissan plant in Barcelona which will switch production to Sunderland. While the EU car industry contracts, Sunderland expands. So much for a downside to Brexit.
Our BfB correspondent, Professor John Keiger, has written in the Spectator this week. Professor Keiger argues that the EU’s suspension of state aid rules and its proposed Coronavirus package make it impossible for the UK to extend the transition period, making no deal more likely.
BfB co-editor Dr Graham Gudgin had an article on the Conservative Home website this week assessing whether Boris Johnson had kept his promises on the Irish Protocol.
On the website this week
Remainers’ Revenge: the hounding of Dominic Cummings, by Brian Morris
There are few spectacles in British life more shameful than the British media in hot pursuit, bent on pulling a prominent public figure down. Over the bank holiday weekend, peak Cummings, there were more questions hurled, more column acres of indignation, than two journeys in a car could possibly justify. Brian Morris, a former producer of What the Papers Say, a long-running TV weekly review of the press, offers his analysis.
“When handling of the coronavirus crisis is finally judged, we may learn that government failures can cost lives. The Cummings madness will be a footnote.”
On the subject of Rule Breaking… By Nick Busvine
Dominic Cummings has been hounded for ‘breaking the rules’. But in the orchestrated campaign, and what lies behind it, far more important rules are being broken with impunity. Nick Busvine asks some important questions: who are the real rule breakers, and who will bring them to account?
“What shocked me, as a former diplomat, into starting to write for Briefings for Brexit early last year was the fact that it had become blindingly obvious that the requirement for civil servants to act impartially was being widely ignored – particularly at the most senior levels.”
A New Border in the Irish Sea, by Graham Gudgin
The Cabinet Office has published a paper outlining its approach to carrying the agreement in the Irish Protocol. The paper delivers the promise of Boris Johnson on unfettered trade from NI to GB, but sets up a border for imports into NI from GB, albeit one with limited checks. Cambridge economist and BfB co-editor Graham Gudgin discusses UK and EU reactions.
“The paper has received a reasonable welcome from the DUP who recognise that this is close to the best they could expect, and that Boris Johnson has tried hard to meet their concerns.”
We are also on Twitter, posting articles and retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
Discussion also continues over on Facebook. Matteo Masella said, in response to our article on Dominic Cummings, “Spot on, I wish the journos would get over themselves, the ‘tsunami of indignation’ would have collapsed days ago without their vested political interests stirring it up.”
How you can help
There is much about Brexit still to be decided. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Do continue to send them links to our articles, especially on matters relevant to your constituency – for example, in rural areas, articles on the threat to British agriculture. Alternatively, make an appointment to speak to them at their next surgery. Let them know what you want post-Brexit Britain to look like.
As Boris Johnson said in in his post-election address, it is also time for unity and reconciliation. Keep reading our posts and share links to our quality content to help others understand how leaving the EU will be good for the UK economy and for our own democratic governance. We aim to educate our critics to think differently and more positively about the long-term impact of Brexit.
An Oxbridge PhD Student
Dr Graham Gudgin
Economist, Centre for Business Research, Judge Business School University of Cambridge
Professor Robert Tombs
Emeritus Professor of French History, University of Cambridge