It has all the makings of a good heist film. Boris Johnson has gathered together old friends, old enemies and new talent, and now we sit back and wait to find out if the gang can succeed against the odds. All of this on a tight deadline: eighty-eight days to go.
For now, all the major action is paused for the parliamentary recess. This is a chance for the government to plan their attack, planting allies in key departments and pre-empting the attacks of opponents. As Harry Western writes this week for BfB, it is important that Boris and his cabinet match their promising rhetoric with a serious and practical commitment to no-deal planning.
Johnson’s government needs to persuade the EU and the country that it will follow through on its threat of leaving without a no deal. The cabinet’s commitment to ‘peddling optimism’ is a good start. We hope they will be putting the pedal to the metal in terms of practicalities too.
As the Sunday Telegraph reports today, the Prime Minister’s most senior aide, Dominic Cummings, has told ministers and officials that Parliament has now almost certainly missed its chance to block no deal. As we expected, in the event of a vote of no confidence, Boris can simply call an election for after Halloween and prorogue Parliament. This would require Labour not being able to assemble a majority before an election. The path to no deal is clearer than ever.
On the website this week
Boris Johnson’s first week – an assessment, by Harry Western
At the start of July BfB outlined six ways we could be sure that Boris Johnson, as Prime Minister, was serious about pushing through a genuine Brexit. Johnson has now been in charge for just over a week, so what do the early signs show? Here we assess progress – or the lack of it – against our six tests.
“Some early indications are positive, at least rhetorically. But we have concerns about the lack of concrete actions that would convince us the government is serious about pushing ahead with a genuine Brexit, of the WTO type if necessary.”
Support for No Deal is Compatible with International Law, by David Collins
David Collins, Professor of International Economic Law, explains why the promised financial support for the British economy following a No Deal Brexit is most likely lawful under WTO subsidies rules. As long as the relief package is structured in such a way that it does not give British firms an unfair advantage in international trade with respect to their foreign competitors, the £39 billion payment that would have gone to the EU can be used to help disaffected firms cope with any difficulties arising from a hard break.
“Boris Johnson’s claims that there is money available to help the private sector cope with any rigours arising from a No Deal Brexit are entirely reasonable and, as long as they are structured properly, most likely legal under international law.”
The BBC and ‘no deal’: a Pavlovian experiment, by Sir Noel Malcolm
Oxford historian Sir Noel Malcolm highlights the BBC’s antipathy to a no-deal Brexit. He discusses a recent occasion on which the BBC news team turned run-of-the-mill lobbying by scientists hostile to Brexit into headline news. BBC news editors are all too willing to abandon their critical faculties whenever a story plays to their anti-no-deal prejudices.
“When they feel that there is inadequate substance to their story, instead of dropping it, they can send off a reporter to bulk it out.”
What can happen in the absence of self-belief, by Sir Peter Marshall
Sir Peter Marshall, former diplomat and Assistant Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, notes the shocking lack of self-belief which has blighted discussion of Brexit on both sides of the Channel. It is time this changed.
“Identifying and remedying the defeatist shortcomings in the prevailing legislature/Commentariat approach on this side of the Channel is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition of achieving a satisfactory Brexit.”
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 on Facebook. Subscriber Alex Lindsay has even more reservations about the new government than Harry Western, saying that “All that Boris has done… appears to be rhetoric only. I fear your assessment has been overly generous.”
How you can help
We urge our supporters to ‘take back control’ in our present confusion. There are thousands of you. Our MPs listen to their constituents. Write to your MPs. Perhaps send them copies of some of our articles (or links to them), especially when they are relevant to your local conditions – for example, in rural areas, on the threat to British agriculture. Better still, make an appointment to see them at their next surgery: they will take notice when people are lining up at their doors. Make you views known where MPs might be wavering, or where they are working to sabotage Brexit, especially in Leave-voting and marginal constituencies, which Richard Johnson listed in his recent article.
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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