Just when all seemed lost, the Government avoided defeat on the House of Lords’ amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill. Rather like Iceland desperately defending against a more powerful Argentina in the World Cup, the Government seems capable of always clearing the ball from their goal-line despite continuous pounding, even after losing one of their players – Phillip Lee, the Justice Minister.
A replay looks likely next week if, as seems inevitable, the Lords send a ‘Meaningful Vote’ amendment back to the Commons. Hopefully, this time there will not be enough Tory dissidents to pass the amendment or demand further concessions.
Holding the line is absolutely essential. A ‘meaningful vote’ would be a major constitutional change, passing control of a treaty negotiation direct to Parliament for the first time ever. Not to any Parliament of course, but a Remainer Parliament desperate to thwart Brexit. A ‘meaningful vote’ would of course be a gift to Brussels, which could then offer an unacceptable deal in the knowledge that Parliament would come back with something more to their liking.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn is the gift that keeps on giving. Labour’s amendment on membership of the EEA prevented a Tory defeat on the Lords’ EEA amendment. This occasioned six Labour front bench resignations and a major revolt of Labour MPs. Just to complete the theatricality, the entire SNP party walked out of PMQs on Wednesday in protest at the time allowed to debate their amendment.
What a week! Brexiteers can take solace that a Brexit outside the Customs Union and Single Market – as promised in the Conservative Party’s 2017 manifesto – is still possible. But nerves are becoming frayed, and after a steady few months Theresa May’s position is once again looking shaky.
BfB’s Media Coverage and Political Impact
Graham Gudgin’s corrections of the HMRC estimate for costs of leaving the Customs Union have continued to attract media attention. Read Dominic Lawson’s take on the story here
There has, however, been stony silence from some who trumpeted HMRC’s £20 billion figure the loudest. As Charles Moore puts it in his ‘Notes’ for this week’s Spectator:
‘Recently Jon Thompson, the head of HMRC, claimed that Brexit customs changes would cost £20 billion. After Briefings for Brexit produced a study questioning this amazing figure, HMRC admitted double-counting £6.5 billion. The FT, which had made so much of the original horror story, did not report the correction. What are we to think of our next tax bill?’
We know that Brexiteer ministers now know about the HMRC retraction and we can expect them to use this in Cabinet.
Since the launch of our ‘Remainer Revolt’ series in the Express last week, more blogs on the topic have gone up on the website (see below). The Economic Voice has published an enthusiastic article in response https://www.economicvoice.com/tories-try-to-close-brexit-ranks/
Baroness Ruth Deech on Human Rights and the Lords’ Amendments
We are delighted to announce two new podcasts this week. The first features Baroness Deech, cross-bench member of the House of Lords, who tells the BfB podcast series why she believes our Human Rights are better protected through our own courts and judicial systems rather than relying on membership of the ‘completely ineffective’ European Charter of Human Rights.
She also discusses the chaos caused by the Lords’ Amendments this week, saying ‘I am delighted that the Commons has had the good sense to reject most of the Lords amendments. The Lords amendments were made I think not in pursuit of the best interests of the British people.’
Dr Joanna Williams on the Education System
This week’s second podcast features Joanna Williams, telling BfB how the education system has acted as a ‘bubble making factory’ and allowed younger voters to adopt a follow-my-leader Remain approach to Brexit rather than encouraging them to think independently about the concept of a nation state.
She also discusses this week’s events in Parliament, criticising Phillip Lee for acting, through his resignation, ‘As if the defence of the EU is more important than defending either their political party or even the interests of the Nation.’
Our blogs This Week
The Remainer Revolt
A number of new blogs have gone up in our Remainer Revolt series, which seeks to explain why some diehard Remainers have had such extreme reactions to the country’s democratic decision to leave the EU:
The Wind of Change and Tory–Remain, By Dr D.H. Robinson
Historian Dr Daniel Robinson examines the phenomenon of ‘Tory Remainers’, arguing that ‘Brexit has placed Tory Remainers in an unambiguous position: while some may still refuse to admit it, and some are yet to recognise it, they have no choice but to support an entirely clean break from the European Union’.
Young People and Remain by A Postgraduate Student
A postgraduate student, who wishes to remain anonymous, discusses the ‘silencing’ of Brexiteer and even moderate arguments amongst the young, by a small vanguard of anti-democratic ‘social justice’ fanatics. The author describes the phenomenon of ‘shy’ young Brexiteers who are ignored in media narratives but ‘can be found coming out of the woodwork of every bar and cafe’ and argues that excluding these voices from mainstream political discussion has dangerous consequences for democracy.
English Idiom By Robert Colls
Professor of Cultural History Robert Colls describes how a wave of intellectual snobbery has emerged in the wake of the Brexit vote: ‘For the first time in my life the intellectuals hate ‘the masses’ all over again.’ He argues that this goes against the traditional ‘English idiom’ which is, in the work of historian E.P. Thompson ‘disintegrative of universals’. We should return to, and embrace, the solid, sensible empiricism of the earlier tradition.
Europe: A New Nationalism By D.H. Robinson
In his second article for the series, Dr D.H. Robinson proposed that Remainer belief in the European project is a new and dangerous variant of nationalism. It is often Europhile Remainers who best fit Orwell’s definition of a nationalist as someone with an ‘inability to entertain basic facts or possibilities that challenge his creed’. Remainers are more willing than Brexiteers to characterize their opponents by national stereotypes and their arguments often verge on the colonial, driven by ‘a deep suspicion of Britain as a nasty, backward, and particularly xenophobic country that needs to be pinned-down for the good of itself and others by benign European masters’.
We have also been busy on Twitter https://twitter.com/briefing4brexit retweeting the daily events that bring Brexit to the fore in the national news.
This week James Rogers, Director of the Henry Jackson Society, retweets the ‘outstanding’ blog by Dr D.H. Robinson on ‘Europe: A New Nationalism’ (https://twitter.com/james_rogers/status/1007347916292452352 )
Discussion continues on Facebook too, with the new podcasts and Remainer Revolt articles generating some interesting discussion. Sheila Rowe writes, in response to our blog ‘Young People and Remain’, ‘Before the referendum many, not all, remain voters spewed terms such as tolerance, unity, peace, diversity and so forth, but the moment the result was announced they failed those values, at the first hurdle. Remainers have closed down debates as leavers are fed up justifying why they voted to leave the EU and fed up with the insults.’
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