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This is the final instalment of my long-running series, the Brexit Chronicles.

My previous post discussed the December 30 vote on the EU Future Relationship Bill which passed both Houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent in the early hours of the final day of Brexmas, December 31, 2020.

New Year’s Eve was a quiet affair in Britain, as we were in lockdown.

One week earlier, Boris said that he would not be dictating to Britons how they should celebrate our exit from the EU, which was a bit rich, because he had already put us into lockdown before Christmas:

What UK independence from the EU means for Boris

The UK negotiating team did some star turns with this agreement, which polished Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s political reputation.

Boris’s ratings had taken an understandable hit during a year of coronavirus, which included a lot of flip-flopping on his part, however the trade agreement improved things considerably. Liz Truss, who has been negotiating our trade deals with more than 50 countries, deserves her place at the top:

According to an Opinium poll, an overwhelming majority of Britons — even Remainers — wanted MPs and the Lords to pass the deal:

Guido’s article noted:

Troublingly for the anti-deal SNP, the poll’s sub sample of Scottish voters shows that by 47% to 19%, Scots want their MPs to vote for the deal too…

The Norwegians said that the UK had negotiated a better deal with the EU than they had:

Guido Fawkes thinks that this could give Norway the impetus to renegotiate their terms with the EU. I hope so (emphases in the original):

Marit Arnstad, parliamentary leader of Norway’s Centre Party, argues that the UK deal is better than the Norwegian deal her country has as a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). “The UK has now reached an agreement that gives them more freedom and more independence” she tells Klassekampen, Norway’s answer to the Guardian, “the British have a better agreement than the EEA. They get access to the internal market and the common trade that is desirable, but they do not have to be part of a dynamic regulatory development that places strong ties on the individual countries’ national policies. …The most difficult thing for Norway is that we are bound in areas that are national policy, and that it happens in more and more areas. The British have now taken back this authority, and it is extremely interesting”.

Arnstad is not the only politician complaining, the leader of the Norwegian Socialist Party’s EEA committee, Heming Olaussen, also believes that the British agreement with the EU is better than the EEA, “because the British escape the European Court of Justice. Then they are no longer subject to EU supremacy and must not accept any EU legislation in the future as we must. This agreement is qualitatively different and safeguards national sovereignty in a better way than the EEA does for us”.

Could we soon see Norway and the other EEA countries try to renegotiate their terms?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made sure that he got everything possible arranged by the end of the day, including Gibraltar. The first tweet has a statement from Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab:

Remainers constantly brought up the future of the Nissan car plant in Sunderland. They can silence themselves now.

Chronicle Live reported:

Automotive giant Nissan has welcomed the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, which appears to have safeguarded the future of its Sunderland plant.

The plant has been at the centre of the Brexit debate over the last decade, with both Remain and Leave campaigners using it to back up their respective arguments.

A number of global Nissan executives have used visits to Sunderland to warn that its future was threatened by a no-deal Brexit, and two models either being made or due to be made at the plant have been cancelled since the 2016 referendum.

But the Christmas Eve agreement of a deal that appears to allow tariff-free access to EU markets for British-made goods has been welcomed by the company.

On Boxing Day, The Telegraph — Boris’s former employer — published an interview with him, excerpts of which follow (emphases mine):

“I think it has been a long intellectual odyssey for many people of this country,” he said, casting back to 1988, shortly before he, an up-and-coming journalist at The Telegraph, was dispatched to Brussels to report on the European Commission.

“The whole country has been divided about this issue, because we are European, but on the other hand we don’t necessarily want to feel that we’re committed to the ideology of the European Union.

“That’s been the problem and I think it is absolutely true that Margaret Thatcher … she did begin this period of questioning. Her Bruges speech was very, very important.”

Mr Johnson is referring to a speech that, to many Eurosceptics, formed the foundations of the bitter and protracted political struggle against ever closer union that ultimately set Britain on the path to Brexit.

At the height of her power and railing against Jacques Delors’ latest move towards deeper integration, in 1988 Baroness Thatcher urged the Commission to abandon aspirations of a “European super-state” which would infringe on the “different traditions, parliamentary powers and sense of national pride in one’s own country”.

Her warning went unheeded, however, and just four years later the UK signed up to the Maastricht Treaty and with it the creation of the European Union as it is constituted today.

And yet, even after she was toppled and replaced by John Major, an ardent Europhile, the seeds of discontent and the desire to reclaim British sovereignty had been sown in Bruges.

He explained that we will always be European, just not part of the huge project that seems to continually move the goalposts of membership obligations:

“I think this gives us a basis for a new friendship and partnership that should attract people who love Europe and want to have a great relationship with it, who want to feel close to it.

But it should also be something that is welcome to people who see the advantages of economic and political independence. I think the country as a whole has got itself into a new and more stable footing. It’s a better relationship and a healthier relationship.”

The tariff and quota-free deal covers £660bn worth of trade a year, which Mr Johnson said will still be “smooth” but with new customs procedures and paperwork which will mean things are “different and there will be things that businesses have to do”.

In particular, he is keen to stress that the UK will be free to diverge from EU standards.

This is particularly gratifying for Mr Johnson, who said that after being accused of “cakeism for so many years,” he has achieved what his critics said was impossible: “That you could do free trade with the EU without being drawn into their regulatory or legislative orbit.”

Boris enjoys his ‘cakeism’ references. He made one on Christmas Eve upon the announcement of the deal and he made yet another on January 1, which was Guido Fawkes’s Quote of the Day:

I hope I can be forgiven for reminding the world that many people used to insist that you couldn’t do both: you couldn’t have unfettered free trade with the EU, we were assured, without conforming to EU laws. You couldn’t have your cake and eat it, we were told. Maybe it would be unduly provocative to say that this is a cake-ist treaty; but it is certainly from the patisserie department.

The Spectator had an excellent article on the new treaty, ‘The small print of Boris’s Brexit deal makes for reassuring reading’. Brief excerpts follow. The article has much more:

The Brexit deal takes things back to where they were before Maastricht. The EU is limited now in any meddling to very specific areas indeed. It ends the oddity where because circa seven per cent of UK business trade with the EU, 100 per cent have their laws made by the EU (although that is a bit more blurred in supply chains)

There are parts of the deal that mean that, should Britain wish to diverge, then UK committees will have to talk to EU committees. Requiring the UK to ‘consult’ on implementation and change of the agreement etc. But how this is done in practice is left free and thus pretty non-enforceable and limited in scope. It is diplomacy now, not law

While there is a lot of hot air in the treaty, it does not go beyond that. Lord Frost and his team seem to have seen off the (no doubt many) attempts to get EU regulation in through the back door. The UK is leaving the European Union and the lunar orbit of its regulations. It depends on your politics whether you approve of concessions over fish and some aspects of trade. But the legal question – to take back control – has been accomplished.

In The Atlantic, Tom McTague, a balanced journalist, looked at Brexit from the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto policy of ‘levelling up’ all parts of the United Kingdom:

at root, Brexit was a rejection of the economic status quo, which too many had concluded was benefiting the country’s urban centers at the expense of its more rural regions. And not without evidence: Britain is the most unequal economy in Europe, combining a supercharged global hub as its capital with areas a three-hour drive away that are as poor as some of the least-developed parts of the continent.

Brexit was not solely a vote of the “left behind”—much of the wealthy and suburban elite also voted to leave. But Brexit was a rejection of the direction the country was taking, a desire to place perceived national interests above wider European ones that too many Britons did not believe were also theirs. Is this entirely unreasonable?

The Revd Giles Fraser, rector of the south London church of St Mary’s, Newington — and co-founder of UnHerd — wrote an excellent article on Boris, Brexit and old Christmas traditions involving seasonal games of chaos and fools. He also delves into the Bible. ‘Why chaos is good for Boris — and Brexit’ is worth reading in full.

You will want to see the photo he includes in his article, which begins as follows:

Back in early December, after a dinner between the British negotiating team and their EU counterparts, a photograph was released that, it was said, “sums everything up”. A characteristically dishevelled Boris Johnson was unflatteringly contrasted with the smartly dressed Michel Barnier. “Johnson’s loose tie, shapeless suit and messy hair alongside Frost’s errant collar stood out somewhat beside an immaculately turned out Ursula von der Leyen and chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier” reported the Huffington Post, while reproducing a series of damning twitter observations …

Fraser points out that Brexit is charting a new course. The old rules no longer apply. Boris seems to be the king of chaos, perhaps a ‘fool’:

The problem with an orderly approach to things such as Brexit is that most problems, especially the large ones, are always going to be imperfectly and incompletely specified. In such a context, it is not always a straightforward matter to argue in a linear way from problem to solution. Indeed, when situations seem to require some sort of paradigm shift, the rules of the old order present a block on the emergence of the new. Things will always seem chaotic when change does not travel according to pre-established ideas of how one thing follows from another.

In his fascinating book Obliquity, the economist John Kay describes the shortcomings of turning decision making within a complex environment into some sort of algebra. Often, he argues, “complex outcomes are achieved without knowledge of an overall purpose”. The importance of rational consistency is exaggerated. Some values are incommensurable, not plottable on a single system of reference. In such situations, neatness is overrated, distorting even.

That, I take it, is partly why Boris Johnson remains ahead in the polls, even now. Yes his shambolic manner, strongly contrasted with Keir Starmer’s orderly, lawyerly disposition, speaks to a refusal of some imposed authority. It’s a kind of trick, perhaps, given that he is the authority. And Old Etonians are not typically chosen as “the lowly” who are lifted up as per the Magnificat.

But the importance of Johnson “the fool” exceeds the fact that he has become an unlikely poster-boy of some unspecified insurgency against the established European rules based system of governance. The fool understands something the rationally wise does not. “Man plans, God laughs” goes an old Jewish proverb. Much to the deep frustration of its proponents, order can never be finally imposed upon chaos. And those who are comfortable with this, celebrate it even, are often better able to negotiate the complexities of life. Being chaotic might just turn out to be Johnson’s unlikely super-power.

Boris certainly has had a good track record over the past 12 years. The coronavirus crisis is the only obstacle remaining:

What independence from the EU means for Britons

The BBC website has a short but practical guide to changes that came into effect on January 1.

In addition, UK drivers licences will be recognised in EU member countries as they were before:

With regard to students and foreign study, we will no longer be part of the EU-centric Erasmus study programme beginning in September 2021. The UK government is developing the worldwide Turing programme, named for Alan Turing:

Guido explains:

… Unlike the Erasmus programme, which was founded in 1987 “to promote a sense of European identity* and citizenship among its participants”, the new scheme will have a global outlook, targeting students from disadvantaged backgrounds and areas boosting students’ skills and prospects, benefitting UK employers. It will be life changing for the student participants.

A year of Erasmus-funded reading of Sartre at the Sorbonne in Paris, or a year of Turing-funded study of Nano-engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras? It is a no-brainer to choose the exciting future that is beyond Little Europe.

*The EC in latter years funded a post-graduate exchange programme that offered opportunities outside Europe. Some 95% of the budget still focuses on Europe.

Women will be pleased that the EU tax — VAT — on sanitary products is no more.

How we celebrated, despite lockdown

On New Year’s Eve, I was cheered to see an article by The Guardian‘s economics editor Larry Elliott, ‘The left must stop mourning Brexit — and start seeing its huge potential’. YES! Every Labour, Lib Dem and SNP MP should read it.

He, too — like the aforementioned Tom McTague of The Atlantic — sees Brexit as an upending of the status quo. He tells his readers on the Left that they should be happy about this (emphases mine):

Many in the UK, especially on the left, are in despair that this moment has arrived. For them, this can never be the journey to somewhere better: instead it is the equivalent of the last helicopter leaving the roof of the US embassy in Saigon in 1975.

It marked the rejection of a status quo that was only delivering for the better off by those who demanded their voice was heard. Far from being a reactionary spasm, Brexit was democracy in action.

Now the UK has a choice. It can continue to mourn or it can take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit has provided. For a number of reasons, it makes sense to adopt the latter course.

For a start, it is clear that the UK has deep, structural economic problems despite – and in some cases because of – almost half a century of EU membership. Since 1973, the manufacturing base has shrivelled, the trade balance has been in permanent deficit, and the north-south divide has widened. Free movement of labour has helped entrench Britain’s reputation as a low-investment, low-productivity economy. Brexit means that those farmers who want their fruit harvested will now have to do things that the left ought to want: pay higher wages or invest in new machinery.

The part of the economy that has done best out of EU membership has been the bit that needed least help: the City of London. Each country in the EU has tended to specialise: the Germans do the high-quality manufactured goods; France does the food and drink; the UK does the money. Yet the mass exodus of banks and other financial institutions that has been predicted since June 2016 has not materialised, because London is a global as well as a European financial centre. The City will continue to thrive.

If there are problems with the UK economy, it is equally obvious there are big problems with the EU as well: slow growth, high levels of unemployment, a rapidly ageing population. The single currency – which Britain fortunately never joined – has failed to deliver the promised benefits. Instead of convergence between member states there has been divergence; instead of closing the gap in living standards with the US, the eurozone nations have fallen further behind.

I was especially pleased that he pointed out the coronavirus vaccine. We were the first in the world to approve one and get it rolled out:

The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the importance of nation states and the limitations of the EU. Britain’s economic response to the pandemic was speedy and coordinated: the Bank of England cut interest rates and boosted the money supply while the Treasury pumped billions into the NHS and the furlough scheme. It has taken months and months of wrangling for the eurozone to come up with the same sort of joined-up approach.

Earlier in the year, there was criticism of the government when it decided to opt out of the EU vaccine procurement programme, but this now looks to have been a smart move. Brussels has been slow to place orders for drugs that are effective, in part because it has bowed to internal political pressure to spread the budget around member states – and its regulator has been slower to give approval for treatments. Big does not always mean better.

Later on — at 11 p.m. GMT, midnight Continental time — millions of us in Britain were only too happy to toast each other, confined in our own homes, and say:

Free at last!

Here’s Nigel Farage:

Baroness Hoey — formerly Kate Hoey, Labour MP — worked tirelessly for Leave in 2016.

She had a message for her late mother …

… and for Guy Verhofstadt, who is shown below a few years ago in London with the Liberal Democrats campaigning against Brexit:

In the days that followed …

On New Year’s Day, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer gave an optimistic message for 2021 — ‘the UK’s best years lie ahead’:

The Sun‘s political editor, Harry Cole, urged all of us to unite behind a new Britain:

Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley, continues to pursue his quest for French citizenship, having researched his family tree.

Nigel Farage’s new campaign will be against dependence on China:

Our ports have been problem-free:

On that cheery note, after four and a half years, this completes my Brexit Chronicles! Onwards and upwards!

Yesterday’s post detailed the first day of Brexmas — Christmas Eve 2020 — when the UK and the EU signed the deal to end the transition period and move on to a future outside of EU control.

MPs and the Lords were preparing to vote on the deal on Wednesday, December 30, in a special recall of both Houses of Parliament.

The Brexit referendum in 2016 attracted more voters and two of the largest campaign donations in British history.

The days between Christmas and December 30 seemed like a long wait. We were in lockdown, to various extents, at the time. However, Leavers were able to get an idea of how MPs thought about the new trade agreement, which is a treaty. A summary of practical considerations for Britons can be found here.

We also garnered snippets from journalists on some of the deal/treaty provisions.

Natasha Clark, who writes about politics for The Sun, tweeted:

Some pointed out a few downsides. There are concerns about British financial services operating overseas, the performing arts and, equally important, international security:

That said, Sir John Redwood MP was optimistic:

Even better, the hardline Brexit group, the European Research Group (ERG), was all in for the deal:

The ERG issued a three-page statement of support on Tuesday, December 29, concluding:

Our overall conclusion is that the Agreement preserves the UK’s sovereignty as a matter of law and fully respects the norms of international sovereign-to-sovereign treaties. The “level playing field” clauses go further than in comparable trade agreements, but their impact on the practical exercise of sovereignty is likely to be limited if addressed by a robust government. In any event they do not prevent the UK from changing its laws as it sees fit at a risk of tariff countermeasures, and if those were unacceptable the Agreement could be terminated on 12 months’ notice.

Even Labour — and Opposition — leader Sir Keir Starmer said that he would back the deal (starting at 1:30):

Sixty per cent of Conservative Home readers considered the deal a win.

On the morning of December 30, Graham Stringer, a Labour MP, said that Parliament should support the deal:

However, MPs from Northern Ireland thought differently. They have to abide by the EU rules because they border the Republic of Ireland. MSN Money published a fuller statement from the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), which reads in part (emphases mine):

Whilst we accept that this agreement does bring about zero tariff and quota arrangements between the United Kingdom and the European Union thus removing many goods from attracting tariffs between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the fact remains that this agreement does not assist Northern Ireland in the context of having to operate under the Northern Ireland Protocol.

When Parliament is recalled on Wednesday we will vote against this agreement. We will do so as a point of principle and not because we supported a no deal option. A free trade deal is better than no deal but for Northern Ireland this deal does not undo the detrimental aspects of the Protocol.

Understandably many in Great Britain will be able to support these arrangements as applied to Great Britain but sadly for Northern Ireland we will be governed by the arrangements in the Protocol. While Northern Ireland will remain in the UK customs territory and we are out of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy we will be aligned with the EU for manufactured goods and food and animal products alongside other EU imposed restraints.

The removal of a so-called cliff edge on 1 January will be welcomed but more work will be required to ensure that we can maintain free flowing business supply lines from Great Britain into Northern Ireland. To that end we will continue to work with the Government to mitigate against those damaging practical outcomes flowing from the Protocol.

It was a long day in the House of Commons. When bringing in the motion, Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, mistakenly referred to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, by his first name:

Leader of the Opposition Starmer said that not voting for the agreement was akin to voting ‘no deal’:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced the new legislation. Scotland’s SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford stuck his oar in, but Boris wasn’t having it:

Even the Speaker of the House told Blackford to not intervene — not once, but twice — as time was short. However, Blackford, as always, persisted in interrupting with the same broken record he always plays. I enjoyed when Boris called Blackford’s party the Scottish Nationalist Party. It’s Scottish National Party, but Boris knew and said ‘nationalist … with a small “n”‘:

Blackford persisted, causing the Speaker to ask him a third time to stop intervening:

Not surprisingly, Scotland’s SNP voted against the agreement, the subject of the EU Future Relationship Bill. Gove, also a Scot, called them out in his summation speech before the vote. This is one for the archives. It was pointed yet witty. This was Gove at his best (even though I don’t trust the man):

The SNP’s Ian Blackford and Stuart O’Grady are on the far right in the video:

Going back to Boris’s introduction of the bill. After he spoke, Keir Starmer gave his response as Leader of the Opposition. When he urged his MPs to vote for the agreement, an indignant Theresa May rose to speak her mind. Labour and the other Opposition parties had opposed her deal throughout 2019, leading to her resignation as PM.

The second clip below — ‘May’s finest moment’ — is from 2019. Labour MP Rupa Huq had accused her of ‘parliamentary ejaculation’. May said that if Huq ‘looked more closely’ she would find that she (May) was incapable of such a thing:

On December 30, May was upset with Starmer for not having voted for her deal in 2019. Starmer had called Boris’s agreement ‘thin’ — meaning not enough integration with the EU. May pointed out that if he had voted for her deal the previous year, he would not have had that complaint, ‘so I will take no lectures from the Leader of the Opposition on this deal’:

When it came time for the vote, 37 Labour MPs rebelled, with three having to resign their shadow front bench posts. One of them, Helen Hayes, is pictured below:

The Mirror reported:

Moments after the result of the vote was declared, frontbencher Helen Hayes announced she had quit her role.

She tweeted: “I’m grateful to all who’ve contacted me on the EU Future Relationship Bill.

“I can’t vote for this damaging deal & have abstained today.

“With much sadness & regret I’ve offered my resignation as Shadow Cabinet Office Minister. It’s been a privilege to serve.”

MP for Gower, South Wales, Tonia Antoniazzi said it was “with the deepest regret” she was resigning as a parliamentary aide to the Shadow Scotland and Work and Pensions teams …

Florence Eshalomi, MP for Vauxhall, South London, quit as a whip – a frontbencher responsible for enforcing the leader’s power.

She said: “This Bill was rushed and a ‘no deal’ is the worst outcome for the country but I cannot support the bill and I have abstained.

“I have offered my resignation as an Opposition Whip.”

The resignations are a blow for Mr Starmer’s bid to reposition the party.

He ordered Labour MPs to back the agreement, believing Labour needed to show voters in its traditional heartlands – most of which overwhelmingly backed Leave in the 2016 referendum – that it has heeded the result.

Urging MPs to back the deal, Mr Starmer told the Commons: “This is a simple vote with a simple choice – do we leave the transition period with the treaty negotiated with the EU or do we leave with no deal?

“Labour will vote to implement this treaty today to avoid no-deal and to put in place a floor from which we can build a strong future relationship with the EU.”

It didn’t matter much in the end, because the EU Future Relationship Bill passed with ‘a stonking majority’, as Guido Fawkes put it:

AYES 521

NOES 73

The vote lists aren’t out yet, however we can assume around 40 rebels abstained.

PARLY had a further breakdown:

The Conservatives must have been relieved to be able to tweet this — after four and a half years:

The bill was quickly rushed to the House of Lords, which had to debate and vote on it.

Nigel Farage watched the proceedings on BBC Parliament:

A vast majority of the Lords are Remainers.

However, I hope that Farage did not miss Kate Hoey’s — Baroness Hoey of Lylehill and Rathlin in the County of Antrim’s — tribute to him in the Lords. I saw it and couldn’t believe she mentioned him in the Valley of the Remainers, but she did. I was delighted:

The Lords debated for the rest of the night, then voted.

The Queen’s Royal Assent was the final step.

One reporter had a very long day:

Royal Assent was granted shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve:

Shortly afterwards, the Daily Mail carried a report with rare, behind-the-scenes photos:

Boris Johnson has heralded a ‘new beginning in our country’s history’ after his Brexit trade deal was signed into law, setting the stage for a smooth divorce from the EU tonight.

The Prime Minister thanked MPs and peers for rushing the Bill through Parliament in just one day so it could take effect at exactly 11pm this evening when the UK’s transition period ends.  

At 12.25am, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle told MPs that the EU (Future Relationship) Act 2020, had been granted royal assent by the Queen

It enshrines in legislation the trade agreement finally negotiated between London and Brussels last week following more than four years of wrangling since the referendum. 

Shortly before Her Majesty gave the Act her seal of approval, a bullish Mr Johnson marked out a new chapter for Britain, which first joined the bloc in 1973.

He said in a statement: ‘I want to thank my fellow MPs and peers for passing this historic Bill and would like to express my gratitude to all of the staff here in Parliament and across Government who have made today possible.

‘The destiny of this great country now resides firmly in our hands.

‘We take on this duty with a sense of purpose and with the interests of the British public at the heart of everything we do.

’11pm on December 31 marks a new beginning in our country’s history and a new relationship with the EU as their biggest ally. This moment is finally upon us and now is the time to seize it.’

More on that and what it means for Boris Johnson’s premiership tomorrow.

While much of the UK is in some sort of coronavirus lockdown — England is now in the new Tier 5 — let’s cast our minds back to Christmas Eve 2020.

An imminent announcement was rumoured by news channels from the early morning.

Christmas Eve morning — in our household, at least — provided more excitement than Christmas Day, particularly since our area were in Tier 4 at the time, forbidding anything but the briefest of visits.

As December 24 unfolded, there was no final trade agreement enabling the United Kingdom to terminate the Brexit transition phase, scheduled to end at 11:59 p.m. Brussels time, on December 31.

Mid-afternoon, Sky News announced that there would be no statement that day. We stayed tuned in, which was just as well, because a short time later, they changed tack and said that that EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would be making separate statements about a deal having been struck.

Amazingly, as Sky News announced there would be no announcement, this independent journalist called it correctly. Well done:

Guido Fawkes’s team, who run the best British political website, had been primed for this from the week before. Tom Harwood went the furthest and had worn his Merry Brexmas jumper (pullover sweater) in their news wrap up video on December 18:

Around 3 p.m., Ursula von der Leyen made her announcement from Brussels. Boris made his from No. 10. While Ursula and our chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier were downbeat, Boris was positively euphoric:

His tie had a fish motif:

Fishing was the sticking point that caused the delay to an agreement being reached:

In the end:

Leavers are very grateful to Lord David GH Frost for his tireless efforts in negotiating on the UK’s behalf. Words cannot describe how hard he has worked on our behalf:

This was Boris’s announcement about the new trade deal with the EU beginning on January 1, 2021. Guido Fawkes has a written summary (ignore the photo, which was not one from December 24):

It was on as even terms as possible. Both von der Leyen and Barnier acknowledged that we were ‘tough’ in our negotiations. Good.

Michel Barnier is in the first video:

Michel Barnier spoke after von der Leyen. Thank you, Michel:

Here he says that the UK has chosen to leave the European Union and the single market. The new agreement is the basis of a new partnership, one that is fair and equitable:

The woman on the right in that photo moderated the session, which included a press conference.

More highlights follow.

Journalist Dave Keating has an excellent thread, which he introduced with the reference to white smoke appearing at the Vatican when there is a new pope:

Boris’s usual critics doubted the ‘Canada-style’ description, until they began analysing the text. Some admitted on air and in print that it was, indeed, a Canada-style agreement.

The Telegraph had more on the agreement:

Boris sent a three-page letter to each MP and peer.

Contrary to what Boris said, the agreement was 1,246 pages long. Annexes and footnotes probably accounted for the extra length. You can read the full text here, using the links at the bottom of that page:

I couldn’t agree more with the poll results.

I also fully agree with the PM that Brexit dragged on long enough:

Agree.

We will always be European.

We love our European friends and family.

However, the EU construct, as it evolved from a common trading area to a common army (developing) and lack of national autonomy, were steps too far for 52% of the British public. Here’s a case in point: the EU Parliament — individual MEPs — won’t even be voting on this deal until early 2021. We left at the last minute of 2020. This proves further that the only EU decisions that matter come from the EU Commission.

After the announcement of the new EU-UK trade agreement, reactions poured in.

First, here’s a reaction from a member of the general public, a Leaver. I felt the same way:

Nigel Farage — without whom we never would have had a referendum (thanks again, Nigel!) — approved, even though the deal isn’t perfect:

David Cameron, who was PM at the time of the July 23, 2016 referendum, said:

Theresa May, Cameron’s successor and MP for Maidenhead, who ended up resigning over her poor handling of Brexit within Parliament, must have tweeted this through gritted teeth:

Conservative MP Mark Harper was unique in thanking Lord David GH Frost — Barnier’s British counterpart — who negotiated so well. Harper — one of the good guys — said that he would look forward to reading through the agreement over Christmas ahead of the December 30 vote.

Another Conservative MP, Chris Heaton-Harris, said, that contrary to negative reports circulating in the media, no MP objected to studying the agreement over Christmas.

The leaders of the devolved nations — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — also reacted to the news.

Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon said that Brexit is happening ‘against Scotland’s will’ and issued yet another plea for Scottish independence.

Another socialist, Mark Drakeford, the First Minister — Prif Weinidog — of Wales, offered a more balanced assessment. Perhaps he recalled that most Welsh voters wanted Brexit. Drakeford said that it wasn’t the deal hoped for (probably not enough links with the EU) but was workable.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Arlene Foster (DUP), said that, provisionally, the agreement looked like ‘good news’ and issued a full statement on it.

Kate Hoey, the former Labour MP for Vauxhall (London) and the current Baroness Hoey of Lylehill and Rathlin in the County of Antrim, was a staunch supporter of Brexit and was one of the main Leavers in 2016 on the public stage. Even though her heart is in Northern Ireland, her homeland, she participates actively in the House of Lords. She had this to say about the agreement:

Her friends at Labour Leave were equally relieved:

Emmanuel Macron, France’s petit président, played the tough guy. In one tweet, he said that European unity and firmness paid off; the agreement with the UK had to protect France’s citizens, fishermen and producers. He assured them that this was the case, pointing towards a Europe that is sovereign and strong. In a second tweet, he thanked Michel Barnier for his tenacity and engagement in defending European interests and unity. He also said that, thanks to von der Leyen, European solidarity showed its force.

That evening, Boris posted his Christmas message. The first half is about coronavirus. The second part is about Brexit:

That day, all 52% of us wanted to focus on was this great achievement — a happy one, brightening a coronavirus-dominated Christmas:

The second day of Brexmas will follow tomorrow.

Sing the title to the tune of ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’:

Last Wednesday, at the final PMQs of the year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised Christmas …

… with a suggestion of a ‘merry, little Christmas’, with the emphasis on ‘little’.

Earlier that day, as I reported on Friday, the Communist, Susan Michie (lower left hand corner in the tweet), member of SAGE and Independent SAGE, wanted to deny us a five-day Christmas celebration:

Sadly, on Saturday afternoon, December 19, people living in London and much of the southeast of England found out that she and the other scientists of SAGE rule their world and that the aforementioned Communist indirectly won the winter match.

The score is now Communists/Socialists/SAGE: 1 to Conservatives/Libertarians: 0.

Wales (Labour) and Scotland (SNP) — both Leftist-controlled nations — quickly followed suit to declare Christmas a one-day event. There will be no Boxing Day lunches or anything on the following days, either.

Christmas celebrations will be allowed only on December 25, meaning short, sharp ‘celebrations’, if one even dares to call them that. Falling asleep in front of the telly with others outside of your household after Christmas lunch is out of bounds.

Atheist Stalin must be rolling in his grave with delight.

Susan Michie doesn’t have to worry about Christmas. She’s an unbeliever with a big house, thanks to the sale of her late mother’s Picasso:

For anyone who is — quite rightly — finding this sudden change of plans unsettling, here are phone lines to ring for help:

Now back to Laura Perrins, the ex-barrister and co-editor of Conservative Woman, whose tweets I featured on Friday.

On Saturday, she took us back to last week.

Boris pledged that every new change would come before Parliament first. Lucky for him that Parliament went into recess early Thursday evening, December 17:

Laura Perrins was not pleased with rebel Conservative MP’s Mark Harper’s response:

I’m not quite sure Laura gave Mark Harper a full hearing. Note his second tweet below. I fully agree with it:

Before returning to Ms Perrins, here are the latest statistics:

And who can prove this? Certainly not Oxford’s Prof Carl Heneghan:

Back now to Laura.

Here’s an MP of whom I’ve not heard. I say that as a regular BBC Parliament viewer:

Note the ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions and closures.

Given all that has happened this year, it is not surprising that some doubt whether there is a mutation:

Understandably, travellers going to the north of England on Saturday evening crowded St Pancras railway station. Tier 4 restrictions in London and surrounds were coming in at midnight — early Sunday morning:

I can’t help but agree with this Labour MP:

Here’s more from Laura Perrins:

I couldn’t agree more.

I also endorse this:

Boris is acting a bit like an abuser:

Try to see your family this Christmas and you could — depending on your tier situation — be breaking the law:

There are Britons who have commented on my blog this year saying that they are not sure whether they will see Christmas 2021. Given those circumstances, they want to hug their children and grandchildren, unfettered by the Government.

I do not blame them at all. In fact, I support them 110%.

Boris has been a huge disappointment when it comes to handling the coronavirus crisis.

Granted, Labour would have been worse.

I hope Boris is up for Brexit — even if it means No Deal. Once again, that’s what so many of us voted for last December. As a reminder: Boris has a majority of 79 (it was 80, until the whip was withdrawn from Dr Julian Lewis this year).

We expect a lot more from you, Boris, especially when New Year’s Eve dawns and our Brexit transition period ends 24 hours later.

Episode 14 of Andrew Neil’s Spectator TV was broadcast on Thursday, December 3, 2020.

He interviewed Trevor Phillips, past head of the Commission for Racial Equality and chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the succeeding organisation. Since then, Phillips has held a number of other appointments in human rights, the arts and retail. He is currently managing director of Webber and Phillips, a data analytics provider.

Neil also interviewed Mark Harper, one of my favourite Conservative rebel MPs, who has spoken out against coronavirus lockdown and restrictions. Harper has served as the MP for the Forest of Dean constituency in Gloucestershire since 2005. He has also served as a junior minister in the Cabinet Office, an Immigration Minister and Minister for Disabled People. He was the Chief Whip for the Conservatives in the House of Commons between May 2015 and July 2016. His tenure as Chief Whip ended when Theresa May became Prime Minister.

Emily Gray, managing director of Ipsos MORI Scotland, also appeared on the programme:

By the time the show aired, the mass purchase of the BioNtech/Pfizer coronavirus vaccine was finalised, announced and is now on its way to the UK.

A vote on the new tier restrictions after England’s second national lockdown was held on Tuesday, December 1. Mark Harper was one of the rebels who voted against the Government.

Conservative rebels

The Spectator’s political editor James Forsyth said that the rebels’ vote against the Government, while not toppling the final result, ‘was the biggest of Boris Johnson’s premiership’. Had the Opposition (i.e. Labour) not supported the Government, Boris and his Cabinet would have lost.

Forsyth pointed out that the number of Conservative rebels ‘has been rising consistently’. There will be a vote in January on renewing the tier restrictions. Currently, many English constituencies that started out in Tier 1 before the national lockdown are now, arbitrarily, in Tier 2. (Kent is a good example: communities closer to London have higher coronavirus infection rates than those along the east coast of the county.) If these discrepancies are resolved for in a local way — splitting counties into two different tiers — Forsyth sees more Conservative MPs voting against the Government next year.

He said that vaccine roll out might help to quell the rebellion if it’s efficient. However, if the roll out is ‘bumpy’ and restrictions persist, the rebellion will increase.

Deputy political editor Katy Balls came on next. She said the Government tried to reduce the rebellion, through a Zoom call asking for unity, but that did not succeed as Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who hosted the call, had hoped.

Economics editor Kate Andrews summarised the retail losses — up to £2 billion a week — coupled with retailers Debenhams and the Arcadia Group going into administration was a real problem. Pubs are in severe difficulty, too; only two per cent of them are in Tier 1.

Forsyth thought that the Government might make the tier classification more local but said post-Christmas restrictions present real concern, including the return of university students.

Forsyth did not see any easing of the rebellion until February or March 2021.

Mark Harper, leader of the Covid Recovery Group, was on next. He did not think that the Government had been as ‘transparent and open’ as they should have been. He has questions as to why hospitality was singled out as a danger sector but has received few answers. He wonders if it makes sense to have a lockdown, then a relaxation over Christmas only to be followed by further restrictions for a month.

Harper said that he wants to support the Government but cannot do so right now.

However, he has noted a change in the tone from the Prime Minister. Letters to the Covid Recovery Group have been more ‘collegiate’.

That said, there is nothing of substance in them, e.g. clinical evidence and a ‘coherent narrative’. He noted that the scientific experts’ opinions differ to those of the Government.

Neil asked Harper what policy change he would like to see. Harper said that the impact of the first lockdown and the recession it caused would have a worse impact on quality of life years (QALYs) than the coronavirus deaths themselves.

Harper says he sees no balance from the Government between health and economic issues during the crisis.

While he appreciates that this is a difficult time with ‘no easy answers’, he is frustrated with the lack of openness from Government ministers on how they arrive at their decisions.

He hopes that the Government will start showing the criteria on which they base their decisions and ‘a proper roadmap’ by the end of January 2021.

Scottish independence

The latest support for Scottish independence has risen to 56%.

Emily Gray from IPSOS Mori showed a series of slides demonstrating that Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) is far and away the most popular of any political party north of the border.

While Scots admire Sturgeon’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, Brexit is another factor in the preference for independence. Scots trust the SNP on all major issues, from the two that I named through to the NHS and education.

Conservatives and Unionists are not doing well in Scotland. Part of the reason for this, she said, was that they were not making a compelling argument for the Union, i.e. being better off together than as separate nations.

Neil pointed out that the SNP have not done well in terms of equality in health and education. Gray said that Sturgeon’s ratings have remained high throughout the pandemic. She has calmed their fears; therefore, any shortcomings are not in the forefront of people’s minds.

The Scots voted two-to-one to remain in the European Union. Brexit is deeply unpopular there. Neil said that some Scots would vote for independence as revenge for Brexit. Forsyth acknowledged that such a point of view is a problem.

Gray, however, made it clear that the pandemic was a greater factor in the yearning for independence than Brexit.

James Forsyth said that the SNP will win the local 2021 elections handily.

He added that Boris Johnson will have to address this issue of independence sooner or later. Perhaps the Unionists have to wait for ‘something to turn up’ in order for them to make their case. They would do well to ‘buy time’, he said.

Katy Balls agreed with Neil when he said that Boris does not ‘poll well’ north of the border, however, Rishi Sunak does. She said that a Labour government would have a easier time dissuading the Scots from voting for independence.

Forsyth said that a successful UK government vaccine roll out might change Scots’ minds against independence. Visiting relatives in different parts of the UK this Christmas might also help to reinforce the benefits and commonality of the Union.

Equality

Equality was the last topic of conversation when Neil interviewed Trevor Phillips.

Critical race theory — yes, Neil used those exact words — was the topic of conversation.

Phillips did not deny the use of critical race theory and said that he, too, was sceptical of the term, saying that it serves only to feed white nationalism.

He also says that it downgrades education. It is, he said, based ‘on anecdote, narrative, “my feelings” … none of which will change a single thing for people of colour’.

He called it a ‘scam’.

He said it is wrong to make the issue of race ‘entirely about white people’ with people of colour as ‘bystanders’.

Neil, somewhat apologising for his skin colour, pointed out that much progress has been made in race relations but that the theory does not acknowledge any of that progress.

Phillips said that Neil did ‘not have to apologise for being white’.

Phillips said that the UK is not the United States. He noted that a number of families in Britain have bi-racial antecedents or parents since the Second World War. He said that no other nation in the world has that number of black and white familial unions. Britain, however, does.

Neil objected to the modern treatment of the telling of American independence, which he said purported to promote slavery. Phillips agreed, calling it ‘complete drivel’. Phillips then brought up slavery in the US — tobacco and cotton-based — versus slavery on the Caribbean plantations, which he said was much larger, on a ‘factory level’.

Phillips said we should think of the current movement as we do Extinction Rebellion. He noted that Cuba, with all its black residents, has never had a black leader. He said the current movement is a front to ‘overthrow things as they are’. He said that, if they want to change things, ‘do it honestly’.

Neil asked if Malcolm X would have been a supporter. Phillips doubted it, because he would have disliked ‘the indiscipline of the movement’. However, he acknowledged that, he might have done in the middle of his life. Later, Phillips said, Malcolm X dropped the idea that ‘whites are intrinsically bad’.

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Charles Stanley Wealth Managers sponsored the programme.

Episode 13 of Andrew Neil’s Spectator TV aired on Thursday, November 26, 2020.

As you can see, the main topics were coronavirus and Brexit:

I haven’t tuned into the episodes following the US election, because everyone is so anti-Trump.

The Chancellor’s spending review

Andrew Neil opened the programme with the UK Government’s spending review.

We are heading towards a national debt of £3 trillion and a budget deficit of nearly £420 billion.

There will be few spending cuts but tax rises will help to fill the gaps.

Kate Andrews gave us more information about Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s statement. She had updated data from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). The economy is set to contract by 11.3%, the biggest fall in 300 years. I wrote about that earlier this year, so it came as no surprise.

We will not even start to recover until 2022. Andrews said that some believe this is too pessimistic, even if the OBR says they took into account that we would have a vaccine. Well, we have that vaccine now (the week after the programme aired), which means that we could reopen our economy by the middle of next year. That said, we do not know how long the vaccine programme will take. Unemployment will rise by 3.5% to 7.5%, 2.5 million people.

Even by 2025, our deficit will still be around £100 billion. There will be a £15 billion increase in social spending, but Rishi will have to start to raise money. We won’t find out how until early next year, possibly at the end of the year.

Andrew Neil said that, so far, the Chancellor has ‘kept his powder dry’. James Forsyth, political editor of The Spectator, said there is too much up in the air right now to make any firm predictions.

Katy Balls, The Spectator‘s deputy political editor, said that a few areas of the statement have raised questions. However, Rishi’s decisions might look more reasonable next year. Some cuts, e.g. foreign aid, will be popular with Conservative voters, including those in the North of England.

Forsyth said that as we spend more on defence, it is logical that something will have to be cut: foreign aid (which, in reality, is not being cut by that much).

The 2019 intake of Conservative MPs have formed the One Nation Caucus, who could rebel against the Government, but, as Katy Balls noted, there are various shades of conservatism that do not automatically amount to mass rebellion.

Andrew Neil asked Kate Andrews about the OBR’s four scenarios, especially the most optimistic one. She said that we do not know how effective the vaccine will be and how quickly the roll out will go.

Neil asked her about the lack of specifics from the Treasury. Andrews said that he is probably looking at all the options, especially positive ones that might prevent higher unemployment next year.

Forsyth said we will know how much more we need to spend on COVID-19 compensation plans by March 2021, but the Chancellor will have to decide on policy by 2022, well in advance of the next election in 2024. He added that the Chancellor will have to put clear water between the Conservatives and Labour on spending. Currently, there isn’t much difference.

Coronavirus tiers in England

Coronavirus tiers came up next. England was still in its final days of the second national lockdown, which ended on December 2.

Only Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight are in Tier 1. That wasn’t known at the time of broadcast, but it was already expected because of indications from the Prime Minister and our national medical experts who warned that most areas in Tier 1 before lockdown would end up in Tier 2.

Neil asked Forsyth whether a relaxation over Christmas for family celebrations wouldn’t start bumping up contagion rates. Forsyth said that, in Canada, after their Thanksgiving in October, rates started to soar. He also mentioned the warnings going on in Scotland: be sensible and try not to take advantage of Christmas celebrations.

Katy Balls talked about the backbench Conservative rebels on lockdown, particularly about the new tier classification. Many counties with low rates are in Tier 2. However, those rebels are not of large enough number to cause the Government to lose a vote on further restrictions. That vote was held on Tuesday, December 1. Balls said that Boris has Labour’s votes on his side, so he will win now and in future.

Coronavirus vaccines

Neil announced that the Government had pre-purchased doses of various vaccines so that two-thirds of the population could achieve ‘herd immunity’. Dr Stuart Ritchie, a behavioural scientist at Kings College London, gave his views on the subject.

Neil asked Ritchie about vaccine scepticism. Ritchie said that more and more Britons were sceptical about taking a vaccine. He found the polls ‘worrying’. He said that there is a new term replacing ‘anti-vax’, which is ‘vaccine hesitancy’. He said that people are rightly worried, especially when they perceive a political element to vaccination. The rapidity of the vaccine development is one factor, the lack of information about it being another. He admitted that there are things we just do not know yet until the vaccine is rolled out.

Neil asked about mandatory vaccinations. Ritchie said that France has several vaccines that are mandatory, as do the US and Australia. Ritchie does not think this will be a question in the UK, because, despite the polls, there is still an eagerness among the public for vaccination. He thinks the Government should pay people around £200 to get vaccinated as an incentive.

Changing people’s minds could be less successful, he admitted. Neil pushed Ritchie on no admittance to restaurants or on flights. Neil clearly is gung-ho on this, sadly. Ritchie agreed, saying that people would feel safer if mandates such as these were added to our everyday lives. (Pathetic.)

Forsyth said that the Government wants 75% of target groups to be vaccinated but added that scepticism would be a problem. Ritchie said making it compulsory would only make people more suspicious. That said, he purported that the vaccine was truly safe.

Ritchie looks very young to me and he was most enthusiastic on vaccination. I would like to see him as a 60+ giving such views.

Katy Balls said the vulnerable as well as front line health workers will be at the top of the vaccination priority list. However, she does not doubt that Conservative rebels will be on the case, depending on the vaccination issue of the day.

She said that one poll showed that the public would be more likely to take the vaccine if their MP took it first. (Excellent idea.)

Ritchie said that vaccine efficacy will determine future uptake.

Brexit

The final topic was Brexit. Neil spoke with Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK’s permanent representative to the EU between 2013 and 2017. He worked closely with former Prime Ministers David Cameron and Theresa May on this issue. Neil asked Rogers about Brexit talks as they stand. Rogers said they were ‘very fraught’. Time is running out, and decisions now have to be made. Rogers thought the markets were too optimistic on the EU and UK arriving at a deal.

Rogers said that Boris’s government is not ‘classically Conservative’, meaning Thatcherite. He added that we are also in the coronavirus crisis, which has added another dimension to EU-UK negotiations.

Neil said that British politicians never considered how difficult Brexit would be to negotiate. Rogers said that ministers knew about the difficulty and discussed it privately during his time. He agreed that ministers did not have a vision as to how they wanted to negotiate an exit. He added that he had real doubts from the beginning about Theresa May’s deal, which he never thought would succeed.

Then there were disagreements about what a ‘Canada+’ deal actually meant. He said there were ‘huge misreadings’ on both sides. He warned about the ‘++’ element for that reason. The final deal will be much stronger on goods than on services, he thinks, which is a centuries-old priority.

Neil asked if these negotiations could go on and on in smaller ways, even with a deal. Rogers thinks there will be modifications in the years to come. Some of these are already under discussion, he said, which is making a final deal more evasive at this time.

After the interview, Forsyth said that fishing is the biggest issue right now, especially as the French — Emmanuel Macron, specifically — baulking at the UK’s reclaiming our national territories.

Forsyth stated that, even with a deal, future EU-UK negotiations will continue ‘for the rest of our lifetimes’. He said these will be a ‘constant for the rest of our working lives’.

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Thanks to Charles Stanley Wealth Managers for their sponsorship of the programme.

Last Sunday in the UK, we had a Twitter trend about Lurpak butter.

Lurpak is excellent butter and it is Danish.

Foodies are now concerned about tariffs on EU products beginning in January 2021.

Environment Secretary George Eustice, who was a fruit farmer in his family’s business prior to entering politics, appeared on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show to discuss Brexit. When the topic of tariffs came up, he said that EU companies with factories in the UK would not have to pay them.

Lurpak lovers began to worry. Lurpak’s parent company is a large Danish dairy co-operative, Arla.

Someone tweeted a photo of his Lurpak butter dish. This was from a Christmas ad campaign several years ago featuring an animated trumpet player, if I remember rightly:

I hope that people saw the second tweet below. Adam Payne writes about Brexit for Business Insider. One quarter of Arla’s milk suppliers are British:

Arla is the third largest food company in the UK. Who knew?

Case closed.

My fellow citizens should not worry: Lurpak, along with other Arla products, will still be available in the UK post-Brexit.

If George Eustice was wrong about Arla, I surely hope he is right about Dominic Cummings, who left No. 10 on Friday afternoon, November 13 (!), carrying a box with his papers and personal belongings:

Cummings was the mastermind behind Brexit, even though Baron (Lord) David Frost has been leading the negotiations with Michel Barnier.

This is what Eustice told Marr on Sunday:

Given Boris’s odd behaviour after his bout with coronavirus in April, I hope very much that we will not get BRINO come December 31. As Theresa May so often said:

No deal is better than a bad deal.

She turned sour as milk and went back on her word.

Whatever happens, at least we’ll still have Lurpak.

Andrew Neil, veteran BBC journalist and chairman of The Spectator worldwide, hosted Episode 7 of The Week in 60 Minutes on Thursday, October 15, 2020:

A summary follows.

Not surprisingly, given events of the past week, coronavirus led the news.

Andrew Neil began with England’s increasing number of regional lockdowns. It would seem that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is no longer following the science. The Labour and official Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer, wants another national lockdown. The political editor of The Spectator, James Forsyth, said that, whatever coronavirus crisis measures Boris Johnson takes, he’s ‘damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t’ and has to deal with the damage of lockdowns.

Across the Channel in France, Emmanuel Macron has been following a similar strategy to that of Downing Street and is very concerned about COVID-19 in all respects. Neil asked about last week’s contretemps in Ireland. Forsyth said that Ireland’s dispute between their government and medical experts was played out in public; by contrast, in the UK, it was in private. In any event, he said that scientists are now in a position of ‘negotiation’.

The magazine’s deputy political editor, Katy Balls, was on next to discuss Labour’s position on coronavirus. Labour MPs disagreed with Keir Starmer behind the scenes, a move which she said has united the Conservatives. That said, it seems England could well be heading towards a short ‘circuit breaker’, although that would be very difficult for Conservative MPs to stomach.

Forsyth said that this is a very dangerous time for the Government. Starmer could even emerge victorious. (‘At some point’, I might add, as Boris has a majority of 79 [from 80], and no general election is due before 2024.) At this stage, it’s too soon to tell. He said that no one knows if a circuit breaker would actually work in England.

The Spectator‘s editor Fraser Nelson was up next. He said that Boris was pretty well on to the way to a national lockdown, adding that he lacks the way to fight off SAGE, having been  ‘outmanoeuvered’.

Neil asked about a recent poll showing approval for more coronavirus restrictions. Ben Page from IPSOS-Mori explained the polls, which showed that 62% of respondents thought that stricter measures should be taken. Page indicated that these were somewhat alarming results: ‘quite astonishing in some ways … across the piece’.

Forsyth noted that 19% of Conservative voters in England oppose increased restrictions, which poses a problem for Boris because it creates a North-South divide. Ben Page countered that the polling support for Labour and Conservative has been fairly stable this year. Labour haven’t been able to gain much ground since December 2019.

Jake Berry MP, a Conservative representing the northern constituency of Rossendale and Darwen in Lancashire, spoke next. He said that, although their regional lockdown had been relaxed recently, they are now on Tier 2. He said that people are largely ignoring the Government guidelines and will comply only with what they think is appropriate. He does not favour a national lockdown but supports a local circuit breaker ‘based on the data’, so that it becomes less political for the public. He believes that the Government could have ‘handled the North better’ and that recent weeks have proven a ‘very dangerous moment for Parliament and the North’. That said, he added that Labour ‘is in quite a lot of trouble over this as well’ and said Starmer committed quite a big mistake this week when calling for a national circuit breaker.

Berry further advised that we need to give this new two-week regional lockdown the benefit of the doubt which might lead for in-and-out local lockdowns.

Neil then changed tack, moving across the Channel to France, with its local 10 p.m. coronavirus curfews (some of which are now at 9 p.m.) and a campaign against extremism.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, speaking to the latter point, was the next guest. She was sceptical about any success against extremism. She said that extremists have convinced French immigrants they are living within another type of state to which they do not feel they naturally belong. She added that this is enough to subvert the French nation. She also said that the same narrative is going on in other Western nations, because leaders remain silent and refuse to admit what is really going on.

Talk then turned to Brexit arrangements, which were to have been concluded that day. James Forsyth said that the EU threw the ball into the UK’s ‘court’. That leaves the situation whereby Michel Barnier wants to carry on talks but neither side wants to back down.

Forsyth expects there will be a deal to be done ‘but with a twist in the tail’. Fraser Nelson said that Boris and Macron communicate with each other quite closely and expected that Britain will budge over fishing rights. It will be, he predicted, one for revision: ‘a process rather than an event’.

Forsyth said there could be a November deadline, even though neither side wants an early deadline because they do not want any changes to the deal. He predicted a last minute November 15 deal.

The last part of the programme concerned protecting the triple lock pension with Katy Balls affirming that Boris is ‘committed to it’.

The panel noted Boris’s ‘unstrustworthiness’ problem with voters. Questions from listeners followed for the last ten minutes. Ben Page said that the Labour Party is very unpopular even if Keir Starmer is popular in the polls.

Viewers are grateful to Charles Stanley Wealth Managers for sponsoring the programme.

The UK-EU deal deadline looms.

With fewer than 100 days left, October is a decisive month:

On October 8, The Independent reported (emphases mine):

So what are the chances of a Brexit trade deal between the UK and EU before the end of 2020? Michael Gove told MPs on Wednesday the chances were around “66 per cent” – while No 10’s negotiator also sounded relatively upbeat.

But EU officials are sceptical about the shift in tone from Downing Street, claiming the UK side was “pushing a sense of positivism and momentum, but we just don’t see it”.

One Brussels official has told Politico: “We are seriously questioning their tactic and why they are sending these kinds of messages as there is no deal in sight at all at this point.

There’s clearly a spin that the UK wants to get out there: a deal is within reach, only fish is still a problem. That’s complete nonsense, as a deal on none of the EU’s red lines is nowhere in sight at this stage.”

Well, we’ll see.

This is what our chief negotiator David Frost had to say on September 13:

On Friday, October 2, he issued a statement after Round 9 of the negotiations:

These were constructive discussions conducted in a good spirit.

In many areas of our talks, although differences remain, the outlines of an agreement are visible.  This is true of most of the core areas of a trade and economic agreement – notably trade in goods and services, transport, energy, social security, and participation in EU programmes.  This has however been true for some time.

I am also encouraged that progress has been possible on a law enforcement agreement and that there has been convergence on the structure of the overall partnership.

In other areas familiar differences remain. On the level playing field, including subsidy policy, we continue to seek an agreement that ensures our ability to set our own laws in the UK without constraints that go beyond those appropriate to a free trade agreement.  There has been some limited progress here but the EU need to move further before an understanding can be reachedOn fisheries the gap between us is unfortunately very large and, without further realism and flexibility from the EU, risks being impossible to bridge.  These issues are fundamental to our future status as an independent country.

I am concerned that there is very little time now to resolve these issues ahead of the European Council on 15 October.

For our part, we continue to be fully committed to working hard to find solutions, if they are there to be found.

In any event, by now, ‘no deal’ might not be such a big deal, given the replies to this tweet from a London Assembly member:

One wonders if the UK and EU negotiators are aware of the following:

On Tuesday, September 29, the third reading of the Internal Market Bill passed the House of Commons:

It then went to the House of Lords:

Most of the Lords are Remainers, so what happens if they reject it?

The first reading of the Internal Market Bill in the House of Lords, a brief formality, took place on Wednesday, September 30.

The following day, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the EU Commission, said that legal proceedings against the UK were underway:

This is not unusual:

The bill’s second reading in the Lords, which includes a debate, takes place on October 19.

On October 6, news emerged that European leaders want Prime Minister Boris Johnson to get involved in talks:

There’s a Boris alert in tweet 3:

Things are tricky at the moment:

The thread ends with another call for Boris to get involved:

However, another commentator thinks that the request for Boris to get involved reveals the EU’s panic:

On September 17, Guido Fawkes explained what would happen in the worst case scenario involving EU negotiations and rejection of the Internal Market Bill in the Lords (emphases in the original):

There it faces not only opposition from a lawyer-stuffed house dominated by non-Tory remainers Peers, but also Brexiteers like Michael Howard who have today refused to accept the compromise. One Lords source tells Guido that after the Commons won a concession the Lords will expect something now too…

In reality, the Government is considering a likely defeat. A senior source tells Guido that in the event the Bill is rejected by the Lords then the Government would have to convene a new session of Parliament in order to ‘Parliament Act’ the legislation through without the Lords’ consent. To convene a new session the Government would have to prorogue Parliament again (Because it went so well last time)…

If the EU fails to engage constructively by Boris’s 15th October deadline, talks will be cut off. After that date, heading for no FTA, the UK will either seek to escape the jurisdiction of the Withdrawal Agreement by declaring the EU did not act in good faith, or act more decisively to start a new session of Parliament to get the Internal Market Bill past the Lords. Or both.

Meanwhile, on the upside, Marshall Aerospace has won a huge contract with the United States Marine Corps:

On September 30, the UK and Norway reached an important agreement on fishing.

DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) announced:

The UK has today signed an historic fisheries agreement with Norway – the UK’s first since leaving the EU and first as an independent coastal state in 40 years.

The Fisheries Framework Agreement signed today by Environment Secretary George Eustice and Norwegian Fisheries Minister Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen will mean that the UK and Norway hold annual negotiations on the issues of access to waters and quotas.

It is a significant step forward as the UK prepares to leave the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy at the end of December. Leaving the EU means the UK is able to decide who can access its waters and on what terms, in the best interest of its marine environment and its seafood and fishing sectors.

The agreement demonstrates the shared will of the UK and Norway to cooperate as independent coastal states and seek effective and sustainable management of their fisheries. The treaty incorporates the same principles that the UK is currently seeking with the EU – a framework agreement which reflects the UK’s and Norway’s rights under international law.

The Norwegian government was equally enthusiastic:

This is a great day! I am pleased that we have reached an agreement with the United Kingdom, which will be an important coastal state and partner from January 2021, says the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries and Seafood Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen.

Arrangements for reciprocal fishing access and the exchange of fishing quotas will be made through annual fishing agreements, as today. Other parts of the fisheries cooperation in the North Sea will, however, need to be regulated by a separate tripartite agreement between the EU, Norway and the United Kingdom.

– I am glad that we now have an agreement that provides a framework for extensive fisheries cooperation with the UK, which is an important country for Norway. The agreement is consistent with our obligations under the law of the sea to cooperate with other coastal states on the joint management of shared fish stocks, in line with modern sustainable management regimes, an ecosystem-based approach and the precautionary principle. We will also maintain our close cooperation with the EU on fisheries in the North Sea. We look forward to putting in place a trilateral agreement between Norway, the UK and the EU on the management of joint fish stocks in the North Sea, once Brexit becomes a reality, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide.

The City of London is well positioned as a leading global financial centre:

On September 25, Guido reported (highlights in the original):

London has managed to significantly close the gap on New York in the competition to be the leading global financial centre, gaining 24 points in the latest Global Financial Centres Index and leaving the capital just four points behind the Big Apple. Despite Brexit and Corona…

The 24 point jump is by far the largest of the top 20 index, with Shenzhen seeing the second-highest rise of 10 points to 9th place. On top of London’s triumph, Edinburgh has also risen two points 14th place. The best the EU can muster is Luxembourg in 12th place and Paris in 18th. Shanghai, which remains in 3rd place, was previously only 2 points behind London, however has now opened up a -18 gap…

On September 23, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told ITV’s Robert Peston that he sees no reason to delay Brexit.

The new leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, found that the Britons he spoke with had no appetite to delay our departure. I wonder if he was surprised. A year ago at this time, the Lib Dems were desperate to reverse Brexit and made that the focus of their general election campaign:

On September 13, the UK finalised a trade deal with Japan:

And there’s a bit more good news about British beef and the prospect of our joining the Pacific Rim trading bloc:

I truly hope that we do exit from the EU once and for all on December 31, 2020.

That would be a real treat — and accomplishment — in what has been, for the most part, a dreadful year.

This week in Parliament was another exciting and contentious one.

I wrote about Conservative MPs’ responses to the new coronavirus measures a few days ago. Two MPs spoke up at the end of Wednesday’s debate (see the end of this post).

I will cover Rishi Sunak’s new funding plans for individuals and businesses early next week.

To follow up on angry Conservative MPs, Guido Fawkes reports that Sir Graham Brady (right) and Steve Baker (left) are confident that they can get Brady’s amendment to the Coronavirus Act 2020 passed:

On Thursday, September 24, Guido wrote (emphases in the original):

MPs have been growing increasingly concerned with the Government imposing new restrictions with no debate in, or assent from Parliament. Increasing scepticism meant the Government leant away from as harsh measures as many were expecting earlier this week. This being said, the curfew measures for example are baffling many, and they want the opportunity to have their say over new measures in the future. All this led to a proposed amendment from Graham Brady which, if selected by the Speaker, would require Parliamentary approval for new measures.

Around 40 Tory MPs backing his amendment, which would be enough to overturn the Government’s 80 seat majority if opposition MPs back it too. Last night Steve Baker told Robert Peston that he is “absolutely, 100% certain it will pass if Labour and the SNP vote for it. But I’m afraid Labour and the SNP have been missing in action on civil liberties…”

One potential snag is that, as The Times’ Steven Swinford revealed yesterday, House Clerks have advised the motion on extending coronavirus powers is “binary” – and can only be approved or rejected, not amended. Rebel MPs do not see this as a problem as they believe if the amendment is selected and passed, it does not need to carry legal authority. The theory is the moral authority of the will of the Commons will be enough to brow beat the Government into finally putting new measures before Parliament for debate before being enacted…

It’s all good news — but only if Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle allows Brady to bring the proposed amendment forward for debate.

Yesterday, I wrote about last week’s progress on the Internal Market Bill.

On Monday, September 21, the bill entered its third day at Committee stage. Debate on amendments and clauses continued. This time they centred on Part 5 of the bill which relates to the Northern Ireland protocol.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Robert Walker, Minister of State for the Northern Ireland Office, said:

Through this Bill, we are acting to uphold those priorities and deliver the commitments we made in our election manifesto that we would provide unfettered access between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and

“maintain and strengthen the integrity and smooth operation of our internal market.”

The protocol also explicitly depends on the consent of the people of Northern Ireland for its continued existence. As we implement the protocol, that must be kept in mind. Those commitments are, of course, entirely in accord with the protocol itself, which makes it clear that, among other things, Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom’s customs territory, that nothing in the protocol prevents unfettered access from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK market, and that in its application the protocol should impact as little as possible on the everyday life of communities in both Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Walker received a lot of interventions from both sides of the House after that introduction.

Theresa May (Maidenhead, Con) tried to stick the knife in:

My hon. Friend has been setting out throughout his speech that the Government want clauses 41 to 45 because of the bad consequences that could come from an interpretation of the withdrawal agreement. If the potential consequences of the withdrawal agreement were so bad, why did the Government sign it?

Walker responded:

As my right hon. Friend knows well, the withdrawal agreement was negotiated by the UK and the EU and agreed with a view that certain elements would be resolved by the Joint Committee. I think there was a reasonable expectation on both sides that the Joint Committee would have made more progress on those issues, but unfortunately we have heard some harmful interpretations over the past few months. The point of these Government clauses is to ensure that we can rule those out and put in place the appropriate legal default.

After allowing further interventions, Walker resumed a detailed set of provisions and reasons why the Government was rejecting others:

Clause 45 completes the all-purpose safety net for regulations made under clauses 42 and 43, so that there can be no confusion about the position in domestic law for our courts, businesses and public bodies

Finally, clause 50 disapplies certain provisions of the UK Internal Market Bill in the scenario that Northern Ireland’s representatives resolve, under the protocol’s consent mechanism, that articles 5 to 10 of the protocol should cease to apply. This is a practical step to account for and respect the principle of consent enshrined in the protocol. The protocol itself is not codified as a permanent solution for Northern Ireland, and neither should it be in the domestic legislation that implements it. Taken together, these clauses deliver on our commitments to Northern Ireland

I turn to two amendments regarding the commencement of these provisions that have been subject to much debate and attention, including a number of powerful and persuasive speeches on Second Reading. Amendment 4, which is in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Bob Neill), the Chair of the Justice Committee, and is signed by my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare), the Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, seeks to provide in essence that break-glass mechanism on the key safety net provisions in relation to the protocol by stating that clauses 42, 43 and 45 of the Bill may not come into force until a motion in this House is passed. Since that amendment was tabled, I am pleased that there have been constructive talks between my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst and Ministers, and the Government have tabled amendment 66, which provides for substantially the same break-glass mechanism, with the additional requirement for a take-note debate in the other place (House of Lords). I hope that that amendment will demonstrate to hon. Members, including the Chair of the Justice Committee, that we are committed to ensuring that any decision to use the powers is explicitly approved by Parliament.

Neill was satisfied:

I thank my hon. Friend for the constructive tone that he and members of the Government have adopted in these matters. It enables some of us who otherwise would not have been able to support these clauses to proceed, on the understanding that there is a specific parliamentary lock that bad faith on the counter-party’s side must be proven to the House before these powers are brought into operation, which of course all of us hope will never be the case. I welcome that, and it enables us to support the Government’s amendment.

Walker replied:

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for that point. A fundamental principle of our constitution, and one that lies at the very heart of our exit from the EU, is that this Parliament is sovereign. As set out in clause 38 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, that means that it can choose to legislate to deliver an interpretation of the protocol consistent with our understanding, while recognising that to do so is a significant step. The parliamentary procedure set out in amendment 66 recognises that, and provides a clearer, more explicit democratic mandate for the use of the powers. I therefore commend amendment 66 to the Committee, and urge my hon. Friend and all Members to support it and not to press amendment 4.

He continued:

Amendments 64 and 65, in the name of my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary, make it clear that any regulations made under clauses 42 or 43 would, of course, be subject to judicial review, contrary to some of the claims that have been made over recent weeks, while ensuring that any claims must be brought within a three-month period. That ensures that any challenge to the regulations will be subject to a timely resolution before the courts, which is essential to ensure that Northern Ireland businesses and investors in Northern Ireland have the certainty that they need, which is at the heart of the Bill. I commend those amendments to the House. As they clarify the position on judicial review, amendment 44 is not necessary.

Amendments 61 to 63, in the name of my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary, are targeted technical amendments to ensure that the Government are able to maintain the integrity of the UK’s VAT and excise systems and can deal with any threats to biosecurity in Great Britain in response to changes required in Northern Ireland under the protocol.

In particular, the amendments ensure that the Government can act to address cases of double taxation and non-taxation created by the Northern Ireland protocol, as well as to close down opportunities for tax evasion.

The amendments will also ensure that both the UK Government and the devolved Administrations can continue, as they do now, to respond to specific biosecurity threats arising from the movement of animals and high-risk plants. The principle of facilitating actions to protect biosecurity on an ongoing basis between England, Scotland and Wales is already reflected in schedule 1 to the Bill. The amendments simply clarify that similar processes can also apply with regard to Northern Ireland where there is a genuine risk of a biosecurity threat that poses a serious threat to the health of humans, animals or plants.

I commend those amendments to the Committee …

Amendment 41 seeks, among other things, to add a paramount duty to clause 40, requiring authorities to act without prejudice to international and domestic law. Amendment 53 similarly seeks to prevent authorities from exercising functions in a way that is incompatible or inconsistent with relevant domestic or international law. Amendment 52 appears to require the Government to follow the process agreed in the withdrawal agreement as the only mechanism for dispute resolution. Amendments 54 and 55 seek to prevent regulations made under clause 42 from having effect, notwithstanding international and domestic law. Amendment 46 would remove the Northern Ireland protocol from the list of international law that may be set aside, undermining the intent of clauses 42 and 43.

Amendments 57 and 59 would prevent regulations under clause 43 from interpreting, disapplying or modifying the effect of article 10 of the protocol. Clause 43 is a necessary provision that will ensure that the Secretary of State’s interpretation will achieve the correct effect in domestic law.

I repeat that the Government are committed to implementing the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol; however, as a responsible Government we cannot accept any amendments that would undermine the provisions in the Bill and render them no kind of safety net at all, thereby risking the compromising of the UK internal market’s economic integrity by unintended consequences or harmful defaults contained in some interpretations of the protocol, or creating confusion or uncertainty about the position in domestic law. I therefore urge right hon. and hon. Members to withdraw the amendments.

I recognise the spirit behind amendments 67 and 68. The Government have been clear that, as we set out in the Command Paper, we will ensure that there are no tariffs on any goods that remain within the UK customs territory. I hope Members will welcome the further relevant measures that will be set out in the Finance Bill.

There will not be any new customs infrastructure in Northern Ireland. We have always accepted that there will be some limited, streamlined processes for goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, building on what already happens at existing points of entry and limited to electronic declarations for businesses in Great Britain to confirm that their products are for the Northern Ireland market.

We have outlined our commitment to providing extensive support for businesses, including through the new trader support service, which will provide an end-to-end service and guide traders through all import processes at no additional cost. This is a unique intervention, backed by £200 million in Government funding to ensure that businesses of all sizes can draw on the support that it provides. Given those assurances, I hope that Members will feel able to withdraw the amendments.

Gavin Robinson (Belfast East, DUP) was unhappy at being asked to withdraw the amendments without seeing any specifics as to why.

Walker tried to reassure him:

I absolutely hear the hon. Gentleman’s concerns. I have made the point about what we have said in the Command Paper and what the Prime Minister has referred to in respect of the Finance Bill.

Amendment 69 seeks to ensure that there would be no new costs for a Northern Ireland business to access or sell in the market. The UK Government have already committed in legislation to delivering unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses, including through the Bill, which will apply the principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination to qualifying Northern Ireland goods, thereby ensuring that they can continue to be sold in the Great Britain market in the same way as now. The amendment is therefore unnecessary.

Amendment 70 seeks to ensure that goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain through Ireland will benefit from unfettered access. I reassure Members that we recognise the importance of trade from Northern Ireland to Great Britain that moves via Dublin to Holyhead. We are currently engaging with businesses and the Northern Ireland Executive on the long-term means for delivering qualifying status for unfettered access. It would be wrong to pre-empt the outcome of that consultation, so the Government cannot accept the amendment.

On amendment 71, the Government have been working and will continue to work closely with the Northern Ireland Executive on the implementation of the protocol, including on unfettered access, but we do not agree that a restriction on the Government’s powers to make regulations effectively would be justified.

We resist amendment 72 on the basis that it is legally unnecessary. The current wording already encompasses distortions of competition between persons supplying goods or services in the course of a business within the UK internal market. Such wording is already sufficient to cover the regulation of subsidies that would have the effect of making Northern Ireland businesses less competitive in the Great Britain market.

Although the Government agree with the spirit of amendment 78, the whole Government are acutely aware of the need to maintain Northern Ireland’s integral place in the UK internal market, which is already referenced many times elsewhere in the Bill, so we do not believe the amendment is necessary.

On amendment 79, I understand Members’ concerns and support mutual recognition and the non-discrimination principle, but the exception to mutual recognition that we have introduced for chemicals is there to allow the relevant authorities to respond to local factors. Authorisations granted by the EU after the end of the transition period will not take local conditions into consideration. I emphasise that the authorisations relate to the use of substances of very high concern. It is important that the Government and devolved Administrations can take local factors into account when they decide how to protect human health or the environment from the significant risks posed by such chemicals. I therefore urge Members to withdraw or vote against the amendment.

On new clause 7 and amendment 45, I want to reassure Members that the Bill includes provisions that are there precisely to protect the essential basis of the peace process, by ensuring that, regardless of whether further agreement is reached in the negotiations, there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and that Northern Ireland businesses will continue to benefit from unfettered access to the rest of the UK market when the transition period ends.

I can also reassure hon. Members that our commitment to protecting the Belfast/ Good Friday agreement of course includes protecting north-south co-operation in areas specified under that agreement, and the protocol is clear on that. That commitment is already enshrined in UK legislation: in section 10 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, and through our continued support for this strand of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement throughout the process of exiting the European Union …

Walker then covered several other amendments which the Government deemed unnecessary.

Debate centred around the possible violation of international law.

Sir William Cash intervened during Paul Blomfield’s (Sheffield Central, Lab) speech with this:

I am actually going to look briefly at a simple point, which is that, apart from our own judges, the German federal constitutional court in December 2015 clearly stated that international law leaves it to each state to give precedence to national law. International law gives effect in that way. How does the hon. Gentleman answer that?

In his defence Blomfield quoted Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, who said on September 8 that the Internal Market Bill would ‘break international law’ in a ‘specific and limited way’.

Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West, SNP) cited the Gina Miller court case against Brexit, wherein our Supreme Court ruled that international law, not domestic law, governs international treaties.

Blomfield continued, casting doubt on the bill.

Theresa May spoke next, again having a go at Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was not present for the debate. She and the Opposition were in agreement on breaking international law:

Today, we are focusing on the parts of the Bill that relate to the Northern Ireland protocol, part of the withdrawal agreement—the withdrawal agreement that was signed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister less than a year ago. I can say to the Minister that, in my view, clauses 41 to 45 have no place in this Bill. We are told that they are there because the EU either is acting in bad faith, or might act in bad faith. This is because the withdrawal agreement put a border down the Irish sea and the Government cannot accept that—but the Government did accept that when they signed the withdrawal agreement with the European Union, and I assume that, when they did so, the Government signed that in good faith. Yet here we have clauses 41 to 45 saying that the Government should have the ability to renege on parts of the withdrawal agreement to break international law.

There are three reasons why I believe that these clauses have no place in the Bill. The first, which has been referred to in earlier interventions, is that it is unnecessary. There is an arbitration process available. Under article 175, the ruling of the arbitration panel should be binding on the UK and the EU. The Government have acknowledged the existence of the arbitration procedure, but they are saying that they would enter into that in parallel with the operation of the elements of this Bill. The message, it seems to me, is very clear, which is, if we do not like the outcome of the arbitration panel, then we will break international law and we will not accept it. Yet, again, that is breaking the international treaty—an agreement that UK Government signed—because it is breaking article 175, which says that the view of the arbitration panel shall be “binding” on both parties. However, there is not just an arbitration process available. As the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) referred to, article 16 says:

If the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade, the Union or the United Kingdom may unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures.”

Clauses 41 to 45 are not necessary …

She continued, then concluded:

I cannot emphasise enough how concerned I am that a Conservative Government are willing to go back on their word, to break an international agreement signed in good faith and to break international law.

Later, at least one MP on the Opposition benches acknowledged her warmly for that.

Bill Cash was able to intervene:

Is she aware that the EU itself and indeed many other states throughout the world, including many democratic countries, have persistently broken international law, and that this applies not only to other countries, but to the United Kingdom? There are many overrides of international treaties by the UK itself.

May persisted:

Let me get this right. My hon. Friend seems to be saying, “If somebody else does something wrong, it’s okay for us to do something wrong.” I am sorry, I do not agree with him on that point.

I recognise that my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) has taken every effort to ameliorate the impact of these clauses, and the Government have accepted and put down their own amendment. But, frankly, my view is that to the outside world, it makes no difference whether a decision to break international law is taken by a Minister or by this Parliament; it is still a decision to break international law. This can only weaken the UK in the eyes of the world. One of the great strengths we have as a country is our commitment to the rule of law, and this will have been damaged. Our reputation as a country that stands by its word will have been tarnished, and the willingness of other countries to trust the United Kingdom and its values will have been reduced. So much for global Britain!

I consider that, in introducing clauses 41 to 45, the Government are acting recklessly and irresponsibly, with no thought to the long-term impact on the United Kingdom’s standing in the world. It will lead to untold damage to the United Kingdom’s reputation and puts its future at risk. As a result, with regret I have to tell the Minister that I cannot support this Bill.

May had the support of the next speaker, the SNP’s Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire):

It is a privilege to follow such a thoughtful and considered speech

Bill Cash spoke next:

There are many essential reasons, in our national interest and on constitutional and legal grounds, and grounds of practical necessity, for the clear, unambiguous “notwithstanding” clauses in the Bill that have been discussed in the context of clauses 42 to 45.

I mentioned in response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) that this was a question not just of whether the Euro pot was calling the British kettle black, but of whether, in the United Kingdom, we had ourselves overridden clear treaties. There are too many—they are far too numerous—to mention in this short debate. Of course, there is also an enormous number of examples of international law breaches by foreign states—not only, in Europe, by member states but by the EU itself, egregiously. Furthermore, there are examples of other countries, every one of them democratically elected, having done so. This question of values and reputation, and the issues that have arisen, has to be weighed against that context

There is no argument about it; it is there in black and white in the treaties and in the sections of various enactments that have overtaken and overridden international law.

The debate went on for some time — fascinating and fractious.

In the end, the Government won in the divisions.

On Tuesday, September 22, the bill was at Committee stage for the fourth day. The debate centred on rewording of certain clauses and amendments.

The day’s theme was ‘power grab’ and the lowering of animal welfare among other standards.

The SNP are terrified that the UK parliament will attempt to reduce the Scottish government’s powers under devolution.

Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) led the charge:

This Cummings-directed Tory UK Government are breaking international law, and they are breaking devolution. Behind the innocent-sounding mutual recognition mechanism, the Bill simply starts a race to the bottom on standards with the UK Government imposing it against our will in Scotland.

The Bill will see the Tories mount an assault on devolution with the biggest power grab since the Scottish Parliament was re-established. People in Scotland are seeing through the contempt that the Tory Government and Westminster have for their democratic choices. They are not daft. They know that this shabby, illegal, dogmatic Bill is not designed to fix anything, but it is designed to game the system for vested interests.

It is a fact that existing mechanisms and simple changes to Standing Orders could have worked with consensus instead, but this Government do not believe in consensus, just in getting their own narrow ideological way.

The UK Government’s approach—the diktat—is the opposite of the democratic European single market approach. The development of the EU single market has been based on the principles of equality, co-operation, co-decision, subsidiarity and, of course, consent. Crucially, it sets a baseline of minimum agreed standards with which all member states’ own rules must be compatible. What a contrast with this hasty, badly written, contemptuous Bill. The Government are even having to amend their own Bill as they go along, so shabby is it. Government amendment 109 is necessary to remove clause 20—how slapdash is that?

On the mutual recognition mechanism, clauses 2 to 9 contain sweeping powers to compel Scotland to accept lower standards, set elsewhere in the UK, on animal welfare, food safety and environmental protections, among a host of other areas.

I do not think that is the case.

Liz Saville Roberts from Wales (Dwyfor Meirionnyd, Plaid Cymru) agreed:

… policies that already exist under the auspices of the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government, if they were to be adapted, might then fall within the scope of this Bill. These are popular policies that we have made to cut our own path in the past, and yet this now threatens their future.

Bill Cash got into an exchange with Drew Hendry over whether the EU interferes. Cash said that EU policies have done serious damage to British industry. Hendry disagreed.

Cash said (in part):

The hon. Gentleman puts forward capable arguments. I notice how he weaves his way round these subjects. That is a compliment, in a way, but it does not alter the fact that the people in Scotland will suffer grievously if they continue to have EU regulatory arrangements inflicted on them. The Bill ensures that they will not. I dare say that the Minister is noting what I am saying—I hope that he is—because it is important to understand the damage that has been done.

Liz Saville Roberts expressed her concern over a halt to devolution in Wales and state aid.

Cash replied:

I am always extremely aware of other points of view—I have been subjected to them for the past 35 years in this House, but so far they have not prevailed. I am clear in my mind about the benefits of the United Kingdom as a whole, on all these matters—there are so many aspects that we do not have time to go into today—but state aid is central to the whole question of maintaining our spirit of enterprise. It is central to the degree to which we can provide tax incentives to facilitate and encourage UK jobs for the whole UK, including Scotland. It is central to our ability to encourage competitiveness, based on our own laws, and level up throughout the entire country, including Scotland. This is fundamental stuff

This is not a small matter; this is monumental. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey to talk about this in terms of independence, but people will not thank him, and they will not thank the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) or anyone from any other part of the United Kingdom when the truth comes home to roost, which is that the EU will not allow us to compete favourably or at all. Its cardinal principle is to make sure that we cannot compete with it, and that is a reason in itself why we have to stand firm on the whole question of the notwithstanding clauses.

The debate was lengthy: more here.

The SNP MPs talked, seemingly at length, about Scotland’s minimum alcohol pricing, which they lauded — one of the great achievements of devolution, in their minds. They fear that the UK government will want to change the policy. Unlikely. Wales adopted it, too.

The Government won on the ensuing votes.

Debate on the bill concludes on Tuesday, September 29.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma has tabled the following for debate that day:

Wednesday’s session ended with two Conservative MPs raising a point of order about coronavirus legislation rushed through without proper debate in the Commons.

Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest) said:

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Some of the orders that we are about to deal with are quite dated, but I assume that they have been debated in a Committee upstairs. They touch on very intimate parts of our liberty and our choice. Is there any protocol on the circumstances in which they could be debated on the Floor of the House, rather than upstairs in a Committee stitched up by the Committee of Selection?

Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans replied:

The default procedures of the House, as the right hon. Member knows, are designed such that these measures are not debated on the Floor of the House. Of course, any Committee stages upstairs could have been attended. If any of these measures do not quite fit with his understanding as to what is acceptable, he is able to shout “Object”. I will take that objection, and he will have the opportunity to have his name recorded in a deferred Division tomorrow.

Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch) spoke:

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I want to raise the issue of the inconsistency between quite a few of these remaining orders. Because of the delay in introducing these orders, some of them amend orders that are earlier on the Order Paper. We know that members of the public find it increasingly difficult to comprehend the changing scene of regulation on criminality and restriction of liberty. Surely if a regulation is amended by a subsequent statutory instrument, there should not be a need for the original statutory instrument to be approved by the House. For example, there are two separate statutory instruments relating to the north of England, one dated 25 August and one dated 2 September, and they are inconsistent with each other. Can you explain the reason for this confusion? Would it not be much better if—as I thought the Government had already promised—every regulation brought forward was debated at the earliest opportunity, before the Government had a chance to change their mind?

Nigel Evans repeated his answer to Desmond Swayne.

No objection was raised.

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