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On Saturday, March 6, 2021, Nigel Farage announced that, after nearly 30 years, he is leaving the world of politics:

That photo was taken in the EU Parliament on the last day in that British MEPs participated in proceedings.

Guido Fawkes points out how extraordinary Nigel Farage is:

Granted, Farage was an MEP for South East England for just over a decade — 1999-2020 — and his was probably the only MEP’s name anyone in Britain knew. Yes, we voted for them, but it was all a bit of a forgettable side show. I could never remember who our regional MEP was.

1994 by-election

Nigel Farage did run for Parliament, however, and only once. That was in 1994, in Eastleigh, which is in Hampshire.

Eastleigh’s Conservative MP, Stephen Milligan, had died suddenly at the age of 45. It transpired that the cause of his death was autoerotic asphyxiation. The story made the papers and LBC (the only talk radio station in England at the time). People talked about it for days: ‘Is this really a thing?’ Apparently so, among some people back then. We were bemused and astonished.

Milligan’s secretary found his body.

From Wikipedia (emphases mine):

Milligan was found dead in his house at 64 Black Lion Lane, Hammersmith, London, by his secretary Vera Taggart on 7 February 1994. Milligan had failed to appear in the House of Commons as expected, and so Taggart went to look for him.[4] Milligan’s corpse was found naked except for a pair of stockings and suspenders, with an electrical flex tied around his neck, a black bin liner over his head and an orange in his mouth.[5][4] The coroner concluded that he had died in the early hours of 7 February.[4] The pathology report into Milligan’s death discounted the possibility of murder, lending weight to the belief that he died accidentally as a result of autoerotic asphyxiation. No drugs or alcohol were found in his blood, and no substances were found to have contributed to his death.[4][6]

Farage was one of the candidates in the by-election, which was held on June 8 that year. Farage represented UKIP at the time. David Chidgey, a Liberal Democrat, won the by-election. Farage came fourth. Chidgey had come in second to Milligan in the prior election. Chidgey is now in the House of Lords and holds a life peerage. His full title is Baron Chidgey of Hamble-le-Rice in the County of Hampshire.

Eastleigh currently has a Conservative MP, Paul Holmes.

European Parliament

In 1999, Farage was elected as an MEP for the South East England region. He was re-elected three subsequent times, until the UK left the EU. We were no longer allowed to participate once we began our Brexit transition period.

On Thursday, June 23, 2016, Britain voted to leave the EU in the biggest plebiscite in our history. People who hadn’t voted for years went to polling stations across the land, especially in England and in Wales, to vote Leave. I remember the day well. It poured buckets all day long. Glastonbury, our biggest music festival, was the next day. Between the weather and Glasto, a lot of young adults who would have voted Remain either stayed home or were on their way to the festival. Leave won by 52% to 48%.

On Tuesday, June 28, 2016, Farage spoke in the EU Parliament, satisfied that, after having been trying since 1992, his life’s work was being realised:

You all laughed at me. You’re not laughing now, are you?

This short clip of his speech is worth watching. Many Britons have seen it, and it’s always great viewing it again. Guy Verhofstadt and Jean-Claude Juncker appear in it, too:

In October 2019, Guy Verhofstadt objected to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s deal, calling it a ‘virtual’ withdrawal agreement and a ‘blame game’ against the EU. He then called Boris ‘a traitor’. By then, the UKIP MEPs were representing the Brexit Party, Farage’s new party incarnation.

In addition to Verhofstadt, this 15-minute video shows a left-wing British MEP denouncing Boris as a ‘toe-rag’, to which a Conservative MEP objected, Brexit Party MEPs Richard Tice and Claire Fox (now Baroness Fox in the House of Lords) as well as, of course, Farage himself (at the 13-minute point). Farage struck out at Michel Barnier, who was our negotiator for the EU, and a Remainer MEP (14-minute point). He called her a ‘patronising stuck up snob’.

I saw this when it happened — a must-watch:

In 2019, with our departure from the EU becoming a reality, the Brexit Party became the Reform Party, devoted to reforming British institutions.

This brings us to the present day.

March 2021

On Saturday, Nigel Farage announced that, having worked for 30 years on getting Britain out of the EU, his work in the political sphere has been fulfilled. He added that it is more than most MPs can say about their parliamentary careers. He is right.

In his 10-minute video, he runs through his struggle for Brexit, expresses his hope that the current teething problems will be worked out and says that he will now devote himself to special personal ‘projects’ of his, which include shining a light on China and the British education system as well as planting trees to improve the environment:

Richard Tice, a successful businessman, will now head the Reform Party.

On Sunday, March 7, Farage reposted his video and added that he will become Honorary President of Reform UK:

He said that, if asked, he would help Richard Tice in campaigning in the run up to our May 2021 local elections.

Nigel Farage says that we have not heard the last from him and that he will continue to have a strong social media presence, including on YouTube.

He’s done fantastic work for the nation.

I was delighted to have heard him speak in person several years ago as well as chat one-on-one with him briefly at that event. During intermission, members of the audience submitted written questions anonymously. I submitted three, and he kindly answered all of them! Thank you, Nigel!

After a slow news period post-‘inauguration’, everything accelerated again to the point where there is too much to cover in one week.

At the end of January 2021, the EU tried to block the UK’s coronavirus vaccine supply, specifically to the AstraZeneca vaccine developed in Oxford!

The EU poked at the softest, most vulnerable part of the UK-EU agreement post-Brexit: not to create division between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, covered by Article 16.

However, the EU, being short of coronavirus vaccines, briefly invoked the sacrosanct Article 16 on Friday, January 29, 2021, despite Jean-Claude Juncker’s old commitment to Ireland that there would be no hard border with a post-Brexit EU-UK trade agreement. This debate in the Irish parliament took place long before coronavirus. What a sloppy dress code:

Then, just less than a month after the UK made a full Brexit with a trade agreement, the EU did this:

On Friday, January 29, Guido Fawkes reported (emphases in the original):

As part of its plot to block vaccine exports to the UK, the EU has invoked Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol. This has effectively removed Northern Ireland from the EU’s customs. In plain English, Article 16, the so-called safeguard clause, allows both the EU and the UK to unilaterally suspend part of the Northern Ireland Protocol (which keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs territory) in specific circumstances.

Most discussion around this particular article had been how or whether the UK would use it. The fact that the EU has implemented it less than a month after coming into effect could set a big precedent.

Practically this new EU-imposed hard border won’t make a huge difference as Northern Ireland will receive their jabs via Great Britain, but this political move is extraordinary, after a week of terrible news for the Union. After years of arguing to keep Northern Ireland in its customs territory, the EU has just merrily kicked it out.

However, such an action threatened the long-standing peace agreement between North and South.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s action managed to unite Britain’s — and Ireland’s — Right and Left for the first time in years:

Guido’s article says of the centre-right Democratic Unionist Party:

UPDATE: The DUP have, not unsurprisingly, slammed the EU’s decision as “an incredible act of hostility”. Arlene Foster says:

“This is an incredible act of hostility. By triggering Article 16 in this manner, the European Union has once again shown it is prepared to use Northern Ireland when it suits their interests but in the most despicable manner — over the provision of a vaccine which is designed to save lives.

At the first opportunity the EU has placed a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland over the supply chain of the Coronavirus vaccine.

With the European Union using Article 16 in such an aggressive and most shameful way, it is now time for our Government to step up. I will be urging the Prime Minister to act and use robust measures including Article 16 to advance the interests of Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”

As for Labour:

UPDATE II: Labour join in with the EU condemnation: Louise Haigh MP, Labour’s Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, commenting on the European Union’s decision to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol:

“This move is deeply destabilising and undermines the huge efforts being made to make the Protocol work.

Unilateral actions like this do nothing to aid the stability in Northern Ireland which the Protocol was designed to preserve.

The European Union must remember the Protocol depends on joint working and they share a responsibility to uphold that. They must think again, and revoke this action.”

Later that day, Guido recapped the previous five days of hassle for AstraZeneca and vaccine supply. CEO Pascal Soriot insisted that the company never made a hard and fast commitment to the EU. AstraZeneca made what are contractually known as best reasonable efforts to supply to the EU. Guido’s article has a copy of the contract, which you can read at the link:

AstraZeneca has committed to use its Best Reasonable Efforts (as defined below) to build capacity to manufacture 300 million Doses of the Vaccine, at no profit and no loss to AstraZeneca, at the total cost currently estimated to be [REDACTED] Euros for distribution within the EU [REDACTED] (the “Initial Europe Doses”), with an option for the Commission, acting on behalf of the Participating Member States, to order an additional 100 million Doses (the “Optional Doses”).

The ball was then in von der Leyen’s court:

Guido reported von der Leyen’s response:

No. There are binding orders and the contract is crystal-clear. AstraZeneca has expressly assured us in this contract that no other obligations will stand in the way of fulfilling the contract.

However, Guido explained:

The key obligation in the agreement is in Section 5.1, which “silos” production for the doses to go to the EU, making clear that the AZ obligation is only to use best reasonable efforts to manufacture the initial doses within the EU. If they are manufacturing doses outside the EU that’s irrelevant to that obligation. Has the EU just shot itself in the foot?

Guido’s founder Paul Staines is based in Waterford, Ireland. He thinks that, for the good of relations between North and South, the UK should share their AstraZeneca doses with the Republic:

He was not alone. The Scotland editor for The Spectator agreed:

Fine. Let’s make sure that Britons get their share first. That’s why the deal was set up in the first place.

By the end of last Friday, right, left, centre and the Church of England opposed the EU action:

The Archbishop’s intervention seemed to have a huge impact in Britain, which is surprising for such an atheistic nation:

The strange thing about Article 16 is that the British EU-lovers assumed that the UK Government would implement it first against the EU. That was the big stink around the Internal Market Bill, which gives the UK leeway to back out of parts of the trade agreement if the EU becomes threatening.

In the end:

Late that evening, the EU president conceded:

Boris made no mention of it on his Twitter feed.

More on the UK’s coronavirus vaccine success will follow on Monday.

For now, here’s the next EU-UK drama, which also started on Friday, January 29 — international travel:

Macron’s probably upset because the Institut Pasteur vaccine failed this week. Because of that failure, he rubbished the AstraZeneca vaccine:

As Guido said:

The French haven’t been able to produce a vaccine, and the Germans couldn’t do it without American corporate help. No wonder voices in the EU were so keen to hit out, falsely, at the success of Brexit Britain’s Oxford vaccine. Poor Little EU.

Oh, boy. Politics, politics.

2021 will be a doozy of a year.

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.

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.

The first part of a review of last week in Parliament concerned coronavirus with a follow-on here.

The other big debates last week were about the Internal Market Bill, a legislative safeguard to preserve Britain’s sovereignty after the Brexit transition period concludes at the end of the year.

Talks with the EU have reached an impasse. Worse, the EU wants to take Northern Ireland hostage, as it were, with the possibility that food from other parts of Britain might be prohibited from reaching it. Absurd, but that is the state of play.

On Saturday, September 12, Steve Baker tweeted:

The Telegraph article in Steve Baker’s tweet explains (emphases mine):

Boris Johnson has accused the European Union of threatening to impose a food “blockade” in the Irish Sea that would destroy the “economic and territorial integrity of the UK”.

Writing in The Telegraph, the Prime Minister made a passionate defence of his decision to alter the Brexit divorce deal, saying he has to protect Britain from the “disaster” of handing Brussels the “power to carve up our country”.

He also issued a direct plea to Tory MPs threatening to rebel over his plans, telling them that, if they stand in his way, they will reduce the chance of getting a trade deal with the EU.

Mr Johnson insisted a Canada-style trade deal with the bloc is still possible and remains his goal, but that Brussels must “take their threats off the table” and rebel MPs must get into line. He also believes the UK will still “prosper mightily” under a narrower, Australia-style trade deal.

The Prime Minister claimed the EU could effectively impose a food blockade across the Irish Sea by refusing to grant the UK approved “third party” status for food exports, which officials say Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has “explicitly” threatened.

The Withdrawal Agreement gives the EU oversight over goods of animal origin being transported from the mainland to Northern Ireland for four years, meaning Brussels could use an “extreme interpretation” to impose tariffs or declare such trade illegal

The Government is trying to rush through legislation that would amend the Withdrawal Agreement and in particular its Northern Ireland protocol.

Mr Johnson argues that he has been forced to act because of a “serious misunderstanding” in Brussels about the terms of the agreement, and must unilaterally make changes to it because it has become a “danger to the very fabric of the United Kingdom”.

The EU has told Mr Johnson that, unless he backtracks by the end of the month, the trade talks are over

That weekend, the news was full of MPs, senior legal experts and former Prime Ministers saying that Boris Johnson’s proposals were a ‘violation of international law’:

On Friday a group of more than a dozen MPs, among them former ministers, signalled that they would press ahead with attempts to bar the Government from overriding the Withdrawal Agreement without the support of Parliament

In the House of Commons, Sir Bob Neill, an avowed Remainer, led the rebel charge. Neill is:

the chairman of the Commons justice committee, who has already secured the backing of Damian Green, Theresa May’s former deputy, and ex-solicitor general Sir Oliver Heald.

The Remain media gave airtime to those who said this proposal violates international law, a distinctly Remainer stance. In 2018, Theresa May watered down an excellent Brexit plan — Canada ++. Boris pushed a stronger ‘deal’ last autumn. Now Boris sees what the EU could do next year if the UK doesn’t close this loophole.

In short, those who oppose Boris’s proposed legislation are Remainers. Those who support it are Leavers.

This became evident in Parliamentary debates last week and this week.

On Monday, talkRADIO interviewed two Leavers.

Sir Desmond Swayne gave an early morning interview:

Labour Peer — and Leaver — Kate Hoey went on the air later:

Guido Fawkes published the full text of the bill.

The second reading of the bill took place on Monday, September 14. Excerpts from the debate follow.

Boris introduced the second reading, emphasising its importance to the Union:

The creation of our United Kingdom by the Acts of Union of 1707 and 1801 was not simply a political event, but an act of conscious economic integration that laid the foundations for the world’s first industrial revolution and the prosperity we enjoy today. When other countries in Europe stayed divided, we joined our fortunes together and allowed the invisible hand of the market to move Cornish pasties to Scotland, Scottish beef to Wales, Welsh beef to England, and Devonshire clotted cream to Northern Ireland or wherever else it might be enjoyed.

When we chose to join the EU back in 1973, we also thereby decided that the EU treaties should serve as the legal guarantor of these freedoms. Now that we have left the EU and the transition period is about to elapse, we need the armature of our law once again to preserve the arrangements on which so many jobs and livelihoods depend. That is the fundamental purpose of this Bill, which should be welcomed by everyone who cares about the sovereignty and integrity of our United Kingdom.

We shall provide the legal certainty relied upon by every business in our country, including, of course, in Northern Ireland. The manifesto on which this Government were elected last year promised business in Northern Ireland “unfettered access to the rest of the UK”.

Sir Bob Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst, Con) spoke, asking about upholding ‘the rule of law’, a popular theme among Remainer MPs:

I have listened carefully to what the Prime Minister says, but does he accept that were our interlocutors in the EU to behave in such an egregious fashion, which would clearly be objectionable and unacceptable to us, there is already provision under the withdrawal agreement for an arbitrary arrangement to be put in place? Were we to take reserve powers, does he accept that those reserve powers should be brought into force only as a final backstop if we have, in good faith, tried to act under the withdrawal agreement and are then frustrated? The timing under which they come into force is very important for our reputation as upholders of the rule of law.

The PM responded:

there is the question of tariffs in the Irish sea. When we signed the protocol, we accepted that goods “at risk” of going from Great Britain into the EU via Northern Ireland should pay the EU tariff as they crossed the Irish sea—we accepted that—but that any goods staying within Northern Ireland would not do so. The protocol created a joint committee to identify, with the EU, which goods were at risk of going into Ireland. That sensible process was one achievement of our agreement, and our view is that that forum remains the best way of solving that question.

I am afraid that some in the EU are now relying on legal defaults to argue that every good is “at risk”, and therefore liable for tariffs. That would mean tariffs that could get as high as 90% by value on Scottish beef going to Northern Ireland, and moving not from Stranraer to Dublin but from Stranraer to Belfast within our United Kingdom. There would be tariffs of potentially more than 61% on Welsh lamb heading from Anglesey to Antrim, and of potentially more than 100% on clotted cream moving from Torridge—to pick a Devonshire town at random—to Larne. That is unreasonable and plainly against the spirit of that protocol

MPs on the Opposition benches were restive. The PM said:

To answer the questions that are being shouted at me from a sedentary position, last year we signed the withdrawal agreement in the belief, which I still hold, that the EU would be reasonable. After everything that has recently happened, we must consider the alternative. We asked for reasonableness, common sense, and balance, and we still hope to achieve that through the joint committee process, in which we will always persevere, no matter what the provocation.

Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth and Southam, Con) asked about violating international law:

When I was the Attorney General in the previous Government, I was happy to confirm that the ministerial code obliged Ministers to comply with international as well as domestic law. This Bill will give Ministers overt authority to break international law. Has the position on the ministerial code changed?

The PM replied:

No, not in the least. My right hon. and learned Friend can consult the Attorney General’s position on that. After all, what this Bill is simply seeking to do is insure and protect this country against the EU’s proven willingness—that is the crucial point—to use this delicately balanced protocol in ways for which it was never intended.

The Bill includes our first step to protect our country against such a contingency by creating a legal safety net taking powers in reserve, whereby Ministers can guarantee the integrity of our United Kingdom. I understand how some people will feel unease over the use of these powers, and I share that sentiment. I say to my right hon. and learned Friend that I have absolutely no desire to use these measures. They are an insurance policy, and if we reach agreement with our European friends, which I still believe is possible, they will never be invoked. Of course, it is the case that the passing of this Bill does not constitute the exercising of these powers.

Ed Miliband (Doncaster North, Lab) moved an amendment on behalf of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who was not in the Chamber as he was self-isolating. Note ‘the rule of law’:

I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “That” to the end of the Question and add:

this House notes that the UK has left the EU; calls on the Government to get on with negotiating a trade deal with the EU; recognises that legislation is required to ensure the smooth, effective working of the internal market across the UK; but declines to give a Second Reading to the Internal Market Bill because this Bill undermines the Withdrawal Agreement already agreed by Parliament, re-opens discussion about the Northern Ireland Protocol that has already been settled, breaches international law, undermines the devolution settlements and would tarnish the UK’s global reputation as a law-abiding nation and the UK’s ability to enforce other international trade deals and protect jobs and the economy.”

There are two questions at the heart of the Bill and of why we will oppose it tonight. First, how do we get an internal market after 1 January within the UK while upholding the devolution settlements, which have been a vital part of our constitution for two decades and are essential to our Union? Secondly, will our country abide by the rule of law—a rules-based international order, for which we are famous around the world and have always stood up?

Those are not small questions. They go to the heart of who we are as a country and the character of this Government

After interventions from a few MPs, Miliband openly challenged the PM, which had to be seen to be believed, it was that bold:

there is also an irony here—the Prime Minister tried to slip this in; I do not know whether the House noticed—which is that this Bill does precisely nothing to address the issue of the transport of food from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. It is about two issues where the Government are going to override international law: exit declarations, Northern Ireland to GB, and the definition of state aid relating to Northern Ireland. If the Prime Minister wants to tell us that there is another part of the Bill that I have not noticed that will deal with this supposed threat of blockade, I will very happily give way to him. I am sure he has read it; I am sure he knows it in detail, because he is a details man. Come on, tell us: what clause protects against the threat, which he says he is worried about, to GB-to-Northern Ireland exports? I give way to him. [Interruption.]

As the PM smouldered at Miliband’s arrogance, Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing intervened:

Order. The right hon. Gentleman cannot give way unless he is asked to.

Miliband carried on ranting, ending with:

I do not understand this. He signed the deal. It is his deal. It is the deal that he said would protect the people of Northern Ireland. I have to say to him, this is not just legislative hooliganism on any issue; it is on one of the most sensitive issues of all. I think we should take the word of two former Prime Ministers of this country who helped to secure peace in Northern Ireland.

An indignant Sammy Wilson (East Antrim, DUP) intervened:

Before the shadow spokesman lectures the Prime Minister about reading documentation or starts lecturing us about the Good Friday agreement, does he not recognise, first of all, that the Good Friday agreement talks about the principle of consent to change the constitutional position of Northern Ireland, which is what this protocol does? The Good Friday agreement has within it a mechanism to safeguard the minorities in Northern Ireland through a cross-community vote, which again the protocol removed. So before he starts talking about the threats to the Good Friday agreement, does he not recognise that the protocol was a threat to it in the first place?

Miliband replied to Sammy Wilson, then went on to invoke other Remainers, Theresa May and former PM John Major:

The right hon. Gentleman did not like the protocol at all. He would rather have not had the protocol. He and I just have a disagreement on this issue. I believe it was necessary to make special arrangements for Northern Ireland, or for the UK to be in the EU customs union to avoid a hard border in Ireland. That is why the Prime Minister came along and said the protocol was the right thing to do

Let us just get this straight for a minute, because I think it is important to take a step back. The Prime Minister is coming to the House to tell us today that his flagship achievement—the deal he told us was a triumph, the deal he said was oven-ready, the deal on which he fought and won the general election—is now contradictory and ambiguous. What incompetence. What failure of governance. How dare he try to blame everyone else? I say to the Prime Minister that this time he cannot blame the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), he cannot blame John Major, he cannot blame the judges, he cannot blame the civil servants, he cannot sack the Cabinet Secretary again. There is only one person responsible for it and that is him. This is his deal. It is his mess. It is his failure. For the first time in his life, it is time to take responsibility. It is time to ’fess up: either he was not straight with the country about the deal in the first place, or he did not understand it.

Enough of Miliband.

Sir William Cash (Stone, Con) spoke on behalf of the bill:

There has never been a level playing field in the EU. Its cardinal objective in these negotiations from the outset has included preventing us from being able to compete fairly. That is not good faith. Under the protocol, the EU would even control our legal tax freedom to create freeports and enterprise zones. All of this would massively undermine our businesses and jobs and therefore our voters

He gave several examples of how the EU operates unfairly, then concluded:

The EU seeks to subject us to a foreign regulator, taking essentially political decisions and armed with undemocratic prohibition powers and authorisations. It would be unconscionable and utterly naive for us to allow that to happen. It would be contrary to our national interests at this time of economic instability generated by coronavirus.

You can watch his speech in full here:

Leavers thought it was an excellent performance:

Bill Cash is part of the pro-Brexit ERG (European Research Group), which issued a three-page briefing memo explaining the importance of passing the Internal Market Bill. Guido Fawkes published it in full.

The SNP’s Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) gave his ‘Scotland’ speech once again and made an egregious emotional appeal, invoking, like other Remainers, the rule of law:

Every Member has a choice. We know that the Bill breaks international law—so many learned individuals, including the previous Attorney General, have told us so. Tonight, this House can tell the Government that it is not on and that this House is not going to be complicit in a breach of international law. I venture that that is the responsibility that each Member has. Every Member—every Member, Madam Deputy Speaker—should examine their conscience. This is about a Bill that breaches the terms of a treaty, the ink of which is barely dry and on the delivery of which the governing party fought an election.

As is his wont, he spoke for ages, taking interventions from Labour MPs supporting his position.

Blackford said that the bill would hamper further devolution. Michael Gove, the Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster, asked how.

Blackford replied:

I hear the Cabinet Office Minister shout, “How?” Perhaps he should go and talk to the General Teaching Council, and it will give him its views directly. [Interruption.] Really? We have the Business Secretary, who is supposed to be taking this Bill through, sitting laughing—laughing at the legitimate comments made by stakeholders in Scotland. It is little wonder that the Tories are rejected in the way they are at the polls in Scotland

Sir Bob Neill began to come around to see the positive points in the bill yet said he could still not support it without amendments being added.

Sammy Wilson responded, making an excellent point:

The hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) said that we have obligations to the rule of law and obligations to the EU. What about the obligations to the people of the United Kingdom to ensure the provisions of the Act of Union? The economic basis of the Act of Union makes it quite clear that there shall be no barriers on trade between different parts of the United Kingdom. I believe that the Government are fulfilling, in part, their obligations to the people of Northern Ireland in this Bill, and that is why we will support it tonight.

There were many excellent contributions from Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs. Opposition MPs were feisty and the debate was lively.

That evening, the bill passed — 340 to 263:

Guido has the list of Conservative abstentions. Theresa May’s name was among those listed.

The Labour amendment to reject the bill entirely failed by 349 votes to 213. TalkRADIO has an analysis.

The bill then moved on to Committee Stage.

On Tuesday, September 15, MPs debated various clauses and amendments.

That might sound boring, but it made for excellent viewing on BBC Parliament. Sparks were flying left and right.

SNP MPs insisted that the bill would decrease their powers under devolution. This is an argument that Conservatives, rightly, find absurd.

Paul Bristow (Peterborough, Con) asked the SNP’s Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey):

The hon. Gentleman called the Office for the Internal Market an unelected quango. Does he accept that, if he had his way, he would be handing powers back to unelected quangos in Brussels?

Drew Hendry replied:

This is the argument that Government Members try to propagate all the time—that if these powers came to Scotland, they would immediately be transferred to unelected people in the EU. Two things are wrong with that. First, nobody in the EU is actually unelected when they make decisions; they are all elected by either the Parliament or the people who go there. The second and most fundamental point is that, under these proposals, the UK Government are simply taking all control and overriding the ability of Members of the Scottish Parliament to do their job by representing the people who voted for them and their choices.

The SNP fear that the UK Parliament will make decisions that override the spending wishes of the Scottish Government. It’s possible but probably unlikely. Still, would that not be better than the EU making those decisions? According to the SNP, no, it would not.

Bill Cash intervened in an attempt to add reason to the debate:

The arguments that I have just heard from the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry) are, in my judgment, completely unjustified. [Interruption.] He might expect me to say that; it is hardly surprising. The reality is that the Bill is intended to provide for independent advice and monitoring through the creation of this internal market within the Competition and Markets Authority arrangements. What the provision clearly states—far from it being just a bunch of nodding donkeys, which is more or less what the hon. Gentleman is saying—is that it will be a non-ministerial department, albeit sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and it will have an enormous amount and range of experience and knowledge brought from its predecessor.

Hendry asked him who would be in the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Cash replied, dryly:

What I can say for sure is that it will not be the European Union, and that summarises the argument in a nutshell.

Cash elaborated on the danger of EU interference:

We will need to be able to compete effectively throughout the world. This is a serious matter about a serious issue. What we cannot have, as I mentioned yesterday, is the situation that we have at the moment, which is where authorisations are given by the European Commission that either create discrimination against British businesses or have the perception or the potential for doing so. They will affect the voters in Scotland—and the voters in Sheffield, if I may say so. I was brought up in Sheffield. I saw what the European Coal and Steel Community did to the British steel industry. [Interruption.] I hear what the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) says. The reality is that those businesses were driven out of business by, in many cases, unfair subsidies and unfair state aids that were given to other member states. I can give an example. I happened to know many people who worked at the coalface—I used to play cricket with them when I played for Sheffield—and I can tell Members that the Sheffield steelworkers, whom I also played with on occasion, sometimes it was rugger, found that they were very severely jeopardised by the massive state aids that were given to the German coal industry—it was as much as £4 billion—and authorised by the Commission. For a variety of reasons, we did not get the same kind of treatment here in the United Kingdom. This is all part of the problem of how to have fair and reasonable competition.

Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West, SNP) directed her comment to Cash, unintentionally getting the soundbite of the day in his reply:

I am going to answer the hon. Gentleman’s question. The Scottish National party wants Scotland to remain part of the European Union—a single market of more than 500 million consumers. The SNP does not wish to put up trade barriers with England. It is his party that wishes to enforce upon us trade barriers if we dare to exercise our democratic right of self-determination, which he has spent the last 40 years banging on about in this House for England.

Cash’s reply was brilliant:

If I may say so, not unsuccessfully.

Cherry was clearly irritated:

That remains to be seen.

There is too much to quote from this lively debate, so do read it here.

An Opposition amendment and a clause were defeated.

The debate in Committee Stage continued on Wednesday, September 16. The Opposition brought forward more amendments.

The theme of devolution continued. Discussion about a possible threat to Welsh devolution accompanied the concerns of Scottish SNP MPs.

John Lamont, a Conservative MP representing the Scottish constituency of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk asked the SNP’s Alison Thewlis why she thought the UK government was working against Scotland’s interests:

The hon. Lady is giving a typically bitter speech around the role of the UK Government into Scotland. Does she not accept that the UK Government and the Scottish Government have worked very closely together on the growth deals and city deals in Scotland? They are very good examples of what can be achieved in Scotland with both Governments working together, rather than the attitude that she takes of opposing everything that this place does.

Thewliss replied:

I am very interested that the hon. Gentleman raises growth deals, because every single growth deal in Scotland has been short-changed by the UK Government. The Scottish Government have put in more than the UK Government to those growth deals and we are still waiting for the money for some of those growth deals to be realised.

Andrew Bowie, another Conservative MP representing a Scottish constituency (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) couldn’t change her mind, either.

The Conservatives brought logic to the debate, something Opposition MPs were unable to do.

A Labour amendment, brought forward by Ed Miliband, requiring financial assistance to be the subject of a framework agreement to be agreed by resolution of each House of Parliament was defeated: 330-208.

That day, Boris Johnson appeared before a Select Committee to explain why the Internal Market Bill was necessary:

He told Labour MP Hilary Benn that he thought the EU representatives were negotiating in bad faith:

It is always possible that I am mistaken. Perhaps they will prove my suspicions wrong.

On Thursday, September 17, Guido Fawkes outlined the debates which took place this week (emphases in the original):

The Government will table two amendments to its own Bill on Tuesday, firstly a redrafted version of the Neill Amendment – setting in stone the need for a parliamentary vote beyond the requirements of ordinary statutory instruments, and secondly a clause to prevent significant litigation of the enactment of the controversial provisions. Tightening up the ability to deploy with the consent of the House.

Of course, the Government insists it still does not want to have to use these powers of last resort. But now it will have them in case the EU don’t offer concessions…

I’ll cover those tomorrow.

The British government did not request a Brexit negotiation extension in June 2020.

On Friday, June 12, our chief negotiator from No. 10 tweeted:

On June 25, David Frost updated us as follows:

As of July 1, we were on our way out.

Talks continued in London on July 8:

As of the end of June, despite coronavirus, the International Monetary Fund predicts that, post-Brexit, Britain’s growth could surpass that of the EU next year:

Guido Fawkes summarises the details (red emphases in the original):

The International Monetary Fund’s new growth projection shows a global contraction of 4.9%, with every region of the world simultaneously in recession for the first time in human history. Advanced economies are projected to be hit particularly harshly by this crisis, with double digit contractions for the UK and Euro area this year at -10.2% each. Notably, however, is that in 2021 (after the UK will have left the economic orbit of the EU) the UK is set to fall by as much, then grow back faster than the cumulative Euro area.

Of course the projected 2021 growth will not make up for the 2020 recession. All advanced European countries’ economies are set to be smaller at the end of 2021 than they were at the end of 2019.  If we can believe IMF forecasting, individually over 2020 and 2021, Germany’s economy will have shrunk by 2.8%, the UK by 4.5%, France by 6.1%, and Italy and Spain both by 7.3%…

On July 1, Parliament voted to end free movement of EU citizens when the transition period ends on December 31. This is the advantage the Conservatives have with their 80-seat majority:

Guido Fawkes points out:

If he wasn’t having to deal with a deadly global pandemic, this year would be going pretty well for Boris…

Millions of EU nationals already resident in Britain are eligible for settled status, allowing them to live and work here among family and friends. The scheme opened last year and has already registered 3.3 million individuals.

The Settlement Scheme for EU nationals expires on June 30, 2021:

As for our freedom of movement in Europe, we always had it — even before joining the EU:

Last week’s UK-EU negotiations produced a win for clearing houses in the City of London, the capital’s financial centre.

On Thursday, July 9, The Telegraph reported, in part (emphases mine):

Brussels did not confirm how long the arrangement will last. It will kick in if the UK and the European Union fail to reach a Brexit deal.
The decision is likely to be seen as a climbdown by EU chiefs, who have long resented Britain’s dominance in clearing.

A power grab was launched shortly after the Brexit vote to try and force Continental firms to clear trades through hubs within the bloc, but this stalled when it became clear no other financial centre could handle the volume of activity done in the City.

Clearing houses such as LCH, ICE Clear Europe and LME Clear perform a vital role in greasing the wheels of international finance, standing between buyers and sellers to settle trades and ensure sellers get paid.

Access to London’s clearing houses for financial contracts such as swaps and futures is a key issue for European firms because the UK dominates the continent’s €735 trillion (£658 trillion) annual market. It was feared they could be denied access to crucial finance and face serious stability risks if frozen out.

In a further boost, Liam Fox, the Conservative MP for North Somerset and former Secretary of State for International Trade under Theresa May, is one of the nominees for becoming the next Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

Fox is on the right in the photo below. Pictured with him is his former adviser, Adam Werritty:

On July 10, Guido Fawkes reported:

Speaking to a Chatham House event last night, the US Trade Secretary Robert Lighthizer told the audience Fox was “one of the favourites”, lavishing praise:

“I’m an admirer of his … I’ve had many a conversation with him. I’ve even had the occasional cocktail with him. He’s smart, he knows the area, he has a good philosophy.”

Last month Lighthizer told lawmakers the US is looking to back “someone who understands the nature of the problem of free economies dealing with China”, which may not be too difficult a manifesto for Fox to get on board with, given the UK’s shift away from warm relations over Hong Kong, and an impending u-turn on Huawei.

Incidentally, Oliver Dowden MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, announced the u-turn on Huawei today, Tuesday, July 14.

On Sunday, July 12, Ireland’s new Taoiseach (prime minister, pron. ‘Tee-sock’) Micheál (pron. Mee-hull) Martin was hopeful of a transition deal between his country and Britain:

Home Secretary Priti Patel is working with the French to stop the boat people coming to the south east coast of England every day:

The UK government has launched a new transition period scheme for businesses — Check, Change, Go:

We have a lot to look forward to next year for business, and, in the case of the European Space Agency, research and exploration:

An exciting new era awaits just around the corner.

On Thursday, May 14, the Slovenian government announced that it was officially lifting its coronavirus lockdown, leaving only hygiene measures in place.

Slovenia is the first European government to go this far:

The nation had been in lockdown since mid-March:

Euractiv reported that persons travelling there from non-EU states will be subject to a 14-day quarantine. Anyone arriving from another nation and showing signs of coronavirus will not be allowed to enter the country. Masks are also required in indoor public spaces (emphases mine):

The Slovenian government late on Thursday (14 May) called an official end to its coronavirus epidemic, becoming the first European country to do so, after authorities confirmed [fewer] than seven new coronavirus cases each day for the past two weeks.

People now arriving in Slovenia from other European Union states will no longer be obliged to go into a quarantine for at least seven days as was the case from early April, the government said in a statement.

The country of 2 million people, which borders Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, has so far reported 1,464 coronavirus cases and 103 deaths. It declared an epidemic on March 12.

“Slovenia has tamed the epidemic over the past two months… Today Slovenia has the best epidemiologic picture in Europe,” Prime Minister Janez Jansa told parliament earlier on Thursday.

The end of epidemic means some measures, including financial aid to citizens and firms hit by the coronavirus, will expire at the end of May.

The government said foreign citizens who show signs of coronavirus infection will still not be allowed to enter the country.

A quarantine of at least 14 days will remain in place for people from non-EU states, except for some exemptions including diplomats and people transporting cargo.

Citizens will still have to follow basic rules to prevent a possible spread of infection, the government said without elaborating.

People have been required to wear masks in indoor public spaces, stand at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) apart and disinfect hands upon entering public spaces

Slovenia began relaxing lockdown on April 20 and continued a gradual reopening until the end of last week.

This week, everything will be open, including bars and restaurants.

It’s perhaps premature to speak of holidays, but:

Sounds great.

I wish the nation, which is Melania Trump’s birthplace, every success in beating coronavirus and tedious lockdown, not to mention all the ‘experts’ who advocated trashing our economies worldwide:

Good luck, Slovenia!

There is a fascinating thread on Guido Fawkes, posted on Sunday, March 29.

The subject of the post is cabinet minister Michael Gove saying we don’t need ventilators from the EU, but the comments are on Britons’ personal coronavirus experiences.

I found them vastly more informative and interesting than Big Media’s panicky news. I hope you do, too.

Unfortunately, Guido’s new comment system does not have hyperlinks to comments, so I cannot provide direct links.

A dash denotes a single comment, even with an additional paragraph.

I purposely didn’t edit the comments too much in order to preserve their spontaneity.

Emphases below are mine.

PPE, ventilators and the EU

These days, PPE stands for Personal Protection Equipment, not the degree known as Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

This pertains to Gove’s comments in Guido’s post. A few of Guido’s readers discussed France. One had sources:

On March 3, France confiscated all protective masks made in the country. “We will distribute them to healthcare professionals and to French people affected by the coronavirus,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter. On March 6, the French government forced Valmy SAS, a face mask manufacturer near Lyon, to cancel an order for millions of masks placed by the UK’s National Health Service.

In general, however, re the EU:

We wouldn’t get any ventilators. They’d be sent straight to the other member states.

We would pay for them, though.

More about ventilators on the Continent. I think the first comment comes from a lady in the Netherlands:

– Too right. Netherlands has 1110 ventilators, it has as of today over 1k in icu and not a sniff of any new ventilators being provided, in fact they had to fight tooth and nail to purchase gloves and masks, they managed to purchase just over 620k of them last week from outside the EU and Dutch companies who wanted up to 300% on top of the usual costs, the Dutch companies not the ones outside, including a Dutch crowdfunding initiative that purchased over 200k of them on top of the 620k these are the only medical supplies to have arrived, unless I’m mistaken they are both EU members and party to the EU ventilator scheme. The EU can’t even share basic supplies amongst its members … much needed ventilators, Germany and France even refused to send medical supplies stating their needs could be greater, not where “could be” when Italy asked for help. Note the only help currently acceptable to mutti [Angela Merkel] is for all member states that accrue financial debts over and above the EU budgetary allowance is to sign financial agreements the same as Greece did, in other words so that Germany and the IMF benefit on interest accrued on bonds, even the Spanish, and Polish governments, some Dutch MEPs are publicly declaring the lack of help coming from Ursula [von der Leyen] of any kind, note the border issue of the Greeks is disappearing from headlines at a rate of knots at the same time.

Salvini called the EU “a nest of snakes and jackals” the other day, that Italy would “get past the virus and say goodbye to the EU without thanking them”. An understandable sentiment.

Meanwhile, back in Blighty:

Mr Dyson probably could, he has an engineering center of excellence (both design and manufacturing) down there in Malmsbury, and also a mothballed production facility that until recently used to make high quality goods out of injection-moulded plastic components and electric motors. With resources like that in this country, I don’t think we’ll be short of ventilators for long.

The Italians are pissed off that Germany is refusing to sell them any ventilators, maybe we’ll soon be in a position to help them out.

More testing = more coronavirus cases

The number of coronavirus cases is increasing in many countries, because they, including the UK, are now being able to test for the virus (emphasis in the original):

– The latest data from the German Robert Koch Institute show that the increase in test-positive persons is proportional to the increase in the number of tests, i.e. in percentage terms it remains roughly the same. This may indicate that the increase in the number of cases is mainly due to an increase in the number of tests, and not due to an ongoing epidemic.

– Actually a proportionate increase in cases would be nearer to proving that the virus was everywhere anyway.

Coronavirus deaths

As of Sunday, March 29 (emphases in the original in this section):

– 2433 new cases and 209 new deaths

– Of ALL the UK Coronavirus fatalities to date, ONLY 13 had NO pre-existing conditions.

Without being insensitive, the vast majority of the fatalities to date would probably have died from “typical” seasonal ‘Flu anyway. Obviously, things could rapidly change if people ignore social distancing, but we aren’t at crisis levels for the moment.

Other deaths

Coronavirus notwithstanding, sadly, other people leave this mortal coil, too:

How many other deaths today?

– About 50,000 deaths a month is the average I believe. About 12,500 a week.

– Meanwhile other people die in less than acceptable circumstances.

A neighbour’s mother was ill in hospital and visiting was not allowed. She was discharged to a nursing home last week, where she died yesterday. Her daughter was unable to visit or comfort her. She died effectively alone in the company of presumably masked and protected strangers.

This is not humane.

The weekly death toll gets rather confusing, because some are referencing flu/respiratory deaths per week, while others are looking at the bigger picture:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EUSFPnoXgAAAEh8?format=jpg&name=large

See more here.

Dr Neil Ferguson

Dr Neil Ferguson OBE (!) of the dodgy Imperial College London numbers on coronavirus — as well as for the equally dodgy strategy on the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak — came in for criticism. This is the best of the comments about him (emphases mine):

What was never reported after the disastrous foot and mouth case modelled by Ferguson, were the depressions and suicides by farmers who not only had to watch whole herds of healthy cattle being slaughtered but losing three or four generations of their family farms. Many ended up selling to rich property developers to survive and thousands more turned their farms into industrial units.

Why wasn’t Ferguson sacked? How did he manage to survive to work on the Swine Flu … and again on Covid19?

Just goes to show the public sector are never accountable and always protected. At least Mr Trump is from a business background and knows how to disseminate good advice and bad advice wherever it comes from.

Potentially dangerous lockdown

If this lockdown extends far beyond Easter into late spring or early summer, Guido’s readers fear problems not only for Britons’ health but also for the economy. Their fears are not misplaced:

– There are many doctors saying the results of a long lockdown will be far worse than any mortality rate from this virus.

– And the tragedies arising from the ensuing economic depression will dwarf both of them put together.

– Exactly. I’m in the ‘over 60’s’ bracket but would rather risk getting a fec kin bad case of flu than see a lifetime of work pensions and savings go down the swanny because of some unhealthy eaters from China.

I agree. I’m not wasting 6 months of my life at my age under house arrest.

What, the ‘lockdown’ that the government tried to warn everyone not to do too early so that we weren’t asking the people to do too much for too long, but that the media wouldn’t listen and screamed like spoilt brats until they got their way?

That lockdown?

That leads us nicely to the next section.

BBC

BBC reporters are everywhere, not only across Britain but around the world:

– It is very important to stay at home. I know because we have just been told by a BBC reporter standing outside the Palace of Westminster.

– Have you ever wondered about all the ‘reporters’ wondering around in places like Lombardy etc. without any protection…Are they immune?

– Yes, the ghastly Mark Eaton was doing that last week. Walking the streets of London, stopping people and demanding to know why they were walking the streets of London.

It is OK for him though because he thinks he is important.

BBC news continues its Trump Derangement Syndrome:

– When will the BBC stop saying that the USA is the country with the fastest growing number of infections and deaths? It’s a bloody continent!

– They won’t stop, the BBC is anti US/UK and although the US isn’t a continent its scale and population make it comparable to Western Europe which has a far bigger problem.

– So true. If you check on some of their reporters (Twitter etc.) you will see that there is an obsession with Trump but little interest in some of the despots elsewhere. Are they afraid of the repercussions?

Andrew Marr, presenter of the BBC’s Sunday morning news show, came in for particular criticism. No surprise there:

– Marr has an anti-government agenda that is clear to everyone I hope. How this guy is still working is beyond me.

– He is a Marxist with an anti government agenda. The only surprise is the BBC has not made him Director General yet.

– There’s a fine line between questioning the government to find out information and questioning to discredit. Marr is in the second camp.

Socialist celebrities

Most people are fed up with wealthy socialist celebrities:

I’ll tell you why I’m a socialist: poverty. Poverty is what makes you a socialist. When you know poverty then you know about how we have to take care of people.” Actor Brian Cox.

Actually Brian, I’ll tell you why I’m NOT a socialist: poverty. Poverty is what results from socialism. When you know poverty then you know about how we have to take care of people and as history and experience shows, socialism is not the answer. I will go further and suggest you are actually a believer in a mixed economy which is underpinned by a healthy capitalism required for creating the wealth necessary for the public services you and me both desire. You are not really a socialist, you just don’t understand.

Someone replied:

If Cox is so keen why doesn’t he go and live in the socialist heaven of Venezuela rather than the capitalist hell of New York City?

Actors aren’t the only ones, either:

Same with singers (‘Bonio’ springs to mind). Just sing yer song and shut yer gob. Your fame does not make you an expert and your loud pronouncements are meaningless in the scheme of things.

Hospitals

There were many interesting anecdotal reports about hospitals. I have separated the A&E comments into a separate section.

This one came from Scotland:

Are we getting the true news about how the NHS and nurses/docs are coping? I see a lot of interviews and quotes from medics saying they are making life and death decisions due to ‘lack of equipment’.

However last Thursday I had to take my good lady into Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for a rather serious examination (she has risk of cancer down below). Apart from a guy at the main entrance making sure everyone used the hand gel, once at the ward we were allocated I had to wait outside in the main corridor and beside the 6 lifts in a colour red zone. One of the wards in this zone is ICU and further down the corridor it was into the Sick Childrens Hospital section. However it amazed me to see how much the nurses/docs/porters didn’t seem to have any concerns about walking around the corridors, mobile phone checking, 5 into a lift, porters not wearing protective gloves, leaving wheelchairs without wiping down the handles etc. Before anyone gets on to me I am not criticising those people just the media panic. As far as I could tell, apart from the multi storey car park being less busy with visitors the hospital was to all intents and purposes ‘as normal’.

As I say don’t berate me for posting this and I rather like the way all those staff were laughing, joking as they always do but it did seem a different world in there than what I expected.

Someone replied, saying the media were not interested in hospitals operating as usual:

There are over 300 hospitals in Scotland with 8 in Aberdeen and 11 others in the surrounding county. There are 1245 cases in Scotland (4 per hospital if shared out equally) and chances are that they would likely try and isolate COVID19 patients as much as possible so whilst the number of cases are fairly low I imagine they would try to place the COVID19 patients in as few hospitals as possible so it could be that there weren’t any CV cases at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

That will be different to London (over 5,000 cases) and the Midlands (2,500 cases) where I know that the number of cases far and away outstrips the number of vacant beds that those NHS regions reported last quarter end (Dec 31).

So I very much think it depends on whether you are in a hotzone or not and if you are not you can guarantee the national media just ain’t interested. There is no news in ‘business as usual’ in the middle of a crisis

PS You’re right its good that there is still significant normality out there and presumably the lock down will see a fall off in certain types of hospitalisations but the media are never going to try and sell that narrative. Good news is no news.

Ventilators

Ventilators came up for discussion:

I don’t think the public have understood how long you stay on a ventilator with this SARS2. It is 2-3 weeks, not the 2-3 days with normal winter ailments.

You go on to a ventilator with this she hit you’re 50/50 at best with perma damage.

– … people who need to go onto ventilators for this virus would have to for other reasons as well.

– If you go onto Conservative Woman website there is an interesting article about Matt Strauss saying that ventilators are the least necessary thing. The people who have to go onto a ventilator because of Covid19 would already need it.

Long term forced ventilation has issues of its own.

A&E (Accident & Emergency) wards

There were reports about quiet A&E wards.

This one came from one of the Home Counties, just outside London:

I might have said this once or twice before- but my wife works in A&E (for a hospital that was recently in the news) and it is very quiet in there and there is no shortages or panic.

The hospital in question is set up for the worst.

But at the moment they are dealing with the usual real emergency cases and very few suspected cases.

That is not to say some have supposedly died from Covid- but the 21 year old didn’t- despite press reports (which the Guardian has since removed). Kudos to them for once.

Here’s another from somewhere else in the UK:

My wife passed me this posted on her Military Wives Facebook group by an NHS Paramedic member of the same group. It makes amazingly good sense…

Small rant… Having spent at least 12 hours per day for the last 8 out of 9 days in and out of A&E I have noticed one thing. The waiting rooms have been MASSIVELY less busy than normal.

There is a major health emergency going on and suddenly everyone can manage to deal with their little booboo themselves. Whilst I, as a paramedic, am extremely grateful for this, please as a nation get a grip and realise this is what you should have been doing anyway for years.

You would have saved the NHS literally billions of pounds, so once this hell is over please continue to be a brave little soldier and deal with these non-emergencies yourselves!

WELL SAID & HOW TRUE

Are A&Es empty because of fear or a sudden dawning of common sense?

Most of the departments of my local General Hospital are quiet which allows their staff to be redeployed where needed. The specialist A&E a few miles up the road is also reporting almost a complete lack of people attending with trivial injuries and the ambo service aren’t getting the usual 80/20 split of unnecessary/justified 999 calls. Could it be that the time wasters are actually getting some common sense?

Here’s the reply:

Unfortunately, no.

The muppets are more frightened of being with other people than their headache.

Another account rolled in:

I can substantiate that. Over the last couple of weeks I had to go to the hospital for pre-arranged but necessary scans. On both occasions the A&E waiting area was virtually deserted apart from staff.

Truth:

The amount of money wasted on hypochondria in the NHS is huge.

Supermarkets

Online deliveries have not improved since the panic buying nearly a month ago. This holds true even for the elderly, whom, the government says, supermarkets have prioritised:

A mate of mine who is over 70 enquired last weekend about a home delivery from either Sainsburys or Tesco (I forget which one) and was told it would be delivered on 19th April. He said no thanks and drove to the shop himself.

Shelves seem to be restocked. A return to normality — for now:

We went shopping in Aldi Friday morning 8am, 30 people in the queue ahead of us but we all went straight in at 8. Bought everything we wanted including a small joint of beef, perhaps people have stopped panic buying at last. But if the Govt bring in more restrictions on movement expect the panic buying/hoarding to take off again.

Another Aldi customer concurs:

Likewise at Aldi, Whitby last Thursday, and everyone behaving sensibly.

Elsewhere:

Just been out to M&S and Lidl. Both fully stocked.

A few have installed a one-metre distance between customer and the person behind the till. Others have installed perspex shields:

Much easier to clean perspex shields and they are further away from the cashier. It’s better solution than face a mask for that particular purpose.

On the lighter side …

There were a few jokes, too.

We had tennis …

– I just got back yesterday after going to my mate’s funeral. Sadly he got hit on the head with a tennis ball. It was a great service.

– Are your tennis racket jokes free or do they come with strings attached?

… a plumber with a marital problems …

He went home recently and said to his wife, It’s over Flo.

… and the lockdown:

Wife: Are you going to sit on that sofa all day?

Me: No, I shall be sitting on the other sofa shortly.

Conclusion

I shall conclude with this comment:

If the MSM hadn`t created the panic, the authorities wouldn`t have had a population willing to have their civil liberties curtailed.

I fully agree.

Please be very careful when listening to the news and reading newspapers. There was no need, no need at all, for a shutdown or the Coronavirus Bill.

On Thursday, February 27, 2020, the Government announced that a No Deal Brexit is still being considered.

It should be noted that the Government does not use the words ‘No Deal’ anymore. However, for the sake of simplicity, I will continue to do so.

Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, took questions in the Commons yesterday, principally on trade talks with the EU:

Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, was meeting with Robert Lighthizer, trade representative from the United States that day.

On February 26, an article in The Telegraph (paywall) said that the parameters of negotiations between the EU and the UK have been changing. The Guardian has an excerpt from the article, further excerpted below (emphases mine):

Earlier this month, Mr Johnson said “early progress” on agreements over financial services and personal data protection would be “a test of the constructive nature of the negotiating process”.

But pledges in the political declaration to reach an agreement on financial services by June 2020, and on data by the end of December, were dropped by Brussels when the EU’s negotiating mandate was published.

Government sources said that meant Mr Johnson was fully entitled to ignore elements of the political declaration. Britain will refuse to sign up to EU rules on state aid, and will not build any infrastructure to deal with customs declarations on goods crossing from the mainland to Northern Ireland despite EU demands that they must exist.

Yesterday (Thursday), Michael Gove announced the publication of a new, 30-page document, The Future Relationship with the EU: The UK’s Approach to Negotiations.

Left-leaning politicians and pundits are dismayed and critical, however, it appears to be consistent with what Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government have been saying since last year:

– Michael Gove confirmed that the UK will not be under the control of the EU Court of Justice when implementing state aid.

– The Government could walk away from talks with the EU as early as June, if they are not productive. If so, at that point, the Government would focus on domestic arrangements to leave the EU in an orderly manner as possible.

– There is particular concentration on the part of the UK to avoid any alignment with or subjugation to the EU or EU institutions, especially the EU Court of Justice.

The last point is critical when it comes to the EU Arrest Warrant. The Guardian reported this exchange in Parliament (emphases in the original):

Gove was vague when discussing the forthcoming customs arrangements in Northern Ireland, so, no change there.

This was EU negotiator Michel Barnier’s response to the UK’s new document:

The Guardian reported that another EU official said that the planned June reassessment of talks is in line with the EU’s expectations (emphases in purple mine):

Responding to the government’s announcement that it may abandon trade talks with the EU if there is not enough progress by June, the European commission spokeswoman Dana Spinant told reporters at a briefing:

In relation to any timeline that was referred to by the UK side today, there is a mid-year rendezvous in June to assess where we are with the negotiations.

So this is probably a very fair timeline to take by the UK prime minister for a rendezvous in which we take stock of the future and chances for a deal, what type of deal.

Asked whether the EU was preparing for the failure to reach a deal, she said it would be “premature to speculate” about the result of those negotiations.

The following Twitter thread, excerpted, comes from the man who heads the Eurasia Group consultancy. He also teaches at the prestigious Sciences Po. His analyses have been quite reliable, so far. ‘Bxl’ means Brussels:

David GH Frost is one of Boris Johnson’s chief advisers:

As anticipated, there will not be enough time to negotiate specific, line-by-line agreements:

It is unclear at this time how damaging this will be to the future of the European Union:

He concludes that the UK will have to align with another nation.

We’ll see what happens.

Ultimately, the UK would like to finalise a deal by September 2020.

One week ago on Friday, January 31, 2020, millions of Britons celebrated Brexit Day.

David Kurten, Brexit Party member of the Greater London Assembly, tweeted:

James Higham of Orphans of Liberty called our attention to the fact, that despite our celebrations, little has changed. We’re merely in a transition period, not full Brexit. To those celebrating, he wrote:

That’s the majority view, everyone on our side so wants it to be true, when it quite palpably is not:

# Still in the Customs Union
# Still in the Single Market
# Still only a small percentage of our fishing waters
# Still in the EU Army and no plans to leave
# Still paying the EU billions to prop them up to keep fighting us …

Agree fully on all points!

Still, it was worth celebrating getting even this far against the Remainers in our own country and in the EU:

On the morning of January 31, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) gave a press conference in which she restated both her opposition to Brexit and her goal of holding another referendum for Scottish independence. The last one was held in 2014.

I fully agree with becabob’s tweet below the Daily Record‘s front page and have often expressed the same thought to my friends:

EU leaders also made speeches to representatives from the media. David Sassoli, the Italian President of the EU Parliament, lamented the criticism heaped upon the European Union. He said that he was referring to people on the Continent — not the British — and said that could not understand it.

Sassoli went on to say that the EU ‘rules’ and ‘regulations’ were in place to prevent ‘the strong’ overtaking ‘the weak’.

I wonder. Outside of MEPs, voters in EU member states have no voice over senior EU bureaucrats appointed to their various positions. They’re an unelected elite who tell MEPs how to vote. The EU Parliament essentially rubber stamps whatever legislation they are told to approve.

Moving along, the EU removed the British flag from their premises in Brussels:

Hear the cheers in a British sports bar as it happened:

The EU’s Guy Verhofstadt, an arch-enemy of Brexit, posted a video from the Alliance Party in Europe:

Meanwhile, television broadcasters were upset that Boris had a No. 10 team film his exit statement to the nation. Normally, that would have been done by one of the main channels, with permission given to the others to air it. On January 30, The Express reported:

The BBC has warned it might not air the message, which is understood to be a fireside chat.

A spokesman said: “There is a long-established process for recording statements by the Prime Minister at significant times where one broadcaster records it and shares the footage.

“The BBC and the other broadcasters are well used to following this usual process, which respects our independence as broadcasters.

“If Number 10 wants to supply its own footage we will judge it on its news value when deciding whether to broadcast it, as we would with any footage supplied to us by third parties.”

Mr Johnson’s address is one of a number of celebrations to mark Brexit day.

Government buildings in Whitehall will be lit up in red, white and blue, while Parliament Square and Pall Mall will be decorated with British flags.

On a happier note, the Prime Minister’s girlfriend Carrie Symonds posted a photo of Dilyn, their rescue dog from Wales:

That evening, Russia Today was the only media outlet to film Brexit Night for four hours:

At 10 p.m. the BBC, Sky News and ITV broadcast news programmes which lasted until 11:15 p.m. I watched ITV, and I’m glad, because the BBC and Sky gave little coverage of Leavers and, instead, focussed on Remainers.

ITV showed Cabinet members approaching No. 10 for a quiet party that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was throwing for them, his staff and other friends of Brexit, e.g. former Labour Party MP Gisela Stuart.

Just as the newsreader was about to announce who was going in — around 10:06 p.m. — the television played up. It was time to retune the channels, which was aggravating, as we missed the next five minutes of coverage. This is an important detail, more about which below.

ITV showed us coverage of the big party at the rugby club in Morley, which is just outside of Leeds in West Yorkshire:

Happily, ITV showed the fireworks display on their rugby pitch. They were probably the only municipality to have one.

Andrea Jenkyns MP helped to organise the event, which was packed, and probably arranged for permission for the firework display. Fireworks are now officially banned for the year until November 5.

This was the scene in Morley earlier in the day (the Twitter thread has great tweets):

The BBC chose a different locale, Boston in Lincolnshire, for their coverage:

They sang Auld Lang Syne at 11 p.m.:

In the southeast — in Kent — this was the scene at 11:00 p.m. along the famous white cliffs of Dover. This is a lovely little video:

In Brussels, the buildings in the historic centre of the city were illuminated beautifully. Thank you:

In London’s Parliament Square, thousands gathered for the countdown, including former Labour MP for Vauxhall Kate Hoey, an ardent supporter of Brexit:

Earlier, Kate Hoey gave an interview to Sky News:

Returning to Parliament Square, the chap in the middle has been campaigning in Parliament Square for the past few years. As far as I know, he did it without pay and, unlike his Remainer counterpart Steve Bray, never brayed about Brexit, but greeted passers-by instead. Anyone who wanted to talk about Brexit with him could do so:

Steve Bray, who continually ruined many live broadcasts from No. 10, says he will continue braying. Shameful. He was paid £80 a day, he said, to shout all the time. It’s a wonder he has a voice box left:

Here’s a nice ‘pan’ of those in Parliament Square:

This was the big moment in Parliament Square. Thanks to America’s OANN for capturing the atmosphere in their video:

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage was on hand to address the crowd:

The Houses of Parliament looked stunning:

The Department for Exiting the EU formally closed:

Steve Barclay MP formally resigned his position in that department:

Now on to No. 10 Downing Street, the scene of Boris’s subdued party (click photo to read the full article):

Recall that, at the beginning of this post, I mentioned that the television required retuning. No one inside No. 10 was aware of that. Unfortunately, when the big moment came and Boris had intended for everyone to watch the countdown televisually, he had to make do with banging a small gong instead.

I don’t know if any of the nation’s broadcasters showed Boris’s address to the nation at 10 p.m. that night. I tuned in to ITV around 10:05.

Here it is in full:

He aptly and congenially explains that a) he understands that not everyone supports Brexit, b) outlines the next ‘act’ in this continuing ‘drama’ and c) tells us why leaving the EU is the ‘healthy and democratic’ thing to do, referring to the referendum result from 2016.

I am really looking forward to the months ahead. I believe that Boris, flawed though he is (aren’t we all?), will be making history in all the best ways for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

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