Tag Archives: Boris Johnson

Twas the week before Brexit

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 23rd December 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

Christmas Eve Eve.

Here is where we are.

At 11pm 31st December, that is in less than eight days time from when I am writing this, the transition period ends, and the UK (except for Northern Ireland) is trading with the rest of the world (except where a new trade deal has been made already, which is … not many) on “WTO terms”. (This isn’t good.)

We’ve discussed at length earlier what Boris Johnson’s problem is trying to negotiate a deal: he needs to see everything in terms of winning and losing, and he needs to be able to present himself as the winner. This is not how trade deals work.

The European Parliament had its last plenary session on 17th December. No deal can be approved. The deadline to request an extension of the transition period passed on 30th June, even if Boris Johnson had been willing to ask for one.

The European Research Group are not enough MPs to overturn Boris Johnson’s 79-MP majority in the Commons, but they are likely enough MPs to trigger a leadership contest (55 letters is all it takes). The European Research Group are the MPs who want – who wanted all along – to be the winners and the victims simultaneously: to demand Brexit without defining Brexit, ot assert that only by leaving the EU and everything to do with it can they stop the EU from doing down the UK. It is impossible to make the ERG happy: if you gave them what they said they wanted, they would take that as a given and demand more and claim victimhood because they aren’t getting it.

If we crash out of the EU in no-deal Brexit on 31st December, the ERG MPs will still not be happy, because the UK will still have to trade with the perfidious countries of the EU, and collectively, they have far more economic clout than the UK did in its prime – and the UK is well past prime.

But crashing out in no-deal Brexit would have terrible and immediate consequences. The government’s “reasonable worst-case scenario” was laid out initially prior to the pandemic: when we are cresting a wave of infections for which the Tier 4 lockdown comes too late to prevent – this is, to put it blandly, an unreasonable worst-case scenario.

It is too late for a deal to be scrutinised by either the European or the Westminster Parliament before it is applied: it is not possible for the European Parliament to meet in plenary session now til January, and to be ratified by the EU, the 2000-page deal has to be translated into 27 official languages, voted on by 27 parliaments, and returned to the European Parliament. (I presume an emergency recall of Westminster Parliament could take place by Zoom, though Jacob Rees-Mogg has strenuously objected to such modern goings-on.)

If a deal is settled by close of day tomorrow, Christmas Eve, it is agreed the ambassadors of each country to the EU will meet, provisionally agree to it being applied to the UK-EU from 11pm 31st December, and an official letter (which is reckoned to take, by itself, four days to draft) will be sent out to each EU country for provisional approval.

The Westminster Parliament is likely to be recalled on Sunday 27th, two days in to Tier4 lockdown.

This will avoid, at least, the worst-case disruption – worse than that which a mere 48 hours of stoppages caused. The deal will still have to go through process for full ratification – and it is unlikely to make the ERG MPs happy: as noted earlier, it is unlikely that anything could make them happy. They have announced that as soon as the full text of the deal is public, they will convene what they refer to as their Star Chamber, and examine it in detail.

The Star Chamber was an invention of the Tudor monarchy, a court which had the power to punish crimes which might not be illegal but which loyal privy councillors to King Henry (7 or 8) felt ought to be illegal, and which English monarchs following found increasingly useful, to be able to declare something criminal and find people guilty and fine them, Sir William Blackstone notes drily in his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769) that it was abolished (1641) “to the general joy of the whole nation”.

It seems strangely appropriate that the Brexiter MPs should revive a legal name that had lived on only in metaphor for secretive procedings with no due process, and declare themselves the unlawful court of social and political oppression through the arbitrary use and abuse of power.

This convening of their Star Chamber means that when MPs return from recess in January and can scrutinise the 2000-page deal, which they have bound the UK to because it was that or crash out in no deal, the first Parliamentary scrutiny will be that of this semi-official group determined to find everything wrong with it they can.

Keir Starmer will likely have whipped Labour to agree to it: the SNP have already declared they will not vote for it: but with Labour MPs who obey Starmer and Conservative MPs who obey Johnson, the deal will pass.

But it is quite possible that, though Boris Johnson hopes to have this greeted as a grandstanding last-minute victory, now the deal is done and Johnson (and Starmer) can be held responsible for it, Johnson will be gone as soon as Tory MPs can figure out who they’re going to vote for to replace him.
So to be clear: if we hear a deal has been agreed to on Christmas Eve, we may stagger along a while longer – we will at least not be crashing out in no-deal Brexit.

If no deal has been agreed to by close of day Christmas Eve, then we really are finally out of time, and have a week left to contemplate what’s coming to us.

1 Comment

Filed under Brexit, Politics

Cummings Goings

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 14th November 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

A few facts.

Trump has stopped dyeing his hair. (No, it is not a toupee, he has a massive combover with tons of product, but it came loose in a good Scottish breeze once when he was here to buy a golf course.) The Ivanka Trump version is that he dyes it himself from a DIY-box, and the reason the colour is so weird is that he’s never had the patience to leave it on the right amount of time.
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Elections, Politics, US Politics

Writing About Brexit: Tory MPs Vilify Their Own Withdrawal Agreement

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 17th September 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

Just as a squib to start with:

Chris Grayling has been quietly replaced on the Security Committee, chaired by formerly-Tory MP Julian Lewis, and has taken on a part-time job, 7 hours a week “advising” Hutchison Ports Europe, for which he is to be paid £100,000 a year. Given Grayling’s track record it is just as well it’s only 7 hours a week, or it could cost Hutchison Ports Europe a lot more than a hundred grand.

And Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, has chosen to inform the nation of a regional lockdown via the Peston show on ITV, not via the House of Commons or even the daily coronacvirus briefing. (And Chris Whitty says it needs to be a national full lockdown for at least two weeks, but that of course that wouldn’t suit Johnson’s donors.) Lindsay Hoyle scolded the government for that breach last time it’s happened: now it’s happened again.

But this is politics as usual: it’s deadly, during a global pandemic, but it’s normal Tory stuff.
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Brexit

Vote Leave Wants No Deal Brexit

Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Dominic Cummings, in front of a Vote Leave posterThe Internal Market Bill passed Second Reading last night by 77 votes.

I couldn’t listen to all of the debate – I was working yesterday, having decided to take off Wednesday and Thursday as usual – for PMQs (Keir Starmer will be absent: he is self-isolating as one of his household has shown symptoms of coronavirus) and because Wednesday is the second day of the committee of the whole House examining the bill.

But I listened to enough of the debate, including Boris Johnson’s opening statement presenting the bill (and Ed Miliband’s strong rebuttal – Starmer picked him to sub in, and I have to say, he was terrific) to see very definitely two things.
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Brexit, EU referendum, GE2019, US Politics

Writing About Brexit: the Irish Border

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 12th September 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

You cannot have a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland because it would be the end of the peaceful settlement of 1998: it would cause economic hardship on the island of Ireland: Northern Ireland voted by majority to remain in the EU.
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Brexit

Writing About Breaking International Law

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 11th September 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

Let us consider where we are.

Boris Johnson is the Prime Minister and holds a 79-seat/bullet-proof majority in the House of Commons. He has made clear to his MPs that neither rebellion nor dissent are tolerated and he will remove the Whip – that is, make a Tory MP an Independent MP without a party – from any of his MPs who act in any way contrary to his instructions.

Boris Johnson has instructed his government to insert clauses into the Internal Market Bill which break international law. This has been publicly admitted to by several of his Cabinet ministers – not that Boris Johnson gave the instructions (it may have been Dominic Cummings, who knows) but that certain clauses in the Internal Market Bill do break international law, Ministers of the Crown know this, and they want this bill enacted even though it breaks international law.
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Brexit

Writing About Brexit: the PMQs track and trace

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 8th September 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

Today’s PMQs were less of a fiasco for Boris Johnson than last week’s, despite his Secretary of State for Northern Ireland admitting in the Commons yesterday that yes, the proposed changes to the Withdrawal Agreement did break international law in a “limited and specific way”.
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Andy Weir, Brexit

Writing About Brexit: the Internal Market bill

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 9th September 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

On Tuesday 8th September, there were two important resignations:

Jonathan Jones was until Tuesday the Treasury Solicitor, which is the head of the government legal profession, and also the Permanent Secretary of the Government Legal Department, which is the single largest provider of legal services to government: he quit.

And also: Rowena Collins Rice, director general at the Attorney General’s Office. She also quit today.

The Irish Border twitter account, which stopped tweeting on 31st January, today tweeted again:
“Ok, now I’m worried”
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Brexit

Brexit and the break-up of the UK

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 7th September 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network. Every time I tried to begin a post here about politics, since Thursday, I kept thinking “But David Graeber is dead.”

David Graeber died in Venice on Wednesday 2nd September. I didn’t know him personally and my sense of loss is only what I feel when a writer I admire and respect and want to keep writing is gone: there will never be any more clear sharp insightful essays and articles from him, never again. He was 59 and I am old enough to feel strongly that this is far too young to die.

Well, so.

I watched PMQs on Wednesday, and Boris Johnson, fresh from his holidays, reacted to Keir Starmer’s questions with an outpouring of poisonous bile. He didn’t look well, not that his illness excuses his behaviour: as John Crace noted, PMQ is essentially a kind of Westminster performance, something perhaps only political afficionados care to watch: but it is a dance with rules, a question followed by an answer, a follow-up question, a follow-up answer. Boris Johnson was interrupted mid-flow by the Speaker, who very gently and politely told him to answer the question. I don’t think I’m inventing this: Lindsay Hoyle looked worried.
Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under David Graeber, European politics, Riots, Scottish Constitution, Scottish Politics, Supermarkets

About the Julian Lewis fiasco: for the love of Boris Johnson

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 19th July 2020, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

I’ve seen several people sharing an article by Nick Cohen on Boris Johnson. Nick Cohen is someone whose politics I pretty much entirely disagree with, except on Brexit.

Let me pull out this paragraph:

“Conservative politicians talk about Johnson with a venom few socialists can match. It’s not that he’s a criminal like Putin, they say. He doesn’t have the balls to be truly evil. Rather, he is a pathetically insecure narcissist who turns on you if you don’t feed his craving for applause. “He’s an abject, hectoring, incompetent show-off,” said one. “If you don’t love him or can’t fake a love for him, he will go for you.””

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Brexit, Disability, Poverty