Brexit Bulletin: Calm before the storm – our Leader’s on tour and farewell to a legend

Brexit Bulletin: Calm before the storm – our Leader’s on tour and farewell to a legend

‘I’m lost without a clue, So how can I undo, The tangle of these webs I keep weaving, I don’t know if I should be believing’1


An abbreviated rant this week as we await the vote on the Leader’s capitulation, and her future, in the Commons next week.

However, a few observations to be going on with:

Government special advisers fear that there could be a public enquiry into the handling of the Brexit process. “We are fully expecting an inquiry,” a Cabinet minister’s aide has been quoted as saying, “It will be welcomed by extremists on both sides but by sensible people too. There have been so many lies, so many misleading statements.”

There have been so many lies, so many misleading statements

The Leader is famously cagey about how choices are made in Number 10, which, in part, explains why successive DExEu secretaries resigned, and why MPs will press her again to disclose the legal advice given for her Brexit plan.

It would seem, that there are two decisive moments, both of which had a profound impact on the capitulation negotiated, and both were, arguably, misguided calculations made against Whitehall advice.

  • The triggering of Article 50 announced in a speech to the Conservative Party conference in October 2016, intended to reassure Leavers that she — a Remainer —could be trusted to deliver Brexit. But at a stroke she undermined the UK’s negotiating position, starting the clock before securing a single concession from the EU, either on substance or the sequence of the negotiations of Brexit. It seems that Whitehall’s advice was ignored, and some advisers were overruled too.
  • Agreeing to the Northern Ireland protocol in December 2017 — a decision, the aide says, made without consulting the Cabinet or the DUP. Effectively it committed the UK to the backstop (leaving Northern Ireland alone in the customs union and the single market). Gavin Barwell, her chief of staff, told Cabinet ministers that the language in protocol was “meaningless. Just there to move things on.” But it’s a reworked backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement that keeps the UK in the customs union and Northern Ireland as part of the single market. Did the Leader have legal advice on the backstop? “If not, why not?” The aide poses rhetorically. “And if so, did she ignore it? Or did they lie to Cabinet?”

None of the above places the Leader in a good light, and only endorses what was highlighted by the contempt proceeding triggered by the Commons after the refusal to publish the legal advice on the “back-stop”. It would seem our Leader doesn’t do committees, or sharing, it’s all about her.

But never fear, after two wasted years we can, in the opinion of The European Court of Justice, cancel Brexit and stay in the European Union without strings.

The key moment of the week, however, was the moves by a group of Conservative grandees who have joined a parliamentary attempt to seize control of the Brexit process and prevent the Leader from allowing the country to crash out of the EU without any deal at all.

Effectively, the House is taking back power from the executive, or, put another, the Leader is starting to get her comeuppance.

Former Downing Street fixer Sir Oliver Letwin, Mrs May’s former policy adviser, George Freeman and Father of the House Kenneth Clarke were among signatories of a cross-party amendment that would ensure the Commons can vote on what happens next if Mrs May’s unpopular deal is voted down.

The amendment’s author, former attorney general Dominic Grieve said they were united in opposing a disastrous no-deal outcome, saying “It is time to drop the threatening rhetoric about allowing the UK to fall out of the EU with no deal,” Mr Grieve said. “Ministers do not hold all the parliamentary cards.”

The Prime Minister has started the five-day debate on her deal and insist that either no-deal chaos or no Brexit at all were the only alternatives, The Leader told MPs: “The British people want us to get on with a deal that honours the referendum and allows us to come together again as a country, whichever way we voted.”

This was somewhat contradicted by her Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, who admitted it was “not a perfect deal”.

Which brings me onto us, the poor British public. Why should we settle for second best? If, as seems likely, the Leaders deal is voted down by the House, then what? The one solution the, often minority, elected MPs seem desperate to avoid is a second referendum, what they won’t tell us is why?

elected MPs seem desperate to avoid is a second referendum, what they won’t tell us is why?

Surely, a referendum that was fought with half-truths, possibly a few lies, and ends with us paying £39bn to get a divorce that is full of concession should go back to the people to decide?

Maybe those cosy, cossetted MPs sitting in their ivory tower should cast a glance across the channel, vive la gilet jaune!


This article is devoted to the late, great Pete Shelley; Pete, thanks for the songs, and the memories, it was a pleasure to know you in those heady days of 1976-77. RIP.


‘Well I say what I mean, I say what comes to mind, I never get round to things, I’m living a straight, straight line’2


A sad week for lyric spotters able to remember back 42 years (‘fraid so) to Bolton’s finest and true punk pioneers – the incomparable Buzzcocks. Sadly we remember them here for all the wrong reasons, but there’s no apologies for a double header of ‘I Don’t Mind’ 1 and ‘Boredom’ 2 – a later version of this, but jolly good – enjoy!

Philip Gilbert 2Philip Gilbert is a city-based corporate financier, and former investment banker.

Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s

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