Damp squib in Manchester: PM fails on election and Brexit

by Nick Kent | 02.10.2019

The Conservatives’ conference in Manchester was meant to be the springboard to election victory.  Instead it was a flat, surprisingly dull affair, the (relative) calm before the impending Brexit storm.

Theresa May’s “magic money tree” was shorn of all its remaining fruit in a spending spree that would have made Tony Blair blush.  But the big spending announcements had been made before the conference (because there wasn’t meant to be one), while Brexit was parked behind the rather desperate slogan “get Brexit done” as Boris Johnson decided to hold back on negotiating with the EU.

Only now, on the final day of the conference with 29 days until Brexit, has the Prime Minister at last given us some idea of his proposals.  As we reported yesterday, they are focused around the Northern Ireland backstop and are the mother of all muddles. 

It is no wonder that the response from Irish politicians and Northern Ireland business leaders has been hostile.  The EU position is that a replacement for the backstop must ensure peace in Ireland, keep the border open and not undermine the Single Market.  Yet Johnson is proposing a bizarre scheme involving two borders for Northern Ireland’s goods (with Great Britain and the Republic), a partial customs union and the province remaining in parts of the Single Market for at least four years.  With a role for the Northern Ireland Assembly that it is currently unable to meet.

This complex scheme flies in the face of previous commitments from Johnson that there would be no physical checks on the border.  Yet while the Prime Minister repeated that promise in his conference speech, it is revealing that he went on to describe the Northern Ireland issue as “essentially a technical discussion about future customs arrangements”.  That dismissive attitude to the Republic and to the Good Friday Agreement may reflect the prejudices of the DUP but it doesn’t bode well for the negotiations.  

Johnson’s tactics are as shameless as they are patently obvious: put forward proposals you know the EU can’t accept and then blame them when you fail to get a deal and the UK crashes out.  The Prime Minister may boast that one in five electric cars sold in Europe is made in the UK but his Brexit policy will mean that they are 10 per cent more expensive. And his promise of more state aid for industry holds out the possibility of EU import bans on British goods.  

Manchester revealed the hollowness of the Prime Minister’s agenda.  The truth is that it changed nothing. When he returns to the Commons tomorrow he will still have no majority.  His party is still bitterly divided with the English nationalists in ascendance. Business and the public remain opposed to the UK crashing out on October 31.  He can’t call a general election without Jeremy Corbyn’s agreement. The Commons is deadlocked on Brexit.

Centrist Tory MPs worry about the Prime Minister’s angry rhetoric, his dismissal of threats to women MPs and the impact on the country (and their party) of a no deal Brexit.  Slowly, painfully, more Conservatives are moving towards to a People’s Vote. It’s not a done deal but then neither is the Prime Minister’s plan for Brexit. 

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Edited by James Earley

Categories: UK Politics

7 Responses to “Damp squib in Manchester: PM fails on election and Brexit”

  • ” Get Brexit done ” yes, but we all know or should know that if Brexit takes place, with or without a deal, the next five or ten years will be taken up with the subsequent trade negotiations and the implementation of whatever the political declaration will ultimately contain on our future relationship with the EU.

    So the quickest way to get Brexit off the agenda is to remain in the EU.

  • I would be very surprised if this new scheme is accepted by the Irish government. It definitely threatens the peace which has prevailed since the GFA.
    I have never been able to understand why the ERG is so keen to get out of the EU? Why upset what we already have which is pretty good? It would appear that it is down to money. These guys and their backers know how to short the pound and make billions out of Brexit. They resent the EU because it stops them playing their money games. They don’t give one joy for the population at large or the economy or other consequences such as trouble returning to NI.
    Johnson’s new scheme will be rejected, he will then blame Brussels and push on for a crash out on Oct 31. But how will he get round the Ben Act? We are in for four weeks of hell. I truly detest what they are doing to us and also thoroughly depressed at how so many cannot see through them.

  • I agree that it is impossible for those of us with the common sense to see that Brexit is insanity to truly understand why the Leavers are so determined to destroy everything achieved over the last 46 years. They seem to have long since lost sight of the reason the voted to leave in the first place. Now “leaving” has become almost religious dogma. Brexit is the be-all and end-all and “why” doesn’t seem to figure in any of their arguments (which usually involve shouting and screaming). The ERG et al have been coining it since 2016. Mogg ( a venture capitalist) has, by conservative estimates, added £&M to his fortune as a direct result of playing the money markets – and he’s not alone. Include Farage in that. These are all conmen and shysters and I cannot understand how anyone can be taken in by them.

  • Sorry, keyboard trouble above. Mogg has made around seven million pounds since 2016 – just as a result of Brexit.

  • The EU are very unhappy and have given short shrift to this new ‘plan’. Guy Verhofstadt condemned it and clearly there is a concern in Brussels that Johnson is playing a blame game and wishes a no deal exit.
    Johnson told the Tory conference that the issue was merely a technical one which left Leo Varadkar open mouthed. It is in fact a legal and political matter. It will open up the old wounds in NI with the DUP speaking for ‘everyone’ in supporting the new plan. Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party are completely against it and are angry that the DUP has a veto when the province as a whole voted to remain. We get lectured all the time by Johnson on democracy and yet they overlook the fact that NI and Scotland do not want to leave the EU.
    I think this new plan is the start of big trouble. Johnson is not to be trusted. How on earth can he suppose that this plan would be acceptable to the EU and the people of Ireland who want to keep an open border? The answer is that he knows the EU will reject it, he can then blame Brussels and take the UK out without a deal.
    It made me ill to see all those fawning Tories lapping up Johnson’s bluster. What is wrong with them? How can they risk the future of this country to satisfy the greed of a few individuals and be taken in so easily by Johnson?

  • All of these various brexit options will require years of negotiations whether it be with the EU to rewrite existing laws to adapt to a partial exit or with the US to discover just how demanding and unreasonable they can be.

    We already belong to the EU. We have a seat at the top table and enjoy many special concession negotiated by the Tea lady. If we leave, even for 10 minutes, we will start again at the bottom and lose all of these special concessions.

    The laws and manufacturing systems (just in time) exist and are currently functioning to provide goods and materials that are needed by all. We have fresh food in our supermarkets and drugs in our hospitals. We have a market for our produce and systems in place to deliver these goods

    What seems to get left out of all the reports originating in the UK is that this whole Brexit fiasco is costing the EU a huge amount of time and money. This distraction, which they did not ask for, is preventing them to move ahead with essential projects in every sector of society. They spend their time kicking a dead horse, day after day and still manage to be polite and attentive when we dump on them, yet another, cobbled together collection of impossible proposals.

    How on earth they can do it I do not know. We have foisted Farage on them for another number of years who’s only contribution is to regularly denigrate the EP and insult every other MEP with a passion.

    Farage, for his part, only stops by to insult, fill his suitcase with money and travel expenses before catching the first flight to Trump Towers for a session of bum kissing and photo ops.

    Johnson’s technique seems to be standing on a platform shouting, ‘I want, I want, I want and if you don’t give it to me I won’t play anymore and it will be all your fault! Yet they remain polite and attentive, just as though they were dealing with normal human beings. Not escapees from a local lunatic asylum.

    Withdraw A50. Save our country.

  • Notice how Johnson brags that one in five electric cars for the EU are made in the UK. That means four in five aren’t. Soon it will be five in five aren’t made in the UK. How is that good for the UK?