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Analysis

Fantastic beasts: 5 unicorns in Tory race that need slaying

by Nick Kent | 04.06.2019

Tory leadership contenders are promoting a host of fantasy Brexit ideas. Here are five of their unicorns that need slaying.

‘We can renegotiate the deal with the EU’

So says Boris Johnson, along with Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, and pretty much everyone in the contest. A really determined prime minister would bang the table and swear on the lives of their children that there’ll be a no deal Brexit if the EU doesn’t back down, then it will cave in. This, the mother of all unicorns, has now given birth to a baby one; a new European Commission means that everything is up for grabs.

The EU has said ad nauseam that it will not reopen the Withdrawal Treaty; the other 27 member states endorsed that in April when agreeing the extension until 31 October. A new Commission won’t change anything because it is the views of the 27 governments that matter most.

‘We can fix the Irish backstop’

That’s what Matt Hancock and Sajid Javid claim. Hancock wants an Irish border council and a time limit on the backstop. Too bad that the Irish government has already rejected a time limit. Javid promises a “grand gesture” – money to facilitate a technological solution – but rather undermines his desire to build goodwill by describing Ireland as “the tail that wags the dog on” Brexit.

The Northern Ireland backstop will stay in place until MPs accept that to avoid it they must reach an agreement that honours the UK’s obligations under the Good Friday agreement. That means one that covers single market rules, border issues and customs.

‘If the EU won’t give in, then we can leave without a deal’

But none of the candidates (no, not even Dominic Raab) will have a majority in the Commons to deliver a no-deal Brexit that it rejected by 400 votes to 160 in March. And a damaging no-deal Brexit wouldn’t end our problems with the EU. We would still need to talk to them to continue trading.

Never mind, cry the battier Brexiters, stop Parliament sitting to prevent it from blocking no deal. This betrayal of the Leavers’ referendum promise of “taking back control” is proposed by Esther McVey, who seems to have missed Philip Hammond (and others) declaring that they wouldn’t support a prime minister trying to do this in a vote of confidence.

‘The Malthouse compromise’

Actually Kit Malthouse’s plan is a crossbreed as it combines some jiggery-pokery on the backstop with what Andrea Leadsom calls a “managed no deal”. Sadly, the big bad wolf in Brussels has already eaten this one.

‘We’ll get a free trade deal with our friend Donald Trump’

But hang on, he wants the NHS on the table in those negotiations, and Hunt says that can’t happen. And anyway we export five times as much food to our main EU markets than to the US, so it pays to stick to EU food rules and not adopt lower American standards.

When the One Nation group of Tory MPs hold the first hustings of the leadership contest tonight they need to confront the candidates with the absurdities of these unicorns. How would they stop the UK crashing out without a deal? None of them has a plan that works except Sam Gyimah, who rightly believes the only way out of the impasse is a People’s Vote.

Demand a vote on the Brexit deal

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

4 Responses to “Fantastic beasts: 5 unicorns in Tory race that need slaying”

  • Five unicorns that need slaying, and five men who believe in unicorns and who are in danger of being our next Prime minister—Johnson, Gove, Hunt, Raab, Javid. At least one of these most favoured five is bound to reach the final two. 144 Tory MPs endorse one or other of them. That leaves 169 Tories who to date have backed none of them. But it seems they could have no collective strategy as MPs if they want to keep all of the frightful five away from the final two. I guess that those least enamoured of unicorns might want to put their weight behind Gove—the only one of them neither ready to pursue, nor to settle for, a NoDeal exit on 31 Oct (not that he won’t do his utmost to get us out of the EU). It seems he’ll have a little help from Murdoch, and he’s going to meet Trump, which maybe will recommend him to the Tory Party members. Even so, perhaps the other 4 are worse. We really to have to rely on Parliament taking control whoever’s P.M.

  • Good article, but there is a unicorn of our own here. Prorogation is something done to Parliament, not something it votes on. If there was warning of prorogation, the Commons perhaps could pass a motion of no confidence, and the Queen would hopefully not then accept the request for a prorogation. But if the prorogation was unexpected, or time was not found quickly enough for a confidence motion, there would be no vote and the session would simply end. What’s the strategy for preventing that?

  • “But hang on, he wants the NHS on the table in those negotiations, and Hunt says that can’t happen.”

    From the link:
    “Now, that’s not to say that pharmaceutical products, drugs, those kinds of things, which are freely traded between countries couldn’t be discussed…”

    Which means we could well lock in our drug supply to the US and get penalised in secret courts if we go elsewhere. Just as happens in the US. Where people are dying because they can’t afford insulin, $360 a month in the US. $65 a month in the UK.

  • Is that really correct regarding the prices of insulin in the US and the UK?
    If true, this is the kind of info that needs to be widely and repeatedly publicised. Convert to sterling and that is an example a;; can understand.