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Analysis

Rees-Mogg Telegraphs impotence, while BoJo loses mojo

by Hugo Dixon | 03.03.2018

Theresa May’s speech yesterday contains plans to turn us into vassals. But Brexit ayatollah Jacob Rees-Mogg wrote in the Telegraph that those who complain are nitpicking. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson tweeted that the speech sets out a “clear and convincing vision”.

What has happened to these two bold Brexiters who previously pounced on any concession to the EU, screaming “vassal state”? The answer is that they know they are virtually powerless.

Rees-Mogg and Johnson desperately need a Brexit deal because they are worried that there will be no Brexit at all if the government tries to crash out of the EU without one. Their mantra of “no deal is better than a bad deal” has been replaced by “any deal is better than no deal”.

So as the prime minister makes one u-turn after another in her attempt to get a deal with the EU, Rees-Mogg and Johnson are having to suck up some pretty unpleasant medicine. But they have every interest in pretending to their supporters that it’s as sweet as honey. After all, if the punters realise we are being turned into vassals, they might not want Brexit at all.

Axing May a bad option

Rees-Mogg and Johnson do, admittedly, have the nuclear option of forcing May out of Downing Street. One of them, or perhaps fellow hardliner Michael Gove, would then be well placed to replace her.

But what would they do then? They might want a hard Brexit but there’s no way Parliament would approve it. So they have no option except putting lipstick on the pig of a deal the prime minister is likely to end up with.

Johnson has been doing this for a long time. It’s hard to keep count of the number of times the foreign secretary has drawn red lines, only to pretend subsequently that they never existed.

For Rees-Mogg, biting his lip on vassaldom is a new phenomenon. When he took over as leader of the European Research Group, the hardline Tory backbench body, he wanted to grab headlines with fiery comments. Now he seems more worried about frightening the horses.

Not only has Rees-Mogg just come out with his nitpicking comment. He has not made a song and dance about May’s flip-flop this Wednesday when she agreed to let EU citizens coming here during the “transition” period that she’s desperate to secure have virtually the same rights as those who come now. Only five days earlier, he said he’d be astonished if a “lady of great backbone” made such a u-turn.

Ripcord won’t rescue them either

Rees-Mogg and Johnson are comforting themselves that May only proposed vassal status for competition policy and a few industries while also asking for a ripcord, which would allow us to end vassaldom in any area we wished in the future. They know that we’d then lose access to parts of the EU market which would damage our economy, but they are not bothered. The key thing is that, by then, Brexit would have happened and if the voters didn’t like it, tough luck.

But don’t the Brexit extremists know what’s going to happen next? The EU will say we can’t cherry-pick our sectors. At the minimum, we’ll have to take all goods and agriculture. It will also say no to May’s ripcord. Meanwhile, our parliament will probably say we have to stay in a customs union with the EU. Vassaldom on top of vassaldom on top of vassaldom.

What will Rees-Mogg and Johnson do then? Given their near impotence, they’ll probably just suck it up. Or, to change the analogy, like frogs in a pan of water that is gradually being heated, they don’t have the vim to jump out – and will end up well and truly boiled.

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

11 Responses to “Rees-Mogg Telegraphs impotence, while BoJo loses mojo”

  • Brexit is an end in itself, which the Brexiters will celebrate no matter what it looks like. The question is, what next? What will be the new goal to which these boiled frogs will aspire? The mind boggles…

  • I find the apparent happiness of the Hard Brexiteers like Mogg and Johnson unnerving. This was also apparent in the John Redwood interview with Emily Maitliss on Newsnight last evening. He emphasised how generous Theresa May was being to the EU. I must have listened to a different speech! It was aimed at her domestic audience as a justification of her negotiating position, rather than telling the EU anything new. So, the NI border issue was no longer an issue for the UK to make a sensible proposal for, but for the EU to help sort out. This is in spite of the clear warnings before the EU Referendum that this would be a major issue. Cherry picking is likewise just a negotiation position as in any trade deal, not having your cake and eating it. I am afraid that the speech was little more than an attempt to manoeuvre the public to think if the negotiations fail it will be down to the unreasonableness of the EU for not giving us what we want, rather than the stupidity of the UK. I think some Tory Remain MPs might have fallen for it.
    When it boils down to it, even if the EU is accommodating the deal will still impact the UK economy between the 2% (Remaining in the SM and CU) and the 8% of WTO tariffs if the Leaked Treasury Report is correct. This will hurt the least well off in Society considerably.
    If I were sitting in the position of the EU, I would be fed up with our nonsense. The public has a right to know how much Brexit is going to cost in terms of Cherry picked participation in EU structures and the Domestic cost of all the Regulatory Alignment systems that are envisaged. I am confident that our EU contribution would seem like excellent value for money in comparison.

  • The simple fact is that the hard brexiteers will allow May to offer anything she likes as long as it is reversible. Getting to March 29 2019 before the electorate realise what a mess awaits them is now paramount.

  • I don’t understand why you’ve adopted the rhetoric of the swivel-eyed europhobes. If you think really think that a transition period would make us a vassal state, you simply don’t know what the word means.

    A vassal state is a puppet of it master. It cannot make its own laws – the UK most certainly will continue to do so just like today. It definitely cannot criticise its masters – the UK will no doubt continue to do so as unfairly as it ever did! It must provide military resources to its masters. Now this is an interesting point, because the UK has no such obligation to the European Union. Arguably we have such an obligation to NATO, but interestingly only Jeremy Corbyn has ever suggested withdrawing from that ultimate ‘slight against our national sovereignty’.

    You need to reconsider your language, and remember the name of your website. This is InFacts, not InFictions!!

  • May, Johnson, Rees-Mogg, Gove, Davis et al. do not want a deal of any sort with the EU.
    They are only interested in a hard brexit, to ensure that pending EU legislation never gets into UK law. They will then lie, and blame EU intransigence that does not exist.
    This is what they all want to stop, and Anti Tax Evasion legislation to follow: https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/business/company-tax/anti-tax-avoidance-package/anti-tax-avoidance-directive_en

  • Every concession by Brexiteers doesn’t cheer me much, nor does any victory by remainers, as the slow trudge out of Europe goes on as redlines come and go. For some I’m afraid all they want is out and will be happy to let someone pick up the pieces afterwards. And technically getting out is only concrete “decision” made by “the people”. The rest is interpretation of the wishes of the people, not facts. Nonetheless every step towards making it realistic that this country gets a chance to step back and reconsider what it really wants is progress. The PM’s response to the German journalist’s question about are you having second thoughts (or something like that) of “we’re doing it whatever” was both revealing and depressing. The Robot drives on and we don’t know how to stop her.

  • We were always heading for BINO. We will remain in as many EU agencies as the government thinks desirable, which will probably be all of them. We will continue to comply with the CAP and be in the same alliance as Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands for the management of fisheries. We will continue to abide by EU standards to ensure frictionless trade and have some form of customs agreement and in practice remain in the single market. All this will be overseen by some independent arbitration panel which will be the ECJ by another name and we will have to contribute financially for all. The only difference is that we won’t be represented in the EU parliament, commission or council. There is of course one advantage to this – we won’t have UKIP MEP’s making sure that the EU doesn’t work for us!

  • I am an optimist…..but I see so many indications that the Brexit Zealots are withdrawing their enthusiasm for their charge of the light brigade, that I have hope again. But where is the Remain Leader? No offence to Mr Soros.