George Bridges, former Brexit minister, writing in The Telegraph…
“Ministers say the Conservatives are a tax cutting party, but they are putting taxes up. They say they want a smaller state, but they want to spend more on levelling up. They say they are on the side of business, but are raising National Insurance on employers. They say their party is compassionate, but benefits will rise by about 3.1%, while inflation is set to hit 9%.
The government’s incoherence and confusion stems from a deep-seated malaise within the Conservative Party itself. Since 1997, gradually and at times imperceptibly, many Conservatives have acquiesced to the political consensus that the steady rise in state spending and taxes is somehow inevitable, and that reversing this trend would be politically unpopular. Rather than focusing on cutting taxes, the Party has extolled the virtues of government “investment”. Other Conservatives disagreed, but for years the cracks were papered over.”
Former DexEU minister George Bridges with a withering takedown of May’s Brexit dithering in the Lords this afternoon:
“Four months on and there are still no clear answers to these basic, critical questions. All we hear day after day are conflicting, confusing voices. If this continues and ministers cannot agree among themselves on the future relationship the government wants, how can this Prime Minister possibly negotiate a clear, precise heads of terms of the future relationship with the EU?
My fear is that we will get meaningless waffle in the political declaration in October. The implementation period will not be a bridge to a clear destination, it will be a gang plank into thin air. The EU will have the initiative in the second stage of the negotiatons and we shall find ourselves forced to accept a deal that gives us access to EU markets, but without UK politicians having a meaningful say over swathes of legislation and regulation.
Some may say this outcome would not be the end of the world, some may say it’s inevitable. My point today is this: at this pivotal moment in our history we cannot, we must not indulge in that very British habit of just muddling through. With under 300 working days until we leave the EU, we need to know the government’s answers to these central questions. They go to the heart of the matter, the powers of this parliament and parliamentary sovereignty.
The government must be honest with themselves and the public about the choices that we face, and then the Prime Minister and the Cabinet must make those choices. As has been said, to govern is to choose, and as we face the biggest challenge this country has faced since the Second World War, keeping every option open is no longer an option.”
He is spot on…
In June George Bridges quit as Brexit minister amid reports he had fallen out with Downing Street over strategy. He has spoken for the first time about how he thinks the government should proceed (read in full on Reaction). Many of his suggestions are being welcomed by Tory Brexiteers:
Theresa May is to give a major speech on or around September 21. The aim is to “reset” the Brexit negotiations and end the impasse – those involved talk of achieving this by offering more clarity, compromise and a conciliatory tone towards Brussels. She will likely talk up how there is almost a deal on citizens’ rights and significant convergence on Ireland. The question is how far May will go in saying what she wants from a transition and if she will commit to contributing financially to the EU during this period. The ball would then be in the EU’s court to show why we should pay more than this. The Bridges proposals are interesting, as he says Number 10 should “make a bolder move and break the impasse”…
When May became PM one of her more sensible appointments was putting staunch Leaver David Jones in the Brexit department. The move allayed concerns among Leavers that May would sell out on Brexit. She has now decided to sack Jones, a knowledgable and competent minister, after just 11 months in the job. He has been replaced by Baroness Anelay, a Remainer…
George Bridges, Brexit minister in the Lords, was widely respected by all sides and quickly gained a reputation as one of the most impressive ministers in the government. He has also now left DexEU.
This is all going down really badly among Tory Leavers:
“One suspects the table banging would have gone on for a lot less than 25 seconds had she had the guts to complete her reshuffle before going to the 1922.”
“An almost whole new Brexit team. What was that about needing stability because negotiations started 11 days after the election?”
A pertinent point. Why is May taking the axe to her Brexit team just days before the negotiations start?