Verhofstadt: Olly Robbins Asked For Belgian Citizenship

Olly Robbins’ Brussels indiscretions have landed him in hot water again – this time it’s Guy Verhofstadt who’s dobbed him in. A laughing Verhofstadt reveals in BBC4’s new behind-the-scenes Brexit documentary that Olly Robbins came to him and said:

“Guy, can I become a Belgian citizen after this whole thing? Because I don’t think I will return.”

The clip – a teaser for tonight’s episode – also includes one of Verhofstadt’s staffers celebrating: “We finally turned them into a colony! And that was our plan from the first moment.” This is not going to do anything to ease Brexiteer suspicions about the May/Robbins deal…

Whitto Slams Olly Robbins

Former Cabinet Minister John Whittingdale has given a frank assessment of Olly Robbins’ track record as Theresa May’s top adviser on Politics Live. And May went along with it all…

Robbins Reveals Dishonesty of Government’s Stance

Olly Robbins has ended up in a significant amount of hot water after a sensational scoop from ITV’s Angus Walker in Brussels, who overheard Theresa May’s chief negotiator talking loudly to two colleagues in a Brussels hotel bar on Monday night. His remarks more or less confirmed all of Brexiteers’ worst fears that the wool is being pulled very firmly over their eyes…

Robbins’ revealed his plan to force the deal through by letting it go down to the wire and using the threat of a “long” extension to bully MPs into voting for the deal, saying “… Got to make them believe that the week beginning end of March… Extension is possible but if they don’t vote for the deal then the extension is a long one…” The Government’s long-held position has been firmly against any extension of Article 50. Now Robbins wants to weaponise that possibility to blackmail MPs. Forget the EU, it is clearer than ever that the UK’s own chief negotiator is not negotiating in good faith…

Robbins also boasted about the true nature of the backstop, revealing that it was not intended to be a “safety net” as it has been sold publicly but actually a “bridge” to the future relationship – exactly as his opposite number Sabine Weyand told EU ambassadors the day after the deal was agreed. Robbins told his companions: “The big clash all along is the ‘safety net’… We agreed a bridge but it came out as a ‘safety net’.” This blows another massive hole in May’s key commitments – this time on leaving the customs union. Robbins is answerable directly to the Prime Minister. How can she continue to stand up at the Despatch Box telling MPs one thing while allowing her chief negotiator to run round Brussels saying the complete opposite?

Blair: Robbins’ Chequers Camouflage a “Tribute” to the Civil Service

Ever popular former Prime Minister Tony Blair has given yet another speech to remind people of how he right he is always right about everything. Incredibly he also sent congratulations to May’s Brexit guru Olly Robbins for supposedly hoodwinking the Cabinet at Chequers:

“I take my hat off to Olly Robbins, Olly is a very skilled guy, the elaborate camouflage of all the different points is a tribute to the skill of the British civil service, I say that sincerely.”

Sincere or not, Blair’s comments will do nothing to dispel many Brexiteers’ suspicions that the Civil Service has been working to stitch-up the entire Brexit process behind the scenes. The familiar tactic of details being withheld from Cabinet Ministers until the last minute has led to Ministers being bounced bit by bit into a soft Brexit by stealth. Blair’s claim that EU officials privately say that Britain has “basically caved in” will not leave anyone too impressed either. Cock-up or conspiracy…

Former MI6 Boss Slams Sedwill’s Robbins Moan

Former MI6 boss Sir Richard Dearlove has hit back at Mark Sedwill’s whiny letter in the Times yesterday asking people to lay off poor old Olly Robbins because he’s just doing his “duty to implement the decisions of the governments they elect.” Like preparing his own “Olly plan” for Brexit without the Cabinet’s knowledge for 9 months?

Dearlove says “It is not critics of the once great British civil service but members of that service in No 10 who need to cease and desist”. He calls for Robbins and his defence adviser Alastair Brockbank to answer “serious questions of improper conduct” over the so-called ‘Kit Kat tapes’ where Brockbank was covertly recorded pledging to continue propping up EU defence programmes with UK taxpayers’ cash. Since the referendum there has been a complete reversal in the UK’s longstanding policy of opposing EU defence integration with no public debate…

The fundamental truth is that individual civil servants have agendas, biases and prejudices – just like anybody else. Different government departments can even have competing agendas. Reporting on this is a public service. Sedwill’s special pleading that civil servants should be immune from criticism and scrutiny is both arrogant and chilling for democratic accountability. The buck stops with elected politicians but that does not mean that high-powered civil servants should be given a free pass from the press to run their fiefdoms with impunity…

“Red Wine” for Robbins

The PM’s Brexit Sherpa Olly “Red” Robbins has been spotted having an early evening large glass of red wine in a Brussels bar whilst almost certainly perusing the latest #DespiteBrexit story. The Brexit negotiations currently in their most critical phase must be going better than expected?

H/T @MehreenKhn

Downing Street: It is Still Chequers or No Deal

The reason May looked so shook yesterday at the Salzburg press conference is simply that she did not expect the rejection to come now or for them to be blunt to the point of humiliatingly rude. Macron positively rejoicing at the prospect of punishing Britain and Tusk claiming Chequers is dead, coupled with him mocking her crassly on Instagram do not signal diplomatic success for Olly Robbins.

The line this morning from Downing Street is, to coin a phrase, “nothing has changed”. This rejection is, they say, merely positioning in the final stages of a negotiation. Nobody else seems to agree. The EU is playing brutally hard ball and Downing Street has been hitherto firmly pragmatic. She needs to stick to what she told Nick Robinson at Chequers in the interview clip above. It is still possible that the EU will blink, Downing Street says they now have to. This is also the end of the line for can kicking by Theresa May, if she compromises beyond Chequers she will see more Cabinet resignations and the resignation of one of her top advisers. She can’t move politically on;

  • ending free movement
  • membership of the single market or the customs union
  • ending the jurisdiction of the ECJ
  • ending vast payments to the EU or paying for access to the single market
  • integrity of Britain and Northern Ireland

Macron’s approval rating is on the floor, bashing les Anglais is a vote winner, Ireland’s Leo Varadkar has no intention of being seen to be soft on the British. It is possible that EU leaders will blink, however not probable unless the they really believe the UK will actually go ahead with no deal, no much needed £39 billion contribution to the EU budget. Just a cheery au revoir and auf wiedersehen…

Olly Robbins Lands £20,000 Bonus

Was it £5,000 for each red line broken?

H/T Harry Cole

Cabinet Brexiters Silent as Robbins Rubs Out Red Lines

As Downing Street’s Remainer Brexit supremo Olly Robbins further blurs the Prime Minister’s red lines, Guido cannot help but ask where are the Cabinet Brexiters?

  • Single market: According to the front page of today’s Times, Robbins is now saying there is no chance of the UK striking a bespoke deal with Brussels and that Downing Street is now favouring a Norway-style Brexit inside the single market. This would be a clear betrayal of the result and mean a sellout on free movement. At the very least Number 10 is considering asking to stay in the single market for goods. May told Brexiters we would be completely outside the single market.
  • Customs union: Robbins’ hybrid plan is a customs union in all but name. Even if Number 10 choose MaxFac, staying in single market for goods ruins our ability to strike free trade deals with other countries. We would not have an independent trade policy. May told us we would be outside the customs union, not staying in it in all but name.
  • Laws: It is now clear we will have to accept significant ECJ rulings after we leave, and that the ECJ will still effectively have some jurisdiction in the UK. If we stay in the single market for goods and pursue regulatory alignment, we will be a rule taker. This is arguably a worse situation than being a member of the EU, where at least you get a say. May told us we would be taking back control of laws.
  • Transition: There is now significant talk the transition period could be extended. Brexiters only accepted the transition agreement after May promised it would be strictly time-limited to two years.

Among Cabinet Brexiters, Boris has at least put up a fight, repeatedly condemning the direction of the government and calling the hybrid model “crazy”. But what about the rest?

DD’s threat to resign was embarrassing, he has been outmanoeuvred and then publicly mocked by Robbins at every turn. He is in danger of going down as the Brexit Secretary that effectively kept us in single market and customs union. How can he live with that? How can Steve Baker and Suella Braverman? We hear about their threats to resign, we hear about Baker packing his things up and threatening to walk out. When will Dexeu actually do something to stand up to Robbins?

Gove has been strongly critical of Robbins’ hybrid model, and at least he did tear up the NCP document in front of civil servants. But it has not gone unnoticed that he has been painfully loyal to the government and has moderated his position on pretty much everything Brexit-related over the last year. After the referendum he was insisting the transition must last months not years – he never mentions that when he’s speaking and schmoozing at every Tory drinks party. The consensus is his motive for staying quiet is the leadership, softening his stance to get Remainers onside…

Fox, whose department is being made a mockery of by Number 10, has said and done nothing. It appears all he cares about is being in government. He seems to spend most of his time sending press releases about putting up England flags rather than worrying that his job has become pointless. Fox and Leadsom are even talking about extending the transition period, falling into the Remainer trap to keep us in forever. 

UPDATE: A source close to Fox says: “Liam makes his passionate eurosceptic arguments around the cabinet table rather than in public because he believes that’s the way these things should be done”

Where is Grayling? Where is Mordaunt? Have they ever said anything about how they think Brexit is going? Are Cabinet Brexiters actually going to do anything this week, or roll over and let Olly Robbins push us into the softest of non-Brexits?

Robbins’ Private Sector Options

Rumours are doing the rounds in Whitehall that Theresa May’s Brexit adviser Olly Robbins is weighing up his options for a potential move to the private sector after October. The water cooler chat in several departments is that Robbins could bail out after the key EU summit and is considering a big pay day outside of government. He will not be short of offers on the continent…

Number 10’s Time Limit a Fudge of a Fudge of a Fudge, Just Like the Rest of Their Brexit Policy

After a fun morning of back and forth, here is the government’s ‘time-limited’ backstop proposal:

The UK is clear that the temporary customs arrangement, should it be needed, should be time limited, and that it will be only in place until the future customs arrangement can be introduced. The UK is clear that the future customs arrangement needs to deliver on the commitments made in relation to Northern Ireland. The UK expects the future arrangement to be in place by the end of December 2021 at the latest. There are a range of options for how a time limit could be delivered, which the UK will propose and discuss with the EU.

“Expects” is not a legal time limit. This is a fudge of a fudge of a fudge that implies the government won’t keep us in a customs union after December 2021, but does not legally rule it out. Yet again this government refuses to make a decision, refuses to show leadership and refuses to tell the EU what we want from Brexit. DD can try to claim victory and it is true this fudge is a humiliation for May and Robbins. It is remarkable Robbins is keeping his job after attempting to ram through the original plan behind Brexiters’ backs. But this is not a win for DD or Brexiters. Number 10 clearly wants to put us on a course for close alignment to the EU, which quite possibly will end up with us inside a customs union, and had to be forced under threat of resignation even to come up with this dreary fudge. This is all very depressing. It has never been truer that, as May once said, “you can only deliver Brexit if you believe in Brexit…”

ERG MPs Tell May to Sack Robbins

Tory MPs in the ERG have told Theresa May to sack her Remainer Brexit adviser Olly Robbins. Representations have been made to the chief whip that Robbins’ Irish backstop is unacceptable and has put Number 10 on a course towards selling out on Brexit, and his position is no longer tenable. May has to choose whether she wants to persist with Robbins’ sellout plan that gives up on the opportunities of Brexit, or back down and agree with David Davis. It is difficult to see how both Robbins and DD can stay in the government if things carry on like this.

On the DD resignation rumours front, yesterday afternoon his allies were insistent that he would be staying. The mood worsened by the evening, with one friend of Davis putting the chances of him quitting at 50-50. This morning another ally of DD says he is considering his position. You have to wonder what Davis has to lose from quitting. If he backs down he will go down as the Brexit Secretary who didn’t make good on his threats and allowed Robbins’ Remainer Brexit. If Davis does resign, one ally says, May is “toast“. It’s DD-Day…

DD “Outsmarted” By Robbins and Remainers

Worrying developments in the Cabinet row over Olly Robbins’ new sellout fudge potentially keeping us in the customs union forever. Remainers in the government are gloating that David Davis has been “outsmarted” by Robbins and briefing that he doesn’t have the balls to kill it.

If DD rolls over on this, we will be getting a Hotel California Brexit where we never leave the customs union. Brexiters need to fight for Brexit…

Now Robbins Tries to Fudge Backstop Time Limit

Disturbing reports from Sam Coates that May’s Brexit adviser Olly Robbins is attempting to fudge the time-limit on Number 10’s Northern Ireland backstop. Brexiters had previously been assured that the backstop – which pledges to keep the UK in the customs union beyond 2021 if no other arrangement is agreed – would be strictly time-limited.[…] Read the rest


Robbins Hits Back at Brussels Briefing

May’s chief civil service Brexit adviser Olly Robbins has joined Twitter with a passive aggressive dig at the Brussels official who briefed the press yesterday that the UK was “chasing fantasy”.[…] Read the rest


No.10, Treasury and Robbins’ Bid to Wreck Max Fac

If any further proof were needed that the civil service is working against Brexit, this morning’s revelation in The Sun that Olly Robbins held back evidence in favour of the Max Fac model just about sums it up. May’s Europhile Brexit adviser stands accused of deliberately not including evidence that a technological solution can be found to solve the Irish border question in his presentation to the Brexit sub-committee.[…] Read the rest


No.10 / Civil Service Love In

In response to more Brexiteer criticism of Olly Robbins’ customs partnership proposal in the Sunday newspapers, a clear concerted effort from Number 10 to back their Remainer civil servants:

[…] Read the rest


May Told Brexiters Needed in No.10 Europe Unit

Tory MPs want Theresa May to add Brexit-supporting trade experts to her Number 10 team after concerns were raised that the current crop of policy aides are out of their depth and not signed up to the PM’s plan for leaving the customs union.[…] Read the rest


May Told to Ditch Customs Partnership “Turkey”

Tory MPs and Cabinet ministers are telling Theresa May to ditch her ‘customs partnership’ fudge, with government sources claiming even Jeremy Heywood thinks it is a “turkey“. David Davis has been lobbying against Number 10’s so-called hybrid model, in which the UK would collect import tariffs on behalf of Brussels, continue to follow the Common Commercial Policy, stay in the single market for goods and effectively throw away our ability to strike new trade deals.[…] Read the rest


Heywood and Robbins Blamed For “Drift” at Cabinet

After the Chequers summit the story was one of unity and consensus, with the agreement reached by the Brexit sub-committee last week holding until today’s Cabinet meeting. Yet during today’s talks senior Brexiters say there was some “drift” away from the language of the Chequers agreement, with a few “tweaks” that appear to be trying to reset the government’s approach towards convergence with the EU.[…] Read the rest


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