Knives Out For Heywood and Robbins

Tory Brexiteers fear Theresa May is being bounced by her top civil servants Jeremy Heywood and Olly Robbins into a non-Brexit which prevents us from diverging from the EU after we leave. Leavers have been pragmatic, calm and willing to compromise throughout the Brexit process so far. This is really the first time things are in danger of seriously kicking off. This line in the draft text apparently agreed by Number 10 has caused genuine fears among all Brexiteers:

“In the absence of agreed solutions, the UK will maintain full alignment with the internal market, customs union…”

This is wholly unacceptable, it is almost unbelievable Number 10 would sign it off. Guido bumped into Lord Trimble last night and showed him this line, he stared at it for some time as if having difficulty believing it could be real before commenting: “This is surely not something the British government could sign up to”.

Brexiteers believe Heywood and Robbins are taking advantage of a weak Downing Street to force through a Brexit which keeps us too closely aligned to Brussels. Guido reported in September that Heywood and Robbins were seeking a softer EEA minus model, there are now genuine fears of a stitch up and Number 10 choosing a route closer to that than the real Brexit preferred by Boris, Gove and Fox, and demanded by the referendum result. A Whitehall source says May is “way too reliant” on Robbins. It is baffling that they appear to have conceded alignment on agriculture between the EU and the whole of the UK – could the Environment Secretary really live with that? There are also serious concerns that May could drop the ECJ red line from her Lancaster House speech. Leavers are seeing the situation as salami slices being given away until eventually there is no salami left. 

There is also disbelief that May did not consult Cabinet about what they were about to concede. A Whitehall source tells the Sun“Cabinet is in the dark about what the PM is doing now, which is a very strange state of affairs to be in”. A Cabinet source tells the Telegraph: “The Prime Minister is playing a risky game”. Brexiteers are asking who in is in charge: is it Heywood and Robbins bouncing a weak May into a softer Brexit, or is it May trying to bounce the Brexiteers? It is more likely to be the former. May knows she owes her position to keeping Leavers onside – if she sells out they won’t stand for it.

RED ROBBINS: May’s Brexit Supremo is Soviet Sympathiser Who Opposed Capitalism

Theresa May’s Brexit supremo Olly Robbins is a former Soviet sympathiser who opposed capitalism, praised Soviet leaders and lamented the demise of Communist Russia, Guido can reveal. As as a student at Hertford College, Oxford in the nineties, “Red Robbins” wrote an article in praise of Soviet Russia for the Oxford Reform Club magazine. In a rewriting of history that would have made Seumas Milne blush, the PM’s new star Number 10 hire wrote:

“The Russian state has endured more than any other major nation in the twentieth century, and has achieved more too… I would never disagree that some of the deeds done in the name of communism were evil, but it is as well to look at the era’s aims and achievements. First among these were the aims of free and fair education, housing and healthcare. These were also the main planks of the post-war consensus here in Britain, and could hardly be described as evil. What is more, they were achieved. More Russians can read than Britons, there are almost no homeless people in Moscow, unlike London… Another achievement was the making of a state, a world power indeed, and one that its people could be proud of. The Soviet leaders changed Russia from a backward peasant autocracy, despised by the West, into a technological giant at whom the world cowered in fear for half a century.”

Red Robbins then lamented the fall of the Soviet Union as meaning there is no longer an alternative to the real baddie: capitalism.

“The demise of the Soviet experiment means that for those growing up in the world today, especially western Europe, there appears to be no alternative to the mad excesses of modern capitalism. To the thinking man and woman, Soviet Russia may not have been ideal, but it was food for thought in the “greed is good” climate of the 1980’s.”

The article concludes that it is unfair to say communism failed because the ravages of Russia’s Tsarist past meant “the experiment was hardly conducted in fair conditions”. A friend of Robbins confirmed he wrote the article but declined to comment on his past views.

So the top civil servant in charge of Brexit is only a former Soviet fanboy who defended Stalin and implied communism was preferable to capitalism. We knew Olly was a Remainer, but we didn’t think he’d be such a keen supporter of the crowning principles behind Juncker’s democracy-hating EU super-state speech last week. On the plus side, Red Robbins will get on famously with Seumas if Corbyn makes it to Number 10…

Cabinet Brexit Split: Where They Stand

All explained here

Hammond, Heywood, Robbins Pushing For Weak “EEA Light” Deal

The £350 million row is (once again) distracting everyone from the real story. James Forsyth has written a bang on the money blog about the “biggest Cabinet Brexit split” – between “several of the most senior members of the Cabinet” who want an “EEA minus/light” deal, and Boris and Gove who want a CETA/Canada plus model. An EEA minus/light deal means the UK shadows EU regulations and ECJ judgements, tying the UK’s hands and not delivering the Brexit for which Britons voted. A Canada plus deals means the UK shadows some standards but mostly we would be able to forge our own way in the world. This is what is kicking off right now.

Guido understands Boris went bonkers last week when he found out Theresa May was heading towards the EEA light option at her Florence speech. Senior Tory Brexiters say the EEA light model is being pushed by Philip Hammond and Remainer civil servants in the Treasury, the permanently frustrating Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood and Olly Robbins, the DExEU permanent secretary who it was announced this morning is off to Number 10. Dom Cummings, who Tim Shipman revealed yesterday was still in close contact with Boris and Gove, alleges David Davis is sympathetic to the EEA light option. Friends of DD deny that is the case. Boris and Gove are strongly opposed and insist it is the worst of all worlds.

As Open Europe’s Henry Newman, former SpAd to Gove, explains:

“Government needs to debate and decide what sort of country UK ought to be after Brexit: that’s the prior question rather than transition. The Treasury are pushing for us to be in an “EEA minus” arrangement – just outside of the Single Market but bound into a regulatory ERM. EEA minus would mean all the costs of Brexit and few opportunities. We need to be further along the spectrum from Norway/Swiss to Canada.”

EEA minus/light is essentially the Swiss model. When Switzerland sought to end freedom of movement they were threatened with being cut out of single market access and eventually had to climb down and relinquish control of borders. Theresa May should not be promising loads of money on Friday in exchange for a weak Swiss-type deal which does not deliver the Brexit people voted for. Guido believes May wants to do Brexit right, she has certainly shown no sign of wavering so far. She should remember that Boris and Gove won the referendum, not Hammond and Heywood…



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Quote of the Day

Former public schoolboy Chuka Umunna told the  ‘Exit From Brexit Dinner’…

“Remainians, Remoaners, I don’t care what the label is, I’m proud. It’s fashionable to label everyone in this room as the liberal metropolitan elite . . . This caricature is promoted by a bunch of former public schoolboys!” 

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