US Ambassador to the EU Calls EU ‘Utterly Obstructionist’

American Ambassador to the European Union and former businessman and financier Gordon Sondland has told Politico that he finds the EU to be ‘utterly obstructionist’ on negotiating freer trade between the two blocs. Accusing the EU of deliberately stalling trade negotiations, Sondland said that his joke today is “if I ask someone at the EU what time it is, the answer is ‘no’.”

Having dealt with the EU now for more than half a year, his verdict is cutting…

“The Commission in particular is out of touch with reality. They are off in a cloud, regulating to the heart’s content — and regulating some things that don’t even need to be regulated, because they haven’t even occurred yet — while stifling growth and innovation.”

Better off out.

Voters Want MPs to Reject the Deal by More Than 2 to 1

MPs will be getting the chance to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal… at some point within the next six weeks according to her spokesman, who has confirmed that the vote will be held before January 21. Of course, her spokesman was insisting 24 hours ago that the vote was going ahead today…

Had MPs been able to vote the deal down today as expected, the British public would have been behind them. The latest Lord Ashcroft poll found voters against the deal by more than a margin of 2 to 1, with 53% in favour of MPs voting to “reject the Brexit agreement even if it is not clear what the outcome would then be” compared to only 24% in favour of MPs voting to “accept the Brexit agreement as an imperfect compromise and move on to other issues”. Opposition to the deal has grown in the three weeks since Ashcroft first asked the question, with a 9% swing against the deal. Voters aren’t falling for May’s strategy of boring them into backing the deal…

Voters’ responses to what they considered the most important Brexit outcomes were also very revealing. The most important outcome among Leave and Remain voters combined was “the UK being able to do its own free trade deals with countries outside the EU”, ahead of “continuing to trade freely with EU countries with no tariffs or customs checks”. May’s approach has been the other way round…

Both Tory and Labour Leave voters agreed that the most important issue was “the UK making all its own laws and no longer being subject to rulings from the European Court of Justice” – ending free movement was only ranked as the fifth most important issue. Once again proving the Remainer narrative wrong that the Leave vote was nothing more than a small-minded backlash against immigration…

Steve Baker Sets Out Tory Leadership Shortlist

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker has renewed his call for MPs to submit letters of no confidence in the PM, telling Today that Conservative MPs need to realise that we “cannot go staggering forward any longer like this” and that it is Theresa May’s “duty now to go”. More letters have reportedly gone in since yesterday’s debacle but somehow they’re always around “5 letters short” of 48…

When pressed on who should replace her, Baker gave a shortlist of four Brexiteers – Esther McVey, Dominic Raab, David Davis and Boris Johnson – and called on them to decide between themselves who would be the chosen candidate. Good luck with that…

“There are four people who have resigned from the Cabinet – Esther McVey, Dominic Raab, David Davis and Boris Johnson – the four of them need to work out between them which one of them is going to be our candidate to unite the country, unite the party, and take us out of the EU successfully.”

Boris is certainly back in the frame after his weighty appearance setting out a clear plan for how to proceed on Marr on Sunday, while Tory MPs are the one constituency he has consistently struggled to win over, his enduring popularity with Tory members and the country as a whole is not something MPs can ignore. Raab is Boris’s most likely challenger – he has burnished his credentials with his principled resignation although he does not have the public recognition factor of Boris or DD. DD has been out of the spotlight of late, while McVey’s support may end up being crucial to one of the other candidates if she does not go for leader herself.

Baker is right that Brexiteers should unite around a candidate when the inevitable leadership contest comes – Remainer Cabinet ministers including Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt are also on manoeuvres and the risk is real that Brexiteer infighting could lead to a repeat of the situation where a Remainer PM simply wins the race by default. Whether politicians are willing to put their egos to one side and back one of their main rivals is another matter…

Labour MP Grabs Mace

Heseltine wannabe MP Lloyd Russel-Moyle attempted to steal the show this evening by flouncing down the chamber of the House of Commons and grabbing the Ceremonial Mace to suspend the Commons sitting in protest at the Government postponing the meaningful vote on Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. Famously Michael Heseltine performed the same stunt in protest of Labour’s nationalisations in 1976. The last Member to seize the mace was John McDonnell in 2009 over Heathrow expansion…

Thirty Two year old Russel-Moyle was first elected in 2017. He has now been named by the Speaker and ordered to withdraw from the house for the remainder of the sitting. After grabbing the mace, Russel-Moyle sheepishly gave it back, not even taking the opportunity to brandish it above his head like Hezza. Embarrassing… 

People’s Vote Splurging Cash on Facebook ‘Micro-Targeting’

Facebook have published pages political spending for October to December this year, revealing that far and away the biggest spenders were Remain campaigners. The People’s Vote campaign came in with the highest spending of any political organisation, in fact being the only campaign to reach six figures, splurging £150,841 in just over two months. Who funds them…?

Interestingly, the Government has promoted just eleven different adverts over the whole period, compared to a staggering 1,238 from the People’s Vote campaign – around twenty different adverts a day. If Guido were more conspiratorially-minded he might say that sounds suspiciously like ‘dark ad’ micro-targeting…

Bercow’s Bombshell Bollocking

Speaker John Bercow has thrown a massive spanner in the works of Theresa May’s wish to delay postpone the meaningful vote scheduled for Tuesday. Stating that communing the debate and cancelling the planned vote is “premature and inconclusive”, the Speaker pushed for the Commons to vote on whether they vote tomorrow, calling it “the right and dare I say it the obvious course to take.” The Government can technically plough on regardless, but Bercow has applied acute and piercing political pressure, especially just days after the Govt was voted in contempt of Parliament…

May’s Statement Laughed Down By Commons

An awkward start…

Remain and Leave Economists Pressure Treasury to Reveal Project Fear Models

The Treasury is under renewed pressure to reveal the models behind its latest round of Project Fear forecasts, with a group of 26 economists including Remain and Leave supporters writing to Treasury Select Committee Chair Nicky Morgan, calling on her to demand that the Treasury makes its models available to “qualified independent economists”. Signatories to the letter include former external members of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, former economic advisers to government and the CBI and former Treasury officials. Not just the usual Brexiteer economist crowd…

The letter notes the “widespread unease about the very negative post-Brexit outcomes predicted by the Treasury’s economic model” and complains that the Treasury’s attempts to explain its approach have been impenetrable even to “experienced macroeconomists”. The Treasury’s black box figures are playing a huge role in the Government’s approach to Brexit, they should be subject to full independent scrutiny…

Read the full letter below:

Continue reading

Alan Duncan Laughs at May’s Vote Shambles

Foreign Minister Alan Duncan had the unfortunate task of being presented with the news that Theresa May’s meaningful vote will be delayed, live on air. You know you’re not in a good place when your own ministers are openly laughing at your Government… 

ECJ Ruling Does Not Let UK ‘Unilaterally’ Revoke Article 50

Remainers have predictably been salivating all over the ECJ’s ruling this morning that the UK can “unilaterally” revoke Article 50. The notoriously slow-moving EU Court discovered a remarkable turn of speed to deliver their judgement just in time for it to land one day before the crucial parliamentary vote in the UK. Definitely not a political court…

There’s just one problem – it’s not what the judgement actually says:

“…the revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw must, first, be submitted in writing to the European Council and, secondly, be unequivocal and unconditional…”

So it is not as simple as the UK simply telling the European Council it wants to withdraw Article 50 – the EU specifically reserves the power to rule on whether the UK’s notification is truly “unequivocal and unconditional”. Guido isn’t aware of any definitions of “unilateral” which include having to explicitly gain the approval of someone else. As ever, the ECJ marks its own homework to ensure that it always has the ultimate say over anything a member state can do…

The bottom line is that Article 50 is not going to be withdrawn unless there is a government in place that is prepared to table an Act of Parliament to unequivocally revoke it, and a Parliament that is prepared to vote this through. Even in today’s heavily Remainer-loaded Parliament, this is simply not going to happen…

Project Fear Still Wrong

The UK economy continues to steadily grow, with the ONS’ latest growth figures showing GDP growth of 0.4% in the three months to October. This is a solid showing for the first set of growth data not to include July’s hot weather and World Cup-fuelled boost. Almost two-and-a-half years on and Project Fear 1.0 is still yet to materialise…

Rich’s Monday Morning View

Only 20% Back Second Referendum if Deal Voted Down

Remainers went all People’s Vote of Judea on each other this morning, with People’s Vote hilariously attacking the Lib Dems for tabling a “deeply unhelpful” second referendum amendment, accusing them of “political point scoring” and whinging about it being “deeply unfair”. Snigger…

The latest polling from IpsosMORI won’t have made Anna Soubry’s birthday any better either. While over six in ten Brits (62%) think May’s deal will be “bad for the UK as a whole” with only 25% believing it will be good, there is no clear support for a second referendum or cancelling Brexit either if the deal is voted down:

Only 20% of people are in favour of a second referendum on leaving the EU altogether, while the same number would back leaving without a deal at all. A mere 10% back Labour’s preferred option of a general election, while a further 10% would back a referendum on whether or not to accept the deal itself.

The most likely outcomes, that the Government either seeks to reopen negotiations with the EU or a second vote in Parliament is held on substantially the same deal, are also pretty low-scoring, notching up only 19% and 6% support each. The bottom line is that we are in unchartered waters – nobody knows what is going to happen, but it is simply not true for Remainers to claim that there is a clear majority for a second referendum on leaving the EU…

‘AKK’ Chosen as Merkel’s Successor

The CDU has elected Merkel’s favoured candidate, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, to be its new leader. This puts ‘AKK’, widely seen as the continuity candidate, in pole position to succeed Merkel when she finally steps down as Chancellor in 2021, if not before. Will the Brexit negotiations still be going on then?

NEWKIP? Mass UKIP Exodus, New Group Planned for Monday Launch

Guido hears whispers of a mass exodus of UKIP MEPs planned for Monday. As few as two MEPs (Stuart Agnew and Mike Hookem) could stay with Tommy Robinson-obsessed UKIP leader Gerard Batten, while the rest join a new Farage-led national group within the pan-European EFDD group – also led by Farage. Which Batten has just quit

Expected to follow the fifteen UKIP MEPs who have already quit are: Tim Aker, Jonathan Bullock, Jane Collins, Ray Finch, Margot Parker, Julia Reid, and Jill Seymour. Could this be the beginning of a new pro-Brexit party, led again by Nigel?

Gerard Batten Resigns from Farage’s EFDD Group

Gerard Batten has resigned from the transnational Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy EFDD group, led by Farage, and including Italy’s Five Star Movement. MEPs sit in transnational ideological groups in the European Parliament, alongside like minded parties from other countries. Speculation is mounting that he may join Marine Le Pen’s Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group…

The UKIP leader said in a statement:

“I hereby resign membership of the EFDD Group with immediate effect. It is not possible for me to remain in the Group when the President of the Group Mr Farage launches continual attacks on me and UKIP in the UK media.”

UPDATE: A co-conspirator in Brussels gets in touch:

Rumour is that the paperwork by which Gerrard Batten has applied to put Tommy Robinson on his EU staff payroll has gone in. Is that the catalyst for Farage and Nuttall finally walking away?

UPDATE II: Sources close to Nigel say that they don’t know if it is true and in any event it is was not the catalyst.

UPDATE III: European Parliamentary sources get in touch to remind Guido that in order to get on the EP payroll you have to pass a criminal background check. Tommy Robinson has been in prison multiple times and would likely not be accepted…

UPDATE IV: Batten is telling friends that he has not made any plans to hire Tommy Robinson for the European Parliament job.

Boris’s Big Brexit Pitch

Boris Johnson has given a very lengthy interview to ConservativeHome this morning, setting out what looks suspiciously like an alternative manifesto for leadership after May loses the meaningful vote next week. While he insists that May needn’t resign, he sets out a clear alternative path for the country to follow:

  • May must throw out the Withdrawal Agreement, even if she only loses by one vote
  • Boris adds that it would be a “very, very serious mistake” if the Government contrived to pull the meaningful vote now
  • He won’t comment on whether he’s sent in a letter of no confidence himself
  • The UK must go back to Brussels and renegotiate in a “generous, optimistic energetic way” that goes back to the Lancaster House Principles
  • Reinstate a “big free trade agreement at the heart” of the deal, using the implementation period to negotiate it
  • Ditch the backstop – Boris says the Cabinet was “misled” by May and Gavin Barwell over the backstop and sold the December deal in “total bad faith”, adding that the UK has “collaborated in our own incarceration” by helping to “co-forge” the manacles of the backstop
  • Not hand over £39 billion of taxpayers’ money in advance of the final deal
  • Boris rejects the EEA option, saying Norway plus the backstop is “worse” than the deal
  • Proponents of ‘Norway to Canada’ “don’t really want to go forward to the Canada solution”
  • Being prepared to leave on WTO terms is “absolutely crucial” – Boris won’t “pretend there would be no challenges at all. But what people I think want to see is a bit of gumption from this country… and a bit of leadership”
  • He calls the Government’s failure to prepare to come out on WTO terms is an “S&M approach to Government. What perversion is it where you want to be locked up in chains?”

Whether or not you believe that Boris’s approach is any better, the fact is that May’s approach to the negotiations simply has not delivered. May cannot just carry on like it’s business as usual if she loses the vote next week, whatever her margin of defeat…

Oxford Professor’s Car Crash Attempt to Discredit Referendum Result

The online-only Independent’s “front page” today breathlessly reported that “illegal Facebook spending ‘won 2016 vote for Leave'”. Philip Howard, a professor at the “Oxford Internet Institute” said it was his “professional opinion” that it was “very likely” that “excessive spending by Vote Leave altered the result of the referendum”. Howard is due to put his “evidence” to the High Court tomorrow…

On closer inspection, it appears “very likely” that Howard’s evidence is a load of utter rubbish, with statisticians having a field day tearing apart his numbers on Twitter. Howard’s calculations get off to a good start with his assumption that 80 million people saw Vote Leave Facebook ads during the so-called “period of excess spending”. That’s in a country of 66 million people, with an electorate of 46.5 million. By Howard’s calculation, 172% of the electorate saw Vote Leave’s ads…

Of those 80 million people, Howard then claims to use a “conservative industry estimate” that 10% of people who saw the ads would have clicked on them. Of that 10%, he claims that 10% believe, and then “a further 10% of that number can be expected to do something”. Except in his own calculation, he entirely emits his own final step, claiming that 800,000 people (10% of 10% of his imaginary electorate of 80 million) had their votes swung by the ads in the final week of the referendum, rather than 80,000 as his own model predicts. Leave won by over 1.2 million votes…

Moreover, the source he cites for his “conservative industry estimate” estimate of 10% click-through rate – a book called New Media Campaigns and the Managed Citizen – says “banner ads on politics topics generally had a 1 percent click-through rate”. The author of this venerable source? A certain Professor Philip Howard…

Even glossing over Howard’s other major errors, including… deep breath… conflating organic Vote Leave post impressions with paid ad impressions, assuming that the entirety of his imaginary electorate uses Facebook, ignoring the fact that Stronger In were also running huge numbers of Facebook ads and that more people made up their minds to vote Remain than Leave in the final week, assuming that everyone who decided to vote Leave after seeing an ad had previously been planning to vote Remain, the maximum number of people whose votes could have been swung – according to his own methodology – is 4,650. There’s wishful thinking, and then there’s pure and utter fantasy…

UPDATE: For any readers looking to enjoy more of Howard’s stellar “research”, Guido can heartily recommend this paper where he defines all Twitter accounts tweeting more than 50 times a day as bots. Although if you do fall into that category yourself, Guido might suggest getting a few other hobbies…

Remainers Lining Up Gove to Lead Norway-Plus Push

While ERG Brexiteers’ efforts are focused on trying to harden up the Brexit deal or even force no deal, other players within the Tory party are coalescing around a push for a ‘Norway-plus’ Brexit after May’s deal is voted down next week. As yesterday’s Evening Standard reports, Tory “sensibles” including Nicky Morgan and Sir Oliver Letwin are now advocating an “ultra-soft” Brexit of staying in the single market and the customs union. In direct contradiction to key manifesto pledges they were all elected on…

Guido understands from multiple sources that the Norway-plus faction are hoping to have one key Cabinet Minister on board – Michael Gove. One senior Cameroon who has been liaising between Letwin and others in the Norway camp believes Gove will come out and lead the Norway push once May’s deal is rejected. Gove’s outrider Nick Boles has long advocated an EEA pivot, while Gove himself has held private discussions with Tory MPs in recent months on the option of remaining in the single market as an alternative to no deal. Gove’s name is absent from yesterday’s Standard article but his continued lines of communications with George Osborne were a significant source of internal tensions in the Brexit camp post-referendum…

Brexiteers still blame Gove for the post-referendum fiasco which led to a Remainer becoming Prime Minister despite Vote Leave‘s triumph. Gove famously committed to the position during the referendum campaign that leaving the EU meant leaving the single market. When Guido put the claim to an ally of Gove he denied it would happen, pointing to Gove’s many on-the-record rejections of single market membership. So Guido challenged him to a wager… which he declined. It would be hard to see the Conservative Party faithful forgiving Gove a second time if he reneged on the single market as well…

DUP: We’d “Rather Be Shafted By Labour” Than Accept Backstop

Tory MPs turned out in force for last night’s weekly ERG meeting, with around 80 MPs in attendance as well as notable guests including Chief Whip Julian Smith and May’s Deputy Chief of Staff, JoJo Penn. Jacob Rees-Mogg informed the ERG of the outcome of his and Steve Baker’s earlier meeting with Nigel Dodds, where Dodds made clear that the DUP would support the Government in any confidence motion if the Withdrawal Agreement was rejected.[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Andrea Leadsom told BBC Radio 4’s Today

“He’s made his views on Brexit on the record, and the problem with that of course is that the chair’s impartiality is absolutely essential. … He’s made his views known on Brexit… it’s a matter for him but nevertheless it’s a challenge and all colleagues need to form their own view of that.”

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