UK and EU Agree to Maintain Common Transition Convention Even if No Deal

The UK has negotiated an agreement to stay in the Common Transit Convention (CTC) even if there is no Brexit deal between the two sides. This means that goods can continue to be transported freely between the UK and the EEA with customs declarations and import duties only being paid when the goods arrive at their final destination. It is particularly important for the Republic of Ireland which transports the majority of its exports to the EU across the UK “land bridge”. More evidence that sensible contingency deals will be signed in a “managed no deal” scenario…

May Attacks Second Referendum

Theresa May hits out at holding a second referendum, saying it would do “irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics” and that it would say to millions of voters that “our democracy does not deliver”She might want to have a word with some of her Cabinet about that…

Blair: A No Vote Means No

Tony Blair has been back on the airwaves over the last few days insisting the people must be made to vote again, after having got it wrong in the EU referendum. This is an interesting evolution of his position in 2004, when just days after he promised a referendum on the proposed EU Constitution (later to be renamed the Lisbon Treaty) journalistic pressure forced him to categorically state that the people mustn’t be asked to vote again and again.

“If the British people vote no, they vote no. You can’t then start bringing it back until they vote yes.”

“If the British people vote no in this referendum, that is their verdict. That is absolutely clear.”

Has he changed his mind, or was he lying again…

Target of Carole’s Latest Conspiracy is Remain Donor

Carole Cadwalladr has had a busy weekend getting worked up about Channel 4’s Brexit film starring Benedict Cumberbatch. She fired off a number of “intemperate” tweets before deleting (some of) them and apologising to playwright James Graham, insisting she didn’t mean “to intimidate”. Which will come as news to anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of one of Carole’s notorious phone calls.

Carole’s main gripe appears to be that the film is part-financed by Access Industries, a company owned by Len Blavatnik, the Russian businessman and philanthropist who funds large parts of the entertainment industry through Warner Music. Carole calls Blavatnik a “Trump donor & Putin chum” while moaning about an “ongoing cover-up” and “absence of basic facts”. A feeling that will be familiar to anyone who has read her stories…

There’s just one problem with her latest conspiracy theory. As Sky News revealed back in May 2016, Blavatnik’s Access Industries was actually a donor… to the Remain campaign:


At least she’s finally going after Remain campaign funding for once…

Backstop Threatens UK’s AAA Credit Rating

Ratings agency DBRS has warned that the UK’s AAA rating could be at risk from a Brexit deal that separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. The ratings agency confirmed its rating for the UK at AAA with a ‘Stable Trend’, but noted that “significant uncertainty remains over different regulatory and customs regimes between Northern Ireland and the mainland, and how this might impact the UK” and warns that the “longer-term constitutional integrity of the UK is important to [the UK’s] AAA sovereign rating.” The backstop will put this at risk…

Interestingly, the agency is less concerned about the impact of no deal on the UK’s rating, saying that it “acknowledges some degree of event risk associated with such a scenario, but it expects a broadly appropriate and timely policy response from the UK and the EU to any resulting economic or financial turmoil”No deal is manageable if the Government takes sensible steps to respond to it, the backstop is not…

Rich’s Monday Morning View

Fox: Brexit Deal Needs “Legally Binding” Changes

Liam Fox has said that Theresa May’s Brexit deal needs “legally binding” changes to address the risk of the backstop “locking the UK into the customs union”. Then Fox weasels out with talk of “clarification” and “definition”…

Gwynne Suggests Labour Could Back Brexit in Second Referendum

Andrew Gwynne has suggested that Labour could go into a second referendum backing a Labour-style Brexit deal, before ‘clarifying’ Labour’s position with “let’s wait and see”. Whenever the Government’s position seems unclear, the Shadow Cabinet always seem determined to go one better…

Hoey: EU and Ireland have “connived” together

Northern Irish Labour MP Kate Hoey has accused the EU and Ireland of “conniving” together to undermine Brexit and trap the UK as close as possible to the EU. As Tony Connelly’s RTE exposé revealed last year, she may have a point…

Sturgeon: Juncker’s Behaviour “Pretty Distasteful”

Nicola Sturgeon has described Jean-Claude Juncker’s behaviour on Friday where he said Theresa May “was kissing me” and ruffled another EU employee’s hair as “pretty distasteful”. Yet she’s determined to stay in the organisation he leads…

Damian Hinds Attacks Second Referendum

Following Tim Shipman’s story this morning that May’s top allies Gavin Barwell and David Lidington have been discussing a second referendum, Education Secretary Damain Hinds has come out to criticise it on Ridge this morning. More convincing than Barwell’s denial?

Juncker: The Morning After, May ‘Was Kissing Me’

In an extraordinary answer to what he was saying to the Prime Minister this morning, EU Commission President Juncker said at a press conference this afternoon that “we were not dancing”, that “I didn’t know that this word [nebulous] exists in English”, and that “In the course of the morning, after having checked what I said last night, she was kissing me.” Classic Juncker…

UPDATE: It turns out May wasn’t the only woman to be the subject of some questionable attention from Juncker this morning:

UPDATE II: The BBC have identified her as none other than the EU’s ‘Deputy Head of Protocol’. She may have an HR complaint from herself to deal with on Monday morning…

People’s Vote Driving Illegal “Bollocks to Brexit” Bus

The People’s Vote’s luridly-coloured ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ bus has recently started its tour of the country, presumably to test out the theory of whether being as irritating as possible is a good way to win voters over. That’s if their Facebook ad splurge doesn’t work either…

Under DVLA rules, it is “paramount that the information stored on the vehicle register is accurate and up to date… Any changes to the vehicles details must be notified to DVLA by law. By covering the entire vehicle in a coloured adhesive/vinyl wrap, it is DVLA’s view that the colour change should be recorded.”

However, a quick search on DVLA’s database reveals that the ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ bus is in fact registered as “white”, rather than “nauseating yellow”:

Remainers just can’t get a break with battle buses…

Big Plus: Switzerland Guarantees Trade Relationship In Case of No Deal

The Swiss Government have announced that a trade agreement has been reached between the UK and Switzerland to “maintain existing economic and trade relations with the country after its departure from the European Union” whether or not a deal is reached with the EU. The Swiss Federal Council announced that if the UK leaves the EU in a disorderly manner, it could sign and apply the agreement from the date on which the UK leaves the EU.

Announcing the agreement, the Swiss Embassy tweeted that the agreement will “support existing commercial and economic relations between the two countries post-Brexit… regardless of the eventual Brexit scenario.” At least in one part of Europe, level heads are prevailing…

May’s “Nebulous” Clash With Juncker

Channel 5 have enlisted two “expert lipreaders” in an attempt to decipher that frosty exchange between May and Juncker earlier, concluding that the two are arguing about whether Juncker called May “nebulous” yesterday. Given the events of the past few weeks, that’s hardly the worst thing he could have called her…

Eurozone Growth Plummets to Four-Year Low

The Eurozone’s economic woes continue to mount as the latest PMI figures sunk to a 49-month low of 51.3 in December. Germany’s PMI also fell to a four-year low at 52.2, while crisis-ridden France entered contraction territory at 49.3.

The poor data comes just a day after Mario Draghi announced that the ECB was ending its €2.5 trillion QE stimulus programme. Eurozone interest rates remain at 0% – they have nowhere to go. No deal could well prove too much of a shock for the fragile Eurozone economy to take. The EU knows this but May’s weakness and her Government’s scandalous failure to prepare adequately for no deal means the UK is powerless to leverage this fact…

HMRC Under “Political Instruction” Not to Discuss Customs

May’s survival in the vote last night has not changed her fundamental predicament that there is no Parliamentary majority for her deal in its current form. May’s civil servants should be paying attention to an alternative proposal published yesterday with the support of Arlene Foster and her two former Brexit Secretaries, which proposes sensible limited amendments to the Withdrawal Agreemnt and a legally operable alternative text to the backstop. No unicorns, just concrete proposals.

Nor have the proposals come out of nowhere, the report was written specifically in response to the meeting in October between Michael Barnier and two of the reports’ co-authors, Shanker Singham and Hans Maessen, alongside senior Tory MPs.

Maessen, a Dutch customs expert, recently told a Parliamentary committee that HMRC have been refusing to engage in any discussions on customs, going as far as to claim that HMRC were “not allowed” to do so due to a “political instruction” following the Chequers agreement to pursue the ‘Facilitated Customs Arrangement’ instead. A customs union in all but name…

Money was put aside for the UK to make preparations for leaving the Customs Union by the Chancellor over a year ago, yet Guido understands that senior figures in the Treasury and the Cabinet Office are still putting the brakes on it being spent. May is going to have seriously review her civil servants’ “political instructions” if she is going to find a way out of her mess…

UPDATE: A government source disputes the idea that the Treasury has been blocking no deal preparations, saying: “We’ve given them £260m from EU exit funding for 18/19 and they’ve spent about 40pc. Somewhat improvement from their paltry 1/5th which Jon Thompson was open about in October. They have the full amount and they’ll get their 19/20 allocation soon too. No-one is stopping them from spending the money – entirely up to them.”

UPDATE II: One DIT source has dismissed Maessen’s suggestion that they are under instructions not to discuss customs as “odd” and “absolute nonsense”.

Lib Dems Continue Vendetta Against Christmas

A day after Guido revealed that Lib Dem MEP Catherine Bearder has closed down her UK office and laid off staff just in time for Christmas, an official Lib Dem press release has called for Christmas to be cancelled for MPs.

Brexit spokesman and real life Scrooge Tom Brake said “Liberal Democrats do not believe Parliament should rise for the Christmas recess until Theresa May does what the people expect and give MPs a vote on her deal.” That will make them popular…

UPDATE: Asa Bennett has pointed out that it’s not the first time Tom Brake has tried to play the Grinch – last year he threatened that Brexit would mean “there won’t be a Christmas lunch” this year. Humbug!

Geeks Invent ‘Brexonometer’ to Measure Brits’ Brexit Frustration

A bunch of tech geeks have created a fancy-looking ‘Brexonometer’ which claims to give “moment by moment insight into how the nation is feeling about Brexit by applying advanced analytics to compute the real-time sentiment of Tweets.” The creators explain:

“All English language Tweets mentioning the word Brexit are aggregated into mini-batches of messages. We then use natural language processing technologies to compute the overall sentiment of each batch.”

Funnily enough there was a surge of activity around 9pm last night. Incredibly, the current sentiment isn’t just “aaaaaaaaargh”, it is in fact slightly positive today, at least according to the ‘Brexonometer’. Guido suspects it may be a case of ‘garbage in, garbage out’…

Sturgeon’s Brexit Showboating Slammed by Supreme Court

Nicola Sturgeon’s showboating over Brexit has been slapped down in the courts, with the UK Supreme Court ruling that parts of Scottish Parliament’s Continuity Bill were outside the legislative competence of the devolved legislature. Sturgeon’s Bill attempted to claim powers over 24 areas of competency returning from Brussels, claiming them as devolved matters rather than powers reserved for the UK Government.[…] Read the rest

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