Brady Resurfaces With Fresh Call to Bin the Backstop

Guido can shed some new light on the curious case of the disappearing 1922 Committee Chairman – Graham Brady has finally resurfaced several weeks after disappearing without trace following his bizarre decision to ‘recuse’ himself from the Committee to launch his own abortive leadership bid. Not a single MP came forward in his support, Guido can’t even remember him making the case for himself…

Now Brady has popped up in the foreword to the latest Policy Exchange paper by Lord Bew on the Irish backstop, calling for the next Tory leader to drop the backstop. As Brady points out, the only Brexit option to ever command a majority in the House of Commons was the deal with his amendment calling for alternative arrangements replacing the backstop. The EU are the ones chasing unicorns if they think a deal with the backstop is ever getting through…

Warsi Cites Conspiracy Theorist Suspended from Labour Party

Sayeeda Warsi is unhappy about The Times splash this morning, claiming “this article makes disturbing & disingenuous claims about British Muslims APPG report Islamophobia Defined. This is the latest in a line of attacks from the same sources which until now I have ignored as usual silly boy games but this is dangerous and needs challenging”.

She then goes on to have a go at the Policy Exchange think-tank:

The report Baroness Warsi cites here is The Cold War on British Muslims: An Examination of Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion written by David Miller – then of Bath University (now Bristol). The report was written “with the aid of a grant of £5,000 from The Cordoba Foundation”. The Cordoba Foundation was identified by former PM David Cameron as a “front for the Muslim Brotherhood”. The Government’s 2014-5 Review of the Muslim Brotherhood similarly described the Cordoba Foundation as being “associated with the Brotherhood”. Miller’s report is quite simply not a credible academic source.

Miller is a conspiracy theorist who is on record as having promoted the idea that chemical attacks in Syria were a false flag – perhaps involving British intelligence in some capacity – designed to force Western intervention in the country’s civil war. Miller has also defended the comments which led to Ken Livingstone quitting the Labour Party (about Hitler supporting a Jewish homeland) – he was suspended from the Labour Party over these comments before being subsequently reinstated. He has called the concept of Israel a “racist endeavour”. He even accused the Government of “state propaganda” over its reaction to the Skripals’ poisoning in Salisbury.

Miller’s suspiciously worried about the influence of “ultra-zionists” and the Israeli government:This should come as no surprise. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report on Islamophobia, which produced the highly problematic definition that Baroness Warsi is so desperate to promote, itself took evidence from and cited the work of Professor David Miller. No wonder the government is looking to formulate a better working definition of ‘Islamophobia’…

Irish Government Accused of ‘Weaponising’ Good Friday Agreement

Remain voting crossbench peer Lord Bew, whose contributions to the Good Friday Agreement were acknowledged in his appointment to the Lords, has accused the Irish Government of ‘weaponising‘ the Northern Irish peace process.

“UK Government has allowed the Irish Government to weaponise the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in a way that prevents compromise on the Backstop”

Lord Bew, who voted Remain, has written a briefing note for Policy Exchange in which he argues that the Northern Irish backstop endangers the peace process and has been predicated on a “partial reading of the Good Friday Agreement” which does not take into account the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

He argues that in order for the Good Friday Agreement to be respected, and peace preserved, it is crucial that “the Backstop is made temporary – in explicit and legally binding terms.” Something for MPs on all sides of the house to think about…

Government Entitled to Ask Queen Not to Give Assent to Brexit Wreckers’ Bills

Devastating argument from Policy Exchange this morning. Sir Stephen Laws QC – who was until 2012 the Government’s most senior lawyer on legislative and constitutional matters – says don’t assume that MPs could engineer a change to the law to postpone or cancel Brexit without persuading Government to acquiesce and participate in securing the change.

Attempting to change the law without the Government’s participation, he argues, could jeopardise fundamental constitutional principles based on centuries of history, especially if the Speaker dispenses with or ignores a rule that gives Government complete control over increases to public expenditure.

Sir Stephen Writes:

“If the Speaker chose to allow this rule to be dispensed with or ignored, that could have unpredictable, and potentially horrific, constitutional consequences. It could raise a question whether the Government would be entitled or might feel required to reassert its constitutional veto by advising the Queen not to grant Royal Assent to the Bill.

How should the Monarch react to such advice? The answer is not straightforward and the prospect of it needing to be considered in a real life political crisis is unthinkably awful. It is a sacred duty of all UK politicians not to involve the Monarch in politics. They have a constitutional responsibility to resolve difficulties between themselves in accordance with the rules, and so as not to call on the ultimate referee.”

If the Speaker and Dominic Grieve are going to vandalise the constitution and overturn established parliamentary conventions, don’t expect the government to just roll over. The Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will be studying this argument closely as no doubt will the Brexit sympathetic Queen. Bercow is only the Prince of Parliament, though he might not want to believe, the Queen still outranks him constitutionally. Grieve isn’t as clever as he thinks he is…

Trimble Accuses Ireland of “Riding Roughshod” Over Good Friday Agreement

Former Northern Ireland First Minister Lord Trimble has lashed out at the Irish Government, accusing them of undermining the Good Friday Agreement with their conduct in the Brexit negotiations. Trimble, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his instrumental role in securing the Good Friday Agreement, accused Leo Varadkar’s Government of “riding roughshod over its terms and violating its spirit”.

Writing in the foreword of a new Policy Exchange paper, Trimble says that Northern Ireland is at risk of becoming an “effective EU protectorate” without the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which “would be an appalling breach of the principle of consent, which runs through the Agreement”.

However the two sides try to dress it up, there is no disguising the fact that the backstop as the EU is currently proposing would fundamentally alter the status of Northern Ireland within the UK. The EU’s rhetoric about respecting the GFA is hollow as long as they keep trying to push it through…

Heaven Sent: Spec’s Will to PX

Guido hears the Spectator’s managing editor Will Heaven is leaving for wonk world – he’s off to be the new Director of Policy at Policy Exchange this summer. Brainbox Will was the first person to use the phrase dementia tax in an article during the election, so safe to say he has a keener eye for policy than many. Learned his trade under Gove and Truss at the MoJ, it’s a coup for PX to steal him from the Spec, where he will still be writing from time to time. Congratulations…

May Speech Brings About Policy Exchange Collapse

Last night at Policy Exchange’s summer party the centre-right think tank’s guest speaker was for once – as Theresa May noted – not Michael Gove. Mid-speech the wind threatened to knock over the set bringing back memories of that disastrous last party conference speech. Chief wonk Dean Godson ended up anchoring the backdrop despite being told by the PM “Why don’t you just let it fall down?”…

Policy Exchange Pinch SpAd to Head Relaunch

Guido hears Gavin Williamson’s SpAd Rupert Oldham-Reid is departing to become Policy Exchange’s new director of research and strategy. PX is relaunching its domestic policy work after spending the last couple of years focusing on extremism, counter-terrorism and foreign policy. Oldham-Reid has been with the Chief Whip for the past year, before which he was a wonk at the Charity Commission and Centre for Social Justice. There is obviously a policy vacuum on the centre-right at the moment, it has often been said that Theresa May doesn’t have a think tank and the ideas currently exciting voters are coming from the left. Polling today revealing widespread public support for mass nationalisation shows the work that needs to be done. PX is talking up its relationship with Theresa May, whether she is bold enough to embrace new vote-winning policies is another question…

Online Extremism Report Too Extreme

The Policy Exchange report on online extremism released this morning is getting a huge amount of pick-up. It concludes:

“The government should consider stronger action to try and limit the demand side of the extremism equation. One potential vehicle for this would be the creation of new legislative offences against the aggravated possession and persistent consumption of extremist material.”

A call for more regulation and a new quango with a helping of censorship on top. Ostensibly, the report focuses on online content that incites terror. The polling, however, canvassed public support for the removal of many different kinds of content. What exactly would the removal of “extreme politics” content involve? Likewise, pornography? Where is the line drawn and by whom?

Ironically, the report confirms that the public think extremist preachers in places of worship are actually a bigger problem than online extremist content:

Nothing proposed by Policy Exchange will stop determined terrorists communicating. Even if terrorist propaganda is driven off mainstream platforms it will still be found on elsewhere on the internet. That is the inherent nature of the internet, unless you want to go down the Chinese commanded and controlled internet path.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission is suggesting ‘banning internet trolls from voting’ for making negative comments online. That’s right, the voting regulator is seriously proposing disenfranchising citizens as a punitive measure designed to police their behaviour. This is near totalitarian hysteria…

SMR Mini-Nuclear Plants Could Produce Cheap Energy

This morning Policy Exchange hosted an event about small modular reactors (SMRs) – the technology is derived from nuclear-powered submarine systems. A consortium led by Rolls Royce is pushing the idea of using new nuclear technology scaled down to a fraction of the size of older plant designs. The mini-plants would be made in factories to be re-assembled on site much more quickly and cheaply than large-scale projects like HinkleyRolls-Royce reckons the global export market could be worth as much as £400 billion for the made-in-Britain technology.

The report claims that the mini-plants would produce power at £60/MWh, which is far more competitive than the £92/MWh strike price guaranteed to Hinkley by George Osborne. It is clear that as old power stations are decommissioned Britain is going to need to replace them – wind is too intermittent to make up for the loss of capacity – nuclear is going to have to be part of the energy supply mix. Hinkley type technology is just too expensive.

Download the report Small Modular Reactors.

Ireland Needs to Consider Leaving EU

Irexit is becoming more of a mainstream idea in Ireland. UK think-tank Policy Exchange has this morning published a paper by Ray Bassett, an experienced Irish diplomat who retired as an ambassador last year. The Irish Diplomatic Service has for decades been in awe of and subservient to the EU. Now the reality of Brexit is making even some diplomats question this fundamental tenet of Irish foreign policy in the face of increased hostility from the European Commission. The financial crisis of 2008 confirmed that a small country on the Western periphery of Europe will never be a priority of the European Central Bank. Membership of the Eurozone has cost Ireland dearly for little benefit, most of Ireland’s external trade is in sterling and dollars…

Bassett warns that whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, “there will be a price to pay. For Ireland, there is really no upside to Brexit,” he says. “The question to be raised is what price is Ireland willing to pay to stand in solidarity with the remaining 26 EU countries?”

The paper argues sitting on the sidelines and allowing the EU to negotiate for Ireland is untenable. The first duty of the EU negotiators is to act on behalf of the EU as an institution. This is prioritised in their European Council approved guidelines. However the type of deal that Ireland’s interests requires, including free trade with the UK, is directly in contradiction with the EU negotiators’ mandate that anything relating to Ireland and her border which emerges from the Brexit negotiations must “maintain the integrity the Union’s Legal Order” – with no exceptions to the customs union. Bassett argues therefore that Ireland must give serious consideration to Irexit.

Irish politicians are by nature transactional, for decades Ireland was a net beneficiary of EU largesse, she is now a new contributor, a situation which will worsen after Brexit takes billions out of the EU budget. It’s like the Eurovision Song Contest – Ireland used to be a regular winner, now Eastern Europe has joined, they rarely win.

The Irish political establishment is extremely wary of Irexit and will want to see signs that Britain has first made a success of Brexit. Once the UK concludes a free-trade deal with the US the pressure on Ireland – which would be geographically in the middle of a North Atlantic Free Trade Area yet not a member – will become immense. The illogical situation of being in a currency and trading bloc when most of your trade is not in the bloc or the currency will make Irexit inevitable… 

Osborne Jokes About Leadership Coup

The Chancellor has been caught joking about bringing down the PM.

Steady on Gideon…

George Osborne and Charles Moore in Conversation at Policy Exchange Event

Sponsored Post

Leading think tank, Policy Exchange, is delighted to welcome The Rt. Hon. George Osborne MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, to an event on the evening of Thursday 15th October. To mark the official launch of his latest book, Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography Volume Two: Everything She Wants, official Thatcher biographer, Charles Moore, will be in conversation with the Chancellor.

This event is expected to be extremely popular. To apply for a ticket email events@policyexchange.org.uk.

The event will also be live streamed.

Digital Government Boss Regrets Lack of Women

mike bracken

The biggest mistake Government Digital Service has made in recent years is failing to hire more women according to Mike Bracken, the head of GDS. Speaking to an audience at Policy Exchange yesterday, Bracken repeatedly refused to say what GDS should have done differently during his four year tenure other than to have diversified its workforce more.

“I regret not putting forward more stridently a generation of women in GDS at the start, and then in the technology profession. I regret not starting actively on that sooner, because while you’ve got a few great emerging leaders there’s not enough.”

Techno is a fan of the GDS and, of course, an ardent supporter of women in tech, up to a point. It seems Mike Bracken has forgotten about GDS’s failure to meet even half of its targets for online services, or how they borked the Home Office Visa and Immigration site, or how they fell way short of the mark with the Verify program and failed to turn around the disastrous rural payments system. Yet the biggest problem is that ‘only’ about 40% of GDS employees are women? What is the primary mission of the GDS? Gender equality or getting things to work?

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Fresh from making his campaign pledge to kill off old people, Jeremy Hunt says on Islamophobia…

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