"We are leaving the EU on the 29th March" claimed the Prime Minister this week.132 days to go, we have a deal. It's a good deal, the best that could be secured. We actually get to keep the fish and to leave the Common Agricultural Policy. It gets even better.
We "take back control, with an end to unfettered immigration". We will stay within the customs union until December 2020. The lure of a generous free trade deal to follow. Citizens rights will be protected in mutual territories. Planes will fly, fish will swim. Champagne and Prosecco will flow for many Christmases to come. It's a great deal ...
It's a soft Brexit, hard Brexit avoided. The CBI applauded the deal. Take the offer now! Who would have thought the EU would offer the concession, cherry picking free movement of goods, without free movement of labour. OK, there are a few complications. We will pay €40 billion euros to settle outstanding obligations. The European Court of Justice will monitor MPs expenses. We will be allowed to leave the customs union but only with the agreement of our European partners.
Four hundred and eighty five pages of complicated cross reference devoid of executive summary. Something for everyone not to like and so it proved. For Dominic Raab, the Brexit Secretary it was all too much. The shock of discovering Britain was dependent on sea ports for the movement of goods had been a huge setback last week. So much dependent on the Calais - Dover route particularly, who would have thought? Yes Proximity trade models rule. The Brexit Secretary resigned from Cabinet, the shock of it all.
For Esther McVey it was also five hundred pages too far. The Works and Pensions Secretary explained in her resignation letter, "The deal you put before the Cabinet yesterday does not honour the result of the referendum. You have said that we must regain control of our money, our borders and our laws and develop our own independent trade policy." That isn't happpening. I am back off to Tatton.
Come on Esther, two out of three isn't bad. Business doesn't really want an "independent trade policy" anyway. What a load of nonsense. They are quite happy with the status quo thanks.
More resignations, the Cabinet wobbling. What would happen to the Brexiteers in Cabinet, particularly what of Michael Gove? The drama was unfolding but ERG was about to strike …
My right honourable friend ...
A vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister appeared as an option once the deal was published. Forty eight is the magic number of Tory MPs needed to secure a vote of no confidence. The ERG (European Research Group) was to lead the charge.
Jacob Rees-Mogg at the vanguard spoke in the house. "What my right honourable friend says and what my right honourable friend does, no longer match." "Should I not write to my honourable friend the member for Altrincham and Sale West".
The latter of course a reference to Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the Conservative back bench committee. The writing, a letter of no confidence which duly followed. The temperature was rising the number of letters submitted did not. MPs were in constituency on Friday and will be over the week-end. They will test the appetite for a challenge to the Prime Minister and the prospect for a leadership election.
Forty eight the number to force a vote, then 158 the number to force the Prime Minister out of office. Then what? The ERG charges forward without any idea of strategy to follow. Boris Johnson, David Davis, Michael Gove, Esther McVey, Amber Rudd ... the list is not inconsiderable for options to rule the party. Really?
It is a tragedy of course. The Prime Minister is trying to secure the best deal for the "British People" and for business. There is no self interest, no idealogical prejudice. The negotiator has returned from the ring with a solution to the deal. Three hours explaining the deal in the house, then a battering from colleagues of every hue for the remainder of the day. The reward, an evening of baked beans on toast and a large whisky to end the day. Yes husband Phillip poured the drinks, made the toast and did the washing up. A gent!
The Choices Before US ...
All eyes were on Michael Gove as Raab and McVey left government on Thursday morning. To lose Gove at that stage would have been a cruel blow to the Prime Minister at a particularly vulnerable moment.
The DEFRA Secretary was offered the job of Brexit Secretary. He declined but agreed to stay in cabinet, as one of "Five Brexiteers" pushing for am improvement in the final deal. Andrea Leadsom, Chris Grayling, Penny Mordant and Liam Fox remain in government for now. Cabinet ranks amplified by the return of
close ally Amber Rudd and arch remainer Stephen Hammond. Stephen Barclay becomes the new Brexit Secretary.
So what happens next? Boris Johnson has been strangely silent to date. Better to wait post week-end to see which way the winds blow for Boris, always the man of pragmatic principal.
Monday we will learn if the challenge to the Prime Minister is to be made, let's hope not. The EU are set to approve the agreement on the 25th November, there may be a few tweaks wither side before the deal is done.
Either way we are set to leave the EU (after a fashion) at the end of March next year. To leave without an agreement would be a disaster, to remain within the EU is now an impossible dream. The deal on the table is a good deal for the UK and for business. It is not perfect, there is something for everyone to dislike. On the other hand there is something for everyone to welcome, hard Brexit avoided, most of all ...
That's all for this week, have a great week-end, Don't Miss Our Monday Morning Update, we will expand further on market moves ...
The Saturday Economist
John Ashcroft publishes the Saturday Economist. Join the mailing list for updates on the UK and World Economy.
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