Would the EU abandon Varadkar? Perhaps. But it’s not at all likely.

The divisions and impatience exposed could well be real, but it doesn’t follow that Brussels is about to suddenly shift its policy.

Throughout Brexit, there have been two apparently fixed points on the EU side of the negotiations. The first was their remarkable cohesion, in the face of a deeply divided British political class, and the second was their solidarity with Dublin.

As this Government’s efforts to negotiate Brexit reach their apparent nadir, it is worth paying attention to the other side of the table and noting that something appears to have shifted this week, at least with regards to the former point.

The apparent willingness of certain EU leaders to go for ‘no deal’, rather than endlessly indulging Parliament with a series of extensions in which it can continue to vote down the Withdrawal Agreement, seems to contradict the Union’s policy of catering to the particular needs of the Republic of Ireland.

Whilst the EU is perfectly willing to roll out the high-minded rhetoric about the vital importance of an invisible border whilst attempting to persuade the UK to adopt the backstop, it seems improbable that they would content to allow unregulated goods to flood into the Single Market through Northern Ireland in the event of no-deal.

On top of the serious economic consequences, this is one of the reasons that Leo Varadkar’s government has good reason to be deeply worried by the prospect – hence our Editor floating the ‘Varadkar Test‘ as a gauge of Theresa May’s real willingness to pursue such a course.

By apparently hardening their attitude towards one, then, leaders such as Emmanuel Macron seem on the surface to be abandoning their commitments to Dublin’s interests. Which is a very good reason to think it might be a bluff, of course, but if it is a bluff it has been deeply unhelpful for a Prime Minister who needed Brexiteer MPs to think that a no-deal exit had been taken off the table to win them round to her Withdrawal Agreement.

Could it be the case that they are simply running out of patience with the whole process, and losing their cohesion as a result?

The fact that Angela Merkel appears to have had to rebuke both Macron and Donald Tusk, and emphasise in strong terms that a no-deal Brexit must be avoided, certainly suggests so. And there is no doubt that there is genuine concern about whether or not the UK takes part in the next European elections, a decision which must be made soon and which could impose tight legal limits on any deferment.

But it is a long way from there to thinking that Brussels really will abandon its previous priorities, especially against the wishes of the German Chancellor, and facilitate no deal. It still seems more likely that, for now at least, EU leaders will if pressed swallow their frustrations and grant a long extension – almost certainly with strings attached – if the British Government seeks one.

If that is the case, this rare crack in the united front could possibly not have come at a worse moment for May. Just when some of them felt she had the ‘gun to their heads‘, Macron has muddied the waters.

Nadine Dorries: Thuggery. Abuse. Threats. Unacceptable everywhere. But no-one came to Brexiteers’ defence when we were victims.

The abuse became so bad that I felt the need to stop giving media interviews, writing articles and to remove myself from the public arena.

Nadine Dorries is the Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire and a Sunday Times top ten bestselling author.

“I want to see you, trapped in a burning car and watch as the heat from the flames melts the flesh from your face.”

Just one of a huge number of threats I have received since the day I became an MP. I decided not prosecute the originator of that remark, since he pleaded that his wife was pregnant, that he had just started a new job and his life would be in ruins if I took action.

That was the moment for me when Twitter transformed from being a platform of debate to one of abuse because within weeks, I had inherited a stalker who stuck with me for eight long years. I wasn’t his first victim. He had targeted his local female MP for three years before me, but she didn’t have a Twitter account and wasn’t on social media, so he moved across the country, rented a house, yards from my own, and then began eight years of intimidation and torment that affected me, my family, my job and my wellbeing.

Did anyone care? Was anyone bothered? Did anyone understand? No, not a bit. Especially not the Crown Prosecution Service, which appeared to believe that, since as an MP I was accountable to the electorate, it followed, unfortunately for me, that this accountability could manifest itself in a variety of ways. I had to move out of my own home and constituency because I was terrified – and it appeared, I was entirely on my own.

I didn’t think things could get much worse after that.  But then came the EU referendum, and it was as if the floodgates of abuse had now opened to the full, leaving my own stalker looking like a third rate amateur.

In addition to the social media and email onslaught, I have barely been able to use my own office for over a year, thanks to the ‘Stop Brexit’ campaigners outside of my window – meaning that, most of the time, I am displaced as I work on a canteen table, or in the Commons library. Month by month, the threats have intensified and they reach the darkest corners of the all-abusable me.

Forget the ‘C’ word. That comes as standard – usually as a subject header on an email. I have become immune. Forget the death threats – for goodness’ sake, there are, so many; so gruesome. It had become very obvious, by the standard of notifications on social media and the comments aimed at me as I walked to Millbank to give interviews, that something was afoot. The language of social medial via the immunity of the keyboard was becoming normalised. I haven’t given an interview on College Green for months, thanks to the stop Brexit protesters. I haven’t walked to Millbank without a male member of staff for over a year. What people would once only have said in private, they have been saying in public, as discourse noticeably deteriorated.

This Christmas, I deactivated my Twitter account. It hurt. There are things I care about, deeply. When you post a tweet that has 10,000 likes and almost three quarter of a million impressions, you know you have an effective platform. To advance my views is one of the reasons I became a politician. Not to duck down behind the sofa, but to jump on the parapet, to put myself in the public space of debate. What’s the point otherwise?

However, the abuse became so bad that I felt the need to stop giving media interviews, writing articles and to remove myself from the public arena. To get off the bus. It was all too much. People were becoming far too angry.

And it’s not just here in the UK. You only have to look around the globe to see how the internet is empowering people – not always in a good way. How minority groups can bully and dominate social media platforms to establish acceptable norms on so many issues. In politics, the paradigm is shifting. Walking the corridors of Westminster is like trotting through quicksand, and many are struggling to understand the new politics.

The Remain Metro Elite thought it was all absolutely fine to project fearmongering, scream “Stop Brexit”, campaign for a second referendum and present themselves on TV to systematically denounce and traduce the result of the referendum and to even, via the courts, try to have the result overturned.

Alastair Campbell of dodgy dossier fame, who proclaimed that the will of Parliament alone was enough to take us to war in Iraq, now endlessly calls for a second referendum, yet no one has died as a result of the referendum vote. He campaigns for a second poll so that the people vote again until they vote the establishment way. The metaphorical equivalent of removing the pin from a hand grenade.

The BBC thought they could spout pure unadulterated bias. Give Gary Lineker a free pass as he abuses elsewhere those 17.5 million people who agonised over their vote, and believe that there would be no consequence as a result. Broadcasters describe working classes leave voters as “gammon” and thick, and so much more besides. Well, I am gammon. I am working-class and proud. I never for one moment thought that these developments would end in anything but tears, and the very worst is still to come.

The handling of Brexit. The fudged negotiations. The deceit, the lies, the attempt by Number Ten to Brexit in name only will soon come home to roost.

People said it was impossible for America to elect Donald Trump, that it would never happen.  That Angela Merkel would go on and on and on in post. Emmanuel Macron was a slap in the face to the French establishment. Shifting political sands.

People here in the UK have reached their own tipping point. Some will become totally disenfranchised, remain at home and will possibly never vote again. Some will vent on social media and the abuse will continue. Others will step away from the keyboard and out onto the streets, and that is already happening. Journalists, Westminster elite, MPs, Prime Minister – we are all to blame, as while we fiddle, Westminster may burn. And someone not at all committed to democratic norms – someone we haven’t yet thought of, or maybe we have – will rise from the ashes, and we will only have ourselves to blame.

Javid is right about illegal immigration across the Channel – and his critics help to underline his point

Cynics suggest his leadership rivals stoked up this ‘crisis’ – if so, they (and outraged Labour MPs) might find their approach is backfiring.

Speculation has abounded in recent days that some Conservative voices might not have been wholly without vested interest in hyping up the ‘crisis’ of illegal immigrants crossing the Channel. After all, the Home Secretary has managed to position himself in second place in the next Tory leader stakes, and a headline-grabbing problem in UK border control while he is on holiday might, cynics suggest, threaten to take the shine off him to the gratification of some of his rivals.

Maybe those theories are true, maybe they aren’t. Either way, complaining about such under-hand tactics – or, worse, complaining about the media’s keen interest in the story, regardless of its source – would hardly be productive for Sajid Javid. Instead, he has sought to do what any successful politician would in the circumstances: get a lid on the issue as fast as possible, and try to turn it to his advantage.

So it was that yesterday found the Home Secretary on the waterfront at Dover, in front of a television camera:

He’s right, of course.

Those fleeing murderous tyrants in Iran or Syria take large risks for good reasons. We should do our best to help defend their lives and liberty. Indeed, the UK has rightly done a huge amount to aid refugees in the Middle East – including granting asylum to some of the most vulnerable people, transported to this country directly from camps in the region.

One has to question the motivation to flee for asylum from France to this country, however. For all the disruption of the gilets jaunes protests against Emmanuel Macron’s plans for punitive green taxes, our neighbour remains a prosperous and largely liberal country. There is no sign that those claiming asylum in the coastal towns of Kent are doing so because of their status as oppressed French diesel drivers.

Admittedly, it is not always so simple as insisting refugees must stop in the first country they reach. Someone leaving Iran to avoid persecution for their race, sexuality or political beliefs might well have good reason not to feel safe in various neighbouring countries. It isn’t hard to see why many Kurds are not keen on seeking asylum in Turkey, for example. But there are a lot of safe countries between here and Turkey.

The awkward truth is that there is not always a clear distinction between refugees and economic migrants – and the two statuses can, and do, mingle as a journey progresses. Many people travel extremely long distances and take huge risks simply out of desperation, knowing that the alternative is death. Some aim to reach this country in particular for reasons consistent with their suffering in their land of origin – their religion, for example, or because they place particular faith in our rule of law.

But some who begin their journeys in search of refuge also choose their destinations with economic considerations in mind, rather than stop in the first safe country as Javid suggests. Why wouldn’t you try your best to go somewhere that you believe to offer a good chance of a decent job? Or where you already speak the language? In any circumstance, people will always aim for the best possible outcome for themselves. That’s human nature.

It’s also human nature that criminals are eternally ready to innovate in order to profit from the misery of others. The people-smuggling industry which flourished in the Mediterranean appears to have identified a new market opportunity in those seeking to cross the Channel.

Those Labour MPs and refugee campaigners who are frothing furiously at Javid’s comments are doubly wrong. For a start, if they think their comments are harming him they are mistaken – being under fire for a firm stance against illegal immigration across the Channel is not a bad place for a Conservative Home Secretary to find himself. If anything, their outrage aids him in reversing the reputational damage which the ‘crisis’ threatened in the first place.

More importantly, Javid’s critics seem to be speaking from a dangerous position of theory rather than practice. We already know what happens when politicians, no matter how well-intentioned, recklessly encourage refugees and other migrants to hand all their belongings to criminal gangs in order to risk their lives in perilous sea crossings. Angela Merkel sent just such an inviting message on the EU’s behalf, and tens of thousands of people then died in the Mediterranean and the Aegean. Had Germany taken the same approach to aiding Syrian refugees as the UK did, focused on results rather than appearances, the outcome might have been very different.

Johannes de Jong: Many of you think May’s deal is bad for Britain. But here’s why it’s bad for us other Europeans too.

EU federalism will be stronger in Britain, as rules are simply imposed on you. And stronger in the rest of Europe – because you’re leaving us.

Johannes de Jong is Director of Sallux, an association that acts as the political foundation for the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM).

Strange as it may sound, the proposed deal between the UK and the EU will make the former more ‘European’ than if it had stayed a member of the latter. For the draft agreement, intending to “restore” British sovereignty, will actually have the opposite effect. So much is already clear from the deal that Theresa May has presented to the Cabinet and is now pressing on her country.

On resigning, Jo Johnson pointed out that the UK will face a choice between ‘vassalage’ and ‘chaos’ when the Prime Minister shortly presents her Brexit deal to the Commons for a vote. The fact that UK will have to adopt Brussels-made legislation on a wide range of issues for an undefined period has sunk in on both sides of the debate.

What has not done so yet, however, are the consequences. That is, that the UK will be subject to more Brussels influence than now. A joint UK/ECJ dispute resolution will not change the fact that the UK will first have to adopt rules coming from Brussels. Large swaths of policy areas will become ‘more European’ than when the UK was a member state. That has much to do with the political nature of the Single Market. To put it simply: it matters who is at the table when these rules are made. The UK not being there means more Brussels influence post-Brexit in the UK under the draft arrangement then currently is the case.

This sounds incredibly contradictory to Brexit’s intent, and it deserves a more elaborate explanation.

It is now crystal clear that the UK will be aligned to Single Market rules in huge swathes of policy fields including the environment, state aid and social standards. Under the deal’s terms, the UK would not only have to stick to all current EU legislation in these fields, but also adopt all relevant future EU legislation. Essentially, the UK will have to cut and paste EU regulations as they come post-Brexit.

This makes perfect sense from the EU 27’s point of view, since otherwise it’s simply impossible to maintain the ‘level playing field’ (meaning alignment with the EU single market). If the UK wouldn’t adopt the relevant new EU rules, this would no longer remain the case.

But there is a catch. The catch is that the UK and all its political influence will no longer be there when these rules are being made. This is obvious, but there is an alarming, deeper issue here. Already we, as a European political foundation, have felt and seen the consequences of a ‘more absent’ UK in the EU decision- making process. When the UK is not present at the decision-making table, certain legislation that would otherwise not pass, passes. Under the current political constellation of the European Parliament and European Commission, in many cases, new European legislation simply means ‘more power to Brussels for those who are powerful in Brussels’.

Fast forward to post-Brexit, and the U.K. will not only have to copy and paste European legislation, but crucially, this future legislation will significantly vary from what we see today. It will be legislation that is heavily influenced by the EPP and ALDE, the European groupings of Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. Not because they can command overall popular support, but simply by lack of a strong political counterbalance. Together, they will most likely be able to eke out a majority after the European Parliament elections in 2019. This increase in influence will be felt in all institutions. Many parties and countries will not be happy about it, but this will become the political reality. Even with severely diminished numbers for Merkel’s CDU, it will still command the EPP. Macron will be the leading force in ALDE, even though Le Pen’s party may well beat his La République en Marche (LREM) in the EP elections.

This most likely means the rubberstamping of legislation that will give more power to Brussels. And this legislation will have to be adopted by the UK post-Brexit under the current deal. This means that both during the transition and under the subsequent customs union (which will be actually a lot more than that), the UK will adopt increasingly significant legislation that will inevitably increase the grip of Brussels. Future legislation that would never pass were the UK in the Council, and Conservative MEPs still present in the European Parliament, will be governing significant policy output.

Further still, given the actual weakness of the parties of Merkel and Macron, we face an absurd situation. Were the Conservative Party to contest the next set of European Parliamentary elections, it would likely become the political powerhouse, with a larger delegation than the CDU and LREM. This would make the ECR (the Conservative Group in the European Parliament) a highly attractive group for MEPs from many countries who want less Europe but are ‘locked’ in the EPP or ALDE by lack of a viable alternative (as they see it).

A strong ECR could become the second largest group (at least) in the European Parliament, and it would have a strong voting weight in the European Council. It would be able to have real influence over the composition and thus future direction of the European Commission. Given the wider probable composition of the European Parliament and the Council, it would become a real possibility to reform the EU in the right direction – something seen as impossible in modern Britain. In my opinion this is far better than crashing out of the EU without a deal and into a completely uncertain future.

To me as an ‘informed outsider’ it seems therefore that the UK and the Conservative Party face an interesting choice. Either the UK will be heavily influenced by Brussels without influence in the EU…or be less influenced by Brussels because of having influence within the EU.

B.O.Bs v P.A.Ms

It’s the Bored of Brexits versus People against May, as she seeks to snoreathon her way to victory – by persuading MPs that voters have simply had enough.

Once purdah was over, the Remain and Leave campaigns boxed, during the EU referendum campaign, on more or less even terms.  The primary emotions they aimed to stir were fear and anger respectively: anger with Brussels; fear of leaving.  This balance of argument was reflected in the TV debates, in which the mutual stars of both sides were pitched against each other, and to which we will return later today.

The fortnight or so between now and the “meaningful vote” will be nothing like that.  The Prime Minister still commands the bully pulpit of Downing Street, but there will be no Vote Leave or Britain Stronger in Europe campaign to oppose her.  So what is she up to, since there is no referendum on her proposals, and voters have no direct say on them?

The answer is that she hopes to collapse the present majority of MPs against her plan by means of pressure from their constituents.  We are sceptical of claims that almost 100 Conservative MPs are committed to vote against it.  But there can be no doubt that at least 50 are on record as saying they won’t support it.

Add that total to the opposition parties, and Theresa May is up against it.  Furthermore, the evidence suggests that voters have not yet got their heads around her agreement.  According to Lord Ashcroft’s polling, voters “were slightly more likely than not to say they thought the agreement was better than leaving the EU with no deal”.  But “by a 20-point margin, voters as a whole said MPs should “vote to reject the agreement, even if it is not clear what the outcome would then be”.

In some ways, her strategy will clearly be Project Fear Revisited.  There will be apocalyptic forecasts of economic collapse if the deal is rejected.  The Government will surely try to slice and dice these for individual constituencies, and contrast them against claims of higher living standards if the deal goes through Parliament.  But voters have seen Project Fear discredited once, with its warnings of an immediate recession and 500,00 unemployed, and are likely to treat it, second time round, with even more cynicism than before.

However, the Prime Minister has a new card to play.  “The British people don’t want to spend any more time arguing about Brexit,” she said yesterday.  This is the heart of her pitch.  Not an attempt to sell the merits of the agreement, such as they are; but rather, the exploitation of Brexit war-weariness.  “Enough is enough.”  “Get it all over with.”  “Let’s move on.”  “People are sick and tired of it.”  You can see the emotional core of the “campaign”, as May labelled it yesterday, beginning to take shape.  She aims to bore her way to victory.

The Prime Minister is trying to assemble a broad coalition big enough to turn MPs round.  It will include Leavers who think she’s done enough, and who fear No Brexit if her plan fails.  To this audience, May will stress immigration control.  A big slice of it is in Labour-held midlands and northern seats.  It will also take in Remainers who respect the referendum result, and fear No Deal if the deal falls.  To these people, May will push her economic pitch.  Quite a bit of it is in the bluer south-east, plus London.

Above all, the Prime Minister will speak to the unengaged punter who has had enough of the whole business.  These are what Jeremy Hunt yesterday nicknamed B.O.Bs – those Bored with Brexit.  Downing Street will try to paint a picture of a dogged, moderate, determined woman, acting in the national interest, opposed by a band of selfish, opportunistic, Eton-educated men, crazed by fanaticism and (we predict) misogyny.  This message will be projected hard to this audience, and to those Tory members whose instinct is to follow their leader.

Against it will be set another coalition.  It will take in Remainers who want a second referendum, and want to see May’s plan voted down so they can get it; Leavers who hate its central feature – that the UK will be tied to it without a guaranteed means of escape – and would rather risk no deal; Conservative members who don’t like the look of it, and feel ignored and patronised by successive party leaders; Labour activists manoeuvering for a general election; the DUP; the UKIP remnant; Nicola Sturgeon.

Up for play is the biggest group of voters of all – namely, those who treat everything Ministers say with suspicion because they think all politicians are liars.  The Prime Minister will find this demographic to be particularly hard work.  All in all, against the B.O.Bs, the Bored of Brexits, will be set the P.A.Ms – People against May, of which there are rather a lot.  A prize for the first ConservativeHome reader who spots a Government Minister suggesting that Vladimir Putin is actively engaged in bringing the deal down.

Talking of leaders abroad, one group of people we will presumably hear nothing very much from are the Commission plus the EU27: Jean-Claude Juncker, Angela Merkel, Martin Selmayr, and so on.  But this is to fail to take account of Emmanuel Macron, who has helpfully pointed out that the EU expects its access to Britain’s fish to continue post-deal.  Take that, David Mundell!

The essence of the case against the agreement is that no country should sign up to a deal it isn’t free to leave; that this one would dynamite the independent trade policy that should be part of Brexit – and that the package threatens the stability of the UK.  This time round, there is no Dominic Cummings to weaponise it.  Party members will be torn between respect for the leader and dislike of the deal.

So the disparate coalition that opposes the deal has little time to weld itself into a coherent force.  Andrew Adonis must somehow find a way of co-ordinating with Boris Johnson, and vice-versa (a tall order).  It’s B.O.Bs v P.A.Ms – and in between them, the 650 or so people who will decide.

Garvan Walshe: Merkel stood firm against her party’s worst instincts on immigration. And paid the price.

What would the lesser men who would bring her down have done: put migrants on sealed trains in their tens of thousands and send them – where, exactly?

Garvan Walshe is a former National and International Security Policy Adviser to the Conservative Party. He runs TRD Policy.

“All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered to me; and to whomsoever I will give it.”

There comes a time in every politician’s life when they hear these words of temptation, spoken to Jesus by the Devil, as related by the Gospel of St Luke.

As in 2015 migrants trudged through Belgrade and Budapest, tracing, by the brute force of geography — since it is simply the way to Germany — the routes once tramped by Ottoman soldiers; as rumours, fanned by Russian propaganda including fake stories of a girl being raped by a refugee, swirled though social and conventional media; as voters began to drift towards the anti-Muslim Alternativ fur Deutschland, these words could be heard within the Germany’s ruling CDU/CSU –

“This is too much. Close the borders. We can’t cope.” These were the acceptable arguments. Beneath them the unacceptable ones: “they’re terrorists, rapists – and we’re losing votes”.

Tolerance of and exploitation of hate is the last temptation of the Right. Some, like Viktor Orban, give into it completely. Others make excuses. They are merely expressing the “legitimate concerns” of the left-behind (retweets aren’t endorsements, you know). Those “citizens of nowhere” are just bankers and businessmen who don’t pay their taxes – not members of an ethnic group whose stereotypes include bankers, businessmen and George Soros.

Sebastian Kurz in Austria, Laurent Wauquiez in France, Pablo Casado in Spain and Horst Seehofer of Bavaria all gave in. It was a temptation Merkel resisted.

Her decision to let in a million refugees in a year was not spontaneous charity. She acted in the circumstances that presented themselves to her. The lesser men who would bring her down had no practical alternative. What would they have done, as Germans: tear up the German constitution, close the borders, detain them, and put them on sealed trains in their tens of thousands and send them — where, exactly?

But it also shows her limitations.

Asking any society to accept a million refugees from an unfamiliar culture is not an act of uncomplicated generosity. It takes courage, hard work, and a considerable amount of money. It needs an active effort to integrate them into their new equal and modern society, considerably different even from Syria’s urban centres, and the courage to understand that many will build permanent lives in Germany, as so many Germans built lives in America as they fled persecution before.

Germans responded to this need in their millions. Teaching the refugees German, helping them find accommodation, offering them apprenticeships in their companies and refusing to give into prejudice when it turns out that, as with any group of a million people, some of them turn out to be wrong uns.

But Merkel was unable to make it into a defining moment for her country. This should be remembered as Germany’s finest hour, but on the Right, in particular, it is now frequently called her greatest mistake. Hers is a politics very much in the spirit of Helmut Schmidt: “people who have visions should go to the doctor.” Asked to share what she thought happiness was, she famously replied “well-sealed windows.” Though any German visitor wintering in a damp and draughty British house would come round to her point of view, this doesn’t quite seem up to the mark.

Not for nothing could her 2017 election slogan be freely translated as “Sensible policies for a happier Germany.” Unable to own her radicalism, she now finds her party losing votes, not only to her right-wing rivals, but in significantly greater numbers to the Green Party: defenders of the policy for which she will always be remembered. The Greens are now second in the polls at 24 per cent to the CDU/CSU’s 27 per cent.

In the end, the losses were too great. After a recent, heavy setback in Hesse, she announced her intention to stay on as Chancellor, but let go of the party leadership.

The Union has consisted of an alliance that might crudely be described an alliance of business-churhgoing-and-national-conservatives. Each faction has a standard bearer: Friedrich Merz, Annegret Kramp Kennenbauer, and Jens Spahn. It finds itself paralysed by the question of whether Germany should become an “immigration country.” It is the Christians who have organised so much of the assistance to refugees, especially in rural areas, whereas the hard right will never forgive Merkel for letting them in.

At their conference in December, CDU delegates will have to decide which wing to sacrifice.

Alexander Temerko: The relationship between business and government has never been as meaningless as under May

The key to a good Brexit is empowering UK entrepreneurs to talk to their European counterparts and become ambassadors for Downing Street’s plan.

Alexander Temerko is an industrialist and a Conservative Party donor and activist.

Never has the relationship between business and Number Ten been as meaningless or fruitless as under Theresa May. She continues to repeat the mantra that she is leading a pro-business government, but that is an exaggeration. Hers is not an anti-business government – that would be a more accurate way of putting it.

A pro-business government is what Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron led in their day; it’s what Donald Trump, Xi Jinping and Angela Merkel are leading today. Despite her soft-spot for SMEs, our Prime Minister is undeniably afraid of global business.

Globalisation has shown that big business and public-private partnerships (something we hardly see in the UK anymore) are the real long-term drivers of a steadily growing modern economy. The presence of global business centres is what makes the difference between a country that’s prosperous and one that’s merely surviving. Indeed, such business is the powerful locomotive, pulling along SMEs and much of the socio-economic activity in the regions.

Business leaders have always been there to support May’s Government at the most critical times. Yet our “strong and stable” leader has repeatedly shunned any direct engagement with business in favour of sporadic consultations with the trade lobby, whose academic experts’ interests have long since been prioritised over representation of any actual economy sectors.

The Prime Minister has a presidential style of leadership. Her talent is for forming small, quasi-familial groups of trusted advisers. While David Cameron was comfortable working with big diversified teams, she seems reluctant to engage with the broad meritocratic audiences whose praises she so often sings. This desire to keep discussions tightly controlled has had a negative impact on almost every key policy decision taken to date. It is time to change.

Today, not only the country’s economy but also its integrity hinges on the UK business community backing the Brexit plans proposed by the Prime Minister and her Cabinet. No-one wants Brexit to be a disaster – but how to avoid it without break-through ideas and bold compromises?

The British economy will quickly lose its appeal should financial, industrial and services majors, driven by impending uncertainty and the fear of mounting responsibility to shareholders, relocate their headquarters and investment capital to more profitable jurisdictions with more predictable regulations. This could, in turn, trigger almost instant separatist rhetoric and action by the country’s subsidised regions.

Inside the eye of the Brexit storm, this outcome would be increasingly irreversible. People will start going by the saying “Better a painful ending than endless pain”. One person will certainly be delighted with a “painful ending”: his name is Vladimir Putin. Are we willing to afford him the pleasure? The answer is clear even to Jeremy Corbyn and Jacob Rees-Mogg, both of whom have been aiding this “painful ending” by holding on to his very own wrong end of the stick.

Europe would suffer, too. Take just one example from my industry: 70 per cent of our utilities are owned by European firms. Machinery and metal products are another trade goldmine for European business. At a time of escalating conflict with the US and sanctions or restrictions in trade relations with China, Russia, Iran and others, this is key. Europe just cannot lose Britain with its import-oriented economy as well. If that happens, countries right at the heart of Europe – France, Germany, Portugal, and to some extent Belgium and Holland too – will feel the pain.

However, in these countries, business is much more influential and integrated with the operation of Government. European business wants to live and wants to live well – which makes it our best ally in promoting a sensible responsible Brexit.

Businesses talk best with other businesses. They will not waste time talking when they don’t know if they are being heard by the Government, though. Hence, the key to a good Brexit is empowering UK entrepreneurs to talk to their European counterparts and become official ambassadors for the Government’s Brexit plan.

The other key piece of the puzzle is for May to accept the Irish border backstop – provided that the EU undertakes to guarantee our country’s integrity. This would restrain any spontaneous separatist movements in the UK, at least for as long as the EU continues to exist. If accession to the EU is all but impossible for any breakaway state, withdrawal from the UK would be pointless.

What happens if our Government does not create the broad coalition of business it needs and push bold compromises through? Quite simply, if there is no deal hammered out by December, a new election will be the only option to avoid the catastrophe of no deal.

If the Chequers plan falls through, it clear to almost everyone today that Parliament will not accept any other plan – be it Canada-plus, Australia-minus or a No Deal. The European Commission for its part, will not consider any new proposals, since none of them could get a majority in the UK Parliament and Europe will itself be moving into EU Parliament elections.

All that’s left are two options. They are both domestic – either a new referendum or another snap election. It is up to Parliament and our political elites to choose. They have to choose between their two great fears: the fear of a new election which is highly likely to mean a coalition government, and the fear of a new referendum that goes against Brexit.

Merkel might be going, but the common rulebook would still mean Berlin writing our rules

If you ask any cabbie who’s running the EU they are bound to mention Angela Merkel – at least for now. But if you asked anyone in the Foreign Office, it’s likely they would go through unheard of names like Antonio Tajani or Mário Centeno before they’d get to the German Chancellor. Even then, squeamish officials […]

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If you ask any cabbie who’s running the EU they are bound to mention Angela Merkel – at least for now. But if you asked anyone in the Foreign Office, it’s likely they would go through unheard of names like Antonio Tajani or Mário Centeno before they’d get to the German Chancellor. Even then, squeamish officials are likely to mention her as part of the wider group of EU leaders, without singling her out.

Germany’s formal position under the European treaties might be no different to other member states – in theory the European Commission makes proposals and the Council and EU Parliament make the decisions – but as the UK’s former ambassador to Germany, Sir Paul Lever, mentions in his recent book, it’s Germany’s view which is sought by the Commission before it acts, and other governments make sure they know what Berlin wants before they decide on a course of action.

The extent to which German decisions dominate is well-known by the left-wing firebrand and former Greek finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis. Before Eurozone meetings he would receive support for his ideas in private discussions with his EU counterparts, who were keen and willing to sort out the crisis. However, once seated round the table, the very same Ministers would defer to one man: Germany’s Wolfgang Schäuble. Representatives of ostensibly sovereign nations would flip their position completely if it became clear that the Germans had made their minds up on a proposal.

In Britain, former Cabinet Minister Iain Duncan Smith watched in frustrated amazement as Angela Merkel sabotaged Britain’s attempts to control immigration during David Cameron’s failed renegotiation attempts before the referendum. Later, Duncan Smith described it as if they were “sitting in a room even though they weren’t there. There was a chair for them, a German chair. They had a veto over everything.”

All this matters because if the UK plans to sign up to a ‘Common rulebook’ with the EU it will be Germany calling the shots. Recently Dyson attracted criticism for deciding to build a new electric car plant in Singapore. According to the firm, the decision was made “based on supply chains, access to markets and the availability of expertise, which offset the cost factor”. UKIP founder Alan Sked pointed out it might have also had something to do with the regulatory framework Britain is planning to sign up to. Why would a company trying to join a new market want an EU common rulebook written by their competitors? Kept inside the EU’s regulatory framework, the German government, under pressure from Audi and Volkswagen, could conceivably out-regulate their plucky British challenger.

As a recent paper by Roland Vaubel explained, if a qualified majority of member states within the EU which favour a high level of regulation gang up, they can impose higher regulations on the rest: “Thus, while regulatory collusion presupposes unanimity, the strategy of raising rivals’ costs merely requires a qualified majority.”  Vaubel says the anti-regulation coalition includes Ireland, the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands but that various indices show that the UK has the least regulated labour market of all. If we stay tied to the EU, Britain is most at risk from damaging rule-changes.

We need to recognise that the ‘Common rulebook’ isn’t a neutral body of legal text. Like the EU itself, it is a mechanism which can – and will – be used to bend the rules to favour some nations over others. Few dare to admit this and credit is due to Sir Paul Lever who devastatingly exposes Berlin’s influence in his book Berlin Rules. Sir Bill Cash is another notable example who over the years has highlighted the hidden hand of Germany. But it’s time our negotiators recognised that the EU is not a federation of equals. Angela Merkel may be on the way out but Germany has consistently been the determiner of EU policy decisions and that won’t change after she is replaced. We must accept that if we decide to remain it will be Berlin, not Brussels, who will decide our fate.

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Syed Kamall: People in Brussels expect a Brexit deal will be struck, but fear time is running out

Meanwhile, my ECR colleagues and I continue to push for a sensible, nation-led approach to tackling the migration crisis.

Syed Kamall is Chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group and is an MEP for London.

Two things let you know when Brussels is hosting one of its frequent summits.

Overhead the security helicopters buzz continually across the city, often quite late into the evening depending on the world leader in attendance.

On the ground, the city’s traffic becomes even more gridlocked than normal as lanes are closed to ensure swift passage for the motorcades, the size of which is not always a reliable indicator of the occupant’s importance.

So anyone planning an early night, or hoping for a stress-free drive to work, was well advised to take some time off and head out of town as the European Union staged no fewer than seven summits in four days.

From Tuesday 16 October to Friday 19 October, the EU held: a Tripartite Social Summit; European Council summits discussing Brexit, the Eurozone plus a session on migration and security; the Asian-Europe Meeting; the EU-Republic of Korea Summit; and the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting. The latter, held over two days brought together the leaders of 54 European and Asian countries representing 55 per cent of global trade, 60 per cent of the world’s population and 65 per cent of global GDP.

While these summits were an impressive show of the EU’s internal and external diplomacy, many will ask what was achieved?

The flagship event was the set piece signing of free trade, investment, and partnership agreements with Singapore. When I was the rapporteur (lead MEP) guiding the EU-Singapore FTA through the European Parliament in 2013, I and MEPs across the political spectrum urged the Commission and Council to send it to us for ratification before the June 2014 European elections.  In the event, the EU insisted on re-opening the agreement to change the rules on investment protection, even though the agreement had been signed off.

The Singaporeans were naturally annoyed, but felt they had no choice, and are of course relieved that it will be sent to us before the 2019 elections.  However, this incident damaged the EU’s credibility in keeping its word on a signed off agreement. Maybe a warning to other future partners?

A trade accord was also signed with Vietnam. The great hope was to use the focus on these two agreements and the Asia-Europe Meeting to persuade China to ease restrictions on foreign investment, goods, and services. But talks failed to deliver a breakthrough, and a final communique omitted a call for an end to trade distortions after China insisted on changes.

Otherwise there was precious little to show for such intense diplomatic activity beyond warm words and general declarations. That was certainly true of two major challenges facing the EU: migration and Brexit. Despite both featuring on the EU Council agenda, no concrete action had been agreed when the red carpet was eventually rolled up on Friday evening.

On migration, at least the Council appears to be finally getting around to considering the policies put forward by Conservative MEPs and our colleagues in the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group at the height of the crisis in 2015.

After the EU spent two years trying to force refugee quotas on often reluctant member states, EU leaders have now agreed that the way forward lies in improving the processing of arrivals to distinguish between genuine refugees and economic migrants, speeding up returns, securing borders, and seeking enhanced arrangements with third countries to stem the flow of migrants.

Meanwhile, my colleagues in the ECR group continue to push for member states to be asked how they are willing to help, rather than telling them how many people they should accept. Some countries will take in genuine asylum seekers, others will choose to help refugees closer to their homes and some will provide money to help front line countries.

If these common sense policies had been adopted sooner, and not dismissed as anti–European or populist, then the system would now be in better shape and perhaps more lives could have been saved.

The failure to make progress on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement was disappointing, but came as no real surprise. Before the summit there was no real sense that we were approaching the negotiating end game, and this was confirmed when leaders of the EU27 spent just 90 minutes discussing Brexit over dinner and had little interest in listening to Jean-Claude Juncker’s briefing on preparations for no deal. Rather than negotiating into the early hours of the morning and seeking to emerge with a compromise, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and two other Prime Ministers took themselves off for a post-dinner beer on the Grand Place.

Of course intense negotiations continue behind the scenes, and my discussions with diplomats have revealed more understanding that Theresa May’s position on the Irish backstop is not simply a negotiating stance or a bluff. It is a Prime Minister defending the constitutional sovereignty and geographical borders of a nation, and protecting a hard won peace.

These talks were always going to go the distance, and the pressure of having to reach a deal before the end of the year in order to give the British and European parliaments time to consider the agreement will focus minds. In seeking a legal text that satisfies both sides, the negotiators may look to their lawyers to turn the seemingly impossible into the possible, just as they did with the Danish opt outs in 1992 and Protocol 36 with the UK in 2014.

Most people I speak to in Brussels expect a deal to be agreed by the end of the year, or at the very latest in January. There are concerns any agreement may not be approved at Westminster or in the European Parliament, but for now the biggest fear is that we are running out of time.

In so many areas the EU’s negotiating stance is sadly defined by the politics of punishment, rather than economics

The news that Boeing has just opened a £40 million manufacturing facility in Sheffield to make parts for their latest 737 and 767 aircraft, which are assembled in the United States, serves to remind us that our world-class aerospace business is global and to torpedo the claims of Airbus – and some car manufacturers – […]

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The news that Boeing has just opened a £40 million manufacturing facility in Sheffield to make parts for their latest 737 and 767 aircraft, which are assembled in the United States, serves to remind us that our world-class aerospace business is global and to torpedo the claims of Airbus – and some car manufacturers – that Brexit will threaten jobs in the UK because it will cause havoc to the just-in-time manufacturing process. Boeing’s plans call for the production of 52 aircraft a month with thousands of parts being shipped every month to Portland, Oregon, so timely delivery will be just as critical to Boeing as it is to Airbus.

So, the question arises: if Boeing can operate a slick production process using parts made in Britain, shipped six times the distance to their assembly line compared to shipping Airbus parts from Bristol or North Wales to Hamburg or Toulouse (and BAE ship 15% of every single F35 Joint Strike Fighter to the Lockheed Martin plant in Dallas), what is Airbus’s problem? The answer lies not in economics but in politics.

As is increasingly clear, despite protestations to the contrary, elements of the EU really do want to punish the UK for having had the insolence to Leave and to deter other countries from following our lead. France seems to be the most determined to press for punishment, partly to try to seize the City of London’s business and partly to promote President Macron as the new EU leader as Angela Merkel’s grip weakens.

Recently there were reports, subsequently denied, that President Macron intended to require UK visitors to France to obtain visas whilst those Brits with homes in France would immediately upon Brexit become illegal visitors. Apparently, the word ‘not’ was omitted in translation and the proposed new law designed to prevent such action. However, Dominic Raab subsequently spoke about the possibility of France ‘deliberately’ delaying lorries entering the port of Calais.

Earlier this year, the EU announced the creation of a fund to develop new defence equipment, a programme from which the UK, home to Europe’s largest defence contractor and with the largest defence budget in Europe, was to be excluded. Furthermore, the UK is to be ejected from key parts of the EU satellite navigation programme, Galileo, despite having contributed £1.2 billion and constituting, through Airbus subsidiary Surrey Satellites, a key portion of the technology. Any reasonable person would ask where was the commercial, let alone defence, interest in excluding such a major European player. Again, the answer lies not in economics but in politics: the UK has to be punished even if it means damaging the defence interests of the continent.

As we approach the sombre commemorations of the centenary of the 1918 armistice which ended The Great War, it is worth pausing to reflect on the role of some of those nations who, in the famous words of Margaret Thatcher, ‘we either rescued or defeated’.  The British people have voted freely but decisively to Leave the EU, yet face punitive measures by some on the continent for whose liberation in two world wars this country and its Empire shed 1,300,000 lives. Whilst falling over themselves to secure favourable trade deals with the rest of the world, the EU’s leaders have adopted the reverse policy with their closest neighbour, refusing to discuss trade arrangements before sorting out an artificial problem of their creation by weaponising the Irish border, a clear solution to which has been proposed by the ERG and others.

In another example of the pathetic approach in Brussels, I understand that the EU’s aviation safety agency, EASA, is debarred from discussing with our CAA how we manage air travel post Brexit.  Given the UK’s prominence in air transport, with Heathrow being the most important transatlantic gateway airport in Europe, why is EASA not engaged in constructive debate? Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are members of EASA even though they are not EU members, so why remove the UK? Again, the answer lies in politics, not economics. They want to cause inconvenience, if not chaos, to rub home to the others the cost of recovering national sovereignty.

All this illustrates the fundamental naivety exhibited by the UK at the outset of the negotiations, namely that if we conceded and acted in a friendly fashion the EU would respond in similar vein, leading many Leave voters to question the motives of those in charge. We never acknowledged the determination of the Commission to protect The Project (to create the United States of Europe) and we failed to recognise the strength of the cards in our hands.

So we threw away the security card, offering unconditional support to the 27, only to be rewarded by exclusion from EU defence programmes. The Prime Minister offered to pay a staggering £39 billion of our money in return for – nothing. Well, if she thinks British taxpayers will tolerate that, I fear she is mistaken. I can no longer withhold my vote in Parliament, but I can withhold my taxes unless I see a fair trade deal is secured.

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