The Northern Irish Protocol. Will Macron turn off Britain’s French nuclear supplies?

9 Oct

One would think, from the way that Article 16 is sometimes discussed, that it is either an off-the-shelf cure-all for the problems arising for the United Kingdom from the operation of the Northern Irish Protocol or a latent assault on international law.

It is neither. Having been negotiated by both parties and included in the text of the treaty, its activation obviously cannot breach that same treaty. It also only part-suspends the Protocol and offers no unilateral path to scrapping it altogether.

Nonetheless, the Government triggering it would be a Big Deal, and there seems to be growing consensus amongst informed observers that this is now a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. Brandon Lewis, the Northern Irish Secretary, said at the Conservative Party Conference that the conditions for doing so have already been met. Lord Frost reiterated the Government position that we are ready to act if acceptable proposals from the EU are not forthcoming.

For their part, Brussels have promised to bring forward new ideas – but that these will be entirely within the existing confines of the Protocol. This is very much in the spirit of their previous document which, whilst purporting to list ways in which the EU had taken a flexible approach, actually just said that the UK should align with it (‘temporarily, of course) on SPS checks.

So why not simply trigger Article 16 now? Well, as I explained all the way back in March, the Government grasps that this is a battle over optics as much as over technicalities. The object of the slower strategy is to give the other side ample room to engage meaningfully with unionist concerns. Part-suspending the Protocol must be seen as a last resort, not a first response, if the UK is to look like the reasonable party.

For their part, the EU has to try and find a way to reconcile its pretence that the Protocol is first and foremost about peace in Ulster with the fact that it has united every shade of capital-U Unionist opinion against it, and its claim that checks are necessary to protect the Single Market with the fact that British goods have been flowing into the Province without restriction for the best part of a year with nary a market distortion in sight.

Yet Frost likely still has the biggest mountain to climb. Ultimately, Brussels wants the Protocol to remain as it is at the moment and can, if it chooses, simply grit its teeth whilst Emmanuel Macron cuts off the UK’s nuclear power supplies. If London wants to secure real changes, on the other hand, it would have to persuade them to re-open the treaty, and then do what previous governments failed to do and actually conduct a negotiation well – not to mention find some leverage somewhere.

Davis says the Conservative Party is going to have to have a big argument about economic policy

4 Oct

For David Davis having the necessary argument is more than a duty: it is a pleasure. “We’re going to have to have a big argument within the Conservative Party about economic policy,” he said as he took questions from an audience which filled the ConHome tent.

Davis pointed out that Margaret Thatcher was often unpopular at this stage in a Parliament: “The question we should ask is whether what we do now is going to deliver a good outcome in two years’ time.”

So we should be asking whether raising National Insurance will deliver more jobs or fewer in two years’ time: “I worry about the National Insurance increase. I worry about the Corporation Tax increase.”

Not that Davis falls for the idea that some perfect policy exists.

When asked whether he himself has made mistakes, he joked for a moment that he had made none, but then went on: “We all make mistakes. I don’t criticise the Government for making mistakes.”

He said that what we need are not great men but great institutions: “Great institutions protect you from big mistakes.”

And later: “Good institutions do not deliver perfection, they deliver correction.”

He instanced the slave trade, For the whole of the seventeenth century “we had a terrible record on slavery”. But in 1807, Parliament changed its mind, and decided to abolish the Atlantic slave trade, which was what over the next 60 years the Royal Navy managed to achieve, displaying “heroism on a grand scale”:

“It’s the greatest ethical foreign policy and the most expensive in the world ever.”

In 1968, when student riots erupted at the Sorbonne in Paris, David Davis was in his first year at Warwick University: “I turned out to be the only person arguing against the riots.”

He became Chairman of that nursery of talent, the Federation of Conservative Students, in which capacity he saw Ted Heath four times a year, and Margaret Thatcher, then Education Secretary, ten times a year.

Britain seemed condemned to decline, but when Thatcher became leader she said, “Our job is to reverse the decline.” Davis recalled how “incredibly controversial” the 1981 Budget had been.

He entered Parliament in 1987 and soon found himself defending the Maastricht Treaty. This was not the fight he wanted to have: it was a fight that could not be avoided.

He thought the treaty was “terrible”, but that if John Major’s Government fell, Labour would get in and go much further with European integration, so there was “no right answer outcome”.

At this point he quoted David Frost’s observation earlier in the day:

“All history, all experience, shows that democratic countries with free economies, which let people keep the money they have earned, make their own decisions, and manage their own lives, are not just richer but also happier and more admired by others.”

“That’s actually a fantastic paragraph,” Davis said. “I’d stick it on the wall at home. Our history is the history of freedom.”

And that freedom includes the freedom to rebel when you conclude that the Government is getting something wrong. He was interviewed by Ryan Henson, Chief Executive Officer of the Coalition for Global Prosperity, which “brings together political, military, business and faith leaders” to make the case for “an effective development budget”.

Davis was a leading figure in the recent Tory rebellion against cuts in the international development budget, which he believed was heading for success: “We thought we had 50 [MPs] – it evaporated – we probably need 70 next time.”

He added that “you’ve got to move the public as well as the Government,” who can then put pressure on their MPs.

When asked about his back story, as the son of a single mother on a council estate, Davis objected:

“It’s become fashionable to talk about your back story. The press are gullible about it. They believe Angela Rayner to be a normal member of the working class.”

Truss top, Wallace second, Sunak down, Gove up – and Johnson sixth from bottom in our post-shuffle Cabinet League Table

4 Oct
  • Our first post-reshuffle Cabinet League Table suggests that the pieces are still settling on the board – at least as far as our members’ panel is concerned.
  • The general pattern seems to be that those who did well out of the shuffle have done well in the ratings, that there’s concern about the uncertain economic future and the growing state…that activists are willing to make Ministers down if necessary, but that they’re mostly suspending judgement.
  • Liz Truss’s rating remains broadly stable, but she opens up a 15 point gap at the top. That’s because Rishi Sunak is down by about ten points from second to fifth.  That’s not a big drop – but we read it as a reflection of that nervousness about living standards and squeezed incomes.
  • Elsewhere, Ben Wallace is up marginally, but enough to put him second in the table for the first time.  David Frost is third.  Nadhim Zahawi bounces straight in at fifth, Nadine Dorries at seventh, and Anne-Marie Trevelyan at ninth.  Elsewhere, there’s not much movement in terms of scores…
  • …Though Michael Gove is up by 15 points and Dominic Raab by 17, perhaps reflecting a post-reshuffle willingness to wipe the slate relatively clean…
  • …But though no-one is in negative ratings, Priti Patel is now very exposed at third from bottom in the table.  Much of that will be boats; some Insulate Britain and public disorder; some, police failings.
  • Grant Shapps brings up the rear, doubtless drawing fire because of frustration about restrictions on travel abroad.
  • The Prime Minister’s pre-conference position really is very poor: the best explanation we have is that he is the lightning conductor for activists’ unease over economic prospects and strategic direction.
  • We’ve now put all Ministers who attend Cabinet in the table, as well as Ben Elliot, the co-party Chairman.  Oliver Dowden is some 30 points ahead of him.

Henry Hill: Sturgeon distracts her troops with promises of another independence ‘prospectus’

9 Sep

Sturgeon starts another independence push

It must be coming up to the Scottish National Party conference, because Nicola Sturgeon is talking up her administration’s plans for independence again. But although the First Minister has apparently promised a “detailed prospectus”, according to the FT, she hasn’t gone so far as to give any dates about when she’s going to table the necessary legislation.

Funny that. Sturgeon knows that the Government, quite rightly, is not going to grant her permission to hold another vote in this Parliament. But she needs some read meat to keep her increasingly fractious activists in line. Hence yet another study, yet another commission, more delaying tactics.

Not that those efforts are even going especially well. This week, it emerged that one of the First Minister’s new hand-picked economic advisers warned that separating from the United Kingdom would be “Brexit times ten”. Professor Mark Blythe, in an interview conducted days before his new role was announced, is the last thing Sturgeon needed as she tees her members up to debate the proposition that a hard border with England could “favourably benefit” Scotland.

Grace periods on Northern Irish trade extended indefinitely

Back in March, I wrote about how the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint David Frost to the Northern Irish trade brief signalled that the Government was much more serious than some people seemed prepared to credit about securing meaningful change to the Protocol.

Autumn is here and so far, it looks as if that reading was right – and perhaps Brussels is starting to realise it.

Why else would the EU have agreed to the UK indefinitely extending the grace periods which are allowing fresh produce from mainland Britain to cross unhindered into Ulster, in defiance of Brussels’ ‘external frontier’ at the Irish Sea?

Perhaps they have realised, as I noted earlier this week, that it’s no good demanding that the Government ‘honour what it signed’ when taking preventative measures to prevent ‘diversion of trade’ – for example, forcing Northern Irish supermarkets to find new, EU-based supply chains – is right there in the text of Article 16? Over the summer, senior sources told me that London’s red line was maintaining food supply chains across the Irish Sea. Hence the earlier, unilateral extension of grace periods.

Some critics wondered why, if the Government was serious, it didn’t immediately trigger Article 16. But doing so precipitately would make it look as if the UK were merely spoiling for a fight. Instead, the months of extensions have simultaneously demonstrated Britain’s seriousness about finding a low-key resolution and the complete absence of any ill-effects on the Single Market from the unfettered flow of British produce.

Of course, its a big leap from a fudge such as this to actually re-opening and renegotiating the Protocol. But patience is baked in to this Fabian strategy. By consenting to an indefinite extension, it looks as if Brussels understands that the Protocol can’t operate as currently drafted without diversion of trade – and it explicitly does not permit diversion of trade.

Welsh boundary review proposals published

The BBC reports on the publication of the proposed new parliamentary constituencies for Wales. The principality’s representation at Westminster is being cut from 40 to 32 as part of the Government’s push to equalise constituency boundaries.

If the new boundaries went ahead in their current form it could leave several Conservative MPs scrapping for new seats, with 2019 gains Clwyd South and Vale of Clwyd getting absorbed by other seats as well as Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, held by Simon Hart, the Welsh Secretary.

The changes could also hit Plaid Cymru quite hard, with several of their seats making unhelpful acquisitions from neighbouring constituencies.

Our Cabinet League Table. Raab plummets from third from top in July to fourth from bottom last month.

5 Sep
  • Last month, Dominic Raab was third from top in our Cabinet League Table, on 73 per cent.  This month, he drops by 21 places to fourth from bottom, coming in at 6 per cent and narrowly avoiding negative ratings.  It’s one of the biggest falls ever in our table – almost on the scale of Theresa May’s dizzying fall from top of the table into negative territory in the wake of the bungled 2017 election.
  • Meanwhile, Ben Wallace moves up from ninth, on 51 per cent, to fourth, on 64 per cent.
  • The Westminster story of the last week or so has concentrated on Raab v Wallace – and this finding seems to show Conservative activists taking sides.  Our take is that it’s more of a verdict on how British servicemen and the Foreign Office have reacted to events in Afghanistan; and on Wallace’s robust take on Joe Biden and, perhaps, Pen Farthing.  The Defence Secretary seems to be morphing into a politician who, like the Prime Minister himself, is seen by many people outside Westminster as authentic.
  • Boris Johnson drifts up from fourth from bottom on three per cent to seventh from bottom on 13 per cent.
  • Otherwise there’s little change in the table, but it’s worth closing by having a look at Priti Patel.  Last month, she was tenth from bottom on 26 per cent.  This month, she is eight from bottom on 18 per cent.  As recently as May, she was among the top members of the table: sixth from top on 64 per cent.  You will have your own view on the reasons for her fall.  Ours is: channel boats.

Should the Prime Minister put his COP26 spokesperson in the House of Lords?

3 Aug

Last month, the Commission for Smart Government attracted controversy when it proposed that the Prime Minister ought to be able to appoint ministers from outside Parliament. The Independent reported it thus:

“Describing its reforms as “radical”, the commission suggests giving prime ministers the ability to appoint ministers who are not parliamentarians, “to allow additional talent to be brought in from outside government”. Attempting to tackle inevitable questions of accountability to parliament, the report suggests the creation of oral committees that can summon the ministers who are not MPs or peers to appear.”

Might Boris Johnson have some sympathy with this proposal? He does seem to be developing a habit of giving wide-ranging political briefs to people who are not ministers.

Lord Frost may have been elevated before he was put in control of salvaging the Government’s position in Northern Ireland, but it was as David Frost that he delivered his speech, ‘Reflections on the revolutions in Europe‘, making a wide-ranging and political case for what Brexit meant.

Now we have Allegra Stratton, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson for COP26, attracting controversy with advice on rinsing dishes, criticising the official Net Zero target, and her preference for diesel cars over electric.

These are not unreasonable positions. But it nonetheless seems strange that a mere spokesperson is publishing articles urging voters to go ‘one step greener’ under her own name, rather than the Prime Minister’s. Indeed, it very much reads in the tone of a ministerial piece.

Perhaps it is not surprising that the role is an ill-defined one. After all, it was only conjured to find a position for Stratton after Boris Johnson rightly abandoned plans to introduce US-style televised press briefings.

But if the Prime Minister wishes Stratton to have a proper political role, then he should elevate her to the peerage as he did Frost. Contra the Commission for Smart Government, it is precisely one of the roles of the House of Lords to “allow additional talent to be brought in from outside government” – whilst remaining properly accountable to the legislature.

From self-isolation to score annihilation – Johnson drops 36 points in our Cabinet League Table.

1 Aug

Last month was a trying month for the Government, featuring as it did two unexpected by-election defeats and the resignation of the Health Secretary. How does this month compare? Badly.

  • Both Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak u-turned over trying to avoid self-isolating – but with very different results. The Chancellor’s score is down a bit but he still enjoys his silver-medal position. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, has shed more than 35 points, and is only just in positive territory.
  • Another minister who’s had a bad month is Priti Patel. The Home Secretary has lost 20 points, almost half her June score. The ongoing failure to stem the flow of boats across the Channel seems the most likely explanation.
  • Liz Truss and Dominic Raab round out the podium, in exactly the same positions they held last month and with basically the same scores. Lord Frost is again in fourth place. The UK’s external policy seems to be broadly popular with the grass roots.
  • Although the explanation could simply be broader stability at the top, as Sajid Javid and Jacob Rees-Mogg also hold their positions.
  • At the bottom of the table, Gavin Williamson continues to burrow his way into the depths, whilst Amanda has dropped properly into the red too. Robert Jenrick’s efforts to get some houses built, on the other hand, are (just) a net positive for a change.
  • Overall, the air has gone out of the rest of the scores a bit – unsurprising in a month which has seen a fair amount of political wear-and-tear and a row over vaccine passports.

Stephen Booth: Both sides must accept the trade deal for Northern Ireland has to change

29 Jul

Stephen Booth is Head of the Britain in the World Project at Policy Exchange.

Following months of simmering disagreement between London and Brussels over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the scale of the gulf between the UK and EU positions has been laid bare over the past week.

On Monday, the European Commission published its proposals for solutions to ease trade friction between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, covering medicines and some animal and food safety checks. However, these proposals had already been shared privately with the UK in June.

A Government spokesperson quickly dismissed them as representing “only a small subset of the many difficulties caused by the way the protocol is operating,” adding, “We need comprehensive and durable solutions if we are to avoid further disruption to everyday lives in Northern Ireland.”

Last week, the Government published its own proposals for reform of the Protocol in a new command paper. In contrast to the EU’s proposed technocratic tweaks, the UK is seeking reforms that would fundamentally alter the operation of the Protocol. As Lord Frost notes in the foreword to the document, “They will require significant change to the current Protocol. But they will not dispense with many of its concepts.”

A key feature of the UK proposal is to build on the concept that only goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, which are “at risk” of entering the EU, should face tariffs.

The UK is suggesting that where a trader has declared that products moving to Northern Ireland are not intended for onward distribution or use in the EU, no customs processes and checks should apply. Risk-based and intelligence-led checks would be conducted to ensure compliance, but this approach would establish that the default is that goods can circulate freely within the UK’s customs territory, which, as the Protocol makes clear, includes Northern Ireland.

The same principle would apply to most agri-food trade, except for live animals. Agri-food products going to the Republic of Ireland would still be subject to the full range of EU mandated checks, but “there would be no need for certificates and checks for individual items that are only ever intended to be consumed in Northern Ireland”.

In addition, the UK remains open to a bespoke agri-food agreement based on the principle of equivalence (as opposed to the EU’s desire for alignment with EU rules) that would provide for managed regulatory divergence, and a mutual basis for assessing where risk-based checks were most necessary.

The UK has also proposed the introduction of “a full dual regulatory regime” that would allow goods to circulate freely in Northern Ireland provided they comply with either UK or EU standards. Labelling would denote those products that are only for the Northern Ireland market and, again, goods destined for the EU market would have to meet all EU rules and customs formalities.

Overall, these arrangements would remove most of the practical impact that the Protocol has had on businesses trading between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Instead, traders would be subject to a light-touch regime, whereby they would self-declare their trade and agree to inspections of their supply chains.

Therefore, the arrangements the UK is proposing require a higher degree of mutual trust than we have seen to date. When viewed from Brussels, perhaps the most ambitious of the UK proposals is to remove the role of the EU Court of Justice in overseeing the Protocol.

However, as the command paper points out, the practical risk of illicit trade to the EU is extremely low, since trade from Northern Ireland to Ireland is less than 0.5% of all imports into the EU. Nevertheless, the UK sensibly acknowledges the EU’s concern for the integrity of its Single Market. To address the EU’s concerns, the UK has committed to put in place legislation to provide for penalties for traders seeking to place non-compliant goods on the EU market, which could be supported by deeper data-sharing arrangements and greater cooperation between UK, Irish, and EU enforcement authorities.

The UK proposals are bold, but they would maintain the promise of no land border on the island of Ireland and provide for a more balanced arrangement, which could therefore command greater public support in Northern Ireland.

The timetable for agreeing any changes to the Protocol is extremely tight due to the looming expiration of several grace periods, including for supermarket supplies, in the autumn. The UK has therefore suggested both sides agree a “standstill”, both on grace periods and the EU’s legal actions against the UK, to enable negotiations to take place without cliff edges, and a further escalation of political tensions.

Curiously, the UK’s proposals have met with a muted response from the EU. Yesterday, the EU chose to pause its legal action, and there have been small hints of compromise, particularly from some close to the Irish government. Previously, the UK’s public negotiating positions have often prompted instant and aggressive counter-briefing from senior EU figures. Think of the way Theresa May was treated when seeking a far closer EU relationship than the current government.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen simply stated that the EU would not “renegotiate” the Protocol, but would “continue to be creative and flexible within the Protocol framework”. Time will tell whether this is a semantic or substantial distinction. It is worth noting that Article 13(8) of the Protocol provides for its amendment through mutual agreement.

It is significant that the document also sets out the Government’s view that the current scale of trade diversion, negative economic and societal impact, and political instability caused by the Protocol would justify the use of unilateral action under Article 16. The Government says it will not exercise this right “for the time being”, but it remains an option if the EU refuses to engage in the coming weeks.

The EU may choose to hang tough and to retaliate against such a move. Clearly, there is a risk that the UK-EU politics get ugly. In the end, both sides need a solution, and the command paper demonstrates that the UK is prepared to play a long game.

Much of the criticism levelled at the Government following the publication of the command paper is for wanting to fundamentally amend a treaty it agreed less than two years ago. The Government makes the case that the Protocol was agreed under the extraordinary political circumstances of 2019, and that the EU rejected the opportunity to find flexible solutions to resolving these issues in the UK-EU trade negotiations of 2020.

Against those accusing the UK of not understanding the full implications of the Protocol, it should be remembered that in agreeing the Protocol, the EU pledged to protect the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement “in all its dimensions”, including the East-West strand. The UK is within its rights to hold the EU to this essential part of the bargain.

Few would argue the situation is ideal, and these political arguments are likely to be informed by one’s pre-existing Brexit prejudices. But there is a wider point that few observers now seem to disagree with. The negative economic and political real-world consequences of implementing the Protocol cannot be what either side intended. Therefore, substantive change is necessary.

Jayne Adye: It’s time to move beyond Brussels on financial services

26 Jul

Jayne Adye is the Director of the leading grassroots, cross-Party, Eurosceptic campaign Get Britain Out.

Since the UK finally left the EU at the end of 2020, there has been an almost universal focus on the problems created by the Northern Ireland Protocol, as well as the abandonment of UK fishing communities. However, despite being this country’s single biggest export to both the EU and the rest of the world, the financial services industry has seemingly been entirely ignored.

In the last month Rishi Sunak, Lord Frost, and Andrew Bailey, the Governor of the Bank of England, have all confirmed a deal on financial services equivalence with the EU somehow appears to be dead in the water.

The EU’s justification for the lack of progress is the UK’s refusal to commit to “dynamic alignment with EU regulatory changes” for years to come. Why should we accept these demands when this is not a requisite which the EU has forced on any other countries they have equivalence deals with – for example the USA, China and Singapore – so why single out the UK?

Despite this clear pattern of unreasonable rejection, the UK Government has been unwilling to take any real action to move beyond this stalemate, leaving businesses and investors unable to properly plan for our future.

Yes, the Chancellor tried to get the ball rolling this month with his speech at Mansion House, announcing the world’s first Green Bond (a fixed-income instrument designed to support specific climate-related or environmental projects) ahead of the ahead of the COP26 Climate Conference, scheduled to be held in Glasgow from October 31 – November 12 this year.

Unfortunately, the Chancellor’s detail was limited, with interest rates for the bonds not announced and a greater focus on making sure businesses report the impact they have on the environment. While this is a good start, it barely scratches the surface of the possibilities available to the UK and the Chancellor does not seem to be making any substantial attempts to change the regulations enforced on us by the EU.

Thankfully, because the City of London is such a significant player on the world stage, the stalemate and lack of cooperation from the EU is never going to end the dominance which the UK has enjoyed for so long. To use the mainstream media’s favourite term, “Despite Brexit…”, London is still the top financial services hub in Europe and has even reclaimed the top spot for European share trading which was held by Amsterdam for a short time recently – in spite of the EU attempting to block London-based firms doing business in the EU.

In other words, even though some additional barriers have been created, companies and individuals still want to choose the expertise and experience which exists in London, rather than move to the EU – contrary to what many had claimed.

So, with the UK’s advantages over the EU being so clear, why do we seem stuck in the mud when it comes to implementing the advantages of Brexit? Right now the Government appears to be unwilling to diverge from the EU, seemingly for no other reason than “not rocking the boat” and “upsetting the EU” while we negotiate other areas of concern – primarily Northern Ireland, as the Government announced last week with their ambitious call for a total renegotiation of the NI Protocol.

This tip-toeing over glass on these issues simply cannot continue. Yes, London has maintained its position in the world, but if the Government wants to reach the full potential of Brexit, then this must mean bringing about serious change and not simply accepting the status quo. Nobody stays at the top by doing nothing. As an independent country, we cannot deprive ourselves of opportunities to thrive because it might annoy the European Union.

Quite frankly, anyone who makes this argument for the Government’s lack of action has not been paying attention. We currently seem to be sitting idly by, wasting time by continuing to abide by EU legislation, and in return the EU is not showing us any leniency or “goodwill”. Instead, it is trying to carve off Northern Ireland from this country – recently rejecting our proposals for renegotiation in just three hours; hitting us with multiple legal threats; and now it is demanding an extra £2 billion as part of a “Divorce Bill” (which was only agreed because of the UK’s desire to show goodwill).

The EU clearly has no interest in “playing nicely”, so it is about time we stopped the charades and got on with putting out own interests first – whether that be triggering Article 16 of the NI Protocol or slashing EU financial services regulation.

Companies have flocked to the UK for decades because of their trust in our economic system and the “light-touch” regulation which drives it. This has been diluted through our EU Membership, but it is something we can recover from.

There are swathes of EU regulations governing financial services and investment which we actually opposed at the time of their creation – such as the Solvency 2 laws on investment risks; and the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive – both of these create swathes of bureaucracy which stymie innovation and try to remove any chance of businesses taking risks – risks which help drive an economy forward at a higher rate and create more competition.

No, this doesn’t mean financial services should be an industry devoid of scrutiny or regulation. This is about shaping a system which encourages new businesses and is prepared for the future, rather than being stuck in the past, tied to a sclerotic EU legislative process which lags behind the rest of the world.

The UK has the chance to cement itself “as the most advanced and exciting country for financial services in the world”, as Sunak described at Mansion House. However, the Government must have the courage to reach out, grab this chance and bring about real regulatory change quickly. Whether this is by encouraging FinTech, green investment or digital trade, our exit from the European Union has come at an opportune time when fresh thinking and a new regulatory approach can allow the United Kingdom to reach its full economic potential.

It is clear a “good deal” with the EU is not on the cards anytime soon, so the Chancellor must not lose this opportunity to push forward and really Get Britain Out of the mindset where we worry about how our every move might affect the relationship we already have with the EU. We are now an independent sovereign nation, and it is time this Government started acting like we want to forge ahead to really explore the advantages of a truly Global Britain.

Two by-elections and one Health Secretary – losses see Johnson fall by 16 points in our Cabinet League Table

3 Jul

It’s been a month in which the Prime Minister lost two by-elections and his Health Secretary. We are also now past the point at which England was supposed to unlock, which is testing the patience of the grassroots. What impact has this had on our league table?

  • Boris Johnson’s score falls from 55 to 39, putting him back in the lower half of the table. Has the shine come off, or will a successful unlocking on July 19 put him back in our panel’s good books?
  • There’s little change at the top, with Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak, and Dominic Raab holding on to their podium spots, albeit with the latter’s scores falling back a little. Lord Frost likewise holds on to fourth place as he continues to square off with the EU over the Northern Irish Protocol, although for some reason none of the glory seems to have reflected on Brandon Lewis.
  • Sajid Javid is straight in at fifth place. Is this because members expect great things from him on thorny issues such as social care reform – or simply due to his public commitment to ending lockdown?
  • Our anti-podium is also stable, albeit still sinking. Robert Jenrick and Amanda Milling both slip into negative territory, which is perhaps not surprising after two by-election defeats one of which is being pinned on opposition to (urgent and necessary!) planning reform.
  • Gavin Williamson’s tanking score perhaps reflects anger at the Government’s refusal to end the self-isolation regime causing huge disruption in schools – but Javid’s one-for-one appointment means the reshuffle to replace him has likely been delayed again.