Heard in Westminster


There’s a well-known lady in Westminster who happens to write a lot on a hidden social media chat group. Sometimes she is right. Sometimes she is wrong. She is undoubtedly on the inside of Parliament, so it is only fair to Country Squire Readers that her words are shared with them now, in weeks that are of huge importance to Brexiteers and our country, and on a day when Theresa May will talk in the House of Commons about a second referendum.

What follows is a summary that should wake us all up: 

  1. A 2nd Referendum (2REF) is now the most likely outcome.
  2. The DUP will not support HMG in any vote as long as the Backstop remains in play – even if that means a Corbyn government. (Anyone who knows Ulster politics (DUP v UU) would recognise that). Note: Norway ++ does not remove the Backstop (and brings back Freedom of Movement which won’t fly with many).
  3. Blair has persuaded the EC of the following:
  •   No Deal is not a viable option for the UK and will never happen.
  •  The public are against Brexit and 2 REF will deliver a Remain result.
  1. On that basis, the EC’s tactic is (and this was reflected in Thursday night’s fiasco): to give her a sharp jolt – the Current Deal or No Deal; followed by a worthless piece of paper in January.
  2. Labour’s strategy, devised by Seamus Milne:
  • Do nothing. They want pressure to build on the Tories until the Party implodes. The best outcome for them is No Deal. It delivers Brexit, chaos and probably a General Election.
  • They don’t want 2REF under any circumstances (they fear a backlash from their working-class voters). However, whilst they will not initiate 2REF, McDonnell is arguing that they should be prepared to support one if it comes along.
  •  They will not trigger a No Confidence vote until after Parliament has voted on the Deal. Their assessment is that the Backstop will remain in any deal and therefore the DUP will support them in a No Confidence vote.
  1. As I reported earlier, there is a growing movement led by Liddington, Rudd, Hammond etc for a series of free votes in Parliament (The Deal, No Deal, Norway, 2REF). They are confident that 2REF is the only option which Parliament will coalesce around.

More broadly:

  • There is virtually no contingency work being carried out in the event of No Deal. The Decision Point for this to commence was 20 Nov but Liddington ducked it. There is some work (cutting of motorway barriers on the M26 and elsewhere to enable emergency customs parks to be created) but nothing substantive. The real block will be at the Euro Tunnel.
  • Within the SW1 bubble, there is a growing view that the country has turned against Brexit and wants to remain. Cameron’s former director of strategy said yesterday that if Article 50 was revoked “the country would breathe a sigh of relief.” In my view, and I agree with him, this is dangerous and wrong. If there is a 2REF, it is believed Leave will win with a larger majority – but the vote will be more polarised (higher Remain votes in London and Scotland but more Leave elsewhere).  Polling suggests a huge disaffection with the Westminster establishment whose world is dominated by the Today Programme, and what Matthew Parris, Finkelstein et al are saying. 2REF might be an opportunity to re-set politics, establishing a new party on the back of it.
  • On a General Election: If May tries to get any deal through Parliament with a Backstop in place (regardless of clarifications etc) Labour will win with a majority. The Tories would be denied the majority of UKIP voters who supported the Party in the last election.
  • CCHQ is in even greater disarray than it was at the last election.
  • On the Tory leadership: Boris would be best to defeat Corbyn; Raab best to  manage a No Deal crisis. (And they might both come at the same time…so not very helpful!).

Put pressure on your MPs to wake up, Brexiteers. The fight is not won. Westminster is playing with fire. Make them stop.

Burst the Westminster bubble.