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1) ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’, Boris Tells Remainers
As this Brexit Briefing revealed last week (way ahead of everyone else I have absolutely no shame in flagging up), Boris Johnson’s Valentine’s Day speech was all about feeling the pain of Remainers.
In an address that lasted 30minutes – followed by 15minutes of questions – the Foreign Secretary rehashed the familiar arguments about why the UK would be better off outside the EU.
You can read a full report of the speech here, but it is fair to say it left people feel rather underwhelmed.
HuffPost UK’s Political Editor Paul Waugh argues Johnson’s speech was more about reminding Theresa May he was still a Brexit Big Beast than actually winning over Remainers.
In his snap verdict, Waugh wrote: “In many ways the speech was classic Boris: nicely-turned journalistic phrasing, Latin references, off-colour jokes (he ad-libbed about ‘dogging’ and the Thai sex trade) – and a glaring lack of detail.”
Johnson did hint at diverging away from EU rules on fishing, VAT and ending live animal exports once the UK is free from Brussels rules, but while Dover, hairdryers and even organic carrots got a mention, more pressing matters such as the border with Northern Ireland did not.
Perhaps one of the speeches planned by other Cabinet ministers, including David Davis, David Lidington and two from Theresa May – starting with an address on security in Munich on Saturday – will fill in some of the details.
2) “I voted Leave so if it goes wrong you can blame me.”
Outside of Westminster, it seems it should be Remainers working harder to win over Leavers than vice versa.
HuffPost UK reporter Rachel Wearmouth spoke to people in the ward of the UK with the highest Leave vote - Thorntree, a small suburb of Middlesbrough.
Some 83% backed Brexit in 2016, and even though their region is facing the harshest economic impacts in the country according to the leaked civil service studies, there is little sign of buyers’ remorse.
Ian Perkins, 62, told Rachel: “I voted to leave because I wanted more money for the NHS.
“I voted Leave so if it goes wrong you can blame me.
“I don’t regret it. I thought what we had wasn’t working so we should try something different. There are no jobs here and we just get ignored.”
Teacher Gavin Rawlings attacked the London-centric nature of media and politics: “I think what [the Brexit vote] exposed was the massive difference in culture between the North and London.”
“The media in this country portrays things from a London point of view. Every advert that I see is of a mixed race family – and that just ain’t the case up here.
“Everything you see is based on how they see it in London. I feel like multiculturalism is shoved down your throat.”
The whole piece is well worth a read and a fantastic reminder that for all people in Westminster get worked up about small details and tiny opinion poll changes, in the world beyond SW1, the mood is very similar to what it was in June 2016.
3) Ed Balls Is More Than Just A TV Star
It seems everyone wants to get involved in the Brexit debate now, even former Strictly-star Ed Balls.
The twinkle-toed dancer is one those behind research published by the Harvard Kennedy School which claims small and medium-sized business want the UK to stay in the customs union after Brexit.
According to the study if full or even tailored Single Market membership is impossible, most UK firms would still like to remain in the Customs Union and see the Government secure an free trade agreement with the EU that replicates the Single Market as far as possible.
The study also claims business leaders are already sensing a “retreat from Europe” in both their own companies and amongst suppliers and customers, with some mentioning that this disengagement was being reciprocated by their EU counterparts.
However, this survey should come with a health warning. The research is based on just over 80 interviews, and is therefore more qualitative than quantitative.
But it’s good to see the Norwich City chairman branching out into politics.
4) Who Are EU?
Amid all the concern about citizens’ rights, a potential economic hit and a country perhaps divided between the North and the South, the Brexit debate has woefully ignored one group of people: artists who supported leaving the EU.
Just 4% of those from the world of culture backed Brexit in 2016, but that small band are now grouping together to make sure their collective voice is heard.
The Times reported this week that Artists for Brexit was formed in a Wetherspoon’s in Camden, North London, and quoted founding member Manick Govinda, 55, as saying: “We are the 4 per cent in the cultural sector. Maybe there is slightly more. We don’t know. People are worried they may not get work, their names may get dropped from commissions or galleries. We hope now that others may come out of the closet.”
Celebs who have already come out of the closet as Brexiteers include 84-year-old Sir Michael Caine, 73-year-old Roger Daltrey, 78-year-old John Cleese, 76-year-old Susan Hill, 58-year-old Morrissey and 52-year-old Dreda Say Mitchell.
Spot the theme?
Perhaps some younger blood is needed to really challenge the notion that Brexit is not about young v old.
Don’t Get Angry, Get Blogging…
At HuffPost we love a good blog, and here are the finest Brexit-penned entries from this week. Have a read, and if any of them provoke an urge in you to speak your brain, send a blog to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could find yourself in this very newsletter.
Joan Pons Laplana - As The NHS Faces Major Challenges, Vital Contribution Of EU And Non-EU Migrants Must Be Recognised
Kerry McCarthy- Human Rights Must Be At The Heart Of UK Trade Policy
Chuka Umunna - We Need To Tear Down Barriers Preventing Us From Building Community And Relationships
Jude Kirton-Darling- Boris’ Use Of The Betrayal Myth Will Divide Further