All you need to know from the world of Brexit this week.
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1) Maybe The Gibraltar Thing Was Just To Distract Us From The EU Refusing Theresa May’s Brexit Demands?
‘War with Spain’ is not a story many hacks expected to be writing up on Sunday, but after former Tory leader Lord Howard decide to go full metal jacket in a series of interviews we were left with little choice.
The EU’s Brexit guidelines stated that any deal agreed between Brussels and the UK would only apply to Gibraltar if Spain allowed it. This prompted fury from Lord Howard, who invoked the spirit of the Falklands in order to remind Madrid “what sort of people we are.”
Like the Northern Ireland/Ireland border, the issue of Gibraltar was never satisfactorily tackled by the Leave campaign in the run up to the referendum. Conversely, the Remain camp didn’t make an issue of them – sensing that unless you lived in either of the two places it was unlikely to sway your vote.
After neglecting to make mention of Gibraltar in her Article 50 letter, Theresa May raised the issue with Donald Tusk face-to-face today when the pair met in Downing Street.
A No 10 spokesman said: “The PM also made clear that on the subject of Gibraltar, the UK’s position had not changed: the UK would seek the best possible deal for Gibraltar as the UK exits the EU and there would be no negotiation on the sovereignty of Gibraltar without the consent of its people.”
Of course, the Gibraltar/Spain relationship has been testy for far longer than Brexit has been in the air. Spanish boats sailed in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters 434 times in the year to October 2016 – a 7% increase on the previous year.
The Gibraltar fiasco may have just been an attempt by the Government to throw smoke up and obscure the fact the EU has rejected one of its key demands – that there will be parallel negotiations on a Brexit deal and a new trade arrangement.
That is unless the EU deem “sufficient progress” is being made on the divorce bill – meaning the negotiations are going to be operated on a sort of pay-as-you-go basis.
2) Free Movement Might Carry On For A Few Years But The Referendum Wasn’t About Immigration Anyway, Right?
The big issue for many Brexit voters – no matter how many times people like Douglas Carswell try to convince themselves otherwise – is immigration.
One of Theresa May’s primary justifications for not seeking to keep the UK in the Single Market was that that would entail maintaining the free movement of people.
Any notion that all free movement will stop in March 2019 has always been a slightly over-the-top assumption, and this week May dropped a hint it may continue for a few years yet.
Speaking in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, May said: “If you think about it, once we’ve got the deal, once we’ve agreed what the new relationship will be for the future, it will be necessary for there to be a period of time when businesses and governments are adjusting systems and so forth, depending on the nature of the deal.”
With the EU’s draft negotiating guidelines suggesting the UK should have a three-year transitional period once the Article 50 timeline has elapsed, that means free movement could continue until 2022.
Ukip leader Paul Nuttall claimed her comments “set alarm bells ringing” as there was still no guarantee when – or even if - immigration numbers would be coming down.
But of course, seeing as no one voted Leave because of immigration, and it was all about sovereignty, no one will kick up a fuss about free movement continuing for a few more years. Right?
3) Nigel Farage Went Full Jeremy Clarkson At The European Parliament
The European Parliament is frequently derided as meaningless body without the power to do anything of any merit.
But in the Brexit negotiations, it has a potentially key role to play. The Parliament has the power to vote down any final deal agreed between the EU and the UK, and it will only take a simple majority of the 751 MEPs to bring about that outcome.
You would think, therefore, that the UK delegation to the European Parliament would be on a charm offensive in order to woo their continental counterparts.
It seems Nigel Farage didn’t get the memo. Or if he did, he knocked his beer on it and threw it in the bin.
Addressing MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday morning, Farage blasted the EU for “behaving like the mafia” with its demands for cash from the UK as part of a Brexit deal.
That slur was too much for the European Parliament President, the Italian Antonio Tajani, who chastised the former Ukip leader for his choice of language.
In a rare apology, Farage accepted he shouldn’t have used the word “mafia”.
“I do understand national sensitivities,” he said. “I’ll change it to ‘gangsters’.”
What a shame that Farage is starting to show respect for other EU members just as the UK leaves.
If he stuck around a bit longer he might turn into a full-blooded Europhile.
4) Repeating What David Davis Said About Things Is Not On, According To Some Brexiteers
The Exiting the European Union Committee is a funny old beast. Chaired by arch-Remainer Hilary Benn, it’s also home to high-profile Leavers including Michael Gove, John Whittingdale and Dominic Raab.
Its job is too scrutinise the work of the Brext department and the Government’s broader strategy, and it was always unlikely the 21 committee members would agree on what tone to take.
This week’s report into the Government’s progress was a case in point. The damning document warned that Theresa May’s claim “no deal is better than a bad deal” is “unsubstantiated”. Six members of the committee – who all backed Leave – tried and failed to get the criticism removed from the report.
It could be argued that it is actually the Remainers on the committee who are in the wrong, and they are still unable to accept Brexit is happening.
The problem with that is the person who admitted no analysis had been done on the impact of “no deal” – which by definition would be needed to help establish what constitutes a “bad deal” – was Brexit Secretary David Davis in evidence to the Committee.
What they’ve done is write down what he said and repeat it. But then, that’s Remoaners for you – always listening to experts.
5) Will Nobody Think Of The Comedians?
Imagine you are an EU migrant living in the UK, uncertain about your future as you find yourself used as a bargaining chip in the Brexit negotiations. Not bothered?
Ok, well imagine instead you’re a comedian who is now getting booed when you do anti-Brexit material outside London. Yeah, now the tears are rolling.
Marcus Brigstocke has movingly spoken about some of the terrible incidents that have occurred during his new tour – and I don’t mean that people actually turned up.
The comedian told Radio 4 that during a 20-minute anti-Brexit part of his show: “People have been angry; people have walked out of shows and people have booed.
“A lot of the people that I think of as my audience will not be back - they won’t come again - they’re that angry.”
Brigstocke elaborated on the horror he had witnessed in heartfelt Facebook post: “It seems that for the most part Brexit is not just the hideous social and political turn we have taken as a country but is also comedic poison.”
Unless, of course, you’re Stewart Lee, whose career “has only been strengthened by Brexit”, his spokeswoman told the Telegraph.
The paper also spoke to Aaron Brown, editor of the British Comedy Guide, who seemed to hit the problem on the head: “I consume a lot of comedy – mostly TV, also some live – and would say the comedy world’s reaction has been almost exclusively negative.
“Many jokes essentially paraphrase as ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’, and the rest rely on lazily branding 52 per cent of the voters as racist.”
Don’t Get Angry, Get Blogging…
At Huffington Post 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 us a blog and you could find yourself in this very newsletter.
NHS nurse and EU citizen Joan Pons Laplana on why he no longer feels welcome in Britain
Andrew Shaw asks what if Theresa May was actually willing to give away Gibraltar
Skylar Baker-Jordan says Brexit is happening, it’s now about the fight for the future
The Brexit Briefing will be taking a break for Easter, and will return on Thursday April 20.