Today’s Waugh Zone is written by Owen J Bennett
1) Here Comes The Sun
It is the interview, which, let’s be honest, we all wanted, so a collective hats off to The Sun for their chat with Donald Trump. We should probably remove Downing Street from the collective doffing, as the US President’s intervention is unhelpful to say the least in about 50 different ways.
The main source of panic is blazoned across The Sun’s front page: “May has wrecked Brexit…US deal is off!”
Trump’s view on the Chequers agreement is simple (of course it is): “If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the UK, so it will probably kill the deal. If they do that, their trade deal with the US will probably not be made.”
The US President also attacked May’s negotiating strategy, adding: “I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it but she didn’t agree, she didn’t listen to me.
“She wanted to go a different route.
“I would actually say that she probably went the opposite way. And that is fine.
“She should negotiate the best way she knows how. But it is too bad what is going on.”
With a US trade deal almost becoming the Holy Grail for many Brexiteers, these comments will just confirm their worst fears about the Chequers agreement.
However, there is a chance that Trump may not have actually read the agreement. The interview was carried out in Brussels on Wednesday, so before the White Paper was published.
Perhaps it might be that Trump had received a briefing on what was agreed at Chequers from someone who is not in support of the deal. That’s certainly what Nigel Farage hinted at last night on the BBC’s This Week. “Have you been winding him up on Brexit?” asked Andrew Neil. “We’ve had the odd chat about it,” replied Farage, before claiming Trump and his team are even more Eurosceptic than him.
Not that it really matters whether Trump is across the detail. The bomb has been dropped, and Downing Street barely had time to get into the air raid shelter.
The Sun’s Political Editor Tom Newton-Dunn told Good Morning Britain today May was made aware of the interview just minutes before she had to greet Trump at Blenheim Palace on Thursday night.
2) Conference Calls
Trump’s interview, in which he also laments the loss of Boris Johnson, says the ex-Foreign Secretary would be a good PM, and accuses Sadiq Khan of doing a “bad job” on crime and terrorism, has made today’s press conference with May even more of a must watch.
The pair are due to hold a joint press conference this afternoon, and if it’s anything like Trump’s presser in Brussels on Thursday, enough news will be generated to keep us all busy for a week.
The US President prepared the ground for his explosive Sun interview by telling reporters “I would say Brexit is Brexit.
“The people voted to break it up so I imagine that is what they would do, but maybe they’re taking a different route. I’m not sure that’s what they voted for.”
Reporters – including HuffPost’s Paul Waugh – will be itching to put those quotes to May, who no doubt will have spent much of last night and this morning trying to convince Trump that a trade deal is still possible alongside her Brexit plan.
That’s if May can get Trump to stay focused on Brexit. According to Paul Waugh’s excellent long-read on how the PM deals with the US President, he quite often goes off-topic.
One former staffer says an example is the way the President continually takes up valuable phone time attacking the Scottish First Minister. She has made clear her loathing of his politics, and her predecessor fell out with Trump over his golf course developments.
“He totally hates Nicola Sturgeon. He spends lots of his time bitching about Sturgeon. He loathes Salmond too. But why spend so much time talking about Sturgeon in a phone call with Theresa May?”
3) Devil Was In The Detail
Even before the Sun published its interview, more and more Tories were lining up to speak out against the Chequers agreement.
Many had kept their powder dry until having read the white paper, published yesterday, but now feel they can go public with their criticism.
Middlesbrough South MP Simon Clarke told ITV last night “Nobody should be under any illusions. People in Conservative Party feel very strongly about this and will not compromise”, while Aberdeen South MP Ross Thompson tweeted that the white paper “has confirmed my fears. Clearly Brexit does not mean Brexit. Rather it charts a course for Britain to become a vassal state in an EU orbit, a voiceless EU rule taker and throwing away the great prizes of Brexit.”
If May thought she was out of the woods after her seemingly well-received performance on front of the 1922 committee on Monday, it is clear that she is still very much stumbling around the forest come the weekend.
All eyes are now on Trump’s friend Boris Johnson to see if he can produce a Brexit plan which disgruntled Tories can rally behind. Let’s just hope there are no cricket matches on that he wants to play in.
4) Too Many Tweets Make A ...
The police are taking extra precautions this morning as the anti-Trump protests get into full swing. It seems the Trump-as-a-baby balloon set to fly over Parliament Square today has had the desired effect, with the US President citing it as a reason to avoid the capital. “I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” he told The Sun.
Tory MP Michael Fabricant also passed comment on the blimp yesterday, by retweeting a cartoon of a pig balloon mounting another pig balloon with the face of Sadiq Khan on it. “Well, what can I say,” the Litchfield MP captioned the tweet. You could say ‘I won’t retweet a cartoon with a clear Islamophobic message’ of course.
Fabricant deleted the tweet within minutes, but many MPs had already highlighted its offensive nature. The MP told PoliticsHome: “I did not even see there was a face on the pig. As soon as I saw there was, I deleted it. I did it within two minutes, but my fault was not checking it closer on my iPhone first.
He added: “Moral of the story, don’t examine a picture on a small screen.”
The tweet adds further weight to Baroness Warsi’s claims that the Tories have an issue with Islamophobia. In response to Fabricant’s tweet she said: “There will be an inquiry- it’s only a question of time. The problem in my party is too widespread for there not to be. The question is how much damage we will do to our reputation in the meantime as we drag our feet.”
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In one of the boldest resignation statements in recent times, Jared O’Mara revealed he has quit Labour as the party does not live up to his definition of “equality and compassion.”
You’ll remember O’Mara – he’s the MP suspended by Labour for a series of sexist, misogynistic and homophobic remarks he made in his early 20s, and also for allegedly calling a constituent an “ugly bitch”.
The Sheffield Hallam MP was reinstated to the party earlier this week, on the condition he attends a mandatory training course.
But in an open letter to his constituents last night, O’Mara – who claimed earlier this week he is “ashamed of the man I was” – launched an attack on Labour.
“I am of the opinion that the Labour Party no longer shares my commitment to the true definition of equality and compassion,” he said.
“I didn’t commit any crimes, yet I have been made unfairly to feel like a criminal,” O’Mara claimed, adding: “I would be lying to those of you whom I represent, and those close to me like my parents and sister respectively, if I continued under the pretence that I feel there is a place of acceptance and empathy for me as a working class, underprivileged disabled man within the Labour Party. I have experienced little to make me feel welcome, understood and accepted during this last year.”
If you’re one of O’Mara’s constituents, don’t worry. He is staying on as your MP, so you can continue to benefit from being represented by someone who has yet to make their maiden speech in Parliament.
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