Today’s Waugh Zone is written by Owen Bennett.
1) Analyse This
In the run up to Christmas, all the talk was about the Government impact assessments of Brexit - which may or may not have existed.
The Brexit Committee did its best to get hold of the reports, and was eventually given 800 pages of sectoral analysis which by all accounts looked like it was printed of Wikipedia.
Brexit Ministers were keen to repeat that despite giving an impression to the contrary, there was no such analysis of how different negotiating outcomes would impact the UK economy.
Last night, BuzzFeed News revealed the details of a document called “EU Exit Analysis – Cross Whitehall Briefing”, which paints a gloomy picture for the UK no matter what deal is struck with Brussels.
No deal would see economic growth fall by 8% over the next 15 years, a free trade deal would see a 5% drop against expectations, and even staying in the Single Market through membership of the European Economic Area would lower growth by 2%.
It also says leaving the EU will adversely hit almost every sector and every UK region.
Asked why the Prime Minister was not making the analysis public, a DExEU source told BuzzFeed News: “Because it’s embarrassing.”
Brexiteers will point to the fact the analysis only looked at existing models, and as such did not take into account any kind of bespoke deal which the UK is after. They will also no doubt claim that economic growth predictions for the next five years are often revised, let alone 15.
Appearing on the Today programme this morning, Iain Duncan Smith said that “almost every single government analysis is wrong” as he dismissed the document, and also questioned the timing of the leak as it gives a “bad view”.
But anti-Brexit MPs will no doubt try their hardest to get this analysis released to them, and many will use it as evidence that the least harmful course of action for the Government to take is to keep the UK in the Single Market and customs union.
2) Another War Zone
The BuzzFeed story will do little to calm the civil war currently raging in the Tory party over Europe.
After a weekend of attacks on Philip Hammond and the Government’s implementation phase plans from hard-core Brexiteers, MPs on the other side of the argument aired their frustrations in the Commons yesterday.
Anna Soubry was heckled by fellow Tory Michael Fabricant she quizzed Brexit Minister Robin Walker.
“When is the Government going to stand up against the Hard Brexiteers who mainly inhabit these benches? There’s only about 35 of them…” she said, before fellow Fabricant shouted back at her: “No, there aren’t!
Soubry continued, telling Walker the Government needed to “see them off and make sure we get a sensible Brexit, because if we don’t we will sleep walk into a disastrous Brexit for generations to come.”
Conservative MP for East Renfrewshire Paul Masterton got to his feet to ask for reassurance that “the Government’s policy will not be dictated by fringe groups either in this place or outside it but by the national interest.”
Walker answered simply: “Yes”.
The sense of frustration at the behaviour of Nadine Dorries, Jacob Rees-Mogg and others is growing stronger. One MP told me yesterday he feared the Tories “are entering Lord of the Flies territory because the leadership is weak, so any discipline measures will have no effect.”
Another said the Brexiteers have clearly not “got the memo” on party discipline and unity.
With the European Research Group of MPs having given Hammond both barrels over the weekend, it could be that International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is next to feel their wrath.
He told The Sun: “We don’t have a working majority, other than with the support of the Democratic Unionists and we need to accept the reality of that. I know that there are always disappointed individuals but they’re going to have to live with disappointment.”
Living with disappointment over European issues is not something the Tory party has done particularly well – ever.
3) Rules of Laws
Over in Brussels, and EU negotiators agreed the bloc’s demands for the post-Brexit transition period.
Two differences with the UK’s position leap out of the document immediately. One is that the EU wants the UK to abide by all new laws passed by Brussels during the transition period, even though Britain will have no say in those directives. David Davis made it clear in his speech on Friday he wanted there to be a way of “resolving concerns” over laws which affect the UK during the two-year period – although many will want Britain to ignore them completely.
The other difference is the EU wants everything agreed in the first phase of talks to be “translated faithfully in legal terms as quickly as possible.” This demand would lock down the financial agreement, citizens’ rights and Irish border issue before the final trade deal is known, and goes against the long-running Brussels edict of nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
Putting the phase one agreement in a legally binding form would further rile up Tory backbenchers who worry the EU is calling all the shots in this negotiation, meaning this could prove another sticking point for the talks.
But with time running out – David Davis wants to get the transition period terms agreed by March – the Government may prefer a war of attrition with its own backbenchers than Brussels.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR...
Hillary Clinton continues her “I’m so over it, really” tour by taking part in this skit auditioning for the part of narrator for the audiobook of Fire and Fury.
4) Marx Brother
It is, of course, not just the Tory party which is at risk of falling apart over Europe. Ever since Deputy Leader Roy Jenkins defied party orders and voted in favour of Ted Heath’s deal taking the UK into the Common Market in 1972, Labour has had to balance pro and anti European views in Parliament.
Last night, the Labour Campaign for the Single Market decide to wheel out a hero of many Corbynistas to support their call for the UK to stay in the EU institution.
Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis spoke in Committee Room 25 on the Marxist case for staying in the Single Market.
“I will speak as a Marxist,” he said, in what was perhaps a direct appeal to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.
“Remember that Marx was in favour of Zollverein, the customs union within Germany. Why? Because he thought it could speed up the capitalist process, and without speeding up capitalist development we would not develop the technology that is essential for socialism.”
He added: “What we must also preserve is Britain’s presence in European politics, and in the progressive movements in Europe that are necessary to make the European Union sustainable and democratic. And vice versa.”
Following up on Varoufakis’ intervention, anti-Brexit group Open Britain have today published a report called “Busting the Lexit Myths” in a further attempt to get Labour’s frontbench to campaign for the UK to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union.
The document aims to speak to Corbyn and his team on their own terms, and attacks “myths” on state aid and renationalisation.
“It is…untrue to argue that Single Market membership would prevent nationalisation of the railways or of already privatised companies, or indeed of setting up new state-owned companies…the Single Market is not an impediment to a future Labour government introducing renationalising the railways or other key industries,” says the report.
5) Misdemeanor Recall
The Financial Times reports the rules for recalling an MP could be changed to take into account sexual harassment or bullying.
Laura Hughes, who lead the way on reports of harassment while at the Telegraph, reveals a cross-party group of MPs, led by Andrea Leadsom, is considering giving new powers to an independent body which could lead to MPs being kicked out of Parliament.
Under the 2015 Recall of MPs Act, a petition to trigger to a by-election can only be launched if a parliamentarian is jailed or suspended from the Commons for 21 days.
The new proposals would give an independent parliamentary commissioner for standards the power to suspend MPs from the Commons – therefore triggering a recall petition.
The plans are due to be published later this week and voted on in the Commons and Lords soon after.