Today’s Waugh Zone is written by Jordan Pickford Owen Bennett
1) Softly, Softly
It is almost D(ecision)-Day for the Cabinet, and Brexiteers fear that Remainers are going to storm their beaches are rising. Alongside England’s penalty heroics, the talk of a soft Brexit finds some column inches in today’s papers, with Philip Hammond painted out as the Montgomery figure.
According to The Times, the Chancellor is expected to led the charge to explain why the Brexiteers preferred Canada-model relationship with the EU would hit tax revenue and business confidence. One way to prevent this is to revive the ‘customs partnership’ – presumably once May has sellotaped back together the version torn up by Michael Gove. That would see the UK acting as the EU’s tax collector when it comes to tariffs.
ITV’s Political Editor Robert Peston has more detail in a blog on Facebook. He claims May will propose keeping the UK aligned to EU rules on goods and agri-food – effectively keeping those sectors in the Single Market. This is deemed as the only way to square the circle of the Irish border problem.
The Sun goes for the jugular, describing it as a “wibbly wobbly EU deal”, while the Telegraph quotes a Cabinet source as saying: “It feels like the softest Brexit possible, there will be an almighty row”.
Whether this is one of those “rows of the summer” which David Davis promised and then ducked – or an actual genuine row which leads to Brexiteer ministers such as Gove, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and Penny Mordaunt storming out – we’ll find out on Friday.
2) Hipster Fish
Appearing on the Today programme this morning, Gove repeatedly refused to be drawn on the rumoured Brexit proposals and wouldn’t even disclose if he’d seen them.
Instead, the Defra Secretary wanted to talk about fishing. After having to give ground in the transition period and allow the EU to continue setting fishing quotas for another 20 months after Brexit, Gove knows he has to deliver big to keep the industry onside.
A white paper is published today which sets out the Government’s plans to revive the iconic industry, which even those who support Remain acknowledge has suffered because of EU membership.
“The UK fleet catches just 100,000 tonnes of fish from EU waters, while the EU catches over 750,000 tonnes of fish from UK waters,” Gove writes in the white paper’s introduction. While there is no suggestion that EU fishing vessels will be banned from UK waters, the plan is to redress the balance and allow British fishers a greater share of the catch.
But it’s not all about catching fish, it’s also about managing the fish in UK waters “in a more enlightened way”, Gove writes in The Times this morning, as once again the Defra Secretary’s drive to deliver a hipster Brexit which protects the planet will form a key part of his proposals.
3) ‘We Still BeLeave’
Vote Leave, the official pro-Brexit campaign, is set to be found guilty of four charges of breaking electoral law, the BBC is reporting this morning.
The organisation, fronted by Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Gisela Stuart in the run up to the 2016 vote, broke spending limits, gave inaccurate information regarding expenditure, is missing invoices and receipts and failed to comply with a statutory notice, according to the Electoral Commission.
One of the key claims is that Vote Leave’s campaign director Dominic Cummings discussed with a donor about passing money on to a smaller campaign group BeLeave. The smaller group received more than £600,000 just days before the referendum, and the Electoral Commission believes this money was given to BeLeave as part of a “common plan” which would have helped Vote Leave get round the campaign spending limits.
Vote Leave’s Chief Executive Matthew Elliott is on the offensive this morning, telling the BBC the Commission had “listened to one side of the story.”
He denied the allegations and said he would take legal action against the Commission if the charges weren’t withdrawn.
4) Horsing About
Lord Porter, the Tory peer who chairs the Local Government Association, took a swipe at the Government yesterday in a style more in keeping with Danny Dyer than Danny Finkelstein.
The no-nonsense peer told the LGA conference in Birmingham the Government needs to cut through the “horseshit” which sees the NHS and councils not working together when it comes to social care.
He also claimed Theresa May rebranding of the Department of Health to include “Social Care” in the title was merely window dressing, and launched the same argument against putting “Housing” in the Communities and Local Government department’s name.
He said: “People are now panicking because Jeremy Hunt’s now got social care in the job title. It was always in the bloody job title, they’ve just elevated it up to the top. It’s like [they say in] ‘Yes, Minister’ – as soon as they put the name of the problem in the front of the title, that means they’re not going to fix it, that’s how it works.”
He added: “That’s why Housing is now in DCLG. They aren’t going to fix it are they because they put it in the bloody job title in the top.”
His no-nonsense speech came before a keynote speech by Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire, who received a mixed reception from the local councillors in the audience – one of whom called for more money, not “warm words”, to help authorities deliver key services.
In a question session after his time at the podium, one councillor said he was “astonished” at the lack of a promise for extra cash, saying: “I feel really sad that these are warm words about renaissance and revision - actually what we need is more money and we need to have that honest debate.”
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They were allegations which shook Westminster, and led to claims of an establishment cover-up going back decades.
The man known simply as ‘Nick’ claimed he had been sexually abused by a string of politicians, including Sir Edward Heath, former Home Secretary Leon Brittan and the head of the Army Lord Bramall. He even suggested some boys had been murdered as part of sex games.
The Met Police established Operation Midland to investigate the claims, but after spending millions of pounds on the inquiry, officers admitted in 2016 there was no evidence whatsoever.
Yesterday ‘Nick’, 50, was charged with 12 counts of perverting the court of justice, and one count of fraud.
It is a sorry end to a terrible tale, which tarnished the names and reputations of senior figures in public life, and also sucked attention and resources away from genuine abuse cases.
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