Today’s Murdoch Sunday Times once again leads on a supposedly authoritative piece from its political editor Tim Shipman, this one headlined “Brexiteers offer peace terms to May … Revealed: three tests for PM as vote looms”, reinforced by the teaser “Climbdown - Is Compromise In The Air?” As it is accompanied by a caricature of London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, that’ll be a no, then.
So what bull has Shippers been shipping this time? “Tory Brexiteers have delivered peace terms to Theresa May, outlining the price she must pay to secure their support for her Brexit deal in the crunch Commons showdown within days … The European Research Group of hardliners, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, have drawn up “three tests” the Government must meet if the Prime Minister hopes to win the vote”.
But the “three tests” effectively come down to one sticking point, and as before it is the so-called Irish Backstop. And this is why the whole charade, as I suspect Shipman knows only too well, is pointless, and most certainly cannot be described as “peace terms”. Theresa May cannot offer peace on those terms and still strike a deal with the EU.
We know this for certain as Shipman’s article tells “The document, seen by the Sunday Times [leaked by Ron Hopeful MP, more like], demands … A ‘clearly worded, legally-binding, treaty-level clause which unambiguously overrides’ the text of the withdrawal agreement”. They’ll agree May’s agreement if they can bin it later. Er, no.
So it was that Alexander Clarkson of King’s College London observed “How can a serious newspaper frame a set of demands that are unachievable as "peace terms"? May will not get the EU to bend on any of them. Usually setting out demands that an adversary cannot achieve is a pretext for a fight”. Also, he had a warning for Tory Brexiteers.
“Throughout the ERG has attempted to present demands that are considered utterly unacceptable by the EU as utterly reasonable common sense to the UK public. This is a messaging game that merely delays inevitable UK acceptance of all EU conditions”. So it is not only Theresa May who is kicking the can down the road.
And David Henig agreed that observation. “Alternate headline: Brexiteers seek friendly journalist to write up so called peace offer which is nothing of the kind, and hope to gain support for no deal by sounding apparently reasonable while knowing EU can't agree to these demands”. Shippers has indeed been shipping bull today.
Moreover, for those whose ideological hunger drives them to keep supporting the mythical land of No Deal, Clarkson had this warning: “No Deal is not an end state. For the UK to sustain basic trade and logistics with neighbours it will need to conform to every whim and twitch of an EU that can choose to use dozens of pressure points … A UK negotiating with the EU in a No Deal scenario will be rolled easily”. Not that they’ll listen, mind.
The most important part of Shipman’s article is what he does not say: that the fantasists of the ERG think they can screw over all these ghastly foreigners, unable to accept that they are not Lord Palmerston and there are no gunboats to send.
If only the press would indulge in a little honesty once in a while. Or, maybe, not.
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