Gossip from the forest

28 July 2019

Hereunder items coming my way over the weekend.

1.       Reading between the lines, it seems that the FO reached out to EU ambassadors on Wednesday evening to find out what wiggle-room there might be on the backstop. This was so that the following day, Boris could state with precision a precondition for talks which he knew would be unacceptable.

2.       I would not be surprised if Baker was disappointed at missing a job like the one going to Cummings. His ambitions along such lines are likely to have been encouraged by admirers of his record in the ERG, presumably unaware of the availability of Cummings whose CV is shinier. The expected reports of staffers’ relief at clear policy directions have surfaced already.

3.       Labour sources suggest that Corbyn is privately moving towards holding off a no confidence motion until 1 November. He accepts that his fingerprints would be all over the outcome. Even so, he believes he’d win an election by a landslide. This is on a view that Brexit would no longer split the former Leave vote, no-deal chaos would help Labour and he can return to his campaigning querencias of austerity and inequality. If victorious, moreover, he relishes his prospective freedom from EU restrictions on confiscation and exchange controls. This tack may be confronted at Labour’s September conference. Parenthetically, sources at the venue, the Brighton Metropole, indicate that planning has barely started: normally by now all bar the finishing touches are sorted.

4.       German industrial sources are fully seized of the fact that over one third of Ireland’s trade is with the UK. Most of the balance is perishable goods, trucked through the UK to the rest of the EU, as unable to survive maritime carriage. Ireland risks disruption and the EU an unmeasured tab - largely to be borne by Germany. Worse still, Germans fear, any outcry from US-Irish politicians is set to be retweeted by Trump into blaming Brussels for its obstinacy in impoverishing the Irish and risking a hard border.

5.       German sources also note that all lead indicators show their own economy as entering recession. This has led industry privately and media publicly to press the government to lean on Brussels for leeway with the UK. Nonetheless, Germans expect the EU to carry on unyielding, on the principle that any Brexit other than disorderly or on the quasi-Diktat terms of the WA would jeopardise the European project.

6.       Not yet front and centre, but I hear that the ANZAC group are consulting on joint positions for a multilateral FTA.

7.       For the time being, judge the new team by how well it meets its key targets in the month to 26 August: thwarting Commons opposition by changing the weather on the streets; cutting Ireland out of the herd's protection; and getting an MOU out of Trump.