The Telegraph – Brexit Bulletin

Good afternoon.

Europe is toughening up. Germany has announced that it will recruit 20,000 more troops over the next few years, bringing its army to nearly 200,000 by 2025. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron – the frontrunner (for now) for the French presidency – came over to London yesterday to give Britain a verbal duffing up.

Monsieur Macron threatened to “reconsider” Anglo-French cooperation on the refugee crisis in Calais, and vowed if he becomes President to refuse it access to the EU’s single market. He also tried to woo Britain’s brainiest, appealing to “banks, talents, researchers, academics” to cross the Channel to France.

Despite the threats, some remain bullish about Britain’s prospects. RT Howard argues today on the Telegraph that the British will keep working closely with their European cousins after Brexit as part of an ‘Entente Frugale’. “Despite the threats and hostile rhetoric,” he concludes. “Europe needs us at least as much as we need it; and we will still be in a position to exert leverage over the EU and its member states, although sometimes in more subtle, indirect ways than before.”

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The Telegraph – Brexit Bulletin

  Good afternoon.

Tony Blair is back, and he’s on a mission to re-educate the British public about why they were wrong to vote for Brexit. “This is not the time for retreat, indifference or despair; but the time to rise up in defence of what we believe,” he told his pro-European flock in London this morning. The former Prime Minister insisted that the referendum vote had been “based on imperfect knowledge”, and held out the prospect of Britain backtracking on its decision once it had become “informed” of what the consequences of leaving would be. This drew a fierce reaction from Boris Johnson, who accused Mr Blair of “insulting the intelligence” of the British people. He added: “I urge the British people to rise up and turn off the TV next time Tony Blair comes on with his condescending campaign.”

The Foreign Secretary and his fellow Brexiteers are annoyed by his intervention, but in private they may secretly be grateful for his continued enthusiasm. As I pointed out online, voters tend to distrust Mr Blair more than they trust him when he speaks about the EU. So if he is the figurehead for the anti-Brexit movement, Leavers will be happy.

Labour has tried to shrug off Mr Blair’s intervention, as it knows how unhelpful it could be as it tries to convince voters that it understands them on Brexit in Stoke and Copeland. “Blair built his political reputation – and Labour’s election victories – on his ability to “get it”, to understand working people’s priorities and their motivations,” Tom Harris writes. “He should retrieve those unerring political antennae out of whatever cupboard he left them in 2007 and dust them down.”

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The Telegraph – Brexit Bulletin

  Good afternoon.

Paul Nuttall is off to Bolton tomorrow to rally the Ukip troops at their spring conference, after a rough few days on the campaign trail in the “ Brexit capital” of Stoke-on-Trent. He has been forced on the back foot over the last few days by reports raising doubts over whether he was at the Hillsborough disaster and how close his friends he lost at the tragedy were to him. Labour thinks it has has scented blood, insisting that he has “questions to answer”.

This furore could not have come at a worse time for Mr Nuttall, as he hopes to convince Stoke to make him their first Ukip MP, after a lifetime of Labour representation, next Thursday. The by-election seemed at first to be his to lose. Most constituents – around 70 per cent – voted for Brexit, something his Labour rival Gareth Snell vehemently opposes. The majority of them are working-class, a demographic that now – polls say – is more partial to Ukip than Labour. So is his campaign doomed? Those hoping so, as I wrote online, are assuming that Stoke residents are just as fascinated by the press releases he has put out over the last few years as the Twitterverse. Many will have little interest in the #AskPaulNuttall jokes, and recent history suggests they will be just as engaged in the by-election itself.

Voters in Stoke are less likely to turn out to the polls than the average Briton, and so many will have tuned out and view such reports as just noise. “It’s not going to make a blind bit of difference on the doorstep,” one Ukip official told me. But the flip-side is that voters won’t be so outraged by Labour candidate’s controversial tweets, which has put some Ukippers on edge. “Gareth Snell is such an awful candidate,” one source lamented to me. “But I wonder if Stoke realises how awful he is?”

The final week of the by-election will see both sides hammer home their key messages. They’ll try to keep the rows about controversial tweets and press releases going, but know there will be some residents who will be hard to interest. They’re the group that won’t answer the door to canvassers, so campaigners will struggle to determine how they will vote. They won’t be so interested by the campaign coverage, but will have their own concerns. These people, Stoke’s silent voters, have Mr Nuttall’s fate in their hands.

 

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The Telegraph – Brexit Bulletin

  Good afternoon.

Next month will be very busy for Europe. Theresa May will be hoping to be able to trigger Article 50 and the official Brexit process then, while Europe’s leaders plan to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community. These celebrations won’t matter for Britain too much, as it wasn’t part of the signing and joined later in 1973.

As Europe looks back, it’s tempting to wonder what would have happened if Britain had joined from the beginning. Although Philip Johnston has pondered a bolder scenario – what if it had not joined at all in 1973 and remained an independent neighbour? “The received wisdom is that we would now be an economic basket case on the fringes of a prosperous superpower,” he writes in today’s paper. “Yet there is no certainty of this.”

Mr Johnston suggests that Britain would have saved billions of pounds in membership fees, and have enjoyed the freedom to strike trade deals with emerging economies around the world. “This might have been to our considerable advantage: in the years since we joined the accumulated trade deficit with EU member states is about £500 billion.”

Eschewing membership of the political bloc could have boosted Britain’s international standing, he suggests. “Being part of a supranational body, especially after the Maastricht treaty forged much closer economic and political ties, diminished our sense of independence. It was intended to, of course; but while other EU countries were content with that, the British never were. So had we stayed out we would probably have had a very good relationship with the EU – certainly better than the one we are likely to end up with when the bruising Brexit negotiations are concluded.”

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Brexit Bulletin – The Telegraph

Good afternoon.

As this e-mail hits your inbox, Donald Trump is being sworn in as President of the United States. You can follow every twist and turn of his inauguration on our liveblog. There is plenty of analysis – the best of which can be found on our site – about his agenda, but what does his presidency mean for Britain’s exit from the European Union?  

President Trump has been a consistent supporter of Brexit. He may not have known what the term was when Michael Wolff asked him about it, but made clear he thought the Brits “ should leave”. He quickly embraced Brexit since then, popping over to Scotland the day after the referendum to celebrate the “great victory”. He tried to seize the mantle for himself, declaring during the campaign that “they will soon be calling me MR. BREXIT!”. And so it came to pass, as the Trump campaign confounded the pollsters on an even larger scale. Brexiteers have recognised its significance, with Nigel Farage hailing his victory last night as “ Brexit plus, plus, plus”.

Theresa May will be grateful to have a proudly pro-Brexit President in the White House instead of Hillary Clinton, who made clear her scepticism of it during the campaign. Trump’s cabinet choices have made clear their preference for bilateral trade deals rather than negotiating with large blocs, which will delight Brexiteers and irk EU leaders. Mr Farage, the Trump whisperer of Westminster, has suggested the President could get a trade deal “done and dusted” with the UK within 90 days of taking office. This may be hard, according to Oliver Illott from the Institute for Government, as Whitehall is still assembling its deal-making machine. He also cites other problems, like that British negotiators know they still have trade deals to tie up with many other countries during the Brexit process, so any generous concessions they give to America in order to thrash out a quick deal would encourage others to feel they should get the same.

EU ministers have continued to sound conciliatory ahead of the Brexit talks in the meantime. Germany’s finance minister Wolfgang Schauble declared at Davos that he was convinced London will remain an important finance centre for Europe. He was also pretty confident the negotiations and deals will all be done within the two-year timeframe once Article 50 is served. That will put a spring in Mrs May’s step, assuming Labour’s continued disarray over Brexit and the ascension of one of its biggest backers to the White House already hasn’t.

 

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Brexit Bulletin – The Telegraph

  Good afternoon.

If you want to see how fast politics can change, look at the Swiss resort of Davos. This time last year, Britain’s Prime Minister was imploring business leaders at the World Economic Forum there to speak up in favour of its continued membership of the European Union. Today, his successor stepped up to tell them why they should get behind its departure from the bloc.

Theresa May used her address this morning to bang the drum for Brexit Britain, telling those assembled that she stood in front of them as “the prime minister of a country that faces the future with confidence”. She billed the vote to leave as an opportunity to build a “truly global” nation that reaches “beyond the borders of Europe”. But she also had harsh words for her fellow world leaders, warning them that “the forces for good that we so often take for granted are being brought into question” and they had to change to maintain “public consent”. This was her “nasty party” speech for the instinctively pro-EU Davos crowd, as I wrote earlier.

Both sides are trying to be emollient ahead of the official Brexit talks. Philip Hammond told a business lunch that Britain prides itself on being “one of the most open economies in the world”. He also urged his EU colleagues not to “let revenge get in the way of economic logic”. France has given such suggestions short shrift. Foreign minister Francois Ayrault told reporters his country’s stance was not “about ‘punishing’ the United Kingdom”. He may want to have a word with his boss, François Hollande, who said a few months ago that “ there must be a price” for Britain’s departure. Michael Deacon suggests it isn’t worth paying Ayraut much attention, writing: “This will be a battle. It won’t be possible for both sides to win. But it will certainly be possible for both sides to lose.”

Back in Britain, Jeremy Corbyn has to contend with mutinous rumblings in his shadow cabinet over whether to back the triggering of Article 50 – assuming the Supreme Court gives them the right to have a say The Labour leader has insisted he will impose a three-line whip on MPs to force them to back it, although some members – like Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis – suggest they could rebel. Tom Harris has written about how this shows Labour can’t even pretend to be united over Brexit. Meanwhile, Rupert Myers has warned Remainers that the longer they keep “whining” about Brexit happening, “ the less likely they are to be heard” in the debate. The Davos elite and EU leaders present Mrs May with a tougher opposition than she faces at home in Parliament.

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The waning of Germany

Mrs Merkel has been feted and courted as the de facto leader of the EU for the past decade. Mr Obama was a strong believer in the Euro and EU project, and looked to Mrs Merkel to provide its discipline and to be its voice.

Mr Cameron decided Mrs Merkel was the main person he had to win over when he sought to renegotiate the UK’s relationship. She did not offer him much, which led to the decisive vote by the UK electorate to leave. It was another of her damaging misjudgements, to go alongside the mistake she made over migration into Germany.

Today Mrs Merkel’s power is visibly waning. The UK now has a Brexit government. It sees Mrs Merkel as an obstacle when she blocks early resolution of the residency issues, or when she grandstands telling us we have to accept freedom of movement.

In the USA President Trump has launched public criticisms of her immigration policy and has said he sees the EU as a “German vehicle”. He speaks up for European countries which want to restore their own identities. Her voting base is also under attack from the anti Euro, anti migrant AFD party.

The diminution of Mrs Merkel’s power is helpful to UK as it seeks to negotiate its future relationship with the EU on leaving. Mr Trump will be aware of the huge size of Germany’s balance of payments surplus, which matches part of the large deficits the USA and UK have run up.

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