The Sunday Times reports: “Brexit ‘will be delayed until end of 2019’ – Whitehall not ready for talks, warn ministers”. The article is worth reading as much for the comments of the readers as for the content of the article itself which simply reports that the Civil Service needs more time to get the infrastructure for negotiating Brexit into place.
However, this is going to infuriate the hardline Brexiteers in the Conservative Party and the Mail on Sunday has this story:-
“Tory rebels to demand Theresa May set a timetable for the UK’s EU departure in bid to avoid ‘Brexit Lite’. Theresa May is facing an autumn ambush from Eurosceptic MPs – Sceptics plan to launch at least two cross-party groups – Fears Mrs May is not pushing for Brexit hard enough yet – She’s said she won’t invoke Article 50 this year”.
The Mail is, of course, a newspaper for schoolboys written by schoolboys but it does have a following. The only Conservative name mentioned in the story is, unsurprisingly, John Redwood, the MP for Wokingham who was briefly (and unsuccessfully) Secretary of State for Wales (1993-1995) under John Major and who twice (unsuccessfully) sought the leadership of the Conservative Party in 1995 and 1997. The political sketch writer, Matthew Paris, considered Redwood to be rather like Spock in Star Trek – and he is sometimes referred to as being a Vulcan. His former wife is reported as agreeing with that: see this in the Telegraph: “He is capable of awful cruelty. He is a Vulcan, not a human being“.
Whether or not Redwood is a Vulcan, he is certainly a longtime Eurosceptic and indeed a Euroseptic. It is entirely credible that he will be a troublemaker for Mrs May and planning some kind of back bench revolt.
The Sunday Telegraph had a report on a squabble between the Brexit Ministers: “Liam Fox and Boris Johnson locked in feud over who controls Britain’s foreign policy”. But this morning The Times reports: “PM tells Fox and Johnson to end Foreign Office turf war“. The fact is, of course, that the UK cannot negotiate foreign trade deals at all unless and until it has exited the EU and until the negotiations with the EU are complete, there is not much for Dr Fox to do other than to “fly the UK flag” and get his embryo Department into shape.
The Guardian also took up the same story: “Liam Fox tried to wrest control of Foreign Office duties from Boris Johnson” with the added information of another blunder by Fox’s department: The leaked letter is the second blunder for Fox’s department in recent days. On Friday, it removed from its website a confusing press release that appeared to announce that the UK would still trade with the EU under World Trade Organisation rules after leaving the bloc, “until any new trade deals are negotiated”. Trading under WTO rules would mean that businesses were subject to steep tariffs on goods exported to the EU, including a 10% duty on cars and 12% on clothing, and having no access to the EU’s service markets or financial service markets. The department said the press release had been issued in error.
If Dr Fox thinks that UK based automobile manufacturers such as Nissan, Ford or Honda would be at all interested in remaining in the UK on those terms, his department might consider refurbishing the former Cherry Knowle asylum in Sunderland as a care home for delusional Brexiteers. It’s more that a little dilapidated – but that is true of much of the North East – and much more so if Nissan is forced to relocate to obtain continued tariff free access to the EU market. Sunderland was one of the most pro-Brexit cities in the UK. But the shipbuilding and mining on which the North East depended were wrecked by previous Tory governments – so that was no surprise.
One piece of good news was reported in the Guardian: “Philip Hammond told to extend UK guarantees on EU grants – Treasury is expected to continue funding for all investment fund projects if they are agreed before autumn statement“. There are any number of important projects which rely on EU funding and this may assist in preserving some of them.
All in all, the teething troubles affecting the Brexit ministries show how unprepared Whitehall was for the Referendum outcome and how difficult it will be to give effect to the Referendum result without wrecking the economy.