How to negotiate with the EU

As someone who negotiated at 21 Councils of Ministers in the EU, I learned that a country needs to be firm and clear about its intentions, and must decline to accept an unhappy compromise.

As we have seen from the former senior civil servants in the Lords, they have a  very different approach. Their  view is that  because the EU is larger than the UK we just have to ask them what they intend to do and then claim it as our own. I fully accept that Prime Ministers and Ministers are responsible for the way the UK sought to renegotiate its relationship under David Cameron, and again they are responsible under Mrs May and Mr Davis for the current negotiations. It does however look as if the general thrust of civil service advice now as then has similarities to the attitudes the former senior officials express in the House of Lords. Now they are legislators they  have to accept that their views will  be subject to refutation and rejection by those who disagree.

I have never understood why so many senior officials think we need to give in each time to the EU. At every Council I attended there was remorseless pressure to reach an agreement about some new law – always an extension of EU power – when there was no need for a new law and when many interested parties were against it or wanted it changed or watered down. We can see the dangers of the approach in the failed renegotiation conducted by David Cameron. Let us adopt the convention that the PM himself chose this route. We do not need to claim he simply followed civil service advice. What is clear is no-one senior in the civil service warned him that his negotiating stance would not work, or sought to get him to ask for more or to dig in more. If they had I am sure leaks would have told us about it. What he did he did with civil service agreement.

So what did he do wrong? He asked for too little and settled for even less. The method appeared to  be to tour the main capitals of the EU and ask what they might offer us. The answer was a uniform  not much. He then asked for  not much, and was promptly told that was too much! Legitimate requests to control numbers of migrants and to decide who was entitled to UK benefits were turned down. He thought Germany would help him, but Germany saw little need to and felt the UK with an opt out from the Euro and Schengen already had enough special treatment. As a result he was greeted with universal disapproval by the Brexit majority in the country who decided the deal was simply not good enough.

It is  very important that Ministers and the civil service understand why this went wrong and do not do the same again if they want a sensible deal from the EU. We have been told the EU wants money we do not owe them, wants us to continue to obey laws we might wish to amend, and thinks we should “compromise” over freedom of movement. Many Brexit voters see no need to do any of those things. If the EU stays so unhelpful and offers nothing decent for the future relationship the government will find many voters think No Deal preferable to the deal the EU has in  mind. Are there any voices in the civil service close to the PM telling her that I wonder?



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  1. formula57
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    So we do not have a Brexit government at all, rather we have a government that is not up to the job.

    • Hope
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      It is utterly ridiculous and inconceivable that the EU were ever going to give the U.K. a good deal. What would this mean to the EU remaining in tact and the other existing countries? Very basic. The best option was and is towalk away and then negotiate.

      We learn the same person who negotiated for Cameron is in May’s Brexit team! Does she learn? All this nonsense is about justifying a delay to change our minds no more. There is absolutely no need for any punishment extension. None. Businesses trade with countries around the world and abide by their rules. The same will apply o the EU. This does not mean whatsoever the EU should have any control over our country or citizens who live here. Just to consider it is rediculous, but for May to agree this is incredulous.

      She has allowed all to speak and connive with Barnier, allowed remainers in her party, Lords and Civl service to an ct against govt policy to leave the EU and her own strap lines. In stark contrast ministers silenced from stating benefits of leaving the EU which is the published govt policy! May is completely untrustworthy, no one breaks their word on so many occasions on the same issue without it being made on purpose. The press and TV have given her a free ride. I am surprised the Leave MPs have not taken any action to date. It is their fault by voting and allowing her to become PM. Her cabinet is skewed with remainers and then have loaded votes on decisions about leaving! Perverse to say the least.

      Vote leave won the vote: MPs, Ministers and voters should not have to compromise full stop. No country in the world would have agreed what May has to date to get a trade deal. But let us remember leaving is not about a trade deal this is a narrative now overwhelming conversation that was created/approved by May to get us to change our minds. The unnecessary punishment extension is provide time for that to happen.

      There is only one sensible deal on the table. Walk away and talk about trade later once we are in control of our money, laws and borders. Oh, and our waters and fishing stock which the EU has no right of whatsoever. Give absolutely nothing to the EU.

    • bigneil
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      We have a govt that has absolutely NO intention of doing it.

    • eeyore
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      Seems pretty clear that Brexit betrayal is planned. A thin blue line of Brexit MPs is all that stands between a free people and absorption into the German empire. We know of 60. Is that enough?

      • Peter Wood
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        At last, somebody else sees the hand of the ‘fatherland’ behind the EU façade. Germany has bought the EU; we have been stupid enough to help them pay for it!

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    Indeed to negotiate a good deal we need to show clearly that we are happy (and indeed prepared for) no deal. May simply does not understand how to negotiate (nor how to run an economy, appeal to the electorate, select a Chancellor, or even the reasons why women make different work like balance choices than men).

    No deal is fine and certainly far better than the dire stitch up that May/Hammond/Greg Clark and the rest seems to be pushing for.

    • getahead
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      Lifelogic, you are making the assumption that May is in charge of the government.
      I don’t believe this is the case. There are controlling forces in the background. There is no other explanation for all the illogical, from a Brexit point of view, appointments and decisions she has made.

      • getahead
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 11:19 am | Permalink

        Or the illogical appointment of Theresa May as Prime Minister in the first place.

        • Adam
          Posted May 9, 2018 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

          With the Council Elections not now at risk of being averted, a leadership contest would place a jumping cracker among EU negotiators. They’ll then move more sensibly, instead of trying to walk over us.

          Renewed leadership presses the reset button, to clear the table. We can remove the damp squibs & recover our £40bn from there as a grasping start.

        • Leslie Singleton
          Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

          Dear getahead–I cannot say as I know but is “appointment” the right word?–Who appointed her?? Last (wo)man standing seems more like it to me (and being able to command the House and all that good stuff).

        • margaret
          Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

          It is interesting that you think there is an unseen ‘they’. If” they’ are actually being more persuasive than is obvious surely they can persuade or bully every other PM who takes this post.

          I don’t disbelieve what you think and the might of the unseen can manipulate persons and situations beyond belief ;but who are they?

      • Dennis Zoff
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink


        “There are controlling forces in the background”

        No secret there…. self-seeking “greedy” Corp/Bank’s lobbyists doing what they do best…putting the fear up the naive Government to acquiesce to their demands and a nice post-political career Directorship waiting in the wings for a good job done (speaking from experience). Governments don’t work for the people.

  3. Ian wragg
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    Then get rid of May and get someone who can do the job

    • NickC
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      Ian Wragg, There is little doubt in my mind that Crown civil servants are institutionally Remain. That being said I am somewhat taken aback by JR’s tone. It really shouldn’t be the civil servants’ responsibility to make a PM obey a mandate from the electorate.

  4. Anonymous
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    We are being hobbled by insiders.

  5. James Wallace-dunlop
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    Our choices for 29th March 2019 are
    – No deal
    – The deal the EU wants, which is worse than no deal (membership without a voice/veto)
    – EFTA (or EEA) membership

    Following a no-deal exit, we would eventually negotiate a sensible deal as it is in everyone’s economic interest, but at the moment euro federalists put punishing the UK ahead of euro zone prosperity. A firmer initial approach might have got us a good bespoke deal, but the UK negotiating with itself has taken that option from the agenda.

    Although no deal would be economically optimal for the UK, there would be those that lost out, and it would not help the country come together.

    EFTA membership is preferable to the transition terms now on offer. It is outside the customs union, and does not sacrifice our fisheries. It would also cost less than £40bn.

    Yes EFTA is not perfect, and would involve free movement (but without an obligation to pay benefits to migrants), but it could work as a medium term transition during which
    A) we would strike trade deals with the rest of the world, EU trade would become decreasingly important, and a new constituency of winners from globalisation would be created
    B) the EU would eventually move on from wanting to punish the UK. Merkel and macron will leave office, and their successors will agree a free trade deal.

    • Tabulazero
      Posted May 12, 2018 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      The EU will negotiate a deal that is in its interest. It will be consistent with its internal rules because it has no intention to change them just for the benefit of the Conservative party. The said deal will cover goods but not services and will not offer equivalence.

  6. Comrade Baronet
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    It is great reading social media people of the Left suddenly thinking those who they formerly called rich Aristocrats and a severe threat to democracy are quite the Lord and Lady Comrades now. However me thinks if you’re red Peer of age, you need to see a doctor about it.

  7. Bryan Harris
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    Excellent thoughtful piece – Thanks JR

  8. mick
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    So what did he do wrong? He asked for too little and settled for even less. The method appeared to be to tour the main capitals of the EU and ask what they might offer us. The answer was a uniform not much. He then asked for not much,
    This is what as been happening over the last 40 odd years all politicians of every colour giving the Eu what they want with nothing but scraps in return , all of this being done behind closed doors in my mine every politician feathering there own nest and not the interest of GB, then is there any wonder we voted to leave, and leave we must with no strings

  9. duncan
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    This article is far too polite on the behaviour of those they call the Civil Service.

    This PM and those who have gone before aren’t naive nor are they lacking in intelligence. They know the CS are vehement almost pathological defenders and promoters of the EU and its plan to maximises its own powers to the detriment of all member states. For any PM to infer or suggest that they’ve been badly advised on EU matters is crock.

    I am tired of this charade.

    There’s a body of pro-EU supporters in important positions of the British political, body politic that will stop at nothing to destroy the Brexit process.

    From the Lords, the Civil Service and ex-PMs through to MPs and Cabinet members. They will stop then destroy the Brexit process and they will do it without apology and without shame. They know they are confronting and challenging the will of the people but they don’t care about that. They don’t have to care. They have become untouchable and unaccountable. They can plot and they can circumvent the result of the EU referendum and they will do it with a smile on their face

    It is the voice of the people versus the power and influence of an elite of political players. The people are in no position to impose themselves, we are on the outside unable to impose our will. These players are on the inside constructing a system that prevents change

    The CS’s become a fifth column determined to defy democracy and reinforce the power of an unelected elite. Democracy is seen as a hindrance not something vital to our way of life

    The solution is simple. Depose May as our leader of our party and elect a person who is committed to Brexit in its entirety. Nothing less is acceptable

    52% demand we leave the EU. 48% demand we stay in the EU. Democracy has spoken and Tory MPs know what they must do to be able to sleep at night

  10. Rear Admiral
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    “How to negotiate with the EU” Tell them we will impose a completely friction-full border with the Republic of Ireland by quarter past two on Friday if they do not immediately present plans for progress.
    Alert our army and airforce to enforce it and ask the Navy to break off the important role of binocularing a handful of ancient coal-burning Russian destroyers and tug boats sailing in the very global waterway of the Channel.

    • georgeP
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Rear Admiral..just try’ll very quickly get your answer..from Brussels and from Dublin

      • Rear Admiral
        Posted May 10, 2018 at 6:45 am | Permalink

        Of course we would get the answer quickly, by quarter past two on Friday. I would get Trump to say it , by the way, so they know we mean business. He shouts loud enough.

  11. Henry Spark
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    Brexit was sold on false promises. The EU needs us more than we need it, we were told – we will get a great deal. Liam Fox will land us deals with India, US etc. But, no. It was always untrue. And now you shamefully try to blame the decent civil servant trying to do their job. The blame belongs with the Brexiters and their false promises.

    • Bob
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:28 am | Permalink


      Do you have any facts to support you claim?

    • Anonymous
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      The civil service caused Brexit. Its abject failures in control of immigration and crime.

    • Zorro
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Not a clue – you have clearly never dealt with civil servants. I have dealt with them first hand. They are lukewarm at best regarding Brexit and are deliberately accentuating the negative and avoiding looking at positive opportunities. I have heard it with my own ears…..


    • Richard1
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      It was always completely clear an independent trade policy could only begin post-Brexit.

    • NickC
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      Henry Spark, We are in the mess we are because the government and civil service (and continuity Remain) are deluding themselves that the UK can remain partly in the EU. It won’t work. We can either Remain OR Leave; a fudge is neither practical nor possible, and is not on offer from the EU anyway.

    • Jagman84
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      The whole premise of the EU being a purely a trading bloc was undeniably false but I am sure you’d prefer to gloss over such realities. If the EU wish to commit economic suicide by being awkward buggers, it’s fine by me! We can go elsewhere to recoup any shortfalls. The EU 27 cannot.

  12. John
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    If we end up in a Customs Union under a different name then the next 1 or 2 general elections will be run on who will take us out of the EU. The mandate will still be there being the referendum.

    If someone like Jacob Rees Mogg is the next PM then being in a Custom Union (renamed Partnership) will be ripped up and rightly so.

    • Timaction
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      By all the accounts coming out it looks like Mrs May is about to betray us with her and Olly’s Custums partnership (Remaing under EU control). This will be an affront to democracy and I and many millions of Brexiteers will no longer consider her or her Government legitimate. Then we will see the likes of civil disobedience in all its forms. The electorate can no longer be fooled by politicos lies, deceit and corruption. We voted out to regain our sovereign democracy. Deliver it or get out.

  13. KeithL
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Again i see we are harping on about the EU..remember we voted to leave..we did not vote to leave and then to negotiate to rejoin again in some other why go on about France and Germany etc..forget about them and let’s concentrate on a future now with our new international trading partners. None of this should have anything to do with Civil Servants, they are there to follow the policy instructions of the government- if they don’t or if they cannot they should be sacked- forthwith

    • Hope
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      Spot on. No more talk about trade. We voted leave. The centre piece not trade. EU stated we can only talk about trade once we left, so walk away without giving anything then talk. Including defense and security. Nothing for nothing.

      • NickC
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        KeithL and Hope, absolutely correct. It is painful to watch the government, the civil service and Remain re-enact the arguments that eurosceptics had with each other over a 30 year period to sort out these problems, only to discover at the end that the only options are: Remain OR Leave.

  14. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    When David Davis was setting up his new department and sounding very confident about it I suspended my natural disbelief and allowed myself to hope that he really had found enough decent patriotic and competent civil servants to help him negotiate an orderly and successful withdrawal from the EU.

    Clearly not, given that the top civil servant was one Oliver Robbins who has since fallen out with David Davis and instead been picked up by Theresa May as her chief Brexit adviser in No 10, where he now seems intent on taking her government to the brink of destruction over his pet customs partnership scheme which sounded pretty weird right even from the start when some initial indications were given to the media.

    There’s nothing new here, from the advice given to Edward Heath to “swallow the lot and swallow it now”:

    “Britain was ready to pay any price to join EEC”

    through to the similar later revelations that civil servants had persuaded Harold Wilson not to seek any treaty changes in his pathetic “re-negotiation” in 1974, and through to David Cameron accepting the same advice before his own so-called “re-negotiation”, and through to Sir Ivan Rogers advising Theresa May to use resident EU citizens as bargaining chips because in his view we really had no others to deploy, and now through to this evil genius on Theresa May’s shoulder:

    “Mrs May’s No 10 Brexit adviser, Olly Robbins, has told her that the ‘partnership’ is the only idea which will allow the UK to cut new trade deals while avoiding the need for a hard border in Ireland …”

  15. HappyT
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    We don’t want to negotiate with the EU..we didn’t vote for better just leave..

  16. Richard1
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    It seems to be clear Mrs May has no intention of walking away with no Deal. The EU now has comfort that this won’t happen so is relaxed about not agreeing anything significant. As long as Continuity Remain are agitating for remaining in the customs union (& the single market will follow shortly – a move has already been made in the Lords) why would the EU come up with any compromises? If I was them I’d let the UK politics play out. Mr Cameron failed because the other side judged, correctly, that he wouldn’t walk away without a deal. Mrs May seems to be making the same mistake.

    • Andy
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      Why should the EU compromise? You voted to leave it – yet, like mos Brexiteers, you lack the balls to deal with the consequences of your vote.

      • libertarian
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 12:13 pm | Permalink


        Nope very happy to walk away and reap the benefits

        Sadly our politicians and civil servants lack the talent, knowledge and leadership to do that . I think that the voters of the UK have finally woken up to how awful the political class are

      • Anonymous
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        No. The EU refused to compromise, then we voted to leave. Cameron did try.

      • Richard1
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        You do not know how I voted, but it is clear the Country voted to leave. It would be rational for the EU to seek a free trade deal with the U.K., but the dysfunctional idealogy of the EU may prioritise punishing the U.K. pour encourager les autres. The way to negotiate therefore – as in anything else – is to be prepared to walk away. Otherwise of course the EU will sit there and wait for the U.K. Govt to cave in – as they did with Cameron (mistakenly from their point of view as it turned out).

      • Fedupsoutherner
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        Short sighted ad usual Andy. What we are going to get landed with is not what we voted for. It’s Remainiacs like yourself that are screwing it all up.

      • NickC
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        Andy, No, it’s you who is frightened of change.

        • hans christian ivers
          Posted May 10, 2018 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

          Use a more comprehensive answer your one is pathetic

          • NickC
            Posted May 11, 2018 at 8:15 am | Permalink

            Hans, Since you don’t give an answer at all, it is yours that is pathetic.

    • Hope
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      Not a mistake she is doing this deliberately to undermine our resolve to leaave. As you saw with the Border Agency and police she can be vindictive when it suits her.

  17. oldtimer
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    You are being very charitable about former civil servants in the HoL. I think they are actively seeking to reverse the Referendum result. The consequence is to totally undermine any negotiation that seeks to implement Brexit in an orderly way. In these circumstances No Deal will be the better option.

    I am unclear how this will play out in parliamentary terms. No doubt you and your colleagues will have thought this through.

    • Mockbeggar
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      A great deal has been talked lately about ‘the sovereignty of Parliament’, not least by Lords Heseltine, Patterson and co. (I don’t remember voting them into the HoL)., but also by Remainers in the Commons. What they seem to overlook is that Parliament has the power to delegate its sovereignty when it suits and does so in the case of international treaties and conventions etc. It delegated its authority to the people by offering them a referendum over leaving the EU. Having delegated, it is obliged to carry out the decision that the people came to. Anything else is sheer hocus pocus.

  18. Freeborn John
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    The UK does need to negotiate Ian much tougher way but it is not just civil servants undermining the UK negotiating position. This weekend’s Irish Times reported “sources mentioning cabinet office minister David Lidington and chancellor Philip Hammond as among those who had privately indicated to Dublin that a significant softening of the British position was imminent”. It is quite clear that remoaners in Cabinet are actively tipping of foreign governments as to what the EU can push for. Ministers outside of the department for leaving the EU should be forbidden from colluding with the opposite side in this manner.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      I’ve found over the years that it’s often useful to look at the Irish press to find out some of the truth being concealed by the UK media. Because public support for the EEC/EC/EU/USE project is much more solid in Ireland than in the UK their media are relatively uninhibited about its impact on domestic affairs.

  19. alan jutson
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:55 am | Permalink


    Talk about getting back to basics this morning..

    Surely Prime Minister’s do not need the Civil service to tell them how to negotiate do they.
    If they do, then they really are not fit to run anything.

    Anyone who buy’s a house, a car, or even goes to a market stall knows you never pay the price asked, but always start lower.
    In business a deal is struck where both sides can claim some sort of victory, it may not be just on price, but on payment terms, supply details, volume, but never what is asked.

    Mrs May is not a strategist with a vision of the future, she is a micro manager of detail who finds difficulty in delegation. Hence the real problem.

    Quite honestly we need to start these negation again with someone who is capable, as this is proving an embarrassing, and absolute fiasco, and certainly not what we voted for.

    Talk about making a simple job complicated, typical of someone with no commercial experience.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      Indeed but T May simply does not understand markets, leadership, manifestos, elections, supply and demand or economics. As witnessed by her childish gender pay “gap” reporting, the current tax system, her EU negotiation strategy and punishment manifesto.

    • Hope
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:09 am | Permalink

      The other countries in the world must look on with bewilderment. Trump has already said he does not understand why it is taking so long! May must know this is bad deal to date but is willing to accept anything to stay close or remain in all but name.

      Time for the letters to be sent in to oust May.

      • Bob
        Posted May 10, 2018 at 8:12 am | Permalink

        Mrs May is trying her level best to create conflict with Mr Trump, presumably is order to weaken Britain’s negotiating hand and strengthen the Remainers’ case.

        We didn’t vote remain, we voted to leave and we need a govt that is not hobbled by a Remain minded cabinet.

  20. Peter
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Politicians and civil servants would be more assertive and firm if they were minded to leave in the first place.

    Everything is coming down to a power struggle between Remain and Leave now.

    Unfortunately Remain seem to be winning.

    For that reason, I would like a General election so that we have a chance to get rid of the intransigent Remainers.

    • agricola
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      But you will not get rid of them because central office and their member constituents will put them up again. I cannot imagine that the Soubry is acting without the approval of her constituency party. The only option will be the wets from the Greens or Lib/Dems or a Marxist look alike from Labour.

      • Peter
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        No need to vote for Remainers. Let others in if Conservatives refuse to honour the referendum. The Samson option.

        A revived UKIP or Leave Independent candidates would also help concentrate their minds.

      • NickC
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        Agricola, Perhaps UKIP could stand a candidate in Leave constituencies, which have sitting Remain Tory MPs, promising to resign and hold a by-election once Leave is fully implemented. Loan-a-vote in other words.

    • Freeborn John
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      There needs to a change of party leader before a general election. Even before the last election, in the famous leak to the German press about her first meeting with the EU Comission, it was clear that May wanted a cosmetic Brexit modelled on the judicial and home affairs opt-outs she had negotiated as Home Secretary. All the key opt outs were nullified when she opted back in to all the key measures of the Lisbon Treaty Judicial and Home Affairs powers such as the European Arrest Waarent. Her ‘customs partnership’ is the same cosmetic approach where she opts out of the EU customs union and single market and then enters into an agreement with a different name but the same effect. She will not win a majority for Brexit in name only and has to be replaced by a real Leave supporter before a general election.

  21. duncan
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:59 am | Permalink


    HALT THE PRESS OPPRESSION Tom Watson’s plot to muzzle the tabloid Press is a dangerous and patronising move that will endanger liberty and make Britain a laughing stock

    If Labour MPs get their way, the press would be shackled by state-backed regulation for the first time since Crown licensing was abolished 300 years ago
    By Tom Slater
    8th May 2018, 6:42 pm

    Press freedom is hanging by a thread in Britain.

    The freedom so many Brits fought and died for — the freedom to publish without state approval — could soon be crushed.
    MPs will vote on Tom Watson’s amendments to the Data Protection Bill
    Times Newspapers Ltd
    MPs will vote on Tom Watson’s amendments to the Data Protection Bill

    Tomorrow MPs will vote on amendments to the Data Protection Bill tabled by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson and former leader Ed Miliband.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      Indeed far too many legal restrictions on freedom of speech already.

      • Hope
        Posted May 11, 2018 at 9:02 am | Permalink

        Duncan, not just Labour a large contingent of Tories also voted to get rid of a free press.

    • BOF
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Duncan, this is as important , if not more so than leaving the EU. Without freedom of the press, we have no democracy.

    • graham1946
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      There is no freedom of expression anymore. If you were to complain about race, religion, sexuality etc. you would get your collar felt. Even on here it would not make the cut.

      • Peter
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        True. Even Guido Fawkes which used to be extremely forthright is now heavily moderated. I never posted there but the comments were interesting.

      • Tranquil
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

        PS Freedom of speech and expression does not actually …really challenge political power. That is why destroying it is puerile. You can stand on, to the end of your days, a soap box on a street corner advocating violent revolution. Well, you will have got it off your chest but only your mother, your dog and someone from down the road will think you have got a point. The point, is that you must be allowed to say what you think! Or, we are not individual British, we are a dog pack.

      • Andy
        Posted May 10, 2018 at 6:49 am | Permalink

        The question is this. Why would you complain about race, religion or sexuality?

        How other people live their lives is really NONE of you business. Providing they are not breaking the law it is nothing to do with you.

        If you feel the need to complain about these things then the problem is with you.

        • graham1946
          Posted May 10, 2018 at 10:10 am | Permalink

          Whether I want to or not is not the issue. It used to be my right to say what I wanted and this has been taken away by authority. No-one has the right not to be insulted – you do it all the time about pensioners, but would not dare such a stance with the subjects I mentioned.

          No wonder you are a Remoaner – you have no independence of thought and just love being told what to do by your so called betters.

    • Richard1
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      The Labour Party is a threat to freedom and democracy on many levels now

    • Blue and Gold
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      My grandfathers fought in the trenches in WW1. They fought for a united Europe, not division, which is what Brexit is.

      • Spratt
        Posted May 10, 2018 at 5:39 am | Permalink

        My grandfathers also fought in the trenches. They fought for the sovereignty of their country. They would be horrified beyond words by Blighty being ordered around Juncker, Verhofstadt et al.

      • Adam
        Posted May 10, 2018 at 7:13 am | Permalink

        Blue and Gold:

        Your & our grandfathers fought to achieve peace, not a muddled EU.

      • Edward2
        Posted May 10, 2018 at 8:32 am | Permalink

        They will be much happier moving towards a United States of Europe, all using the Euro, with a common taxation policy and a common foreign policy, after we have left.
        There is no appetite nor reason for European nations to go to war with each other.

      • libertarian
        Posted May 10, 2018 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        Dear Blue & Gold

        You must be incredibly old if your grandfathers fought in WW1

        They must have been the only 2 fighting for a united Europe because the rest of the combatants in WW1 were actually fighting against empires , to remind you WW1 was Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers) were who we fought against to reestablish individual sovereignty

        • Mitchel
          Posted May 11, 2018 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

          “We” were fighting against competing empires but absolutely not against imperialism itself-the only two in that camp were President Wilson and Lenin’s post-revolutionary Russia.We,for instance,were not terribly keen on Poland being resurrected-thought it might be more trouble than it was worth,which you could argue proved to be the case!

  22. JoolsB
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    John, of course we must say what ‘we’ want and what we are prepared to accept and put in no uncertain terms that we will walk away otherwise but fortunately for the EU and unfortunately for the British people, we have a weak and pathetic Prime Minister, a remainer at that, who says one thing and does another. They now know the British negotiating team, Davis included, will compromise/capitulate on everything.

    May’s stance on a customs partnership and the Lords’ attempts to overthrow Brexit are a disgrace and an affront to democracy. May needs to go NOW. She is failing to show strong leadership and is trying to be all things to all people which will not only not work but be a disaster. You and your fellow Brexiteers made a huge mistake in choosing a remainer for leader John. She needs to be replaced by a PM who is for Brexit – Boris, IDS and Gove would be the ideal negotiating team but I don’t mind as long as they are tough and Brexiteers.

    Please get that vote going to replace May immediately because if the people are betrayed, it will mean a huge resurgence of UKIP (the real Conservatives) and I personally say bring it on because it is becoming clearer by the day that we cannot trust either Labour or the party calling themselves Conservative to deliver on Brexit.

  23. agricola
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    As far as one can tell the civil service wish us to remain in the EU. Their advise on extraction is never likely to be helpful. Witness their pushing of the dreadful customs arrangement that Boris thinks crazy. Having our civil service must be like living with a fifth column.

    Politicians are going to have to ride this one all alone, be true to the referendum result, and the logic of a free trade treaty on trade and services. If Barnier does not want it he will have to answer to the various industries of the nation states that do want it. His only option should be trade on WTO terms which already comprises 60% of our exports and is growing.

    No more talk of border difficulties, it is a red herring created by those who wish us to remain. At present all required export/import information is exchanged on the internet. This can continue even if some of the information needs to be different. If Mrs May fails to get a grip then she will have to move over, giving the job to someone with a clear vision of the way forward.

  24. Adam
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    A long-distance strategist might opine that Mrs May realised early that ‘No Deal’ would be the only worthwhile means shaking off EU nonsense. Now that the bad EU deal prospects have been fully ventilated & scrutinised, ‘No Deal’ is more clearly presented with evidence & public support, as the UK’s superior choice.

    Had Mrs May revealed an intended ‘No Deal’ as her stance at the outset, she & it would have been widely opposed instantly.

    It is the outcome that matters. Freedom enables freshness. Feigned stumblings on the way do not hamper progress (unless she didn’t know what she was doing all along!).

  25. Mark B
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Good morning

    Much of what has been written will come as no surprise to many I am sure.

    To understand the EU one must know its origins. It was the idea of two Civil Servants. One an Englishman, Arthur Salter, and the other a Frenchman, Jean Monet. These two men laid down the blueprints of what is now the EU. They envisioned a Europe run by people like themselves with government being told what to do. So you see, our beloved Civil Service is horrified by the prospect of BREXIT and all that it means.

    The government is to blame. Many here would have dealt with the Civil Service long before now. It has become to powerful and, in my view, a nest of treasonous vipers more interested in itself than in its core duty, and that is to assist the government in implementing its elected manifesto and running nations affairs.

    They are the Fifth Column of the EU.

  26. Norman
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    It is a clash of ideologies – no compromise is possible – as is now proven. Just get out!

    • Norman
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Same goes for the Iran deal – Europe has been here before, as has Britain. You cannot do a deal with evil, without complicity in its aims – and eventually, you will pay the price. Sadly, I doubt our people today understand this, which is a tragedy. And there is no ‘Churchill’ in sight. Even tonight, the air raid shelters in northern Israel are being opened, as Iran deploys its proxies in Syria and Lebanon. Watch this space.

  27. hans christian ivers
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:21 am | Permalink


    Can we please stop this “no deal” nonsense.

    The EU has outlined a negotiation position from which they are negotiating as are we, when we know what the final deal looks like let us make a final decision, based on the facts on the table.

    thank you ,

    • libertarian
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 12:16 pm | Permalink


      Explain why No deal is nonsense . Explain why no deal isn’t an option, try to understand how negotiations work. Just slagging people off with diatribe isn’t a debate

      • hans christian ivers
        Posted May 10, 2018 at 7:55 am | Permalink


        As long as negotiations are on-going the most likely outcome is a deal and that is exactly what I am saying in my note, which is why already talking about a no deal is pre-mature

        • libertarian
          Posted May 10, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink


          I agree anything is possible whilst negotiations are ongoing. Therefore to claim that no deal is a nonsense is just wrong. Its a possible option , and in my humble opinion the best option i’ve heard so far

          • hans christian ivers
            Posted May 10, 2018 at 5:27 pm | Permalink


            Good for you

    • NickC
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Hans, Quite right, there is no such thing as “no deal”. The choice is the WTO deal which the UK already uses for the bulk of our exports, or the EU deal which doen’t exist.

      • hans christian ivers
        Posted May 10, 2018 at 7:56 am | Permalink


        Interesting perspective , we obviously disagree as I believe the is an EU deal to be had, which is why I am talking about continued negotiations

        • NickC
          Posted May 11, 2018 at 8:21 am | Permalink

          Hans, If the EU deal actually exists, as you insist, perhaps you can point to where I can read it. Alternatively, you might like to pay attention to tenses in your verbiage.

          Quite clearly any future EU deal must be worse than the existing WTO deal, because the EU insists that we must give up some of our independence in order to have the privilege of buying EU stuff.

  28. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    It was a case of the establishment acquiescing to every EU dictat whatever the affect on us that led to the need to leave in the first place.

    I wish those who have a say in this matter would grow a pair.

    We will at worst survive outside the EU so let’s give it a try.

    • NickC
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      Narrow Shoulders, Indeed. Ms Soubry and other Remains do not seem to know what they want. And they haven’t been made to face the consequences of their emotional pro-Remain spasm.

      They cannot seriously think we could return to 2015 since the EU itself has moved on and continues to expand its powers. There is no cosy safe-space. Then there is the half-in/half-out delusion. But that is not on offer, not practical, and not Leave. Above all, ignoring a national mandate puts our entire democracy in jeopardy.

      Whatever Remain fudge we are lumbered with now, it will have to be undone by future governments. The only course is to Leave, fully and completely, now.

    • hans christian ivers
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      Interesting perspective but not a very satisfactory one

  29. ChrisS
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Cameron’s “Renegotiation” was hardly our finest hour, was it ?

    The problem was that his heart was never in it : and Merkel knew that. Furthermore, the principle players ( Merkel, Hollande and Juncker ) were and remain so enamored by the institution that to them it was unthinkable that any country would vote to leave.

    If Cameron had had any honour, he would have come back waving his piece of paper and stating that the deal was not good enough and we should leave. The fact that he said precisely the opposite : “Would I sign up to this deal ? You bet I would !” totally destroyed his credibility. It was obvious to voters that the Emperor was standing before them stark naked.

    I agree with your assessment that the Civil Service is largely to blame for the current position. It isn’t just the CFO that is packed with Remainers, every department is. Ministers who want to do the right thing and ensure we regain full independence, must be fighting against a rearguard action somewhat akin to a house to house firefight.

    When the history of Leave is written it will reveal a nationwide conspiracy across the Media, Parliament, the Civil Service and big business to thwart Brexit. We can only hope the history books go on to say that, despite the best efforts of Remainers, the Brexiteers succeeded in delivering a proper Brexit.

  30. Man of Kent
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    We are now at the point of no return .
    The problem is that TM is not going to change .
    She sold us out in December with her interim agreement for regulatory alignment to accommodate the Irish border issue .
    There is every prospect she will cave in over a customs union , date of exit ….
    There is now time to ditch her and go for a no deal Brexit.
    Once that possibility is firmly on the table there will be a fundamental reappraisal of the border ‘problem ‘ , customs and regulatory alignment and sensible solutions will be found.
    Otherwise we are bound to EU rules with our PM acting like a Quisling not knowing what is in store for her and us in the future

    Please get those letters in and force a change now or it will be too late.

    • Peter
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      I agree about the letters. However I fear that is just an idle threat now.

    • georgeP
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      Man of Kent..when TM folds..probably in June..the talks will be over for a generation..there will be no negotiation table left to put anything on..because there is not a snowball chance in hell the EU is going to negotiate with Rees-Mogg or Boris as PM..not in any meaningful way anyhow..I expect the EU side have all of this factored in and we are walking in..eyes wide open

    • Anonymous
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      There will be a Corbyn government if she stays.

  31. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I’m no fan of Boris Johnson but on this occasion he is right, Oliver Robbins’ scheme really is “crazy”. Which happens to be the word I chose myself, on Sunday afternoon, before he publicly used it*. The behaviour of “No 10” since last week has been utterly disgraceful and getting worse; as far as I can see Theresa May and/or her staff have now taken us close to the point where somebody has to go. It could be Boris Johnson, or it could be Theresa May, but it would be best by far if it was Oliver Robbins who by all accounts is exercising a malign Rasputin-like influence wherever he goes.


    “Dear Sir

    I was staggered to read this in a Sunday newspaper, referring to Theresa May’s preferred plan for a crazy “customs partnership” with the EU:

    “Mrs May’s No 10 Brexit adviser, Olly Robbins, has told her that the ‘partnership’ is the only idea which will allow the UK to cut new trade deals while avoiding the need for a hard border in Ireland …”

    I suggest Mrs May should get herself a new Brexit adviser who will not talk such nonsense … “

  32. Epíkouros
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    No doubt UK civil servants when they view how the EU is structured and administered noticed that is largely run by similar people to themselves. Bureaucrats who are just civil servants given the high falutin name of technocrats implying that they are all omniscient and all omnipotent beings. To them that must be like manna from heaven and so wish to be part of that so of course they will pursue continued membership of the EU with considerable vigour. Why not who would not want the power and prestige of being part of an elite body who have the almost undisputed right to rule 28 nations containing 500 millions souls. Even better they do not have to please an electorate to maintain that right. So what is motivating our civil service is plain. How to deal with it is not so obvious but one thing is certain our civil servants should be allowed little say in how the Brexit negotiations are conducted and what should be agreed or not agreed. As they will want agree to every EU demand.

  33. Andy
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    It sounds an awful lot as though you don’t much like Brexit! Is it not what you and Brexit voters voted for is it? Hmmm. Yet you all continue to insist you all knew what you were voting for. Seems you didn’t.

    The problem is that during their 40 year anti-Europe whinge Tory Eurosceptics never bothered to come up with better solutions.

    Now you have no choice but to come up with those solutions – you can’t. All of your ideas on every single issue present us with an option which is WORSE than what we already have as an EU member.

    Customs arrangement will be worse. There is no scenario except the status quo which makes customs easier.

    Citizens – both UK and EU – get a worse deal. Fewer rights, fewer benefits. Brexit voters claim not to mind. Let’s see how that works out when things they like get taken away from them – which they will.

    The Irish border is worse. Every single thing is worse.

    But plough on the Brexiteers do. Hurtling us all to a cliff like raged zealots.

    Brexit has already failed. You had your chance. You blew it. It is now just a matter of time until your defeat is complete.

    • Edward2
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      Leaving is always better than remaining in the dreadful EU
      The modern day clone of the USSR

  34. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    These “negotiations” have been a charade. Most people see a successful negotiation as being good for both sides. So far it would seem the UK side has capitulated to every EU demand and there has been nothing from the EU. In fact, the EU has defined the process and once again the UK acquiesced. They have been aided and abetted in their intransigence by MPs, elected and unelected, who have acted as a kind of fifth column undermining the UK position with the intention of overturning the referendum result. The mendacity and duplicity of these people is beneath contempt.
    The best outcome at the moment seems to be no deal where we save £40bn and revert to WTO terms.

  35. MickN
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    The Duke of Wellington must be spinning in his grave this morning.

    • mancunius
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      But the Duke of Wellington – the present one – an ex-MEP and a rabid europhile – is one of the ringleaders of the HoL’s bid to thwart Brexit. He who moved the successful amendments to take the date of leaving out of the Withdrawal Bill, and making any leaving day dependent on a vote passing both Houses (including the House of Lords, which of course it would not do).
      Amendment 74: “A statutory instrument containing regulations under section 14 which appoint a day as exit day may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”
      See also his amendment 95. (Hansard, 8th May 2018)

      • mancunius
        Posted May 9, 2018 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        ‘It was he who moved the successful amendments’ etc

        • alan jutson
          Posted May 10, 2018 at 6:42 am | Permalink


          Queries interests of Duke of Wellington….
          John, I know the HOC has a list of members interests.

          Does the HOL have a similar list, and do the members have to confirm that interest to the house before making a speech on any topic where such a conflict may arise.

          Reply Yes, Lords has a Register

          • mancunius
            Posted May 10, 2018 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

            But interestingly, the register does not include EU allegiances or posts held. For example, Lord Mandelson’s entry does not even mention his role as a previous Commissioner of the EU.

            Nor are any EU subsidies received for business, land and/or wind turbines listed. Nor are foreign properties listed, except where they are outright commercial enterprises (and I see some of those are not listed either.)

  36. Lirrytoner
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    There is only one person this should be addressed to. David Davis. Please, Mr Redwood, explain to us why he is not taking your advice

    • alan jutson
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 11:57 am | Permalink


      Mr Davis is under the guidance and reports to the Prime Minister, his so called power/remit only goes so far.

      Mrs May has overruled him a number of times so far when the going got tough with the EU instead of standing side by side with him.

  37. robert lewy
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:24 am | Permalink
    • Adam
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      robert lewy:

      It is understandable why JR tends to prefer not to include links to other websites. Moderation often involves time-consuming reading of lengthy material, including much of irrelevance.

      Yours above leads to a requirement for a paid subscription before access to read is permitted.

  38. fedupsoutherner
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    How to negotiate with the EU? Well, not like we are now John. We have a party which is split down the middle with those who want Brexit and to respect the will of the referendum and those whose main job it seems is to make sure we never get out. Quite frankly, I think those who comment on this blog are just as fed up as I am with all the fiasco created by Hammond and May and their cohorts. If this blog is representative of most Tory voters and Brexit voters then we need to get shot of May, get someone in who has a totally positive approach and who won’t bow and scrape to the EU and get on with telling the EU we are leaving and it is up to you to come and offer us a deal. For God’s sake, what a complete and utter balls up ministers and their treacherous civil servants have made of this. Talk about a comedy of errors, but it is not funny and the way it is all going it will turn out to be the biggest disaster of the century simply because we haven’t stuck up for our own country. Pathetic.

    • Fedupsoutherner
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      Awaiting moderation still?

  39. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    This article offers detailed and scathing criticisms of the “customs partnership” plan which Theresa May wishes to impose and suggesting a particular reason why she is being so foolish, unconnected with the mesmeric powers of her chief adviser:

    “The real reason the Partnership is still on the table is that Downing Street believes it offers the best hope of forestalling a customs union rebellion in Parliament, rather than because of its inherent benefits.”

    Well, it has now become obvious that the Lords will automatically oppose anything and everything which tends towards separation of the UK from the EU; and it is actually good they are making it plain that this is a wholesale rejection of the referendum result, as was openly proposed by Baroness Wheatcroft in August 2016:

    rather than just a careful correction of one or two technical weaknesses in the Bills sent up from the Commons, because they have now insisted on taking more than enough rope to hang themselves and it only remains for MPs to pull the lever at do that.

    The Commons however are different matter, and if the government fears that there may not be majority support among the MPs for eschewing the/a customs union with the EU then that could be because David Davis’s department hasn’t ever bothered to explain the strong case for doing that, or indeed ever bothered to actively defend any aspect of the official government policy from constant attacks.

  40. BOF
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    As always, John, you are kind and respectful where many of us would be far more blunt with our language.

    I see little difference in the current negotiations with Mrs May in charge than those when David Cameron was chasing shadows around Europe. He came back with nothing and so far, Mrs May has achieved nothing.

    I find it shocking that a Prime Minister defers to officials and allows them to lead. We already know the opinions of these officials and it is very far indeed from leaving the EU.

    David Cameron never appeared to want to leave the EU as evident from his resignation and I believe Mrs May is of the same opinion to the point of collaboration.

  41. Tad Davison
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    It’s a beautiful morning here in Cambridge. I was calm, and my blood pressure was fine until I read this, and then my mind was distracted by the thought of all the useless, duplicitous, underhanded politicians we’ve had in the past. The ones who give us the impression they are truly batting for Britain, then shrink and cower before their masters in Brussels. What a fool I was to lend the Tories my vote at the last General Election and fall for these con-artists all over again!

    With May at the helm – a remainer in body and spirit, constantly trying to kid us she’s going to deliver on the Brexit the people voted for – we on the leave side should expect nothing less than treachery. But she is just the latest in a long line of betrayers. Indeed, I said to one leading Brexiteer whom I am in close contact with, that ‘we can now expect the mummy and daddy of all betrayals’. And so it is turning out to be. The whole machinery of state seems to be gearing up to override our democratic will any way they can.

    I am not alone in my anger. May should listen to the independent radio stations more, and not the filtered sanitised guff that supposedly passes for informed political comment from the likes of the BBC and Sky News. She would know just how fed up the people REALLY are with her lack-lustre administration.

    We want no more of it. She really is drinking in the last chance saloon, but for me, she passed the point of no-return ages ago. The reasons for keeping her in office diminish by the day, and we now need a proper leader – one with guts and fighting spirit. I can’t wait to see the back of May and the rest of her lily livered servile obsequious EU boot-licking ilk.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge UK

  42. The Prangwizard
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    If May wished to lead us out of the EU we would be out by now. By not leading in that direction she allows space for and encourages opponents of Brexit and the EU to make all the running. She is a no doubt a ditherer by nature but in the case of the EU and Brexit it is by design.

    All the failures of direction and leadership start and finish at her desk. She is entirely unsuitable as PM at this crucial time. She is doing all she can to defeat the mandate from the people short of coming out and admitting it.

  43. English Pensioner
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    If these civil servants were running a company and negotiating contracts, the company would be broke within weeks. Probably that is why so many contracts that they negotiate with outside organisations end up in disaster.
    I had a man come to cut my lawns yesterday, he didn’t look at them and say “What will you pay?”, he named a price, take it or leave it. Why can’t our civil servants behave the same way, after all they are normally very dictatorial to the people of this country whom they are supposed to serve?

  44. David Cockburn
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Nelson said that English people should never negotiate with the French. Unless they had the Navy behind them.

    • margaret howard
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

      Is that why the French call England ‘Perfidious Albion’?

      • hefner
        Posted May 10, 2018 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        Originally, Albion, Alba, white refers to the cliffs of Dover seen from around Boulogne where the cliffs there are much more grey. Perfide, originally in writing from Bossuet was referring to “without faith” as he was considering Anglicanism wrt Catholicism.
        Then the perfidious bit (in its more modern meaning) got strengthened (as seen by the French) by a number of events, first of all by Henry V covering the killing of French prisoners and wounded after Azincourt (1415), then a number of war acts (without any official declaration of war) against various countries (mainly France but not only) in 1704, 1801, 1803, 1815, 1878.
        Only the so-called Entente Cordiale put (a bit of) a break on the use of this (in)famous expression.

  45. hefner
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I have a problem with “Legitimate requests … to decide who was entitled to UK benefits were turned down”. Benefits to newcomers vary quite a lot within EU countries. A number of countries make benefits available only to people in work. Some countries have higher benefits but more restricted conditions for obtaining them than the UK does. So I would like to know exactly when the EU prevented the UK from deciding on the amount of benefits in the UK and their conditions of attribution.
    A relatively old item on the BBC on 03/11/2014 would seem to indicate that these were matters for the UK to decide with relatively little input from the EU apart from a rather large framework. So is it not the problem of the UK and its companies if to live decently when one is simply lower or lower-middle class one has to rely on state benefits to provide a
    reasonable standard of living?

  46. Dan H.
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Quite apart from anything else, you must recognise what is going on in the wider EU at this time. Put simply, the entire Eurozone is a slow-motion car crash, as is much of the rest of the EU.

    Worse, there is absolutely nothing that the EU high command can do about it.

    What I think we are now seeing is a psychological thing called Displacement Behaviour. This happens where an animal or a person really, really wants to perform an action, but is prevented from doing so. Instead of just standing around looking annoyed, the person or animal just does any old thing, to try to satisfy the urge to do *something*.

    The Euro at present is artificially weak for Germany, the main EU money-source, and artificially too strong for every other country. This creates economic problems in every Eurozone country save Germany, which likes this arrangement quite a lot. The EU high command would like to fix the Euro so it actually works properly, but Germany won’t let them.

    There’re two sources for displacement behaviour right there: Forced inaction on sorting out the Eurozone, and being forced to kowtow to Germany at every significant point. The EU negotiators must therefore be feeling very frustrated indeed and will be taking this frustration out on the British, whom they probably view as traitors to the EU cause.

    The only way to put some sense into the entire discussion is to make a hard Brexit look like a distinct possibility. You have to have the stick present and visible for the carrot to look preferable when the target audience is feeling this frustrated and fractitious.

  47. A.Sedgwick
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    It should be inconceivable that we do not have a Conservative Party leadership challenge, a general election or another EU referendum with Mrs. May blundering on.

    • mike fowle
      Posted May 9, 2018 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      Why should we have another referendum? We had a major democratic exercise and voted to leave. That’s that. Any calls for another referendum should be treated with the utmost suspicion.

  48. Peter VAN LEEUWEN
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    “Taking back control” !
    It now seems that this “United” Kingdom isn’t even capable controlling its internal Brexit deliberations and preparations. Bye again!

    • Prigger
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      We’ll manage, literally.

    • Prigger
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 5:52 am | Permalink

      PS Stay clear of eggs

    • alan jutson
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 6:52 am | Permalink


      You are spot on with this comment !

      Many of us out here in the real World are simply bemused and disgusted with the incompetence of the leadership in all of the Parties in the UK, what a choice !

      Indeed all over the World the people are finding out that the present crop of politicians are for the most part absolutely useless, hence the rise of many alternative Parties which is not necessarily good news either, given some of the people behind them.

      Frustration is a danger in itself !

  49. Mark J
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    It is looking ever more likely that Brexit will be one of the biggest political “stitch ups” of all time.

    If Brexit is “reversed”, “watered down” or even “cancelled”, it will mark the day that true democracy in the UK died.

    It is now looking like politics in this country is largely being driven by the overly political left wing minority on social media. Also those that can’t accept defeat seem to think if they carry on long enough, things will eventually go their own way. This is not on.

    We had a democratic vote and the people decided. For some people to claim the referendum result was not democratic is idiotic – and only driven by their annoyance that remain did not win.

    The way things are nowadays, I strongly expect the next General Election result to be legally challenged and overturned because the result won’t suit some.

    To conclude, what do we have to do to get the Brexit as originally promised by the Government? It is an question we would all like to know the answer to!

  50. Jagman84
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Brexit requires little or no negotiation. Any trading terms are a separate issue and the former should never be a hostage to the latter. We should be telling them how we will conduct ourselves post March 2019, but with regard to WTO constraints.

  51. agricola
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Having watched PMQs it is obvious that neither the government nor the opposition have a clear policy, agenda, or plan on the future trade arrangements between the UK and the EU. This lack of clarity, combined with the fifth column in the H o L, must be seen as an absolute godsend to Barnier and his team. Were the EU to pay serious attention to any of the nonsense coming out of Westminster ,they would open the door to many EU countries who at present sit on the touchline awaiting developments before formulating their own exit plans. Forget the term customs in any of it’s manifestations because it is not what the UK electorate voted for. We voted out with two clear options. A duty free trade treaty or a reversion to WTO rules, neither of which pose any problem to the exchange of trade information electronically. Mrs May really needs to get a grip, she has been kicking the can down the road for too long.

  52. Dennis Zoff
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Permalink


    Simple….May/Hammond; move to WTO immediately; without the usual Government dilly-dallying!

  53. Rien Huizer
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    The simple (apparent) fact is that the UK has failed to internally agree on what it wants going forward. This while the EU has made it abundantly clear that moving too far away from exiting templates (Norway, Canada, Turkey etc) may be what the UK would like to have but the EU is unable to offer without a very lengthy and risky consensus building effort that would involve at least all of the political bodies involved in CETA. If the arrangement would be highly bespoke there would be two serious questions: (I) does it have a chance of being approved by the EU members, the Parliament and thir d country stakeholders (and would it be WTO compliant?) and (2) is a politically divided UK (even with your group in a “tiny minority” according to one of your fellow Conservative parliamentarians) capable of making a deal that counterparts would be able to rely on with the confidence that a few years down the road another internal UK movement produces discontent that the government feels bound to accommodate.

    I believe the latter may well be the crucial point.

    So , yes, your favored outcome is still possible, despite the harm it would do to industry. Your belief in the pie in the WTO sky must be very strong.

  54. Earlybird
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Why talk about negotiating with the EU..we are going to leave anyway and that is what we voted for and not to rejoin again in some way. Very probably the talks will collapse anyway in June and we’ll have a new PM and from then on unless there is a change of government, which is unlikely by October, we will know that we are leaving march 2019 and with no new deal or no transition in that is what we should be preparing for now and not wasting our time with these is not rocket science..the EU commission and parliament is never going to negotiate in a real way with a government led by Rees-Mogg or Boris so now we have to look to Liam Fox instead and what he is planning for the future

  55. Iain Gill
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Cannot be as hard as it is for a British citizen to negotiate with the various arms of the state we have to deal with….

    Cannot move house as would result in child being allocated a “requires improvement” school

    Cannot move house as would result in family member being put to the back of NHS waits again

    So much for workforce mobility the country apparently needs

    etc lol

    In the case of UK v EU we should simply tell them what we want, if they dont like it go over to world trade rules, no further discussion, stop messing around, and stop committing to allowing infinite numbers of people from the new EU states to be allowed to settle here

    • Fedupsoutherner
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      Agree Iain. We are now being told that people from outside the EU with critically needed qualifications in treating cancer are not having their visas renewed while we let in all and sundry from the EU with in some cases attributes that are not required. We need a sensible immigration policy in place after Brexit similar and strict like they have in New Zealand.

  56. Tabulazero
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Same old, Same old.

    Frankly, the EU is pretty much indifferent to the UK leaving. It’s rather about making sure that the UK is not leaving with the family silverware on its way out.

    The EU is not being unhelpful. It is simply unwilling to throw the rulebook out of the window to please the wing of the Conservative party that has made leaving the EU their lifework.

    • Original Richard
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      “Frankly, the EU is pretty much indifferent to the UK leaving. It’s rather about making sure that the UK is not leaving with the family silverware on its way out.”

      Quite the reverse.

      If the EU were “indifferent” they would not be weaponising the NI/Eire border and, given that there exists already a border for different rates of VAT, Excise duty and corporation tax as well as different laws applying in the two countries, a solution would be found to include different import duties.

      Rather they are very unhappy to be losing a large net contributor to their budget and, far more importantly, control over our country.

      They know they can do far more damage to the UK whilst it is inside the EU and subject to their laws, rules and regulations than they can possibly achieve against a UK free to make its own laws, monetary and trade decisions and one that is able to attend international regulatory meetings in its own right.

  57. L Jones
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    ”Are there any voices in the civil service close to the PM telling her that….?”

    Why does she need telling? If she can’t see these things for herself without relying on some civil servant to put thoughts into her head, then she certainly ISN’T the PM we want or need. I hate to see the Tory party losing credibility like this.

    Why should a change of leadership jeopardise Brexit in any way? As Brexit IS going to happen, surely the question is how and when, and if we can avoid being abused and harassed by the EU and its greedy demands. If a different leader can achieve a better result, why not choose one that can do the job?

  58. Helen Smith
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    My son is moving house and has found one he likes. Not buying it is not an option so he has informed the vendor that he will buy it whatever the survey says and at whatever price the vendor sets. He has put his place on the market and will take whatever he is offered for it, if it comes to it he will pay someone to take it if his hands.

    He is copying May’s Brexit negotiations strategy.

  59. Jacey
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    A constitutional crisis beckons.

  60. Edwardm
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    You make your points above with calm understatement. One does not have to be a negotiator to see that Mrs May has no bottom line and a willingness to appease the EU, at best she is inept and muddled, and neither is David Davis very strong.
    Anyone who puts the UK first would take a strong line and hold their ground with the EU. With a strong line we would already have arrived at a clean outcome, no-deal, unless the EU had changed its arrogant stance (unlikely).
    Instead a brazen betrayal is being perpetrated on us, aided by the disloyalty of the Labour party and those Lords who are mainly appointed and non-conservative.

  61. Chris
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Theresa May has no intention of delivering Brexit, and I believe she never has had. She needs to be removed asap, and if it means an election as well, so be it. A pro Brexit, true conservative leader (not the left of centre/cultural Marxist leaning Theresa May) who is his own boss, and who is principled and courageous could win hands down. Conservative MPs who value democracy and who have the guts to uphold democracy should act now, and swiftly. What Theresa May has done with regard to Brexit is, in my view, unforgiveable and she has damned the Conservative Party in the process. You all look very weak and unprincipled and apparently prepared to sell out our country. What a legacy.

  62. Bob
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    @Mr Redwood
    I predicted that Mrs May would try to fudge Brexit, at it looks like I was right all along.
    If the Tories were serious about honouring the referendum vote they would not have put a Remainer in charge. It’s pretty obvious.

  63. Lima Bravo
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    Could you tell us how many times in those 21 meetings you managed to persuade anyone to support your view rather than the view they brought into the meeting

  64. duncan
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    The real question is which Tory MPs voted today to restrict the ability of the press to investigate the unaccountable now residing in Parliament?

    Shame on any MP who voted in favour of Watson’s amendment…

    They are a disgrace to our country and a threat to our freedoms

    Remember you derive your authority from the people

  65. Blue and Gold
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    The thing that affects the every day life of UK citizens has nothing to do with the EU, but local issues, ie has the bin been emptied, have the potholes been filled in, can I park the car near the shops and has the fee been increased. Is our hospital going to be closed or has the care it offers been moved elsewhere.

    Due to underfunding by the Government, (the NHS was of course the premier issue from Project Lies from the Vote Leave camp), the ordinary citizen , unable to afford health insurance, suffers.

    What the consequences of leaving the single market and the customs union really meant was not discussed in full during the Referendum, but of course everyone knows a lot more about it now. For people like myself who care about this country and worry about the smooth business, trade and flow of the market, why try and fix something when it isn’t broken?

    Being in the EU has made the UK a wealthy nation. It will take years and years for this country to get back on it’s feet, especially as we will be held ‘hostage’ by other countries with them knowing we will be absolutely desperate for trade.

    France is a forward thinking country with a young, intelligent President. We are a backward nation clinging to former times. It is very sad that contributors on this site have such ghastly ‘Little Englander’ views. Three cheers for Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry.

    • Edward2
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

      Leaving is the exciting option.
      Joining the rest of the world.
      Free again.
      An independent nation once more.

      • margaret howard
        Posted May 12, 2018 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        USA! USA! USA!

  66. PJS
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    This is all very well, but what can we, the electorate, do about it? We did our bit when we voted. Now all we can do is sit back in impotent rage while we watch a government whose members are either being fraudulent or do not have the sense they were born with. You, on the other hand, are in a position to do something about it, by helping to give Mrs May the order of the boot. I hope you are.

  67. PrezleB
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Supporters of brexit must realize by now that Trump is nuts..

    So where to look for our new deals now,..certainly not the US for the moment but maybe Oz and NZ.. time is getting short now until march 2019 so we should be realistic and get busy making arrangements for the future- we can forget about a transition deal with the’s just not going to happen now.

  68. DrakeB
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Things must not be going well with the negotiations😨 if the think tank thinks it necessary to wheel out Bill Cash..

  69. margaret howard
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    “He thought Germany would help him, but Germany saw little need to and felt the UK with an opt out from the Euro and Schengen already had enough special treatment”

    You hit the nail on the head.

    All EU members were sick and tired of Britain constantly demanding opt outs and special treatment for no other reason than ‘well it’s us, we deserve it’.

    Considering that Britain begged to be allowed to join the EU and despite de Gaulle’s repeated ‘NON’ were backed by Germany, they expected a bit of gratitude rather than this constant self entitlement.

    • mike fowle
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      Margaret, what a travesty of the truth. Britain often criticised and opposed EU measures, but on thoughtfully argued grounds. Who believes that throwing dead fish back in the sea is a good way to conserve fish stocks, or that paying farmers not to grow crops is a sensible agricultural policy, or to turn every trader into a tax collector and refunder (VAT) is sensible? But despite our objections invariably these measures and more were passed. But – here’s the thing – once they were, we obeyed them because this is a law abiding country. Many of our fellow EU countries simply ignored measures they did not like. We also of course are one of the highest contributors to the EU budget.

    • mancunius
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      “constantly demanding opt outs and special treatment”

      A perennial whinge of the continental press – but unjustified. Other EU countries also have opt-outs from Schengen and the euro. The Germans have a constant opt-out from the true costs of their exports, by using an undervalued deutschmark – which is essentially what the euro is. They tend to notice that little or not at all – nor do they express any ‘gratitude’ for the rest of Europe helping to pay over the years for Germany’s reunification.

      The rebate of some of the UK’s VAT contribution to the EU came about because we mainly paid it, and it mainly went towards subsidising the CAP, from which we had and have no structural advantage. Blair later conceded some of the UK rebate back on the agreed condition that the CAP was reformed – but that agreement was welched on, as the French insisted on their ‘special’ right to continue to impose an unreformed CAP on the EU.

      If you want to see gratitude, Margaret, you need to get a dog.

    • Tabulazero
      Posted May 11, 2018 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      The EU is probably better with the UK out. Less money but also less disruption.

  70. Turboterrier.
    Posted May 9, 2018 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    How to negotiate?

    Easy. Smile sweetly stand up and say thank you and walk out of the door. The EU is just biding its time waiting for the UK to tear itself apart and all the time we have the Hammond, Clarke , Soubry and all the others knifing us all in the back for whatever reason they use to justify their actions it will happen. We do not have a leader or people in the key positions to change anything.

    When you arrive back to the UK invoke the biggest clear out of these people from Westminster and our party. They are neither use or ornament. The rest of the world cannot believe what is being allowed to happen.

  71. mancunius
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    And now the Lords has dictated today that we shall remain in the EEA, defying the whips of both Con and Lab parties, in a cross-party conspiracy with europhile MPs who have been set the task of supporting the rebel amendments when the bill returns to the HoC.

    This is cannot be allowed to stand.

    • Turboterrier.
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 7:27 am | Permalink


      I see that the poll to have a referendum to get rid of the HoL has gone over 350k and will be debated in June. Enough is enough the whole face of British politics has got to be changed and bought into the 21st century. The HoL is well past it sell by date and has to go and its successor be made more accountable to the British people.

      It is high time that the changes that are desperately needed are instigated forthwith as highlighted by the present state of affairs within the party and the cabinet. Change is never easy but it has to happen and we need a night of the long knives to get us in a position to give the people what they voted for. The stalking horses need to be taken from the stables for exercise much sooner than later.

    • Toffolo
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      It is the will of parliament. It is what you brexiters fought for.

      • mancunius
        Posted May 10, 2018 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

        No we did not vote for a dynastic dictatorship of hypocritical MPs breaching their election pledges, and unelected peers.

        The UK majority voted to leave the EU, not for self-indulgent parliamentarians to conspire with each other to bring about a result the majority oppose.
        If May had behaved before the 2017 election as she does now, the Tories would have lost.
        If Corbyn and the Labour front bench had had the policies then that they have opportunistically switched to after the election, Ukip would have had its due vote.

        This corrupt parliamentary conspiracy, this scheming stitch-up, cannot and shall not stand.

        • hefner
          Posted May 11, 2018 at 10:05 am | Permalink

          “UKIP would have had its due vote”: Really? with FPTP as a voting system? Even Farage has never been able to be elected to the HoC. If he is a MEP, it is thanks to a less biased and more representative voting system.

    • nigel seymour
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      The problem may well be that we don’t have a ‘written’ constitution – a bit like non binding referendums . Both Farage and Miller agree on this. We need to bring ourselves into the political 21 century and remove any ambiguity when 17.4 million cast their vote and then be told they have no intelligence, didn’t understand the EU,EEA,EFTA,CU,SM,TAKING BACK CONTROL,MANAGED IMMIGRATION, MORE AND MORE EU, NO SOVEREIGNTY, POLITICAL UNION, EU ARMY WITH UK PLAYING AND PAYING A MAJOR PART,

      Anything I’ve missed?

  72. Paul Cohen
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    The general tone of the responses to this site is getting despondent and for good reason!

    We are near a consensus for “No confidence” with the May team.

  73. Norman
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    When I see the frivolous, tabloid content of the BBC website everyday, and the antics of many of our Parliamentarians, I see so clearly the truth of the saying, ‘The people without a vision shall perish’. There is a vision, and there is a script, but right now, we are no longer following it. What will it take to change this? That is the question of the hour, and upon which our fate hangs, both individually and corporately.

  74. nigel seymour
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    In keeping with my approach to business – keep it simple, just like a little toddler does when the great big adult attempts to explain something…
    So, The gov has to step up and as Lawson said TM needs to show real leadership not just ‘Brexit means Brexit’. That’s now very stale and plays into the hands of ultra remainers who are slowly but surely getting their ‘messages’ across.
    * It seems pretty clear now that parliament will decide whether or not we leave the EU and when?
    * It seems pretty clear now that the referendum is being undermined not by the people but unelected lords?
    * It seems the gov are now totally against a no deal scenario where we trade on WTO rules ?
    * It seems pretty clear that Labour have very little interest in Brexit per se and it’s sole objective is to divide and then gain power? Is this what labour voters both north and south really voted for?
    * God help this country if they succeed…


  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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