Barely a year on, a decent chunk of that optimism has turned to frustration and agitation. Despite the fact Johnson has taken the UK out of the European Union and won a landslide election victory, there is fear the Prime Minister’s desire to end the Brexit story on a personal note of triumph is clouding his thinking.
In prepared remarks sent out prior to a speech Johnson is expected to give ahead of round 8 of EU negotiations which start on Tuesday, the Prime Minister called for an agreement with Europe by 15 October. “There is no sense in thinking about timelines that go beyond that point. If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on,” said Johnson.
However, some Euroskeptics are concerned that Johnson is laying the ground for concessions to get a last-minute deal that he can claim as a great victory, avoiding the economic fallout of a no-deal cliff edge. Others worry that recent ruptures are theater, designed to make any agreement appear such a feat of diplomacy it eclipses any concessions.
There is some basis for this fear. Johnson’s previous deal with the EU came after months of declaring that he would either renegotiate May’s deal or leave the EU without one. The clock ticked as no progress was made on the former; the latter seemed inevitable. Suddenly, a deal was reached in Brussels just 14 days before the no-deal deadline — a deal that looked an awful lot like the one struck by May that many Euroskeptics, including Johnson, hated and voted against.
Johnson’s moveable position on Brexit mattered less at the time, as this deal only covered how the UK would leave the EU, not the more permanent future relationship. The fact Johnson held his nerve and stood up to Brussels was enough evidence for many Euroskeptics that he’d do the same later on.
People who have recently worked in government can see how this outcome might become reality. David Davis, a long-standing Brexiteer and the UK’s former Brexit secretary, thinks there are “three options which are equally likely”: no deal, lots of micro deals and a free trade agreement. “If we are to arrive at option three, then there will need to be lots more of these public demands and counter demands to smooth the path to compromise.”
Tim Montgomerie, who previously worked as an adviser to Johnson, says “they like to be the people that pull a rabbit out of the hat at the last minute, which right now would suit them perfectly. They don’t run marathons, they run sprints, so don’t have much of a long-term strategy. This makes a last-minute compromise on Brexit that can be claimed as a victory an attractive prospect I think.”
And as Anand Menon, Professor of international politics at King’s College London says, “at the moment it really will look like a success if he gets any kind of deal, regardless of the content. It’s absolutely the case that talking the likelihood of no deal because of EU intransigence will make it look like Johnson has achieved the impossible.”
Members of Johnson’s Conservative party see why this approach might appeal, even if it annoys Brexit hardliners in his party. “There would be a row with the Brexiteer purists, but he would carry with him the great majority of Leave-supporting Tory MPs if he declares it a triumph. Not to mention many of the former Labour voters in the north who voted for Johnson in 2019, who are less purist than Conservative leavers,” said a recent Conservative cabinet minister.
This calculation that Johnson might see merit in a public Brexit triumph combined with minimal risk of backlash from his backbenchers is what sources say is spooking the Brexit hardliners who used to support him.
“Lots of MPs are expecting a huge concession in order to make a deal. They are reluctant to call out the government in public but are lobbying hard behind the scenes,” says a senior Conservative figure whose work in the party would be compromised by speaking on the record. “I think the government is talking up no deal to reassure hardliners they are being firm with Brussels so that when they do make a concession they have the benefit of the doubt.”
Unfortunately for the government, the hardest Brexiteers have been here before. “These things aren’t disguisable anymore. The government has set itself such a hardline on sovereignty, so I don’t see how they could pull a rabbit out the hat and expect us to be happy. We’ve all become experts on this stuff,” says another former cabinet minister who is currently lobbying the government on Brexit and didn’t wish to be named.
A third former Conservative cabinet minister and prominent Brexiteer said: “Many are sitting on small majorities that could be blown away by a perceived betrayal, probably focused on an event like a concession that blows up.”
Euroskeptics on edge
The word betrayal is important. Johnson has suffered waves of public criticism from Conservative MPs for economic decisions taken during the pandemic that on the surface don’t look very conservative. The third former minister went on to explain that some MPs “are very worried at not knowing what’s going on in the Prime Minister’s head,” and that many are “assuming he is going to try and spend his way out of trouble” in order to appeal to his new voters, rather than the traditional conservative base. They added that this perceived willingness to move from the base on economic matters was putting long-standing Euroskeptics on edge.
When CNN approached a long-standing Brexit campaigner to ask about any perceived betrayal, they exploded: “I don’t care what other MPs are saying and I don’t see why that has given you journalists reason to speculate. People voted leave in order to take back control and the Prime Minister has been clear that is what we will do. I have nothing more to say on the matter,” before hanging up.
The senior conservative figure explained that such frustration with journalists asking questions of a perceived Brexit betrayal might be because this faction suspects if Johnson does make a concession and sell it as a triumph, there is little they can do about it. “If you’re part of the hardcore, what do you do when it comes to parliament? You could vote against it, but then you risk having the whip removed and forced to sit on the outside post-Brexit. Ultimately, it’s probably better to be part of the happy ending and say that you were on the right side of history rather than a ‘Debbie downer,’ no matter how much you hate the deal.”
This might be wishful thinking. Johnson’s former foe, Nigel Farage, wrote recently that any final deal will not be the “true freedom” that he’d dreamed of. And history tells us that Farage is very effective at mopping up angry voters, forming a powerful political movement and hurting the Conservatives badly.
There is still a long way to go before Brexit concludes. The EU thinks a deal needs to be agreed by mid-October in order for it to be ratified in time for December 31, which gives Johnson plenty of time to be convinced one way or the other.
It’s worth noting that Downing Street dismisses these claims as speculation, despite difficulties with talks. A senior advisor to the Prime Minister said: “We are serious about leaving without a deal. We aren’t bluffing. If the EU don’t take a more realistic approach to the issues of state aid and fisheries then we will have to leave on Australia terms. They are insisting on us replicating current rules which are at odds with our status as an Independent nation.”
And there are plenty of Conservative MPs who say that when it comes to Brexit, their leader will act in the best interest of the UK, whether he reaches a deal with Brussels or not.
However, as Johnson’s inner circle becomes tighter and his strategy more secret — as tends to happen when negotiations reach a crescendo — the coming weeks could be very uncomfortable for those former Johnson loyalists who’ve long dreamed of true independence.
Judge tosses lawsuit challenging DeVos’ sexual misconduct rule for schools, colleges
Background: The ruling comes as a major victory for DeVos, whose Title IX policies will be a key part of her legacy as secretary. She has said the rule officially codifies protections to hold schools accountable by ensuring survivors are not brushed aside and no student’s guilt is predetermined.
The ACLU had charged that DeVos’ Title IX rule, which took effect in August, violated the Administrative Procedure Act because the provisions “were arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion.” The lawsuit had sought to vacate the rule.
On behalf of four plaintiffs, the ACLU argued that the rule will reduce the number of sexual assault and harassment complaints requiring a response from schools.
The lawsuit took aim at the rule’s definition of sexual harassment, as well as provisions that allow institutions to use a “clear and convincing evidence standard.” The groups that brought the lawsuit also take issue with the fact that DeVos’ rule only holds institutions accountable under Title IX for “deliberate indifference” and only requires a school or school official to respond to sexual harassment if there is “actual knowledge.”
Other legal challenges: The lawsuit was one of four ongoing cases challenging the Title IX rule. The other three are still pending but have been largely unsuccessful. All argue that the Education Department violated the law with its new rule by acting beyond its authority, and that the rule is arbitrary and capricious.
A circuit court judge in the District of Columbia denied a request from attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia to stop the new rule and to block it as legal action continues. Another judge also denied a motion to block the rule from taking effect in New York while the litigation is ongoing. Southern District of New York Judge John G. Koeltl said state officials failed to show they are likely to win in their argument that the Trump administration acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” when it finalized its rule.
Labour Will Force A Commons Vote Over A “Fair Deal” For Areas Facing The Harshest Lockdown Restrictions
5 min read
Labour are set to force a Commons vote on Wednesday demanding a “fair deal” for regions which are facing new lockdown restrictions.
The vote will ask MPs to agree that ministers should publish a “clear and fair national criteria for financial support for jobs and businesses” in those facing the highest level of restrictions.
It comes after Number 10 scrambled to reassure politicians in Greater Manchester that a £60m financial settlement is still on the table after Boris Johnson said the region was going into a Tier 3 lockdown with no deal in place.
The government has so far only agreed to hand over an extra £22million for helping with track and trace and enhanced enforcement of the restrictive rules, which will shut pubs, gyms, casinos and soft play centres.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick is understood to be set to approach each local council in Greater Manchester tomorrow to hammer out a package individually after talks with the metro mayor Andy Burnham collapsed today.
MPs had reacted with fury to the news their constituencies will face the toughest coronavirus restrictions for at least a month without extra economic support.
The news was set out on a call with the health secretary Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson’s senior adviser Sir Edward Lister, shortly after Mr Burnham gave a press conference saying Downing Street was unwilling to offer enough support for businesses and employees.
One of those MPs on the line, Labour’s Andrew Gwynne, told PoliticsHome: “Does the government really hate Greater Manchester that much, that they acknowledge that we have a need for support, then dangle what we would say is insufficient, though not an insubstantial amount of money in front of us, and then withdraw it completely?”
The Denton MP said Mr Hancock was repeatedly asked about any additional money to help businesses but obfuscated, however it was Sir Edward who came on the call at the end and delivered the “cup of cold sick” news that Greater Manchester was not getting anything more.
“The government agreed there was a case for support but don’t agree with what that amount should be. This is an atrocious way to treat businesses and people’s livelihoods,” said Gwynne.
Other Labour MPs, including shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy, also expressed their anger on social media.
In ten years in Parliament I’ve never seen anything like this. MPs are on a call with the Health Secretary being told Greater Manchester is getting only £22m while our Mayor is at a press conference being told by the media. This is bad faith, it’s immoral – just disgraceful
— Lisa Nandy (@lisanandy) October 20, 2020
But updating MPs on the plans, Mr Hancock said the £60m support package for the region remained “on the table”.
“Over the last 10 days we’ve sought to reach agreement with local leaders and unfortunately we were not able to reach an agreement,” he said.
“As well as the support we’ve outlined we’ve made a generous and extensive offer to support Manchester’s businesses.
“This offer was proportionate to the offer we’ve given Lancashire and the Liverpool city region but unfortunately the Mayor rejected it.
“That offer remains on the table. Our door is open to further discussions with local leaders in the coming days about business support.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said people in Greater Manchester “will be watching the news in disbelief”.
“They will be asking why was it right to cover 80 per cent of wages in March and just two-thirds of their wages in October,” he said.
“What happened to that Chancellor who plastered across social media soft focus selfies of himself boasting he would do whatever it takes?
“That Chancellor is forcing people on the national minimum wage to live on just £5.76 an hour. From ‘whatever it takes’ to taking from the lowest paid.
“Where is the Chancellor? He should be here to defend the consequences of his decisions that will mean a winter of hardship across the North.”
And he insisted the civic leaders had been “willing to compromise” over the level of financial support.
“Rather than finding the £5 million extra, the Prime Minister pulled the plug on negotiations and then took £38 million off the table,” he said.
“What a petty, vindictive, cowardly response. The Prime Minister may think he’s punishing the politicians, in fact he’s punishing the people.”
He added: “This isn’t a game, it’s about people’s lives. People need proper financial support. This is a national crisis and we won’t defeat this virus on the cheap.”
Meanwhile, in a statement following the announcement, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said ministers had treated local communities with “contempt”.
“This is not just a matter of fairness for people in Greater Manchester, but for people across the country who could find themselves in Tier 3 in the weeks ahead,” he said.
“Families and businesses will be deeply anxious that they might not be able to make ends meet under the Government’s wholly inadequate proposals.
“The Prime Minister and the Chancellor need to make good on their commitment to the British people to do whatever it takes to help us through this pandemic…
“I would urge all Conservative MPs, particularly those in areas of the country that are most affected by this, to vote with us tomorrow and force the Government’s hand.”
The Countdown: Tiffany Trump trends and two rivals show love
With 14 days to go, Mr Trump heads to Pennsylvania for another rally, while his daughter’s slip-up at a Republican gay pride event is getting attention. In Utah, a Republican and a Democrat do something together that you would never expect.
Two pictures, two tight races
Although the polls show Joe Biden ahead nationally, it’s how things turn out in a few crucial states that will really count.
1. Florida, a must-win state
Slightly more registered Republicans than Democrats turned out to vote early in Florida, according to state data just released. In other early voting states, we have seen the opposite trend.
2. Pennsylvania, holding on to the working-class vote
Donald Trump heads to Pennsylvania for his third visit to Erie, where he will be trying to hold on to white working-class voters he won over last time – he will know that Joe Biden paid the city a visit just 10 days ago and has just released a statement saying the jobs promised by Mr Trump at the last election have not materialised.
Tiffany is trending after an LGBT event
Our reporter Holly Honderich explains why people are talking about her:
The president’s youngest and lesser-known daughter is being ridiculed online after a video of her speaking at a recent Trump campaign Pride event was posted online.
“I know what my father believes in,” Ms Trump says to a modest crowd. “Prior to politics he [President Trump], supported gays, lesbians, the LGBQI… IA+ community.”
Critics have pointed out that she forgot to include the “T” in the acronym – which stands for trans – and they have used that to point to the rollback of LGBT protections by her father’s administration.
For example, though President Trump rarely comments publicly on LGBTQ issues, he has banned trans people from serving in the military, and revoked an Obama-era measure protecting trans students in public schools.
Being in the spotlight is a change for Tiffany, the only child from Mr Trump’s second marriage to actress Marla Maples, and she is not usually thought to be close to her father.
Commentators noted that Tiffany’s speech at the Republican National Convention in August lacked personal anecdotes about her father, instead offering up a more formal endorsement of his policies.
Democrat and Republican rivals: ‘We don’t need to hate each other’
Two candidates in the elections are getting noticed for being friendly and united in what has generally been a very bitter election.
They are Democrat Chris Peterson and his Republican opponent, Lt Governor Spencer Cox, both running to be Utah’s governor, and they have released a series of ads to show that it is possible work well across the divide.
I’d like to thank @SpencerJCox for joining together to record these PSAs. With the deep divisions in our country, it can take grace and courage to try to work together. No matter who wins the presidential election, we must all commit to a peaceful transfer of power. #standunited https://t.co/VwZdClfqdO
— Peterson for Utah (@PetersonUtah) October 20, 2020
“There are some things we both agree on,” Mr Cox says. “We can disagree without hating each other.”
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