Simon Usherwood Profile picture
Mar 3, 2018 31 tweets 5 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
The morning after the day before thread on #RoadToBrexit speech:

Circumstance meant I didn't get to indulge in the tweet-fest y'day afternoon, so I'm making a virtue of that and reflect on the impression w a bit more distance

Run-up: this differed from Lancaster Hse or Florence in that there was less run-up (in time), but lots more associated activity.

This meant lots of speeches from Cab Mins, after Cabinet discussion. Before, May has worked w v.sml circle, so this opening up is notable

Reflects how things have moved on in Art.50 negots, in May's authority, and in need to keep ppl involved

Timing: still think the timing stinks. Yes, it's before March #EUCO, so imp to set out a view, but letting everyone else get their view in wasn't helpful

Even the @Sime0nStylites view - that going last in this round means she can mop up the bits - didn't really happen: didn't read anything in text that cldn't have been said a month ago

Location: in passing, I'll note that this was speech most directed to EU, so ironic to do it in UK, when Florence was so UK-focused. Makes me think fancy locations shld be saved for exceedingly obvious situations

Content: this is the big one. And for once, there was content to consider

As several have noted, in content terms, this shld have been made a year or more ago. Mapping out basic compromises and indicating areas of activity wld have informed agenda

However, still a lot of waffle. Of the five tests, the only one w any meaning is the first and even that only to extent that UK shld leave the EU (not on what terms)

Tests are a popular trope, because pretty much any outcome can be fitted to them, so politicians can tick off a big box at the end. But they offer no help during the process

However, on substance, we're seeing a bit of a collapse of red lines into a more coherent whole.

Key one is still ECJ, but there's now recognition (and communication) that to be part of any part of EU activity means exposure to ECJ

Of course, calls for sectoral work has fingerprints of Cab colleagues adding stuff in, ironically helping May to advance the soft Brexit agenda she seems to want

And for me, that's the big message: reading speech cold, the position is to make as close as possible

This has been an emergent thread of recent weeks: the potential to diverge, rather than actual divergence

Might be that No.10 think this is way to square circle of leaving without too much disruption

But as with much clever-clever thinking it ignores the elephant in the room: the EU

As several of you have already replied to comment, it's all well & good May saying what she wants, but Art.50 is also (indeed, more) about want EU wants

Reaction so far has been polite, rather than enthused. It's nice to have some detail, but it's still a long way from enough

Particular points of concern exist:

- Ireland was only briefly mentioned, w no substantive ideas and language that wasn't as robust as before. For a gvt trying to avoid Option C, that's odd

- role of ECJ remains v.confused. The impression is of a UK Gvt caught in a big semantic trap and looking for some fig-leaf mechanism (to which EU will respond: why bother w a fig-leaf?)

- the 3 baskets thing still doesn't fly. EU cld help on this by saying that it means lots of interlocked blocks of legislation (stop 1 bit of FoM means losing the whole thing), but frankly it runs so counter to structure of EU work that, again, why go down that road?

Remember that EU is currently finalising Phase 2 mandate for #EUCO. EU27 also haven't got far in their thinking on final state, so upshot might be to be vague

And this is final point. End-state is a bit of a distraction

For Art.50 purposes, key priority is transition: get to March 19 w a deal and a framework in which end-state negotiations can run while things tick over

HMG is very much not kicking the sleeping dog of transition (nor are EU27), as getting that tied down in March #EUCO is vital task

No.10 might well be happy to take heat on end-state if it allows getting to transition deal. There's less time pressure there

So, to pull it all together.

#RoadToBrexit was at lower end of what it cld have contained, but generally a step towards a more mature negotiating position by UK. Proof will be in whether it carries over to mvt w EU for March #EUCO


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More from @Usherwood

Oct 9, 2018
While I kick my heels for a meeting, let's think about Brexit and inevitability:

Let's start off by noting that I'm not a big one for inevitability, in any political situation

It's a throwing up of the hands and submitting to forces beyond our control: 'there's nothing to be done'

Personally, I think there's always something to be done

Read 18 tweets
Oct 8, 2018
So, what to make of today?

Over the weekend, lots of +ve optics and warm words, to get mvt from the conference-season slump

But lots of reining in during the day

Partly, it's sensible expectation mgt: one might have had the impression that suddenly everything was hunky-dory and the work of a moment

Read 13 tweets
Oct 5, 2018
Possibly more for me than for you, let's try to pull this week together a bit:

Let's start with the EU side

Having largely kept heads down during conference season, yesterday's Tusk/Varadkar presser demonstrated that EU is keeping the pressure on

The tension seems to be between COM/EUCO and IE, as @pmdfoster explained well yesterday: IE making conciliatory noises, central EU bodies pushing EU integrity line

Read 17 tweets
Oct 4, 2018
Let's just work through this one, given the attention it's getting
By taking the CON rebels' terminology, Tusk is making a point

But what point?
As we know from the infamous Barnier Steps, the EU offer is conditioned on UK red lines as much as anything

Read 8 tweets
Oct 4, 2018
Interesting to see how it's just as UK debate sits down for a bit on Brexit, to recover from conference season, negotiations w EU step up
If past fortnight has been about domestic management, then coming fortnight will be about UK working w EU to find ways to get mvt on WA/PD
Because of that hiatus after Salzburg, there's now v.little time left to achieve mvt in time for Oct #EUCO, hence the rush now
Read 11 tweets
Oct 3, 2018
So, the CON party conference and Brexit:

Back in Sept, there was much talk about this being a crunch point in the UK debate, as May would come under fire for Chequers and there would be scope for changes/realignments/whatever

Certainly that first bit has happened, with numerous op-eds over the weekend and assorted fringe events (inc. yesterday's Johnson speech)

Read 15 tweets

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