ERG set to endorse Johnson’s Brexit deal, but not its truncated Parliamentary scrutiny

“MPs will vote on the deal on Wednesday. But members of the European Research Group of Brexiteers demanded that a binding vote be delayed for three weeks to allow full scrutiny of a treaty that will define relations for decades. The ERG’s “star chamber” of experts will declare by Tuesday whether it backs the deal. One leading light said members had not yet found any “absolute horrors”. Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, said the group’s lawyers were “far better than anything the government has got”. …He added: “We had 25 days of debate on the Maastricht treaty.” – Sunday Times

  • ERG Star Chamber includes Cash, Martin Howe, Jones – Sunday Express
  • Davis says one day’s debate on the Treaty isn’t enough – Observer

The Prime Minister says that we must now seize the opportunities of Brexit

“Boris Johnson has vowed to break free from EU rules and regulations in the new year as he declares it is “up to us now to seize the opportunities” of Brexit. The Prime Minister told The Telegraph that “big” changes are coming as he seeks to use the country’s new “legislative and regulatory freedoms to deliver for people who felt left behind”.  Mr Johnson said a “great Government effort has gone into compiling” post-Brexit policies as he listed animal welfare regulations, data and chemicals as areas where the UK could diverge from Brussels, in addition to plans for low tax “freeports” and abolishing the tampon tax.” – Sunday Telegraph

Starmer backs the Agreement (but faces front bench resignations)…

“The Labour leader faces a front bench revolt after he told them to back the Government’s deal when it comes to a vote next Wednesday. The Labour leader said on Christmas Eve he will assent to Boris Johnson’s historic deal even though he expressed doubts over the agreement. He said it was a ‘thin deal’ that will not protect many industries including British manufacturing, financial services, the creative arts and workplace rights. But he acknowledged a no deal scenario would be worse for Britain.Responding to the Prime Minister’s announcement of a deal being reached with the EU, Sir Keir said: ‘It is not the deal that the Government promised – far from it.’  ‘A better deal could have been negotiated. But I accept that option has now gone.'” – Mail on Sunday

…But the fishermen to do not (and describe the deal as a betrayal)

“Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), led the charge against the deal and said the fishing industry had been betrayed. He said: “Lacking legal, moral, or political negotiating leverage on fish, the EU made the whole trade deal contingent on a UK surrender on fisheries. “In the endgame, the prime minister made the call and caved in on fish, despite the rhetoric and assurances that he would not do what Ted Heath did in 1973.” Mr Deas did concede the Government was successful in “having fought off EU’s attempts to tie the UK back into common fisheries policy-like arrangements”, but also said the agreement “will inevitably be seen by the fishing industry as a defeat”.” – Sunday Express

Tim Shipman: how the deal was done

Adopting an antipodean twang and saying, “Australia is a beautiful country” seemed to be getting Johnson nowhere. He then spoke to the German in her own tongue: “Viel hummer, kein hammer” (“lots of lobster, no hammer”). One of those listening said Johnson also sought to explain the problem with reference to the surreal cartoons in one of Britain’s best-known sketch comedy shows. “We can’t have this Monty Python situation, where we are trapped in the car with a giant hammer outside the gates to clobber us every time we drive out.” This was met with silence and then, “OK, thank you, Boris.”

The Prime Minister’s negotiating ploys:

  • Monty Python jokes
  • Pulp Fiction references
  • Frost told the team that the UK must be a leader and not a mouse
  • The madman strategy and breaking international law
  • “With a gentleman, a gentleman and a half. With a pirate, a pirate and a half” – Bismarck (via Cummings)

What happened during the talks and before:

  • Von der Leyen lost on the line during fish haggle
  • Barnier’s meltdown over sovereignty
  • Oliver “Sonic” Lewis’ crucial freedom clause
  • Cars and fish
  • Johnson said May “can’t take a decision” – Sunday Times

Charles Moore: This looks like the Real Deal

“We all know that EU small print can come, over time, to bulk very large indeed. But, but, but – I think that the Leave cause has now won (or, at least, we will have won once Parliament approves the deal next week). It has not won on everything, nor as swiftly we hoped in 2016. But the victory is real. You can see this in the reaction of the Remainers. Their crazy rage against Boris Johnson, which goes right back to the referendum itself, had persuaded many of them that he was going for no deal, whatever the cost. In fact, no deal was only his last resort – the backstop necessary for any successful negotiation.” – Charles Moore

> Today

Johnson mulls a third lockdown as Oxford vaccine approval expected

“No10 officials are considering the prospect of a further lockdown next month as millions wake today under tough Tier 4 restrictions. In a letter seen by The Sun thanking Whitehall chiefs for their service this year, Mr Johnson said only a “colossal effort” had averted a potential disaster. He said fighting the virus has meant “some of the toughest decisions — indeed Solomonic judgments — that any of us have ever had to take.” Solomon, the Old Testament King of Israel, was renowned for his God-given wisdom. It follows a series of tough decisions by the PM, the latest sparked by a jump in cases caused by the new mutant Covid. He had wanted a five-day relaxation of social restrictions so people could meet indoors at Christmas but was forced into the “very tough” call to axe it to one day amid fears get-togethers would see infections rocket further.” – Sun on Sunday

…As Williamson battles to keep schools open

“Officials from Number 10 and the Department for Education are understood to be preparing to hold a crunch meeting Monday after scientists warned that closures may be necessary to slow the spread of the new Covid-19 variant. It follows reports that the department is fighting to reopen schools under the current staggered timetable from the beginning of next month, but has not ruled out a further delay until Januay 18. The Telegraph can also reveal that figures in Downing Street held discussions last week on how headteachers would react if experts suggested closing schools was necessary on public health grounds.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Government sleepwalking into another exams fiasco – Halfon

New peers row rumbles on

“Earl Attlee, a Tory peer and grandson of the former Labour prime minister Clement Attlee, said peers “ought to have no questions about his or her probity” and that it was “shameful” Johnson had appointed 53 new peers in a year. “It’s terrible to have far too many new members,” he said. “If you pack it as hard as you can with far too many people, it becomes patently obvious that it needs to be reformed.” He spoke out after his fellow Tory Lord Lexden, a deputy Speaker of the Lords, said the appointments commission should have resigned “en masse” over Johnson’s nomination of the former party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas.” – Sunday Times

More peerages, and Labour:


And don’t forget next summer’s Scottish elections…

  • Court case on whether SNP could trigger second Scottish independence referendum – Sunday Times