Cabinet anarchy over Brexit

From The Guardian: A middle-ranking Tory minister stopped on his way to a meeting in the House of Commons and offered the following observations about the government in which he serves. “There is no discipline at all. Everyone thinks they can say just what they want. It is not good for anyone or good for the country.” Crucial decisions on Brexit had to be made within days, and time was running out, he said. But within the cabinet, disagreements were widening as the moment of truth approached. Ministers were briefing against one another in public, giving an impression that the ship of state was heading for the rocks just when the national interest required those steering it to pull together.

“She has to lead,” the minister added. “The can has been kicked into the corner on Brexit. It can’t be kicked any farther.” He then headed off, turning back for a second, to sum it all up as “midsummer madness”.

Normally ministers and senior MPs will show some caution when having private conversations with journalists at Westminster. They will at least make efforts not to be overheard. But these days they brief without fear on every corner, in every cloister. Soon after the minister departed, a former cabinet minister who has worked for the Conservative party for several decades strolled by and was happy to talk. The atmosphere was dreadful, he said, and Theresa May’s position was becoming more perilous by the day.

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Brexit could wreck green agenda, says UN

From The Guardian: The United Nations has warned the government that Britain’s reputation is at risk over plans that would significantly weaken protections for the environment after Brexit.

In a stern intervention, Erik Solheim, executive director of the UN’s environment programme, called on the environment secretary Michael Gove to honour his promise to deliver a “green Brexit”, ensuring the environment would not suffer from Britain’s EU departure.

The warning comes after proposals to protect the climate after Brexit were dismissed as “toothless” by green campaigners. Under the plans, the new post-Brexit watchdog would not have the power to take the government to court over breaches of environmental standards. At the moment, the government is answerable at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which often forces ministers to act.

Campaigners have warned that the current plans would leave Britain with a weaker system for enforcing environmental safeguards than those maintained in the United States by Donald Trump.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Brexit: Liam Fox’s department signs deal to keep trade talks secret

From Unearthed: Liam Fox’s department for international trade has signed agreements with the US which will make it much more difficult to find out what is being discussed in early-stage US-UK trade talks.

Liam Fox’s department last week quietly released an exchange of letters between the UK and the office of the US trade representative agreeing to mark exchanged information, papers and discussions as either “sensitive” or “confidential”, with both sides also agreeing to keep the information “held in confidence” for four years after the conclusion of the talks.

This has led to concerns from politicians and campaign groups that the talks could pave the way for the UK to accept lower US standards on issues including animal welfare, chemical and pesticide usage, and other practices.

[Read full article on Unearthed…]

David Davis scrambles to salvage EU relations after ‘damaging trust’

From The Guardian: David Davis’s claim that the UK’s concessions in an agreement to move on the Brexit negotiations were merely a statement of intent has damaged trust and will see a hardening of positions in Brussels, the European parliament’s coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, has said.

The former Belgian prime minister claimed the Brexit secretary’s comments over the weekend were “unacceptable”, and undermined confidence in the British government’s trustworthiness.

The member states will now agree a tougher wording in their guidelines about the next stage of the talks, due to be signed off at a summit of leaders on Friday, Verhofstadt said.

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May’s weakness exposed as DUP derails Brexit progress

From The Guardian: Theresa May’s political weakness was brutally exposed to Brussels on Monday, as an agreement struck between Britain and the EU to solve the problem of the Irish border and move to the next phase of Brexit talks was torpedoed by a last-minute telephone call with the leader of the DUP.

Confidence early on Monday that an agreement was within reach came to nothing when, during a working lunch with the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, May was forced to pause discussions to take a call from Arlene Foster.

The unionist leader, whose party currently provides the Tories with a working majority in the Commons, told the British prime minister that she could not support Downing Street’s planned commitment to keep Northern Ireland aligned with EU laws.

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Tory trade secretary wants chlorine-washed chicken in UK shops

fox chickens guardianFrom The Guardian: Tory trade secretary Liam Fox sees no problem with chicken being washed in chlorine before being sold to the public. He supports post-Brexit food standards being lowered to facilitate a trade deal with the US.

The practice has been banned in the EU, which believes it encourages farmers to relax overall hygiene standards and pursue industrial rearing practices such as battery farms that are bad for animal welfare.

“Some US abattoirs and processing plants rely heavily on chlorination because their other hygiene standards are so poor that they would be illegal in Europe,” said Simon Dawson, a lecturer in food safety at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Tory Brexit Secretary boasts about knowledge of EU countries then talks about “Czechoslovakia”

david davis czechoslovakiaFrom Pride’s Purge:David Davis, the man who is supposed to be in charge of Britain’s disastrous Brexit negotiations, is so incompetent he hasn’t noticed Czechoslovakia has not existed since 1993: ‘We’ve got a pretty good idea of what the economic interests are of every single member state. Germany, Austria, Holland and Czechoslovakia are all without governments at the moment.’

“To make matters worse, the embarrassing error came while bungling Davis was boasting about how he and his team ‘have a good knowledge of what European countries want’ from Brexit.

“And yes – the Czechs, Slovaks and other European countries have noticed what a blundering idiot our chief negotiator is – and they are openly laughing at us.”

[Read full post on Pride’s Purge…]

Chlorinated chicken not ruled out by Tories in pursuit of trade deals

From The Guardian: Liam Fox, the trade secretary, has accused the media of being obsessed with safety concerns about chlorine-washed chicken being sold in Britain as part of a potential trade deal with the US after Brexit.

The controversy overshadowed the first day of Liam Fox’s trip to Washington, amid worries that a trade deal with America could lead to imports of food with lower safety standards. Read more

Theresa May’s hard Brexit risks a crash landing

From The Japan Times: British Prime Minister Theresa May is leading the United Kingdom toward a very “hard” Brexit in 2019 — and potentially off a cliff, if the U.K. leaves the European Union without an exit or trade deal. In her Jan. 17 speech, May outlined her objectives for negotiating with the EU, and made it clear that she will prioritize hard-line Brexiteers’ demands over the country’s economic interests.

It isn’t surprising that May would choose a Brexit variant whereby Britain leaves both the EU’s single market and its customs union: She knows little, and cares even less, about economics. Her ultimate objective is to survive as prime minister, and she believes that controlling immigration will endear her to “leave” voters, and that ending the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction in Britain will pacify the nationalists in her Conservative Party.

[Read full article on Japan Times website…]

Workers’ rights after Brexit? It’s radio silence from the Tories

From The New Statesman: Theresa May opposed the introduction of many of these rights as a backbencher and shadow minister; and that several of her Cabinet ministers have spoken about their desire to reduce employment protections, one even calling for them to be halved last year. The government has even announced it is looking at removing the right to strike from transport workers, which would contradict their May’s promise to protect workers’ rights before we’ve even left the EU.

[Read full column on New Statesman website…]