Bristling Brock speaks out...

 

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Acrimony between Brussels and Westminster is hotting up !  This is serving only to highlight the entrenched positions of certain personalities within the EU, notably Juncker and Selmayr, both flunkies of the European Commission with a long history of anti-British feeling.  But fear not, for these noisy chaps are not influential in the Brexit debate - it is the European Council with whom we have to do business and, by some clever footwork they have manoeuvred themselves into something of a corner from which proper negotiation with Britain is difficult.  It would be heartening to think that our negotiatiating team had conjured this strategic position with skill and craft but I think not.  Our dear European colleagues, trying to position their political juggernaut, have managed this all by themselves.

So where does this leave us ?  The Council is unlikely to admit its parless position so will probably try and bluster a way out which will takes weeks to accomplish.  And the British ?  Should we now push for those trade deals that are deemed so important and ignore the three central tenets of the EU's negotiating intransigence ?  It's a problem as thorny as a straightforward negotiation for if we bash the EU and heighten its embarrassment then they'll retreat into the minutiae of the legalities of the treaty and that also will take weeks and weeks to unravel.  Do we need to be sympathetic without crowing or do we patiently sit it out and wait for reasonable minds in the EU to prevail ?  Again, I doubt this would satisfy Brussels - for Brussels is a money machine and money, lots of it, are the very blood in its veins, the divorce bill with Britain is sacrosanct to them.

If Britain hardens its stance and stands firm on not being bullied into paying unimaginable sums of money into Europe's inefficient coffers, what then might it do ?  As an option I like a commentary written by a Telegraph journalist as the solution: 'If the EU Council refuses to change its instructions to Barnier before a deadline set, this time by us, of November 1st, 2017, we should withdraw our negotiating papers and offer to settle the exit costs at The Hague ((the Permanent Court of Arbitration).  And we could blow them a kiss too.'  This would mean the divorce bill being settled by international judiciary rather than Brussels judiciary - which we might deem to be more level headed....but at least it would finalise the money problem and enable possible progress on other fronts.  

In Westminster I see Mrs May is talking of a cabinet reshuffle as a means to dampen down the burgeoning noises of revolt throughout the Conservative Party and her government.  Sticking plaster responses are unlikely to fully quell the fundamental issue about confidence in Mrs May as a PM and credible leader.  She still has not mastered the art of communication at any level and that raises eyebrows in every corner of the camp.  A leadership challenge never comes at the right time in a nations affairs, and with Brexit dominating the parliamentary process it is a critical time to try and oust one leader and replace with a newcomer.  Yet the alternative is to fumble along in a state of obvious political weakness and that will bring us no benefit at the Brexit negotiating table.  Some pundits already argue that the governments reduced majority following June's extraordinary snap-election will cost the country in the order of £20 billion in lost trade and financial opportunities.  That's hard to verify right now but the sentiment that creates such commentary is the same sentiment that recognises the leadership of the country is in crisis and is in dire need of being put right.  I wouldn't choose for a leadership squabble before the Brexit deadline but I reckon we're going to get one.

In Trumpworld the threat posed by the belligerent North Korea is obviously one being taken seriously although the brash talk of military response has taken on more measured words and some controlled statements - even from Trump himself.  I suspect his newish chief of staff, John Kelly, might be behind that.  Let's all hope that wisdom and good sense win the day on this difficult matter as we see China, the key enforcer, reluctant to curb its neighbours antics other than to admonish them for being provocative.  The counter threat to North Korea is, of course, the US.  If China sits in the wings then the US alone may feel obliged to react - and recent history has shown that to be quite a dodgy prospect for the rest of the world.