May prolongs phoney war as enemies of Brexit get desperate

The absence of movement on the negotiation front this week has fixed attention on enemies in our midst and allies at home and abroad. Saturday’s march for a repeat of the people’s vote received the maximum media coverage with Alastair Campbell, who once denounced a much larger protest against the Iraq War, gifted a prime slot during Sunday’s political broadcasting schedule.

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That very subject was debated in the Lords yesterday. The few pro-Leave peers had the facts on their side. A second referendum is profoundly undemocratic said Lord Lamont, and besides, there isn’t enough time, which is why Khan has pleaded for an extension, a subject only Andrew Adonis of the Remain side attempted to grapple with in the chamber. He clumsily tried to explain how a last-minute vote could be squeezed in, and in doing so, probably made the most convincing case for binning the idea.

When your logic is so bent you find yourself inadvertently helping the other side, you know it’s time to give up.

A far more dangerous threat is the second coming of Project Fear. On Wednesday, the National Audit Office warned Britain’s borders are not prepared for a no deal outcome, citing “weaknesses or gaps in the enforcement regime” which “organised criminals and others are likely to be quick to exploit.” On the same day, the Lords’ EU energy and environment committee scaremongered over the lack of inspection facilities at Calais.

Emmanuel Macron tried to raise the level of panic over Britain’s link to the continent at Calais, threatening to block the port if London refuses to pay the £39bn.

Downing Street’s spinners are now in the driving seat, staging battles to make the inevitable catastrophic capitulation appear hard-fought. Help us to expose the deception.

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The EU has Macron, we have Salvini. Italy’s deputy prime minister cranked up the pressure on Brussels this week after the European Commission refused to approve his government’s anti-austerity budget. “We are not changing a comma of the budget that will lead Italy to growth,” he vowed. Giving his “100%” backing was Donald Trump, who also praised Italy’s man of the moment for his hard line on immigration.

Another offshore ally is Tony Abbott, who let loose in a column for the Spectator. “The EU’s palpable desire to punish Britain for leaving vindicates the Brexit project,” wrote Australia’s former prime minister. “The EU seems to think that Britain will go along with this because it’s terrified of no deal. Or, to put it another way, terrified of the prospect of its own independence.”

Closer to home, Johnny Mercer, Andrew Bridgen and Andrea Jenkyns have all made a positive impact. Hounded by an overtly pro-Remain panel on Question Time last night Jenkyns said she is “standing up for the 17.4m people who voted for leave and think this government should deliver it,” and that’s why she continues to lobby for Theresa May’s removal. Jenkyns’ show of strength was pivotal on the back of a charade of a 1922 committee gathering voluntarily attended by Mrs May.

Amid reports ‘no confidence’ letters to the all-powerful committee were piling up, the Sunday Times quoted an anonymous ally of David Davis who said May would be entering a “killing zone”. Not the kind of language Brexiteers would use. Bridgen called it out, he suspects Number 10 was behind it. He’s far from alone.

May was then greeted with thunderous approval at the committee meeting. This was a carefully stage-managed affair. In spite of the constant speculation, we haven’t reached the all-important 48 MPs dissenting against their leader. May lives to fight another day, although her PR team continue to ramp up the sense she is besieged in the desperate hope of gaining sympathy for a beleaguered prime minister.

Number 10 has been spinning reports of an enraged Cabinet resistant to further concessions with the attorney general Geoffrey Cox supposedly vetting every withdrawal commitment for a trap like the Irish backstop set last December. Needless to say, we’re suspicious. They will capitulate. And if Labour MP Caroline Flint’s claims that 45 of her colleagues would defy the party whip are to be believed – and they are credible – May will have found her way through the Commons.

Which puts all the emphasis back on how many Tory MPs are prepared to go with a no deal. Johnny Mercer said as such on Wednesday: “In failing to [leave the EU] we will have failed in our primary duty as legislators,” he said. Let’s hope he means it and other lawmakers share his sense of honour to the electorate.

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A few months ago, we wrote to you about an investigation we were launching into potential financial wrongdoing by those campaigning to block Brexit. A project we named: Operation Payback.

Many of you contributed generously to our crowdfunding appeal to make this investigation happen – and now we can tell you our findings.

Dedicated researchers, that you helped to fund, have sifted election files, searched Electoral Commission records and trawled social media. The results make very interesting reading.

By June 2017, Best for Britain – then fronted by prominent Remoaner Gina Miller – had crowdfunded £413,000 for their election campaign, trying to kick out pro-Brexit MPs.

But despite saying that funds raised would be “given directly to” preferred candidates, records now show that 22 out of 36 advertised ‘anti-Brexit champion’ MPs received no direct funding at all.

Those MPs who did receive donations from Best for Britain – 14 of them, plus 4 MPs who weren’t advertised as ‘champions’ – shared just £32,000 between them. Not even 8% of the total donations Best for Britain raised, supposedly for this purpose. Click here to find out where the remaining £413,000 went.

So despite saying crowdfunded donations would be “given directly to” candidates, Best for Britain gave less than half of their ‘champions’ a tiny proportion of what they raised. Furthermore, despite saying they were cross-party, Best for Britain gave £5,000 straight to the Liberal Democrats.

We’re now looking at how to take our various findings forward with the appropriate authorities. But in the meantime, before throwing around wild accusations about how the Leave campaigns were conducted, continuity Remainers should really start to look a lot harder at the false claims and questionable financial conduct of their own cheerleaders.

Best Wishes,
The Leave.EU Team