A very interesting and analytical thread by David Gauke to understand the government’s strategy and motivation over the Brexit negotiations with the EU.

First published in March 2020.

Here is my latest for Conservative Home – making the case for the Government seeking no deal as an outcome. For the avoidance of doubt, I haven’t had a damascene conversion but, I fear, it is a strategy that may make sense from the perspective of the Government. Here is why.

No Deal 2) Why I, a leading former Remainer, am making a case for Johnson actively seeking it. / ConservativeHome

The Government says that the fundamental point of Brexit is to recover “political and economic independence in full”. At most, that results in a distant relationship with the EU compared to where we are now with much disruption. Any deal will be very thin.

If a deal can be reached, which will not be easy, independence “in full” doesn’t give the Government much space for compromise. So, a deal won’t have that much of an economic gain (because the deal we are after is so unambitious) but will involve the Government in a lot of political pain.

And if a deal is reached, the Prime Minister will have to sell it. He will be very good at doing that but he will have ownership of it. He will be blamed if things go wrong (and for lots of people, it will).

If there is no deal, the consequences can be blamed on the intransigent EU.

Everything the Government is doing is consistent with collapsing the talks. A lot of effort blaming the EU for making new and unreasonable demands, rebranding no deal (“Australia style deal”). Also, the Government’s behaviour on the Northern Ireland Protocol undermines trust.

Blaming the EU for Brexit...

Why would the EU trust our assertions on environmental and social protections, or state aid when we are not prepared to stand by what we agreed in October over checking goods going from GB to NI? This will only make the EU dig in.

If it is inevitable that the talks are going to blow up, when is the best time for this to happen? I suspect that some in Number 10 will think sooner rather than later. It gives the EU time to retreat (which I doubt but the Government might believe it) and businesses time to prepare for WTO.

Critics would be justified in saying that all this would be reckless, evasive of responsibility, dishonest and cynical. But politically, on the evidence of the last few years, it would probably work.

I fear the Government must be tempted.

Tweets posted on 29 February 2020 by @DavidGauke.

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 5 March 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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