The Brief, powered by Yara – A Brexit plague on all your houses

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As the chief EU adviser to David Cameron and then Theresa May, Ivan Rogers has seen the EU and British political class up close and knows where the bodies are buried. And hell hath no fury like a civil servant scorned.

He was forced out in January 2017 for being too blunt with Mrs May about her plans to trigger Article 50. Last night he told some rather painful truths to power in Glasgow.

To Rogers unsparing eyes, the three dominant schools of thought on Brexit are all “fantasies or incoherent and muddled thinking”.

The three schools are Brexiteers who view anything but the cleanest and most complete break with the EU as betrayal; ‘Remainers’ wishing to reverse the referendum result via a new vote; and Prime Minister Theresa May, and her government, who say that the UK can retain all the benefits of EU membership but reclaim control of its borders and regulation, and without paying anything for it.

The idea that a second referendum would reverse Brexit and make everything better again is a ‘Remainer’ fantasy. So, too, is the “buccaneering blather” of hard Brexiters.

Hardline Remainers and Leavers are “bluntly, delusional”, he said.

Meanwhile, the ‘cherry-picking’ approach of Mrs May falls into the same trap of thinking that EU leaders will accommodate ‘British exceptionalism’ that successive British governments have fallen into for the past 25 years.

This, said Rogers, amounts to “complete amnesia”.

Rogers said he despaired of “people professing themselves free traders who have only a hazy understanding about multilateral, regional and bilateral free trade deals, have never negotiated one – but know it’s straightforward, once one has left the EU.”

It is hard to think of who he was thinking of. Any ideas, Boris Johnson?

To Rogers, the most viable option would be for the UK drop some of its red lines on the European Court of Justice in exchange for a form of “quasi-single market membership, paying something for it, living under [European court of justice] jurisprudence and jurisdiction in goods, but disapplying the fourth fundamental freedom, free movement of people.”

“The sooner we realise there are no perfect choices…the better for the UK,” Rogers concluded last night.

Will his advice be heeded? Almost certainly not. These truths are too painful for extreme Brexiteer and Remainer ears to hear. British politics is currently dominated by people offering easy certainties.

Given that the UK is not preparing for a ‘no deal’ scenario and will not walk away from the Article 50 talks, the reality of Brexit will almost certainly be messy, involve compromise, and will take a long time to work out.

And nobody wants to hear that, do they?


Smart farming combined with nitrate-based fertilizers like AN or CAN is one of the easiest way to reduce ammonia emissions from agriculture in Europe.


The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski and Sam Morgan

EU’s defence wonks finally saw white smoke as the new European Defence Industrial Development Programme, with a €500 million budget for 2019-2020, was informally agreed by MEPs and Council.

Giuseppe Conte was approved as Italian prime minister of a coalition government formed by far-right and anti-establishment parties. The Commission was quick to demand ‘credible response’ from Italy to reduce debt. Financial experts were less keen on another Berlaymont proposal though.

Europe’s most important task for the rest of 2019 is to stay strong and united against the ‘America First’ challenge, Commission vice chief Frans Timmermans told the European Business Summit. Expect the comments to irk Washington as Trump readies to slap tariffs on imported automobiles.

At the summit, the names of the winners of the first European Leadership Awards were announced. French President Emmanuel Macron is European leader of the year, Polish entrepreneur Edyta Kocyk is CEO of the year.

With negotiations on the 2019 EU budget around the corner, the Commission presented its draft proposal – with a 3% increase compared to 2018. Keep up-to-date with our ongoing report into how EU cohesion funds are spent.

The EU paves the way for final showdown on energy ‘governance’ bill that will put in place a “gap-filler” mechanism to ensure the bloc meets its 2030 energy and climate targets. MEPs agreed to new rules on road tolls that will introduce a ‘polluter pays’ principle

Faced with the reality of Brexit, the Scottish government is “trying to identify the least-worst option” after doomsday.

UK broadcaster Channel 4 debuted ‘Carry on Brussels: Inside the EU’ last night. Radio DJ Nigel Farage complained that people hate him here and lots of restaurants “won’t even let me through the door”. We’d love to know which establishments have been refusing him entry, so get in touch!

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