Self-explanatory. Easy to follow. No deal. No access to the single market. No better agreement outside. Hardly surprising. No Norway. No Switzerland. No £350 million per week. No plan. The shortest Bregrexit ever. Straightforward. To the point. Crystal clear. Same fingers. Same pies. Same characters. Gold lifts. Transatlantic journeys. No other ideas. It’s plain. Remember. Share. Heed. Extreme views. Isolation. Instability. All friends. Neighbours. Children. Daughters. The NHS. Privatisation. State visit. #BrexitmeansTrump


Sleeping on it

Last week Theresa May set out her strategy. Not in Parliament but to an audience of front row seats for Johnson, Fox and such like.

Across the Atlantic Ocean he of Trump Towers has sworn that black is white in terms of crowd sizes. Women are on the march.

Northern Ireland teeters on the edge. So many less than impressed with the prospect of a “red, white and blue Brexit”. Not the best choice of words really.

Nicola Sturgeon pushes. Not too much. But enough.

The Supreme Court verdict is now given reasserting supremacy of Parliament and denying the right to use prerogative powers.

I felt unable to put finger to key after the May speech. What was it all about? The threat of a tax haven, the race to the bottom in terms of Corporation Tax cuts to promote investment.

Confused, I took the view that the dust needed to clear. I had to sleep on it.

I have always said that there would be twists and turns; events that nobody could have predicted.

I never foresaw Trident. I believe in the maintenance of our nuclear deterrent. However, when Andrew Marr asked the Prime Minister on a number of occasions whether she had known about the missile test failure the box was opened up. The question revealed more than it should have done. The answer to the question was insignificant, if responded to openly. The repeated failure to provide an answer was a revelation. It was like a midfielder taking out a striker heading for the dugout in the centre circle.

In Trident there emerged the true mindset of the leader hoping to deliver that banal B-word. Mind all-a-muddle. Unable to ward off the consequences of Andrew Marr’s benign but ultimately potentially malignant line of questioning. The auto pilot was still switched on but with the fog having descended the pilot was evidently struggling to take over the manual controls.

Last week the Prime Minister suggested that each side in the referendum had understood that a leave vote would be a vote to leave the single market. No, this is patently not the case and precisely why the leavers sought to reassure that in voting to leave there could be a Norway, or a Switzerland scenario. Either the Prime Minister has a short memory or her mind is clouded by the fog.

To her credit on television she would not make a good liar. Whilst staying on the right side, just, between evasion, or prevarication versus an outright breach of one of the ten commandments, the discomfort of finding herself so close to the line with Marr was obvious to all.

Her pioneering meeting with the new champion of the free world may be as ill-advised as her tartan outfit, her £900 leather trousers, or her decision not to answer Andrew Marr’s Trident question until more than 24 hours after he asked it; again, and again. As evidently uncomfortable as she was, so equally comfortable was the presidential team across the pond boasting an “alternative fact” so evidently not a fact at all. A strange meeting it will be.

I am concerned. Beneath the bravado of the red, white and blue Brexit, the leather trousers, and the “a citizen of the world is a citizen of nowhere” battle cry it appears to me that there is somebody far more fragile, tired and confused. Who wouldn’t be?

If I can see it, you can bet your bottom billion dollars that more experienced moguls of business will have seen the chink in the armour a long time ago. They might even be inclined to buy the country as the price is down 20%.

A fire sale purchase of a 51st State in all but name which could serve as an offshore utility room. Dirty laundry nicely tucked away from view.

As I never foresaw Trident so there will be other images to emerge from the fog that’s for sure. The Prime Minister’s handling of a meeting with a man who appears to be alienating women globally may cast some further clues for those who are looking for the landing lights.

British Prime Ministers do not always fare well in relations with their more powerful US counterparts. Neither have they always been successful in flying abroad to seek reassurances in troubled times.

The Prime Minister has to be very careful indeed and to keep a cool head. The inevitable slight of being snubbed by the 27 other club members probably still smarts a bit. So may the Supreme Court’s decision.

Her job will also have been made more challenging by the visits of Messrs. Farage and Gove to Trump Towers, so transparently desperate to ingratiate themselves.

Dr Fox who has not paid a visit as either politician or journalist (or a combination of both) to the best of my knowledge was a director and founding member of an organisation called The Atlantic Bridge, whose aims were effectively to promote the transatlantic over the cross-channel.

These players, and a couple of others, it seems to me, are feverish in their desire to wrench the country away from the continent.

Farage can display a looseness of the tongue. Like he did on GMTV on 24th June 2016. More recently he remarked that those who didn’t like 2016 were going to hate 2017.

I worry. Why did he say that?

Considering afresh the constitution of the referendum and its eligibility criteria does not help clear the fog.

The meeting with the 45th President will be a big, big moment for Theresa May and might define her premiership.

Does she look like the confident penalty taker? You know, the one who can look the goalkeeper straight in the eye.


A duty of candour?

The electorate is like a patient or a client, led by a professional advisor. That is my view of the relationship between electorate and government. It is a good view. One which holds a government to account to its paymasters. In any such relationship the professional advisor should be subject to a set of rules of conduct. It is rather like the position with a doctor and a patient, or a lawyer and a client.

Because of the complexity of the subject matter and the imbalance of positions of knowledge between them, one relies on the other for candour when things go wrong or, for that matter, if they appear to be going that way.

A lawyer who suspects that he or she has been negligent in managing a client’s affairs is bound by code of conduct to advise a client to take independent legal advice. That way, the advice will be impartial and untainted by a desire to mitigate the true and frank disclosure of the real effect of the error.

The Code of Conduct for the Law Society of New South Wales gives a particularly clear and user-friendly description of duties and ethics which are applicable to lawyers in virtually every jurisdiction, that of England and Wales included. I quote some extracts below from its 2003 publication “Ethics and Conflict of Interest and Duties”.

the failure of a solicitor who has a personal interest to advise the client to obtain independent advice(which is obviously the best way to get properly informed consent) is a … breach of [the solicitor’s] fiduciary duty

Here is where the difficulties lie for the Prime Minister. Cameron has gone as a result of the negligent error but the client (the electorate) is not really receiving impartial advice since his departure. Another lawyer from the same firm has been tasked with providing the advice whilst trying to keep the firm together because it is falling apart internally following the negligence allegation.

There then remains the issue of how to proceed in the event that a conflict of interest is found to exist.

A good rule of thumb is that if you cannot carry out one duty without breaching another then your proposed course of action cannot properly be taken

Above all else (so pertinent now that prerogative powers and parliamentary supremacy are being scrutinised by the Supreme Court) Mrs May and other Members of Parliament should prioritise what I would say is their overriding or paramount duty, the duty to the client; in this case to the electorate.

The General Medical Council publishes material dealing with the duty of candour that exists within the profession; in connection with the EU “negotiations” it may also serve the government and the electorate well to consider the GMC guidance as if it was a doctor advising a patient.

You…must give the patient clear, accurate information about the risks of the proposed treatment or care, and the risks of any reasonable alternative options, and check that the patient understands. You should discuss risks that occur often, those that are serious even if very unlikely, and those that the patient is likely to think are important.*
After all, why would its duty be any less than that?

The electorate has evidently been failed already but has also displayed a tendency not to listen to the risks, dismissing those who attempted to assess and advise as “scaremongering”. Nick O’Teen being put down by Superman in DC Comic’s anti-smoking campaign springs to mind but unfortunately the comic world is more sensible than the real one.

The government’s duty of candour must be ongoing and it is now that the conflict of interest truly arises if it is silent or allows the commencement or continuance of a procedure with clear and obvious risks materialising. The patient should be woken from the anaesthetic as appropriate. The doctor should then seek to inform the patient and obtain his or her informed consent to the continuance of the procedure or otherwise.


*Openness and honesty when things go wrong: the professional duty of candour General Medical Council June 2015

Was Sir Ivan’s bat broken?

Geoffrey Howe on 13th November 1990 described negotiations on the European Monetary Union in his resignation speech as follows:

“It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease, only for them to find, as the first balls are being bowled, that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain…

…the time has come for others to consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties, with which I myself have wrestled for perhaps too long.”

With that, he departed his position as Deputy Prime Minister and very shortly afterwards, his boss Margaret Thatcher (who held a different view on monetary union) followed.

I suspect Sir Ivan Rogers knows exactly how Geoffrey Howe felt when he “resigned” his position today as the United Kingdom’s leading EU diplomat a couple of months before the “negotiations” were due to commence. He had, of course, warned of the fact that trade negotiations were never going to be capable of being concluded within the two-year period from when Article 50 is triggered. Evidently his warning was either not appreciated or has been dismissed. After all, he is yet another “expert” and we all know what Michael Gove thinks of them.

We can make of the situation what is obvious. He has taken his leave and distanced himself from the fiasco. That, or our Prime Minister has shoved him towards the door for not stating what she (or the array of proponents of this folly) want him to say.

Nick Clegg was astute and quick to react and his words should concern us all, regardless of how we voted in the referendum:

“The resignation of somebody as experienced as Sir Ivan Rogers is a body blow to the government’s Brexit plans.

I worked for Ivan Rogers in the EU twenty years ago – then he worked for me and the rest of the coalition government several years later.

Throughout all that time Ivan was always punctiliously objective and rigorous in all he did and all the advice he provided.

If the reports are true that he has been hounded out by hostile Brexiteers in government, it counts as a spectacular own goal.

The government needs all the help it can get from good civil servants to deliver a workable Brexit.”

As I type sterling is heading pretty much due south, so impressed are the markets.

Earlier Farage wore his Union Jack socks on Good Morning Britain and humoured Piers to avoid a further kicking from Susanna, saying he had no idea that a senior aide had been committing serious crime and downplaying the plea bargained admission of wrongdoing regardless. A strange day indeed.

Marc Folgate