Theresa May has just taken a battering from both sides in the House of Commons over her Brexit proposals.
PLEASE WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW
Theresa May seems to be the just about the only person in the UK who trusts the EU to use its promised 'best endeavours' 'in good faith' to come to an agreement based on the aspirational 26 page political declaration.
The UK will have had to have already agreed to abide by an onerous 585 page legally binding Withdrawal Agreement so would have a massive interest in quickly coming to a deal that frees us. But the EU would, of course, have the combined interests of the EU27 to deal with, so may over time become less keen to be as accommodating over the political declaration once they have their hands on £39 billion of our money and the chance of more.
Our MPs will of course be extremely wary of this as we are already hearing talk by France and Spain that they will try and box the UK into the Irish backstop until we surrender over fishing and Gibraltar.
The UK is being led into a potential cul-de-sac and that is dawning on more and more people, let's just hope the majority of our MPs hoist that in too before they vote on it on the 12th December.
The PM keeps telling us that the backstop, if invoked, would be temporary and that Article 50 does not allow such arrangements to be permanent.
What should concern us all, is that the PM puts her faith totally in the EU in these matters. An EU that is always looking for more control and more influence.
She also continually tells us that this 26 page political declaration is an instruction to both EU and UK negotiators on building any new deal. So, should this withdrawal agreement go through, we're building a bespoke UK/EU deal from the ground up starting on the 30th March, where just about everything is up for compromise, just how long will that take? – no wonder the French and Spanish are so pleased.
Anyway, having watched the reaction of MPs in the House this afternoon, it looks like the PM has an extremely hard, uphill battle to sell this to parliament. In fact she might be in for a bit of a landslide defeat.
And to be honest it all hinges on our trust in the European Union to stand by 'best endeavours' 'in good faith' to follow through on the aspirational 26 page political declaration once we've legally bound ourselves into a customs union with an Irish border backstop. Just how legally binding are 'best endeavours' and 'in good faith'? As well as just how 'temporary' would the backstop be in reality and how long is 'temporary' and how many times can 'temporary' be invoked and then later revoked?.
So does Theresa May just trust the EU more than we do, or more than she should – or is she really just a closet Remainer?
Now, here's a quick bit of information about the Irish border question and the claims over hard borders etc.
The Irish Times reports that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is saying that its rules would not force the EU or the UK to erect a hard border between the north and south of Ireland.
Now, shall I repeat that for the benefit of the Remoaners whose ears probably automatically shut that information out? Yes I will.
The Irish Times reports that the WTO is saying that its rules would not force the EU or the UK to erect a hard border between the north and south of Ireland.
With the report saying:
"'There is nothing in WTO rules that forces anyone to put up border posts,' said WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell on a visit to Dublin last week."
What it comes down to is the UK, EU and the Republic of Ireland coming to an agreement between them that does not unfairly impact the interests of other countries we trade with.
And another snippet is to remind you all that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) is due tomorrow, to hear the case brought by Scottish politicians to determine whether in EU law, the UK can unilaterally revoke the Article 50 notification to leave the EU.
This of course would be a decision on EU law, but we also have to factor in our own UK constitution as well.
But as it is not UK government policy to reverse Brexit, then this is purely academic.
One point about the ECJ that may have passed many people by, is that as of next year it will be expanding its general court from 47 judges up to 56 judges.
Now this stems from a decision made back in January 2016 to take two judges from each member state as from the first of September 2019.
So, as that number of two judges for each of the current 28 member states still seems to stand, then it's either an oversight – or else the EU expects the UK to still possibly be around and participating at the end of next year?
Also, bear in mind, that as police stations close in the UK, EU judge numbers increase. Oh happy days.
Now you will by now have been bombarded with the news that a new report out from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the NIESR, says that leaving the EU with May's deal will hit GDP and that leaving on WTO terms or no-deal Brexit would hit our GDP even more.
So, I though I'd take a quick look.
Now, the headline figures on Page one are that, compared to staying in the EU, May's deal with a free trade agreement or May's deal with the backstop in place and a no deal would all be worse. With a no deal being the worst case of all.
Music to Remainers' ears no doubt and Vince Cable was, of course, all over this at lunchtime on the BBC Politics Live show.
Let's dig a bit deeper. So what are the headline figures?
Well I'm going to concentrate only on the no deal scenario as I believe that May's deal is either dead or should be killed off in short order.
So, compared to staying in the EU, between now and 2030 (that's 12 years time), the NIESR claims that GDP will be 5.5% lower than if we'd stayed in.
But that does not mean it will be 5.5% lower than it is now.
In fact halfway through the report it says that:
"…the economy would continue to expand on all scenarios, though the whole path is higher in the stay case."
So it will expand but the expansion would be, in their opinion, 94.5% under WTO instead of 100% by remaining in the EU.
And on page 19 of the report they show this in a handy graph at figure 11 of GDP per head that looks a bit like this one. I don't have a legal team to say whether or not I can use their graph without copyright permission, so I mocked up a rough equivalent of my own.
Now, the gap between stay and WTO looks quite big and significant, until you check the axis and see that it does not start at zero and the differences are therefore magnified.
But if you portray it on a graph from zero, like this, it gives you a better idea of the real significance of that gap.
And when reading through all the assumptions they have had to make about such things as net immigration and productivity etc, you get the general idea that however well put together this report is, it is just another stab in the dark.
I am an optimist and I firmly believe that the UK will benefit hugely from leaving the clutches of the EU and that any short term pain will be over very quickly as we march out once again into the whole world and stop being so Euro-centric and Euro-controlled. And our economic growth will then surge past these gloomy predictions and we will look back and ask what all the fuss was about.
But to do that in the shortest time-frame available, we need to Chuck Chequers, Toss Theresa and Welcome WTO!