So we’re different colors, and we’re different breeds
And different people, have different needs
It’s obvious you hate me, though I’ve done nothing wrong’



Last week, this column along with many others, highlighted and commented on the ‘bullying’ of staff by the Home Secretary, Pritti Patel.

Over the weekend her permanent secretary, Sir Philip Rutnam resigned, and, potentially far more damagingly, announced his intention to sue for constructive dismissal.

Patel has past form, the BBC reported that she was accused of shouting at a former aide with ‘unprovoked aggression’ before removing her from her job in 2015.

The aide received a £25,000 government pay-out after a threatened lawsuit in which Patel was named. The report went onto say that Patel was accused of shouting at the aide to ‘get lost’ and ‘get out of her face’.

Last evening allegations emerged that Patel had bullied a third civil servant; her private secretary, who had to sign-off from work with stress, when she was international development secretary (2016 and 2017).

Whilst the Cabinet Office has launched a formal inquiry into claims she had mistreated her permanent secretary; I personally don’t expect anything more than a whitewash.

In PM’s questions today, Johnson said, ‘The home secretary is doing an outstanding job: delivering change, putting police on the streets, cutting crime and delivering a new immigration system – and I’m sticking by her.’

Of course, she is doing a outstanding job, it’s the job that she was over-promoted into.

‘You need someone as think-skinned and nasty as her to promote immigration policies that are just nasty’

You need someone as think-skinned and nasty as her to promote immigration policies that are just nasty. For the mob that is our current government its just another ‘get it done’ issue ticked off their list.

They remind me of bullies at school, tough when they’re together, get them on their own and you see their real lack of backbone.

Johnson himself is Flashman type character, who’s personal life couldn’t be less like a Tory, formerly the party of family and standards. I will resist the urge to recount details of his dalliances (1), but it makes Mick Jagger look saintly.

Then there is Cummings with his reptilian eyes, a Chancellor who resembles a homework monitor, Raab seemingly always ready for a fight, Rees-Moog the snide prefect, I could go on, and on…


‘Wouldn’t you believe it
It’s just my luck’


And from the bullying party we can expect nothing better as we begin negotiations with the EU over trade, safe is the knowledge that ‘my dad (in this case, Donald Trump) is bigger than yours’.

So bad has it got that the EU is urging Britain to drop the ‘political rhetoric’, with senior EU diplomats warning that if the political temperature continues to rise over Brexit in the UK it will risk smothering talks.

‘senior EU diplomats warning that if the political temperature continues to rise over Brexit in the UK it will risk smothering talks’

With a year-end deadline to reach a deal, and with key elements including fishing rights, due to be resolved by 1 July, this leaves only three months to resolve headline differences for a ‘stocktake’ in mid-June.

Given this short timeframe a source said that the only way to get a deal is to have close alignment on regulations on both sides.

The most contentious issues will not be tariffs, quotas and market access but ‘governance and dispute resolution’, as the government has rejected any role for the European institutions or the European Court of Justice.

Following last week publication of the ‘UK’s Trading Mandate ‘, the EU is said to have abandoned any hope of ‘dynamic alignment’ whereby the UK would agree to abide closely to EU regulations as they evolved in coming years.

The most likely scenario is that insufficient progress will have been made, and the government decides that we drop negotiations and focus solely on continuing domestic preparations to exit the transition period in an orderly fashion’.

Or, as its more often referred to a Hard Brexit

‘Or, as its more often referred to a Hard Brexit’

And, what exactly is the UK’s Trading Mandate? The government wants ‘regulatory freedom’, to be free to set its own rules, and will not accept any role for the European court of justice (ECJ) in dispute resolution mechanisms.

Whereas the EU wants some degree of regulatory alignment, with the option of imposing tariffs if one side reneges. It would also like a role for the ECJ.


Specifically, the UK’s negotiating mandate asks for:


  • A liberalised market for trade in goods, with no tariffs, fees, charges or quantitative restrictions on trade in manufactured or agricultural products.
  • Competition and subsidies to not be subject to the final agreement’s dispute resolution mechanism, this is contra to the political declaration we signed.
  • A separate agreement on fisheries that would allow for annual negotiations on access to each other’s waters, including allowable catch and shares. The EU wants fishing to be considered as part of the overall agreement.
  • An agreement on equivalence on financial services to be decided before the end of June.
  • No participation in the European arrest warrant but a similar extradition agreement as the EU has with Iceland and Norway


In response, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, commented that Brussels’ intended to honour the 26-page political declaration on the future relationship, signed by Johnson six months ago.

The government has said it does not regard the commitments made in the paper, as being binding.

As Pete Wishart, a Scottish National party spokesman, said: ‘This is nothing other than a route map to the cherished no-deal – the real ambition of these Brexit zealots. They’re even now prepared to break international law in order to achieve this outcome.’

‘nothing other than a route map to the cherished no-deal – the real ambition of these Brexit zealots’

And, he’s right; this is a route map to no deal that has been what the hard right intended from the beginning.

In true populist fashion, when talks break down we will use the EU as the scapegoat that the masses demand, leaving out leader free to sail on to the next disaster.

This dystopian dream was summed up 2-weeks ago when David Frost, Britain’s lead Brexit trade negotiator, delivered a speech that was one of the most politically controversial speeches of recent times. Frost is unelected, he speaks for no one.

Irrespective of that, he tried to justify Brexit using the 19th-century political idea of a nation state with absolute sovereignty and independence of action.

He was effectively bringing this concept into the 21st century and supposing it had the support of the country. He said:

‘We bring to the negotiations not some clever tactical positioning but the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country. It is central to our vision that we must have the ability to set laws that suit us – to claim the right that every other non-EU country in the world has.’

‘the same arrogant cultural assumption that we are pursuing, no returning to our place in the world’

if, or perhaps when we implement Frost’s concept of ‘independence’, then forms, checks and some kind of ‘barrier’ to define the boundary between EU and British jurisdictions are inevitable, for example, the Irish Sea.

This is what Johnson signed in the treaty that he waved in triumph.

Only, he didn’t mean it; he was in love with having a deal, any deal to seal his triumph, but disingenuously he believes that these ‘problems’ can be blustered away, and that in doing so he isn’t reneging of a previous agreement.

After all, an Englishman would never break his word, would he.

Johnson’s cavalier attitude and disregard for the facts are why he is tailor-made made for the Eurosceptics.

They share the same arrogant cultural assumption that we are pursuing, no returning to our place in the world, free from Europe. The problem is the failure of EU leaders to see things in their true, epic perspective.


‘He’ll build a glass asylum
With just a hint of mayhem..’


Surely this is not what the over-50 thought they were geting when they noted ‘Leave’.

Theirs was a cry for help after 10-yrs of Tory inflicted austerity, and ‘nostalgic notions of a Britain that stood alone in 1940 and went on to create the soothing certainties of the 1950s, coupled with dislike of mass immigration’.

Frost’s comments show, on one level a misunderstanding of what most ‘leave’ voters were asking for, and on a second level, a misunderstanding of trades fundamental rules.

Trade has, for many years, been surrounded by concerns about standards and quality, it’s like an equation, both sides must balance; the more countries try to gain from trade, the greater the concern to ensure common rules apply.

This then inhibits a countries ability to make independent law, e.g. an exporter must meet the standard required by the importer, or they will not buy.

‘nationalistic posturing based on the natural superiority they assume over foreigners’

Therefore, from a trade perspective the EU’s customs union and single market works; it is a treaty framework over as many goods and services as possible which achieves common standards and maximises trade

This isn’t ground-breaking economic theory, it’s just common sense, which is the one thing Brexiters lack (actually, they lack many things, but let’s not dwell on that).

Brexit, for the masses was driven by austerity, nostalgic misconceptions, and immigration, whereas for the hardcore it was nationalistic posturing based on the natural superiority they assume over foreigners.

They were never Europeans, they are still fighting world wars, which is where their opinions of European nations are rooted

For them the preference is to turn to our natural ally, the US. The worlds self-appointed policeman, a country that will help anyone providing it benefits them, its self-interest personified.

And the government has admitted we will be worse off this way. In a recent Department for International Trade document, designed to kick-start post-Brexit trade talks with the White House, the government said the British economy stood to benefit from an ‘ambitious and comprehensive’ trade deal worth only 0.16% of GDP, equivalent to £3.4bn after 15 years, considerably less than we stand to from a hard Brexit.

Worse still, a more limited trade deal with the US would deliver benefits to the UK economy worth just 0.07%, or about £1.4bn.

The government had previously estimated the economy would be as much as 7.6% smaller should Britain leave the EU without a deal, and about 4.9% smaller under Boris Johnson’s preferred Canada-style agreement.

Putting aside the economics of a US trade deal, there all the other compromises they will expect from us.

‘The US and the UK are not going to go separate ways based on chicken,’

For example, Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative speaking at an event in Oxford, said, he hoped the UK ‘doesn’t just adopt European standards’ that ban the practice of washing chicken in chlorine or acid, and claimed the practice was a ‘labelling question’ not a food health question.

‘The US and the UK are not going to go separate ways based on chicken,’ he told the Oxford Union.

He went on to accept that whilst we are sensitive about access to the NHS, we should be open to including it in negotiations. ‘We would expect that we should have access in the healthcare area to the respect that there’s private section competition,’ he said.

Put another way, the NHS represent a massive opportunity for US drug companies to make loads of money at our expense.

Of course, none of this matters to Johnson, he just continues to bully his way through situations, using shock-troops like Patel, and offering them up as collateral damage should it further the cause.

This a nasty, repugnant government, and little seems to be beneath them.

The only possible defence I can offer-up is that they were democratically elected, assuming of course you accept that they have a majority in all but fact (only 43.6% of the electorate voted for them (2)).


‘Stop, go, live, die
Yes, no, rebel, submit
Right, wrong, sit down, stand up
Create, destroy, accept, reject’





OK lyric spotters an unexpected treat from Philip; he’d not intended to comment this week, but ‘then a single topic came together that set my quill twitching! We have talked about my dislike for bullies before, and the government are just that. We have Patel throwing her weight around, and then there are the trade discussions where we expect our natural supremacy to win the day. Add to that the US itching to help us with trade and there is a disaster in the making’

Powerful stuff, and some cracking and totally pertinent tracks; I didn’t trouble the scorer unfortunately, but if you did, make sure you get your entries in before the deadline in the usual way.

First off the rank is a lyric that toyed with me; it was in there somewhere, but I didn’t search the file marked Depeche Mode, and had I done so, I may have found ‘People are People’ – totally appropriate for 3 pts.

Next ‘a song about school days and being bullied – they truly voiced the anguish of a generation’. 3 pts if you got Nirvana and ‘School Days’

Thirdly, ‘everything about this song is perfect for this piece, one dystopian vision of the future meets another’s’ – 3 pts for David Bowie and ‘Big Brother’.

Last but by no means least Bolton’s ‘fear and loathing in suburbia’ – a great track from Buzzcocks – ‘A Different Kind of Tension’ lands you another 3 pts. Bonus prizes for a full house this week – enjoy!



Philip Gilbert 2Philip Gilbert is a city-based corporate financier, and former investment banker.

Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s


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