Belfast Telegraph

Straight-talking Kate Hoey would stop Brussels pushing Britain around

The UK's negotiators are too timid, allowing the EU to treat us as subordinates and push us around. That has to change

By Chris Moncrieff

What a pity it is that tough-talking Labour MP Kate Hoey cannot be co-opted into the Government to lead the UK's negotiating team in the floundering Brexit negotiations.

This redoubtable Ulsterwoman, who now sits for a London constituency, would shake up and wake up UK negotiators, who are constantly giving the impression of being on the defensive and fighting on the back-foot.

Hoey has been listening with increasing frustration to the litany of Whitehall jargon and excuses designed to explain how it is that the EU negotiators always seem to be in the commanding position. At one point, she was compelled to cry out: "Why don't we just say 'no'?"

She shares the Margaret Thatcher attributes of not being afraid to say "no" in a very loud voice if needs be. And with her uncomplicated, and at times fierce, language she would alarm the Brussels team just as Thatcher did when she negotiated with them all those years ago.

The UK team desperately needs to adopt a less compliant and far more aggressive attitude in talks which will have an effect on the United Kingdom for generations to come.

At the moment, the British delegation is looking very much like the second eleven. Can't somebody be found from the ranks of the parliamentary Conservative Party to put some oomph into the British negotiations, and remind Brussels forcibly that we are not in this business to be pushed around or, worse still, to be punished?

The Tories are already preparing the ground for the terrible results, which they fear could hit them in the local elections in May. Members are being warned to expect the worst, in the hope this kind of warning might at least serve to soften the blow when it comes.

The Conservatives seem to have learned no lessons from the Prime Minister's disastrous general election, which had the opposite to the desired effect and merely put Labour and Jeremy Corbyn in the driving seat. The days when the Tories believed Corbyn would lead the Labour Party into oblivion are long since gone.

Traditional Labour supporters may not like what they see is going on, but the uncomfortable fact remains for the Tories that Labour stand as runaway favourites for the polls this May.

They have successfully harnessed the youth vote, something which has always eluded the Tories, while Corbyn, bizarrely, began to acquire the status of a pop star.

The Tories have hardly any time left to swing things around in time for May, and they are already beginning to look forward to the next general election, with something approaching deep anxiety.

There are no signs that things are improving for them, and the way the Brexit talks are being handled is not helping their case.

Their only hope for the immediate future appears to be that the seeming takeover of Labour by the hard-left Momentum organisation may have the effect of frightening off otherwise Labour voters. But the signs are that the Tories will not be enjoying the spring sunshine this year.

The Prime Minister appears determined to sort out what some have described as the scandal of higher education, including the present arrangements of fees being charged. But what is no less important is the type of 'degrees' which students are attaining in such strange 'subjects' as circus performing and The Beatles.

Why should any kind of public money go into such absurd projects? Even media studies, so-called, need to be sorted out. If there was any occupation which you learn on the job, and not at university lectures, it is journalism.

The current belief that everyone should go to university is seriously misplaced. A lot of people would benefit immensely from going straight into work from school, instead of often wasting time and money at university, and the ludicrous 'gap year' which many students seem to believe is their right.

Ed Pearce, the formidable (in every sense of the word) political writer, who has just died, was the only journalist I know who managed to divert attention from the goings-on in the Chamber of the House of Commons to the normally staid and well-behaved Press Gallery above. He, and arts correspondent Godfrey Barker, used to write the Daily Telegraph's parliamentary sketch on alternate days.

One day, when Pearce, assuming it was his turn, entered the Gallery, he found Barker already perched on their seat. Not a man to be trifled with, he grabbed Barker and flung him out, with a great clattering of desks - Barker finished up, legs in the air, in among the startled Hansard reporters.

There was a brief battle involving sheaves of paper between the two combatants, before order was restored when Barker wisely backed off.

The attendants seem to ignore this short but almighty fracas, and the MPs, briefly spellbound by this event, resumed their droning deliberations. Pearce once flung a teacup at a fellow journalist who had annoyed him in the press cafeteria. It was always best not to inflame the fellow who seemed capable, with his short fuse, of hurling an entire tea set in your direction if aroused!

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