Hopelessly out of date and ruinously expensive: Tory knives are out for HS2

Will there ever be a better time for Boris Johnson to take unpopular decisions? The Labour Party lies in ruins, seemingly determined not to learn the lessons of its election defeat. The Conservatives are at his feet, unable to believe the size of the majority he won.

His Cabinet meetings have become a chorus of sycophancy, with even the Prime Minister looking bored by the various declarations of admiration. He will perhaps never have as much personal political power as he has now. The question facing No 10 is what he intends to do with it.

His stated mission is to get Brexit done, which will keep him busy this year – but now is the time to kill off expensive bad ideas. He has started to draw…

Time to demolish Bercow-backed shanty town outside Parliament

John Bercow’s memoirs, to be published next month, are entitled Unspeakable. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

The book, says Mr Bercow, will be “candid”. If so, it will, like so many of his pronouncements in the chair, involve a wilful misunderstanding of his role. The Speaker is supposed to speak solely as empowered by the whole House. Mr Bercow spoke only for a faction within it. Any revelations about the MPs with whom he dealt will add to that factionalism and will therefore, to use a parliamentary expression, be out of order.

One of Mr Bercow’s acts, in his supervision of the parliamentary estate, was to allow a shanty town of television tents to be erected on College Green opposite…

This is the best deal under the circumstances

The agreement struck between Buckingham Palace and the Sussexes hopefully brings to an end a difficult period for the Royal Family. It cannot have been easy for the Queen; it must have been very hard for the Duke and Duchess, too. The resulting deal is undeniably a radical one, but it reads like the only sensible course available under these circumstances. It is frank, honest and decisive. This is exactly what the monarchy and the country needs.

Among the changes are: the Sussexes will step back from Royal duties and no longer receive public funds for them; they will continue to maintain their private patronages and associations; they can no longer formally represent the Queen; they will not…

There are already signs of trouble ahead with Brexit negotiations

Boris Johnson will welcome the new EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to Downing Street today for what will effectively be the opening skirmishes of the post-Brexit trade and security talks. How well they get on (or don’t) could determine the direction of these negotiations over the next 12 months and whether it will be possible to conclude an agreement by December 31 as the Prime Minister wants.

As we report today, there are some early signs of potential trouble ahead. A tweak to the legislation before Parliament to enact the Withdrawal Agreement has alarmed the EU. This concerns an independent authority to be set up to oversee the implementation and application of EU citizens’ rights….

Boris Johnson will soon get a chance to show how tough he’ll be in post-Brexit trade talks

Having travelled back to Brussels to start my final four weeks as an MEP, it’s time to reflect, briefly, on the recent past but also to look ahead to the future and the next round of negotiations, which start in earnest this week.

For British MEPs it feels like the final four-week half-term before leaving school, for ever. For those of us ‘hired to be fired’, we’re ready to leave; but I recognise others will miss the lessons, the hierarchy and the particular perks that go with being a prefect.

It’s also less than four weeks since the Prime Minister’s historic election win and putting aside party political considerations, the result reflects total victory for the British Eurosceptic movement. …

It sounds ambitious, but a friendly Brexit divorce is now on the cards

The Swedes have a rather beautiful New Year’s Eve tradition where Tennyson’s Ring Out, Wild Bells is recited in front of a crowd in Stockholm just before midnight. The words, this year, seemed especially poignant: “Ring out a slowly dying cause/ and ancient forms of party strife. Ring in the nobler modes of life/ with sweeter manners, purer laws.” 

For those of us who backed Brexit, a similar celebration will take place on the last day of this month when a specially revived Big Ben will strike 11pm – midnight in Brussels. It will mark Britain’s departure from the European Union – and the chance for something new to begin, in place of strife.

  • Read Fraser Nelson’s latest column on telegraph.co.uk…

A united Britain will have the upper hand over a divided and declining European Union

At any normal time, the ruling class will rob, mismanage, sabotage, lead us into the muck,” wrote George Orwell, soon after the Second World War. “But let popular opinion really make itself heard, let them get a tug from below – and it is difficult for them not to respond”. At the outset of this new decade, the UK’s ruling class has most definitely felt a powerful “tug from below”. Popular opinion has been expressed, repeatedly, and we’re finally leaving the European Union.

Whether it was Ukip’s victory in the 2014 European election, or David Cameron’s 2015 majority after he promised an “in-out referendum”, the electorate sent the same signal. The Leave vote prevailed in 2016 – with a referendum…

Now is the time for optimism, not triumphalism 

In just 30 days’ time, three years and eight months after the referendum that brought it about, Brexit will finally happen. Or rather, the first bit will happen, when the UK leaves the political structures of the EU and then embarks on a transition period during which it hopes to negotiate a new trading relationship.

The Government wants to do that by the end of the year, which is a tall order but not impossible, if everyone is pulling in the same direction. The European side has signalled a willingness to expedite the process. If Boris Johnson insists on an end of the year deadline, yet does not want to leave without a deal, however, then that gives the EU a strong bargaining position.

Nevertheless,…

Brexit will give the British economy a chance to thrive

Of all the slogans that sum up the past decade – Make America Great Again, For the Many Not the Few – one of the most satisfying is Despite Brexit. Despite Brexit, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), Britain’s economy has not only defied forecasts that it will be surpassed by France but is now expected to be a quarter larger than the French economy by 2034. Meanwhile, says the Resolution Foundation, 2019 saw record employment and the strongest nominal pay growth in over a decade. Public commitment to Brexit has remained high precisely because the so-called experts have been proven so wrong about it. If we had been able to leave the EU sooner, the situation might…