The Conservative Party of the United Kingdom celebrates its annual congress, a key moment to join forces and focus the political message, just as dozens of soldiers have been deployed across the country to ensure the supply of gasoline to the British. The ministers of Boris Johnson, protagonists of the Manchester convention – many of them saw the affiliates face to face for the first time, after a long confinement – have conspired this Tuesday to defend Brexit tooth and nail, against the criticism and analysis that suggest that it has been an aggravating factor in the shortage of truckers, butchers, slaughterers, collectors or construction personnel. The star of the Convention Center was the Minister of the Economy, Rishi Sunak. He is a tiny man, extremely thin and short, but he unleashes passions among the delegates, who have flooded the main auditorium to listen to him. “They keep telling me that I’m even shorter than on TV,” he broke the ice in his speech.
The head of the United Kingdom for preventing a half-out of the pandemic has unleashed the most applause by making a fervent defense of leaving the EU. “Five years ago they told me that it would ruin my political career if I supported Brexit,” he said. “But I have always put and will always put my principles ahead. I was proud of my decision, and I believe that despite the challenges, in the long term, the agility, flexibility and freedom that Brexit has given us will have much more value in the 21st century economy than proximity to the market. [de la UE]”, Sunak assured. In the front row, Boris Johnson applauded, although his enthusiasm for the man that many already point to as his successor was significantly lower than that of the rest of those attending the event.
The threat to the Irish Protocol
The most defiant tone against the EU was uttered by David Frost, the minister in charge of negotiating with Brussels and the nightmare of community offices. It was the first speech of the day, and the auditorium was barely half full. Frost, however, had previously sought the alliance of the Daily Telegraph, the leading newspaper of the tories, so that your ad will not go unnoticed. It was the front page story. The Johnson government has already prepared a new legal text that substantially redesigns the Northern Ireland protocol, the most delicate stumbling block in the years of negotiation between London and Brussels. The Downing Street argument, against the general view of the EU or even the Administration of the American Joe Biden, now suggests that the protocol, designed to preserve the delicate peace in the region reached by the Good Friday Agreement, is really the main threat to that peace, and a factor of political instability in the region.
“We cannot wait a lifetime. Without a solution agreed soon, we will need to act, and use the safeguard mechanism of article 16. It will be the way to deal with the impact that the protocol is having in Northern Ireland ”, Frost has threatened. Article 16 of the protocol, which acts as a nuclear button, gives the parties the power to suspend the treaty “in the face of serious economic, social or environmental difficulties.” It is difficult to see the seriousness behind the so-called “sausage war”, which has led the Johnson government to extend the deadline for the implementation of customs controls that the protocol requires it to impose up to three times. Rather, everything responds to the pressure to which the Northern Irish unionist parties are being subjected, which consider the protocol a betrayal – Northern Ireland remains within the EU Internal Market, outside the United Kingdom – and threaten to break its commitment with the institutions of the autonomous government of the region if the protocol does not disappear.
The center of Manchester has appeared this Monday armored by the police. The tories have made everything possible to prevent street protests, in a city with a Labor constituency and mayor, from splashing their convention. Inside the walled fortress with fences and security forces, the delegates debate in the Convention Center, and fraternize with each other in the bars and restaurants of the neighboring hotel The Midland, a stately Edwardian building where the Beatles were once shunned for not wearing appropriate clothing.
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Between stalls of Oxford shoes (minimum of 220 euros per pair), poplin shirts or silk ties – the stalls surrounding the Conservative Congress are clearly different from those of the Labor convention – the delegates summoned in Manchester were looking above all for reaffirmation that the Brexit trip, in the midst of the current crisis, had been worthwhile: “We have already awakened from the long bad dream that was our membership of the EU,” Frost assured them. “The rebirth of the United Kingdom is now beginning.”
Soldiers at gas stations
Manchester has not suffered from a gasoline shortage as badly as London, or the South West of England in general. Conservative delegates, locked in the convention center bubble, avoided the image of humiliation: 200 soldiers finally deployed by the government to drive the tanker trucks and deliver the fuel to the service stations. Although in Scotland and the north of England the situation had practically stabilized this Monday, with just 6% of the gas stations out of service, the situation in the south of the country still presented difficulties, with at least one in five completely closed . “We continue to monitor the situation very closely, but at least we will need a week or 10 days until all our associates accumulate fuel and return to their normal levels,” he assured Sky News Gordon Balmer, the President of the Petrol Station Association of the United Kingdom (PRA). The PRA represents more than 5,000 of the more than 8,300 service stations throughout the country.
The deployed soldiers have trained over the weekend at oil company facilities, before starting fuel distribution early on Monday morning. The Government will maintain the Army’s collaboration for 31 days, and is confident that, by then, the fuel supply will have completely stabilized. Along with the deployment of the military, the Johnson government decided to temporarily “park” the restrictions on immigration policy that Brexit brought with it, and grant 5,000 temporary visas (until February-March) to EU truckers who decided to travel. to the UK. Johnson, however, has already ruled out that Downing Street relaxes its immigration policy even more, and calls on companies to train and offer better wages to British citizens. Brexit, defends the British prime minister, will need a “period of readjustment” before starting to bear fruit.