Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak spend evening before no-deal Brexit set to be confirmed at Tory fundraiser

Online event to celebrate ‘how we got Brexit done’ – even as deadlocked trade talks poised to end in failure

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
@Rob_Merrick
Saturday 12 December 2020 17:22
comments
Brexit briefing: How long until the end of the transition period?

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are spending the evening before a no-deal Brexit is likely to be confirmed at a Tory fundraiser, drawing fierce criticism.

The online event, on the first anniversary of the Conservative election victory, is celebrating “how we got Brexit done” – even as the deadlocked trade talks threaten to end in failure.

“Boris and Rishi will be taking questions directly from you and sharing exclusive insights into last year’s campaign, how we got Brexit done and how they’ve handled this unprecedented year,” Tory supporters were told.

They were urged to “chip in” to boost party funds, ahead of local and mayoral elections next May, with £24 the recommended donation.

Critics expressed disbelief that the prime minister and the chancellor were focused on fundraising when the country is poised to crash out of the EU without a trade or security agreement.

Mr Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, will speak on Sunday – and pull stumps on the negotiations if they believe there is no prospect of them succeeding.

“With the country poised to tip over the cliff edge, against everything they had promised, people will not forgive them as the economy plunges and livelihoods are negatively impacted,” said Sajjad Karim, a former Conservative MEP.

“These celebrations will be viewed in a very different light then.”

Tim Farron, the former Liberal Democrat leader, said: “It's clear the Tories are cheerleaders for themselves, not the rest of us.”

“At a time when these Conservative ministers are leaving people's livelihoods at the mercy of the pandemic, it sticks in the throat that they are begging for funds to protect their own jobs.”

And Tommy Sheppard, an SNP MP, criticised the decision to “prioritise their time filling their party coffers” amid the threat of “a deeply damaging no-deal or low-deal Brexit that Scotland didn’t vote for”.

The event comes as armed ships are being sent to the English Channel to protect UK fishing waters – a former first sea lord suggesting the royal navy needs to power to board EU vessels.

Meanwhile, official forecasts say a no-deal will swipe £40bn from the UK economy next year, putting 300,000 people out of work, with higher food prices and border chaos also predicted.

Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator, and his UK counterpart David Frost, are still talking in Brussels, but with no apparent hope of a breakthrough.

Manfred Webber, a German MEP and leader of the European People's Party in the European parliament, joined senior Tories in criticising the navy build-up in the Channel.

“The world is full of enemies of the European way of life, our freedoms and our values. We should fight these enemies together instead of each other,” he tweeted.

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