Diary Day 442: negotiating the un-negotiable. Courage.

My #Remainer’s Diary Day 442: Tony Blair told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend that free movement on the border had been key to reaching an agreement, the prospect of a hard border posed “real challenges” to the peace process and it was difficult to see how the issue would be resolved.

Mr Blair said Theresa May and Philip Hammond were trying to negotiate the “fundamentally un-negotiable” by leaving the EU, while also trying to maintain preferential treatment in the EU’s common market. “They’re trying to negotiate getting out of the single market, but recreate all of its benefits. That’s not going to happen.

“The risk is, frankly, you end up with a muddle and the worst of both worlds.”

He also said there would be “no extra money” for the NHS through Brexit.

Mr Blair repeated his opinion that Britain could change its mind about leaving the EU. “It’s reversible. It’s not done until it’s done.”

At midnight Brussels time Irish officials said an agreement on the border between the Republic and the North had not been reached. One said: “Contacts continue at official level in order to reach agreement. There is still a way to go. There must be clarity on the need to avoid regulatory divergence which would lead to the re-emergence of a border.”

I was in Amsterdam, where I had the honour of meeting Emilia Slabunova, leader of the Russian liberal opposition party Yabloko. She is a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Republic of Karelia, in northwest Russia, which borders Finland.

I asked Mrs Slabunova how she had got involved in Yabloko. She explained that she was principal of a school in Karelia, which produced several outstanding students who won opportunities to compete abroad in international events. Despite the honour the students would bring to their country by participating, the Russian authorities provided no money to enable them to travel and take up the opportunities. Mrs Slabunova was determined to find funding for them, and managed to do so. These failures by the ruling regime to back outstanding young people motivated her to become an activist of Yabloko, the only opposition party.

In 2013 Mrs Slabunova was the main opposition candidate for Mayor of the capital city of Karelia, Petrozavodsk, and on course to win, but the state authorities cancelled her candidacy in mid-campaign for an alleged defect in one of her filed documents. However, Yabloko swung its support behind Galina Shirshina, a colleague of hers who was standing as an independent. Ms Shirshina won the election, and was Mayor for two years before being forced out of office.

In December 2015 Emilia Slabunova was elected leader of Yabloko.

They do not give in, but keep going in a sham democracy where the authorities can refuse to register candidates on a whim, or can cancel their candidacy if they threaten to win, or force them out without cause when they have won, or where opposition figures can be assassinated in the street, as was Boris Nemtsov. Fuelled by righteous anger, the courage of people like Emilia Slabunova is simply magnificent.

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