Diary Day 646: a march on the second anniversary of the fateful referendum.

Diary Day 646: more lost time. There was an afternoon of drama as the House of Commons debated the EU Withdrawal Bill sent back again from the Lords with a meaningful vote amendment they had inserted which reflected what Theresa May had promised Dominic Grieve, but then failed to deliver. To cut a long story short, Theresa May succeeded in creating a split in her own rebel MPs by giving a concession at the last minute. Something to do with the Speaker of the House of Commons deciding whether the MPs should have a meaningful vote. It is all rather vague.

Anyway, Dominic Grieve, who briefly enjoyed heroic status among pro EU people, let his fans down by caving in and opposing his own amendment, to calls of “shame”. Nicky Morgan also voted against, along with other former rebels. The Tory rebels were reduced to six: Heidi Allen, Ken Clarke, Phillip Lee, Antoinette Sandbach, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston.

Four Labour MPs, all prominent Brexit supporters – Frank Field, Kate Hoey, John Mann and Graham Stringer – rebelled to back the Government.

One Labour MP was brought in to vote in a wheelchair. Another who voted, Lib Dem Jo Swinson, was due to give birth. But the amendment was defeated by 319 votes to 303, a majority of 16.

In the evening the same day the Lords gave up the fight and the bill was passed.

How much does it matter? The ship of fools is on a collision course with reality, whatever they think.

The following day Airbus published a Brexit Risk Assessment briefing, downloadable from its website. This stated some facts. In a nutshell, Airbus directly employs 14,000 people at 25 sites in the UK and supports over 110,000 jobs in the UK supply chain. A no deal Brexit would be likely to severely disrupt production. It would “force Airbus to reconsider its footprint in the country, its investments in the UK and at large its dependency on the UK…

“This extremely negative outcome for Airbus would be catastrophic…”

Airbus went on to state that Brexit with an agreement and transition period would “still pose a significant amount of risk and be difficult to manage as the proposed transition phase seems too short for governments to agree on all important open points, and for Airbus and its tier one suppliers to agree and implement all changes with their extensive UK supply chain.”

Airbus added: “Past the transition phase, the new EU/UK relationship will entail new procedures, regulatory regimes, duplication of tasks, divergence of standards etc… potentially leading to higher complexity, more effort, more cost, more risks; more friction/delay in our cross-channel, deeply integrated supply chain… operating today on a just-in-time basis.

“Until we know and understand the new EU/UK relationship, Airbus should carefully monitor any new investments in the UK and should refrain from extending its UK suppliers/partners base.

“Customs Union and a harmonized regulatory framework with the EU on aviation are the two major issues for Airbus that will determine its future strategy in UK, and they need to be addressed urgently.

“The critical issues amongst others are the increased cost base due to trade procedures, airworthiness efforts and difficulty to move people. For trade procedures (non-tariff cost) alone, an OECD study estimates the range of the recurring extra cost between 2% and 15% of overall trade. This translates to up to €1B per year to be borne by the Airbus UK-related aerospace ecosystem.”

This was all predicted.

Inside the silo of the right-wing UK politicians and media various people snapped back at Airbus. But Airbus is a multinational business with its headquarters in Toulouse. Words will not alter the arithmetic of profit and loss.

The Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman, Tom Brake, said: “Whilst the Conservatives may wish to ignore reality and pat each other on the back after two years of achieving precisely nothing in the Brexit negotiations, they cannot expect businesses to act in the same way.”

Quite!

There was a march on the second anniversary of the fateful referendum. I was there. We Lib Dems assembled in large numbers in St James Square in central London. I have read that we were the largest single group on the march. According to the event timetable Vince Cable was due to speak to us at 12.15 and we were due to move off at 1 pm. He arrived late and we did not start to move until 10 minutes to 2. There was some grumbling, as we could not see the reason for this.

Only later when I saw an aerial video published by ITV news did I realise that plans had been disrupted because the turnout had greatly exceeded the organisers’ expectations. We couldn’t set off earlier because we couldn’t enter Pall Mall; it was absolutely full of marchers. The front of the march, carrying a huge banner demanding a People’s Vote, had filled Parliament Square before the people at the rear even set off. It was not 100,000 people but far more than that. Estimates range from 200,000 to approaching half a million. The latter estimate is a rough one based on the facts, recorded by aerial photography, that St James Street, Pall Mall, Whitehall and Parliament Square were all simultaneously packed with people and that the known capacity of those places adds up to about half a million.

Pictures of the march were main news items around the world. We are making waves.

The atmosphere was good-humoured, the placards creative. The police were present but looked on impassively and there was no trouble from us. The front door and brass name plates of the Cabinet Office did get decorated by anti-Brexit stickers but that was about all. I heard though that a small counter-demonstration, which the police kept away from us, had attracted some English Defence League thugs who hung around and caused some unpleasant incidents. Where the targets were people, I gather that the police swiftly moved in, but they stood by where the targets were property, such as beer glasses and public furniture.

Some of us have since reported some unnerving online stalking, which suggests that aggressors in the crowds were targeting known individuals. After Jo Cox, we have to be alert. There are weirdos out there.

That’s enough for an already long diary entry. I’ll need another to catch up.

Diary Day 642: the sort of international institution I’d like to belong to.

Diary Day 642: Michel Barnier, speaking in Vienna at the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, said that security in the EU was protected by common rules and operational cooperation between police and judicial authorities. People saw their fundamental rights respected, and in this area the European Court of Justice played an indispensable role in the protection of their rights. He spoke of the delicate balance between security and freedom.

“After Brexit, it is clear that we will need to cooperate strongly with the UK in these areas.

“But, we will need to cooperate on a different basis. That is a challenge in itself.

“The UK has decided to leave the EU, its institutions, structures and safeguards. It will be a third country outside Schengen and outside the EU’s legal order. This is a fact.

“Facts have consequences.”

Referring to the EU’s achievements in internal security, he said that they can seem obvious to us, but they were based on intense cooperation between sovereign states.

“This cooperation is both unique and unprecedented. And it is made possible by the trust between Member States.

“This trust does not fall from the sky! There is no magic wand.”

He referred to his Lisbon speech to the European legal experts, when he said that trust is founded on an “ecosystem” based on common rules and safeguards, shared decisions, joint supervision and implementation and a common Court of Justice.

“If you leave this “ecosystem”, you lose the benefits of this cooperation. You are a third country because you have decided to be so. And you need to build a new relationship.

“To negotiate an ambitious new relationship with the UK, which we all want, we need more realism on what is possible and what is not when a country is outside of the EU’s area of justice, freedom and security and outside of Schengen.”

He said that the EU wanted to build the future partnership with the UK on four pillars.

First was effective exchange of information. But it would not rely on access to EU-only or Schengen-only databases.

Second was operational cooperation between law enforcement authorities.

“But the UK will not be in a position to shape the strategic direction of EU agencies. The European Council guidelines require us to preserve the autonomy of the EU’s decision-making process.

“As a consequence of the UK’s decision to leave the Union, UK representatives will no longer take part in meetings of Europol and Eurojust management boards.”

Third was judicial cooperation in criminal matters. He acknowledged that cooperation based on the Council of Europe Conventions was regarded as slow and cumbersome.

“We are ready to facilitate cooperation on mutual legal assistance and find solutions for effective assistance in judicial cases and evidence sharing between the EU27 and the UK.

“Eurojust will be helpful in this context.”

On extradition he said the European Arrest Warrant was linked to the free movement of people and was based on mutual trust between Member States underpinned by shared respect for fundamental rights, certainty under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and the concept of EU citizenship, which allowed Member States to lift the constitutional ban on the extradition of their own nationals.

But “the UK is not ready to accept the free movement of people, the jurisdiction of the Court and the Charter of Fundamental Rights… This means that the UK cannot take part in the European Arrest Warrant.”

The fourth pillar concerned measures against money laundering and terrorist financing.

“In the EU, we believe that transparency is the best way to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing.

“Together we must ensure transparency on the beneficial owners of companies and trusts.”

He said that the EU was “constrained by the UK’s red lines” but the offer was fair.

Some in the UK “want to maintain all the benefits of the current relationship, while leaving the EU regulatory, supervision, and application framework. And they try to blame us for the consequences of their choice.

“Once again, we will not be drawn into this blame game. It would mean wasting time we don’t have.

“In this field of internal security, it is particularly hard to speak about what will no longer be possible. But we have, I have, to speak the truth.

“The UK decided to leave the EU…

“If we want to build a new relationship, we need a basis of good will and confidence. We also need more realism about what is and what is not possible.”

He said the future relationship would need to be based on “strong safeguards on fundamental rights, data protection and dispute settlement.”

Specifically this meant:

  • A commitment from the UK to continue to be a party to the European Convention of Human Rights.
  • The UK’s data protection standards would have to remain in line with the EU’s, and be confirmed by an adequacy decision from the EU.
  • A mechanism to ensure a uniform application of the future agreement and an effective enforcement and dispute settlement system.

“We want an ambitious partnership with the UK. The content of this partnership depends on the UK’s readiness to ensure appropriate safeguards.

“You cannot expect Member States to continue cooperating with the UK without these safeguards. These are not bureaucratic issues; this is about the lives and liberties of our citizens.”

This all seems very reasonable to me. In fact it sounds exactly the sort of international institution I’d like to belong to. Oh hang on…

Diary Day 641: if ever there was a time to restrain an overweening executive, it is now.

Diary Day 641: more lost time. Theresa May appeared on the BBC’s Marr show and promised a big funding boost for the NHS from the Brexit dividend. Since no such dividend exists, Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, among others swiftly and conclusively pointed this out by reference to the Government’s own previous financial commitments, admissions and acceptance of Office for Budget Responsibility figures. There just isn’t a Brexit dividend; in fact the reverse, as the economy has already shrunk a bit, he said.

In effect Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond was handed a £20bn bill for the NHS but no money to pay it with.

So Theresa May was branded a snake oil saleswoman, deservedly, and No. 10 Downing Street rapidly had to retreat from her foolish or mendacious statement, talking instead about tax rises. The Conservative manifesto commitment to tax cuts went out of the window as it did so.

An article in the Observer by Carole Cadwalladr on Arron Banks, Brexit and the Russia connection examined what has come to light so far and asked why the lies. She wrote that investigators needed to “follow the money”, as they did when uncovering the Watergate affair, by unravelling Mr Banks’ complex offshore business structures: “Because what we appear to see through Banks and Wigmore is a linked series of relationships between the Trump campaign – via Steve Bannon – to the public face of Leave.EU’s campaign, Nigel Farage. Through Farage to Banks and Wigmore. And through Banks and Wigmore to the Russian government.”

But also, she went on to say, follow the lies, tweets, Facebook posts and memes.

Vince Cable, in a searing tweet, called her article a powerful piece on “how treason has been quietly accepted because implications are too big. #Brexit not just a mess but fundamentally illegitimate.”

Spot on. And we Remainers are very, very angry about it.

The next day, the Lords reconsidered the issue of a meaningful vote for Parliament, and in a stunning rebuke to Theresa May they rejected the Government’s enfeebling amendment, and passed a new one by a larger majority than before, 354 votes to 235, with more crossbenchers and rebellious Conservatives supporting it. This is the opposite of what I had expected – that the resolve of the crossbenchers would weaken.

The new amendment, tabled by Viscount Hailsham (Douglas Hogg), and dubbed “Grieve 2”, was based on what Dominic Grieve thought he had agreed with the solicitor general, Robert Buckland. I am sure the lawyers in the Lords were particularly shocked that Theresa May’s promise to Dominic Grieve was broken. Every day deals are done between lawyers that depend on personal integrity and absence of trickery. Lord Woolf, the former Lord Chief Justice, was one of those who backed Grieve 2. He was and is a public and administrative law specialist and I doubt whether anyone alive better understands that if ever there was a time to restrain an overweening executive, it is now.

The British Chambers of Commerce issued an economic forecast which said that British GDP growth would fall to its weakest since 2009, business investment growth would slow from 2.4% to 0.9%, net trade would weaken in the coming years, the service sector would weaken to 1.2% and the economy was “in a torpor.”

Jim Armitage in the London Evening Standard recalled that the BCC had refused to back Remain in 2016, and had allowed its chief, John Longworth, to become “one of the most vocal, high-profile Brexiteers”, weakening the line taken by the CBI and other top business people. “It allowed the Brexit camp to point to the BCC and declare: “Look, businesses aren’t really anti-Brexit — it’s only the Davos elites in the CBI who are really opposed.””

He pointed out that the BCC’s economic forecast now said just what the CBI and others had said in 2016. If only they had spoken up then.

Diary Day 639: the Government destroyed the UK’s negotiating position at the start.

Diary Day 639: much harrumphing by the pro-Brexit press about the amendment filed in the Lords by the Government – the one whose text the Government altered behind the backs of Dominic Grieve MP and his pro-Remain Tory colleagues after they had agreed the earlier text. The amendment will be debated and could be changed by the Lords on Monday. It will then go back to the Commons on Wednesday.

To recap on how we got here, first Mr Grieve filed an amendment seeking a meaningful vote for Parliament. Then that was defeated in the Commons. Then it, or one like it, was inserted by the Lords. Then that came back to the Commons where it was defeated on the basis of a personal promise from Theresa May to Mr Grieve and his band of allies to file an amendment in the Lords, the gist of which was understood but the precise drafting would follow. Then the draft was agreed by Mr Grieve. But it wasn’t filed in the Lords. Something different was, something weaker, which says that Parliament just notes the Government’s plans.

Parliament is being asked to disempower itself. The spin put on this curious demand by the anti-EU camp is that the Government needs to win the vote in order to be able to use the prospect of leaving without a deal as a negotiating position. The argument goes that if the Government loses the vote, the EU negotiators will “offer either nothing or a very bad deal”, to quote one commentator.

How does the argument go? 1. Parliament will not vote to leave the EU without a deal. But 2. the Government needs to be able to threaten to leave the EU without a deal. Therefore 3. Parliament must agree to be kept out of this by depriving itself of power to interfere with or stop the Government.

As a negotiator myself, the key to negotiating success is to understand the parties’ alternatives to negotiating. Understand your, and their, BATNA – Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.

In the present case, the UK’s BATNA is clearly not Brexit with no deal. Leaving without a deal would be catastrophic to the UK, and Michel Barnier and the EU negotiating team know it. And in order to leave without a deal, all either side need do is fail to agree. The UK will fall off the cliff edge because it is already rolling towards it. (It started this by pressing the button marked Article 50 with a set time limit.) Threatening to leave without a deal is an empty threat and everyone knows it. Therefore step 2 in the Government’s argument is a false assertion.

The UK’s BATNA is, actually, revoking the Article 50 notice. But the Government can’t admit that, even to itself, because it has made the political decision that it must obey the referendum result. So its mantra is that the UK is leaving. The UK’s second best is an EEA solution, but it has ruled that out as well by ruling out future freedom of movement, one of the four freedoms within the EEA.

The EU’s BATNA is also for the UK to change its mind and stay. But its second best alternative is for the EU institutions (with or without the UK) to be kept strong and attractive to new entrants. And for that, it needs the other member states and potential new joiners to see that being in the EU is miles better than leaving.

So in reality, 1. Parliament will not vote to leave the EU without a deal. But 2. It will do no good if the Government is able to threaten to leave the EU without a deal. Therefore 3. Parliament does not need to agree to be kept out of this by depriving itself of power to interfere with or stop the Government. Parliament disempowering itself won’t help.

The EU’s negotiators understand the parties’ BATNAs but the UK Government is deceiving itself and attempting to deceive others, and failing. This means that fruitful negotiation is not possible at the moment, as we see.

The problem is that the Government destroyed the UK’s negotiating position at the start. The Government needs to admit its mistakes and get real.

Diary Day 638: the chaos in the Conservative ranks got worse.

Diary Day 638: more lost time. Guy Verhofstadt MEP, speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, said we had a fifth column inside the EU of people he called the “cheerleaders of Putin”, and named Farage, Le Pen, Wilders, as among them. He went on to accuse them of taking money and intelligence from the Kremlin, and Arron Banks of colluding with and having the help of the Kremlin to obtain Brexit. He tweeted about it as well.

Mr Banks’ solicitors wrote the usual pre-claim letter demanding a retraction. Mr Verhofstadt has not deleted his tweet.

It seems that Mr Banks is thinking of leaving politics. I wish he would.

The European Parliament decided by a large majority to redistribute 27 of the 73 current UK seats among 14 countries which are currently under-represented, and leave the remaining 46 unfilled, holding them in reserve for new member states. So the number of MEPs will fall from 751 to 705 after Brexit. The plan now goes to the Council at its summit in Brussels on 28-29 June.

The chaos in the Conservative ranks got worse as Theresa May filed an amendment in the House of Lords which the parliamentary party’s pro-Remain rebels, led by Dominic Grieve, immediately challenged as having been altered after they had agreed the wording. The amendment had been for a motion on the final Brexit deal which was amendable and would have given MPs a meaningful vote. The revised wording talks merely of Parliament taking note of what the Government was planning.

The Tory Remainers said this was in breach of the personal assurance she had given them as the price of not defeating her in a vote on the meaningful vote issue. The Brexit fanatics of the European Research Group were displeased too. Somthe whole thing will be thrashed out again next week as the two Houses of Parliament go into ping pong mode.

The SNP MPs staged a mass walkout from the House of Commons in protest at the Government’s flouting of the Sewel Convention which calls for consent from Scotland to legislation on devolved matters.

I got up very early, got a train and spent a long day helping on polling day in Lewisham East.

Most of the time I was in the Catford area. I rather liked Catford. It is refreshingly diverse, with people from many parts of the world. Exotic vegetables were on sale in the market. But many, many closed shops and offices.

We spotted Labour teams out on “GOTV” duties, to persuade their supporters to go and vote. The fact that they felt they had to do that, in this safest of safe Labour seats, showed how flaky their support had become.

I spent my evening telling at Lochaber Hall polling station, in Lee Green Ward. Voters kept stopping to talk, about Dogs At Polling Stations (several delightful ones came including a very fetching Schnoodle), but mainly about their feelings about Brexit, Britain today and the main political parties. After my session I ambled back to the Committee Room and on the way encountered several more voters some of whom stopped to chat on seeing my “Lucy For Lewisham” sticker.

We agreed on pretty well everything. In a nutshell, horror at Brexit, shock at a country they no longer recognise, disgust at the Tories, dismay at Labour, frustration that the Lib Dems don’t get our message out more.

I liked Lee Green Ward. It was refreshing. People I met were diverse, open minded, friendly and free of Little Englandism.

The Docklands Light Railway ride from Lewisham to Stratford by night is rather wonderful. It is a trip through marshland with a difference. All has changed beyond recognition in recent years. The names are glorious. One station is called Mudchute – which I gather comes from the use of the area for dumping mud spoil from the River Thames during excavation of Millwall Docks in the mid 19th century. There is open space and a general sense of neglect and rustiness. And then suddenly you are dwarfed by glittering cliffs of glass and steel. Below them is the calm dark water of the docks. This is Canary Wharf, monument to Mammon. Then the train rises and dips gently as the rails curve round to the north-east, and the glamour is all over as it draws into Poplar, in Tower Hamlets. And then on to Stratford where two women on the stairs were screaming obscenities at some guy in shorts, the ticket office was closed and there were only two rail ticket machines, one of which was out of order and the other wouldn’t sell super-saver single tickets.

No dinner, and a very late arrival home.

The by-election result announced in the small hours was almost exactly as indicated by Lib Dem canvass returns leaked to Business Insider. Chapeau! The Labour candidate won, as expected in this safe seat, but on a very low turnout. Her majority was 5,629; last year the previous MP Heidi Alexander’s was 21,213. With that amount of voter apathy and vote loss Labour is in deep trouble.

Somerset Capital Management, a firm co-founded by European Research Group Chair Jacob Rees-Mogg MP (who works for it part time), has set up an investment fund in Ireland, whose prospectus is warning prospective clients about the financial dangers of Brexit. Glorious!

Paul Dacre is leaving the editorship of the Daily Mail, though not immediately unfortunately, and the pro-Remain editor of the Mail on Sunday is to succeed him. Mr Dacre claims reversing DM editorial policy would be suicide for the paper. He thinks he has the power of prophecy now. Some people just get above themselves. And they don’t know when to move on.

Diary Day 635: Tory infighting, Labour fudge, businesses leaving, snarling press headlines, reprise.

Diary Day 635: in search of more lost time. My last few days have been roughly like this: unavoidable admin, trains, meeting in Milton Keynes, helping in Lewisham East, more admin, battling against drought, weeds and blackfly, trains, demo outside the Palace of Westminster, vigil outside Downing Street, more admin.

Britain’s last few days have been roughly like this: Tory infighting, Labour fudge, businesses leaving, snarling press headlines, reprise.

The tireless Carole Cadwalladr contacted a journalist called Isabel Oakeshott, an outspoken Brexit supporter known for having shopped her friend the economist Vicky Pryce and the latter’s former husband, the former Government minister Chris Huhne. Ms Oakeshott ghost wrote a book for Arron Banks of Leave.EU in 2016. While doing this she was given access to his emails and texts. Ms Cadwalladr and the freelance investigative reporter Peter Jukes had obtained emails of Mr Banks’ which Ms Oakeshott had had since the summer of 2016, but failed to mention either in the book or otherwise. It seems that the phone call from Ms Cadwalladr had the effect of inducing Ms Oakeshott to give the story to her former employer, the implacably Brexity Sunday Times.

The emails show that Mr Banks had far closer links with the Russian government and had met the Russian ambassador much more often than he had admitted, as well as meeting other Russian figures. He had also visited Moscow. He claimed to have spent his time there doing things like visiting the Hermitage Museum (it is in Petrograd, not Moscow) and taking a tourist ferry (it wasn’t running at that time of year).

Mr Banks and his associate Andy Wigmore gave evidence to the DCMS Select Committee. Before the MPs had done with asking questions, in what was admittedly a long session, the pair walked out, saying they had a luncheon appointment. The unflappable Damian Collins MP, Chair of the Committee, afterwards issued a statement: “Mr Banks and Mr Wigmore themselves put on the record that they frequently lie, exaggerate, misspeak and misunderstand.  So it is difficult for the Committee to know if we should take all of their answers seriously…” He added that the DCMS Committee would be writing to them to follow up on various points raised during their evidence.

The Commons defeated all the 15 amendments inserted by the Lords into the EU Withdrawal Bill. The pro-Remain Tory rebels apparently had a crisis meeting with Theresa May just before the key vote (on the meaningful vote amendment), and she persuaded them not to force her out by voting against the Government. Apparently she gave them personal assurances.

No one has any real idea what this signifies. I don’t think it signifies much. Whatever the UK’s politicians do and say, Theresa May, by her foolish decision to serve the Article 50 notice, has launched the UK on this course based on a massive misunderstanding of how the EU will react and a massive miscalculation of the UK’s importance to the EU. The other 27 EU members know this, and the clock keeps ticking.

On the same day the High Court ruled that a challenge to the Article 50 notice on constitutional grounds was out of time, which is odd, because if it was unconstitutional it is still unconstitutional, and to knock out a challenge to an unconstitutional act on purely procedural grounds when there is a discretion to extend time and do otherwise seems unjust to me. A neat way to duck having to decide a huge issue.

The owner of Jaguar Range Rover (is it Tata?) announced that Range Rover production is moving to Slovakia. The Office for National Statistics published data showing that in April of this year UK manufacturing output shrank the most since 2012.

I wish I could wake up from this.

Diary Day 629: it seems that criminal investigations are homing in on whether foreign money was used to influence the EU referendum.

Diary Day 629: Jeremy Corbyn decided against his party’s MPs backing membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), which the Lords had inserted into the EU Withdrawal Bill. Probably his lieutenants judged that too many Labour MPs would rebel against accepting free movement of people, one of the four pillars of the Single Market and an EEA requirement.

Labour tabled an alternative amendment which talks about access to the Single Market instead. This is more of the same fudge. Any third country has access to the Single Market without being in it. Only by being in it are the borders made invisible and the economic benefits obtained. But Mr Corbyn, like Mrs May, has put party before the welfare of the people. We have noted and will remember that.

It’s Ghanaian shoe manufacturing all over again.

Alexander Nix, formerly of Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group (now in administration) and now of a company called Emerdata, appeared before the Digital Culture Media and Sport Select Committee chaired by Damian Collins MP.

In a marathon yet riveting session, a visibly uncomfortable Mr Nix was questioned at great length. began with a dispute with the Chair over whether he could read out a prepared statement. He refused to accept the Chair’s ruling, began reading it out but was stopped when he got to the substance.

He was grilled over the claims he had made about his company and its methods in the Channel 4 “sting”, which he now resiled from and claimed had been edited to show him in the worst possible light. Channel 4 issued a denial during the hearing.

Mr Nix was grilled about his previous evidence to the Select Committee. On key points, such as Facebook data, he had not been accurate.

He had with him quite a large document to which he frequently referred.

He was unable to say what the companies’ ethics were. He refused to say whether he had taken £8m out of his current company recently. He refused to disclose the names of shareholders or details of payments made to his former group, claiming privilege. He denied several times that claims and statements made in marketing materials by the companies were accurate. He repeatedly refused to answer questions that he said were not relevant. He attacked the motives and accuracy of Christopher Wylie and “the liberal press”, suggesting that Mr Wylie was a fantasist motivated by envy and resentment and that the press was motivated by dislike of President Trump and of the referendum result. The Committee kept going back to the quest for facts, and referring to documentary evidence they possessed and witness evidence from other people.

From the claims of privilege it seems that investigations are homing in on whether foreign money was used to influence the EU referendum, which is illegal in Britain. And in the USA, on whether foreigners were involved in the Presidential Election, which is illegal there.