Damian Green: We’ll End Up With Max Fac

Interesting that close May ally and former leading Cabinet Remainer Damian Green has told Westminster Hour he thinks we will end up with Max Fac:

“I think the most likely end point is some of what’s called Maximum Facilitation, some variant of that. I personally am not yet convinced that you could have that in place by the end of 2020, by the end of the implementation period, and therefore you might need to bolt onto that another period, a sort of transition period onto that.”

Note that earlier Michael Gove ruled out extending the transition. But is this a sign Max Fac is winning?

Irish Foreign Minister Claims “No Infrastructure” Means No Technological Solution

Simon Coveney, the Irish Tánaiste and Minister of Foreign Affairs & Trade, knows there are no votes in an easy Brexit for an Irish politician. He reiterated to Nick Robinson that the British had signed up last year to “no border infrastructure on the island of Ireland and no related checks or controls. That means we are not talking about cameras and scanning systems and drones here.” He wants a purely political solution, e.g. regulatory alignment.

IDS: Remain Rebels Plunging Knife Into Heart of Government

IDS on Remainer customs union rebels:

“Leaving the customs union was in the manifesto – this is a very big issue if they’re deciding to break this because they plunge a knife into the heart of government, and particularly the Prime Minister.”

May should get on with it and face down the Tory Remainers threatening to put Corbyn in Number 10…

Gove Rules Out Extending Transition

Gove ruled out an extension to the transition period, telling Nick Robinson “I don’t believe in an extension… in delay there lies no plenty… we need to crack on” and must “meet the deadline”. That’s a thanks but no thanks to Nick Boles’ suggestion from last week…

Gove on “Flawed” Customs Partnership

Gove suggests the proposed customs partnership does not meet the tests set by Theresa May in her Sunday Times article today. Tough to see how the customs partnership can survive…

Shadow Brexit Secretary Can’t Think of One Good Thing About Brexit

Labour not learning the lessons from the local election results…

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Brexit Driving Me To Edge of Madness

Following Matthew Parris yesterday, arch-remainer Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has admitted Brexit is driving her up the wall:

“I am feeling on the edge of madness and mental illness.”

Guido will let readers decide whether this is a new development…

Farage to DUP?

Nigel Farage is in Belfast today attending a DUP fundraiser alongside Arron Banks. Banks didn’t rule out Farage doing an Enoch and defecting to the DUP:

“I would discount nothing, I would include nothing.”

Guido will believe it when they release the Brexit movie

UPDATE: As expected:

 

No.10, Treasury and Robbins’ Bid to Wreck Max Fac

If any further proof were needed that the civil service is working against Brexit, this morning’s revelation in The Sun that Olly Robbins held back evidence in favour of the Max Fac model just about sums it up. May’s Europhile Brexit adviser stands accused of deliberately not including evidence that a technological solution can be found to solve the Irish border question in his presentation to the Brexit sub-committee. Meanwhile, George Trefgarne reports that Number 10 and the Treasury nixed plans to trial Max Fac next year:

If the civil service stopped trying to fight Brexit and just got on with it, things would be going a lot better for Number 10.

Hancock: We’ll Be Staying in Eurovision

Guido is usually aligned with the demands of the ERG group of Tory Brexiters, but this time they’ve surely gone too far. Flamboyant Tory MP Michael Fabricant has suggested the UK should withdraw from the Eurovision Song Contest after Brexit, asking Culture Secretary Matt Hancock:

“Does my right hon. Friend share my dismay that Brexit does not mean that we are leaving the Eurovision song contest?”

The Secretary of State shot down the idea:

“We should apply to the Eurovision Song Contest a principle that I try to apply to my life: whenever something goes wrong, we should try, try and try again, and maybe we will eventually get there.”

Karaoke lover Hancock must be tempted to enter himself…

Customs Partnership Would See UK Still Paying EU Billions

There is another problem with Number 10’s proposed customs partnership that hasn’t had much attention. In the unlikely event Brussels agrees to such a partnership, it would inevitably require the UK to continue to pay a substantial ratio of the customs revenues it collects to the EU. At present, the majority of UK customs revenues are paid to the EU – in 2017 the UK contributed £3.2 billion, or £60 million a week. Customs revenues make up over a third of the total UK net contribution to the EU…

Cabinet Brexiters need to ask Number 10:

  • what ratio of customs revenues collected would be paid to the EU under their customs partnership?
  • will the EU agree to rebate – or deduct from its overall customs contributions – revenues for goods which remain in the UK?

At present no one in the government seems to have an answer. It would be subject to negotiation, yet if we don’t like the answers there would be nothing we can do about it, as the clock is ticking down and there is no Plan B. As Open Europe’s Henry Newman points out:

“if the Government is to consider the Customs Partnership further, it needs to be clear that it would likely mean the UK continuing to pay a substantial proportion of any customs revenues collected at our borders to the EU. Whatever its merits, a Customs Partnership could entail the UK paying very large sums of money to the EU in the long-term – something the Government has so-far ruled out”

Continuing to pay the EU potentially billions of pounds does not seem to meet May’s red line of taking back control of money. This is £60 million a week that could, to coin a phrase, be spent on the NHS instead…

Nick Timothy Tells May to Back Max Fac

Another important intervention from Nick Timothy in the Telegraph today, who directly advises his old boss to drop her customs partnership and back the Brexiters’ Max Fac option. Last week Timothy savaged the NCP, today he makes the case for Max Fac and tells Number 10 to “get on with it”. Theresa May still listens to her former chief of staff, it is also significant that Max Fac is being pushed by someone in the PM’s trusted inner circle, not just Cabinet Brexiters and the ERG. Timothy says Max Fac:

“…can be made efficient by sensible policy and technology, and the costs can be offset by the opportunities provided by trade deals with the world’s fastest growing economies…

Downing Street’s reluctance to choose “max fac” is driven by concern about the Northern Irish border. But “max fac” does not demand a hard border. Checks do not need to be conducted along the border: the administration can be done in advance through pre-registration and trusted trader schemes, and monitoring can be conducted in each country. Small businesses can be exempted, more powers devolved to Belfast, and more all-Ireland governance arrangements can be agreed to facilitate trade.

The Commission says this is impossible, but their negotiating stance is hardly surprising when they believe Parliament might force the Government into a customs union. And whatever Barnier says, “max fac” would be no anomalous lacuna in the EU’s border. Two years ago, more than a million migrants simply walked into Europe. And as anybody who has driven into France from Switzerland knows, there are no checks along whole sections of the EU border.

The EU is ignoring its own negotiating guidelines. They say “the unique challenges of Ireland will require flexible and imaginative solutions”. The responsibility to find these solutions is not only British but European too.

If there is a compromise to be made, ministers might accept that “max fac” will take longer to be introduced than the current implementation timetable suggests. But to get its way with Brussels, and to convince Parliament that there is an alternative to a customs union, the Government needs to get on with it, choose “max fac” – and start making its case.”

The crunch meeting is now on Tuesday next week. If Timothy was still in Downing Street May would be backing Max Fac, instead she has been captured by Remainers. Five days to see sense…

Named: 247 Lords Who Voted to Keep Us In Single Market

Theres are the 2 bishops, 17 Tories, 50 crossbenchers, 83 Labour, 84 LibDem and 11 other peers who voted to overturn the referendum result and keep the UK in the single market tonight. More than a few voting to protect their EU pensions. This is the 13th time the unelected House of Lords has voted to try to wreck Brexit. Reform badly needed.

Bishops

Ely, Bishop
Leeds, Bishop

Conservative

Altmann, Baroness
Arbuthnot of Edrom, Lord
Bowness, Lord
Cooper of Windrush, Lord
Cormack, Lord
Green of Hurstpierpoint, Lord
Hailsham, Viscount
Heseltine, Lord
Inglewood, Lord
McGregor-Smith, Baroness
Northbrook, Lord
Patten of Barnes, Lord
Prior of Brampton, Lord
Tugendhat, Lord
Verma, Baroness
Wellington, Duke
Wheatcroft, Baroness

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Record Profits for UK Firms

According to the latest Profit Watch report from the Share Centre, Q1 2018 saw:

  • Collective profits of UK firms hit record high
  • Profits among FTSE 350 increase by 158%
  • Sales among FTSE 350 hit three year high, growing by 21%
  • 70% of companies had higher profits
  • Four fifths of sectors saw higher profits

Helal Miah, investment analyst at The Share Centre, says: “UK plc has delivered the strongest set of results in years, extending a period of growth not seen since the recovery in the immediate aftermath of the recession and financial crisis”. Nothing in the FT on this yet…

Thornberry: Labour Want to Remain in THE Customs Union

Emily Thornberry told the Today programme – twice – that Labour wants to stay in the customs union.

“What we want to do, is we want to remain in the customs union. We don’t want any faffing around with any of the nonsense that the government is coming up with in relation to alternatives to the customs union. We want to remain in the customs union.”

This appears to be a radical shift in policy from Labour, who previously said they want to leave the customs union and then join a new customs union after Brexit. Thornberry was clear that Labour now wants to stay in the customs union. Unless she doesn’t understand it?

UPDATE: Clarification of Thornberry comments from Labour source: “Emily agrees with our policy which is to seek to negotiate a comprehensive UK-EU customs union, with the UK having a say over future trade deals and arrangements.” Well, it was early in the morning…

Mail Warns May

Theresa May values the Daily Mail more than any other news outlet, it is said, and she can be left in no doubt as to what the paper thinks of her customs fudge this morning. Today’s Mail editorial directly backs Boris and warns the PM:

“Let’s be clear what this new ‘partnership’ means. British customs officers would act as tax collectors for Brussels, continuing to charge EU tariffs on imports entering the UK from outside the bloc, then giving rebates to traders whose goods were sold exclusively in Britain… it would be a logistical nightmare and an invitation to fraud, as British officials struggled to track the final destination of every imported widget and foodstuff so the correct tariffs could be charged. The infrastructure required would take years to install, delaying Brexit indefinitely. Needless to say, this bureaucratic fudge was devised in Whitehall, by Mrs May’s Europhile Brexit adviser Olly Robbins. Only a civil servant could believe the answer to freeing up cross-border trade is even more red tape. This paper has had its differences with Mr Johnson but on this issue he is absolutely right. The customs partnership makes a mockery of taking back control and risks the worst of all options – staying tied to Brussels but unable to make our own trade deals…

Theresa May – must stand firm. Last week’s local election successes in Leave-voting areas showed the public still trust the Tories to deliver a clean Brexit. Yes, Labour wreckers, misguided Tory rebels, Europhile civil servants and Remainer Lords (many of whom receive EU pensions) will use every weapon they have to frustrate the will of the people. But even if Mrs May did concede to staying in some form of customs union, they would simply demand more and more concessions until the referendum vote was effectively overturned. Facing down this unholy anti-Brexit alliance will be a strong test of the Prime Minister’s nerve. If British democracy is to be upheld, it’s a test she must not fail.”

If Number 10 hadn’t got the message, Quentin Letts is explicit:

“The Prime Minister, while publicly reiterating her determination to leave the single market and the customs union, is prevaricating in private. She allows her Downing Street team, who for the main part were Remain supporters, to continue with their crazy appeasement of Brussels with this customs partnership proposal… Under Conservative party rules, it needs only 48 MPs to trigger a vote of confidence in Theresa May’s leadership. If she green-lights customs partnership, that will happen within hours. I fear she simply has no idea how angry Brexiteers are about this plan, or about the Whitehall establishment’s continuing attempts to stymie Brexit. The mood is one of tranquil resolve: if the Prime Minister tries this outrageous anti-democratic move, it’s off-with-her-head.”

There is also a warning for Gavin Williamson, the Brexit sub-committee ‘Brexiter’ most likely to waver and switch sides – he is dubbed “wobbly” Williamson – and Sajid Javid. Quentin notes they would be “slaughtered” and “could immediately forget any dreams of being leader” if they rat on this.

Number 10 are mad if they think this is just Boris sounding off. It is also a majority of the Brexit sub-committee, Nick Timothy, the ERG, seemingly every Brexiter, and the Daily Mail, the paper May has relied on for support for years. If they can’t see that…

684 Days Since the Referendum, the Government Doesn’t Have a Policy on Customs

684 days have passed since Britain voted for Brexit. Theresa May has been Prime Minister for 664 days. There are just 325 days – ten months – until we are supposed to be leaving the EU. Still, the UK government does not have a policy on customs. 

Boris has given an interview to the Mail today in which he brands Number 10’s customs partnership proposal “crazy”. Guido has outlined the problems with it here. The customs partnership is dead in its current form, but the papers are full of speculation Downing Street is going to plough ahead with a rehashed version of the model rejected by the Brexit sub-committee last week.

Just as worryingly, Number 10 is putting off the decision yet again. Customs won’t be discussed at Cabinet today, we are told, nor at the next meeting of the sub-committee on Thursday. There are reports that the Commons vote on customs may even be delayed until the autumn, as May desperately tries to fudge what is already a fudge. Continually delaying the decision on customs is becoming a dereliction of duty. The uncertainty is harming the economy. The vague UK position is encouraging Brussels to wind down the clock and keep us in a full customs union. If Number 10 delay any further, the choice will be between a customs union and no deal, outcomes no one wants. Get on with it…

Coordinated Remain Effort to Back Customs Partnership

 

Greg Clark – one of the most ultra Remain Cabinet members – was up on Marr this morning to defend their customs partnership. If anyone was in any doubt, this is who came out immediately afterwards to back their proposal:

CBI: “We welcome the Secretary of State’s recognition that any customs solution must deliver this goal, with no tariffs or additional border checks, delays or red tape for EU/UK exports and imports, which account for nearly half of all UK trade. This is a time for pragmatic solutions, not ideology.”

British Chambers of Commerce: “An agreement to maintain something close to the status quo until new rules, technology, infrastructure and staff are in place is a no-brainer. The alternative is greater uncertainty, disrupted supply chains, and one costly adjustment after another.”

Best for Britain:  “Greg Clark’s warning is right but it shows how weak the Prime Minister actually is. That Number 10 has sent out a senior minister to virtually beg their colleagues to change tack shows how the Prime Minister is in office but not in power.”

Amber Rudd: “Quite right, making the case clearly and yes, passionately, for a Brexit that protects existing jobs and future investment.”

Nicky Morgan: “The people that are sabre-rattling about leadership, who are threatening votes and motions of no confidence are the people that want the hardest of hard Brexits.”

Anna Soubry: “The PM has got to sort out and see off these ideologues, who are blighting our party… I don’t think they represent the best interests of British business… I don’t care whether you call it a customs union, an arrangement, or a partnership.”

That last Soubry comment rather letting the cat out of the bag – the customs partnership is a customs union in all but name…

Mogg: Customs Partnership is Effectively Staying in EU

It’s nearly two years since the referendum and the government still hasn’t decided its position on customs. Number 10 want to further delay the decision to the Autumn (by which point any remaining negotiating leverage will have disappeared). Senior Tories are now in open warfare on TV over the issue. It’s hard to understate how serious the next few days are…

On Peston Jacob Rees-Mogg clearly explained why the customs partnership would require adherence to single market rules to function. “We would not in effect be leaving the European Union”… 

He then accused Business Secretary Greg Clark of fostering “scare stories” and “Project Fear”:

“You’d have thought it would have come to an end by now.”

Finally Mogg took apart the remainer argument over terrorism, security and the Irish border, suggesting it is disgraceful for remainers to mobilise fear of terrorism for their political ends. Starting to feel like it could really come to a head this week…

Greg Clark’s Project Fear 2.0

Business Secretary Greg Clark launching Project Fear 2.0 on Marr this morning. Clark, one of the most ultra Remain cabinet members, scaremongered in defence of their customs partnership.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Jean-Claude Juncker speaking to the Irish Dáil on his preference for drunkeness…

“I have difficulty walking. I am not drunk. I have sciatica. I would prefer to be drunk.”

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