Cabinet Sub-Committee Moves Against Customs Partnership

There was no official vote at the Cabinet Brexit sub-committee this afternoon, but one source familiar with the meeting said the room split 6-5 against the customs partnership. Crucially, two former Remain Cabinet ministers, Sajid Javid and Gavin Williamson, were critical of the customs partnership option. Saj told the room the customs partnership was unprecedented and untested and would mean we lose ability for real free trade deals. He indicated that based on the details he’d seen he would opt for Max Fac. Williamson said he had “grave concerns” about the hybrid model. Brexiter sources are bullish that they will now be able to kill off the customs partnership, claiming a majority of the room see it as unworkable. The meeting went on an hour longer than scheduled, but positive noises are coming out…

Nick Timothy Advises May to Drop Customs Partnership

An important intervention from Nick Timothy in The Sun, who has called on Theresa May to drop the customs partnership proposal. His critique of the plan backed by Olly Robbins and Cabinet Remainers is devastating:

After months of scrutiny, it seems unlikely to work. The EU has dismissed it as impossible, and it involves significant risks for Britain.

It would almost certainly require “full regulatory alignment” with the EU, meaning that after Brexit we could not change our laws and regulations in a long list of ways. It would create a bureaucratic burden on businesses and some may choose to use higher EU tariffs, or avoid importing and exporting altogether.

And, because of the need for alignment with EU regulations and the complexity of dual customs checks, it would be much harder to negotiate trade deals with other countries. So today, when Theresa May chairs her Brexit Cabinet Committee meeting, she should lead ministers to a clear decision about the Government’s favoured customs policy.

That decision should be to reject the “new customs partnership” and pursue instead the Government’s own alternative proposal: its “highly streamlined customs arrangement”.

If Timothy was still in Number 10, the customs partnership would be dead. The people keeping it alive are Remainers trying to undo the referendum result…

Legatum Conspiracy Theory Hits Front Pages

It is an old trick to use the protection of parliamentary privilege to get out something you would have difficulty getting past newspaper lawyers. Yesterday’s claim by pro-remain MPs that the Legatum think-tank’s founder Christopher Chandler, was anobject of interest to French intelligence is based on information originating from Robert Eringer. Eringer has been convicted of criminal defamation five times and is just not credible.

Eringer’s central allegation revolved round confusing two similarly named firms; “Sovereign Asset Management AG” which was closed down by the Swiss authorities and “Sovereign Asset Management Limited” which was operated by Chandler. Some of the allegations were made under Labour MP Liam Byrne’s byline in the New European and were rebutted at length last December. Throw in a Russian link and you have a great conspiracy theory. Unfortunately it doesn’t make any sense.

What is going on is that remainers in parliament are hitting out at a think-tank that was once home to a Brexit research team that has now moved to the Institute of Economic Affairs and so in any event no longer has any involvement in the Brexit issue. That was the real motivation for originally making these claims…

Download: Letter For the Attention of Rt. Hon. Liam Byrne MP

8 Reasons Brexiters Cannot Accept Customs Partnership

Crunch time for Theresa May. She is being told to drop her hybrid ‘customs partnership’ by a majority of her Brexit sub-committee – DD, Boris, Gove, Fox, Williamson and Saj – as well as the European Research Group of Brexiter MPs led by Jacob Rees-Mogg. These are the eight reasons Leavers want May to ditch Olly Robbins’ customs partnership…

  • It would see the UK collect tariffs on behalf of Brussels. Importers would then have to prove their products weren’t leaving the UK in order to claim the tariff back. It would be extremely complicated and ultimately unworkable.
  • It won’t be accepted by the EU. It would require them to change customs processes across Europe, which they will never agree to. Indeed they have already rejected it.
  • Having to pay EU tariffs up front, and having to meet the administrative burden of proving their products are UK not EU-bound, would clearly make the UK a less attractive trade partner to non-EU countries and businesses.
  • It wouldn’t eliminate friction. There would still need to be checks at the border, as rules of origin will still need to be monitored.
  • It would inevitably lead to regulatory alignment – essentially staying in the single market for goods – keeping EU rules without any say. This would harm our ability to negotiate trade deals with non-EU countries. It would be a worst of all worlds outcome.
  • It weakens our hand for the rest of the negotiation. It suggests the UK hasn’t made its mind up on whether we really want to leave the customs union, incentivising Brussels to offer us a nightmare binary choice of a customs union or no deal.
  • Number 10 privately believes the customs partnership will not be able to be implemented until 2022, well beyond the end of the transition period.
  • If May persists with her customs partnership plan, it ramps up the chances of no deal. It risks betraying the result of the referendum and forcing Brexiters to put their letters in and blow up the negotiation.

The customs partnership is a customs union in all but name. It won’t be acceptable to Brexiters. May hasn’t publicly committed to the customs partnership – it is not too late for her to reject it, having consulted with Cabinet colleagues, and choose the Max Fac technology-based option. Big day ahead, putting off this decision further is only going to harm the negotiation…

Labour Won’t Sack Frontbencher Who Voted For Second Referendum

Last night Labour frontbencher Philip Hunt defied the whip and voted for a second referendum in the Lords. Labour have confirmed this morning that they will not sack him. Labour are clearly now agitating to derail Brexit.

What must Owen Smith think?

Fox: No Form of Customs Union is Acceptable

About time Liam Fox spoke up for his department and made the case for rejecting any form of customs union. Fox told the Today programme that no form of customs union is acceptable and suggested he would resign if the government attempts to further fudge the issue. As Guido reported yesterday, Sajid Javid joining the Brexit sub-committee could tip the balance away from Number 10’s ‘customs partnership’ towards the Brexiters’ preferred Max Fac solution. It’s make your mind up time…

Remain Peer: This Amendment Can Stop Brexit

There it is: Lord Bilimoria lets the cat out of the bag in the Lords and admits “It is parliament thanks to this amendment that will have the ability to stop the train crash that is Brexit”. 

Jenny Jones responds to the Remainiac Lords by telling them their bonkers speeches have put her off voting for their amendment:

Remain Lords not covering themselves in glory today.

Via via Hugh Bennett

LibDem Peer Compares May to Hitler

Latest from the Lords, where the disgraced moat-cleaner Douglas Hogg and friends are tabling an amendment to stop Brexit. LibDem peer Lord Roberts has just compared Theresa May to Hitler:

“My mind went back to Berlin in March 1933, when the Enabling Bill was passed in the Reichstag. That Enabling Bill transferred democratic rights of the parliament into the hands of one man, that was the Chancellor. His name was Adolf Hitler. Perhaps I’m seeing threats that do not exist, but they are there, they are possible. Who’d have said before the 1930s that Germany, this cultured country, would involve itself in such a terrible war.”

This is the standard of argument from Remain peers.

Vid via Darren Grimes.

Lord Moat: Brexit Only an Interim Decision

Douglas Hogg, the disgraced former Tory minister who filed a £2,000 expenses claim to have his moat cleaned, has tabled his “Stop Brexit” motion in the Lords this afternoon. The amendment, backed by Labour and LibDem Remainers, seeks to allow parliament to control the negotiations, including extending the negotiating process and potentially keeping us in the EU indefinitely. It is a naked attempt by Hogg and other Remain peers to reverse Brexit. As he told the Lords: “At the very best Brexit was only an interim decision”. Left the Commons in disgrace as the poster boy for the expenses scandal, then tried to stop Brexit from the Lords. What a contribution to public life.

Brexit Will Cost EU €3 Billion in Lost Tariffs

While everyone is discussing the Customs Union it gives EuroGuido a chance to highlight the tariff costs of staying in the protectionist bloc that liberal remainers pretend is a “free trade” area. The EU claims as its so-called ‘own resources’ customs duties and sugar levies. Member countries keep 20% of the customs duties raised in each member country to cover the cost of collection and the other 80% is sent is to Brussels. British consumers pay over £3 billion-a-year of the €20 billion total (give or take the odd billion). That works out at nearly a €1-a-week from every man and woman and child in the EU. This burden will rise when Britain leaves and the citizens still trapped in the EU will have to make up the shortfall to keep eurocrats counting their tax-free salaries and pension pots from the comfort of their chauffeur-driven limos…

If post-Brexit Britain abolishes the customs duties that were sent to Brussels it will mean some €4 billion-a-year off household bills. You can see why the EC opposes real free trade and cutting import tariffs – if they lost the revenue from tariffs they would have no budget to spend on themselves. Treble billions all gone!

Could Saj Tip Balance on Brexit Sub-Committee?

Sajid Javid’s appointment has significant implications for Brexit. He also replaces Rudd on the Cabinet Brexit sub-committee, which meets this week to discuss the controversial May / Robbins “customs partnership”. When Rudd was on the committee, the customs partnership sceptics were seemingly outnumbered. What does Saj think? He was a Remainer but he has been clear that he wants to leave the customs union and be able to sign trade deals. Could he tip the balance away from May’s customs partnership towards the Brexiters’ preferred Max Fac option?

UPDATE: More on this from Gary Gibbon.

No.10 / Civil Service Love In

In response to more Brexiteer criticism of Olly Robbins’ customs partnership proposal in the Sunday newspapers, a clear concerted effort from Number 10 to back their Remainer civil servants:

Jeremy Heywood sends some love back:

Hardly going to reassure Leavers. Pass the sick bucket…

Khan: Give EU Migrants Preferential Treatment Over Non-EU Migrants

One of the advantages of Brexit is we can now have a fair immigration system that treats people from outside the EU the same as people from inside. Would be a shame if the government sides with the Remainers and shows a lack of ambition on this too…

3 Ways the ONS Says Snow Slowed Growth

Faisal Islam says linking the disappointing 0.1% growth figure to the bad weather is “laughable”. Guardian deputy editor Paul Johnson tweets: “ONS says weather nothing to do with it”. If you actually read the ONS release rather than the Remain spin, they confirm the snow did have a “limited” impact on slowing growth, in three separate ways, on retail trade, petrol sales and construction:

  • “some impacts on GDP from the snow in the first quarter of 2018 have been recorded for construction and retail sales”
  • “The fall in retail trade was driven by a decrease in petrol sales. This could be attributed to adverse weather conditions, which impacted on travel” 
  • “There is some evidence of an impact of the bad weather on construction output… 3.3% fall in construction was the largest downward pull on Q1”

The impact might have been limited overall, it’s just not accurate and snow joke for the Guardian to report “ONS says weather nothing to do with it”…

Rudd Drops Customs Union Bombshell

Amber Rudd has extraordinarily refused to say Britain will leave the customs union in what comes close to a breach of collective responsibility. Asked at today’s Press Gallery lunch if the UK would stay in the customs union, Rudd replied: “I won’t be drawn on that – we still have some cabinet discussions to have”. It seems pretty clear that Rudd is deliberately putting a bomb under the UK’s negotiating position in an attempt to distract from the Windrush scandal. Every crack in the UK line on the customs union encourages the EU to give us a bad deal. Rudd is putting her own career ahead of Britain’s negotiating position. Might work for a few hours, but she will still be lucky to survive the week…

Rudd admitted to the Lobby that she is fighting for her political career, conceding: “I’m just thinking about staying in the game.” She also ruled out a chicken run to another seat to improve her leadership chances ahead of the next election: “I will definitely fight the next general election in Hastings and Rye”. That’s surely a moot point, her leadership chances are close to zero at the moment…

UPDATE: Rudd clarifies:

Her tweet does not address whether she thinks we will be remaining in a customs union…

Memos Reveal Polman and Unilever at Centre of Tax Scandal Engulfing Rutte

Significant developments in the Unilever tax scandal in Holland overnight. Bombshell documents released to the press name Unilever as the primary cause of the Dutch government’s decision to abolish its dividend tax, and confirm Unilever’s Brexit-hating boss Paul Polman was involved in the discussions. The secret sweetheart deal was seen as “decisive” in Unilever’s decision to move its listing from London to Holland. This is causing a major problem for Mark Rutte – he claimed he was not aware of these memos, but their contents show he very much was and suggest Unilever managed to change Dutch government policy, at huge cost to the Dutch treasury, without any democratic legitimacy. Polman needs 75% of Unilever shareholders to approve the move to Holland. These smoking gun memos will put his ability to reach that threshold in further doubt…

Mogg: Number 10’s Customs Partnership Is a ‘Cretinous Betrayal of Good Sense’

Jacob Rees-Mogg has denounced Number 10’s customs partnership as a “betrayal of good sense” at an Open Europe event in the Commons this afternoon. The Mogg was clear May’s hybrid model was not acceptable to Brexiters:

“It’s completely cretinous… it’s a betrayal of good sense, I cannot understand why government is faffing around with this system. I’m on the same side as Mr Barnier on this, god bless him.”

He insisted there was “no prospect” that Number 10 could u-turn on its customs union red line:

“No deal is a pretty good deal… things like staying in the customs union would be a bad deal… [it] would not be delivering the result of the referendum. David Cameron spent taxpayers money delivering a leaflet saying we would be leaving the single market and the customs union… There are two parts of the customs union, common external tariff means you cannot offer lower tariffs to trading partners in rest of the world, then there is the regulatory side… being in the customs union means you become a tariff taker and rule taker and you end up worse off than you would be as a member of the EU.”

And says if they did cave on the customs union the Tories would lose the next election:

“Say this government took leave of its senses and decided to keep us effectively in EU by staying in the customs union… who would vote for us?… I don’t see how politically this is going to work… I don’t think it will happen in the first place but if it did it would be put right through ballot box.”

He made the point that those seeking to force Number 10 to cave on the customs union are Remainers trying to overturn the result:

“The reason people want to keep us in the single market and the customs union is that they never wanted us to leave and don’t like the result of the referendum.”

He said that Theresa May is a “very enigmatic figure” about Brexit and that “it is hard to know what level of enthusiasm” she has for her government’s main policy.

Have Number 10 got the message about their fudge yet?

May Told Brexiters Needed in No.10 Europe Unit

Tory MPs want Theresa May to add Brexit-supporting trade experts to her Number 10 team after concerns were raised that the current crop of policy aides are out of their depth and not signed up to the PM’s plan for leaving the customs union. The revelation that May’s senior aides “will not be crying into our beer” should the UK be forced to remain in a customs union has enraged Brexiters. As Guido reported yesterday, knives are out for the Number 10 Europe Unit, Denzil Davidson and Ed de Minckwitz, who are accused of attempting to “roll the pitch” ahead of caving on the customs union.

Davidson helped negotiate David Cameron’s failed pre-referendum deal with the EU, which hardly inspires confidence. There is consternation that de Minckwitz, who was one of Stronger In’s top advisers during the referendum and played the role of Boris in BSE’s debate prep, inexplicably holds the trade brief. When you add the Remainer-filled Europe Unit to May’s Remainer chief of staff Gavin Barwell – who blames Brexit for him losing his seat – and her Remainer chief EU adviser Olly Robbins – who came up with the disastrous ‘customs partnership’ fudge – it is clear that none of the PM’s top Brexit aides are true believers.

Some Leavers are lobbying for the role of DIT’s Crawford Falconer, someone who actually has trade expertise, to be beefed up. Others want Number 10 to listen more to the likes of the IEA’s Shanker Singham and the group Economists For Free Trade. There have been serious concerns for a while now that the calibre of May’s Brexit advisers is so low that “Heywood and Robbins run rings around them”. One of the key problems with Number 10’s approach to Brexit is that none of her Brexit aides believe in the cause. Pro-Brexit advisers, Nick Timothy even, would never have allowed their position on the customs union to become so vague. As Theresa May herself said, “You can only deliver Brexit if you believe in Brexit…”

Unilever Faces Shareholder Revolt Amid Dutch Tax Scandal

Guido has previously reported on how Unilever’s fanatical Remainer boss Paul Polman is threatening to drop the company’s London listing. Polman’s plan has been described by City figures as a “nasty campaign” motivated by his opposition to Brexit. There is another reason. A major scandal is brewing in Holland, where the Dutch government has abolished its dividend tax as part of its efforts to lure Unilever over. Polman and Mark Rutte are facing accusations they cooked up a sweetheart tax deal which the Dutch government then attempted to cover up, at huge cost to the Dutch treasury. It has since been forced to admit its private memos on the arrangement made “politically sensitive” references to “another country”, i.e. on Brexit. Unilever shareholders were already unhappy with Polman’s attempts to switch to an exclusive Dutch listing. Jeremy Warner explains why they are going to lose out:

Stripped of its UK domicile, Unilever will no longer be eligible for inclusion in FTSE indices, meaning that investors who track those indices might be forced to sell at possibly disadvantageous prices. To proceed, Unilever needs the approval of 75pc of its plc shareholders. Index holders, some of whom have already spoken out against the plan, own around a fifth of the capital, so it’s by no means in the bag, even with the help of a sneaky little $6bn (£4.3bn) buyback, announced last week. Unilever has a fight on its hands… If I were Paul Polman, Unilever’s Brexit-hating chief executive, I’d be worried. There’s a high chance of his swansong going up in smoke.

The two reasons why Unilever wants to move to Holland are the abolition of the dividend tax – so much for the level playing field – and protective rules which will make takeovers (like the Kraft attempt last year) much harder. Which means Rutte, in his regular pops at Britain over Brexit, has been criticising the UK for not accepting the freedoms of single market but attracting companies to Holland by restricting flow of capital. Will Unilever’s shareholders succeed in stopping the move?

Klopp Strop Flops: Anfield Voted Leave

Renowned whinger and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has thrown another strop, this time over Brexit. Speaking to the Guardian, obviously, the German Merkel fanboy said:

“When I speak to people they say, ‘I wanted to stay [in Europe] but I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t feel it yet as a person… The EU is not perfect but it was the best idea we had… So, for me, Brexit still makes no sense.”

Classic sneering from a self-important millionaire Remainer in defiance of the will of the people: according to academic Chris Hanretty’s figures, Liverpool Walton (the parliamentary constituency which includes Anfield) voted 54% to Leave.[…] 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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