Rich’s Monday Morning View

New Brexit Deadline: Halloween

The result of the EU Council summit late last night was that the EU offered a six month extension until 31st October 2019, the day before a new EU Commission take their seats, and presumably coincidentally, All Hallows’ Eve. As a sop to Macron, who was pushing for a much shorter extension, there will be a review on 30th June. This ‘review’ is entirely symbolic…

The Prime Minister was made to sit outside for the majority of the meeting while the heads of government of the EU27 deliberated for hours. Eventually she agreed what they had agreed. May had previously told Parliament that “As Prime Minister I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than 30th June.” If Brexit is delayed beyond that point, British MEPs will take their seats in the EU Parliament, and logically May should step down as PM…

Eurosceptics Well Behind in Euro Election Polling

New polling released today shows the Eurosceptic vote would be heavily split if European Elections were to be held, with Labour holding its vote together better than any other party.  More significantly than split votes, the poll found that just 37.8% of leave voters said they were certain to vote, compared to just 46.9% of Remain voters. An almost 10 point enthusiasm gap…

18% of Leave voters on the other hand rated their likelihood to vote at just 1/10, compared to just 6.8% of Remain voters saying the same. Leave voters are demoralised and are more likely to stay home than be enthused to give the establishment another kicking…

The enthusiasm gap means that even in terms of share of the vote, the Eurosceptics fall far behind the Europhiles, who combined make up more than 58% of those who say they will vote. The splitting of the vote makes the complexity of forecasting the outcome a fool’s errand. The challenge for the Brexit Party is immense…

For reference, Guido can provide how the Eurosceptic and Europhile parties fared in 2014. Back then the Eurosceptics achieved 55% of the vote, today’s poll shows that has fallen to 40%. Bullish Eurosceptics should be worried…

Civil Service: Brexit Doesn’t Mean Brexit

The Civil Service seemingly have a deeper aversion to ‘Brexit’ meaning Brexit than might have first appeared. Brexit-watchers will have noticed that official documentation never mentions the word, with officials instead being told to always use the phrase ‘EU Exit.’ One Civil Servant told Guido Brexit has been given the ‘Voldemort’ treatment…

Interestingly they aren’t the first people to avoid the word – Vote Leave also rigorously avoided using the word ‘Brexit’ because it was found to have less positive associations with voters than ‘Leave’. Whatever people want to call it, it doesn’t change the fact that Brexit means Brexit and Leave means Leave…

Brexit Officially Delayed

Brexiteers hoping that defeating the Prime Minister’s deal when it (probably) comes back to Parliament next week will be sorely disappointed that last night the UK Government and the EU agreed that in the likely event the Prime Minister’s deal is defeated a third time, Britain will no longer leave the EU on 29th March, in any circumstances. Now is the time to officially cancel your Brexit parties…

If May’s terrible deal is passed, then Brexit is delayed until 22nd May. If the deal is defeated, the ‘March 29th‘ deadline extends by two weeks to 12th April. This is ample time for Letwin/Cooper/Boles to seize control of business in the Parliament that last week voted against allowing No Deal by 412 votes to 202. Parliament will move against the people’s vote of June 2016. Brexiteers are kidding themselves if they think that this rotten Parliament will let us escape to a WTO Brexit…

No Deal Plans Shoot Down Scaremongering

This morning the UK announced the temporary unilateral measures the UK will apply in the event that the UK leaves the EU with No Deal on 29 March. These come as MPs will be voting on whether or not to reject keeping No Deal on the table this evening…

Despite the original plan to have been to zero rate all the EU’s tariffs, intense special interest lobbying has apparently rolled that back. The UK has announced it will remove tariffs on 87% of EU tariffs on imported goods. The only tariffs that will remain are in a strictly limited set of goods and agricultural products that the UK considers vulnerable, like beef, dairy, and cars…

On the Northern Ireland border, the UK would unilaterally waive checks on all goods crossing it, meaning that the tariff rates announced today would not apply to goods crossing the Irish border.

“We would only apply a small number of measures strictly necessary to comply with international legal obligations, protect the biosecurity of the island of Ireland, or to avoid the highest risks to Northern Ireland businesses – but these measures would not require checks at the border.

Belfast Airport would become the “designated point of entry” for endangered species and rough diamonds, and the UK would not apply VAT to any gifts coming to NI from Ireland. Businesses would also be able to report VAT online periodically, without any new processes at the border. The UK Government has admitted that, at least for a temporary period, a No Deal Brexit can be managed with no new checks on the Northern Ireland border. So much for the horror stories of checkpoints and guard dogs…

Public Procurement Firms Fear GDPR More Than Brexit

Despite endless increasingly hysterical media reports to the contrary, a landmark survey of businesses involved with public sector procurement has found that Brexit is ranked as only the fourth of six options in terms of having an impact on procurement strategy. In terms of ‘high impact’, Brexit comes in fifth of six…

The survey, conducted by BiP Solutions with iGov Survey was ‘surprised’ to see the results, with Brexit coming below Social Value, the impact of EU legislation, and GDPR.

“Three-quarters of organisations surveyed also believe GDPR will have a medium or high impact on procurement strategies. A further 71% cited EU Directives and legislative updates. Surprisingly, Brexit came fourth overall in terms of the responses.”

Public procurement firms are more worried about the impact of EU regulation than the impact of leaving the EU…

Punters Think Brexit Will Be Delayed

Punters on Smarkets are betting that the UK won’t leave the EU by March 29, 2019. The implied probability that it won’t happen on time is 80%.* Since May lost the meaningful vote punters and financial traders have been betting that Brexit will be softer and delayed. Guido thinks the odds are more evenly balanced…

*The probabilities don’t add up to 100% because of the over-round.

OECD Chief Says WTO Brexit Will Be Seamless & Low Cost

OECD chief Jose Angel Gurría is so chillaxed about a no-deal Brexit. Telling Sky’s Ed Conway in Davos, “What’s the worst scenario? A no deal, WTO rules…the whole world is running by WTO rules these days!”

Boris: Let Us Not Continue to Flog this Dead Horse

When this deal is voted down, let us not continue to flog this dead horse. Instead we must get Brexit right and seize the opportunities before us…

Bercow Overrules Parliamentary Clerks In Desperate Bid To Stop Brexit

In an unprecedented move, John Bercow has chosen to overrule the advice of his clerks, selecting a Dominic Grieve amendment that forces the Government to hold rolling votes very three days following a defeat of the meaningful vote. Developing…

Bercow is behaving as outrageously as Guido predicted.

UPDATE: Grieve confirms his amendment has been selected saying,

“It is eminently sensible and I hope the Government will accept it. This solidifies and emphasises the key role of Parliament. It is going to be essential in dealing with Brexit.”

By applauding Bercow’s constitutional sabotage and defiance of the advice of his clerks, Grieve has revealed himself to be a far cry from the defender of the constitution he likes to paint himself as. Just as Brexiteers suspected, his high-minded talk of principle and the constitution was just for convenience’s sake…

Bercow Could Thwart Brexit if the Meaningful Vote is Defeated

Like most of you Guido has tried to put thoughts of Brexit away for Christmas, nevertheless something besides brussels sprouts has been nagging at him, which, whilst the news flow is slow can be explored at length. Labour remainers have of late turned a blind eye to Bercow‘s bullying, mistreatment of staff and gender specific language for one reason, they believe he will be an ally in thwarting Brexit. He has considerable leeway to do so…

The common argument is that although Parliament is sovereign, if the Government holds its nerve there is nothing opponents to Brexit can do to stop the UK leaving the EU on WTO terms. However, there are many things Parliament can do to get its way:

A Contempt Motion
If the House of Commons votes on a non-binding motion to extend or revoke Article 50, and the Government choses to simply shrug its shoulders and ignore the instruction, the Speaker could choose to hold the Prime Minister in contempt of Parliament. How realistic is it for the Government to repeatedly ignore the will of Parliament in terms of repeated contempt motions?

Amendments in Scope
Opponents of Brexit will table amendments to the meaningful vote motion on a second referendum, membership of the Customs Unions or extending or revoking Article 50. Although these votes would not be binding on the Government, John Bercow could use the votes as a demonstration of the will of the House of Commons. This could embolden the Speaker to be even more flexible about the amendments he deems to be in scope of Brexit legislation. So for example the Trade Bill, Immigration Bill or Agriculture Bill could all be amended to make the Act conditional on their being a second referendum. It’s been argued by some that the Government could simply pull these Bills. However, this legislation has a real-world purpose to help the country prepare for leaving. The immigration bill will end free movement. The Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill will ensure reciprocal healthcare arrangements can be in place with other countries after exit. How realistic is it for the Government to pull all its Brexit legislation?

A Humble Address
We have seen how the Speaker has colluded with the Opposition frontbench to use the humble address and other parliamentary mechanisms for party political purposes. A Humble Address could call on the Government to release all its information on no deal impacts, to increase pressure. There could be an attempt to stretch the power of a Humble Address – for instance requesting an extension of Article 50 or committing not to leave the EU without a deal or committing to a second referendum.

The opportunities for parliamentary opponents of Brexit in league with a Speaker who is their ally are worrying;

  • Amending the motion for the Meaningful Vote to say that the UK must leave with a deal. The Labour amendment to the Meaningful Vote requires that the UK leaves with a Withdrawal Agreement but not this Withdrawal Agreement. An amendment by Hilary Benn seeks to reject leaving without a Withdrawal Agreement, require the government to bring forward a debate on its proposed way forward, and allow MPs to table amendments to the motion the government is required to bring forward.
  • Debate triggered under s13(4) of the Withdrawal Act. Under the terms of the Withdrawal Act a loss of a meaningful vote must be followed within 21 days by the laying of a statement, and that followed by a further debate within 7 sitting days of the statement. The debate and possibly an amended motion could signal the House’s view that the UK should not leave the EU without a deal.
  • Emergency motions under Standing Order No. 24. The House could make clear in emergency debates called under Standing Order No 24 that the will of the House is that the UK should not leave without a deal or must hold a second referendum.
  • Opposition Day Debates and backbench time. The Opposition could table motions to call on the Government to take action to prevent no deal or hold a second referendum. Backbenchers could use their allocated time to table motions calling on the Government to prevent no deal.

Pro-Brexit MPs who believe the parliamentary die is set for a no deal Brexit are being complacent. The Speaker is intent on stopping that outcome.

Brexit Deal Resignation Watch

Join Guido all evening for a fun game of ‘Resignation Watch’. Many of the above Cabinet ministers have recently been beefing up their Brexit credentials, with even previously loyal ministers like Grayling and Fox voicing dissent. Key figures to watch include Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom, and Penny Mordaunt…

UPDATE: Gone as of 15:00:

Shailesh Vara Resigns As Northern Ireland Minister Over May’s Deal

In the first Government resignation since the Cabinet agreed to Theresa May’s draft withdrawal agreement, Northern Ireland Minister Shailesh Vara ‏has resigned in order to vote against the agreement. Vara, who voted Remain and initially supported Chequers, says the draft agreement locks the UK into the “shackles of the EU.” Guido has heard another resignation may be imminent… 

Read the full text of Vara’s resignation letter below:

Continue reading

Protest Scheduled For 1PM Today Outside Downing Street

A number of Brexit groups including Leave Means Leave and Leavers of Britain are seriously not happy with Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal, and are calling on Brexit supporters to get down to Downing Street at 1pm today to protest the terms of the withdrawal agreement. Some keen (and artistic) protesters have turned up early showing off protest signs that they must’ve been up all night making! Guido hears some big names are minded to turn up this afternoon…

UPDATE: Leave supporters have turned out in healthy numbers to give Cabinet ministers something to think about on their way into the meeting this afternoon…

“Britcoin” to Commemorate Brexit

The traditional purdah and omerta about budget measures seems to have been discarded and everywhere you look there are budget leaks. In a sop to brexiteers The Sun reports that we will get a Brexit commemorative Brit-coin on March 29, 2019. It will we are told bear the inscription “Friendship with all nations”, which appears to be an excerpt from the Thomas Jefferson mantra of Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” Which would on the whole be a splendid policy stance with a few small policy drawbacks like withdrawing from NATO. So you can see why they went for the shorter version of the quotation…

Juncker & Varadkar Guaranteed to the Irish Parliament No Hard Border in the Event of No Deal

The Brexit negotiations are teetering on the brink over the question of the backstop for the Irish border. Some fundamental truths are being forgotten in the froth of the negotiations:

  • If there is no deal, there is no backstop. If the EU collapses the negotiations by insisting on unreasonable backstop conditions, there will be no backstop whatsoever. Would the EU rather have a deal on everything else with no backstop, or no deal at all AND no backstop?
  • The President of the EU Commission and the Prime Minister of Ireland have both already guaranteed no hard border even with no deal. As can be seen in the above video clip, Juncker and Leo Varadkar have all given unambiguous guarantees that they won’t put a hard border under any circumstances – including no deal. So why risk wrecking the negotiations over it?

The fact that Ireland has guaranteed no hard border in the case of no deal means that they clearly have no intention of constructing a hard border in the absence of the EU’s backstop – this is abundantly clear from the Taoiseach’s stated position as forcefully made to the Dáil Éireann

“… we are not drawing up any plans for a border between Northern Ireland and Ireland full stop. Because there isn’t going to be one and I have made very clear to my counterpart in the UK and also to the other EU Prime Ministers that under no circumstances will there be a border full stop.”

If the backstop is genuinely about concern for Ireland, not about trying to force the UK into a certain position, why is Ireland’s own commitment not sufficient? That is the question journalists should be asking.

The current trajectory of the negotiations is unsustainable unless the EU changes its stance on the backstop. Tory MPs have been discussing whether the EEA as a staging post on the way to a Canada-style deal could be a viable alternative – this is unlikely to solve the problem as the EU will simply throw up the same obstacles when the UK tries to leave that. May’s proposed transition extension does nothing to help either. It is simply a very expensive and unpopular way of drawing out the same problems for longer.

Ministers have increasingly been considering the possibility of a mitigated no-deal instead: hand over some cash in exchange for basic legal agreements on aviation, passports, haulage etc. and then negotiate sensible future arrangements outside the cauldron of the Article 50 process. Given the current state of the negotiations, this is starting to look more and more appealing…

UPDATE: Guido’s news editor, Hugh Bennett, reiterates the Irish PM’s “no hard border, even in the event of no deal” guarantee:

Comical Keir: Labour ‘United on Brexit’

Sir Keir Starmer was doing his best impression of Comical Ali on Today this morning as he tried to deny the gaping chasms within the Labour Party over Brexit.

First he suggested that John McDonnell had only ruled out Remain being an option in a second referendum yesterday because he hadn’t had enough sleep:

KS: We finished our meeting about one in the morning and then John was up early doing the media round. I think John, to be fair…

NR: He was struggling with not enough sleep?

KS: No, no, to be fair, John did a number of interviews yesterday…

Starmer tried to move things on to Labour’s upcoming vote on a Brexit motion today, claiming that there was going to be “unity” behind it. In reality the Labour Party rank and file are confused, Guido suspects this confusion is a deliberate continuation of the strategic ambiguity on Brexit that is the party’s only consistent policy…

UPDATE: Starmer has refused to confirm that the UK would leave the EU on March 29th next year under Labour, telling TalkRadio’s Ross Kempsell that Labour could extend Article 50 depending on the circumstances. How is this piece of constructive ambiguity going to go down with Labour’s Brexit voters?

 

UPDATE II: The Tories are keen to point out that Keir Starmer previously said the official position was ‘There’s no dispute that Britain will leave the European Union in March 2019. Labour voted to trigger Article 50 and we did so knowing that we would leave the EU within two years’

Finally May Says Something Pro-Brexit

 

May’s repeated refusal to say whether she thinks Britain will be better off after Brexit has raised questions over her commitment to seeing it through. Brexiteers will have been reassured by her optimism in a clip broadcast on the Today Programme this morning:

NR: “Can you complete the following sentence: ‘Brexit is a good idea because…?'”

May: “It gives the United Kingdom opportunities as an independent and sovereign state to build a better future for all our people.”

NR: “You believe it?”

May: “I believe that our best days are ahead of us.”

As May famously said, “you can only deliver Brexit if you believe in Brexit“…

Chris Green, Grayling’s PPS Resigns


Another one bites the dust, Tory MP who is Chris Grayling’s PPS, Chris Green, says

“The direction the negotiations had been taking have suggested that we would not really leave the EU and the conclusion and statements following the Chequers summit confirmed my fears.”

Not a househhold name, another name nonetheless…[…] Read the rest

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