Friday 21 September 2018 - People's Vote

Friday 21 September 2018

Morning Briefing: What now, after Salzburg? - Labour's shot at power - "unprepared" for no deal

Following the rejection of her Chequers proposals in Salzburg, Theresa May has only dreadful options - unless, that is, she becomes a late convert to a People’s Vote.

The prime minister could press on forlornly with her unloved scheme. That was her robotic response yesterday after the EU rejected her bureaucratic plan for customs and told her that only staying in bits of the single market “will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market".

But pressing on regardless is hopeless. The EU says it won’t even call a previously expected summit in November to wrap up a deal unless there are the outlines of one by the planned October summit. If the prime minister continues to insist it is Chequers or bust, she will be heading for the abyss. Even if she wanted that - and she almost certainly doesn’t - Parliament would probably find a way to stop her doing anything so crazy.

Another option would be for May to offer the EU more concessions. While railing against the bloc’s plans to keep the Irish border open, there are signs that she is preparing to do just that. The idea seems to be to say no to customs checks in the Irish Sea but yes to regulatory checks - whatever that means.

The snag is that such a convoluted scheme is unlikely to please anybody. The EU would say it wouldn’t go far enough; the DUP, which props up May’s government, would freak out because it would put a dividing line between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.


What’s more, to get a deal, the prime minister will have to do more than compromise on the Irish border. The core of Chequers is to stay in the single market for goods but not services or people. The EU won’t wear that. But it is hard to see May agreeing to stay fully in the single market, as that’s contrary to last year’s Conservative manifesto and would be anathema to many of her MPs.

It’s possible she might push for a “blindfold” Brexit where we leave the EU with many of the key things fudged. Before Salzburg, there was a high risk that the EU would play along with such a dishonest game to keep the British people in the dark about what Brexit means until it was too late.

But the French president’s desire for clarity rather than fudge has prevailed - at least for now. Emmanuel Macron said yesterday: "Brexit has shown us one thing - and I fully respect British sovereignty in saying this - it has demonstrated that those who said you can easily do without Europe, that it will all go very well, that it is easy and there will be lots of money, are liars.”

The prime minister’s other main option is to cave into pressure from hardline Brexiters in her party such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg and “chuck Chequers”. She could then embrace their proposal for a free trade deal with the EU on the lines of the one Canada has with the bloc. Cabinet ministers including Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt, and Esther McVey will push her to do that according to the Times.


The problem is that the EU won’t give us a Canada-style deal unless we first agree a divorce deal - and it won’t agree a divorce deal unless we first agree arrangements to keep the Irish border open - and the DUP will go bananas if the government says yes to border checks in the Irish Sea.

So doing what the hardliners want would amount to crashing out of the EU with no deal at all. They may be happy to risk that. And you can already see the Brexit press ratcheting up the blame game. The Express says the EU is “vengeful”, the Sun describes the EU as “dirty rats” who have ambushed the prime minister.

But this is nonsense. Chequers was an unworkable plan from the start. May’s own errors have led to yesterday’s diplomatic humiliation, as these excellent pieces in The Times and Telegraph show.

If the prime minister can’t figure out what to do, she could fall on her sword or wait for her colleagues to stab her in the back. Either way, it would then be up to some new prime minister to deal with the mess.

But even that wouldn’t be a solution. The only sensible option is to ask the people whether they still want this train-wreck of a Brexit.


Quote of the day

"Those who say that we can easily be without Europe, that everything is going to be fine, that it's easy and will bring us lots of money are liars."

Emmanuel Macron, President of France (and you can watch his statement below...)


Video of the day

WATCH: It’s okay to change your mind if things didn’t turn out the way you thought they would.

Please share on Facebook and Twitter.

Labour could win big by backing People’s Vote

Two new polls show that the Labour party stands to make huge gains if it backs a People’s Vote. The first poll, conducted by YouGov, asked more than 10,000 people whether they’d be more likely to vote for the party if it called for a People’s Vote. And by a huge margin, they were. YouGov calculated that adopting the policy would win the party 1.5 million votes across the country. Polling expert Peter Kellner said the findings left “no doubt that by backing a popular vote on Brexit, the party would end up making significant gains in votes and seats”.

Video of the Day 2

WATCH: Michael Heseltine on why he's backing a Peoples Vote.  

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Country unprepared for “no deal”

With crashing out of the EU without a deal very much back on the menu, it’s worth checking in on the government’s preparations. Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chamber of Commerce, says businesses aren’t ready for a no deal Brexit - and neither is the government, describing the government’s statements as “100 pages of waffle”. Meanwhile, industry body EEF says more than 80% of UK manufacturers are unprepared for a no-deal Brexit, while one in six think it would make their business “untenable”.

Tweet of the day

If you agree with David Lammy, march with us in London on October 20!

More Brexit news…

EU leaders call for UK public to have final say on Brexit outcome with new referendum (Independent)

The road map to a second referendum (FT)

Who's Marching? 

Athian is marching in support of a Peoples Vote because he believes that the people should decide whether or not to accept Theresa May's deal.

Please share on Facebook and Twitter.

Top Brexit comment

Hugo Dixon: A People’s Vote on Brexit can happen - here’s how (Guardian)

Rachel Franklin: Seven things women stand to lose in the face of a no-deal Brexit (i)

Bashir Ibrahim: Why a General Election is no alternative to a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal (Left Foot Forward)

Fraser Nelson: The EU has brutally killed Chequers, and the UK must now brace itself for a 'blind Brexit'  (Telegraph)

Looking forward...

Today, Friday 21st September

- Parliament in recess for conference season
- UKIP Party Conference
09:30 ONS: Public sector finances

Tomorrow, Saturday 22nd September

-    Parliament in recess for conference season
- Labour Party Conference begins

Sunday 23nd September

- Parliament in recess for conference season
- Labour Party Autumn Conference
12:00 March for the Many (Liverpool)