Morning briefing: Security battleground - MPs and Bank worried - People's Vote 'credible' solution
Just three months ago, Theresa May told an audience in Munich that the UK was “unconditionally committed” to maintaining the security of Europe. So why have the Brexit negotiations now descended into bickering over security cooperation? It shows that even in areas where there should be a common goal and lots of goodwill, the Brexit process is a mess. Not only that, but a mess which potentially risks the safety of UK and other EU citizens.
The EU’s main gripe is that the UK government seems to have forgotten that “Brexit means Brexit” - surprising considering how much May used to repeat it.
A new government position paper lays out over 30 examples of EU security measures in which, it argues, the UK should have a bigger role than any other non-EU countries. These include the European Arrest Warrant, which lets us speedily extradite criminals from other EU countries, and access to EU-wide security databases.
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A senior EU official said the UK was living in a "let's just keep everything we have now... fantasy", adding: “The precondition for fruitful discussions has to be the UK accepts the consequences of its own choices.” A UK official called this "laughable" and warned against "trying to insult us".
The other big security issue is the UK’s continued participation in the EU’s Galileo satellite project. Many in the EU, particularly in Germany, are concerned about giving the UK access to parts of the programme holding sensitive military information. The government’s response to being excluded is to threaten building a rival British satellite system and to demand the £1 billion the UK has paid into Galileo already - all laid out in another position paper.
There is, of course, one way that we can stay one of Europe’s leading players in security and defence, maintaining our involvement in things like the European Arrest Warrant and Galileo: think again about Brexit. If the prime minister doesn’t manage to secure these benefits, we should have a People’s Vote on the final deal.
Quote of the day
“The sooner we move beyond 'let's just keep everything we have now'… the sooner we move away from this fantasy, then the quicker we can make progress.”
A senior EU official on the UK approach to Brexit negotiations.
EU rejects May’s backstop
The Brexit talks aren’t just threatened by the impasse over security. An even bigger problem is the government’s continued failure to come up with viable proposals for the Irish border and customs controls more generally. The EU is making clear that Theresa May’s latest scheme - a time-limited continuation of our membership of the customs union - won’t wash. They don’t want an arrangement designed for Ireland to give the whole UK backdoor access to the single market. That’s cherry picking in their view.
The lack of progress is worrying MPs, with the Commons’ Brexit committee calling for an extension of the entire transition agreement, which is supposed to end in December 2020. That would mean staying in both the customs union and the single market. It would also mean years of limbo, continued payments into the EU budget and not being in control of our trade policy. Some might argue this is not what people voted for: another reason why there should be a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.
Tweet of the day
Bank preparing for Brexit disruption
Given the mess at the heart of the government’s negotiating strategy, hopes of a breakthrough at next month’s summit are low. Not surprisingly, Mark Carney is worried about a “disruptive Brexit”. The governor of the Bank of England has warned that negotiations are entering “the most critical phase”, and that the Bank would be forced back into some of the same exceptional measures it pursued in the aftermath of the EU referendum. Then it cut interest rates, bought masses of government bonds and encouraged banks to provide cheap loans to businesses and people.
Although the Bank’s emergency actions in 2016 helped cushion the blow of the Brexit vote, it also contributed to the fall in the pound and rising prices - and a decline in growth compared to previous expectations. As Carney said earlier this week, the average UK household has lost £900 as a result. That’s before the “disruptive Brexit” he fears has even happened.
The solution: a People’s Vote
But there’s a way out, says the man who wrote Article 50. John Kerr has backed the People’s Vote campaign, saying it is a credible route out of this Brexit mess.
“The Commons could decide that it isn’t what the people were told to expect and so the people should be asked: ‘Are you prepared to settle for this? Is it OK, or shall we stay?'” Kerr said. He was also optimistic about some of the technical difficulties with having a vote at short notice, such as getting the EU to briefly extend the Article 50 process while a vote took place - saying the UK would be seen as a “prodigal son”, who was welcomed back into the family with joy.
Video of the day
What do Nigel Farage, Daniel Hannan, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Dominic Cummings have in common? They've all come out for a People's Vote.
More Brexit news…
Interesting detail in this story: The number of Tory EU rebels has grown since 11 voted to defeat the government in December. Rebel leaders have told The Sun that they are confident of at least 15 Tories defying May on some of the Lords amendments.
Top Brexit comment
Joris Luyendijk: I miss Britain – but Brexitland could never be my home (Guardian)
Bill Emmott: Italy’s dramas will expose UK’s loss of influence (InFacts)
Video of the day 2
OFOC's Will Dry does a very entertaining deep dive into Dominic Cummings' furious anti-Brexit blog post.
Today, Friday 25 May
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|-||EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force|
|09:30||ONS: Business investment into UK published|
|09:30||ONS: GDP figures published|