Morning briefing: Has Barnier killed Chequers? - Women's Equality Party - Brexiting beyond our means
Looks like May's Chequers customs plan is dead - or at the very least on death’s door. Michel Barnier all but ruled out Theresa May’s Facilitated Customs Arrangement (FCA) at a press conference yesterday.
May’s idea would have UK customs officials collecting customs duties on the EU’s behalf in a bid to help “frictionless” trade. But the EU’s chief negotiator was having none of it: “The EU cannot and the EU will not delegate the application of its customs policy, of its rules, VAT and excise duty collections to a non-member who would not be subject to the EU’s governance structures.”
There’s a tiny chance of some wiggle room in that statement. Was Barnier suggesting that if the UK agreed to be “subject to the EU’s governance structures” then the FCA could still work? That would mean allowing the European Court of Justice to have oversight of the UK’s customs regime. But that amounts to handing over control of our borders - May’s Brextremist backbenchers would never stand for it.
Barnier’s position on a “backstop” solution for the Irish border was more forgiving. While he noted that the impasse of the FCA was the “backdrop to the backstop” and that current proposals were unworkable, he also said the EU did not oppose the “principle” of a UK-wide customs arrangement. That’s key to keeping Northern Ireland and the UK under the same customs regime - and for May keeping the support of her DUP allies in Parliament.
Meanwhile, the prime minister is heading off to Salzburg today to meet the leaders of Austria and the Czech Republic. It’s part of a charm offensive intended to win European leaders' support for the UK’s ideas, creating rifts among the 27 EU countries who sign off on Barnier’s negotiating mandate.
Success seems unlikely. The government has long assumed it could exploit divisions among the 27 - but none have emerged yet. As Barnier put it in Brussels: “Anyone who wants to find a sliver of difference between my mandate and the leaders is wasting their time.”
After Salzburg, May heads off to Italy on one of her famous walking holidays. Presumably she won’t decide to call a snap general election on this one. But who knows, maybe she’ll suddenly realise what a mess Brexit is a decide the only sensible way out is calling a People’s Vote?
HAVE YOU SIGNED THE PETITION FOR A PEOPLE'S VOTE?
Women’s Equality leader calls for People’s Vote
The Women’s Equality party will decide at its conference in September whether to back a People’s Vote. Its leader, Sophie Walker, has written a rallying call in the Guardian entitled “Overconfident men brought us Brexit. It’s not too late for women to fix it”. She writes about the “huge damage that could be caused to women by Brexit, and which would likely bring an economic shock, cuts to the public purse and renegotiation over workplace protections”. Walker sets out a positive agenda for staying in the EU based on equality and human rights. “Let’s not call it remain but rather ‘advance’.”
Tweet of the day
It's official: the Dragon herself Deborah Meaden backs a vote on the final Brexit deal.
Brexiting beyond our means
UK households spent around £900 more on average than they received in income during 2017. That means Brits are spending more than they’re earning for the first time in 30 years.
Brexit is the big factor here. We’ve seen three key trends since the vote in 2016: the plunging value of the pound pushing up the cost of living; a drop in investment; and a dramatic rise in debt-fuelled consumption.
This last one is keeping the economy ticking over for now - which is how Brexiters get away with arguing Brexit hasn’t been an economic disaster (remember: Brexit also hasn’t actually happened yet). But relying on ever-increasing household debt is a bad idea in the long run.
Quote of the day
“We have always said, always, that the door would remain open.”
Nathalie Loiseau, French Europe minister, becomes latest to agree the UK can still choose to stay in the EU “on the same terms”
Video of the day
Everybody needs to WATCH THIS. No matter what May says, Brexit is not irreversible. France's Europe minister is the latest to say as much.
Stockpiling on the pressure
The UK’s supermarkets say they have had no contact with the government about stockpiling food in case of a no-deal Brexit, and have ridiculed suggestions it’s their responsibility to begin the process, reports the FT.
This comes after Brexit secretary Dominic Raab promised this week that the UK would have “adequate food supplies” but that it wasn’t the government doing the stockpiling. Now, “adequate” food supplies is a fairly low bar for a developed nation to be aspiring to in the first place. But if no one can agree who’s gathering the emergency supplies, are we even going to get that?
Vote Leave’s lies, one more time
Remember Vote Leave’s lie during the referendum that Turkey was joining the EU - with the suggestion that its entire 76 million population was heading to the UK? Or the fib about us sending £350 million a week to the EU? The official Brexit campaign fronted by Boris Johnson sent 1,433 ads over Facebook that were seen 169 million times in total, according to the BBC. All of these have now been released to a House of Commons committee investigating fake news. The ads were created by a Canadian company linked to the controversial data group Cambridge Analytica, which is now bust.
Video of the day 2
WATCH what happened when FFS and OFOC went to the house Boris Johnson still hasn't moved out of (despite resigning as foreign secretary) and demanded a People's Vote.
Tweet of the day 2
More Brexit news…
Vauxhall Labour prepares to deselect Kate Hoey (LabourList)
Top Brexit comment
David Henig: The UK’s free trade consultation is the wrong thing at the wrong time (Times £)
Cecilia Malmstrom: The EU will stand up for rules-based trade (FT £)
Also worth a watch...
Channel 4 and the BBC are doing a fascinating tag-team of investigations on Brexit donor Arron Banks' Russia connections at the moment. Here's last night's instalment from C4.
Today, Friday 27 July
|-||Parliament in summer recess|
|-||Theresa May meets leaders of Austria and Czech Republic in Salzburg|