Friday 9 August 2019 - People's Vote

Friday 9 August 2019

Morning Briefing: Boris Johnson accused of taking scientists "for fools"

Science is one of the areas this country has most to be proud of, but our leading scientists and institutions have been warning for some time that the UK walking away from both EU funding and collaboration would have a drastic effect on our ability to continue to lead the sector.

Belatedly and forlornly, Boris Johnson yesterday tried to redress the balance with a promise to hand out visas for scientists willing to come here. Too little, too late, said the scientists, some of whom have already left our shores. The undemocratic drive towards a destructive No Deal is making the issue much worse, so it time to let us be heard.

GDP figures for the second quarter of 2019 will be announced later today and they are unlikely to show an upsurge in economic activity, as concerns about No Deal continue to rise. The reality is that Brexit has so far cost  somewhere upwards of £500m a week in lost growth, according to the Centre for European Reform think tank. And we haven't even left yet. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz told the BBC's Today programme: "Whatever the outcome, the economic uncertainty will continue for years and years."

Boris Johnson accused of taking scientists "for fools"

Boris Johnson was accused by a Nobel laureate last night of taking scientists “for fools”. Once again, a promise from prime minister Johnson started to unravel almost immediately, when his pledge to make it easier for leading academics to settle in the UK came under fire from the very sector that it was supposed to appeal to.

World-leading physicist Professor Sir Andre Geim, whose discovery of graphene has been lauded by Johnson, said No Deal would cause long-lasting damage to the country’s status as a world leader in science.

“The government may try and reduce the barriers to entry for scientists but they cannot reduce turmoil that would be caused to science in the UK by a no-deal Brexit,” he told The Times. “Scientists are not fools. They know that turmoil is inevitable for many years.”

Sir Andre revealed that his close collaborator Professor Sir Konstantin Novoselov, with whom he shared the Nobel prize for physics in 2010, had left their base in Manchester, where they discovered graphene, after the 2016 referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. “Konstantin has already left the UK to work in Singapore,” he said. “I think that tells you everything you need to know.”

Sir Andre’s attack is particularly embarrassing for Mr Johnson, who has twice praised the breakthrough discovery in 2004 of graphene, an exceptionally lightweight and strong material, since becoming Conservative leader. In his first public speech after winning the Tory leadership contest last month he cited Sir Andre as evidence that “when the cynics say something cannot be done” people “find a way to get on and do it”.

Sir Andre’s views are widely shared by scientists, who have warned repeatedly that Brexit would damage Britain’s ability to compete for top international talent. “To expect this government to create a ‘welcoming’ environment seems deeply implausible,” Lord Rees of Ludlow, the Astronomer Royal, said. “The EU citizens with long-term posts in my institute say they wouldn’t have come on the present or likely terms.”

Losing our pre-eminence in the science world was never talked about or predicted by the politicians when Brexit was being discussed and now a destructive No Deal is likely to cause untold damage to the sector's future. It is time to Let Us Be Heard to end the madness.

Corbyn accuses PM of "anti-democratic abuse of power"

Jeremy Corbyn has called on the UK’s most senior civil servant to intervene to stop Boris Johnson forcing a destructive No Deal in the middle of an election campaign.

The Labour leader wrote to Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill accusing the PM of plotting an “unprecedented, unconstitutional and anti-democratic abuse of power” after it emerged Number 10 would be prepared to delay an election until immediately after the UK has crashed out of Europe with No Deal on October 31 if Johnson loses a no confidence vote among MPs.

In his letter, Corbyn demanded urgent clarification of the rules that govern what ministers can order civil servants to do during an election. His move came as Johnson shifted the blame once again to the EU, claiming there “was bags of time” for the EU to “show some flexibility”.

With Sajid Javid pushing on a one-year spending review in September to release funds for pre-election promises, both sides are jockeying for position as the clock keeps ticking towards October 31.

No Deal is a load of rubbish

People’s Vote campaigners were outside the Cabinet Office yesterday with piles of rubbish and a bag of plastic rats to demonstrate that crashing out of the EU with No Deal could lead to rubbish piling up in the streets within weeks.

We uncovered information that shows that councils are preparing for a post-No-Deal world where road chaos and fuel shortages could lead to cancelled refuse collections, while government instructions to local authorities and companies emphasise the risk that complex refuse processing and recycling chains will break down completely.

Iceland supermarket boss warns against "sleepwalking" over No Deal cliff-edge

The boss of supermarket Iceland warned this morning that the UK is “sleepwalking over a No Deal cliff-edge” and that the food industry is unprepared for the chaos after October 31.

Calling for a People’s Vote, managing director Richard Walker, who voted Leave in 2016, told the BBC's Today programme it was impossible to stockpile supplies leading up to No Deal because warehouses will already be full at that time of year. More and more evidence has emerged this week of the potential threats to the food supply chain from a destructive No Deal: there is no mandate for No Deal and it is time to Let Us Be Heard before it is too late.

It's clear that Brexit must be put to the people. Now is a crucial time to get involved with the People's Vote campaign. Sign up to volunteer today. 

Quote of the Day

“The Royal Society has long called for reform of the UK’s costly and complex visa system. However, we have been clear that a no-deal exit from the EU is the worst option for science.”

Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society, condemns the damage that No Deal could do to the UK's leading science sector.

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People's Vote campaign news...

MPs might be on summer recess, but local activists will still be out in their local communities this weekend making the case for a People’s Vote. In Bradford, which voted leave in 2016 and where the Brexit Party topped the polls in May’s European Parliamentary elections, the local campaign group is taking to the streets to have conversations with people in their local community about Brexit. They are experienced campaigners and are always looking for more people to get involved. Click here to join them this weekend.

Elsewhere around the country campaigners will be out on the streets in Basingstoke, at Chester Pride, knocking on doors in St Albans and meeting to write letters to local MPs in Swindon. Join them at these events and more.

More Brexit news...

Surprising graffiti artist spreading the anti-No Deal message (Yorkshire Examiner)

Brexit: Don't take us for fools, say scientists (The Times £)

One of the biggest Brexit fears is rubbish (Total Politics)

Number of tax-exile non doms in UK falls to record low (PoliticsHome)

More Brexit comment...

Bagehot: Boris Johnson is looking like Theresa May 2.0 (Economist £)

Canada's Brexit talks with the UK: there are none (MacLean's)

Ailbhe Rea: Will this year's party conferences be cancelled for Brexit? (New Statesman)