Morning Briefing: May's backstop ploy revealed - economic clouds - Raab's geography lesson
A leaked letter from Theresa May to the DUP leadership has given away the game. Britain will sign up to a “backstop to the backstop”, which would leave Northern Ireland tied to single market rules and the customs union, and put a new customs border down the middle of the Irish Sea.
May hopes to sell this deal by saying it’s not really important. It will “never be … the preferred outcome”. It’s an “insurance policy that no one in the UK or the EU wants or expects to use”. She “could not accept there being any circumstances or conditions in which that… could come into force”. And besides, if it did we’d make sure regulations did not “diverge between Great Britain and Northern Ireland during a backstop scenario”.
In short, May is hoping that her usual tactic of procrastinating and obfuscating will allow her to avoid making difficult choices today. Sure, we’ll sign up to the backstop, but it’ll never come into force because of the amazing but still unspecified deal we’ll negotiate once we’ve got this withdrawal agreement sorted.
The small problem with this is that while the DUP may be many things, they are not total idiots. And anyone looking at this shambles of a negotiation must be wondering how on earth they could be expected to believe May’s assurances.
After all, in February May said that “no UK prime minister could ever agree” to a plan of this sort. To date, she hasn’t successfully negotiated an opening bid with her own cabinet. And there is a good chance that she won’t be able to get whatever emerges from Tuesday’s meeting through Parliament, with hardline Brexiter Steve Baker insisting that no matter the status of the backstop, if the deal isn’t value for money then Brexiters won’t vote for it.
The second block to getting this deal through the Commons is that the DUP - as things stand - are unlikely to vote for it, with Arlene Foster saying the letter “raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious Union and for those who want a proper Brexit for the whole of the UK”. And May needs those votes for her deal to pass.
The thing is, turkeys are more likely to vote for Christmas than unionists to vote for division. And unlike their English counterparts in the Conservative and Unionist Party, the DUP do seem intent on living up to their name.
Quote of the Day
“To say ‘because I’ve been incompetent in the negotiation so far I’m going to have to agree to a final backstop that could undermine the integrity of the UK’, but go on to say, ‘trust me because I’ll be more competent in my future negotiation than I have in the ones to date’, is a line that lacks credibility.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg delicately suggests that May’s promises on the backstop may not be up to scratch.
Tweet of the day
Small businesses are calling for a People’s Vote. Geeta Sidhu-Robb of Nosh Detox and Rosa Ashby of Rosa Flowers made that clear at the launch of Business for a People's Vote yesterday.
Video of the Day
WATCH: 57% of UK business leaders are in favour of a People’s Vote. Here's why.
With no clear exit plan on the table, the British economy is not in the best of health. The latest projections from the European Commission put Britain as the worst performing country in the EU next year. Former Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King has described ministers choosing between a bad Brexit and a disastrous Brexit - more good reasons for a People’s Vote.
Graphic of the Day
Latest GDP forecasts show the UK will be the slowest growing economy in Europe in 2019. That means fewer jobs created and lower tax revenue. A People's Vote could help turn this sorry performance around.
Tweet of the day 2
This from For our Future's Sake, reflecting on the arguments from 2016 which are now falling apart.
Raab’s geography lesson
Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has belatedly realised that there’s something a bit different about Britain’s geography - something that sets us apart from the rest of the continent. There is a sharp dividing line which makes walking from Calais to Dover somewhat tricky for those of a less than Messianic bent. In short, he’s realised that we’re on an island, and that our Brexit strategy for the port of Dover might need to take account of this.
Speaking on Wednesday, Raab said he “hadn’t quite understood the full extent of this, but if you look at the UK and if you look at how we trade in goods, we are particularly reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing”.
Video of the Day 2
One way out of the backstop impasse for Theresa May would be to agree a temporary all-UK deal. The Telegraph reports senior EU diplomats saying that any such plan would need to come with “cast-iron guarantees” that EU boats could continue to fish in British waters for the duration. This is completely contrary to May’s promise last month that “we will be an independent coastal state” after Brexit. It is therefore almost certain to happen.
More Brexit news…
Brexit choice 'between bad and disaster' (Times £)
Paul Myners: People’s Vote is clearly the best option for business (Standard)
Jason Arthur & Lara Spirit: The US mid-term results are just the start of youth’s revenge (Drugstore Culture)
Rafael Behr: Has nobody told Dominic Raab that Britain is an island? (Guardian)
Chris Giles: The economic effects of a Brexit deal are already known (FT £)
Today, Friday 9th November
|-||Parliament in recess|
|-||WWI commemorations: Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron to lay wreaths at Thiepval|
|09.30||ONS: Revisions to business investment (Jul-Sep 2018)|
ONS: UK trade (Sep)