Morning Briefing: Article 50 can be withdraw - May's rivals in fantasy land - Labour pressure building
The UK can withdraw Article 50 - and therefore the whole Brexit process - without waiting for permission, the European Court of Justice ruled this morning. This is confirmation that it is still up to us to decide whether we want to keep the existing deal we've got in the EU rather than accept a bad deal negotiated by the government.
What has happened in the last week is that any prospect of no deal has been removed by amendments allowing Parliament to take control, while we now all know beyond any doubt that we can stay in the EU - it’s not too late.
In the next few days we can take Theresa May’s deal off the table too. Other Brexit options do not work any better than that of the prime minister because there is no deal that can keep all the promises made two years or is better than the deal we’ve got in the EU.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the only way forward now is through a People’s Vote.
Quote of the day
"If parliament does not agree a Brexit deal soon, then we must recognise that the original mandate to leave, taken over two years ago, will begin to date and will, eventually, no longer represent a reflection of current intent."
Tobias Ellwood, a minister currently backing the government's deal who might swing behind a People's Vote
Video of the Day
WATCH: Caroline Lucas speaking at Channel 4's Brexit debate: "This decision can't be left to the politicians who simply can't agree."
May's rivals stuck in fantasy land
Theresa May’s leadership rivals such as Boris Johnson are circling in expectation that MPs will vote down her Brexit deal tomorrow. Whether they get their chance is another matter. But even if they do, it won’t change two realities: the prime minister’s miserable deal is the best that could be done in the circumstances; and MPs won’t agree to crash out with no deal. The only alternative is a People’s Vote with an option to stay in the EU.
Boris Johnson is still living in fantasy land. He told the Andrew Marr Show yesterday that he doesn’t want the deal, because of what he describes as the “diabolical” backstop. But he doesn’t want no deal either, saying: “I don’t want no deal. I don’t want no deal. I want to be very, very clear about this, I don’t want no deal.”
Instead he wants to hold back at least half the agreed divorce fee until the EU gives us the sort of trade deal he wants (excluding that backstop). This is tantamount to saying that he wants to threaten the EU with no deal to get it to agree terms. This isn’t just a hopeless negotiating tactic given that we need the bloc more than it needs us; Parliament would never let a government pursue it.
But the soft Brexiters are in fantasy land too with their “Norway Plus” scheme. It would make us a rule-taker rather than a rule-maker. No patriot could embrace that. What’s more, Labour won’t support Norway Plus, meaning there’s no way to get a majority in Parliament.
The most prominent Conservative to float the Norway Plus idea is Amber Rudd, another potential candidate to take over if May quits. But the work and pensions secretary at least had the honesty to tell The Times at the weekend that “nobody knows if it can be done”. She also didn’t rule out a new public vote, saying: “I can’t understand the hysteria around a People’s Vote if you believe in what you are trying to propose.”
Civil servants have also war-gamed two versions of such a vote - one a straight choice between May’s deal and staying in the EU; the other between staying and leaving, and then a further choice between the deal and leaving with no deal if voters say they want to leave.
It’s good to hear that some people in government are starting to face the facts. The time for fantasy is over.
Video of the Day 2
Labour pressure building
Labour remains committed to mounting a no confidence vote in Theresa May, whether she pulls the “meaningful vote” on Tuesday or not, Jeremy Corbyn has told ITV. That puts pressure on the prime minister and shows impetus shifting to the Opposition - who are looking increasingly serious about a People’s Vote.
Corbyn also gave the biggest signal yet that staying in the EU should be on the ballot paper. He said such a vote must be “qualitatively different to the one held before” and that meant there would “have to be an option there of what's on offer”. That suggests our current deal inside the EU versus a proper plan for how we might realistically leave the EU, warts and all, rather than the fantasy options of 2016.
Meanwhile a grassroots coalition of pro-European Labour leftwingers - Momentum activists, local party chairs and councillors - has formed to push the party to oppose Brexit, even if there’s a new general election.
And Labour’s shadow minister for sport, Rosena Allin-Khan, bravely broke ranks to back a People’s Vote on stage at our rally in London last night. Others should follow her example.
Tweet of the Day
Labour frontbencher Rosena Allin-Khan broke ranks to speak at the People's Vote rally yesterday.
People’s Vote to help heal country
The boost to the public purse that we would receive by staying in the EU could be used to help heal our divided country, says a new report by CommonGround. The plan has been backed by 59 political and community leaders in a letter to the Observer.
There would be a “dividend” probably worth tens of billions of pounds a year if we don’t leave the EU, according to the report. It proposes investing this in three ways: a “Jumpstart Fund” for parts of the country which have been starved of investment; a “Migration and Communities Fund” for areas which have been challenged by sudden or significant population changes; and a cash infusion for the NHS.
We’re a long way off this yet, and the report is intended primarily to stimulate debate on how we can try to bring the country together. But it’s clear that Brexit will make us poorer. This is an attempt to show how a People’s Vote could be a force for healing.
More Brexit news…
Brexit comes at expense of rare disease community (NHS Against Brexit)
Business demands longer transition time (Times £)
Margaret Beckett: Civil unrest? Violence on the streets? Let’s stop this reckless language (Guardian)
Helen Walmsley-Johnson: This “Blokes’ Brexit” will increase gender inequality among pensioners (New Statesman)
John Harris: Brexit? This country’s divides run far deeper than that (Guardian)
Today, Monday 10th December
|-||Meaningful vote debate - day 4|
Tomorrow, Tuesday 11th December
|-||Meaningful vote debate - day 5|
|09.30||ONS: UK trade (Oct)|
|11.30||Treasury questions in Commons|