Morning Briefing: May and Corbyn plans both bad - beware Number 10 bribes - police powers handcuffed
Last night Number 10 rejected Jeremy Corbyn's Brexit position. A letter from the prime minister left it very unlikely that a deal with Labour could be struck, or the Brexit deadlock overcome. If Labour's policy is going nowhere, the party should finally move on and back a People’s Vote - as senior figures including Tom Watson, John McDonnell and Keir Starmer have all committed to in recent days.
May’s letter highlighted several ambiguities in the Labour leader’s proposal. Will Corbyn’s aim to have a say on EU trade policy work in practice? Does he accept that completely frictionless access to the single market will mean continuing the free movement of people? What exactly does he mean by “shared institutions and obligations”?
But May’s letter also has an ulterior motive: to dangle some shiny concessions that might win wavering Labour MPs to backing the government’s deal, even if Corbyn doesn’t.
One is the offer of “further financial support for communities that feel left behind”. Labour MPs in austerity-ravaged constituencies would be short-sighted to buy into this (see more below). The other is an offer of “asking Parliament whether it wishes to follow suit” whenever EU standards on workers’ rights and environmental protections change. This should not be enough for Labour MPs, as it means that - depending on the composition of the Parliament of the day - the UK still risks being left behind.
Ultimately, these exchanges between May and Corbyn are just another phase of the endless Brexit time wasting. The prime minister can’t accept Corbyn’s demands on a customs union with the EU, as a Downing Street spokesperson made clear. And senior Tories would revolt against a compromise with Labour, as Liz Truss suggested yesterday. Meanwhile Corbyn and his team won’t want the blood of May’s Brexit deal on their hands when the true impact is felt down the line.
But it is important that we’re finally getting a constructive debate about the merits of different Brexit options. It’s just unfortunate this didn’t happen months ago, before Brexit uncertainty started hollowing out the UK economy.
And what the dialogue does show is that both May and Corbyn are proposing a blindfold Brexit. The prime minister even admits a deal “cannot be legally binding” and has a “spectrum of outcomes”. This means no clarity and no closure for years to come.
MPs do not have to accept this. With less than 50 days until Brexit, May now looks unwilling to offer another “meaningful vote” on her deal until the end of the month. But Parliament will get a chance to assert itself in earlier votes this Thursday. That includes Jeremy Corbyn: the prime minister has rejected his core Brexit demand outright, more talks would just mean more time wasting - he shouldn't buy it. Now is the time to end the can kicking and back the only way out of this Brexit mess - a People’s Vote.
Tweet of the Day
OFOC co-founder Lara Spirit reports that Jeremy Corbyn still thinks a People’s Vote is an option.
Government bribes dwarfed by Brexit hit to Labour constituencies
Labour MPs should know the cost for their constituents of the government’s proposed Brexit deal will dwarf any temporary pot of cash they are offered by Number 10 in exchange for their support. A total of 36 Labour MPs are either reported to have been targeted by Downing Street or rebelled in key votes this month to help the government inch forward its Brexit plan. They are in constituencies that face collectively losing £1.1 billion a year within a decade of the deal being agreed, new research by the People’s Vote campaign revealed.
That includes: £970 million in lost economic output; £30.5 million in lost European investment in structural funds; and £88 million in lost EU agricultural subsidy. This is based on the Treasury’s own figures and further research by LSE. And, even if ministers do inject some temporary cash, it will not offset the £895 million cut from local authority funding in these areas by the same government. Any Labour MP thinking of accepting what is, in effect, a government Brexit bribe for their constituency should think again.
Quote of the Day
“The way to end austerity is to think again about staying in the European Union and for Britain to lead the way in seeking deeper, faster and lasting change. It is not to form a toxic alliance with the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg that can only result in making our people poorer.”
Anna Turley, Labour MP for Redcar, urges colleagues not to support the government’s deal in return for constituency funding.
Video of the Day
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Police powers handcuffed by Brexit
Brexit could seriously damage police powers to detain foreign suspects and apprehend British fugitives in Europe, deputy assistant commissioner Richard Martin has said. Martin concentrates on the impact of no deal but even if there is a deal security co-operation is at threat (as the prime minister's letter to Jeremy Corbyn makes clear) and the European Arrest Warrant will be automatically weakened as soon as we enter the transition period. In the event of a no deal, British police would lose access to a range of Europe-wide tools such as the SIS-2 database of convictions and wanted suspects, and the European arrest warrant, which speeds up extradition and allows arrests if officers suspect someone is wanted overseas. The UK would fall back on methods originating in the 1950s, under which checks on criminals could take up to 66 days - rather than happen instantaneously, as is the case today. The safety of UK citizens is another crucial reason to reject this blindfold Brexit.
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Top Brexit comment
Mike Carter: The country I walked through deserves better than Brexit (Guardian)
Rachel Dobbs: Brexit experiment will fail UK science. Here’s why (InFacts)
Matthew d’Ancona: Have MPs, finally, come up with a decent Brexit proposal? (Guardian)
Today, Monday 11th February
|-||Brexit secretary Steve Barclay in Brussels for dinner with Michel Barnier|
|09.30||ONS: construction output|
|09.30||ONS: GDP stats|
|09.30||ONS: trade figures|
Tomorrow, Tuesday 12th February
|09.30||ONS: international exports of services in 2016|
|11.30||Business questions in Commons|