Morning Briefing: Trouble with two Johnsons - Labour divisions - sapping uncertainty
The sheer scale of the misery that Theresa May’s Brexit plan will bring to this country is becoming acutely apparent to all. The prime minister’s proposals - which could yet see more concessions to the EU - are under fire from hardcore Brexiters and patriotic pro-Europeans alike.
The current state of play can perhaps best be summed up as a tale of two Johnsons. First, the decision by moderate pro-European Jo Johnson to quit his role as transport minister on Friday, saying the prime minister was presenting a choice between “vassalage” and “chaos”, and that it would be a “democratic travesty” to not have a public vote on whatever outcome emerged. And then his bombastic brother Boris, desperate to grab back the limelight as a shouty Brexiter, calling for a Cabinet “mutiny” in today’s Telegraph.
But even between these two wings of her party, May’s inner team of cabinet ministers also seem in open revolt. An emergency Cabinet meeting to “approve the deal” pencilled in for today has been cancelled amidst ministerial opposition to May’s proposals. Brexiters Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey are all the focus of speculation about who might quit next, alongside four moderate pro-European ministers, according to the Sunday Times. For her part, Leadsom denied the gossip yesterday saying she was “sticking in government” to work for a good deal.
But the latest template for the UK-EU withdrawal agreement, revealed in a note leaked to BuzzFeed, won’t please anyone. The current three-part model for an Irish “backstop” - the insurance policy to make sure Northern Ireland’s frontier with the Republic remains open after Brexit - could still see a regulatory border in the Irish Sea, as well as the UK following many EU rules without a say for years after Brexit. There is a proposed mechanism to review the backstop in July 2020, but the EU wants that decision to rest ultimately with the European Court of Justice. And EU officials are also expected to push for continued access to UK fishing waters throughout the transition.
The DUP, who prop up May’s minority government, are fuming. Meanwhile Scottish Conservative MPs won’t be happy with the regulatory split with Northern Ireland, because it increases the chances of a new Scottish independence bid, or the fishing factor - which will frustrate many of their coastal constituents.
In short, May is in a mess. And the longer this impasse goes on the more damage it will do to the country (read more below). Thankfully more and more influential figures are coming round to Jo Johnson’s way of thinking, that the most democratic solution is to have a People’s Vote now we know what Brexit will actually entail.
Quote of the Day
“To those who say that is an affront to democracy given the 2016 result, I ask this. Is it more democratic to rely on a three year old vote based on what an idealised Brexit might offer, or to have a vote based on what we know it does actually entail?”
Jo Johnson, writing in the Spectator on Friday
Tweet of the day
Where does Labour leadership stand on People’s Vote?
Some rather stark differences of Brexit opinion also appear to be bubbling to the surface in the Labour party. On the Andrew Marr Show yesterday, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said her party “would campaign for a People’s Vote” after exhausting other possible options, such as a new general election. That’s at odds with Jeremy Corbyn’s response in a recent interview that he could “not really” see himself agreeing to a public vote, insisting the focus must now be on the future after Brexit. That puts him at odds with the overwhelming majority of his MPs, party members and potential voters. In fact, recent polling suggests that even in those 259 Labour seats that voted Leave in 2016, a majority of voters in each one wants a final say on Brexit. A People’s Vote is therefore not just logical and democratic, but it could a boost to Corbyn’s party in future elections.
Video of the Day
WATCH: Emily Thornberry confirms that Labour would campaign for a People’s Vote on Brexit if it fails to secure a general election. This comes after Keir Starmer warned May that Labour cannot be bullied into supporting her botched Brexit deal.
Spanish PM in ‘no doubt’ on Brexit vote
The Spanish prime minister has become the most prominent European leader to back giving the UK public a vote on Brexit. Pedro Sanchez said he had “no doubt” Theresa May should call a public vote. He joins Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat and Czech prime minister Andrej Babis, who have previously spoken in favour of the idea. The support of EU leaders for a People’s Vote is crucial, because the time taken to get a vote in place will now take us beyond the Brexit deadline of March 29. That means we need an extension to Article 50, which can only be agreed by all 27 other EU leaders. Fortunately, as Sanchez’s comments show, this idea is starting to get a wider welcome on the continent.
Video of the Day 2
Years of May’s uncertainty will drain economy
Brexit uncertainty is deeply damaging the UK economy - and we haven’t even left yet. Business uncertainty has seen productivity halved, according to new research by economists and Stanford and Nottingham universities. Meanwhile employers are struggling to fill vacancies as foreign workers both from EU and non-EU countries are put off coming to the UK, according to a survey by HR body the CIPD.
The thing is, the manner in which Theresa May wants us to leave would mean more uncertainty for years to come as we try to agree a complex future relationship with the EU, with businesses forced to plan for an unknown future and all the while risking the talks breaking down and crashing out into no-deal chaos after all.
More Brexit news…
Hugo Dixon: Jo Johnson’s resignation a strategic boost for pro-Europeans (InFacts)
Tom Snape: They voted to leave, but Labour seats like Stoke now want a People’s Vote (Labour List)
Keir Starmer: Labour won’t be bullied into a bad deal (Sunday Times £)
Matthew d’Ancona: Logic points to a people’s vote. Instead, we face political collapse (Guardian)
Editorial: A salutary Brexit warning from the serious Mr Johnson (FT £)
Today, Monday 12th November
|-||European Parliament Plenary|
|14.30||Government statement on Brexit in the Lords|
|16.30||Expert evidence to Welsh Affairs committee on Brexit, trade and customs|
|PM||Lord Mayor's Banquet|
Tomorrow, Tuesday 13th November
|-||European Parliament Plenary|
|09.30||ONS: Labour market stats|
|09.30||ONS: Productivity estimates|
|10.00||Expert evidence to trade committee on UK-EU relationship|