Monday 14 May 2018 - People's Vote

Monday 14 May 2018

Morning briefing: Unworkable schemes - spying on Brexit - students back People's Vote

As Cabinet members fight tooth and nail over our future customs arrangements, it’s easy to forget that neither of the government’s two schemes is workable. And neither is acceptable to the EU.

In the circumstances, the idea of kicking the whole thing into touch for several years - proposed by Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s former chief of staff, last week - could end up as the path of least resistance.

Over the weekend, Michael Gove became the latest Brexiter to put the boot into May’s favourite scheme, the so-called “customs partnership”, telling Nick Robinson, who was guest-hosting the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, that it was flawed. The environment secretary was appointed only days before by the prime minister to a special sub-committee of three ministers to consider the plan.

Gove is right that the customs partnership, which is supposed to avoid border controls with the EU, won’t work. It involves separating goods coming into the UK into those destined for domestic consumption and those that will be exported to the EU - and tracking them to make sure that those supposed to stay here don’t end up in the EU.

But the alternative “Max Fac” scheme, which is supposed to streamline border controls, is also flawed. Because it doesn’t even pretend to do away with frontier checks, it would gum up the flow of trade and couldn’t even be part of a solution to the Irish border problem.

No wonder the Cabinet, which meets again tomorrow, is going round and round in circles.

But what about Timothy’s idea that we could stay in the EU’s customs union for a few more years until we figure out the technology behind Max Fac? Could it square the circle?

It would certainly be in the prime minister’s character to put off difficult decisions for as long as possible. But make no mistake: such epic can-kicking would be a dereliction of duty that would amount to pressing the pause button on our economy, so stifling investment for many years. It would also mean more years paying into the EU’s budget and following its rules, without a vote on them.

No wonder Gove told the Andrew Marr Show: “I don’t believe in an extension.”

An extended transition is a thoroughly bad idea. But when it comes to Brexit, this government only has bad ideas. So it is possible that, by a process of elimination, it will plump for this one. All the more reason for a people’s vote on the deal, once the prime minister has finally worked out what Brexit means.


MI5 chief spies Brexit threat

“In today’s uncertain world we need shared strength more than ever.” That will be the message from MI5 chief Andrew Parker in Berlin today - the first time the head of the British intelligence service has given a speech on foreign soil.

“European intelligence cooperation today is simply unrecognisable to what it looked like five years ago” and must be allowed to thrive, Parker will say, citing threats from the “aggressive and pernicious actions” of Russia and an “intense and unrelenting international terrorist threat”.

The subtext to all this: don’t let Brexit weaken our close security cooperation with European allies. Sadly, that looks almost inevitable. For example, the UK will “lose influence” over key operations like recent ones in Africa and Kosovo once it is ejected from the EU’s security and defence frameworks, warns a parliamentary inquiry today. When people voted for Brexit two years ago, is this what they really wanted?


Quote of the day

“By permitting a state visit and audience with the Queen, May and Johnson are essentially rolling out the red carpet for a man with a disregard for human rights, who is responsible for alarming oppression and violence.”

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable criticises the state visit for Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The controversial Turkish president is in London to build a new partnership with the UK. Was this what May meant when she said Brexit would let Britain build relationships with “new allies”?


Students unite to back people’s vote

Leaders of 120 student unions - representing 1 million students across the UK - have signed an open letter calling for a people’s vote on the Brexit deal, so that “young people can once and for all have a say on their futures”. The student leaders say that the EU has been a force for good for UK society, naming the environment, LGBT rights and women’s rights as some of the areas where UK citizens have benefited from EU membership.

It’s time politicians, and in particular a Labour leadership which has taken young people’s support for granted, recognise that the generation which will feel the impact of Brexit hardest does not want it.


Video of the day

Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson from For Our Future's Sake tells Sky News why student leaders representing 1 million students are calling for a People's Vote.

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MPs must do what’s best for future

Three senior politicians from different parties have united in one voice against a hard Brexit. Writing in the Mail on Sunday, David Miliband, Nicky Morgan and Nick Clegg urge MPs to reject completely the “siren calls” to sever the UK's deep economic ties with the EU. It is critical, they argue, that when May’s Brexit deal finally reaches Parliament, “MPs must do what they believe is best for the future”.

It is great to see politicians putting the national interest ahead of party loyalties. More should follow.


Tweet of the day

Some cutting analysis of former Tory leader (and massive Brexiter) Iain Duncan Smith's peformance on the BBC's Sunday Politics yesterday.

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More Brexit news…

UK government to host summit on why other countries should join the EU (Independent)

The UK says EU accession is important for the “security, stability and prosperity” of six Western Balkan states outside the bloc. You couldn’t write this stuff...

UK businesses warned over risk of Brexit-driven crime surge (Guardian)

May intervenes to speed up new UK immigration plan (Politico)

Oslo thaws on UK joining EEA after Brexit (FT)


Top Brexit comment

Telegraph View: There is so little time left to get Brexit right. What is Theresa May doing? (Telegraph)

“The question many Leavers are now asking themselves is whether the Brexit on offer will be worth it.” When the Daily Telegraph is writing editorials like this, May’s Brexit looks like it’s on thin ice.

Andy McDonald: Remember the KFC chicken shortage? Customs chaos at ports could repeat it (Times)

Juliet Samuel: Brexiteers believe they are in control. But their position is far weaker than they think (Telegraph)


Looking forward…

Today, Monday 14 May

- Brexit "war cabinet" sub-sub-committees meet to discuss customs options
- Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan visiting UK
- Michel Barnier speech on post-Brexit foreign, security and defence policy
PM Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill: 2nd reading in Commons
PM Lords consider amendments to Data Protection Bill

Tomorrow, Tuesday 15 May

- Brexit "war cabinet" meeting
- Theresa May press conference with Turkey's president Erdogan
- Center for Policy Studies launches “New Blue” essay collection by young Conservative MPs
09:30 ONS releases labour market statistics
10:30 Electoral Commission gives evidence to DCMS committee's "fake news" inquiry
10:50 Policing minister gives evidence to Lords' sub-committee on UK-EU security partnership
11:30 Boris Johnson takes foreign office questions in Commons