Morning Briefing: 'Put It To The People' on March 23 - McDonnell on the move? - journey to the unknown
The people must have the final say on Brexit. That message will be made loud and clear at the “Put It To The People” march, announced over the weekend. The demonstration is on March 23, just six days before we are supposed to leave the EU. Crowds will amass at 12pm - “High Noon” - on Park Lane to march on Parliament Square for a mass rally.
This march is for all those who are concerned about the way politics is descending into chaos, and for those who feel let down by broken Brexit promises. Whether you're worried about the damage caused by this deal or no deal, or you just want clarity and closure about our country’s direction – rather than years more of argument and division - join us. By working together we can fix this mess.
And the mess stinks more by the day. The confrontation between the government and the hardline Brexit backbenchers rages on, with Theresa May sending a letter to MPs warning “history will judge us all” and her culture secretary telling the BBC that the controversial Irish border “backstop” might not need to be removed after all. “What will it take for the PM to accept that we will not accept the backstop in its current form?” ERG deputy Steve Baker asked the Sunday Times, as the paper revealed furious WhatsApp messages from Tory Brexiters.
As political infighting rages, businesses continue to suffer. Over the weekend, regional airline Flybmi announced it was ceasing operations and going into administration. The East Midlands-based airline, which has 376 staff and operates 17 planes flying to 25 European cities, blamed “uncertainty created by the Brexit process”.
By marching on March 23, people can show how frustrated they are to see their country in this state. But our voices can also help convince our politicians that it doesn’t have to be this way - that people want them to do something. The Labour frontbench, in particular, can be convinced to swing behind a People’s Vote - as John McDonnell’s comments to the BBC yesterday showed (see below).
There are lots of things you can do in the five weeks ahead of the march: join other protests outside Parliament; attend or set up local events; write to your MP; spread the word on social media; and tell all your family and friends. You can find more details here.
It’s time to tell the government that we will not accept the choice between several forms of Brexit, all of which the government’s own assessments say will make us significantly poorer. We will not buy the lie that democracy was frozen in June 2016. On March 23, we will demand Brexit is put back to the people.
Video of the Day
Quote of the Day
“It is with a heavy heart that we have made this unavoidable announcement.
“The airline has faced several difficulties, including recent spikes in fuel and carbon costs, the latter arising from the EU's recent decision to exclude UK airlines from full participation in the Emissions Trading Scheme.
“Current trading and future prospects have also been seriously affected by the uncertainty created by the Brexit process, which has led to our inability to secure valuable flying contracts in Europe.”
Official statement from Flybmi as it enters administration. Brexit is behind both factors here.
McDonnell on the move?
John McDonnell hinted yesterday that Labour may be recognising that its Brexit policy will have to change. In a BBC interview, the shadow chancellor said that Labour “need now to have a serious discussion” with Theresa May on her Brexit deal, and that this needed to happen “by the end of this month”. He added that “if you can’t get a deal agreed through Parliament, or if that deal wasn’t going to protect jobs and the economy, you’d have to go back to the people”.
McDonnell also said the Labour leadership will “look at” a proposal by two backbenchers, Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, which calls for the approval of the government’s deal but only on the condition that there is a referendum to confirm it is what the people want.
McDonnell’s comments will be welcomed by Labour supporters. More and more of them want a People’s Vote. They know there isn’t any deal as good as the one we already have inside the EU, or that meets the promises made in 2016, or that will prevent this crisis stretching out for years as politicians try to make sense of something that doesn’t make sense for the UK.
It's clear that the only way forward is a People's Vote. Now is a crucial time to get involved with the campaign. Sign up to volunteer today.
Journey to the unknown
A cargo ship, the Thalassa Mana, leaves Felixstowe today headed for Osaka, Japan. It will arrive on March 30, one day after the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU, and has no idea what trading conditions it will face upon its arrival, or even whether it will be allowed to unload its cargo.
This journey into the unknown is thanks to trade secretary Liam Fox only managing to rollover four of our existing EU trade deals with other countries before Brexit. Talks with Japan, which recently finalised a massive trade deal with the EU, are not going well. A poorly worded letter from Fox and foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has been interpreted as an undiplomatic accusation of foot-dragging on the part of Tokyo. This has soured negotiations, reports the FT.
The UK’s bold post-Brexit trade strategy is floundering with other nations too. While Australia has said it is willing to fast-track a trade agreement if a no-deal Brexit happens, it has also poured cold water on the chances of the UK joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership regional bloc - one of Fox’s long-term ambitions. Meanwhile a trade trip by chancellor Philip Hammond to China is now not going ahead after a speech by defence secretary Gavin Williamson angered the Beijing.
Tweet of the Day
This great put down to ex-Brexit secretary Dominic Raab from BuzzFeed's Alberto Nardelli.
No good options on no-deal trade
Post-Brexit trade plans are looking a mess at home too. Brexit-backing ministers are divided over how to set the UK’s tariff schedule (how much you tax imports coming from different countries) in the case of a no-deal Brexit, reports The Times. Liam Fox wants to move to zero tariffs in as many areas as possible. The benefit of that is it avoids eye-watering Brexit price rises for UK shoppers.
But under WTO rules, which Brexiters are so fond of, the UK can’t reduce tariffs to zero for specific countries - it has to do it for all 163 other WTO members. That means UK farmers and other producers will be exposed to cheaper imports from around the world - including agricultural powerhouses like the US, Australia, New Zealand and the South American countries. Michael Gove, the farming secretary, has therefore demanded agriculture be protected at least in the short term.
The government is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. The choice is between price hikes on people’s weekly shop or collapsing the farming industry. It’s almost as if Brexiters didn’t think all this through - but as Gove once said, “we’re tired of experts”.
Top Brexit comment
Kuba Shand-Baptiste: Young people are at the end of their tether – which is why we'll march for a Final Say on Brexit (Independent)
Sean O’Grady: This is not the Brexit I expected when I voted Leave, which is why I want a Final Say (Independent)
Peter Kyle & Phil Wilson: We’ll back the deal if the people are allowed a final say (Times £)
Today, Monday 18th February
|-||Commons: motions on statutory instruments relating to Brexit|
|-||Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay meets Michel Barnier|
|-||EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels|
|14.30||Defence questions in Commons|
Tomorrow, Tuesday 19th February
|-||Commons: motions on statutory instruments relating to Brexit|
|09.30||ONS: Labour market stats|
|09.30||ONS: Productivity estimates|