Monday 19 November 18 - People's Vote

Monday 19 November 18

Morning Briefing: May defending deal on all fronts - cost of transition - Labour closer to People's Vote

Theresa May is talking out of both sides of her mouth in her desperation to ram her miserable Brexit deal through Parliament. She is telling Brexiters that voting down her deal could mean we don’t leave the EU at all - and at the same time telling pro-Europeans and business that it would mean crashing out with no deal.

It can’t mean both. The reality is that there is no majority in Parliament for no deal, and nor does the prime minister nor the Cabinet want that outcome, so it won’t happen. There is, however, an increasingly strong chance of a People’s Vote, handing the public the final say.

One half of the prime minister’s push-me-pull-you approach will be on display today at the CBI. The business lobby’s president is expected to say that while the deal is “not perfect”, crashing out would be a “wrecking ball”. While John Allan is right that “no deal” would be extremely damaging, he is wrong to imply that voting down the deal would lead to that outcome.

Other business leaders, including over 100 who support Business for a People’s Vote, don’t buy the line that the alternative to the deal is no deal. They are persuaded by the other half of the prime minister’s push-me-pull-you - namely that it means we are likely to end up with a new public vote with no Brexit as an option. 57% of business leaders back a People’s Vote, according to YouGov.

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It is hard to find anybody who actually thinks the deal is any good. The latest group of MPs to voice concern are the Scottish Conservatives. Ross Thomson said he could “never accept” trade barriers between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, David Duguid said proposals which could hang fishermen out to dry were “unacceptable”, John Lamont said he had a “number of concerns” and Paul Masterton said he was “not in a position” to back the deal.

The Scottish rebellion is on top of the revolt by pro-European Conservatives and the DUP.

It is also on top of an attempt by hardline Brexiters to force a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister. Although Jacob Rees-Mogg has yet to get the support of the 48 MPs needed to trigger a contest, rival leadership candidates are preparing their battle plans.

The prime minister did, though, say one correct thing yesterday: getting rid of her would not change the “parliamentary arithmetic”. Whoever replaced her would face the same problem that Parliament doesn’t want her deal.

With Keir Starmer making clear at the weekend that Labour will assemble a majority of MPs to push through amendments that stop “no deal”, parliamentarians of all stripes are increasingly realising that a People’s Vote will be the logical solution. As Alistair Burt, the foreign office minister, tweeted on Saturday: “If an agreed deal on leaving between the Govt and the EU is voted down by purist Brexiteers, do not be surprised if consensus on accepting the result of the Referendum by Remain voting MPs breaks down. Parliament will not support no deal.”

In other words, don’t believe the prime minister’s project fear.


Tweet of the Day

Foreign office minister Alistair Burt calls May's bluff on her "my deal or no deal" scare tactic.

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Quote of the Day

“Why would any rational country choose to leave the world’s biggest, richest, closest, free trade market where our brands are well known, our distribution channels established with skilled people to service our high value added products?”

John Neill, chairman and chief executive of Unipart


Costly transition stores trouble for future

Every year the UK wants to extend the Brexit transition period will cost around an extra £10 billion, the EU has confirmed. Meanwhile, Michel Barnier has proposed an extension of the transition to 2022.

Theresa May’s £39 billion figure for our “divorce” is looking like a serious underestimate. The National Audit Office has previously calculated the likely figure to be closer to £50 billion. But there’s more. The payments will be made in euros, and so could be significantly higher if the value of the pound continues to fall. The bill will also be reassessed every year until at least 2029, May’s draft withdrawal agreement confirmed last week.

Barnier’s suggestion of an extension until 2022 will also pose a headache for any future government, falling as it does just after the next scheduled general election. Since a new trade deal with the EU is highly unlikely to have been struck before the transition ends in 2020, politicians will face a tough choice. Either end the transition and enter the “backstop” arrangement to keep the Irish border open, which means lots of rule-taking and key parts of our economy cut off from the EU market. Or continue the transition, and go into an election still not having left the EU. Neither will look great, and it’s another reason for MPs to oppose May’s deal.


Video of the Day

WATCH:Our Future our Choice took their new battle bus up to Loughborough to try and convince Nicky Morgan to come out in support of a People’s Vote. While they were there Femi was on Sky News and the people on the bus got an opportunity to call for a People’s Vote!


Labour closer to People’s Vote

The Labour leadership appears to be moving closer to a People's Vote. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has told Sky that a public vote on Brexit was more likely than Labour’s preferred outcome of a general election, which “could prove difficult” thanks to the Fixed-Terms Parliament Act.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn is expected to put forward Labour’s “good Brexit plan” today at the CBI conference, following months of pressure to outline a credible alternative to May’s miserable deal. He wants “a radical programme of investment and real change across our regions and nations”. It is time to get real, and wake up to the fact that the deal cannot be renegotiated. And nor is there a better deal available in any case.

Of course we need something to bring our divided country back together, the 2016 vote itself showed that all too clearly. But Brexit is not the way to do it. It would hit our economy and make investment in jobs and neglected regions much harder. Although he’s loathe to say it, the most realistic way for Corbyn to realise his goals is by backing People’s Vote.


Graphic of the Day

Nobody's happy with Theresa May's botched Brexit. A snap YouGov poll earlier this week revealed that 62% of women voters now support a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal. Demand your say HERE.


Johnson right on one thing

Boris Johnson has, predictably, used his regular Monday Telegraph column to attack May’s deal. But there is one very truthful line which is worth bearing in mind as other Brexiters put forward their rival visions for the future: “Of all the lies that are currently being peddled, the worst is that this agreement can somehow be remedied in the next stage of the talks.”

This, as Johnson is well aware, is the strategy said to be favoured by Michael Gove, one of five Brexiters attempting to change May’s Brexit strategy from within Cabinet. It could gain some ground over the next few days. But Brexiters tempted to vote for May’s deal on this “Brexit then bail” premise should think twice. The prime minister’s text will lock them into a rule-taking relationship with the EU, stuck in the Irish backstop or extended transition, and give the EU a veto on whether the UK can leave or not. The scope for taking back control in these circumstances is vanishingly small.


Video of the Day 2

WATCH: For a lighter take on the news, the FFS awards for the past week go to Rory Stewart, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Theresa May. Can you guess what for?


More Brexit news…

Jo Johnson backs bid to force Treasury to reveal no-Brexit forecasts (Guardian)

Pacific bloc will not offer special terms (Times £)

Brexit bankroller Arron Banks, Cambridge Analytica and Steve Bannon – explosive emails reveal fresh links (Open Democracy)

Only 10% of voters think Theresa May’s Brexit deal will be good for them (Sunday Times £)


Top Brexit comment

Editorial: The people must have a chance to give their verdict (Observer)

Deborah Meaden: This poor Brexit deal is bad for business, which means I’m out (Times)

Matthew d’Ancona: A Tory leadership contest won’t solve the Brexit crisis (Guardian)


Looking forward…

Today, Monday 19th November

- CBI conference
09:30 ONS: UK manufacturers' sales by product
11:10 Theresa May speaking at CBI conference
16:45 Jeremy Corbyn speaking at CBI conference

Tomorrow, Tuesday 20th November

14:30 Home Affairs committee evidence on hate crime and violence