Monday 30 April 2018 - People's Vote

Monday 30 April 2018

Morning briefing: Rudd(er)less - sniping civil servants - "meaningful" Lords

Good morning,

Amber Rudd’s departure could fundamentally alter the balance of power in Cabinet and the Tory party. The loss of a pro-European on the front benches could be counterbalanced by the arrival of a heavyweight on the back benches, just when Tory rebels are gearing up for their next big battles.

Rudd’s tenure as home secretary was ended not by anything Brexit-related but followed the fallout from the Windrush scandal. However, her departure looms large over the Brexit process.

The resignation of such a heavy-hitter threatens chaos for both the Home Office and Theresa May’s finely balanced Cabinet - at a critical time when key policies on post-Brexit immigration and customs policies are being decided.

While chaos is unpredictable, Rudd’s resignation could help the campaign for a people’s vote. Having spoken strongly against Brexit during the referendum, will she now ally with Tory “mutineers” such as Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan - even acting as a rallying figure for other wavering Conservatives?

Rudd was arguably the softest soft Brexiter in May’s team. She was seeking, for example, a preferential deal for EU citizens after Brexit, according to reports in the Sunday Times.

Without her restraining influence, the government’s Brexit may tip in a harder direction. Though a hard Brexit would be bad for the country, it could be an easier target for Tory rebels to defeat in Parliament, and for the general public to turn against. Keep your eyes on May’s “war cabinet” meeting to discuss her customs partnership on Wednesday, minus Rudd as a key ally.

With Rudd’s departure, a lot hangs in the balance. With Rudd’s departure, a lot hangs in the balance. The question no doubt on EU citizens’ minds will be: what will all this mean for me at the end of 2020?

So, potentially chaotic times ahead. But also potential opportunities to push for and win a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal.

Quote of the day

“The last two weeks have exposed the Home Office as arbitrary, chaotic, and cruel.”

So begins the statement on Amber Rudd’s resignation from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. The charity goes on to call for reassurances for EU citizens.

Brexiters sniping civil servants

There’s been more chaos in the Cabinet over the weekend, with David Davis apparently urging Theresa May to sack top Brexit civil servant Olly Robbins, according to reports from a “close friend” of Davis in the Sunday Times.

The Brexit secretary’s beef is over May’s post-Brexit “customs partnership” - seen to be the brainchild of Robbins - which would see the UK separate out imported goods destined for the EU market and collect customs duties on the EU’s behalf. It has been dubbed “unworkable” by both Brexiters and pro-Europeans.

There’s been speculation, and then denial, over both Davis and Boris Johnson resigning over the issue. Meanwhile the chief whip, May’s chief of staff and the head of the civil service have all weighed in to defend Robbins. It’s looking shaky at the top.

Tweet of the day

Chief whip Julian Smith intervenes in customs row on side of embattled civil servant Olly Robbins. His tweet was endorsed by Theresa May’s chief of staff Gavin Barwell and head civil servant Jeremy Heywood.


Lords making things “meaningful”

Today the House of Lords will vote on an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill which could pave the way for a people’s vote on the Brexit deal and stop us crashing out if there’s no deal. It could also prevent Theresa May dragging her heels so that Parliament has no time to do either of these things. Hugo Dixon has analysed this key vote in more detail for InFacts.

With Labour backing it and the Tory mutineer MPs expected to do so too when the legislation returns to  the Commons, Amendment 49 has a good chance of becoming law.

Tech in turmoil

Several tech start-ups that have told the Financial Times (paywall) they will shift staff and operations out of the UK because of prolonged uncertainty caused by Brexit.

Rob Bishop, managing director of London-based payments start-up Optal, told the paper that now is the time for start-ups to relocate operations elsewhere in the EU. Optal has applied for a regulatory licence in Ireland.

The UK looked set to be a world leader in tech before the referendum. Brexit is undermining this flourishing industry, well before we’ve even left the EU. If people don’t like the impact Brexit is having on our industries and jobs, they should get a vote on the final Brexit deal.

Video of the day

Brexit negotiations are going badly and there’s a growing appeitite for a People’s Vote, Open Britain’s Francis Grove White tells Bloomberg News.


More Brexit news…

Barnier 'doesn't understand' unionist stance, says DUP (BBC)

Scottish Brexit minister: Deal with Westminster 'can still be done' (BBC)

Lord Dubs tables Brexit bill amendment to give young refugees sanctuary (Guardian)

Margate man faces eviction for 'Block Brexit' sign (BBC)

Top Brexit comment

Isabel Hardman: Amber Rudd has gone, but now Theresa May faces a new crisis (Guardian)

Polly Toynbee: Thursday’s polls are set to deliver political shock (Guardian)

Looking forward…

Today, Monday 30 April

-  4th day of report stage of EU Withdrawal Bill in Lords
-  Michel Barnier visits Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland
14:00  Lords EU committee: MEPs Daniel Hannan (Con) and Jude Kirton-Darling (Lab)

Tomorrow, Tuesday 1 May

-  Michel Barnier visits Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland
16:00  Lords EU committee: Brexit secretary David Davis