Monday 4 June 2018 - People's Vote

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Monday 4 June 2018

Morning briefing: MPs back from holiday - trade deal dash - NI police fears

MPs return from their half-term holiday to find the government exactly where it was before: clueless. Meanwhile, time is ticking towards that crucial European Council meeting just over three weeks away. And going into the summit clueless is not the best way to promote the national interest.

The logical thing for Theresa May to do would be first agree a viable plan for customs and the Irish border with the Cabinet; then persuade Parliament to back it; and finally sell it to other European leaders at the summit.

But the prime minister has, yet again, fallen at the first hurdle. Her favourite “customs partnership” option is seemingly dead. The group of ministers trying to make it work has only met once.

Meanwhile, the rival “maximum facilitation” option mutated into a cockamamie scheme for Northern Ireland to follow both UK and EU rules, buttressed by a 10-mile wide buffer zone along the border. This was trashed within hours of it being revealed in the Sun last Friday.

Not surprisingly, the government’s 150-page Brexit White Paper has been delayed until after the summit, according to the Sunday Times. That’s because the document, which is supposed to tell us finally what Brexit means, is “riddled” with red ink - passages which ministers can’t agree.

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What this means for the EU Withdrawal Bill when it comes back to the House of Commons, probably next week, is anybody’s guess. But it could be hard for Theresa May to persuade MPs to overturn the amendments passed in the House of Lords on things like customs and the Irish border if she can’t say what her own plan is.

It’s not as if she has the fallback option of crashing out with no deal, either. The UK would be hit with shortages of medicine, fuel and food within a fortnight if it did this, according to a “doomsday” scenario drawn up by David Davis’ senior civil servants, according to the Sunday Times.

The government tried to dismiss the report, with a spokesperson saying “we know that none of this would come to pass”.

Jacob Rees-Mogg accepted the document was genuine while dismissing it as “project fear on speed”. Other Brexiters were more worried. One senior government source told the Guardian: “There must now be an urgent change of mentality by the Treasury, Cabinet Office and No 10 to prepare to be a ‘third country’, if we are to stop the UK drifting into being an EU colony.”

Brexiters used to pretend negotiating our divorce was going to be a walk in the park. That was never true. But the government has played a bad hand terribly. All the more reason for the people to get a vote on the final deal.


Video of the day

Stella Creasy tells the BBC's Andrew Marr why she's one of 19 MPs in London backing a People's Vote.

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Mad dash to seal non-EU trade deals

Liam Fox’s trade department looks destined for a mad scramble to keep more than 40 trade deals we have with other countries thanks to our EU membership. EU officials won’t ask the bloc’s trading partners such as Japan and South Korea to allow the UK to benefit from current trade deals until Theresa May signs the final Brexit deal, which won’t be until December at the earliest, reports the Times.

That timetable would give Fox’s team just three months to keep the deals, which account for 15% of all UK imports and exports. While the trade secretary has previously been bullish about rolling over the deals “the second after” Brexit, the change in the UK’s status means technical details need thrashing out with trading partners and already some countries - including Japan and Chile - are pushing for more favourable terms. This hurried procedure could turn into a real mess.

Brexiters promised lots of new trade deals. There’s a serious risk we’ll end up with fewer.


Tweet of the day

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Northern Ireland police planning for border trouble

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have halted the sale of three police stations as a “precautionary step” as Brexit uncertainty over the Irish border continues. This follows a call last week for the government to fund the recruitment of up to 400 additional officers for operations along the border.

Brexiters have been quick to write off concerns about peace in Northern Ireland as Remainer hysteria. The PSNI - an organisation not known for its hysterical outbursts - doesn’t seem to think so.


Quote of the day

“As the PSNI has not yet received details regarding potential border arrangements, this is a precautionary step to ensure that, whatever Brexit looks like in the future, we will be able to continue to keep our communities safe.”

A typically “hysterical” statement released by the police in Nothern Ireland.


NHS desperate for doctors

Theresa May is expected to lift the cap on doctors from outside the EU within weeks after the NHS warned it is leading to staff shortages, according to Telegraph reports.

This move exposes the government’s desperation to tackle NHS staffing shortages. Brexit will make things worse, with many EU-born doctors considering quitting the UK and other medical staff leaving in droves.

Brexiters said kicking out foreigners would make it easier to get treated by the NHS. It’s now clear it will make it harder.


Video of the weekend

This People's Vote video calling Nigel Farage out for trying to rewrite Brexit history was watched half a million times over the weekend. If you haven't watched and shared yet, here's your chance.

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More Brexit news…

Brexit 'weighing on business investment' (BBC)

Britain hints at staying in European VAT area after Brexit (FT £)

Call for tech start-ups to be supported to offset Brexit (FT £)

No strong business case for ditching EU rules, says thinktank (Guardian)

London mayor urges MPs to back peers' changes to Brexit bill (Guardian)


Top Brexit comment

Will Hutton: We don’t need Brexit. I have a plan to build a modern, fairer Britain (Guardian)

Nick Clegg: Pro-European MPs have a moral duty to resist Brexit (Times £)


Looking forward…

Today, Monday 4 June

- Theresa May to update UK business leaders on Brexit at Downing Street
- Michel Barnier meets Hungarian PM Viktor Orban
- GMB annual conference
AM Sajid Javid to set out government's new counter-terror strategy
10:30 Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham speaks to public admin committee on devolution and Brexit
12:45 Foreign Office's top civil servant speech on post-Brexit role of FCO at Institute for Government
14:30 Sajid Javid takes Home Office questions in Commons

Tomorrow, Tuesday 5 June

- EU's Barnier and Juncker meet Norway PM Erna Solberg
- GMB annual conference
09:30 Met Police chief Cressida Dick at Commons home affairs committee on future of policing
10:00 HMRC chief Jon Thompson at Treasury Committee (again) on economic relationship with EU