Morning Briefing: PM's towns fund is drop in ocean - backstop satire - good reason to extend
The government has freed up £1.6 billion over the next seven years to fund left-behind towns, mainly in Labour-voting areas in the North and Midlands which backed Leave in 2016. While such funding is essential for bringing our country back together, this looks like a cynical bribe to woo wavering Labour MPs into backing Theresa May’s deal. What's more, it's a drop in the ocean compared to the cost of Brexit.
Only £1 billion of the money will be allocated via a “needs-based” formula meaning up to £600 million could be allocated at ministerial discretion – leading to suspicions the money could be spent not to deliver economic improvement but to secure the passage of the government’s Brexit plan.
Those Labour politicians being targeted aren’t daft, and the government’s bluff has been called. Wigan MP Lisa Nandy told The Times that the amount showed the government was “not serious” about helping communities. Gareth Snell, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, said “there is no price on my vote” and highlighted the fact that the £212 million going to the West Midlands was less than the amount cut from Stoke council’s budget in the last nine years due to austerity policies.
In any case the money is substantially less than funding that the government’s own forecasts show will be lost to local economies as a result of Brexit. Independent analysis has shown the UK would be £100 billion worse off every year in a decade’s time than we would have been if we’d stayed in the EU.
The People’s Vote campaign has also done further analysis specifically into the 36 constituencies of opposition MPs being targeted by the government. In these seats alone, the cost of the government’s Brexit plans will be an estimated £1.1 billion annually.
It makes the chancellor’s claims of a “Brexit deal dividend” if May’s deal is passed look like a bad joke. The real dividend will come if we stay in the EU. CommonGround has already made some interesting proposals on how this money could actually be used to tackle inequality in our country.
So backing the government's Brexit deal isn't the best way for Labour MPs to make their constituents better off. But another of their concerns is that potential voters in seats which voted Leave will abandon Labour if the party backs a People's Vote. New polling has shown this couldn't be further from the truth.
No less than 75% of Labour voters in the party’s North and Midlands heartlands who expressed an opinion said they supported the party’s policy of backing a People’s Vote. What’s more, just 14% said they wanted their MP to back the proposed terms for leaving the EU.
If there is a new vote on Brexit, Labour’s heartland voters would support staying in the EU by 76% to 24%. That margin of victory would rise even higher – 81% versus 19% - if the choice on the ballot paper is between staying in the EU or leaving with Theresa May’s deal.
Many of those Labour voters are expected to make the journey to London for the Put It To The People march on March 23, joining crowds from every region and nation of the UK, of all political parties and none. Rather than mulling over the prime minister's bad deal, Labour MPs should join in demanding the final decision on Brexit be given to the people.
Quote of the Day
“After decades of neglect a one-off payment designed to help the prime minister ahead of a key Brexit vote will fail, and it will confirm to people that the government is not serious in its commitment to our communities.”
Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan
Video of the Day
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After weekend reports that the hard-Brexit Tories of the ERG could be about to u-turn and back May’s deal, the Telegraph today reports that their demands for either a time-limit or escape clause to the controversial Irish border “backstop” has been ditched by attorney-general Geoffrey Cox. The EU is instead offering legally binding language on the backstop’s temporary nature, most probably in the form of a protocol or interpretive instrument. Steve Baker, one of the ERG’s leaders, described the “satirical approach” to finding the “alternative arrangements” the government promised to the backstop.
The ERG are right to oppose the prime minister’s dreadful deal - and there is plenty wrong with it besides the risk of being trapped in a second-rate customs union by the backstop. The deal is a blindfold Brexit that will make us poorer and lead to years more uncertainty. That’s not just outrageous to Brexiters, but to patriotic pro-Europeans too.
Of course the no-deal crash-out favoured by Brexiters carries many of the same problems. The best option for the country, the option that makes people better off and gives us a louder voice on the world stage, is to stay in the EU. And the best, most democratic way to do that is by putting the final decision on Brexit back to the people.
Tweet of the Day
A good reason for extension? A People’s Vote!
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has joined other EU leaders in insisting that, yes, the Article 50 deadline can be extended - but there must be a good reason for it. One obvious good reason for an extension would be to hold a People’s Vote, giving the UK time to put the final decision on Brexit back to the British public.
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.
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What's your Reason?
WATCH: OFOC supporter Ratan from Wolverhampton thinks that "Brexit is one of the biggest catastrophes this country has faced in a very, very long time... I think really the only alternative is a People's Vote."
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Today, Monday 4th March
|15.00||European Parliament foreign affairs committee to discuss Brexit|
|16.00||HMRC boss Jon Thompson at Commons public accounts Committee|
Tomorrow, Tuesday 5th March
|11.30||Treasury questions in Commons|
|15.35||Bank of England governor Mark Carney at Lords economic affairs committee|
|16.00||Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay at Commons Brexit committee|