Morning Briefing: Nothing new for MPs - Labour risks mass exodus - rebranded 'Norway' won't work
Parliament returns today after a long Christmas break. But Theresa May still has nothing to make the government’s Brexit deal more palatable for the overwhelming number of MPs who opposed it in December. The postponed “meaningful vote” on the deal is due next Tuesday, with the first of five days of debate starting this Wednesday.
Whitehall sources told the Guardian that they are still “working flat out” to agree concessions on the Irish backstop with the EU, and that it is “not yet over”. But the reality, as the prime minister once said, is that “nothing has changed”.
Meanwhile MPs are filling this vacuum with a frenzy of new proposals and counter proposals for how Brexit should look. But many of the same problems apply to these ideas as to the government’s beleaguered blueprint. None are as good for the country as the deal we currently have in the EU. And none has a majority in Parliament.
A rebranded Norway-style proposal has emerged - this time as “Common Market 2.0”. Its advocates are overstating the control it would give the UK, particularly over migration. In fact, such a deal would see the UK reduced to a passive follower of EU rules on an even bigger scale than the government’s proposal (more below).
The Brextremists are now enthusiastically embracing the chaos of a no-deal Brexit. Boris Johnson throws his weight behind “no deal” in his weekly Telegraph column, no longer bothering to plug his “Super Canada” variation. Brexiter peer Peter Lilley has even cobbled together a 30-point argument in favour of a “WTO Brexit” - no deal by another name, and not a happy prospect, as David Hannay has written for InFacts.
But most MPs are aghast at the idea of crashing out of the EU. Over 200 of them have today signed a letter saying just that. Meanwhile maneouvres are afoot to stop no deal entirely, beginning with a cross-party amendment to the Finance Bill threatening to paralyse government if ministers push ahead with a crash-out Brexit. There will be plenty of similar legislative opportunities for MPs to reject no deal in the process ahead.
The simple fact is that all the alternative Brexits floating around Westminster either won’t work or will bring catastrophic consequences. No wonder MPs are finding it impossible to agree which one to back. That’s why the final decision should now be handed back to the public in a People’s Vote - because only they can sort this out.
Tweet of the Day
Ian Blackford, SNP leader in Westminster, commenting on Theresa May’s BBC appearance yesterday states the obvious: May’s deal is dead. A People’s Vote is the only way forward.
Quote of the Day
“The whole sorry shambles began with a decision to call a referendum in order to try to manage the English nationalist right wing of the Conservative party.
“It may be that we can only end this divisive and impoverishing argument by holding another referendum. That may prove to be the only and the best way for Britain to avoid an act of self-harm that would betray the aspirations of so many – not least the younger citizens of this country.”
Chris Patten backs a People's Vote - via the Guardian
Mass exodus from Labour if it backs Brexit
Labour would crash to a worse defeat than it suffered under Michael Foot if the party enables Brexit, according to the most extensive survey conducted since the 2016 referendum. The YouGov poll of more than 25,000 people was conducted over the Christmas break when Jeremy Corbyn’s apparent support for leaving the EU has come under intense scrutiny and increasing pressure. The poll shows Labour’s share of the vote has already fallen to 34% - six points behind the Conservatives. And Labour would fare no better if it tries to duck the issue by failing to instruct its MPs to oppose a Brexit deal – perhaps giving them a so-called “free vote” – with support rooted at 26%, fully 17 points behind the Conservatives on 43%. Although anti-Brexit parties such as the Lib Dems and the Greens would get a boost, such a result would mean a huge Tory majority.
Audio of the Day
WATCH: Tom Watson when asked on LBC if the Labour party would stick to the conference pledge to hold a General election, or, failing that, a People’s Vote, said that "if we don't get a General Election, then there should be a People’s Vote" in order to help resolve the crisis around the Brexit Deal. This is good news!
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Rebranded ‘Norway’ model won’t work
A rebranded “Norway model” Brexit has emerged over the weekend. “Common Market 2.0” is being spearheaded by Conservative ex-minister Robert Halfon and Labour MP Lucy Powell. But this Norwegian ship sailed some time ago. Despite some aspect pro-Europeans might like, it’s now clear there is no form of Brexit, including this one, that can fulfil all the promises made for it. And there is no Brexit deal, even this one, that is as good as the deal we’ve got inside the EU.
At this late stage, it’s really important that MPs level with the public about the reality of Brexit. The truth is that a Norway deal that keeps the UK inside the single market would not allow us to end freedom of movement let alone take back control.
What’s more, negotiations for “Norway” would be as complex as the last two years and result in the same challenges. Norway shadows the ECJ, it pays nearly as much into EU countries as part of its settlement per capita than the UK currently does for full membership, and Norway is very honest about the downside of taking rules whilst having little influence over their making.
Video of the Day
Staying in EU is best plan for NHS
A new plan for the NHS, promising to save 80,000 more lives a year, is being unveiled with much fanfare today. But the NHS is already under intense pressure - £1 billion short for the coming year, according to The Times’ front page. No type of Brexit will help plug this funding gap, as all scenarios would leave us with a smaller economy and less money to spend than we would have had if we’d stayed in the EU.
Efforts to evolve our NHS are hamstrung by a Brexit that is already damaging financing, staffing and collaboration with EU countries on research and medicines. People want a better future for the NHS. That’s why they must be given a People’s Vote on Brexit, with an option to rebuild our health service on the strong foundations of EU membership.
Video of the Day 2
WATCH: This Weeks FFS awards presented by Molly, staring Matt Hancock and his fridge collection, and Chris Grayling, for hiring a ferry company with no ferries!
More Brexit news…
Anne Perkins: Our uncivil war over Brexit was fuelled by deceit, not one oddball (Guardian)
Anand Menon & Jonathan Portes: ‘Managed no deal’? That’s just more Brexit snake oil (Guardian)
Peter Mandelson: Theresa May’s Brexit plan reduces us to beggars in Brussels — we need another vote (The Sunday Times)
Hugo Dixon: The letters that could spell the end of Brexit if the people are given a Final Say (Independent)
Today, Monday 7th January
Parliament returns from Christmas recess
Theresa May announcing 10 year plan for NHS
Tomorrow, Tuesday 8th January
Yvette Cooper 'no deal' amendment to finance bill expected