Thursday 13 September 2018 - People's Vote

Thursday 13 September 2018

Morning Briefing: No deal game playing - the Trump problem - role of the Lords

It’s true that crashing out of the EU with no deal would be appallingly destructive. But let’s be clear what game the government is playing with its latest salvos setting out contingency plans for such a scenario. While pretending that it has got everything under control, it is sending out a not-so-subtle message that crashing out would amount to putting a gun to our head and pulling the trigger. It thereby hopes to herd MPs into backing whatever miserable deal it manages to negotiate with the EU.

As the Cabinet prepares for a special “no deal” meeting today, there are signs that Theresa May’s “gun-to-our-head” strategy may be working. A desperate plot by hardline Tory MPs to kick her out, which emerged on Tuesday night, has been squished for now. So the prime minister looks like she will get to finish her Brexit talks.

Dominic Raab has a column in the Telegraph saying “we need not be afraid of a no-deal Brexit”, while also saying it would “not be a walk in the park” and warning, among other things, that “extra checks at the EU border would bring delays for business”. The government’s latest batch of 28 contingency plans, out today, will cover things such as mobile phone roaming changes (which the EU scrapped) and environmental standards.

The Brexit secretary also says we won’t pay the £50 billion we’ve agreed as part of our divorce deal if we don’t get a withdrawal agreement with the EU - although his weasel words suggest this is largely an empty threat to secure the approval of his Brextremist colleagues, as both he this morning and the prime minister yesterday have committed to abide by our legal obligations.

In other words, May isn’t making a big threat to the EU. Her not-so-subtle message to our EU partners is: “If you don’t help me out, the crazies in my party will force us all over the abyss.”

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As a result, the EU increasingly seems tempted to allow some sort of “blindfold” Brexit deal - where most of the details of our future arrangements with the bloc are covered in huge lashings of fudge. The other countries may humour the prime minister with all sorts of warm language but none of it will be a hard commitment.

The main weakness in May’s “plan” is that the EU is still insisting that she agrees a backstop to keep the Irish border open - and, if she does that, she could find it impossible to sell any deal to the her party. But a senior UK official tells the FT: “It will be difficult but in the end there will be an agreement.”

This is extremely risky because it means we will be in an even weaker position to negotiate a good deal once we’ve left. It also means that the hardline Brexiters could grab the wheel from May once Brexit is over and done with - and then ram through an even more damaging form of Brexit. Indeed, although the coup against her has failed for now, the plotters have not gone away - and some are telling newspapers the coup has just been deferred until April, just after Brexit.

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Video of the day

WATCH: Won't it be funny when you have to explain to your grandkids what roaming charges in Europe were? Oh, wait... (via Our Future, Our Choice)

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Gove backtracks

Michael Gove is catching flak for backtracking on a suggested post-Brexit ban on the export of live animals for slaughter. Green campaigners aren’t happy, with Caroline Lucas labelling the ban as another Brexiter promise that “won’t happen”.


The Trump problem

Donald Trump is tearing up the rules-based international order, and Brexit means Britain is uniquely exposed to the risks this creates. As former National Security Advisor Mark Lyall Grant points out, “we as an open trading island nation depend very heavily on a stable international environment”. With Trump tearing up trade deals and railing against the WTO, it’s hard to think of a worse moment to be resetting our trade policy - something else voters couldn’t have known in 2016.


Tweet of the day

"We don't need a distraction like this." The Irish foreign minister's take on the Brexiters' Irish border plans.

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Graphic of the day

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Lords to give Commons a voice?

After the European Research Group forced a set of hard Brexit amendments in July, the House of Lords was unable to strike out the offending articles because of the type of bill used - effectively ending any real debate on the topic before it began.

The Lords is now considering an alternative way to reopen debate - attaching them to a second piece of legislation currently passing through the Lords, which could then be sent to the Commons for a fresh vote.


Quote of the day

“As we did with the withdrawal bill, our frontbench team in the Lords are working with peers from across the house, from all parties and none, to ensure Brexit related legislation is fit for purpose.

“The government’s desperate tactics meanwhile to accept ERG amendments to the taxation bill stopped any effective debate in the Commons. So, we have also tabled new amendments to ensure ministers can’t duck scrutiny on such key issues.”

Angela Smith, Labour leader in the House of Lords, explains the role of peers


More Brexit news…

UK travellers face Europe ban without Brexit deal (FT)

No-deal Brexit could leave UK unable to kick out 1,000 foreign criminals a year (Mirror)

'Poor quality' preparations at key Brexit department risks billions of pounds in exports, warns watchdog (Independent)

Jean-Claude Juncker plans 10,000 border guards to stop flow of migrants into the EU (Times)

Britain voted with the majority of the rest of the EU in run-up to referendum (Guardian)


Top Brexit comment

The Sun Says: Tories must stop trying to oust Thersa May - toppling her would be madness (Sun)

Dominic Raab: Britain need not be afraid of a no-deal Brexit - we stand ready to rise to the challenges ahead (Telegraph)

Nick Timothy: A conspiracy of silence surrounds the true threat to Brexit (Telegraph)

The Guardian View: The European Research Group: not serious, still dangerous (Guardian)


Looking forward...

Today, Thursday 13th September 

- Second batch of government no-deal technical papers published
- Cabinet meeting expected on no-deal preparations
- House of Commons rises for party conference season
19:30 The Left Against Brexit rally in York

Tomorrow, Friday 14th September

- Parliament in recess for conference season