Thursday 17 January 2019 - People's Vote

Thursday 17 January 2019

Morning Briefing: Businesses back People's Vote - Bad faith talks - Customs union

Many businesses backed the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal despite knowing it was far from perfect. But now it is no longer an option, more and more are backing a People’s Vote.

Over a 170 business leaders have united today to sign a letter in The Times calling on both main party leaders in Westminster to support the campaign for a vote on the final Brexit deal. Many of the signatures had not previously backed the campaign.

A key part of their argument is that this is the only viable way to stop us crashing out of the EU. They are right. An alternative scheme being pushed by Nick Boles, the Tory MP, and supported by the Chancellor the Exchequer does not do the trick, as I argued in this column for InFacts.

The signatories to the letter include leading figures from the creative industries such as design guru Terence Conran and Norman Foster, the architect, and the bosses of the British Fashion Council, TV company Endemol Shine, advertising giant Havas, book publishers Hachette, and Aardman Animation, creators of Wallace and Gromit.

They represent business from across the UK, from Gateshead to the West Country and from Wales to Scotland. They also include prominent female business leaders such as Martha Lane-Fox, the founder of, and Laura Marshall MD of Icon Films.


The business leaders say: “The priority now is to stop us crashing out of the EU with no deal at all. The only viable way to do this is by asking the people whether they still want to leave the EU. With the clock now ticking rapidly before we are due to quit, politicians must not waste any more time on fantasies.”

Philip Hammond tried to reassure businesses on a call on Tuesday night that we would not crash out by pointing to Boles's scheme. Although summaries of the call had previously been circulated, the Telegraph has now published the transcript.

But the Chancellor failed to provide satisfaction for three reasons:

  • The government itself refuses to take “no deal” off the table.
  • He wrongly said that Boles’s draft legislation called for Article 50 to be “rescinded”. It merely says the government would be required to ask the other countries for a nine-month delay if Parliament can’t make up its mind what to do - and there’s little chance they’d agree to that. (See below)
  • He said we could revoke Article 50 unilaterally to buy extra time. This is untrue. The European Court of Justice made clear in December that we can only cancel our notice to quit the the EU if our decision is “unequivocal”. That condition will self-evidently not be met if we are still thinking of leaving.

The only sure way of getting extra time is to hold a People’s Vote. And it’s only if the people decide that they wish to stay in the EU that we should revoke Article 50.

Graphic of the Day

Now that a general election has been taken off the table, it is clear that the Labour Party should support a public vote.


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.VOLUNTEERS.jpeg


Bad faith talks

May’s deal might be dead in the water, but her government is shambling ever onwards. With Labour’s no-confidence motion defeated by 325 votes to 306, the Prime Minister is inviting MPs from all parties to give their views on how the Brexit deadlock can be broken - an offer Jeremy Corbyn has so far refused.

As Conservative MP Heidi Allen notes, May’s red lines are still in place. This is an effort to find common ground where none exists; it’s a way of taking time off the clock while appearing to be acting in good faith.

Corbyn, meanwhile, should follow his party’s policy and declare support for a referendum. With his attempt to secure a general election ending in failure, it’s time for the Labour leader to put his weight behind a People’s Vote and let the British public resolve the deadlock Parliament can’t.

Tweet of the Day

After the rejection of May’s deal, and the Government’s survival of yesterday’s vote of no confidence, David Lammy makes it clear that there is only one sensible option left: A People’s Vote.

Video of the Day

WATCH: Senior Labour party figures think it is inevitable that the party will come out in support of a People’s Vote, having failed to get a general election.  A People’s Vote is the only way forward.


Customs Union won’t solve our problems

Westminster appears to be wondering if a permanent customs union with the EU might be able to break the parliamentary deadlock. This seems unlikely. Theresa May is deadset against it, while Jeremy Corbyn wants a model where the UK would have a say in EU trade negotiations, and room to lavish state aid on British companies - something the bloc is unwilling to offer.

Perhaps more importantly, a customs union would leave us a rule-taker unable to set our own independent trade policy - something that could split the Conservative party down the middle. It would do nothing for our services industries which rely on single market rules. It would not resolve the issues with the Irish backstop, instead merely locking in one of its least popular aspects. And the customs union as it stands would not give us access to markets without a reciprocal deal; it just removes our tariffs in a one-sided relationship.

Quote of the Day

It felt like she got that we need to change. But today it was: ‘I’ll talk to people, but my red lines are still there.’ And that’s not going to work at all.

Conservative MP Heidi Allen dismisses Theresa May’s half-hearted attempts at cross-party talks.

Extend A50 for a People’s Vote

With the Brexit deadline nearing and no-deal still very much on the table, the EU is beginning to come around to the idea of extending the Article 50 period. French Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau said that an arrangement could be found depending on the purpose of the extension, although we’d need a better reason than trying to force an unworkable expiry date into the backstop. Here’s one: time to arrange and hold a People’s Vote to resolve this Brexit mess once and for all.

More Brexit news…

Varadkar tells May to find Brexit solution (Times)

Emmanuel Macron's summation of Brexit: 'the British people were sold a lie' (Guardian)

Outlook for UK housing market is its worst in 20 years, surveyors warn among growing Brexit uncertainty (Independent)

William Hague says Brexit crisis could yet lead to an election (FT)

Top Brexit comment

The Guardian view on Brexit and Parliament: Now dissolve the red lines (Guardian)

David Aaronovitch: Corbyn's clique are the old guard Brexiteers (Times)

Tom Harris: Advocates of a 'People's Vote' need to remember Corbyn's record as a Eurosceptic (Telegraph)

Independent Editorial: Theresa May can't be trusted with Brexit - but Jeremy Corbyn needs to start acting like part of the solution (Indy)

Looking forward…

Today, Thursday 17th January

09.30 ONS: Government debt and deficit figures
09.30 ONS: Overseas travel and tourism figures


Tomorrow, Friday 18th January

09.30 ONS: Profitability of UK companies
09.30 ONS: Retail sales figures