Morning Briefing: "Brextra time" won't work - meaningless vote - France's no-deal plans
“Brextra time”, as The Sun front page puts it, is not the solution. Theresa May told EU leaders last night that she was ready to “consider” another year of limbo after we quit the bloc - extending the so-called transition, when we stay in the single market and customs union, until the end of 2021. During that period, we would follow the EU’s rules and pay into its budget without a vote.
It’s not just Brextremists such as Nigel Farage who don’t like the idea. Patriotic pro-Europeans don’t like it either. The single market and customs union are valuable - and there’s little wrong with the rules that underpin them either. After all, we have sat round the top table for 45 years writing them. But following them blindly with no say is another matter. This is losing control, not taking it back.
Our payment into the EU budget is also reasonable, so long as we have a say on how it is spent. But paying money without a say is taxation without representation.
In 2016 we paid the EU £13 billion because we enjoyed a £4 billion “rebate”, the discount that Margaret Thatcher famously negotiated on our fee. The EU in turn spent £5.5 billion in the UK on poor regions, farming, science and so forth - giving a net payment of £7.6 billion.
How much we would have to pay during an extended transition would depend on whether the EU would still spend money in the UK and whether we would keep our rebate. Assuming the EU stops spending money in the UK, our net payment would now be £13 billion. And assuming our rebate disappears as well, our gross payment would be around £17 billion - in other words, £4 billion more than we currently pay.
Extending the transition was the only half-new idea to come out of the EU summit. The thinking is that with an extra year of talks, we might find a way of avoiding border controls in Ireland. But this is hopeless unless the prime minister abandons her red line of pulling out of the single market.
What this means is that the EU will still insist on a “backstop” to keep the Irish land border open in all circumstances - and our Cabinet will continue to go round and round in circles like a whirling dervish trying to figure out what to do. Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, was clear on this yesterday, saying a longer transition period was not a substitute for a concrete agreement over the backstop.
No wonder the EU has now cancelled plans for a special summit in November - while leaving open the chance that it could be reinstated if May can come up with a workable idea.
The other thing to remember is that an extra year won’t be long enough to nail down a trade deal with the EU even if May can agree a divorce deal. So we’ll still face a cliff edge at the end of 2021 - unless the transition is extended yet again. And that, of course, would mean more years of paying into the EU’s budget and following its rules without a say.
Voting for any deal that the prime minister eventually brings back from Brussels is not the recipe for an easy life. It means year after year of wrangling over what to do next. All the more reason to ask the people at the end of the process if that’s that they really want - in a People's Vote.
Video of the day
Dominic Raab believes that, if Theresa May can reach a Brexit deal, any parliamentary vote should be strictly take it or leave it. The Brexit secretary says that “anything other than a straightforward approval of the deal will bring with it huge uncertainty”, with no amendments to the bill permitted. Dominic Grieve, the former Conservative Attorney General, says this is “completely incompatible” with what he was promised over the summer. Labour’s Keir Starmer has dismissed Raab’s plan as “not a meaningful vote”. Fortunately, it won’t be the Brexit secretary who decides what to do. Parliament is sovereign; and Parliament will decide how to hold the meaningful vote at the end of the Brexit talks.
Quote of the day
"In the end, we're a parliamentary democracy... I want to see parliamentary democracy function properly, and this amendment would be catastrophic."
Ken Clarke calls for Parliament to have a meaningful vote on the final deal
Video of the day 2
France’s no-deal plans
The French are drawing up plans for a no-deal Brexit. A draft bill intended to handle this outcome includes requirements for Brits to “present a visa to enter French territory and to hold a residence permit to remain there”. A crash-out Brexit would also see Brits lose the right to work in jobs restricted to EU nationals, and limit their access to healthcare. The Brexit campaign told us this wouldn’t happen.
Tweet of the day
Labour MP Chuka Umunna and Lib Dem leader Vince Cable meet young activists for a People's Vote in Northern Ireland.
He’s at it again
Boris Johnson is taking a bold, principled stance in favour of Boris Johnson being on the front pages. In a letter co-signed by David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg among others, Johnson is calling for Theresa May to drop her Chequers plan and head for a Canada-style hard Brexit. As usual, he has absolutely no useful suggestions about what a “super Canada” deal would look like, how to go about negotiating one, how it would handle the Irish border, how it would handle immigration, or indeed anything else of substance.
More Brexit news…
Bella Frimpong: A People’s Vote needs a strong positive case for freedom of movement (New European)
Rosie McKenna: Corbyn gave me something to aspire to but Labour has let us down on Brexit (Metro)
Rachel Franklin: Women for a People’s Vote (Women’s Budget Group)
Today, Wednesday 17th October
|-||European Council summit|
|09.30||ONS: Retail Sales|
|14.30||EU summit: joint press conference by Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker|
Today, Thursday 18th October
|-||European Council summit|
|09.30||ONS: Public sector finances|