Thursday 19 September 2019 - People's Vote

Thursday 19 September 2019

Morning Briefing: Johnson set 12-day deadline as EU leaders show frustration

It’s exactly one calendar month to the People’s Vote massive march through London, set to be one of the biggest and most important political marches in UK history. And increasingly it’s clear that the core of the issue is the lack of trust in Boris Johnson with his “do or die” mania for leaving the EU by October 31, whether with No Deal, unlawful means or just plain bluster.

Today former Conservative prime minister Sir John Major is expected to tell the Supreme Court hearing into Johnson's long shutdown - prorogation - that Johnson can be compared to a dishonest estate agent, while yesterday, the standout headline quote was “the mother of parliaments shut down by the father of lies”, a brutal putdown by Aidan O’Neill QC.

But even more telling was the confrontation at Whipps Cross Hospital in East London when father Omar Salem accused Johnson of using the NHS for a “press opportunity”. Click here to see the video of the prime minister’s immediate instinctive response: he lied. Blatantly.

It is vital that you join us on our mother of all People’s Vote marches on Saturday October 19. Go here to book a place on a coach and bring your friends and family. Only the people can be trusted to have the final say. It has never been more important to Let Us Be Heard.

And join the People's Vote campaign march at the start of the Labour conference in Brighton on Saturday. Gather at 1pm and hear top politicians on Hove Lawns later. All the details are here.

New 12-day deadline set for Johnson by frustrated EU leaders

Boris Johnson has been set a 12-day deadline to table a written plan for replacing the Irish backstop.

France’s president Emmanuel Macron and Finland’s prime minister Antti Rinne said they were both “concerned about what is happening in Britain”.

“We need to know what the UK is proposing,” said Rinne, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency. “Loose talk about proposals for negotiations is irresponsible.”

Rinne said: “We both agreed that it is now time for Boris Johnson to produce his own proposals in writing – if they exist. If no proposals are received by the end of September, then it’s over.”

The new deadline came after chief negotiator Michel Barnier put more pressure on Johnson, telling the European Parliament: “Almost three years after the UK referendum, I don’t think we should be spending time pretending to negotiate. I think we need to move forward with determination.”

The European Parliament yesterday resolved that they would not back any Brexit agreement which did not contain a backstop and if there were No Deal, then the parliament would veto any future deal on a UK-EU relationship which did not see the UK uphold its financial commitments – the threat of not paying an agreed £50 billion that Johnson has used several times.

All of this came after details of the Luxembourg lunch meeting on Monday with Jean-Claude Juncker were described in the FT. The report said there was a moment when the “penny-dropped” for Johnson over the scale of the customs challenges on the Irish border. The report was denied by No 10, but Johnson is not famous for his attention to detail.

What is totally clear from the public statements and private briefings is that EU politicians are immensely frustrated by the lack of clear and transparent proposals from Johnson and his negotiating team.

There is no substance from Johnson to resolve this Brexit crisis and he now has 12 days to change that. The clock is ticking.

Northern Ireland's top cop warns officers could be killed after hard Brexit

Northern Ireland’s chief police officer Simon Byrne has warned that his officers could be killed if they had to patrol the border after a hard Brexit .

He said the reintroduction of border checkpoints would put lives at risk: “My advice to anyone that was trying to impose it would be that we would struggle to police it without putting our officers at direct threat of attack.”

He said people living around the border wanted the dividends of peace and a normal life: “One of the strongest messages I’ve heard since I’ve been here is the desire from border communities for normality through that period of Brexit, if that’s what we get to.”

He highlighted recent events where police had been targeted: “We have had four attacks in a few weeks [where the aim] has been to kill or injure police officers going about their day-to-day duty, and by presenting fixed targets like that, it would only highlight the risk and the vulnerability.”

His stark warning came as the BBC's Newsnight reported that EU funding for cross-community peace projects in Northern Ireland could come to an “ignominious end”.

A “risk register” document, which dates from March 2019 and was prepared by local authority chief executives, says: “There are concerns around council partnerships and the possibility of some projects having to be cancelled, postponed or being brought to an ignominious end.”

The idea that a UK government could put at risk the hard-won peace from the Good Friday Agreement is deeply wrong. The slide towards a cliff-edge Brexit must not happen. The only solution is a People’s Vote and it is time to Let Us Be Heard.

Corbyn giving full-throated backing for People's Vote is the core message

Whoever persuaded the Guardian to write a headline saying Jeremy Corbyn would be "neutral" on Brexit in an election and a referendum had a productive day, because they got much of the broadcast media to follow their line. But the word "neutral" did not appear anywhere in Corbyn's article and there is real doubt among much of his shadow Cabinet about whether such a position is sustainable in an election, let alone a referendum.

But the key fact is that the Labour leader is now giving his full-throated backing for a People’s Vote as the route out of the current crisis.

People’s Vote campaigner Phil Wilson MP said: “It’s great news that Jeremy Corbyn has listened to Labour’s MPs, members and - above all – voters, by promising today that he would back a confirmatory referendum in all circumstances.  That is the real compromise between those who want to impose an undemocratic Brexit on the people that is a million miles away from what was promised in 2016, and those who want to overturn the result of the last referendum simply through a vote in Parliament.  

“But there will be many people in the party worried that hints Jeremy might stay neutral in a final say referendum would not really be a sustainable position. Even Harold Wilson, who took a back seat in the 1975 referendum, made it clear he wanted to stay in Europe.”

At the start of the Labour Party conference, the People's Vote campaign will be holding a major march in Brighton on Saturday. Come and join us, assembling at 1pm before the march at 2pm and speeches from leading Labour politicians at Hove Lawns. for more information, click here.

It's clear that Brexit must be put to the people. Now is a crucial time to get involved with the People's Vote campaign. Sign up to volunteer today. 

Quote of the Day

"The thoughts of the job losses, of how companies that trade north and south, how they manage to hold it together… plus all those who are involved in cross-border groups and how they manage to continue that sort of work. There's no question about it - there's a real sense of anxiety about all the uncertainty."

Father Martin Magill, who addressed the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee, told the BBC's Newsnight there was a risk of a “perfect storm” for Northern Ireland in the event of a hard Brexit.

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More Brexit news...

No deal threatens Northern Ireland peace projects (BBC News)

Johnson acted like a dishonest estate agent, says Major (The Times)

Sir John Major to tell Supreme Court that Johnson has "deprived Parliament of a voice" (PoliticsHome)

EU fears Brexit reality has dawned too late for Johnson (FT)

EU chief tells Johnson to "stop pretending" to negotiate (PoliticsHome)

More Brexit comment...

Kira Lewis: Corbyn can't sit on the fence in a second referendum if he truly wants the best for young people (HuffPost)

Will Corbyn's Brexit referendum strategy work? Our panel responds (Guardian)