Thursday 21 June 2018 - People's Vote

Thursday 21 June 2018

Morning briefing: Meaningful vote, economic gloom, no dividend.

The compromise agreed over a “meaningful vote” at the end of the Brexit talks isn’t perfect. But it’s a good enough basis for winning a campaign to get a People’s Vote if Theresa May comes back with a miserable deal towards the end of the year, as seems only too likely.

That’s what I wrote for InFacts yesterday after the government made two last-minute concessions: the Speaker will decide whether the “meaningful vote” motion to approve what happens next is amendable; and it will provide parliamentary time for backbenchers to put forward their own motions.

The conclusion that we have the tools to get a People’s Vote still stands this morning. But we cannot rely on Parliament to give us the final say. We’ll have to fight for it - starting with the March for a People’s Vote on Parliament on Saturday.

The government’s inability to come up with a good Brexit is a central argument - and nothing has changed on that front.

The prime minister is unlikely to achieve anything at next week’s summit. Draft conclusions from the European Council warn that there’s been “no substantial progress”, especially on the Irish border - and that, if we can’t agree a divorce deal, we won’t get a transition period either. That would mean a catastrophic cliff edge in just nine months.

The following week, the prime minister hopes to get her warring Cabinet to agree its Brexit policy. She has summoned them to Chequers for two days. Fat chance that they will come up with a viable plan.

After that, the government is supposed to produce White Papers on its overall Brexit policy as well as migration. It also plans to push customs and trade bills through Parliament; on both there could be significant rebellions.

Even if the prime minister navigates all these obstacles, she won’t have a deal. She’ll just have a proposal to make to the EU. To get a deal she’ll have to make yet more climb-downs. Nobody - neither pro-Europeans nor Brexiters - will be happy.

That’s why we must fight for a People’s Vote. Everybody can do their bit. The People’s March on Saturday is the next milestone. Make sure you’re there.




Economic clouds gather

As the prime minister fiddles, the storm clouds are gathering. First, leading pharma companies are having to plan for a hard Brexit, “establishing separate infrastructure to test and release medicines” on the continent. Next up, logistics firms are warning of “gridlock on roads and shortages in shops”, with current policy setting us up for a “catastrophe” in no deal.

Airlines have a similar worry; they have no idea what the rules on flying to Europe will be if Britain leaves the EU - and the government has only just posted a job advert for a head of aviation negotiations. Finally, the head of Siemens UK argues that Britain should stay in the customs union if no alternative can be found; a disorderly exit would wreak havoc with trade.

Does anybody still think this is going well?

Tweet of the day

Sarah Wollaston, one of six Tories who voted against the government yesterday, articulates her disappointment here.


Video of the day

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's main Brexit guy, explains to MPs how the UK did not use all the measures at its disposal as an EU member to help manage migration. Countries like Belgium are much stricter. Verhofstadt should know - he used to be Belgian PM.


Hammond: No ‘Brexit dividend’

The problem with promising NHS funding from a “Brexit dividend” is very simple. There is no Brexit dividend: Brexit will cost us money, not save it. When the prime minister bases spending pledges on an outright lie, the Chancellor has to pick up the pieces. Philip Hammond will say a bit about how this money will be found later today. There is “no mention of the ‘Brexit dividend’” in early copies of his speech, only tax rises. At least somebody in government is being honest.

Do we really want to be a global power?

As we scrabble to find more money for the NHS at the same time that Brexit is going to knock the public finances, there’ll be less money for everything else. Theresa May is asking the defence secretary to “justify Britain’s role as a ‘tier one’ military power”. That will be music to Vladimir Putin’s ears.

Vote Leave, slash defence spending, become an international irrelevance.

More questions on Arron Banks

While Brexit’s biggest bankroller was splashing the cash on the referendum, his insurance company was making a loss of £32 million. The Financial Times notes that Arron Banks has “failed to clarify the provenance of at least £9m in Leave campaign donations”, and the electoral commission is investigating “whether he is the true source of loans and other funds given to the Leave.EU campaign group”.

Together with the recent revelations about his Russian entanglements, there are enough outstanding questions for MPs to haul Banks, who funded the Brexit campaign fronted by Nigel Farage, back for a second grilling.

Graphic of the day

Saturday's March for a People's Vote will be huge. We have over 50 coaches coming down, bringing thousands of people so they can demand a People's Vote on the final Brexit deal. The map shows where coaches will be coming from. Some have organised multiple coaches!


Video of the day 2

Welsh mussel farmer James explains why he's marching for a People's Vote in London on Saturday.


Quote of the day

“[Import checks] simply can’t happen at Dover - well, it can for one day and then we’ll be shutting the doors.”

More Brexit news…

May headed for new row with leavers over single market

Politicians said to be discussing the possibility of delaying the UK’s departure

EU spreads trade spat with levies on US goods

Brexit time warning on £26tn of financial contracts


Top Brexit comment

Tom Peck:The moment Brexit lost the dignity it never had’

Guardian editorial: ‘May must detoxify Brexit’

Looking forward...

Today, Thursday 21 June

- Unison conference
09:30 ONS: Public sector finances published
PM Backbench debate in Commons on future of Erasmus+ scheme
19:00 TSSA "People before Tory Brexit" rally

Tomorrow, Friday 22 June

- Unison conference