Morning Briefing: May back in the limelight
The sacking of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson yesterday evening sent shockwaves through politics, but underlined the swing-door nature of this government where 47 ministers have come and gone in 23 months. Only a People's Vote will see the country out of this crisis.
May - and Brexit - back in the limelight
After 20 days of staying in the shadows, Prime Minister Theresa May emerged for a day of drama at Westminster. The headlines were grabbed by the dramatic sacking of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson for the Huawei leak late in the day.
But the PM was on the spot over Brexit during the afternoon when she faced the Commons liaison committee – where she claimed more progress was being made on cross-party negotiations than most observers believed and the definition of a customs union was a hotly debated topic.
Mrs May claimed that there wasn’t much to choose between the Labour demand in the negotiations for a customs union and her own "customs arrangements". “It depends on what your definition of a customs union is,” she said several times.
She even ditched her old claim that "no deal was better than a bad deal."
Not surprisingly she pushed back on the need for a People’s Vote, saying MPs must abide by the 2016 referendum. However, she also recognised that Parliament would not allow a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
People's Vote campaigners from all sides remained clear that a new vote is the only solution to the political crisis.
Former Labour cabinet member Ben Bradshaw said: “There is no path to a deal, including one with a customs union, without a confirmatory referendum. The only way out of this mess will be a public vote.”
The idea that a stitch-up deal by May and Corbyn could win through was rejected by Conservative MP Guto Bebb: “It would fail to deliver the stability, clarity and closure our country and our economy need. It would mean years of negotiation and renegotiation."
Will today’s local elections stay local?
And the reason why Prime Minister’s Questions was devoid of Brexit is that both major parties are nervous about today’s local elections across much of England and Northern Ireland. The Conservatives fear a backlash over their handling of Brexit, while Labours’ fudge this week on their Euro manifesto commitment to a People’s Vote leaves them unsure of the outcome.
Both hope that voters will stick to local issues, but it seems unlikely that the national crisis will not play a part. Pollsters are predicting that the Conservatives could lose 800 seats.
New party Change UK wasn’t set up in time to field any candidates – and have been criticised for failing to forge an alliance with LibDems and the Green Party in the Euro elections on a People’s Vote platform.
But yesterday, they demonstrated a change of tactic by messaging: “We’re not standing in the local elections, so we’re urging all Remain voters to support parties who unequivocally back a People’s Vote and remaining in the EU.”
Academic world angry over fears of post-Brexit clampdown on Euro students
Yet another leak, this one suggesting that the UK could end the home status of European students post-Brexit and increase fees to the same as other international students is drawing more protest from the academic world.
University of East Anglia vice-chancellor David Richardson said it was "very regrettable" and he would advise against it: "We should continue to recognise that we are part of Europe and shouldn't do anything to damage that, even if we do leave the EU. We have a special relationship with Europe."
People's Vote campaigner Erica Ramos, who is incoming vice president of union development at the National Union of Students, argued that "this government wants to throw EU students under the bus - student reps like me won't let them." 100 student reps are writing to education secretary Damian Hinds to demand that the plans are dropped.
It is yet another issue where the impact of Brexit is seen to have a negative effect by all who are affected by it. Erica said: "It’s one of the many reasons why the overwhelming majority of students and young people across the United Kingdom, through groups like For our Future’s Sake, support a People’s Vote on any agreed Brexit deal."
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
"Paying companies to not provide a service is a new low for the Brexit farce. But the prospect of sinking even lower remains on the horizon. Should a no deal Brexit re-emerge taxpayers will be in the position of forking out for a third time for ferry services they have already paid for and they have paid to stand down. The Government are throwing good money after bad. A People’s Vote is the only way forward.”
Lib Dem's Jo Swinson on the Government's £50m bill for ferries that were never required.
Video of the Day
Labour's Jess Phillips - a People's Vote campaigner - says the party will get a "drubbing" at the European elections if they don't offer a new vote, she told ITV's Paul Brand on the podcast Acting Prime Minister.
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Tweet of the Day
The Prime Minister Theresa May promised "strong and stable" government: the sacking of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson shows an astonishingly high attrition rate for Ministers.
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