Thursday 31 May 2018 - People's Vote

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Thursday 31 May 2018

Morning briefing: Business hates uncertainty - Wales back People's Vote - Trump the trade bully

Finally business is finding its voice and warning the prime minister that her delay and dither over Brexit is damaging the economy. And not a moment too soon.

After seeing Theresa May yesterday, a group of Europe’s 50 largest companies issued a statement saying: “We need clarity and certainty, because time is running out. Uncertainty causes less investment.” They added that a trade deal with the EU must be “frictionless as with a customs union”.

Bosses from companies including BP, BMW, Nestle, and Vodafone attended the meeting. The group, known as the European Round Table, has combined revenues of £2 trillion and millions of employees.

Brexit uncertainty is already hammering foreign investment, as Vicky Pryce, former joint head of the government’s economic service, wrote for InFacts last week.

Now a survey by the Bank of England shows business leaders at our most productive companies hold the most negative views on Brexit. Such anti-Brexit businesses are investing less and employing fewer people as a result. A professor who designed the survey told the FT that this could explain the UK’s recent dismal productivity performance.

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Meanwhile, one of our most respected automotive bosses warned at the weekend of Carmageddon if we “barrel headlong towards a hard Brexit”. The head of Unipart wrote in the Mail on Sunday: “If the car industry fails, the economy will go with it. No one voted in the referendum to lose their jobs or their income.”

Low investment means low productivity. That leads to low-paid jobs. It also means that people and companies will pay less tax which, in turn, means less money to support the NHS, schools, housing and neglected communities. That’s exactly the opposite of what people voted for two years ago.

The Conservatives like to think of themselves as the party of business. But the prime minister's endless can-kicking risks driving businesses away. Two years after Brexit, we still don’t know what Brexit means. Instead, May has negotiated a “transition” deal to act as a stopgap - and is now proposing a Customs and Regulatory Alignment Period (CRAP) as another stopgap after that.

It’s time the government listened to business and put an end to the uncertainty. It must come up with a viable long-term plan before next month’s European Council summit - and nail down a detailed deal by the following summit in October. Otherwise, it’s inflicting death by a thousand cuts on our economy.

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Wales adds voice to People’s Vote campaign

A cross-party group of more than 30 Welsh politicians - including the leader of Plaid Cymru, the most senior Lib Dem in Wales, and many more from Labour - are calling for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.

These Assembly Members, MPs and MEPs see the Brexit debate as having moved on from a simple Leave/Remain question. It’s about how the emerging Brexit deal will impact Wales. Will it help young people thrive? Will the number of well-paid, highly-skilled jobs grow? Or will Wales lose investment and see a hard economic border between Ireland and Welsh ports?

Wales is one of Labour’s heartlands. With Welsh politicians arguing we need a People’s Vote, Jeremy Corbyn has yet another reason to join the campaign. Will he listen?


Radio of the day

Listen to Hugo Dixon’s chat with Maajid Nawaz on LBC about why we need a People's Vote on the final Brexit deal.

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Brexit Britain will get Trumped on trade

Donald Trump’s commerce secretary has confirmed that the US will begin imposing tariffs on imports of European steel and aluminium from June 1. It’s a clear reminder that Trump’s “America First” sensitivities are bad for our economy. The president is already eyeing new tariffs, for example on car imports.

The EU is holding a strong line with Trump. As a market of half a billion consumers, it can stand up to the US on equal terms. But after Brexit the UK will stand alone. People such as Jacob Rees-Mogg who think Trump will be our best friend are deluded. He has shown himself to be nothing but a global bully.


Graphic of the day

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France deal new blow to UK-EU security pact

Amidst the ongoing row about Brexit Britain’s access to the EU’s Galileo satellite project, the French have now moved to block the sharing of sensitive DNA, fingerprint and passenger records with the UK, reports The Times.

Paris’ tough stance on UK access to the Prüm Convention is another blow to Theresa May’s plans for a “deep and special” security partnership after Brexit. Being cut off from the database - which helped French and Belgian authorities identify terrorists responsible for the Paris attacks in November 2015 - could make fighting terrorism harder in future.

If people don’t like the prospect of being cut off from life-saving EU security intelligence, they should be able to vote on it when May’s final Brexit deal emerges.


Tweet of the day

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Video of the day

Watch this great explainer from OFOC's Will Dry on why the House of Lords amending May's Brexit Bill was a) democratic and b) a great example of Parliament "taking back control".

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More Brexit news…

Hammond says UK will have to stick with new EU privacy rules (FT)

The US is making a lot of noise about the EU’s new GDPR data rules being bad for trade. If the new rules aren’t working then they can be amended to “get the balance right”, says the chancellor. Of course, after Brexit the UK will be an impotent bystander in that crucial process.

Voters have become significantly more pessimistic about impact of Brexit on economy and UK generally over last year, poll suggests (Guardian)

Brexit: UK may get poorer access than Israel to EU science scheme (Guardian)

Cabinet outcasts fight to unite Tories behind a ‘sensible Brexit’ (Times)


Quote of the day

"We just haven’t been as shouty."

Former Home Secretary Amber Rudd reminds Theresa May that Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Brextremists do not represent the bulk of her party.


Top Brexit comment

Stephen Bush: Another referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU? It’s a question of when, not if (New Statesman)

Jude Kirton-Darling: The EU has just passed a law that could end the problems with free movement which led to Brexit in the first place (Independent)

Ciaran Donovan: How a van driver explained the impact of Brexit to Jacob Rees-Mogg (Mirror)


Looking forward…

Today, Thursday 31 May

- Parliament in recess

Tomorrow, Friday 1 June

- Parliament in recess