Morning Briefing: Not all about the backstop - Hunt on People's Vote - Corbyn's renegotiation
It’s not all about the backstop. That’s becoming easy to forget amidst the intense political focus on tweaking the arrangement for guaranteeing the Irish border stays open. But there are plenty of other reasons the government’s Brexit deal is dreadful.
Much noise is being made about Theresa May’s efforts to get some kind of clarification on the backstop from EU leaders. The aim is to convince the DUP and Tory rebels that the arrangement is both temporary and the UK can get out of it, rather than being stuck indefinitely in a bare-bones customs union with the EU following many of its rules with no voice.
It’s unclear how successful May has been. Jeremy Hunt appeared confident that there will be new “clearer language” on the backstop, following calls to Angela Merkel and other EU leaders, and ongoing talks with the DUP. But Number 10 played down talk of a breakthrough, ruling out a Commons statement from the prime minister on Monday, reports The Times.
But whatever May manages to present to Parliament, it’s important that MPs see beyond the backstop to the many other flaws in the government’s deal - and vote it down.
This deal will leave us poorer. Trade will no longer be frictionless and manufacturing will suffer. The deal does next to nothing for our huge services sector, which accounts for 80% of the economy. The Treasury’s own figures say the government’s deal will leave our economy 3.9% smaller than it otherwise would be by 2033 – equivalent to over £100 billion every year.
The deal also turns us from a rule-maker, with an influential voice at the EU’s top table, into a rule-taker. And not just for the 21-month transition period (plus any extension). To get any future trade deal that even partly reduces friction, EU countries will push for us to follow even more rules.
The deal being discussed today has nothing but vague promises on our future relationship with the EU. We’ll be stuck in negotiations for years to come. The uncertainty which has so damaged the UK since the Brexit vote and which has led to a plunge in investment won’t go away.
So, even in the event that May secures some words on the backstop that provide a ladder for some critics to climb down, MPs must not be tempted to vote for something that, at its very heart, is a bad deal for this country.
There is a clear alternative to the government’s deal, one that lets us keep our much better deal inside the EU if the people choose. A People’s Vote is now the only way forward on this Brexit mess. MPs should now push for the final decision to be handed back to the people - because only they can sort this out.
Tweet of the Day
People’s Vote can heal divisions
The foreign secretary has described the “social consequences” of a People’s Vote and the UK not going through with Brexit as “devastating”. Jeremy Hunt's argument, reported in the FT, ignores the fact that nobody voted for the miserable deal the government is offering, which will leave us poorer and following EU rules without a voice.
The fury some Leave voters felt towards the Establishment in 2016 had many causes, not all of which were to do with Europe. But the EU can be part of the solution for communities that have been left out or left behind. However, any attempts to heal the divisions in our country will be made easier if we have a stronger economy and are no longer distracted by endless Brexit infighting - neither of which the government’s deal can deliver.
Video of the Day
WATCH: Gary voted leave, he wanted to feel more proud to be British. But he has now changed his mind. He's a #RemainerNow
He has noticed the increase in prices since the vote and also the opportunities Brexit will take from next generation. He says it's okay to change your mind.
Corbyn must drop renegotiation fantasy
Jeremy Corbyn continues to resist intense pressure within his party to back a People’s Vote. The Labour leader has said his party will vote against the government’s deal and no deal, but then Theresa May “should go back to Brussels and say, ‘this is not acceptable to Britain’ and renegotiate a customs union... to secure trade”, reports the Guardian.
But Corbyn is neglecting the fact that there is no time for a renegotiation, and that his own party's policy - agreed by Labour party conference - is not to seek a renegotiation but to to press for an election and, failing that, a People's Vote. His proposal also has many of the same problems as the government’s deal. We would still be a rule-taker and it wouldn’t solve the Irish border problem, meaning there would still be a backstop. What’s more, any renegotiation with the EU would likely end up with a very similar deal to the one May has now. There’s no guarantee Corbyn will get the concessions he wants - for example a British say on EU trade deals.
The only way forward is now a People’s Vote. 72% of Corbyn’s members want one, according to a poll this week. Labour needs to move on from its confused position soon, or risk facilitating Brexit and living with the blame for a bad deal for years to come.
Quote of the day
“Business concerns about the government’s recent blueprint for future immigration rules must be taken seriously – and companies must be able to access skills at all levels without heavy costs or bureaucracy.”
Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, responding to figures showing more than four-fifths of manufacturers struggled to hire the right staff in the final months of 2018.
More Brexit news…
Joshua Curiel: Calling fellow 18-year-olds: Here’s how we help give Britain a Final Say on Brexit (Independent)
Peter Kellner: Are the “People’s Vote” polls loaded? No, says Peter Kellner (New Statesman)
David Hannay: WTO is the problem, not the answer, for trade under ‘no deal’ (InFacts)
Today, Thursday 3rd January
Parliament in recess
Tomorrow, Friday 4th January
Parliament in recess