Morning Briefing: Can-kicking cannot continue - Labour forcing May's hand - trade deals going nowhere
Throughout this Brexit ordeal Theresa May has proven herself a master at kicking the can. But more time-wasting is not in the national interest. This is the “end-game” of the Brexit withdrawal talks, as the prime minister herself told the Lord Mayor’s Banquet last night. That means she should do the best deal she can, put it to Cabinet, take any further resignations on the chin, and see if MPs will accept her terms.
It is, of course, not going to be easy. Despite Michel Barnier’s suggestions that a deal was ready, talks apparently broke down in Brussels around 3am Monday morning - with Ollie Robbins, May’s lead Brexit negotiator, saying he could not “go back to Cabinet” with the proposals, according to the Telegraph.
And Cabinet is looking like a very dangerous place right now. Brexiter ministers assembled in Liam Fox’s office last night to discuss their reactions to the emerging Brexit deal. May could face a phalanx of hardliners at today’s Cabinet meeting. But don’t expect fireworks - the meeting isn’t strictly focused on Brexit and she is anyway a dab hand at putting ministers off for just a little longer.
There’s still potential for finalising a deal in Brussels and holding an emergency Cabinet meeting towards the end of the week. That way, there might just be time for an EU summit at the end of this month, rather than in mid December.
But this really is up-against-the-wire stuff. If the prime minister misses the deadline for an emergency EU summit in November, she will then ramp up no-deal preparations at massive cost.
May has been weaponising the idea of a chaotic “no deal” Brexit as the only alternative to the deal she is concocting. This is of course a false premise. She must now show her hand, however miserable that is. If MPs then reject her deal, the sensible option will be to ask the public what they want with a People’s Vote, as former minister Jo Johnson argues eloquently in today’s Times.
Tweet of the day
Labour forcing May’s hand
Of course even if May comes clean to Cabinet, there’s a chance she’ll try to hide the true wretchedness of her plan from MPs. But Labour has a plan. The Opposition will use the ancient parliamentary procedure known as the “humble address” to try to force the government to publish its legal advice on the “backstop” insurance policy for the Irish border - something Michael Gove originally insisted be drawn up.
If successfully published, the legal analysis could reveal all sorts of details about how May’s deal will lock us into a rule-taking relationship with no say at the top table, or of Northern Ireland being placed under different rules to the rest of the UK. Labour’s Brexit lead Keir Starmer is demanding transparency: “MPs can’t be kept in the dark nor can we risk parliament being bounced into a decision without having all of the facts available.” Quite so.
Quote of the Day
“It’s simply untenable for the government to put forward any Brexit deal to parliament without providing the legal advice on what’s been agreed. At this critical stage MPs can’t be kept in the dark, nor can we risk parliament being bounced into a decision without having all of the facts available.
“Ministers should accept this motion and allow MPs to have informed debate about the UK’s future relationship with the EU after Brexit.”
Keir Starmer on Labour’s humble address.
Video of the Day
Trade deals going nowhere
Our trade deals with other non-EU countries after Brexit are going nowhere fast, according to two FT reports. The first reveals how 20 countries - including the US, Brazil and China - are complaining at the World Trade Organisation about plans for splitting up sensitive import quotas between the UK and EU after Brexit. They are warning that this would be unfair on their companies and farmers.
The second report exposes that modelling for a potential US-UK trade deal is only at a “preliminary” phase, according to a response to an FT freedom of information request. This despite trade secretary Liam Fox last year claiming that US-UK trade could rise £40 billion in real terms by 2030. Cutting bold new trade deals with new countries was the grand vision of Brexiters during the referendum. It’s coming to nought.
Audio of the Day
Gordon Brown makes the case
Gordon Brown made an impassioned case yesterday for passing the ultimate Brexit decision back to the people. “I believe a referendum will happen as people come to the conclusion that since 2016 the situation has changed and at some point they will want to have the final say,” he said in a speech at the Institute for Government.
The former prime minister made important points about how a People’s Vote should help bring a divided country back together again. If the next years of negotiation were to be “inward looking, divisive and partisan”, then Brown reasons that we will only become an even more divided country. To continue the “prolonged uncertainty” is to ignore the real challenges facing the country: to our economy, our social cohesion and from populist politics.
More Brexit news…
Shakira Martin: Rally for a People's Vote on Brexit (NUS Connect)
Hugo Dixon: There’s an antidote to May’s Project Fear (InFacts)
Editorial: A meaningless deal will not pass a meaningful vote (Guardian)
Michael J Sandel: Populism, Trump, and the future of democracy (Open Democracy)
Today, Tuesday 13th November
European Parliament Plenary
|09.30||ONS: Labour market stats|
|09.30||ONS: Productivity estimates|
|10.00||Expert evidence to trade committee on UK-EU relationship|
Tomorrow, Wednesday 14th November
|09.30||ONS: Consumer price inflation|
|09.30||ONS: House Prices|
|15.00||Lords question on Met Police decision not to open an investigation into potential breaches of Electoral Law in EU referendum|