Tuesday 15 May 2018 - People's Vote

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Tuesday 15 May 2018

Morning briefing: Hannan backs people's vote? - Labour pressure - Withdrawal Bill gets scotched

Did Daniel Hannan just back a people’s vote? Well, not quite. But the arch-Brexiter clearly doesn't like the idea of the UK ending up in a customs union with the EU but outside the bloc. In that case, he would want “a new mandate, either in the form of a general election or another referendum”.

So what’s the chance of that happening? It’s looking possible at the moment, with customs proving an almost impossible issue for the government to solve.

Yesterday the prime minister invited all 214 of her backbenchers to Downing Street to run through the two options being considered by Cabinet - her preferred solution of a “customs partnership” or the Brexiters’ choice known as “maximum facilitation”. She admitted both options were currently unworkable, according to reports.

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As long as that reality continues, so will distracting Tory infighting. May slapped down Brextremist ringleader Jacob Rees-Mogg during the meeting, reports the Times. He repeated his suggestion that we could just leave the Irish border open if we chose to. The prime minister pointed out that EU rules likely wouldn’t allow Ireland to do the same, and that she would “not be as confident as you” over how Irish politics would play out in such a scenario. Rees-Mogg has responded with a column in today’s Telegraph.

Knowing what the problems are is all very well. But the government failed to present Tory MPs with solutions. One Brexiter described them as “neutral to the point of being incoherent”.

Of course Parliament could yet hand May a get-out-of-jail card. If MPs vote to keep a Lords amendment demanding the UK stay in a customs union with the EU, then the prime minister can forget the current mess and insist her hands are tied by Parliament - although that doesn’t totally solve the Irish border issue, and would upset free-trading Brexiters like Liam Fox. One wonders why the prime minister doesn’t bring the EU Withdrawal Bill back to the House of Commons immediately.

Which brings us back to Hannan’s grievances. Although as an MEP he won’t get a vote on the Brexit deal, Hannan may reflect the despondent mood in the Brexit camp - also exemplified in a scathing Telegraph editorial yesterday.

It looks like the final Brexit deal could have critics on all sides of the debate. And the public will be getting a version of Brexit that is nothing like what they were promised, which is why we should have a people’s vote on the terms.


Video of the day

Could arch-Brexiter Dan Hannan become the People's Vote most surprising supporter?! Maybe... if May's Brexit deal lands us in the customs union but outside the EU.

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Corbyn’s Brexit under pressure

Meanwhile the Labour party is also in turmoil over its Brexit policy. Last night, pro-European MPs, led by Hilary Benn, made entreaties for Jeremy Corbyn to back single market membership at the weekly meeting of the parliamentary Labour party, reports the Times. This comes after a high-profile intervention from former Labour minister David Miliband yesterday, warning that Corbyn risked becoming the “midwife to a hard Brexit”.

In another damaging moment for the Labour leadership’s facade of unity, one of Corbyn’s frontbenchers, Preet Gill, yesterday appeared to tweet her support for the People’s Vote campaign. The post was quickly deleted and a clarification (read “retraction”) made.


Tweet of the day

Labour frontbencher Preet Gill seemed to come out in support of a people's vote yesterday, before swiftly deleting her tweet. The Labour leadership, of course, have not backed a people's vote. But how many of Corbyn's team feel differently?

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Gill later clarified her first tweet, saying she meant a "meaningful vote" in Parliament.

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Could Withdrawal Bill be Scotched?

Big trouble is brewing for May north of the border, with the Scottish Parliament expected to refuse consent for her flagship EU Withdrawal Bill. SNP, Labour, Green and Lib Dem MSPs are opposed to the Westminster bill, saying it would restrict Holyrood's powers, reports the BBC.

Let’s just be clear how tortuous this process has been. Twenty-three months since the Brexit vote, and there hasn’t even been agreement on how devolved powers should be transferred from Brussels to the UK, let alone how they should be exercised going forward.

It’s the constitutional conundrum which keeps on giving, and what it gives is countless flashpoints between Westminster and Holyrood. That means a steady stream of examples for the SNP on why Scotland should make another bid for independence. Brexit is patently bad for our Union.


Quote of the day

The Brexit process has been chaotic and the treatment of the devolved administrations has been shoddy.

Scottish Lib Dem Europe spokesman Tavish Scott, ahead of the Scottish Parliament's vote on May's EU Withdrawal Bill


Barnier’s clock is ticking

Brexit talks have made “little” progress since March, according to the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier. Hardly surprising, considering everything else we’ve covered this morning.

Barnier has flagged up two main areas where there is a “risk of failure”: Northern Ireland and how the agreement will ultimately be governed once its in place. He also warned that June's EU summit was a "key rendezvous" to reach a deal that can be ratified before the UK leaves.

May needs to pull her finger out if she’s going to provide a coherent deal upon which MPs can have a meaningful vote this autumn. If she can’t, that is at best an affront to our democracy and at worst sees us crashing out of the EU with no deal at all.


Video of the day 2

Great video from Our Future Our Choice (OFOC) calling on Labour to get behind a people's vote.

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More Brexit news…

Galileo rift deepens with UK threat to delay contractors’ security clearance (FT £)

Theresa May must act now on customs plans or harm jobs and business, says CBI leader (Telegraph £)

Hard Brexit could force part of Tilda's Essex mill to close (Guardian)

Scotland’s east coast-west coast Brexit fishing rivalry (Politico)


Top Brexit comment

Leanne Wood: Today Labour must decide: does it stand up for Westminster or Wales? (Times £)

Kim Sengupta: Post-Brexit, the UK will need Turkey for trade – and Erdogan is using that to his advantage (Independent)

Hugo Dixon: Let’s not stay in limbo for years until we sort out customs (InFacts)


Looking forward…

Today, Tuesday 15 May

- Brexit "war cabinet" meeting
- Theresa May press conference with Turkey's president Erdogan
- Center for Policy Studies launches “New Blue” essay collection by young Conservative MPs
09:30 ONS releases labour market statistics
10:30 Electoral Commission gives evidence to DCMS committee's "fake news" inquiry
10:50 Policing minister gives evidence to Lords' sub-committee on UK-EU security partnership
11:30 Boris Johnson takes foreign office questions in Commons

Tomorrow, Wednesday 16 May

- EU Withdrawal Bill 3rd reading in Lords
10:30 Fisheries minister gives evidence to Northern Ireland committee in Commons
12:00 Prime Minister's Questions
14:00 AIQ boss Jeff Silvester gives evidence to DCMS committee's "fake news" inquiry