Tuesday 16th October 2018 - People's Vote

Tuesday 16th October 2018

Morning Briefing: There's another option, PM - Corbyn counter proposal - AstraZeneca, Ford, BA


Does Theresa May know she is boxed in on Brexit? Could she be looking for another way out? Her response to a question from Heidi Allen in Parliament yesterday was intriguing. If May thinks a no-deal Brexit won’t pass through the Commons but she also won’t consider extending the talks, the pro-European Conservative MP asked, then surely the only option left is to put Brexit “back to the people”?

Instead of rejecting the idea of a People’s Vote outright, as she normally does, May said she would “see what position the House would take in the circumstances”. Now this could just be a slip of the tongue. It’s also factually accurate: it’s Parliament, not the prime minister, that is ultimately sovereign in the UK. But it could also suggest that May is starting to think the unthinkable.

Other pro-European Tories spoke just as frankly. Nicky Morgan warned MPs would “not support” crashing out of the EU with no deal, and that Parliament would have to “step into the negotiations” at that point. Dominic Grieve went further, telling the prime minister he would “not be able to support the government” even in its current Brexit plans, unless it agreed to a People’s Vote.


May’s negotiations are in an almighty mess partly because she can’t get any deal with the EU that she could ram through her Cabinet let alone Parliament.

She revealed yesterday that the talks had come unstuck on two issues. First, the EU hasn’t agreed to her proposal to keep the entire UK in a customs union until the Irish border question can be solved because they hadn’t had enough time to consider it. But there’s no point in the prime minister complaining. She wasted months and months before coming up with a proposal. There’s more detail on the impasse in the Times.

As if that’s not bad enough, the EU isn’t prepared to let the so-called Irish backstop have a time limit. But without a time limit, she’ll struggle to get the Cabinet, which meets this morning, to agree. A third of her Cabinet ministers, including the foreign secretary and Brexit secretary, met last night at a “pizza group” in Andrea Leadsom’s office.

Rather than face down the rebels, May’s plan seems to be to play for time. That seems to be the EU’s plan too. So, Donald Tusk may well warn that no deal is looking “more likely than ever before”, and Angela Merkel may say that negotiations are now “more difficult”. But Brexit talks look set to stagger on past this week’s summit, perhaps only reaching a head in November, December or even January.

When the talks finally reach a conclusion, as May was reminded in Parliament yesterday, there is always another option: call a People’s Vote and let the public decide if this Brexit mess is what they really want.

Quote of the day

“People in this country are now really concerned and worried about no deal, including businesses, EU citizens living here and British citizens living in the EU. I urge the Prime Minister to ensure that we do not slip into any kind of no-deal scenario, because I believe that this House will not support it and therefore would have to step into the negotiations.”

Nicky Morgan during the prime minister’s statement in the House of Commons

Video of the day

WATCH: Conservative MP Anna Soubry in Parliament yesterday - it's time we take Brexit back to the people and have a People's Vote.


AstraZeneca, Ford and IAG in latest business warnings

More bad Brexit news from business, as the ongoing uncertainty unfolds. Drugmaker AstraZeneca will continue its freeze on investments into the UK so long as there is no clarity on our future relationship with the EU. Ford’s European boss warned that crashing out with no deal would "force us to think about what our future investment strategy for the UK would be". Meanwhile IAG, the Anglo-Spanish airline group which owns BA, has been told by the European regulator that it will get no special treatment if Brexit sees it fall foul of ownership rules. The message is clear: Brexit is making Britain bad for business.

Audio of the day

LISTEN: John Major points out that the referendum was won on a false prospectus. If you think that demands a People's Vote, sign up to march with us on Saturday HERE.

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Corbyn’s right: May’s deal or no deal is ‘false choice’

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s Brexit chief Keir Starmer gathered their MPs to hammer home the point that Brexit is not a simple “straight choice” between whatever the prime minister brings back from Brussel and crashing out in no-deal chaos.

The duo stressed that Labour had its “own plan” which could command a majority in Parliament, a source told the Guardian. That doesn’t sound entirely realistic. Labour has no majority in Parliament, and there is not much time left on the Brexit clock to bring MPs round to a new Corbyn-inspired proposal. The viable solution will be to ask the public what they want.

Tweet of the day

Lawyers for a People's Vote are getting signatures for their petition to Theresa May, sign it HERE.

Video of the day 2

WATCH: The Irish border was hardly mentioned during the referendum. The Brexiteers claimed it wouldn’t be a problem to solve. If that's the case, why is Brexit a total a mess because of it now?

More Brexit news…

Times: Plan for skills permit after Brexit is a ‘disaster’ (Times £)

BBC: Sturgeon: 'Time to compromise' on Brexit (BBC)

Times: Once-great Foreign Office ‘has had limbs amputated’ (Times £)

FT: Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase sets up Brexit contingency plan (FT £)

Times: Hammond will be forced to raise borrowing in budget, predicts IFS (Times £)

Top Brexit comment

Shakira Martin: Five days to go until the People's Vote March (NUS Connect)

Rachel Sylvester: May is about to crash-land the Brexit plane (Times £)

Luke Lythgoe: : Remember how Brexiters said Irish border wasn’t a problem (InFacts)

Rafael Behr: Britain’s magical thinking won’t make the EU accept the impossible (Guardian)

Looking forward...

Today, Tuesday 16th October

- Cabinet meeting

ONS: Labour market stats

14.15 Experts give evidence on impact of Brexit on Wales to Welsh affairs   committee

Today, Wednesday 17th October

- European Council Meeting
09.30 ONS: Consumer price inflation
09.15 HMRC’s Jon Thompson gives evidence to Brexit committee
12.00 Prime Minister's Questions