Morning briefing: Brextremists grab the wheel - Trump/Putin love in - Brexit bad for NHS
Theresa May’s Brexit banger is on fire, swerving wildly across the road, and Jacob Rees-Mogg has just grabbed the steering wheel. This is no way to run a country, especially during the most important negotiations in generations. We need a People’s Vote before politicians drive us over the cliff.
The self-destructive Tory infighting over the last couple of weeks looks like a family picnic compared to scenes in Parliament yesterday. May narrowly scraped through votes on her Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill - twice by a majority of just three - by caving into amendments tabled by Rees-Mogg’s hard-Brexit ERG outfit.
It looks very much like the Brextremists are now dictating government policy. The Brexit plan May forced through at Chequers has gone down particularly badly with rank-and-file Tories in the country, with her chief of staff described as being “spanked” during a conference call with regional Tory leaders, according to The Times.
But May can expect a backlash from pro-European MPs. Tory minister Guto Bebb quit his post at the Ministry of Defence last night to vote against the government’s ERG-amended bill. Today sees another piece of legislation, the Trade Bill, debated in the Commons - with signs that pro-European rebels will try to defeat the government over an amendment to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU. Watch this space.
HAVE YOU SIGNED THE PETITION FOR A PEOPLE'S VOTE? GARY LINEKER HAS...
The big-picture question is where this leaves the Brexit negotiations. Some have claimed May’s Chequers deal is now “dead in the water” and the EU will never accept the ERG amendments demanding, among other things, reciprocal collection of each other’s customs tariffs by the UK and EU. The government denies this, deploying technical arguments to insist the amendments aren’t as hardline as they seem.
It’s worth remembering that, in its original form, May’s deal was never a runner. It was unlikely to get past the EU without further concessions. But yesterday showed the Brextremists flexing their muscles very effectively, potentially clamping down on the government’s future flexibility in Brussels. That brings the chances of a catastrophic “no deal” Brexit closer.
It seems May has one final tactic - to bring Parliament’s summer holiday five days forward to Thursday. It really does look the prime minister has run out of ideas. Here’s one: stop the madness and hand this calamitous Brexit process over to a People’s Vote.
Quote of the day
“Nobody voted to be poorer, and nobody voted leave on the basis that somebody with a gold-plated pension and inherited wealth would take their jobs away from them.”
Anna Soubry sticks it to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Brextremist faction in the Commons.
Tweet of the day
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood worries how far May's concessions to the Brexiters could go.
Trump and Putin love-in rings Brexit alarm bells
Donald Trump’s global disruption tour reached a disturbing climax yesterday in Helsinki. Having spent the last few days doling out insults to his European and Nato allies, the US president held a love-in with Vladimir Putin (arguably, one of the few people set to benefit from Brexit).
The centrepiece was Trump siding with the Russian leader over the FBI when quizzed on Russian influence in the presidential election which brought him to power. “Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump swooned.
It seems clear now how Brexit Britain would fare out on its own, with a president clearly more fond of demagogues and strongmen than the democratic values the UK holds dear.
Tweet of the day 2
Alastair Campbell's take on Trump's cosy press conference with Putin in Helsinki.
Brexit won’t get NHS money, but will cost it staff
Brexit will cost us, not save us money. May’s promise of billions more for the NHS is not some Brexit freebie, as the Office for Budget Responsibility makes clear today in a report. Instead it will have to come from either more government borrowing, higher taxes or further cuts to public services. The OBR is forecasting worsening public debt, and warns of pressure being piled on the public finances.
And while Brexit won’t give the NHS any extra money, it will cost it in EU-born nurses and other staff. New analysis by the People’s Vote campaign shows the health service is expected to lose 4,500 more EU staff by end of Parliament.
Vote Leave fined and referred to police
Vote Leave has been fined £61,000 and referred to the police after an Electoral Commission investigation said it broke electoral law. The commission found “significant evidence of joint working” between the group and a smaller organisation - BeLeave - which saw it exceed its spending limit by almost £500,000.
Vote Leave also allegedly returned an “incomplete and inaccurate spending report”. Almost £234,501 was reported incorrectly, and invoices were missing for £12,849.99 of spending, the investigation found.
BeLeave founder Darren Grimes has also been fined and referred to the police for breaking the group's spending limit by more than £665,000 and wrongly reporting the spending as his own.
More Brexit news…
Video of the day
WATCH: Justine Greening on Sky News explaining why she's backing a People's Vote on the final Brexit deal.
Top Brexit comment
Rachel Sylvester: Labour’s logical choice is a people’s vote on Brexit (Times)
Chuchu Nwagu: The students of Justine Greening's constituency back her call for a People's Vote (HuffPost)Hugo Mann: As a former Conservative staff member, I want a People's Vote on Brexit (New Statesman)
Today, Tuesday 17 July
|-||Trade Bill begins remaining stages of passage through Commons|
|09:00||Mark Carney gives evidence to Treasury committee|
|09:30||ONS: Labour market statistics published|
|11:00||Unite the union "roulette wheel" Brexit protest outside Parliament|
|16:30||Development secretary Penny Mordaunt gives evidence on UK-EU cooperation to international development committee|
Tomorrow, Wednesday 18 July
|09:30||ONS: Consumer price inflation statistics for June published|
Michael Gove gives evidence to European scrutiny committee
|09:30||Defra minister George Eustice gives evidence to Northern Ireland committee on Brexit and on Irish agriculture|
|12:00||Prime Minister's Questions|
|13:00||General debate on future relationship between UK and EU in Commons|
|15:00||Theresa May gives evidence to the liaison committee|