Tuesday 19 June 2018 - People's Vote

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Tuesday 19 June 2018

Morning briefing: MPs must fight now - NHS lie unravelling - beware trade war cross-fire

The next day will be critical in the fight to ensure that Parliament gets a “meaningful vote” at the end of the Brexit process. Pro-European Tory MPs need to steel themselves for battle. They are likely to come under massive pressure from the whips, the Brexit press and trolls on social media in advance of a crunch vote in the House of Commons tomorrow.

Theresa May's decision to double-cross Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, over the issue may be backfiring. The House of Lords certainly took a dim view of the prime minister’s breach of faith yesterday, backing an amendment dubbed “Grieve 2” by a stonking 119 majority. Among those voting against the government were 22 Tory peers. Last time, the Lords considered the meaningful vote the majority was "only" 91.

The amendment passed by peers is a clever one. It matches the wording Grieve agreed with the government last week before it neutered the text with what Sarah Wollaston, another Tory MP, described as a “sneaky sting in the tail”. It sets out three situations where there would be a meaningful vote:

  • If MPs vote down the government’s Brexit deal
  • If the prime minister tells Parliament before January 21 next year that no deal can be reached
  • If there is no deal by January 21

In each case, the government will have to make a statement setting out its plans about what to do next. It will then need to get MPs to “approve” its plans. The government’s version had instead said MPs would merely “consider” its statement.

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What’s more, under Grieve 2, MPs will be able to amend the motion approving the government’s plans. They could, for example, say they want the public to have the final say via a People’s Vote. Under the government’s version, this would not be possible as it had proposed an unusual “motion in neutral terms” which cannot be amended.

The battle is far from over. Maybe the government will try to find some new compromise that Grieve can accept. Otherwise, it will presumably try to peel off some potential Tory rebels in advance of tomorrow’s vote, using threats and bad arguments.

Here’s a handy guide to six spurious claims about why MPs don’t need a meaningful vote. The most insidious is the argument that this is the wrong time to fight. MPs will be reduced to impotence in the Brexit process if they allow the government to get its way. Now is precisely the time when they need to take a stand.


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May’s NHS pledge unravelling fast

Theresa May’s “Brexit dividend” lie over NHS funding is unravelling. Even the front page of the vehemently pro-Brexit Daily Express isn’t buying the idea that the extra £20 billion promised by the prime minister is coming from any Brexit savings. “Taxes WILL rise to pay for NHS” it said.

“There’s no more money, Hammond tells cabinet” is the splash in The Times. The chancellor made clear that May’s big NHS announcement meant no additional funding for other cash-strapped policy areas, such as housing, defence or the police. He added that the government would have to find more cash to replace funding for things currently covered by the EU.

May’s NHS announcement over the weekend was a desperate punt - a baseless effort to fulfill the £350-million-a-week nonsense plastered on the side of Boris Johnson’s big red bus.


Quote of the day

“The atmosphere was quite muted. Ministers could see the implications are going to make life quite difficult. Any sense that the taps are about to be turned on were dispelled.”

One minister’s account of a Cabinet meeting in which Philip Hammond laid out the limitations of the prime minister’s NHS announcement.


Video of the day

Once again, for anyone who missed it yesterday: THERE IS NO BREXIT DIVIDEND.

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Brexit makes us vulnerable to trade war cross-fire

The world’s two largest economies have taken another step towards an all-out trade war, with Donald Trump threatening a further $200 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports if China doesn’t back down. Trump has already slapped tariffs on EU steel and aluminium imports, with retaliation expected escalate that situation too.

Brexiters may dream of striking out like 16th-century buccaneers, cutting new deals across the globe - but the trade seas are very choppy indeed. Their plans look more foolhardy than ever. With the EU, the world’s largest trading bloc, by our side, it would be harder to bully us.


Tweet of the day

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Video of the day 2

Here's a video Corbyn ally Steve Pound would rather forget. The Labour MP pulled a u-turn on his support for a People's Vote 36 hours later.

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The drugs don’t work

“The UK pharmaceutical industry and the patients who rely on it are under serious threat from Brexit,” wrote the UK head of US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in the FT today.

A survey of pharma industry leaders showed 86% think Brexit uncertainty is affecting decision on future investment into the UK’s life sciences industry. The government’s new industrial strategy - which pledged to speed up the uptake of new drugs to the NHS - is also going at a glacial pace thanks to Brexit distractions.

Brexit is a big blow to an industry in which the UK is a world leader.


Graphic of the day

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More Brexit news…

Indian students excluded from UK's new relaxed visa rules (Evening Standard)

The government has relaxed visa restrictions on students from several countries including China, Thailand and Cambodia - but not India. This will be a stumbling block for any future UK-India trade deal.

UK to unveil details of plans for EU citizens who wish to remain (Guardian)

Labour peer calls for post-Brexit border clarity (BBC)

Mother of all EU summits (Politico)


Top Brexit comment

Zoe Williams: Jeremy Corbyn, take note: leftwing remainers won’t stay silent on Brexit (Zoe Williams)

Rafael Behr: As the Brexit shambles shows, May needs to learn how to do diplomacy (Guardian)

Sebastian O’Meara: MPs need to haul Arron Banks back for questioning (InFacts)


Looking forward...

Today, Tuesday 19 June

- Unison conference
- Article 50 CoReper meeting
09:30 ONS: Labour in the construction industry statistics
10:00 EU's Michel Barnier and Guy Verhofstadt speak on post-Brexit police and judicial cooperation
11:30 Health questions in Commons

Tomorrow, Wednesday 20 June

- Unison conference
09:15 Guy Verhofstadt gives evidence to Commons Brexit committee
10:45 Shanker Singham from Institute of Economic Affairs gives evidence to international trade committee
11:30 Northern Ireland questions in Commons
12:00 Prime Minister's Questions
14:30 Guy Verhofstadt gives evidence to Commons home affairs committee
15:30 David Lidington gives evidence to Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee