Morning briefing: Lords victory - Javid's new job - Rees-Mogg loves Trump - Cambridge Analytica
The House of Lords secured a fabulous victory for parliamentary democracy yesterday, voting by a 91 majority for Parliament to get a meaningful vote at the end of the Brexit talks. There were 19 Tory peers who helped inflict this defeat on Theresa May’s attempt to dictate the Brexit process.
The prime minister’s line is that Parliament will get a “take-it-or-leave-it” vote at the end of the talks. If MPs don’t like her deal – which is likely to be a miserable one – the country will charge out of the EU next March into an abyss. This is an unacceptable gun to the head of our democracy – and peers rightly rejected it.
In fact Amendment 49 to the EU Withdrawal Bill hands power to the elected House of Commons and not Parliament as such. Under its terms the Commons must vote to approve a deal before ministers can act on it, while the Lords are merely given the opportunity for a debate. The amendment does not give the Lords the power to block a final Brexit deal.
The amendment, which strengthens an earlier one that MPs passed before Christmas, will give Parliament alternatives if it doesn’t think the deal the government negotiates is up to snuff. It could tell May to go back and change the deal. For example, if it was worried that the 21-month transition she has agreed isn’t long enough, meaning we’ll face another cliff edge at the end of 2020, it could tell her to get a longer transition. It could also force the PM to ask the people whether they still want Brexit once we know what the deal is.
The Brexiters are hopping mad. The Daily Mail, continuing its “enemies of the people” theme, has called peers “The House of Unelected Wreckers” on its front page – and, in an editorial, described them as “preposterous and treacherous”. This intimidation shows the Brexiters are losing the argument.
The Mail says peers are undermining the government’s negotiating position and doing the EU’s job for it. This is 100% wrong. The amendment rather ensures that May only negotiates a deal that Parliament can buy into. If she listens to the legitimate concerns MPs have about her Brexit, she will go into the last phase of the talks with Parliament behind her. That will make her stronger, not weaker.
The amendment also ensures that, if the best the government can negotiate is a miserable deal, Parliament will have time to ask the people whether they want Brexit at all. Finally, it provides a mechanism that could help prevent us crashing out with no deal at all. If the prime minister hasn’t clinched an agreement by the end of February, one month before Brexit day. MPs will be able to take control of the process. I set out in detail how the amendment, including its deadlines, works here.
How is this against the national interest? The peers who backed this amendment are not traitors. They are national heroes.
Video of the day
George Foulkes in the Lords debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill: “Why don’t we let Liam Fox off his wild goose chase.”
Sajid Javid must ease EU citizens’ fears
Right at the top of the new home secretary’s in-tray is reassuring the 3 million EU citizens in the UK that they won’t be treated with the same tragic contempt as the Windrush generation. On hand with some pointed advice is Guy Verhofstadt.
The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator has a shopping list of complaints: the Home Office’s registration app not working on iPhones; 16 year olds not being able to apply online; families not being allowed to submit joint applications. Since the Parliament has the ability to veto any Brexit deal they don’t like, Javid will have to listen.
No, Rees-Mogg, Trump is ‘our national misfortune’
In what could be mistaken for a parody column in The Times, arch-Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg has described the fact Donald Trump is US president in the era of Brexit as “our national good fortune” - even as Trump attempts to dismantle the global order by launching trade wars, and threatening to tear up the Paris climate deal and Iran nuclear agreement.
The EU on the other hand, argues Rees-Mogg, can be held back by “irrational concerns”. Compared to a man who conducts foreign policy via late-night Twitter rants? Rees-Mogg wants Trump to be given “something tangible” when he visits the UK in July. Yes, he should be given a clear message of what the British people think of his bigotry and sexism. Protests against the president should be a rallying moment for pro-Europeans too.
Tweet of the day
Cambridge Analytica scandal ‘real worry’ for voters
Antoinette Sandbach has become the first Tory MP to say allegations around data firm Cambridge Analytica - suggesting the Leave campaign may have cheated on spending limits and personal data could have been used illegally to target voters - may have tainted the Brexit vote in the public’s eyes.
“There is a real worry among my constituents who are writing to me that maybe the misuse of data did affect the result,” the MP for Eddisbury in Cheshire told the Independent. “I don’t think the referendum should be run again, but it does potentially raise the case for having a vote on the final deal, when we know what that deal is.” All the more important that ongoing investigations uncover the truth soon, before we’re dragged out of the EU on a distorted referendum result.
Quote of the day
“I don’t think the referendum should be run again, but it does potentially raise the case for having a vote on the final deal, when we know what that deal is.”
Tory MP Antoinette Sandbach reacts to concerns from her constituents about the role of data firm Cambridge Analytica in the EU referendum.
‘EU Mark II’ should please no one
Theresa May and ministers including Philip Hammond and David Davis are entertaining the idea of “potentially” signing an association agreement with the EU, according to the Telegraph. The benefit, presumably, is that this is an off-the-shelf solution that would be acceptable to the EU.
Association agreements come in many shapes and sizes, and there’s a good explainer by the Institute for Government here. But the upshot is that the non-EU country in the agreement has to follow some of the EU’s rules without a vote. If the public don’t like that idea, they should get a people’s vote on May’s final deal.
More Brexit news…
Top Brexit comment
Chuka Umunna: Labour should bear in mind what a senior member of the Irish government told me about Brexit (Independent)
Matthew Paris: What she does now will shape how Amber Rudd is remembered (Times £)
Today, Tuesday 1 May
|-||Michel Barnier visits Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland|
|16:00||Lords EU committee: Brexit secretary David Davis|
Tomorrow, Wednesday 2 May
|-||“War Cabinet” meeting on future customs relationship|
|-||5th day of report stage of EU Withdrawal Bill in Lords|
|-||EU spending proposals for 2021-2027 presented to EU Commission|
|-||MPs debate “hostile environment” policy following Windrush scandal|
|09:15||Commons Brexit committee: Jonathan Faull, former EU commissioner|
|10:30||EU Home Affairs committee: Steve Smart, National Crime Agency|
|12:00||Prime Minister’s Questions|
|14:45||Procedure committee: Andrea Leadsom & Steve Baker on Henry VIII powers|