Morning Briefing: France and Spain push for more - government backs down - May's immigration backlash
Any MPs uncertain about backing the prime minister’s miserable withdrawal agreement need to realise that the overall Brexit deal could eventually look much worse. That’s already becoming clear with interventions from EU countries looking for some quick wins in the “future relationship” part of the talks. And if we leave with May’s blindfold deal, with no clarity or guarantees over where we’ll end up, the EU will have us over a barrel.
The future relationship will be outlined in a “political declaration” document to accompany the withdrawal agreement, which is being finalised this week ahead of a special EU summit expected on Sunday. EU countries, led by France and Spain, are championing a tougher approach with firmer red lines drawn by the EU. But if the EU does decide to keep this document vague, the demands we’re hearing from other countries now are just a taste of concessions to come.
France’s top priority is the protection of EU fishing rights, with the UK offering access to its waters similar to existing arrangements. Expect the Netherlands and other countries with large fishing interests in the North Sea to back them.
France is also seeking “level playing field” rules to prevent UK companies undercutting EU rivals. Paris wants tough safeguards on environment, competition, taxation and labour policy as the condition for a trade deal with the UK. That will probably amount to the UK following EU standards. So far this rule-taking is just part of the “backstop” deal, but it could be rolled out for any future relationship.
Then there is Spain’s claims to Gibraltar. While Madrid isn’t pushing aggressively for more control over the Rock, it is insisting that any declaration made on the future relationship does not lock down Gibraltar’s status now. It wants more detailed negotiations during the post-Brexit transition period. Nor does Spain like the idea that an extension of the transition should automatically include Gibraltar - something that is already written into the draft withdrawal agreement, but Spain is looking to alter.
Anything May gives away now will be hard to defend later on. Anything she doesn’t agree will simply be kicked down the road into transition, when we will have lost all our negotiating cards. Unlike the withdrawal agreement, which only requires a qualified majority of EU members states to approve it, any future trade deal will require the unanimous support of all 27 EU countries. That gives each one much more power to push its interests.
And thanks to May’s miserable deal, the UK will be scrambling for a trade agreement in order to avoid triggering the Irish border backstop, which would lock us into a miserable rule-taking relationship - potentially indefinitely. This deal must be voted down now and Parliament should call a People’s Vote.
Tweet of the Day
This simple statement from Phillip Lee MP. In a democracy, people have the right to change their minds - especially once new facts come to light.
Government backs down on comparing deal to staying in EU
The People’s Vote campaign has won an important early skirmish in the coming battle over Brexit by forcing ministers to concede that they will publish a full assessment of the costs of the government’s plan compared to the deal we already have inside the EU.
Chuka Umunna tabled the amendment to the government’s Finance Bill and, together with Conservative MP Anna Soubry, gathered a cross-party coalition of support for the measure. It follows a leaked Whitehall document that showed ministers were planning to publish figures only showing the difference between the government’s proposed deal and a no-deal departure. The public cannot be conned in this way. They need to see the reality of Brexit before we leave, and then they should have a People’s Vote to say whether they like what they see.
Quote of the Day
“The government was planning to con the British people. It is vital at this crucial time for our country that MPs and the public know the full facts about the cost of Brexit and how it compares to the deal we already have inside the EU.
“Brexit is not about a political psychodrama or who is up and who is down in Westminster – or in and out of the government – it is about the future of our country and our young people in particular. And the People’s Vote campaign is gaining ground all the time.”
Chuka Umunna, a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, who tabled the amendment to get the government to publish analysis comparing its Brexit deal with staying in the EU.
Video of the Day
WATCH: Leading Leave campaigners admit that our current deal in the EU is better than the dodgy deal the government is offering us.That’s why we are not buying it. Write to your MP HERE if you're not buying it either.
May slammed over migration comments
Theresa May has been slammed for her “offensive” and potentially “very damaging” approach to immigration after Brexit, following comment made to the CBI’s annual conference yesterday. The prime minister told assembled business leaders that the government stop EU citizens from “jumping the queue” into the UK.
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said the comments were “offensive” and that this description of reciprocal arrangements, entered into freely by the UK and from which our citizens also benefit, was “really disgraceful”. She’s right. Such comments add to the hostility felt by our EU friends, colleagues and neighbours living in this country, and have convinced many to leave and fewer to come. It also won’t gain May any goodwill in her negotiations with EU countries whose citizens she’s targeting.
There was also the reaction from businesses, many of whom rely on EU workers. “Pulling up the drawbridge, very quickly as we understand, would be very damaging. What is your plan? Where are the people going to come from who are going to work in our businesses and fuel our economy if you go down this route,” CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said. And let’s not forget that EU citizens paid £4.7bn more in taxes than they took out of the welfare system in 2016/17. In short, if May trashes EU nationals working here, she also trashes our economy.
Video of the Day 2
WATCH: After two years of negotiations all the government has been able to cobble together is a blindfolded Brexit. A deal where we leave the EU with no idea where we are going. Nobody voted for that. That’s why we are not buying it and are demanding a People’s Vote. Write to your MP HERE if you feel the same.
Brextremist coup fizzles out
The 48 letters required from Tory MPs to force a no-confidence vote in Theresa May have failed to materialise. It’s an embarrassing moment for the Brextremist backbenchers of the European Research Group (ERG), whose leader Jacob Rees-Mogg publicly revealed his letter. It exposes the Brexiters as an unruly rabble rather than a coherent movement pursuing a clear Brexit plan.
It also shows there is a very small majority of Tory MPs willing to bring the government down and risk the chaos of a no-deal Brexit. That suggests MPs realise how catastrophic this outcome would be. It also undermines May using it as leverage to get backing for her miserable deal, since MPs seem unlikely to ever let it pass while there are better options - like a People’s Vote.
More Brexit news…
Rachel Sylvester: Each chaotic day brings a People’s Vote closer (Times £)
Mimi Mollica: Theresa May: how dare you say we EU nationals ‘jumped the queue’? (Guardian)
Dan Seamarks: A plea to Theresa May from a young Conservative (New European)
Eve Alcock: Theresa May is hanging from the edge of a glass cliff (Drugstore Culture)
Today, Tuesday 20th November
|14:30||Home Affairs committee evidence on hate crime and violence|
|PM||House of Lords debate|
Tomorrow, Wednesday 21st November
|09.30||ONS: Public sector finances|
|13.30||Home Affairs committee evidence on hate crime and violence|
|15.00||Defence committee evidence on European Defence Industrial development program|