Tuesday 22 January 2019 - People's Vote

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Morning Briefing: Fight to stop 'no deal' chaos - Plan B is Plan A - healing divisions

Theresa May refused to take “no deal” off the table yesterday. But MPs from across the political spectrum, including Cabinet ministers, are rallying against us crashing out of the EU. A slew of amendments are being prepared to the prime minister’s empty Plan B (see below), the common element of which is to try to prevent such a calamity.

Many ideas will be debated in the coming weeks. But the only sure way of stopping “no deal” will be to ask the people whether they still wish to quit the EU.

Amber Rudd has told Downing Street that up to 40 ministers will resign if they are not given a chance to vote against “no deal”, according to The Times and The i. The work and pensions secretary wants MPs to be given a free vote on the issue.

Labour has put down an amendment which calls for a debate on ways to stop “no deal” - including holding a “public vote” and its own plan for a customs union. Although the opposition’s amendment is unlikely to pass, precisely because it is being proposed by the  Labour front bench, it is significant that Jeremy Corbyn has taken his first parliamentary step to back a People’s Vote.

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Backbenchers, whose amendments might have a better chance of passing, include:

  • Caroline Spelman, the Conservative MP, and Labour’s Jack Dromey, who are opposing “no deal”.
  • Hilary Benn, the Labour chair of the Commons Brexit committee, who wants votes on four options: the prime minister’s deal, “no deal”, a renegotiated deal and a People’s Vote.
  • Rachel Reeves, the Labour chair of the business committee, who wants the government to ask the EU to let us delay Brexit.
  • Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the Home Affairs committee, who wants legislation forcing the government to ask for a delay Brexit if MPs don’t agree a deal by February 26.

Dominic Grieve, the Tory former attorney general, is also considering a variety of amendments. He met Cooper and other MPs in Benn’s office yesterday to coordinate tactics.

While it’s unclear exactly what amendments stand the best chance of success, the priority is for MPs to show there is a clear majority against “no deal” and then make an honest assessment of alternatives to the government’s deal. If these are scrutinised properly, it will become clear that no form of Brexit is better than our current deal in the EU and no form of Brexit can fulfil the promises made in 2016. (see below)

The only way forward will then be to hand the final decision back to the British public through a People’s Vote.


Graphic of the Day

David Lammy: Big step forward that Labour are acknowledging a People’s Vote may be only way forward.

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Plan B is just Plan A again

Theresa May’s “Plan B” turned out yesterday to just be Plan A again: ask the EU for more concessions on the Irish backstop in the hope of winning Tory Brexiters and the DUP over to her deal. The strategy was thoroughly rebuffed on the continent, as the FT reports. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the withdrawal agreement - which includes the backstop - is the “best deal possible”. Any changes would have to be in our plans for a future relationship with the EU.

Even if they do negotiate changes, European officials are wary of agreeing anything with May that won’t get past the huge opposition in the UK Parliament. As one spokesperson put it: “Don’t look to Brussels for answers... this is the moment for London to speak.”

Not much confidence in May’s “new” plan then. In fact, even her top Brexit official, Olly Robbins, is reported to have sent Philip Hammond a text saying renegotiating the backstop was “for the birds”.


Quote of the Day

“I do not think she can convince MPs by presenting the same agreement with some tweaks. The rejection has been too big to think that it is enough to polish what was already rejected.”

Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell sums up European scepticism over May’s new “plan”.


It's clear that the only way forward is a People's Vote. Now is a crucial time to get involved with the campaign.  Sign up to volunteer today.VOLUNTEERS.jpeg


New report asks awkward questions of Brexit alternatives

A cross-party group of MPs backing a People’s Vote launch a new report today, challenging advocates of alternative Brexit options to explain how their plans might be negotiated and the impact they will have. It sets out five fundamental questions which proponents of both Norway Plus and Labour’s alternative plan must answer, and a whopping fifty unanswered questions about the Brexiters’ favoured “no deal” scenario.

A fundamental point about both Norway Plus and Labour plan is that it would still need the first part of Theresa May’s deal, including the backstop, but with a different non-binding political declaration. It is hard to see how MPs opposed to the withdrawal agreement could vote for either plan.

The report points out that Norway Plus means we keep paying large sums of money to the EU, keep free movement, and become a rule-taker. Likewise, Labour’s plan would make the UK poorer and seems overly ambitious about state aid rules and a say on our trade policy. It is becoming clear that there is no parliamentary majority for any Brexit option, and the only way forward will be a People’s Vote.


Video of the Day

WATCH: Theresa May says she wants to renegotiate the Irish back stop.  Even if this is feasible, the Brexit deal is still a bad deal. Full stop. The only way forward is a People’s Vote.


People’s Vote can heal divisions

Theresa May told the Commons yesterday that a new referendum would “damage social cohesion”. But a People’s Vote is the best way to heal the divisions in our already bitterly divided nation. Leaving aside the certain backlash to the economic devastation a “no deal” would bring, all other Brexit alternatives will struggle to heal our country in the same way a new vote to stay in the EU could. Any form of Brexit will leave us with a smaller economy and years of distraction as we try to negotiate a new relationship with our neighbours and the world. But the causes of Brexit existed before 2016: left-behind communities, a shortage of housing, an ailing NHS. All these need money and proper focus.

There are already initiatives afoot - such as the People’s Voice and CommonGround - to make sure a People’s Vote to stay in the EU does not just mean a return to the broken status quo. Now is the time to bring the country together, and Brexit isn’t the answer.


Tweet of the Day

Labour's Mary Creagh is surprised that the PM thinks a People’s Vote will cause discord when she is quite happy pressing ahead with a deal that has no support.


EU citizens fee dropped

Amidst her deja vu performance at the despatch box yesterday, Theresa May did announce one new thing: the £65 fee for EU citizens to get settled status would be dropped. While this looked very much like a cynical ploy to distract from the lack of substance anywhere else in her statement, it is still very welcome - especially by our EU friends and neighbours. But if this was so easy to do, why didn’t May do it sooner? It would have prevented months of anger and uncertainty for EU citizens, especially families, who might struggle to meet the fees.

What’s more, dropping the fee hardly puts EU citizens at ease now, with campaigners concerned the Home Office won’t be able to process all the applications in time and some of the most vulnerable people could still fall through the cracks. Brexit cannot mean a repeat of the Windrush scandal.


More Brexit news…

North-east England will be hit hardest by no-deal Brexit, says CBI (Guardian)

IMF reluctant to make UK economic forecasts amid Brexit uncertainty (FT £)

Thousands of ferry bookings disrupted by plans for no deal (Times £)

Stephen Crabb 'deeply pessimistic' for Conservatives' future (BBC)


Top Brexit comment

Editorial: Brexit and Ireland: a danger to peace (Guardian)

Luke Lythgoe: MPs must cancel half-term holiday and fix Brexit crisis (InFacts)

Polly Toynbee: No-deal Brexit is a Dad’s Army parody and I refuse to stockpile (Guardian)


Looking forward…

Today, Tuesday 22nd January

09.30 ONS: Labour market stats
10.00 Michael Gove evidence to Lords on rural economy
10.30 Expert evidence on migration to Home Affairs committee
14.00 Sajid Javid evidence to Lords EU justice committee

Tomorrow, Wednesday 23rd January

09.30 ONS: Public accounts
09.30 ONS: Trade stats
10.00 Geoffrey Cox evidence to justice committee
12.00 Prime Minister's Questions
16.00 Stephen Barclay evidence to Lords EU committee