Tuesday 22 May 2018 - People's Vote

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Morning briefing: Tories in denial - snap election off - bad science

The Cabinet’s Brexit war seems to have abated momentarily, with both sides apparently having retreated to a state of denial.

Everybody seems to have received the same memo on the so-called “backstop” solution to keep the Irish border open after Brexit - essentially to keep the whole of the UK in the EU’s customs union until a better solution is found.

Theresa May has said this would happen only “in a very limited set of circumstances for a limited time”. She was publicly backed up by both her Cabinet ally Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary, as well as leading Brexiters.

Boris Johnson said he was convinced the prime minister would be “true to her promises of a Brexit deal that sees Britain come out of the customs union”. Meanwhile Michael Gove, speaking at a Policy Exchange Brexit event (more on that later), said the "whole point" of the backstop arrangement was "that it's intended not to be implemented but is there just in case".



This apparently united Cabinet front emerged in the shadow of DUP leader Arlene Foster, whose MPs’ votes allow May a slim majority in Parliament, demanding clarity over how long such an arrangement should last. "There has to be a backstop to the backstop," she said.

What everyone seems to be forgetting is that the EU won’t accept the backstop agreed by Cabinet last week - or will at least insist on lots of extra conditions that will make it even less palatable.

Meanwhile, beyond Westminster fantasyland, the Department for Transport is readying a new system to deal with backed-up lorries at Dover after Brexit, by essentially turning half the M20 into a lorry park, reports the FT. The government is denying this is a Brexit measure, saying it would have to have been implemented anyway. But if tougher customs checks do cause massive tailbacks at the port of Dover, experts warn the new plan will be a “drop in the ocean”.

If this is the kind of chaos May’s head-in-the-sand hard Brexit will cause, the public deserve a People’s Vote on her final deal.

Video of the day

Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary spells out why a hard Brexit would be a nightmare for airlines: "Flights could be grounded."


Snap election off

Boris Johnson has ruled out a snap autumn general election, threatened by anonymous Brexiters over the weekend. The foreign secretary has said the “British public deserve a break from politicians”, reports the Express.

Perhaps Johnson has realised that, even if Brexiters wanted another election, it would be hard to come by, as Hugo Dixon wrote for InFacts yesterday. They don’t have the numbers among Tory MPs to oust May as leader of the party. And a vote of confidence on her performance as prime minister would mean voting against her with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. Who knows where that could end up? Yet more empty threats proving how impotent the Tory Brextremists actually are.

Tweet of the day

Vince Cable raises an important Brexit irony here. A lot of the trade deals Brexiters want to cut could involve freer movement for citizens from all sorts of countries.


A bad deal for science

Theresa May said the UK would be willing to make “an appropriate contribution” to the EU’s research programme and in return it would expect a “suitable level of influence”.

While the prime minister’s intention to stay closely aligned to EU research is welcome, Brexit means getting a much worse deal than we have now. Today we get much more from EU research funding than we put in: between 2007 and 2013, the UK received £8bn from the EU for research - £3bn more than it put into the research budget. That will end.

It’s also unlikely we’ll have the same influence over the direction taken by EU research projects. Whatever May’s deal, Brexit will be bad for UK science.

NEW! Joint campaigns Scientists for EU & Healthier IN the EU are pairing up with the European Movement to create two new shared staff. They will link the big social media presence of SfEU & HealthierIN with the volunteer/activist know-how of EuroMove. Since launching on Friday evening, the crowdfunder is now just shy of £15K (needed for one staff member) and aiming to hit £30K (for two).

Check out Dr Mike Galsworthy's video explaining the exciting initiative below - and please do chip in to help make it happen fast!


Gove’s alternate reality Brexit

Michael Gove has claimed Brexit has strengthened the Union between Scotland and the rest of the UK, speaking at a Policy Exchange Brexit event. The environment secretary’s optimism was at odds with Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who warned of complacency and being “careful that (Brexit) does not erode support for the Union”.

The comments come after Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon suggested she would “restart a debate” on independence. Brexit looks set to give the SNP the opportunity to do this again and again in the years after Brexit, with a real risk of neverending wrangling over devolved powers returning from Brussels - as I wrote about in more detail recently.

Quote of the day

"The referendum campaign has led to Britain becoming more welcoming towards migration, and more open to new people entering”

Or so claimed Michael Gove yesterday. He clearly didn't read the recent report by the UN's special rapporteur for racism, who found a Brexit-related growth in “explicit racial, ethnic and religious intolerance”.

More Brexit news…

Corbyn faces youth wing split on Brexit (Times £)

The chairwomen of Young Labour and Labour Students have signed an open letter urging the party to hold a vote on its Brexit position at its conference in September. They’ve been accused of acting unilaterally. But since young Labour supporters back a People’s Vote by 65% to 18%, it can reasonably be argued this is a case of representing the many, not the few.

Over 100,000 North East students demand new Brexit referendum (Chronicle)

Blair: Labour will pay price for Corbyn’s ‘closet’ Euroskepticism (Politico)

What Europe needs to ask Mark Zuckerberg (Politico)

Tweet of the day 2


Top Brexit comment

Zoe Williams: Even now Labour voters back remain. The party must show that they matter (Guardian)

Emma Commander: Trying to force Vote Leave’s boss to turn up is a game of parliamentary chicken (Times £)

Looking forward…

Today, Tuesday 22 May

- Summons date for Vote Leave chief Dominic Cummings to attend DCMS committee "fake news" inquiry
- Mark Zuckerberg discusses data use with European Parliament presidents
- Jonathan Powell and John Bruton at UK in Changing EU conference on Ireland and Brexit
08:00 Santander chair gives speech on the City and Brexit at Chatham House
09:30 ONS: Construction output figures published
09:30 ONS: Public Sector finances published
10:00 Mark Carney gives evidence to Treasury committee
10:30 Lords EU Justice sub-committee takes expert evidence on civil justice cooperation post Brexit
11:30 Treasury questions in Commons
14:30 Commons Home Affair committee takes expert evidence on post-Brexit immigration

Tomorrow, Wednesday 23 May

- ONS: consumer price inflation
- ONS: Young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs)
09:15 Brexit ministers update Commons Brexit committee on negotiations progress
09:45 International Trade committee takes evidence on trade with Australia and New Zealand
10:00 Lords EU Financial Affairs committee takes experts evidence on data sharing post-Brexit
12:00 Prime Minister's Question
14:00 Brian Leversons gives evidence to DCMS committee's "fake news" inquiry
14:15 HMRC top civil servants give evidence on UK/EU economic relationship to Treasury committee
16:00 Westminster Hall debate on Brexit's impact on higher education in Wales