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".
WATCH BELOW AS ACTIVISTS FROM ACROSS THE UK TELL US WHY THEY'RE MARCHING FOR A PEOPLE'S VOTE ON JUNE 23! SIGN UP HERE.
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.
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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.
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 £)
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|
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|
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|