Morning Briefing: Fantasy giveaways condemned by grown-up politicians
The Conservative Party contenders head to Northern Ireland today where they have around 500 members and no MPs but a lot of questions to answer over how they will handle the Irish border issue and the backstop. With the peace from the Good Friday Agreement at stake, there is no room for “unicorn” fantasy solutions on this one. It is time to Let Us Be Heard.
Fantasy giveaways condemned by grown-up politicians
Sometimes it seems like Chancellor Philip Hammond is the only grown up in the room. As Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt try to outgun each other with the size of their fantasy grand-giveaway war chests, he firmly put them in their place yesterday.
He dropped a tweet that said quite clearly that if the two Conservative leadership contenders end up with a destructive No Deal, there will be no money left to spend on anything else: it would all go on mitigating the damage to the economy as it falls off a cliff.
Institute for Fiscal Studies director Paul Johnson was equally scathing: “It’s worse than a general election. Both candidates are falling over themselves to offer big tax cuts and spending increases, yet they provide no idea where the money will come from.”
Yesterday, Jeremy Hunt was talking up a £20 billion plan to “turbocharge” the economy in the event of No Deal with £6 billion to ease the tariff burden for farmers and fishermen, the very groups who were supposed originally to benefit substantially from Brexit.
Both are playing to the crowd of Conservative members - just 0.25% of the population - to force something on the country that was never considered even by Leave campaigners in 2016. There is no mandate for a destructive No Deal.
The trade body of manufacturers Make UK called the No Deal pledges “the height of irresponsibility”, showing a “zero understanding of the consequences”.
Their comments came as it was revealed that the manufacturing sector suffered its worst decline in six years with factory employers cutting jobs for the third month in a row.
Today, Hunt and Johnson go to Northern Ireland for party hustings and will be expected to explain how to manage the border issues. Their proposals on how to deal with the backstop will need to pass muster this time.
Labour’s leader in the House of Lords Angela Smith is spearheading a cross-party bid to force the government to set up a powerful new committee to evaluate the risks of a destructive No Deal by September.
With both Tory candidates flexing their muscles for an October 31 crash-out, it is believed that the reality check could put pressure on any new PM to be more realistic to the dangers.
Supporting the move, the Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords, Dick Newby, said: “A no-deal Brexit would have immediate and serious impacts on many aspects of British life. Before contemplating such a step, parliament must understand all these impacts and so setting up a joint committee to examine them is essential and urgent.”
The fantasy “unicorns” of the two contenders continue to frolic around their Brexit paradise with scant scrutiny from the media. You had to get up at 5.30am to hear the BBC take down Hunt's proposals on a cash bung for farmers. It is time to Let Us Be Heard.
Civil servants react with anger to Hunt's plan to cancel August leave
New “Mr Tough Guy” Jeremy Hunt’s desperate bid to be taken seriously in the leadership election by 160,000 Conservative members led to him producing a 10-point Brexit plan, which started to fall apart immediately.
One point was to cancel all August leave for civil servants unless their departments are officially “No Deal-ready”. Given that this clashes with the time that MPs head off for their six-week recess, it was denounced immediately.
Union leaders were quick to condemn the announcement, saying it smacked of “hypocrisy and double standards” (Prospect), “simply ludicrous” (FDA) and “utterly ludicrous” (PCS).
Mr Hunt also said he would go for an emergency budget at the start of September, but it was quickly pointed out that the Office for Budget Responsibility would have to start work on it now if there was any chance of it happening, not the start of August.
As with all so-called "plans" for No Deal, Hunt's proposals represent little more than moving the deckchairs on the Titanic.
How the Cabinet Office spends your money on Brexit consultants
A People’s Vote investigation has revealed that the Cabinet Office spent a staggering £24 million on external consultants to help with Brexit in just two months.
The biggest beneficiaries were Manning Gottlieb, the UK arm of global media communications agency OMD. They received more than £6.7 million as part of the Government Brexit communications programme. Outside of communications, the big winners were Deloitte who made £5.3 million in fees.
People’s Vote supporter Ian Murray MP said: “As the Brexit crisis drags on, the amount of taxpayers’ money being thrown away is increasing by the day."
Let Us Be Heard in Sunderland on Sunday
Sunday is the day when Sunderland People's Vote campaigners get the chance to Let Us Be Heard. In yesterday's Morning Briefing, we made an error on the day for the big event in the North East, so I would like to apologise and make it clear: it is Sunday July 7 at 1pm at the Beacon of Light in Sunderland. Former Sunderland manager and England star Peter Reid urged people to come along to Let Us Be Heard. You can get your tickets here.
It's clear that Brexit must be put to the people. Now is a crucial time to get involved with the People's Vote campaign. Sign up to volunteer today.
Quote of the Day
"Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt are thinking only of the 160,000 party members who will choose the new Tory leader over the next three weeks, but a new prime minister, elected by less than 0.25 per cent of the population, will not be forgiven if he imposes a version of Brexit on the country that was never discussed in 2016 and is opposed by a majority of the voters and MPs.
"As one pro-European former minister says: “That’s not democracy”. In fact, you could call it an establishment coup."
The Times political columnist Rachel Sylvester calls out that there is no democratic consent for No Deal.
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