Morning Briefing: May missing the numbers - Toyota doubts UK future - Fox shuts out business
With another vote on her Brexit deal due before March 12, Theresa May finds herself bouncing back and forth between Tory hardliners and Labour waverers in a bid to cobble together a majority in Parliament. But her increasingly desperate strategies are proving more miss than hit - and neither side seems particularly convinced.
They shouldn’t be: the government’s deal is a bad one. It will leave us poorer and offers no clarity or closure for the future.
The centrepiece of May’s efforts are talks with the EU, which attorney general Geoffrey Cox will resume today in Brussels. Downing Street is banking on pro-Brexit Cox convincing the hard-Brexit backbenchers of the ERG to back May’s deal. But with confusion around whether the Brexiters’ key demands for a time limit or escape clause from the Irish border “backstop” have been ditched, Cox’s influence is not certain.
The ERG have now assembled their own “star chamber” of lawyers who might take a different view, and have warned the prime minister they must have “good time” to “form a judgement in advance of a vote”.
May’s attempts to win over wavering Labour MPs is also going badly. The announcement of a £1.6 billion boost for communities, many in Labour seats in the North and Midlands, is being seen as a “bribe” - and a rather unimpressive one at that. One Labour MP told the Guardian: “It actually makes it more difficult for me to vote for her deal. I think it has lost her votes rather than the other way around.”
A parallel initiative to put Labour minds at ease over a loss of EU rights after Brexit is also yielding poor results. The prime minister has been told that a package unveiled on Wednesday would only get her three or four more Labour votes.
May needs over 110 more votes for her deal than got in her historic defeat back in January. Those will largely come from a pool of 115 Tory Brexiters and DUP MPs, plus 40 or so Labour undecided, calculates the Guardian.
The chances of getting these numbers look slim. As one lawyer close to the ERG put it: “If the deal is bad and stays bad, there is no reason for MPs who oppose it to panic and change their position.”
But we’re in uncharted waters. Panic could still take hold. And that is why MPs right across the Brexit debate need to remember just how bad May’s deal is. It’s not all about the backstop. It would leave us with less money to spend in future. It leaves huge questions hanging over everything from financial services and fishing to agriculture and aviation. That means no clarity or closure on Brexit, and years more uncertainty. MPs cannot buckle now. The government’s deal must not pass next week.
Tweet of the Day
Jo Stevens MP calls out the PM’s loan as a "bribe" and says that it’s more evidence the people deserve a final say on Brexit.
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Quote of the Day
“We are taking this historic step to send a strong message to the UK government that it must stop pursuing such a disastrous course of action.
“The prime minister's deal will cause major, lasting damage to jobs, living standards and public services such as the NHS and should be voted down.”
Scottish Brexit secretary Mike Russell welcomes the move in Scotland and Wales to simultaneously debate a motion underlining opposition to the government’s Brexit deal.
Video of the Day
WATCH: 7/10 out of ten mumsnet users back a People’s Vote. Women are demanding a different future and standing up for a People’s Vote.
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Fox shuts out business
Businesses are already exasperated by ministers keeping them in the dark on Brexit. And now Liam Fox’s trade department has cancelled its regular meetings with business after details of a previous roundtable were leaked to the media, reports the FT. Businesses are particularly infuriated by Fox’s failure to rollover existing EU trade deals with other countries for the UK after Brexit.
“With three weeks to go, withdrawing information on progress for these deals is hardly the right approach,” said Craig Beaumont, director of external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses. “The priority should be getting them signed; where they can’t be signed, the priority should be openly helping businesses prepare whose trade relies on them.”
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Top Brexit comment
Emmanuel Macron: Dear Europe, Brexit is a lesson for all of us: it’s time for renewal (Guardian)
Nick Kent: Sensible Tories must beware hard-Brexiter coup (InFacts)
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Today, Tuesday 5th March
|11.30||Treasury questions in Commons|
|15.35||Bank of England governor Mark Carney at Lords economic affairs committee|
|16.00||Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay at Commons Brexit committee|
Tomorrow, Wednesday 6th March
|09.30||DUP's Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson at Commons Northern Affairs committee|
|10.00||Liam Fox at Commons trade committee|
|11.30||Northern Ireland questions in Commons|
|12.00||Prime Minister's Questions|