Morning Briefing: May faces Cabinet - bumper poll shows 54% for staying in EU - an unhealthy Brexit
Theresa May’s tactics couldn’t be clearer. She’s trying to bounce her ministers (and then MPs) to back a half-baked deal by going big on the catastrophic costs of leaving with no deal.
But voting down a deal doesn’t mean we’ll crash out of the EU. If MPs reject what the prime minister proposes, much the most likely outcome will be a People’s Vote.
Ministers will be presented with two options for the Irish backstop (the insurance policy to avoid checks at the Irish border) when Cabinet meets today, according to sources speaking to Bloomberg.
- The UK commits to stay in a customs union with the EU, but we could only leave it by mutual agreement.
- The UK joins a temporary customs union which Great Britain can exit unilaterally but then Northern Ireland would have to remain inside the EU’s customs territory.
Both are deeply controversial politically. The first prevents the Brextremists in May’s party from realising their dream of an independent trading policy. The second would constitute a “blood red line” for the DUP, which props up May in Parliament, because it would represent a split between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The prime minister won’t get any help in the Commons from Labour for either scheme, with shadow chancellor John McDonnell saying his party would vote down any deal that keeps the UK in a customs union only temporarily.
Yesterday the Irish government was adamant that the UK should not be allowed to unilaterally call time on the Irish backstop. The rest of the EU has repeatedly said it will stand firm behind Dublin on the issue.
Leo Varadkar, the Irish taoiseach, yesterday talked about an idea - apparently proposed by May - for a “review mechanism” to end the backstop. None of the details are clear, but presumably this would feed into option A being put to UK ministers. It’s unclear whether they will buy it, especially if it leaves the EU with the ultimate decision on whether the UK can quit the backstop as seems likely.
There’s a further issue with nailing down the backstop, according to Tony Connelly, RTE’s Brussels correspondent. The EU won’t even let the UK stay in a customs union without assurances that it competes on a level playing field by agreeing to things “such as competition rules, state aid, social, environmental, health & safety rules”.
That will be a red rag to hardline Brexiters. Patriotic pro-Europeans won’t like the idea of being a rule-taker either, given that we currently have a huge say over EU rules.
Nobody now expects a deal this week. But time is running out. In May’s desperation to push a miserable deal through an unyielding political system, the “no deal” threat is her best card. But this is a bluff - MPs always have a People’s Vote in their back pocket.
Tweet of the day
It couldn't really be much clearer from Ireland and the EU on what they think about the UK unilaterally pulling the plug on the Irish backstop. This from Barnier's deputy Sabine Weyand and Irish tánaiste Simon Coveney.
54% back staying in EU, says bumper poll
There is now an 8-point lead for staying in the EU - with 54% of the country now in favour, and just 46% backing Brexit, according to a bumper poll for Channel 4. Survation interviewed 20,000 people online across the UK from 20 October to 2 November, in what Channel 4 described as the “biggest ever independent Brexit opinion poll”.
The greatest shifts in opinion have happened among former Leave voters in Leave-voting constituencies. The poll showed that 105 council areas that voted Leave in 2016 would now vote to stay in the EU.
We are heading for a miserable Brexit that nobody voted for. No wonder public opinion is shifting. The democratic solution to the mess is a People’s Vote.
Video of the Day
Gaping hole in environment protection
Brexit is on track to leave gaping holes in our environmental laws, even if we get a deal, according to MPs on the Environment Audit Committee. A lack of clarity over a sizeable chunk of regulations on everything from clean air and water to pollution and wildlife protection is “deeply worrying”, the committee reported. They are also worried that a new environmental watchdog to punish polluters and other transgressors would be toothless. Although many Brexiters might quite like to slash and burn environmental law, they’re out of step with the general public - the majority of whom are increasingly concerned about their environment and did not vote to see it harmed by Brexit.
An unhealthy Brexit
The NHS could be short of 51,000 nurses by 2021, according to the Cavendish Coalition. That is the equivalent of 45 hospitals’ worth of nurses. Boris Johnson’s bus promised £350 million a week for the NHS. That won’t happen.
Nobody voted for an unhealthy Brexit - either for the environment or themselves.
Quote of the Day
“This is an extensive and credible report which should trouble everyone who cares about the future of health and care in the UK.
“The government’s reported plan to stem all immigration of less qualified people after Brexit, and the repeated ducking of tough choices on social care, make this worst case scenario look worryingly plausible.”
Nigel Edwards, chief executive at the health think tank the Nuffield Trust, on the Cavendish Coalition report.
Video of the day 2
More Brexit news…
Chuka Umunna: What right-wing Brexiteers told me behind Theresa May's back makes me worry for her EU deal (Independent)
Tom Kibasi: May will threaten a no-deal Brexit. MPs must call her bluff (Guardian)
Rachel Sylvester: Brexiteers are gunning for the civil service (Times £)
Jan Fleischhauer: Britain has never looked so foolish in the world’s eyes (Guardian)
Today, Monday 5th November
|-||US mid-term elections|
|10.30||information Commissioner and Electoral Commission chief exec evidence to DCMS fake news enquiry|
|11.30||Information Commissioner releases report on EU referendum|
|11.30||Treasury questions in Commons|
|PM||Parliament rises for recess (until November 12)|
Tomorrow, Tuesday 6th November
|-||Parliament in recess|
|-||EU27 ambassadors meet to discuss Brexit negotiations|