Morning Briefing: The many voices of the People's Vote rally - Tusk's extension offer - unpicking the 'Boris lock'
Hundreds of thousands of people have watched video from yesterday's People's Vote rally where speaker after speaker hammered home the point that the will of the people on Brexit is changing. Star of the show was Betty Boothroyd (see her speech below) while Conservative Brexit supporter and ministerial aide Huw Merriman demonstrated that support for a People's Vote is growing amongst all those who are seeking a solution to the Brexit crisis.
Former speaker Baroness Boothroyd said: “Nobody voted for this mess. I don’t blame those who voted to leave. I blame the charlatans who peddled the falsehoods that this would be easy – cost free.”
Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, told crowds that “people across the country have now started to change their minds” thanks to the Brexit reality emerging and events like the million-strong Put It To The People march a few weeks ago.
But it was the non-politicians who really got to the heart of Brexit. People like Claire Tromans, a self-employed woman from South Dudley, who said: “I voted Leave in 2016 partly because I felt politicians weren’t listening to people like me... When I look at what’s happening in Parliament now, I fear the politicians are still not listening to people like me. But we have a chance now to get them to do the right thing. We can still fix this mess if they decide that this crucial decision should be handed back to the people. It is us who can sort this out.”
We should embrace Tusk's extension offer
At the EU council this evening, the UK has the chance to step back from the cliff edge of a no-deal Brexit and begin building a stable settlement for the whole county. Donald Tusk wrote to the EU leaders last night offering a longer extension of up to a year, rather than the June 30 cut-off date requested by Theresa May. We need to embrace his offer and use that time to finally work out what Brexit means and then put a properly negotiated Brexit back to the people.
Tusk’s proposal is not set in stone - the new exit date remains blank on official documents circulated between European leaders yesterday. It would also be conditional on the UK holding European Parliament elections on May 23, or face being forced out of the EU on June 1.
The EU’s final offer must come from unanimous agreement between the 27 other member states at the summit tonight, with France heading a group of countries concerned about the implications of the UK having one foot out the door for several more months.
But Tusk made the point that a short extension risked creating a “rolling series of short extensions and emergency summits, creating new cliff-edge dates” that would “overshadow” the EU’s other work and be “bad for our businesses and citizens”.
Considering the slow progress of cross-party talks between the prime minister and Labour, and divisions within May’s own party, the chances of cobbling together a deal over the next few weeks looks highly unlikely. And however disruptive the resuscitation of no-deal panic every couple of months would be for the EU, it would be far worse for people and businesses in the UK.
It is time our country escaped the clutches of the Brexiters’ hate and rage. We must take a long extension and make sure that, for the first time, the public can choose between leaving on specific terms or sticking with the current deal inside the EU. There is a sensible majority in both Parliament and the country ready to support this as a new way forward which can prevent crisis turning into catastrophe.
Quote of the Day
“We were told we would never fight again European elections but I have now signed the order telling Gibraltar to get ready to vote again in European elections so they can vote again if a referendum takes place. And we will be voting again knowing the facts of what Brexit represents.”
Fabian Picardo, chief minister of Gibraltar - where 96% of people voted to stay in the EU.
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.
Unpicking the ‘Boris lock’
The prospect of Theresa May presenting a deal to the EU anytime soon faded yesterday as hours-long talks with Labour broke up without progress, The Times reports. One of the major stumbling blocks is Labour’s desire to find what is being called a “Boris lock” - a check on any future hard-Brexit PM tearing up the promises May makes now.
It looks like there may not be a solution. One Conservative MP told the FT the idea was “ridiculous”, pointing out that: “Parliament can’t bind its successors, no matter what the prime minister might agree with Labour.” It’s this blindfold nature of these negotiations which makes any Brexit worrying. MPs and the British people might think they’re getting a Labour/May style customs union Brexit on exit day (which, in itself, is an imperfect compromise) and end up with a hard Brexit cut off from the EU later.
It’s this blindfold Brexit dynamic - which didn’t even exist back in 2016 - which is one of the main reasons that any Brexit decision must ultimately be put back to the people.
Tweet of the Day
Tories split three ways on extension
The increasing fragmentation of Theresa May’s party became all too clear yesterday as MPs voted on their leader’s proposed extension to Article 50. Conservative MPs were split nearly three ways, despite a three-line whip being in place. Only 133 Tories backed the prime minister’s extension; 99 rebelled and voted against it; and 80 abstained. Those abstentions included cabinet ministers Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox, plus attorney-general Geoffrey Cox and party chair Brandon Lewis.
Why is this important beyond Tory-party infighting? It suggests that even if May can strike a deal with Labour, she still might not get the numbers in Parliament to support it. (Don’t expect every Labour MP to line up behind a Brexit compromise with the government.) The deadlock isn’t going anywhere fast. Politicians need time to rethink their approach to Brexit - and for that we need a long extension.
Video of the Day 2
WATCH: Powerful speech from James O'Brien at the People's Vote rally.
Top Brexit comment
Editorial: A long Brexit pause makes sense for the EU and the UK (FT)
Rafae Behr: Is Brexit still worth it? Only the public can answer that question (Guardian)
Michael Chessum: If Corbyn helps the Tories deliver Brexit, it will be a disaster for Labour (Guardian)
Today, Wednesday 10th April
|09.30||ONS: trade, GDP, construction, production, services statistics|
Karen Bradley takes Northern Ireland questions in Commons
Prime Minister's Questions
|18.00||Special European Council on extending Article 50|
Tomorrow, Thursday 11th April
|09.30||ONS: Foreign direct investment involving UK companies|
|09.30||ONS: Personal and economic well-being in UK|
|10.10||Attorney-general Geoffrey Cox takes questions in Commons|