Morning Briefing: A desperate coup - Brexiters' dud Irish plan - 'tens of thousands of jobs'
The hard Brexiters are plotting feverishly to kick out Theresa May. But it all looks pretty desperate.
Yesterday evening around 50 members of the European Research Group (ERG) openly discussed “how best you game the leadership election rules”, an unnamed MP told the BBC. “If she won’t chuck Chequers then I’m afraid the Party will chuck her,” an MP told the Telegraph. ITV political editor Robert Peston says in The Spectator that comments included: “Everyone I know says she has to go”, “she’s a disaster”, “this can’t go on”.
Frustration indeed. But do the Brexit extremists have a plan? It’s relatively easy to get the 48 Tory MPs needed to trigger a vote of no-confidence in their leader. But to kick her out 158 MPs would need to vote against her. That’s a tall order.
As if that’s not bad enough, there are growing splits in the ERG’s ranks, according to The Times. What’s more, Boris Johnson (a possible alternative to May) and Jacob Rees-Mogg (the ERG’s leader) weren’t even at the meeting.
Johnson did, however, say something yesterday which, for a change, was 100% right. He attacked the prime minister’s Chequers plan because it would mean "abandoning our seat around the table in Brussels and continuing to accept the single market legislation". He went on to say this “makes it substantially worse than the status quo”.
Johnson will, of course, think that he can somehow strongarm May into abandoning her scheme to tie us to most of the EU rules without even getting full access to its vast single market. Instead, he hopes we will negotiate an ambitious trade deal with the EU that keeps our freedom of action - or, failing that, just trade with the bloc on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
Forget for a moment that the Canada-style deal Johnson craves would be far worse than what we currently have. Forget, too, that crashing out of the EU with no deal at all - the only viable hard Brexit option unless we agree a “backstop” deal to keep the Irish border open - would be bonkers.
Humour Johnson and accept his goals. The problem is that he doesn’t have a plan to achieve them. If the Brexiter-in-chief is serious about Chequers being far worse than the status quo, and if he can’t get his hard Brexit, then his next logical step should be calling for a People’s Vote.
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Quote of the day
"Abandoning our seat around the table in Brussels and continuing to accept the single market legislation. That seems to me to be a particular economic risk in Chequers and makes it substantially worse than the status quo."
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Preview: Brexiters’ dud of an Irish border plan
The ERG is today expected to reveal its alternative plan to keep the Irish border open after Brexit (though with their recent habit of pulling big announcements at the last minute, nothing can be certain). If this is anything like the strategies already trailed by Brexiters in newspaper columns, then there will be several flaws to look out for.
Brexiters tend to argue that minimal spot checks, done away from the border, will keep things flowing nicely. But that still means a more arduous customs regime than Ireland has today, hampering North-South cooperation and the all-island economy - something the UK has given its word it will avoid, in both the Brexit negotiations and Good Friday Agreement. Brexiters also simplistically focus on the movement of goods, but to keep the border as open as it is today also requires matching standards on everything from farming to professional qualifications. Another Brexiter ruse is to suggest smaller traders shouldn’t be checked at all. But the EU will see this as an invitation to smuggling, so that won’t fly either. Short of some dramatic new thinking, expect the ERG’s plan to be a dud.
Tweet of the day 2
This cracking Roald Dahl reference.
‘Tens of thousands’ of car sector jobs on the line
It must have been uncomfortable for Theresa May coming on stage at a car industry summit in Birmingham yesterday. Her speech immediately followed a blistering attack on her Brexit strategy by Jaguar Land Rover boss Ralf Speth, who warned of a threat to “tens of thousands” of jobs in the event of a “horrifying” no-deal Brexit.
He added that a hard Brexit would cost his company £1.2 billion a year, and asked: “What decisions will we be forced to make if Brexit means not merely that costs go up, but that we cannot physically build cars on time and on budget in the UK?” There was no response from May, who didn’t mention Brexit in her subsequent address.
Tweet of the day
Wolverhampton MP Pat McFadden is understandably concern by the tough talk from Jaguar Land Rover's Ralf Speth.
Video of the day
Yesterday on Politics Live Lara Spirit explains why a "no deal" Brexit is so unacceptable.
Gove swamped by Brexit prep
Michael Gove is also the victim of awkward timing today, as he launches post-Brexit farming legislation alongside reports from the National Audit Office that his department is nowhere near ready to leave the EU.
The NAO has found Defra behind schedule in three quarters of its Brexit work, including: no-deal preparations, ensuring an adequate number of vets, securing agreements needed to maintain the trade of animals, plans to increase patrols of UK fishing waters, and chemical exporting. In the context of this shambles, farmers and environmentalists alike will be doubting whether Gove can deliver on his promises today to “take back control” of agricultural policy and “enhance the environment around us”.
Video of the day 2
ICYMI: We packed out the venue for the People's Vote rally in Wales over the weekend.
More Brexit news…
Phoebe Potter: Pay attention to Gibraltar and you'll see all your stereotypes about Brexiteers and Remainers destroyed (Independent)
Natalie Nougayrede: Don’t believe the doomsayers. Here is Europe’s good news (Guardian)
Today, Wednesday 12th September
|-||ERG group of pro-Brexit MPs to unveil alternative plans for Irish border|
|-||Agriculture Bill introduced in Parliament|
|09:00||Jean-Claude Juncker delivers State of the Union Address|
|10:00||Experts give evidence to International Trade committee|
Tomorrow, Thursday 13th September
|-||Second batch of government no-deal technical papers published|
|-||Cabinet meeting expected on no-deal preparations|
|-||House of Commons rises for party conference season|
|19:30||The Left Against Brexit rally in York|