Wednesday 13 March 2019 - People's Vote

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Morning Briefing: May's deal defeated (again) - Corbyn silent on public vote - spring statement overshadowed

Theresa May’s Brexit deal has been roundly defeated for a second time, with MPs voting against it by a margin of 149 votes. It marks another important step to a People’s Vote, and opens the way to further important votes today and tomorrow.

MPs last night rejected proposals that would have damaged the living standards of their constituents, repelled investment in their communities and restricted opportunities for young people. In doing so, they ignored warnings from the prime minister that losing her deal would plunge politics into crisis. They instead recognised that leaving the EU on these terms would have merely guaranteed that this crisis went on and on.

It’s a crucial step, but there are more to come. Today MPs face a second vote on rejecting a chaotic no-deal Brexit. This rejection is expected pass with a big majority - the prime minister having yesterday announced a free vote for her party.

Today’s vote is being complicated by a series of amendments. ERG stalwarts Steve Baker and Iain Duncan Smith, plus more unlikely figures Damian Green and Nicky Morgan, are trying to use the no-deal vote to resurrect their fantasy “Malthouse Compromise”. This would offer the EU a divorce payment and deal on citizens rights in return for a transition period without May’s Withdrawal Agreement, in theory giving time to negotiate a new trade deal.

This is a complete non-starter and MPs must sweep it aside before more time is wasted pursuing Brexit unicorns. And in doing so, it removes an important figleaf covering the chaos of no deal. How many pro-Brexit MPs would dare vote so baldly for a policy that will wreak havoc to local businesses and jobs?

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Far more sensible is Caroline Spelman and Jack Dromey’s amendment which removes the wording from the government motion MPs will vote on today which says “leaving without a deal remains the default in UK and EU law unless this House and the EU ratify an agreement”. By snipping this, MPs will get to unambiguously register their disdain for a no-deal Brexit.

But until Parliament has either decided on a form of Brexit deal it can support or to stay in the EU after a new public vote, the threat of “no deal” is still there. Which brings us onto another critical step on Thursday - a vote on extending the Article 50 deadline.

If MPs agree to too short an extension then we risk another cliff edge in a few weeks. But the purpose of an extension is more important than arguments about the length of one. The EU is certainly more likely to give us the extension we need if there is a clear reason behind it. Some MPs may want to use an extension explore an alternative form Brexit, but scrutiny will show these to all be defective in some way. It will ultimately emerge that the only good way forward is to put Brexit to the people.


Tweet of the Day

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Quote of the Day

“I do not doubt how difficult this decision will be for many of my colleagues on both sides of the House. But the case for putting it to the people is getting clearer by the day.”

Guto Bebb, Conservative MP for Aberconwy, looks ahead to the decisions MPs will soon be making on Brexit.


Corbyn silent on public vote

After MPs voted down her deal again, the prime minister mentioned a new referendum as one way forward. Jeremy Corbyn didn’t, despite backing the idea last month. Hopefully, the Labour leader isn’t backsliding.

The party’s policy hasn’t changed, Labour sources told The Times last night. It still backs a public vote, but will also push Corbyn’s alternative Brexit proposals. But reassurances from party spokespeople are not as loud as the leader’s statement in Parliament. There is clearly a rearguard action against a public vote among some people close to the leadership. But Corbyn’s proposals are unrealistic and set us up to become a rule-taker without a say. Far better to back the overwhelming majority of Labour members and voters who want Brexit put to the people.


Video of the Day

It's not just the backstop - this deal is bad for the country in so many ways. Watch Lara Spirit explain ahead of yesterday's vote why MPs must reject it.

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Spring statement overshadowed

Normally the chancellor’s spring statement, which will happen after PMQs today, would be the main event in Parliament. But, as with so much else, it has been overshadowed by Brexit. We’re unlikely to see any big announcements. The bad news is expected to be a downgrade of economic growth by the OBR for 2019, which stands at 1.6% but the Bank of England warned could fall as low as 1.2%. It’s a sign of the damaging effect Brexit is already having on our economy.

Also expect a bunch of positive spin from Philip Hammond and promises of a “deal dividend” if MPs would only get behind the government’s Brexit plan. This is only a dividend when set against the calamity of a no-deal Brexit, and against a backdrop of global slowdown it’s unlikely to be very impressive. Also, don’t forget, the government’s own analysis shows May’s deal would leave us £100 billion poorer than we would have been each year by 2030. The real long-term dividend is to be found in staying in the EU, and a People’s Vote is the democratic way get there.


Graphic of the Day

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Infiniti beyond Sunderland

Nissan has announced it will cease production of its Infiniti brand at its Sunderland plant.  That’s devastating news for people across the North East where thousands of families, local suppliers, shops and small businesses rely on the Nissan plant for their livelihoods.

Nissan came to Sunderland in the 1980s, at a time when the city’s traditional manufacturing like shipbuilding was in decline. It was Margaret Thatcher’s government which reassured Nissan that the UK’s future lay inside the EU and single market. Brexit is unpicking that promise. Now we know the real costs of leaving the EU, we need a real say. Now that we know new facts, we need a new vote. It’s time to put Brexit back to the people.


Video of the Day 2

WATCH: Think having a People's Vote is undemocratic? Campaigner and Labour peer Michael Cashman explains how a People's Vote delivers democracy for the people.

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More Brexit news…

Only 40 MPs won over by assurances (Times £)

Half of UK voters want Theresa May to resign: poll (Politico)

Government has no plans for Irish border controls (BBC)

No-deal Brexit: transport crisis could leave cities short of police (Guardian)

Business ‘exasperated’ after Brexit vote (BBC)


Top Brexit comment

Polly Toynbee: The prime minister got one thing right: we can’t blame the EU for this (Guardian)

Editorial: Theresa May’s Brexit deal is dead — MPs must now take over (FT £)

Patrick Butler: Public services desperately need investment. But Brexit is all-consuming (Guardian)


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Looking forward…

Today, Wednesday 13th March

09.50 Immigration minister Caroline Nokes at Lords EU home affairs Committee
10.00 Expert evidence on trade in services to International Trade Committee
12.00 Prime Ministers Questions
12.30 Spring statement by chancellor
14.30 Westminster Hall debate: Fishing and leaving the EU
PM MPs expected to vote on no-deal Brexit

Tomorrow, Thursday 14th March

09.30 ONS: UK expenditure on research and development
09.30 Trade questions in Commons
PM MPs expected to vote on extending Article 50 deadline