Morning Briefing: Giant victory, no time to waste - 'only positive solution' - business hates 'Parliament's pantomime'
Following Theresa May’s record-breaking defeat in the Commons last night, and with a vote of no confidence due today, it is essential that MPs now move quickly to back a People’s Vote before this crisis deepens any further. There can be no more foot-dragging or time-wasting. That applies to everyone: government, Labour leadership and soft Brexiters.
Jeremy Corbyn is sticking doggedly to his goal of forcing a general election. Even if, as is likely, today’s vote doesn’t go the opposition’s way, Labour could table multiple votes of no confidence in repeated bids to oust May, reports The Times.
This tactic is just as much about the battle raging inside the Labour party. Talk of more votes helps the leadership avoid calls to back a People’s Vote. And those calls are getting louder among both Labour MPs and its supporters in the country.
It’s time Corbyn and his allies faced reality. There is no good Brexit deal. We have a much better deal inside the EU, and it’s what the overwhelming majority of Labour members and voters want. Thanks to the sheer scale of May’s defeat yesterday, the only way Brexit goes through now is if Labour whips for it and, most likely, walks through division lobbies with the Tories. Labour will own the Brexit mess - and they’ve seen how that is playing out for their rivals.
The prime minister is also playing for time. As she often does in tight spots, May has offered to “hold meetings” with those who disagree with her. But her promises of a “constructive spirit” immediately after the vote were soon shot down by Number 10, who insisted the prime minister would stick to her “core principles” on Brexit, reports The Times. That meant a trade policy independent of the EU - and therefore no hope of staying in a customs union.
This stance instantly burns bridges with Labour and the soft Brexiters pushing for Norway-style solutions. It’s also unclear if May would negotiate with Corbyn, or the Labour leader with her. What it boils down to is more can-kicking.
May’s intransigence is not the only problem for the so-called “Norwegians” in Parliament. The 432-202 drubbing the government’s deal received last night doesn’t bode well for their plan to join the EEA. “Norway Plus” has many of the same flaws as May’s deal: even more rule-taking with no say, paying similar sums to the EU as we do now. If MPs hate May’s deal, they’re likely to hate the Norway model even more.
That arguably leaves the only options left as “no deal” and “no Brexit”. Does anyone really believe that either Cabinet or Parliament will vote for the chaos of a no-deal crash out? MPs will have lots more opportunities to reject it in the coming weeks.
Now, as before yesterday’s historic vote, it is clear that a People’s Vote is the only way to break the deadlock in Parliament. MPs cannot find an answer to the Brexit riddle posed to them in 2016 - only a democratic decision by the people can sort this out.
Graphic of the Day
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‘The only positive solution…’
The EU’s response to last night’s drama was familiar in both its unity and question: what do you want? While several European leaders warned against the “disorder” of no deal, none was willing to ride to the UK government’s rescue. There is no emergency EU summit in the offing. Emmanuel Macron emphasised the EU’s unwillingness to revamp the withdrawal agreement. If there are any tweaks, they will be to the “political declaration” on our future relationship. That means the terms of our exit - including the Irish border backstop - are locked in.
What the EU is willing to offer is an extension to the Article 50 process. It’s not a given, certainly if all the UK wants is more fruitless talks. But European Council president Donald Tusk hinted heavily how he wanted to see Brexit concluded last night, tweeting: “If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” The answer is a People’s Vote.
Tweet of the Day
OFOC spokesman Femi congratulates Jeremy Corbyn on following Labour conference policy. If the vote of no confidence doesn’t go his way today, let’s hope he follows through and comes out in favour of a People’s Vote.
Video of the Day
Business condemns ‘Parliament’s pantomime’
Talking of extensions, that’s what cabinet ministers Philip Hammond and Greg Clark were offering business leaders on a conference call last night, according to the FT. But confusion continued as Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay suggested on the same call that a harder Brexit could be one way to win round Tory backbenchers.
Businesses are furious at the “impossible uncertainty” caused by “Parliament’s pantomime” over the past weeks and months. It’s time to end that uncertainty. Any form of Brexit will see endless years of trying to work out our relationship with the EU and the rest of the world. The best thing for business is a People’s Vote with the option to keep the great deal we have inside the EU today.
Quote of the Day
“There are no more words to describe the frustration, impatience and growing anger among business after two and a half years on a high-stakes political rollercoaster ride that shows no sign of stopping.”
Adam Marshall, head of the British Chambers of Commerce, reported in FT
More Brexit news…
Hugo Dixon: Magnificent victory but lots of work to do (InFacts)
Daniel Finkelstein: Blame the Brexiteers for last night’s farce (Times)
Polly Toynbee: Corbyn and Labour must now go hell for leather for another referendum (Guardian)
Today, Wednesday 16th January
|09.30||ONS: House prices|
|09.30||ONS: Inflation statistics|
|09.15||Mark Carney evidence to Treasury committee|
|12.00||Prime Minister's Questions|
|14.30||David Davis evidence to EU Scrutiny committee|
Motion of no confidence in her Majesty’s Government debated and voted upon
Tomorrow, Thursday 17th January
|09.30||ONS: Government debt and deficit figures|
|09.30||ONS: Overseas travel and tourism figures|