Wednesday 18 July 2018 - People's Vote

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Wednesday 18 July 2018

Morning briefing: May bullies MPs to back Brexit - EU-Japan trade deal - drug problems

Theresa May has scraped through another bruising day in the Commons, seeing off an amendment by pro-European Tories to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU by just six votes. She was saved from defeat by the defection of four Labour Eurosceptics.

This desperate performance, paired with her caving in to hard-Brexit amendments on Monday, shows no form of Brexit has a clear majority in Parliament - neither May’s car crash Chequers deal, nor the Brextremists’ plans for crashing out with no deal at all. Further votes are due in autumn on May’s final Brexit deal. A decision as momentous as Brexit should not be made by a handful of begrudging MPs harangued into supporting their prime minister. We need a People’s Vote.

And harangued the Conservative rebels seem to have been. One pro-European Conservative describe the government whips’ behaviour as “horrible”, reports The Times. Another rebel said the whips claimed they’d be “responsible for a general election and putting Jeremy Corbyn in No 10. It was appalling behaviour. Totally disgraceful.”

May’s government relied on unlikely alliances and underhand tactics to scrape through this latest parliamentary test. The four Labour rebels voted with the government for a second day, joined by a fifth, Kelvin Hopkins, currently suspended from the party whip because of allegations of sexual harassment.

Meanwhile there was outrage from Lib Dem deputy leader, and new mother, Jo Swinson, after Tory chairman Brandon Lewis ignored a “pairing” deal which should have seen him not vote because Swinson could not make it to Parliament. He claimed it was an oversight.

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May’s parliamentary fire-fighting is not going down well across the Channel. EU diplomats are beginning to wonder whether it is worth negotiating with May at all if she cannot hold her party together, according to the FT.

This is not how Brexit, a huge decision which will affect generations to come, should be worked out. The shape of our country’s future should not be left in the hands of a weak prime minister with a wafer-thin majority delivered by bullied MPs. It’s time to take the whole thing out of the hands of squabbling politicians and give the people a vote on the final Brexit deal.

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Quote of the day

“[Tory whip Chris Pincher] said they would pull the third reading of the [trade] bill and call a vote of confidence. He said we’d be responsible for a general election and putting Jeremy Corbyn in No 10. It was appalling behaviour. Totally disgraceful.”

A pro-European Tory rebel quoted in The Times


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EU-Japan trade deal shows what Brexit Britain will be missing out on

Japan and the EU have just signed the biggest bilateral trade deal in history, creating the largest area for free trade the world has ever known. The remarkable agreement covers everything from Japanese cars to European cheese (Japan has notoriously high agricultural tariffs) and sees Japan accept EU data standards - crucial for the modern digital economy. As long as the UK is an EU member, British companies benefit from this deal. After Brexit, it's not clear whether they'll be able to roll over the deal.

Once we've left the EU, we'll have to strike our own bilateral deals. Liam Fox’s flailing trade department seems unlikely to secure such international windfalls. The simple fact is that the EU is a huge market that giant global economies want access too. On its own, the UK has much less to offer.

As an EU member we already enjoy trade deals with over 60 nations - how we carry these over after Brexit is not yet clear. The Brexiters’ idea of leaving EU to pursue a “Global Britain” trading policy is a mirage.


Video of the day

WATCH: Hard Brexiter Ben Bradley admits Brexit could cause economic turmoil. It is clear the public need a People's Vote to have a say on the final deal.

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Cutting off the drugs

Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is to  increase its stockpiles of drugs by about 20% in preparation for a no-deal Brexit.

If Brexit talks break down, so does any agreement on trading medicines between the UK and other EU countries. About 45 million packs of medicine go from the UK to Europe every month and 37 million packs travel in the other direction. The government’s own analysis suggests we’d be hit be medicine shortages within two weeks.

Let’s be clear: a no deal Brexit is not a canny negotiating tactic (as the Brexiters would have people think). It is an unmitigated disaster.


Brexit is not a science

The government’s chief scientific advisor has warned of the consequences of distancing ourselves from the EU. “I think there’s no question that if you want to be a successful country scientifically you have to be international, you cannot be parochial,” said Dr Patrick Valance.

While the government claims it wants to maintain close scientific and research links, there’s no guarantee of this happening - especially if we crash out with a no-deal Brexit. UK science currently relies on the EU for a sizeable chunk of funding and over half the researchers working in the the country were born overseas. Even if we do get a deal, the collaboration between UK and EU scientists looks unlikely to be as frictionless as it is now while we’re a member of the bloc.


Tweet of the day

This from Ciaran Donovan, the van driver who took Jacob Rees-Mogg to task on LBC, spotted this during a trip to Westminster.

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More Brexit news…


Video of the day 2

WATCH: OFOC's Will Dry slams Brextremists for blaming everyone else for this chaotic, botched Brexit that the government are pursuing.

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Top Brexit comment


Looking forward...

Today, Wednesday 18 July

09:30 ONS: Consumer price inflation statistics for June published
09:30 Michael Gove gives evidence to European scrutiny committee
09:30 Defra minister George Eustice gives evidence to Northern Ireland committee on Brexit and on Irish agriculture
12:00 Prime Minister's Questions
13:00 General debate on future relationship between UK and EU in Commons
15:00 Theresa May gives evidence to the liaison committee

Tomorrow, Thursday 19 July

09:30 Dominic Raab's first Dexeu questions in Commons
09:30 ONS: Retail sales figures published
09:30 ONS: Crime statistics published
10:00 HMRC chief and Brexit minister give evidence to Lords' EU External Affairs committee