Wednesday 23 May 2018 - People's Vote

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Wednesday 23 May 2018

Morning briefing: £900 per year - 'Green Brexit' wilting - EU on Ireland

Mark Carney told MPs yesterday that UK households were £900 per year worse off than they would have been based on forecasts from May 2016 - just before the Brexit vote. As the Bank of England governor put it, “that’s a lot of money”. And that’s before we’ve even left the EU.

The vote to leave the EU has sent shockwaves across the economy, causing the value of the pound to tumble and inflation to rise from 0.5% to 2.5%.

But worse economic disruption could be yet to come if May’s hard-Brexit plans wrench us out of the EU’s single market, with which we do half our trade.


Video of the day

UK households are £900 worse off compared with forecasts from just before the Brexit vote, says Mark Carney.

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'Green Brexit' wilting

A new row is hotting up in Theresa May’s Cabinet, with environment secretary Michael Gove accusing Philip Hammond of opposing his “green Brexit” vision and causing a government defeat in the House of Lords last week.

The dispute - laid out in a letter from Gove to Cabinet colleagues, seen by the Telegraph - is a worrying sign that the government can't agree on the issue. 

This is hardly surprising, considering that the Vote Leave campaign, which Gove headed, was fairly lacking in green credentials. It numbered Nigel Lawson, a prominent climate change denier, among its leading spokespeople. The campaign also had an obsession with slashing EU “red tape” to make the economy more competitive.

Gove himself, when first outlining his support for Brexit two years ago, said “growing EU bureaucracy holds us back in every area”. Among his handful of examples was an environmental regulation restricting house building near heathland so cats didn't kill birds - and he gave a misleading description even of that.

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It’s this stripping back of regulation after Brexit that now forms the basis for Hammond’s attempts to neuter Gove’s “world-leading” environmental watchdog. Meanwhile Gove has changed his tune. The situation has thrown the government into a muddle over the environment, and makes it hard for the public to trust that green policies will stay in place after Brexit.

In contrast, the EU is a strong defender of environmental protections - many of which are vulnerable to economic or political whims at a national level. Outside the EU, any UK government that wanted to roll back environmental policies would find it much easier.

It’s also worth remembering that environmental issues - such as air pollution, sustainable fish stocks and climate change - are cross-border issues best tackled in close partnership with our European neighbours. Brexit will make that cooperation harder.

It’s as clear as mud how environmental protections will fare in Brexit Britain. If the public are concerned about that, they need a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal.


May’s Irish solution rejected by EU

EU officials have already rejected Theresa May’s latest “backstop” solution to make sure the Irish border stays open after Brexit, reports the Independent. The version of the “backstop” agreed in Cabinet involves keeping the whole UK in the EU’s customs union until another solution is found. May and her ministers have insisted this will only be for a short time.

The problem is this won’t fully solve the Irish border problem and will not be accepted by the EU, which proposed keeping Northern Ireland under many of the rules of the single market as well. Officials in Brussels see the latest UK offer as going back on previous commitments made by British negotiators.

There are similar reservations from across Brussels, with chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier saying: "The only frictionless model for the future of the UK would be Norway plus, being part of the single market plus the customs union. For each of the other models we'd have controls."

The Brexit clock is ticking. The government needs to look at some realistic options now. If it can’t find any, then the people should get a vote on whether they really want this mess of a Brexit.


Graphic of the day

Roughly half our trade is with the EU. Even if we get the best trade deals other countries have to offer, they won't make up for the losses to our trade with Europe caused by Brexit.

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Taking back Article 50

An interesting court case is under way in Scotland, with a group of pro-European politicians arguing that Article 50 can be unilaterally withdrawn by the UK. They say this is an important “third option” in the Brexit debate, rather than a choice between a bad Brexit deal and a disastrous “no deal” Brexit.

Lawyers on the case have urged the judge to accept the argument and allow them to take their case to the European Court of Justice for a definitive decision. Watch this space.

Convincing cases have been made elsewhere for the UK’s ability to withdraw Article 50 and return to the pre-Brexit status quo - not least by John Kerr, the man tasked with writing it.


Tweet of the day

Hang on, weren't we leaving the EU so we could do stuff like this...?

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More Brexit news…

EU talks with Australia and New Zealand deal blow to UK free trade plans (Guardian)

Brian Cox among backers of new Scottish campaign to halt Brexit (Courier)

Boris Johnson wants a plane as PM's is rarely available – and too grey (Guardian)

How Britain’s departure from the EU stretches to mid-2020s (FT £)


Quote of the day

“At some point we will have to look in the mirror and admit how long this will all take.”

Senior Brexit negotiator, who thinks process will stretch into the 2020s.


Top Brexit comment

Ros Altmann: Hard Brexit could threaten British people’s pensions (InFacts)

Stephen Bush: Should Jeremy Corbyn back a second EU referendum on the final terms of Brexit? (New Statesman)


Looking forward…

Today, Wednesday 23 May

- ONS: consumer price inflation
- ONS: Young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs)
09:15 Brexit ministers update Commons Brexit committee on negotiations progress
09:45 International Trade committee takes evidence on trade with Australia and New Zealand
10:00 Lords EU Financial Affairs committee takes experts evidence on data sharing post-Brexit
12:00 Prime Minister's Question
14:00 Brian Leversons gives evidence to DCMS committee's "fake news" inquiry
14:15 HMRC top civil servants give evidence on UK/EU economic relationship to Treasury committee
16:00 Westminster Hall debate on Brexit's impact on higher education in Wales

Tomorrow, Thursday 24 May

09:30 ONS: migration statistics published
09:30 ONS: Regional disposable income published
09:30 ONS: Retail sales published
10:00 EU External Affairs sub-committee takes expert evidence on Brexit customs arrangements
PM House rises for Whitun recess