Morning briefing: Dancing for a deal - GMB asks members on People's Vote - peril for pound
The government is celebrating its first big post-Brexit trade deal, with South Africa and five of its southern African neighbours. Theresa May even did a little dance to mark the occasion (if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s quite something).
Except this isn’t a big deal. It’s not even a new deal. It’s the first of dozens of deals the UK needs to secure just to keep the same beneficial trading terms with over 60 other countries which we now enjoy as members of the EU. If you remember, these are the “roll over” deals Liam Fox promised to have ready “one second after midnight” on March 29 2019. Doubts have since been cast on the ease with which this can be achieved.
The government’s triumphant comments around this southern African pact are laughable. The deal will allow UK shoppers “to continue to enjoy southern African wine, tea and fruits”, we’re told. It will provide the “strong foundations on which we can build a closer trade and investment partnership in the future” - foundations which were already in place and only at risk of being eroded thanks to Brexit!
In the grand scale of UK trade, these six nations aren’t a huge deal either - the other countries are Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland. Last year the UK exported £2.4 billion worth of goods to southern Africa - just 0.7% of its total exports. We still stand to lose preferential access to much bigger markets elsewhere in the globe, not least the EU’s single market which accounts for around half our trade as well as Japan and Canada.
Brexit also threatens to undermine the “closer trade and investment partnership” the government wants with the African continent. Analysis shows that in any Brexit scenario the UK economy will be smaller than it would be if we stay in the EU. In relation to Africa, that means less to spend on overseas development projects, less to invest in African economies, and fewer trading opportunities for African businesses in a less dynamic UK economy.
The way in which Brexit will make us less able to strike deals around the world shows “Global Britain” for the empty Brexiter rhetoric it really is. It’s nothing to dance about.
HAVE YOU SIGNED THE PETITION FOR A PEOPLE'S VOTE?
Quote of the day
“Two years ago, Brexiters were promising a new free-trade area ‘10 times’ the size of the EU.
“Now they’re reduced to celebrating an agreement to roll over a fraction of the existing trade deals that we already benefit from as EU members.”
Labour MP Gareth Thomas on May’s deal in southern Africa
Graphic of the day
More unions moving towards People’s Vote
The GMB trade union is polling its members on whether there should be a “public vote when we know what the [Brexit] deal looks like”. If the answer is a “yes”, that will add to the mounting pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to back a People’s Vote at Labour’s conference. I summarised the pressure from other unions, activists and shifting public opinion in this article for InFacts.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing has sent a letter to the leaders of all the political parties warning of the “immediate risk to the provision of safe and effective care” from Brexit and demanding citizens be given an “informed choice and vote on decisions that will affect generations now and in the future”.
Patients are required to give informed consent before an operation. Shouldn’t the same be so for Brexit - once we know what Brexit means?
MPs must know what no-deal means
It looks like the government doesn’t want to give MPs a proper economic analysis of a no-deal Brexit when they come to vote on May’s deal. A Number 10 spokesperson promised a “meaningful analysis on the deal” but repeatedly refused to give the same assurances for no-deal. Fortunately, Bank of England governor Mark Carney has promised to brief MPs on the consequences of no deal, according to The Times.
MPs need to know all the facts if their vote at the end of the Brexit talks is to be truly “meaningful”. They must extract the relevant information not just from the Bank of England but from the government itself.
Video of the day
The promises about Brexit have changed dramatically since 2016. From 'sunlit uplands' to 'it won't be the end of the world'. This change in the debate highlights the need for a people's vote.
Pound at risk from no deal
Central banks and sovereign wealth funds across the world are poised to sell up to £100 billion of UK bonds if Brexit talks break down, Bank of America has warned clients. That would precipitate a balance of payments crisis that could see sterling plunge to lows not seen since the mid-1980s. Such a dramatic drop would fall hard on consumers: weekly shopping bills will rise, foreign holidays will be much more costly, and if a crash on the foreign exchanges causes an interest rate rise, then car loans and mortgages will become more expensive too.
Deal or no deal, the government clearly expects the economy to be rocky next year. Mark Carney, the current governor of the Bank of England, has been asked to extend his term by a year past June 2019 in order to provide some stability at the top, reports the Evening Standard in its diary - although the government is not confirming the speculation.
Tweet of the day
More Brexit news…
Tories fear infiltration by Ukip members (Times £)
What will a no-deal Brexit cost UK science in Horizon 2020 access? (Scientists for EU)
Top Brexit comment
Mike Galsworthy: A no-deal Brexit will betray British science (Guardian)
Denis MacShane: Note to Brexiters: John McCain was pro-European (InFacts)
Jennifer Rankin: The EU is too white – and Brexit is likely to make it worse (Guardian)
Today, Wednesday 29 August
|-||Parliament in recess|
|-||Theresa May in Nigeria|
|09:30||ONS: UK national balance sheet: 2018 estimates|
|13:45||Dominic Raab gives evidence to Lords EU committee|
Tomorrow, Thursday 30 August
|-||Parliament in recess|
|-||Theresa May in Kenya|