Wednesday 9 May 2018 - People's Vote

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Wednesday 9 May 2018

Morning briefing: Lords round off defeats - Trump scraps Iran - Cabinet stalemate

And happy Europe Day! The House of Lords chose to mark the occasion last night not by gathering to sing Ode To Joy but by handing Theresa May her 14th defeat on her EU Withdrawal Bill.

Yesterday marked the end of a bruising Report Stage in the House of Lords. An amendment to keep the UK in the European Economic Area - and therefore the single market - was passed unexpectedly. Peers voted to remove the fixed date for “Brexit Day” on the front of May’s centrepiece bill.

Other amendments passed in the Lords over the last few weeks have included demands to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU, guarantee no hard border in Ireland, keep the Charter of Fundamental Rights and limit ministers’ so-called “Henry VIII powers”.

The amendment most significant for the People’s Vote campaign was the one strengthening the meaningful vote MPs will get on May’s final Brexit deal. This effectively sets a deadline of November 30 for this key parliamentary vote - therefore providing enough time for a people’s vote before the two-year Article 50 clock runs out in March 2019.

So what happens now? The Lords’ amendments now have to return to House of Commons. This should happen quickly so MPs get the chance to properly consider this unexpectedly large raft of changes. But it wouldn’t be out of character for May to delay so it avoids facing the music for as long as possible.

Once the Bill does return, amendments will need the support of Labour (bar a few Brexiter anomalies like Kate Hoey), plus all the other opposition parties, and at least 10 Tory rebels.

It’s certainly doable. That’s what happened when the Commons defeated the government to push through an earlier version of the meaningful vote amendment in December. If a similar coalition comes together on some of the key Lords’ amendments, May’s destructive Brexit will be on the ropes.


Video of the day

Waheed Alli introduces his amendment on the single market in the Lords, setting in motion another defeat for the government’s Withdrawal Bill.

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Trump’s reckless foreign policy was not on cards during referendum

Donald Trump has announced the US will “exit the Iran deal” brokered under Barack Obama in 2015 and place the “highest level of economic sanctions” on the Islamic republic. This despite a coordinated charm offensive by European leaders desperate to uphold the deal, including a state visit from Emmanuel Macron and a Fox TV appearance by Boris Johnson.

Trump is a new fact since the UK’s referendum. Brexiters wanted to stride hand-in-hand with America after leaving the EU, but it’s now clear we’re dealing with a reckless bully willing to jeopardise Middle East peace to play to his domestic supporters. European leaders will be keen to salvage what they can of the Iran deal, but the distractions and animosities of Brexit will make it more difficult to act with one voice.


Cabinet settles into customs stalemate

Yesterday’s Cabinet heat over the prime minister’s customs plans has cooled to a familiar stalemate. Boris Johnson has effectively laid down the gauntlet to Theresa May to fire him by indicting he will not resign despite calling her customs partnership proposal “crazy”, reports The Times.

If May’s track record is anything to go by, BoJo’s job is safe. He won’t resign; she won’t fire him. Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports she could try and bypass the Brexiters in her “war cabinet” altogether.

But let’s not forget that the EU doesn’t like either May’s plans or the Brexiters’ “Max Fac” solution. As this self-absorbed government navel gazes on customs, the Brexit clock ticks and the country still doesn’t know where it’s heading.


Tweet of the day

Has Boris been caught on camera u-turning on May’s customs partnership plan?

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“Green” Brexit?

The UK has been trying to push back the EU’s target date to cut emissions and tackle climate change, the Guardian reports. The move threatens to undermine the terms of the 2015 Paris climate deal and asks some awkward questions about Michael Gove’s “green Brexit”.

The EU has committed to a 20% cut in its energy use by 2020. But the UK has been trying to push back its commitments by four years, under a plan branded “incomprehensible” by MEPs. While the government talks a good game on protecting environmental standards after Brexit, things like this should set alarm bells ringing. Outside the EU it will be easier for UK government’s to reverse environmental policies they don’t like.


Quote of the day

“...education and knowledge at its best transcends borders and talent speaks to talent across the world. Yet for this to be the case, international students and scholars must know that they are welcome.”

- Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor of Sheffield University, on Brexit’s damaging effect on higher education.


More Brexit news…

EU students put off British universities (Times £)

The annual International Student Survey finds that Brexit had deterred almost two fifths of prospective EU students. It’s clear Brexit is harming our world-beating higher education institutions.

Liam Fox’s trade department to receive emergency cash injection (FT £)

News yesterday that the cash-strapped Department for International Trade couldn’t afford officials tasked with boosting exports in growing economies has today been met by promises of a £5-10 million bung from the Treasury. But if DIT hadn’t spent so much preparing for Brexit, these jobs would never have been at risk.

Ministers risk judicial review of plan to deny immigrants data access (Guardian)

Communities in Scotland given access to £150,000 to prepare for Brexit (BBC)


Top Brexit comment

Andrew Gimson: Brexit is testing Johnson’s policy-lite mantra that ‘where there is a will, there is a way’ (Times £)

David Hannay: EU satellite spat prime example of Brexit unintelligence (InFacts)


Looking forward…

Today, Wednesday 9 May

12:00 Prime Minister's Questions
PM Gareth Thomas MP "10-minute rule motion" to propose public vote on Brexit deal in Commons

Tomorrow, Thursday 10 May

- Brexit "war cabinet" meeting
09:30 ONS: UK trade statistics (March 2018) released
09:30 ONS: Construction output statistics (Jan-Mar 2018) released