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Jeremy Corbyn vows to use 'funds returned from Brussels' to invest in public services after Brexit

12 hours 7 minutes ago
Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn will pledge to use 'funds returned from Brussels' to invest in public services

Jeremy Corbyn will tomorrow promise to reinvest the UK's EU budget contributions into public services after Brexit. 

In a line which echoes the Vote Leave campaign's pledge on NHS funding, Mr Corbyn will say: “We will use funds returned from Brussels after Brexit to invest in our public services and jobs of the future, not tax cuts for the richest."

But the Labour leader will also mock Brexiteers who suggested the budget contributions could be used to invest in the health services.

“We’ll give the NHS resources it needs as we will raise tax on those with the broadest shoulders to pay for it - not by making up numbers and parading them on the side of a bus.”

And he will strike an ambivalent tone about the future outside the EU, saying: “The EU is not the root of all our problems, and leaving it will not solve all our problems.

"Likewise the EU is not the source of all enlightenment, and leaving it does not inevitably spell doom for our country. Brexit is what we make of it together.”

CUSTOMS UNION

Reports suggest he will also use a speech tomorrow to formally back staying in a customs union with the EU.

It comes after more than 80 Labour figures signed a letter urging the party leadership to back remaining in the European Economic Area "as a minimum" after Brexit.

The Mail on Sunday quotes a Labour insider saying that John McDonnell persuaded Mr Corbyn to make the move to try to force an early general election.

"McDonnell basically said that May was on the hook over the customs union and this was too good an opportunity to miss."

Elsewhere, the Sunday Times details how Cabinet ministers warned Theresa May that pro-European Tory rebels could put her premiership at risk by uniting with Labour over the issue.

John Ashmore

Cabinet ministers 'warn Theresa May rebels could topple government'

13 hours 3 minutes ago
Theresa May at Prime Minister's Questions earlier this week
Theresa May at Prime Minister's Questions earlier this week

Three Cabinet ministers have reportedly warned Theresa May that the Government could fall this year if Tory rebels unite with Labour to block her plans for Brexit.

According to the Sunday Times, Chief Whip Julian Smith told the Prime Minister last week there was a "very real threat" of Conservative MPs lining up with opposition parties to defeat the Government over membership of the customs union. 

Senior ministers have also apparently suggested Mrs May could turn that vote into a confidence issue, effectively daring her own MPs to bring down their own government. 

During talks at Chequers last week, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley is also said to have warned that the Tories cannot rely on the DUP to save the Government if it comes to a close vote.

And Brexit Secretary David Davis said Eurosceptic MPs led by Jacob Rees-Mogg were now "militarised" against any changes to the Government's Brexit position, including accepting a customs union. 

The European Research Group of MPs set out its demands in a letter earlier this week giving "suggestions" to Mrs May over Brexit.

Elsewhere Boris Johnson has reportedly insisted that allowing the UK to diverge from European regulation must be a red line in the upcoming negotiations over the future trading relationship. 

“Boris makes no distinction between the offer and our bottom line. This is what we must get," a source told the Sunday Times.

After a tumultuous start to the year, Mrs May is due to convene a special Cabinet meeting on Thursday, followed by a speech on Friday setting out her Brexit position once more. 

CORBYN SPEECH

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn is due to give a speech tomorrow giving Labour's backing to remain in a customs union after Brexit. 

“The EU is not the root of all our problems, and leaving it will not solve all our problems," he is due to say. 

"Likewise the EU is not the source of all enlightenment, and leaving it does not inevitably spell doom for our country. Brexit is what we make of it together.”

John Ashmore

Archbishop of Canterbury warns of ‘xenophobia and self-pity’ in post-Brexit Britain

13 hours 7 minutes ago
Justin Welby warned Britain was going down a dangerous path of self-interest with Brexit.
Justin Welby warned Britain was going down a dangerous path of self-interest with Brexit.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned the UK could be dominated by “xenophobia and self-pity” after Britain leaves the EU.

Justin Welby, who voted Remain, said the UK is in danger of becoming “a rootless and self-protective society without generosity, arising from a lack of confidence”.

In his book, Reimagining Britain, due to be published this week, he blamed the 2008 crash for the Brexit vote, claiming it had “a profound effect” from which the UK was yet to recover.

“The financial crisis and associated great recession of 2008 had a profound effect on the UK from which it has yet to recover. The psychological effects are even greater," he wrote.

The senior clergyman also warned Brexit was the biggest crisis the nation had faced since World War Two.

“The cracks in our society have begun to show, expressed in hate crime, in the growth of intolerance and above all in inward-turning.

“It will make the next couple of decades or more a period of reimagination on the scale of post-1945 or in the mid-19th century rather than simply an adjustment as in the 1970s and 1980s.

“The task of reimagining is far more complicated than after 1945 and the result will be a process lasting not for a few years but generations.”

He also set out fears that EU officials would make Brexit worse as the bloc had lost its “Christian-drive narrative” and replaced it with “crude materialism”.

“The expansion of the EU has led to a loss of its own, also very often Christian-driven narrative," he claimed. 

“The stories of war have faded as has the sense of escape from the totalitarian regimes of the pre-1989 Soviet bloc.

“The centrality of Franco-German reconciliation has been displaced by an often crude materialism.”

 

Jessica Wilkins

Over 80 Labour politicians urge Jeremy Corbyn to back staying in single market

13 hours 36 minutes ago
Jeremy Corbyn
Labour figures have urged Jeremy Corbyn to commit to membership of the European Economic Area

More than 80 Labour politicians have joined forces to urge Jeremy Corbyn to commit the party to keeping the UK in the single market. 

The group, which includes MPs, peers, councillors and assembly members, says the party must back membership of the European Economic Area "as a minimum". 

With a number of Conservative rebels willing to back staying in the single market and customs union, Britain's economic future is "in the Labour party's hands", they write. 

The signatories to the letter include over 30 MPs, along with former party leader Lord Kinnock, Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson and Bill Morris, the former general secretary of Unite.

“Given the parliamentary arithmetic and the numbers of Parliamentarians from other parties – including Conservative backbenchers – who have indicated they will join us in this endeavour, our country’s continued participation in a Customs Union and the Single Market is now in the Labour party’s hands," they write.  

"For the sake of building a better Britain and safeguarding those our party was founded to protect, we must grab this chance before it is too late.  We will never be forgiven if we fail to do so.”

Jeremy Corbyn has already indicated a subtle shift in his position on the single market - having previously insisted the UK could not be a member outside the EU, earlier this week he said that Britain would not "automatically" take part, suggesting room for manoeuvre.

CUSTOMS UNION

Labour frontbenchers have also indicated a softening of the party's position on a customs union, with Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry saying earlier this week that Labour would seek "a customs union that will look pretty much like the current customs union".

Mr Corbyn is expected to formally back that position in a speech tomorrow.

John Ashmore

Downing Street confident of defeating rebel Tory bid to keep UK in customs union

1 day 13 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May will move to head off rebellion over EU-UK customs

Attempts by pro-European Tory MPs – with Labour support – to keep the UK in the EU customs union will fail, according to No 10 sources.

Sources speaking to the Sun said the Prime Minister will spell out her plans for a post-Brexit customs ‘partnership’ as early as Friday in order to nip the attempt in the bud.

A cross-party amendment to the Trade Bill tabled by rebel MP Anna Soubry calls on the Government to negotiate “a” customs union with the bloc.

Ten to fifteen Tories are thought to back the amendment – enough to defeat the government if they receive support from Labour. 

Defeat would be a major blow to the Theresa May, who has vowed to take the UK out of the customs union after Brexit.

The vote has been pushed back to the spring, and Downing Street sources claimed the Conservitive rebels would come back onside when Mrs May laid out her proposals.

 

John Ashmore

EU chief Donald Tusk slams UK Brexit plans as 'pure illusion'

1 day 13 hours ago
Donald Tusk
Donald Tusk speaks after a summit of the 27 EU leaders yesterday

European Council president Donald Tusk has said that the UK’s approach to Brexit negotiations appears to be based on “pure illusion”.

Speaking at a news conference after an informal meeting of the EU 27 governments in Brussels yesterday, he said media reports of the Cabinet’s Brexit talks at Chequers on Thursday suggested the "cake philosophy is still alive" among the British government.

Members of Theresa May's Brexit 'war Cabinet' had met for eight hours of tense discussions, after which senior sources claimed "divergence has won" – implying a victory for the pro-Brexit MPs.

Mr Tusk reiterated his position: that the UK will not be able to “cherry pick” aspects of its post-Brexit relationship with the European Union.

"From the very start it has been a key principle of the EU27 that there can be no cherry-picking and no single market à la carte.

"This will continue to be a key principle, I have no doubt."

He said: "If the media reports are correct I am afraid that the UK position today is based on pure illusion."

The EU’s draft guidelines on the future relationship would be published in March, he revealed, adding: "Our intention is to adopt these guidelines, whether the UK is ready with its vision of our future relations, or not. Naturally it would be much better if it were. But we cannot stand by and wait."

UK sources told Sky News that Mr Tusk should wait until the government had set out its position before passing judgement.

 

John Ashmore

EHRC briefing - EUW Bill Lords committee stage, day 2

2 days 3 hours ago

This briefing covers amendments relating to the Charter of Fundamental Rights; and EU case law 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has produced a further briefing for Committee Stage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which can be found here.

This updates our previous briefing (focusing on the Charter and EU case law) so that it now includes advice on amendment 63A that relates to how the Charter will work after we leave the EU.

To summarise, in this briefing we recommend supporting the following amendments:

  • 34, 14, 20, 25, 41 and 63A to ensure protections in the Charter are retained.
  • 56 which requires a court or tribunal to have regard to future decisions of the European Court where relevant to the proper interpretation of retained EU law.

The Commission has also published a ‘Supplementary legal note on how the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights works, and would work after Brexit’ to accompany this briefing. This note explains why there is no reason courts should not be able to continue to apply the rights in the Charter to retained EU law, and to actions of UK public bodies which fall within the scope of retained EU law, in the same way as they do at present. To do so will promote legal consistency and certainty, and ensure there is no weakening of human rights protection as we leave the EU.

Anonymous

NFB: EU migrant rethink for the best

2 days 8 hours ago

The National Federation of Builders responds to Theresa May's supposed changed stance on the legal position of EU migrants who arrive in the UK during the transition period. 

The Times newspaper reported that Theresa May has allegedly changed her stance on the legal position of EU migrants who arrive in the UK during the transition period between 31 March 2019 and 31 December 2020.

The prime minister had previously stated that EU migrants should not have the same rights as those coming before 29 March 2019. However, the Times reported that 10 Downing Street is currently considering proposals to make a unilateral promise to EU citizens that they can remain in the UK if they arrive before the end of 2020.

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) would welcome this change of direction, as it will help tackle the existing shortage of skilled construction workers, whilst ensuring the Government has time to build a positive growth environment when the UK leaves the EU.

Red tape, planning costs, and an inefficient procurement process remain major barriers to industry growth. Policies tackling these barriers have either not been fully implemented yet - in the case of the Housing White Paper - or tackled, such as reforming the planning process or stronger action on late payments.

A transitional period without the benefits of migration would put undue pressure on our industries and the Government, who will need time to plan for changes.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said: “Construction SMEs train and retain 66% of apprentices. The increased focus on policies to help them is a step in the right direction for the skills crisis. Our industry needs to foster home-grown talent, as well as talented foreign workers.

“The Government needs to continue addressing growth barriers in the UK industry. In construction, procurement remains an unfair playing field, late payments continue blighting our industry and planning reform is long overdue.”

Anonymous

Brexit divorce bill 'could soar by £5bn' if transition period extends beyond 2020

3 days 7 hours ago
UK and EU flags
The Commons Committee was told that the additional costs of extending the transition period could be up to £5bn.

The UK’s Brexit divorce bill could cost an extra £5bn if the proposed transition period runs beyond 2020, according to the head of an influential group of MPs.

It comes after the UK's draft negotiating guidelines left the door open for the transition period to be extended if it was felt that the necessary arrangements had not been made for the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

The chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, Bill Cash, claimed that the deal struck last December between the UK and EU over payments into the EU budget only lasts until the end of 2020, and if the transition period extends beyond that point, the UK may need to continue making financial contributions.

The veteran eurosceptic was speaking as his committee took evidence this morning from the UK's top Brussels diplomat, Tim Barrow, and Brexit minister Robin Walker.

“If the transition lasts beyond 2020, this could require the UK to make payments into the EU budget for 2021 as well," Sir Bill said.

“From January 2021, we would then be paying into the EU’s long-term budget. The net result of this that the additional costs could run into billions of pounds, and the estimate is between £4-5bn.”

Sir Bill said that the transition period was starting to look “as long as a piece of string” and that the new figures had appeared like something out of “Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected”.

Mr Walker admitted that while details of the implementation period were still being negotiated, the Government had no intention of extending the proposed transition.

He said: “The discussion around the date is a question of converging two positions, which are really quite close to each other, in terms of the overall time being around two years”.

Sir Tim also defended the current position, arguing: “We have always said around two years…as Michel Barnier has said, this is a convergent position, and the end of 2020 falls square between the remit.”

Anonymous

WATCH: Former minister says Tory party discipline has ‘completely broken down’

3 days 9 hours ago
Ed Vaizey
Ed Vaizey appearing on Channel 5's The Wright Stuff

An ex-Tory minister has launched a scathing attack on Theresa May’s premiership by saying discipline within the party has “completely broken down”.

Ed Vaizey savaged the Prime Minister’s ability to lead the party, arguing that “there’s no power anywhere”.

His comments come as Mrs May’s Brexit inner cabinet meet for an away day at Chequers to thrash out a deal on Britain’s future relationship with the EU, where talks are expected to go on late into the evening.

The former minister appeared on Channel 5's The Wright Stuff for the second day running, having yesterday said the "the whole thing about how Brexit is good for trade is obviously complete nonsense".

When asked if he had been "told off" by any of the party's top brass, he told the programme: “No, I mean discipline has completely broken down in the parliamentary party, so no one tells anyone off, because there’s no power anywhere.”

He added: “It’s an atomised parliament."

And when it was suggested to him that Mrs May has a record of slapping down the Chancellor when he makes off-message comments, Mr Vaizey likened him to a “human shield”.

 “It’s a slightly unpleasant analogy to say he’s a human shield, but some people do use that term about Philip Hammond, that he gets all the flak.

 

Nicholas Mairs

Hilary Benn tells David Davis clarity ‘urgently needed' over UK's Brexit demands

3 days 9 hours ago
Hilary Benn has called on the Brexit Secretary to give more clarity on what the UK wants from Brexit.
Hilary Benn has called on the Brexit Secretary to give more clarity on what the UK wants from Brexit.

Hilary Benn has warned David Davis that details are "urgently needed" on what Britain wants to achieve from Brexit.

In a letter to the Brexit Secretary, Mr Benn pleaded for clarity on both the transition period and the “UK’s proposals for that future partnership”.

His warning came as the Brexit's Cabinet sub-committee meets at Chequers in a bid to thrash out the UK's demands.

But Mr Benn warned that negotiations were already entering a critical phase and clear terms should be made public long before the October deadline for the end of the talks.

"It is now clear that events in the next few weeks will have a crucial influence on the shape, and therefore the outcome, of the negotiations that will follow," the letter said.

Mr Benn said he was "concerned" the Government had yet to make its plans on the future relationship with the EU public in a White Paper., as his committee had called for last year.

“I am concerned that this has not yet happened and, given that there appear to be some differences of interpretation between the Government and the EU on how the transitional/implementation period will work in practice, UK businesses need certainty as soon as possible if this period is to serve its purpose.”

The letter ended with Mr Benn warning there was a risk talks on the future relationship “will be delayed” or “the EU’s negotiating guidelines may close off options” if the Government failed to make its position clear.

A draft of the UK’s negotiating position was leaked to Bloomberg News yesterday.

The document showed plans for an indefinite transitional period, despite calls from 62 Eurosceptic Tory MPs for it to be short so the UK could negotiate trade deals “immediately”.

It has also emerged that the Cabinet had not agreed the Government's position on the transition period before the document was released.

One minister told PoliticsHome: "The full Cabinet have never discussed, let alone agreed it."

"You can't keep everyone happy but I don't think the solution is making everyone unhappy."

Jessica Wilkins

Cabinet ministers ‘did not agree’ to Theresa May transition period strategy

3 days 14 hours ago
EU and UK flags
The Government's position has been criticised by Tory Brexiteers

Theresa May has angered Cabinet ministers by signing off on Britain’s negotiating strategy for the transition period after Brexit.

The draft of the UK’s negotiating position frustrated senior eurosceptics after it revealed the transition should be as long as is necessary to put in place arrangements for the future UK-EU relationship.

The leaked document, revealed yesterday morning, suggests the Government is still aiming for a two-year transition period, but it leaves the door open for negotiations to go on longer than December 2020.

The clash comes as Mrs May’s Brexit inner cabinet meet for an away day at Chequers to thrash out a deal on Britain’s future relationship with the EU, where talks are expected to go on late into the evening.

A Government spokesman told the Telegraph that the Brexit Cabinet sub-committee had signed off the transition period stance at a meeting in January, but not the legal text sent to EU nations.

A source added: "Every policy detail was signed off at a meeting of the Brexit Cabinet last month. In addition, the precise legal text was circulated in advance of publication."

However the paper reports today that allies of Liam Fox told them the document was a "draft of a draft" and has not been agreed by the ministers.

Meanwhile a cabinet minister told PoliticsHome."The full cabinet have never discussed, let alone agreed it."

"You can't keep everyone happy but I don't think the solution is making everyone unhappy".

Meanwhile senior Tory eurosceptics are said to find the document "deeply troubling" and have urged the Prime Minister to disown it.

Former cabinet minister, Iain Duncan-Smith told the Telegraph: "I am deeply concerned that a policy document turns out not to be an agreed government position.

“There are genuinely deep concerns about policy areas, particularly around not being able to sign trade deals."

The interventions come after dozens of Tory MPs signed Jacob Rees-Mogg’s letter of hard Brexit demands, including "full regulatory autonomy" from Brussels and an ability to sign trade deals within the transition period.

The prominent backbencher launched a fresh swipe at the latest revelations, saying the draft position represents "Brexit in name only" and is a "perversion of democracy".

"It has been disowned by ministers as not representing government policy. Concern over lost control over migration was a significant issue in the referendum,” he wrote. 

"Whoever compiled this document proposes no changes to it for an indefinite period and would thereby let down millions of voters for whom this was an important issue."

REBELLION THREATS

Elsewhere, The Times reports that ministers are to delay Commons votes on the customs union for up to two months amid fears that they could lead to defeats that threaten Brexit negotiations.

The Prime Minister is said to be facing rebellions from both pro-EU and Brexiteer MPs which could tie her hands on future EU customs arrangements if successful.

Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke are reportedly attempting to keep Britain in the customs union by tabling amendments to the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill, also known as the customs bill or trade bill.

Meanwhile Brexiteers were set to rebel against a clause in the trade bill that would allow ministers to negotiate “a customs union between the UK and the country or territory”.

Nicholas Mairs

Jean-Claude Juncker's 'monster' aide given top Brussels role

3 days 15 hours ago
Martin Selmayr
Jean-Claude Juncker's chief of staff, Martin Selmayr, will take on a top Brussels role at the end of the month

A top aide to Jean-Claude Juncker accused of anti-British leaking has been given the top civil service role at the EU. 

German lawyer Martin Selmayr, known as 'the monster of Berlaymont', is due to become secretary-general of the European Commission at the end of this month. 

He will be responsible for all of the Commission's business, including helping oversee the Brexit negotiations. 

As Mr Juncker's chief of staff, Mr Selmayr has developed a reputation as a fearsome Brussels operator, with a prodigious work ethic. 

However he has also been accused of deliberately undermining the Brexit negotiations by leaking details of meetings between Mr Juncker and Theresa May.

In October he was involved in a Twitter spat with former Downing Street aide Nick Timothy, who had accused him of passing details to a German newspaper.

 

 

 

 

At a press conference yesterday, Mr Juncker acknowledged his right-hand man's divisive reputation, saying: “He has one thing in common with me — we both have enemies. 

“I am sure that Martin Selmayr will be an excellent secretary-general. We need a secretary-general who knows this place and knows Europe so there will be no political rupture.”

John Ashmore

Government risks Brexit backlash with plans for ‘indefinite’ implementation period

4 days 8 hours ago
EU
A document setting out the Government's Brexit negotiating position has reveals plans for an indefinite implementation period

The Government has risked the ire of Tory eurosceptics by proposing an indefinite Brexit implementation period.

A draft of the UK’s negotiating position, obtained by Bloomberg News, reveals that the Government says the transition should be as long as it takes to put in place arrangements for the future UK-EU relationship.

It comes after a group of 62 Tory MPs wrote to Theresa May setting out their demands for the UK’s withdrawal, including “full regulatory autonomy” and the ability to negotiate trade deals “immediately”.

The leaked document suggests the Government is still aiming for a two-year transition period, but it leaves the door open for negotiations to go on longer.

That puts it at odds with the EU, who have specified that the period should be over by the end of 2020, just 21 months after the UK officially leaves the bloc in March 2019.

The draft guidelines state:

 “The UK believes the Period’s duration should be determined simply by how long it will take to prepare and implement the new processes and new systems that will underpin the future partnership.

“The UK agrees this points to a period of around two years, but wishes to discuss with the EU the assessment that supports its proposed end date.”

The document also includes plans to create a joint committee to “supervise the Withdrawal Agreement” and protect “the rights and interest of both parties”.  

A Government source confirmed to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg that the draft proposals did represent a “softening” of the UK’s position on EU migrants settling during the Brexit transition period.

Mrs May had previously said their status would be different after Brexit, but EU officials insisted that citizens’ rights must be maintained during the handover. 

Elizabeth.Bates_30914

Senior ministers 'still deadlocked' on key Brexit issues ahead of Chequers summit

4 days 14 hours ago
Boris Johnson flanked by Philip Hammond and David Davis at the Tory conference last year
Boris Johnson flanked by Philip Hammond and David Davis at the Tory conference last year

Theresa May's senior ministers reportedly remain divided on basic aspects of Brexit ahead of a crunch Cabinet summit.

The Sun reports that ministers have been meeting in small groups of two or three to try to thrash out their differences on issues such as regulatory alignment with Brussels. 

There have been well-publicised disagreements between the likes of Chancellor Philip Hammond and Brexiteers including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove over which rules the UK will sign up to beyond March 2019. 

Tomorrow the Prime Minister will chair a meeting of her so-called Brexit 'war cabinet' at her country residence, Chequers, in a bid to end the deadlock.

“The traditional divides on the committee are still there," a government source told the paper.

“It’s now coming down to the speed at which we diverge which means whether or not to accept new EU rules.

“It looks like the PM will have to finally get off the fence for one side or the other.”

Mrs May is also under pressure from restive Tory eurosceptics, who have signed a letter setting out their own "suggestions" for Brexit, including letting the Government start negotiating its own trade deals "immediately" and giving the UK "full regulatory autonomy" from Brussels.

'A MESS'

Elsewhere the Sun and the Daily Telegraph report claims that Mr Johnson told German officials that Brexit negotiations had become "a mess". 

According to the Telegraph, the Foreign Secretary urged the Germans to see Brexit as an economic opportunity. 

An ally of Mr Johnson dismissed the claims as "nonsense".

John Ashmore

Dozens of Tory Brexiteers send Theresa May negotiating 'suggestions' letter

4 days 15 hours ago
Theresa May speaking in Derby on Monday
Theresa May speaking in Derby on Monday

More than 60 Tory MPs have signed a letter to Theresa May demanding she follows through with a 'hard Brexit' that allows the UK to start negotiating trade deals from next year. 

The influential European Research Group of MPs, chaired by arch eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg, has set out a series of "suggestions" for how the Prime Minister can best negotiate the UK's exit from the EU. 

They include ensuring that Britain has "full regulatory autonomy" from Brussels, that it can begin negotiating trade deals "immediately" and that ministers should be able to set out "alternative terms" to those set out by European negotiators.

The UK must be free to start its own trade negotiations immediately," the letter says.

"The UK should negotiate as an equal partner. Ministers may not want or be able to accept the EU's timing and mandates as fixed, and should be able to set out alternative terms including, for example, building an agreement based on our World Trade Organization membership instead."

Among the 62 signatories are former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, along with former cabinet ministers John Redwood, Owen Paterson and Priti Patel.

The timing of the letter is significant as it comes as Mrs May prepares to meet her so-called Brexit 'war cabinet' at Chequers tomorrow.

It provoked an outcry from pro-European Tories, with Treasury committee chair Nicky Morgan saying: “This isn’t a letter, it is a ransom note. The ERG clearly think they have the prime minister as their hostage.”

Another former Tory minister, Stephen Hammond, told the Times that "any restraint on what the Government does during the transition period must be resisted". 

Shadow Brexit minister Paul Blomfeld said the letter “exposes the deep divisions that run through the heart of this Tory Government".

“On the day David Davis promised the EU that the Government does not want a race to the bottom on standards, the extreme Brexiteers and the European Research Group are calling on Theresa May to do just that," he added.

“It is clearer than ever that Theresa May cannot deliver the Brexit deal Britain needs. She is too weak to face down the fanatics in her own party and to deliver a final deal that protects jobs and the economy.”

Fellow Labour MP Chris Leslie, a supporter of the Open Britain campaign, said the ERG was "brazenly advocating the hardest of hard Brexits".

“With Brextremists on the rampage, people have every right to keep an open mind about whether Brexit is the right choice for our country," he added.

John Ashmore

EHRC launch briefing for Committee stage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill

5 days 3 hours ago

EU (Withdrawal) Bill: A Committee stage Briefing from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s briefing for Committee stage of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, can be found here. This is the first in a series of briefings we will produce for Committee Stage, and focuses on amendments relating to the Charter of Fundamental Rights; and EU case law.

In this briefing we recommend support for:

  • Amendments 34, 14, 20, 25 and 41: The Commission has obtained the opinion of senior counsel, and the advice is that the loss of the Charter will lead to a significant weakening of human rights protection in the UK. The Commission has also produced a supplementary briefing on the practical impact of the loss of the Charter. This can be found here and includes a number of additional examples.
  • Amendment 56:  We argue that this amendment is important to promote legal certainty and to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of equality and human rights law.
Anonymous

Jeremy Corbyn drops biggest hint yet that Labour could back single market membership after Brexit

5 days 6 hours ago
Jeremy Corbyn speaking in London this afternoon
Jeremy Corbyn speaking in London this afternoon

Jeremy Corbyn today left the door open to a change in Labour’s Brexit position by suggesting the UK could yet end up in the single market.

Mr Corbyn also said that Britain has to "have a customs union" with the EU after Brexit.

He has previously ruled out the UK remaining in the trading bloc, saying repeatedly that single market membership is contingent on being in the EU.

Just last month the Labour leader said the idea of staying in the single market was “based on the flawed assumption that the single market is a membership club”.

But speaking this afternoon he signalled a possible change of tack by saying non-EU countries could not “automatically” join the single market - suggesting they can if they wish.

"We have to have access to European markets, we have to have a customs union that makes sure we can continue that trade, particularly between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, that is key to it," he told an audience at the EEF manufacturing conference in London.

"Being a member of the single market is automatic if you’re in the EU, if you’re not in the EU you’re not automatically a member of it.

Labour MP Wes Streeting welcomed Mr Corbyn’s apparent change of heart and urged him to change his party’s policy on Brexit.

Fellow Labour MP Ian Murray, a supporter of the Open Britain campaign group, added: “Any shift in Jeremy Corbyn’s position towards resisting the Government’s plans for a hard and reckless Brexit is welcome. But we need and deserve clarity.

“It’s becoming clearer by the day that the least worst option in leaving the EU is the single market and customs union and Jeremy Corbyn needs to take that option as soon as possible”.

 

PEACE PROCESS

Yesterday the leader of  the SDLP, Labour's sister party in Northern Ireland, called on Mr Corbyn to support the UK staying a full member of the single market and customs union.

In a letter to the Labour leader, Colum Eastwood that a hard Brexit has the “potential to dismantle the architecture” of the peace process in the province.

Mr Corbyn was speaking after delivering a speech in which he vowed that a Labour government would make the City of London "the servant of industry, not the masters of all".

He said: "There can be no rebalancing of our distorted, sluggish and unequal economy without taking on the power of finance.

"For 40 years, deregulated finance has progressively become more powerful.

"Its dominance over industry, obvious and destructive; its control of politics, pernicious and undemocratic."

John Ashmore

One year on – how to solve a problem like Euratom

5 days 6 hours ago
The nuclear facility at Dounreay in Scotland

Nuclear Industry Association Chief Executive Tom Greatrex responds to a recent article by Labour peer Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on the subject of Euratom, which currently facilitates the free and frictionless trade of nuclear goods, services and people across the EU.

Just over a year ago, by dint of an explanatory note to a short Parliamentary Bill, almost by accident the government decided it was going to cease to be a member of Euratom in parallel to leaving the European Union.

While, at the time, few outside of civil nuclear and medical bodies had even heard of Euratom, and some of those then dominating decision making inside the government clearly didn’t understand its scope and the consequences of leaving.

One year on, the country is now in the process of seeking to hastily replicate everything we currently have as members of Euratom. While late March 2019 may be the leave date, it is simply not possible to have everything negotiated, ratified and enacted to replicate Euratom arrangements in that time.

Separate from the European Union Treaties, Euratom facilitates the free and frictionless trade of nuclear goods, services and people (including medical radioisotopes), safeguards nuclear material to ensure it is being used for civil purposes in line with our non-proliferation responsibilities,  co-ordinates funding for world leading nuclear fusion research (much of which takes place in Culham in Oxfordshire) and holds vital nuclear co-operation agreements between Euratom states and third countries.

As Lord Philip Hunt of Kings Heath pointed out in his recent PoliticsHome article, government policy is to “stick to the same [Euratom] standards” and the challenge to do so in such a short space of time was clearly laid out in the NIA’s ‘Exiting Euratom’ paper published back in May 2017. Giving evidence to a series of select committees over recent months, I have sat alongside the independent regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, where they have confirmed that meeting Euratom standards on day one is just not possible.

It will take a significant amount of time and effort to replicate Euratom arrangements and Lord Hunt’s amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill seeks to protect the industry by ensuring government, at the very least, “maintain[s] equivalent participatory relations with Euratom”.

If the government want to meet their policy objective of replication, then the mammoth effort of securing and implementing agreements with the IAEA (the UN body overseeing international safeguards), the EU, Euratom, the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and many others, is going to take time to get done. That is why minds in Whitehall and on the Eurostar commute to Brussels need to be focussed on securing and confirming a suitable transition period to ensure normal business can continue in the meantime, and Ministers need to accept that the replication of more than 40 years of technical collaboration is not a straightforward exercise that can be unilaterally accelerated.

Viewed from afar it might seem odd to leave a Treaty which is separate from the EU because of a largely theoretical concern over ECJ competence; odder still to then seek to replicate everything we currently have as members of that Treaty with the time, effort and complexity that involves rather than seeking a form of continued membership; and oddest of all to continue to pretend it can all be achieved in an unrealistic and wholly artificial timeframe without some pragmatism and flexibility.

Last month, because of concerns expressed by Members of Parliament, the government conceded that they would publish progress reports on Euratom. The first of these hinted towards a more sensible, measured and pragmatic approach as complex new arrangements need to be implemented - it is more of that and less of the hyperbole that is now required to get the job done. 

Anonymous

Antoinette Sandbach: The Norway option could offer Britain the best of both worlds

5 days 9 hours ago
Antoinette Sandbach has a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday morning
Antoinette Sandbach has a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday morning

If Britain crashes out of the European Union without a deal in place, there is only one realistic option. We must rejoin EFTA – and ensure a soft landing, writes Antoinette Sandbach

In order to secure the best possible Brexit, it is vital that MPs analyse and assess all available options. That is why I am leading a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday morning focusing on the alternatives to a ‘No Deal’ outcome in our negotiations with the EU.

Lyndon Johnson claimed that the first rule of politics is knowing how to count. I hope that this debate will demonstrate to ministers that the number of MPs who think that no deal should result in a soft landing far exceeds those colleagues who hanker for the hardest Brexit possible.

Over the last few weeks we have seen quite how damaging a ‘No Deal’ Brexit could be. Treasury estimates have shown that WTO terms would reduce GDP by 8% over 15 years. The impact would be most strongly felt in the Midlands, the North and the devolved nations. The consequence for my own constituency would be dramatic; the North West is projected to take a 12% hit. What is more some of my area’s key industries – chemical, automotive and pharmaceutical – are all at risk.

So, what are the other options?

The first alternative to WTO terms is the successful delivery of a “deep and special partnership” as the government has promised. I support this goal. I hope that the government ensures that the services industries are included in this deal; as to not do so would damage some of our most globally competitive sectors. 

The second alternative is perhaps as politically dangerous as WTO terms are economically disastrous. There are some who advocate that we should just stay in the EU. This is unrealistic. It defies the will of the people and would cause a compound fracture in the body politic. 

The third option is by far and away the best alternative to a No Deal exit, the so-called ‘Norway option’. By re-joining EFTA we would ensure a soft landing should we ‘crash out’ without a deal. Instead of facing WTO terms we would have a range of trade deals with 27 countries, as well as access to the EEA, guaranteeing our continuing economic relationship with Europe. 

If learning to count is the first rule of politics, it is also good economic practice. WTO terms would see a 40-60% drop in trade with the EU whereas EFTA would see a comparatively small dip of 12%, securing thousands of jobs that would otherwise be lost. It would also protect our financial services sector and the £10bn of tax revenue that it generates. 

It’s not hard to see why even staunch Leavers like Nigel Farage, Daniel Hannan and Sir Bill Cash have, at one time or another, talked up an EFTA style arrangement.

Some say that the only way to respect the result is to default to WTO terms and pull up the drawbridge. I disagree. EFTA would allow us to protect our prosperity and respect the outcome of the referendum. EFTA would see us outside of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy. It would protect us from ‘ever closer union’ as well as any threat of joining the euro. What is more, under certain circumstances EFTA allows an emergency brake on immigration. 

No doubt there will be a range of views on Wednesday, but I hope colleagues from all sides of the House will turn up and demonstrate to the government that there is a substantial and popular middle ground between the unrealistic few who want to remain in the EU, and the economic peril of no deal hardliners.  

 

Antoinette Sandbach is Conservative MP for Eddisbury. MPs will debate ‘Alternatives to a no-deal outcome’ in Westminster Hall on Wednesday 21 February 

Sebastian Whale
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47