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Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes wins appeal against £20,000 Electoral Commission fine

2 hours 53 minutes ago
Darren Grimes
Mr Grimes said he was "delighted and relieved" by the verdict.

Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes has won his appeal against a £20,000 fine handed down by the Electoral Commission.

Mr Grimes was hit with the five-figure fine in 2018 after the elections watchdog said it had found "significant evidence" that the official Vote Leave Brexit campaign had failed to properly declare its links with his youth-focused BeLeave group.

But Mr Grimes appealed against the fine at the Mayor's and City of London Court, accusing the watchdog of "errors of fact, the law and unreasonableness".

In a statement, Mr Grimes said he was "delighted and relieved that the Court has found me innocent".

He added: "This case has taken a huge toll on myself and my family, and I'm thankful it's now over. I will be eternally grateful to all those people who have supported me - your generosity and kind words of encouragement have kept me going.

"The Electoral Commission's case was based on an incorrectly ticked box on an application form - something that it had been aware of for over two years and had not been raised in two previous investigations.

"Yet the Commission still saw fit to issue an excessive fine and to spend almost half a million in taxpayer cash pursuing me through the courts. This raises serious questions about its conduct both during and after the referendum."

The case against Mr Grimes had focused on a £680,000 donation from Vote Leave to BeLeave in the final weeks of the EU referendum.

The Commission found that this had been used under a "common plan" between the two groups to spend money on digital ads from Canadian firm Aggregate IQ - a move that meant Vote Leave broke the £7million legal spending cap imposed on campaigns.

Under electoral law, groups are allowed to transfer money but cannot direct each other on how to spend it.

In statement following the verdict, the watchdog said: “We are disappointed that the court has upheld Mr Grimes’ appeal.

“We will now review the full detail of the judgement before deciding on next steps, including any appeal.”

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Sajid Javid praises Nigel Farage for quitting Ukip as he says Brexit Party 'not extremists'

7 hours 42 minutes ago
Nigel Farage
The former Ukip leader quit the party late last year.

Sajid Javid has praised Nigel Farage for quitting Ukip and dismissed suggestions his new Brexit Party is made up of "extremists".

In a speech in London, the Home Secretary said "populism and even open racism" had "catapulted extremists to power" around the world in recent years.

But he argued that a similar trend had not happened in the UK, as he defended Mr Farage's new outfit despite the Brexit Party he now leads not making "life any easier" for the Tories.

The Cabinet minister said: "Ukip have floundered since they moved further right, with their leader being advised by EDL founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, a man that is now behind bars.

"That decision sparked a wave of resignations and their support has collapsed.

"And we must give credit where credit's due. So I applaud Nigel Farage for walking away, branding Ukip thugs and extremists.

"And even though his Brexit Party has not made my life any easier, I want to be clear: they are not extremists.

"Because it doesn't help to exaggerate the problem, to demonise anyone with a different view and to see danger when it is not there."

Mr Farage quit Ukip late last year after a 25-year-long stint in the party, including three spells as leader.

He blamed his exit on the decision to appoint Mr Yaxley-Lennon - known as Tommy Robinson - as an adviser to the party, and hit out at the "fixation" of Ukip's then-leader Gerrard Batten with anti-Islam policies.

Mr Javid's intervention comes after the Brexit Party surged to the top of the polls in May's European elections.

The party swept up 31.6% of the vote, bagging 29 MEPs, while the Conservatives slumped to fifth place behind the Greens with just 9.1% of the vote.

TRUMP ROW

Elsewhere in his speech, Mr Javid hit out at Donald Trump amid an ongoing row over tweets telling four ethnic minority congresswomen to "go back" to their "broken and crime infested" countries rather than criticise America.

The Home Secretary said: "I’m from an immigrant family, I know what it’s like to be told to go back to where I came from. We must confront the myths about immigration that extremists use to drive divisions.

"We know the scale is exaggerated to stoke up fear and that they use immigration as a proxy for race.

"Anyone can challenge the myths peddled by extremists that deepen divisions. So tell your friends, shout it loud and proud: people from minority backgrounds did not steal our jobs, they’re not terrorists, that there is no global ‘Zionist conspiracy’."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Philip Hammond hints he may vote to bring down a Boris Johnson government as he blasts 'noisy' Brexiteers

8 hours 52 minutes ago
Philip Hammond and Boris Johnson
Philip Hammond has suggested he could vote against Boris Johnson's government in a vote of no-confidence.

Philip Hammond has suggested he could back a vote to bring down a Boris Johnson goverment as he accused "noisy" Brexiteers of attempting to frustrate the negotiations.

The Chancellor said he would not “exclude” the possibility of backing a motion of no-confidence in the likely new Prime Minister if he attempted to force a no-deal through Parliament.

In a scathing interview with the Le Monde and Suddeutsche Zeitung newspapers, Mr Hammond vowed to do “everything in his power” to stop a Brexit outcome that failed to secure “explicit parliamentary approval”.

 “There should be a new and sincere attempt to reach a consensus”, he said. “If we do not find a solution with the members, we may have to ask the British to give their opinion again in one form or another.”

On Thursday Mr Hammond rebelled against his party by abstaining on a vote by MPs to block Boris Johnson from suspending Parliament in order to force through a no-deal exit on October 31.

Asked if he would consider lending his support to a motion of no confidence in Mr Johnson if and when he gets into power, the veteran Cabinet minister told the papers: “I do not exclude anything for the moment.”

The frontrunner to replace Theresa May has repeatedly refused to rule-out proroguing Parliament to make sure we exit the EU ahead of the Hallowe’en deadline, but Mr Hammond hit out at such a suggestion.

“In practice, extending the deadline is absolutely necessary,” he said. “Between the summer break, the arrival of the new commission and the change of the British government, it is simply impossible to negotiate anything before October 31.

“If the next government is sincere in its desire to reach an agreement with Europe, it must try to get more time. If it does not, the British Parliament will insist on getting a new postponement.

“I will remain a member of the House of Commons. I will do everything in my power from my position to make sure that parliament blocks a Brexit without agreement.”

And in a blast at Brexiteers within his own party, the senior cabinet minister accused “deliberately noisy, rude and inconsiderate” MPs of attempting to frustrate negotiations.

“Some are trying to make the Europeans so tired that they ask us to leave,” he said. “But please, do not listen to the few noise-makers.”

John Johnston

No-deal Brexit 'a foolhardy gamble that poses fundamental risk to economy', say MPs

13 hours 48 minutes ago
EU and UK flags
A no-deal Brexit would pose a 'fundamental risk' to the economy, say MPs.

A no-deal Brexit would pose a "fundamental risk" to the UK economy, harm the competitiveness of key industries and put thousands of jobs at risk, according to senior MPs.

In a damning report, the cross-party Brexit Committee said leaving the EU without a deal would be "at best a foolhardy gamble and at worst lead to severe disruption" across the country.

Boris Johnson - who is expected to be confirmed as the new Prime Minister next week - - has pledged to deliver Brexit "do or die" on 31 October.

But the committee report says: "Some have argued that a no deal exit would bring the EU 'back to the table' and that the UK would secure a better deal as a result.

"This is, at best, a gamble. At worst, it could lead to severe disruption of the economy, pose a fundamental risk to the competitiveness of key sectors of the UK economy, and put many jobs and
livelihoods at risk."

In particular, the report says that the north east of England and the West Midlands would be the areas of the UK most badly affected by no-deal, with the chemical, retail, food and drink and manufacturing sectors the hardest parts of the economy.

The report also dismisses Mr Johnson's suggestion that the UK could maintain tariff-free trade with the EU even after no-deal through the World Trade Organisation's so-called "GATT 24" rules.

"It requires an agreement between the two parties, a plan as to how the end state will be reached, and for this agreement to be notified to all parties to the WTO," the report says. "By definition, leaving without a deal means there is no agreement."

Labour MP Hilary Benn, who is the committee's chair, said: "We heard from representatives of important sectors of the UK economy which are all great British success stories. Every single one warned us of the damaging consequences faced by their members in the event of a no-deal Brexit. 

"Yesterday’s latest forecast from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility that a no-deal Brexit could cause a £30bn hit tothe public finances, with an economy pushed into recession and asset prices and the pound falling sharply, will only add to the deep concerns of UK businesses.

"A no-deal Brexit, with no GATT XXIV agreement, would be at best a foolhardy gamble and at worst, lead to severe disruption, and it is neither desirable nor sustainable as an end state for our economic relations with the EU.

"This clear evidence reinforces our previous conclusion that a ‘managed no deal’ cannot constitute the policy of any responsible Government."

Kevin Schofield

Theresa May refuses to sack Cabinet rebels despite humiliating Brexit defeat

1 day 4 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May is refusing to sack the Cabinet rebels who defied the three-line-whip on the vote

Theresa May has refused to sack the rebels in her Cabinet after four senior ministers refused to vote with the Government against a bid to block a no-deal Brexit.

Philip Hammond, Rory Stewart, David Gauke and Greg Clark all broke a three-line Tory whip by abstaining an amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill.

The amendment, which is aimed at preventing Boris Johnson from suspending Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit if he becomes Prime Minister - was passed by 315 votes to 274.

Mr Hammond explained his decision on Twitter, writing: “The Conservative Party has always, at its core, had a fundamental belief in the importance of strong institutions – and in a representative democracy there can be no more vital institution than it’s Parliament.

“It should not be controversial to believe that Parliament be allowed to sit, and have a say, during a key period in our country’s history.”

And Mr Clark told BBC News: "I couldn't support the idea that we would allow the doors of Parliament to be locked against MPs at this crucially important time.

“I think that would be a constitutional outrage, and we should not participate in that.”

But despite the mass rebellion, a spokesman for Mrs May confirmed that she would not be taking any disciplinary action.

He said: "The Prime Minister is obviously disappointed that a number of Ministers failed to vote in this afternoon’s division.

"No doubt her successor will take this into account when forming their government."

In a further sign of Mrs May's waning authority as she prepares to quit as Prime Minister, a total of 17 Tory MPs voted against the Government.

They included Margot James, who immediately quit as culture minister, saying: “Over the course of the last few months I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable about the way the rhetoric is developing on Brexit.”

She told BBC’s Newsnight although her constituents in Stourbridge strongly backed Leave, she has “become more and more worried” about a no-deal Brexit, and: “The fact that Boris Johnson…is not ruling out proroguing parliament, I felt that this time that rather than just abstain I would vote for the amendments that will make it more difficult.”

In a major embarrassment, Tory leadership contender Jeremy Hunt also failed to vote after mistakenly thinking he had been given permission not to take part.

He tweeted: "Missed votes today because I thought I was slipped and it turns out I was not.

"Apologies to my colleagues and Whips Office. My position is that parliament should NOT restrict the hands of an incoming govt in this way and I remain opposed to how Parliament voted."

The change to the legislation would mean a minister would have to appear in the Commons every two weeks to discuss progress on breaking the deadlock at Stormont, which has not sat for more than two years.

This would prevent the new man in Downing Street from suspending - or proroguing - Parliament in the run up to the 31 October deadline.

Alain.Tolhurst_162914

MPs back bid to stop Boris Johnson suspending Parliament to deliver Brexit

1 day 6 hours ago
EU and UK flags
Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out prorogation.

MPs have backed a fresh attempt to stop Boris Johnson from suspending Parliament to deliver Brexit if he becomes Prime Minister.

The clear frontrunner to succeed Theresa May in 10 Downing Street is contemplating so-called "prorogation" to make sure the UK leaves the European Union on 31 October.

But following a major rebellion by Tory MPs, the Commons voted 315 to 274 in favour of an amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill which all-but rules that out as a possibility.

A total of 17 Conservative MPs voted in favour of the amendment, while at least four Cabinet ministers who are opposed to a no-deal Brexit were among those who broke the whip by abstaining.

But confirming they will not be sacked, a Downing Street spokesman sais: "The Prime Minister is obviously disappointed that a number of Ministers failed to vote in this afternoon’s division. No doubt her successor will take this into account when forming their government."

Meanwhile, culture minister Margot James has resigned after voting in favour of the amendment.

The result means ministers will be forced to return to Parliament throughout October to give regular updates on the progress being made in talks to restore power-sharing at Stormont, which has not sat for more than two years.

It came after peers passed a similar amendment in the House of Lords on Wednesday.

Mr Johnson - the runaway favourite to be named the new Conservative leader next Tuesday - has repeatedly refused to rule out suspending Parliament in order to guarantee Brexit by Hallowe'en.

Earlier this week, it emerged that his campaign team are considering tabling a Queen's Speech for the start of November.

That would allow him to prorogue Parliament in the middle of October, thereby ensuring the UK leaves at the end of the month - even if a majority of MPs are opposed to it.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister condemned the changes to the Northern Ireland Bill.

"We have been clear that the purpose of this bill is to ensure the continuation of vital public services and effective governance for the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

"Our view is that forcing a report and debate every two weeks on the progress of the those talks risks being counter-productive to this over-arching aim."

Northern Ireland minister John Penrose told the Commons that the amendment risks being seen by voters as "a stitch-up, a clever piece of procedure that pretends to care about democracy, but in reality is trying to prevent a decisions that has already been taken from ever happening at all".

Labour MP Hilary Benn, who put forward the original amendment, told the House: “The amendment would ensure that the House is sitting at a crucial time for our country, which I believe the country would expect and I don’t think that we could accept circumstances, if I may coin the phrase, in which we were sent missing in action.”

Former Foreign Office minister, Alistair Burt said: "If we felt under the weight of any pressure up to now, I venture to suggest to the House that it will be of nothing in the days leading up to October 31 if it’s not clear where the country is going, either because a deal has been agreed or because the consequences of no-deal have not been sufficiently spelt out so that everybody has been able to take a view."

Ex-Education Secretary, Justine Greening added: "If it doesn’t [pass] I really do feel that we will have crossed a rubicon inadvertently...

"That rubicon will be that when a government runs up against an issue and worries that the elected House of MPs may decide to stand up against it, then it can just close it down and that’s not in Britain’s DNA as a democracy."

Meanwhile Tory MP, Fiona Bruce, who opposed the amendment, hit out at last week's separate move to use the legislation to change abortion laws in the province.

She said: “The way in which this bill has been handled has been unconstitutional, undemocratic, legally incoherent and utterly disrespectful to the people of Northern Ireland…

“Let [the people of Northern Ireland] decide on such sensitive issues. We talk here of not being colonial, but what is this? Is this what new colonialism looks like?”

The DUP's Nigel Dodds continued: “When it comes to Northern Ireland debates it seems the chamber fills up and people only take an interest when it serves their purposes for other reasons.

"Sadly that is the case, I would like to see as many people take an interest in Northern Ireland affairs when we’re debating other issues of real effect and practical impact on the constituents that we represent here.”

Kevin Schofield

UK set to enter recession under no-deal Brexit, warns government spending watchdog

1 day 9 hours ago
UK and EU flags
The UK could be plunged into a recession under a no-deal Brexit

Britain’s economy will fall into recession and leave a £30bn black hole in the country’s finances if there is a no-deal Brexit, according to the Government’s spending watchdog.

The Office for Budget Responsibility warned that the UK’s economy could shrink by 2% by the end of 2020 – 4% below the group’s March forecast – if the next Prime Minister fails to reach an agreement with Brussels.

Tory leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have both insisted they are prepared to deliver a no-deal Brexit.

But the OBR’s latest fiscal risks report, published on Thirsday morning, said such a scenario would be bad for the economy.

It said: “Heightened uncertainty and declining confidence deter investment, while higher trade barriers with the EU weigh on exports.

“Together, these push the economy into recession, with asset prices and the pound falling sharply.”

The body found that leaving without a deal would add £30bn a year to government borrowing from 2020-21 onwards and increase net debt by 12% of GDP by 2023-24.

OBR chairman Robert Chote said: "The big picture is that heightened uncertainty and declining confidence deter investment.

"Higher trade barriers with the EU weigh on domestic and foreign demand, while the pound and other asset prices fall sharply.

"These factors combine to push the economy into recession. The economy and asset prices then recover somewhat over time."

Responding to the report, Chancellor Philip Hammond said: “The report the OBR have published this morning shows that even in the most benign version of a no-deal exit, there would be a very significant hit to the UK economy, a very significant reduction in tax revenues and a big increase in our national debt – a recession caused by a no-deal Brexit.

“But that most benign version is not the version being talked about by prominent Brexiteers. They are talking about a much harder version which could cause much more disruption to our economy, and the OBR is clear that in that less benign version of no-deal the hit would be much greater, the impact would be much harder, the recession would be bigger, so I greatly fear the impact on our economy and our public finances of the kind of no-deal Brexit that is realistically being discussed now."

Labour MP and campaigner for a People’s Vote, Rachel Reeves, said: “There is no mandate for No Deal. No Deal has never been put to the people in any shape or form.

“Yet an elite in Westminster now want to force it on us, despite all the costs and damage. They are even prepared to suspend Parliament, something not tried since the reign of Charles I, to ram this outrage through.

“However many votes Boris Johnson wins from the 0.25% of the population who are members of the Conservative Party, any plans he has for No Deal have no legitimacy and must be stopped. 

Jo Stevens, her colleague and a campaigner from the pro-EU Best for Britain group, said: “You can't have Brexit and an end to austerity. It's clear that no-deal would devastate our public finances.

“The Government keep telling us there's no money left yet we're still spending huge sums of money preparing for a no-deal cliff-edge.

“It's clear we must stop Brexit so that we can properly fund our NHS, schools and police forces."

Nicholas Mairs

British negotiators ran around 'like idiots' during Brexit talks, claims EU chief

1 day 13 hours ago
Frans Timmermans
Frans Timmermans blasted David Davis for his "grandstanding" over Brexit

British ministers were "running around like idiots" at the start of the Brexit negotiations, top EU official Frans Timmermans has claimed.

In a scathing attack on the UK's negotiating team, the EU Commission's first Vice President compared former Brexit Secretary David Davis to bumbling Dad's Army character Lance Corporal Jones.

Speaking to the BBC's Panorama programme, set to be aired on Thursday, the top EU boss said he had expected a "Harry Potter-like book of tricks" from ministers, but was left "shocked" by their approach.

He said: "We thought they are so brilliant. That in a vault somewhere in Westminster there will be a Harry Potter-like book with all the tricks and all the things in it to do."

But the senior EU official said he changed his mind after seeing "grandstanding" Brexit Secretary David Davis.

"I saw him not coming [to Brussels], not negotiating, grandstanding elsewhere and I thought, 'oh my God, they haven't got a plan, they haven't got a plan," he said.

Mr Timmermans added: "That was really shocking frankly because the damage if you don't have a plan - you know, we see it - time's running out and you don't have a plan, it's like Lance Corporal Jones, you know, 'Don't panic, don't panic!' Running around like idiots."

Elsewhere in the interview, Mr Timmermans accused Tory leadership favourite Boris Johnson of "playing games" during the Brexit negotiations.

"It's about time we became a bit harsh, because I am not sure he was being genuine," Mr Timmermans said.

"I always had the impression he was playing games."

Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have vowed to renegotiate a fresh agreement with Brussels ahead of the 31 deadline if they become Prime Minister.

Speaking at a leadership hustings on Tuesday, both contenders commited to dumping the controversial Irish backstop proposals, aimed at ensuring there remains an open border with Ireland after Brexit.

"It needs to come out," Mr Johnson said. "No time limits or unilateral escape hatches or all those kind of elaborate devices, glosses, codicils and so on that you could apply to the backstop."

Mr Hunt added: "The backstop as it is, is dead, so I agree with Boris - I don't think tweaking with a time limit to do the trick, we've got to find a new way."

John Johnston

Theresa May warns her successor they must 'compromise' to avoid a no-deal Brexit

2 days 2 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May has said the next PM must compromise to get Brexit done.

Theresa May has warned her successor in Number 10 that they will have to "compromise" on their Brexit position if they want to avoid a no-deal departure.

The outgoing Prime Minister said "whatever path we take must be sustainable for the long-term", an apparent rejection of leaving without a deal.

Boris Johnson has insisted that the UK must leave "do or die" on 31 October, while both he and Jeremy Hunt have insisted the Irish backstop must be ditched for any deal to be done - a move ruled out by Brussels.

In her last major speech before she leaves Number 10 next Wednesday, Mrs May hit out at those who take "absolutist" positions as she bemoaned the polarisation of politics around the world.

The Prime Minister said she had "no bigger regret" than her failure to persuade the Commons to back her Brexit deal.

"But whatever path we take must be sustainable for the long-term – so that delivering Brexit brings our country back together," she said.

"That has to mean some kind of compromise. Some argue I should have taken the United Kingdom out of the European Union with no deal on 29 March. Some wanted a purer version of Brexit. Others to find a way of stopping it altogether.

"But most people across our country had a preference for getting it done with a deal. And I believe the strength of the deal I negotiated was that it delivered on the vote of the referendum to leave the European Union, while also responding to the concerns of those who had voted to remain.

"The problem was that when it came time for Parliament to ratify the deal, our politics retreated back into its binary pre-referendum positions – a winner takes all approach to leaving or remaining.

"And when opinions have become polarised – and driven by ideology - it becomes incredibly hard for a compromise to become a rallying point."

The Prime Minister also made clear her frustration that even promising to quit her job had not been enough to get Brexit over the line.

"I was told if I stand down, the votes would come," she said. "They didn’t come. That’s politics."

Kevin Schofield

Nick Clegg says Tories' Brexit stance has left ‘the clock ticking’ towards break-up of UK

2 days 4 hours ago
Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg was deputy prime minister between 2010-2015

The Conservative Party's hardline Brexit stance has meant the “clock is ticking” towards the break-up of the UK, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said.

The ex-Liberal Democrat leader said “aggressive and regressive” English nationalism had taken over the Tories as they are forced to compete with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.

When asked how he expected the next few years to unfold, Mr Clegg told the New Statesman: “It seems to me that the clock is now ticking for the end of the union of the United Kingdom.”

“I am afraid I’ve sort of come to the view I think that is now more likely than not. I think the Brexit demon has unleashed such an aggressive and regressive right-wing English nationalism.

“And that the Conservative Party is converting itself into an English nationalist party.

“It has so little representation in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and they have to compete with Farage.

“So I think the Conservative Party is condemned – whoever is leader – to be pulled in an ever more English and divisive direction.”

Mr Clegg also hit out at Tory leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson by branding him “one of those classic examples, the more you see of him, the less impressive he is". 

He added: "With familiarity, he diminishes.”

The former MP, who is now Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs and Communications, predicted that Mr Johnson would end up calling a snap election in a bid to prove his popularity, were he become PM.

“He’s going to really scratch away at that itch because that’s all he has got," he continued.

"I mean he’s literally reduced to saying I’ve got no plan for Brexit – ‘I have no answers to the questions about my character’.

“You know as I do that [Mr Johnson’s] journalism is about striking poses; that’s the whole point about it.

“That’s what columnists do – they’re trying to provoke thought. But that is not what government is about.

“Instead, you are trying to play Solomon on a whole bunch of really invidious choices where you will never keep everyone happy, where there’s no perfect solution.”

Elsewhere, Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems had “a real opportunity to hold the balance of power again”, after they finished ahead of the Tories and Labour at May's EU elections with their anti-Brexit stance.

It comes four years after they lost dozens of seats in a backlash over their role in the coalition government.

He added that Jo Swinson and Ed Davey, the two candidates running to succeed Sir Vince Cable as the next leader “will give some real energy” to the party.

“In the grand scheme of things for such an old political party, it’s only four years and we’re back in business and I think that’s very exciting,” he added.

Nicholas Mairs

Downing Street slaps down Philip Hammond over claim no-deal Brexit would cost the UK £90bn

2 days 5 hours ago
Theresa May Philip Hammond
Downing Street has slapped down Mr Hammond's £90bn assessment

Downing Street has hit back at Philip Hammond over his claim that a no-deal Brexit would cost the UK £90bn.

A spokesman for Theresa May said the Chancellor was “making a particular argument of his own” as part of the Tory leadership race.

It followed Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay accusing Mr Hammond of quoting “selectively” from Treasury figures to bolster his arguments against a no-deal Brexit.

Mrs May’s spokesman said: “The Chancellor has on a number of occasions pointed to some research from last year which was modelling Chequers-type agreements against a no-deal scenario. 

“They were published by the Government, but they are a specific comparison between the Chequers-type model of a future partnership, not a comment on no-deal in general.”

He added: “The Chancellor has obviously, over a number of weeks now, been making a particular argument of his own in relation to the Conservative Party’s leadership contest.”

Mr Hammond quoted the figure after Conservative leadership rivals Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson laid out a series of spending pledges in their bid to become the next PM.

Both candidates have also admitted they are willing to take Britain out of the EU, with or without a deal, on the 31 October deadline.

Speaking critically of their plans to spend the £25bn “headroom” stored up by the Treasury, the Chancellor said: “I have no doubt whatsoever that in a no-deal exit we will need all of that money and more to respond to the immediate impacts of the disruption of a no-deal exit.

“And that will mean that there is no money available for longer-term either tax cuts or spending increases.

“But let me go further. The Government's analysis suggests that in a disruptive no-deal exit there will be a hit to the exchequer of about £90bn.

“That will also have to be factored in to future spending and tax decisions.”

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, giving evidence to the Exiting the European Union Committee, told MPs that Mr Hammond’s calculations were "selectively picked out" of Treasury reports.

He said: “Firstly that’s a prediction for 2035, and I’m sure the Chancellor himself would say that it is very difficult for any finance ministry with certainty to predict 15 years after the implementation period.

“Secondly that figure assumes no government intervention…”

He added: “As a former treasury minister all assessments from the Treasury are collectively signed off as a government assessment.

“But I am also, so that one doesn’t selectively pick out from those reports, putting them in context and it is in reference to 2035, and it is in reference to no intervention from government in event of no deal.”

A source close to the Chancellor however hit out at the pile-on, claiming the £90bn was from a cross-government analysis.

They said: "Colleagues in Government must have short term memories as the £90bn is from the cross government economic analysis published by DEXEU.

"Economists across government fed into it – indeed Stephen Barclay presented it to the House of Commons. No10 and other departments signed it off so officially it’s the ‘government’s view’ not just the Chancellor’s.

"They had every opportunity to take out if they disputed it so much…"

'TERRIFYING'

Meanwhile, Mr Hammond branded the views of Mr Johnson ally Jacob Rees Mogg, as "terrifying" as the Tory backbencher argued that no-deal Brexit could boost the economy by £80bn.

The Brexiteer referred to Mr Hammond’s “negative” no-deal forecast as “pure silliness” in an column for the Daily Telegraph.

But Mr Hammond fired back on Twitter: “Happy to debate scale of negative impact of No Deal on the economy - but terrifying that someone this close to a potential future government can think we’d actually be better off by adding barriers to access to our largest market.”

Anahita.Hossein-Pour_159579

Peers back bid to stop Boris Johnson suspending Parliament to deliver Brexit

2 days 5 hours ago
A debate in the House of Lords
The Lords backed plans to make ministers produce regular reports on the situation in Northern Ireland ahead of the crucial Brexit deadline.

Peers have backed an attempt to prevent the next Prime Minister from shutting down Parliament in order to force a no-deal Brexit.

They voted 272 to 169 in favour of an amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill which its supporters claim will prevent Parliament being prorogued in the run-up to 31 October.

The move sets up a major Commons showdown when the legislation is debated again by MPs on Thursday.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve, a staunch opponent of a no-deal Brexit, launched a similar bid last week.

Elements of the senior Tory's plan were trimmed back by MPs, but a key amendment scraped through by a single vote and requires ministers to produce regular reports in the run up to the Brexit deadline on attempts to get the Stormont executive back up and running.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out proroguing Parliament to try and ensure Britain leaves the EU on Hallowe'en, and it was reported this week that his team is considering holding his first Queen's Speech in early November to keep Parliament closed in the preceding two weeks.

But the move to make it harder to shut down has now been endorsed by peers, meaning it will go back to the Commons for a fresh showdown.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Amber Rudd warns Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt their Brexit plans will 'collide with reality'

2 days 13 hours ago
Amber Rudd
The Work and Pensions Secretary is backing Jeremy Hunt as the next Conservative leader.

The next Prime Minister will have to compromise on their Brexit plans when they "collide with reality", Cabinet minister Amber Rudd has warned. 

The Work and Pensions Secretary, who is backing Jeremy Hunt over Boris Johnson in the race to be the next Conservative leader, said both men would have to make concessions to win over a "difficult" Parliament.

And she admitted to being "surprised" that the two contenders had taken a hardline stance on leaving the EU in a head-to-head debate earlier this week.

They both insisted that the Northern Ireland backstop would need to be removed from the EU withdrawal agreement, rather than simply amended, for it to be acceptable to MPs.

But Ms Rudd told Politico: "I think they will find they have to compromise.

"I was surprised by what they both said and I think their views will collide with the reality when whichever one wins, starts negotiating and starts dealing with a Parliament which may be more difficult than they think to engage with."

Ms Rudd - a longstanding Cabinet opponent of leaving the European Union without a deal - raised eyebrows last week when she said that a no-deal needed to be "part of the armoury" for the next Prime Minister as they attempted to get changes to the withdrawal agreement signed with the EU.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said Mr Hunt had "convinced" her that no-deal had be kept on the table.

But she acknowledged that Parliament could still move to block a hard exit.

"I think Parliament could very well," Ms Rudd said. "It’s not a certainty but I think the likelihood is that Parliament will find a way."

'PEACE AND STABILITY'

The Cabinet minister's comments come amid reports that Mr Johnson could suspend Parliament in the two weeks running up to the 31 October to guarantee Brexit happens on that date.

Sky News reported that the leadership frontrunner's team is planning to hold a Queen's Speech setting out his legislative plans at the start of November - a move that usually closes down Parliament for the preceding two weeks, meaning MPs would be unable to vote against a no-deal in the run-up to the crucial Brexit deadline.

Meanwhile, newly-appointed EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has poured cold water on any suggestion to backstop could be scrapped by insisting that "peace and stability on the island of Ireland" and citizens’ rights would be her Brexit priorities.

She added: "The Withdrawal Agreement concluded with the government of the United Kingdom provides certainty where Brexit created uncertainty.

“However, I stand ready for a further extension of the withdrawal date, should more time be required for a good reason."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Boris Johnson's team 'considering suspending Parliament' to deliver Brexit on 31 October

3 days 1 hour ago
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has refused to rule out suspending Parliament.

Boris Johnson could suspend Parliament in the two weeks running up to the 31 October to guarantee Brexit happens on that date, it has been claimed.

According to Sky News, the odds-on favourite to be the next Prime Minister plans to hold a Queen's Speech setting out his legislative plans at the start of November.

Parliament is usually prorogued - or closed down - for up to two weeks in the run-up to the set-piece occasion.

If he went ahead with the plan, it would guarantee that MPs would be unable to vote against a no-deal Brexit.

A source close to the Johnson campaign told the Press Association the team was "discussing everything as an option", but insisted he would prefer to reach a deal with Brussels and avoid a no-deal exit.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out proroguing Parliament and insisted that the UK must leave the EU on Hallowe'en "do or die".

Within minutes of Sky News revealing the plan, the value of the pound slumped to its lowest level against the US dollar for more than two years.

Guto Bebb, an anti-Brexit Tory MP who resigned as a minister over Brexit, told Sky: "It would be an absolute outrage because if you decided to do a Queen's Speech, you prorogue in mid-October so we didn't sit in those final two weeks in October, it would basically mean that a no-deal Brexit which has no democratic mandate, would be imposed upon the people of this country without this House sitting.

"I think that would be an outrage to our democratic traditions, and the worst part is they are seriously considering doing just that."

Kevin Schofield

Michael Gove reverses opposition to Boris Johnson saying he would make a 'great Prime Minister'

3 days 6 hours ago
Boris Johnson Michael Gove
The duo led the Vote Leave campaign before Michael Gove knifed Boris Johnson's leadership bid

Michael Gove has reversed his previous opposition to Boris Johnson becoming Tory leader saying his former rival would make a “great Prime Minister”.

He stopped short of an outright endorsement, but it does represent a significant change of heart from the Environment Secretary - who famously knifed Mr Johnson’s last bid to enter Number 10.

Mr Gove said back in 2016 the former Foreign Secretary could not “provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead” after David Cameron resigned following the EU referendum.

But he has now appeared to change his tune, saying of Mr Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, his rival for PM: “We can trust them both to do the right thing on every critical issue.”

And in a speech in south west London he claimed of the two candidates left in the race to replace Theresa May: “I know that both would be great Prime Ministers.”

However he would not be drawn on which of the men he was voting for in the contest, saying he’d be happy to stay on in Cabinet under either – despite both now seeming to favour a no-deal Brexit, something he has come out strongly against.

Three years ago Mr Gove was part of Mr Johnson’s campaign team, and had been expected to be handed a senior position in his Cabinet had he won the contest to replace Mr Cameron.

But at the last minute he withdrew his support, saying “I respect and admire all the candidates running for the leadership.

“In particular, I wanted to help build a team behind Boris Johnson so that a politician who argued for leaving the European Union could lead us to a better future.

“But I have come, reluctantly, to the conclusion that Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead.”

Instead he launched his own ill-fated bid to become Prime Minister, which in turn caused Mr Johnson to pull out of the race and caused a deep rift between the two men who had jointly led the Vote Leave campaign to victory just a week earlier.

But fast-forward to present day and Mr Gove heaped praise on Mr Johnson in his speech, saying: “Boris has been passionate about the environment for decades.

“When I first met him in the Eighties he described himself to me as a passionately green Tory, and in every role he has had he has championed the environment. 

“As foreign secretary he has been a powerful and persuasive voice on safeguarding wildlife from exploitation, protecting our oceans and fighting climate change.

“I know that both would be great prime ministers and I want to affirm today that we can trust them both to do the right thing on every critical issue facing us all — most critically the environment.”

Alain.Tolhurst_162914

WATCH: Fresh Labour splits as ex-frontbencher says she would prefer no-deal to stopping Brexit

3 days 6 hours ago
Sarah Champion
Sarah Champion has said she is prepared to back a no-deal Brexit over remaining in the EU

A former Labour frontbencher has admitted she is prepared to defy Jeremy Corbyn and back the UK leaving the European Union without a deal.

Former shadow women and equalities minister Sarah Champion said the party would be “going against democracy” if it tries to halt Brexit.

The Rotherham MP also refused to commit to supporting a vote of no-confidence in the Government if it meant Britain's exit from the bloc would obstructed.

When asked on the BBC’s Politics Live whether she would prefer a no-deal exit or remaining in the EU, Ms Champion said: “I want us to leave, the country wants us to leave and for our democracy I think we have to leave.

“So therefore if it came to it, I would take no-deal if it meant we could leave, because we have to leave.”

The Labour leadership recently shifted its policy to backing a second EU referendum on any Brexit deal negotiated by a Conservative Prime Minister, or on a no-deal exit.

Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have said they are prepared to take Britain out of the EU on the 31 October deadline, with or without an agreement, if they become the next Prime Minister. 

Ms Champion’s intervention marks a blow for Jeremy Corbyn ahead of any confidence vote, given the slim Commons majority that ministers hold with the DUP.

Under such a move, the opposition would need to keep the vast bulk of its own MPs onside, while winning over rebel Tories in order to bring down the Government and potentially force a general election.

Ms Champion said she “did not know” whether she would side with her colleagues if such a vote took place, adding: “If my party comes out as a Remain party rather than trying to find a deal, or rather than trying to exit, I can’t support that, it goes against democracy.”

When asked why she refused to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal in any of the three occasions it was presented to the Commons, Ms Champion responded: “It’s poker isn’t it? If I’m being complete honest, I hoped she would listen to what the Labour frontbench was saying and would move and she didn’t.”

The Liberal Democrats’ Brexit spokesman, Tom Brake, said: “A willingness to prop up a disastrous No-Deal Brexit, which would put at risk the jobs of thousands of Sarah Champion's constituents is not just a complete dereliction of duty, but is frankly dangerous.

“No one voted for a Brexit which makes them poorer, and if Jeremy Corbyn truly believes in a People's Vote, then surely Labour must remove the whip from any MP who'd vote in favour of Boris Johnson and No Deal in a No-Confidence Motion.”

Nicholas Mairs

Northern Ireland committee chair warns Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt pledge to axe backstop a 'very dangerous step'

3 days 8 hours ago
Simon Hoare
Simon Hoare has called the comments by the leadership rivals 'worrying and depressing'

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have taken a "very dangerous step" by pledging to axe the Irish backstop from any Brexit deal, the Tory chair of the Northern Ireland committee has warned.

Simon Hoare said he hoped the two rivals for the Tory leadership were simply “caught up in the heat of an election campaign” and that for “whoever wins reality will dawn and such talk very quickly disappears”.

Speaking to Sky News, the MP said getting rid of the backstop - an insurance policy to ensure there remains an open border with Ireland after Brexit - “is not good for the island”, the UK economy or the union.

The mechanism proved a major sticking point behind Theresa May's three failed attempts at getting her Brexit deal through, however the EU has repeatedly said it will not agree to a deal that excludes it.

In a debate held by the Sun and TalkRadio between the candidates to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister, Mr Johnson revealed he would not be seeking to amend the current proposal.

Asked if he would push the EU for a time limit to the arrangement, he said: “The answer is no. The problem is really fundamental. It needs to come out.”

He said his policy would be “no to time limits or unilateral escape hatches or these kind of elaborate devices, glosses, codicils and so on which you could apply to the backstop”.

The ex-foreign secretary labelled it “an instrument of our own incarceration in the single market and customs union”, with Mr Hunt agreeing, saying “the backstop, as it is, is dead”.

But Mr Hoare, who leads the cross-party committee on Northern Ireland, called the comments “worrying and depressing”.

He said both candidates had “moved the goalposts” on the backstop, as even “die hard” Brexiteers agreed a time-limit would solve their issues with it, but Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt have “gone the Full Monty” by saying it should be completely ditched.

He added: “This is a very, very dangerous step that both men seem to have taken yesterday.”

Describing the border as not just the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic but the EU Single Market too, he continued: “Whatever is required to preserve its integrity, by definition is going to have to be delivered.

“And the consequences of an infrastructured hard border is beyond contemplation.”

It comes as both men in the race to replace Mrs May are set to face a growing opposition to a no deal Brexit from their own side, with Chancellor Philip Hammond warning he plans to do “everything I can” to block it.

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve said pursuing no-deal will bring down the Government because its own MPs will vote against it in a confidence motion.

He said: “As I’ve said on many occasions in the house over the last 12 months, if a government persists in trying to carry out a no-deal Brexit, I think that administration is going to fall.”

Alain.Tolhurst_162914

Philip Hammond warns Boris Johnson he will do 'everything' to stop no-deal Brexit 'cliff-edge'

3 days 14 hours ago
Philip Hammond and Boris Johnson
The Chancellor has warned Boris Johnson he will fight a no-deal Brexit.

Philip Hammond has warned Boris Johnson he will do "everything" he can to stop the next Prime Minister from taking Britain over the "cliff-edge" of a no-deal Brexit.

The Chancellor, who has been increasingly vocal in his opposition to leaving the EU without a deal, said he would only be "fully supportive" of a future Tory leader that avoided harming the UK economy.

And he delievered a fresh slapdown to Mr Johnson as he said a trade deal with the United States could not be drawn up "in five minutes".

Speaking to the US broadcaster CNBC during a trip to New York, Mr Hammond pointed to the slim Commons majority the new Tory leader will inherit.

"I will be one of them, so a lot of power rests in Parliament going forward," he said.

Asked if he would make life difficult for the next PM, the top Cabinet minister said: "That's not my desire, I want to work with the new Prime Minister, the new administration.

"So long as they are focused on doing the things that will strengthen the UK economy and make it resilient in the future, I will be fully supportive.

"But if the new government tries to drive the UK over a cliff-edge called no-deal Brexit, I will do everything I can to stop that happening."

TRADE DEAL SLAPDOWN

Mr Hammond also delivered a withering putdown amid reports that Mr Johnson will use the early days of his premiership to try and thrash out a trade deal with US President Donald Trump. 

According to The Times, Mr Johnson would aim to meet Mr Trump without two months of entering Number 10 if he wins the Tory leadership race.

But Mr Hammond dismissed the idea of a deal being struck within a year. 

"I don't think delivery in that kind of timescale is realistic. Trade deals are intrinsically complex," he said.

And he added: "The President's idea of a trade deal may not entirely coincide with some people in the UK's idea of a trade deal.

"There's going to be big questions about how we manage access for farm produce, how we deal with different food hygiene standards that we have; different farming practices.

"There are very deeply entrenched views about some of this stuff. It's not just about economics, when you come to issues around animal welfare there are very deeply held views in the UK.

"So, it can be done, we should be ambitious but we have got to be realistic it's not something we're going to do in five minutes."

The comments mark the latest warning from Mr Hammond for the next PM.

Earlier this month, he told MPs that a disruptive split from the EU could cause a "hit to the Exchequer of about £90bn", blowing a hole in both Mr Johnson and rival Jeremy Hunt's spending plans.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

EXCL Union offers Labour staff legal advice amid concerns about their 'health and well being'

4 days 4 hours ago
Labour rosette
Labour staff claim their mental health has been affected by working for the party.

A major trade union is offering Labour staff legal advice amid rising concerns that working for the party is affecting their "health and well being", PoliticsHome can reveal.

The GMB has written to members of its Labour branch giving them the opportunity to attend "a one to one drop-in session" with its employment law specialists.

It says those members have been raising concerns for "months" about their working conditions.

The move follows last week's Panorama programme, in which former Labour employees claimed the party's attempts to tackle its anti-Semitism crisis had damaged their mental health and, in one case, left a senior official contemplating suicide.

In their message to its members working for the party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, the union says: "The GMB has become aware of a number of issues that have been raised by members, working for the Labour party, over the past few weeks and months, that is giving rise to concerns about members' health and well being. 

"We are considering offering staff the opportunity to attend a one to one drop in session with one of the GMB's employment law specialists and if this would be of interest to you please email me back and we can arrange it ASAP."

In a separate development, the same union's Labour branch has passed a motion claiming staff are facing "a mental health crisis ... caused by the culture, rise in anti-Semitism and unsustainable workloads".

The motion says: "As trade unionists, it is unacceptable for an employees workload or the culture of an organisation to cause staff to have breakdowns or to contemplate suicide.

"The fact that there is even a suggestion that this culture exists within the Labour party is reprehensible and a source of great shame."

It also condemns Labour's decision to attack the whistleblowers who spoke to Panorama, and the "obscene" decision to threaten those who broke gagging orders to speak out with legal action.

The motion says: "Anti-Semitism is a sickness which will spread if given the freedom to do so. It should be condemned and challenged wherever it rears its head.

"Whistleblowers do so at enormous personal risk and should be commended and supported, never attacked – particularly not by the Labour party.

"All employees or former employees, regardless of the organisation, should be  free to act as whistleblowers without obscene threats of legal action."

Labour MP Wes Streeting said: "Labour staff are taking a courageous stand against anti-Semitism and must be supported. This is an unprecedented motion.

"Jeremy Corbyn must confirm that no action will be taken against whistleblowers and put an immediate end to the grubby spin operation against Panorama that he is leading." 

In response a Labour spokesperson told PoliticsHome: “The Labour party is proud to encourage trade union membership among staff to secure representation and offer advice and support on a wide range of issues including health and safety, pay, pensions and workplace rights. 

“The Labour party is committed to fulfilling our duty of care to our staff, and all employees of the Labour party have access to an Employee Assistance Programme, which provides confidential support, including counselling. This service is widely advertised to employees throughout the organisation.”

Kevin Schofield

Lord Bew: The Irish border question destroyed May’s premiership

4 days 11 hours ago
An anti Brexit sign in the village of Jonesborough, on the border between Dundalk in the Republic of Ireland and Newry in Northern Ireland.
An anti Brexit sign in the village of Jonesborough, on the border between Dundalk in the Republic of Ireland and Newry in Northern Ireland.

May Days: Theresa May never quite understood how to build on the success of the Brady amendment, says Lord Bew

The collapse of power-sharing government in Northern Ireland is not remotely the fault of Theresa May. The faults were local to the province and reflect badly on the political class on both sides in Stormont. The “confidence and supply” deal she struck with the DUP in 2017 has its critics but it is, in principle, no different from Gordon Brown’s attempt to strike the same deal and save his premiership in 2010.

But the paradox of May’s premiership is clear. No one doubts the sincerity of her defence of what she calls “the precious union”. In particular, she saw the absurdity of any form of Brexit which brought about the disintegration of the United Kingdom. Yet from the moment she unveiled the Withdrawal Agreement it was a racing certainty that the Irish backstop would destroy her premiership.

The collapse of the UK’s negotiating position embodied in the DExEU document of August 2017 has yet to be full analysed, though Tom McTague has thrown important light on the surprise of EU officials that we conceded so much so easily in the Irish context.

Suffice to say we ended up with a Withdrawal Agreement marked by explosive internal contradictions – before we even talk of its external contradictions with Sajid Javid’s recent border security legislation or our own commitments alongside the Irish to the United Nations security council resolution 1373.

If it was the best of both worlds for Northern Ireland, as the prime minister allowed herself to say, why would you want it to be only temporary? If it was designed to protect (indeed not to affect in any way, according to the Tusk-Juncker letter) the Good Friday agreement, why did it appropriate some of its key functions in animal health and food safety without so much as a by your leave?

Functions which required the explicit endorsement of the Northern Ireland assembly were placed under the control of a new external, top-down body to be driven above all by EU requirements sans any democratic control by the people of Northern Ireland.

Why do we commit ourselves to promote an all-Ireland economy – which does not exist except in agri-food – when the Good Friday agreement does not and, indeed, that agreement was based on the explicit statement by both the Irish and British governments that there were two economies on the island of Ireland?

Above all there is the mapping exercise of the alleged EU role in promoting cross-border activity which is presented in the protocol as providing the rationale for the backstop. But in a sign of changing times, the government has acceded to a freedom of information request and published the mapping exercise in full. Then, quite remarkably, the mapping exercise was systematically stripped of all credibility in the Irish Times, not by Brexiteer ideologues, but by two of the leading figures of Ireland’s liberal left and Europhile intelligentsia – Newton Emerson and Andy Pollak.

There was one moment when Theresa May had real hope of survival and that was when parliament passed the Brady amendment in a debate which was heavily influenced by concerns that the backstop threatened the Good Friday agreement and the best type of genuine cross-border cooperation in Ireland.

Theresa May never quite understood how to build on the success of the Brady amendment. The new prime minister cannot afford to repeat that error. The sharpening and the revitalisation of the themes of the Brady debate should be the new government’s first port of call.

Lord Bew is a crossbench peer

Lord Bew
charlotte.newbury_159467
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47