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Brexit White Paper - FTA approach on services 'disappointing' - Bar Council

18 hours 1 minute ago

In a statement released today, the Bar Council has said that whilst the direction of travel on civil judicial cooperation is welcome, the Government’s Brexit White Paper has in many respects given the legal services sector “real cause for concern.”

LINK TO FULL STATEMENT

The professional body described the White Paper’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) approach to services as “disappointing”. 

The Bar Council statement says: “There is no evidence that FTAs have led to a more liberal regime for trade in services in the past – indeed, the evidence is to the contrary.” 

“Unless the government can explain how a binding EU-wide regulatory framework for legal services could be agreed in an FTA context, the legal professions in the UK would be left to negotiate different bilateral agreements (at a political and/or bar association level) covering the provision of legal services with many of the other 27 (or 30, including EEA) member states.

“Even if successful, this would provide only a patchwork of rights and obligations, varying from country to country.  All this will take many years, if it can be accomplished at all, and in the meantime UK clients will face additional difficulties and cost in ensuring access to justice in their dealings with the EU/EEA.”

In practice, this could mean:

  • Lawyers from England and Wales may lose their right to advise on EU law (and even UK law) when on the soil of the EU27.  This means that UK businesses – which will still need to operate under EU law (and, on the White Paper’s approach, even within the UK in some respects) – will be unable to have their trusted UK legal professionals by their side, and will instead be forced to hire lawyers from the EU27 with whom they are not familiar and vice versa, despite language and other barriers, to protect and defend their rights within the EU.
  • Barristers from England and Wales will lose the right to defend the UK Government, UK businesses and UK citizens before the Court of Justice of the EU.  This would be despite having been recognised in summer 2014 by the former president of the CJEU as providing some of the best advocates in the CJEU.  This will be a huge loss to both the UK and the EU.
  • The UK professions would be left firmly on the margins of cooperation between bar associations in Europe, making it harder to maintain or extend their market share.  A UK success story would be put at risk.
  • The UK itself risks not only the loss of the tax revenue from this activity, but also an erosion of the enormous influence and ‘soft power’ generated by our legal services sector in Europe and internationally.

The Bar Council’s statement was released as Justice Minister Lucy Frazer confirmed to the House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee today that the UK will seek fully reciprocal arrangements in all areas of civil justice cooperation. 

The Bar Council has also produced a draft international agreement on civil justice cooperation, which could be adopted by both sides regardless of the outcome of the Brexit talks.

Anonymous

Vince Cable and Tim Farron under fire after missing knife-edge Brexit vote

22 hours 8 minutes ago
Vince Cable
Vince Cable replaced Tim Farron as leader of the Liberal Democrats after last year's general election

The leader and former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable and Tim Farron, have come under fire after missing a crucial Brexit vote in the Commons last night.

The pair were absent as the Government narrowly avoided defeat on a Brexiteer amendment to the Customs Bill by just three votes.

On a night of Parliamentary drama, MPs voted 305-302 in favour of an amendment making it illegal for Britain to collect tariffs on behalf of the EU unless Brussels agrees to do the same with UK levies.

Tory MPs were whipped to support the change, but 14 rebelled, leaving Brexit supporting Labour MPs to get the Government over the line.

When it emerged after the knife edge vote that the two leading Liberal Democrats had not been present, despite positioning themselves as the anti-Brexit party, they were criticised by pro-EU MPs.

Labour’s Stephen Kinnock mocked the pair on Twitter, saying: “Tim Farron and Vince Cable (those doughty, fearless crusaders against a hard Brexit) didn’t vote”.

His colleague Stephen Doughty was equally scathing, asking Mr Farron “where were you tonight?”.

 

Responding to the criticism this morning, Liberal Democrat Whip Alistair Carmichael admitted that he had "messed up" and committed to "redoubling" his efforts to stop Brexit.   

In a statement, he said: “Brexit is the most important issue in a generation. And as Liberal Democrats we have taken on the responsibility of stopping it. We’re the only Party united in this aim. 

"Last night I messed up. The government squeaked home by just three votes in a key amendment. It should have been one. 

"I was not expecting a close vote - up until 8pm, Labour were planning to abstain which would have  meant the vote would be lost by hundreds. In fact several Labour MPs voted with the Government- which is why they won.

"By the time it became apparent that the vote was going to be close - it was too late to get two of our MPs back in time to vote. 

"I’m taking responsibility and redoubling my efforts to stop Brexit. Thank you for you for your continued support to our campaign to Exit from Brexit.”

Mr Farron was unable to attend the vote as he was at an event in Dorset on Christian values and gay sex.

In a social media post this morning he wrote: "I was authorised to be absent from the vote last night for a pre-arranged engagement. Nobody expected the vote to be as close as it was.

"We clearly called it wrong, as did Labour, and I take full responsibility for my part – the Tories don’t deserve any luck."

 

 

Explaining Mr Cable’s absence, a Liberal Democrat source said: “Vince had an important meeting off the parliamentary estate that had been approved by the whips and nobody thought these amendments would ever be so close.”

A Labour source told PoliticsHome: "It's a shame that leading Lib Dems failed to show up and hold the Government to account."

Referring to previous criticism of the Labour leader over his approach to Brexit, they added: "Shout out to the "where's Corbyn?" massive."   

Elizabeth.Bates_30914

Pro-EU Tories vow to inflict defeat on Theresa May in revenge for Brexiteer Commons victory

1 day 2 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May faces another backbench Brexit rebellion over the Trade Bill

Pro-EU Conservative MPs are planning their own Brexit rebellion after the Eurosceptic wing of the party successfully reshaped Theresa May’s plans in a Commons showdown.

On a night of Parliamentary drama, MPs voted 305-302 in favour of an amendment to the Cross-Border Trade Bill making it illegal for Britain collect tariffs on behalf of the EU unless Brussels agrees to do the same with UK levies.

Tory MPs were whipped to support the change, even though it appeared to contradict a key plank of the Cabinet agreement struck at Chequers on the Government's Brexit approach.

The amendment was one of four which had been tabled by pro-Brexit Tories from the European Research Group and accepted by the Government - prompting accusations that Mrs May had "caved in" to Leave-backing rebels on her backbenches.

But that move sparked fury among pro-European Conservative backbenchers, who have now tabled their own amendment to the Trade Bill being debated by MPs on Tuesday.

Under the propsed changes tabled by Tories Nicky Morgan and Stephen Hammond alongside two Labour MPs - Britain would be compelled to join a customs union with the EU if no agreement is reached on a post-Brexit free trade area by 21 January, 2019.

If Labour MPs join forces with enough Tory rebels, they could inflict a major defeat on the Prime Minister.

A source told the Sun: "We weren’t set on pushing the amendment before the Government gave in to the ERG.”

But a Number Ten source criticised the plan, saying it "risks incentivising the EU not to negotiate if they know that not playing ball ends with us being forced into a customs union".

Meanwhile, The Sun also reports that Olly Robbins, Mrs May's top Brexit adviser, has recruited 50 of the top negotiators from the Department for Exiting the European Union.

The move will see the civil servants move to the Cabinet Office directly under his control in a move being described as a "power grab" by the top mandarin.

Elizabeth.Bates_30914

Theresa May accused of 'caving in' to Tory Brexiteer demands to avoid Commons showdown

1 day 17 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May has headed off an embarrassing show of defiance from Tory rebels

Theresa May has been accused of "caving in" to Tory Brexiteers after accepting a string of demands from rebel MPs in a bid to avoid an embarrassing Commons showdown.

Government sources have confirmed that four amendments to the Customs Bill, which were lodged by Jacob Rees-Mogg's European Research Group in a bid to water down the Brexit plan agreed by the Cabinet at Chequers less than two weeks ago, have been accepted.

That means the Prime Minister has dodged a series of embarrassing votes which would have highlighted the scale of Conservative opposition to her proposals.

Pro-Brexit Tory MPs were left furious by the Chequers plan - arguing it leaves the UK too closely tied to Brussels with its hopes for a common rulebook for goods and a shared customs regime.

The decision to accept an amendment outlawing plans for Britain to collect tariffs on behalf of the EU unless Brussels agrees to do the same with UK tariffs risks throwing Mrs May's entire strategy into chaos.

Government sources have insisted the remaining three amendments - on the need to legislate for a separate VAT policy from the EU, ruling out a border in the Irish Sea, and agreeing to primary legislation if ministers wants the UK to remain in a customs union with Brussels - were already part of the Chequers plan.

But it was unclear how accepting the Northern Ireland amendment would not fall foul of the EU's demand for a so-called "backstop" arrangement guaranteeing there will be no hard Irish border in any circumstances.

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, of the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, said: "Theresa May has caved in yet again.  The Prime Minister is doing everything she can to pacify Jacob Rees-Mogg and his cabal. But it just will not work, the ERG are now a party within a party who are calling the shots. They will still throw their toys out of the pram, just next time about something else.

"She might as well ask Rees-Mogg to roll over so she can tickle his tummy.  First Trump humiliated the prime minister and this week it's his British fan club. We are in the middle of a Conservative civil war and everyone is paying the price."

Labour MP Gareth Thomas, of the pro-EU People's Vote campaign, said: "Accepting the ERG amendments means sticking two fingers up to the EU’s negotiators and that Dominic Raab has effectively been replaced as Britain’s chief negotiator by Jacob Rees Mogg, because he’s the one pulling all the strings and determining Government strategy.

"The EU27 may remain polite but they can read the signals just as well as the rest of us: the Brextremists are now in charge.

"We have just taken a step closer to the catastrophe of a no deal Brexit being forced on us by a combination of Government paralysis and Parliamentary confusion."

Theresa May has faced a string of resignations over the Chequers plan in the recent Brexit white paper, mainly from bag carriers on the bottom rung of the ministerial ladder.

Cornwall MP Scott Mann became the latest Parliamentary Private Secretary - and ninth Tory overall - to quit today, as he argued the strategy was not up to scratch.

In his resignation letter to the Prime Minister, he wrote: “Over the coming days, weeks and months I fear that elements of the Brexit White Paper will inevitably put me in direct conflict with the views expressed by a large section of my constituents.

“I am not prepared to compromise their wishes to deliver a watered down Brexit.”

emilio.casalicchio

Top Remain rebel Dominic Grieve hints at backing for second Brexit referendum

1 day 19 hours ago
Grieve Brexit
Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve

A Tory former minister and key figure among pro-EU rebels today hinted that a fresh Brexit referendum could be the answer if Theresa May fails to secure support for her future trading plan.

Dominic Grieve said Britain might want to “accept that Brexit cannot be implemented and think again about what we are doing” if the deadlock in the party cannot be broken.

Tory MPs have descended into open warfare over whether or not they can accept the Brexit blueprint put forward by the Prime Minister at Chequers and laid out in detail in the latest white paper.

This morning, pro-EU former Cabinet minister Justine Greening said the plan would leave the UK in the “worst of both worlds” as it would leave Britain subject to EU rules with no say over their creation.

In an article for the Times, the former Education Secretary concluded that the "only solution is to take the final Brexit decision out of the hands of deadlocked politicians” by holding another vote.

This afternoon, former Attorney General Mr Grieve appeared to lend his voice to the growing calls as he suggested the plan championed by the Prime Minister was worth backing despite its flaws.

In an article for the Evening Standard he argued the proposals were “far from ideal” but noted that “the current government policy is a lot better than the alternative being promoted”.

And the Beaconsfield MP added: "In a deeply divided country we must either work together to get the best deal we can - and this needs compromise - or accept that Brexit cannot be implemented and think again about what we are doing.”

His comments came as the Government scrambled to kill off a set of damaging defeats on the Customs and Trade Bills as they reach their final stages in the Commons.

Pro-Brexit supporters have tabled a string of amendments in a bid to kill off the plan by Mrs May - although the Government could back down on a number of the demands.

Mr Grieve said the pro-Brexit rebels appeared “willing to plunge the country into a serious crisis to achieve the purity of their objective”.

“I can only assume that the suggestion of voting against the two Bills this week is designed as a statement of intent of their willingness to carry this out,” he added.

Speaking later on Radio 4, Mr Grieve said pro-Brexit Tories were on course to "fatally undermine" Mrs May if they refused to back down on their parliamentary bids.

Meanwhile, Cornwall MP Scott Mann became the latest Tory to quit as a ministerial bag carrier over the Brexit white paper - arguing it was not what his constituents voted for when they plumped for Brexit.

emilio.casalicchio

WATCH Brexit minister brands quit rumours 'fake news' and challenges journalist to provide 'proof'

1 day 19 hours ago
Suella Braverman
Ms Braverman said she "didn't tell anyone about resigning" in the wake of David Davis's exit from the Cabinet

Brexit minister Suella Braverman has insisted she never planned to follow her boss David Davis out of the Government, branding the claims "fake news" and demanding "proof" from a reporter.

Ms Braverman - a former chairman of the Brexiteer-backing European Research Group of Tory MPs - was rumoured to have left the Government alongside the then-Brexit secretary Mr Davis and fellow minister Steve Baker, who both quit over Theresa May's Chequers Brexit plan.

But Ms Braverman today parroted US President Donald Trump, insisting the claims lacked substance and saying she would "love to see the proof" she ever spoke to journalists about her plans.

Asked whether she had ever planned to quit, she told the Daily Politics: "I didn't resign. I mean, there was a lot of news about me allegedly resigning, a very good example, to quote the American President of 'fake news'.

"But I didn't resign. And I didn't resign because I'm supporting the position of the Government, I'm supporting the Prime Minister and I want to deliver a really good Brexit."

 

 

However, asked directly whether she had considered leaving her Government job, Ms Braverman said: "Well, I think when your Secretary of State, David Davis, with whom I've worked very closely, and Steve Baker, make a really important decision about their careers for very personal reasons, you don't just carry on in oblivion to that happening - of course you look around you and you see what's happening.

"But at the end of the day I'm very confident in the programme that we've adopted."

As rumours swirled about her fate on the morning after Mr Davis' dramatic Cabinet storm out, the Brexit minister was filmed walking along Downing Street with the Number 10 director of communications, prompting speculation she was being talked into staying on.

However, Ms Braverman told the Daily Politics she was "just leaving Downing Street to go to Parliament for a meeting."

"And he was accompanying me and we had a meeting and we were talking about what was happening," she added.

The minister also categorically denied talking to Sky reporter Lewis Goodall about her plans.

Mr Goodall was one of the first journalists to report that Ms Braverman had left the Government on the night the Brexit secretary and his minister quit.

But asked whether she had spoken to him, Ms Braverman said: "No... Not at all."

She added: "I'd love to see some proof of that conversation. That never happened. I didn't resign. And I didn't tell anyone about resigning."

Mrs May this morning suffered her ninth resignation since her Brexit deal was signed off by ministers, as ministerial aide Scott Mann quit with a blast at what he called her "watered down" version of leaving the EU.

That came hard on the heels of the resignation of fellow ministerial bag carrier Robert Courts, who said he could not look at himself "in the mirror" if he signed up to the Chequers plan.

Matt Foster

Theresa May suffers new Government resignation over Chequers Brexit agreement

1 day 21 hours ago
Scott Mann
Scott Mann, seen here with Liz Truss, was a ministerial aide in the Treasury.

Theresa May is facing growing dissent from within her own party, as ministerial aide Scott Mann became the ninth Tory to quit his post over her latest Brexit plan.

The North Cornwall MP this morning announced that he would be stepping down as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Treasury over the plans contained in the Government’s White Paper, which he said would lead to a “watered down Brexit”.

In a letter, he wrote: “Over the coming days, weeks and months I fear that elements of the Brexit White Paper will inevitably put me in direct conflict with the views expressed by a large section of my constituents.

“I am not prepared to compromise their wishes to deliver a watered down Brexit.”

 

 

The exit will come as a further blow to Mrs May, who has now suffered nine resignations since her crunch summit in Chequers earlier this month.

In the wake of the meeting, at which a new customs plan was hashed out, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis dramatically quit their Cabinet posts.  

They were joined by Brexit minister Steve Baker and a string of ministerial aides, culminating in the resignation last night of Foreign Office PPS Robert Courts. 

Mr Courts wrote on Twitter: “I had to think who I wanted to see in the mirror for the rest of my life. I cannot tell the people of WOxon [West Oxfordshire] that I support the proposals in their current form."

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is also braced for a Brexit rebellion in the Commons today, as Conservative Eurosceptics attempt to torpedo her plans through a series of amendments to the Customs Bill.

The changes were tabled by the powerful Tory Brexiteer European Research Group and will be voted on by MPs this evening.

While the amendments - which will not be supported by Labour - stand little chance of passing, they will shed light on the scale of the rebellion facing Mrs May over her plans for a "common rulebook" with the EU on traded goods and close customs ties in a "UK-EU Free Trade Area".

Elizabeth.Bates_30914

WATCH Theresa May vows to fight for her job as she rejects Brexiteer criticism

2 days 21 hours ago
Theresa May
The Prime Minister insisted her Brexit plan represented a "good deal for the UK”

A defiant Theresa May today vowed to stay on as Prime Minister “for the long-term” as she pushed back at criticism of her Brexit plans from her own party.

After an extraordinary week in which two senior Cabinet ministers resigned over her approach to leaving the EU, Mrs May said: “I have always said that I am in this for the long-term.”

The embattled Prime Minister has faced a storm of criticism from the Eurosceptic wing of her party after finalising a white paper on Brexit which vows to maintain close ties with the European Union in a bid to ease trade and avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.

Critics of the Prime Minister are particularly angered by plans for a common rulebook with the EU on traded goods, as well as the Government’s bid to closely align customs rules with Brussels through a ‘EU-UK free-trade area’.

But Mrs May today insisted that the proposals represented a "good deal for the UK” and urged Brexiteers - who have threatened to torpedo key legislation in the Commons this week - to keep their "eyes on the prize" of leaving the EU.

 

 

She told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "The clock is ticking. But this is a deal that has benefits. Our companies will abide by these rules anyway. Giving them a frictionless border means that the jobs that depend on that frictionless trade will be protected.

"It means we deliver on the Northern Ireland border. It means that we have got benefits out this deal. This is a good deal for the UK."

DAVIS 'NOT CUT OUT' OF BREXIT PLANS

Mrs May meanwhile rejected suggestions from former Brexit Secretary David Davis and his ex-minister Steve Baker - who both quit over the proposals signed off at the Chequers summit of top ministers - that they had been sidelined in talks with the EU.

The former Cabinet heavyweight this morning accused Downing Street of being "astonishingly dishonest" about the process, while Mr Baker said the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) had been reduced to a "Potemkin structure to [distract from] what the Cabinet Office Europe unit was doing for the Prime Minister".

But Mrs May insisted "no department was cut out of these discussions".

She said: "David Davis was discussing [this with Michel Barnier. Michel Barnier had made it clear to him the un-negotiability of the position that we had, so we had a choice.

"We could have said we’ll stick where we are and see what happens and risk actually ending up with a chaotic leaving, which I don’t think is in people’s interest.

"Or we could have said 'ok, let’s look at moving forward, let’s look at an alternative proposal,’ which we have put forward."

TORIES 'BOTCHING BREXIT'

The Prime Minister also warned Brexiteers that moves to kill off her Chequers deal by tabling a string of amendments to the Customs and Trade Bills in the Commons this week could hobble preparations for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

"That Trade Bill is an important part of ensuring that we're able to maintain trade agreements in the future," she said.

"If we don't see that trade deal through. Then something like 40 agreements that the EU has with various countries around the world won't be able to be continued when the UK leaves the EU for us as a United Kingdom."

Mrs May added: “Let's just keep our eyes on the prize here. The prize is delivering leaving the European Union in a way that's in our national interest."

Labour - which appears to have capitalised on the Conservative disunity by widening its poll lead over the party - said Mrs May’s plan for Brexit "doesn't stand up to scrutiny".

Party chair Ian Lavery said: "The Tories are botching Brexit, so the Prime Minister has resorted to shameless threats aimed at the British people.

"No one - not the public, Parliament or the Conservative party - is happy with Theresa May's offer. This has descended into a shambles."

Elsewhere in her Marr Show interview, the Prime Minister revealed that US President Donald Trump had advised her to “sue the EU”, and she defended the controversial commander-in-chief’s decision to repeatedly hold her hand as the two leaders met on Friday.

Matt Foster

Tom Watson drops fresh hint Labour could back second Brexit vote amid Tory chaos

2 days 22 hours ago
Tom Watson
Tom Watson said it would be a "mistake" to rule out the possibility of a second vote on Brexit

Tom Watson has refused to rule out the possiblity of Labour backing a second referendum on the European Union, following a bruising week for Theresa May's Brexit plans.

The Labour deputy leader said it would be a “mistake” to rule out the possibility of a so-called ‘People’s Vote’ on the final Brexit deal.

“It’s not our policy to have a people’s vote, we’ve not called for it, it wasn’t in our manifesto," he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge.

“But actually as a result of last week it seems to me that to take that off the table completely, when there might be a set of circumstances where parliament cannot deliver a meaningful vote, would be a mistake.”

The comments are the strongest hint yet that Labour could shift towards supporting a second vote if the Prime Minister’s final deal with the European Union does not command support in Parliament.

Mr Watson added: “But we don’t want that [a People’s Vote]… What we actually want is what we have called for the past two years, a meaningful vote in parliament, MPs to discuss the plan and the ability to make changes to that plan so we can be comfortable that there is a majority in our democratically elected House of Commons."

The Labour frontbencher said: "Theresa May’s deal plan might not even survive the fortnight, so for us to try and close things down before we see how that plays out would be a mistake.”

There have been mixed signals from the Labour frontbench on the issue of a second vote in recent months, with Shadow Brexit spokesperson Keir Starmer saying  ast week that the party was "not ruling out" the option.

But that was contradicted just hours later when Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner took a tougher stance, suggesting voters would see backing for a second-chance referendum on Brexit as patronising.

"I think if we do, politics and politicians in this country will bear an enormous price," he said. "We will have turned round, patted people on the head and said 'there there, you got it wrong but don’t worry we’ll fix it'.".

Mr Watson today insisted that the leaving open possibility of a second vote was not a betrayal of the 2016 referendum and said the UK would be leaving the EU either way.

“Labour MPs voted to trigger Article 50," he said. "This is all about the deal we get when we leave the EU and that is important because there are millions of families out there who needs us to give them a good deal."

john.johnston_25922

Back me or kill off Brexit hopes, embattled Theresa May tells warring Tories

3 days ago
Theresa May
The under-fire Prime Minister urged Brexiteers to "keep our eyes on the prize" - as two former ministers two into her plan for leaving the European Union

Theresa May has urged her warring party to unite behind her Brexit plan or risk scuppering the entire process.

The Prime Minister called on Brexiteers to keep their "eyes on the prize" or "risk ending up with no Brexit at all" - and accused her critics of failing to present "a workable alternative".

Her plea came as former Brexit Secretary David Davis - who quit the Cabinet along with fellow Brexiteer Boris Johnson this week - accused Downing Street of being "astonishingly dishonest", and ex-minister Steve Baker said Number 10 had launched a "cloak and dagger" plot to foil Brexit.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, however, Mrs May insisted the Government's plan - which includes a common rulebook with the EU on goods to ease trade and avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland - would deliver on her Brexit promises.

"Our Brexit deal for Britain seizes the moment to deliver the democratic decision of the British people and secure a bright new future for our country outside the European Union," she said.

The Prime Minister added: "This is the scale of the opportunity before us and my message to the country this weekend is simple: we need to keep our eyes on the prize.

"If we don’t, we risk ending up with no Brexit at all."

Directly confronting her Brexiteer critics - who are threatening to kill off her plan in the Commons this week - Mrs May urged backbenchers to be "practical and pragmatic", and "come together" to back the deal.

While Mrs May acknowledged that MPs had "concerns" about both her common rule book proposal and plans to maintain close customs ties with Brussels in a UK-EU free trade area, she warned that Brexit's legacy could not be a "hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland that unpicks the historic Belfast Agreement".

"It cannot be the breaking up of our precious United Kingdom with a border down the Irish Sea," she added. "And it cannot be the destruction of integrated supply chains and just-in-time processes on which jobs and livelihoods depend."

The Prime Minister meanwhile claimed critics of her proposal had yet to come up with "a workable alternative future trading arrangement", and warned MPs that backing the string of Trade Bill amendments aimed at derailing her plan upped the chances of "a damaging and disorderly Brexit".

DAVIS: UK HAS 'BLINKED'

But Mrs May's call for unity came as David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, denounced Downing Street for mounting a "crude pressure play" against Eurosceptics in the Cabinet to back her deal, and said the Government had already "blinked" in negotiations with the EU.

Writing in The Sunday Times, the former Cabinet heavyweight said the deal signed off by ministers earlier this month at Chequers would "make concessions to the EU that were so fundamental they risked undermining the whole Brexit process".

He added: "What is more, it is likely that the EU, having achieved a break in the UK’s position, will simply pocket the concessions and ask for more. For that reason alone this is a very bad decision."

And he branded it "an astonishingly dishonest claim" to suggest Brexiteers had no workable alternative to the Chequers deal, pointing out that his own department had been working on a Brexit white paper that had been "painstakingly" agreed with the rest of Whitehall.

The view was echoed by Steve Baker, who quit as a Brexit minister alongside Mr Davis, and told The Sunday Telegraph that the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) had ended up as a "Potemkin structure to [distract from] what the Cabinet Office Europe unit was doing for the Prime Minister".

In a direct warning to Mrs May, the ex-minister adds: "At the moment I think that if we spoil and wreck Brexit, which Chequers does, then we will get Jeremy Corbyn. That would be a cataclysm."

'LAST CHANCE' FOR BORIS

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reports that Brexiteer Cabinet ministers Esther McVey and Penny Mordaunt are still weighing up resigning over the Chequers deal, while Boris Johnson is being urged to use a Commons intervention this week to issue a rallying cry against Mrs May.

"If Boris doesn’t go for it, he will never have another chance," a source told the paper.

Brexiteers are reported to have amassed 40 letters of no confidence in Mrs May - just eight shy of the total that would be needed to trigger a vote on her leadership.

Matt Foster

Theresa May tries to win round Brexit rebels ahead of fresh Commons battles

4 days ago
Theresa May
The Prime Minister summoned MPs to Chequers in a bid to convince them to back her plan.

Theresa May has held talks with pro-Brexit MPs in a bid to avoid losing key votes in the Commons early next week.

The Customs and Trade bills make their return to the House of Commons on Monday and Tuesday as the Prime Minister looks to avoid a further defeat in the Commons.

On Friday night, Mrs May summoned several pro-Leave Conservatives to Chequers straight after her meeting with US President Donald Trump.

One Brexiteer told the Guardian the move was "an effort to butter up the butterable", and said several MPs had turned down the invitation.

Conservative remain ‘rebels’ have tabled amendments to keep Britain in a customs union while several prominent Brexiteers left the cabinet, including David Davis and Boris Johnson.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Davis is prepared to rebel against the government and back a Brexit amendment on the Irish border after resigning his post as Brexit Secretary.

The former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, who resigned as Foreign Secretary on Monday, is meanwhiile expected to give a speech to the commons on Wednesday.

Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist to Donald Trump, told The Telegraph that "now is the moment" for Johnson to challenge May to lead the UK.

"I believe moments come," he said. "It is like Donald Trump… people dismissed him."

The ex-Breitbart editor added: "Now is the moment. If Boris Johnson looks at this... There comes an inflection point, the Chequers deal was an inflection point, we will have to see what happens."

Matt Foster

Daniel Kawczynski: The PM is wrong – we should stand with America instead of the EU

4 days 22 hours ago
Donald Trump and Theresa May at this week's Nato summit in Brussels
Donald Trump and Theresa May at this week's Nato summit in Brussels

In the post-Brexit world that the UK will inhabit and shape, we should be standing with President Trump, writes Daniel Kawczynski

In my thirteen years as a Member of Parliament, I have rarely strayed from my party’s line; however, the recent events at the G7 summit and the widespread, mob-led, response to President Trump have left me very concerned about the future of this country.

The Prime Minister professes to value our special relationship with the US – an ever more important ally given our impending departure from the European Union. Theresa May’s rhetoric is clear on this – we are key allies, on defence, on security, in trade. She is at pains to make clear that where the UK disagrees with the US, though, we shall not be afraid to say so. 

Few would disagree with that stance, nor would they disagree, for example, with the Prime Minister’s swift condemnation of President Trump’s approach to the separation of families at the Mexican border. However, there are key global issues upon which the Prime Minister is wrong to have distanced the UK from the US – in particular, trade, and the Iran Nuclear Deal.

At this crucial juncture, we need to voice our clear support for the US where it is right, and not limit ourselves to admonishing President Trump where we think he is wrong.     

The Prime Minister recently chose to side with the European Union against the US on the subject of tariffs. Yet, this is a subject upon which the US President is spot on. 

The EU has a long history of being a protectionist racket. The figures speak for themselves. The EU has a tariff of an incredible 16 per cent on diesel cars imported from outside its borders. This makes the US’s 2.5 per cent tariff on diesel cars look positively circumspect. Another unbelievable example is olive oil, with an astronomical $156 tariff per 100 kg imposed by the EU, as against $5 per 100 kg on olive oil entering the US from Europe. 

The EU maintains this stance to prop up wasteful industries in Europe. Take the example of coffee, which, unroasted, can be imported into the EU tariff free, whilst roasted coffee faces a 7.5 per cent tariff. This protects the coffee roasting industries concentrated in Italy and Germany, at the expense of the consumer, who ends up paying a premium for European roasted coffee.  

Our departure from the EU presents a significant opportunity to “wake up and smell the coffee” and to shift our focus away from the EU to promoting a deeper trading relationship with the G7. Lost in the flurry of commentary on that picture of President Trump and the other G7 leaders at the recent summit, was the important prospect the US had raised – of a G7 free trade block.

In the post-Brexit world that the UK will inhabit and shape, we should be standing with President Trump in trying to create a world free of tariffs with seamless free trade, rather than supporting the continuation of the status quo - essentially a continental protectionist racket. We should remember that the US is the UK’s largest single trading partner, accounting for a fifth of all exports, worth over £100 billion a year. The UK should take the generous slice of American pie on offer, rather than a minuscule serving of German sauerkraut. 

The UK Government was also quick to stand with the EU in denouncing the US’s withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal. This fails to acknowledge Iran’s increasingly destabilising influence in the region in recent years.

It has interfered in Iraq and Syria, attempted to destabilise Bahrain, prolonged the civil war and humanitarian suffering in Yemen by providing economic and military support to the Houthi rebels as well as providing long-term support for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Its undermining reach extends beyond the Middle East, with Morocco recently breaking off diplomatic relations with the Iranians following the alleged Iranian backing of the Polisario in Western Sahara.

Containing Iranian subversive influence is vital to UK security and the stability of the region, and in this context we should welcome President Trump’s forthcoming summit with Russia in Helsinki. 

Where we disagree with the US, we should not be afraid to say so, but this only works as a foreign policy tool if we get these decisions right. It is clear that on the key issues of trade and of international security, the UK should be supporting the US, rather than pandering to the illiterate, anachronistic policies of the EU. 

Daniel Kawczynski is Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham

Sebastian Whale

'Dinosaur' or 'old friend'? MPs split over Donald Trump's controversial visit

5 days 2 hours ago
Donald Trump
MPs are divided on the welcome given to Donald Trump

MPs remain sharply divided on Donald Trump's visit to the UK, as the US President kicked things off by tearing into Theresa May's Brexit plans and heaping praise on Boris Johnson.

The controversial commander-in-chief said the Prime Minister's Chequers Brexit plans - set out in a white paper this week - would "kill" any trade deal with the United States.

And he said Mr Johnson, who quit the Cabinet this week, would make a "great prime minister".

The incendiary comments to The Sun came as Mr Trump enjoyed a lavish dinner with Mrs May at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Britain's wartime leader Winston Churchill.

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston said President Trump appeared "determined to insult" Mrs May and hit out at his "divisive, dog-whistle rhetoric" on immigration.

Mr Trump told The Sun that Britain was "losing its culture" because of immigration, and repeated a claim that one unnamed British hospital was so badly hit during a crimewave that it had "blood all over the walls".

Ms Wollaston fumed: "If signing up to the Trump world view is the price of a deal, it’s not worth paying."

That view was echoed by Labour's Ben Bradshaw, who accused Britain of kow-towing to Mr Trump for little in return.

"Our Prime Minister is so weak she still rolls out the red carpet for a man who does nothing but insult her," he said. "Humiliating."

'BAD NEWS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT'

Meanwhile, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas told PoliticsHome she was "deeply worried" Mrs May would be forced to ignore concerns over the environment in a bid to win support from "climate dinosaur" Mr Trump for any post-Brexit trade deal.

The US President has already pulled America out of the Paris climate accords designed to curb global carbon emissions, and taken the axe to the United States' own environmental protection agency.

Ms Lucas said: "I fear that in her enthusiasm to conclude some kind of trade deal with the US, concerns around climate change, concerns around environment protections more generally, are not going to be uppermost in the Prime Minister's mind.

"I don’t think as yet we’ve seen any real guarantees that our environmental standards are going to be upheld in any of those trade negotiations.

"Obviously we will be pushing very hard but the risks of chlorine chicken and probably a lot worse have’t gone away."

She added: "I think in order to save face Theresa May is going to probably feel under pressure to accept a trade agreement on almost any terms. And that’s likely to spell bad news for the environment and for consumer concerns in this country."

Ms Lucas is among MPs who will be joining protests against the US President in London today.

Also hoping to take part is Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who said the Prime Minister had shown "a lack of judgement" by choosing to roll out the "red carpet" for Mr Trump.

He told PoliticsHome: "Donald Trump has not particularly furthered global cooperation. He’s not based his work on a rules-based mechanism, those things that provide security and fundamentally provide long-term peace for places.

"And whilst he might be able to badger one or two countries into supporting him and not being nasty to him, it doesn’t create much long-term stability, his kind of approach."

The MP added: "The US is an historical ally and that is always great. But it doesn’t mean that you need to roll out the red carpet when someone is doing something manifestly wrong... What is the point of friendship if you can’t tell your friends when they’re doing something wrong?"

'MOST IMPORTANT ALLY'

But, amid criticism over the multi-million pound policing costs of Mr Trump's visit, Home Office Minister Nick Hurd yesterday stood by the "robust" security measures put in place by the UK to protect the President.

He told MPs: "Any visit from any President of the US is a significant and historical event for this country.

"The reality is that president Trump is the democratically-elected leader of our most important ally and the relationship has enormous consequences for the security and prosperity of all our constituents."

Mr Trump's visit was meanwhile defended by Conservative MP Michael Fabricant, who tore into plans to allow a giant blimp depicting President Trump as a baby to fly over London as part of protests expected to attract tens of thousands.

"The Trump visit protests are a little hypocritical as there have been no similar large protests when despots who have imprisoned thousands of political prisoners have visited the UK," he said.

His fellow Tory backbencher Daniel Kawczynski meanwhile took aim at Mr Trump's critics, saying the "widespread, mob-led, response to President Trump" had left him "very concerned about the future of this country".

"In the post-Brexit world that the UK will inhabit and shape, we should be standing with President Trump in trying to create a world free of tariffs with seamless free trade, rather than supporting the continuation of the status quo - essentially a continental protectionist racket," he wrote in a piece for PoliticsHome's sister title The House magazine.

The Conservative MP added: "We should remember that the US is the UK’s largest single trading partner, accounting for a fifth of all exports, worth over £100 billion a year. The UK should take the generous slice of American pie on offer, rather than a minuscule serving of German sauerkraut."

Matt Foster

Dominic Raab: UK could refuse to pay Brexit divorce bill if Brussels delays negotiations

5 days 17 hours ago
Dominic Raab
New Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab

The UK could refuse to pay the £40bn Brexit divorce bill if EU negotiators refuse to play ball, Dominic Raab warned today.

The new Brexit Secretary said any slowdown of talks on a future trade deal could “have consequences” for the commitments made by Britain “including in respect to the financial obligations”.

He issued the ultimatum to Brussels as he laid out the details of the Government Brexit position in the House of Commons.

The Treasury has estimated the UK will pay up to £39bn after it quits the EU to fulfil obligations made in previous years. 

In recent months the Government has indicated the cash was guaranteed, but the intervention by Mr Raab - who only took over from David Davis on Monday - appears to be a serious ramping up of rhetoric towards Brussels.

Speaking as he presented the Government's long-awaited Brexit white paper to the Commons, he told MPs: “If we found, having agreed the withdrawal agreement, that the progress towards the future trade and special partnership arrangement was not proceeding apace, then it would have consequences for the rights and the obligations that the UK has undertaken, including in respect to the financial obligations that we undertake.”

Mr Raab added: “We’ve made it very clear that there’s no deal until we’ve got the whole deal done, and that means that in relation to the sequential nature of these negotiations that there is going to be a link between the two.”

In May Brexit minister Suella Braverman said the UK would end up legally tied in to the divorce agreement before the EU signs off on a new trade deal.

And the Commons Brexit Select Committee noted that a clause to make payment of the bill conditional on a free trade agreement had not been written into the official withdrawal deal struck with Brussels.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said: "We have always said on that that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."

Last month MPs on the Public Accounts Committee warned that the final divorce bill could end up being some £10bn more than estimated by the Treasury.

emilio.casalicchio

KPMG responds to Brexit White Paper

5 days 17 hours ago

Responding to today’s Brexit White Paper, James Stewart Head of Brexit at KPMG UK said:

“Most businesses will welcome today’s White Paper.  Although the document may not offer additional certainty on the final deal, it does provide some much sought after clarity on the UK’s negotiating position.  Business leaders will be keen to get their teeth into the detail and analyse some of the questions they’re wrestling with such as the separation of goods and services.  This is particularly difficult because of the way in which we now buy things - with physical goods often coming with service plans and software updates for example.

“Business attention will now switch from UK politics to Europe as investors seek to understand the reaction of the negotiators and member states to the UK’s proposals.”

Anonymous

Number 10 rejects claim Theresa May 'refused to change Chequers plan cleared with Angela Merkel'

6 days 2 hours ago
Theresa May and Angela Merkel
Theresa May with Angela Merkel last week

Downing Street has "categorically" rejected a claim that Theresa May said she could not change her Chequers Brexit plan because it had already been cleared with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mrs May has already suffered the departure of two Cabinet heavyweights - Boris Johnson and David Davis - over the Brexit blueprint thrashed out with her top ministers at Chequers last week.

The plan - set to be unveiled in a White Paper today - seeks to maintain close economic ties with the European Union in a bid to limit disruption to businesses and avoid a hard border. But it has triggered a furious reaction from Brexiteers who believe it cedes too much control to the European Union.

The Spectator's Charles Moore has claimed that Mrs May enraged Eurosceptics at the Chequers meeting by telling them that her proposal could not be modified because it had already won the backing of the German chancellor.

"No, that’s not possible, because I’ve already cleared it with Mrs Merkel," she is reported to have said.

But a Downing Street source said: "The Charles Moore claim is categorically untrue."

Brexiteer Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg last night warned it was "not within the norms of the constitution to discuss British policy with other leaders before it’s presented to the Cabinet".

He told Sky News: "I think they might have been taken to Brussels and to Berlin before they were presented at Chequers which is a serious question.

"And there’s another question about how they were drawn up because they were drawn up in secret without telling the Secretary of State for leaving the European Union David Davis what was going on, whilst his department was working on a White Paper.

"I don’t think it has been handled in a proper governmental system and in accordance with our constitutional norms."

Mr Rees-Mogg is among Conservative eurosceptics looking to derail Mrs May's Brexit plan with a string of amendments to the Trade Bill in the House of Commons next week.

Matt Foster

Fresh blow for Theresa May as Tory rebels launch bid to rip up her Chequers Brexit plan

6 days 17 hours ago
Jacob Rees-Mogg
Leading Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg

Theresa May is facing a major Commons showdown with her Eurosceptic backbenchers after they launched a bid to destroy her Chequers deal on Brexit.

Jacob Rees-Mogg is spearheading an attempt to re-write the Government's Trade Bill in a move which piles further pressure on the embattled Prime Minister.

He and other Brexiteer MPs have tabled four amendments to the legislation in a bid to kill off the Chequers agreement, which has already led to Boris Johnson and David Davis quitting the Cabinet.

Mrs May is hoping to rally support for her plan, which would see the UK maintain close economic ties with the EU, when the bill comes to the House of Commons on Monday.

But the Sun reports that the pro-Brexit rebels are challenging the Prime Minister to change course or face a humiliating defeat which would be yet another blow to her authority.

Tory MP Jacob Rees Mogg, who chairs the powerful European Research Group of backbench Conservative Brexiteers, said the Chequers deal had been "a breakdown in trust".

He told the Sun: "I believe this will help the Government stick to the priomises it made.

"It may resolve the dilemma the Prime Minister faces. Does she rely on Labour votes to achieve Brexit or does she change her mind and go back to Lancaster House. Will she stick to her earlier words?"

One of the amendments include a demand that the UK ditches its promise to collect duties on behalf of Brussels unless EU member states are willing to do the same - a key part of the ‘facilitated customs arrangement’ in the Chequers plan.

A second amendment from Labour Brexiteer Kate Hoey - which also has the backing of the DUP on whose support Mrs May relies for her wafer-thin Commons majority - would force ministers to pass a law commiting to never introducing a border down the Irish sea.

Meanwhile, a third amendment would demand that the UK maintains a separate VAT system from the European Union, and a fourth would call on Mrs May to bring forward separate primary legislation to stay inside the EU’s customs union.

Expaning on the detial of the amendments, he said: “The amendments will put into law the government’s often stated position that Northern Ireland should be treated the same way as the rest of the country.”

“They will also ensure reciprocity of customs collection, and treating the UK and EU as equals.

“They will put into law the government’s stated position that we will not be part of the EU VAT regime.

“They will finally require any customs union should be created by primary not secondary legislation, so removing a Henry VIII power.”

Brexiteers have already expressed outrage at suggestions Mrs May could turn to Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs in a bid to steer her plan for leaving the EU through the House of Commons.

Mr Rees-Mogg said earlier this week: "If the Government plans to get the Chequers deal through on the back of Labour party votes that would be the most divisive thing it could do and it would be a split coming from the top, not from the members of the Conservative Party across the country."

Matt Foster

WATCH: Sajid Javid drops major hint Government will ditch migration target

1 week ago
Sajid Javid
Sajid Javid at the Home Affairs Select Committee

Sajid Javid has dropped the biggest hint yet that ministers are planning on scrapping the target to bring immigration down to the “tens of thousands”.

The Home Secretary refused to commit to the aim set under David Cameron, only saying that the number arriving in the UK would come down to “sustainable levels” following Brexit.

The Government has come under fire in recent months over its “hostile environment” approach to migration following the Windrush scandal, in which may people of Caribbean descent faced deportation and the loss of access to public services despite living and working in the UK for decades.

Mr Javid, on taking over from Amber Rudd vowed to "do right" by those affected and distanced himself from the term, used by Theresa May when she held the post.

When asked by Home Affairs committee chair Yvette Cooper if the target was “a massive chain around your neck” that he wanted to “ditch”, Mr Javid responded “next question”, before smirking as MPs laughed off the comment.

The quip came just moments after he admitted the Government was still working towards the target, which it has never been able to hit.

“What we will be working towards is the target that was set out in the Conservative manifesto which is to get it down to the tens of thousands, we want to have a system that is working towards that, but as was recognised in that commitment, it’s not something that can be done overnight, it takes years to work towards that and that’s what will continue.”

He said the ministers would give more detail on future policy following the Migration Advisory Committee’s report, which is due in September.

Watch the video below:

 

 

 

Nicholas Mairs

EXCL Britain won’t 'be told what to do' by Donald Trump on food standards, says minister

1 week ago
Donald Trump
Donald Trump will visit the UK on 13 July

The UK will not give in to the United States by lowering food standards to seal a trade deal, the farming minister has said.

In a warning shot to Washington, George Eustice said accepting produce after Brexit that was currently banned under EU rules was a “no go area” for the Government.

His comments came amid fears that ministers may bow to the Trump administration by allowing imports of chlorinated chicken and hormone-pumped beef when crunch talks begin next year.

Speaking to The House magazine, Mr Eustice said people needed to be “less spooked” by other countries’ demands.

When asked whether Donald Trump's uncompromising “America first” attitude worried the Government, he said: “I think our stance should be, as a country, that we have values and standards that we will not abandon, and that we take animal welfare very seriously and we want to project our values on animal welfare around the world.”

“But that we are a liberal free trading country and so having a sensible discussion on a particular tariff rate quota – what we call a TRQ which is a tariff free allocation from a particular country – well that’s one thing, but asking us to change our rules and regulations, that’s a bit of a no go area as far as I’m concerned.

“We haven’t just left the European Union just to be told what to do by another set of countries.”

The intervention comes ahead of the US President's first official visit to the UK since taking office, later this week.

Mr Eustice also denied there was a rift between the Government’s environment and trade departments, insisting both sides are now “saying exactly the same sorts of things.”

It comes after chlorinated chicken, which is banned by the EU, was the subject of a major row last year between Michael Gove and Liam Fox.

Mr Gove insisted his department would block a trade deal with the US if negotiators relaxed Britain’s stance, while the UK’s top trade negotiator Mr Fox said he would have “no objection” to the product being sold after Brexit.

A poll by the Independent in April revealed a whopping 82% of the public put keeping the UK’s high standards ahead of reaching a favourable trade relationship.

Nicholas Mairs

Lord Wallace: Aggressive language from political extremes and the media will spark violence against MPs

1 week 1 day ago
UK front pages - EU Referendum

Intelligent political leadership would call for all sides to lower their aggressive tone, and in particular tell the right-wing media that they are encouraging the nastier elements of British society, says Lord Wallace.

When Theresa May became Prime Minister she promised to heal the divisions in British politics and society that the referendum campaign had opened. Two year later, those divisions have widened, rather than narrowed, with violent language and threats appearing in newspaper headlines and on-line messages.  And the Prime Minister has remained silent, two years later, about the underlying threat to democratic debate and dialogue – and to the safety of our politicians – that this presents.

Last week I met two MPs, from different parties, walking along Whitehall comparing the death threats they had received.  Both were men; they remarked that many women MPs had received more such threats than they had, and were – two years after the murder of Jo Cox – even more concerned that violent language might lead to violent attacks.  Trolling, often vicious in tone, happens to everyone who engages in public debate.  But what many parliamentarians have been facing have been concerted attacks, triggered by speeches that question the outcome of the referendum, which suggest a degree of organisation behind these verbal attacks and leave MPs worried about what actions might follow.  Anna Soubry MP went public on the issue recently, remarking that most of the abusive messages that had flooded into her mailbox came from well outside her constituency, but that many included threats of actual violence.

Threats and abuse come both from left and right.  But in this embittered Brexit argument, the harassment has been most active towards Remainers.  It’s been encouraged and legitimised by the aggressive tone of right-wing media.   The Daily Mail has labelled parliamentary remainers ‘traitors and saboteurs’, providing ‘rogues gallery’ photos of the villains in question accompanied by lengthy attacks on their professional and personal lives.  The Express carried a front-page headline that warned MPs that they would ‘Ignore the Will of the People at your peril’.  The Sun has accused MPs of ‘contempt for democracy when it delivers a vote they don’t like; they seem neither to know or to care what they will unleash.’

Violent language does encourage physical violence.  The threat of violence closes down the space for reasoned debate, labelling opponents as ‘enemies’ and conspirators.  Accusations of conspiracies by ‘the metropolitan elite’, with the Daily Mail labelling a series of meetings by remainers as a secret plot against the country, take us further away from the necessary engagement with hard choices and the detailed implications of decisions taken that parliamentary democracy requires.  Some of the privileged and wealthy right-wingers, like Jacob Rees Mogg, who have set themselves up as champions of the people against an allegedly treacherous establishment, look to experienced Westminster-watchers as caricatures.   But their rhetoric strikes home with people who are confused by the technicalities of customs arrangements and market regulations, and inclined to distrust those who argue that the national interest does not easily fit with the popular will. 

Britain’s political atmosphere is likely to get more embittered over the coming months, as we approach the deadline to leave the EU.  Opposing sides will blame each other.   Accusations of foreign interference, of ‘Brussels’ attempting to ‘punish’ Britain, are already flying around; entirely contradictory assertions on the economic impact of leaving are confidently put forward.  Our foreign secretary has referred to the other EU governments as ‘the enemy’, at the same time that the Prime Minister is pursuing a ‘deep and special partnership’ in the national interest’ with them. The surreal quality of offshore financiers and media barons feeding nationalistic rhetoric, as they have over Brexit, may become clearer.  Both sides claim deep grievances at the behaviour of the other, from the conduct of the referendum campaign to the conduct of the negotiations.  Whether negotiations on leaving the EU succeed or break down, the acrimony over the terms will fuel greater bitterness from those who reject the government’s stance.

Intelligent political leadership would call for all sides to lower their aggressive tone, and in particular tell the right-wing media that they are encouraging the nastier elements of British society.  There are political extremists, and mentally-disturbed people, who will follow the logic of these headlines, and plot to attack democratic politicians; a popular mood of disillusion with political elites feeds their fantasies.  Many politicians do feel intimidated, and are taking security precautions under police advice; some who have made death threats have now been prosecuted.  The prime minister should therefore speak out, to tell partisans both of Leave and Remain to moderate their language, and call in newspaper editors to remind them of their responsibilities to promote informed public debate.  Sadly, it’s unlikely that Theresa May is willing or able to speak for the national interest and the quality of our democracy in this way.

 

Lord Wallace of Saltaire is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

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