Brexit News for Tuesday 14 March

Brexit News for Tuesday 14 March

Theresa May secures the power to trigger Article 50 after victory in Parliament…

The Brexit bill has been approved by Parliament, allowing Theresa May to trigger Article 50 and begin the process of leaving the European Union. With no opposition from Labour, the House of Lords backed down in their attempts to amend the bill following an earlier vote in the Commons. MPs rejected a Lords amendment to guarantee the status of EU nationals resident in the UK by a margin of 335 votes to 287. They also overturned a second amendment, which would have required the Government to grant Parliament a “meaningful” vote on the Brexit deal eventually secured by Mrs May, by 331 votes to 286. – Sky News

“Parliament has today backed the government in its determination to get on with the job of leaving the EU,” Brexit Secretary David Davis said. “We are now on the threshold of the most important negotiation for our country in a generation.”… Brexit campaigners welcomed the “clear mandate” given to the UK government ahead of the start of official negotiations. “Now, it’s time to go into these negotiations with some ambition and support the government, so it can secure the very best deal – one that is good for the whole UK, and good for the EU too,” said Tory MP and former minister Dominic Raab. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the rejection of the Lords amendments was “deeply disappointing” but insisted the opposition would continue to press for the rights of EU nationals to be prioritised and for the maximum parliamentary oversight of the process. – BBC News

  • The Tory rebellion on EU citizens shrinks to just two MPs – Mark Wallace for ConservativeHome
  • Refusing MPs a vote on Brexit ‘deranged’, says former attorney general Dominic Grieve – The Guardian
  • Dominic Grieve threatens litigation if the Government does not “follow proper constitutional process” on Brexit – The Independent
  • Finita la commedia: the Brexit bill is (finally) passed – Fraser Nelson for The Spectator Coffee House

> On BrexitCentral today: The Article 50 Bill passes – How MPs and peers voted on the Lords Amendments

…after Nicola Sturgeon calls for a second Scottish independence referendum…

Scotland’s first minister ambushed the prime minister yesterday, announcing her intention to hold a new vote by spring 2019. The timing — before Mrs May has triggered formal Brexit talks — and the scope of the demands took opponents at Westminster and Holyrood by surprise. Last week an Ipsos Mori poll found that 50 per cent of Scots backed independence, up from 45 per cent in the 2014 referendum. The Scottish National Party needs Westminster’s approval for a legally binding vote and last night Mrs May’s allies made clear that she would not allow a referendum during exit negotiations with the EU. – The Times (£)

  • Sturgeon makes first move on referendum – Laura Kuenssberg for BBC News
  • Salmond ‘pushed’ Sturgeon into independence referendum she ‘doesn’t want and can’t win’ – Daily Express
  • Alex Salmond rubbishes claim he pushed Nicola Sturgeon to call for second independence referendum – The Independent

…with Theresa May not expected to trigger Article 50 until the end of the month…

Theresa May has ruled out Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a new Scottish independence referendum before Brexit, but postponed triggering Article 50 after the First Minister’s demands caught her by surprise… Hours after Mrs May’s riposte, Downing Street made the unexpected announcement that the Prime Minister will not now invoke Article 50 before March 27. The Article 50 Bill is expected to receive royal assent from the Queen this morning, and it had been widely anticipated that Mrs May would choose today to make the historic announcement. Whitehall departments had been told to work to a March 14 deadline. Downing Street yesterday insisted that the Prime Minister had always intended to wait until the end of the month, but Ms Sturgeon’s announcement left Mrs May scrambling to seize back the initiative. – Daily Telegraph

  • What happens after Theresa May triggers Article 50 – Charlie Cooper and Tom McTague for Politico
  • Should Theresa May trigger or beware the Ides of March? – Faisal Islam for Sky News
  • Triggering Article 50 is a non-event – Mark Fox for Reaction
  • Europe searches for new date in the diary – The Times (£)
  • Scotland mustn’t derail Britain’s Brexit negotiations – Daily Telegraph editorial

…although Europe has poured cold water on Sturgeon’s EU membership hopes…

Ms Sturgeon received an early setback yesterday as European leaders made clear that Scotland would leave the EU regardless of whether it voted to secede and would not be allowed a “fast-track” return. “Scotland has no power to negotiate with the EU,” a European ambassador said. “When the UK leaves so does Scotland. An independent Scotland would have to apply for EU membership from outside.” Spain, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Slovakia would veto special treatment for Scotland for fear that it would fuel separatism across Europe. Spain has faced renewed pressure from separatists in Catalonia since Scotland’s last referendum. – The Times (£)

The timing of this referendum call is not what the SNP, in ideal circumstances, would have chosen. Public opinion is still split (50-50, according to an Ipsos/MORI poll last week) and Sturgeon’s central argument — that independence is the only way to keep Scotland in the EU — looks shaky as she does not yet have anything more than warm words from Brussels that Scotland would be allowed to rejoin after the U.K. leaves the bloc. Spain, with an eye on its own Catalan separatists, is still likely to veto any automatic continuation of Scotland’s EU membership. Nevertheless, Brexit is the biggest opportunity for independence that the SNP is likely to have for a long time — Sturgeon calculated she had to seize it. – Tom McTague and Charlie Cooper for Politico

…with the EU and Nato insisting that an independent Scotland would have to apply to join from scratch

An independent Scotland would have to apply to join the EU, a senior official in Brussels has said, complicating Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a second independence referendum. A European commission spokesman indicated that any newly independent country would have to negotiate to join, referring to the position adopted by the former commission president José Manuel Barroso… The challenges for Sturgeon and her strategy of staging an independence vote before the UK signs its Brexit deal increased further after the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, confirmed Scotland could only apply to join the defence alliance after it had legally split from the UK. Stoltenberg told Sky News the rest of the UK would remain a Nato member if Scotland voted for independence. “A new independent state has to apply for membership and then it is up to 28 allies to decide whether we have a new member,” he said. – The Guardian

  • Nicola Sturgeon claims she wants the single market not independence – that might be a deal we can make – Tom Harris for the Daily Telegraph (£)
  • Would an independent Scotland stand a chance of getting European Union membership? – Alistair Clark and Alex Deane for City A.M.
  • Nicola Sturgeon is a canny politician but she can’t talk her way past the facts – Alan Cochrane for the Daily Telegraph (£)

Leaked Whitehall papers suggest the Government will need to pass seven new Brexit bills

Parliament will need to pass at least seven controversial bills to prepare Britain for life outside the European Union, according to a leaked list of legislation prepared by Whitehall. Each new law, covering immigration, tax, agriculture, trade and customs regimes, fisheries, data protection and sanctions, will give MPs and peers the chance to influence the terms of Brexit. It will raise concerns in government that bills could be amended or blocked during what is already a tight two-year timetable… These bills must be passed alongside a single “great repeal bill” — legislation to revoke the European Communities Act 1972 and incorporate EU law into domestic law wherever possible. Overseen by David Davis, the Brexit secretary, this is expected in the Queen’s Speech in May. – The Times (£)

  • Parliament ‘to grapple with seven major bills’ to implement Brexit – PoliticsHome
  • The seven legislative troublespots – Sam Coates for The Times (£)

UK ‘won’t have to agree’ early Brexit fee, says Michel Barnier

The UK has been told it will not have to agree the exact sum of its financial exit settlement in the early stages after Article 50 has been triggered, BBC Newsnight has learned. A message has been passed through informal channels from EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to top figures in David Davis’s department. The UK would first have to agree the broad principles of the payment. The principles for EU citizens in the UK would then have to be agreed. Once these two principles have been agreed – on the financial settlement payment and EU citizens – Mr Barnier is prepared to open up the negotiations to cover all areas and the nature of the UK’s future relations with the EU. This would meet the UK demand for the negotiations on the UK’s future trade deal with the EU to be discussed in parallel with the Article 50 talks. – BBC News

Experts who delivered London Olympics ‘are recruited to help negotiate Britain leaving EU’

Department of Exiting the EU boss Sarah Healey said it’s “essential we learn” from the last major negotiation Britain took part in. The DExEU Director General said it was a no brainier as the Olympics required a similar cross-Whitehall effort to deliver and there are “lessons to be drawn” from the success of London 2012. And the top mandarin hit back at claims made by ex-EU ambassador Sir Ivan Rogers, who dramatically quit in January over claims Brexit was being steamrolled by the PM… She rejected reports that the new Brexit Department set up by Theresa May last July had struggled to hire top civil servants – saying claims otherwise were “fundamentally untrue.” …And just days ahead of the triggering of the official two year Article 50 divorce period she said that “serious, sensible contingency planning is happening for scenario of no deal.” – The Sun

  • ‘Many more civil servants’ needed to cope with Brexit workload, claims report – The Guardian

Vodafone to create 2,100 jobs in ‘UK economy investment’

The mobile phone operator said the roles would be in place over the next two years with almost 800 new jobs in Manchester, almost 150 in Newark, more than 150 in Stoke-on-Trent and around 100 in Glasgow. In addition, its third-party customer service partners will create almost 600 jobs in Newcastle upon Tyne, nearly 200 roles in the west of Scotland and 100 in Cardiff. The company, which made the announcement amid reported job losses at its Newbury headquarters, said the expansion was part of a £2bn investment over three years in the UK. – Sky News

Poland vows to block future EU initiatives amidst fallout from Donald Tusk row

In an extraordinarily savage attack on the entire euro project Warsaw’s foreign minister effectively accused the rest of the club of ganging up on his country and stabbing it in the back over the re-election of Donald Tusk. Witold Waszczykowski vowed Poland would not go down without a fight, saying it would start vetoing major projects backed by other EU countries in revenge, a tactic which could completely paralyse the bloc. The move shows how the cavernous rift which opened up between Warsaw and the other 27 member states over the appointment of the top eurocrat and support for a two-speed Europe has now developed into a full-blown diplomatic crisis. – Daily Express

  • Poland vows anti-EU campaign after Tusk fiasco – EUObserver
  • Poland spokesman: We will cooperate with Tusk ‘once emotions subside’ – Politico
  • We don’t want to dismantle the EU, says Poland’s ruling party – Politico

Iain Duncan Smith MP: The EU does not speak with one voice – it is increasingly divided

The EU is far being from a homogeneous place, calmly waiting for the Commission to lead negotiations with the UK. With so many member states facing such internal and divisive issues at home, the Commission has had a fairly free hand up until now to make a series of aggressive statements which not all agree with. Many politicians and business leaders that I and others have spoken to are already making the point that at the end of the Brexit discussions they will need the UK to be engaged as a friend and ally. For with such internal problems, such as those as we have witnessed over the weekend, not to mention the ever present threat of terrorism, the issue isn’t just about trade but also about internal security and defence too. – Iain Duncan Smith MP for ConservativeHome

Matthew Elliott: Don’t overplay the similarities between Brexit voters and Geert Wilders’ Dutch populists

Much of the commentary around the Dutch election points to the similarities between Brexit, Trump and Wilders. It would be a mistake to assume, however, that anyone who was pro-Brexit is automatically pro-Trump, pro-Wilders or pro other countries leaving the EU. As Vote Leave’s chief executive, much of my time was spent battling Ukip, Nigel Farage and Arron Banks’s Leave.eu campaign – the closest equivalents to the Freedom Party in the UK. – Matthew Elliott for City A.M.

  • A brief guide to the Dutch election – will the rise of populism continue into 2017? – Matthew Elliott for the Legatum Institute

> Matthew Elliott talks to Giles Dilnot about the prospects for tomorrow’s Dutch election, via the Legatum Institute

  • Mark Rutte: Netherlands should stop ‘domino effect’ of populism – Politico
  • The three biggest Dutch election myths: Wilders, populism and the EU – Naomi O’Leary for Politico
  • The Netherlands government picks a diplomatic fight with Turkey – John Redwood’s Diary
  • How the Turkey question could swing the Dutch vote – Douglas Murray for The Spectator Coffee House

Brexit comment in brief

  • WTO terms are an asset – not a foe – Douglas Carswell’s blog
  • No deal would be the best Brexit outcome for Britain – Gerald Warner for Reaction
  • Ministers’ failure to act is making business leaders fearful for our post-Brexit prospects – Sadiq Khan for The Times (£)
  • This government is condemned to break its Brexit promises – Nick Clegg MP for the Evening Standard
  • Three visions of UK economy take shape on verge of Brexit talks – Chris Giles for the FT (£)
  • The UK will get a US free trade deal post-Brexit – but Donald Trump will drive a hard bargain – John Hulsman and James Frayne for City A.M.

Brexit news in brief

  • Brexit trade deal ‘imperative’ for UK growth plans, argues House of Lords report – Sky News
  • Brexit transition needed to cut customs shocks, Lords say – Bloomberg
  • Sadiq Khan: lack of interim EU trade deal could cause ‘colossal damage’ – The Guardian
  • Businesses fear a bureaucracy bombshell if EU regulations all scrapped at once – The Times (£)
  • Government will consider new royal yacht to replace Britannia, Boris Johnson announces – The Independent