Vince Cable slams Lib Dems’ pledge to revoke Article 50 ‘a distraction’: Brexit News for Sunday 1 December

Vince Cable slams Lib Dems’ pledge to revoke Article 50 ‘a distraction’: Brexit News for Sunday 1 December
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Vince Cable slams Lib Dems’ pledge to revoke Article 50 as ‘a distraction’

Former Lib Dem leader Vince Cable has called the party’s policy to scrap Brexit without another referendum “a distraction and not a very helpful one”. After Jo Swinson replaced Cable in July, the party adopted the policy to support revoking article 50 and cancel Brexit without a second referendum, were the party to be elected into office. During a BBC Question Time leaders’ special last week, Swinson was forced to defend her party’s position. “I don’t think you could accuse us of not being upfront about wanting to stop Brexit,” she said. However, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday, Cable said the focus should have been on a second referendum instead. He added: “I’ve always argued that actually it was wildly improbable. We were never going to get 350 MPs, so the policy had been and should be to argue for the People’s Vote, going back to the public, to the referendum with support for remain. “So the revoke was a distraction and not a very helpful one.” – Observer

UK’s last Commissioner warns that a divided EU faces a migration challenge as he breaks silence on Brexit

The new European Commission will inherit an EU bitterly divided over migration and between Eastern and Western governments, Britain’s last ever commissioner has warned. Sir Julian King told the Sunday Telegraph, as he cleared out the UK’s office for a final time, that the tussle over how to deal with the refugee crisis would continue to pose the greatest challenge to an increasingly fragmented European Parliament. Sir Julian is the last of 15 commissioners sent to Brussels by Downing Street since 1975. He served under Jean-Claude Juncker for two and a half years after Jonathan Hill, his predecessor, resigned shortly after the vote for Brexit. Ursula von der Leyen takes over the presidency of the new commission on Sunday. Boris Johnson has refused to name a British commissioner in the new executive for the two months before the Brexit deadline of 31 January, which Sir Julian called “the logical consequence of the referendum”. Breaking his silence on Brexit for the first time, Sir Julian said he did not support a second referendum, which could prove divisive and unpredictable, which has “cost him some friends”.  “If it happens then you just need to be a little bit careful what you wish for. Stopping or even reversing a divorce is not the same as starting the honeymoon again,” he said. The career diplomat urged the next British government to take a conciliatory approach in trade negotiations with Brussels, insisting the European Commission “was not anti-UK”, and prioritise repairing damaged relations with Dublin. Sir Julian revealed he warned Mr Juncker that the troubled history of Ireland and Northern Ireland could not be solved with an EU legal text like the Irish border backstop. – Sunday Telegraph (£)

Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk bow out as EU sees fresh blood move in with changing of the guard

The new leaders of the European Union have taken power in Brussels, in a changing of the guard that promises a more austere, less maverick approach. In contrast to the fiercely independent Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, the new EU chiefs are already battling suspicions they are puppets controlled by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. Mr Tusk infuriated EU leaders with his scathing criticism of Brexiteers and itchy Twitter finger which lead to him being dubbed the “Bercow of Brussels” by one exasperated diplomat. Mr Tusk is brutally blunt in his attacks on Vladimir Putin and the US president, who he calls “the other Donald”. “The president of the European Council is meant to be an efficient chairman of summit meetings, not a politician,” the diplomat said. Mr Tusk, 62, is so proud of his social media prowess that he dedicated a section of  a report on his last months in office to his impressive outreach on Twitter and Instagram. The Gdansk-born anti-communist dissident enraged Mr Macron and other leaders by tweeting his support for a longer Brexit extension before the final decision was made. Charles Michel, the Belgian prime minister, was one of those leaders and will succeed Mr Tusk. Mr Michel, described by sources as “a member of the Macron fan club” supported the French president’s demand for a short extension to maximise pressure on Britain. He will be tougher on Britain than the dove-ish Mr Tusk at least behind the scenes. – Sunday Telegraph (£)

Labour erupts into civil war and blames pro-Remain MPs for the loss of Brexit-backing voters as yet another poll shows them behind the Tories…

Civil war has broken out in the Labour Party over Boris Johnson’s opinion poll lead – with pro-Remain MPs being blamed for the loss of Brexit-backing voters. The Conservatives have maintained a consistent lead in the polls, with today’s Mail on Sunday-commissioned Deltapoll survey giving them a 13-point advantage. The failure of Jeremy Corbyn to repeat the ‘surge’ of 2017, which destroyed Theresa May’s Commons majority, has unleashed a battle between the hard-Left and moderate wings of the party over who should replace him as leader if Labour crashes to defeat on December 12. Mr Johnson is pinning his hopes on smashing the ‘red wall’ of constituencies in the Midlands and the North which have historically voted Labour, but are swinging towards the Tories because of Mr Corbyn’s opaque Brexit policy. A separate survey today, based on analysis of the betting markets in each constituency, points to a Tory majority of 24. The Smarkets data shows that political gamblers are increasingly betting against Labour in former strongholds such as Bishop Auckland, which has never sent a Tory MP to the Commons but is given a 62 per cent chance of doing so this month. Deltapoll puts the Tories up two percentage points to 45 per cent, with Labour on 32 per cent. This would give Mr Johnson a majority of 92 if the figures turned into a uniform swing on Election night. But the headline figures mask wide variations according to age, gender and personal Brexit leanings. – Mail on Sunday

…while ComRes show Boris Johnson widening his lead over Jeremy Corbyn to 10 points, amidst a fall in support for the Brexit Party…

Boris Johnson has widened his lead over Jeremy Corbyn to 10 points, amid a further fall in support for the Brexit Party, according to a poll. A Savanta ComRes survey for The Sunday Telegraph puts the Conservatives on 43 per cent, a two point rise since early last week. Labour and the Brexit Party have each dropped by one point to 33 per cent and 4 per cent respectively, while the Liberal Democrats remained on 13 per cent. The survey of 2,025 people also demonstrated support for a tough stance on the second phase of the Brexit negotiations. Some 41 per cent said that if the EU and the UK fail to agree to a trade deal by the end of next year, the UK should end the transition without an agreement – compared to 27 per cent who disagreed. The poll also showed that a majority of voters believed that the Conservatives would handle the economy competently. By contrast only 27 per cent agreed that a government led by Mr Corbyn would handle the economy competently, while 54 per cent disagreed. According to the survey, 70 per cent of those who voted to leave the EU currently support the Conservatives, while Labour is the most popular party among Remain voters, receiving 48 per cent of their votes. Around 23 per cent of those who voted Remain in 2016 are planning to vote for the Liberal Democrats. Last week Sir John warned that the Conservatives “seemingly comfortable” lead would “soon be reduced if the Remain vote were to coalesce behind Labour.” However, 54 per cent of those intending to vote LibDem are not confident that a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn would handle the economy competently, the Savanta ComRes poll found. The survey was conducted online between Wednesday and Thursday. – Sunday Telegraph (£)

…although YouGov suggest the Tories’ lead is shrinking, despite voters’ distrust of Corbyn…

In a sign that the election campaign could go down to the wire, Labour has cut the Conservative lead to nine points, a narrowing of two percentage points since YouGov’s last survey on Wednesday. In the latest YouGov poll for The Sunday Times, the Tories are on 43% with Labour up two to 34%, the Lib Dems static on 13% and the Brexit Party down to just 2%. That is still enough for a Conservative majority, but if Labour gains two more points it will be touch and go. A survey by BMG gave the Tories only a six-point lead on 39%, with Labour up five points to 33%. However, the Tories will be cheered by evidence that they are more in tune with the public on security and defence issues. Boris Johnson enjoys a huge lead over Jeremy Corbyn when voters are asked which leader they trust to look after Britain’s security. The YouGov poll found that 44% of voters say they have confidence in the prime minister and the same number say they do not, a net approval rating of zero. By contrast just 21% have confidence in Corbyn, while 67% of voters do not — an approval rating of minus 46. – Sunday Times (£)

…and a Deltapoll survey in Esher and Walton suggests the Lib Dems are creeping up on Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab

Pro-Brexit Dominic Raab could lose his Home Counties safe seat as pro-Remain Tories desert the Foreign Secretary and give their support to the Liberal Democrats. Mr Raab enjoys a healthy majority of 23,298 in his Esher and Walton seat in Surrey, but a Deltapoll survey of the constituency indicates he now only holds a five-point lead over his Lib Dem opponent Monica Harding. The Tories have held the seat since 1910, but it voted 58 per cent Remain in the 2016 referendum – and the former Brexit secretary is vocally anti-Brussels. Tactical switching by Labour supporters or a higher turnout among the under-40s could hand the seat to the Liberal Democrats. – MailOnline

Academics claim Johnson ‘will have to call second referendum if he fails to win majority’

Boris Johnson could be forced into holding a second referendum on Brexit next summer if he fails to win a majority in the House of Commons but remains as prime minister, according to a new report by academics at University College London. The detailed analysis of how a referendum could be triggered, how long it would take, and how it would work concludes that a second public vote – in which the options would most likely be Johnson’s deal versus remaining in the EU – would be very much on the cards if the Conservatives are denied a majority, or are returned with only a very slender one, on 12 December. The report – by UCL’s constitution unit in collaboration with research initiative UK in a Changing Europe – is a reminder of the high stakes, and high risk, of the election to Johnson. Although the latest Opinium poll for the Observer gives the Tories a 15-point lead over Labour with less than a fortnight until polling day, the gap has narrowed by four points since a week ago. – Observer

John Curtice: Boris Johnson’s dreams of a majority could hinge on how badly the Remain vote splits

Brexit continues to shape how voters propose to vote in the general election. However, this does not mean Boris Johnson can assume the ballot will necessarily give him the majority he needs to ‘get Brexit done’. Both Labour and the Conservatives have made considerable progress since the election was called. At 42 per cent, the average level of support for the Conservatives in the polls published in the last seven days is five points up on where it was when the campaign began, while Labour, on 31 per cent, have advanced by seven points. In contrast, the Liberal Democrats have slipped back by four points and the Brexit Party by no less than eight – in part as a result of Nigel Farage’s decision not to stand candidates in seats being defended by the Conservatives. However, nearly all of this movement has occurred within the two Brexit camps. Few voters appear to have switched to a party on the other side of the Brexit divide. Support for the Conservatives among those who voted Leave in the 2016 referendum has increased by 14 points. In contrast, support for the party among those who backed Remain has actually eased back by a point. Meanwhile, Labour’s support has risen by nine points among those who backed Remain, but by only three points among those who supported Leave. As a result, Brexit is now reflected in the character of Conservative and Labour support to an even greater extent than it was at the last election two years ago. Then, the Conservatives had the support of 60 per cent of Leave voters but only 23 per cent of Remain supporters. Now those figures stand at 69 per cent and 18 per cent respectively. Similarly if less dramatically, while Labour support among Remain voters is, at 45 per cent, still eight points down on what the party secured in 2017, its 15 per cent vote among Leavers is eleven points down on two years ago. Overall, 77 per cent of Leave voters are minded to back either the Conservatives or the Brexit Party, while 80 per cent of Remain supporters are indicating support for one of the parties in favour of a second Brexit vote. What a week ago was an average fourteen-point Tory lead over Labour has during the last seven days become a slightly diminished eleven-point one. Still, such a lead would still be enough for a comfortable overall Tory majority. And the ten-point lead in our ComRes poll today suggests that the apparent erosion of the Conservative position may now have come to a halt. Even so, Conservative Central Office will have their fingers crossed between now and 12 December. – Sir John Curtice for the Sunday Telegraph (£)

Daniel Hannan: Brexit gives us the chance to trade with new and old friends, starting with Japan

Let’s remind ourselves why we are leaving the EU. The past three-and-a-half years have seen both sides entrench, like soldiers in the blasted mud of Flanders. Leavers accuse Remainers of betraying democracy. Remainers retort that the referendum was illegitimate, ill-informed and ill-gotten. Each side fires ordnance across no-man’s land, having all but forgotten why the conflict began. Well, I haven’t forgotten. Brexit, for me, is about two things. First, democratic self-government: the supremacy of our own law. Second, global Britain: our ability to pursue our own foreign policy and trade deals without Brussels intermediaries. The potential value of this second is illustrated in a paper by two international trade experts, Deborah Elms and Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, A Better Fit: Remodelling the EU-Japan EPA After Brexit, published yesterday [SAT] by the Initiative for Free Trade (of which, to declare my interest, I am President). Japan is the world’s third economy, and has traditionally seen Britain as its key partner. Around a thousand Japanese firms invest in the UK, employing, according to the Japanese government, 97,000 people. Before we come to the benefits of a trade deal, it is worth noting that, of all the biased reports put out by Treasury Europhiles – all those duff predictions of rocketing unemployment and falling stock prices and housing collapses – the silliest has to do with trade. The Treasury solemnly claims that leaving the EU’s customs union would lower our GDP by 7.5 per cent whereas the gain of doing trade deals with the rest of the world would be equivalent to just 0.2 per cent of GDP. What? What? The EU accounts for 44 per cent of our exports – a number falling by the week. So how can those two figures both be true? In order to come up with its numbers, the Treasury made a series of absurd assumptions: that Britain would impose tariffs on EU imports (we announced ages ago that we would do no such thing); that our trade deals with the US and others would be no more ambitious than what Brussels was proposing; that we would replicate, rather than improving, the deals with third countries that we inherited from the EU. Why should we be so lacking in ambition? The EU-Japan deal, which entered into force this year, is limited in scope. EU negotiators were mindful of Continental agrarian and industrial interests, not British services. The authors of today’s report calculate that the total gain to the UK is less than 60 per cent of the average gain to the EU. Happily, the Japanese government doesn’t want to “roll over” the existing EU deal with Britain. It aims higher, especially in investment, financial services and digital trade. Since these are precisely the areas where Britain stands to gain, we should grab the offer. – Daniel Hannan MEP for the Sunday Telegraph (£)

Tony Parsons: Labour saying they’ll respect the referendum vote and deliver Brexit? Leave it out

In the 11 days before  the General Election, this panicked Labour Party are going to lie through their weasel teeth that they really respect the biggest vote for anything in British history. Just watch Labour pretend to love Leave! This campaign has been a disaster for Jeremy Corbyn and all his ­middle-class Marxist comrades. Policies that seemed so wonderfully woke in an Islington patisserie — no immigration controls, tax everybody until they squeak — have gone down like a tide of toxic waste out in the real world. Labour thought they could do it without the working class. They were wrong. All those Labour toffs thought they could live without all of us thick, ignorant peasants who dared to disobey the establishment and vote for Brexit. Emily Thornberry — Lady Nugee, who chuckled at seeing the flag of  St George! — was wrong. Sir Keir Starmer, so passionate in his adoration of Brussels, was wrong. Corbyn — a man without a patriotic bone in his withered old carcass — was wrong. Labour’s total contempt for the working class, who they were founded to represent, has them stumbling towards defeat. So Labour are rethinking their General Election strategy. In Leave-voting areas, Labour will get down on their knees and beg the working class to come home. Even an unequivocal Remainer like Ed Miliband is pretending he has always fought for a Brexit deal. No, Ed — you fought to keep us in a single market and a customs union. You fought for a Brexit that was unworthy of the name. You fought for a deal that was worse than staying in the EU. Labour should really stop fibbing to the British people. – Tony Parsons for The Sun

Brexit in Brief

  • NATO must be at the heart of the Government’s strategy for post-Brexit Britain – Jack Richardson for ConservativeHome
  • Don’t be fooled: a ‘bare bones’ free trade deal is exactly what the UK wants – Herry Western for Briefings for Brexit
  • Please Minister, can we have our lives back? – David Butterfield for The Article
  • Boris Johnson winning a majority in the election is ‘worst result for Germany’ – Express