Jeremy Corbyn says Brexit talks with Theresa May are on the brink of collapse as the PM still wants to do a trade deal with Donald Trump: Brexit News for Thursday 18 April

Jeremy Corbyn says Brexit talks with Theresa May are on the brink of collapse as the PM still wants to do a trade deal with Donald Trump: Brexit News for Thursday 18 April
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Jeremy Corbyn says Brexit talks with Theresa May are on the brink of collapse as the PM still wants to do a trade deal with Donald Trump…

Jeremy Corbyn says talks to break the Brexit impasse are on the brink of collapse as Theresa May still wants a trade deal with Donald Trump. The Labour leader, in cross-party negotiations with the PM, blasted Mrs May for refusing to consider remaining in a customs union with the EU. Doing so would bar Britain from striking a US trade deal. Mr Corbyn said the PM was pressured by Tories who are too obsessed with using Brexit to deregulate markets. Labour sources said the main obstacle to progress was International Trade Secretary Liam Fox. Speaking on a campaign visit to the North West, Mr Corbyn said Britain needed easy access to European markets and to keep environmental regulations and workplace rights. He added: “We’ve put those cases very robustly to the Government and there’s no agreement as yet. “The Government doesn’t appear to be shifting the red lines because they’ve got a big pressure in the Tory party that actually wants to turn this country into a deregulated low-tax society which will do a deal with Trump. I don’t want to do that.” He went on: “We’ve lost a lot of time by the dithering of the Government on bringing issues to Parliament.” If the talks break down the PM has promised MPs would then hold a string of indicative votes on possible Brexit options. – The Sun

…and that the Tory deregulation agenda is also stalling the talks

Jeremy Corbyn has said Brexit talks with the government are stalling because of a Tory desire for post-withdrawal deregulation, including as part of a US trade deal. Corbyn said Labour had been putting forward a robust case for a customs union during the talks over the past week but suggested he feared the two sides would not find common ground. “There has to be access to European markets and above all there has to be a dynamic relationship to protect the conditions and rights that we’ve got for environment and consumer workplace rights,” he said. “We’ve put those cases very robustly to the government and there’s no agreement as yet.” Meetings are scheduled this week between ministers and shadow ministers on environmental protections, security and workers’ rights, which Corbyn described as “quite interesting, quite long technical discussions, particularly on environment regulations”. However, there will be no discussion before Easter on the big issues of a customs union or a confirmatory referendum. Corbyn underlined again that an agreement could only be reached if Theresa May was prepared to accept Labour’s central demand for a common external tariff policy with the EU. “The government doesn’t appear to be shifting the red lines because they’ve got a big pressure in the Tory party that actually wants to turn this country into a deregulated, low-tax society which will do a deal with Trump. I don’t want to do that,” he said. – Guardian

May tells civil service to continue no-deal Brexit planning after ‘dereliction of duty’ accusations

Theresa May has written to every civil servant to tell them no-deal Brexit preparations “must continue” after a  backlash over the Government’s decision to “wind down” its worst-case scenario planning. The Prime Minister sent the message to Whitehall workers on Monday morning to tell them the “necessary preparations” would carry on – but with a “sensibly adjusted” timetable. Mrs May also said that it would be up to permanent secretaries – the most senior civil servant in a department – to decide what to plan for and when. It emerged last week that the Government had shelved some of its no-deal planning “with immediate effect” after Mrs May agreed to a Brexit delay. Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary, had told the civil service to “wind down” preparations for the worst kind of disorderly divorce from the European Union. However, Government sources said that while “doomsday” contingencies for a no-deal Brexit – a series of measures brought together under the codename Operation Yellowhammer – would be mothballed, work on other measures would continue. Tory Eurosceptics reacted to the original news with fury as they accused the Government of a “dereliction of duty”. The Prime Minister clarified the situation in an internal Government email to staff as she said: “Necessary preparations for a no deal outcome must continue, though with sensibly adjusted timescales given the extension we have agreed.” – Telegraph (£)

Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party surges to the top of European election polling while Ukip loses support…

Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party has surged into first place in opinion polls ahead of the European Parliament elections next month. The party, which was only formally launched on April 12, is now favoured by 27 per cent of voters. The Brexit Party was third in YouGov’s poll in the week of its launch on 15 per cent, with support for the new group almost doubling in a matter of days. Mr Farage, the former Ukip leader, said when he launched the party that he had bet £1,000 at odds of three to one on it winning the highest share of the vote if the UK goes to the ballot box on May 23. The new poll suggests that Mr Farage is on course to win that bet, largely because of former Ukip supporters seemingly jumping ship to back his new political vehicle. Last week some 14 per cent of people said they intended to vote for Ukip at the European elections. But that has now dropped to seven per cent with the rest of the field remaining largely the same as last week. – Telegraph (£)

  • Change UK party approved for European elections – BBC News

…with both Tories and Labour jittery at the prospect of a Euro poll…

The Tories and Labour — who are busy drawing up manifestos and finalising their lists of candidates — fear a revolt against the political establishment in the poll. Tories are the most concerned, with senior figures predicting the party could suffer an electoral meltdown as voters protest against Theresa May and the failure to deliver Brexit because of MPs’ rejection of her withdrawal agreement. Conservative politicians in Westminster and Brussels believe that if she is still prime minister by the time of the poll, the party will lose most of its 18 existing MEPs. “It’s not the Brexit deal that is the problem — it’s her,” said one would-be Tory candidate for the European elections. “If the prime minister is still in place, we’ll go below 10 per cent [of the vote] and might end up with just four MEPs.” Some Tory figures are concerned that the party lacks the resources or will to mount a strong campaign. – FT (£)

…as ex-Downing Street staffer says UK will almost certainly take part in EU elections because Remain MPs could delay passage of key laws

Britain will almost certainly take part in EU elections because agreeing the laws to make Brexit happen before then will be “extraordinarily tight” and MPs could delay them, a former Downing Street legislation chief has warned. Nikki da Costa said she did not believe it was “likely” that Theresa May would be able to deliver on her ambition for the UK to have left the bloc before May 23. The Prime Minister agreed a Brexit delay with the EU to October 31 but that extension can be cut short if MPs are able to agree a deal. However, to do that Mrs May must not only conjure a Commons majority in favour of a divorce agreement but she must also secure a stable majority for the legislation needed to enact that deal. That legislation is likely to be some of the most controversial in recent memory given it is expected to include the Irish border backstop protocol and the £39 billion Brexit bill. Remain-backing MPs who want the UK to take part in the European elections and Brexiteers who oppose the deal could try to block its passage. – Telegraph (£)

Institute for Government blame May for ‘series of errors in first phase Brexit negotiations’

Theresa May must use the delay to Brexit to prepare for the next stage of negotiations with the European Union and avoid repeating the blunders made during the divorce process, a respected think tank has said. Talks on a future trade deal with Brussels will be “more complicated” than the negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement, an Institute for Government (IfG) report said. In a highly critical assessment of the Government’s handling of the Brexit process so far, the analysis blamed Mrs May for creating the “unsustainable” split in responsibilities between Number 10 and the Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu), with the “secretive” approach adopted by the Prime Minister and her closest aides fuelling division. Negotiations on the first phase of Brexit were also “bedevilled by the difficulty of getting Cabinet agreement” on the kind of relationship the UK wants with the EU.

  • Politicians, particularly on the Tory backbenches, “did not trust the UK’s official negotiators” led by Olly Robbins. – ITV News

Grassroots Conservative chairmen planning no-confidence vote in May ‘within weeks’

Grassroots Tories believe they are just weeks away from triggering a little-known process that could help to bring down Theresa May. Party chairmen are circulating a petition calling for the party’s National Convention, which represents the grassroots, to call an Extraordinary General Meeting to pass a vote of no confidence in Mrs May, the Tory leader. If the petition motion is signed by more than 65 association chairmen,  the party is obliged to hold the meeting. So far between 40 and 50 party chairmen have signed it, and the threshold could be passed as early as next week. Dinah Glover, the London East area chairman who has organised the petition, said the extraordinary meeting – the first one in the party’s history – could be held as soon as next month. Ms Glover told The Telegraph: “There is a lot of frustration and anger within the party – this is a route that we have to demonstrate those feelings so we can encourage MPs to make those feelings known.” The meeting would allow MPs “to make their feelings known as well so they understand the level of anger, not only in the voluntary party but across the elected members as well,” she said. “What we need is a new leader who can break the impasse, who passionately believes that Britain has a bright Brexit future.” –  Telegraph (£)

Leading MEP Guy Verhofstadt fears UK will waste Brexit delay…

A top EU figure has said he fears Britain will waste its latest Brexit reprieve and “run down the clock” once again. European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt told the European Parliament that the bloc’s decision to grant a delay until the end of October risked prolonging the uncertainty. He said the six-month extension to Article 50 is “too near for a substantial rethink of Brexit and at the same time too far away to prompt any action”. “My fear is that with this decision, the pressure to come to a cross-party agreement disappears,” Mr Verhofstadt said, referring to the talks between Labour and the Conservatives to try and find a Brexit compromise. “And that both parties, the Conservatives and Labour, will again already what they did for months – run down the clock. “And the proof of this is that the first decision the House of Commons took after your decision was to go on holidays.” – Sky News

…while Donald Tusk hints at further Brexit delay as he warns against ‘just getting it over with’…

Donald Tusk has hinted at a further Brexit delay as he told the “exhausted” European Union and the United Kingdom to resist the temptation to just “get it over with” out of frustration. Mr Tusk said the UK would likely take part in European elections next month and the MEPs it elected would be in post “for several months, maybe longer” as he opened the door to reversing Brexit or another Article 50 extension beyond October 31. The President of the European Council said the current delay would allow the UK to “rethink” its decision to leave as he suggested it was his “dream” that Britain would stay in the bloc. Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, said the EU would “never kick out one of our members” as the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit appeared to shrink still further. But the strain Brexit is placing on the EU also became clear as Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, attacked Mr Tusk for agreeing to the six month extension. He said the decision “could risk killing Europe”, would “poison” the forthcoming elections and had weakened the “unity” of the EU. The comments came as the Government remained locked in Brexit compromise talks with the Labour Party as both sides seek to agree a deal capable of securing the backing of a majority of MPs. – Telegraph (£)

…and signals that the UK cannot be treated as a second class citizen while it lingers in the EU

Britain cannot be treated like a second class member while it remains an EU member state ahead of Brexit, a top European politician has warned. Donald Tusk used a speech to euro MPs in Brussels to urge them not to give in to ‘fear and scaremongering’ claims that the UK could use extra time inside the bloc to ‘disrupt’ its activities. To muted applause in Brussels today the European Council president said that the UK had been a ‘constructive and responsible’ member state throughout Brexit talks, adding: ‘We have no reason to believe this will change.’ He also said the the UK ‘will’ take part in European elections, despite Theresa May’s wish to have left before the May 23 poll. Mr Tusk told MEPs that any returned by Britain would be ‘full members of the Parliament, with full rights and obligations’. He said: ‘I know that some have expressed fear that the UK might want to disrupt the EU’s functioning during this time but the EU 27 didn’t give in to such fear and scaremongering. ‘In fact, since the very beginning of the Brexit process the UK has been a constructive and responsible EU member state and so we have no reason to believe that this should change.’ He added: ‘One of the consequences of our decision is that the UK will hold European elections next month. ‘We should approach this seriously as UK members of the European Parliament will be there for several months – maybe longer. ‘They will be full members of the Parliament with all the rights and obligations. ‘I am speaking about this today because I have strongly opposed the idea that during this further extension the UK should be treated as a second category member state. – MailOnline

‘No chance’ of Brexit trade deal if Irish peace process is threatened, Democratic House Speaker warns

Senior US Democrat Nancy Pelosi last night warned there would be “no chance” of a Brexit trade deal if the Irish peace process is threatened. The Speaker of the House of Representatives said she hammered home the point in her talks with Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn in recent days. She warned the Congress could block any trade deal Donald Trump tries to strike with the UK if they think the Good Friday Agreement is endangered by Brexit. Speaking at the LSE University in London last night, she said: “It is very hard to get a trade deal through Congress in the US. “But if there were to be any weakening of the Good Friday Accords there would be no chance whatsoever – a non-starter for a US-UK trade agreement. “The Good Friday Accords ended 700 years of conflict. It is not only a treaty, it is an ideal, a value and a model for the world. “And we don’t want that model to be something that could be bargained away. Make no mistake.” Mr Trump has said he wants to do a trade deal with Britain after we leave the EU. – The Sun

Take back control? Brexit does not go far enough, says top economist Raghuram Rajan

Selfies. Autographs. A swirl of fans desperate to get close to their hero. Taylor Swift is on the agenda – but only as an illustration of superstar talents and superstar companies raking in the benefits of globalisation. This maelstrom of activity is centred on a superstar economist: Raghuram Rajan, often touted as a potential successor to Mark Carney at the Bank of England. He is in London to present his latest big ideas. What the world needs is more democracy and more localism, he says. That means praise for the spirit behind Brexit: “Sovereignty is important – take sovereignty back when you have given up too much”. He backs voters who kick elites when they deny ordinary people the opportunities they want: “periodically democracy gets really angry with the kind of cronyism that happens, and sends the message ‘we don’t want that’.” And it also means economists like him have to accept they do not have all the answers: “you also should allow for the possibility that [communities] make mistakes, and let them make mistakes – or maybe you are making a mistake when you impose” on them from afar. These are not ideas commonly expressed by members of the global elite. – Telegraph (£)

Employment hits another record high and wages rise despite Brexit turmoil

Jobs and pay powered ahead again in February as the employment miracle ignored Brexit chaos in Parliament to hit new record levels. A record 32.7m people were in work in the three months to February – a rise of 179,000 on the previous three months and a jump of 457,000 on the year. Women accounted for 80pc of the 179,000 increase as more mothers, women over 50 and students entered the labour force and boosted figures. The quality of jobs improved as most of the increase came in full-time employment, while the very low unemployment rate forced employers to offer workers more money. Unemployment fell by 27,000 on the quarter and 76,000 on the year, with the jobless rate holding steady at 3.9pc – the joint-lowest rate since the mid-1970s. Wages rose 3.5pc on the year, the joint-highest rate since 2008 and outstripping prices, which rose 1.9pc over the same period. – Telegraph

How Britain will be left in charge of the EU over Easter — three weeks after Brexit was meant to happen

Britain will be left in charge of the EU over the Easter break – three weeks after we were supposed to have quit it. The UK’s commissioner, Sir Julian King, will take the reins over all decision making for five days from today, as the most senior Brussels boss on duty over the holiday. He will decide on applications for EU funding and run the bloc’s response to emerging domestic or global crises. The ironic decision to roster him was made at the end of last year – suggesting EU chiefs knew Britain would never leave on March 29. Sir Julian’s Easter short straw also comes after surviving an attempt by Emmanuel Macron to oust him. France’s president had demanded No10-appointed Sir Julian be axed from his role as EU security boss as the price Theresa May would have to pay for a long Brexit delay. – The Sun

James Forsyth: Brexit failure will cost the Tories – whoever their leader is

One of the oddities of this parliament has been that, despite everything, the government has remained ahead in the polls up to now. But the political price of failing to pass a deal and leave the EU is now becoming apparent. Labour is ahead, Nigel Farage is back, and the right is split again. In the past month, Tory support among Leave voters has fallen by 20 per cent. In normal circumstances, such numbers would extinguish any hopes of a fourth term for the Tories. But Labour’s own divisions over Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s political weaknesses mean that this isn’t necessarily the case. A big argument is taking place within the Tory party about the correct response to the situation. One camp argues that the party needs to define itself more clearly on Brexit to win back Leave voters.  The alternative view is that the Tories must concentrate on their traditional electoral coalition. Proponents of this view point out that the Tories won a majority in 2015 despite Ukip polling 13 per cent of the vote, and that a third of the Tory vote in 2017 came from Remainers. – James Forsyth for The Spectator

Daniel Hannan: Brexit. Vote Conservative in the European elections to help us deliver it – and finish the job

At the last three European elections, the date of the local elections was moved to coincide with the Euro-poll (a tiny example of how our domestic traditions are forever being rearranged for the EU’s convenience). This time, because the European election was unforeseen – and, even now, might theoretically not happen – it will stand alone. The lift that Conservative Euro-candidates get from their councillors will be removed. Many of our supporters won’t vote, whereas single-issue pro- and anti-Brexit parties will have no difficulty motivating their voters. It gets worse. Until now, the Conservatives have had resources – human and financial – to fight campaigns. This time, we have no budget and many of our activists are on strike. And that’s before we get to the central problem, namely the anger that people feel over the delay in Brexit. We could sink into single figures next month. Keen to give us a bit of a slap, voters might knock us into a hole too deep for any future leader to clamber out of. I know that we are supposed, before an election, to talk up our party’s prospects. But, on this occasion, it would be silly to ignore the gravity of our predicament. The European election could mark the moment when, after 190 years (350 if we count the Tory prelude) the Conservative Party ceases to be viable. That is why, though I hate the fact that this poll is happening, I felt I had to stand again. – Daniel Hannan MEP for ConservativeHome

Lewis Goodall: Electric Farage highlights Remainers’ Europe confusion

If the cards fall right, the simplicity and power of his vision, his branding and operation could mean he ends up in a position with the Leave vote much to himself. And as I sat there, watching Farage play old tunes and new, I kept asking myself, where is the Remain equivalent of this? For months it has been obvious that these EU elections would come – it is why Farage registered his new party months ago – yet there seems to have been little action from the other side. Where are the rallies? Where is the cross party agreement on a joint remain ticket? Where are the posters? The agreed messaging? The corralling of the newly empowered pro-European demos in this country? The targeting of EU citizens with a vote? All seems sleepy and quiet. It is almost as if these elections have taken them by surprise. I suspect that is because the People’s Vote campaign has absorbed the creative and political energies of the Remain cause. – Lewis Goodall for Sky News

John Redwood: What would a manifesto for the European elections say in the UK?

As someone who wants us to leave now and not fight the EU elections, I think the parties will struggle to write their Manifestos for May 22nd. Presumably the Brexit party and UKIP will write similar documents urging a WTO exit as soon as possible They should look forward to not having to take their seats or to giving up their seats after October 31st on the assumption we have then left the EU. Their problem will be differentiating their approaches from each other and avoiding splitting their pro Leave votes. The Conservative party will presumably draft a Manifesto today based around Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement. The problem with that approach is if her Agreement were to pass with Labour support anytime soon then the elections will be cancelled, as the UK’s new status of in the EU without vote and voice would then kick in removing the entitlement or need for MEPs. If the Agreement does not pass, this would leave Conservative candidates with a Manifesto made irrelevant by events. – John Redwood’s Diary

The Sun: Donald Tusk calls a second referendum an achievable ‘dream’ — but for Britain it would be a nightmare

Chief Eurocrat Donald Tusk calls a second referendum an achievable “dream”. For Britain it would be a nightmare. He has a habit of letting the Brussels cat out of the bag. By suggesting every delay to Brexit makes a second referendum more likely, he’s done it again. It’s something for MPs to reflect on before they return to Parliament. Do hard Brexit Tories really want to continue their 21st century version of the Charge of the Light Brigade, rushing into a vote that would be the final  triumph of the Remain establishment? And do those Remainer MPs who put leaflets through doors in 2017 promising to respect the vote really want to face the wrath of voters in a future General Election, after they’ve disregarded the biggest democratic mandate the country has ever seen? A second referendum would destroy the public’s faith in democracy. The early stirrings of that will no doubt be seen in the European elections, when the two major parties will surely receive an almighty kicking. The lesson is clear. Pass a deal — only one of which realistically exists — do it quickly and deliver on 17.4 million votes. The consequences of failing to do so don’t bear thinking about. – The Sun says

Henry Newman: No free movement. No second referendum. Brexit gained. What would happen were the Prime Minister’s deal passed

A counterfactual thought experiment: on 29th March, the Conservative Party almost all voted together for the Prime Minister’s deal. Despite their heart-felt concerns, the remaining members of the ERG were persuaded by Jacob Rees-Mogg to back the Government. On the other end of the Brexit divide, Conservative critics on the Remain side accepted that the indicative votes had shown no majority for a second referendum, and agreed to allow the country to move on. With a few additional Labour rebels, the Withdrawal Agreement just scraped a Commons majority. Speaking in Downing Street on Friday evening, the Prime Minister set out a timetable for her departure. She reassured MPs that there was no need to hold European elections, to the delight of Daniel Hannan. The weekend’s papers showed a poll bounce towards the Conservatives, putting them in a good position to hold council seats in forthcoming local elections. At the European Council last week, the EU agreed a short technical extension to complete ratification of the Withdrawal Bill. Brexit day was set for Friday 24th May, with an extra bank holiday on Tuesday. All European Ambassadors were invited to a service in Westminster Abbey to mark the end of 46 years of British membership. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, are guests of honour at a gala dinner. With Brexit secured, the People’s Vote campaign collapsed. Formal negotiations with the EU will resume after the summer, following the formation of a new European Commission and with a new British Prime Minister in place. – Henry Newman for ConservativeHome

Brexit in Brief

Where would we be now if Remain had won the referendum? – Telegraph (£)

‘Brexit doesn’t go far enough!’ Tipped Carney successor hits out at ‘taking back control’ – Express

Hotels, packing boxes and plans on hold for the MEPs – BBC News

UK should ‘cool down’ and drop Brexit, says Socialist candidate to head EU Commission – Reuters

Theresa May could put off Queen’s speech amid Brexit turmoil – Guardian

And finally… The Times announces death of democracy

One grieving Brexiteer is so upset that they’ve posted a Death Notice in today’s Times for UK Democracy, mourning the death of Democracy “in her sleep” at 11pm on the 29th March 2019 by “foul play”: “UK Democracy on 29th March 2019, aged 312. It was with sad regret that Democracy died quietly in her sleep at 11pm, on the 29th March 2019. The cause of death was by foul play and the culprits have yet to be brought to justice. Democracy campaigned for the rule of law, human rights and free elections. She listened to everyone and favoured the majority in all her decisions. She will be sorely missed. God have mercy on her soul”. The lamenting Leaver will have coughed up £87 for the privilege, The Times were sporting enough to take their money and publish it.  – Guido Fawkes