Lords accused of "playing with fire" after defeating Government twice on EU Withdrawal Bill: Brexit News for Thursday 19 April

Lords accused of
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Government suffers first defeats on EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords…

Remain-backing lords succeeded in their bid to amend the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill to force ministers to set out the steps taken during negotiations with Brussels to enable the UK to stay in a customs union with the bloc. Peers backed the amendment by 348 votes to 225, with 24 Conservatives, including former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine and former health secretary Lord Lansley, rebelling against the Government. But ministers dismissed the defeat as “meaningless” and said the amendment would not change their plans. They believe the amendment could be disregarded because being in a customs union after Brexit is not Government policy. Therefore ministers could simply state that no such steps had been taken. – Telegraph

  • Government suffers two Brexit defeats in House of Lords – FT (£)
  • Theresa May will ‘live with’ Lords defeat on Brexit bill without changing course, says cabinet minister – Independent

…with the Remain-dominated House backing membership of a customs union…

Backing it, ex-EU Commissioner Lord Patten said the UK would be worse off unless current arrangements continued. But Brexit minister Lord Callanan said it required the government to report on the steps taken towards an objective it has “clearly ruled out”… Former Conservative Chancellor Lord Lawson said Lord Patten was putting forward a “political argument dressed up as a trade argument” and it amounted to a “wrecking amendment”. Remaining in a customs union while leaving the EU would leave the UK in a “quasi-colonial” status, he said… Lord Forsyth went further, suggesting it was a plot by “Remainers in this House, who are the majority, who refuse to accept the verdict of the British people – and I believe they are playing with fire”. “I say to colleagues in this House, ‘Have a care to what we are doing.’ We are an unelected house, and this amendment [is] part of a campaign which is putting peers against the people.” – BBC News

  • Tory peers join revolt against Britain leaving customs union – The Times (£)

> WATCH House of Lords EU Withdrawal Bill highlights

> WATCH Lord Forsyth: Remainers in the Lords are playing with fire

…and enhanced protection for a variety of EU-derived rights

Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer hailed the passage of the cross-party amendment as an “important step forward”… The Lib Dems’ leader in the Lords, Lord Newby, described it as a “hugely significant” moment… But UKIP slammed the vote as a “clear betrayal” of the more than 17 million people who voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum… Peers later inflicted a second defeat on the Government after approving amendment 11, which seeks to protect people’s rights after Brexit. They voted in favour of it by 314 votes to 217- a majority of 97. The Lords will next consider the draft legislation on 23 April. – Sky News

  • Brexit minister Steve Baker urges Lords stop ‘frustrating’ deal and respect public’s decision – Express
  • My fellow peers hate to frustrate the Government, but we have to act over its Brexit power grab – Lord Carlile for the Telegraph (£)

> WATCH Brexit Minister Lord Callanan on post-Brexit rights and protections

> WATCH Steve Baker: Parliament asked the people, the people gave their verdict

> On BrexitCentral today: How the House of Lords voted on yesterday’s amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill at Report Stage

David Cameron: I don’t regret calling EU referendum

[Cameron] said he “made a promise to the British people” to hold a referendum and “I kept that promise”. Mr Cameron, who entered Downing Street at the head of a coalition government in 2010 before winning a surprise majority in 2015, said: “I don’t regret holding a referendum. I think it was the right thing to do. “I don’t think you can belong to these organisations and see their powers grow, and treaty after treaty, and power after power going from Westminster to Brussels and never asking the people whether they are happy governed in that way.” … Mr Cameron added that while he disagreed with Brexit, he said the idea that Britain could be “a friend and a neighbour, and a partner of the European Union, rather than a member of the European Union” was a “legitimate choice”. “And that’s what the country has chosen. I accept the result. I wish my successor well in the work that she is doing,” he said. – Sky News

  • David Cameron says he doesn’t regret EU referendum – Telegraph

First talks on the future UK-EU relationship begin in Brussels…

Senior British and EU officials opened talks on the UK’s future relationship with the European Union on Wednesday, marking a milestone in the Brexit process. More than a year after the government triggered article 50, British and EU negotiators met behind closed doors to discuss the UK’s future trade ties… The EU is undecided about how much detail should go into the text on the future relationship before Brexit day in March 2019. Germany is pushing for a detailed, legally precise text to avoid surprises during the post-Brexit trade talks, but Scandinavian and Benelux countries prefer to keep the document vague to give the UK maximum room to change its mind. – Guardian

  • No Brexit deal without Irish border solution, warns Donald Tusk – Telegraph

…with Davis urging May to publish a detailed plan before Brussels to seize the initiative from Barnier

David Davis, the UK Brexit secretary, is urging prime minister Theresa May to get ahead of the EU by publishing detailed proposals for the future UK-EU relationship “as soon as possible” rather than waiting for Brussels to lay down its terms. Mr Davis’s allies have discussed Britain producing a document of more than 50 pages — possibly as early as next month — setting out detailed plans on issues such as a future customs relationship, financial services and regulation. Until now, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has always been the first to produce drafts of the legal texts that need to be negotiated in the Brexit negotiations, effectively setting the agenda for talks… Mrs May and Mr Davis have decided that Britain should try to secure as much detail in October as possible, rather than deliberately keeping the deal vague, so as to secure maximum agreement within the Tory party and satisfy Whitehall officials. – FT (£)

Reversing Brexit would pose a threat to Europe, warns ex-French President Francois Hollande

Any attempt to reverse Brexit poses a threat to the future of Europe, the former French president Francois Hollande has warned, urging the European Union to push through a decision he says Britain will “live to regret”. The 63-year-old former president who led France until last year told the Daily Telegraph that the door to Europe was now “closed” and that a prolonged Brexit divorce proceeding presented the bigger risk to the European Union. “It’s shut. The vote has taken place and nobody can question it,” he said, dismissing attempts by the Remain camp to do so. “One cannot open a negotiation thinking that there is any way out other than leaving,” he said. – Telegraph (£)

Boris Johnson: Brexit is not about migration, it’s about who calls the shots

Boris Johnson has suggested the Government should make the “liberal” case for immigration and warned that “a society that isn’t open to talent will die”… He said: “Countries are democratically entitled to decide how open they should be. That was the problem with the EU – it fundamentally took away people’s democratic ability to decide who could come. That was why it was right to take back control. It’s not about migration, it’s about control… There are lots of people who voted leave who are very liberal on migration, who shared my point of view, but see the democratic point of view. It’s about who’s running your country.” … Mr Johnson said there will be no point in Brexit if Britain is unable to “diverge” from the European Union so it can strike new free trade deals after leaving the EU… “To decide our own duties and so on and simultaneously to have regulatory divergence from the EU. Without that your ability to do things in a different way if you want, and your ability to do free trade deals, there is very little point in Brexit. I think Theresa totally gets that.” – Telegraph

  • Boris Johnson blasts UK for turning back on Commonwealth when it joined Common Market – Express

Brexit devolution row ‘reaching endgame’, says Nicola Sturgeon

The first minister said she “genuinely hopes” an agreement can be reached over what happens to powers in devolved areas after the UK leaves the EU. She said ministers from the two sides are likely to meet next week. But she stressed that “we are not there yet” on a deal… However, Bills passed in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly last month aimed at providing an alternative to the legislation have now been referred to the Supreme Court, which has been asked to rule on whether they are constitutional and within devolved powers… But [Sturgeon] stressed that progress was being made in the talks, adding: “It’s fair to say we are reaching the endgame of this. “We would probably over the next couple of weeks need to see this come to an agreement or not, so we are talking now more like days rather than weeks. – BBC News

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants trade deal with UK the day after Brexit

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he wants a trade deal with the UK which “will flip over the day after Brexit” . Speaking to the BBC ahead of his meeting with Theresa May on Wednesday, the Canadian premier indicated he would be keen to maintain strong trade links with the UK after it leaves the EU. He said: “We are very happy with trade with Britain – it’s our largest trading partner in the European Union and we will look make sure there’s predictability and continuity.” – The i

> WATCH Justin Trudeau wants ‘seamless’ UK trade deal after Brexit

May woos Indian PM Modi as UK pursues free-trade deal with India…

Britain and India have laid the ground for a possible post-Brexit bilateral free trade deal and signed off on a series of commercial agreements worth up to £1bn, according to Downing Street… Modi did not attend the Commonwealth summit in Malta two years ago, and his predecessor, Manmohan Singh, missed the 2011 summit in Australia and its successor in Sri Lanka in 2013. But Modi, who was personally courted by both Prince Charles and Theresa May to attend the talks, regards the Commonwealth as a useful multilateral forum from which China, India’s great rival, is absent. He is also looking for allies in any trade war with the US. In common with most Commonwealth leaders, Modi also sees the visit as a chance to woo the City of London and court foreign direct investment. – Guardian

  • Queen drafted to charm ex-colonies into post-Brexit free trade – Bloomberg

…while Modi vows his country will be an even closer trading partner to Britain after Brexit

India’s Prime Minister pledged his country’s key support to Theresa May’s Brexit plans yesterday – vowing to become an even closer partner with Britain after our EU exit. Narendra Modi said London’s world-leading role in the financial sector meant Britain would remain “of great importance” after Brexit. He reassured Mrs May that there would be “no dilution in the importance of the UK to India post-Brexit,” No10 said. And Mr Modi hailed Brexit as an opportunity to “further increase trade ties” between the two nations… And in a second Brexit boost yesterday the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he wanted the current free trade deal Britain enjoys through the EU to “flip over the day after Brexit”. – The Sun

London office rentals soaring despite Brexit

London office rentals are soaring according to two separate reports released this week. 2.3 million square feet of office space was let in central London in the three months to March 31, according to estate agent JLL. That’s 14% up on last year and 5% up on the ten year average. Meanwhile agents CBRE say they have had the strongest first quarter since 2012. The firm estimates more than 9 million square feet of office space is being sought in London. Just last November the FT claimed the future of the London office rental market “looks distinctly grey… Companies are already rushing to secure space elsewhere. European rental markets are booming.” – Guido Fawkes

  • InterContinental CEO sees “incredible” long-term market in UK – Bloomberg

Fraser Nelson: The wrong Brexit – what happened to ‘Global Britain’?

Many Remainers genuinely believed they were engaged in a battle of ‘open’ vs ‘closed’ — and that ‘closed’ won. So as democrats, they ought to obey what they believe to be the demand of Brexit voters: clamping down on migration, sounding more tough and less liberal. This is a tragic misreading not only of the referendum result, but of public opinion today. Seeking to control immigration is not the same thing as being anti-immigrant: now that control is assured, support for immigration has risen sharply. A poll last year showed that 71 per cent of Leave voters would back a system that controls low-skilled migration from the EU with no limit on high-skilled newcomers. This rises to 75 per cent among Conservatives. Just 14 per cent of the public disagree with this idea. It is the obvious next step. Such a policy should replace the current crude immigration target, which has not been met since it was created… Chasing this target has led to the Windrush debacle and more madness… The truth is that this exposes a dysfunctional form of Toryism and a party hierarchy that still fails to understand the true motives of Brexit supporters and the opportunities it will present. – Fraser Nelson for the Spectator

Asa Bennett: The Windrush mess will be easily exploited by Brussels

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit pointman, is already on the warpath over that sort of “bureaucratic nightmare”. The Brexit negotiating room may seem as secure as an airplane’s black box, but that doesn’t mean those inside overlook what is going on in the outside world… European negotiators have not been unafraid to embarrass their British counterparts over previous Home Office bungles. At one point during last year’s talks, an EU negotiator reportedly presented a sheaf of reports by the paper of cases where EU nationals were denied residency and demanded an explanation. – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)

  • Rudd allies clim Brexiteers stoking Windrush scandal – Guido Fawkes
  • Government accused of overcharging for citizenship in House of Lords report – The Times (£)
  • Theresa May may strike post-Brexit deal on EU immigration rights before report into impact of sky-high migration is ready – The Sun
  • Home Office’s immigration shambles risks undermining the Brexit process – The Sun says
  • Let’s replace suspicion of migrants with compassion – Polly Mackenzie for The Times (£)
  • After the Windrush scandal, it is all the more important for liberal Leavers to speak up (video) – Dan Hannan for ConservativeHome

Iain Martin: Rebel MPs are laying a trap to derail Brexit

If the Commons machinations go awry, we will technically leave the EU next March but remain a rule-taker from the EU. Britain will have exited only to comply with all the rules set by others in perpetuity. For Leave voters, that would be a worse position than membership of the EU. “This is where they try to kill Brexit,” says a minister. The customs union is the murder weapon of choice… In that scenario, the idea of Britain doing its own trade deals would be stuffed. Worse, the EU would negotiate on our behalf and email us the results. The EU may see this as a way of keeping Britain in step with the rules of the single market, too. This creeping deceit is what Tory rebels are committed to enforcing by voting with Labour… In No 10 the mandarin Robbins favours a complex system by which Britain will collect the EU’s external tariffs and then pay rebates. “How would that even work? Massive shambles,” says a senior Tory. David Davis, the Brexit secretary, regards it as unworkable. – Iain Martin for The Times (£)

Matt Singh: No, the UK isn’t going to rejoin the EU

Outside of Britain it’s commonly assumed that the country regrets its decision to leave Europe. Indeed European Parliament Brexit Representative Guy Verhofstadt suggested recently that one day the U.K. might rejoin the EU. It’s also a view some inside Britain cling to as well; and yet there’s very little evidence to support it. Ever since the Brexit vote in June 2016, staunch Remain supporters have explored various avenues to keep Britain in the 28-nation bloc… Polling has suggested that a second referendum would be close, but has generally not shown majority support for holding one. – Matt Singh for Bloomberg

Ruth Lea: The Commonwealth advantage – trading with the bloc offers buoyant economic prospects

Given the relatively buoyant growth prospects in Commonwealth countries, UK export growth prospects to these countries should be favourable, especially if free trade agreements are successfully negotiated… [B]ecause of shared history and commonalities of language, law and business practice, it has been estimated that Commonwealth countries trading with one another experience business costs 10-15% lower than similar dealings with non-Commonwealth countries of comparable size and GDP. This has been called the “Commonwealth advantage”. – Ruth Lea for LSE Brexit

Express: Brexit is looming and now Great Britain is booming

As Project Fear gathered pace in the run-up to the referendum less than two years ago, the then chancellor George Osborne was issuing dire predictions about economic growth dropping between three and six per cent along with 820,000 jobs lost within two years. And what do we find instead? Unemployment is at its lowest level since 1975 with 32.2million in work, sterling is stronger, wage growth is outstripping inflation and the picture is certainly sunnier… The idea that Britain would suffer after voting to leave the EU has been proven a complete fallacy. – Express editorial

Brexit in brief

  • MPs have more to decide than just whether or not to Brexit under Theresa May’s deal – Hannah White for the Telegraph (£)
  • How Brexit could break Whitehall – Colin Talbot for The Times (£)
  • European car sales weakest in five years – Bloomberg
  • New blue passports will be printed in France as De La Rue abandons post-Brexit passport appeal – ITV News
  • ECB seeks new powers to deal with clearing crises outside the EU – Bloomberg
  • UK £615m worse off per week under preferred Brexit scenario claims study – Politico