Brexit News for Thursday 20 April

Brexit News for Thursday 20 April

General election campaigning begins as MPs back June poll

Campaigning is under way after the House of Commons backed Theresa May’s call for a general election on 8 June. MPs voted by 522 votes to 13 – with Labour and Lib Dem helping secure the two-thirds majority needed to bring forward the election from 2020. The prime minister urged voters to give her “the mandate to speak for Britain and to deliver for Britain”. Jeremy Corbyn said a Labour government would stop Mrs May from using Brexit to make the UK an “offshore tax haven”… Defending the move, Mrs May told MPs there was a “window of opportunity” to hold a poll before Brexit negotiations began in earnest in June… Mrs May, who became PM last July after the EU referendum, told MPs that it would be wrong for the UK to find itself reaching the most “difficult and sensitive” phase of Brexit negotiations in late 2018 and early 2019 at a time when a general election was “looming on the horizon”. – BBC News

  • Election 2017: Parliamentary timeline – BBC News
  • Snap general election is about buying time for Brexit – Faisal Islam for Sky News
  • Election will give UK ‘strongest hand’ in Brexit talks, says Theresa May – The Guardian
  • How will Brexit affect the 2017 General Election? – Daily Telegraph (£)
  • Labour considering second referendum manifesto pledge to woo Remainers – The Times (£)
  • Labour heads for its worst election in 86 years as Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and Ukip collapse hands Tories prized seats – The Sun
  • Tories have best support in nine years at 48% in first poll since election announcement – The Times (£)
  • The greatest gamble for Theresa May was not calling an early general election – George Eaton for the New Statesman
  • Theresa May agrees to BBC Question Time-style question and answer televised election debate but not head-to-head with rival leaders – Daily Telegraph

Ex-Vote Leave Chairman Gisela Stuart announces her retirement from Parliament

Birmingham MP Gisela Stuart has announced she is quitting. Mrs Stuart, Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, has told her local party she is standing down after 20 years in the House of Commons. She said: “After 22 years of campaigning and 20 years of having had the privilege of being the MP for this diverse, forever surprising and wonderful marginal seat I know when it is time to stand down and pass on the baton”… Mrs Stuart, a former Health Minister, made history as chair of the official “leave” campaign in the 2016 EU referendum, leading to Brexit. – Birmingham Mail

George Osborne to stand down as MP as he leaves Westminster ‘for now’

Former chancellor George Osborne says he is quitting the House of Commons “for now”. The Conservative MP for Tatton said he was “very excited” about becoming the new editor of London’s Evening Standard newspaper… Following last month’s announcement that Mr Osborne would be taking over as editor of the London-based free newspaper from Sarah Sands, questions had been asked about how he would combine that role with being an MP for a northern constituency… Since being axed as chancellor by Theresa May when she became PM last July, Mr Osborne has picked up a number of other jobs. – BBC News

  • Osborne hints he’ll be a pain in May’s neck after quitting – The Times (£)
  • George Osborne’s Westminster demise is complete – but he hasn’t left the political stage yet – Philip Johnston for the Daily Telegraph (£)
  • George Osborne the journalist has accepted that this is the end of the road for George Osborne the politician – John Rentoul for The Independent
  • Manchester Gorton by-election cancellation confirmed – BBC News
  • Ken Clarke, 76, to fight final election after about-turn – The Times (£)
  • Nick Boles MP: ‘My cancer has been eradicated and I am standing for election’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Nick Clegg confirms he will stand again in June general election – The Independent
  • Osborne, Clegg and Boles – who is, and isn’t, standing for election this summer – City A.M.
  • Who are the Labour MPs who will not be standing in the 2017 general election? – Daily Telegraph
  • Theresa May is binding the Conservatives to Brexit. How will Tory Remainers cope? – Asa Bennett for the Daily Telegraph (£)

Tory manifesto will reportedly guarantee ending free movement, leaving the single market and the European Court of Justice…

Theresa May will place a triple lock on Brexit in the Tory manifesto to stop obstruction by diehard Remainers. Tory sources say she is set to include specific pledges to overcome opposition within her party and in the Lords. The manifesto is expected to commit the Conservatives to ending EU free movement and pulling out of both the single market and European Court of Justice. Senior Tories see the three measures as essential in delivering last year’s referendum result. One insider said Tory Remainers would be required to sign up to the package, ‘locking them in’. – Daily Mail

…as May heads for concession over student net migration targets

Theresa May is being forced into a concession over migrant targets as part of the price for calling a snap poll. The prime minister is ready to soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals, The Times has learnt. Mrs May has repeatedly rejected calls from cabinet ministers including Boris Johnson, Philip Hammond and Amber Rudd to exempt students from the pledge to reduce the number of net migrants arriving in Britain each year to the tens of thousands. Now she is offering to change the way that student numbers are calculated, with the promise of further concessions. The compromise is an attempt to ensure that an overhaul of the university system can pass through parliament in the next week. – The Times (£)

Allister Heath: Theresa May must now make clear her immigration plan for Brexit Britain

One thing is certain: she must ditch David Cameron’s intellectually bankrupt net migration plan, one of the most shameless, corrosive political pledges of recent times. The “tens of thousands” target was made up in the run-up to the 2010 general election as a cheap way to tap into rising angst about immigration levels… Yet the target will remain absurd even after we leave the EU, for it is logically and practically bogus… It makes as much sense for the government to target net migration as it would to target the weather, and it is an insult to voters’ intelligence to pretend otherwise. Outside of North Korea, people, regardless of their nationality, are free to leave their country – and of course UK citizens living abroad can return. Absurdly, under the net migration definition, an expat who moves back from Dubai is “bad” for the target; just as nonsensically, an Australian doctor who finishes her three-year stint in Britain to return home is considered a “good” thing. Students who move here temporarily to study (and pay hefty fees) are also “bad”. The Prime Minister has a golden opportunity to recast our approach to immigration along much more rational lines. – Allister Heath for the Daily Telegraph (£)

Gina Miller to launch tactical voting initiative against “hard Brexit”

Gina Miller, the pro-EU campaigner behind a successful court challenge over article 50, is planning to launch a tactical voting initiative to support election candidates opposed to hard Brexit. In a possible sign of appetite among progressives to put party affiliation aside on 8 June, a crowdfunding page set up immediately after Theresa May called the snap election quickly exceeded initial financial targets on Wednesday… In practice, the most likely recipients of endorsement and support would be Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates who take a clear stance against a hard Brexit and are poised to threaten Conservative MPs favouring the prime minister’s approach. – The Guardian

  • Scottish National Party open to alliance with Labour, Lib Dems – Politico
  • Theresa May warns of ‘coalition of chaos’ if Nicola Sturgeon forms ‘progressive alliance’ with Labour and Lib Dems – Daily Telegraph
  • Jeremy Corbyn rejects ‘progressive alliance’ with SNP – BBC News
  • Liberal Democrats rule out post-election coalition deal with Jeremy Corbyn – Daily Telegraph
  • Coalition, collaboration and tactical voting: that’s how to halt hard Brexit – Paul Mason for The Guardian
  • Londoners didn’t vote for Brexit, but we can now vote to soften it – Sadiq Khan for the Evening Standard
  • The only winner from Tony Blair’s anti-Brexit stance is Theresa May – Tom Harris for the Daily Telegraph (£)

European Commission sees no effect on Brexit timetable from UK general election but insists EU agencies will leave Britain…

“Negotiations were meant to start in June,” [European Commission spokesperson Margaritas] Schinas said. EU27 leaders will discuss their Brexit negotiations guidelines on April 29, the Commission will issue its recommendations on May 3 and it will be up to EU affairs ministers to approve the EU’s Brexit mandate — probably on May 22. Schinas added that the Commission will be staying well away from the British election. “It is a matter for British voters,” he said, adding “I do not imagine the Commission campaigning on the context of the British parliamentary election.” …Schinas also clarified that the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority “must be based in the territory of the European Union” after the U.K. leaves the bloc, shouting down claims to the contrary from Brexit Secretary David Davis. “The U.K. will have no say in the relocation” of those agencies, said Schinas. – Politico

  • Jean-Claude Juncker to visit May in London next Wednesday – Politico
  • ‘Real’ Brexit talks will only start after UK general election in June, says Jean-Claude Juncker – Daily Telegraph
  • German MEP on EU’s Brexit team says big election victory for May will help smooth talks – Daily Express

…as internal Commission memo tells staff to prepare to poach British business and cut the UK off

Brussels is starting systematically to shut out British groups from multibillion-euro contracts and urging companies to decamp to one of the 27 remaining EU members as it prepares for Brexit. In an internal memo seen by the Financial Times, top European Commission officials have told staff to avoid “unnecessary additional complications” with Britain before 2019, highlighting an administrative chill that is biting even before Britain leaves the bloc. It explicitly calls on EU staff to begin encouraging the UK-based private sector to prepare for the “legal repercussions” of Brexit and consider the need “to have an office in the EU” to maintain their operating permits. Agencies are also told to prepare to “disconnect” the UK from sensitive databases, [such as crime-fighting and asylum databases], potentially on the day of Brexit… The commission note was circulated to senior staff and signed by Alexander Italianer, the commission’s secretary-general; Martin Selmayr, the president’s chief of staff; and Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator. – FT (£)

Paul Ryan announces US is ready to forge a new bilateral trade deal with UK ‘as soon as possible’

The House speaker said Brexit should be viewed as “a real opportunity for our two nations” and warned against China “writing the rules of the 21st century global economy”. Mr Ryan said he was in the UK to bring a message “that the United States stands ready to forge a new trade agreement with Great Britain as soon as possible, so that we may further tap into the great potential between our people”. “We want, as soon as the UK is ready and able, to do a trade agreement, a bilateral trade agreement,” Mr Ryan said. He offered the unequivocal support of America as Britain attempts to secure deal with the European Union for how Brexit will work. “We will stand with you through all of it,” he said during a speech at the Policy Exchange think tank in London. “We’re going to be with you through every step of the way.” – Daily Telegraph

City continues to be jobs magnet, despite Brexit uncertainty

The City continues to be a jobs magnet despite some financial services jobs being shifted to Europe, a report suggests. The Morgan McKinley London Employment Monitor registered a double-digit jump in financial sector vacancies last month. The number of financial jobs in London grew by 17% in March, compared to February; and 13% year-on-year for a total of 8,145 new openings… Hakan Enver, operations director for Morgan McKinley Financial Services, said: “Businesses are done trying to read the tea leaves to see what lies ahead, and they’re getting back to the business of hiring talent.” Many firms have already announced plans to move their offices out of the UK in preparation for its departure from the European Union. But those plans do not appear to have caused higher unemployment in the City… “Instead of relocating to Europe, therefore, financial services are increasingly looking for the best of both worlds by keeping their foothold in London, and expanding operations in or to other European financial hubs,” the report said. – Sky News

Denmark seeks to forge post-Brexit alliances within EU to counter German-French dominance

The European Union’s smaller members are busy holding meetings to discuss how to forge alliances that would stop Germany and France dominating the bloc after the U.K. leaves. The foreign minister of Denmark, Anders Samuelsen, spent the days before the Easter break traveling across the EU to the Czech Republic, Austria and Portugal to meet with governments there and share ideas on how to gain clout in a post-Brexit Europe. The main concern is how to ensure there’s a counterweight to the bloc’s two biggest members, he said… Denmark has openly lamented Britain’s departure from the EU, with the two countries often agreeing on key issues such as defense and free trade. Both opted out of the EU’s common currency and declined invitations for greater cooperation in the field of justice and policing. – Bloomberg

> BrexitCentral Podcast last week with leader and foreign affairs chief of the Danish People’s Party: Dexit after Brexit? Opt-out or get-out

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Theresa May’s Britain will become Europe’s haven of order and calm

Assuming that Theresa May wins a landslide victory on June 8, she will be the only leader of a major EU state with a crushing mandate and the backing of a unified parliamentary phalanx. All others will be in varying states of internal disarray. None will have a workable majority in parliament. Bitter internal disputes will continue to fester over the loss of democratic control under monetary union, whether or not eurosceptic parties actually come to power. This gives the Prime Minister formidable clout… Discord lies on the other side of the Channel… My guess is that Brexit will soon be overtaken by fast-moving events in Europe. If correct, the media narrative of EU politics will change beyond recognition. Britain will start to look like a safe-haven, a beacon of sober well-run democracy amid unsettling disorder. – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard for the Daily Telegraph (£)

Brexit comment in brief

  • May should announce that she will reappoint her top three ministers and her Brexit team post-election – Paul Goodman for ConservativeHome
  • Brexitland: So much for the fractured nation – I haven’t found it – Owen Jones for The Guardian
  • Playing the nationalism card will end catastrophically for Labour – Henry Hill for Reaction
  • Germany needs a strong EU. Why would it allow Britain an easy Brexit? – Charles Grant for The Guardian
  • Snap election a win-win for Theresa May: she’ll crush Labour and make Brexit a little easier – Tim Bale for Reaction
  • General election will give us a Brexit government – Daily Express editorial
  • Why Theresa May’s snap election isn’t all about Brexit – Matthew Goodwin for Politico
  • Why does the French Presidential Election matter to the UK? – Peter Foster for the Daily Telegraph
  • Macron struggles to retain sparkle as French vote draws near – Anne-Sylvaine Chassany for the FT (£)

Brexit news in brief

  • When is the French Presidential Election 2017, how does it work and who are the candidates? – Daily Telegraph
  • French presidential election: Poll tracker and odds – Daily Telegraph
  • British companies to increase ad budgets this year despite Brexit uncertainty – Reuters