Government to introduce Bill implementing its Brexit deal in early June: Brexit News for Wednesday 15 May

Government to introduce Bill implementing its Brexit deal in early June: Brexit News for Wednesday 15 May
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Government to introduce Bill implementing its Brexit deal in early June…

A bill implementing the Brexit deal will be introduced in the first week of June, the government has confirmed. Downing Street said this was “imperative” if the UK was to leave the EU before MPs’ summer recess. The government also confirmed that talks with the Labour party would continue on Wednesday in an attempt to agree a way through the Brexit impasse. Attempts to find a cross-party compromise began after the PM’s Brexit deal was rejected three times by MPs. The prime minister and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn met on Tuesday evening to discuss the ongoing talks. Number 10 described the discussions as “both useful and constructive”. A spokesman said Theresa May had made clear the government’s “determination to bring the talks to a conclusion and deliver on the referendum result to leave the EU”. “We will therefore be bringing forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the week beginning 3 June,” he said. Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said “It is right that the PM makes clear there needs to be an end point to the talks.” – BBC News

  • MPs to vote on key Brexit legislation in June, Downing Street says – Sky News
  • Theresa May to table vote on Brexit deal in early June – Telegraph (£)
  • May and her Brexit deal face moment of truth next month – The Times (£)
  • Theresa May to ‘step down in July’ after final Brexit deal showdown in the Commons – iNews

…after Cabinet sets summer deadline for passing the legislation as cross-party talks continue…

Theresa May’s divided cabinet has agreed that Brexit talks with Labour should continue – but set a fresh deadline of the summer recess for parliament to pass the necessary legislation to take Britain out of the EU. With the prime minister under intense pressure from Conservative backbenchers to abandon the talks, amid an air of paralysis at Westminster, ministers held what Downing Street called an “extensive” discussion on Tuesday morning. “Ministers involved set out details of the compromises which the government was prepared to consider, in order to secure an agreement which would allow the UK to leave the EU, with a deal, as soon as possible,” said the prime minister’s spokesman. He said cabinet had agreed it was “imperative to bring forward the withdrawal agreement in time for it to receive royal assent before the summer recess”. David Lidington, who has been leading the talks for the Tories, gave an overview of progress. No date has yet been set for parliament’s summer recess, which usually begins in mid-July. MPs are due to go on a Whitsun recess from 23 May – the day of the European elections – to 4 June. May’s spokesman reiterated that she intended to step down once she has completed the first phase of the Brexit talks. – Guardian

  • Cabinet agrees not to kill off Brexit talks with Labour and debates compromises – Sky News
  • Theresa May says it’s ‘imperative’ Brexit takes place by summer as she unveils compromises – City A.M.
  • Theresa May sets MPs deadline to pass Brexit deal – and save their summer hols – Mirror

…although John McDonnell reports ‘no significant shift’ from the Government…

There has been no “significant shift” by the government in cross-party Brexit talks, John McDonnell has said. The shadow chancellor said Labour had not seen enough movement from ministers, especially on the issue of a customs union with the EU, adding: “We’re not near what we want.” Cabinet discussed the state of the talks earlier, which have been going on for weeks with little sign of progress. Mr McDonnell insisted Labour had “compromised in some areas”. He also criticised a letter from former Tory cabinet ministers to Theresa May urging her not to agree a deal with Labour that includes a customs union. Speaking at a Wall Street Journal event in London, he said “the customs union element is absolutely key to us”, but the letter gave the party “no security” that any deal done would be honoured in the long-term. “Our big problem now is if we’re going to march our troops in Parliament to the top of the hill to vote for a deal and then that’s overturned, literally, in weeks, I think that would be a cataclysmic act of bad faith.” Following Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley said ministers had agreed that talks with Labour to try to find a compromise would continue. So far both sides have resisted calls to set a deadline on the negotiations. But the prime minister’s official spokesman said the government believed it was “imperative” that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – which would enact the legislation required to leave the EU – was brought to Parliament in time for it to pass all its stages by the summer recess. – BBC News

  • Brexit talks between Labour and the Conservatives have hit a new low – Business Insider
  • Brexit talks doomed? Labour concerned May’s successor could ditch any deal – Reuters

…and claims Jeremy Corbyn is a ‘Remainer in his heart’

Labour’s John McDonnell said he and Jeremy Corbyn are both Remainers  ‘deep’ in their hearts today as he revealed he warned the Tories a second referendum might be the price of a Brexit deal. The hard Left shadow chancellor was speaking after talks between Labour and the Government appeared to have totally stalled after more than six weeks. And it came as it emerged that EU officials are already talking about a further extension of Article 50 to June 2020 out of frustration at a lack of progress in Westminster. The shadow chancellor told the Wall Street Journal CEO Council conference in London: ‘Deep in my heart I’m still a Remainer.’ Asked if Mr Corbyn was also a Remainer in his heart, the shadow chancellor said: ‘Yes.’ – MailOnline

Downing Street moves to reassure Tory critics over Brexit talks

Allies of Theresa May are attempting to calm Tory fears about the prospect of a damaging split in the party over the Brexit talks with Labour. The Prime Minister was warned by senior Conservatives that she risks losing the “loyal middle” of the Tory Party if she gives ground on a customs union. Number 10 sources insisted that the Government would not sign up to a “permanent” customs union and any compromise position may only be an “interim” measure. Some 13 former ministers, together with the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, have written to the Prime Minister urging her not to concede Labour’s key demand. The signatories include Gavin Williamson, who she sacked as defence secretary, as well as potential leadership contenders Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab. A Number 10 source said: “We will not sign up to a permanent customs union. “We are trying to find a compromise on customs as interim position or stepping stone.” – Belfast Telegraph

The UK doesn’t need an election or another Brexit referendum, says Jeremy Hunt

Britain does not need a national election or another Brexit referendum right now, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Tuesday. Hunt said it was not impossible to get a Brexit deal with Labour but that it was in both parties’ political DNA not to trust each other. He said both parties would be “crucified” at a general election if they failed to resolve Brexit. “I think you can never discount any of these potential outcomes. But I think a general election and a second referendum are my least likely outcomes because Brexit divides all the parties,” Hunt said at a Wall Street Journal conference. “It is difficult to see how a general election, particularly changes the situation, and I also think it is very, very unpopular for MPs, for understandable reasons.” When questioned whether he would put a no-deal Brexit on the table at some point, Hunt said this parliament did not want a no-deal Brexit. He said Britain needed a pro-business immigration policy after Brexit. – Reuters

The Tories face oblivion if they do not satisfy Farage’s Brexit demands, warns Steve Baker…

The Conservative party will face “oblivion” unless it satisfies Brexit Party voters’ desire for a hard withdrawal from the EU, a senior MP has warned amid suggestions of a Tory pact with Nigel Farage’s outfit. Arch-Eurosceptic Steve Baker called for a “reconciliation” between the parties after his Tory colleague, the former minister Crispin Blunt, urged an electoral pact with the Brexit Party. It came as Theresa May was warned by a member of the Tories’ 1922 committee executive that she could face moves to oust her as soon as Thursday if she does not set a date for her departure. The prime minister’s leadership is hanging by a thread with EU withdrawal delayed until October 31 and talks on a cross-party deal with Labour making little progress. The situation has angered Leavers and left the Tories facing a mauling in the May 23 European elections, with Farage’s Brexit Party topping some opinion polls as the main beneficiaries. It prompted Blunt to call for a general election pact with Farage if the Tories elect a Brexiteer to replace May. – Huffington Post

…as senior Tory Crispin Blunt urges his party to form an alliance with the Brexit Party

The Conservatives should enter into a pact with the Brexit Party at the next general election, a senior Tory MP has said. Crispin Blunt, former chairman of the foreign affairs select committee and a Brexiteer, said that his party was in “deep trouble” and suggested fellow MPs consider “some kind of electoral arrangement” with the Brexit Party. This would probably involve both parties standing on a common no-deal platform and Tory candidates standing aside in general election seats the party doesn’t believe they can win but the Brexit Party might. The idea horrified some MPs, with one telling The Times they would not stand again for the Tories if they did a deal with the Brexit Party. Boris Johnson, who was backed by Mr Blunt in the last Tory leadership contest, refused to comment on the suggestion. Jeremy Hunt, another likely leadership contender, has previously said it would be a disaster to hold an election before the first stage of Brexit is done.Speaking on the BBC Newsnight programme, Mr Blunt said: “I cannot imagine for one minute that Theresa May is going to want to go to the next Conservative Party conference in October and address it as leader. “I accept of course we’re in deep trouble and deep difficulty. But if we, under a new leader, reinvent ourselves properly as a Brexit party, we will be faced with the inevitability at some point of a general election in order to deliver Brexit because this parliament is stopping the delivery of Brexit. “And this is where, in my judgment, we are going to have to come to an accommodation with the Brexit Party. “The Conservatives as a Brexit party, being very clear about their objectives are almost certainly going to have to go into some kind of electoral arrangement with the Brexit Party, otherwise Brexit doesn’t happen.”  – The Times (£)

  • Tory MP demands Conservatives form a pact with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party – Mirror

Remain voters will back The Brexit Party at European elections, claims Nigel Farage…

Remain voters will back The Brexit Party on May 23 because they want politicians to “honour the will of the people” and take the UK out of the European Union, Nigel Farage has claimed. The leader of The Brexit Party said it was not just Leave voters who are angry about the Government’s failure to deliver Britain’s divorce from the bloc. Mr Farage said some people who voted in 2016 for the UK to stay in the EU would back his party at the ballot box at the European elections in order to protect “democracy”. Meanwhile, he predicted more Tory financial backers will jump ship and donate to his party after it emerged Jeremy Hosking, a businessman who previously donated heavily to the Conservatives, had given a six-figure sum. The Brexit Party is predicted to top the European polls later this month and Mr Farage has embarked on a series of rallies in Leave-voting areas across the country to drum up support. But he also believes some Europhiles will vote for his party. He told LBC: “It is very interesting because both Labour and Conservative MPs and vast sections of mainstream media don’t think there is any problem at all with the can being kicked down the road repeatedly on Brexit. “One of the things I learnt sitting in that chair doing a show for LBC is you get outside the central London boroughs and there is huge anger in this country and it is not just coming from Leave voters – a lot of it is coming from Remain voters as well.” – Telegraph (£)

…as TIG/ChUK leader Heidi Allen calls him ‘a coward’ over refusal to debate with her on TV

Change UK leader Heidi Allen has called Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage “a coward” after he refused to take part in a live TV debate with her ahead of the European elections. Speaking to BBC Politics Live, Ms Allen, whose party backs remaining in the EU, accused Mr Farage of arrogance. Ms Allen had said she thought a debate was “overdue” as there was “so much at stake” in the vote on 23 May. Mr Farage declined her offer, asking: “Who is she?” The challenge was made on Monday night at a Change UK rally in Cardiff. Ms Allen – who left the Conservatives to join the recently-formed party – said she wanted to put the case for the “open, global, outward Britain that I know that we are”. Told of Mr Farage’s refusal, she said: “That’s very disappointing. “In all seriousness, if he has said ‘no’ that displays to me a level of arrogance that says he thinks that his view is the only one that matters and that the British people are only entitled to listen to his view. “Well, I have to tell you that he’s wrong, and hope sincerely that he changes his mind.” – BBC News

  • Brexit Party’s Nigel Farage refuses challenge to take on Change UK leader Heidi Allen on live TV – iNews

Vince Cable says Remain parties ‘shouldn’t be squabbling’

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable says he was in favour of working with other Remain parties to present a “common front” at the European elections. The pro-EU MP told LBC Radio he had approached the Green Party and Change UK to suggest joint candidates. He said the parties “shouldn’t be squabbling”, but added: “Frankly, we didn’t get a very warm reception.” The Greens say joint lists are not “desirable” and Change UK has said an alliance “wasn’t ever on the agenda”. Elections for 73 MEPs to the European Parliament will take place on 23 May. The UK had been due to leave the EU on 29 March, but the deadline has now been pushed back to 31 October, meaning the country has to take part in the polls. – BBC News

People’s Vote campaign accused of taking orders from Labour

Senior figures in Change UK have expressed concern that the People’s Vote campaign may fall foul of electoral law, accusing key staff at the non-partisan campaign of taking orders from Labour. Among those who have made complaints are the Change UK MPs Chuka Umunna, formerly of Labour, and Anna Soubry, a former Tory, both founding members of the campaign. The Guardian understands that other parties, including the Lib Dems, have also expressed concerns about how the campaign has portrayed Labour’s position on a second referendum. Senior figures in the People’s Vote campaign include Alastair Campbell and Tom Baldwin, Ed Miliband’s former spokesman. The allegation has been fiercely disputed by the People’s Vote campaign, which said it had repeatedly criticised Labour’s position on Brexit for being too weak. It denied that the party had had undue influence in its campaign. – Guardian

Number of EU workers in the UK hits record high as unemployment falls to lowest in 44 years

The number of EU nationals working in the UK hit a new record high in the three months to March as the jobs market ignored political turmoil to create more jobs. It came as unemployment fell to 3.8pc, the lowest level since the end of 1974. Almost 2.4m citizens of other EU nations now work in the country, a rise of more than 100,000 compared to the final three months of 2018. That more than reverses the outflow, nicknamed the ‘Brexodus’, from late 2017 to September 2018. The number of workers from outside the EU also increased, the Office for National Statistics said, rising by 22,000 on the quarter and 80,000 on the year to more than 1.3m. “With next year’s deadline looming to secure settled status in the UK, some professionals in other parts of the EU may have concluded that it is now or never,” said Gerwyn Davies at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. “It is also possible that employers have made more pro-active efforts to recruit from overseas in response to the tightening labour market.” The Recruitment and Employment Confederation has seen a shift in the composition of EU workers moving to the UK, with fewer from Poland and more from Romania and Bulgaria. – Telegraph (£)

  • UK unemployment falls to a 45-year low and more people are working than ever, despite Brexit – MailOnline

Andrea Gee: I’m standing in this Euro-election in Scotland to help deliver Brexit – and defy Sturgeon

My family and friends think I’m mad. “Why stand in an election no one wants?”, they say, “if you want to deliver Brexit, why not stand for the Brexit Party?” they ask. The answers to these questions are clear. Yes, I want these elections not to be happening and, yes, I want Brexit delivered – but the solution doesn’t lie in burying our heads in the sand or jumping ship to another party. The solution lies in coming together and, in my case, standing for election. I am doing so in these European elections for three reasons: no more divisive referenda, respect for the result of the EU referendum, and securing a Brexit that works for Scotland and the UK. “Warm words, clichés and a standard party response”, I hear you say. But in Scotland, where the politics of grievance reigns, the European elections are yet again a vehicle for the SNP’s independence propaganda machine. Nothing is more resolute than my loyalty to the United Kingdom and to preserve the union we need to stand together as a team. I am not letting my vote be used again as a proxy for independence by Nicola Sturgeon. As part of Ruth Davidson’s team, we are united in our determination to deliver the result of the EU referendum. We are the only major party who has promised to do so. – Andrea Gee for Conservative Home

Peter Foster: Why Olly Robbins’s trip to Brussels will not be fixing Brexit

The news that Olly Robbins is back in Brussels this week has raised fresh questions about whether a Brexit compromise deal might be imminent between Labour and the Tories. The Telegraph understands that Theresa May’s chief Brexit negotiator is back talking to his European counterparts and “stress-testing” new Brexit texts that have emerged from more than six weeks of talks in Westminster. But before anyone puts the champagne on ice, all the signs are that this visit will not amount to much more than a bureaucratic charade designed to keep Mrs May’s stated ambition to deliver a Brexit deal before she departs alive – albeit in a semi-vegatative state. Mr Robbins may be in Brussels armed with new texts to discuss with European officials, but the value of these is moot if the two sides cannot reach a deal in Westminster. It is clear that while there is agreement on some key aspects, such as remaining aligned with EU social and environmental regulations as part of any new trade deal, the politics of forging a cross-party consensus on the issues of trade and customs are raw. Very little, in all truth, barring a breakthrough in Labour-Tory talks that produces a deal that is then backed by a majority of MPs – which as noted above, seems deeply unlikely. That majority will also need to be strong and stable enough to deliver the entire gamut of Withdrawal legislation over a period of weeks. Brussels does not expect this to happen. They are already bracing for Mrs May’s departure after the May European Elections and the arrival of a new Tory Prime Minister committed to renegotiating the backstop and – if that fails – walking away without a deal. With Westminster apparently stuck fast, it seems as if the real Brexit battle-lines are already being drawn up for October, when the current extension to Article 50 expires. – Peter Foster for the Telegraph (£)

Daniel Hannan: Eight reasons to vote Conservative in next week’s Euro-elections

The last thing I wanted was another European election. I had been looking forward to retiring from politics following Brexit. But walking away with Brexit still in the balance would feel like desertion under fire. Here are eight reasons that I am standing again – and eight reasons that I am asking you to vote Conservative. We need a Brexit that is managed, grown-up and economically liberal. Vote Leave did not win the referendum by offering a British form of Trumpism. Its campaign was optimistic and outward-looking. We should not drop that vision now. Yes, being prepared for no deal is the best way to secure a good deal. But let’s at least aim to have close and cordial relations with our neighbours. I understand that people want to “send a message”. But the message was sent on 23 June 2016, when more of us voted Leave than have ever voted for anything. The Conservatives got the message; what they didn’t get was the numbers. Since the 2017 election, Labour, the SNP and the Lib Dems have been blocking Brexit and hoping that people will blame the governing party. What a tragedy it would be if that tactic worked – in other words, if people abandoned the one party that can actually deliver Brexit at Westminster.  – Daniel Hannan MEP for Conservative Home

Patrick Scott: Why the lack of a Remain alliance will hand Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party victory in the EU elections

In just over a fortnight, the UK will head to the ballot box to vote in the European Parliament elections, with both main parties expected to take a battering. Nigel Farage’s does-what-it-says-on-the-tin Brexit Party are currently riding high in the polls as the clear voice of the pro-Brexit protest vote. However, the three UK-wide pro-Remain parties – the Lib Dems, the Greens and Change UK – have chosen not to form an alliance for these elections, risking a split in their vote and an underwhelming performance as a consequence. This decision seems even more short-sighted due to the slightly unusual electoral system that the UK uses for the European elections. With the vote likely to be read as a proxy for a second referendum, Remainers’ quest to keep Britain in the EU may be doomed before a ballot paper is filled in. It may be argued that – given this batch MEPs are likely to serve relatively short terms in office – the number of seats won is a mainly symbolic figure and that vote share is ultimately what matters. But it is unlikely to feel like a positive day for the pro-Remain Parties if, come 26 May, the Brexit Party have won the most seats in the European Parliament of any UK party. – Patrick Scott for the Telegraph (£)

The Sun: PM doesn’t grasp that our national sovereignty and EU customs union don’t mix

It is incredible it still needs 13 ex-Cabinet ministers to spell out to Downing Street what a catastrophe a post-Brexit customs union with the EU would be. Our PM seems, even now, not to grasp that above all a desire for national sovereignty drove Leave’s 2016 victory. And that such a move, suicidally cooked up with Marxist Labour, would sacrifice that for ever in a deal manifestly worse than our current one. We’re unsure why Labour wants a customs union, except Corbyn cares nothing for global trade and presumably thinks it solves the Irish border issue. But it also leaves the trade policy of the world’s fifth biggest economy in EU hands. With no voice in Brussels, but our economic future at its mercy, we would be the laughing stock of the world. As Theresa May’s former ministers point out: “A Latvian MEP would have more say over our trade policy than anyone elected in this country.” Even Remainers loathe the idea. So who does it suit? Brussels, of course. Which is where our Europhile Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins spent yesterday. Perhaps he was seeking asylum. – The Sun says

Brexit in Brief

  • Nigel Farage has so many people he can thank for helping him come back with a bang – Tom Harris for the Telegraph (£)
  • Jeremy Hunt is right: Brexit Britain must be bold with defence – James Rogers for the Telegraph (£)
  • Theresa May could have neutralised Nigel Farage. Now he’s her worst nightmare – Philip Johnston for the Telegraph (£)
  • The Conservative Party is trapped in a political vacuum of its own making – Telegraph (£) editorial
  • Britain divides but doesn’t rule – Paul Taylor for Politico
  • Change UK’s top donors are funding the firm behind facial recognition software used to register EU citizens – BuzzFeed News
  • Jeremy Hunt says UK ‘should consider defence spending boost’ post-Brexit – BBC News
  • Former minister quits Labour saying party has been ‘destroyed’ under Corbyn’s leadership – Independent
  • Sadiq Khan’s bid for re-election in London hit by Labour’s Brexit fallout – Evening Standard