Brexit News for Wednesday 19 April

Brexit News for Wednesday 19 April

Theresa May calls snap General Election to ‘secure Brexit mandate’…

Theresa May has stunned Westminster by demanding a snap general election on 8 June that she hopes will turn her party’s clear lead in the opinion polls into a healthy parliamentary majority and secure her Conservative vision for Brexit. The prime minister made an unscheduled statement on Tuesday morning from behind a lectern outside 10 Downing Street, in which she recanted her repeated promise not to go to the polls before 2020. She accused opposition parties of trying to jeopardise her government’s preparations for exiting the EU as she called for what would be a third nationwide poll in three years – while the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, responded by saying he would welcome the opportunity to fight an election opposing Tory austerity. May said: “We need a general election and we need one now because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin.” – The Guardian

  • Labour ‘campaigning to win’, says Jeremy Corbyn – Sky News
  • How newspapers and world leaders reacted – Daily Telegraph
  • Business leaders welcome snap election for Brexit boost it is set to deliver – Daily Telegraph
  • Key battlegrounds: where the election will be won and lost – The Times (£)
  • The seats where Brexit will be crucial – Daily Mail
  • Tories can win 100-seat majority, analysis from poll of polls suggests – Daily Telegraph
  • Brexit voters put Labour’s northern heartlands at risk – The Times (£)

…with MPs set to approve the snap election in a Commons vote today…

MPs are expected to back Theresa May’s plan for a snap General Election on 8 June in a Commons vote this afternoon… Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, introduced under the last coalition government, the next election was not due until 2020. However, a poll can be called before then if backed by two thirds of MPs or if there is a no confidence vote in the Government… Both Labour and Liberal Democrats have officially welcomed the early poll. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the early election will give voters the chance “to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first”, while Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said the election provided an opportunity to block “a disastrous hard Brexit”… A Sky Data poll asking: “Should there be a General Election this year?”, found that more than two thirds of Britons are in agreement with Downing Street’s decision to go to the country. When asked, 68% said “yes”, 26% said “no” and 6% were undecided. – Sky News

  • Labour has the policies to confound pundits and win – Diane Abbott MP for The Times (£)
  • Labour goes into this election fighting to win – Diane Abbott MP for The Guardian
  • Theresa May may be 15 points ahead, but she faces a battle to woo two sides and get a huge majority – Professor John Curtice for The Sun
  • A snap election will give Theresa May the ultimate mandate to deliver Brexit – Asa Bennett for the Daily Telegraph (£)
  • The real gamble for Theresa May would have been to wait until 2020 – Jonathan Freedland for The Guardian
  • There’ll never be a better time for May to strike with Brexit negotiations around the corner and the Opposition in disarray – Trevor Kavanagh for The Sun
  • Theresa May can now secure her mandate on Europe – Janan Ganesh for the FT (£)
  • Theresa May’s snap election is good news for Brexit and the United Kingdom – Brian Monteith for City A.M.
  • Theresa May is right to call an early General Election – Mark Fox for Reaction
  • Voter fatigue is a tired excuse for losing – Danny Finkelstein for The Times (£)
  • Theresa May has made the right decision to seek a mandate of her own, but the task ahead of her is enormous – Christian May for City A.M.
  • A bold electoral move presents a golden opportunity – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • A snap election should help the government in negotiations that will define Britain’s future after Brexit, but Theresa May must be magnanimous in her likely victory – The Times (£) editorial
  • Theresa May’s snap election call is right for Brexit Britain – Financial Times (£) editorial
  • A poll that Britain does not need – The Guardian editorial
  • Theresa May’s single-issue general election is a referendum by any other name – and wholly unsuited to that task – The Independent editorial
  • This general election should deliver a thumping Tory victory and give Theresa May the authority she needs – The Sun says
  • House of Commons has to reflect the public’s views – Daily Express editorial

…as the Prime Minister comes under pressure to put her Brexit plans in her manifesto…

The prime minister had pledged to publish a series of bills outlining new laws to cover post-Brexit issues such as immigration control, customs regulations and data protection policy. She faces going into the intense scrutiny of the election campaign with demands for her to bring these proposals forward and include them in the Conservative election manifesto. Last night several senior Tory MPs said that Mrs May would find it hard to avoid setting out her position on controversial issues such as immigration policy that are not directly related to the Brexit negotiations… Last night a No 10 source refused to say if Mrs May would provide more details of the Conservatives’ plans — but did not rule out specific pledges on a new immigration system. “We are not going to speculate,” a Downing Street spokesman said. – The Times (£)

  • Theresa May’s election strategy: Hard Brexit, soft landing – Tom McTague for Politico
  • If Theresa May loses the General Election in June, is Brexit over? – Alan Renwick for the Daily Telegraph (£)
  • What does the early UK general election mean for Brexit? – Jon Stone for The Independent
  • Could a big Tory victory make a soft Brexit more likely? – Ed West for The Spectator Coffee House
  • Does the early General Election make a soft Brexit more likely? – Tim Bale and Mark Wallace for City A.M.
  • Theresa May will campaign as being tough on Brexit, but soft on society – James Kirkup for The Spectator Coffee House
  • An election win for Theresa May would make the ‘cliff-edge Brexit’ beloved by hardline Tories much less likely – Andrew Grice for The Independent
  • The markets are betting Theresa May’s snap general election will provide greater certainty (and a softer Brexit) – Ben Wright for the Daily Telegraph (£)

…while Downing Street says the General Election won’t delay UK’s withdrawal from the EU

Downing Street has insisted the timetable for the UK’s Brexit negotiations will be unaffected by Theresa May’s call for a snap general election. A spokesman for the Prime Minister said all officials, secretaries of state and ministers in the Cabinet will remain in place, and that the two-year talks with Brussels would continue without delay… Tory MPs have said now is the right time to hold an election as French voters will also soon be going to the polls… Though the polls suggest anything other than a Conservative majority is unlikely, a change in Government would have a significant impact on the Brexit talks. The EU official running negotiations, Donald Tusk, also claimed the snap election decision would not derail the Brexit timetable. He said he had a “good” phone conversation with Ms May, while comparing the development to an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. – The Independent

  • It’s a plot twist worthy of Hitchcock, says Brussels – The Times (£)
  • How EU leaders are reacting to call for general election (video) – ITV News
  • EU hopes snap election will boost May’s mandate – Politico

Theresa May MP: An election is the best way to strengthen Britain’s hand as we exit the EU

It is the only way to provide the certainty and stability the country needs over the long-term – not just up to the moment that we leave the European Union, but for a full five years. And it is the best way to strengthen Britain’s hand in the negotiations ahead. Securing the right deal for Britain is my priority, but the divisions in Westminster, and the Government’s small majority, risk undermining our position as the negotiations go on… In the weeks since the Government triggered Article 50, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP have all said they want to try and block the Government’s plan for Brexit. And unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight the Government every step of the way. The sole result of this approach is to jeopardise the work we must do to prepare for Brexit and to weaken our hand in the negotiations to come. It is time to bring this uncertainty to an end. A General Election in June is the way to do it. – Theresa May MP for the Daily Telegraph (£)

  • General election will show SNP is a party ‘going downhill’, says Ruth Davidson – Daily Telegraph
  • A stable May government will ensure a better Brexit – Ruth Davidson MSP for The Times (£)
  • Ruth Davidson must lay the ghost of Maggie Thatcher to succeed in anti-indyref election – Alan Cochrane for the Daily Telegraph (£)

Lib Dems claim they hope to gain “dozens” of seats with an anti-Brexit campaign

Liberal Democrat strategists hope to gain dozens of seats from Labour and the Tories in London and the south-west by making opposition to Brexit the key issue of the seven-week snap election campaign… The former leader Nick Clegg has been selected to stand again in Sheffield Hallam, although he has yet to confirm his intentions in person. Vince Cable and the former environment secretary Ed Davey, who both lost their south London seats to Conservatives, are contesting the seats again. A senior Lib Dem source said the party had been preparing for a snap general election since before the referendum, with 400 candidates selected and many in place for more than a year, particularly in the south-west… There are 17 key Tory constituencies where the majority of voters backed remain and Lib Dems are already in second place, including Lewes, Bath, Cheltenham, Cheadle, Oxford West and Abingdon, according to research by the thinktank UK in a Changing Europe. However, Farron’s personal polling is an issue, with more than one-third of Britons saying they do not know who he is. – The Guardian

  • Lib Dem Vince Cable to stand in snap election – Sky News
  • Elect anti-Brexit MPs of all parties, says Blair – Daily Mail
  • Farron – “The Liberal Democrats are always prepared. We have candidates selected right across the country.” (video) – ConservativeHome
  • Now it’s clear: the Lib Dems are the only opposition to the Tories and hard Brexit – Tim Farron MP for The Guardian
  • Opportunistic poll is also an opportunity – Tim Farron MP for The Times (£)
  • The Lib Dems aren’t just fighting an election, we’re fighting Brexit – Tim Farron MP for The Independent
  • Yellow peril is force Tories fear the most – Rachel Sylvester for The Times (£)
  • So, the Remainers have got their second referendum – Gerald Warner for Reaction
  • Theresa May, not the Lib Dems, will lead Britain’s revival of the centre-ground – James Kirkup for the Daily Telegraph (£)

Ukip reportedly setting its sights on just five target seats

Ukip will focus its resources on fighting five target seats, senior sources said, as the party scales back from its 2015 ambitions. Paul Nuttall, the leader, will seek to field candidates in more than 500 constituencies but, short of money and ambushed in the midst of an overhaul, Ukip will not be targeting 30 key seats as it did last time. The timing of the poll is unhelpful to the party, which is in the middle of changing its policies, constitution and structure, a process that was due to be completed by September. Its spokesman insisted that campaigns tended to unite the party, however. Mr Nuttall said: “We believe that the prime minister’s decision to call this election is a cynical decision driven more by the weakness of Corbyn’s Labour Party rather than the good of the country.” – The Times (£)

  • Paul Nuttall urges voters to back only party ‘committed to clean break from the EU’ – Daily Express
  • Theresa May has taken Brexit off Ukip, and this snap election will leave them struggling for life – Asa Bennett for the Daily Telegraph (£)
  • Banks vs Carswell: this time it’s even more personal – Steerpike for The Spectator Coffee House

IMF ratchets up UK economic growth forecast to 2%

The International Monetary Fund has revised up its UK growth forecast for the second time in three months after admitting that the performance of the economy since the Brexit vote last year had been stronger than expected. In its half-yearly World Economic Outlook, the IMF said it now envisaged the British economy expanding by 2% in 2017 – making it the second fastest-growing advanced economy after the US. It noted that growth had “remained solid in the United Kingdom, where spending proved resilient in the aftermath of the June 2016 referendum in favour of leaving the European Union [Brexit]”. – The Guardian

Denmark to contest UK efforts to ‘take back control’ of fisheries

The British government’s plan to “take back control” of its waters after leaving the EU is about to be challenged by a claim from Denmark that its fishermen have a historical right to access to the seas around Britain dating back to the 1400s. Officials in Copenhagen have mined the archives to build a legal case that could potentially be fought in the international court of justice in The Hague, although officials hasten to say that this is not their intention. Denmark is seeking a Brexit deal that recognises the right of its fleet to continue to exploit a hundred shared stocks of species such as cod, herring, mackerel, plaice and sand eel… The Danish position is likely to be mirrored by the seven other member states who will be affected if the UK seeks to limit access to its waters to EU fleets after 2019, it is understood. Denmark’s foreign affairs minister, Anders Samuelsen, told the Guardian the issue was crucial to many communities in Denmark and that they would be making their case through the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier. – The Guardian

Finance watchdog FCA sets out Brexit wishlist

The UK must keep cross-border market access and maintain its ability to recruit a skilled workforce, the country’s financial watchdog says. As part of its new business plan, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has named five principles that will “guide” its advice to the Government as the UK prepares to leave the European Union. As well as cross-border market access and the ability to recruit and maintain a skilled workforce, the FCA listed cooperation between regulatory authorities, consistent global standards and the ability of the UK to influence the standards that apply to the UK. – Sky News

  • Protecting UK financial services post-Brexit a priority for FCA – The Guardian
  • Here’s where London bankers are planning to move after Brexit – Bloomberg

UK ‘sleepwalking into becoming low-value, low-skilled economy that’s unprepared for Brexit’, CIPD suggests

The UK is sleepwalking into becoming a low-value, low-skills economy which leaves the nation ill-prepared for its post-Brexit future, a respected body has warned. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development criticised Government and businesses for “two decades of underinvestment” that have left the UK lagging well behind its competitors on at least four key measures including literacy and numeracy, learning and development, and digital skills… UK employers spend less on training than other major economies and the gap has widened since 2005. In 2010, the cost per employee was €266 in the UK, just over half the average of €511 across the EU, the CIPD found. The UK is also fourth from the bottom on the EU league table for adult job-related training, with evidence showing a marked deterioration since 2007. – The Independent

William Hague: Theresa May’s bold election call is all about securing the best Brexit deal for Britain

Labour have been positioning themselves to vote against the exit terms without actually opposing Brexit itself, the only way of uniting themselves, but something they will now have to explain in the coming campaign. Liberal Democrats hold in contempt the views expressed by the majority of the population. Scottish nationalists just want things to go as badly as possible so they can pursue their agenda of destroying the United Kingdom. The House of Lords was going to be able to say that implementing Brexit was in no one’s election manifesto, and so they were not required to approve of its terms. Worse still, the problems these postures create for the British Government are entirely obvious to the EU’s negotiators. They know that with such strong opposition in Parliament, and only a small Conservative majority in the Commons, Her Majesty’s Government is walking on thin ice. That knowledge would only encourage the EU to take up tough negotiating positions, and make it harder for the UK to get the deal it wants. This is why there is such a strong argument in the national interest for a general election now. The best chance of a successful negotiation is for the Government to have a strong mandate from the people and a majority big enough to withstand periodic rebellions. – Lord Hague for the Daily Telegraph (£)

Patrick Wintour: May’s real reason for calling election? To show EU that Brexit really means Brexit

Of the many reasons Theresa May supplied for calling a general election, the Conservative leader provided one particularly important one. She believes she still needs to convince her European counterparts that Brexit does indeed mean Brexit. A Brexit mandate, delivering a large Conservative Commons majority, would sweep away the last hope that that the UK’s referendum decision last June could be reversed. On this basis, a resounding majority for May would remove any motive for the EU negotiators to make the UK’s Brexit terms as unpalatable as possible in the belief that it would help UK voters realise the terms of Brexit are just too painful to accept. It is true that among parts of the EU leadership, and the European public, there remains a lingering belief – something more than wistful regret – that the British people can be helped to change their mind. Even though article 50 has been triggered, many EU lawyers believe a legal route is available for Britain to revoke Brexit, probably through a Commons vote in the winter of 2018. – Patrick Wintour for The Guardian

Brexit comment in brief

  • Now required. A radical manifesto to prepare Britain for Brexit. Here’s a seven point plan. – Paul Goodman for ConservativeHome
  • Will a big election win for the Tories help civil servants cope with Brexit? – David Walker for The Guardian
  • Brussels Lobbyists grapple with Brexit puzzle – Harry Cooper and Quentin Ariès for Politico
  • French election: key questions for the final days – Pierre Briançon for Politico
  • Anti-German, soft on Putin – Mélenchon is no saviour of the left – Natalie Nougayrède for The Guardian

Brexit news in brief

  • King of Spain will still visit on June 6 – The Times (£)
  • Special Brexit status may be General Election focus for Sinn Fein – Belfast Telegraph
  • Union leaders seek answers on post-Brexit farming – The Scotsman
  • Shock polls puts eurosceptics in lead in Italy and Sweden spelling nightmare for EU – Daily Express