Andrew Neil ruthlessly dismantles Jeremy Corbyn's 'neutral' Brexit stance in horror interview: Brexit News for Wednesday 27 November

Andrew Neil ruthlessly dismantles Jeremy Corbyn's 'neutral' Brexit stance in horror interview: Brexit News for Wednesday 27 November
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Andrew Neil ruthlessly dismantles Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘neutral’ Brexit stance in horror interview

Andrew Neil mocked Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on his neutral Brexit stance during a BBC interview as he what he plans to do during the run up to a second referendum. Jeremy Corbyn was mocked by Andrew Neil on BBC during the leader interviews as he asked what the Labour Party leader plans to do during a second referendum if he doesn’t campaign for his Brexit deal. It comes amid voter confusion as Mr Corbyn hasn’t said if he is pro or anti Brexit. Host Mr Neil asked: “What would you do during the referendum campaign? Would you go on holiday?” Speaking on BBC One, Mr Corbyn said: “No, I would be running the Government.” Mr Neil added: “You wouldn’t take part in the referendum campaign?” The Labour leader continued: “I would have a country to run as well. I’ve said all along that I would adopt a position that would be enabling people to come together at the end of it.” – Express

> WATCH: Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn grilled on his Brexit policy by Andrew Neil

Boris Johnson rules out second EU referendum if Tories fail to get a majority

The Prime Minister said a fresh vote on Britain’s EU members would be “bad for our country”. The comments come after senior Liberal Democrat Sir Ed Davey said his party would demand a second referendum from Mr Johnson if the Tories end up forming a minority government following the election. Sir Ed told the BBC last week: “If it’s a minority Tory government, Boris Johnson says he wants to deliver Brexit… the only way he can do that is with a People’s Vote and so we will challenge him and we will work with others to say if you wanna do what you said… work for a People’s Vote.” The SNP has meanwhile increased its calls for a second referendum on Scottish independence as the 12 December poll looms. But the suggestion that a minority Conservative government could agree to either vote was shot down in flames by the Prime Minister as he launched the Scottish Tory manifesto on Tuesday. “I don’t normally answer that kind of hypothetical question but I think in that case… I’m going to make an exception,” he said. “I certainly can rule out any such referendum… I genuinely think they would be bad for our country. It’s not the way forward now. We need to honour democracy, we need to get the economy moving. And he said of the Conservatives’ own plans: “This is a transformative one nation agenda – and we want to get on with it.” – PoliticsHome

Michel Barnier pledges to prioritise UK trade deal post-Brexit…

Michel Barnier has told EU politicians that he will prioritise nailing down the fundamentals of a new trade deal with Britain after Brexit and warned of the squeezed timetable to sort out the two sides’ broader future relationship. The EU’s chief negotiator said that the 11 months from Britain’s planned EU exit on January 31 until the end of its transition period would normally be far too short to negotiate a trade agreement, but that Brussels would strive to have a deal in place for the end of 2020, according to people briefed on the closed-door meeting with MEPs in Strasbourg on Tuesday. But he also said that the future-relationship talks would have to focus initially on core trading arrangements, such as plans for duty-free, quota-free trade in goods, that could be put in place without needing to wait for ratification by national parliaments throughout the EU. He also told MEPs that ensuring continued strong co-operation with the UK on security and defence was another top priority for Brussels in the negotiations. – FT(£)

..as he tells the UK: ‘ignore EU regulatory standards at your peril’

British companies risk trade barriers to the European Union if a future government seeks to abandon EU standards on workers’ rights and environmental protection, Michel Barnier has signalled. In an interview with the Guardian and seven other European newspapers, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said any British government would face a “proportional” response if it sought to roll back core social, environmental and consumer standards. The EU and UK have agreed to negotiate a free-trade agreement as part of Boris Johnson’s revamped Brexit deal, but Barnier stressed that tariff and quota-free access to the EU were linked to maintaining regulatory standards. “Access to our markets will be proportional to the commitments taken to the common rules,” he said. “The agreement we are ready to discuss is zero tariffs, zero quotas, zero dumping.” While he did not go into details on the EU’s response to “dumping” – ie products made cheap by unfair competition – he said measures would be “proportional”. Government ministers have denied reports of any divergence from EU regulation on workers’ rights and the environment, after the Financial Times obtained a leaked document that said the two sides would have “a very different” interpretation of those standards. – Guardian

Nigel Farage predicts a low turnout election and says he is considering spoiling his ballot paper…

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has said he believes the election has not “taken off” and revealed that he is considering spoiling his ballot paper. Mr Farage was meeting voters at a working men’s club in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, before walking around a market in the Labour-held town. He received a warm welcome from supporters – who had paid £2.50 each to be part of the audience that heard the party leader attack the BBC and the prospect of an EU army. Later, Mr Farage said he thought there would be a low turnout in the election. He said: “My impression of it is that this election has not taken off at all.” And speaking about his own constituency of Orpington, where the Brexit Party does not have a candidate, he said he might spoil his ballot paper. At the rally at Highstone Road Working Men’s Club, he urged Conservative voters in the town to vote for the Brexit Party to “keep Boris to his promises” and “have a clean break from all the institutions of the European Union. He said: “We’ve got to persuade Conservative voters in areas like this, areas that the Tories have never won and areas that the Tories will never win, that if they want to get somebody into Parliament unafraid to stand up, to keep Boris to his promises, that is going to be our job. I’ve little doubt that he will win this election, I’ve little doubt he will give us a form of Brexit but I don’t want Brexit in name only, I don’t want us to be stuck inside European law, I want us to get what we voted for, I want us to have a clean break from all the institutions of the European Union.” – Belfast Telegraph

…as he boycotts ‘Remain broadcaster’ Channel 4’s climate debate because it will not address Brexit

Nigel Farage has announced he will snub Channel 4’s election debate in a scathing rejection letter where he accused the broadcaster of skewing their output towards a Remain bias. All major parties have been invited to appear on the first televised leaders showdown focused solely on tackling climate change. But the Brexit Party will boycott Thursday’s hustings because it believes Mr Farage will not be treated fairly by the ‘Remain’ broadcaster. In a stinging attack on Channel 4’s impartiality, the party said: ‘We have no faith that the broadcaster will conduct this debate in a fair and objective way. ‘Brexit is the defining issue of our age and the fact that Channel 4 does not want to discuss it speaks volumes about this broadcaster and its Remain position.’ Boris Johnson is also expected to swerve the debate, after he vowed never to appear on stage with the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon because she is not a serious candidate for prime minister. Channel 4 has already threatened to empty-chair the Conservative leader if he sidesteps the programme, billed as the debate on ‘Emergency On Planet Earth’. – MailOnline

The DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson says Johnson’s Brexit deal is ‘a threat to Northern Ireland stability’…

The DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal would create further instability in Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson is intent on getting his agreement with the EU through parliament should he win a majority in the December General Election. However, the DUP are vehemently against the agreement as it effectively puts a border down the Irish Sea. On BBC 4’s Today Programme Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said it would “destabilise Northern Ireland’s relationship with the rest of the UK” and be “disadvantageous” to the Northern Ireland economy. “Clearly there isn’t a single major party in Northern Ireland that supports the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, and that’s a major problem for us because if this deal is imposed, I believe it will create further instability and we certainly don’t need that,” he said. “We believe the Prime Minister needs to look again at this idea of creating a border in the Irish Sea.” Asked if the deal was a threat to peace, Sir Jeffrey said: “I think it is a threat to stability, I don’t think that it’s a threat to peace per se.” – Belfast Telegraph

…and refuses to rule out backing a second referendum…

The DUP’s Chief Whip squirmed after being questioned by BBC Newsnight host Emily Maitlis about his party’s position on supporting a second Brexit referendum. Sir Jeffery Donaldson, the DUP’s Chief Whip, was repeatedly asked whether his party would support another Brexit referendum and potentially ally with a political party separate to the Conservatives should Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal not change. The DUP was miffed when it materialised that Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal would, by default, separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. This is because a customs border will come into force between the two. With a hung Parliament a potential in December’s general election, the idea of the DUP not supporting the Tories has been floated, since the DUP would prefer to remain entirely a part of the UK with no political or logistical borders. Ms Maitlis pushed Mr Donaldson on whether his party would look elsewhere to secure a pact, and potentially support a second Brexit referendum. She said: “I’m quite keen to understand what you’re saying. “Are you now turning against Brexit? Would you now be in favour of supporting whatever party or combination of parties allowed for a second referendum? Would that get your support if needed?” Mr Donaldson replied: “Well, we want the UK to leave the EU as one single unit, not as Boris Johnson has proposed which drives a trade border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. “In terms of what other options might be available, we’ll look at what comes forward. – Express

Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy insists the party will not take any seats it wins at Westminster even if it could help stop Brexit

Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy has said that any of his party’s candidates elected in the upcoming General Election would not take their seats in Westminster even if they could be in a position to stop Brexit. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Murphy said “the Democratic Unionist Party represent the minority view” in Northern Ireland. Asked if Sinn Fein MPs would take their seats, he said: “The reality is that the British people want to leave the European Union and I imagine, whatever formation of parliament takes place on the other side of this, that would be the case.” On whether Sinn Fein could be in a position to block Brexit if the party took its seats, he added: “Well we have no interest in defining the political future for the people of Britain.” He continued: “There is no good outcome for Brexit for us at all, whether we get the deal that Boris Johnson’s proposing or however Britain exists the European Union, but we have fought where our voices have counted, and they certainly would have not have counted in Westminster. We have fought where our voices have counted to protect the interests of the people that we represent here.” – Irish News

Lib Dems change their tune on Brexit amid voter hostility…

The Liberal Democrats have stopped campaigning on their policy of revoking Article 50 amid concern about its unpopularity on the doorstep, and have switched to asking voters to deny Boris Johnson a majority. Activists have complained that the pledge to cancel Brexit without another vote if the party won a majority is going down badly on the doorstep as the party’s poll ratings droop. The policy was designed to offer an equally clear Remain counterpoint to Mr Johnson’s “get Brexit done” slogan but campaigners are finding it harder than expected to get a hearing from voters. One candidate said: “It hasn’t been a popular policy. People are only hearing the revoke message and say we have abandoned the People’s Vote. That’s quite a common thing. People don’t think it’s realistic. There is a difference between people being theoretically keen on revoke and the reality.” – The Times (£)

…as the latest polling shows them being squeezed while the Tories maintain their poll lead

The Conservatives have maintained a steady lead amid signs of a Liberal Democrat squeeze, according to a new YouGov poll for Sky News. The poll taken on Monday and Tuesday gives the Tories an 11 point lead over Labour, down from a 12 point lead at the end of last week. It puts the Tories on 43%, up one point, Labour on 32%, up two points, the Liberal Democrats down three points on 13%, and the Brexit Party on 4%, down one point. Although the Lib Dem drop is within the margin of error, it is likely to unnerve some in the party which started the campaign with hopes of making big gains. The detailed polling breakdown underlines the scale of the Lib Dem challenge. Looking at voters who backed remain in the 2016 EU referendum, this poll shows 48% now back Labour, while only 24% now support the Liberal Democrats. In YouGov’s first poll for Sky News at the start of the campaign the Lib Dems and Labour were almost neck and neck among 2016 remain voters: some 36% backing Labour and 33% backing the Lib Dems. This suggests that the Lib Dem policy of revoking Article 50 has not had the effect of galvanising remain-leaning voters as they might have hoped. – Sky News

Vote for the SNP to escape Brexit and reverse austerity, Nicola Sturgeon expected to say at manifesto launch

The SNP leader will warn that Brexit is “nowhere near being done” and “there is worse to come” if Boris Johnson is re-elected, with his Brexit deal a “nightmare” for Scottish jobs, environmental standards and workers’ rights.​ She is also expected to reveal further details of the SNP’s bargaining strategy in the event of a hung parliament. As she launches the party’s manifesto on Wednesday, Sturgeon is expected to say:​ “At the heart of this election is a fundamental question for the people of Scotland: who should decide Scotland’s future, the people who live here or Boris Johnson? The future of our country is on the line.​ “Brexit is nowhere near being done. The Tories have barely got going – they haven’t even started trade talks.​ Because of Johnson’s hardline position, there is every chance the UK will leave without a trade deal next year. That would be a catastrophe for jobs.​ And even if he somehow avoids that, his dream deal will be a nightmare for Scotland.​ It will take Scotland out of the Single Market – which is eight times the size of the UK alone – and out of the Customs Union, the world’s biggest trading block.​ Environmental standards and workers’ rights will be at risk. And as night follows day, the Tories will sell-out Scotland’s fishing industry.​ The truth is Brexit will dominate Westminster politics for years and years to come.”​ – Holyrood

New anti-Brexit group forms after People’s Vote row…

Senior figures from a UK anti-Brexit campaign that exploded in acrimony have formed a new group to fight for continued EU membership. The Vote for a Final Say campaign was set up by political communications veterans Tom Baldwin and James McGrory. It includes former elements of the People’s Vote campaign, which split this month, and the youth group For Our Future’s Sake. Both groups previously campaigned under the umbrella group Open Britain, which descended into infighting in October over the leadership of former chair Roland Rudd. “We really care about this issue [of Brexit],” a Vote for a Final Say spokesman said. “We really care about what happens to young people. We really care about what happens to our country and we have been deeply frustrated that we have been locked out of this campaign for four weeks and we want to do something about it.” Vote for a Final Say said it has raised thousands of pounds in donations since last week and is launching a drive to help 25 anti-Brexit candidates from the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party win in key marginals at the election on December 12. The 25 seats, including Canterbury, Gower and Wakefield, were chosen based on a survey of tens of thousands of people. The campaign hopes to help deprive Conservative leader Boris Johnson of an outright parliamentary majority. – Politico

…while ‘Remain Alliance’ architect Heidi Allen says voting tactically is the last weapon in the armoury to get People’s Vote…

The general election came “too soon” because Parliament was edging towards a second referendum, the architect of the “remainer alliance” said today. In an interview with the Standard, Heidi Allen said the numbers were almost there for a People’s Vote when the Prime Minister persuaded party leaders to back an election instead. “The numbers were getting better and better every day,” she said. “Even MPs like David Gauke who we never thought would say it were saying this [a referendum] is the only way out of it. Now we will never know.” Ms Allen, a former Conservative MP who last month joined the Liberal Democrats, denied that she was angry or disappointed with Lib-Dem leader Jo Swinson for agreeing with Boris Johnson’s demand for a general election, saying it was a “calculation” as to whether gridlock in Parliament would have led to a referendum or instead to a disastrous no-deal Brexit. Ms Allen, who co-founded Change UK before switching to the Lib Dems, claimed Brexit should transcend other issues. “Anybody that tells you this election is about Waspi pensions or NHS number of nurses, it just isn’t at all. This is the election that came too soon, before Brexit was resolved, and this is literally all we have left in our armoury. A trade deal in less than a year is just not possible, so the threat of no deal is very much alive,” she said. – Evening Standard

…and anti-Brexit campaigners reveal 25 key seats where they claim tactical voting could make a second referendum happen

Campaigners for a Final Say referendum have released a list of 25 key general election seats where tactical voting could block a Conservative majority and pave the way for Brexit to be put back to the people. Based on recent polling – including an unpublished survey of tens of thousands of voters conducted under the MRP system which allows constituency-level forecasts – it is believed that these constituencies are on a knife-edge, with tactical voting likely to be decisive if it is deployed in the right way. The polling revealed that large numbers of Remain voters in the battleground seats are at risk of wasting their vote on candidates heading for third place, thus letting in Conservatives who will back Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and try to block a second referendum. The new Vote for a Final Say group is recommending that pro-referendum voters back Labour candidates in 17 constituencies, Liberal Democrats in seven and the Scottish National Party in one. Among recommendations are Liberal Democrat candidates in Cambridgeshire South, Finchley and Golders Green, and Wimbledon, in all of which the party came third in 2017 and would have to leapfrog both Labour and Conservatives to win, as well as Cheadle, Cheltenham, St Albans and Winchester, where Jo Swinson is hoping her candidates will come from second place to unseat Tories. – Independent

UK to increase funding to European Space Agency by more than 15%

Boris Johnson has agreed to increase funding for the European Space Agency by more than 15 per cent, in a bid to safeguard Britain’s role in Europe’s most important space programmes. The decision by the UK prime minister late on Tuesday came on the eve of a crucial summit of ESA’s 22 member states in Seville on Wednesday at which the countries will bid for prime places on projects such as the multibillion-euro earth observation programme, Copernicus. The UK, which is ESA’s fourth biggest funder and currently contributes some €350m a year to its programmes, is expected to table an increase of significantly more than 15 per cent in its annual subscriptions over the next five years. The funds allocated to ESA, which is independent of the EU, are returned to the UK through industrial contracts. For example, the ESA-funded ExoMars rover was developed by Airbus at its UK facility. The decision by the prime minister’s office to press ahead with the increase in funding for one of Europe’s most successful collaborative ventures will allay intense industry concerns in recent days about Britain’s access to European space programmes in the run-up to Brexit next year. – FT(£)

Gunnar Beck: The EU is preparing, with little scrutiny, for a great leap forward in further integration

One topic so far ignored during the British electoral campaign is the issue of whether the EU Britain will almost certainly remain a member if the Conservatives fail to win will be anything like the EU that the British people voted to leave in 2016. The answer to this is clear: The EU will not stay the same, because Germany and France will press ahead with further integration. This is the message of the incoming EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen who in her first address to the EU Parliament called for a new Convention on the Future of Europe, a kind of quasi-constitutional body ostensibly modelled on the American constitutional convention. The EU Convention will be composed not of political thinkers, but delegates from the EU institutions and national parliamentary representatives. Ms von der Leyen is a former German secretary of state, who grew up in Brussels as the daughter of an EU official and has been a fervent integrationist since she left the cradle. Her objectives for the new Convention sound appealing enough: more transparency, more democracy and greater citizen participation in EU decision-making. Ms von der Leyen’s objectives, of course, are not new – they are taken almost verbatim from the announcement of the previous Convention on the Future of Europe which met from 2002 to 2004 and in which I followed closely as a legal adviser to the UK national parliamentary delegation. The end result of that Convention was not more democracy but a blueprint for the EU’s first constitution which sought to extend the EU’s powers and strengthened supranational decision-making through majority voting and an erosion of the national veto. The Constitution failed because the French people voted it down by referendum but most of its integrationist provisions eventually found its way into the Lisbon Treaty which was negotiated purely between EU governments. – Gunnar Beck MEP for the Telegraph (£)

Joe Armitage: With a big majority, Boris Johnson can crush the doubters and celebrate an early New Year’s Leave

At the launch of his manifesto, Boris Johnson said that Brexit could be complete “in days” if the Conservatives secure a majority at the election. The haste with which a majority Johnson premiership wishes to move would allow the government to bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill before Christmas for, at the very least, its first and second reading in the Commons. It is conceivable that these stages could be wrapped up by Friday December 20th, allowing the newly elected Commons to depart for their festive break having firmly indicated their support for the government’s Brexit deal. Ordinary, MPs return from their Christmas and New Year’s break in the second week of January. If this approach were followed then the remaining stages of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the Commons and the Lords would be completed well into January, with the UK departing the EU when Article 50 is due to expire on January 31st. The problem with this timetable is that it would fail to capture the momentum to get Brexit done that has been generated through the election. The prime minister often compares his Brexit deal to a microwavable meal, and these are meant to cook quickly. The latest extension to Article 50 allows the UK to leave the EU on January 1st if the deal is ratified early. This provision for a ‘flextension’ was demanded by President Macron of France. The flexibility shouldn’t be squandered. Perhaps the best reason to bust a gut and deliver Brexit early is the extra time that will be created to negotiate the future relationship. Already, all those who said it was impossible to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement and secure a new deal are prophesying that the government will be unable to thrash out a free trade agreement with the EU in 11 months. Given this, they should welcome the extra month that will be unlocked to complete the second phase of Brexit if we leave a month early on New Year’s Day. – Joe Armitage for the Telegraph (£)

Brexit in Brief

  • The Independent candidates fighting for political survival – Politico
  • Anti-Brexit campaigners ordered to remove slogan from car on M25 – Basildon Standard
  • European Parliament to vote on new European Commission today – BBC News

And finally… Conservative Party release chillout track of ‘lofi boriswave beats to relax/get brexit done to’ 

The Conservatives have released a hypnotic chillout track of ‘lofi boriswave beats’, featuring Boris Johnson repeatedly crooning “we’ve got to get Brexit Done”. The video, shared on the Conservatives Youtube Channel, features an image of Mr Johnson sitting on a train, relaxing ambient sounds – and one hour and eleven minutes of Mr Johnson  saying that ‘getting Brexit done’ will allow the country to focus on other issues, including the NHS and policing and education. The YouTube video also includes links to the Conservatives’ Soundcloud channel, and a link encouraging people to “join the party”. Released yesterday, the video has been watched more than 36,000 times – and has divided opinion among the party’s YouTube followers. – CornwallLive