Government brings in Leave- and Remain-backing Tory backbenchers for talks on backstop 'alternative arrangements': Brexit News for Monday 4 February

Government brings in Leave- and Remain-backing Tory backbenchers for talks on backstop 'alternative arrangements': Brexit News for Monday 4 February
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Government brings in Leave- and Remain-backing Tory backbenchers for talks on backstop ‘alternative arrangements’…

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, MPs and government officials will discuss alternative arrangements to the Irish backstop as three days of talks begin. The Alternative Arrangements Working Group, with Leave and former Remain MPs will meet for the first time on Monday after the Commons voted to find another way of avoiding a hard Irish border. Number 10 said the working group of Conservative MPs was set up following “significant support” for the so-called “Malthouse Compromise” – named after housing minister Kit Malthouse who encouraged talks between different groups of MPs. Engineered by both Leavers and Remainers, the proposal includes extending the transition period for a year until the end of 2021 and protecting EU citizens’ rights, instead of using the backstop. Members of the working group include Conservative MPs Steve Baker, Marcus Fysh, Owen Paterson, Damian Green and Nicky Morgan. The group will hold regular meetings with Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, as well as senior government officials from HMRC, Cabinet Office Europe Unit and Number 10. – BBC News

  • Hardline Brexiteers join taskforce in search of Brexit deal – Sky News
  • Theresa May drafts in Brexiteer critics in last-ditch bid to thrash out backstop compromise – PoliticsHome

…although anti-Brexit figures accuse Theresa May of ‘wasting valuable time’ with the new Working Group

Theresa May has been accused of “wasting valuable time” in the countdown to Britain’s exit from the EU as she announced plans to establish a Commons group probing alternative plans for the Irish border post-Brexit. Despite the prime minister’s hopes of reopening the withdrawal agreement already being dashed by EU leaders with just 53 days to go until Brexit, the new committee made up of senior Tory MPs will meet for the first time on Monday. Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay is expected to attend the sessions, alongside support from officials at HM Revenue and Customs, the Cabinet Office, and No 10. The group will aim to provide “alternative arrangements” to the backstop – the EU’s insurance policy in the withdrawal agreement that aims to avoid a hard border in Ireland. Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney also rubbished the idea of “alternative arrangements”, adding in The Sunday Times: “This is not a new concept. The EU is committed to trying to agree alternative arrangements to replace the backstop. We want a comprehensive future relationship in place by the end of 2020 so the backstop is never used. Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat MP and supporter of the pro-EU group Best for Britain accused the prime minister of a “preposterous waste of time” over the new working group. “It shows what situation the Conservative Party have got themselves into,” he said. “All the MPs involved know this plan is dead on arrival with EU leaders but yet are wasting valuable time and effort on this hare-brained scheme.” – Independent

> On BrexitCentral: The Malthouse Compromise explained as May appoints Working Group to take the proposals forward

Eurosceptic Tories warn May over need to honour commitment to reopen Withdrawal Agreement

The fragile Tory truce brokered by Theresa May over her plan B for Brexit appeared to be fracturing as Eurosceptics voiced suspicion that she will sell them short. Steve Baker, the deputy chairman of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers, said Mrs May was heading for “a further substantial defeat” in Parliament if she fails to honour her commitment to re-open the EU Withdrawal Agreement. Members of the ERG suspect Mrs May is preparing to accept a legal annexe to the Brexit deal rather than rewriting the deal itself to remove or alter the Northern Ireland backstop. They have made clear to her that anything other than a rewritten deal would not be acceptable. Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the ERG, said on Sunday night that such an assurance would be “pointless and would impress few people”. A Downing Street spokesman pointed out that Mrs May told MPs on the floor of the House of Commons last week that Brussels would need to re-open the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement and that remained her position. – Telegraph (£)

Liam Fox suggests MPs who block Brexit ‘deserve to be punished’ at the ballot box

The International Trade Secretary blasted colleagues in his own party for giving Theresa May a “very difficult hand” in negotiations and said some of his colleagues could face a “difficult time” with voters. Some Tory MPs like Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston have joined the campaign to push for a second Brexit referendum, while others like Nick Boles have sought to block a no-deal departure from the EU. Dr Fox laid bare the struggles the Prime Minister has been faced with on Brexit – and noted that some on her own backbenches have made the negotiations more difficult. He told the Sophy Ridge show on Sky News that she had “not only been negotiating with the European Union at times – she has been negotiating with her own party”. And he added: “I wish more people in our parliament would do what they were elected to do which was to fulfil the promise they made to honour that referendum.” Asked if he thought MPs attempting to frustrate Brexit could be punished at the ballot box, he replied: “Well 80% of MPs in this parliament were elected on a manifesto, either Labour or Conservative, promising to honour the result of the referendum. Those who got elected on that promise and then don’t follow it through once they get to Parliament I think will have a difficult time with the voters the next time, and if that happens then they deserve it.” – PoliticsHome

> WATCH: International Trade Secretary Liam Fox on Sky’s Ridge on Sunday

UK would still be safe in a no-deal scenario, says Sajid Javid

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has said the UK would remain “one of the safest countries in the world” in the event of a no-deal Brexit. But he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that there would be a “change in capability” in terms of access to certain security databases. He also said a general election was the “last thing this country needs”. His comments on security come after the Met’s counter-terrorism chief said no deal would be “very bad” for policing. Mr Javid said he wants to leave with a deal on 29 March, but “it makes sense to plan for all contingencies, that of course includes no deal planning. It is true if we have a no deal situation there will be certain capabilities that we rely on for security with the EU, such as databases, arrest warrants… that will change,” he said. “There are capabilities we would want to keep, but they require co-operation with the EU and I have to plan on the basis that in a no deal scenario the EU will no longer allow us to access those capabilities.” He said that most of those capabilities began in 2015, saying: “We were a safe country then and we’d be a very safe country in a no deal scenario. I want a deal… but even in a no deal scenario we would continue to be one of the safest countries in the world.” – BBC News

  • Sajid Javid refuses to reject claims UK will be less safe after no-deal Brexit – PoliticsHome
  • Sajid Javid slaps down Brexit doommongers by insisting Britain will be among safest countries in the world even in event of ‘No Deal’ – The Sun

> WATCH: Home Secretary Sajid Javid on The Andrew Marr Show

Liz Truss suggests the EU could agree to a time limit on the backstop

The Chief Secretary revealed her optimism there would be a last minute deal as Theresa May prepares to head back to Brussels for a new round of talks. Ms Truss was asked about the prospects of success in the final round of talks on Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics today. She said: ‘On the time limit to the backstop – there are various people across the EU that have hinted that might be possible.’ The Chief Secretary added: ‘It is the threat of a No Deal that helps bring a consensus on both sides.’ The Polish Government is among those who have backed a time limit on the backstop despite the EU’s insistence it is impossible.  – MailOnline

Corbyn ally Barry Gardiner pleads with Labour MPs not to be ‘selfish’ and pass May’s deal in return for constituency cash…

Barry Gardiner today warned Labour MPs considering voting for Theresa May’s deal in exchange for investment in their constituencies not to be ‘selfish’. The shadow trade secretary insisted his vote was not ‘for sale’ amid claims Downing Street is courting Labour MPs representing Leave-supporting areas. No 10 hopes to secure enough Labour votes to cancel out hard Brexiteers advocating a no deal over Mrs May’s deal. Bassetlaw MP John Mann seized on the offer this week to declare ‘show me the money’ while independent former Labour MP Frank Field insisted the exchange would not be wrong if an MP believed the deal was good enough. But Mr Gardiner – a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn – condemned the idea today in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr. ‘Why would you as an MP, as a Labour MP who stood on that manifesto say, you know what if I can get a little bit of money extra into my constituency I don’t mind about the rest of the country not getting what actually we promised in our manifesto.’ He added: ‘Anyone who reflects on the manifesto that they stood on and the benefit that that would do for the whole of the country in getting investment through, would have to say I can’t just be selfish about this. – MailOnline

> WATCH: Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardner’s full Interview on The Andrew Marr Show

…as Corbyn faces threat of a Labour split after Valentine’s Day Brexit vote…

Labour unity is under intense strain amid new claims that MPs disillusioned with Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on Brexit are preparing to quit the party whip and form a new parliamentary grouping. According to one report, the first defection could come as early as 14 February, immediately after the next round of Commons votes on Brexit. Mr Corbyn will also face a fresh challenge on Monday over his handling of anti-Semitism allegations within the party at what is expected to be a fractious meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP). At least six MPs are said to be contemplating a breakaway, with the move led by backbenchers dismayed by their leader’s opposition to a second referendum on Brexit. Sir Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, said his party had been in talks with Labour MPs – as well as Tories – over how to thwart Brexit. “When the Brexit issue is resolved one way or another, I think they will reconsider their position in the Labour Party,” he said. “I can’t predict exactly what will happen but I think there’s a real chance of a significant group breaking away,” he told Sky News. – iNews

  • Vince Cable vows to ‘work with’ rebel MPs as he claims ‘real chance’ of Labour breakaway – Independent

…while Sir Keir Starmer renews call for May to put customs union membership to a Commons vote

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has called on Prime Minister Theresa May to hold a Commons vote on a permanent customs union to help break the current impasse. Speaking ahead of a visit to Belfast today, the Labour MP accused the Government of pursuing a negotiating strategy designed to keep the Conservative Party from splitting. Sir Keir said that if the Prime Minister was serious about building consensus in Parliament she would start by testing the support of MPs for a permanent customs union with the EU. He said it would be an important first step in negotiating an agreement with the EU that protects jobs and the economy, and guarantees no return of a hard border in Northern Ireland. He will meet political, business and trade union leaders on his visit here today. He said: “The Brexit negotiations are once again in a state of paralysis. If the Prime Minister is serious about building a consensus, then, as a first step, she should start by testing the support of Parliament for a permanent customs union as part of our future relationship with the EU. – Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson dismisses snap election talk as ‘scare tactic’ to win support for May’s Brexit deal

Downing Street preparations for a snap election in June may be a useful “scare tactic” to persuade MPs to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal, Boris Johnson has suggested. The former foreign secretary said the idea of an election this year was “lunacy” because the Government still has no coherent Brexit plan. Reports surfaced over the weekend of No 10 officials making contingency plans for a possible election on June 6, and Mr Johnson is not alone in warning that such a move would be a disaster. Writing in The Telegraph, Mr Johnson says there would be a “hole in the heart” of the Tory manifesto if an election was called, because “after two and a half years of dither the truly astonishing feature of the UK position is that the big questions have still not been answered”. Even if Mrs May manages to get Parliament to agree to a revised EU Withdrawal Agreement in the coming weeks, there is “no clarity” about the trading relationship she then intends to negotiate. Mr Johnson adds: “Perhaps there is no plan for an election; perhaps it is just a scare tactic designed to get MPs to vote for the PM’s appalling deal.” – Telegraph (£)

  • Backlash at plot for snap election: Boris dismisses ‘scare tactic’ as ministers line up to slam plans despite Tories trumping Labour in poll – Daily Mail

Nissan says ‘business reasons’, not Brexit, are behind Sunderland reversal…

Nissan has blamed new diesel regulation and falling sales for a shock decision not to build its X-Trail car at the company’s giant Sunderland plant. Instead, production of the SUV will be consolidated at Nissan’s Kyushu site in Japan, a move the company said would reduce investment costs. Gianluca de Ficchy, chairman of Nissan’s European arm, said that the decision had been taken for “business reasons”, with falling demand for diesel engines in vehicles and slowing sales of cars also understood to be factors. Announcing the move, he added: “We are taking advantage of our global assets, and with X-Trail already manufactured in Japan, we can reduce our upfront investment costs. We have taken this decision for business reasons.” He added that the company “appreciates this will be disappointing for our UK team and partners”, but said Nissan still had “full confidence in our workforce in Sunderland”. – Telegraph (£)

  • Nissan to cancel X-Trail production plans in latest car industry setback – City A.M.

…as Greg Clark admits Nissan’s U-turn on Sunderland plant is a blow for the UK…

Business Secretary Greg Clark admitted to a body blow on Sunday as Nissan confirmed it had reversed a decision to build a new SUV in Sunderland. The Japanese car giant went back on a post-Brexit pledge to make its next-generation X-Trail diesel motor at the flagship plant. No jobs will go as a result of yesterday’s decision. And Nissan insisted that – separately – production on a new Qashqai would begin as expected in 2020. But Tory MPs admitted the decision was a setback for No 10 given Nissan’s pledge in late 2016 was hailed as vindication of Theresa May’s Brexit vision. In a statement yesterday, Mr Clark said: “Nissan’s announcement is a blow to the sector and the region, as this was to be a further significant expansion of the site and the workforce.” Nissan was due to announce its decision later on Monday but the news leaked after Nissan informed Greg Clark on Friday. The X-Trail is already made in Japan and the US. Treasury minister Liz Truss dismissed claims that Nissan’s decision was as a result of Brexit. She said: “This is everything that is normal, that happens. Speculation about industry has been pushed into the Brexit story. I don’t think that is fair.” – The Sun

  • Nissan U-turn is a no-deal Brexit ‘warning sign’, says Clark – FT(£)

…which may lose the company its ‘£60m Brexit sweetener’

Ministers are considering withdrawing a £60 million package of support for Nissan after it broke a pledge to build the latest version of one of its sports utility vehicles in Britain. The government was given less than 24 hours’ notice of the decision to abandon the move that had been expected to create hundreds of jobs. Greg Clark, the business secretary, was told by the car giant that the switch of production from Sunderland to Japan was “not negotiable”. The company blamed wider industry pressures but also warned that Brexit “uncertainty” was not helping it to plan for the future. The multimillion-pound package offered to the carmaker in 2016 was tied to its pledge to build the X-Trail SUV alongside a new model of its popular Qashqai. Last night the company said the Qashqai investment would still go ahead at the Sunderland plant. – The Times (£)

DUP’s Arlene Foster calls for Brussels to talk about Brexit backstop alternatives

Arlene Foster has once again insisted that alternatives to the Brexit backstop exist, as she accused Sinn Fein of continuing to exploit the fear of the UK quitting the EU with no deal to make demands for a united Ireland. Writing in today’s Belfast Telegraph, the DUP leader has insisted that the question is not “whether alternatives exist or could be agreed”, but rather, when negotiations on the matter take place. She pointed to the EU’s decision to reopen negotiations for the Lisbon Treaty, which was initially rejected by the Republic, as evidence of pragmatism displayed by the bloc. “Whilst the EU is clearly happy to use the threat of a no-deal as a negotiating tactic, Sinn Fein appear content to push towards such an outcome simply to provide fodder for their united Ireland grievance mill,” said Mrs Foster. “Beyond the street pantomime of fake checkpoints and sledgehammers, Mary Lou McDonald has spelt out that Sinn Fein’s desire is to use a no-deal exit to agitate for a united Ireland.” Mrs Foster’s position appears to have been bolstered by Theresa May after it emerged yesterday that senior members of the hardline Brexiteer-led European Research Group (ERG) have been drafted in to help the Government develop an alternative to the backstop. – Belfast Telegraph

Vince Cable sparks Brexiteer fury with claims second referendum isn’t a ‘unicorn’ and it will happen

The Lib Dem boss insisted today that Remainer dreams of a second vote to overturn the first result aren’t dead at all, and it was just a matter of “timing”. Last week MPs voted to slap down plans to extend Article 50 and delay Brexit – in what was seen as a thinly veiled plan to try and reverse Brexit altogether with another vote. Remainers admitted their hopes for a so-called People’s Vote had been dashed after Yvette Cooper’s plan failed to pass. But today Mr Cable told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “It isn’t a unicorn. I think this a question of timing.” He predicted that the Government “may come to the conclusion that the only way of getting its deal to progress is actually to take it to the country”. And the dream of Remaining in the EU is still “alive”, he added. “The idea of going back to the public and giving them the choice of the government’s deal or some variant of it as against remaining in the European Union will soon seem a very attractive one and I think it is potentially very likely alive, although currently it is a question of timing,” he said. – The Sun

Banks fret over investor inaction on Brexit

Leading banks have appealed for help from regulators after as few as 10 per cent of clients returned paperwork allowing them to trade smoothly in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Banks have spent months asking investor clients to sign trading agreements with their new EU-based brokerages so that they can trade seamlessly and efficiently across Europe if the UK crashes out of the bloc without a deal. The biggest issues are in derivatives, where contracts are complex and bespoke. But client take-up has been slow. At Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, just 10 per cent of affected clients have returned the necessary documents, people familiar with the situation told the FT. At Citi, documents have been returned by 15 to 20 per cent of the clients the bank is trying to migrate to its Frankfurt broker-dealer, while Swiss banks have also had low sign-up levels, people familiar with those banks’ processes said. – FT(£)

Boris Johnson: Is this June election talk a ploy to scare MPs into backing Theresa May’s appalling deal?

I don’t know if there really is some genius in Tory HQ who wants to call an election this year, but if there is I would like to reach out to that person and shake them warmly by the throat. I have never heard such a ridiculous idea – and let me be clear that I do not say that because I have the slightest terror of the Labour opposition. No, the reason I object to an early election is not that I think the Government is doomed to lose; far from it. The reason an election is wildly premature is that Corbyn is not alone in his fundamental confusion. Yes, he seems fatally incoherent on the crucial question of the customs union – but then so is the Government. If Tory MPs were asked to go into electoral battle in the next few months, there would be a hole in the heart of our manifesto. I have no idea what we would say about the EU – because after two and a half years of dither the truly astonishing feature of the UK position is that the big questions have still not been answered. – Boris Johnson MP for the Telegraph (£)

Arlene Foster: Time for EU to make good on the promise of using its ‘best endeavours’ to do sensible deal

The fact that Parliament has now spelt out clearly what it wants to secure from negotiations on the withdrawal agreement seems to have bizarrely reinforced the idea from some that no alternative to the unacceptable backstop is possible. Such a claim not only flies in the face of history, but also contradicts the stated position of the European Union. The question is not whether alternatives exist or could be agreed, but when the negotiations take place. For those who say the EU cannot reopen a treaty, then we only need look south of the border to dispel that myth. The Irish Government, like the other EU 27, signed up to using those “best endeavours” to see alternative arrangements to the backstop in place. It is in the interests of both Northern Ireland and the Republic jointly that those endeavours are not delayed any longer. – DUP Leader Arlene Foster for the Belfast Telegraph

Iain Duncan Smith: Royal family evacuation plan is Project Fear on steroids

Another day and another story on how, after Brexit, the UK will face Armageddon. From queues stretching miles back from Dover to vast job losses across the economy, carefully placed stories, (often from – I am sad to say – Government sources) litter our papers and are seized on with glee by the broadcast media. The latest one actually left me laughing as I read about the plans to evacuate HM the Queen and the Royal family in the event of a no deal Brexit. This, it turns out, is because they are worried about civil disorder as people may take to the streets to vent their anger. Actually, I fancy there is a greater likelihood of anger from the public if they find out their vote to leave has been rejected by Parliament or if they are forced to delay or hold a second referendum. But even in such an event I do not believe for one moment that it would spill over into threats against the monarchy. Yet the civil contingencies bunch have dusted off the Cold War plans which were expressly drawn up in the event of a nuclear threat, yes, that’s right – a nuclear threat. How ridiculous is that? – Iain Duncan Smith MP for the Telegraph (£)

Christian May: There’s more to Nissan’s X-Trail move than Brexit, but there’s no denying the cost of uncertainty

The UK may or may not leave the EU on 29 March, and if it does the departure may or may not be facilitated by a formal withdrawal agreement. Unfortunately that’s about as precise as anyone can be at the moment. With politicians still wrangling over the kind of Brexit that may emerge, businesses from key sectors are contending with intense political uncertainty in addition to the range of challenges and upheavals that they already face. The automotive industry is perhaps the most critical example of a sector already being buffeted by regulatory and technological headwinds, and which now counts Brexit confusion as another unwelcome element of the storm. As soon as the news emerged, Remain campaigners pinned the blame squarely on the UK’s decision to leave the EU while vocal Leave advocates said it was more to do with the decline in diesel sales and a struggling automotive sector. In a rare occurrence for the UK’s highly-charged Brexit debate, both sides are correct. Many businesses assumed, not unreasonably, that they would by now have known the outline shape of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Given the shameful absence of this information they can be forgiven for shaking up their future investment plans – especially if, as in the case of Nissan, they already face a plethora of market challenges. – Christian May for City A.M.

Henry Newman: A Brexit deal requires keyhole surgery, not amputation

In less than two months, the U.K. will leave the EU, unless there’s an extension of Article 50. The default remains no deal, until parliament ratifies an agreement. Last month, the Brexit deal, which Theresa May’s and Michel Barnier’s teams had painstakingly thrashed out, suffered the biggest defeat in British parliamentary history. Last week, the same deal was approved by the House of Commons with the proviso that changes be made to the protocol for Northern Ireland — the backstop. European figures lined up to rule this out. That is to an extent understandable, but it’s also dangerous. European leaders never sought Brexit, and would rather be discussing issues from the eurozone’s future to taxing digital companies. Yet politics — to paraphrase John Lennon — is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. EU law offers every country a right to leave, and the U.K. has elected to exercise that option. A deal is on the table that ensures there will be no immediate disruption in our trade and, as importantly, our close cooperation on security, defence and intelligence. It protects the rights of millions of European and British citizens, and sets the tone for a constructive relationship benefiting both sides. There is no need to tear up that text — keyhole surgery, not amputation, is required. Ireland must know that it will never be abandoned. The U.K. seeks reassurance that the backstop will not be permanent, and that Northern Ireland’s political institutions will be respected. A legally binding side agreement ought to do the job. We are within touching distance, but only days remain. – Henry Newman for Politico

Marcus Fysh: The Government and the EU should respond to Parliament’s will

The Commons heavily defeated the EU’s Withdrawal Agreement proposal last month, then showed a clear majority for something similar – but only if the “backstop” Northern Ireland protocol could be replaced with a suitable alternative. Such was set out in the snappily named “Malthouse Compromise” on which the Commons majority depended. This plan therefore needs reasoned examination, and to be formally and properly put to the EU by mid-February so they have time to approve it by the end of March. Simplified inland clearance procedure, as per current EU law, can be the basis of alternative arrangements as per the “Malthouse Compromise” that ensure no hard border in the island of Ireland after March, whether or not there is a deal, as well as speeding cross-Channel trade. Contrary to the assertions of many on the topic, this does not rely on technology, whether existing or untried. Neither does it require infrastructure on the border or elsewhere. Risk-assessed customs and regulatory checks can take place in premises and in market, in a way similar to current investigations of excise and VAT. The Government should now show business how to take advantage of these simplifications, both to register for Customs and Freight Simplified Procedures on import to the UK, and to make import declarations available in Calais if they export goods to France or have a transit document for transport beyond France which means they do not have to make a declaration or risk getting stuck in Calais. The EU is aware of these proposals and has not been able to fault them yet has not formally considered them as UK negotiators have not yet put them forward. It’s a matter of political will at the end of the day. – Marcus Fysh MP for PoliticsHome

Trevor Kavanagh: Theresa May has a strong hand but she must play her cards right… or we’ll all lose

Poker-faced Theresa May is about to sit down with EU hustlers for the final round of high-stakes Brexit. Last week’s Commons victory over Remainers — a surprise to everyone including the PM herself — has given her a strong hand to play for Britain. The PM has the unexpected authority of Parliament to scrub the hated Northern Ireland backstop. Her squabbling party has called a temporary truce. And nobody, including the EU, wants Jeremy Corbyn to take control. Even Labour MPs are rallying behind her — at a price. And working-class voters have given the Tories a healthy seven-point lead. They might even win a snap election. Played skilfully, this could win a deal that satisfies both Remainers and Leavers. She has made a worrying start by apparently binning the No Deal card — the only one that truly scares the EU. Mrs May has no intention of playing this ace — and never had. There are other worrying signs. She can use her good luck to land a historic victory. Or she can blink and condemn Britain to colony status, paying billions more into EU coffers while being led by the nose on trade deal promises that never materialise. In which case, forget about that snap election fantasy. The Conservative Party would never be forgiven by the 17.4million voters who voted Brexit — or those who wish they had. – Trevor Kavanagh for The Sun

Lisa Nandy: MPs must compromise on a Brexit deal or tear the country apart

Brexit is tugging Britain apart and it is in danger of breaking us. Overwhelmingly, and on both sides, people do not trust the process, do not trust politicians and feel very little hope for the future. A recent report found that Leave and Remain are now a core part of most people’s identities and the centre ground is disappearing. My inbox is overwhelmed with angry emails from constituents demanding we leave immediately. People who only a year ago did not mind how we left as long as we did, now tell me they want to cut all ties with the EU. In Westminster this outcome is politely dismissed as unlikely. In my constituency in the north of England, Wigan, it feels virtually inevitable. This is why I, and many others, have concluded that passing the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement is the only way through this mess. This would usher in an orderly transition — but only if we can negotiate a trade deal that allows us to remain in a customs union with access to the EU single market and the rigorous employment standards and environmental regulations that it implies. Our decision is portrayed as an unprincipled attempt to win votes in seats like mine. In truth, it feels like a harder sell to a divided public in no mood to compromise. – LIsa Nandy MP for the FT(£)

Bim Afolami: If necessary, the UK must take an aggressive approach on financial services in Brexit talks

Financial services matter to the UK. Not just for London, not just for the South East, but for the whole country. We need to ensure that as we leave the European Union, we maintain our world leading position. Last year the banking sector alone brought in £28.5bn in tax revenue, the highest amount on record. But it is not just about providing more revenue. Studies have shown that more financial service jobs have a direct impact on regional productivity across all sectors. The average output per worker in a British city was £58,900 a year in 2016. For workers in financial services, output was almost twice that at £114,700. Why does that matter? Financial services service the areas of the ‘real’ economy. From straightforward bank loans to derivative instruments, they are essential to all types of business, large and small.  It is important to remember that financial services are not just a London centric industry. In fact, only half of financial services economic output is from London, with the North of England housing 13 per cent of the industry at a value of £15.3bn for the region. This must be built upon, and part of the Northern Powerhouse strategy could be making Northern cities such as Newcastle and Manchester financial services hub at the level we currently see in London and Edinburgh. All of this means that promoting the UK as a financial services hub is essential for the UK economy, and it provides fantastic careers for British people right across the UK, as well as helping to fund our vital public services. To preserve its position means protecting the interests of the sector in any future trade deals and ensuring people in every part of the United Kingdom can use and benefit from our world-class financial services. To be blunt, if necessary we must  take an aggressive approach to the EU in our upcoming trade negotiations if they choose to deliberately undermine the sector through tax breaks and regulatory manoeuvres. Financial services needs to be a top priority in those talks. – Bim Afolami MP for PoliticsHome

Brexit in Brief

  • The Tories must be fair but firm about deselecting Remainer MPs – Charles Moore for the Telegraph (£)
  • Our survey. A majority of Party members back May’s deal – if changes can be made to the backstop – Paul Goodman for ConservativeHome
  • Britain must build more gas-fired power plants now – Tony Lodge for The Times (£)
  • Irish border communities braced for re-emergence of ‘unapproved roads’ for school run – Belfast Telegraph
  • Treatment of Scottish MPs ‘affirms Sinn Féin abstentionism’, says party leader – Irish Times