Electoral Commission got referendum law wrong over Vote Leave, court rules: Brexit News for Saturday 15 September

Electoral Commission got referendum law wrong over Vote Leave, court rules: Brexit News for Saturday 15 September
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Electoral Commission got referendum law wrong over Vote Leave, court rules

The Electoral Commission misinterpreted EU referendum spending laws allowing Vote Leave to break them, the High Court has ruled. Vote Leave paid £625,000 to clear bills allegedly run up by university student Darren Grimes. The watchdog initially said it had no grounds to suspect this was a scheme to get round spending limits. It later changed its mind and fined Vote Leave and Mr Grimes – and also referred him to the police. The High Court agreed with the Electoral Commission finding in July that Vote Leave had broken the law, but said the watchdog had misinterpreted the rules, in the run-up to the June 2016 referendum, in advice it gave to the Leave campaign. – BBC News

The Electoral Commission’s defeat in the High Court today marks an important turning point in their long and changing legal wrangle with Vote Leave. To recap, the ‘Good Law Project’ took the Electoral Commission to court back in 2017 to argue that they had erred in the advice they gave to Vote Leave when they told us that we could donate to other Leave campaigners without having to count it against our own referendum expenses. We followed the Electoral Commission’s advice, but the High Court has now agreed with the Good Law Project and said that the Commission was incorrect to give us this advice. – Matthew Elliott for BrexitCentral

  • Troubled Electoral Commission faces calls to be abolished after High Court ruled they gave dodgy advice to referendum campaigners – The Sun
  • Election watchdogs face demands to resign – Express

Chancellor Philip Hammond reportedly suggests delaying Brexit to prepare for No Deal

Philip Hammond has angered Theresa May by suggesting Britain may have to delay Brexit to fully prepare for no deal. The Chancellor told the Cabinet that we may need to remain an EU member beyond March 29 next year under the emergency scenario so the Government has time to pass a morass of new laws. His idea was immediately slapped down by the PM, who told him that it was not going to happen. The revelation is made by James Forsyth in his column in The Sun today.  – The Sun

  • Hammond raised the prospect of delaying Brexit day – James Forsyth for The Sun

Labour will reject any Brexit deal based on Theresa May’s Chequers plan, confirms Emily Thornberry

Labour will block any Brexit deal based on Theresa May’s Chequers plan, Emily Thornberry has confirmed. Ms Thornberry said the Prime Minister’s withdrawal strategy was “nonsense”, with the shadow foreign secretary ruling out Labour backing any agreement underpinned by the blueprint. She said Labour would not agree to Mrs May’s deal and would not accept the prospect of a no-deal departure either as she claimed there will be a general election in the autumn or the spring. – Telegraph (£)

Boris Johnson says UK must escape the ‘tractor beam of Brussels’…

On Brexit, the leader of Vote Leave insisted Britain had a ‘choice’ about the kind of future it wanted after quitting the EU.  He said: ‘The UK could be about to come loose of the the European system of regulation and government … able to campaign for pro-competitive policies. ‘That’s the opportunity … There’s a conversation going on about how we achieve it, and it is difficult. ‘But the last thing we want now is for us, the Brits, to be sucked back by the tractor beam of Brussels.’ – Daily Mail

…but tells Tories to Chuck Chequers, not Theresa May

Boris Johnson has urged fellow Eurosceptics to focus on challenging Theresa May’s Brexit policy rather than trying to oust her. In his first comments about Mrs May’s premiership since Brexiteers began openly discussing a coup, the former foreign secretary said “it’s not about changing Prime Minister, it’s about chucking Chequers”. He went on to set out his own alternative vision for the Conservatives and called for a return to Thatcherite values. Mr Johnson said social mobility and “helping people to seize control of their own destiny” should be the Party’s number one priority. – Telegraph (£)

Brexit has hit pay growth, Carney tells Ireland

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney has blamed Brexit for sluggish UK wage growth, saying it may have hampered the country’s economic output. The central banker, whose tenure has recently been extended to 2020, told an audience in Dublin that “Brexit has had an additional dampening effect” on pay growth. This was because it had caused uncertainty, and put businesses off investing in technology that could improve productivity, which is measured by a worker’s output per hour and is a crucial determinant of wage rises. – Telegraph (£)

  • Jacob Rees-Mogg accuses Carney of behaving like a ‘screaming banshee’ – Daily Mail
  • Mark Carney predicts £16bn ‘Brexit bounce’ from Chequers deal – Express

EU diplomats reject Raab claim that Brexit talks are ‘closing in’ on deal…

Dominic Raab has surprised EU officials and diplomats by optimistically claiming the Brexit talks are “closing in” on a solution to the Irish border problem, following a 30-minute telephone conversation with Michel Barnier. In an an article on Thursday, in which he had threatened to withhold the UK’s £39bn divorce bill, the British cabinet minister had told how he was looking forward to continuing negotiations with Barnier the following day. In reality, the two men had a call that lasted about 30 minutes on Friday, sources said. EU diplomats in Brussels also expressed astonishment at the sunny outlook offered by the British cabinet minister over the state of the negotiations. – Guardian

  • Top No10 aide accused of branding Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab ‘a f***ing nightmare’ during boozy dinner – The Sun

…as Michel Barnier wants MaxFac customs solution down the Irish Sea

Mr Barnier wants to police a new trade border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain with technology to make it as invisible as possible. He is billing the tactic – known as Maximum Facilitation, and pinched from Brexiteers – as a new solution to the bitter impasse over how to keep the Irish border open. Some of the PM’s senior aides suspect Mr Raab of ‘freelancing’ during weekly talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier by going further than No10’s tight script.  Mr Raab was also said to have angered No10 by sending Mr Barnier into a rage recently by challenging the EU to impose a hard border in Ireland if there is no deal, as the UK would refuse. Two of the nine backbench Tory MPs at the boozy No10 dinner have told The Sun that the very senior official told them that Mr Raab “has been a fucking nightmare ever since he arrived”… One of the MPs in the room said: “It was an utterly extraordinary thing for such a senior aide to the Prime Minister to say about a Cabinet minister. We were stunned. “The tension No10 is under trying to make the disastrous Chequers plan work is clearly getting to some of them.”  – The Sun

The Belgian denounced as a heretic for insisting Brexit will be a success

They don’t come much more European than Marc Roche. Born in Belgium and nourished on tales of admiration for the EU, he became London correspondent for Le Monde, the most federalist French daily, and was awarded the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest distinction, for his writings. So, when Roche announced the title of his latest book, Le Brexit Va Réussir (Brexit Will Succeed), there was stupefaction in Paris and Brussels. Colleagues were appalled, acquaintances horrified. How could this most cultivated and articulate of continentals espouse a cause that, seen from France, Belgium or Germany, is an affront to European civilisation? – The Times (£)

EU migrant row: Call to screen rescued asylum seekers at sea

The interior ministers of Austria and Italy have called on the EU to hold rescued migrants at sea until their asylum claims are processed. Austria’s Herbert Kickl put forward the idea at an EU migration conference in Vienna and his Italian counterpart, Matteo Salvini, supported it. Hundreds of thousands of migrants try to reach the EU in risky sea crossings. Mr Kickl said ships would use a “quick way” to clarify who was entitled to asylum but he did not give details. Mr Salvini is under investigation in Italy for refusing to let rescued migrants disembark in Italy last month. Prosecutors in Sicily have opened an inquiry into possible illegal confinement, illegal arrest and abuse of power. – BBC News

Telegraph: Mr Carney must stop fuelling Project Fear

What was the point of Mark Carney’s presentation to Cabinet this week? It was reported that the Governor of the Bank of England told ministers to prepare for house prices falling by a third if Britain walks away from the EU without a deal. Mr Carney’s remarks leaked out and a storm broke: a no-deal Brexit means disaster for the economy! Until quieter voices pointed out that Mr Carney has warned about house prices before, so this is nothing new; that it’s the job of the Bank to stress test the banking system for literally any crisis, no matter how improbable; and, most importantly, that the Bank has not made a forecast for a no-deal Brexit. So why did Mr Carney and No 10 allow all these alarmist headlines to travel halfway around the world without correction? – The Telegraph editorial (£)

Ray Bassett: Solving the Irish border, respecting the UK referendum result

There is no need for the Irish border question to either derail the EU/UK Brexit discussions or determine the overall agreement. The Border question has been used by elements within the Remain camp to try and block the UK’s departure from the EU. It is certainly not in the long-term interest of Ireland to be used in this cynical manner. – Dr Ray Bassett for Politeia

Patrick Benham-Crosswell: I voted Brexit to free us from Brussels, not save the Tories

Thursday’s Telegraph has a further example of how navel-gazing has become the main activity of the Westminster Village. This time it’s David Campbell Bannerman, a Eurosceptic Conservative MEP – who was twice not quite the leader of UKIP. His article, ‘How Theresa May can avoid a Brexit bloodbath in seven simple steps’, outlines a possible route to salvation for our maladroit Prime Minister and is based on his concept of ‘Chequers 2’ which he thinks gets round the obstacles that rendered Chequers 1 (as he would style it) dead in the water. – Patrick Benham-Crosswell for ConservativeWoman

Steerpike: Gina Miller’s manifesto to nowhere

Reman crusader Gina Miller has repeatedly denied reports that she has plans to become a politician – or, more specifically, leader of the Liberal Democrats. With Miller due to speak at the beleaguered party’s conference next week, it must be pure coincidence that today the campaigner has published a personal manifesto. She has said she wants to ‘take back control of Brexit’ by launching her manifesto to ‘End the Chaos!’ On the home page, Miller opines: ‘I believe it is morally and democratically right to give people as much unbiased information as possible.- Steerpike for The Spectator

Brexit in Brief

  • Chequers’ champions would never support a similar deal with America – Ted Yarbrough for ConservativeHome
  • Want a Brexit deal referendum? A major voting problem is being overlooked – Adam Rieger for Reaction
  • Is the Queen a Eurosceptic? – The Spectator podcast
  • The Brexit vote has led to the rise of a peculiar brand of cultural egalitarianism – Bregalitarianism – Kristian Niemietz for CapX
  • A Damascene conversion for the Daily Mail raises heart rates – Henry Mance for the FT (£)
  • A people’s vote is getting closer by the day – Matthew Parris for The Times (£)
  • The Commons Bill this week which prepares the way for a Green Brexit – Robert Goodwill MP for ConservativeHome
  • EU powers look to create financial firm to thwart Trump’s Iran sanctions . – Politico
  • Ruth Davidson: Theresa May’s critics must ‘quit the noise’ – BBC News
  • Airbus says worst-case Brexit would hit its sites beyond Britain – Reuters
  • Brexit buoyancy bypasses Brussels – EU still unsure of deal – Reuters
  • Lib Dems: Cable says party offers home to Brexit opponents – BBC News
  • Gina Miller rules out Lib Dem leadership bid – Sky News

And finally… Pro-Brexit number plate among hundreds banned by DVLA

A pro-Brexit number plate is one of hundreds that have been vetoed by the DVLA, as new ‘68’ registrations cause headaches for authorities. More than 400 letter and number combinations have fallen foul of the DVLA’s guidelines which ban registrations it feels “may cause offence, embarrassment or are in poor taste.” The number plate: ‘EU68 BAD’ will not be seen on the streets of Britain, or indeed continental Europe, after it was decided not to be made available for circulation. – Telegraph (£)