Amber Rudd suggests a second referendum is ‘plausible’ if Theresa May’s Brexit deal is rejected by MPs: Brexit News for Thursday 20 December

Amber Rudd suggests a second referendum is ‘plausible’ if Theresa May’s Brexit deal is rejected by MPs: Brexit News for Thursday 20 December
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Amber Rudd suggests a second referendum is ‘plausible’ if Theresa May’s Brexit deal is rejected by MPs

Amber Rudd, UK work and pensions secretary, has become the first cabinet minister to spell out a path to a second Brexit referendum, saying that another vote could become “plausible” if parliament rejects Theresa May’s deal with the EU in January. Ms Rudd told ITV that she did not want another referendum, “but if parliament absolutely failed to reach a consensus, I can see there would be a plausible argument for it”. She added that she did not believe the public wanted another vote. MPs are due to vote in the week of January 14 on Mrs May’s Brexit deal. The prime minister delayed the vote, admitting that she faced a heavy defeat because of the opposition of many Tory MPs, plus all the other parties. She has so far failed to win significant concessions from the EU on the backstop, the controversial insurance policy designed to avoid a hard Irish border. – FT (£)

  • Brexit referendum ‘plausible’ if MPs can’t decide – BBC News
  • Amber Rudd breaks ranks and says second referendum could happen – Express

Brussels rules out ‘managed no deal Brexit’ as it publishes contingency plans…

Crashing out of the EU will cause havoc to British flights, road haulage and the City of London, the European Commission warned on Wednesday, as it ruled out a “managed no deal Brexit” and announced emergency plans to protect the bloc from the worst impacts of Britain leaving without an agreement. Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said, “The risks of a disorderly exit of Great Britain from the EU are obvious. It will be an absolute catastrophe. Therefore, the Commission is trying to, as well as the member states, are trying to prevent this disorderly exit from the union, but it takes two to tango decently.” Supporters of a “managed no deal Brexit” favour short term disruption, contained by agreements with EU countries, to break free of Brussels over the compromises made by Theresa May in reaching her Brexit deal. But EU officials said that the “bare bones” no deal strategy would not prevent “huge disruption” in the UK and there would be no negotiations or side-deals with the British. All decisions would be made to protect the “vital interests” of the bloc. Any measure could be cancelled at the drop of a hat because they would be made unilaterally by the EU and many, such as those to help British citizens in the EU gain residency rights, will only be taken if Britain reciprocates. – Telegraph (£)

…while the Irish Government publishes its own ‘sobering’ no-deal Brexit plan…

The Irish Government has published its preparations thus far for a no-deal Brexit. The 131-page document lays out the plans under the headings: economic and fiscal; security; Northern Ireland and North-South relations; relations with Great Britain and sectoral analysis. Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said that the plan makes for a “stark” and “sobering” read, and said that this wasn’t a plan to keep things as they are, but a “damage-limiting exercise”. To prepare for Brexit, the government is buying up land at Dublin Port and Rosslare Port in anticipation of additional customs checks. It’s not expected, however, that everything will be in place at the ports in time for a no-deal scenario. In relation to aviation, Coveney said that “a skeleton arrangement” would be put in place: this would ensure that planes could fly out of British airports by maintaining the safety certification beyond 29 March on a temporary basis. – The Journal

…and France offers a guarantee to expats

France has detailed its plans for handling a no-deal Brexit with measures to avert chaos at Channel ports and ensure the continued rights of French and British expatriates. The French parliament approved a bill last week that allows the government to take emergency measures by decree with the aim of “protecting our national interests and those of our fellow citizens”. Nathalie Loiseau, the Europe minister, said that France would guarantee the residence, employment and welfare rights of the 160,000 resident British citizens living there provided that Britain offered the same guarantees to French expatriates. A hard Brexit would be “extremely costly” for Britain, Ms Loiseau said. The impact would be less severe in France although a negotiated departure was infinitely preferable, she added. “Our collective responsibility is to ensure that France is ready for all the possibilities on March 29 at midnight,” Ms Loiseau said. The state and local authorities in the Channel area have been working hard to limit the delays that will be inevitable for vehicles entering and leaving what will be a new customs frontier. – The Times (£)

Polish Prime Minister warns EU’s ‘harsh’ attitude to Theresa May could derail Brexit ahead of London talks today

Poland’s prime minister has called on European leaders to help Theresa May navigate the “storm” of Brexit as he criticised senior EU officials over their “unfortunate behaviour” at last week’s summit in Brussels. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mateusz Morawiecki said he was disappointed by the “rather unfortunate behaviour” of senior EU officials such as Jean-Claude Juncker, who suggested Mrs May was being “nebulous” at the December summit. “Sadly, the Brexit case has brought to light rather unfortunate behaviour. Strong statements and harsh words of some politicians in Brussels do not help, but hinder our common goal in achieving the most desirable outcome for all,” Mr Morawiecki told the Daily Telegraph. “Stakes are high, opinions vary, and so emotions run strong. But there is no doubt that Mrs May represents the British nation and that must be recognized by all.” – Telegraph (£)

  • Poland’s PM attacks EU for ridiculing Theresa May during Brexit talks – Express

Immigration White Paper sets out foreign worker rules after Brexit…

The Government has finally published its much delayed White Paper on immigration. Part of the reason for the delay is that the Cabinet is still highly divided on the policy. The original delay was due to a report by the Migration Advisory Committee, set up to examine what Britain’s immigration policy should be post-Brexit. Nevertheless, the Cabinet was still arguing over the policy last night, and elements of the White Paper are believed to have been amended at the last minute. So what is actually in the White Paper? The Government has been clear since the referendum that it will bring an end to freedom of movement from the EU/EEA. The White Paper confirms the promise the Prime Minister made in October that EU/EEA citizens would not receive special treatment or be able to “jump the queue”. Instead, migrants from across the world will be treated equally. – Telegraph (£)

  • Sajid Javid at odds with Theresa May over Tory pledge to cut immigration – The Times (£)
  • UK unveils temporary visa plan for EU nationals after Brexit – FT (£)

…which could see tens of thousands of low-skilled EU migrants continue to come to the UK

Tens of thousands of low-skilled EU migrants will continue to come to the UK for at least five years after Brexit, the government admitted as it unveiled its immigration blueprint. Officials acknowledged  there could be “similar” numbers of low-skilled temporary EU workers under a transitional scheme that allows in temporary workers for a year. There are currently 157,000 EU nationals working less than a year in the UK and a further 15,000 non-EU.  The admission came as the immigration White Paper, unveiled by Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, effectively ditched Theresa May’s pledge to bring annual net migration down to the “tens of thousands”. It stated only that net migration will be reduced to “sustainable levels” rather than the hundreds of thousands in previous decades. – Telegraph (£)

No-deal Brexit will raise food prices, suggests Michael Gove

Food prices will rise in the event of a no-deal Brexit as friction on the border and tariffs cause rising costs for the British public, Michael Gove said. The environment secretary, under questioning by MPs on the environmental audit committee, attempted to reassure farmers that there would be no mass slaughter of sheep in queues at UK ports such as Dover, because of delays created by a no-deal Brexit. About 4,000 sheep are exported to Europe each year for slaughter, and concerns have been raised that 20-mile queues of lorries at ports could lead to the government having to carry out a mass slaughter of livestock held in lorries. But the environment secretary said this was one of the more “lurid” scenarios and denied that he was in talks with the army to prepare for such a slaughter. “We are not going to have a mass slaughter of lambs and sheep in lorries en route to EU member states,” he told MPs. But he said farmers were right to be worried about the impact of a no-deal Brexit, given the delays and frictions it would create on the border and the tariffs they would be subject to, which would hit livestock and food producers significantly. – Guardian

Wales’ new First Minister says new Brexit referendum ‘unavoidable’ if Parliament is gridlocked

A new Brexit referendum will be “unavoidable” if the Commons is deadlocked and the country is denied a general election, Mark Drakeford said moments after his first meeting with Theresa May since becoming First Minister. The Welsh Labour leader argues that the UK will have to ask the European Union to suspend the Brexit process – under which Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29 come what may – if there is to be a renegotiation of the deal, a general election or a new referendum. Speaking in Downing St, he insisted it was “not too late for a better deal to be done”. Mr Drakeford and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met Mrs May as the UK Government ramps up its preparations for a no-deal Brexit and has published its plans for a new immigration system. Ms Sturgeon said it was “unacceptable” for the Prime Minister to delay the vote on her Brexit deal that had been scheduled for last week in the hope of “running down the clock” and forcing MPs to choose between her withdrawal agreement and no deal. – WalesOnline

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street says MPs must back May’s Brexit deal to save jobs at Jaguar Land Rover

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has warned MPs they must agree a withdrawal deal with the European Union in order to save jobs at Jaguar Land Rover. It follows reports that the carmaker, which employs thousands at plants in Birmingham and Solihull, is planning to cut up to 5,000 jobs. The Tory mayor said support for Theresa May’s proposed Brexit withdrawal agreement, which the Prime Minister is to put to a Commons vote in the week commencing January 14, would “remove some of the clouds that are hanging around JLR at the moment.” Mr Street said he had been in contact with senior Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) managers in recent days, and described the reports as “rumours”. But he said: “It is very concerning. Because they have obviously been the dynamo of the regional economy, and if it were to be true it would be extremely bad news. Even in all of the material that was rumoured, their commitment to further investment in the West Midlands was very clear. The other thing that was really clear is that if we get a firm decision around Brexit, that will remove some of the clouds that are hanging over JLR at the moment. I have been a fervent supporter of what the Prime Minister is doing, significantly because it will support our manufacturing industry in the West Midlands.” – BirminghamLive

No-deal Brexit risks a rude economic shock for Germany and fragile eurozone

There is no such thing as Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The Withdrawal Agreement is merely a legal contract to pay £39bn, with the Irish back-stop for good measure. In exchange, Britain secures a transition phase with no veto rights, bound to accept all fresh EU law even when it threatens the national interest. On payment of the exit fee we also secure the ‘privilege’ of starting talks on a deal. The terms of that deal must be agreed by all 27 EU states (unlike the Withdrawal Agreement). This will be a negotiating nightmare. We will face the same cliff-edge in two years, but with less leverage and unanimity to contend with. Whatever Mrs May now says, the UK will probably end up having to accept the full single market for goods and the customs union, freedom of movement, fishery quotas, and the full writ of the European Court, in order to get any trade deal. The package will be a sort ‘Norway double minus’ with barnacles. The EU will lock in goods trade, but exclude services. We will have sacrificed the biggest part of our economy for nothing, entirely on terms that favour Brussels. Personally, I prefer to have the showdown right now. – Telegraph (£)

Matthew Elliott: All change in 2019, as Europe heads to the polls

Just as it is always 5 o’clock somewhere in the world, there are always voters preparing to go to the polls, even when they don’t hit the headlines here in the UK. In the first part of 2019, almost a third of the world’s population will take part in significant elections. In April and May alone, India and Indonesia will be going to the polls, and the new European parliament will be elected at the end of May. This will be the first European election which hasn’t included the UK – the first one was held in 1979, after Britain joined the European Economic Community in 1973 – and it is set to be the only time that the EU’s electorate has shrunk. The election will be significant for another reason: it will be an important but rarely discussed dynamic in the Brexit negotiations. In recent weeks, it has sometimes been glibly suggested that Britain should extend the Article 50 process to the end of 2019 “to get a better deal from Brussels”. Putting to one side the question of whether the House of Commons would approve such an extension, the European election would also prove to be a significant obstacle. Would the UK elect a new set of MEPs? If we did, would we be given our current quota of 73 seats? – Matthew Elliott for City A.M.

Len McCluskey: A second Brexit referendum risks tearing our society apart

A second referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union is now clearly a possibility, as the Tory shambles risks pushing Britain towards the brink of a disastrous no-deal exit from the European Union – something few of those who voted to leave in 2016 can really have desired. But it cannot be the first choice or the preferred option for Labour Party supporters.  Better by far that parliament can agree a deal, acceptable to the European Union, which can command a broad base of support both amongst the 52 per cent who voted Leave and those in the 48 per cent who accept that democratic verdict. Labour has outlined the broad elements of such a deal – a permanent customs union, guarantees on workers’ rights and environmental protections, close alignment with the single market and a lasting solution to the Irish border question. I can see nothing in those proposals that would cause a difficulty for EU negotiators, and I believe most MPs could be won to support them as, at the very least, a pragmatic resolution to what is fast becoming a national agony. – Len McCluskey for the New Statesman

John Longworth: With 100 days to Brexit, No-Deal is looking like the best outcome – bring it on

A lot can happen in a hundred days. Napoleon escaped his incarceration, raised an army, took Paris and lost the battle of Waterloo all within a hundred days, all without the web, AI or the EU. Within a hundred days Churchill managed to do the impossible, snatch victory from the jaws of defeat – overcome his quisling colleagues in the Tory Party, rescue an army at Dunkirk, defeat the Luftwaffe and save Britain from invasion all within just one hundred days. To now secure our freedom all the government has to do is begin to fund and implement plans that the civil service have been developing over the last two years, plans so dramatic as to ensure that the shoppers at Marks and Spencer can still get their favourite smelly cheese and preventing other similar potential catastrophes from occurring. – John Longworth for the Huffington Post

Paul Goodman: Brexit, the backstop, Anglo-Irish relations – and learning from Burke

Brexit offers Ireland a limited upside, and an extensive downside.  A report from the Lords’ European Union Committee suggested that Ireland “stands to suffer the greatest loss to GDP of all other member states”.  It will undoubtedly take a short-term hit. Following the conventional wisdom that leaving the EU will be bad for Britain’s economy, even over the long-term, the committee added that the cost to Ireland could be even bigger. But perhaps the biggest Brexit effect on Ireland is not so much economic as political – even psychological.  Britain and Ireland entered the Common Market on the same day. This has come to be seen as symbolic. The two countries have a troubled mutual history. The European project liberated Ireland, opening up new horizons wider than those offered by its neighbour, while constraining Britain, binding its policy to a bigger enterprise. The EU is seen in Ireland as integral to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Northern Ireland’s peace process and the Belfast Agreement – paving the way for a golden age in Anglo-Irish relations, capped by the Queen’s visit to Ireland in 2011. – Paul Goodman for ConservativeHome

Mark Wallace: We must take Brexit doomsayers’ claims that No Deal Brexit means our food exports will rot in trucks at Dover with a hefty fistful of salt

AS soon as the Prime Minister ­presented her proposed EU deal, it was obvious that she was headed for trouble. Her plan didn’t just give a bit of ground here and there to smooth the way to an agreement, the little niggles of a ­negotiation. It crossed the red lines of many of the MPs she relies on for her wafer-thin ­Commons majority. She is fighting on in the hope of getting it through at the last minute, but the fact is that her deal is bogged down. She can’t bring it to a vote because she expects it would be rejected, so instead she searches for a way forward. All the while, the clock to Brexit Day ticks down. As much as some politicians — what a surprise, almost all Remainers — talk about delaying our escape from the EU or try to spin the line that they deserve a second go at winning a referendum, this country has committed itself to honour the biggest vote in our history. That means we are leaving on March 29 next year, as Parliament voted to do when it authorised Article 50. – Mark Wallace for The Sun

The Sun: Britain must be ready for Brexit on March 29 without a deal from Brussels

The EU no longer even pretends it wants warm relations with us after Brexit. The barrage of punitive threats it has issued to our expats, tourists and firms in the event of no-deal is openly hostile. There is no guarantee Brits living on the continent could stay despite us having promised that for EU citizens here. Our airlines would be barred from flying from the EU to the rest of the world. Brussels even declared war on our pets, intending to annul their passports. Some of it is malice. When has Britain been anything but courteous to them? But these are mainly scare tactics aimed at strong-arming Tory MPs into backing Theresa May’s deal. Yet the EU also wants us simply to trust it to eventually release us from the deal’s restrictive “Irish backstop” which cripples our trading future. Why would we? All trust is gone. Brussels has spent two years destroying it. Without a binding guarantee, The Sun cannot see the deal getting the nod. – The Sun says

Nick Timothy: The Government’s grand post-Brexit immigration plan is likely to see numbers rise

The immigration white paper, published yesterday,is an unfortunate symbol of the chaos of Britain’s Brexit policy and a government that has become badly dysfunctional. What started out as a plan to reduce and control immigration has, after much ministerial wrangling, led to a policy that is likely to see immigration, including low-skilled immigration, go up not down. While Theresa May sees Brexit as a chance to reduce immigration, her ministers openly defy her. Downing Street says its commitment to reduce annual net migration to the tens of thousands remains, but Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, repeatedly refuses to stand by it. No 10 wants to implement the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee in full, but Mr Javid, along with the Chancellor and Business Secretary, have fought for a more liberal system for lower-skilled migrants. And the rebel ministers are winning their battle. Despite the headline promise of a “skills-based” system, there are several gaping holes in the white paper that will allow low-skilled immigration to Britain to continue, and cause an unlimited volume of supposedly skilled migration. – Nick Timothy for the Telegraph (£)

Brexit in Brief

  • Hardline Remainers are becoming ever more extreme as time runs out – Allister Heath for the Telegraph (£)
  • Deals galore in place of the Withdrawal Agreement – John Redwood’s Diary
  • The EU’s no-deal preparations make it clear: they want to make Britain suffer – Ross Clark for The Spectator
  • It is still possible for May to revive her dead parrot of a deal – but it won’t be easy – Rob Wilson for ConservativeHome
  • UK tops Forbes’ Best for Business ratings – Forbes