Government sees off (for a few days at least) potential rebellion on the Brexit Bill: Brexit News for Wednesday 13 June

Government sees off (for a few days at least) potential rebellion on the Brexit Bill: Brexit News for Wednesday 13 June
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Government sees off (for a few days at least) potential rebellion on the Brexit Bill…

Theresa May has seen off a potential defeat over her flagship Brexit bill, after last-minute concessions which could give MPs a bigger say on the final withdrawal agreement and make a “no-deal” exit much less likely. MPs voted by 324 to 298 to reject a House of Lords amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill which would have given MPs the power to tell the Prime Minister to go back and renegotiate the Brexit deal. And former attorney general Dominic Grieve withdrew his own proposals spelling out precise terms under which MPs should be given a “meaningful vote” on the eventual deal – including the power to dictate what the Government should do if no acceptable agreement is reached by February 2019. – ITV News

  • PM May wins vote in parliament on Brexit, compromises to avoid rebellion – Reuters
  • Government pulled in all directions as ministers seek safe passage of EU Withdrawal Bill – City A.M.
  • Government avoids defeat on ‘meaningful vote’ – but is this a win? – Spectator
  • Conservative party divisions resurface as Brexiters accuse Remainers of “grossest hypocrisy” over EU Withdrawal Bill amendments – City A.M.
  • David Davis tells Tory rebels Brexit vote is irreversible – City A.M.
  • Ken Clarke: Europe ‘well aware’ of UK divisions – BBC News
  • After today’s vote, there is now no chance of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit – Robert Peston for the Spectator
  • The water gets hotter. The frog sinks lower. – Paul Goodman for ConservativeHome
  • The lesson of today’s government climbdown: we’re likely heading for soft Brexit – Peter Kellner for Prospect Magazine

> On BrexitCentral: How MPs voted on the Lords Amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill

> On BrexitCentral’s YouTube: David Davis: EU Withdrawal Bill simply about functioning statute book

…but a dispute ensues over Remainers’ claims that Theresa May promised a veto on a ‘no-deal’ Brexit…

Desperate Theresa May escaped a crippling defeat on Brexit yesterday in a Commons farce. The PM came through a crucial vote only after pro-EU Tories forced her to agree to boost Remainer MPs’ power over negotiations with Brussels. But amid chaos last night, Leavers flatly denied Remainers’ claims that Mrs May had allowed them to veto any “no-deal” walk away. Senior Brexiteers insisted that the PM had told them the exact opposite just minutes later — and had promised the rebels nothing but a discussion. No10 faced massive pressure to clear up the confusion. A senior Brexiteer in the Government told The Sun: “If Theresa has sold us out here she is in real trouble. There is no way she can recover if she has f***ed us over.” But leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg warned Mr Grieve’s plan will make “a no-deal more likely” if a stand-off erupted between the Government and Parliament with their new blocking veto. – The Sun

  • MPs force major soft Brexit shift – Politico
  • Brexit chaos after Leavers deny Remainers’ claims PM will allow them to veto a ‘no-deal’ – The Sun

…while David Davis is reportedly playing for time in the customs battle

In public, the government has been seen to be challenging and fighting pro-EU Tory rebels in recent days. Behind the scenes, there are signs that the true position continues to drift away from the hard Brexiteers. In particular, with every week that passes, the government appears to be watering down its ambitions for new free trade deals after Brexit. The Times has obtained a leaked letter from David Davis to Tory MPs which shows the government openly acknowledging they are simply delaying the key battle over customs for a few weeks. Strikingly, the letter also avoids arguing that Britain needs to leave the customs union to strike free trade deals. The telling new government language is in a document from Mr Davis, the Brexit secretary, to Tory MPs, written in a bid to avert a Commons rebellion against government attempts to defeat the 15 amendments made by the House of Lords during the EU Withdrawal Bill. – The Times (£)

> Adam Afriyie MP today on BrexitCentral: Allowing the EU to continue dictating our trade policy would thwart our ambitions to embrace the world

Three ministers said to have met anti-Brexit group Best for Britain which is seeking a second referendum

Three ministers have held talks with an anti-Brexit campaign group which wants them to back a second EU referendum in defiance of the Government, it has been claimed. The Telegraph understands that the Best for Britain group has held a series of talks with Remain-supporting ministers and MPs to encourage them to oppose Theresa May. It comes after Phillip Lee, a justice minister who reportedly held talks with Best For Britain, became the first member of the Government to resign over Mrs May’s Brexit policy on Tuesday. Conservative sources told the Telegraph four more junior ministers were considering following Dr Lee by quitting their jobs as part of a co-ordinated plot to scupper Mrs May’s Brexit plans that could also endanger her position as Prime Minister. – Telegraph (£)

Former Minister Phillip Lee explains why he resigned over Brexit

Phillip Lee struck a sorrowful tone when he spoke in the Commons this afternoon, explaining why he had felt it was necessary to resign over Brexit. The Bracknell MP was congratulated for his “courage” as he spoke by his two vocally pro-Remain colleagues, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston. He also received some applause as he sat down. Lee took care as he spoke to argue that this resignation was not about a plan to destabilise the government or Theresa May, but because he could not abide by collective responsibility given his disquiet about the direction in which Brexit is heading. “I fully support Theresa May,” he insisted, but said that the current proposals from the government would represent a “breach of human rights and parliamentary sovereignty”. Already there are noises off about the possibility that yet more ministers might resign in the coming days, but Lee gave no clues of this. – Spectator

  • Constituents of Tory Remainer who quit rather than back Brexit blast him – after he said he did it because of them – Daily Mail
  • Theresa May furious at friend Phillip Lee’s betrayal on eve of crucial Brexit votes – Telegraph (£)
  • Phillip Lee: I had ‘no choice’ but to resign over Brexit – Phillip Lee for The Times (£)

Brussels plans to block US and UK groups from defence programme

Brussels is proposing to routinely shut out US and UK companies from a €13bn defence programme to develop the EU’s “strategic autonomy” in areas such as cyber security and drone technology. Strict restrictions placed on the European Defence Fund, which will be unveiled by the European Commission on Wednesday, risk worsening a bitter dispute with London over post-Brexit defence and security co-operation. The draft legislative proposal, seen by the Financial Times, makes clear that, in principle, “only entities established in the union” and “not subject to control” by third countries would be eligible to bid for research or development projects. – FT (£)

Theresa May will host countryside Cabinet ‘slumber party’ next month to settle Brexit border policy

Theresa May will summon her top team to Chequers for 48 hour marathon showdown next month to finally hammer out a Brexit border policy. And the Prime Minister is planning to bring in her whole Cabinet to break the deadlock in her core Brexit committee. David Davis revealed the “huge debate” would take place over two days a the PM’s official country residence in Buckinghamshire in early July. The key showdown of the summer will see Mrs May’s inner war cabinet finally make a decision about what sort of customs relationship to seek with Brussels after Brexit and how to finally fix the Northern Ireland border headache. It will come ahead of the long awaited publication of a future relationship blueprint – but will likely see a stormy showdown that could even prompt walk outs from her core team. And officials are planning for her entire Cabinet to attend the second day of the summit if her 11 strong Strategy and Negotiations Sub-Committee is still bitterly divided on the best solution. The key decision on a new customs relationship with the EU have been repeatedly ducked. – The Sun

‘Start-up’ visas to attract migrants with fresh ideas

A visa route for migrants wishing to start businesses in Britain is to be expanded to include non-graduates under efforts to increase technological innovation. The new “start-up” visa will expand an existing scheme under which up to 2,000 non-EU graduates with entrepreneurial ideas can enter each year if they are sponsored by universities or other higher education establishments. Non-graduates from outside the European Union will be eligible for the new visa and sponsorship will be extended from educational establishments to businesses. The Home Office said that the plan would open the visa route for those wanting to start a business in Britain to a wider pool of talent. – Times (£)

  • Theresa May ‘must give on migration controls’ to secure post-Brexit trade deals, warns Sir Ivan Rogers – The Sun

Jobs rise and unemployment falls – despite Brexit

Employment hit a new record high in the three months to April despite sluggish GDP growth at the start of the year – but pay growth remained disappointing. A total of 32.39m people are in work, up by 146,000 on the three months to January, and by 440,000 year-on-year. The female employment rate hit a record high of 71.3pc. The male rate is 80pc, the highest since 1991. Unemployment fell by 38,000 compared to the previous three months, taking the total number out of work to 1.4m, the Office for National Statistics said. – Telegraph

Irish PM: ‘Brexit talks will stall while Britain negotiates with itself’

Leo Varadkar has warned that Brexit talks could stall in two weeks’ time as he criticised the British government for “negotiating with itself more than us”. The taoiseach was speaking before MPs in Britain won the right to be given a say on what the British government should do if Theresa May failed to strike a Brexit deal. Britain’s prime minister was forced to concede to demands from pro-Europe MPs that parliament must be consulted on whether “no deal is better than a bad deal”. Mr Varadkar described the Brexit talks as a “difficult negotiation”. He added: “It often feels as though the United Kingdom is negotiating with itself more than with us which makes it rather tricky. The upside is that the European Union is totally united, with all 27 member states standing together behind the task force, who are our agents, in support of our shared objectives. It is from that position of strength that we will get the outcome we want.” – The Times (£)

Tory MP strolls through anti-Brexit protest outside Parliament shouting ‘Go Brexit’ at Remain campaigners

A brave Tory MP was today filmed standing up to Remoaner protesters who were trying to overturn Brexit. Andrea Jenkyns entered the lion’s den as she walked into the middle of a large pro-EU demonstration outside Parliament. Dozens of activists were shouting “Stop Brexit!” as MPs inside the building debated the EU Withdrawal Bill. But Ms Jenkyns replied by crying out, “Go Brexit, go Brexit! The best years lie ahead!” When nearby demonstrators had a go at her, she told them: “You don’t believe in democracy… we had a referendum.” Posting a video of the close encounter on her Twitter page, the MP commented: “Proud (& loud) to be one of the 17.4 million people who voted for #Brexit. Democracy will prevail!” – The Sun

> On BrexitCentral’s YouTube: Andrea Jenkyns: You still haven’t accepted the referendum result

Telegraph: Theresa May wants a free hand on Brexit. But what will she do with it?

It is surprising, given the divisive nature of Brexit, that Philip Lee is the first minister to resign over the issue. There had been rumours of Leavers like Boris Johnson and, most recently David Davis, threatening to walk out in protest at the apparent softening of the UK’s position. As a Remainer unreconciled to the outcome of the 2016 referendum, Mr Lee quit as justice minister because he wanted to vote against the Government on the EU Withdrawal Bill. His action risked destabilising the Government at a critical moment in the Brexit negotiations and, mercifully, it proved to be in vain. The key division over the form that a “meaningful vote” should take when the final deal is put before Parliament was comfortably won by the Government after last-minute concessions and assurances were made to potential rebels led by Dominic Grieve. – Telegraph editorial

The Sun: Theresa May has risked Brexit and her job with botched Commons ‘victory’

Theresa May could pay an enormous price for her Commons “victory” yesterday. She may have blown up Brexit, her Premiership and maybe both. The Prime Minister appears to have persuaded Tory Remainer rebels that Parliament can take over Brexit policy from the Government on November 30 if no deal has been struck with Brussels. She denies it — and seems to have said something else to Leaver MPs. Such a double-cross, of either side, would surely be fatal. Her apparent pledge would wreck our negotiating hand in Brussels at a stroke. It would effectively abandon the crucial fallback option of leaving with no deal. Worse, the EU would know that by December it could be dealing with friendly Commons Remainers keen to keep us in the Customs Union and Single Market, including free movement. The destruction of Brexit, in other words. – The Sun editorial

Janet Daley: One last Remainer push to sabotage Brexit – and Brexiteers are falling right into the trap

Here it is, as could have been predicted: one last push from a desperate Remain camp. Just as it seemed that the Government was safely out of danger on that avalanche of amendments designed by the (unelected) Lords to knacker the Brexit negotiations – wham. The (elected) Phillip Lee resigns his ministerial post in an overwhelming fit of conscientious objection and throws the whole show into chaos. But you must not get the wrong idea: Dr Lee is not attempting to put the Brexit process into reverse. Oh, no. He respects the verdict of the population (and indeed, the majority of his own constituents who voted Leave). He just thinks that they made a dumb mistake because they were misinformed and misled. He wants them to be given an opportunity to rectify that silly decision, ie another referendum. – Janet Daley for the Telegraph (£)

John Caudwell: Is the UK leaving the EU in name only?

I voted for Brexit because I wanted to unleash Britain’s ability to strike new trade deals with growing economies around the world, reduce business costs and free companies from damaging and burdensome EU bureaucracy. But as Theresa May’s centrepiece Brexit legislation comes back to the House of Commons later today, there is a greater risk than ever that Westminster politicians will sell us down the river, hamstringing our ability to strike trade deals the world over and keeping us tied to EU rules and regulations for years to come. Fears that the Government may agree to curtail our ability to negotiate free trade deals post-Brexit remain, with their concession to ‘try and agree a Customs Arrangement with the EU’ far from convincing. In addition to this, Labour has pulled a last minute dramatic shift in position for the “softest possible” Brexit. – John Caudwell for Reaction

Alex Morton: The EU negotiation. First, let’s use the velvet glove. But if that doesn’t work, the iron fist.

Yesterday, the Government seems to have agreed to give Parliament the final say over the EU negotiations. This substantially changes the dynamic in European Union negotiations. To be unable to proceed with no deal would kill off any chance of a good deal. The European Commission would in such circumstances never need to offer us a deal, but instead seek to keep us paying in, abiding by the rules, but having no seat at the table – which has always been the best outcome for them. Despite what parts of the media say, Brexit is not impossible. However, it was always likely to be difficult. The purpose of Brussels is to impose a federal superstate on the peoples of Europe. This is why Britain needs to stop kicking the can down the road – because when the road runs out, the Commission has a cage ready for us. – Alex Morton for ConservativeHome

Rod Liddle: The Labour Party’s shameless ‘Wrexit’ monkeys care nothing for the voters they represent

You’ve got to hand it to the Wrexit monkeys in the Labour Party. The MPs determined to stop us leaving the EU at all costs. They are nothing if not shameless. Oh and selfish. And puffed up with self-importance. And they care not one jot about the voters. THEIR voters. Back in 2016 the country voted by a healthy margin — more than one million votes — for Brexit. The Establishment didn’t like it, of course. But it was a fair vote with a clear result. Sure, they’ve done everything they can since then to stop it happening, with fatuous court cases and the like. The Establishment has tried every trick in the book to derail proceedings. But that’s what the Establishment is like. It cannot abide the views of ordinary people. And it could not believe it when we voted to Leave. – Rod Liddle for The Sun

Andrew Lilico: Another nail in the coffin for a meaningful Brexit

On Tuesday afternoon the government appears to have conceded key aspects of the “meaningful vote” amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill. There is some dispute over how much has been promised, but some claim the government has accepted parts A and B of the Grieve Amendment, which require the government to seek Parliamentary approval of any deal done with the EU and if no deal has been agreed by the end of November, to seek Parliamentary approval for its next course of action. It’s not altogether clear how binding the requirement to seek such approval would be and what would happen if the government tried to carry on with a strategy of which Parliament did not approve, but the understanding of the pro-“meaningful vote” rebels is that such votes would be binding in political practice. Perhaps the rebels have been conned and will not, ultimately, get their way on a “meaningful vote”. But let us assume, for the purposes of this argument, that the rebels are right. – Andrew Lilico for CapX

Kate Hoey: A sizeable number of Labour MPs helped the Brexit votes to pass last night

“This is your decision. The government will implement what you decide.” That was the promise made by the Cameron government in May 2016 in their £8.5 million leaflet sent to every household in the land before the public voted to leave the European Union. Yesterday saw MPs voting on the first set of amendments that came back from the House of Lords on the EU Withdrawal Bill. Readers will be aware of the huge attention that has followed this as the House of Lords tried to change the Bill as much as possible to weaken the government’s plans for Brexit, with the hope of overturning the referendum result altogether. While moneyed interests try to stoke public opinion towards a second referendum, huge numbers of Lords, who were not obliged to declare their EU-dependent pensions and other interests, tried to kill the will of the people by a thousand cuts. – Kate Hoey MP for News Letter

William Davison: Why the EEA isn’t the answer to the Brexit conundrum

No matter how many times the Government rejects it, the idea that the UK will remain a Single Market member after leaving the European Union refuses to wither and die. Those against Brexit, or for reducing its risks, argue that the Referendum did not instruct the government to end Single Market participation. Their opponents, however, view that program as part and parcel of the European project. Battle still rages over what was promised by whom during the campaign, with both sides making valid claims. While the official Vote Leave campaign said the UK would leave the Single Market, there were also prominent Leave campaigners who referred to Norway and Switzerland as models for an independent UK. But Norway has a version of Single Market membership and Switzerland is closely integrated, including participating in Schengen. – William Davison for CapX

Brexit in brief

  • Brexit no excuse to put May’s manifesto on the back burner – Walter Ellis for Reaction
  • Britain could afford to learn from Trump’s approach to diplomacy – Telegraph letters
  • The fishing industry must not be sacrificed in a Brexit compromise – Barrie Deas for The Times (£)
  • MPs’ growing role in the Brexit process throws Labour’s divisions into sharp relief – The Times editorial (£)
  • Why Brexit will never end – James Kirkup for the Spectator
  • Latest challenge to Brexit dismissed by High Court judges – BBC News
  • Blockchain experiment to cut customs red tape after Brexit – FT (£)
  • Eurocrats have vowed to treble spending on immigration defence, pledging £31bn to bring migration under control – The Sun
  • Italy’s EU Affairs minister says has never asked for euro exit – Reuters
  • Tory MP Damian Collins accused of fake news by Leave millionaire Arron Banks over Russia row – Telegraph
  • EU farms’ abuse of antibiotics risks disaster, says Lord O’Neill – The Times (£)
  • Wetherspoons to serve more UK and non-EU drinks – ITV News