Latest economic data makes a mockery of George Osborne’s Project Fear: Brexit News for Wednesday 18 April

Latest economic data makes a mockery of George Osborne’s Project Fear: Brexit News for Wednesday 18 April
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Government braced for first Withdrawal Bill defeats in the Lords this afternoon…

Ministers are bracing themselves for their first defeats in the House of Lords on legislation which will take Britain out of the European Union. Peers are expected to vote for an amendment to the European Union Withdrawal Bill to force ministers to set how they might keep Britain in the customs union. Another proposal to guarantee EU protections for workers and consumers in post-Brexit Britain is also to be approved by peers.Other votes are planned for coming days, particularly a vote on April 30 on an amendment to give Parliament a vote before the UK can walk away with no deal. This would give MPs the power to decide what course of action the Government should take if Parliament rejects the draft withdrawal agreement. – Telegraph (£)

… as Change Britain reveals just 10 peers have proposed 288 anti-Brexit amendments

New analysis released by Brexit campaigners last night revealed that 10 fanatical Remain-backing peers have proposed a total of 388 amendments designed to frustrate or reverse the EU departure process. The research by the Change Britain pressure group, which wants a full break with Brussels, showed that Labour peers Lord Judd and Lord Adonis along with Lib Dem Lord Wallace of Tankerness had tabled the most amendments. Gisela Stuart, chairman of Change Britain, said: “It’s deeply dissapointing that these peers are using parliamentary procedure to pursue their own agenda of stopping Brexit. Whilst 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU, a handful of unelected Lords are presumptuous enough to believe they can overturn the result and keep us under Brussels control. “Rather than refusing to respect the referendum result and trying every trick in the book to reverse it, peers should accept the democratic decision of voters and work to get the best Brexit deal.” – Express

> Jonathan Isaby on BrexitCentral: What to expect from the Report Stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill in the Lords

Latest economic data make a mockery of George Osborne’s Project Fear…

Britain is on the brink of a new era of rising living standards, it was declared last night. Chancellor Philip Hammond’s forecast makes a mockery of predecessor George Osborne’s “Project Fear” predictions of doom and gloom for the UK’s economy after Brexit. Official figures show that average wages are up by 2.8 per cent since last year and are beginning to outstrip inflation at last. And more people are in jobs than ever before – a massive 32.2 million – with the jobless total down to its lowest level for 40 years. The blast of economic good cheer led one Treasury minister to declare: “Britain is booming.” Brexit supporters seized on the figures as fresh evidence that the economy has defied the predictions of the “project fear” doom-mongers, led by ex-chancellor Osborne. – Express

  • The Brexit bounce making a mockery of George Osborne’s Project Fear – Ross Clark for The Spectator
  • Britain’s workforce is booming and we should be proud – Philip Hammond for the Express

> Watch on BrexitCentral’s YouTube Channel: RIP Project Fear

…as the pound climbs to its highest level since Brexit vote…

The pound has hit its highest level since the UK’s vote to leave the European Union in June 2016. The pound gained more than 0.2% to $1.437 in morning trade, beating a post-Brexit vote high set in January. However, the pound fell back slightly following official employment data showing that wage growth continued to lag one key measure of inflation. Sterling has been boosted by expectations that the Bank of England will raise interest rates. Dollar weakness after uncertainty about US trade policy has also been a contributory factor, traders said. The pound sank in June 2016 after the Brexit vote, hitting $1.2068 in January of last year.But since the beginning of 2017, it has started to recover.  – BBC News

> Watch on BrexitCentral’s YouTube Channel: Truss ribs ‘Eeyores’ for doubting strong economy

…and the employment rate hits a record high

Britain’s employment rate has hit a record high, joblessness is at a fresh 43-year low and wages are rising in real terms for the first time in a year, according to official figures. The labour market has been a bright spot for the economy, with strong job  creation for several years now, but pay has been weak and the spike in inflation that followed the Brexit vote hammered living standards. Real earnings started shrinking a year ago, when inflation overtook pay rises after sterling crashed, but the trend finally reversed in the three  months to February. Earnings were up 2.8 per cent, the Office for National Statistics said, while inflation drifted back to 2. – The Times (£)

Anti-Brexit Tory MPs to push pro-Customs Union amendment to Customs Bill

Theresa May is likely to lose a key Commons vote that would force her to abandon a pledge to pull Britain out of a customs union with Europe. Ten rebel Conservative MPs have signed an amendment to the government’s customs bill that would make securing a customs union with the EU after Brexit its “objective”. Labour, which supports the amendment, believes that it can count on all but  two or three of its Brexit-supporting MPs to vote against the government on the issue. – The Times (£)

Brussels seeks emergency powers to prepare for no-deal Brexit

Brussels is issuing dozens of legal proposals on Brexit over the next 10 weeks, in a flurry of lawmaking to prepare the EU for an sharp break from the UK — partly by giving emergency powers to the bloc’s institutions. The European Commission has drafted 30-40 proposals to amend laws and give special powers to regulators so that the union can deal with a no-deal scenario, either on Brexit day in March 2019 or after a transition period. EU diplomats have been told the measures would cover a wide range of areas, with particular significance for trade quotas, the car industry, transport companies, the bloc’s space programme, financial services and professional qualifications. – FT (£)

  • New talks begin amid fears UK may crash out without trade deal – Evening Standard

Emmanuel Macron tells MEPs: Europe’s political divisions are like civil war…

Emmanuel Macron has likened the political divisions in Europe to a civil war and warned against growing illiberalism on the continent. In his first speech to the European parliament, the French president called for the defence of a European liberal democracy that offered protection of the rights of its minorities, and attacked those who took their countries out of the EU to pursue fairytale “adventures”. “I am for the most integrated and closest possible relationship after Brexit, and there’s a well-known solution – it’s called EU membership,” he said. The vast majority of the speech was, however, about the future without the UK, and the need for the 27 other EU member states to be united in opposition to the emergence of the nationalist authoritarian traits of the past. – Guardian

  • France’s Macron urges EU to shun nationalism – BBC News
  • 4 takeaways from Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Parliament – Politico
  • The EU Britain voted to leave is dead. Emmanuel Macron will not make it any more tempting – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)
  • Why Emmanuel Macron’s grand vision for the future of the EU will never materialise – Peter Foster for the Telegraph (£)
  • Jupiterian Macron descends from Mount Olympus to meet his EU worshippers – James Crisp for the Telegraph (£)
  • Macron has warned of discord but he must curb his inner Napoleon – Times editorial (£)

…as Farage says Macron is ‘probably the EU’s last chance’…

French President Emmanuel Macron could be the European Union’s “last chance,” former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said after meeting him on Tuesday. The British Eurosceptic MEP had lunch with Macron in Strasbourg, where the French president was visiting to hold a debate in the European Parliament about the future of Europe. European Parliament President Antonio Tajani also attended the lunch meeting and, according to Farage, introduced him to Macron as Parliament’s “enfant terrible.” – Politico

…and Juncker demands Albania and Macedonia join the bloc

The European Commission President told MEPs the EU has to push to expand into the region torn apart by past ethnic wars fought in the 1990s. A Commission report published on Tuesday recommends beginning membership talks with Albania and once again with Macedonia, despite the process being held up by a dispute with Greece over the country’s name. Albania was first proposed as a potential EU member in 2014, but member states still need to give the Commission the go-ahead to start negotiations. Speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Mr Juncker pleaded with MEPs to consider his enlargement proposals.- Express

Fishing industry warning over future of small boats before Brexit

Hundreds of small fishing boats will be lost before Brexit is complete unless they are allowed to land bigger catches, industry figures have warned. They fear a draft copy of the Fisheries White Paper suggests the existing fishing quota system will not be significantly reformed. Jerry Percy, from their trade body, said the quota should be moved from big to small boats. A government spokesman said he could not comment on leaked documents. Mr Percy, from the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association, said: “It’ll be lost jobs, lost boats. It’ll be lost local fishing landings. It’ll be lost culture, lost tradition.” The draft white paper, dating from February and seen by BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, says the government acknowledges many businesses are based on the current quota system. Ministers will recognise that fact when considering potential changes, it adds. – BBC News

Attorney General launches legal challenge to devolved Brexit legislation

The UK government has launched a legal challenge to the Scottish and Welsh governments’ Brexit bills. The two devolved parliaments passed legislation last month that is intended to act as an alternative to Westminster’s EU Withdrawal Bill. But the UK government has asked the Supreme Court to rule whether the legislation is constitutional and within devolved powers. Holyrood’s presiding officer has already said he does not believe it is. But Lord Advocate James Wolffe, the Scottish government’s top legal advisor, argues the bill is competent, and recently took the unusual step of making an address to MSPs on this point. He said the bill was “carefully framed so that it does not do anything or enable anything to be done, while the UK remains a member of the EU”, and that it was “modelled, in this regard, on the UK government’s EU Withdrawal Bill”. – BBC News

  • Welsh Government continuity bill referred to Supreme Court – BBC News

Verhofstadt says Windrush scandal ‘deeply worrying’ for EU citizens

The Government’s handling of Windrush citizens has led to fears that EU nationals could face similar problems, the European Parliament’s Brexit chief has said, as he called on the Home Office to guarantee safeguards. Guy Verhofstadt told The Telegraph that the row over whether the Windrush generation have the right to live in the UK has led to fears about how a new EU immigration system will work, especially for people already living in Britain. It came as the Prime Minister apologised to Commonwealth leaders on Tuesday and said she is “genuinely sorry” for the distress caused. – Telegraph (£)

  • Foreign minister of St Kitts and Nevis: the UK’s handling of Windrush might have implications for Brexit – BBC Newsnight
  • Britain doesn’t need lectures on immigration from the EU – Telegraph editorial (£)

EU plans to build Moonraker-style giant laser which can ‘blow people’s heads off’

Brussels is to build a giant laser weapon sparking fears of a Brexit arms race, The Sun can reveal. The planned 100-kilowatt “European high power laser effector” triggered claims the EU is trying to rip off the our world-leading laser technology before the UK leaves. The Ministry of Defence’s £30 million missile and drone-zapping Dragonfire beam was unveiled last year. But now Jean-Claude Juncker’s European Commission has put a June deadline for “a consortium of scientists” to come forward with plans for an even bigger laser. And the successful boffins will be given taxpayer funds from the €90 million EU Preparatory Action for Defence Research to research the “laser weapon”. EU Commission research programmes officer Dr Erno Vandeweert joked if someone was shot with it “the whole head would disappear.” – The Sun

Ross Clark: The Brexit bounce making a mockery of George Osborne’s Project Fear

We are now just two months away from the second anniversary of the Brexit vote and therefore in a position to judge the apocalyptic forecast made by the Treasury in May 2016 in the run-up to the vote. In a paper signed off by George Osborne, which neither the former chancellor nor anyone else who has made a grim prognosis for Britain’s departure from the EU should be allowed to forget, the finest minds in the Treasury came up with two scenarios for the aftermath of a vote to leave the EU. In the ‘shock’ scenario, GDP would be 3.- Ross Clark for The Spectator

Katya Adler: Why Brussels seems relaxed about the end game

After all the impatient European foot-tapping, the incessant talk of ticking clocks and of Article 50 time running out, there’s a distinctly laid-back air in Brussels at the moment when it comes to Brexit. “Relations are a lot more normalised between the UK and the rest of the us after the Salisbury attacks and the show of solidarity with Britain at the EU leaders’ summit two weeks ago,” one European diplomat told me. “Besides which,” he added with a glint in his eye, “we know the Brexit drill by now. “The UK makes a fuss, tells us things are unacceptable – like the financial settlement (the so-called Brexit bill), and like allowing EU citizens the right to stay permanently in the UK, even if they only move there in the transition period after Brexit – but the British Government gives in, in the end. Even if they dress up the fact to make it more acceptable at home.” Katya Adler for the BBC

John Caudwell: Britain must be free to sign trade deals on our terms

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator last week made clear that a “non-regression clause” tying Britain to the EU’s regulation is a condition for a free-trade deal. For me, and for many others who voted to leave, this is an extremely worrying development. As I argued throughout the Brexit campaign, the principal opportunity presented by the UK leaving the EU is the ability to sign trade deals with non-EU countries. This means being free from European regulation and being free from the bureaucracy that is symptomatic of the entire Brussels machine. The cosy club of Europe has made it more difficult to do business with the rest of the world for far too long. – John Caudwell for the Telegraph (£)

Comment in Brief

  • What future for Europe’s foreign and defence policy? – Enea Desideri for Open Europe
  • Remain-voting ministers don’t understand voters’ views on immigration, and so wildly overcompensate – James Frayne for ConservativeHome
  • Gwythian Prins on the risk of EU collapse and Britain’s future outside it – London Globalist
  • At this rate, I’ll be telling myself I was for Brexit – Matthew Parris for The Times (£)
  • Where the EU and Ourselves Went Wrong – Sir Peter Marshal for Briefings for Brexit

News in Brief

  • Poland broke law by logging in ancient forest, EU court rules – Telegraph (£)
  • Brexit backer Banks denies allegation he misused data in campaign – Reuters