Brexit News for Monday 13 March

Brexit News for Monday 13 March

Theresa May on the brink of triggering Article 50 as Parliament is expected tonight to back her Bill unamended

Theresa May is on the brink of formally launching Britain’s departure from the EU as rebel Tory MPs admit they are unlikely to have the numbers to block the prime minister in the House of Commons on Monday. Mrs May could trigger Article 50, the mechanism for Brexit, any time from Tuesday if she succeeds in heading off the rebellion by a small band of Europhile MPs. That will start the complicated two-year process of unravelling more than 40 years of EU membership. David Davis and Liam Fox, two of Britain’s most senior Brexit ministers, both admitted that Britain was preparing for a scenario where the UK had no deal with the rest of the EU. – FT (£)

> Martin Howe QC yesterday on BrexitCentral: The “meaningful vote” amendment is an abuse of House of Lords powers – and legislative garbage to boot

David Davis issues last-minute warning to Tory rebels not to sabotage Article 50 Bill amid fears Brexit could end up in the courts…

David Davis has warned Conservative MPs not to “tie the Prime Minister’s hands” by backing amendments to the Article 50 bill this week. The Brexit secretary told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that doing so would prompt concerns among voters that Parliament intends to reverse the decision to leave the EU. He said: “It’s inconceivable to me that there wouldn’t be a vote on the outcome…. We are going to do that. “Please don’t tie the Prime Minister’s hands in the process of doing that for things which we expect to attain anyway.” Pressed on whether Parliament would get a meaningful vote, he replied: “What we can’t have is either House of parliament reversing the decision of the British people. – Daily Telegraph

  • Remain campaigner Baroness Karren Brady tells rebel MPs and Lords to back Theresa May on Brexit – saying the PM needs support – The Sun

> BrexitCentral’s YouTube: David Davis: Government is working on Brexit contingency plan

…as Boris Johnson says that leaving the EU without a deal on Brexit would be ‘perfectly OK’

Britain will be “perfectly OK” without a deal on Brexit and should be prepared to walk away from EU talks likely to start formally this week, Boris Johnson has said. The Foreign Secretary rejected warnings from an influential committee of MPs about “mutually assured damage” in the event of no deal, saying the consequences would not be “apocalyptic”. His comments exposed a Cabinet split over the prospect of negotiations failing, with the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox saying it would “of course be bad” if no deal was reached. Meanwhile David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, said he was “confident I’ll get a good outcome” from talks with the 27 member states. – Daily Telegraph

> BrexitCentral’s YouTube: Boris: Foreign Affairs Committee “excessively pessimistic”

…while Liam Fox says no Brexit deal ‘would be bad’ for UK

Liam Fox has told Sky News it would be bad for the UK if the country failed to secure a Brexit deal with the European Union. But speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, the International Trade Secretary argued it would also damage Europe and so was “not in anybody’s interest”. His comments were at odds with those of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who insisted Britain would be “perfectly OK” if it was unable to reach an agreement and that it would not be “apocalyptic”. – Sky News

UK looks to supercharge EU trade deals post-Brexit

Britain is looking for ways to take on the EU’s free trade deals with countries around the world after Brexit – then use its new independence to cut taxes and regulatory barriers to trade, boosting the power of the deals. Ministers are touring the scores of countries which have trade agreements with the EU to see if they are willing to copy the deals over directly to a post-Brexit Britain. But they are now looking at making this an interim position with the aim of making an even freer deal later, because the existing deals include chunks of protectionism added in by other EU governments in the negotiation stages previously. – Daily Telegraph

Lord Heseltine says Tory MPs are ‘appalled and betrayed’ over Theresa May’s handling of Brexit

Tory rebel Michael Heseltine has launched a scathing attack on the Prime Minister’s handling of Brexit and accused her of leaving many party members feeling “appalled and betrayed”. The Conservative former deputy prime minister dismissed comments made by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson suggesting it would be fine for the UK to crash out of the EU without a deal as “rubbish”. And Lord Heseltine – who was last week sacked as a Government adviser for rebelling over Brexit – insisted he will stay in his party “and fight”. Speaking to ITV’s Peston on Sunday, he said Zac Goldsmith’s defeat in the Richmond by-election last year is far more significant than the Conservative Party’s “fluky” win in Copeland, where Labour suffered an historic defeat. – Evening Standard

> BrexitCentral’s YouTube: Lord Heseltine: No ping-pong if Commons rejects amendments

  • Former minister Lord Blencathra suggests Lord Heseltine should be kicked out of the Lords for his low attendance rate – BT

EU workers must stay, Oxford heads tell May…

The heads of 35 Oxford colleges are pleading with MPs to allow European Union citizens the right to stay after Brexit as they claim that an exodus of academics has already begun. The leaders of Britain’s oldest university have made their appeal before a Commons vote on the Article 50 bill that will trigger the country’s exit from the EU. MPs will vote today on a Lords amendment demanding guarantees that EU citizens living in Britain can remain after withdrawal. David Davis, the Brexit secretary, issued a final warning yesterday to Conservative backbenchers not to sabotage the bill or “tie the prime minister’s hands”. – The Times (£)

…as Channel 4’s Dispatches warns NHS could lose 25,000 workers because of EU vote

Two fifths of EU citizens working in the NHS are thinking of leaving in the next five years, according to the largest survey of such staff since the Brexit vote. The poll, conducted for Channel 4’s Dispatches, suggests that the NHS could lose 25,000 nurses and doctors. Medical leaders have written to the home secretary to request an exemption for health and social care from a new £1,000-per-year charge for employing a non-EU citizen, which they fear could exacerbate staff shortages. The survey also found that 70 per cent of EU NHS staff thought the referendum made the UK a less appealing place to work and 66 per cent were worried about their career in the UK. – The Times (£)

Liam Fox to visit China in quest for post-Brexit trade deal

UK efforts to secure a trade deal with the world’s second-biggest economy are set to begin in earnest within weeks with a visit to China by Liam Fox, the international trade secretary. Scotland on Sunday understands that plans are under consideration for a trip to China by Fox (right) as early as the start of April. The government has made securing free trade agreements with Far East economies one of the pillars of its post-Brexit economic plan, alongside deals with the EU, Donald Trump’s US and the nations of the Commonwealth. A spokeswoman for the Department for International Trade would not comment on ministerial travel plans, but MPs on the Commons International Trade Committee are likely to seek scrutiny of any deal with China, making recommendations on how future deals should be influenced and approved by parliament. – The Scotsman

> BrexitCentral’s YouTube: Liam Fox: Britain must look beyond Europe

  • Strong growth for top Chinese investments in UK – FT (£)

Theresa May to use Commonwealth meeting months before Brexit to push closer trade ties

The Government will try to use an upcoming meeting of Commonwealth leaders to build closer links with Britain’s former imperial territories ahead of Brexit, the Government has announced. The Commonwealth summit is held every two years in a different Commonwealth nation, with the UK the planned host for the 2018 summit. The meeting is set to take place just months before Britain officially leaves the EU in March 2019. Though the venue of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was decided and publicised well before the EU referendum, ministers now believe they can use the summit to “reenergise and revitalise” the grouping – and potentially use it to build trade relations outside Europe. – The Independent

  • The City must make the most of Britain’s historic Commonwealth ties to thrive outside the EU – Andrew Parmley for City A.M.

‘Many more civil servants’ needed to cope with Brexit workload

ivil servants will be pushed “to the limit” by Brexit and more officials will need to be drafted into Whitehall to cope with the workload during two years of departure negotiations, according to expert analysis. A joint report by the Institute for Government (IfG) and UK in a Changing Europe thinktanks also suggests Whitehall will need clear direction on what projects can be “delayed or dropped” to free up resources for Brexit. Increased spending in ministries such as the Home Office and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is said to be “inevitable” in the research. – The Guardian

  • Risk and opportunity await PM in two-year Brexit talks – Joseph Owen for The Times (£)

Qatar’s biggest trade delegation heads to UK for two-day conference

Qatar’s largest ever trade delegation is heading to Britain for a two-day conference which the Government hopes will generate billions of pounds. Qatari businesses will highlight investment deals during an event in London that will be attended by ministers, business chiefs and council leaders. It will be followed by a forum in Birmingham focusing on deals in the UK’s sport, cyber security, health and education sectors. Qatari finance minister Ali Shareef Al-Emadi said: “Qatar and the UK have a long and productive shared economic history and we will build on this partnership as the UK shapes a new role for itself in the world. “Our plan to forge a competitive knowledge economy is accelerating, providing new opportunities for UK businesses, while our plans for further investment in the UK will deliver job growth throughout the country.” – Belfast Telegraph

UK banks said to seek closer US financial ties after Brexit

Top executives from the U.K. and U.S.’s largest banks have set up a group to foster closer ties in financial services between the two countries after Britain leaves the European Union, according to two people familiar with the matter. TheCityUK, the industry lobby group, has created a steering committee led by managers at Barclays Plc and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to explore potential trade and investment deals after Brexit, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the efforts are at an early stage. Barclays Chairman John McFarlane, who also leads TheCityUK, is overseeing the project. The bank’s Chief Executive Officer Jes Staley is heading a U.S. subcommittee, while JPMorgan’s European Chairman Mark Garvin has a similar role in the U.K. The committee is working with the U.K. Treasury and its financial services trade and investment board, the people said. It’s not yet clear what agreements will be pursued and talks are informal because the U.K. isn’t officially allowed to negotiate new deals until it legally leaves the EU, which has governed the U.K.’s trading relationships for the past 44 years. A spokeswoman for TheCityUK declined to comment on new committee. – Bloomberg

Nicola Sturgeon’s last-ditch bid to derail Brexit if Scotland is not offered special treatment in negotiations

Nicola Sturgeon will threaten to derail Brexit by setting out plans for a second independence referendum unless Theresa May offers Scotland a special deal. The Scottish First Minister could name the date she intends to hold a new referendum as early as this week, The Telegraph understands, if Mrs May does not bow to her will. Ms Sturgeon has previously hinted that autumn 2018 would be a suitable time to call a referendum. The ultimatum is expected to be delivered on Monday morning with the intention of influencing a Commons vote on Monday on MPs being given a “meaningful” say on the final deal offered to Britain by the EU. – Daily Telegraph

Matt Ridley: Deal or no EU deal, Britain has little to fear

Perhaps as early as tomorrow, the prime minister will press the button and launch Article 50 on its inexorable, ballistic trajectory towards impact in March 2019. From the political class here, let alone in Brussels, comes incessant pessimism about those two years: it will be fractious, we are not ready to negotiate, a trade agreement is all but impossible, the timetable is too tight, we’re going over a cliff. This is mostly wishful thinking by those who want us to fail. A conversation last week with Tony Abbott, the former Australian prime minister, brought this home to me. When he became prime minister, Mr Abbott did something unusual. Noticing that his country’s trade negotiators had spent years meandering towards deals with China, Japan and other countries — enjoying room service in five-star hotels in different cities as they did so — he set them deadlines. – Matt Ridley for The Times (£)

Juliet Samuel: Theresa May cannot afford to fight both at home and abroad for Brexit – she must call an election

How did it all go wrong? One minute, the Government was riding high, the next, it’s in turmoil. Yet Philip Hammond’s Budget misstep is no bolt from the blue: empathy is not his strong point. During his time as defence secretary, one former officer recounts how Mr Hammond visited a military medical ward in Afghanistan. As he went round, he remarked that, in his experience at the Department for Transport, the government considered it acceptable to spend up to £1  million to prevent one death. He then asked, to the horror of those present, what monetary value the military places on the lives of its soldiers. The Treasury must, of course, answer this sort of unpalatable question, and it seemed like such a natural fit for Spreadsheet Phil. But the man so intent on counting the pennies has proved a spendthrift in other ways: he has spent the Government’s political capital with abandon. – Juliet Samuel for the Daily Telegraph

  • A successful Brexit depends on Theresa May calling an election – Camilla Cavendish for the FT (£)

The Sun: MPs must pass Article 50 Bill unamended if Britain is to make the best go of Brexit

MPs must respect the referendum result and pass the Article 50 Bill today without a single amendment. Anything less could be catastrophic to the Government’s chances of securing a good Brexit deal. The Bill is a simple starting pistol for negotiations. Yet, thanks to a coalition of overmighty Labour and Lib Dem peers, MPs who have already approved the 137-word exit document now have to vote on two potentially damaging amendments. Approving the first of these — guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals in Britain — would threaten negotiations over the rights of Brits living in Europe. – The Sun says

The Guardian: Brexiters and Remainers both fail to grasp the challenges facing Britain

By the end of this month, perhaps as early as next week, the prime minister will have signed and dispatched a letter notifying the European Council of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union through the provisions of article 50 of the Lisbon treaty. There will be no turning back. The most serious negotiation in our post-war history will commence. It must conclude within two years – unless the remaining EU member states determine that the negotiating period can be extended. It will shape our new settlement for decades to come. Just as the remaining member states celebrate 60 years since the Treaty of Rome laid the foundation stones for the modern EU, Britain will close the chapter on 40 years of its membership. At this juncture in our history, we face a crucial choice. Will this be a moment for national renewal, where we courageously confront our problems, or will we simply attempt to muddle through? Nothing would be more British than the latter – and that would appear to be where both sides of the Brexit divide are taking us. – Guardian editorial

Daily Telegraph: The Government is wise to prepare for the possibility of Brexit without a trade deal

The Commission will have a huge influence over these talks, how they are handled and the direction in which they travel. Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier, the Commission principals in charge of the EU negotiations, will be anxious to deny the UK anything that smacks of a good deal that others might wish to emulate. While everyone sensible wants a mutually beneficial agreement, the Government is wise to prepare for the possibility that there won’t be one. The time for further discussion is over – even if Nicola Sturgeon is threatening to hijack the moment with another phoney threat to hold a second Scottish independence referendum. Parliament needs to give the authority to start the process, preferably without further amendments to the Bill, and we can then find out precisely where we stand. – Daily Telegraph editorial

Lord Green of Deddington: The Lords amendment designed to derail Brexit that MPs should reject today

Let us be in no doubt that the effect, perhaps unintended, of the amendment could be to cause the Brexit process to fail. This is not apparent from the first three parts of the new clause which seek to include in the Bill itself the Prime Minister’s commitment to give Parliament a vote on the outcome. Lord Heseltine argued in the Lords that much could change in two years, so the pledge had to be made a legal obligation. However, by the same token, the law can have unintended and unforeseen consequences in new situations. As Lord Lisvane, a former Clerk of the House of Commons, put it: “regulating Parliamentary proceedings by statute … generally ends in some sort of tears.” – Lord Green of Deddington for ConservativeHome

Brexit comment in brief

  • Voting for the Brexit Bill – John Redwood’s Diary
  • Needed: A radical vision that brings in lower and simpler taxes for all – Roger Bootle for the Daily Telegraph
  • The Brexit negotiations: no deal is not an option – The Guardian
  • During the Brexit negotiation, a great British success story must be safeguarded – our racing industry – Lord Risby for ConservativeHome
  • Myth of Iron Lady must not lead May astray – Clare Foges for The Times (£)
  • Parliament must have final say on Brexit even if we get no deal – Dominic Grieve MP for The Times (£)
  • If Britain reaches no deal with the EU, Parliament must still be able to vote – Nicky Morgan for ConservativeHome
  • Sky Views: The PM needs to get on with Brexit – Sky News

Brexit news in brief

  • Jeremy Corbyn to lead pro-EU national rally outside Parliament today – IBTimes
  • Peter Lilley: ‘The sooner Article 50 is triggered, the better’ – Sky News
  • Merkel faces Trump showdown on Nato and Germany’s exports – The Times (£)
  • London drags down national rents for first time since 2010 – FT (£)
  • What to expect in UK markets when May pulls Brexit trigger – Bloomberg