Brexit News for Saturday 18 March

Brexit News for Saturday 18 March

Brexit more important than keeping the UK together, public say in poll for the Telegraph…

Sixty per cent of respondents agreed that Britain’s EU departure mattered more than stopping the UK’s break-up, while just 27 per cent disagreed. Furthermore a majority of people said they would still vote for Brexit even if they knew it could trigger Scotland’s independence. The results suggest there is no “buyer’s remorse” over Brexit despite a dramatic week in which the UK’s future has been called into question… There was also support for Mrs May’s stance that a Scottish independence referendum should not be held before spring 2019, the SNP’s proposed timetable. Almost 60 per cent of voters thought doing so would undermine Brexit negotiations, while just 22 per cent disagreed. Most UK voters also do not want Scotland to become independent. An ORB spokesman said: “The poll shows that there is substantial support for pushing through with Brexit despite the potential consequences for the Union. The majority believe that Brexit is more important, and would back Brexit even if this led to the future breakup of the UK.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Nicola Sturgeon blinks first in battle with Theresa May over independence referendum timing – Daily Telegraph
  • Gordon Brown to push ‘patriotic’ third option for more powerful Scotland after Brexit – The Guardian
  • Why Sturgeon should focus on Article 49 – Adam Boulton for Sky News
  • Why a second vote on Scottish independence is completely different from the EU referendum – Charles Moore for the Daily Telegraph (£)
  • Questions for the SNP to ponder – John Redwood’s Diary

…as Theresa May calls for a “more united Britain” as she prepares to trigger Article 50

Theresa May has set out her desire to create a “more united” Britain, in a speech in Cardiff. The prime minister told the Conservatives’ spring conference that Britons are “at heart one people” be they Welsh, English, Scottish or from Northern Ireland… In her conference speech on Friday, the prime minister described her triggering of the Article 50 process for Brexit as one of the “great national moments that define the character of a nation”. With a “road before us” that “may be uncertain at times”, the UK could “look forward with optimism and hope, or give in to the politics of fear and despair. I choose to believe in Britain and that our best days lie ahead,” she said. – BBC News

  • Theresa May: ‘One United Kingdom’ required to get best out of Brexit – ITV News
  • May’s speech to the Conservative Spring Forum: full text – ConservativeHome

EU sources demand May mentions UK’s financial settlement in Article 50 notice

Theresa May faces being publicly criticised by the EU if her letter triggering article 50 fails to refer to Britain’s obligation to settle its divorce bill and make an “orderly withdrawal” from the bloc. A failure of the UK to announce its intention to act in good faith over the terms of its withdrawal, including a multibillion-pound financial settlement, is likely to receive a swift and condemnatory response, senior EU sources have suggested… A senior EU source said, however, that the commission would not land May with a large bill in the early stages of the talks, in recognition of both the hostile reaction that would be likely in the House of Commons and the difficulty in calculating the appropriate sum until the UK has actually left the union. – The Guardian

Liam Fox warns EU against ‘self-defeating’ bad Brexit deal

The Secretary of State for International Trade claimed it would be “self-defeating” and damage economies worldwide should nations adopt protectionist policies and slap tariffs on British goods. Speaking at the Conservative Spring Forum in Cardiff, the North Somerset MP boasted about the benefits of free and open trade with the rest of the world. Dr Fox said: “The UK may have voted to leave the EU, but we will never leave Europe. Our partners across the continent will remain among our closest friends and allies in commerce, security and many other ways. We want to realise a new relationship with Europe, based on free trade and prosperity… If barriers to trade and investment were introduced across Europe, that would damage the economic potential of all European citizens and those well beyond Europe too” – Daily Express

‘Brexit ambassadors’ William and Kate reassure France over friendship

Prince William has delivered a reassuring message about UK and French relations, saying Britain’s friendship with France would not change despite Brexit. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived in Paris on Friday on their first official visit to the capital on behalf of the Foreign Office… At the launch of a programme called “Les Voisins” (the neighbours), designed to celebrate Anglo-French links, Prince William said: “Our two nations continually inspire one another to become better: more creative, more prosperous, more innovative. This partnership will continue despite Britain’s recent decision to leave the European Union.” … Over the coming months the Royal family are being used by the Government and Foreign Office as “Brexit ambassadors” to maintain Britain’s links with Europe. – Sky News

Theresa May allies accuse George Osborne of plotting to undermine Brexit as Evening Standard Editor…

George Osborne has been accused by allies of Theresa May of plotting to undermine her plans for a clean Brexit by establishing a “new power base” as Editor of the London Evening Standard. In a direct warning to Mrs May he said that the newspaper would be “fearless” confronting the Government if it fails to represent the interests of Londoners… He was this evening facing open calls from Tory MPs to quit Parliament amid concerns about a series of conflicts of interests over the appointment. Mr Osborne now has six jobs and will earn more than £1.5million this year. A senior Government source told The Daily Telegraph: “It’s all about establishing a power base. He lost the argument last year in the referendum, he lost influence in Parliament. Now he thinks he can start a new debate as the editor of a newspaper. As a major newspaper that represents the City and has a huge voice you can kick up quite a stink and absolutely slam the Government’s Brexit plans.” – Daily Telegraph

  • George Osborne is the face of the Remain elite that won’t give up – Tim Stanley for the Daily Telegraph (£)
  • George Osborne faces conflicts of interest in his new job as a newspaper editor – The Times (£) leader
  • George Osborne’s media-political-finance complex – Tom McTague and Charlie Cooper for Politico
  • George Osborne can lead Remain outside Parliament – Daily Telegraph editorial
  • So now we finally know how George Osborne plans to take revenge on those who destroyed him – Alexander Larman for the Daily Telegraph
  • Was George Osborne sloppy second to City AM editor? – Steerpike for The Spectator Coffee House

…as Tony Blair launches pushback against ‘frightening populism’

Tony Blair is launching a “new policy platform to refill the wide open space in the middle of politics” aimed at combating a “frightening authoritarian populism” that he says is undermining the west’s belief in democracy… He claimed the Brexiteers’ agenda was not really about immigration, but politics. “The game of these people is not ultimately about Brexit; it is about an economic experiment where they want to turn the UK, or more accurately England, into a sort of offshore, free-wheeling, free-market, free-trading hub. I think it is a rightwing fantasy, and I don’t think the British people would vote for it.” – The Guardian

Senior Tories call for May promise on European Court of Human Rights

Three former cabinet ministers are behind the call for the prime minister to promise to keep Britain signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights after Brexit and the next election… Dominic Grieve, a former attorney-general, Maria Miller, a former culture secretary, and Caroline Spelman, a former environment secretary, backed a new campaign to keep Britain inside the convention. Mrs May previously has made clear her hostility to the convention, warning last year that it “can bind the hands of parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity, makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals and does nothing to change the attitudes of governments like Russia’s when it comes to human rights”. – The Times (£)

Stephen Pollard: Post-referendum good news just keeps on coming

In the run-up to the referendum they told us that a Leave vote would turn us into an economic basket case. But we ignored them. And the result? In the week in which the royal assent was given to the EU Withdrawal Act, we now have an amazing economic platform on which to build our Brexit success. The good news keeps rolling in. Instead of the crash that the Remainers promised there has been a succession of positive economic stories, pretty much non-stop since the vote. Take this week’s unemployment figures, for example. They are at a 40-year record low. The FTSE-100 share index has never been higher. And Toyota has just announced a £240million investment in the UK. If that’s an economic crisis, please let’s have more. – Stephen Pollard for the Daily Express

Ben Kelly: Europe likes to huff and puff, but it will agree a sensible Brexit deal in the end

The truth is that both sides desperately need to minimise disruption and clear the way towards a reasonable, amicable and mutually beneficial “divorce”. By the end of Article 50 negotiations there will be an agreement upon a transitional arrangement to allow trade continuity and we will have a blueprint of our future relationship. Then, talks will continue until we have concluded a full trade and cooperation agreement which will leave the UK outside the EU but with strong ties and close cooperation… Both sides will huff and puff; but no one will be blowing the house down. The choice is quite simply between mutually assured destruction or a future of cooperation, prosperity and stability. – Ben Kelly for the Daily Telegraph (£)

Brexit comment in brief

  • Theresa May has no time for Brexit saboteurs, so Lord Heseltine’s sacking was inevitable – Asa Bennett for the Daily Telegraph (£)
  • Only a lack of ambition can hold Britain back – Christian May interviews Shanker Singham for City A.M.
  • Students shouldn’t be counted in the immigration figures. But we’ll have to wait for that to change. – Mark Wallace for ConservativeHome
  • Theresa May will be hampered in Brexit talks by lack of democratic mandate – Charlie Cooper for Politico
  • Environmental payments. A safety net. And a sovereign fund. How to build a post-Brexit future for farming. – Richard Ali for ConservativeHome
  • What Brexit means for Ireland – Sam Bowman for the Adam Smith Institute
  • Brexit, Ireland and the Trump question – Pádraig Belton for The Spectator Coffee House
  • Moving euro clearing from London to Europe is no piece of cake – City A.M.
  • Why I voted for the Bank of England to increase interest rates – Kristin Forbes for the Daily Telegraph (£)
  • Arron Banks’ Ukip 2.0 are big girls’ blouses – bring on Ukip 34.0 – Giles Coren for The Times (£)

Brexit news in brief

  • EU Brexit negotiator Barnier to meet campaigners on citizens’ rights – The Guardian
  • Don’t blame immigrants for UK’s economic problems, Corbyn to say – ITV News
  • Greek verdict hangs over EU-Turkey migrant deal – EUObserver
  • Turkey threatens to allow through 15,000 migrants a month to EU in escalating diplomatic row – Daily Express
  • Officials have ordered no research on the impact of Brexit on our airlines, Transport Minister John Hayes admits – The Sun
  • Euro falls against the US dollar after construction fall hints at weakness in Eurozone recovery – City A.M.
  • Tory MPs pile on pressure for snap election – The Times (£)
  • UK troops in Estonia to deter ‘Russian aggression’ – BBC News
  • Fight against hard Brexit or be a ‘disappointment’ to your children, says Lib Dem leader Tim Farron – The Independent