People’s vote campaigners say that Theresa May’s rejection of Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit proposals proves the need for a second referendum.
Labour MP David Lammy said:
Theresa May’s letter makes it clear there is no hope of her agreeing for the UK to stay in a permanent customs union or to guarantee alignment with the EU on rights and protections after Brexit, as Jeremy Corbyn had requested …We have now entered the emergency zone of these negotiations, and the prime minister has swept Labour’s only other option off the table. We have now got to begin campaigning for a people’s vote.
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said:
It is astonishing that after more than 900 days since the Brexit vote and less than 50 days before we crash out of the EU, the PM and Corbyn appear to be starting serious discussions about delivering disastrous Brexit together.
No amount of haggling over customs unions or workers’ rights can disguise the fact that Brexit leaves us all worse off. It is time for Jeremy Corbyn to give up the letters and instead draw his attention to Labour Party policy and get behind the campaign for a people’s vote.
Gavin Williamson is facing some ridicule for his speech at the Royal United Services Institute this morning saying Brexit presents an opportunity for Britain to boost its global military standing:
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has been publicly setting out his stall ahead of his meeting with the Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, in Brussels this evening:
The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has blamed the government’s Brexit strategy for the latest GDP figures showing a slowdown at the end of last year (read more on our business blog) and said they illustrate the need for no deal to be taken off the table.
The evidence is mounting that the combination of the government’s shambolic handling of Brexit and nine years of austerity is causing real damage to our economy.
Business investment has been falling for months now, as uncertainty and the fear of no deal cause immediate damage to confidence.
Six consecutive months of decline for the manufacturing sector hasn’t happened since 2009. The government must act now to take no deal off the table and Philip Hammond must use his spring statement to end the disastrous austerity policy which has done so much to damage the economy.
Boris Johnson’s vision of for a post-Brexit “global Britain” includes a multibillion-pound cut in the UK’s overseas aid budget, the Guardian’s diplomatic editor, Patrick Wintour, writes.
Current definitions of aid spending would be broadened to include peacekeeping, and the BBC’s World Service would be expanded, as part of an effort to restore Britain’s ability to project soft and hard power.
The paper argues the UK should be freed to define its aid spending unconstrained by criteria set by external organisations, and its purpose expanded from poverty reduction to include “the nation’s overall strategic goals”. UK aid spending, set by law at 0.7% of gross national income, was £13.4bn in 2016.
The proposals are being fed into a Foreign Office review on UK soft power post-Brexit headed by the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt. There have been repeated reports suggesting the DfID secretary, Penny Mordaunt, wants to dilute or abandon the 0.7% target.
Here are some of the other politics stories making the news this morning:
- The defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, will claim today that Brexit represents an opportunity for Britain to boost its global military standing in response to the threats posed by Russia and China.
- A no-deal Brexit would damage police powers to detain foreign suspects and leave British fugitives in Europe beyond the law, according to deputy assistant commissioner Richard Martin who is leading police preparations for such an event.
- The government’s post-Brexit immigration system would cost employers more than £1bn in administration costs over five years, harm the higher education sector by putting off EU students and risk a new Windrush scandal, according to a report by Global Future.
Meanwhile, the prisons minister, Rory Stewart, says Theresa May has rejected Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal for a customs union post-Brexit but suggested that the parties are closer together than some people think.
He told BBC Breakfast:
The prime minister remains very clear that she thinks that a very major economy like the United Kingdom needs to have the freedom to be able to make its own trade deals, so she’s disagreeing with Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion that we enter a permanent customs union.
What she is saying is that we have a lot if common ground, a lot more common ground perhaps than people have acknowledged, on things like environmental protections, workers’ rights, making sure that we get investment into areas of the country which haven’t done as well out of the last few years as other parts of the country.
Good morning, this is Haroon Siddique sitting in for Andrew Sparrow again. I’ll be attempting to keep you up to speed with the most significant politic developments of the day. Given the number of comments the blog attracts, if you want to get my attention, the best way is probably to Tweet me.
Ahead of the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay’s meeting with the European chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, in Brussels this evening, Boris Johnson has insisted that the Irish backstop must be amended to give the UK a unilateral out within a specified time period.
The former foreign secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
The argument is now about how to get out of the backstop. And how to make sure that the UK isn’t locked in that prison of the customs union. I think that you would need to have a time limit.
Asked if changes to the backstop proposals could come in a separate codicil to the withdrawal agreement, Johnson said: “I don’t think that would be good enough.”
It [the deal] would have to give the United Kingdom a UK-sized exit from the backstop. We would have to be able to get out by a certain time and we would have to be able to get out of our own volition. The most promising way forward is to do what is called the Malthouse compromise.
EU officials have derided the Malthouse compromise, which would replace the backstop with a free trade agreement with as-yet-unknown technology to avoid customs checks on the Irish border, as unworkable and even “bonkers”.
- accused Jeremy Corbyn of wanting “to frustrate Brexit very largely by staying in a permanent customs union”.
- said: “The pound will go where it will,” when pressed on suggestions sterling could fall by 20%.