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The two candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, outlined their visions for Brexit and domestic policies at the party’s hustings on Saturday.
Johnson said the UK “must be able to come out [of the EU] on WTO [World Trade Organization] terms…It is precisely because we will be preparing between now and 31 October for a No Deal Brexit that we will get the deal we need.” Hunt said that if the UK sends the “wrong person” to negotiations with the EU, “There’s going to be no negotiation, no trust, no deal, and if Parliament stops that, maybe no Brexit.”
Elsewhere, according to the Sunday Times, some Conservative MPs could vote against Johnson in a vote of no confidence if he becomes Prime Minister and pursues a No Deal Brexit policy. The paper reports Chief Whip Julian Smith as saying that Johnson could lose a no confidence vote very soon after taking office. Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve said, “There are a large number of Conservative MPs who will object to [a No Deal Brexit] happening and who will do everything possible to prevent it happening.”
Separately, a ComRes poll for the Sunday Telegraph shows that 61% of Conservative Councillors would vote for Johnson, while 39% are backing Hunt. According to the poll, 83% of Councillors said that the new Prime Minister must make sure that the UK leaves the EU on or before 31 October. Meanwhile, a survey among Conservative Party voters published in the Mail on Sunday reveals that 45% would prefer Johnson, while 34% would prefer Hunt. Another survey for the paper shows that 29% of the general public would prefer Johnson, while 32% would prefer Hunt.
Meanwhile, a by-election will be held in the Brecon and Radnorshire constituency in Wales, after 19% of eligible voters signed a recall petition to unseat Conservative MP Chris Davies.
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International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday, “If you don’t get the Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament, there is no implementation period during which we can do anything at all,” adding, “If we leave the European Union without a deal the EU will apply tariffs to the UK because you can only have exemptions…if you already have a trade agreement to go to.” Fox also said that in a No Deal scenario, the UK could not refer to Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in order to have a tariff-free transition period, and negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU during this period.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that Attorney General Geoffrey Cox warned in guidance to civil service officials that it would be a “breach of WTO [World Trade Organization] law” if the UK did not apply tariffs to EU imports and applied them to the rest of the world in a No Deal Brexit scenario.
A new interim report on avoiding a hard border in Ireland through “alternative arrangements” to the Irish backstop has been published today by Prosperity UK’s Alternative Arrangements Commission, which is co-chaired by the Conservative MPs Nicky Morgan and Greg Hands. The report argues that “alternative arrangements” for the border, which rely on “existing technologies and customs best practice,” could be up and running within three years. Their recommendations include Special Economic Zones, trusted trader programmes and behind-the-border sanitary and phytosanitary checks. The authors propose that an “Alternative Arrangements Protocol… which avoids a hard border and ensures the backstop is never triggered” should be inserted into the Withdrawal Agreement. The report will be presented at a conference in London today, at which Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay is a keynote speaker.
The Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, said on Friday he did not believe “alternative arrangements” to the backstop protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement would be ready in time for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU on 31 October. He said, “We can’t accept that alternative arrangements are an alternative to a backstop unless we see what they are, know how they would work and see them demonstrated,” adding, “That hasn’t been done yet and I don’t see that being done this side of October 31, which is why we certainly can’t accept the deletion of the backstop.”
Elsewhere, the European Commission last week published the findings of its Mapping exercise of North-South cooperation on the island of Ireland.
Separately, in a press conference after the European Council summit on Friday, European Council President Donald Tusk said that EU27 leaders were “willing to work cooperatively” with the new UK Prime Minister, but “stressed that this Withdrawal Agreement was closed and could not be renegotiated.” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker added, “There is nothing new because we repeated unanimously there will be no renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement.”
A new YouGov poll for the People’s Vote campaign surveying 1,813 trade union members reveals that 64% of respondents support holding another Brexit referendum, with 33% being opposed. 60% of respondents would prefer the Labour party to campaign to stay in the EU in a potential vote (with 21% against), with the number rising to 74% among those who voted Labour in the 2017 General Election (with 10% opposed).
Elsewhere, in a memo seen by the Observer, the Labour Party’s Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, warns the Future Britain group of Labour MPs and peers that the party faces “a catastrophic loss of votes” to the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party if it does not back a second referendum.
Meanwhile, Labour MP Caroline Flint, who represents the Leave-voting constituency of Don Valley, said yesterday that the next Conservative Prime Minister should “think about how they reach out, not just to individuals like myself and the other 25 [Labour MPs] who signed that letter [arguing against Labour backing a second referendum], but also again to the Labour Party.”
This comes as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is meeting trade union leaders today. Separately, a meeting of the shadow cabinet will take place tomorrow to discuss Labour’s Brexit policy.
In a report published today, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs select committee urges the Government to facilitate the movement of people from India in order to make it easier to negotiate a post-Brexit free trade agreement. The report says, “Facilitating the movement of these groups [Indian workers, students and tourists] is inseparable from the goal of increasing trade with India. We are concerned that Government policy has been driven by the single-minded objective of reducing net migration.” It adds, “A full UK-India trade deal is unlikely to be signed in the near term and Indian policy and business communities do not have a clear sense of the UK’s plan to be more open to the world.”