14 June 2019

Boris Johnson tops the first ballot of MPs in Conservative Party leadership election

A ballot of Conservative MPs was held yesterday in the first stage of the party’s leadership election. Three candidates were eliminated from the contest, while the remaining seven will proceed to the next ballot of MPs, due to be held on Tuesday 18 June. The candidates who remain in the contest are Boris Johnson, who won 114 votes, Jeremy Hunt (43), Michael Gove (37), Dominic Raab (27), Sajid Javid (23), Matt Hancock (20), and Rory Stewart (19). The three candidates who were eliminated are Andrea Leadsom (11), Mark Harper (10)  and Esther McVey (9).

Following the vote, Stewart urged Johnson to rule out the option of proroguing Parliament as a means of securing a No Deal Brexit, suggesting that in the event of such an outcome MPs could “hold our own session of Parliament” to express opposition to the Government’s policy “and bring him down because you do not, ever, lock the doors on Parliament in this country.”

Meanwhile, The Times reports that Leadsom is considering supporting Javid in the next step of the race, while the BBC reports that Hancock could pull out today.

Source: The Guardian The Daily Telegraph The Times BBC Newsnight

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EU Budget Commissioner: future of UK research depends on payment of Brexit financial settlement

Asked how the EU would respond if a future UK Prime Minister refused to pay the Brexit financial settlement, the EU Budget Commissioner, Gunther Oettinger, said yesterday, “If a future [UK] government would not be ready or willing to pay then the problem is there’s not really a court to settle the dispute, but we do have some arguments. No matter who’s in charge he or she will want to ensure that relationship between the UK and the EU has a future,” adding, “We want to ensure that the EU can negotiate Horizon Europe, Erasmus Plus, we want to have agreement with UK universities and for that, for the future of UK research, we need to settle old debts fairly.”

Source: The Daily Telegraph

Business groups warn against No Deal

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Institute of Directors (IoD) have both issued warnings against a No Deal Brexit this morning. The IoD urged UK businesses to accelerate preparations for a No Deal Brexit in October, adding that businesses “cannot afford to put their faith in politicians to produce a Brexit resolution.” A survey conducted by the IoD found that more than half of their members had not started any No Deal contingency planning, and that only 4% were currently planning to use the time to October to accelerate efforts.

Meanwhile, the CBI Director General, Carolyn Fairbairn, said that No Deal was not a “credible negotiating threat,” and added that Brexit uncertainty was damaging UK business and investment.

Elsewhere, the supermarket Tesco warned that a No Deal Brexit in October would be more difficult to prepare for than in March, as retailers would need to prepare for the Halloween and Christmas trading season. Tesco added that it would be more difficult to stockpile long-life food products in October, as there would be less space available in warehouses.

Separately, Home Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday commented on the possibility of a No Deal Brexit, telling the BBC’s Today Programme, “I don’t accept it would be disorderly. What I do accept is it would be very challenging for the country at least for a few months.” He added that the impact of a No Deal Brexit on the economy would depend on what the government does, stating, “You’d have to have a stimulus for the economy through tax changes and some supply side changes.”

Source: Bloomberg Financial Times Politico

Eurosceptics create new Identity and Democracy group in the European Parliament

The Eurosceptic and nationalist Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group in the European Parliament will be replaced a new group called Identity and Democracy (I&D), the leader of right-wing French National Rally party, Marine Le Pen, announced yesterday. The group will have 73 MEPs from nine member states – France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Denmark, Finland and the Czech Republic. It will be the fifth largest group in the European Parliament, and will be chaired by Marco Zanni from Italy’s Lega Party. Le Pen said that the goal of the group would be to “create a sovereignist bloc which will have a major influence” in European institutions and “offer real alternatives” to the mainstream political groups in the European Parliament. Zanni said, “The message to all of those parties who have a radically different view of Europe, if we can work together … that would benefit all of us.”

Source: Le Figaro Marine Le Pen Reuters

EU finance ministers reach agreement on Eurozone budget

EU finance ministers have agreed on the broad guidelines for a future Eurozone budget, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced this morning. He said, “For the first time, we have created an operational budget which will help the Eurozone member countries to converge and to become more competitive.” Reuters quotes a Eurozone official source as saying that the ministers did not reach a consensus on key aspects such as the sources of financing and the size of the budget. The agreement will be presented to EU heads of state and government next week, ahead of the European Council summit in Brussels.

Source: Le Monde Reuters

Former Foreign Secretary: UK must "urgently" consider post-Brexit diplomacy with EU

In an op-ed for Politico, former Foreign and Defence Secretary Malcolm Rifkind argues that the UK’s “geopolitical interests haven’t shifted with our decision to leave the EU,” adding, “We must urgently turn our attention to how we continue to do diplomacy with our European neighbors after Brexit.” He also argues, “The best way to work together on…crucial strategic issues will be to establish an EU+1 format that allows Britain, France and Germany to meet and, if possible, come up with common negotiating positions on major foreign policy issues,” concluding, “Britain needs Europe. And Europe needs Britain. There is nothing about Brexit that requires that cooperation to be abandoned.”

Source: Politico

Poland to host an additional 1,000 US troops

Under a new security agreement still to be finalised, Poland is due to host an additional 1,000 US troops, the Polish and US Presidents announced yesterday. US President Donald Trump said Poland “will provide basing and infrastructure to support” the military presence of the troops and will pay for the cost, while Polish President Andrzej Duda said that this could mean an “enduring presence” of American troops in Poland.

Source: Politico

IFS: Brexit vote post-referendum a “key driver” of stalling medium household income

In an article published yesterday, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said, “Median household income growth stalled in 2017–18… in large part because real earnings fell, due to a rise in inflation following the depreciation of the pound after the UK voted to leave the European Union. Rising inflation meant that the freeze in working-age benefits hit poorer households harder than if inflation had not risen.”

Source: IFS I IFS II

MP Chuka Umunna joins Liberal Democrats

Chuka Umunna, the former Labour and Change UK MP, has joined the Liberal Democrats. Umunna, who said he had realised “there isn’t room for more than one centre ground option” in British politics, is now the Liberal Democrats’ twelfth MP in the House of Commons.

Source: BBC News