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The Prime Minister, Theresa May, is expected to tell the House of Commons today that holding another referendum on Brexit would “break faith with the British people.” It comes as the Sunday Times reports that Cabinet Office Minister, David Lidington, is at the head of a “gang of five” Cabinet Ministers who are considering supporting a second Brexit referendum, while Lidington held talks with Labour MPs last week when the subject was raised. The newspaper reports that Cabinet Office officials are preparing for a referendum on the basis of a choice between the Government’s current deal and No Deal, while Parliament would be expected to insist on the option of remaining in the EU being included on the ballot paper. Another group of Cabinet Ministers reportedly favour holding a series of “indicative votes” in the House of Commons to break the impasse on the Brexit deal. Open Europe’s Director, Henry Newman, told Sky news that “The problem is you have no consensus even in the Cabinet…The danger is that Parliament could just vote for a fantasy…Parliament could vote for its super-duper perfect deal, which has all of the cake and all of the eating if you want to use the jaded metaphor.”
It comes as the Labour Shadow Minister Andrew Gwynne told the Andrew Marr show yesterday that the Opposition would be “using whatever mechanisms we have at our disposal next to week to try and force the government to bring forward that deal for a vote before Christmas.”
Meanwhile, Gavin Barwell, the Downing Street Chief of Staff, reportedly told a Minister last week that a second referendum was “the only way forward.” Barwell said yesterday that he was “not planning a [second] referendum with political opponents” and added that he did not want a further referendum “because it would further divide the country when we should be trying to bring people back together.”
This comes amid reports that May warned EU leaders she would hold a vote on her deal this week, which she is widely expected to lose, if the EU did not compromise. At the end of last week’s EU summit, May told French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and European Council President Donald Tusk that the deal would fall if they could not provide further assurances on the Irish backstop.
Elsewhere, Theresa May criticised former Prime Minister Tony Blair, for seeking “to undermine our negotiations by advocating for a second referendum,” describing his position as “an insult to the office he once held.” Blair responded by saying that “What is irresponsible…is to try to steamroller MPs into accepting a deal they genuinely think is a bad one with the threat that if they do not fall into line, the Government will have the country crash out without a deal.”
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The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, will shortly announce plans that would see a reduction in the number of EU migrants coming to the UK between 10,000 and 25,000 per year by 2025, according to the Sunday Times. The figure of EU migrants coming to the UK stood at 74,000 in the year to June 2018. The Immigration White Paper, expected before the end of the year, will propose a £30,000 salary threshold for medium-skilled migrants coming to Britain while low-skilled migrants would get short-term visas if they are from a country of “low risk of immigration abuse.” Javid also reportedly wants to launch a “new conversation” on immigration, moving away from the “hostile environment” associated with Prime Minister Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary.
The Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has said that “even in a No Deal Situation” the UK would find a way “to flourish and prosper,” after Brexit, adding “we’ve faced much bigger challenges in our history.” In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Hunt said that the Government “shouldn’t pretend that there wouldn’t be disruption, there wouldn’t be risk” as a result of No Deal, “and that’s why as a responsible government we have to make all the preparations necessary.” He also said that in a No Deal scenario the “level of disruption depends on the presence or absence of goodwill between both parties,” adding “if you’re trying to make arrangements about transport disruption, flights, visas, stranded holidaymakers all those kinds of things, if there is goodwill you can make those arrangements quite quickly.”
Separately, the European Commission is due to publish legal proposals to prepare for No Deal on Wednesday. These would involve the EU unilaterally declaring an extension of existing arrangements for the rights of UK citizens in the EU, transport and financial services for six to nine months, Politico reports.
Meanwhile, Downing Street has denied reports that families would be warned not to book holidays after the UK leaves the EU in case of a No Deal scenario. The Cabinet is due to discuss No Deal contingency planning tomorrow.
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The Irish Army has conducted a mapping exercise discovering almost 300 crossing points along Ireland’s land border with the United Kingdom, including many routes not previously identified. According to the Sunday Independent, the updated mapping exercise is expected to form a key part of the Defence Forces’ Brexit contingency planning. Meanwhile, the Irish police force, An Garda Siochana, confirmed that they had been involved in “regular liaison with our counterparts in Northern Ireland” on issues relating to Brexit, but “without a final political settlement, it is not yet clear what the specific impacts on policing will be.”
Elsewhere, the Sunday Business Post reports that the Irish Government has prioritised No Deal Planning, while Ministers have been told they will only be able to pass legislation deemed “absolutely essential” if there is a No Deal Brexit. The Irish Parliament’s schedule would be cleared to pass “key pieces of legislation to keep essential things going,” which could include legislation to ensure the integrity of the Common Travel Area.
Sunday Business Post
In an article for CapX, Open Europe’s Stephen Booth writes, “It seems there is no end to the deadlock in sight. And yet, something will have to give. Every scenario seems unlikely or impossible at this stage, but one of them will happen.” He argues, “No Deal is the default scenario and remains in play but the political route to this outcome is also hard to imagine.” He writes that while a second referendum “seems more likely than at any point since 2016,” but adds that “the political route to a referendum remains very difficult unless it is actively pursued by the executive.” Booth concludes, “It has long been clear that any deal is likely to need Labour’s explicit or implicit approval to pass the House of Commons… [Jeremy] Corbyn and John McDonnell might calculate that allowing the Withdrawal Agreement to pass might be their best chance of both avoiding a referendum and precipitating an election after April 2019.”