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Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday, the Irish Deputy Prime Minister, Simon Coveney, said that Ireland and the EU “want to avoid a No Deal Brexit,” but added, “this will be a British choice. Not an Irish choice, not an EU choice.” Commenting on a No Deal scenario, Coveney said, “We cannot allow an open backdoor into the single market through Northern Ireland,” adding, “there will need to be checks somewhere.” He indicated that these checks would not take place on the border itself, but said that they “have to be in Ireland” rather than in mainland Europe. Asked about the possibility of a time-limited backstop, he said, “We’ve always said no to that because you have to be able to answer the question, what happens at the end of that time limit, and if you can’t answer that question, then it’s not a backstop at all.” He also said that “The backstop can be replaced [in the future] by alternative arrangements,” but added that the existing proposals for alternative arrangements were not acceptable because they would “fundamentally disrupt the all-island economy.”
Elsewhere, writing in the Sunday Times, Coveney said, “The Withdrawal Agreement is a balanced document that deals with the interests of all parties and is not something that is up for renegotiation.”
Separately, the Times reports this morning that the EU Commission is preparing a large economic aid package to support the Republic of Ireland in the event of a No Deal Brexit. A senior EU diplomat told the paper the EU would “spend whatever is necessary” to support Ireland.
Commenting on the Irish border issue in his column for the Telegraph today, Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson writes, “There is abundant scope to find the solutions necessary – and they can and will be found, in the context of the Free Trade Agreement that we will negotiate with the EU.” This comes as a survey of Conservative Party members for the Sun on Sunday suggested that Johnson has won the support of 73% of those eligible to vote.
Voting in the Conservative Party leadership election closes at 5pm today. The result is expected to be announced around 11am tomorrow, and the new leader will be sworn in as Prime Minister on Wednesday afternoon.
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The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, and the Justice Secretary, David Gauke, both announced this weekend that they will resign if Boris Johnson wins the Conservative Party leadership contest and takes over as Prime Minister this week. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Hammond said, “I understand that [Johnson’s] conditions for serving in his Government would include accepting a No Deal exit on the 31 October. That is not something I could ever sign up to… I therefore intend to resign to Theresa May before she goes to the Palace to tender her own resignation on Wednesday.” He also said, “I am confident that Parliament does have a way of preventing a No Deal exit on October 31 without parliamentary consent. I intend to work with others to ensure… that the new government can’t do that.”
In a separate interview with the Sunday Times, David Gauke said, “If the test of loyalty to stay in the cabinet is a commitment to support No Deal on October 31 — which, to be fair to him, Boris [Johnson] has consistently said — then that’s not something I’m prepared to sign up to. I recognise that this spell in government is coming to an end. Given that I’ve been in the cabinet since Theresa May came to power, I think the appropriate thing is for me to resign to her.”
Elsewhere, writing for the Observer, the shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said Labour would seek to work with anti-No Deal ministers who resign. Starmer said, “On Tuesday morning some ministers will sit around the cabinet table for the last time. They know very well the dangers of No Deal. They will have been briefed about what it would mean for jobs, the economy, our public services and the union… After they have resigned this week, I will want to work with all those former ministers who, like me, want to ensure Parliament can stop a disastrous and chaotic exit from the EU.”
Separately, Labour MP Gloria de Piero resigned her position as shadow justice minister on Friday and said she would not stand as an MP in the next election. De Piero, a vocal opponent of a second referendum, said she would “keep fighting for a Brexit with the closest possible trading ties with the EU.”
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In an interview with the Sun on Sunday, the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said, “Until we have passed a deal, it’s crucial that the government continues to prepare for a No Deal Brexit. It has been under-priced by many, and a step change in communicating this needs to be one of the first priorities of the new Prime Minister.” He added that “business hasn’t even really begun preparing for it” because “they keep hearing from the Treasury that a No Deal Brexit is completely unthinkable.”
In a separate interview with Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday show, Barclay said, “the reality is that a No Deal would be disruptive but we have got over 300 teams across Whitehall working on preparations.” On the specific issue of the Dover-Calais crossing, Barclay said, “We expect some disruption but far less than was envisaged in March.” He further said that the preparedness of small businesses for No Deal is “less advanced” compared to larger companies. Barclay also confirmed a report in the Sunday Times that in a No Deal scenario, life-saving drugs would be the highest priority in terms of securing the continued flow of imports from the EU, followed by medical devices, then fresh food.
Elsewhere, courier company DPD, which is responsible for around 10% of courier deliveries in the UK, warned yesterday that a No Deal Brexit could see the flow of parcels between the EU and the UK “grind to a halt” due to new customs and VAT duties. DPD has leased a large depot near Birmingham to use as a bonded warehouse where goods will be held until the duties are paid.
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Conservative MP Andrew Percy has quit his position as the Government’s trade envoy to Canada, in protest at the Department of International Trade’s failure to roll over the EU-Canada trade deal (CETA). A source close to Percy told the Independent, “Andrew warned them back in March, as soon as the UK’s No Deal tariffs were published, that it would mean the Canadians would not go for rolling over the CETA deal. He could see they were getting 95% of what they wanted if a No Deal happened, that the tariffs were better than what is in CETA – so why would they rush to sign up to what the UK wanted?” The UK’s No Deal tariffs, published in March, eliminate duties on 87% of goods imports.
A new opinion poll by Number Cruncher Politics for the 1 August by-election in Brecon and Radnorshire suggests the Liberal Democrats will comfortably take the Welsh seat from incumbent Conservative MP Chris Davies, on a 17% swing compared to the 2017 General Election. The poll, which surveyed 509 adults in the constituency, puts the Liberal Democrats on 43%, the Conservatives on 28%, the Brexit Party on 20%, and Labour on 8%.
Separately, voting in the Liberal Democrat leadership election closes today at 1pm. The election has been contested between deputy party leader Jo Swinson and former Energy Secretary Ed Davey. The result is expected to be announced at 4pm.
Number Cruncher Politics
In a new business manifesto released today, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) urges the next Prime Minister to “build a long-term vision that drives in investment and back business as a foundation of a growing, inclusive economy.” The CBI’s Director General Carolyn Fairbairn said, “The next Prime Minister must back up his campaign promises and prove to be indisputably pro-business,” adding, “Early signals matter. The UK is a fantastic place to do business but we must be honest — the reputation of our country has taken a dent in recent times.” She added that the new Prime Minister “should take a transformative approach to making the country more competitive, innovative and inclusive… [that] means an immigration system that is controlled but also open and welcoming.”
The Financial Times reports that British officials in Brussels were “disinvited” from an EU28 cybersecurity meeting in June. Tim Barrow, the UK ambassador to the EU, wrote a letter on Friday to the European Council saying that the decision had raised “questions and concerns in London with regards to the treatment and process around meetings at 27 and 28 during the current extension,” adding, “In respect of the disinvitation to the meeting on 25 June, the UK has received no explanation as to the substantive reason for its exclusion.” According to the Financial Times, the June meeting included a discussion about the protection of the EU’s 5G networks amid security concerns about expansion from Chinese telecom supplier Huawei.
The deputy secretary general of the centre-left Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), Adriana Lastra, said on Saturday that she and the party are “convinced” there will be an agreement between PSOE and left-wing party Podemos that would pave the way for the formation of a new government. This comes after several weeks of talks between the two parties, following April’s general election. The first parliamentary vote to confirm the Spanish Prime Minister will take place on Tuesday evening. PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez will need an absolute majority of 176 votes to be sworn in as Prime Minister; a PSOE-Podemos alliance would give him 165 votes.
Separately, EU interior ministers are meeting in Paris today to discuss issues of illegal migration in the Mediterranean Sea and EU responses to rescuing refugee ships. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said yesterday, “We now need a stable mechanism to regulate the disembarkation and distribution of people rescued on the high seas — and that is a manageable number,” adding, “We will not settle all our differences on migration overnight. But Europe can find a quick and pragmatic solution to the issue of rescue at sea. It is enough for everyone to take a step towards each other.” Meanwhile, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini will not be attending. He commented, “Italy can no longer welcome all immigrants coming to Europe. France and Germany cannot decide the migration policies and ignore the demands of the most exposed countries like [Italy] and Malta.”
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Speaking to Sky News on Saturday, Open Europe Director Henry Newman said, “There is a path… to get Brexit done, but it’s a very narrow path.” He added that Thursday’s government defeat on an anti-No Deal amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill was “symbolic of the problems [the next Prime Minister] will face… you will have a block of maybe 30 MPs on one side of the Conservative party willing to bring down a government pursuing No Deal, and a block about the same size of hardline Brexiteers who will bring down a Government that does anything to compromise on Brexit.”