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MPs have voted in favour of a motion stating that the Government was in contempt of Parliament for failing to publish the full legal advice on the Brexit deal provided by the Attorney-General, Geoffrey Cox. The motion, which was moved by Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, was passed by 311 votes to 293, with DUP MPs voting with Labour. The Leader of the Commons, Andrea Leadsom, said the Government will follow the motion and publish the full legal advice today.
The vote was followed by another Commons defeat for the Government. MPs voted in favour of an amendment introduced by Conservative backbencher Dominic Grieve, which would give Parliament a greater role over the Government’s direction if Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal is voted down next Tuesday. 321 MPs, including several Conservative rebels, voted for the amendment, with 299 voting against. Speaking to Sky News last night, Grieve said, “This [amendment] does mean parliament will get a proper opportunity to … express its opinion about what should happen.” He warned, however, that “it doesn’t mean no deal is off the table — I can’t guarantee that.”
The votes preceded the beginning of several days of parliamentary debates on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal. In her opening statement, Theresa May defended the deal, saying, “Don’t imagine that if we vote [the Brexit deal] down another deal is going to miraculously appear. The alternative is uncertainty and risk.” She called on MPs to avoid delaying Brexit, adding, “This house voted to give the decision to the British people. This house promised we would honour their decision. If we betray that promise, how can we expect them to trust us again?” In response, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, “We still don’t know what our long-term relationship with Europe would look like and that’s why so many MPs across parliament are not willing to vote for this blindfold Brexit and take a leap in the dark about Britain’s future.”
Meanwhile, The Times reports that Cabinet Brexiteers led by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling will urge the Prime Minister to try to negotiate a unilateral exit mechanism from the Backstop if the Government is defeated in Parliament next week. The plan would resemble the proposal reportedly put forward by the May’s Brexit adviser, Olly Robbins.
Elsewhere, a YouGov poll for The Times this morning finds that 49% believe the UK was wrong to vote to leave the EU, against 38% who said the UK was right. This comes as the BBC’s proposal for a head-to-head Brexit debate between Prime Minister Theresa May and Leader of the Labour party Jeremy Corbyn has reportedly been rejected by Labour over disputes regarding the format of the debate.
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The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has said that a Norway-style Brexit deal, in which Britain would join the EEA but leave the EU, would be an “undesirable” scenario for the UK financial sector. Speaking to the Treasury Select Committee, he said that, under such a deal, the UK would risk becoming a “rule-taker” on financial regulation. He said, “From a financial stability perspective, it is highly undesirable to be a rule-taker and to lose supervisory autonomy for any considerable length of time.”
Carney also warned that food prices could rise by between 5 per cent and 10 per cent under a “disorderly” Brexit, and that the UK’s ports were not ready for “an administered WTO relationship,” saying, “We have gone to these ports and had conversations directly with the ports in question.” He also defended the robustness of the Brexit assessments published by the Bank of England last week, saying that a “core team” of 20 senior economists had worked on the analysis for a “couple of years,” also drawing in “another 150 professionals from across the Bank.”
Elsewhere, the former Bank of England Governor, Mervyn King, yesterday questioned the Bank’s assessment of the economic effects of Brexit. In an opinion piece for Bloomberg, King endorsed the view of economist Paul Krugman that the Bank’s estimates of lower productivity were “dubious” and “questionable.” Criticising the Government’s approach to the negotiations, King said that “the country is entitled to expect something better,” adding “If this deal is not abandoned, I believe that the UK will end up abrogating it unilaterally — regardless of the grave damage that would do to Britain’s reputation and standing.”
The Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, has called on MPs to back the Brexit deal in an op-ed for the Times this morning. Picardo writes that the deal “protects our interests in the process of withdrawal and it protects our interests for the future negotiations,” adding, “no deal would still be better than a bad deal that did not protect Gibraltar’s sovereignty or our economic interests. But this deal does protect Gibraltar’s British sovereignty, and our current and future economic interests. So this deal is far, far better for Gibraltar than no deal.” Picardo concludes, “whatever their intentions, those voting against this deal in hope of no deal are not helping Gibraltar.”
Following a meeting in Brussels, EU finance ministers have agreed on reforms to strengthen the Eurozone’s preparedness for a future financial crisis. The final deal includes some elements of the joint reform programme set out in June by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Mário Centeno, president of the Eurogroup, said the result marked “a breakthrough on some key issues.” Ministers also agreed to continue discussions about a future Eurozone budget. However, the deal did not include proposal for a “stabilisation” plan to assist troubled Eurozone economies, which was resisted in particular by the Netherlands. In a joint statement, Eurogroup ministers said, “We did not reach a common view on the need and design of such a function. Technical discussions continue.”
In a new blog, Open Europe’s Zoe Alipranti discusses the upcoming CDU leadership election and analyses the positions of the three strongest contenders to replace Angela Merkel: Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer , Friedrich Merz, and Jens Spahn. The main contentious issue dividing the party is immigration, with Merz wanting to shift the party to the right “to regain terrain ceded to AfD,” and Kramp-Karrenbauer opting to preserve the centrist course that Merkel embarked on. On European reforms, the candidates seem to be embracing the status quo, and “in contrast to Macron who ran his campaign on a European platform, none of the CDU leadership candidates has articulated a grand European vision with concrete proposals.” She concludes that Kramp-Karrenbauer is most likely to win the leadership contest, but that “this new, fractured German political landscape will remain challenging regardless of who the future CDU leader is.”
Elsewhere, in a separate blog, Open Europe’s Dominic Walsh fact-checks a table recently published by the Government, which compares the Brexit deal to alternative outcomes. Walsh argues that the Government “makes the same mistake as many of its critics, by failing to clearly distinguish between the state of affairs in the transition, the backstop, and the proposed future relationship.” On the Government’s claim to have secured an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK, Walsh writes, “there would indeed be no direct ECJ jurisdiction in Great Britain… However, there would be direct ECJ jurisdiction in Northern Ireland.” On whether the Government has secured an independent trade policy, Walsh observes, “Under the backstop, the UK would technically have its own trade policy, but in practice this independence would be constrained.” Walsh adds that on security, the Government and EU have not yet guaranteed future cooperation; they “have only agreed a framework.” Nevertheless, he concludes that the Government is correct in an important regard: “there is no negotiated deal likely to be on offer which does not contain some form of backstop. Therefore, the only alternative Brexit to the backstop is No Deal.”
Separately, Walsh is quoted by Al Jazeera English on yesterday’s contempt motion against the Government. He argues that “the political implications are significant … it reinforces how fragile the government is.” However, he also notes that formal sanction of government ministers is now off the table – it “would only have happened if the government had continued to defy parliament with regard to the publication of legal advice.”