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Speaking at a Politico Live event yesterday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the Withdrawal Agreement is not a “a treaty between [Prime Minister] Theresa May and Juncker. It is a treaty between the UK and the EU,” and it “has to be respected by whoever is the next British Prime Minister,” adding that the treaty will not be renegotiated.
Elsewhere, Germany’s European Affairs Minister, Michael Roth, yesterday said, “The EU and its member states cannot be blackmailed. I see no willingness to restart negotiations from the beginning,” warning that candidates for the Conservative Party leadership “would do well to bear that in mind in the course of their internal party campaigns.”
Separately, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he was “a little bit concerned that some people in London seem to think that because the House of Commons failed to ratify the [Withdrawal] Agreement, that automatically means they will get a better one,” adding that thinking this way would be a “terrible political miscalculation.”
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The former Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, launched her campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party yesterday, claiming that her commitment to delivering Brexit by the 31 October deadline was a “hard red line” for her. Leadsom said that her approach as Prime Minister would be to “create a new offer to the EU,” provide “certainty” to businesses and “negotiate directly with the key heads of the EU.” She also commented that she would “never say never” to another referendum on Scottish independence, and said she did not believe that Parliament had the ability to prevent a No Deal Brexit.
This comes as the former Government Chief Whip, Mark Harper, also launched his campaign yesterday, claiming that he had a “credible, deliverable plan for Brexit,” which would involve “real and transparent discussions to change the backstop.” Harper refused to rule out No Deal but said “it just isn’t possible” to leave the EU by 31 October.
Meanwhile, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart launched his campaign, saying, “Nobody can get No Deal through Parliament, because we, including me, will stop No Deal going through Parliament”, adding, “My opposition to No Deal is unwavering – the best and securest way to take No Deal of the table is to vote for me to be our next Prime Minister.” Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Sajid Javid will be launching their campaigns today. Johnson was endorsed for the leadership last night by Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay. Analysis by Sky News has found that Johnson has so far collected the support of 74 Conservative MPs, ahead of Jeremy Hunt on 32 and Michael Gove on 30.
Elsewhere, the Times reports that Sir Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary, has been granted permission to hold talks with the two leadership candidates who reach the final stage of the contest in order to prepare for the new Prime Minister assuming office.
The Labour Party will today use its Opposition Day to table a motion which would allow MPs to take control of parliamentary time on 25 June, in an attempt to prevent a No Deal Brexit. The motion has been signed by the leaders of the other opposition parties and by the Conservative MP Oliver Letwin.In a press release, the Labour Party explained, “The motion will allow MPs to take control of the House of Commons agenda on Tuesday 25 June. MPs will then have the chance to introduce legislation that could help avoid the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal. The motion will use the same procedure that was used earlier this year to block a No Deal Brexit in March. Unlike typical opposition day debates, the motion, if passed, will be binding.”
The UK’s unemployment rate remained at 3.8% in April, the lowest rate since the mid-1970s, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed yesterday. ONS figures also show that employment in the UK increased by 32,000 and reached a record high of 32.75 million in the three months to April, however the rise was the weakest since August 2018. Wages increased by 3.4% compared to 2018.
In an article for CapX, Open Europe’s Anthony Egan argues, “Ultimately, what the race to find Draghi’s successor has revealed is that the European Central Bank has been levied with the duty of protecting the euro when in reality there is deep division among Eurozone countries over their degree of integration.”