12 July 2019

New poll of Conservative members puts Johnson well ahead of Hunt

A survey of 1,301 Conservative party members released yesterday by ConservativeHome found that of the 71% who have already voted, 72% voted for Boris Johnson whilst 28% voted for Jeremy Hunt. Paul Goodman, the editor of ConservativeHome, said, “If the survey is correct, Johnson has won this contest already.” However, the BBC reports that under half of Conservative members have voted in the leadership contest so far.

Meanwhile, the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said yesterday, “Both candidates have said that No Deal is part of the armoury going forward, and I have accepted that. The situation is that we are leaving at the end of October but it would be so much better to get a deal. What we really need is for everybody’s effort to go into trying to get a deal.”

Elsewhere, the Conservative MP Dominic Grieve told Talk Radio yesterday that it would be “very difficult” for him to remain in the party if Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister. He said, “I don’t wish to leave the Conservative Party… I would wait to see what he says and does, but… the reality of where we are in view of where I think he is likely to take us is going to mean I suspect it’s going to be very difficult for me to do so.”

This comes as Politico reports that a cross-party group in the House of Lords have tabled amendments to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill. The amendments, aimed at making it more difficult for a Prime Minister to pursue a No Deal Brexit without Parliament’s consent, would bolster an existing Commons amendment by Dominic Grieve that requires fortnightly reports from the Government on efforts to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland. The Lords amendments would add a further requirement for parliamentary debates on the reports within five calendar days of publication.

Source: BBC TalkRadio ConservativeHome Guardian Politico

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Bank of England: financial system "resilient to" No Deal Brexit

In its July Financial Stability Report, published yesterday, the Bank of England said, “The core of the UK financial system, including banks, dealers and insurance companies, is resilient to, and prepared for, the wide range of risks it could face, including a worst-case disorderly Brexit.” The report added, “Increased Brexit uncertainties have put additional downward pressure on UK forward interest rates and led to a decline in the sterling exchange rate and an underperformance of UK-focused equities. In markets that are particularly dependent on foreign investors – notably commercial real estate and leveraged lending – investment into the UK was much weaker in [the first quarter of] 2019 than in recent years.”

Elsewhere, the Business Secretary Greg Clark told Sky News this morning that a No Deal Brexit would lead to the loss of “many thousands” of jobs, adding, “if you become less efficient and your ability to trade is impeded then of course losing your competitiveness means that there will be jobs that will be lost.”

Source: Bank of England Sky News

BMG poll suggests Brexit Party surge is fading

A new BMG Research survey of Westminster voting intention for the Independent puts the Conservative Party on 28%, Labour on 27%, the Liberal Democrats on 18% and the Brexit Party on 14%. Compared to last month, the Conservatives are up two points and the Brexit party down four, with Labour unchanged and the Liberal Democrats up one. The survey also asked respondents whether the UK should remain or leave in the EU, and put Remain on 53% and Leave on 47% (excluding “don’t knows”). BMG Research interviewed 1,532 people in Great Britain between 2 and 5 July.

Source: Independent

Irish Parliament signals opposition to EU-Mercosur trade deal

The Dáil (Irish Parliament) yesterday approved a symbolic motion opposing the EU’s draft free trade agreement with the South American trade bloc Mercosur, defeating Leo Varadkar’s minority government by 84 votes to 46. The motion, put forward by opposition party Sinn Fein, called on the Government to use all legal and political means available to frustrate and thwart the Mercosur deal. Fianna Fail, which supports the governing Fine Gael party in a confidence-and-supply arrangement, voted against the Government. This comes after protests against the Mercosur deal in Ireland, with farming groups in particular raising concerns about the impact of imports of Brazilian beef on the domestic agricultural industry.

Source: Bloomberg Farmers Journal Ireland

European Left group in the European Parliament reject von der Leyen as Commission President

The European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group in the European Parliament yesterday said that it would not support the nomination of Ursula von der Leyen as European Commission President. The group’s interim leader, Martin Schirdewan, said, “We have listened carefully to Ms von der Leyen and grilled her on our 10 key demands for the next Commission,” adding, “Her responses were insufficient to satisfy the basic aspirations of EU citizens. They will help perpetuate the chronic problems the EU is facing.” The vote to approve von der Leyen’s candidacy is planned for next Tuesday, at 17:00 BST.

Meanwhile, the President of the liberal Renew Europe group in the EP, Dacian Ciolos, wrote to von der Leyen yesterday outlining a number of issues which “will clearly determine [the group’s] support for [von der Leyen] as possible President of the European Commission.” The issues include strong commitments on the rule of law, putting in place a Conference on the Future of Europe, as well as “no differentiation of status” between the proposed Commission Vice Presidents, Margrethe Vestager and Frans Timmermans. The letter adds that the group “will need for each one of the [issues] a clear and explicit commitment.”

This comes as Jens Geier, the leader of the German Social Democrat (SPD) MEPs in the European Parliament, yesterday circulated a paper in Brussels which criticises von der Leyen as an “inadequate and inappropriate candidate,” highlighting in particular her record as German defence minister. It also calls the European Council’s deal on the next leaders of the EU “an attack on parliamentary democracy in Europe.” Responding to the paper, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “It is not an easy situation… that our coalition partner [the SPD] is not pulling together with us here.”

Elsewhere, the Austrian Interim Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein plans to nominate current EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, for another term in the Commission.

Source: Politico Reuters Dacian Ciolos Politico II Die Welt

Number of EU nationals deported from the UK up 113% between 2013 and 2017

A report by the Oxford Migration Observatory on the Government’s efforts to remove EU nationals for breaches of freedom of movement rules found that the number of EU nationals deported from the UK rose by 113% from 2013 to 2017.

Source: The Financial Times Oxford Migration Observatory

Open Europe and Prosperity UK event: "Exploring arrangements to avoid a hard Irish border after Brexit"

Open Europe and Prosperity UK yesterday hosted an event in Brussels to debate “Alternative Arrangements” to avoid a hard Irish border after Brexit. Speakers included Conservative MPs Nicky Morgan and Greg Hands, along with Shanker Singham of the Alternative Arrangements Commission (AAC). Former Director General of the UK Border Force, Tony Smith, as well as Patrick Smyth, the Europe Editor of The Irish Times, also took part. The discussion was moderated by Pieter Cleppe, Head of Open Europe’s Brussels office.

The AAC presented its Interim Report, which identifies potential alternatives which can serve as ‘Alternative Arrangements’ to the Irish border backstop, in order to increase the chances of a Brexit deal being passed in the UK Parliament. Hands said that the AAC’s recommendations will take two to three years to implement but they can be agreed before the Brexit date on 31 October. Singham said that the AAC’s solution does not mean that nothing will change on the island of Ireland, but that it would ensure any changes do not result in checks at the border itself or damage the Good Friday Agreement. Meanwhile, Smyth said that from the EU’s point of view, only the backstop can solve the border issue and “Alternative Arrangements” are part of the mitigation of border issues rather than a solution in themselves.

Watch the event again here