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The second ballot of Conservative MPs in the party’s leadership contest took place yesterday. Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson again won the most votes (126 MPs), ahead of Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (46), Environment Secretary Michael Gove (41), International Development Secretary Rory Stewart (37), Home Secretary Sajid Javid (33), and former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab (30). Raab was eliminated after failing to reach the required threshold of 33 votes. Stewart won over the most MPs compared to the first round, winning an extra 18 votes, ahead of Johnson’s additional 12. Further rounds of voting will take place today and tomorrow.
The five remaining candidates – Johnson, Gove, Hunt, Javid and Stewart – took place in a televised BBC debate last night. Speaking in the debate, Javid warned against a “flexible deadline” to the Article 50 process, adding that an insistence that the UK would leave with or without a deal by 31 October would “concentrate minds” in Brussels. Johnson also said that delivering Brexit by 31 October was “eminently feasible.” Gove, meanwhile, said that he was prepared to delay Brexit if necessary, but suggested that he would not do so beyond December.
Earlier, BBC News reported that Boris Johnson told a group of business leaders that his Brexit plan involved extending the transition by one year, to December 2021, in the hope that this would allow enough time to negotiate alternative arrangements for the Irish border. Meanwhile, Sky News reports that Johnson told Conservative activists that the “rough shape” of his Brexit plan contained elements of “the Brady Amendment [and] the Malthouse Compromise,” both of which called for the backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement to be replaced.
Elsewhere, the Times reports that the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will support a move at today’s Shadow Cabinet meeting for the party to back a second Brexit referendum “in all circumstances.” However, no formal change of policy will be officially announced today.
BBC News I Sky News Times BBC News II
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay yesterday wrote a letter to EU Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, calling for UK and EU officials to “continue to work on how we best protect citizens’ rights in all scenarios,” including a No Deal Brexit, by reaching a separate agreement on citizens’ rights “using an Article 50 legal base.” Barclay said that the UK Government “continues to monitor the provisions that national governments of the EU27 are adopting to protect UK nationals in a No Deal scenario,” but that “there remain gaps in a number of areas and in a number of Member States,” adding, “The British in Europe group has said that in a No Deal scenario a ring-fenced citizens’ rights agreement is far superior to 28 unilateral solutions.”
Separately, a spokesman for The3million grassroots organisation, which campaigns for the rights of EU27 citizens living in the UK, said that Barclay’s letter “shows that the UK Government has understood the need to safeguard our citizens’ rights in case of No Deal under the Article 50 procedure. The EU must act now, so we can get on with our lives and stop being the bargaining chips of the Brexit negotiations.”
Elsewhere, the UK signed a treaty with Luxembourg yesterday to guarantee the rights of both countries’ citizens to stand and vote in each other’s local elections after Brexit.
Meanwhile, the German Minister for European Affairs, Michael Roth, yesterday said the EU’s unwillingness to renegotiate the Brexit deal was “crystal clear,” adding, “The Withdrawal Agreement is the Withdrawal Agreement and I don’t see any appetite to start new negotiations within the EU.” The Swedish Minister for European Affairs, Hans Dahlgren, commented, “When it comes to the future, the Political Declaration, we can always accommodate and have a discussion but on the terms of the withdrawal that’s where we stand.”
The Daily Telegraph
EU ministers yesterday decided to delay the decision on whether to begin accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia until October 2019. The text agreed by ministers says the European “Council will revert to the issue with a view to reaching a clear and substantive decision as soon as possible and no later than October 2019.” European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn said, “Unfortunately a minority of member states were not able to support the Commission’s proposal to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia already today.”
Meanwhile, the Council has also expressed “serious concerns over Turkey’s current illegal drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and deplores that Turkey has not yet responded to the EU’s repeated calls to cease such activities.” It has urged the European Commission to “submit options for appropriate measures without delay,” adding that “Turkey’s accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill.”
Separately, RTE News reports that EU leaders will discuss Brexit developments since the last summit on 10 April, but there will be no formal conclusions about Brexit.
Former UK Ambassador to the European Union, Sir Ivan Rogers, has said that a No Deal Brexit is “now the probability,” even if it is not an inevitable outcome. Speaking at a conference in London, Rogers said, “The best I think [a new Prime Minister] will get is a new Political Declaration setting out a destination which is more distant from the EU than the one his predecessor sought. That is easy to write.” Rogers also said there could be “some [clarifications] on the process by which, over several years, the need for an all UK backstop might be obviated.” Rogers also hinted that an extension to Article 50 was likely if the new Prime Minister pursued renegotiation, saying, “It is completely obvious already, incidentally, that no new deal could under any conceivable circumstances, be negotiated and passed in the House by October 31.”
Meanwhile, Rogers said that a No Deal Brexit would be managed “by the EU” and not the UK, adding that it was “100 per cent certain” the EU would apply tariffs to UK goods in such an outcome.
Switzerland’s stock exchanges face losing access to the EU market from the end of this month, after the European Commission announced yesterday that there had been no progress in talks over a new treaty on relations with Switzerland. EU Commissioner for the Energy Union Maros Sefcovic said yesterday, “If the European Commission does not decide otherwise, the equivalence decision [on Swiss stock exchanges] will automatically expire on June 30,” adding, “Our doors remain open to conclude the agreement before the end of this Commission’s mandate [31 October].”
In a note seen by The Times, EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood Johannes Hahn wrote, “We simply cannot accept any further attempts of foot dragging and watering down internal market rules, especially in what is probably the decisive phase regarding Brexit,” adding that blocking Swiss access to the EU’s financial markets “may be just the warning shot across the bow” for the UK. An EU diplomat also told Reuters that a lenient approach to the Swiss dispute could encourage the UK to seek similarly favourable terms after Brexit.
The life sciences industry has demanded clearer guidance from the Government on contingency plans to ensure the flow of medicines to the UK is not disrupted in a No Deal Brexit. Steve Bates, chief executive of the BioIndustry Association, said that the Government had worked more closely with the Government in the run up to the earlier 29 March deadline. He said, “Last time around we were formally written to 113 days in advance that they were working to ensure there was sufficient roll-on and roll-off capacity. Now, 134 days before the new Brexit deadline, we have yet to see any action from the government in terms of securing the additional transport capacity, such as the provision of additional routes using ferries.” Bates added, “We need immediate clear guidance on the Government’s expectations of the life sciences sector. We need to know what their estimates are for lorries crossing borders, at what rate, and, if there is a need for a stockpile, which supplies, and whether the new government will adopt the same position regarding tariffs and regulations as the old one.”