12 December 2018

Theresa May to face vote of no confidence as Conservative Party leader

Prime Minister Theresa May will face a vote of no confidence in her leadership of the Conservative Party tonight, after the threshold of 48 letters to Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee, was reached. Brady told BBC News that he had spoken to the Prime Minister and that she “was very keen that matters be resolved as quickly and as reasonably as possible.” Conservative MPs will vote between 18:00 and 20:00 GMT tonight in a secret ballot. If more than half of MPs vote that they have no confidence in May, a leadership contest will be triggered, in which she will not be allowed to stand.

In a statement outside Number 10 Downing Street, May pledged to fight the vote of confidence “with everything I’ve got.” She warned that “A change of leadership in the Conservative Party now…would create uncertainty when we can least afford it. It will not change the fundamentals [with the European Union]… or the parliamentary arithmetic.” She also warned that one of a new leader’s first acts would likely have to be “extending or rescinding” Article 50, which would lead to “delaying or stopping Brexit, when people want us to get on with it… none of that is in the national interest.” Separately, she announced that her scheduled visit to the Republic of Ireland today, where she was due to meet with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, has been cancelled as a result of today’s events.

May has already been publicly backed by Cabinet Ministers, including the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, the Environment Secretary Michael Gove, and the Housing Secretary James Brokenshire. Backbenchers Nick Boles and Ed Vaizey are also among those who have said they will vote for the Prime Minister. However, in a joint statement, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker, the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the European Research Group (ERG), said, “Theresa May’s plan would bring down the government … But our Party will rightly not tolerate it. Conservatives must answer whether they wish to draw ever closer to an election under Mrs May’s leadership. In the national interest, she must go.”

Elsewhere, former Conservative Environment Secretary Owen Paterson yesterday confirmed he submitted a letter of no confidence. He argued that the Prime Minister’s deal was “a betrayal of clear manifesto promises”, adding, “The Government needs to consider more boldly the possible alternatives which might command [parliamentary] support.” Senior Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin also announced he has submitted a letter of no confidence, with “great regret.”

Source: Telegraph (Twitter) BBC News Telegraph Belfast Telegraph

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PM meets EU leaders to seek “reassurances” on Brexit deal

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has held meetings with several EU leaders in an attempt to gain greater domestic support for her Brexit deal. May said that she was seeking “reassurances” from the EU that the UK would not be kept in the Irish backstop indefinitely. However, ahead of a meeting with May, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Junker, described the Withdrawal Agreement as the “best deal possible,” stating that there was “no room whatsoever for renegotiation.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said that “there will be no further opening of the exit deal.”

Speaking in Brussels yesterday evening, May said, “What has been shown to me from those meetings is there is a shared determination to deal with [the Irish backstop] issue and address this problem,” adding, “Whatever relationship you want with Europe in the future, there is no deal available that does not have a backstop within it. But we don’t want the backstop to be used and, if it is, we want to be certain that it is only temporary. And it’s those assurances that I will be seeking from fellow leaders over the coming days.”

Elsewhere, the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, suggested that Theresa May could secure an “addendum” to the Withdrawal Agreement, allowing MPs to vote before the UK entered the backstop. She added that this would potentially involve “the EU Parliament and the U.K. Parliament vote every year thereafter to provide that legitimacy for the UK to stay in that backstop.”

Separately, speaking to the Irish Parliament yesterday, Varadkar said that a No Deal Brexit scenario could be averted by either revoking or extending the Article 50 deadline, adding, “while there may not be a majority for anything or at least any deal at the moment in the House of Commons, I do believe that there is a majority that the UK should not be plunged into a No Deal scenario.”

In an interview with American broadcaster CNBC, Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe said that May was looking for a legal assurance that Britain would not be “in the EU’s custom’s regime for ever,” and that it could “unilaterally end this status.” He argued that this could be achieved through a special [European] Council decision, “which would be legally binding but which would not change the text of the Withdrawal Agreement,” adding that such an outcome would be consistent with the “good faith” clauses in the agreement.

Separately, Open Europe’s Dominic Walsh discussed the consequences of May’s decision to delay the vote in an interview with Al Jazeera yesterday. Walsh said, “It’s worth pointing out that if the vote had taken place today and she’d lost… she would have had to [ask the EU for assurances on the backstop] anyway… However, she now goes back to Europe under fundamentally different circumstances.”

Source: The Times BBC Politico The Guardian CNBC Dominic Walsh [Twitter]

Government says meaningful vote will take place before 21 January

The Prime Minister’s spokesman has stated that the meaningful vote on the Brexit deal will take place before 21 January, without further clarifying the specific date of the vote. This was followed by demands from MPs to confirm that they will definitely get a vote on the deal before January 21, with Labour MP Yvette Cooper saying that the vote should take place “under any circumstances by the 21st January” which is “far too late” anyway. Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington said that 21 January must be seen as a “deadline not a target.” Moreover, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the House of Commons that “if the Prime Minister comes back with nothing more than warm words then she must immediately put her deal to the House”.

Meanwhile, in an article for the Telegraph yesterday, the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox argued that “the one thing that will not be on offer in any further referendum, just as it was not in the last one, is the status quo… The EU is committed… to ever closer union.” He also called the decision to postpone the vote a “sensible and pragmatic move” and added that “the Conservative Party has two tasks: to deliver Brexit and continue to govern our country by staying in office.”

Separately, a new poll by Lord Ashcroft finds that 53% of the public think MPs should reject the government’s Brexit deal even if it’s not clear what the outcome would be, against 24% who think MPs should support the deal. 36% of the public believe the deal is better than No Deal, against 30% who prefer leaving without a deal, with 34% saying they do not know. 46% of the public think the deal does not honour the result of the Brexit referendum, against 19% who believe it does.

Source: BBC The Telegraph I ConservativeHome The Telegraph II

Republic of Ireland “actively preparing” for No Deal Brexit

The Irish Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, has said that Ireland is “actively preparing” for a No Deal Brexit, and yesterday presented Government Ministers with a paper on Brexit contingency planning. Speaking in the Irish Parliament, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that No Deal planning “means putting in place infrastructure at our ports and airports, in Dublin and Rosslare,” adding “Firms who don’t have action plans should develop action plans, and those who have action plans should begin to implement them.” He also said that Sinn Fein’s call for a border poll on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland in the event of a No Deal Brexit was “disruptive and destructive.”

Meanwhile, Coveney yesterday described the Irish backstop as a “fall-back position, a last resort insurance mechanism,” and said that the Withdrawal Agreement was a “difficult management exercise politically” for UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

Source: BBC Irish Independent

"People's Vote" campaign calls for Corbyn to launch vote of no confidence in Prime Minister

The cross-party “People’s Vote” campaign yesterday urged Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to call for a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May “as soon as possible” in order to facilitate a second Brexit referendum. The campaign includes leading figures from the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Liberal Democratic Party, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru. The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said that the SNP or other parties might seek to initiate the vote themselves, saying, “If Corbyn won’t do it then other parties must rise to the challenge.” This comes as Corbyn yesterday told the House of Commons, “We need to do the appropriate thing at the appropriate time to have a motion of no confidence in order to get rid of this Government.”

Elsewhere, Conservative MP and Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee Sir Bill Cash said in the House of Commons that Theresa May has “reached the point of no return” and “may well have to resign,” adding, “Public trust has been shattered in our democracy…clutching straws and running away from the vote is contemptible.”

Separately, the Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom yesterday commented on the Speaker of the House John Bercow’s criticism of the Government’s decision to delay Parliament’s vote on the Brexit deal, “He’s made his views on Brexit on the record, and the problem with that of course is that the chair’s impartiality is absolutely essential.” A spokesperson for the Speaker’s Office said, “He [the Speaker] has never allowed his personal views to influence his chairing of debates and statements.”

Source: BBC I BBC II Press Association Financial Times

Treasury Committee report: ‘Chequers’ White Paper cannot be used as basis for meaningful vote

The Commons Treasury Committee has released a new report giving information on the ‘meaningful vote’ on the Brexit deal. It concludes that the Government’s Brexit white paper on the future UK-EU relationship, which was produced in July 2018 and is based on the ‘Chequers’ proposals, cannot be used as the basis for the meaningful vote as it is not the most likely future outcome. The report also states the committee’s “disappointment” that the Government has not modelled the economic effects of the Brexit deal, or of the backstop. It also repeats the Bank of England’s conviction that the financial services sector could survive a No Deal Brexit scenario.

Source: UK Parliament

Backbench committee: Vote of no confidence does not have to lead to election

A vote of no confidence in the Government could force Prime Minister Theresa May to resign without necessarily triggering a general election, according to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) of cross-party backbenchers. The new report by PACAC, chaired by Conservative Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin, notes that the Fixed Term Parliaments Act defines a single legal mechanism by which a vote of no confidence motion can trigger a general election. However, the report that claims that if the wording of the no confidence motion was different to that under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, an election would not necessarily be triggered, though the Prime Minister “would be expected to give notice that he or she will resign,” and would have to recommend a successor to the Queen.

Source: The Times

Macron concessions to protestors may break EU budget rules, says Italy Deputy PM

Luigi Di Maio, the Italian Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Five Star Movement party, said yesterday that the financial measures proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron to appease anti-government protests will result in Paris breaking the European budgetary rules. He added that the €10 billion that Macron’s proposals would cost “according to our calculations do not match up with the deficit to GDP ratio France has announced” and “if the rules apply to all”, France must also be threatened with sanctions by the European Commission. This comes as Italy is due to submit a revised budget proposal to the Commission today.

Source: Financial Times

EU discloses a plan to reduce financial services risk in No Deal scenario

The European Commission has disclosed a plan to prevent rupture in the cross-border market for derivatives, according to documents seen by Bloomberg. This comes after the financial industry reportedly called for a decision in a scenario of No Deal. The decision aims at ensuring that London’s clearing houses, such as the units of London Stock Exchange Group Plc, the Intercontinental Exchange Inc., and the London Metal Exchange, would continue to serve EU clients even in a disorderly exit. The equivalence decision is temporary, but does not specify an end date.

Source: Bloomberg

Bloomberg: EU leaders to approve Eurozone budget this week

At the European Council summit this week, EU leaders are planning to approve a mandate to create a Eurozone budget, according to draft conclusions seen by Bloomberg. The document reportedly states that EU finance ministers of Eurozone member states will be tasked to “work on the design, modalities of implementation and timing of the budgetary instrument,” with a final result to be completed by June 2019. The Eurozone budget would be additional to the EU budget be used for “competitiveness and convergence.”

Source: Bloomberg

David Shiels: Can the Government secure meaningful reassurances on the backstop?

In a new blog, Open Europe’s David Shiels looks at possible reforms to the Irish backstop and whether they would be acceptable to Unionists in Northern Ireland. Shiels writes that “Now that the Prime Minister has said she will seek further reassurances from Brussels over the backstop the DUP needs to be clear about what changes to the backstop they are proposing. Simply trying to remove it altogether is not realistic.” He suggests that the Government should look again at proposals for a “Stormont Lock” and address Unionist concerns about whether there is an “exit route for the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland.” Shiels writes that there is “perhaps a final chance to get the backstop right” and concludes that “just as the UK as a whole faces difficult choices about its future, there may come a point at which Northern Ireland has to decide which path it wants to follow.”

Elsewhere, in a new blog, Open Europe’s Aarti Shankar considers the recent ECJ decision that the UK can unilaterally revoke its notification to withdraw from the EU. She argues, “This is unlikely to have a real impact on the Brexit process at this stage – there is no indication that government is considering reversing the Article 50 notification to leave. However, it will affect domestic politics. It de facto places a third option on the table when MPs come to vote on May’s deal.” She concludes, “If revocation is to be used appropriately, the UK cannot then resubmit its notice to leave immediately after. In this sense, it would force MPs to make a choice – is the UK ‘in’ or ‘out’, on whatever terms that might mean.”

Separately, in a piece for Prospect Magazine, Shankar considers the Prime Minister’s decision to pull parliament’s meaningful vote, given the predicted scale of her defeat. She argues, “The question remains whether any “reassurances” [from the EU] will be enough to carry the support of parliament. Importantly, if there is no majority for any deal, the UK would leave by default in March 2019 with no deal. The prime minister’s strategy of delay suggests she is hoping the ticking clock will encourage MPs to reflect on this and fall in line behind her.”