Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen
Former Brexit minister David Jones, who’s close to DD, on Theresa May’s Chequers Brexit proposals: “Quite simply, this is not what people voted for in 2016. This is not Brexit.”
The Tory Brexiter Andrea Jenkyns has also joined the backlash against Theresa May’s plans.
Completely support Lucy’s comments. We #Brexiteers cannot support any deal that restricts our trade with other countries. Need to see the details but from what we are hearing prepared to vote against this. https://t.co/pv39eyMPOT
This is from Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader.
This is from Alex Wickham from the Guido Fawkes website.
A Whitehall source says that Dexeu considers the government’s own Brexit plan unacceptable and that David Davis and others are fighting it………
And, since we’re talking about a possible UK/US trade deal, this, from the Telegraph’s Europe editor Peter Foster, is interesting.
Indeed. I dined recently with head of one of Britain’s largest business groups.
QUOTE: “Not a single one of my members wants a trade deal with the US”
CHIEF: Because outside high end products they could never compete – on scale, on costs, on social costs.
This is from Hugh Bennett, deputy editor of the pro-BrexitCentral website.
And these are from Owen Paterson, the Brexiter Conservative former environment secretary.
If true, a complete breach of @theresa_may‘s manifesto commitment, reconfirmed to me at #PMQs yesterday, to leave Single Market, Customs Union & ECJ. We could not eliminate tariffs to reduce prices for consumers & businesses, or strike free trade deals. https://t.co/nYELc7zaib
Again if true, this would deny 100% of British economy the full benefits of Brexit to appease only 12% of UK GDP accounted for by exports to EU & be completely at odds with what 17.4 million voted for. We would be Out of Europe but still Run by Europe.https://t.co/mnqSbNUvk8
This is from the pro-Brexit Conservative MP Lucy Allan.
Theresa May’s spokeswoman has rejected as “categorically untrue” the suggestion that the proposed Brexit plan would make it impossible to then make a new trade deal with the US – but would not comment on the idea it could become more difficult.
Asked about the Spectator report (see 3.30pm), she said:
The PM has always been clear that we will seek a comprehensive and ambitious trade deal with the US that reflects the strength of our trading and investment relationship, and as you know the president has also made it clear that he is keen to sit down and talk with the UK about that. And the PM and the president will obviously have a chance to discuss trade next week … What I can be very clear on is that it is categorically untrue to suggest that we will not be able to strike a trade deal with the US.
My colleague Peter Walker is just out of the the Number 10 lobby briefing.
PM’s spokeswoman: “It is categorically untrue to suggest that we will not be able to strike a trade deal with the US,” with planned customs deal.
But asked if it will be harder to get a deal: no extra comment.
The paper is explicit that this deal ‘would not allow the UK to accommodate a likely ask from the US in a future trade deal’ as the UK would be unable to recognise the US’s ‘array of standards’.
Fifteen British MEPs have signed a joint statement saying the revelation that the Electoral Commission has found that Vote Leave broke election spending rules during the EU referendum justifies a second referendum. In the statement, organised by the Green MEP Molly Scott Cato, they say:
The international treaty on democratic conduct, the Venice Commission, to which the UK is a signatory, has ruled that campaigning over-spends are adequate grounds for annulling an election result. However, given that we have no domestic remedy in the UK for this occurrence, but given the evidence of breaches of electoral law by both the main Leave campaigns, the mandate for Brexit is seriously undermined.
These new revelations, following on from allegations of social media manipulation, fatally undermine the legitimacy of the referendum result. We believe that there is a simple straightforward way to address this by supporting the call for a people’s vote on the Brexit deal. Those of us who respect the rule of law have no need to cheat and have nothing to fear from the people’s judgement.
BREAKING: Jacob Rees-Mogg tells PM she should rip up customs plan after @JGForsyth and @WikiGuido scoop: ‘If this correct this is not Brexit. This common rulebook means that we are essentially a vassal state. The Prime Minister should imitate Mr Gove and tear up this paper.
No 10 sources are saying the Spectator is wrong. They don’t accept the claim that Theresa May’s Brexit plan would probably rule out a trade deal with the US. (See 3.30pm.)
We are expecting to be told more at the Downing Street afternoon lobby briefing.
The Guido Fawkes website (which, like the Spectator, is pro-Brexit) has had a similar leak about the Theresa May Brexit plan. The proposal would mean the UK accepting “EU rulings on all level playing field issues, environment and social policy, effectively maintaining ECJ jurisdiction in the UK”, the website says.
According to the Spectator’s James Forsyth, the paper which has been circulated amongst cabinet ministers today says that, under Theresa May’s Brexit proposals, a trade deal with the US would become almost impossible. That is because May is proposing a deal that would effectively keep the UK in the single market for goods and agrifoods, meaning the UK would have to align with EU standards in these areas.
Here is an extract from Forsyth’s scoop.
What has really riled ministers is the section on what this deal with the EU would mean for future trade deals. The paper is explicit that this deal ‘would not allow the UK to accommodate a likely ask from the US in a future trade deal’ as the UK would be unable to recognise the US’s ‘array of standards’.
Brexiteers are taking this as Theresa May effectively ruling out a post-Brexit trade deal with the US just days before the US President arrives in this country.
Number 10 paper that has gone to Cabinet Ministers this afternoon admits that Theresa May’s proposed deal with the EU will almost certainly prevent a US / UK free trade deal https://t.co/lhfnCm7wsg
Jeremy Corbyn has been in The Hague today, speaking to the Dutch Labour party. He told them that European progressive parties had to reject austerity and the “broken neoliberal model” if they wanted electoral success. He said:
My message for our European sister parties is simple: reject austerity or face rejection by voters.
If our parties look like just another part of the establishment, supporting a failed economic system rigged for the wealthy and the corporate elite, they will be rejected – and the fake populists and migrant-baiters of the far right will fill the gap.
Speaking in the Hague Jeremy Corbyn says UK government is making “a disastrous mess of the Brexit process… That’s the politest way I can describe it” pic.twitter.com/qAwzTg4CaL
This is from the Spectator’s James Forsyth.
Cabinet now have Theresa May’s customs proposal, paper arrived with them at 2pm. But a fair bit of grumbling about how long ministers have been kept in the dark on it and how Angela Merkel was briefed on it before they received the paper
The BBC’s Katya Adler has more on the Merkel/May comments.
Merkel meeting May still says political framework for leaving EU has to be clear by October summit. Unofficially across EU few believe the withdrawal agreement and political declaration will be ready by then .. #brexit
Merkel repeats as always that regrets #Brexit but respects it and hopes to remain as close as possible to U.K. afterwards- partic in terms of foreign and security policy
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Theresa May have made brief comments to journalists ahead of their talks in Berlin.
May said that the plan she will discuss with the cabinet at Chequers tomorrow, to form the basis of a white paper being published next week, would be good for the UK and the EU. She went on:
Tomorrow I will be bringing my cabinet together to discuss and decide a substantial way forward which will enable the pace and intensity of the negotiations to increase.
Javid says the government may well decide to speak to the Russian ambassador about this incident.
Javid says if any MP “has an ounce of common sense” they will realise they must not support President Putin. He is responding to a question from the Labour MP Mike Gapes about whether MPs should refuse to appear on RT (formerly Russia Today, the pro-Kremlin news channel), and so he is saying MPs should keep off it.
Britain will consult with its allies over a possible response to Russia over the latest nerve agent poisonings in Wiltshire, the home secretary, Sajid Javid, has told parliament, saying Moscow must explain “exactly what has gone on”.
Javid, updating MPs after he chaired a meeting of the government’s Cobra security meeting on Thursday morning, also confirmed that the two people being treated in hospital appear to have been exposed to novichok at a separate location to former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, four months ago.
As we did before we will be consulting with our international partners and allies following these latest developments. The eyes of the world are currently on Russia, not least because of the World Cup. It is now time that the Russian state comes forward and explains exactly what has gone on.
Let me be clear – we do not have a quarrel with the Russian people. Rather, it is the actions of the Russian government.
Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the home affairs committee, asks if the Russians have offered any cooperation. And does novichok degrade?
Javid says the UK has received no help from the Russians. If the Russians wanted to be helpful, they could say how they disposed of the nerve agent used to poison the Skripals.
The SNP’s Tommy Sheppard asks if the novichok used in this case was from the same batch at used to poison the Skripals. And he asks for an update on the seizure of Russian assets.
Javid says the authorities are “absolutely clear” that this is the “exact same nerve agent” from the novichok family of nerve agents.
Richard Benyon, the Conservative MP for Newbury, says the Russians will launch a disinformation campaign in relation to this incident. Will the government ensure it counters this by saying what happened. Javid agrees, and says the government will.
Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, is responding now.
She asks what support people in the areas will get. And she asks for an assurance that the latest clean-up operation will be effective.
Javid says the eyes of the world are on Russia because of the World Cup.
The Russian government must explain what happened, he says.
Sajid Javid says he chaired a meeting of Cobra today. He has been briefed by the police and the security services.
He recalls what happened, and how two people were taken to hospital seriously ill. Tests found they had been exposed to novichok, and it has been identified as the same nerve agent that contaminated Sergei Srkipal and his daughter, Javid says.
Sajid Javid, the home secretary, is now making a Commons statement on the novichok poisonings in Wiltshire.
Here is our latest story about the incident.
The UK security minister, Ben Wallace, has pointed to Russia as being responsible for the nerve agent poisonings in Wiltshire and called on Moscow to help authorities keep the people of Britain safe by giving information.
An urgent investigation is under way to discover how a British couple were left critically ill by the nerve agent novichok, the same military-grade poison that nearly killed the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, four months ago. The home secretary, Sajid Javid, will chair a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee on Thursday morning and is due to make a statement to the Commons afterwards.
Theresa May has said Salisbury and the wider area remains “very much open for business”, with her spokesman insisting the new novichok incident did not mean the initial clean-up operation had been incomplete.
The prime minister is en route to Berlin and so did not attend a Cobra meeting chaired by the home secretary, Sajid Javid. Ministers who did attend include Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, defence minister Gavin Williamson, and environment secretary Michael Gove.
All of my thoughts today are with the victims and with the people of Amesbury and Salisbury. After the brazen and reckless attempt to murder the Skripals wirth novichok in March the community showed tremendous fortitude, patience and resilience.
Once again the public is having to contend with the consequences of two people being exposed to a nerve agent, and I would like to personally thank local businesses and residents for their cooperation. We once again also sincerely thank our brave emergency services for their response.
The advice from chief medical officer was clear that the risk to the public is low. Equally the chief medical officer was clear that in terms of the sites involved in the Skripal incident they have now been decontaminated.
Germany business leaders have issued a strongly worded statement warning that they are “reluctant” to invest in Britain because of Brexit uncertainty.
Germany Industry UK, which represents 100 companies including BMW, Mercedes Benz, Arriva, Lufthansa and ThyssenKrupp said it needed “certainty and clarity about the way forward sooner rather than later”.
There is some reluctance from German business to invest in the UK, with projects on hold because of the uncertainty about the future, and with only nine months left before the UK leaves the EU, time is running out.
The Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews have issued a joint statement criticising Labour’s new code of conduct on antisemitism. (See 11.54am.) Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, and Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said:
It is for Jews to determine for themselves what antisemitism is. The UK Jewish community has adopted in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, as have the British government, Welsh assembly, Scottish parliament, 124 local authorities across the country and numerous governments around the world.
It is impossible to understand why Labour refuses to align itself with this universal definition. Its actions only dilute the definition and further erode the existing lack of confidence that British Jews have in their sincerity to tackle antisemitism within the Labour movement.
Sky’s Faisal Islam says pro-European Tories in favour of the UK staying in a customs union are not planning to withdraw their amendments in response to Downing Street arguments that the Brexit white paper will address their concerns. (See 11.20am.)
I was told by pro CU MPs who met PM yesterday that they would not be withdrawing the amendments to these bills. Brexiter MPs told Chief Whip not to use the idea that a majority would vote for CU as leverage for backing PM’s new third way
It shall be a negotiating objective of Her Majesty’s government in negotiations on the matters specified in subsection (2) to maintain the United Kingdom’s participation in the EU customs union.
Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian chancellor, has said that he would favour extending the Brexit talks if necessary to avoid the UK leaving on 29 March 2019 without a deal, EUobserver reports. Kurz was speaking to reporters as Austria takes over the presidency of the EU for the next six months.
These are from EUobserver’s Eric Maurice.
more quote from Kurz:
“Our goal is to reach an agreement” on Irish border.
“If that’s not possible we need to avoid a hard Brexit. If not it’s good to keep negotiating”
Extending article 50?
Kurz ambiguous on whether “keep negotiating” means until December instead of October. But leaves open possibility of extending Article 50.
Seems to be a testing the waters exercise from the new EU presidency country. #Brexit
Labour’s ruling national executive committee has approved a new code of conduct on antisemitism, the Press Association reports. The PA report goes on:
The code, drawn up in the wake of intense controversy over allegations of prejudice which saw Jewish groups protest outside parliament earlier this year, states explicitly that “antisemitism is racism. It is unacceptable in our party and in wider society”.
But it insists that criticism of the state of Israel and its policies should not automatically be regarded as antisemitic, and makes clear that even “contentious” comments on this issue “will not be treated as antisemitism unless accompanied by specific antisemitic content … or by other evidence of antisemitic intent”.
Nick Macpherson, the former permanent secretary at the Treasury, is not impressed by what he has heard about the facilitated customs arrangement. (See 9.21am.)
I’m an optimist but if a ‘facilitated customs arrangement’ is the best HMG can do after 2 years, I begin to wonder whether a deal can be dine.
Ralf Speth, chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), told the Financial Times (paywall) that the company would close its factories in the UK if the government does not get a good Brexit deal. We have written up his comments here.
What is really vital is that (JLR) will be better off if the government delivers on what the prime minister promised me in the Commons yesterday. If we really do leave the customs union, Jaguar Land Rover will have access to cheaper parts and components all around the world. And the European suppliers will be forced to compete or they will lose Jaguar Land Rover’s business. And all the studies show the car trade is very robust at the moment, it is profitable, and that will continue.
If you look at studies of the car trade, it’s robustly competitive and profitable. And that will continue because we’ve had a significant devaluation which is a lot more than the tariffs anyway.
No, that is illegal under WTO current terms. The latest WTO trade facilitation agreement insists that both sides must have a seamless – ie, effectively computerised, as now for the rest of the world – procedures which are effectively costless.
Just asked a spokesperson for one trade body if they’d be responding to Owen Paterson’s comments on the opportunities for UK auto firms (such as Jaguar Land Rover) after Brexit.
“We’re not going to dignify those comments with a response because they’re not worth anything.”
Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, has just announced the forthcoming Commons business.
She revealed that on Monday 16 July MPs will debate the report stage of the taxation (cross-border trade) bill, which is commonly known as the customs bill. And on Tuesday 17 July we’ll get the report stage of the trade bill.
Labour’s Stephen Timms says for the last eight years the only reliable information about universal credit has come from the NAO. He asks if the government will now be more honest about the problems with universal credit.
McVey says people who know here know that she is open and honest. If there are problems with the benefit, she will make changes.
Stephen Lloyd, the Lib Dem MP, says McVey has only given a partial apology. He says that is unacceptable.
McVey defends her claim that the NAO report does not take into account changes to universal credit being rolled out this year.
Labour’s Angela Eagle asks McVey to show some respect to the NAO and admit she got it wrong.
McVey says she checked what she had said herself. No one asked her to come to the House to apologise, she says.
Labour’s David Hanson says on two occasions at DWP questions on Monday he told her things about the NAO report that were not correct. Will she apologise?
McVey said she summarised what she thought the NAO report had said. Because of Hanson’s persistence, she checked afterwards to make sure her understanding was correct. That led to her to apologise for saying the NAO had called for the universal credit rollout to be speeded up, she says.
Meg Hillier, the Labour chair of the Commons public accounts committee (which works closely with the NAO), asks McVey if she has full confidence in the NAO and its boss, Sir Amyas Morse.
McVey says “they do their job”. She says the DWP has made changes to universal credit. The impact of those changes was not reflected in the report.
The SNP’s Alison Thewliss says the NAO report blows a hole “as wide as the Clyde” in the case for universal credit. She says this is the first time in more than a decade in office that Sir Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, has had to write a letter like this to a minister.
Margaret Greenwood, the shadow work and pensions secretary, says McVey gave misleading statements to MPs on three points.
She says, if she did read the NAO report and misunderstand it, then she is incompetent. If she did read it, and wilfully misrepresented what it said, then she broke the ministerial code, which says ministers should not knowingly misled MPs. Either way, McVey is not fit to be a minister, Greenwood says. She says McVey should resign.
Frank Field, the Labour MP, says McVey has apologised for “dissembling” in one respect. (The NAO said she got three things wrong.)
But she has not apologised for the other two things the NAO complained about: McVey saying the report was out of date, and McVey saying the report showed universal credit was working.
Esther McVey says the NAO complained about her saying the report was not up to date.
There have been recent changes to universal credit, she says. She says the impact of these changes has only recently taken effect. Therefore the report did not take them into account, she says.
John Bercow, the speaker, says this urgent question will run for just 20 minutes because the Commons timetable is crowded today.
Frank Field, the Labour MP asking the urgent question, asks Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, to apologise for the three occasions on which she “dissembled” to the Commons.
And here is my colleague Polly Toynbee’s column on Esther McVey. Polly says she should resign.
We are about to get a Commons urgent question on the National Audit Office letter yesterday accusing Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, of misleading MPs about the findings of a recent NAO report on universal credit.
Here is my colleague Rajeev Syal’s story about the letter.
I want to apologise to you, Mr Speaker, and the House for inadvertently misleading you. I meant to say that the NAO had said that there was no practical alternative to continuing with universal credit. We adopt a “test and learn” approach to the roll-out of universal credit, which the NAO says mainly follows good practice, and therefore the point I was trying to make was that the calls from the Labour party to pause it seemed to fly in the face of those conclusions. As you know, Mr Speaker, I asked you yesterday if I could come to the House to correct the record. I believe it is right that, as a minister, I should come and correct the record, and I therefore hope that you will accept my apology.
On the other issues raised in the letter sent today by the NAO, the NAO contacted my office at the end of last week and we are working on setting up a meeting. On the NAO report not taking into account the impact of the recent changes to UC, I still maintain that this is the case, and those changes include the housing benefit run-on, the 100% advances and the removal of waiting days. The impact of those changes is still being felt and therefore, by definition, could not have been fully taken into account by the NAO report. I hope that that clarifies the position.
Ireland has “advanced” preparations for the possibility of Britain crashing out of the EU with no deal, Leo Varadkar has said.
In an update yesterday to his parliamentarians on his talks with Theresa May on the fringes of the EU summit last week, the Irish prime minister promised Ireland would be prepared to press the button a no-deal scenario. He said:
And, on the subject of separate live blogs, my colleague Graeme Wearden is covering the reaction to the statement from Jaguar Land Rover that it will close factories in the UK if the government does not get the right Brexit deal on his business live blog.
JLR is one of the manufacturing success stories of this country. Much of that is down to the dedication of a workforce who have fought tooth and claw for a future.
But now tens of thousands of decent jobs – the sort we will need more than ever outwith the EU – are being put at risk by a government that places its survival, indulging narrow, extremist views, above the well-being of the people of this country. This is simply not acceptable.
We are running a separate live blog today to mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS. You can follow it here.
There is one urgent question today, to Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, who is being asked to explain why she misled parliament about the findings of the National Audit Office investigation into universal credit.
There are two statements today on: 1) industrial strategy Construction sector deal – Hartington, 2) Amebury incident – javid. Nothing from @EstherMcVey1 on misleading Parliament.
At the start of the week cabinet ministers turned on their radios to discover that, having failed so far to get agreement on its two alternative post-Brexit customs plans (the new customs partnership (NCP) and “maximum facilitation”), Downing Street was floating a third option. But at that stage details were sketchy, to put it mildly.
We’ve now learnt that the new plan has a name. It is a facilitated customs arrangement, or FCA. The Spectator’s James Forsyth was, I think, the first person to report this, and this is how he describes it in his column in this week’s magazine.
The details are fiendishly technical, but important. It would see all finished, imported goods charged the UK tariff, set independently of EU rates. So Britain can strike trade deals with other countries that would cut the tariffs on their manufactured goods in exchange for allowing UK services into their markets. Britain would still promise not to deviate from EU standards, so we could not change regulations as part of any trade deal. But such deals could, still, be made.
To minimise friction at the ports and to help with the Irish border issue, goods would be tracked once they entered the UK. They would be charged the EU tariff rate if they were sent on to the Continent. I am told that only 4 per cent of trade would have to pay this premium. It remains to be seen what kind of oversight the EU would demand over this process and how invasive it would be.
The Telegraph can reveal the Brexit Secretary has sent a letter, setting out his opposition to Theresa May’s so-called “third way” plan, amid concerns the EU will reject it out of hand.
In the last-ditch letter, he says the compromise plan the Prime Minister intends to present will fail because it is simply a customs partnership with some additional technological elements.