Tories reportedly close to triggering leadership challenge against May

Amidst growing pressures surrounding the ongoing Brexit negotiations, its been claimed that the Conservative party backbenchers are close to launching a leadership challenge against the Prime Minister.

According to The Times, the Chair of the 1922 Committee Graham Brady has received 46 out of the 48 required Letters of No Confidence in Theresa May. While these are unconfirmed reports, they’re seemingly backed up by the amount of MPs who now feel comfortable criticising their leader. An unnamed ‘Former Tory Minister’ went as far as to tell the Sunday Times that there will soon be the moment when “the knife gets heated, stuck in her front and twisted”, before saying “she’ll be dead soon”. Such language hasn’t been heard from Conservative politicians since Andrew Bridgen reportedly joked about “stabbing David Cameron in the front” and “twisting the knife”.

On Wednesday, the 1922 Committee will meet, and a senior Brexiteer has said that the PM should “bring her own noose to the ’22”, revealing that unless she pulls off an “uncharacteristically powerful, persuasive and coherent performance”, then her “time will be up”. And the previously mentioned Andrew Bridgen has said she is “drinking in a last chance saloon”.

With speculation rife about who the next Tory Leader will be, the favourites currently stand as being Sajid Javid, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and David Davis. Perhaps what is most striking is that there is no clear frontrunner amongst what is seen as a “bad bunch” of candidates.

Such news of an attempted coup against the PM will come as no surprise, with rumours emerging on Sunday that she has “72 hours to save her job”. The big question now is when, not if, the Prime Minister will be ousted, and while only Mr Brady knows the exact number of letters he’s received, its believed that enough Conservative MPs are willing to do what it takes to get rid of Mrs May. And if there really has been 46 letters already, then all it will take is just two more and there will be a leadership contest. While Brexit secretary Dominic Raab put out a rallying call for MPs to back her, it would seem like its too little too late for the beleaguered Prime Minster.

 

Brexit has splintered British politics – and it means we’ve already become a vassal state. But something needs to give way to heal our divisions

Brexit has been one of the most divisive issues Britain has ever faced in its history. What was once a issue polarised into two camps, ‘Leave vs Remain’, it has now escalated into a much more complex affair.

Britain has turned to tribalism. Both the electorate and Britain’s main political parties have splintered into all sorts of new groups. Our political parties are lost in a mirage, with members blurring the lines, disengaged with the core of the party to create their own identities.

The spectrum of these identities spreads far and wide.

UKIP, once a party determined to leave the EU, has turned into a far-right entity with the leadership of Gerard Batten. Not only are they supporting racist, anti-immigration groups such as the Football Lads Alliance, as well as being supporters of Tommy Robinson, but Batten wants a “complete and total withdrawal from the European Union”, whatever deal is agreed with the EU. Some might place Katie Hopkins in this group, who has stated that she ‘struggles to see a downside’ of a No Deal Brexit.

UKIP’s previous leader, Nigel Farage, leads the less right-leaning group of Brexiteers which includes individuals such as the Tories Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson. These individuals also want to “regain sovereignty” and believe Britain can survive a No-Deal Brexit with the right economic direction. They’ve also gained the support of famous figures such as Sir Michael Caine, who stated he’d “rather be a poor master of my fate than having someone I don’t know making me rich by running it”.

Alongside the Hard Brexiteers are the DUP, propping up the government with their 10 pro-Brexit MPs – with the main intention of keeping peace between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland by placing a border in the Irish Sea.

Within the Conservatives, we see many divisions. Theresa May, faces opposition to her Chequers Plan from from more central Tories such as Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve – both pushing for a People’s Vote.

Chuka Umunna has been the leading figure from centrist Labour who’s shared similar views with Soubry and Grieves, marching alongside Soubry at the recent People’s Vote march. Sadiq Khan has also been expressing his desire for a People’s Vote for the sake of London.

Many more significant figures have come out to support a People’s Vote, including comedians Matt Lucas and Steve Coogan, and Humans actress Gemma Chan. This is certainly a group which is growing in popularity, becoming more and more visible as a more moderate, less extreme way of urging the nation to remain in the EU.

But it’s the same story with Labour as it is with the Tories. Other progressives, such as Yvette Cooper, stayed quiet on the issue of a People’s Vote during the march. Those leaning to the left of Labour, such as Corbyn and his Shadow Cabinet, remained tight lipped on a People’s Vote, pushing for a different approach to Brexit negotiations. Corbyn avoided the issue on the day of the People’s Vote march, instead reminding us of his support for the people of Chile 20 years ago to the day, who faced the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Whilst this was a great achievement by Corbyn, he still shied away from addressing the elephant in the room.

Keir Starmer remains one to watch on Brexit, announcing at the Labour conference that “nobody is out remain as an option”.

This follows the lines of the Green Party, who are “campaigning for a People’s Poll on the final deal, that explicitly includes an option to remain part of the European Union”. Caroline Lucas was another figure present at the People’s Vote march.

The Lib Dems push further on this message, explicitly promoting an Exit From Brexit as their key policy. This is also a message shared by up-and-coming activist and co-founder of youth group Our Future, Our Choice Femi Oluwole. He’s been a prominent figure on social media, particularly demolishing Nigel Farage on his LBC radio show with his excellent knowledge on EU law and confronting Tory members on their hypocritical ideology on immigration.

Finally, the SNP who have now declared they will support a People’s Vote. But, of course, their greater intention is for Scottish independence.

I’ve not covered every single identity; for example, Owen Jones, who dislikes Brexit, has stated that he is opposed to another referendum because it might lead to a ‘viciously poisonous campaign’.

But where does this leave us as a nation? How can we move forward as a nation when there are so many Brexit tribes, so many Brexit identities, so many Brexit desires?

My answer: something has to give way in the next few weeks. One of these tribes will have to react to the realities of the situation and will give in to the desires of another. Boris Johnson has stated that Britain will become a “vassal state” if we agree to remain in the customs union and single market. But I think we have already reached this point internally; Theresa May has failed to lead this country towards a clear Brexit, and no one knows what we are going to achieve out of our negotiations. Because of this, every tribe has continued to push their own message in the hope of building support.

But what this has done has left British politics as a vassal itself. No one has made any clear progress with Brexit because no one has had the power to implement their ideas. And what’s worse – little progress with Brexit has meant little progress with any form of change to things that matter in our society. Britain is already a vassal state.

So when should something ‘give way’? There are plenty of opportunities for this to happen, from this year’s Budget, to the ‘meaningful vote’ in Parliament. What’s most important is in what direction shall things give way?

An anonymous pro-Brexit MP has already insisted that Theresa May has a matter of days before a leadership challenge will be initiated. Then, the DUP have also threatened to vote down this year’s budget if it does not suit their own desires.

Because May does not hold a majority in Parliament, does this mean May will have to appease the right? Or will she appeal to those on the left to make sure she can pass through some form of Brexit policy?

Even if we were to have another general election, could these tribes still hold us back from making progress on Brexit?

What I think, and I hope, is most likely is that the importance of the People’s Vote march will revitalise British politics. It’s been claimed that 700,000 people marched in London – the biggest since more than a million Britons marched against the invasion of Iraq. Yes, you can argue that the march against the invasion of Iraq did not change Labour’s final decision. But will Labour want to make the same decision again? Would Corbyn, or even May, want to decide against another mass movement which could potentially taint their legacies as leaders?

We are not going to be able to please everyone, but a general consensus is needed at the very least to create some sort of progress. If Corbyn or May decide to appease the movement, these tribes will begin to coincide, and political divisions will start to heal.

What is certain is that we are only just entering the beginning of a long period of Brexit turmoil. We’ve had a confused leadership for two years. Now comes the time where we seriously scrutinise the direction of Brexit. Now comes the time where each tribe will come to the forefront to claim their ideological dominance. Now comes the hard part.

But, we have to hope that our efforts of showing our adoration for Europe will help soothe our Brexit woes. Now is the time for politicians to look at the reality of the situation, halt the madness of our political status as a vassal state and push forward with some sort of sensible decision on Brexit.

EU offer extending Brexit transition to 2021, to solve Irish Border problem

Michel Barnier has reportedly said he is open to extending the transitional agreement by 1 year, which would keep the UK in the EU, in all but name, until 2021. This is the alternative to agreeing on a backstop.

The named ‘2 tier backstop’ sees the UK stay inside both the single market and the customs union until 2021, allowing enough time to agree a deal on Ireland.

The EU rejected May’s backstop, which kept the whole UK in the customs union, and May has rejected the EU’s which keeps only Northern Ireland in the customs union.

One EU official cited the new proposal as the EU being “flexible”.

A Downing Street spokesman:

“we’re not calling for an extension of the implementation period”, but would not say whether they would accept one if it was offered.

Any extension of the transitional agreement would anger Euroskeptic MPs who are frustrated with being tied to the EU for 2 years after the official Brexit date.

Hopes for progress on a backstop had risen when it was revealed that Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab had made an unscheduled visit to Brussels on Sunday, however, its now been confirmed that the talks have hit a brick wall. The DUPs Brexit spokesman says that it is almost inevitable that there will now be a no deal scenario.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said that all backstop proposals should be applied to the UK overall, not just Northern Ireland, however, the EU fear that the Governments proposal will not be ready in time, and thus are making contingency plans for the event that there is no backup plan in place from the UK.

As pressures mount over the Prime Minister’s Brexit plans, the UK and the EU have said that ‘key issues’ remain in the negotiations, but Michel Barnier says that talks over issues such as the ‘Hard Border’ with Ireland are ‘open’. And while its been claimed that ‘some’ progress has been made, the Ireland problem is one that neither the EU, nor the UK, can agree on.

This news comes amidst rumours that cabinet resignations are in line for the Prime Minister, as ministers have been forced to come out and deny they will quit in protest over the so-called ‘Chequers Plan’. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, refused to confirm she supports the PM’s proposals, simply saying she is ‘behind the Prime Minister’. Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary led a similar interview.

Brexit deal is “Still achievable” claims May, amidst difficulty over Irish border

In an impromptu speech to Parliament, the Prime Minister has told MPs that despite differences with the European Union, she believes the U.K. will still reach a Brexit deal. It comes amidst increasing difficulties in negotiating over a ‘back-stop’.

The British Government want an agreement covering the whole of the United Kingdom, however the European Union is concerned that the British plan is unfeasible and thus have proposed their own idea, which would see Northern Ireland remain part of the Single Market and Customs Union.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn describes the issue as “beginning to feel like Groundhog Day”, criticising the Government’s lack of action in the run-up to “a critical point in this countries history”. He reiterated that if Theresa May cannot get a good deal, she “has to make way for those who can”. 

Meanwhile Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s Westminster Leader, seemed visibly annoyed after Theresa May brushed off his concerns about Northern Ireland being left in the Single Market and Customs Union. In a lengthy answer, she refused to unequivocally state that Northern Ireland would be leaving the E.U. with the rest of Britain, and Dodds appeared to shake his head in disgust by her answer.

In an unreassuring speech, the cracks were on show for the Prime Minister. With the questions and concerns mounting regarding Brexit, she offered very little answers, and those seeking a strong commitment to a definite end date on a customs arrangements will be left with much to desire. 

In a highly anticipated moment for many, Dominic Grieve once again threatened to rebel against the government, saying that if the government leads the country towards a conclusion that would see us be  in a “two year relationship with the EU… with no say in the rulemaking” and remain bound to a “common rule book”,  he would “not be able to support the government unless it is put to the British people again”. 

As rumours of a cabinet rebellion stir and Brexit negotiations stalling once again, Theresa May’s attempts to cool tensions will have had little effect. 

Labour set to vote against Brexit deal to force General Election, says Thornberry

The Labour party is to vote against Theresa May’s Brexit deal, according to Shadow Foreign Secretary and Corbyn ally Emily Thornberry.

Speaking with the FT, Thornberry said a workable Brexit deal is “just not going to happen” under May, and a general election would need to be held if the Prime Minister is defeated on any Brexit vote.

25 Tory MPs have already pledged to vote down May’s Brexit deal, and with Labour’s opposition, as few as 10 rebel Tory MPs to completely kill May’s plans.

Labour had previously published a list of 6 tests that need to be met for the party to support any Brexit deal, which includes requirements on: security, science and the delivery of the “exact same benefits” as we currently have as members of the Single Market and Customs Union.

Thornberry, a very close ally and neighbouring MP to Corbyn, said she could not see any circumstances where this could be achieved.: “I can’t see them coming back with a deal that is going to meet our six tests and I can’t see them coming back with a deal that will unite the Tory party

“They are not capable of governing. We’re either going to have a general election in the autumn or we’re going to have it in the spring.”

If Labour were to win a general election they would still commit to taking Britain out of the EU, after seeking to extend negotiations with the EU. But Thornberry stressed May’s Chequers plan was unrealistic, saying: “I don’t think this kind of half-in, half-out of the customs union will work. I think it’s just full of red tape and it’s going to cost us too much money. It’s just nonsense.

“Even if they come back in October, November, and they say, ‘this flimsy bit of paper is what you’re going to have to agree to, otherwise there’ll be no deal’. We’re not going to agree to either of those.”

UK to take ‘moral high ground’ and allow EU migrants stay regardless of Brexit deal

EU nationals living in the UK are set to be given the right to remain even in the event of a no deal Brexit.

Cabinet papers leaked to The Daily Telegraph show ministers plan to take the “moral high ground” in a move which will bring much needed stability to the lives of almost 3.8 million EU nationals currently living in the UK.

Under the deal EU citizens in the UK would be able to continue using the NHS, and the welfare system regardless of whether British nationals living in the EU are granted similar rights. They will also still be able to bring spouses and close family members from the EU to live with them in the UK.

The leaked paper reads: “The Home Office plans to make an offer to existing EU residents that they can remain in the UK in a ‘no deal’ scenario, in effect unilaterally implementing the Citizens’ Rights agreement agreed with the EU in December 2017.

“The proposal is to make the offer irrespective of whether the EU reciprocates.”

The move is said to reflect concerns over potential labour shortages in key sectors such as health, social care and construction once Britain is outside the EU. Ministers and campaigners have repeatedly highlighted this issue.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “Skills shortages are skyrocketing, and it begs the question: who will build the new homes and infrastructure projects the Government is crying out for?

“Without skilled labour from the EU, the skills shortages we face would be considerably worse, and it is not in anyone’s best interest to pull the rug out from under the sector by introducing an inflexible and unresponsive immigration system.”

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab will travel to Brussels on Tuesday for further talks with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

Raab has said while he believed a deal was still “by far the most likely outcome”, a responsible government needs to set out the steps it will take to mitigate the risks of a no deal.

Pound falls to 9-month low after Brexiteer Liam Foxes admitting ‘no deal likely’.

Liam Fox, like many lead Brexiteers, has been forced to face the damming consequences of what Brexit actually means for the UK. From assuring the public prior to the referendum that a trade deal with the EU would be the ‘easiest trade deal in the history of mankind’ to falling on his own sword admitting that a ‘no deal is the likeliest outcome’.

As a result of the statement from Dr Liam Fox, the Minister for International Trade, the pound plummeted to a 9-month low. It is a truly worrying time for British politics when ministers are not being held in contempt for their incompetence, with much of the mainstream media brushing of these events as daily occurrences – a sort of occupational hazard for the few Brexiteers left in key government positions.

As the UK looks more likely to crash out without a deal, there have been increased calls for a second referendum, a so-called ‘people’s vote’. This vote is not to disrepute ‘the will of the people’ but more so to ensure a final say on whatever the final arrangement the government proposes. Support for another vote has gathered momentum fast, with the official online petition gathering nearly 550,000 signatures. One key politician pushing for this vote is Labour MP Chucka Umunna. Who rightfully argues that the leave campaign promise of £350 million a week was false (perhaps not even worth the bus it was printed on). Considering recent reports warning that the UK may have to stockpile medicine and food to soften the Brexit blow, the UK would not only be in a worst position, but also at risk of national catastrophe.

British politicians are failing a nation – it’s time for progressive politics

A question for you. Do you think that the government has directly changed your life in Britain for the better in the last 10 years? One would guess that the majority would answer: not really.

Britain has come to a standstill. We could once boast that we were the fifth-largest economy in the world. But what good did this actually do for our society? How has the British government actually helped people directly?

One cannot deny that the Great Recession, which began in the late 2000s, has meant that Britain has needed to rejuvenate our economy.

Has that worked? Not really.

Growth in wages flail behind inflation, GDP growth has dropped dramatically, and tackling the deficit is continuously pushed back. And let’s not forget the harrowing impact which Brexit will have on our economy.

As we continue to boast about our economic prowess, homelessness is back on the rise, 30% of children live in poverty and mental health issues have steadily increased amongst Britons since the early 1990s.

Have our most recent governments begun to fail the British people? I think so.

For too long Britain has stalled at a ground level. We have bowed down to a Conservative government for eight years; a party who centre predominantly around the economy. And yet, they have failed at two levels; to revitalise the economy, and to bring social change promised to the lower and middle income earners. This needs to change.

I am sure many will shout: “but what about Jeremy Corbyn?” “Corbyn’s principles are what the country needs”. However, he will continue to live a lie until he opposes Brexit. A ‘jobs-first Brexit’ translates into, at the very least, a ‘soft Brexit’, which could also be classed as ‘no Brexit at all’. We have seen the countless number of jobs which shall disappear from a poorly organised Brexit; from industrial powerhouses such as Airbus and BMW, to the banks in the City of London. Corbyn has to get over himself, listen to his members and evoke some sensibility.

And that is exactly what British politics needs right now. Sensibility.

How does one class ‘sensibility’ in the face of British politics? Sensibility equates to progressive thinking. Sensibility equates to merging economics with social justice. Sensibility is placing Britain back onto an economic path which actually helps the poor, rather than lavishing the rich with more wealth.

A sensible politician cares about the people who live in this country, whether British, European, Indian, American – you name it. The diversity of British citizenship moulds the greatness of our nation.

A sensible politician cares about those who are suffering the most, those who struggle to maintain a basic standard of living. We cannot continue to live in a country where the richest 10th of Britain own 45% of the nation’s total wealth. Britain’s income gap is astronomical.

A sensible politician considers new 21st century social issues, pioneering groundbreaking legislation which allows every British citizen the freedom and liberty to live in this country. It is estimated that there are between 300,000-500,000 transgender citizens in the UK. Not one of them can determine their own personal identity without a series of lengthy medical tests and procedures, taking years to complete.

A sensible politician appreciates the environment. As global temperatures rise, it would be ignorant to deny the damage we are placing on the world. Investment into green technology, which nations such as Finland and Sweden have continued to do so, would prove our place on the global stage, eager to preserve the world we live in. How can we isolate ourselves as a nation intrinsically connected with every corner of the world?

Our two-party politics is in disarray. Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are two politicians hung up on winning the political game. How can you vote for a Prime Minister who alters her position to sneak her way through power?

And there are many more on the British political stage who play a similar game. Boris Johnson, who once opted for Britain to stay in the single market, altered his views in the hope of grasping on to Tory leadership. Nigel Farage has backtracked on many of his views. Jacob Rees-Mogg knows that a no-deal Brexit will make many Britons a lot poorer – and make him a lot richer.

Do these politicians really care for our country?

It’s time we demanded action, change, progress. Away with the selfish, toxic politicians. In with the sensible, progressive demeanour which our nation greatly needs.

Britain deserves better.

After EU rejection the PM must go for Labour’s Customs Union to save Brexit

In what looks like a blow to our future trading relationship with the EU, Theresa May’s customs arrangement has been rejected by Michel Barnier. However, this does not necessarily signal an impasse. In his statement, the European Chief Negotiator stated that the EU is open to creating a customs union with the UK.

Yesterday’s rejection doesn’t come as a surprise. Theresa May’s plan was complex, unworkable and frankly a needless compromise between two sides who couldn’t agree what 1+1 equals. It’s time for the Prime Minister to stop placating certain Brexiteers who remain absent from reality and instead focus on securing a viable deal that guarantees Britain’s economic future.

Negotiating “a” customs union with the EU, rather than “staying in” has been a Labour policy since February and could be the saviour of Brexit. It marks a sensible, solid policy that will both achieve what the voters wanted and keep trade free and our economy strong. Indeed, A customs union really does solve the growing number of sizeable problems that are approaching post-Brexit. The EU have also stated they are open to such arrangement.

Crucially, such a policy would solve the Irish border problem by creating an economic setup that does not require customs check on the border. This is the primary cause of the problems for May, as, solving the Irish border problem without waving at least some customs checks is practically impossible. The arrangement she devised was undoubtedly weak, to the extent that the Brexiteers she designed it for – like Boris Johnson – were vehemently opposed to the plan.

A customs union also guarantees zero tariffs between the UK and the EU. That Brexit cliff edge that so many businesses, especially those in manufacturing, have become scared of would no longer pose a threat. With goods moving freely between the EU and the UK, the issues that Airbus and Jaguar foresaw post-Brexit would vanish.

Despite retaining tariff-free trade, the controversial ‘free movement’ would also end. Most in the Leave camp see this as a positive, although some Remainers are not so keen. We would also be free of the rule of the ECJ, the institution that Brexiteers so adamantly decry. The two aims of Brexit, then, would hereby be achieved; the preservation of sovereignty and control of immigration. Furthermore, unlike solutions involving the Single Market, we would not be paying into EU budgets.

With the targets of Arch-Brexiteers and Democratic-Brexiteers met, the drawback? International trade. Though we are not joining the customs union, due to the nature of a customs union, signing independent trade deals would become more difficult. Though it is worth noting Turkey, who are in a customs union with the EU, do negotiate international  trade deals.

Not being able to can be seen as a negative, but not entirely. The deals that we would have been able to make with the US and emerging markets – that Brexiteers often champion and the EU is unwilling to do – would only be achieved by the UK lowering standards in certain areas. Such an act could well be detrimental to the environment and worker’s protections.

Ultimately, the EU is good at making deals as it’s agreements with Canada and Japan demonstrate. With the US wanting ‘zero tariffs’ with the EU, would being outside these deals be good for the UK? Do we really believe we have more bargaining power on the world stage than the largest tariff-free economic area in the world? Current negotiations will soon provide us with the answer.

Government Survives Customs Union Amendment Thanks to Labour Rebels

The Government has survived a motion by six votes that was tabled by Tory Remainers which would have forced the Government to break a deal to stay in the Customs Union should no free trade deal be reached by January 2019.

The Government were helped by Labour Brexiteers (John Mann, Frank Field, Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer) which clearly points to a failing from the Labour Whips, something Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, called only call a “near miss” and is adamant that the “Margin is closing on these votes & we will keep at it”.

This is a victory, and massive sigh of relief, for the government, who were earlier defeated on a motion regarding the Medicines Regulation Amendment. However, this should not be belittled, as this as only the second time the government has been defeated on key Brexit legislation.

It has been strongly rumoured around Westminster that the Tory Whips and Number 10 threatened Tory rebels with a vote of no confidence in the government, and thus a potential general election, if they did not support the government in the matter.

Liam Fox has called on Tory Remainers to work with the government during this period of Brexit negotiations. This comes a day after Justine Greening called for another referendum on the terms of leaving the EU.