BUSINESS PRESSURE ON MPs TO DO DEAL

 

MAY GAINS GROUND

The pressure on MPs to stop the Westminster pantomime and act responsibly will grow and grow as the vote on the Brexit deal comes closer. It will come from business which is fed up with the uncertainty. It will also come from large sections of the public who just want to get on with it now that we have more detail on the future relationship framework after Brexit Day.

The Prime Minister has seen off the empty threats of the European Reform Group of MPs. She is also gaining admiration for her resilience while surrounded by squabbling men.

I haven’t resiled from my firm belief that the whole thing is madness and we should stay in the EU. The problem for us Remainers is that we need a Commons majority to change the law on exiting on March 29th and I can’t see how that can be done.

The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, is calling for Mrs May to step aside and allow Labour to form a minority government. But they have no appetite to stop Brexit.

A General Election is almost impossible to achieve under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, (although I discuss one possibility below) Anyway it is very unlikely Labour would campaign on staying in the EU. As last year, the two main parties would likely be in lockstep on respecting the Referendum result. There is a vanishingly small chance of the Lib Dems, who would stop Brexit, coming from single digit opinion poll obscurity, to form a majority government.

I have already given way to the threat of civil unrest if there was a second referendum which I think would be close again and settle nothing.

So, we come to the intense pressure that is going to be applied to MPs to accept Mrs May’s deal. The government may come back again and again to parliament. One defeat will not mean it can’t be put to the vote again. Meanwhile the pound will collapse in value and Mrs May could seek a General Election herself, hoping to rally a nation facing the cliff edge.

Doing the parliamentary maths, I can just see the tiniest majority for the deal. It rests on two groups of MPs. Wavering Brexiteer Tories who number around 65 and a similar number of Labour MPs who currently favour a People’s Vote. People like Stephen Kinnock and Chuka Umunna.

The process of getting the deal across the line would be assisted by it being a free vote for all MPs. That’s what happened when the Commons voted on joining the Common Market in 1971.

McVEY’s FUTURE.

Esther McVey left the Cabinet in spectacular style last week. She is reported to have had a shouting match with the Prime Minister as she demanded a formal Cabinet vote on the deal.

Briefings against her soon got underway, largely centred around her row with the Chancellor over money for Universal Benefit and her misleading parliament over the National Audit Office’s view on its rollout.

McVey was a huge asset to the Tories. A scouser from a working-class background, the former TV presenter brought a bit of glamour to a party dominated by “suits”.

She lost her seat in Wirral West in 2015 after a bitter campaign and now faces the prospect of her current constituency, Tatton, being broken up. She may face a contest with for the new seat of Altrincham and Knutsford with Graham Brady.

Yes, that Graham Brady, the chair of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee who didn’t get 48 letters of no confidence from the Dad’s Army of extreme Brexiteers, but I wonder if Esther has popped one in?

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COMPLETE DEADLOCK

FAITH IN OUR INSTITUTIONS UNDER THREAT.

 

The United Kingdom used to have a reputation for being a bit dull but reliable and honourable in the way it conducted its affairs.

The Brexit process, which now sees the Cabinet falling apart, has wrecked all that. We are an international laughing stock as we caricature our closest trading partners as people who are trying to do us down, whilst seeking trade deals with the likes of Donald Trump.

We are indeed about to be vassal state of the EU. That’s because we decided to remove our representation from the Commission, Council of Ministers, European civil service and European Parliament,where we played a respected part in forming the laws by which we were governed.

The situation is now a total mess. It is the law that we leave the EU on March 29th. This is a fact that my friends calling for a People’s Vote brush over. The only way our departure can be stopped is to create a majority to overturn the Withdrawal Act in four months. It is difficult to see how this could be done.

Should it be done? Channel Four recently polled 20,000 and found 54% in favour of Remain. In other words, another close vote that would settle nothing. It would follow a highly divisive campaign where civil unrest can’t be ruled out. I feel I have been bullied out of recommending a second vote, but that is my view.

There is no majority for the deal “agreed” by the Cabinet on Wednesday night because Jeremy Corbyn seems to have hardened his opposition to any deal. A huge government offensive will now get underway to appeal to the likes of Wigan’s Lisa Nandy to support the deal in the national interest. Corbyn might call for opposition or abstention but a serial rebel himself, he cannot tell his MPs what to do.

The extreme Tory Brexiteers are frightened to death of carrying out their blood curdling threats in case it all unravels. They deserve the electorate’s punishment eventually for inflicting all this costly damage on the country and business.

Business! Who’d be a business person at the moment? Plagued by uncertainty, with the allegedly pro-business party in power. Imagine what the Tories would be saying if Labour was forcing companies to spend millions on stockpiling measures.

I recently heard the worried boss of an excellent Blackburn machine repairing business explaining that his firm depends on getting parts across Europe in a day. He is now contemplating having to set up in Europe. Is that what Lancashire Leavers really voted for?

DOWNTOWN MEANS BUSINESS IN CHESHIRE.

Finally, something positive for business. Downtown launched its latest network in Chester on Friday. The historic city, along with Warrington is part of the highly successful southern flank of the Northern Powerhouse. 25% of North West manufacturing comes from Cheshire and Warrington. The area is growing at three times the national average. The jobs are often from the hi tech and bio medicine spheres.

Warrington has capitalised on its excellent connectivity to promote a business focused local authority on the northern side, with Alderley Park in the east and Crewe’s potential links to HS2 in the south.

Downtown will look forward to bringing business together in the Cheshire and Warrington area, a true beacon of the Northern Powerhouse.

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MAY FREE TO NEGOTIATE DEAL.

DANCING QUEEN IN CHARGE.

As I forecast last week, The Prime Minister had a good conference. While the hard line Brexiteers raged at the fringe meetings, the mainstream of the party held things together in the hall. Mrs May’s speech showed less of the Maybot and more of a woman trying to do a very hard job in the face of rank treachery from Boris Johnson and his allies.

Direct reference to the Chequers Plan was cleverly avoided, but the success of the Birmingham conference will give room for Mrs May to get a deal with the EU. After that an alliance of sane MPs that may include the likes of Labour’s Lisa Nandy (Wigan) and Caroline Flint (Don Valley) will vote to avoid a No Deal exit.

It has been quite alarming to see the hatred against the EU being expressed at Tory fringe meetings. In the Birmingham bubble these extreme Brexiteers were immune to the dire warnings coming from Vauxhall and Toyota bosses at the Paris Motor Show. If Brexiteers want to dismiss them as “project fear”, try this for “project fact”. A clinical trial of a ground-breaking heart drug has been put on hold by a California company because of Brexit uncertainty.

Against my better judgement I queued for over an hour for the Boris Johnson rally. I hope I witnessed the last hurrah of this discredited man. Hopefully his constant treachery to Mrs May has weakened his support, even amongst the grassroots. The man has no political integrity denouncing the Northern Ireland backstop which he had agreed to in Cabinet last December.

Far more sense was spoken at another fringe meeting I attended where Tory MP Philip Lee, who resigned from the government to promote his call for a second referendum, warned that the Tory Party was heading for a death spiral. We had been shown polling figures which suggested many Tories regarded Brexit as more important than keeping Labour out of office. Lee forecast that Labour would present a powerful case to voters by blaming everything that goes wrong after March 29th on those who had taken us out of the EU.

END OF CONFERENCE SEASON.

As Parliament returns we find the Conservatives just ahead in the polls, a condemnation of Labour effectiveness 18 months after a General Election. Theresa May has every chance of battling on until Brexit is delivered and possibly longer. This is partly because she is seen to be doing her best in difficult circumstances and because the Tories are preparing policies to counter the potentially effective Labour message about the unfairness of Britain. Mrs May’s decision to remove the shackles from council house building shows a preparedness to be flexible on ideology.

Labour had a good conference and are in tune with voters on issues like the railways and utility companies ripping off loyal customers. However, they are handicapped by their flirtation with far left causes and people.

It has been a bad conference season for Lib Dems and moderate Labour MPs. They lack the political strategy and vision to create a new centre force just when its needed most.

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CHEATING THEIR WAY TO BREXIT.

 

LET’S CALL IT OUT.

 

What a truly dreadful week it has been. What a vindication for those who claim politicians are liars and cheats. I’ve always argued against this lazy generalisation, but some of them have shown that they are this week.

I do not believe that the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Brandon Lewis, broke his pair “by mistake”.

I do not believe that the President of the United States “misspoke” in Helsinki.

I do believe Vote Leave cheated to win the EU Referendum, and so do the Electoral Commission.

ON WE GO TO BREXIT.

There are slight indications of a move against Brexit in the polls but my summary of the events of this week is as follows. When it comes to the crunch, the hard line Brexiteers are calling the shots. It is an extraordinary considering they are a minority in the Conservative Party, a minority in Parliament and a minority in the country.

Peter Bone and his ilk report outrage at the betrayal of the Chequers Agreement. The anger is coming from grassroot members of the Conservative Party living in the suburbs and rural England, whose average age is 65. They are not representative of the moderate cosmopolitan majority.

The problem is that the majority can’t get their act together because of several reasons. The Remainers and soft Brexiteers in the Tory Party back down when the crunch comes. Labour Remainers are trapped by the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. They are actually Leavers believing in the freedom to subsidise failing industries against the EU’s State Aid rules. The Lib Dems, who should be doing far better in the polls with their Exit from Brexit campaign, are not cutting through. They were not helped by the absence from a crucial EU vote this week of both the current and former leaders.

MAY CARRIES ON.

I have always believed in the resilience of Theresa May when most commentators were predicting her demise.

The fact is as we go into the summer recess that she has got through the Commons, the major bills to implement Brexit. There is no sign of the 48 letters requesting a Tory leadership contest, still less evidence that 159 Tory MPs would vote against her in an election she would intend to fight.

The truth has always been that she is best placed to be in charge through this nightmare process and then she will disappear in a welter of criticism from Remainers and Leavers as the country descends into chaos and economic downturn when we are out of the EU.

POOR OLD BUSINESS.

Meanwhile business lives with the thing it hates most, uncertainty. But we are already paying a heavy price for this madness. Investment decisions being put on hold, talented Europeans leaving our university research teams and pharmaceutical companies spending millions setting up European plants to wastefully duplicate drug testing facilities in anticipation of a hard Brexit.

HERE COMES SUMMER.

I may have got this wrong, but I have the impression that everyone involved in the negotiations are going on holiday. They all talk about time running out and the crunch coming in October as if August didn’t exist.

Politicians and civil servants need to scrap their holidays and get on with the detailed talks over the most critical issue this country has faced since 1945.

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