Maitland Political Monitor – 7 December 2017

7th December 2017

 Good morning,The final EU Council summit of 2017 is one week away and Theresa May has been urgently brokering what she can on the Irish border. Yesterday she spoke with both Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and DUP leader, Arlene Foster. Varadkar has announced he expects a new, formal, written offer today while No.10 aides refuse to rule out May heading to Brussels today or tomorrow. Transport Secretary, and Brexit advocate, Chris Grayling was sent out to do the morning media rounds for the government, where he suggested the current standstill might be solved with regulatory equivalence rather than alignment or divergence. Yet the DUP have said they could stall any deal, with the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn quoting a ‘senior DUP figure’ declaring: “We won’t be bounced into anything…we’re going to slow it all down. This is a battle of who blinks first – and we’ve cut off our eyelids”.

Yesterday both David Davis and Philip Hammond gave evidence to Select Committees. Davis faced criticism after telling the Brexit Select Committee that, despite earlier statements suggesting otherwise, the government had carried out no impact assessments as they would have “near zero” usefulness given the chances likely to result from Britain’s departure. Hammond again found himself falling foul of the Prime Minister after he told the Treasury Committee that it was “inconceivable” the UK would not pay a financial settlement to the EU, regardless of any trade deal struck. A spokesperson for the PM swiftly clarified that any payment was “dependent on us forgoing (a) deep and special future relationship with the EU”.

Wednesday was also the fifth day of debate by MPs on the Committee Stage for the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The government won all four votes, including attempts by Labour which would have required a vote in the Commons to approve any financial settlement to the EU and one by the SNP that would have extended the powers of devolved government ministers to amend any directly applicable EU law newly incorporated into UK law.

Must reads

Put the British people back in charge of leaving the EU—The Times, Anna Soubry and Chukka Umunna
In their cross party joint op-ed, Anna Soubry and Chukka Umunna hit out against the government “power grab” taking place in the wake of the vote to leave the EU. They call for the British people to take control of the terms of the departure and the UK’s future relationship with the EU through their elected representatives. As the withdrawal bill leaves little room for debate to be had on the detail or terms of the final deal, Soubry and Umunna agree that for a proper vote by both houses to be secured on the UK’s withdrawal arrangements, three criteria must first be agreed. “First, such a vote must obviously come before the UK leaves the EU. Second, parliament should be presented with comprehensive details of the deal we are being asked to approve, not simple heads of terms…Third, the terms of our withdrawal should be approved by way of a legally binding act of parliament which should be passed before the prime minister signs any agreement.” “If the government is serious about reasserting parliamentary sovereignty,” they write, “it should have no objections to these very reasonable demands.”
Dawn Foster cracks that Brexit is the kind of story “that rolling news was invented for”, as almost every single day brings some sort of twist. However, Foster writes “with this plot and character-rich drama endlessly replenishing itself, there is little room for other developments of note; not just in the media but within government itself.” This week, Alan Milburn resigned as the chair of the social mobility commission, along with all of its other commissioners, saying that because of Brexit the government “does not seem to have the necessary bandwidth to ensure the rhetoric of healing social division is matched with the reality.” Foster agrees that this “lack of bandwidth has plagued our politics ever since the EU referendum result” and notes that recent IpsosMori polling found that while “a good quarter of the public care very deeply about Brexit”, “an awful lot of people just don’t.” In the next few years, Foster worries that the media and politics will become so dominated by Brexit that other problems will continue to fall by the wayside—leading to more people becoming even more politically disengaged.

On Manoeuvres
  • Amber Rudd, home secretary, attends EU justice and home affairs council in Brussels.
  • David Gauke, work and pensions secretary, gives a speech at the London School of Economics.
  • John Glen, culture minister, will announce the winner of the UK City of Culture competition 2021.
  • Lords EU committee publishes its report on ‘Brexit: deal or no deal’.
  • 8am: Sir Vince Cable, Lib Dem leader, attends launch of the Lib Dem business and enterprise network.
  • 8:30am: Liz Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury, leads roundtable discussion on public service efficiency through digital innovation at the Reform think tank.
  • 11am: Boris Johnson, foreign secretary, makes a speech on the fight against global terror.
  • Noon: Dominic Raab, justice minister, makes a speech on improving the UK’s competitiveness after Brexit at the Policy Exchange think tank.
  • Noon: Nicola Sturgeon takes first minister’s questions in Holyrood.
  • 2pm: Philip Hammond, chancellor, hosts the annual 11 Downing Street Christmas Party in conjunction with Starlight, the children’s charity.
  • 7pm: Brandon Lewis, the immigration minister, at the Welsh CBI in Cardiff.

Westminster Bubble
House of Commons
  • 9:30am: Environment, food and rural affairs questions
  • 10:10am: Oral questions from Church Commissioners, House of Commons Commission, Public Accounts Commission and Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission.
  • Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House, delivers a statement on forthcoming Commons business.
  • Backbench business debate on prison reform and safety (Robert Neil)
  • Backbench business debate on UK fishing industry (Sheryll Murray)
  • Adjournment debate on financial inclusion and the single financial guidance body.
Westminster Hall
  • 1:30pm: Debate on the Women and Equalities Committee report on women in the House of Commons after the 2020 election (Maria Miller)
Select Committees
  • 10:45am: Brexit: Simon York, Director of the fraud investigation service at, HM Revenue and Customs, and Stephen Martin, Head of Crime Operations, Police Service Northern Ireland on The progress of the UK’s negotiations on EU withdrawal.
House of Lords
  • 11am: Oral questions on: emergency housing to help those who have been made unintentionally homeless; supporting the care sector; youth orchestras in the UK; government red lines in Brexit negotiations.
  • Debates on: Ensuring regulation is balanced, cost-effective, easy to understand and properly enforced (Baroness Neville-Rolfe)-
  • The situation in Zimbabwe and Government plans to facilitate the recovery of that country – (Lord Luce)
  • Improving the natural environment and animal welfare (The Earl of Caithness)
  • Anti-Islamist terrorist strategy (Lord Pearson of Rannoch)

Top Twittery
Matt Chorley @MattChorley
#PoliticalAdventCalendar Day 7: The cabinet is happy with the picture in the middle of their group Christmas card but nobody can agree on the border.