Maitland Political Monitor: Brexit weekly update – Friday 21 April

21st April 2017

Theresa May has called a snap General Election to give herself a fresh mandate and a stronger domestic hand to deliver Brexit. If her party is successful, a full five year term would allow her to work toward a more orderly withdrawal from the EU. The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, commented to the BBC that May could use an increased majority as an opportunity ‘to arrive at potential compromises within the EU’. It has been reported that May will seek to ‘lock in’ certain manifesto pledges for her vision of Brexit such as ending free movement, leaving the Single Market and withdrawing from the European Court of Justice. Whilst May has been explicit that she was calling the election to crush those in Parliament who sought to frustrate Britain’s departure from the EU, many Tory MPs have privately voiced fears that they could be exposed to a strong challenge from the Liberal Democrats who are fast occupying the space as the party for those who voted Remain.

The Civil Service enters Purdah on the 22 April. Parliament will be dissolved on the 3 May. With many taken off guard by the announcement, and many Labour MPs choosing to stand down, the parties are scrambling to position their candidates. Local elections are also taking place on 4 May. The last local elections took place during UKIP’s 2013 surge but many believe they will not hold the seats they gained. Whereas the Liberal Democrats, who were, many argued, punished in 2013 for being coalition partners, are hoping to make significant gains. These elections will also decide on newly-created ‘combined local authority mayors’.

Also in the news, a leaked draft of the EU’s negotiation guidelines has revealed that that the EU is demanding the UK submit to ECJ rulings on pensions, employment and welfare rights of EU citizens living in the UK. This is a provocative move that challenges May’s main Brexit promises.

Theresa May seeks Mandate to deliver Brexit on her own terms – Financial Times

Theresa May explained her decision to hold a snap election by talking tough on Brexit, saying she would use a fresh mandate to rout those in opposition parties who hoped to frustrate Britain’s departure from the EU. Some have argued Teresa May’s motive was a pitch for a full five-year term that would allow her to work towards a smoother, more orderly Brexit, as well as help her to manage a politically awkward transitional deal. Her decision is intended to allow her to deliver Brexit on her own terms and in her own time. One diplomat from a leading EU government said: “It makes sense, if she wants a strong hand domestically.” Andrew Duff, a former Lib Dem MEP now at the European Policy Centre think-tank, said the snap election was a calculated risk on the part of the prime minister to win independence from the “far right” of the Conservative party as Brexit talks proceed. “What she wants to do is to screw the extremists, the militants who she is aware are lining up to try to block her from an association agreement with the EU,” he said.

Britain told to keep EU laws or jeopardise deal – The Times

Leaked European Commission negotiating guidelines reveal that the EU is demanding that Mrs May indefinitely submit to rulings by the ECJ on the pensions, employment and welfare rights of the three million EU citizens living in the UK. The move would overturn Theresa May’s pledge to end the power of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Britain. A separate European Council document also calls for future security co-operation between Britain and the EU to form part of any withdrawal agreement, suggesting that it, too, would be overseen by the ECJ. Sir William Cash, a leading Conservative Eurosceptic and chairman of the Commons European scrutiny committee, said that it would be “completely impossible” for Mrs May to agree to the demand. “The manner and depth of this authority would suggest that we are not leaving the EU at all,” he said. “From the day we leave we cannot and will not be subject to the ECJ.”

EU agencies to leave London after Brexit, says Commission – BBC News

 Officials have said two EU agencies, employing more than 1,000 in London, will definitely move to the continent. “The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union and it will have no say in the location of EU agencies,” said Margaritis Schinas. The European Medicines Agency has 897 staff while the European Banking Authority employs 159 people, and the UK’s decision to leave the EU has prompted interest from several EU countries in hosting the two highly specialised organisations. The UK department run by Brexit Secretary David Davis appeared to hold out hope on Monday that the two agencies might remain in London. In a statement it said no decisions had yet been taken and that the two sides would discuss how best to continue co-operating on bank and medicine regulation.

Europe will pay if it punishes Britain in Brexit talks, warns Iceland Foreign Minister – The Telegraph

The Icelandic foreign minister has argued that Europe should give Britain a trade deal that closely replicates current EU-UK trading relations and not seek to punish the UK after Brexit by erecting trade barriers. Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson said it was in the interests of both sides to have unfettered trade in Europe “as it was before” Brexit, and that European attempts to punish Britain would rebound badly on the 27 remaining member states. “What does erecting trade barriers mean?” he added, “It simply means that the politicians in the remaining 27 EU countries will have to explain to the people who could lose their jobs, that they are doing it because they are so ‘tough’ on the Brits…I would think that at the end of the day it will be obvious that is it is in everyone’s interests to have free trade in Europe, as it was before”.  However Mr Thordarson added that it would also be necessary for Mrs May to show sensitivity to Europea’s concerns, particularly on the question of money.

EU leader: UK would be welcomed back if voters overturn Brexit – The Guardian

The president of the European parliament has said Britain would be welcomed back with open arms if voters changed their minds about Brexit on 8 June, challenging Theresa May’s claim that “there is no turning back” after Article 50. Speaking after a meeting with the prime minister in Downing Street, Antonio Tajani insisted that her triggering of the departure process last month could be reversed easily by the remaining EU members if there was a change of UK government after the general election, and that it would not even require a court case.

On Manoeuvres

  • Greg Clark, the business secretary, announces the outstanding achievement winner of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.
  • Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, visits Cardiff to campaign in the general election.
  • Applications open for candidates seeking to represent the Labour Party in the general election, including in seats where the sitting MP is standing down. Deadline is April 23.
  • The Liberal Democrats launch a ‘litmus test’ for Conservative MPs who backed Remain, asking them to refuse to support a “hard Brexit”‘.
  • The defence select committee publishes the government’s response to their report on MoD support for former and serving personnel.
  • 10:30am: Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish first minister, launches the SNP’s manifesto for the upcoming local elections in Scotland.
  • 1:00pm: Sarah MacIntosh, the UK’s permanent representative to NATO, speaks the the Royal Services Institute.
  • 8:00pm: Lord Ashdown, former Liberal Democrat leader, George Eustice, fisheries minister, are guests on Radio 4’s Any Questions. Thangam Debbonaire, Labour MP and Ann Widdecombe, former Conservative minister, also feature.

Westminster Bubble

House of Commons 

No business scheduled

House of Lords

The Lords are in recess and will return on Monday April 24