Boris Johnson’s Pledge to Leave EU on 31 October is Scrapped

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has confirmed that his pledge to leave the European Union won’t be met on 31 October 2019 and the country will remain for a longer period. A spokesperson for the European Union has granted a three-month extension period, which Donald Tusk, the EU Council President, has called a “Flextension”.

Johnson had said during the Conservative Party leadership hustings that he would ensure that the country would leave the EU on 31 October 2019. In early September 2019, Johnson added that “I’d rather be dead in a ditch than agree a Brexit extension”. Downing Street confirmed today that there would now be a Brexit extension, but blamed Parliament for not helping the Prime Minister to deliver it.

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn Fail to Agree on Brexit Strategy

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, met with Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, today in a bid to resolve a future timetabling strategy for Brexit. Johnson, who had pledged that the UK would leave the European Union on 31 October 2019, however failed to reach an agreement on how to progress the current political deadlock.

British Government and European Union Reach a Deal

The British Government and the European Union have reached a deal which will now be put in front of Parliament on Saturday. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, and Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, both issued updates on Twitter saying that agreement has been secured.

Boris Johnson posted:

“We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control — now Parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday so we can move on to other priorities like the cost of living, the NHS, violent crime and our environment #GetBrexitDone #TakeBackControl”

Jean-Claude Juncker posted:

“Where there is a will, there is a #deal – we have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions. I recommend that #EUCO endorses this deal.”

Boris Johnson Meets with Jean-Claude Juncker

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has today met with Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, in Luxembourg to discuss matters relating to the Brexit agreement.

A statement issued by the European Commission said:

“President Jean-Claude Juncker and Prime Minister Johnson had a working lunch today in Luxembourg. The aim of the meeting was to take stock of the ongoing technical talks between the EU and the UK and to discuss the next steps.

President Juncker recalled that it is the UK’s responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the withdrawal agreement. President Juncker underlined the commission’s continued willingness and openness to examine whether such proposals meet the objectives of the backstop. Such proposals have not yet been made.

The commission will remain available to work 24/7. The October European council will be an important milestone in the process. The EU27 remain united.”

A spokesperson for Johnson said:

“The Prime Minister and President Juncker had a constructive meeting this lunchtime. The Brexit Secretary and Michel Barnier were also in attendance.

The leaders agreed that the discussions needed to intensify and that meetings would soon take place on a daily basis. It was agreed that talks should also take place at a political level between Michel Barnier and the Brexit Secretary, and conversations would also continue between President Juncker and the Prime Minister.”

Government Confirms Ministers and Officials Will No Longer Attend EU Meetings

The Government has confirmed today that Ministers and official will no longer attend European Union meetings, unless there is a matter of international security or significant issue to the UK.

A spokesperson for the Government said:

“UK officials will stop attending most EU meetings from 1 September so that they can focus on our future relationship with the EU and other partners around the world.

The Government has decided this week that from 1 September, UK officials and Ministers will now only attend EU meetings where the UK has a significant national interest in the outcome of discussions, such as on security. This decision reflects the fact that the UK’s exit from the EU on 31 October is now very close and many of the discussions in EU meetings will be about the future of the Union after the UK has left.

As the PM has promised in the House of Commons in July, as a departing Member State it makes sense to ‘unshackle’ officials from these EU meetings to enable them to better focus their talents on our immediate national priorities. This includes, as the top priority, work on preparations for Brexit on 31 October and on our future relationship with the EU, but also on pioneering new trade deals and promoting a truly Global Britain.

This decision is not intended in any way to frustrate the functioning of the EU. The UK’s vote will be delegated in a way that does not obstruct the ongoing business of the remaining 27 EU members. Where matters of ongoing national interest are being discussed, the UK will continue to be present until 31 October.”

Boris Johnson Accused of Misleading Public in Kipper Speech

Boris Johnson, one of the two remaining candidates to become the leader of the Conservative Party, has been accused of misleading the public following his claim in party hustings that the European Union forced kipper suppliers in the Isle of Man to keep their dried fish cool with ice pillows.

Johnson said in his speech:

“After decades of sending kippers like this through the post he has had his costs massively increased by Brussels bureaucrats who have insisted that each kipper must be accompanied by this: a plastic ice pillow.”

Johnson’s claims were rejected by the European Union who said that the Food Standards Agency in the UK were responsible for the decision as the bloc did not have legal competence in this area. A spokesperson for the EU said:

“The case described by Mr Johnson falls outside the scope of the EU legislation and it’s purely a UK national competence, so I hope this is clear and the rules must be checked with the national authorities.”

Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit co-ordinator for the European Parliament, said of Johnson’s speech that:

“National politicians who promote misinformation about “Brussels” for their own interests deserve to be caught out.”

Fullfact, the charity which fact-checks claims, said:

“The EU does not set any requirements on the temperature at which smoked fish must be transported. The temperature requirement is a UK regulation.”

Jo Johnson Resigns From Government Over Brexit

Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Transport, has resigned from the Government over Brexit, calling for a second referendum. He said that it wouldn’t be a second vote, but a vote on whether to accept whatever deal is achieved.

Johnson said in a statement:

“Brexit has divided the country. It has divided political parties. And it has divided families too. Although I voted Remain, I have desperately wanted the Government, in which I have been proud to serve, to make a success of Brexit: to reunite our country, our party and, yes, my family too. At times, I believed this was possible. That’s why I voted to start the Article 50 process and for two years have backed the Prime Minister in her efforts to secure the best deal for the country. But it has become increasingly clear to me that the Withdrawal Agreement, which is being finalised in Brussels and Whitehall even as I write, will be a terrible mistake.

Indeed, the choice being presented to the British people is no choice at all. The first option is the one the Government is proposing: an agreement that will leave our country economically weakened, with no say in the EU rules it must follow and years of uncertainty for business. The second option is a “no deal” Brexit that I know as a Transport Minister will inflict untold damage on our nation. To present the nation with a choice between two deeply unattractive outcomes, vassalage and chaos, is a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis. My constituents in Orpington deserve better than this from their Government.

What is now being proposed won’t be anything like what was promised two years ago.

Hopes for “the easiest trade deal in history” have proved to be delusions. Contrary to promises, there is in fact no deal at all on our future trading relationship with the EU which the government can present to the country. Still less anything that offers the “exact same benefits” as the Single Market, as David Davis promised, or the “precise guarantees of frictionless trade” that the Prime Minister assured us would be available. All that is now being finalised is the agreement to pay the EU tens of billions of pounds. All that may be on offer on trade is the potential for an agreement to stay in a temporary customs arrangement while we discuss the possibility of an EU trade deal that all experience shows will take many years to negotiate.

Even if we eventually secure a customs arrangement for trade in goods, it will be bad news for the service sector — for firms in finance, in IT, in communications and digital technology. Maintaining access to EU markets for goods is important, but we are fundamentally a services economy. Many in Orpington, for example, are among the two million Britons employed in financial services, commuting into the centre of London to jobs of all kinds in the City. Countries across the world go to great lengths to attract financial and professional services jobs from our shores. An agreement that sharply reduces access to EU markets for financial services — or leaves us vulnerable to regulatory change over which we will have no influence — will hurt my constituents and damage one of our most successful sectors.

While we wait to negotiate trading terms, the rules of the game will be set solely by the EU. Britain will lose its seat at the table and its ability to amend or vote down rules it opposes. Instead of Britain “taking back control”, we will cede control to other European countries. This democratic deficit inherent in the Prime Minister’s proposal is a travesty of Brexit. When we were told Brexit meant taking back powers for Parliament, no one told my constituents this meant the French parliament and the German parliament, not our own. In these circumstances, we must ask what we are achieving. William Hague once described the goal of Conservative policy as being “in Europe, but not run by Europe”. The government’s proposals will see us out of Europe, yet run by Europe, bound by rules which we will have lost a hand in shaping.

Worse still, there is no real clarity about how this situation will ever end. The proposed Withdrawal Agreement parks many of the biggest issues about our future relationship with Europe into a boundless transitionary period. This is a con on the British people: there is no evidence that the kind of Brexit that we’ve failed to negotiate while we are still members can be magically agreed once the UK has lost its seat at the table. The leverage we have as a full member of the EU will have gone. We will be in a far worse negotiating position than we are today. And we will have still failed to resolve the fundamental questions that are ramping up uncertainties for businesses and stopping them investing for the future.

My brother Boris, who led the leave campaign, is as unhappy with the Government’s proposals as I am. Indeed he recently observed that the proposed arrangements were “substantially worse than staying in the EU”. On that he is unquestionably right. If these negotiations have achieved little else, they have at least united us in fraternal dismay.

The argument that the government will present for the Withdrawal Agreement ‘deal’ is not that it is better for Britain than our current membership. The Prime Minister knows that she cannot honestly make the claim that the deal is an improvement on Britain’s current arrangements with the EU and, to her credit, refuses to do so. The only case she can try to make is that it is better than the alternative of leaving the EU with no deal at all.

Certainly, I know from my own work at the Department of Transport the potential chaos that will follow a “no deal” Brexit. It will cause disruption, delay and deep damage to our economy. There are real questions about how we will be able to guarantee access to fresh food and medicine if the crucial Dover-Calais trade route is clogged up. The government may have to take control of prioritising which lorries and which goods are allowed in and out of the country, an extraordinary and surely unworkable intervention for a government in an advanced capitalist economy. The prospect of Kent becoming the Lorry Park of England is very real in a no deal scenario. Orpington residents bordering Kent face disruption from plans to use the nearby M26, connecting the M25 to the M20, as an additional queuing area for heavy goods vehicles backed up all the way from the channel ports. This prospect alone would be a resigning matter for me as a constituency MP, but it is just a facet of a far greater problem facing the nation.

Yet for all its challenges and for all the real pain it would cause us as we adapt to new barriers to trade with our biggest market, we can ultimately survive these difficulties. I believe it would be a grave mistake for the government to ram through this deal by once again unleashing Project Fear. A “no deal” outcome of this sort may well be better than the never ending purgatory the Prime Minister is offering the country. But my message to my brother and to all Leave campaigners is that inflicting such serious economic and political harm on the country will leave an indelible impression of incompetence in the minds of the public. It cannot be what you wanted nor did the 2016 referendum provide any mandate for it.

Given that the reality of Brexit has turned out to be so far from what was once promised, the democratic thing to do is to give the public the final say. This would not be about re-running the 2016 referendum, but about asking people whether they want to go ahead with Brexit now that we know the deal that is actually available to us, whether we should leave without any deal at all or whether people on balance would rather stick with the deal we already have inside the European Union.

To those who say that is an affront to democracy given the 2016 result, I ask this. Is it more democratic to rely on a three year old vote based on what an idealised Brexit might offer, or to have a vote based on what we know it does actually entail?

A majority of Orpington voters chose to leave the EU in 2016 and many of the close friends I have there, among them hard-working local Conservative Party members, are passionately pro-Brexit. I respect their position. But I know from meetings I have had with local members that many are as dismayed as me by the course of negotiations and about the actual choice now on offer. Two and a half years on, the practical Brexit options are now clear and the public should be asked to choose between the different paths facing our country: we will all have different positions on that choice, but I think many in my local party, in the Orpington constituency and around the country would welcome having the last word on the Government’s Brexit proposals.

Britain stands on the brink of the greatest crisis since the Second World War. My loyalty to my party is undimmed. I have never rebelled on any issue before now. But my duty to my constituents and our great nation has forced me to act. I have today written to the Prime Minister asking her to accept my resignation from the Government. It is now my intention to vote against this Withdrawal Agreement. I reject this false choice between the PM’s deal and “no deal” chaos. On this most crucial of questions, I believe it is entirely right to go back to the people and ask them to confirm their decision to leave the EU and, if they choose to do that, to give them the final say on whether we leave with the Prime Minister’s deal or without it.

To do anything less will do grave damage to our democracy”.

Sir John Major Calls for Parliament to have Free Vote on the Brexit Deal

Sir John Major, the Prime Minister from 1990 until 1997, has called for MPs to be offered a free vote on the final Brexit deal. The former Conservative leader said that he feared that the country would be economically worse off and that the poorest regions may be hit the worst.

Major said:

“Our own Government has assessed our post-Brexit position upon three separate criteria: that we stay in the Single Market; or reach a trade deal with Europe; or fail to do so. Each option shows us to be worse off: and disastrously so with no trade deal at all. And the poorest regions will be hurt the most.

If, as negotiations proceed, this analysis appears to be correct, that cannot be brushed aside. I know of no precedent for any Government enacting a policy that will make both our country and our people poorer. Once that is apparent, the Government must change course”.

Referring to the current economic situation he added:

“The UK has been at the very top of European growth. We are now the laggard at the bottom. We have become the slowest of the world’s big economies, even before we surrender the familiar advantages of the Single Market”.

Talking about a solution to the division, Major added:

“It is already agreed that Parliament must pass legislation giving effect to the deal. A “meaningful vote” has been promised. This must be a decisive vote, in which Parliament can accept or reject the final outcome; or send the negotiators back to seek improvements; or order a referendum. That is what Parliamentary sovereignty means.

But, to minimise divisions in our country – and between and within the political parties – I believe the Government should take a brave and bold decision. They should invite Parliament to accept or reject the final outcome on a free vote”.

Labour Leader Confirms the Party Now Back Membership of Customs Union

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has confirmed in a speech made today at Coventry University that the Labour Party will back the UK’s membership of a customs union. The decision means that the Conservative Party may now struggle to get their legislation through the House of Commons due to a number of MPs who support remaining in the union.

Corbyn said:

“During the transition period, Labour would seek to remain in a customs union with the EU and within the single market. That means we would abide by the existing rules of both. That is so the government, businesses and workers only have to make one adjustment, from the current situation to the final terms”.

He added:

“Labour would seek a final deal that gives full access to European markets and maintains the benefits of the single market and the customs union as the Brexit Secretary, David Davis promised in the House of Commons, with no new impediments to trade and no reduction in rights, standards and protections.

We have long argued that a customs union is a viable option for the final deal. So Labour would seek to negotiate a new comprehensive UK-EU customs union to ensure that there are no tariffs with Europe and to help avoid any need for a hard border in Northern Ireland”.

Carolyn Fairbairn, the Director General of the CBI, welcomed the decision and said that it “put jobs and living standards first by remaining in a close economic relationship with the EU”. Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, criticised the Labour leader and said “Labour’s confused policy would be bad for jobs and wages, it would leave us unable to sign up to comprehensive free trade deals, and it doesn’t respect the result of the referendum”.

Donald Tusk Calls UK’s Vision of Brexit as “Pure Illusion”

Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, has reacted to news that the Cabinet has reached agreement on Brexit by suggesting that the plans are “pure illusion”. Replying to a journalist’s question Tusk said that based on the reports of the Cabinet’s meeting he added that there was no chance of “cherry picking” its future relationship with the EU.

Tusk said:

“I am glad the UK government seems to be moving towards a more detailed position. However if the media reports are correct I am afraid the UK position today is based on pure illusion”.

He added:

“From the very start it has been a set principle of the EU27 that there cannot be any cherrypicking of single market à la carte. This will continue to be a key principle, I have no doubt”.

A meeting of the British inner Cabinet to discuss the Brexit situation has been reported in the media by attendees to have reached a decision on “managed divergence”.