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”.

Fire Causes Significant Disruption at Nottingham Station

A large fire has caused what is thought to be considerable damage to Nottingham Railway station, although there are no injuries reported. The fire was reported earlier this morning and the station is closed with all train services cancelled.

Jo Johnson, the new Minister of State for Transport, is to visit the station today and he said in a statement:

“This has clearly been a devastating incident and my thoughts are with all those affected. I am grateful for the courage of both the emergency services who tackled this fire and those staff who evacuated the station and kept the public safe. Thankfully it appears that nobody was injured but it is clear that this will have a disruptive effect on passengers who use Nottingham station”.

A spokesperson for the British Transport Police said:

“Our officers have been on the scene at Nottingham railway station all morning supporting Nottinghamshire fire and rescue firefighters as they deal with the large fire. Cordons remain in place around the area with nearby roads closed, and trains are not running. It is likely the station will remain closed all day. Fortunately, we have not had any reports of any injuries as a result of the fire”.

Jo Johnson Opposes his Brother Boris’s Vote Leave Stance

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Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Universities and Science, has come out against his brother’s stance to support a British exit for the European Union.

Writing for the Financial Times the Science Minister said:

“Anyone who wants to know whether we should leave the EU should speak to Boris. I mean, of course, the vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz.

This city by the Fens has been a centre of scholarship for more than 8 centuries, long before the EU and many of its member states even existed. Monks and scholars flocked here from Paris, Bologna and Salamanca in the Middle Ages and, over the years, our own benefited from reciprocal hospitality across Europe.

Today, these continental networks are deeper than ever and help explain why this university has more Nobel Prizes to its name – 92 – than any other institution. They also play a part in its success in turning research into good business. With more than 1,500 technology companies, employing nearly 60,000 people, it is the most successful innovation cluster in Europe.

The big question, then, for Boris is how much of this success is due to our membership of the EU? Let us be clear: Britain has been a science superpower since the dawn of the Enlightenment and our scientific temper will help us thrive either way. The issue, though, is whether we would be as strong as we could be, without the funding and the partnerships that we gain through the EU.

European research funding offers a good example of how the EU can get things right – and of how the UK benefits from a seat at the table when the rules are framed in Brussels. We have successfully argued for EU research money only to flow to where the best science is done, regardless of geography or pork barrel pressures. And because of the excellence of our research base, we end up winning an outsized slice of EU research programmes.

The UK puts in about 12% of all EU funding yet wins about 15% of research funding, making us one of the largest beneficiaries of EU science programmes. In the latest funding round, we have to date secured 15.4%, second only behind Germany.

Britain’s universities flourish under this system. Cambridge topped the list of EU universities for participations in the most recent funding programme. And Oxford, Imperial College London and University College London occupied the next three positions.

Some argue that non-EU countries also benefit from EU science. But there is a big difference. They may be part of the European Research Area but they do not sit at the table when the European Council or Parliament set rules or decide budgets.

Of course, British scientists will be able to call for support from the UK government. Indeed, since 2010 we have protected the science budget at a time of significant savings elsewhere. But we should not pretend that replacing these rich additional European funding streams would be easy.

To keep our knowledge factories winning Nobel Prizes, we must in addition recognise that research is rarely a solitary undertaking or even a narrowly national one. Around half of UK research publications now involve cross-border collaborations. And EU countries are among our most crucial partners, representing nearly half of our overseas collaborations. Free movement of people makes it easier for our universities to attract the best talent.

I am not suggesting that Brexit would reverse 8 centuries of progress, returning ‘Silicon Fen’ to marshland. But those who want Britain to leave the EU must explain how they will sustain the same levels of investment and the same depth of partnership under different circumstances.

A vote to leave would be a leap into the dark that would put our status as a science superpower at risk. That is why I will be joining Boris in making a positive case for Britain’s future in a reformed EU”.