The five things you need to know on Monday, November 7…
1) JUDGE MEANT DAY
For many, judgement day comes tomorrow in the US elections. But the real judgement day for Brexit is next month, when the Supreme Court meets. And what's focusing minds in the British government is the High Court's ruling that Parliament should have a role in triggering Article 50. Just what the judges meant is preoccupying ministers, Treasury solicitors and officials alike.
Many had agreed with David Davis that the ruling would require legislation to give effect to Article 50. But the Times has a fine splash that an alternative plan is circulating: to merely table a ‘resolution’, or motion, that could be fast-tracked through both Houses of Parliament in just one day. A motion can be amended of course, but not in the same time-consuming way that a bill can. Dominc Grieve is sceptical the plan would work, yet the High Court was unclear on remedies.
As for those pesky judges, Theresa May has given hacks on the plane to India alternative headlines. "I believe in and value the independence of our judiciary. I also value the freedom of our press. I think these both underpin our democracy.” Some chose to focus on the first point, some the second. As for Sajid Javid, Lord Patten suggested he should have been sacked for his Question Time remarks. But Patten showed a Ken Clarke-style lack of attention to detail - Javid had specifically said his criticism was of those who brought the case, not the judges. Such qualms don't affect everyone. Ex-minister Andrew Murrison, normally a reasonable cove, has gone full Trump and inflamed Twitter by suggesting the judges could even overturn a general election victory.
UKIP’s Suzanne Evans talked on Today about wanting ‘some kind of democratic control’ over judges. Nigel Farage has told the Telegraph he's planning a 100,000-people march on the Supreme Court on December 5, ahead of its own Judgement Day. Farage did however appear to concede on Marr yesterday that the EU referendum was ‘advisory’ (so did Commons leader David Lidington on Peston) and fresh legislation would be needed to make them ‘binding' in future.
On Today, Keir Starmer said that the Goverment had a “mandate” for Brexit, but “there is no mandate” for the terms of Brexit. Labour's confusion on all this was laid bare yesterday (see below). But the Shadow Brexit Secretary arrived at the BBC with two lines-to-take: “We will not frustrate the process” and “We will not simply vote down Article 50”. Note that caveat, ‘simply’. I think it means flexibility to amend the bill/motion, but it’s not totally clear. Hints, ultimately, aren't a good tactic for either Government or Opposition.
Farage, Emily Thornberry and Jacob-Rees Mogg are all on ITV’s The Agenda tonight.
2) PASSAGE FROM INDIA
David Davis today makes a Commons statement on the Brexit ruling. Normally this would be one for the PM but she's in India and another Brexiteer Liam Fox battling for new trade links. DD’s team say this morning that he will make clear there’s ‘no ifs, no buts’ on the Government's timetable to trigger Article 50 by the end of March. Let's see if he backs off 'legislation' in favour of a 'resolution', however.
But May’s own trip has become a microcosm of the problems of balancing trade and migration in a post-Brexit Britain. May has agreed to relax visa rules on wealthier Indians, but is tightening them on middle-ranking professionals and students. The Indian PM’s spokesman has suggested that he is unhappy. And the Indian ambassador to the UK told the Mail on Sunday: “Students, tourists and short-term visitors are not migrants under any definition.” David Cameron staged several trips to India and some felt he got little to show for it, partly because of a Home Secretary irritating them on visas. Will our non-EU status give us the chance to offer them new trade incentives?
Sir Christopher Meyer told Westminster Hour he once worked as a trade negotiator and travelled to India on many occasions with the then Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe. "When I was in Brussels as part of the UK delegation in the then European Community we had an EC-India co-operation agreement and we used to meet with the Indians once a year and it was really hard pounding. They were very, very tough negotiators indeed and they wouldn't give you anything unless they got something back in return."
As for May, everyone knows that the UK’s trade deal with the EU is what may really determine the shape of all out other non-EU deals. Jeremy Hunt yesterday claimed that if May revealed her negotiating strategy in detail, it would cause real economic damage. Labour thinks she's not revealing it because she simply doesn't have one yet.
Note May’s line before getting on the plane, that she was “getting on with the work of developing our negotiating strategy and not putting all our cards on the table”. Many suspect that ‘strategy’ is not ready because the big migration/trade calls have not been made. And the French-owned Renault’s partnership with Nissan makes it unlikely that Paris won't know some of the detail of reassurances they've been given recently. No10 has been hinting at broad statement of principles will be published before Christmas. That will be after the Supreme Court verdict, but will it square the trade-migration circle?
3) JEREMY HINT
Some papers have picked up a snap election hint in Jeremy Hunt's words on Marr. He told the prog “A general election is frankly the last thing that the Government wants..frankly it’s the last thing that the British people want…And I think, because of that, it is highly unlikely that Parliament would not in the end back a decision to trigger Article 50.”
That last line was seen as a warning to MPs to get into line or face the music of their electorates in May. Now, several Goverment sources have emphasised that the PM doesn’t “want” a snap election, with a heavy stress on that word that implies she may “have to” if circumstances force it.
As for the other Jeremy, Corbyn’s Sunday Mirror words on Article 50 - it had thrown ‘a spanner in the works’ - sounded to some like a hint that he block it. But those remarks had to be swiftly clarified by both his own office and Tom Watson. “We're not going to hold this up. The British people have spoken and Article 50 will be triggered when it comes to Westminste,” Labour’s deputy leader said.
The irony was that Watson told BBC Five Live “for first time in months” there was “clarity in where Labour stands” on Brexit. I note he added Labour had not ruled in or out a second referendum but it was ‘highly unlikely’: “I think it is more likely that the position the parties take in a general election [in a manifesto] will form the sort of back drop rather than a second referendum.” That suggests he really does think a snap election is coming, and that the voters can opt for a ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit by choosing between manifestos. As for whether Corbyn would welcome a general election, he may regret suggesting the very question is a form of journalistic ‘harassment’.
There was a further hint from Hunt on NHS spending on Marr. He admitted the health service “needs more resources”, and refused to ‘divulge’ his conversations with the Treasury in the run-up to the Autumn Statement. Hunt also used the £4bn figure cited by think tanks not the £10bn figure he and May have used of late, all of which was seized on by Shadow Health Sec Jon Ashworth.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch this lovely GIF of last night’s Planet Earth II racer snakes v iguanas drama (via the savvy @BBCOne Twitter account)
4) LETTER TO AMERICA
Lots of attention on the FBI announcement last night that Hillary Clinton would not face any charges over her emails. Our former man in Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer told Radio 4 last night there was “a horribly fishy smell” to the FBI’s conduct.
But with the race entering its last day of campaigning, I’ve talked to the man behind the viral ‘Dear America’ letter that warned the country not to vote for “the guy with the loud voice who hates minorities, threatens to imprison his opponents…” It was signed ‘The People of Germany’. His follow-up ‘Dear Internet’, was just as huge online.
I tracked down ‘Johan Franklin’ (his Founding Fathers pseudonym), a 44-year-old IT consultant from Hamburg living in San Diego. Our interview is HERE. ‘Johan’ reveals how he was prompted to make his own small contribution after feeling ‘physically sick’ at the growing danger of a Trump presidency. He talks of his reaction to JK Rowling re-tweeting his graphic (my timeline is still melting), and says that ‘German collective guilt’ is ‘really a thing’. And he reveals that somehow some Trump supporters managed to find his real email address. “Scary”.
5) DOES THE CAP FIT?
Some legacies of the Cameron era continue. Today George Osborne’s lower benefit cap kicks in, and the annual limit on welfare payments to unemployed households will drop from £26,000 to £23,000 in London and £20,000 outside the capital.
It is claimed that some families will lose more than £100 a week and the GMB says that nearly two-thirds of those affected are single mothers. The IFS says "the majority of those affected will not respond" to the tougher cap by moving into work or moving house. Damian Green says the cap is ‘a real success’.
Meanwhile there’s more pressure on the Philip Hammond to reverse the cuts in ‘work allowances’ in the Universal Credit, something backbenchers like Heidi Allen have been calling for. A new Resolution Foundation has found that the poorest half of households face flat or falling incomes over the course of the Parliament because lower wage growth and higher inflation could reduce typical earnings by around £1,000 a year by 2020. With a keen eye on its own readers, the Sun points out those hit by the cuts are exactly the ‘just managing Brits’ Theresa May vowed to help.
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