POLITICS

Brexit Briefing: What Price Freedom? About €73billion

All you need to know about the week's Brexit news

09/02/2017 17:47
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All you need to know from the world of Brexit this week.

1) Parliament got its chance to change Brexit, and didn’t take it. 

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It really is a case of “Now, where was I?” for Theresa May.

After being forced by the courts to get the permission of Parliament before she can trigger Article 50, the Bill sailed through the Commons without any changes at all.

Amendments on guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK, holding a second referendum and giving Parliament a meaningful vote on any deal were all defeated.

The Bill will now go to the Lords – where the Government does not have a majority. However, the Tories are confident peers won’t try to block the legislation – what with a 52/48 vote in the referendum and 372 majority in the Lords.

The one area where the Lords could decide to play around is the various amendments, and there were murmurings in the Commons bars last night that Labour could try push through the EU migrant rights amendment.

The Bill might not have changed, but Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet certainly has. Shadow Business Secretary Clive Lewis quit in order to vote against Brexit, but Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott towed the line and backed her leader’s stance.

There were plenty of passionate contributions from MPs during the two days of debates this week, but the most bizarre was from Tory MP Claire Perry. After warning the tone of the debate had been “hysterical” at times, the Remain backing MP said:

“I feel sometimes I am sitting alongside colleagues who are like Jihadis in their support for a Hard Brexit. ‘No Brexit is hard enough. Be gone you evil Europeans. We never want you to darken our doors again’.”

Comparing people to religious fundamentalists is a sure way of calming things down.

2) Everything you thought about people who voted differently to you is true

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The BBC published an analysis of who voted for Leave and who backed Remain this week, and it pretty much confirmed everyone’s preconceptions.

The main indicator of whether you backed leave or remain was your education level. Graduates tended to want to stay in the EU, those with fewer qualifications were more likely to back Brexit. Another key indicator was age – with older voters more likely to be Brexiteers, compared to younger Brussels-loving millennials.

According to the analysis, the area of the country which represents the EU referendum result the best (51.9% leave, 48.1% remain) is in Derbyshire.

“The 527 voters in the neighbouring districts of Kirk Langley and Mackworth in Amber Valley in Derbyshire, whose two ballot boxes were counted together, produced a leave proportion of 51.99%. And this figure is not contaminated by any postal votes.

So journalists (or anyone else for that matter) who seek a microcosm of the UK should perhaps visit the Mundy Arms pub in Mackworth, the location for that district’s polling station.”

3) What price freedom? About €73billion.

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There are of course going to be two negotiations going on between the UK and EU. The first will focus on the terms of the divorce – in other words, how much will the UK have to pay to get out of this marriage. The second is the terms of the future trading relationship – i.e. how often do we get to see the children.

The first issue is likely to be the easiest to sort – although it will still no doubt be very tricky - and will have an impact on the second negotiation.

The European Commissioner believes the UK needs to stump up €60billion before it leaves as part of its commitment to range of initiatives such as pensions, infrastructure projects and even decommissioning of nuclear sites.

A report by the Centre of European Reform tried to crunch the numbers this week, and came to the conclusion that the UK could actually only be asked to fork out €24.5billion.

Or, if negotiations don’t go as well, Brussels could demand €72.8billion.

That’s quite a wide margin of error but does at least show some room for maneuver. 

Given one of the main campaign points from Vote Leave was that Brexit would save the UK serious wonga in payments to the EU, even the lower figure is a pretty big pill to swallow.

Whatever the final bill is, the UK best get on and pay as if the pound keeps dropping it could wind up even more expensive for us.

4) Old people who voted to lower migration are really just hurting themselves

shironosov via Getty Images

While MPs were reaching the end of the Brexit Bill debate in the Commons on Wednesday, Business Secretary Greg Clark was giving a presentation to Tory backbenchers about his industrial strategy.

Clark is set for a roadshow around the country in the next few weeks, where he will be discussing the plan for Britain’s business future.

One of the problems facing businesses was laid bare this week in a report by human resources consultancy firm Mercers – a lack of staff. The report says the UK faces an unprecedented labour shortage thanks to an aging population. The kicker is that the high levels of migration to the UK have helped to mask this problem, but if tighter immigration controls are introduced after Brexit, there could be real problems.

“With immigration likely to fall in coming years, particularly from the EU, the veil is lifted as we face a shrinking U.K. workforce,” says the report.

It put together 4 scenarios based on different levels of migration in the UK.

The second analysis adopted the government’s aim of getting net migration to just below 100,000, and even in this situation the UK workforce of 34.4million would not be able to support a population of 70.2million when it came to pensions and health spending.

It’s not just fewer people coming into the UK which could harm the economy. Some of those here already could leave – such as 30,000 workers in the City of London, according to one think tank this week.

5) We really should have listened when Remain warned about phone charges abroad going up

praetorianphoto via Getty Images

Do you remember during the EU referendum campaign when Remainers were going on about an end to roaming charges being an example of why we should stay in the EU? And people thought: “As if the EU will cut us out of that deal just because we leave!”

Well, I’ve got some bad news – they are.

According to a report leaked to The Guardian (I told you last week the paper’s Daniel Boffey would dig out some excellent Brussels’s gossip), the EU is planning to chuck the UK out of the agreement it reached with phone companies to reduce costs.

From June this year, calls, texts and browsing charges within the EU will cost the same as they do at home. But that deal would not be on offer to Brits abroad unless the EU agrees it as part of the Brexit negotiation.

So that’s beer, clubbing and using phones on holiday which are now more expensive.

But at least we’ve taken back control. Lovely, more expensive, control.

 

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