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1) Once Again, Labour’s Brexit Divisions Were More Obvious Than The Tories’
For all the pre-match hype, the real story about the EU Withdrawal Bill vote on Monday evening wasn’t Tory rebels, but Labour ones.
Not a single Conservative MP defied party orders and voted against the Bill, despite the likes of Anna Soubry, Dominic Grieve and Nicky Morgan expressing grave reservations about the legislation. Indeed, Labour’s David Lammy had a set to with Soubry when he said “her bark has been loud…but her actions have been far less loud.”
With all the Tory MPs obeying orders, it was the actions of firebrand Labour MP Dennis Skinner which caught the attention of the Twittersphere. The lifelong Eurosceptic did what he does best and rebelled against the orders of leader. That involved him voting with the Tories of course, prompting a backlash from some Corbyn supporters.
With the Bill passing Second Reading, focus now turns to the raft of amendments put down by MPs to try to water down its power.
I’ve pulled out the most interesting ones here, but suffice to say those tabled by former Attonery General Dominic Grieve are the ones to keep an eye on.
His proposals would give MPs a say on the final Brexit deal – including the size of a financial settlement. There are also amendments to restrict the Henry VIII powers which would allow ministers to change laws at a stroke of a pen.
With her majority only assured through DUP votes, Theresa May may be minded to adopt as many of these amendments as possible to avoid the Bill being voted down by Tory rebels.
Alternatively, she may decide to call their bluff, and dare them to walk through the lobbies with Labour MPs and risk being seen as saboteurs of Brexit.
We will soon find out who’s bite matches their bark.
2) Juncker’s Answer To Brexit? More Europe!
“The wind is back in Europe’s sails,” an upbeat Jean Claude-Juncker declared in Brussels on Wednesday.
The European Commission President struck an upbeat tone as he delivered his State of the Union address to the European Parliament, setting out a raft of ideas for more continental integration.
Like a shark in bureaucratic waters, Juncker most constantly be on the move to stay alive. If he stops for a moment, some of the commission’s powers could be stripped away by Berlin and Paris.
His big ideas included giving technical and financial assistance to those who want to join the euro, stepping up expanding the bloc – although not to Turkey just yet – and “a fully-fledged” European Defence Union.
“We need it and NATO wants it,” Juncker said.
The former Luxembourg Prime Minister only touched on Brexit briefly, describing it as “a very sad and tragic moment. We will always regret it.”
Responding to a heckle from Nigel Farage, Juncker added: “I think you will regret this soon, I might say.”
For Brexiteers such as Farage, Juncker’s speech was an almost text-book example of why the UK is right to leave the ever-more power-grabbing institution.
The former Ukip leader took his moment in the Parliament to describe Juncker’s vision as: “More Europe in every single direction and all of it to be done without the consent of the people.”
He added: “All I can say, is thank God we are leaving. You have learned nothing from Brexit. If you had given [David] Cameron concessions, particularly on immigration, the Brexit vote, I must admit, would never, never have happened.”
Farage may have lost much of his political credibility in recent months thanks to his cosying up with Donald Trump and other less than savoury groups, but you can’t help but feel he is spot on here.
3) In Dan Brown Novel Style, Theresa May Is Going To Florence For Some Reason
The next round of Brexit negotiations have been delayed by a week. The EU and UK were due to restart their staring at each other across the table routine on Monday September 18, but the Government announced that has now been pushed back to September 25.
According to the Government: “Both sides settled on the date after discussions between senior officials in recognition that more time for consultation would give negotiators the flexibility to make progress in the September round.”
The September negotiations are the last chance for the two sides to make ‘sufficient progress’ on the financial settlement, Northern Ireland and citizens’ rights before EU leaders get together in October to decide of the trade talks can begin.
With chances of sufficient progress being made currently rated at between zero and nil, Theresa May is going to try and push matters along a little with a speech in Florence on September 22.
The Italian city was chosen because it is Europe’s “historic heart”, according to the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesperson.
It is not yet clear what May will say, but unless she really is looking for no deal, the PM is unlikely to repeat the accusations she made on the steps of Downing Street in May, where she spoke of “threats” from Brussels, a desire from the EU to see Britain fail and attempts from overseas to sabotage the election.
The speech will be delivered fewer than two weeks before the Conservative party conference, and it may be that May will use her Florence address to announce some concessions to get the talks going, and hope hardline Tory Brexiteers will get their sense of betrayal out of their systems before the party meets in Manchester.
They won’t of course, but it’s a nice idea.
We might not know what’s in the speech, but we do know it is currently 4,980 words long thanks to this snap taken as someone left Downing Street today.
4) Turns Out EU Migrants Aren’t Stopping Brits From Getting Jobs
Ending freedom of movement will stop businesses recruiting from overseas at the expense of unemployed Brits - or so goes the rhetoric of Leave campaigners.
Yet this week the British Chamber of Commerce suggested this broad brush approach to Brexit was not an accurate reflection of what is really going on.
The BCC’s annual workforce survey of over 1,400 businesses revealed that half of UK businesses have faced skills or labour shortages in the last year, but only a minority are actively looking overseas to fill vacancies.
Just 2% use recruitment agencies in the EU, and just 1% use firms outside the EU.
According to the BCC: “The results challenge the myth that UK firms are ignoring local workers in favour of overseas labour. With a softening economy and slowing immigration, the BCC is calling for action to ensure business growth isn’t hampered by labour shortages.
“Business communities need the government to provide clarity on the process for hiring EU nationals during and after the Brexit process, and to ensure the UK’s future immigration system is economically responsive, so companies have access to the skills they need.”
Yet there is one prediction made by Brexiteers which might be coming true – the claim that wages of low skilled workers will rise thanks to a contracting labour pool.
An excellent article in the Financial Times reveals how a sweetcorn farm in West Sussex has had to increase wages and conditions of its EU workforce. “If there’s no WiFi, they’ll go work for somebody else,” said the managing director of Barfoots.
Don’t Get Angry, Get Blogging…
At HuffPost we love a good blog, and here are the finest Brexit-penned entries from this week. Have a read, and if any of them provoke an urge in you to speak your brain, send a blog to email@example.com and you could find yourself in this very newsletter.
Liam Byrne blogs on why Juncker is wrong and “the good ship Europe is sinking” http://huffp.st/Y33vgay
Frank Field on why he voted against the Labour whip on the EU Withdrawal Bill http://huffp.st/dYntRc4
Cassie Pearse on why so many are still marching for the EU http://huffp.st/picL3cw
Josh Smith on what young people’s social media tells us about their attitudes to Brexit and politics http://huffp.st/5wf95BU