The five things you need to know on Monday, October 24…
1) BREXODUS, MOVEMENT OF THEIR PEOPLE
The attempt to clear ‘The Jungle’ camp in Calais has started this morning. But as Theresa May prepares to deliver a Commons statement on her first ever EU summit, it’s the Brexodus of talent and businesses that is worrying some MPs more.
While City workers are variously caricatured as ‘OK yah’ fat cats at best or Euro playboys at worst (“citizens of the world” is how May derided them, don’t forget), there are deepening worries in Whitehall and Westminster at just how big a hit the UK’s financial services industry will suffer after Brexit. Some 70,000 jobs could go, according to TheCityUK, and that includes middle-income earners who are far from the pinstriped stereotype.
The British Bankers’ Association’s Anthony Browne (who used to work for Boris, don’t forget) warned this weekend that “hands are quivering over the relocate button..many smaller banks plan to start relocations before Christmas; bigger banks are expected to start in the first quarter of next year”. On Radio 4’s The Week In Westminster, former City Minister Paul Myners said he’d been told similar things, and that US and Japanese banks will look elsewhere.
Some Tories point to the latest idea of the UK slashing corporation tax. But on The Westminster Hour, Nicola Horlick pointed out that wouldn’t prove a sufficient incentive to stay: “If we don’t have passporting and they [the banks] want to do business in Europe, which they do, they won’t have any choice. The reason the Swiss banks are located here and have their headquarters here is because they need to be in the EU in order to do business across Europe.”
The FT says business is warning of ‘major disruption’ at the UK’s borders because our IT system won’t cope with ending the EU customs union. But Think tank Citivas warns that imposing tariffs on British trade would cost firms in the EU £8bn more than British companies will have to pay.
When May gets up in the Commons today, she will know that her hopes of a ‘smooth Brexit’ are under threat from backbenchers divided over whether the Great Repeal Bill goes too far or not far enough. The Times reports Grant Shapps wants to insert a five-year ‘sunset clause’ to ensure all EU regulations are wiped within that period.
Business is desperately hoping that Philip Hammond can persuade May to face reality on the single market. Meanwhile, he has told colleagues he wants to move away from “gimmicks” and micromanagement, and is looking at the possibility that the Autumn Statement would (after this year’s rather important Brexit scene-setter) return to its original function of fiscal forecasting.
2) THE SPY WHO BUGGED ME
The PM will tell Nicola Sturgeon, Carwyn Jones and Arlene Foster today that they will have a ‘hotline’ to David Davis in coming Brexit negotiations.
But DD has other phone-related worries, having been warned he should expect all other 27 EU member states to try to intercept his calls and overhear his private conversations. The warning came from his Brexit Dept permanent secretary Oliver Robbins (an ex Deputy National Security Adviser don’t forget). Robbins told DD he was now “a painted man”, the Sun reveals. Davis has long suspected our own spooks are bugging him, so I’d say ‘Good luck’ to their European equivalents. The real problem, of course, is that there seems to be no Brexit detail to bug…yet.
As for political spies, Nick Boles is still seen by Boris supporters as the man who had a key role in helping Michael Gove slip the stiletto between his shoulder blades. Tim Shipman’s superb account yesterday revealed that Boles actually took Boris’s phone off him during a key late-night period on the eve of his leadership launch, when he was meant to be reassuring Andrea Leadsom to come on board.
Shippers also reveals the text David Cameron sent to Boris once Gove had knifed him: “You should have stuck with me, mate”. One Cabinet minister said that that on the day Boris’s dreams went down in flame, Cameron was “the happiest I have seen him in a long time”. Gove was also warned by shrewd aide Paul Stephenson not to run for leader, as it would be seen as an act of betrayal he’d never live down. ‘This will be Ed Miliband, times 100’. Never a truer word..
Meanwhile, on the matter of real spooks, the US detects the hand of Putin in the latest Wikileaks dump of Clinton emails. Funnily enough, RT-America tweeted the release of the data dump 30 minutes before Wikileaks itself did…
3) GREAT BRITISH TAKE-OFF
Tomorrow is decision-day for the Cabinet sub-committee on Heathrow’s third runway, sorry, aviation capacity. Theresa May’s strange move at Cabinet last week to give Boris some freedom to speak out against the decision was the clearest signal that Gatwick’s rival plans were doomed. Chris Grayling tried to suggest on Marr that Gatwick was still an open option, but he sounded very much like a man trying to avoid a legal challenge.
Today, the Telegraph splashes its front page with a piece by independent airports commissioner Sir Howard Davies declaring the case for expanding Heathrow is now "overwhelming" and has "strengthened in recent months" post-Brexit. He also has a pop at David Cameron, blaming him for the dither and delay and calling the ex-PM an ‘immovable object’.
Davies demolishes the Gatwick case rather magisterially, pointing out about 70% of its tourist passengers are Brits going to the sun. “Sadly, relatively few residents of Marbella and Corfu come here for their summer break.” At Heathrow the tourist traffic is largely inbound and “with our huge balance of payments deficit we need more high-spending American and Asian tourists to balance the books.” Intriguingly, Davies also says that the UK’s second airport of choice should be Birmingham, not Gatwick. That would fit with the PM’s Midlands Engine inheritance.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch the funniest telly moment of the year so far, as Ed Balls gets his lift in a twist. The public didn’t mind and he’s still in Strictly.
4) SO NIA, YET SO FAR
When Jeremy Corbyn appointed Nia Griffith as his Shadow Defence Secretary, the instant assumption from some would be that she got the job because her unilateralist sympathies were close to the Labour leader’s - and could be a more malleable replacement for the doughty Clive Lewis. But on Sunday Politics, she proved pretty doughty herself, calling for a more robust form of unilateralism - fresh British economic sanctions on Russia after its conduct in Syria.
And on Trident, Griffith sparked fury from CND’s Kate Hudson for stating categorically that renewal would be in the Labour manifesto for the next election. “We’re not changing the commitment to Trident…That’s a firm commitment and we honour that commitment to our coalition allies and to our industrial partners. That was a vote that was taken democratically and repeatedly has been reaffirmed by Labour conference and we are a democratic party…” She added, pointedly: “Jeremy is very much in favour of democracy in our party.”
The uneasy truce within Labour continues on other matters. Asked if Corbyn could be a good prime minister, Hilary Benn gave Andrew Marr an elliptical answer: "I hope we are going to win the next election.” The Telegraph has a story suggesting that discussions about Shami Chakrabarti getting a peerage started in April. I'm told her name entered the frame in late May or early June. Will the Home Affairs Committee want to quiz her in more detail? Will they consider getting evidence too from Katy Clark, and others in Corbyn's office?
5) SMOKED KIPPERS
It’s been a few weeks but UKIP are back doing what they do best, having a bitter leadership contest. MEPs Paul Nuttall and Suzanne Evans finally declared yesterday, joining Raheem Kassam in the race. Immediately Nigel Farage piled into Evans for saying Kassam was of the ‘far right’ and part of the party’s ‘toxic’ image.
Kassam appears to have the not inconsiderable backing of leading Kipper donor Arron Banks. The ex-Farage staffer also shares his boss’s view that Donald Trump should be president. Farage told Peston on Sunday it was ‘strange’ that so many women had only now come forward to allege sexual assault by the billionaire. Labour’s Jess Phillips, on the same prog, was furious. (She also had the line of the day: "Trump is about as much an outsider as I am a size 10”).
Nuttall looks favourite to win as the unity candidate. But athough he doesn’t share Farage’s backing for Trump, he does share his views on Russia, having previously said the EU should recognise Moscow’s claim on the Crimea and told the EU Parliament that sanctions and ‘militarism’ will not work against Putin. Nuttall recently appeared on Russia Today wearing a psychometric headset. I’m not making this up.
On the Kremlin-funded show, he also had a post-Woolfe/Hookem line about some of the party's supporters not minding if disputes were settled with fists, before swiftly insisting he disagreed personally. Nuttall also revealed Hookem's nickname among fellow MEPs was 'Alf'. Why? Just say it out loud 'Alf Hookem'..
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