May defeated on Brexit Plan B
The government suffered another Commons defeat this week after MPs voted by 303 votes to 258 against a motion endorsing the government’s negotiating strategy on Brexit. Following the vote Jeremy Corbyn urged the Prime Minister to “admit her Brexit strategy has failed and bring forward to the House a coherent plan” however Downing Street made clear it would not change the PM’s approach.
Ultimately the motion is meaningless and has no legal effect but the vote continues to underline the deep divisions and levels of unrest within the Conservative Party. MPs in the Tory European Research Group made a collective decision to abstain, over fears the wording of the motion meant they would be implicitly rejecting a no deal Brexit. It is these MPs Mrs May is hoping to placate by negotiating changes to the controversial Northern Ireland backstop plan – changes Brussels has so far given no indication it is prepared to consider. But it was not just ardent Brexiteers that failed to support the government. A range of Tory Remainers also declined to vote, and more than a fifth of the party in the Commons failed to back the government.
It’s not quite Shakespeare….
Andrea Leadsom marked Valentine’s Day with a “roses are red” poem about leaving the EU suggesting “our future is bright, with a good deal in sight.” But the Commons leader read the Ode to a Deal while unveiling Parliament’s business for next week which is significantly behind schedule. With 43 days before Brexit, the Hansard Society says just 422 of 600 expected “Statutory instruments” have been laid – crucial technical laws necessary for a possible No Deal Brexit on 29 March. Unsurprisingly both announcements were met with groans from the opposition benches.
“UK will not be silenced” says Jeremy Corbyn
Everyone knows that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a lifelong left-wing Eurosceptic who has seemingly shelved his principles to sign up to the Remain campaign and this week we were reminded of Corbyn’s contempt for the EU when footage emerged of him calling for the “defeat” of the European Union and other international organisations. During the Durham Miners Gala in 2010, the Labour leader warned Britain “will not be silenced” and that we will “win through”. In the video, rediscovered by talkRADIO, Mr Corbyn said: “And I’ll tell you what can defeat us, it’s not them, it’s us. They, the world’s bankers, International Monetary Fund, European Union, they are utterly united in what they want.” Meanwhile Corbyn continues to resist calls within his own party for a second referendum.
The beast of the Berlaymont has not been budged
The EU Ombudsman has delivered their final verdict on the appointment of Martin Selmayr to the top job in the European Commission, concluding that “Selmayr’s appointment did not follow EU law, in letter or spirit, and did not follow the Commission’s own rules”. However, the EU Commission has put out a statement in response saying they “take note” of the Ombudsman’s verdict and that Selmayr “fully meets all the demanding requirements for the job.” So Selmayr will keep the job.
Last year, Selmayr was double-promoted to secretary-general of the European Commission causing a stir even among the most ardent Europhiles in Brussels. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker appointed Selmayr as deputy to the then secretary-general, Alexander Italianer but after just nine minutes, Juncker announced Italianer’s resignation, elevating Selmayr to the top job. Within his first few days, Selmayr announced to his new 33,000-strong staff that the EU civil service should be “the heart and soul of the Commission”, meaning that it should run everything. As one EC official put it at the time, Selmayr had become “in effect, the president” of the EU. In response, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on Selmayr to resign. This was ignored. Dubbed “the beast of the Berlaymont” (the building which houses the European Commission) Selmayr’s reputation is that of a very uncivil servant. “He is a theologian who regards the British as heretics”, a former Brussels ambassador told The Times.
UK growth slows but its no better in the EU
The ONS has released its first estimate of GDP growth in the UK for the last quarter of 2018 Q4 at 0.2% with an initial figure of 1.4% growth for the year. This is the lowest since 2012 but growth across Europe is sluggish, particularly in Italy and Germany, with the European Commission itself putting the UK on a par with the Eurozone average for its 2019 forecast. If slow growth in the UK is Brexit’s fault, what’s the EU’s excuse?