Archive for the ‘British politics’ Category

Nigel Farage should be ‘embalmed’ and put in Brexit museum, says minister

Brexiteer Nigel Farage “can be embalmed like those Soviet leaders” and placed in a “Museum of Brexit,” senior Tory MP Liz Truss said.

Truss, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said Farage and the Vote Leave bus — which told people that Brexit would free up £350 million a week for the NHS — were her picks to go into a fictional Museum of Brexit on the Telegraph’s Chopper’s Brexit Podcast, released Friday.

“What you are asking me is a bit like Room 101 — what would you put in it. There are a few things from the campaign, maybe a Cornish pasty, some leeks and of course the bus,” she said.

Truss added that former UKIP leader Farage “can be embalmed, like those Soviet leaders” and put in the museum.

She also said there shouldn’t be a second referendum on the terms of the final Brexit deal. “Everyone in my constituency says ‘please get on with it’, and that is what we are doing,” Truss said.

May’s Macron opening forged in battle

LONDON — The Franco-British military alliance is back.

Ever since the U.K. voted to leave the European Union, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron have emphasized the continued importance of strong defense and security relationships after Brexit.

Six weeks after the EU and the U.S. expelled more than 100 Russian diplomats in response to the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy on British soil, and following the first military action of both May and Macron’s premierships, May has evidence to support the Frenchman’s reassuring rhetoric.

One senior U.K. government official close to May said the military alliance forged between May and Macron at January’s Sandhurst summit has been transformed in the heat of battle over the past two weeks.

The return of good France-U.K. defense relations was welcomed across the Channel.

“One of the things Macron has always been very keen on since they had their first meeting was to focus the relationship on security and defense,” the senior official said. “Salisbury and Syria have given more substance to that — he has made it play out in practice.”

May’s closest aides believe this also bodes well for Brexit. “It shows Europe, and France in particular, what a good security relationship with Britain looks like,” the official said.

May and Macron spoke twice in the week running up to the airstrikes and once again in the hours after they had taken place. Officials in Paris and London also spoke “multiple times a day,” ferrying top-secret documents too sensitive to brief over the phone to each other’s embassies, according to diplomatic officials.

A joint position between Paris and London was established early on, while the U.S. administration was split between the ultra-hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, and the more cautious Defense Secretary James Mattis over how extensive the strikes should be, diplomats said.

The French and British jointly pushed for “limited” strikes aimed exclusively at degrading the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capability — and won.

Macron and May, during a bilateral meeting at San Domenico Palace Hotel in Taormina, Italy | Dan Kitwood-Pool/Getty Images

Peter Ricketts, a former British ambassador to France, said: “The French and the British united around Mattis, who has been the central pillar of U.S. foreign policy on this. The prime minister found the center of gravity. That’s where the British machine was pushing and that’s where the government got to.”

Macron-Trump bromance

The return of good France-U.K. defense relations was welcomed across the Channel.

It also comes just as French frustration at Germany’s lukewarm adoption of Macron’s EU reform proposals — as well as Berlin’s inability to step up on the world stage — is beginning to mount.

“In the area of defense, relations between Paris and London are naturally fluid while they are restricted and unsatisfactory with Berlin,” one French diplomat told Le Figaro. 

However, officials in Paris said the U.K.’s involvement in Syria was “a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have.”

Internationally, May also risks becoming the third leg in the transatlantic alliance, as the budding bromance between U.S. President Donald Trump and Macron continues apace.

Those involved in crafting May’s Syria policy said hers is essentially a “reactive, not proactive approach.”

Macron was quick to claim credit for convincing Trump to act in Syria, in an interview with French TV the following day. Next week, Trump will host the French president for a state visit, an honor not yet granted to the British prime minister.

The U.K.’s continuing travails extricating itself from the European Union continue to cause alarm on the Continent. French officials said Brexit appears to be sucking up much of London’s time and energy and would continue to do so for the foreseeable future as talks grind to a near-halt over the Irish border.

Domestically, however, U.K. government ministers say May’s understated approach to the Salisbury spy poisoning and Syrian gas attack has played well with the British public, which is tired of alpha-male foreign policy.

“Macron’s playing the Gaullist and that’s all right — that’s what French presidents do,” said one minister who is close to May. “The PM is using the fact that there are these two big egos to her advantage. She’s undemonstrative, steady as you go. The fact that she’s not a Blair or a Cameron helps.”

Global Britain?

The biggest risk for the British prime minister, according to her ministers and advisers, is that she fails to capitalize on the two crises because she is unable to formulate a long-term foreign policy strategy that sets out how Britain sees its role in the world after Brexit.

Those closest to May also insist it is unfair to say her approach to foreign policy is purely ad-hoc, pointing to the prime minister’s speech to the Republican Party conference in Philadelphia in January 2017 as the intellectual ballast holding her strategy together.

In the speech, May said the days of Britain and the U.S. “intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image” were over and that military action should be reserved to defend the international order.

Trump steps off Air Force One | Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Yet those involved in crafting May’s Syria policy said hers is essentially a “reactive, not proactive approach,” which means acting only when international law is broken and not for any other wider objectives.

May is fond of telling aides that she has little time for grand visions or strategies, one former adviser said. “She often says she just gets on with the job, putting one foot in front of the other.”

“There are costs to her approach as well as some benefits,” one of her closest allies said. “Governing does require an overarching narrative and it is actually quite difficult to maintain one at the best of times.”

Some ministers close to May were more caustic. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one said: “Trade deals are no substitute for a vision.”

Jonathan Eyal from the London-based foreign policy think tank RUSI said it is okay in the short term for May to “bump along” reacting to world events, but eventually she will need to set out her vision if she wants to be treated as a reliable partner.

“It cannot just be small steps,” he said. “It still requires the big speech, the big vision. She will need to answer the question: ‘What is Britain’s role?’ She cannot escape this question.”

EU rejects UK’s post-Brexit customs fixes for Northern Ireland

Brussels rejected the U.K.’s two post-Brexit customs proposals to solve the Northern Ireland border issue.

That raises the stakes for British MPs who are revisiting the idea of staying in a traditional customs union with the EU despite the opposition of Prime Minister Theresa May and her Cabinet.

A group of senior MPs introduced a House of Commons motion Thursday calling on May’s government to seek “an effective customs union” with the EU as part of the negotiation over the U.K.’s future relationship with the bloc. It will be voted on by MPs next Thursday.

The customs issue cuts to the core of the biggest obstacle to clinching an agreement on the U.K.’s orderly withdrawal: How to prevent the recreation of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. A “backstop” proposal agreed by the two sides would effectively keep Northern Ireland inside the EU’s customs union. May has declared that outcome “not acceptable” but she signed up to it on the understanding that the U.K. would be able to bring forward alternative proposals.

If no solution can be found, it leaves May politically vulnerable. Leaving the EU customs union in order to free the U.K. to do trade deals around the world post Brexit is a key pillar of her government’s Brexit strategy. Without it, her minority administration may lose the support of Brexiteer MPs on her backbenches, potentially triggering a challenge to her leadership.

EU negotiators have made clear that they are willing to discuss terms by which Britain remains inside the bloc’s customs union, or to negotiate a separate customs union like the EU’s deal with Turkey, which would entail agreed-upon, common tariffs on imported goods.

But following talks on the Northern Ireland border issue in Brussels in the last two weeks, the EU has confirmed its opposition to one of the two proposals — known as the “new customs partnership.” Originally put forward by U.K. negotiators last August, it would allow Britain to maintain its own system of tariffs but act as a collector of EU customs duties on goods that enter the U.K. bound for an EU country.

The other proposal, known as the “highly streamlined customs arrangement,” involves using technological solutions to lower customs barriers. It is also viewed skeptically by the EU as merely a “list of best practice measures” applicable to any customs arrangement, according to one EU diplomat. That diplomat said EU negotiators do not regard it as a workable solution for the unique demands of the U.K.-EU relationship and the Irish border conundrum.

“These were already rejected before and for good reason,” another EU27 diplomat briefed on the negotiations said. “So either come up with something we can work with or the backstop remains.” EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said that if the U.K. leaves the EU customs union then some border checks are inevitable.

The continuing standoff over the future customs relationship was clear in stock-taking sessions among negotiators this week in Brussels, officials said — the first formal Brexit talks since EU27 leaders adopted guidelines on the future relationship at their March summit. A third EU diplomat characterized the discussions as having ruled out the U.K.’s “customs partnership” proposal and deemed the “highly streamlined customs arrangement” as equally unviable as a solution on its own.

In its March European Council guidelines for the next phase of negotiations, the EU warned that “Being outside the Customs Union and the Single Market will inevitably lead to frictions in trade. Divergence in external tariffs and internal rules as well as absence of common institutions and a shared legal system, necessitates checks and controls to uphold the integrity of the EU Single Market as well as of the U.K. market. This unfortunately will have negative economic consequences, in particular in the United Kingdom.”

In stating their willingness to forge an ambitious new free-trade agreement with the U.K., the EU27 leaders declared any deal should include “appropriate customs cooperation, preserving the regulatory and jurisdictional autonomy of the parties and the integrity of the EU Customs Union.”

The EU’s refusal to consider the customs partnership model, which would allow the U.K. to set its own duties, has taken on new urgency in London where pressure has been mounting on May to shift her red line ruling out continued membership of the EU customs union.

The House of Lords on Wednesday voted by 348 to 225 in favor of an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill calling on the government to publish a customs union strategy “outlining the steps” it had taken to secure “an arrangement which enables the UK to continue participating in a customs union with the European Union.”

Then on Thursday, a group of senior MPs introduced a motion calling for the U.K. to seek “an effective customs union” with the EU, citing the importance of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland. The opposition Labour Party backs the approach, as do a number of Conservative MPs — four of whom, (Nicky Morgan, Dominic Grieve, Sarah Wollaston and Bob Neill) were among the group that proposed the motion.

So far, however, May’s government has not budged, insisting that it will be able to come up with an acceptable solution for the Northern Ireland border, anchored in a new customs deal.

Responding to EU diplomats’ skepticism to the U.K.’s customs proposals, a U.K. official said: ‘We have put two sensible and practical solutions on the table and are working constructively towards getting this solved by October. We’re just waiting for the Commission to engage with the same spirit of cooperation.”

In response to the new House of Commons motion, a spokesperson for the U.K. Treasury said: “We have been very clear that we are leaving the customs union and will establish a new and ambitious customs arrangement with the EU while forging new trade relationships with our partners around the world.”

Reversing course on a customs union, a key part of the government’s Brexit strategy, would be politically perilous for May. Many of the Brexiteers in her party — as well as influential members of her own Cabinet, such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox — view Britain’s ability to conduct a fully independent trade policy as a key upside of leaving the EU.

Remaining in a customs union with the EU would restrict the U.K.’s ability to negotiate bespoke trade deals with countries around the world, and if she shifts position, May risks losing the support of the Brexiteer caucus on her backbenches.

In Brussels, EU negotiators are largely taking a wait-and-see approach, hoping that the British side ultimately gives ground and concedes that a future customs union is in Britain’s own economic self-interest.

The EU has made clear it will shift its negotiating position in response to any change in the U.K.’s red lines. In its March guidelines, the European Council stated, “The approach outlined below reflects the level of rights and obligations compatible with the positions stated by the U.K. If these positions were to evolve, the Union will be prepared to reconsider its offer.”

UK government suffers big parliamentary defeat over customs union

The U.K. government suffered a significant defeat on an amendment to its EU (Withdrawal) Bill cross-party amendment on the issue of continued membership of the EU customs union.

In the House of Lords, the parliament’s upper chamber where the bill is currently at report stage, 348 members backed the amendment (which was championed by crossbench peer and former diplomat John Kerr and former Tory party chairman Chris Patten) with 225 voting against — a margin of 123.

The defeat was widely anticipated and could still be reversed by MPs when the bill returns to the House of Commons but it demonstrates the difficulty the government faces pushing its Brexit legislative agenda through parliament unscathed.

Shadow Brexit Secretary MP Keir Starmer said: “Labour has long championed the benefits of a customs union as the only viable way to protect jobs, support manufacturing and help avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland after we leave the EU. That is why we have called on the government to negotiate a new comprehensive U.K.-EU customs union after Brexit as part of a close future relationship with the EU.”

“[Prime Minister] Theresa May must now listen to the growing chorus of voices who are urging her to drop her redline on a customs union and rethink her approach,” he then concluded.

Labour’s Andrew Adonis, who is also a supporter of campaign group Best for Britain, said: “At long last, a voice of common sense on Brexit has made itself heard in Parliament. It is simply impossible to do Brexit without a customs union so the House of Lords has spoken up for good and responsible government.”

“However, even with a customs union Britain will still be worse off if we leave. That is why we need a people’s vote on the final deal,” he added.

Immigration scandal takes shine off Commonwealth summit

Theresa May has invested a lot of personal capital in hosting Commonwealth leaders in London this week.

No. 10 has released a plethora of announcements and the prime minister has been at the forefront of heralding opportunities, from close working on cybersecurity initiatives to saving the oceans.

It should have been a showcase for “global Britain.” A chance to reinvigorate, cultivate and cherish relationships with countries outside EU borders which, according to Brexiteers, have fallen by the wayside during Britain’s 40 years tied to the EU bloc.

Diplomacy in the Commonwealth has always been fraught with danger. There are plenty of Commonwealth sensitivities, from some unpalatable views on gay rights to the hangovers of Britain’s colonial past.

But it is the ghosts of May’s tenure as home secretary which have come back to haunt her this week.

The row over the so-called Windrush generation, who arrived in the U.K. from the Caribbean as children in the first wave of Commonwealth immigration 70 years ago, often on their parents’ passports, has overshadowed the week.

Changes to migration rules mean those who lack documents are now being told they need evidence to continue working, access key services or even remain in the U.K.

The string of front-page revelations (and May’s resulting apology to people affected) are not just humiliating, but unhelpful for a U.K. government desperate to assure EU citizens about their futures in the U.K. post-Brexit.

European Parliament Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt has already warned that the reports are “deeply worrying” for EU citizens who face disruption to their lives after the U.K.’s departure.

But it also puts into sharp focus the difficulty May faces in reconciling the government’s desperation to present an image of being “global Britain” with the realities of her “really hostile environment for illegal migration” philosophy.

Immigration was at the heart of the European Union referendum debate, but it is an issue that is far from reconciled in the population at large, let alone the U.K. government.

May’s solution thus far has been to kick any decision into the long grass. The official line is that the U.K. will be able to control its borders post Brexit, but articulating what this means in practice is too toxic for such a fragile government.

The initial policy paper that will provide the first clues to the blueprint for Britain’s post-Brexit visa system is not due until the end of the year, when Britain will be within reach of the exit door.

The Windrush case studies — people who arrived in Britain as children, but after six decades living there fear they may be forced to leave — have proved just how difficult it is for May to assuage the fears over immigration articulated by many who voted Brexit. The Home Office’s blunt instruments have created an impression that the U.K. government is cruel, and that’s damaging.

In a sign of just how terrible it has been for the U.K. prime minister, the Daily Mail, which in the past has been a cheerleader for May’s immigration tough line, has been united in horror with the left-leaning Guardian over the Windrush debacle.

The timing, with Commonwealth heads of government in London, could not have been worse but it also highlights fundamental issues about the U.K.’s future relationship with its former colonies. In many cases, those leaders see better access to visas for their citizens as a key part of any rejuvenated post-Brexit relationship — and they will be no soft touch.

For May the summit has been less a great showcase of global Britain in action, more a lesson in Britain’s unease about its direction of travel once separated from its European neighbors.

This insight is from POLITICO‘s Brexit Files newsletter, a daily afternoon digest of the best coverage and analysis of Britain’s decision to leave the EU available to Brexit Pro subscribers. Sign up here.

UK £615 million worse off per week under preferred Brexit scenario: study

The U.K.’s preferred Brexit outcome will cost the exchequer £615 million a week in lost revenue and all four scenarios laid out by the government would leave the country worse off, according to a study by the think tank Global Future published Wednesday.

The analysis used the government’s own comprehensive assessment of the impact of Brexit, including the direct and indirect costs and benefits for public finances from likely increased barriers to trade as well as reduced contributions to the EU budget.

Under a “Norway model” of European Economic Area membership — where the U.K. would stay in the Single Market and adhere to EU rules and regulations but leave the customs union — the study predicts the fiscal impact on the U.K. would be £260 million a week. The highest net loss would occur if there is no deal, forcing the U.K. to trade with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms. This scenario is estimated at £1.25 billion a week.

A Canada-style free trade agreement — in which the U.K. could move away from EU regulations but most tariff barriers would be avoided — would amount to a net loss of £875 million a week.

The British government’s preferred bespoke trade deal without single market or customs union membership would have a predicted negative fiscal impact of £615 million a week — amounting to 22 percent of what is spent on the National Health Services, according to the study.

One of the most controversial parts of the Brexit referendum was the claim by Leavers that £350 million a week would be saved by leaving the EU, and that money could instead be spent on the National Health Service. The claim was plastered all over a bus that toured the country. That figure was questioned by the likes of the UK Statistics Authority and the Institute for Fiscal Studies, as well as the Remain camp. However, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in January that £350 million “grossly underestimated” the amount of money sent to the EU, which he said would rise to £438 million a week by the end of the transition period.

UK parliament’s Brexit roller-coaster reopens for business

LONDON — The Easter break has come and gone, MPs have returned to Westminster, and that can mean only one thing: The Herculean task of legislating for Brexit is back on.

Ministers are bracing for a turbulent few months as both the House of Commons and the House of Lords take some of their last opportunities to shape the course of the U.K.’s departure from the EU, now less than a year away.

First up is the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which reaches the critical phase of its journey through the House of Lords over the next four to five weeks. The key fight will come over a Labour amendment that seeks, once and for all, to end the prospect of the U.K. crashing out of the EU without a deal.

The amendment, which will be debated first in the Lords and — if it passes — in the Commons in May, seeks to give MPs, not the government, the power to decide what happens next if Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement with Brussels is rejected by parliament.

“It’s completely unacceptable for ministers to say that if the deal Theresa May brings back is voted down by parliament then that should be considered an instruction for no deal” — Labour Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer

It may not sound like much, but with the government currently insisting that a vote against May’s deal is a vote for no deal, the amendment could be highly significant, paving the way for MPs to send May back to the negotiating table, changing the terms of Brexit, and perhaps even delaying the U.K.’s departure.

“Over the coming weeks parliament will have the chance to take back control of the Brexit debate and force the government to rethink its approach to the negotiations,” Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer told POLITICO. “It’s completely unacceptable for ministers to say that if the deal Theresa May brings back is voted down by parliament then that should be considered an instruction for no deal.”

Here’s what to expect from parliament’s Brexit roller-coaster:

The Withdrawal Bill

Remember this one? The mammoth piece of legislation is designed to convert decades of EU law into U.K. law to ensure that rules and regulations governing various walks of life and fields of business continue to function smoothly on Day One after Britain leaves the EU.

It has become a vehicle for MPs and peers to reshape the course of Brexit, most notably in the House of Commons, where a band of Conservative rebels voted with opposition parties against the government in December 2017 to guarantee MPs get a “meaningful vote” on the final withdrawal agreement that May negotiates with Brussels. This is the same vote that Starmer is now seeking to strengthen the terms of.

Labour Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer | Leon Neal/Getty Images

On Wednesday this week, the bill reaches its “report stage” in parliament’s revising chamber, the House of Lords. This is the stage at which the talking stops — the bill has already been subject to 115 hours of debate in the Lords — and voting on amendments starts in earnest.

The latest running list of amendments is 36 pages long, but opposition parties and rebel Conservative peers are hoping to secure concessions from the government in only a few areas. Apart from Starmer’s priority of strengthening the meaningful vote, another goal is to limit the scope of the so-called Henry VIII powers taken on by the government in the withdrawal process, and piling pressure on May to seek a customs union with the EU after Brexit.

The Conservatives do not have a majority in the House of Lords, so ministers are braced for defeats on several amendments, one government official said. These can, though, be overturned by MPs in the Commons, and none of them are expected to derail the entire Brexit project, so cool heads are being urged, the official said.

To limit some of the damage, Brexit minister Martin Callanan wrote to the Lords’ constitution committee last week, setting out a number of planned government amendments that will narrow the range of Henry VIII powers that ministers will acquire via the bill.

It almost certainly won’t be enough to satisfy critics in the Lords though. Expect a number of government defeats in afternoon votes in the Lords, as six days of debate (not all in a row) unfold until early May. By mid-May, the bill should have reached its “third reading,” which is likely to be more or less a formality.

“I think customs union and the meaningful vote stand out as issues where anything’s possible” — Labour official

Then, most likely in the week commencing May 21, the bill should return to the House of Commons, where MPs decide whether to accept or reject the Lords’ amendments.

In a process known as “ping-pong,” the bill can move back and forth between the two chambers several times over the course of a few days. This could dominate this final week in parliament running up to the week-long break known as Whitsun recess, and is the point at which it will become clear if Conservative rebel MPs are willing to back any new amendments, delivering real defeats for the government.

“There clearly is potential. I think customs union and the meaningful vote stand out as issues where anything’s possible,” said one Labour official. Some of the amendments will have cross-party backing in the Lords, including from Tory rebel peers.

“It may give some Conservative MPs a bit more cover than they had before Christmas [to rebel],” the Labour official added.

Trade and Customs bills

These could also be tricky for the government. The so-called Customs Bill — officially the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill — will empower the U.K. to charge its own customs duties at the border, outside of the EU regime, while the Trade Bill will create the legal framework that enables the U.K. to strike its own trade deals with non-EU countries.

Neither has seen any parliamentary action since February and they are due to return to the House of Commons for their report stage.

“Maybe [ministers] are waiting for parliament to be back but it doesn’t sound as if thinking has developed any further” — Anonymous member of Parliament

But the government has shown reluctance to bring them back because of major amendments brought up by rebel Tory MPs that, if passed, would force May to seek a customs union with the EU. That would be a major alteration to the government’s Brexit strategy which, MPs have previously speculated, could lead to May’s downfall if she were defeated in the Commons.

There are customs union amendments to the Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords as well — but most expect MPs to wait until either the customs or trade bill to make any moves.

The bills can’t wait forever; they need to be completed before the U.K leaves the EU in March 2019. One government official said it was unlikely they would be brought back to parliament before the May local elections, when the focus will be on the Withdrawal Bill’s passage through the Lords.

The Tories’ customs union rebels (10, including Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry, Ken Clarke and Sarah Wollaston, have put their names to an amendment to the trade bill) were expecting this timeframe, and would probably favor a delay until after the local elections, one MP said. The Conservatives are expecting heavy losses in those elections and it could be that a chastened May will be more open to compromise.

After a transition deal was agreed in March, the rebels opted to give May some breathing space, two MPs said. The rebels agreed to wait and see how the government’s customs proposals evolved in negotiations with Brussels, hopeful that a customs union or something very close to it would become the preferred option.

But there has been no movement in the government’s position. “There have been no further suggestions by ministers,” one MP said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Maybe they are waiting for parliament to be back but it doesn’t sound as if thinking has developed any further.”

Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s fisheries and agriculture legislation has been described as “in essence a panic measure” | Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Labour, crucially, now backs a customs union, meaning only a handful of Tory rebels would be required to beat the government in a Commons vote on an amendment.

“On the question of a customs union, crunch time is coming for the government,” Starmer said. “There is a majority in parliament that reject the prime minister’s red line and believe a customs union is the only viable option for protecting manufacturing and guaranteeing there is no hard border in Northern Ireland. Sooner or later that majority will be heard.”

Other legislative flashpoints

Other Brexit-related legislation still in the pipeline includes Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s fisheries and agriculture bills and technical legislation related to a new permit system for freight and for truck drivers (the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill).

That has been described by Labour peer John Bassam as “in essence a panic measure” of Brexit contingency legislation, which has its report stage in the House of Lords on Tuesday. It must be considered by MPs at some point in the next few weeks or months.

Then there is the all-important Immigration Bill. Promised in last June’s queen’s speech (the government’s legislative agenda), it has been delayed — a source of tension in Cabinet.

“The government’s timetable for getting its deal through parliament is feasible — so long as nothing goes wrong” — Hannah White, Institute for Government director of research

A white paper on immigration will not arrive until after the independent Migration Advisory Committee has reported on the benefits and impacts of EU migration, in a report scheduled for September. The Immigration Bill itself is now expected early next year.

This timeframe is causing Brexiteers some disquiet. One government aide expressed concern it left no time for preparations for a new immigration system that might be required if negotiations with Brussels collapse and the U.K. leaves the EU without a deal.

The final hurdle

Overhanging everything is the anticipated parliamentary vote, in the fall, on the withdrawal agreement that Prime Minister May hopes to secure with Brussels by October. The withdrawal agreement will come with a political declaration agreed with Brussels of what the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU will look like after the 21-month transition period.

The government portrays this as a take-it-or-leave-it vote. Brexit Secretary David Davis said in a Q&A with the Spectator magazine as recently as last month: “[MPs] choose whether that deal is acceptable or not and if not, we leave without.”

Labour’s amendment to the Withdrawal Bill seeks to avoid this outcome, and a new report from the Institute for Government think tank also rejects Davis’ characterization of the vote.

MPs will be able to suggest amendments to the government’s motion on the withdrawal agreement, the IfG said, for example, asking the government to redraw its trade strategy.

“The government’s timetable for getting its deal through parliament is feasible — so long as nothing goes wrong,” said Hannah White, the IfG’s director of research. “But MPs can force ministers back to the negotiating table and, if they do, the government’s timetable could be unachievable. If MPs were to send ministers back to Brussels to ask for significant changes to the deal, it is likely that Brexit would have to be delayed.”

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