Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Tom Watson: ‘Labour must not fail UK at crucial point in Brexit’

Deputy leader to call on party to show leadership and help break Brexit deadlock

Tom Watson is to issue a rallying cry to dispirited Labour centrists, calling on his party not to fail Britain at a “great moment of change”.

In a speech on Saturday likely to be read as a thinly veiled challenge to Jeremy Corbyn, the deputy leader will say: “The country needs the leadership that only we can give. Let’s make sure we do not fail them.”

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Theresa May appeasing hard-Brexit Tories, ministers warn

Key supporters of soft Brexit excluded from talks as PM seeks support for deal

Soft-Brexit cabinet ministers fear that Theresa May is determined to appease hardline leavers rather than reach out across the House of Commons, after key figures were excluded from discussions with other ministers.

May spoke to senior figures including the home secretary, Sajid Javid, the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, the leader of the Commons, Andrea Leadsom, the environment secretary, Michael Gove, and the international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt.

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‘Well-oiled machine’: how Brexit disruption could hit medicine supplies

Pharmacists say minor delays at ports could have knock-on effects in lean supply chain

Few of the recipients of the millions of prescriptions dispensed every day across Britain are likely to give much thought to the system that ensures that everything from painkillers to niche medicines are available. Beyond the pharmacist’s counter, however, lies a network spanning national borders andcontinents and involving multiple supply chains.

“It all works so smoothly because of the incentives and obligations that are in place,” said one industry insider. “What will be really interesting to see is what happens when it comes under pressure.”

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Boris Johnson wrongly denies stirring Turkey fears in Brexit campaign

After speech attacking PM, ex-minister claims he ‘didn’t say anything about Turkey’ in 2016

Boris Johnson has wrongly claimed that he “didn’t make any remarks about Turkey, mate” during the EU referendum campaign, in comments that overshadowed a speech in Staffordshire intended to burnish his leadership credentials.

The former foreign secretary’s clumsy attempt to rewrite history eclipsed a speech highly critical of Theresa May’s Brexit negotiating strategy, and earned him criticism for his refusal to disown or even recognise what he once said.

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Stockpiling insulin for no-deal: ‘If I run out, I have no idea what to do’

A man with diabetes explains why he has a fridge full of medicine in case of a hard Brexit

James Robson (not his real name), 44, has type 1 diabetes and since his teens has relied on medication from the NHS: a fast-acting insulin that he takes three times a day, a slow-acting one to work overnight, and multiple other drugs to help with his condition.

Four months ago, he began to stockpile his medication, ordering twice the amount he needs from the pharmacist. “The reason I started was the fear of a no-deal Brexit and the possibility of shortages in medicine,” he says.

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Revealed: UK patients stockpile drugs in fear of no-deal Brexit

Doctors call for more transparency amid fears of shortages, especially of insulin

Ministers have been urged by top doctors to reveal the extent of national drug stocks, amid growing evidence patients are stockpiling medication in preparation for a no-deal Brexit.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP), which represents tens of thousands of doctors, urged the government to be more “transparent about national stockpiles, particularly for things that are already in short supply or need refrigeration, such as insulin”.

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Why a UK general election is more likely than you think

There is talk in Westminster of Theresa May calling an imminent election to break the Brexit deadlock.

That might seem highly unwise, to put it mildly. Last time May did that in 2017 (after promising not to) her party was punished by voters and lost its majority in parliament. With U.K. politics now in deep crisis over a Brexit deal that May herself negotiated, would she really offer voters the chance to deliver the coup de grâce?

Downing Street denies an election is coming but the prime minister may find herself with little choice: Call an election now or have one thrust upon her later.

MPs that have war-gamed the next few phases of the Brexit drama believe that the government is now penned in, unable to move in any direction without stumbling over a trip-wire that triggers a general election.

“Whatever happens, at some point we’re looking at the government losing a vote of confidence,” one senior Tory MP said.

Theresa May’s triggering of the 2017 general election did not go well for her party | WPA pool picture by Dylan Martinez/Getty Images

Their reasoning? The first thing to note is that, barring a dramatic change in Brussels’ stance, there can be no Brexit deal without the Northern Irish backstop in it.

Second, May’s confidence-and-supply partners the Democratic Unionist Party are unshakeably opposed to the backstop. Leader Arlene Foster said in November that if May’s deal were to pass, her party would “revisit” the confidence-and-supply agreement that keeps the government afloat.

A party spokesman confirmed to POLITICO that this remains the case. If the backstop is “foisted on us then that would be a breach of the confidence-and-supply agreement” because, “central to that agreement was a commitment to strengthening the Union.”

The DUP’s 10 MPs were the difference between May winning this week’s confidence vote and losing it. While the party does not explicitly say they would vote against the government if a Brexit deal with a backstop passes and Labour subsequently tries another vote of confidence, that is the clear implication of their position.

Even if the DUP didn’t take the plunge of opposing the government in a vote of no confidence, without their support the Conservatives would find it impossible to govern so may need a general election anyway.

Either the Brexit deal falls, or her majority does.

The stance of Brexiteer Tories in such a situation is uncertain. Jacob Rees-Mogg, who leads the backbench Brexiteer caucus, has said he will never oppose May in a confidence vote. Others may take a different view.

Either way, there is a very real possibility that a Brexit deal (with the backstop) securing a parliamentary majority will paradoxically spell the end of May’s governing majority.

Either the Brexit deal falls, or her majority does. They cannot co-exist.

This comes with the caveat that the DUP might be bluffing. But this is a party that places the union of the United Kingdom above all else. It is possible they would accept the risk of Labour winning any election that followed, believing that a softer Brexit that negates the need for the backstop might be the outcome. DUP “sources” told the Times today that the party is prepared to countenance a softer Brexit, so long as there is no threat to the union although Arlene Foster insisted the story is “inaccurate.

There would also be the option, in the 14 days between a successful no-confidence vote and an election being called, that the DUP could offer their support to any new Tory leader who pledged to take the U.K. out of the EU without a deal. That’s another way to kill the backstop.

DUP heavyweights Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster: Maintaining their support is crucial to Theresa May | Leon Neal/Getty Images

But in that scenario, a would-be Brexiteer Tory leader would struggle to put together a majority because pro-EU Conservatives would not countenance a no-deal exit.

Which brings us to the other trip-wire currently lying in May’s path.

If she has calculated all of the above, and chooses instead to go for no-deal in order to avoid losing the DUP, then she may lose Tory MPs who want to call off Brexit or leave with a softer Norway-style deal. In the confidence vote that Labour would inevitably call in such a scenario those Tories may vote against their own government.

Backbencher Nick Boles has already suggested he would do as much and others would likely follow. If enough did, the result: the collapse of the government and, most likely, a general election.

So deal or no deal, an election seems increasingly probable. Despite her protestations to the contrary, the prime minister may decide it is better to call one on her own terms.

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. Read today’s edition or subscribe here.


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