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Westlake Legal Group > Philip Hammond MP

Our guestimate of today’s numbers. Letwin’s amendment should pass. But if Johnson’s deal were voted on, it is too close to call.

ConservativeHome has feared to tread where others have rushed in over forecasting today’s votes.

This is because until one knows what MPs will actually vote on, speculation risks going very wide of the mark.

But we now believe that it’s possible to assess what is most likely to happen if there is a straight up-and-down vote on today’s deal, as below.

– – –

For: 320

283 Conservatives.

10 Labour.

18 whipless former Tories.

Amber Rudd

And the folllowing independents: Ian Austin, Nick Boles, Charlie Elphicke, Frank Field, Syvia Hermon, Ivan Lewis, Stephen Lloyd and John Woodcock. (8).

Against: 322

235 Labour.

35 SNP.

19 Liberal Democrats.

10 DUP

5 Spartans

5 Independent Group for Change

4 Plaid Cyrmu

3 whipless former Tories – Guto Bebb, Dominic Grieve, Justin Greening.

1 Green

And the following independents: Stephen Hepburn, Kelvin Hopkins, Jared O’Mara, Gavin Shuker, Chris Williamson.

Now for a health warning.

Debatable allocations include =-

  • Jo Johnson, who supports a second referendum, in the Ayes column
  • Philip Hammond in the Ayes colum.
  • Finally, lists of this kind take little account of absentionsm, which

But there is very unlikely to a straight up, straight down vote on the deal today.

This is because the Letwin amendment is likely to be passed – since it apparently has the support of all the main parties plus the 21.

In which event, the Government is set to pull its motion.

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Ryan Bourne: Beware the push by Hammond and others to make Britain an EU rule-taker

Ryan Bourne is Chair in Public Understanding of Economics at the Cato Institute.

Perhaps torture works. The collective waterboarding that is the impending Brexit deadline is forcing confessions, anyway.

Philip Hammond was in a government whose stated policy was a desire for new post-Brexit trade deals once it could exit the Northern Irish “backstop” of a single UK-EU customs territory. Now, with Boris Johnson tunneling for just that, the former Chancellor’s official position has shifted. Economic sense, he says, actually means Britain should stay in the Single Market for goods anyway, abide by “level playing field” commitments with the EU, and junk dreams of an independent free trade agenda. Buccaneering Britain, Hammond thinks, is an illusion.

Brexiteers who foresaw May’s backstop as an excuse by her to bounce us into Brussels’ permanent trade and regulatory orbit have seemingly been vindicated. But the danger has not passed. Alongside The UK in a Changing Europe’s new report, Hammond’s intervention pressures wavering Labour MPs and former Conservatives to reject Boris’s proposed “Canada Plus” destination as “too hard a Brexit” for Great Britain. At stake here is whether Britain ultimately repatriates meaningful economy policy, or becomes a rule-taker that’s only ever one small step away from EU re-entry.

Hammond couches his argument in economic terms. Everyone acknowledges trade-offs exist between policy freedom and EU trade frictions, with the latter more easily quantifiable, and the former dependent on active choices. But Hammond’s preferred modelling by the Treasury and others is based on assumptions. Results that suggest a free trade agreement Brexit must reduce GDP by 4 to 7 percent by 2030 relative to Remain, while new free trade agreements and regulatory freedoms could only possibly compensate by 0.2 to 0.5 percent of GDP, do not pass the smell test.

Pre-referendum, such results came from “gravity models,” built around observed relationships showing trade volumes rise in proportion to the size of economies and fall with distance between them. Treasury analysis back then had estimated EU membership raised trade volumes for members, on average, by 115 per cent beyond these factors, suggesting leaving full membership for an FTA would produce a large, long-term 6.2 pe rcent loss of GDP. Importantly, liberalising trade elsewhere could only weakly compensate, because of longer distances to new export markets.

Those results were challenged extensively. The model risked chalking up gains from general deregulations over recent decades (which wouldn’t be lost after exit) as EU membership benefits. Cambridge economists pointed out that the model itself overpredicted UK exports to the EU compared to real trade flows, suggesting a UK-specific trade uplift of a much smaller 20-25 per cent. Global evidence suggests services trade is much less influenced by distance anyway. Treasury results then looked biased towards big negative effects.

Since then, Hammond’s Treasury has changed model but not conclusions. Their November 2018 publication estimated a permanent net loss of 4.9 percent of GDP from a simple FTA Brexit, rising to 6.7 percent if net EU migration ceases. This is much higher than the more static estimates of trade expert and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, who estimates first-order net costs of about two per cent of GDP (before any compensatory trade liberalisation). When you hear much larger results, the findings are usually based on “black box” assumptions about large effects of trade on productivity (analysis where economists agree on the direction but disagree on magnitudes).

Four large assumptions that we can assess drove the Treasury’s results:

  1. That significant “non-tariff barriers” to UK-EU trade will arise if we leave the customs union and single market for an FTA
  2. That repatriated regulatory powers bring practically zero upside
  3. That customs procedures at the border will prove significantly costly
  4. That an independent UK free trade agenda would produce little upside.

Do these stack up? At the point of exit, UK exporters will be fully compliant with EU product standards after decades of integration. Assuming then that we’d face the same non-tariff barriers (NTBs) as existing FTA partners looks like a significant overestimate of initial new frictions. Yes, there would be economic costs associated with rules of origin requirements (though the WTO thinks these are small), and a loss of some mutual standards recognition outside the EU legal system. But bigger NTBs arise if regulations deviate. One would hope that sensible governments, Jeremy Corbyn notwithstanding, would only pursue regulatory change if it perceived net economic benefits anyway.

Indeed, it’s baffling to presume both that there will be no upside to repatriating regulation (the Treasury assumes a GDP gain of just 0.1 per cent) but that standards will significantly deviate. Current political moods might be non-conducive to widespread deregulation, but Open Europe once estimated politically feasible changes worth 0.7 per cent of GDP; let alone the potential benefits long-term of avoiding further EU labour market harmonisation, financial sector regulation, and shirking the EU’s precautionary principle in agriculture, health innovation, AI, and robotics.

Customs costs at the border look exaggerated too. Swiss estimates suggest these could be as small as 0.1 per cent. The UK’s would be higher outside the single market, of course, but Paul Krugman thinks the UK would adopt new systems relatively quickly, unilaterally lowering standards if necessary. Previous meta-analysis has found that extensive FTAs have a bigger trade boosting impact than customs unions, suggesting customs costs aren’t really prohibitive to trade flows. NAFTA, for example, is not a customs union.

But it’s really on external trade where the analysis was most slanted. Not only did Hammond’s government say the UK would not unilaterally liberalise tariffs or meaningfully reduce EU non-tariff barriers on the rest of the world; it suggested signing free trade agreements with the US, Australia, New Zealand and TPP countries would only raise GDP by 0.1 to 0.2 per cent. Closer inspection shows why: it assumes only half of the non-tariff barriers on goods and a third on services are “actionable” through these deals, and then only a quarter of these get eliminated in new FTAs. Overall then, given the countries examined for FTAs, the model assumes that the upper-limit for NTB liberalisation is eliminating 6.25 per cent of the very high level of NTBs we are assumed to want to keep.

If anything has become clear recently, it’s that Conservatives have an appetite for a far more expansive free trade agenda. Economists agree free trade boosts growth. Australia’s government estimated it has increased GDP by over five per cent over 20 years through manufactured goods trade liberalisation alone; the government’s own analysis suggests a UK FTA with the EU would life GDP by three per cent relative to WTO terms. So the conclusion that free trade policies don’t matter, especially in regards an FTA with the US, is baffling, even accounting for trade distance. Of course, the gains from a UK-US deal are bigger still when it and the EU look set for a trade war. And the UK is arguably much more likely than the EU to pursue service sector-heavy FTAs as the world becomes richer, to our own benefit.

Now I’m not arguing here that there’s no risk and uncertainty to “breaking free.” It’s difficult to ascertain precise GDP effects from trade negotiations that haven’t happened, regulations that haven’t yet been avoided, and new customs procedures that haven’t been tested. But it’s important to remember Hammond’s favoured analysis largely assumes no upsides to Brexit by construction and calculates downsides based on evidence for policies that the UK shouldn’t want to pursue, or relationships elsewhere that we wouldn’t replicate.

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Ten hurdles that Johnson must leap – even if a deal is agreed this week

  • Boris Johnson must agree a deal with the EU at this week’s EU summit on Thursday – if he is not to return on Friday, face the Commons on Saturday, and be asked how, despite the Benn Act, he intends to achieve Brexit by October 31.
  • If he agrees a deal, he will need, first and foremost, to square the DUP – since its most contentious element in Parliament will concern Northern Ireland.
  • If he can get the DUP to support him, he will then need to win the backing of the Spartans.  They have concerns not only about Northern Ireland but about the Withdrawal Agreement as a whole.  To date, Steve Baker, speaking on behalf of the ERG, is keeping his counsel.
  • At the same time as keeping the Spartans on board, the Prime Minister will need to win the backing of as many of the whipless 21 former Tory MPs as he can.  Some oppose a No Deal Brexit.  Others oppose Brexit outright.  (For example, this seems to be the position of Guto Bebb.)  How they divide up could be crucial if there is a vote.
  • Whether there is slippage among the Spartans and support among the 21 or not, Johnson may also be reliant on Labour MPs voting with him.  A group of 19 may do so, including Dan Jarvis, Caroline Flint, Sarah Peacock and Melanie Onn.  Nonetheless, Theresa May was always angling for similar support at the crunch. None came.
  •  The most solid prospects from Labour look to be Kate Hoey and John Mann. The Prime Minister will be looking too for support from the 35 independent MPs who are unaligned to any group.  He would probably win a majority of these – but by no means an overwhelming one.
  • Then there is the prospect of vote on a second EU referendum next weekend – which Keir Starmer and Tory Remainers alike will push for.
  • Our best guess is that the numbers will not be there for a referendum in the event of a deal, but could be if there is No Deal.  How many of the 21 want to stop a No Deal Brexit – and how many to stop Brexit altogether? A referendum vote next weekend would tell us.
  • Next, there is a timetable question.  Can the Prime Minister really agree and finalise a deal, and then get a Bill based on it through the Commons before October 31?  Watch for him bowing to an extension.  Or Philip Hammond and others seeking to force one on him.  And remember: the Speaker will play a crucial role in any proceedings.
  • Whether there’s an extension or not, Johnson will need the DUP, the Spartans, some of the 21 and some Labour MPs not only for any votes next weekend, but for votes on any Bill which seeks to implement his deal.  It isn’t just next Saturday that could be a nightmare for the Conservative Whips.

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Revealed: The potential route back for some of the 21 Conservative MPs who lost the Whip

A host of bogus theories and fantasies have floated around the official position of the 21 MPs who lost the Whip last month. There were claims that prior readoption by their associations protected them (it doesn’t), and there was even excited talk that some would take the Conservative Party to court to overturn the decision or insist on their right to be a Conservative candidate (they haven’t, for the good reason that they would lose).

Not all of the 21 are even interested in regaining a future as Conservative MPs.

Some are off the reservation entirely, and seek careers elsewhere. Sam Gyimah has joined the Liberal Democrats. Rory Stewart has resigned his Tory membership and intends to stand for Mayor of London as an independent.

Some – including Ken Clarke, Nicholas Soames, Justine Greening and Oliver Letwin – don’t intend to stand for Parliament again. Letwin’s seat was the first of the 21 to select a successor candidate.

A number of the others, however, would like some sort of route back. Quite how that might technically happen has been a bit of a mystery so far; until now.

I can reveal that there is a formal process buried in the thicket of agreements and addenda which have attached themselves over the years to the Conservative Party’s rules.

After Michael Howard ruthlessly stripped Howard Flight of the Whip in 2005, thereby deselecting him and denying him the right to stand as a Tory in that year’s General Election, the 1922 Committee  – rather alarmed by that summary execution – demanded some kind of protection against abuse of such power by the leadership.

They had to wait for a new leader to be elected, so it was in 2006 that David Cameron, Patrick McLoughlin (then Chief Whip) and Sir Michael Spicer (then Chairman of the ’22) put their names to an agreement creating an appeal process for MPs who lose the Whip.

It works like this: within six months of an anticipated General Election, any de-whipped former Conservative MP may request to appeal their status. A panel of three people is then convened, composed of an MP nominated by the Chairman of the ’22, a representative of the voluntary party nominated by the President of the National Convention, and a third person mutually agreed between the ’22, the Convention and the Chief Whip.

The MP then pleads their case – and if successful can regain not the Whip but their membership of the Candidates’ List, ie the right to apply to stand again as a Conservative candidate and re-enter the fold following the ensuing election.

There are a few things to note. First, even for any MP who navigated the panel successfully this arrangement still rightly leaves the final verdict to readopt or not in the hands of their association

Second, there are no specified criteria for judging the MP’s fate. And as the process has so far never been used, there is no case law. In essence it will inevitably be a political decision for the panel, and likely the powers that be. “The MP’s conduct since losing the Whip is likely to feature”, as one person close to the process put it to me.

Third, the particular carrot – regaining the right to stand again, rather than automatic full reinstatement immediately – might lend itself to applying conditions for good behaviour between now and the elusive election. It isn’t hard to imagine a panel effectively binding a supplicant MP over to keep the peace/support Brexit as a requirement for later release from their exile.

I’m told it is expected that at least one of the 21 will seek to exercise this right to appeal, and possibly several will do so. We don’t know yet on what basis their case will be made: continued Hammond-like, defiance on the issue which cost them the Whip in the first place, or an attempt at reconciliation. By the same token, we don’t know yet what attitude the panel will take to them, or what conditions it might apply if it was willing to consider a return. Ultimately, you can bet that it will be a purely political call: does the leadership want them back?

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The plan to force a second referendum, and the prospect of party realignment

Oliver Letwin’s intervention in favour of a second referendum may turn out to be of real political significance.  To understand why, let’s start by returning to Boris Johnson’s options, assuming that he isn’t able to agree a deal with the EU before October 31.

They are, first, to extend, which would mean breaking his word.  Second, not to apply for an extension, which would mean breaking the law.  Third, to resign.  It may be that there is a fourth option unclear at present – for example, a legal appeal against some defect in the Benn Bill.  But at any rate, such appear to be the Prime Minister’s choices, regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision next week on progogation, and other action in the courts.

ConservativeHome concluded earlier this week that, faced with these choices, Johnson might do best to resign.  We added that this anti-No Deal Commons might then tolerate Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister for as long as it took him to apply for the extension.  After which he would be no confidenced, and a general election would take place.

We added that there was a danger such a scheme might work too well.  In other words, that Corbyn might be kept in place by MPs as Prime Minister for months, not weeks.  Or that it might not work at all, because he would be unacceptable to the Commons, which would insist on putting someone else into Number Ten.

The Letwin intervention has further complicated these already mind-bending possibilites.  It should be viewed alongside Tom Watson’s almost identical proposal as a kind of pincer movement on Johnson, intended or unintended.  Both now support a referendum before an election.  Which suggests the following.

To date, the so-called rebel alliance has been unable to resolve a simple question about extension, namely: “what is it for?”  The referendum plan answers it by breathing new life into a familiar proposal.  “It is for allowing the Commons the chance to put Brexit back to the people,” comes the response.

Now there is still a majority, as far as can be seen, in the Commons against another public vote.  Motions supporting a second referendum have twice failed, though not by all that much: one fell short by 13 votes second time round, back in April; another by 27, the week before.

So there would almost certainly be a further struggle in Parliament over a second plebiscite.  But one can see how, were Johnson still Prime Minister in the event of extension, his premiership would slowly be bled to death while MPs debated a second referendum and other plans – with his Government still unable to obtain a majority for an election.

And were not still Prime Minister? At this point, further complexities kick in.

As we say, the Commons would be unlikely to settle on a second referendum quickly, if at all.  Were it to do so, a Bill to enact it would take time.  David Cameron’s original EU referendum bill took over six months to pass through Parliament, gaining first reading in May 2015 and royal assent in December of that year.

While it is possible to imagine MPs putting Corbyn into Number Ten briefly to agree an extension, before pitching him out again to ensure an election, it is very hard to picture them doing so for several months.  For even if a second referendum bill passed through Parliament faster than the first did, its passage would surely take many weeks.

It is here that the Letwin/Watson plan begins to run into problems.  One can see why most Labour MPs, perhaps the SNP and some of the minor parties would support a Corbyn-led, John McDonnell-driven government that would hold office for several months.

But Jo Swinson presumably would not, since propping up the Labour leader would run the risk of legitimising him among her party’s target voters.  Nor, it appears, would Letwin, and most of the 21 Tory dissidents who so recently lost the whip.

Instead, the rebel alliance would cast around for an alternative Prime Minister.  Let us call this person Ken Clarke.  Or Hillary Benn.  Or Letwin himself.  Or even Watson.  One can see that how such a premiership would suit all of these, and those who think like them.

For a Clarke premiership lasting several months, with all the above in place in Cabinet, would raise the prospect of realignment.  If they could all work together so smoothly, after all, wouldn’t the old party allegiances look a bit out of date?  Why should not this “moderate centre” coalesce permanently, and isolate “the extremes?”

Nick Boles would come on board.  So would Anna Soubry.  Philip Hammond would already be in place.  The Speaker would provide procedural aid.  This new force of “progressives”, cheered on inter alia by George Osborne’s Evening Standard, would begin to work as an alliance with the Liberal Democrats, who would already be well represented in this new coalition.  But you will already have spotted the red fly in this pinkish ointment.

For if we can work all this out, so can Jeremy Corbyn.  He would fight with as much of the Labour Party as he can command to stifle such a centrist infant at birth.  And would work in strange alliance with someone who has a mutual interest in doing so too: Boris Johnson, or whoever was Conservative leader at this point in time.  Seumas Milne, meet your new best friend: Dominic Cummings.

We apologise for burdening our readers with yet more speculation, all of which could be rendered out of date tomorrow by some new twist in the tale.  But the current floating of electoral reform – as by Amber Rudd in her recent speech which we carry today – isn’t coming from nowhere.

Behind the scenes, conversations are being had; possibilities are being broached; understandings half-reached.  Perhaps Johnson will get his deal after all.  Or the EU suddenly veto extension, and put us all out of our uncertainty.  In the meantime, though, watch Letwin, the man with a claim to the title of: our Real Prime Minister.

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Javid’s spending speech will have been uncomfortable viewing for his predecessor

It’s been a pretty rough 24 hours for Philip Hammond. After losing the Whip last night, he had to sit and watch his successor as Chancellor deliver today’s spending round.

It won’t have escaped his notice that Sajid Javid – meticulous as ever – was effectively standing up not to praise Hammond but to bury him. It wasn’t an assault, in intent, tone or rhetoric, but nonetheless the implicit effect of the statement was to sprinkle earth over the ex-Chancellor’s approach.

As a former goth, he might in the right circumstances have appreciated the funereal drama. It didn’t look like it today.

Javid informed the House that he was able and willing to do what Hammond was either unable or unwilling to do – namely increase spending across the board, delivering at least the rate of inflation for every department. Although the Chancellor has delayed the full Spending Review, and thereby maintained his predecessor’s fiscal rules, the game certainly seemed to have changed.

A shift in policy might be uncomfortable but expected. But Javid, it turned out, was changing policy to deliver something that Hammond previously said was his aim: an end to austerity.

I asked at last year’s Conservative Party Conference what the definition of such a thing might be. Now we have Javid’s answer: “No department will be cut next year…that’s what I mean by the end of austerity.”

It’s starker and simpler than the principles laid out under Hammond and May. You might almost say it is the kind of clear message you’d need going into an election.

And there’s the final reason Hammond might have found the statement somewhat aggrieving to watch. It’s no fault of Javid’s, but while the Treasury was almost absent from the 2017 election campaign, it will evidently underpin the police and hospitals message that is set to be central to General Elecfion 2019.


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Interview. McLoughlin – Hunt’s former campaign Chairman, lifelong One Nation Tory – backs Johnson’s suspensions

Sir Patrick McLoughlin has defended the Prime Minister’s right to withdraw the whip from Tory MPs who refused last night to support the Government.

McLoughlin, who chaired Jeremy Hunt’s leadership campaign and is the only person ever to have served both as Conservative Party Chairman and as Chief Whip, said “Leadership is about making some very tough decisions” and Tory MPs cannot “just carry on ad nauseam debating this issue”.

He said with deep emotion during this interview, carried out yesterday morning so before last night’s Government defeat, that “I just don’t think we can carry on like we have been doing”.

He added that what is happening to One Nation Toryism is “terrible”, and the party must not become a Brexit party, but in order “not to become a Brexit party we have to deliver Brexit.”

McLoughlin defended David Cameron against the charge that calling the referendum was just a way to fix the problems of  the Conservative Party. He pointed out that Tony Blair and Jack Straw had previously raised the idea of a referendum, the Liberal Democrats had committed themselves to one in their 2010 manifesto, and Labour as well as the Conservatives voted for the referendum which was actually held.

ConHome: “You are the only person to have been both Chief Whip and Party Chairman?”

McLoughlin: “I think I probably am. I don’t think anybody else has been punished like that.”

ConHome: “What’s your view of the Government’s proposal to withdraw the whip from those who don’t support it today?”

McLoughlin: “I regret very much that it’s come to this. But the truth is that if the Prime Minister decides something is a matter of confidence, having just got the overwhelming endorsement from his party to lead it, then I think he has the right to do that.

“Leadership is about making some very tough decisions. I think this is a very tough decision and I wish it wasn’t necessary.

“So I don’t come to it with a sort of ‘Yes, let’s do this, bring it on.’ It’s very much a regret, and it’s very much with sorrow, because some of the people we’re talking about have been good, loyal Conservatives.

“But I just don’t think we can carry on like we have been doing. That is part of the problem.”

ConHome: “Friends of ours like Alistair Burt make the point that ‘we’ve been through the lobbies three times to support this deal, and there are all these characters who haven’t, including the Cabinet ministers who abstained on key votes and helped to bring about the deterioration in discipline.’

“They’ve got a point, haven’t they?”

McLoughlin: “Yes they have got a point. I won’t publicly go, but there are some people who I find absolutely staggering, what they’re calling for.

“But the job for the Prime Minister is not necessarily to look at individuals. And sometimes life is tough. But he is taking the position that we promised…

“All these people voted to implement Article 50. And, you know, we’ve had a six-month delay which cost us very dear. They’re now talking about another three-month delay.

“Well I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the next three months that’s not happened in the last six months.

“And I just think we’ve got to move on from this. I’m sorry we’re leaving the European Union. I still remain sorry we’re leaving the European Union.

“But we gave the people a chance in the referendum. And I just would like to say one other thing as well.

“Everybody says the reason David Cameron did this was to try to a) thwart Farage and b) to reunite the Conservative Party.

“It is just worth remembering that in 2010 the Liberal Democrats had an In/Out referendum in their manifesto, and when we actually moved to the referendum the referendum was supported by the Labour Party as well as by the Conservative Party.

“It was never just in my view a ‘try and fix the Tory Party’ scenario.”

ConHome: “When the whip’s removed, the tradition is you remove it on a vote of confidence, and without trying to peer too far into the future, if the Government loses, do you expect the PM to go immediately for a general election if he can, or wait for Second Reading, or wait for the Lords to get its teeth into the Bill, or what?”

McLoughlin: “Well ‘I don’t know’ is the answer to that.”

ConHome: “I’m just trying to establish if it’s really a vote of confidence or not, even if the Fixed-term Parliaments Act…”

McLoughlin: “Well I think the Prime Minister can say I regard this as a vote of confidence in my leadership, and that’s what he’s doing.

“It is not in the technical sense of the word a motion of confidence, as required by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.

“But it is a motion of confidence, because the Prime Minister says ‘I regard this as a motion of confidence’.”

ConHome: “I mean presumably without encouraging you to speak up for the deselection of endless numbers of Conservative MPs, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander here.

“And if he comes back with a deal, and it’s opposed by some Conservative MPs, he would be entitled to remove the whip from them, would he not?”

McLoughlin: “One step at a time. We’re dealing with today at the moment, and tomorrow will be a different day. The logic of that, which is what your article basically says today, is that would be the case.

“I think one’s got to be always cautious about using these things, and I’m sure that a lot of thought has gone into it, and I hope they’ve considered all the consequences.

“Because as I say I very much regret it has come to this. But I also don’t think we can just carry on ad nauseam debating this issue, which we seem to have done, some people say for the last three years, actually it’s been more like the last four years, following the 2015 election when the referendum was first promised.”

ConHome: “If a very senior member of the party is reselected by their association, as the former Chancellor was last night, but they vote against the Government today, they could be finding that reselection vote is in vain, could they not?”

McLoughlin: “That’s my understanding, but I know Philip Hammond seems to have a different view.”

ConHome: “Is there going to be a general election this year, and if so, when?”

McLoughlin: “I think it’s looking very likely there will be a general election, and I only know from what everybody is saying, October 14th, a Monday, which would enable the Prime Minister, whoever he is, to go to the [European] Council that weekend.”

ConHome: “Though that’s not been said on the record.”

McLoughlin: “The only thing I know about this election, unlike the last election, is what I’m reading in the newspapers.”

ConHome: “Just as a former Chief Whip who’s used to watching the Opposition the whole time, what do you think the Labour Party’s going to do if it comes to a general election vote?

“Because part of the point of having an election before October 31st, if there is one, is Labour can’t say ‘We’re not voting for this, because if we do there’ll be a no deal Brexit’. That excuse has been removed from them, so they’re going to have to vote for this.”

McLoughlin: “I would have thought so. I don’t understand this new nuance that somehow we should wait until after 31st October.

“Because if there was an election on 14th October, then that allows for the Prime Minister, whoever he is, to go to the European Council on the 17th.”

ConHome: “And if the election comes before Brexit, presumably the Brexit Party will stand as many candidates as they can, arguing you can’t trust the Tories.”

McLoughlin: “Well look, all that we can do, if the Brexit Party stand in every seat, which they may well do, they may take some votes.

“But it’s a bit like at the last general election, when everybody thought the UKIP vote would come to the Conservatives. It didn’t wholeheartedly come to the Conservatives, it was quite mixed, and in some areas it did, you know the Mansfields and the places like that.

“I remember talking to you after that election, pointing out we’d won some seats that we haven’t won for 70 years.

“So look, this next election will not be like the 2017 election and it won’t be like the 2015 election. No elections are. They’re all individual entities, fought very much as things are then.

“And this will be a very quick election. The 2017 election was too long.”

ConHome: “How comfortable do you feel about where the party is now?

“If there’s an election, going in on a manifesto that’s pro-Brexit, possibly, actually, with a reasonably good relationship with the Brexit Party, Leave voters might find this prospectus attractive, but there would be tremendous problems with former Remain voters, London, the south.

“You’ve been a One Nation Tory all your working life, and you’re seeing that bit of the Tory coalition in peril.”

McLoughlin: “It’s terrible. It is not a nice scenario. I’m not doing any of this with glee.

“But I also think that governments have to govern, and you know, that’s what we said in the referendum, what we would do, and I don’t think we can rejudge that.

“I famously used that line at the Cabinet meeting, which David Cameron’s used since, saying I’ve always wanted to live in Utopia – the only trouble is I’d wake up and find the European Union was still there.

“But I also respect the right of the Prime Minister to say, ‘We’ve fought an election, that election was on leaving on the 31st October, I’m determined to deliver that.’”

ConHome: “How do you think he’s doing? As Jeremy Hunt’s former campaign chairman.”

McLoughlin: “I think he’s doing very well. He’s trying not only to address the Brexit issue, but he’s also trying to address the other issues that needed addressing anyway.

“Such as education funding and also what he’s saying about the Health Service and other issues.

“So I think what you see in Boris is someone who does actually want to move on to the other agendas as well, and perhaps he feels we’re being sucked into one issue and one issue alone.

“I said a few months ago the Conservative Party must not become a Brexit party. I definitely believe that. But for us not to become a Brexit party we have to deliver Brexit.”

ConHome: “That suggests you think under the previous regime all collective discipline by the end had completely broken down.”

McLoughlin: “I wouldn’t say all discipline. I almost think, looking at this now in hindsight, and with the benefit of hindsight, I almost think we had to go through that to get where we are.

“And don’t forget, Theresa May became Prime Minister because everybody else faded away. That’s how she became Prime Minister. And I think she carried out the job with incredible dignity, and I will never criticise Theresa, because I think she was trying to do an incredibly difficult job.”

ConHome: “How is she now? I saw you talking to her yesterday.”

McLoughlin: “I saw her briefly yesterday. She seemed fine. I think when you consider for nine years she’d either been Home Secretary or Prime Minister, with all the constraints that has on life, I look at Philip and I look at Theresa and I think they are people who are of the Conservative Party, were the Conservative Party, and I have nothing but respect and admiration for her.”

ConHome: “You’ve already touched on David Cameron’s decision to hold the referendum. It was in fact disastrous, would you say?”

McLoughlin: “No, because I think again, that is something we probably needed to do… Blair was the first person to start talking about referendums, Blair and Straw.

“So this isn’t something that DC woke up one morning and thought, ‘This’ll sort everything out.’ It rarely does.”

ConHome: “You are going to stand again, aren’t you?”

McLoughlin: “I very much hope to stand again.”

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Daniel Hannan: How to keep our pledges to the EU nationals who live here

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.

Amid all the angst and acrimony, let’s cling to one area of agreement. All sides concur that EU citizens already in the UK should be allowed to stay here with the right to work and claim benefits as now. Labour and Conservative, Leave and Remain, everyone signs up to the principle. During the referendum, both the official Leave campaign and Arron Banks’s spoiler operation declared that, whatever happened, nothing should prejudice the rights of EU nationals who had already made their lives in Britain.

Indeed, the only politicians who seemed to have a problem with the idea were Theresa May and, oddly enough, Philip Hammond, who insisted on seeing the issue as part of a bargaining process. Not until 2018 did May finally agree to grant settled status to EU nationals, and months more were to pass before she was prevailed on to waive the £65 processing fee.

Boris Johnson, by contrast, always saw the issue in terms of trust and decency. At no stage has he wavered in that view. So what is the problem?

Like other politicians, I have been hearing complaints from EU nationals in in my region who believe they have had their applications turned down, despite being resident in Britain – in some cases for many years.

In fact, what we are seeing is a degree of bureaucratic friction. No one has a claim “rejected”; but some are asked for further proof of residence. Typically, a National Insurance number will do but, in some cases, other evidence is required: a bank statement, a council tax bill or similar.

Rather as when you open a bank account, it can be a pain to get exactly the right documentation together. Sometimes, even when you think you have done everything correctly, you run up against a “computer says no” glitch. In normal times, you would simply grit your teeth and submit whatever else was being asked for. The Home Office, after all, is known to be useless at little things.

These, though, are not normal times. Many EU nationals are still upset about the referendum result, and can interpret a request for more paperwork as a “no”. Some campaigners have, unhelpfully, sought to weaponise the issue. False claims about Brexit being driven by anti-immigrant hostility, rising hate crimes and so forth, have created a febrile atmosphere.

For what it is worth, Britons are likelier than almost any other EU nationals to see immigration as a net good. The number of us who view immigration as largely positive has risen significantly since the 2016 referendum. And despite claims of a “Brexodus”, there are more EU nationals here than ever. The newcomers plainly don’t believe that they will face a hostile atmosphere; nor, indeed, that economic growth is in jeopardy.

Still, the fact that some European citizens feel rejected, or even believe that they might face repatriation, is intolerable. We must fix it. What should we do?

We need to give people a clear sense of legal reassurance. Europeans who haven’t submitted the relevant paperwork should not feel that they have thereby missed the boat, or are somehow in danger of deportation. Imagine, for the sake of argument, a child of French parents who came here in infancy, and is currently in primary school. We must not allow a situation where, through oversight, such a child, years from now, could face a Windrush-type debacle.

How? I am no lawyer, but my sense is that we should emphasise the distinction between having a legal entitlement and exercising your rights under it. Alberto Costa, the Conservative MP who has led the campaign to establish the rights of EU nationals more clearly, gives the example of applying for a passport. You are British by right, but when you apply for a passport, you still need to establish that you are who you claim. In the same way, EU nationals should have settled status by right, though they will similarly have to prove who they are when they wish to (say) acquire a National Insurance number.

It is not an exact parallel, but the Spanish government ruled in 2015 that Sephardic Jews with Hispanic connections were entitled to citizenship – belated restitution for the expulsion of 1492. Those wishing to avail themselves of that right – as several thousand have done – still needed to submit documentation to prove that they had Sephardic Jewish heritage. But the right itself was not in dispute.

Whether we need primary legislation, or whether there is a neater method, others can judge better than I can. If, as rumoured, Priti Patel is about to announce a softening of the abrupt cut-off for EU nationals on 1 November, so much the better: it gives us the time we need. A clear legal entitlement will, I hope, settle the minds of the EU nationals resident here. It is the least we can do.

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The rebels – 21 Conservative and two Labour – on the Letwin SO24 motion

Tory rebels

Here are the 21 Conservative MPs who rebelled to vote for the motion seizing control of Parliamentary business from the Government:

Alistair Burt

Anne Milton

Antoinette Sandbach

Caroline Nokes

David Gauke

Dominic Grieve

Edward Vaizey

Greg Clark

Guto Bebb

Justine Greening

Kenneth Clarke

Margot James

Nicholas Soames

Oliver Letwin

Philip Hammond

Richard Benyon

Richard Harrington

Rory Stewart

Sam Gyimah

Stephen Hammond

Steve Brine

The BBC reports that the Chief Whip has begun to phone round each of them informing them that they have lost the Whip.

Labour rebels

Two Labour MPs – John Mann and Kate Hoey – rebelled against their own party to vote with the Government.

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Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: Disraeli Johnson inflicts deep pain on serious-minded people

The Prime Minister rushed into the House and slid into his seat like an errant schoolboy who has made it into class in the nick of time. He rose with extraordinary rapidity when called to make his statement on the G7, as if so full of energy and animal spirits that he could not bear to remain seated a moment longer, and held forth in a manner that was quite astonishingly rude to his opponents.

Boris Johnson had decided that the best way to play things was to wind up anyone who disapproves of him. If they began by frowning at his behaviour, let them end by weeping and gnashing their teeth.

According to the Prime Minister, the measure before the House which would prevent a no deal Brexit is “Jeremy Corbyn’s Surrender Bill” and means “running up the white flag”.

Corbyn was provoked by this scorn into a better performance than he usually gave against Theresa May. “We’re not surrendering,” he insisted, “because we’re not at war with Europe.”

And he ended by declaring that the Prime Minister has “no mandate, no morals and as of today no majority”.

No majority was a reference to Dr Phillip Lee, who had just defected to the Liberal Democrats, and could be seen sitting next to  their new leader, Jo Swinson.

But the afternoon belonged to Johnson the pantomime Prime Minister, behaving with an effrontery which has not been seen in a leader of the Conservative Party since Benjamin Disraeli in 1867, when to the horror and disgust of serious-minded men, he wangled the Second Reform Bill through the Commons.

Johnson horrifies and disgusts serious-minded people. Theresa May sat pale and disapproving beside Kenneth Clarke, the Leader of the House.

On the Labour front bench Sir Keir Starmer looked as if he could not bear Johnson. Hilary Benn, several rows behind him, began by laughing but soon evinced a frigid disgust.

Clarke, Benn and Philip Hammond were among the many who demanded detail from Johnson which he refused to give. One could not help wondering, as he batted away specific inquiries with broad brush observations, if he is preparing a trap for his opponents.

Perhaps one morning we shall awake to find a cornucopia of detail pouring out of Downing Street, most of it excruciatingly dull. Perhaps Johnson the conjuror is all the while distracting us with a series of outrageous tricks, so we do not see what he is actually doing.

Huw Merriman (Con, Bexhill and Battle) asked whether whether the whip will be removed from those Conservative MPs who refuse to vote for whatever deal the Prime Minister may bring back from Brussels.

“What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” he replied. Disraeli, sorry Johnson, will stop at nothing to get a measure through which inflicts the deepest pain on the Gladstones of our time, on whichever side of the Commons they may be found.

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