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Westlake Legal Group > Uncategorized (Page 39)

Almost good enough isn’t good enough

ConservativeHome’s first rule of Commons votes is that the Speaker will do everything he can to spite the Government.  He is therefore unlikely to smile on any eleventh-hour manuscript amendment designed to reduce the scale of Theresa May’s loss this evening.  None of the Conservative amendments that would aid the Government are expected to pass – Andrew Murrison’s, Hugo Swire’s, Edward Leigh’s.  Labour will whip against them and ERG-aligned MPs will vote against them.  They take the same view of these as they do of yesterday’s letter from Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker to the Prime Minister: that they carry no legal weight of any significance.

The amendment that would most spare the Prime Minister’s blushes is Hillary Benn’s, which is both anti-her deal and anti-No Deal.  It is thought likely to be carried, thereby obviating her main motion – but by a smaller margin than she would otherwise lose by.  Some Tory MPs have therefore been discreetly lobbied by Whips to back this amendment that opposes her deal.  Since Benn’s anti-deal amendment is thus helpful to May (we hope you’re still with us), it follows that he may withdraw it: indeed, it is reported this morning that he has now done so.

When unclear about procedural malarkey, it’s usually best to turn to MPs’ motives.  It will do for our purposes today to look at the Conservatives only.  They fall roughly into five groups: loyalists, Remainers, Soft Brexiteers – and then two types of harder Brexiteers.  The loyalists will of course vote for the Prime Minister’s motion, assuming it is reached, as will those Conservative MPs convinced of the merits of her deal.  Remainers, such as Dominic Grieve, will largely vote against.  Soft Brexiteers, such as our columnist Nicky Morgan, will mostly vote for.  They will then cluster around Nick Boles’ Norway Plus scheme, or some variant of EEA membership.

The harder Brexiteers divide into two main tendencies.  First, there are those set against May’s deal at any price.  Let’s call them the diehards, adapting the use of the term by James Forsyth.  They actively hunger for No Deal and the WTO minimum.  The second are those who believe, as Jacob Rees-Mogg puts it in our Moggcast this morning, that “most of the poison is in the backstop”.  Again borrowing from Forsyth, let’s refer to them as the Ditchers.  Were the UK to have a unilateral escape clause from it, or were it to have a clear end-date, most of this band of MPs would drop their opposition to the deal and move to support it.  It just might then be able to pass.

It follows that it is therefore in the interest of this second group as well as the first to vote against the deal today – since, by doing so, they would send a message to Brussels that it will only clear Parliament if concessions are made on the backstop.  But not so fast.  Some of the Ditchers are brooding over the numbers.  They calculate that if the Prime Minister loses by a big margin tonight, the EU may give up on the deal together.  And that if she does so by a small one, it will offer no further concessions.  But if she loses by a margin somewhere in between the two, concessions of real value will be forthcoming.

They may be right.  As March 29 approaches, we are hearing rather less about how the deal represents “the last word” of the EU, that “rule-based organisation”, which “won’t budge”.  And more and more about how it may blink after all.  None the less, we hope that Ditcher MPs aren’t drawn into playing clever-clever games this evening, tailoring their votes according to what they believe May’s likely majority may be, and trying to game the result so that she loses by, say, 50 votes or so in order to squeeze those concessions out of the EU.  Such wheezes are not unknown among “the most sophisticated electorate in the world”.

The simple truth is that none are in a position to second-guess the mass of individual decisions that their colleagues may take.  And that, in such circumstances, the most straighforward course is nearly always the best.  Which is this case is: to judge the Prime Minister’s deal on its merits and demerits.  What are these?  In our view, Brexit is a film, not a photo.  In other words, where Britain is on March 29 is not necessarily where we will be in ten years’ time.  For example, it would be acceptable to stay in a customs union for a transition period.  Indeed, it is inevitable, since the systems are not yet ready to escape it.

What is not acceptable is for that film to be “Groundhog Day” – in short, for a backstop from which we have no guarantee of escape lock the whole UK in a customs union, with Northern Ireland none the less divided from Great Britain.  The proposed regulatory border in the Irish sea would separate the province further from the rest of the country.  That has implications not only for Northern Ireland but for Scotland, and thus for the unity of the UK.  The deal sets up an institutional tension between Eurosceptism and unionism, since Great Britain could move further, under its terms, from Single Market and Customs Union rules, but Northern Ireland could not.

For this reason, we hope that Conservative MPs vote against May’s deal this evening.  As we’ve said before, it almost works.  Theresa May won on borders and money in the negotiation, and minimised the ECJ’s scope on laws, which could reasonably be scored as a points win.  She gained the bespoke deal that her critics said would be impossible.  She has won almost no credit for this achievement, first, because she has no media allies or strong public backing, but faces formidable opposition from both second referendum Remainers and UKIP-type Leavers; second, because U-turns and broken pledges elsewhere have bust her credibility and third, of course, because of the backstop.

But almost good enough is not good enough.  Strangely but truly, Tory MPs can best help their leader by voting her deal down today, sending her back to Brussels, and gaining those backstop concessions.  This is far from being a guaranteed outcome but it is not at all an impossible one.  The EU doesn’t want a messy Brexit on its north-west frontier if it can be avoided, especially with the possibility of recession coming to the Eurozone.  Either way, the Commons should honour the referendum result.  May’s deal ultimately falls short of doing so – and guarantees losing the DUP, together with her majority.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The Moggcast. “Most of the poison is in the backstop.” Were it removed, Rees-Mogg might support May’s plan.

You can also listen and subscribe to the Moggcast on iTunes, through our YouTube channel, or through the RSS feed here.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iran says it’s launched a satellite that didn’t reach orbit

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran on Tuesday conducted one of at least two satellite launches it plans despite criticism from the United States, but the satellite failed to reach orbit, an official said.

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New migrant caravan leaves Honduras for journey to US border

A new caravan of at least 500 migrants late Monday began its perilous journey from a rain-soaked bus station in Honduras to the United States border, members of the group told Fox News.

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Socialist Workers Party’s 2016 presidential candidate running for Dallas mayor: report

A 2016 presidential candidate from the Socialist Workers Party is running for mayor of Dallas, a report said Monday.

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Jeremy Hunt: This deal is a compromise, but it honours the referendum result – and it must pass

Jeremy Hunt is Member of Parliament for South West Surrey, and Foreign Secretary.

For once the cliché is justified: today really is an historic day. The House of Commons is about to vote on an agreement that would change our national destiny and take Britain out of the European Union in just 73 days.

It took a remarkable sequence of events to get us to the verge of leaving the EU after 46 years. There was a referendum that most experts predicted would deliver a victory for Remain. There was an election that left us without a majority. Even so, we now have a 585-page Withdrawal Agreement, negotiated and concluded with 27 countries. It has compromises but not even the Prime Minister’s fiercest critics would doubt her dogged determination that has got us to this point.

But it is clear the opponents of Brexit are not giving up. On the face of it, all the cards are stacked against them. At the 2017 election both the two main parties pledged to leave the EU. They are up against a Government and a Prime Minister committed to delivering on this. And most importantly of all, those who want Brexit stopped are up against the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the EU, more than for any other cause or party in British history. Like many who campaigned to remain in the EU, that for me is the single biggest reason we must honour the mandate: as one of the oldest parliamentary democracies in the world it would be a devastating blow both to our national cohesion and our global reputation if the political class succeeded in unpicking what the people had told it to do.

It is of course perfectly principled to take a different view. But the effect of changing the parliamentary rules to prevent No Deal would – whether intended or not – also allow Parliament to stop Brexit altogether. Because you cannot just change the rules of Parliament on one specific issue: once the precedent has been set they can be changed on any issue.

This kind of asymmetric tactic to delaying or stopping Brexit would be significant for two other reasons: firstly because the most likely outcome would not be a decisive shift to a different kind of Brexit, rather a move to constitutional stalemate and Brexit paralysis. Businesses up and down the country desperate to plan would instead be condemned to months more uncertainty. But secondly – and much more profoundly – it would directly pit the will of Parliament against the will of the people.

We have never had a written constitution and that has given us admirable flexibility to move fast at crucial moments. But it has always depended on restraint from parliamentarians, recognising that our role is not to impose our will on the people but to remain faithful to our democratic mandate. After a referendum in which all major political parties promised to honour the result, failing to do so would lead to a potentially irreparable breach of trust.

So why vote for this deal? It has compromises and elements that make many people – myself included – frankly uncomfortable. Yet it does contain much that Leave voters were demanding: sovereign control over immigration, leaving the CAP and the CFP, no large annual membership fees, and only the most limited role for the European Court of Justice. At the same time, it protects businesses and jobs that depend on trade with the EU in the way any responsible government would obviously seek to do. And with skilful negotiation, an independent trade policy will be something we can achieve.

The risk is that by opposing it in the hope of something better, we end up with the worst possible outcome: no Brexit at all.

Why is that? Because those seeking to reverse the Brexit decision have a simple three part plan: defeat the Government in the meaningful vote; then use the deadlock to extend Article 50 and push for a second referendum. It is not scaremongering to point this out: the first part may happen tonight and then with the amendment planned by Dominic Grieve for later in the week Parliament could require the Government to adopt the second.

If Brexit were then to be reversed in a second referendum, how would we look the 52 per cent who supported Brexit in 2016 – and went on to vote Conservative in the 2017 General Election – in the face? They trusted us to deliver Brexit – and we would have failed.

I have many colleagues and friends whom I respect enormously who have taken an honourable decision to accept that risk, but I cannot. This is our moment to deliver on what the British people asked us to do and we should seize it.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

James Palmer: We need a Minister for East West Rail

James Palmer is the directly elected Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

When it comes to Government investment in infrastructure, there is much talk of the need to redress the north-south divide. There are many myths around this debate, but while much focus gets placed on Greater London versus the north, there is less attention on the central heart of this country, and transport connections east and west.

So of course I welcome the development of East West Rail, which will connect Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge, as well as the emerging plans for an expressway linking the two University cities. The economy of this central belt is flourishing, supporting pioneering enterprises which are at the world’s forefront. It is rightly labelled as the UK’s answer to Silicon Valley. This growth corridor hosts clusters of businesses in life sciences, digital and advanced engineering and technology, and competes internationally for research and development funding and other inward investment.

The Cambridge to Oxford ‘Arc’ alone supports 1.8 million jobs and generates £90 billion in “gross value added” (GVA) for our economy. The National Infrastructure Commission estimates that with the right Government investment, that GVA could increase by a further £163 billion, with an additional 700,000 jobs created, by 2050 – double the economic growth that could be achieved if the Government does nothing.

In short, this rail scheme will be vital for UK plc. So vital, in fact, that I think the Government needs to appoint a Minister for East West Rail.

The good news is I understand it is the Government’s intention to do just this. To have a Minister pounding the corridors of Whitehall to drive this project forward will be hugely significant, and will improve on the already good levels of inter-governmental working there has been.

Let’s have a Minister with a vision for a true East West Rail too. Why does it have to stop at Cambridge? The economy of the East will be hugely boosted if the route also connects centres like Bury St Edmunds, Stowmarket, Ipswich and the major port at Felixstowe. I know from the western side too, there is real appetite to extend the line to Bristol. What we would then get is a real East-West link that will deliver growth across a key central southern belt of this country.

But we also need to be clearer on what the benefits are for local people. It’s about how this will grow the economy, create new jobs, and ease the pressure on housing through the delivery of a million much-needed new homes. It is also as much about better transport connections along the route, as it is connecting Cambridge and Oxford. People in Bedford and Sandy, for example, will suddenly have a fast route into Cambridge. East West Rail is a transformational project, but this isn’t yet cutting through to communities. Key to this will be improved local engagement. The last meeting I went to on East West Rail saw Government officials talking to a room about what they intended to do, with little dialogue. The approach needs to change.

We now have the Cross Corridor Leaders Group, which encompasses the leaders and chief executives of the 28 relevant local authorities, and which is still in its early phases.  We also have the strategic alliance England’s Economic Heartland which I believe should expand to include more authorities in the East.  There is great potential for a Minister to work with these groups representing people and businesses, to ensure a clear strategy can be developed that satisfies as far as possible both the local and national priorities.

The Government clearly needs support from local leaders too. Kit Malthouse wrote to me last year asking where we can accommodate our share of the million homes along the corridor. My response was: “first tell me where East West Rail is going”. We can’t plan for housing without certainty of the route of the rail line and the expressway, including how this will impact on local plans in some of the 28 local authorities. I know in the West there is uncertainty over where the expressway will go and here in the East we don’t know, for example, if the rail route will go through Sandy and southern Cambridgeshire, or follow the existing A428 corridor.

Let me also sound a note of warning. East West Rail should not be seen as simply a boost to an already prosperous area. The 2018 Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review report, led by economist Dame Kate Barker, stressed that to secure the continued growth of our unique economy, a range of challenges need to be overcome, with transport infrastructure and housing key among these. We have ageing transport networks and house prices which in Cambridge are 13 times average household earnings. It is not sustainable and we need solutions urgently.

We need East West Rail to integrate with existing transport and housing plans, such as the emerging Cambridgeshire Metro, which will deliver a world-class mass transit system that can complement the new rail link. We also need to ensure East West Rail dovetails with our plans to build more homes, including through garden villages, which will be unlocked by the delivery of the Metro system and other infrastructure schemes we are developing.

I know as Mayor, delivering even simple infrastructure upgrades is not easy and requires unrelenting focus. East West Rail is essential, but it will stagnate without drive from central Government and partnership working with local representatives.

East West Rail is too important to the future of the UK economy to fail. We need a Minister in charge who will ensure that is not an option.

 

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If confirmed as attorney general, William Barr will be thrust into the lightning rod role of overseeing the gravest investigation of a president in decades

Attorney general nominee William Barr’s Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday is expected to be a highly charged affair that’s sure to test his opinion of just how powerful a president — in this case, Donald Trump — is.

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