Swire and Parish to vote against May deal tomorrow

Swire on Twitter:

“I do believe that there is still a deal to be done with the EU but that this is not that deal. I simply do not think it right for an MP to bind this country into the backstop from which there is no unilateral right to withdraw. Statement on the eve of the vote.”

Parish on his website:

“There is much that I like in the Withdrawal Agreement and my preference is to vote for a deal to ensure a smooth and orderly exit. The deal can protect citizens’ rights, give businesses certainty, ensure frictionless trade, no hard border in Northern Ireland, co-operation on security – and provide an agreed process moving forward.

But as I have explained to the Prime Minister, the current deal needs work, or it will not pass in the Commons, with or without my vote. Vital issues remain on the indefinite nature of the Northern Ireland ‘backstop’, both in terms of annexation and CJEU jurisprudence, but also as a loss of leverage for leaving the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement – and getting a good future trade deal.

Until I am convinced these are sufficiently resolved, I cannot support the Withdrawal Agreement.”


Swire Brexit intervention “flimsy rubbish” says Brexiteer MP

“In normal times, a PM’s ‘late’ decision to adopt a backbench amendment can swing the ten or so rebels needed to win a vote. However, the new normal on Brexit is that battle-hardened backbenchers are less likely than ever to cave to such tactics. The string of ‘concessions’ announced by Brexit secretary Steve Barclay and pushed by No10 yesterday met with a collective shrug at best and ridicule at worst.

The Hugo Swire amendment, to give MPs a final say on the ‘backstop’ or the transition period, was burned off by Brexiteer Steve Baker as “flimsy rubbish which will only persuade those who have decided to be persuaded”.

The DUP’s Nigel Dodds said the plan – which No.10 insiders admit would involve the UK struggling to meet its international obligations – was ‘meaningless and cosmetic’ “

Source: The Waugh Zone, Huffington Post

“County Council leader tells me he ‘hasn’t got a clue yet’ about No Deal Brexit planning” says EDA Independent Councillor

At yesterday’s DCC Cabinet meeting, Leader John Hart answered three questions I had put in writing about estimated risks from Theresa May’s Brexit and No Deal, about help to businesses for No Deal, and emergency planning for disruption to fuel, food and medical supplies in Devon as a result of No Deal.

The questions and answers are attached. It will be seen that Cllr Hart did not answer any of the questions. When I asked when he would answer them, he said ‘We haven’t got a clue yet’ about what is going to happen, and that there would be a meeting next week, with just 10 weeks left to when the UK will crash out of the EU with No Deal if no change is made.

It can be seen that there are no protections in place to protect Devon from the effects of a No Deal. Economy Cabinet member Cllr Rufus Gilbert said ‘we can’t plan for a hypothetical’ but at the moment No Deal is the default scenario for 29th March.

This is why Devon and Dorset MPs like Ben Bradshaw, Sarah Wollaston and Oliver Letwin are absolutely right to try to block No Deal. I told Cabinet it was irresponsible of them not to support these moves.

Martin Shaw
Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton & Colyton”

dcc leader’s replies on no deal brexit 9.1.19

“‘Secret’ £75m Brexit contracts [to management consultants] facing investigation”

“The government has quietly awarded £75m of Brexit-related contracts to some of the world’s biggest consultancy firms, Sky News can reveal.

The deals, uncovered today for the first time, were never publicly announced.

They were given to nine high-profile international companies, including familiar names such as Deloitte, Accenture and PwC.

Each company received a contract worth between £5m and £10m.

Three of the contracts – together worth £25m – went to the American firms Bain, McKinsey and Boston Consulting.

All nine agreements are described as contracts for “the supply of Cabinet Office consultancy support for EU Exit”.

Each is due to run until 30 April 2019, but with the option for them to be renewed for a further year at the same cost.

Details of the plans were placed on an unobtrusive part of the government website just before Christmas, eight months after they had come into action.

But despite each including contracts running to more than 200 pages, crucial facts were removed – such as who in the government signed off the agreements and what work was actually involved.

In addition, the contracts were awarded under a framework titled “Health and Community” – but are, in fact, entirely focused upon preparations for Brexit.

That process, which restricted selection to companies which had already passed a “vetting process” all but ended the chance of smaller, Brexit-specific consultancies winning any of these contracts.

The chair of the public affairs committee, Meg Hillier, condemned the secrecy and delay as “ridiculous” and said the contracts would now be referred for investigation by the National Audit Office. …..

…. Joe Owen, association director of the Institute of Government, is researching Whitehall preparations for Brexit. He told me that “febrile politics” had changed the way in which information is being shared.

He said: “We’ve not had a huge amount of transparency with regards to much on Brexit over the last few years, particularly not the kind of preparations that are going on for no deal.

“There’s definitely been an increase in secrecy more generally across the civil service as a result of Brexit, just because of how politically difficult it’s been for many reasons.

“There are the divisions inside the country, the government, parliament, the cabinet and that’s kind of fed into this level of secrecy.”

Sky News has contacted all the companies involved. So far six have replied – all saying they could not comment on matters involving clients.

These are the details of the nine contracts, each for consultancy support:

:: The Boston Consulting Group – £10m

:: Bain & Company Inc. United Kingdom – £10m

:: McKinsey and Company, Inc. United Kingdom – £5m

:: Accenture (UK) Limited – £5m

:: Deloitte LLP – £10m

:: Ernst & Young LLP – £10m

:: Mott Macdonald Limited – £5m

:: PA Consulting Services Limited – £10m

:: Pricewaterhousecoopers LLP – £10m”


Luxury properties snapped up by foreign buyers after pound fell

“The global super-rich have taken advantage of the Brexit-induced decline in the value of sterling to buy up three times as many £10m-plus luxury homes as before the referendum vote.

Some 300 homes sold for more than £10m each in the tax year to April 2017 (the latest for which figures are available), an increase from 100 sold during the preceding 12-month period. The figures, released by HM Revenue and Customs on Wednesday following a freedom of information request, were rounded to the nearest 10 by HMRC. …”


“Brexit deadlock ‘is blocking vital domestic policy reforms’ ” says cross-party group of MPs

“A powerful cross-party group of MPs today warns Theresa May that Brexit is “sucking the life” out of her government – as cabinet sources admit that the crisis is forcing vital domestic business off the government’s timetable.

With the deadlock over May’s Brexit deal unresolved, and a key vote in parliament postponed until mid-January, the chairpersons of six all-party select committees have signed a statement saying long-drawn-out arguments over Brexit are having a “serious detrimental effect” on wider domestic policy.

The MPs, who include the Tory chairs of the treasury and education select committees, Nicky Morgan and Robert Halfon, add that: “Rather than continuing to drag out the Brexit process for months more, we must bring it to a close if we are to prevent serious damage to our country”.

Others who signed off on the statement are the chair of the work and pensions select committee, Frank Field; the Tory chair of the digital culture media and sport committee, Damian Collins; the Labour chair of the environmental audit select committee, Mary Creagh; and Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat chair of the science and technology committee.

While the six have very different views on Brexit they agree that the government is letting people down with its near-total preoccupation with the issue at a time of crisis in the NHS and social care, rising knife crime, failing public transport, chronic homelessness and environmental challenges. Labour members including Creagh say government austerity has made neglect of poorer communities by government even more shocking.

Their intervention follows news on Friday that chaos over Brexit has forced NHS leaders to postpone a new long-term plan for the NHS and put back, yet again, a long-awaited green paper on the future of social care until January. Both decisions dismayed MPs and organisations across the health and social care sectors.

Asked why the social care green paper had been delayed, a government source told the Observer the crisis over Brexit had “wiped the grid clean and meant we have had to push stuff back. So social care won’t be until January.”

Underlining the sense of national crisis, Church of England bishops said yesterday that they would pray this weekend for national unity and “courage, integrity and clarity for our politicians” after a week of turmoil.

Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, which represents small and medium-sized care providers, said: “If the matter wasn’t serious it could be farcical. Clearly, the government recognised in 2017 that there was an ‘urgent’ need to review the funding of long-term care to ensure we can predict a sustainable service which will meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable members of our society. We have become used to the fact that creating solutions in the growing crisis in social care is not really that urgent after all.”

Field told the Observer he had been urging May for months to allow legislation to be brought forward by select committees or through private members bills if the government could not find the time itself. But he had had no response to his idea.

Other areas of policy that MPs say have been subject to Brexit-related delays include the fair funding review, intended to reform and improve how local government financing is organised, and a government strategy on internet safety. Labour says the results of government consultations on housing issues such as longer tenancies and consumer rights – which concluded months ago – have not materialised. The domestic abuse bill, championed personally by May, also has yet to be introduced. The Missing Persons Guardianship Act, which was meant to allow the families of people who have gone missing to take control of their affairs, has not yet come into force even though it became law over a year ago.

In their statement the six select committee chairs say: “Long-drawn-out arguments over Brexit and delays in reaching an agreement on our future relationship with the EU are having a serious detrimental effect on the conduct of wider domestic policy. MPs of all parties and ministers should be addressing the most urgent challenges facing our country: safeguarding our NHS, improving social care for the elderly; stepping up the fight against crime and knife crime; sorting out our benefits system; improving our public transport and safeguarding the environment for future generations. The Prime Minister should return to addressing burning social injustices which she insisted, on entering Downing Street, would be her main priority. Instead, Brexit is sucking the life out of government at a time when our towns, cities and citizens face serious spending restraints. Rather than continuing to drag out the Brexit process for months more, we must bring it to a close if we are to prevent serious damage to our country.”

Charities, too, expressed exasperation at the government’s failure to address domestic issues, pointing to the housing crisis and chaotic rollout of universal credit. Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, says that low-income families that backed Leave in 2016 have since been hit by price rises, spiralling housing costs and tax credit reductions. He called on the government to “get a grip and deliver for people on low incomes”. “Failing to meet their expectations of a better life after Brexit would be costly for the political parties. We need a bold package of domestic reforms, not just favourable trade terms.”

Greg Beales, who campaign director at the housing charity Shelter, said vital reforms were still needed to tackle the housing crisis and bolster renters’ rights. “But too much is currently stuck in the mire while Brexit crowds out everything else.”

Yet another policy area that has been neglected is transport, as the government has struggled to address months of timetabling chaos and pushed back the electrification of railways in the north. Darren Shirley, who heads the Campaign for Better Transport, said that there was “a bandwidth problem across government” with key domestic issues “dropping down the agenda” because of Brexit.”