So what happened in the house last week ...
An exciting week in the House of Commons last week. The Prime Minister returned triumphant from Strasbourg secure in the knowledge a deal had been secured to push her deal through parliament.
Geoffrey Cox, Attorney General had to deliver the legal opinion to assure the DUP and the ERG of the validity of the back stop to the back stop. Alas it was not to be. When Jon Snow suggested on Twitter, the AG had rejected May's deal, Cox tweeted "Bollocks". He still had over two hundred characters in play, if more explanation was needed.
Now we know, the tweet was the legal opinion on the substance of the latest amendment. There is a sense bewilderment among the fifth estate. Jon Snow harassed Matt Hancock (Health and Social Care) suggesting the government was "all at sea" over Brexit. Emily Maitlis rolled her eyes in dismay when confronted with the prevarications of Labour's Barry Gardiner. He was asked to explain Labour's policy on Brexit and the election manifesto. He did not or more probably could not. "People are tearing there hair out" a frustrated Maitlis exclaimed. The "Newsnight" interrogator made furious notes to cancel future broadcasting plans and make a career move to the Antiques Road Show.
It is too easy to misunderstand just what happened last week. The house voted to reject May's deal but decided to reject no deal. Any deal would be better that May's deal and or no deal but no other deal has been been offered for the moment.
The Prime Minister offered a free vote on the Government motion to stop Britain crashing out of the EU. The motion was amended by MPs to rule out a no deal. The free vote was cancelled. A three line whip followed. Some Tories were already in the pub. Greg Clarke, the business secretary defied the government whip and abstained. In trying to explain his actions, he said he was confused. As if ...
Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary voted against the motion. A swift change of heart. He had closed the debate arguing for the motion in formal process.
Parliament tried to take control of the Brexit process. A motion from Hilary Benn making him Prime Minister was defeated by 314 votes to 312. MPs voted against a second referendum. Jeremy Corbyn in a "Carpe Diem" moment declared he was now in favour of a "People's Vote", safe in the knowledge this was never going to happen.
So what happens next? The Prime Minister is set to make a third attempt to win Commons backing for her deal on Tuesday. Her voice may have recovered, the DUP will be offered concessions on Airport Passenger Duty in Northern Ireland. The ERG may realize the risk of staying in the EU is becoming all too probable.
Theresa May is set to ask the EU for an extension to the Article 50 process if the deal fails once again to make it through the house next week. The PM will ask for an extension until the end of June. In June of which year has not, as yet been specified ...
Tariff Troubles Torment Trade ...
With just two weeks to go to the departure date, the Government decided to release details of the new tariff structure on imports into the UK. Business is already dealing with the challenges of the threat to exports. Now HMG has chosen the moment to reveal the imminent threat from imports.
87% of total imports into the UK would be eligible for tariff free access. Some protection will be offered on beef, lamb, pork, chicken and some dairy products including cheddar cheese.
Tinned Tuna will be subject to a 25% tariff. Ceramics and fertilizer will also face tariff hikes. Imported cars will be taxed at 10%. Bananas, sugar and certain kinds of fish will maintain current tariff levels, to "ensure that access for developing countries is maintained."
Trade Policy Minister George Hollingberry said "If we leave without a deal, we will set the majority of our tariff levels to zero whilst maintaining tariffs for the most sensitive industries". The new structure would be temporary. The government will closely monitor the the effects of tariffs on industry and the economy during an initial twelve month period.
Business was unimpressed. The steel industry faces extinction, it does not appear to be a "sensitive industry". TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady warned of a "hammer blow" to industries and communities. NFU President Minette Batters warned of the risks to domestic farming and a great reliance on overseas production with no control on animal welfare.
Carolyn Fairbairn Director General of the CBI described the move as a "sledgehammer" for the UK economy. "What we are hearing is the biggest change in terms of trade for this country since the 19th century imposed on the country with no consultation with business and no time to prepare. " "This is no way to run a country."
So who will run the country once Theresa May has gone ...
Brexit Bonus in the bag ...
Boris Johnson is the people's choice to become the next Prime Minister according to latest polls. Jacob Rees-Mogg is a close second. Nowhere does Phillip Hammond feature.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his Spring statement this week. A sea of calm in an ocean of torment. The race to inanity delayed for a few moments at the despatch box. The Treasury offered a Brexit bonus in the event of a no deal, or in the event of an agreed deal for that matter.
The OBR had delivered the March "Economic and Fiscal Outlook". Good news for the Chancellor on borrowing. The deficit will fall to around £22 billion in the current year. Debt as a % of GDP is set to fall in the years ahead. Growth will be around 1.2% this year, rising to an assumed trend rate 1.5% over the forecast horizon. Job prospects remain high, earnings will average 3.5%. Inflation will remain at or around trend rate. Real earnings will rise boosting household incomes. House prices will be flat through the year, pushing back the price earnings ratio to some semblance of normality.
The Chancellor was in giving mood. More money for the police service. More money to challenge period poverty in secondary schools. The Chancellor pledged an end to low pay and an increase in the living wage.
Visitors from North America, South Korea and Singapore will be able to use e-gates at ports of entry into the UK. Great news, this a process most of us have struggled with since introduction.
Chancellor Hammond, spreadsheet Phil, a steady pair of hands above the "Banality of Brexit." Promises on the side of a bus, "Who governs Britain" the question at referendum. That's a great question we continue to ask today ...
That's all for this week, have a great week-end. We will be back with more news and updates next week!
The Saturday Economist
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