Analysis

5 Brexit stories you may have missed over Christmas break

by Luke Lythgoe | 08.01.2018

Parliament has returned and Theresa May’s chaotic government enters another year dominated by Brexit. Here are five key Brexit developments you may have missed during the festive season.

Adonis resigns, shaken by “nationalist spasm”

Arguably the biggest blow for May’s government during the Christmas recess was the resignation of Andrew Adonis as the government’s infrastructure tsar. In a scathing letter, he called Brexit a “nationalist spasm worthy of Donald Trump” that is “causing a nervous breakdown across Whitehall”. He described the prime minister’s Withdrawal Bill as “the worst legislation of my lifetime” and accused the government of “hurtling towards the EU’s emergency exit with no credible plan”.

Tory Brexiters were quick to write the Labour peer off as an “elitist” and “out of touch with the British people”. But Adonis is an experienced politician with a track record of working with other parties. His departure, like that of May’s entire social mobility commission earlier the same month, again exposes the frustration and paralysis Brexit is causing across government.

Pressure mounting on Labour position

But it was Labour who felt most Brexit heat over the holidays. In late December, after pressure from Labour councillors in London, Jeremy Corbyn definitively ruled out his party’s support for a second referendum.

This was then undermined last week by a study from Queen Mary University showing that 78% of Labour members supported another referendum. Former prime minister Tony Blair also intervened, describing Labour’s current Brexit policy as “confusing” and said supporting Brexit would ultimately leave Corbyn distracted and short of the money needed to achieve his goals. Instead, Blair argued, Labour should “make Brexit the Tory Brexit”.

David Davis: the unimportant optimist?

The purpose of David Davis was once again questioned, with reports that the Brexit secretary had been sidelined in favour of civil servant Olly Robbins, who was now having direct talks with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier. Davis’s department called the reports “wholly inaccurate”.

Nevertheless, Davis remains the optimistic public face of May’s Brexit, writing a column in the Telegraph predicting a successful Brexit deal including trade in services, collaboration between EU and UK regulators, and transition arrangements “agreed early on” in 2018. This will be more difficult than he lets on.

Fox’s Pacific pipe dreams

Meanwhile trade secretary Liam Fox has opened initial talks on joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade group of 11 countries including Australia, Japan and Mexico. Although the clue is in the name, UK officials insist geography is not a problem.

Former Treasury minister Jim O’Neill called the government’s fixation on trading with Australia and New Zealand “mad”, while Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said “far-flung trade deals will never compensate for leaving the world’s largest market sitting on our doorstep”.

Blue passports!

But forget everything else, because it has now been confirmed that British passports will be blue once more. This will end the “national humiliation” felt so acutely by some Brexiters at airports, and chimes well with May’s new year’s promise that Brits will feel “renewed confidence and pride” in 2018. Thank goodness for that. Oh, and by the way, it emerged that British passports could have been blue without bothering with Brexit. We apparently switched to burgundy all those years ago out of convenience. New member Croatia hasn’t chosen to do so. Croatians must feel so proud.

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Edited by Bill Emmott

5 Responses to “5 Brexit stories you may have missed over Christmas break”

  • I really don’t know where the Brexiteers got their myth of the blue passport from. I still have an old passport issued to me in the early 1960s and it was black. There isn’t a trace of blue on it. Personally, I couldn’t care less whether it is green with pink spots just as long as it does the job. What a total waste of money and effort.

  • Well here’s my Christmas Brexit story……I am a UK citizen living in Italy with permanent residence. I own property in the UK and pay tax in the UK. I have a neighbour here who’s a Nigerian national and has lived here in Italy for twenty years. Hilda tells me she was allowed to vote in the UK referendum as a Commonwealth Citizen as she holds the relevant UK passport. Please someone tell me why I was disenfrancised. I made every effort to register to vote to no avail. Hilda voted Remain and has been crying ever since as have I.

  • The plan to replace free access to the European market with whatever Liam Fox conjures up needs to be properly exposed. It is so obvious that he is making it up as he goes along. It is a classic example of having arrived at the answer that the non European option will be better, and then having to search for the facts which would prove the theory.

    It does indeed seem extraordinary that so much reliance is being put on trade deals with Australia and New Zealand. We may have fond ties with them, but in economic terms they are small players. Especially NZ, a market smaller than the Belgian region of Flanders. (Even Australia has only half the population of Spain) On the opposite side of the planet! Will the transport costs in fuel and CO2 emissions also be factored in?

    Fox, of course, is well-known as an Atlanticist with his strong ties to US business interests. This brings the US approach to food health standards into the equation. They are unquestionably lower than EU standards. Due to the comparitive size of the US, we would clearly be the junior partner. Our farmers would be forced to adopt reduced food standards. Not only would that have implications for the health of UK citizens, it would adversely affect the ability of UK farmers to export into the European market, clearly their main export market.

    These are important points which Fox must not be allowed to sweep under the carpet.

  • I thoroughly endorse all the above comments and in the meantime the geo-political aspects of Brexit are entirely ignored. What will the political position be of the UK when it ceases to sit around the table of the EU Council when decisions on international matters are being taken. These can include matters of great importance to the UK but she will be entirely absent? The whole situation is untenable and will probably lead to worsening relations with the EU then is presently the case. It was to improve the coordination over these major issues between European states that was one of the objectives of the original European project.

    And nobody talks about this…………..