Brexit Bulletin: Is It Enough?

(Bloomberg) -- Today in Brexit: May is offering to go back to Brussels and tweak her deal to reflect Labour demands. It might be too little too late.

What’s Happening?

Theresa May is sending a message that she’s serious about negotiations with Labour. The British prime minister has offered to go back to Brussels to reopen her Brexit deal to reflect the ongoing cross-party talks.

This is something the European Union has long said it would be happy to do (because she’s talking about tweaking the non-binding declaration on future trade ties, not the divorce treaty itself), and something Labour has made clear from the beginning it would demand. The trouble is, there’s a good chance it won’t be enough.

May appears to be ready to make a concession on some kind of future customs union, ahead of what’s billed as (another) crunch session of talks. But her offer comes just as the battle within the divided Labour Party over a second referendum escalates. It could turn out to be too little too late, as May continues to reject the prospect of a confirmatory public vote. 

Labour is deeply split over the issue of a second referendum, and crucially Jeremy Corbyn is on the side of those reluctant to have one. But Keir Starmer, the party’s Brexit spokesman, told the Guardian that any cross-party deal would struggle to get parliamentary support if it doesn’t include a confirmatory vote. Tom Watson, the deputy leader, also makes the case for a public vote in the Times today.

Starmer says it’s a question of numbers: “A significant number of Labour MPs, probably 120 if not 150, would not back a deal if it hasn’t got a confirmatory vote,” he’s quoted as saying. “If the point of the exercise is to get a sustainable majority, over several weeks or months of delivering on the implementation, you can’t leave a confirmatory vote out of the package.”

Bloomberg’s Rob Hutton ran some speculative numbers last week on how to get a cross-party deal through Parliament. He came to a similar conclusion: The only way to do it is by offering another plebiscite. That, of course, would be a Brexit compromise that most Tories couldn’t support. 

Today’s Must-Reads

  • Businesses are complacent about a no-deal Brexit and the risk is bigger than they think, according to the head of the Institute of Directors.
  • Like the White Walkers in Game of Thrones, the prospect of a no-deal Brexit keeps coming back, Therese Raphael writes for Bloomberg Opinion.
  • The Times calls for May to set out this week a process for her succession. Her Brexit deal “is dead, at least so long as Mrs May is associated with it,” the newspaper says, adding that her continuation in office has created a “dangerous vacuum.” 

Brexit in Brief

Brexit Party Ahead | Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party could take 34% of the vote at the European elections on May 23, leaving the Tories coming in fifth place on 10%, according to a poll by YouGov for the Times. An Opinium poll for the Observer also put the Brexit Party at 34%, with the Tories on 11%. Farage made his case on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show yesterday.

Jobs Foreigners Won’t Do | British workers are starting to reap the benefits as the U.K. becomes a less attractive destination for workers from the European Union, according to LinkedIn. Since the start of 2016, migration of professionals from other EU countries to the U.K. has fallen by 30%, it said.

London Falling | London’s property market is continuing to bear the brunt of Brexit malaise, according to a report from Acadata. House prices in the capital fell by 1.1% in April from a year earlier, the report showed. Nationally, they rose 0.2%. The number of properties changing hands is down 14% in London since the first quarter of 2017.

What Does Philip Think? | May’s husband, who until now has encouraged the prime minister to fight on, is focused on making sure she has a decent exit, the Sunday Times reported. He is often described as her most influential adviser.  

On the Markets | The pound has been stuck around $1.29-$1.31 this quarter as Brexit has stalled. But some investors are bracing for more volatility ahead, writes Charlotte Ryan. Sterling traded almost unchanged at $1.3008 early today.

Brexit Bulletin: Is It Enough?

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