Brexit Bulletin: Buckle Up

(Bloomberg) -- Today in Brexit: Welcome to 2019. We could be in for a bumpy ride.

The new year is traditionally a time for renewed hope and lofty expectations. Unfortunately for Theresa May it seems that, on Brexit at least, nothing has changed.

The prime minister’s deal remains unpopular, her Northern Irish allies still have objections, and the European Union continues to be firmly against a renegotiation. London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks sparked yet another Brexit row, while U.K. consumers remain on edge, with a report yesterday suggesting their confidence is the lowest since 2013. 

So far, perhaps the biggest difference for 2019 is that we all now need to say — as legal commentator David Allen Green pointed out on Jan. 1 — Britain is now due to leave the EU on March 29 this year, rather than next year.

Ever the optimist, May attempted to strike an upbeat tone in her New Year’s message, urging Britons to put aside the divisions that have riven the U.K. at least since the referendum in 2016.

The country has all it needs to “thrive” after leaving the EU, May said, and can “turn a corner” if Members of Parliament back her deal. Lawmakers are finally set to have their say on the much-maligned plan in the week of Jan. 15. If it’s voted down, the prime minister will face yet another crisis, while the exit date will creep ever-closer.

With the clock ticking, today’s papers reflected the growing risk of a no-deal. The Telegraph reported that Tory members would be comfortable with such an outcome, the Independent examined the impact on universities, and the Guardian focused on what that might mean for security in Northern Ireland.

So that’s where we are. With Brexit likely a taboo subject at Christmas dinner tables up and down the land, you can be forgiven for switching off during the festive season. In case you did, here’s a quick round-up of what you might have missed.

Britain’s bickering politicians — and the Brexit Bulletin — will resume normal service on Monday.

Brexit in Brief

Barclay Message | A second referendum on leaving the EU would result in further disunity in Britain, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay was quoted as saying in an interview with Germany’s Die Welt newspaper.

Stepped-Up Stockpiling | U.K. manufacturers are intensifying their stockpiling efforts as they brace for a potentially disruptive Brexit, with factories reporting an almost record increase in their holdings in December, IHS Markit said.

Ferry Unpopular | The government faced intense criticism after it emerged one of the companies contracted to charter ferries in the event of a no-deal Brexit was Seaborne Freight, a startup that doesn’t own ships. The controversy deepened yesterday when it was reported that terms and conditions on the firm’s website appeared to be written for a food delivery company.

Corbyn’s Position | Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn disappointed some of his party members over the holidays, telling the Guardian he would pursue a negotiated Brexit deal even if his party won a snap general election. He doubled down on those comments this week, pushing back against the idea of a second referendum.

May’s Pleas | Theresa May rang her German counterpart Angela Merkel twice in nine days over Christmas as part of a bid to secure more concessions from the EU, the Sun reported.

Temporary Importance | The U.K.’s main focus in Brexit talks is for a definition of the word “temporary” that persuades British lawmakers the country won’t be permanently tied to the bloc’s trade arrangements, according to Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Fifty-Fifty Fox | The chances of the U.K. leaving the EU are “50-50” if Parliament rejects May’s withdrawal agreement, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said in a Sunday Times interview.

Cornish Pubs | A shortage of pub workers in Cornwall is giving an insight into the U.K.’s post-Brexit future, Bloomberg’s Lucy Meakin reports.

Another Delay? | May should delay the vote on her Brexit deal for a second time, former Brexit Secretary David Davis wrote in The Telegraph this week.

Bare Your Teeth | Members of Parliament should take back control of the Brexit process if May’s deal fails, Labour backbencher Chris Leslie wrote in the Evening Standard yesterday. 

Bloomberg View | Britain isn’t remotely prepared for a no-deal Brexit, according to the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board.

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