Cross-Party MPs Support Amendment to May's Plan: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Theresa May faced questions from the chairs of Parliament’s committees.

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  • May warns country to prepare for "no deal" Brexit if she loses parliamentary vote on her deal with the EU on Dec. 11
  • Pound falls and remains subdued after May’s comments
  • Prime minister reasserts opposition to a ‘People’s Vote’
  • New figures show EU migration to U.K. at lowest since 2012
  • Corbyn and May close to agreeing Dec. 9 TV debate

Cross-Party MPs Back Amendment to May’s Plan (6.30 p.m.)

A cross-party amendment proposed ahead of next week’s debate seeks to scrap May’s plan entirely and give Parliament a say on what should happen next. The amendment by Labour lawmaker Hilary Benn and backed by Conservatives including Sarah Wollaston and Dominic Grieve, also seeks to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

U.K. Faces Bill Even Before Trade Pact Sealed (5:00 p.m.)

The U.K.’s divorce bill to the EU is still uncertain and could be more than the 35.7 billion pounds forecast by the Treasury, the National Audit Office said on Thursday.

A range of uncertainties, including pensions liabilities and how fast the EU spends its own budget, will affect the U.K.’s financial settlement, according to a report from the spending watchdog.

While the Treasury has reduced its forecast to 35.7 billion from 37.5 billion in January, the Office for Budget Responsibility raised its forecast to 38.7 billion in October compared to 37.1 billion in March.

The NAO said that if the U.K. and EU ratify the Withdrawal Agreement, the U.K. will be committed to making financial settlement payments before the future relationship has been finalized.

Brexiteer Proposes Plan to Ditch Backstop (2:35 p.m.)

A pro-Brexit Tory has announced he’s putting forward an amendment to May’s Brexit deal motion which would allow Britain to walk away from the so-called Irish border backstop.

Edward Leigh’s proposal would give the government the power to end the backstop without EU permission, using powers in the Vienna Convention on treaties to do so.

Leigh’s amendment will give a taste of the scale of the opposition to May’s deal from pro-Brexit Tories. She admits that the U.K. cannot leave the backstop -- essentially a customs union with the bloc’s other 27 countries -- unless the EU gives consent.

It will be up to House of Commons Speaker John Bercow to decide which amendments are selected for debate. Even if Leigh’s amendment is chosen, it has no chance of success without backing from opposition Labour MPs.

Scottish Parties Unite to Oppose Deal (1:10 p.m.)

Brexit opponents in Scotland have demonstrated a rare showing of unity to reject May’s deal with the EU in a vote in the Scottish Parliament next week.

The pro-independence Scottish National Party, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens agreed a single motion to be presented to lawmakers on Dec. 5. The decision came a day after May visited Scotland as part of her national tour to drum up support for the Withdrawal Agreement. While the vote in Edinburgh has no influence on U.K. policy, the fact that four of the five parties in the legislature have come together adds to the chorus of political disapproval.

Corbyn Reluctant on Second Brexit Referendum (12:10 p.m.)

After suggestions on Wednesday from Labour Treasury Spokesman John McDonnell that the party might “inevitably,” press for a second referendum, party leader Jeremy Corbyn seemed more reluctant. “Our priority is to defeat this deal,” he told ITV. “Then the better thing to do is have a general election.”

The EU would understand the need to extend negotiations if he wins power because a Labour government “would be coming in with a different mandate,” he said. He didn’t disagree when it was suggested it could take up to two years.

Corbyn dismissed May’s insistence that the choice is her deal or no deal. “Nobody’s going to allow no deal, how could we?” he argued, without elaborating.

FCA Head Gives Positive Response to May Deal (11:55 a.m.)

Andrew Bailey, head of the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority, said May’s deal could give financial markets much-needed confidence. In a letter to Nicky Morgan, head of Parliament’s Treasury Committee, Bailey said the plan to base financial-services ties on so-called equivalence decisions “could provide appropriate assurance and continuity for the operation of financial markets.” The FCA delivered its Brexit impact assessment to Parliament on Thursday. More here:

May’s Brexit Financial-Services Plan Can Assure Markets: Bailey

Pound Still Subdued After May No-Deal Warning (11:40 a.m.)

Sterling has not recovered since May’s warning that no-deal could follow a rejection of her Brexit deal in Parliament. The currency is down 0.5% at $1.2762. Commerzbank strategist Thu Lan Nguyen told Bloomberg this morning the market is still “relatively relaxed” around no-deal and echoed the Bank of England’s forecast for the pound to depreciate “at least ten percent or even more” under a disorderly Brexit.

May and Corbyn Edge Closer to Brexit TV Debate (11:35 a.m.)

Negotiations on a TV debate between May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn about her Brexit deal are close to completion. The Conservatives have agreed to a BBC plan to air a debate at 8 p.m. on Sunday Dec. 9, according to a person familiar with the discussions. Labour has yet to agree, but have expressed enthusiasm for the idea of a debate.

May Baffled by ‘Friends With Benefits’ Brexit (11:00 a.m.)

Theresa May finished her evidence session by making it clear that she doesn’t want to come back and talk some more if her deal is defeated on Dec. 11. In just over 90 minutes of questions, she largely focused on explaining why there was no alternative to her deal, and warning that if it’s voted down, people should start preparing for a no-deal Brexit.

The doubters on the committee looked as though they were still doubtful. The most memorable moment was when Conservative Tom Tugendhat asked May whether, after Britain’s divorce from the EU, the U.K. could have a “friends with benefits” relationship. May, who has been off the dating scene since the late Seventies, looked confused.

Government Still Won’t Share Brexit Legal Advice (10:39 a.m)

Solicitor General Robert Buckland told the House of Commons the government will provide a “full and reasoned statement’’ on the legality of Brexit but will not publish the legal advice it has received in full.

Parliament voted for the advice to be published and Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesman, said the refusal to do so is “wholly unacceptable’’ and “shows contempt for this house.’’ Attorney General Geoffrey Cox will make a statement to members of Parliament on Monday.

Second Referendum Would Mean Reopening Talks (10:30 a.m.)

May said a second referendum would mean reopening negotiations with the EU, because it would take so much time to organize.

“It’s important for our democracy that we deliver on the vote that people took in 2016,” May said in answer to Sarah Wollaston, a Tory supporter of a “People’s Vote.” It would also be impossible to hold the vote before March 29, when Britain is due to leave the EU. “We’d have to extend Article 50,” May said. “If we extend Article 50, we’re then in the business of renegotiating the deal.”

Immigration White Paper Still Up in the Air (10:05 a.m.)

May refuses to commit to publishing the government’s detailed proposals on a post-Brexit immigration policy before parliament votes on her deal with the EU in two weeks time.

‘There is still discussion ongoing as to the timing of the publication of the immigration white paper,” she says, adding that the government has previously set out its broad plan for immigration.

The government is still discussing how to deal with low-skilled migrant labor as employers in industries such as farming and hospitality fear shortages after Brexit.

May: I Still Have the DUP’s Support to Govern (9:37 a.m.)

Asked if she can stay in power even if she wins the Dec. 11 vote, given the strain on her relationship with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which opposes her deal, the prime minister said it wasn’t an issue. “We obviously are talking to the DUP,” she said, adding that their confidence-and-supply agreement remains in place.

Cross-Party MPs Support Amendment to May's Plan: Brexit Update


May’s ‘No-Deal’ Comments Drag on Sterling (9:31 a.m.)

The pound fell sharply following May’s warning on no-deal, down as much as 0.5 percent to the day’s low of $1.2758. The Bank of England said Wednesday that the currency could plunge to below parity with the dollar under a disorderly exit from Europe, though some currency strategists said such a sharp move seemed excessive.


May Says She Plans to Negotiate Frictionless Trade (9:22 a.m.)

When asked how the government’s Brexit deal compares to the Chequers plan modeled in Treasury analysis on Wednesday, May says the government is still planning to negotiate for frictionless trade with Europe.

“What you see in the political declaration, and you will see it in the language around the ambitious customs arrangement in the future, is a clear recognition of the need to reduce that friction as much as possible,” she said. “It’s still better to reduce it, to have frictionless trade, but there are those in the European Union who have yet to be persuaded of that argument.”

May: Prepare For No Deal If I Lose Brexit Vote (9:10 a.m.)

May told the committee of senior members of parliament that lawmakers voting down her Brexit deal on Dec. 11 isn’t risk free. “The timetable is such that some people would need to take some practical steps in relation to planning for no deal” if the government loses the vote, she said.

Earlier:

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