Brexit weekly: 5 things

Miliband to the rescue?

Many Remainers are longing for a figurehead, someone at the top to put forward an unashamedly pro-EU message driving the fight against Brexit. Step forward David Miliband perhaps?

The former foreign secretary has made several interventions into domestic politics recently and jumped in for another this week urging the Labour Party to back calls for a new referendum on the UK’s exit from the EU. He said the only way to “avert the damage of Brexit” was to give the public another say on the final deal, putting himself at odds with his party’s official position on leaving the EU.

Writing in the New Statesman Miliband argued that Donald Trump’s presidency has acted as a “game-changer”, empowering autocracies such as Russia, Turkey and China to fill the vacuum and leaving Britain at the mercy of larger powers. “Brexit takes a brick out of the western alliance and the international order at a dangerous time. And for Britain it weakens us when we can least afford it” he warned.

According to friends of Miliband the former MP for South Shields is still attracted to Britain. But would Britain be attracted to David? The latest poll by ComRes found that 65 per cent of those surveyed felt that “the result of the 2016 Referendum should be respected and the country needs to move on”. It seems David’s arrival is a little too late.

Blah Blah Brexit

Labour foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, faced criticism from her party this week for telling journalists that if the Government only put forward a “blah blah blah divorce” on the UK’s exit from the EU with no details it would “probably” pass Labour’s tests. The Labour Party has set out six tests it says the Brexit deal must satisfy including protecting worker’s rights, keeping the “exact same benefits” as membership of the EU single market and putting in place a “fair” migration system.

Some have said that Thornberry’s words were meant to be a criticism of the Government’s approach to not having much detail agreed a year in to talks. But this was not enough to convince several Labour MPs including remoaner-in-chief, Chuka Umunna, who accused Thornberry of joining “arm in arm” with Brexiteers.

Whether the intended meaning of what Thornberry said differed from her language or not, her comments will fuel concerns that the opposition has a complete lack of clarity on Brexit.

They’ll miss our cars at least

While much of the discussion on Brexit focuses on how the UK will adapt to life outside of the EU, we are occasionally reminded of reasons why the EU might miss us. One of those reasons is our cars, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (Acea). And this is no Bond film- ode to the Aston Martin or homage to the magnificent minis that starred in the movie the Italian job. The European car lobby has called for the Commission to include cars sold in the UK when calculating average CO2 emissions after the UK departs the EU in 2019.

It turns out the UK has a comparatively strong record of reducing vehicle emissions when compared with our European neighbours. Between 1993 and 2015, CO2 emissions in the UK decreased by 82% in diesel cars and 63% in petrol vehicles. Hybrid and electric vehicles are increasingly popular in the UK while much of Europe lags some way behind.

Acea has been lambasted by environmental campaigners who say that the attempt to bring UK cars into air quality calculations post Brexit is “desperate”. Meanwhile the UK can take heart from the fact that at least the EU cherishes our low emission cars.

India in no rush on trade deal

India is in no rush to sign a trade deal with the UK according to its high commissioner in London Yashvardhan Sinha and any trade deal “is not going to be done overnight.” Sinha reiterated previous warnings that India will want a trade deal with post-Brexit Britain to make it easier for Indian nationals to travel to and work in the UK.  “I think for us it is very important that if we need to step up our engagement we need to have that easier access, the ease of travel has to be looked into,” he said.

Britain currently cannot sign its own free trade deals as part of the EU’s customs union. It will be able to sign new deals during the proposed transition period, but these cannot be implemented until the transition is over, in 2021.

It remains to be seen quite how increased movement of workers from India fits with Theresa May’s commitment to cut net migration to the UK to below 100,000 and her promise to “take back control” of national borders.

Bins or Brexit?

The UK local elections are only a month away and are set to bring significant changes to local governments up and down the land. All 32 London boroughs, 34 metropolitan boroughs, 68 borough councils and 17 unitary authorities will be going to the polls. But how much impact will Brexit have?

In London the Lib Dems are targeting EU citizens with anti-Brexit messages at local polls, this week choosing to release communication in 21 different European languages. Meanwhile Mayor Sadiq Khan has made a direct appeal to the 1.1 million EU citizens living in London to vote Labour to “punish” Theresa May for the Brexit “chaos”.

Given that 60% of the capital backed Remain it’s no wonder that the Tories are trying to play down Brexit. A party spokesman said: “these local elections aren’t about Brexit. They’re about your council and bin collections, street cleaning, good local school places and how much you pay in council tax.” But is this message getting through? The party are in for a hiding and may well lose flagship boroughs including Westminster, Wandsworth and Kensington and Chelsea. If this happens it may have been less about the bins and more about Brexit.