Politics update: May warns DUP of Irish border issues, Brexiteers set to vote down Brexit deal

Politics Update 08.11.0218 Theresa May Legal Advice Brexit

Pro-Brexit Conservatives will vote down May’s deal, even with backstop exit clause


Former Conservative minister Steve Baker has said that Tory Brexiters will still vote down a Brexit deal reached by Theresa May, even if it comes with a backstop exit clause for the UK.

Baker, a member of the European Research Group (ERG) – chaired by Jacob Rees Mogg – said that Eurosceptic Tories would be looking closely at the deal with regards to the future trading relationship with the EU, adding that “it’s not really about the backstop.”

“In the end, it’s not really about the backstop,” he said. “The tearing frustration is that the UK has been negotiating with itself.

“Many of us have long believed that the row over the backstop is at least partly confected in order to have an orchestrated breakthrough”.

Baker once told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that there were 40 MPs who were willing to vote down the deal brought to parliament by the prime minister

Speaking to the BBC in October, Baker said: “My estimate is that there are at least 40 colleagues who are not going to accept a half-in, half-out Chequers deal. Or indeed a backstop that leaves us in the internal market and customs union come what may.”

What is the Irish border backstop?

The backstop is a ‘backup plan’ – the last resort position, should the UK leave the EU without an all-encompassing deal. Its purpose is to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Currently, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland trades with the Republic of Ireland relatively freely, without border checks, as both regions are part of the EU single market and customs union.

However, if the UK crashes out of the EU without securing a deal on trade, many fear this could see the emergence of a hard border in Ireland, manned by customs officials making checks on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

This – amongst other problems – would threaten the 1998 Belfast Agreement (also known as the Good Friday Agreement) which removed the need for checks on goods passing between the two regions. Neither region wants to see the return of a hard border, as this is currently – for all purposes – an invisible border.

For this reason, both sides now agree that the UK – Northern Ireland in particular – must have some kind of arrangement with the customs union, at least until an all-encompassing trade deal is settled, though the two sides have different views on how this future trading relationship should work.

Read more: What is the Irish border ‘Brexit backstop’?

May’s letter warns DUP of Brexit border issues


A leaked letter from Theresa May to DUP leader Arlene Foster has raised alarm bells, as it appears to suggest the possibility of a border in the Irish sea after Brexit.

The letter, sent to the DUP on Tuesday, seeks to reassures Foster that the EU’s ‘backstop-to-the-backstop’ proposal, which would break up the ‘UK customs territory’ would not happen, however the wording suggests there may be a border in the Irish sea as part of a divorce deal, according to the DUP.

Part of the letter reads: “I am clear that I could not accept there being any circumstances or conditions in which that ‘backstop to the backstop’, which would break up the UK customs territory, could come in to force.”

Arlene Foster said: “The prime minister’s letter raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious union and for those who want a proper Brexit for the whole of the UK.

“It appears the prime minister is wedded to the idea of a border down the Irish sea with Northern Ireland in the EU single market regulatory regime.”

John McDonnell looks into the four day work week


John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, is in discussions with economist Lord Skidelsky about launching an inquiry into the benefits of a four-day working week.

Skidelsky, who has previously argued the case for introducing a universal basic income, confirmed that he was in conversation with McDonnell about “the practical possibilities of reducing the working week” from five days to four.

Does anywhere have a four-day working week?

Around the world, the four-day working week has remained fairly elusive, though there have been successful – and unsuccessful – experiments with a variety of flexible working arrangements.

One New Zealand company earned worldwide attention when they trialled a four-day week earlier this year. Perpetual Guardian trialled the four-day week in March and April of this year, letting employees work for four days whilst getting paid for five.

After the trial, 78% of employees felt they were able to successfully manage their work-life balance – an increase of 24 percentage points. In addition, the trial saw a 20% increase in productivity, 30% increase in customer engagement levels, and increased staff engagement, along with a reduction in staff stress levels.

Perhaps most famously, the French government introduced a 35-hour working week – for companies with more than 20 employees – in 2000, under Prime Minister Lionel Jospin’s Plural Left government. Successive governments have faced pressure to review the legislation, as it tends to be a contentious issue between left and right-wing political parties.

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