Politics update: May rejects Corbyn’s offer on Brexit, government’s end to austerity promise runs into problems

Politics Update 11.02.2019

Good morning. Here’s your daily Politics Update:

Report shows government needs additional £11bn to ‘end austerity’

Philip Hammond

Estimates from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) have shown that the government would need to find an additional £11bn in order to ‘end austerity‘ as promised by the prime minister in 2018.

The chancellor Philip Hammond said last year that “the era of austerity [is] finally coming to an end”. However his own plans imply several cuts are still to be made to Whitehall departments including to the Home Office, environment, and transport.

The latest figures from the IFS show that preventing these cuts, on top of the cuts brought into place since 2010, would require the chancellor to find an additional £11bn for these departments, when he puts forward his next spending review later this year.

Ben Zaranko of the IFS said: “The chancellor needs to decide what period the next spending review should cover and what funding to make available to it,”

“Even though the latest plans have overall day-to-day spending increasing over [the next five years], these increases wouldn’t be enough even to cover the NHS commitment in full. This suggests yet more years of austerity for many public services.”

May rejects Corbyn’s compromise offer

Theresa May

Theresa May has rejected Labour’s ideas for a compromise on her Brexit deal, with less than 50 days to go before Britain is set to exit the European Union.

The prime minister wrote a letter in response to Jeremy Corbyn’s letter last week, where he laid out counter proposals including keeping the UK in some form of customs union. May strongly expressed her objection to this idea in her response.

However, May did make a concession on environmental and workers’ rights. Whilst the prime minister side-stepped around Corbyn’s suggestion of automatic alignment with EU standards, she instead suggested a Commons vote every time these change.

By rejecting a key proposal of the party, however, the prime minister has potentially shut herself off from the support of the party’s MPs, when her deal reaches parliament again.

Blair: Brexit will lead to ‘really hard border’

Tony Blair Web Summit

Tony Blair has said that a no-deal Brexit could cause a “really hard border” in Ireland, adding that Britain crashing out of the EU could be “devastating” to the peace process.

The former prime minister said that the UK leaving the EU without a deal could lead to a breach in Good Friday agreement, saying: “A no-deal Brexit means a really hard border between north and south in Ireland, it’s contrary to the Good Friday Agreement and it will cause an enormous fissure within the United Kingdom.”

Speaking on Sunday, Blair added: “I’ve never thought that you would get to another referendum going directly to it – you’ll get to it when people see what the true Brexit alternatives are. And the truth is there are two.

“You can have a soft Brexit, which is really what Jeremy Corbyn is suggesting, or you can have the hard Brexit that Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage and other people want.”

MPs can put forward new amendments by February 27

The government has sought to appease MPs accusing Theresa May of ‘running down the clock’ on Brexit, by promising that they will have the opportunity to table motions on the Brexit deal by February 27.

Communities secretary James Brokenshire said that MPs would be given the opportunity to put forward new motions if the Theresa May did not return to parliament with a new deal, in an attempt to buy more time for the prime minister to come up with a new strategy.

Speaking on Sunday, Mr Brokenshire said: “I think that gives that sense of timetable, clarity and purpose on what we are doing with the EU – taking that work forward and our determination to get a deal – but equally knowing that role that parliament very firmly has.”

The government’s offering aims to postpone a rebellion by Tory MPs who still strongly oppose Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, particularly cabinet ministers who want to prevent the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

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