The Government’s official and independent spending watchdog has confirmed that there will be no “Brexit dividend” for the UK, despite the claims of ministers.

Theresa May said last month that the extra £20bn a year pledged to fund the health service would be partially paid for by UK money no longer being sent to the European Union.

That claim was universally slammed by economists as grossly misleading, since the Government’s own projections suggest Brexit is already weakening the public finances, rather than strengthening them and that any fiscal gains from zero EU payments will be wiped out by feebler tax revenues.

The Government has also already earmarked much of those net £13.3bn a year EU budget payments for other major spending items such as support for farmers and science.

Why May’s £20bn isn’t really a 70th birthday present for the NHS
And on Tuesday the Office for Budget Responsibility, established in 2010 to provide authoritative and independent fiscal forecasts for the Government, confirmed that no Brexit boost for the public finances is expected.

“Our provisional analysis suggests Brexit is more likely to weaken than strengthen the public finances overall,” the OBR said in its latest Fiscal Sustainability Report.

“There will be direct savings from the net contributions to the EU budget that the UK will no longer have to make, but it is unclear how much will be available after payments towards the agreed withdrawal settlement and other Brexit-related spending commitments.”

Instead, the OBR said that the unfunded £20bn extra a year health pledge (within five years) had worsened its long-term state projections for the public finances relative to its equivalent forecasts last year.

“Our projections suggest that the public finances are likely to come under significant pressure over the longer term, due to an ageing population and further upward pressure on health spending from factors such as technological advances and the rising prevalence of chronic health conditions,” it said.

Health economics specialists have warned that that the extra funds pledged by ministers may still not to be enough to match rising demand pressures over the coming years.

That too was given support up by the OBR on Tuesday, which estimated a £2.8bn funding gap in 2022-23.

On the overall finances over the long term, assuming no tax rises or spending cuts, the OBR said that the primary budget deficit (which excludes interest payments) was set to creep up from 0.3 per cent of GDP in 2022-23 to 8.6 per cent of in 2067-68.

NHS at 70: demonstration and celebration march to mark anniversary

This would mean public sector net debt as a share of GDP rising from 80 per cent in 2022-23 to 282.8 per cent of GDP over fifty years.

“Needless to say, in practice policy would need to change long before this date to prevent this outcome,” it said.

“Broadly speaking, the fiscal position is unsustainable if the public sector is on course to absorb an ever-growing share of national income simply to pay the interest on its accumulated debt.”

In response to the OBR’s document, the Treasury published its own analysis entitled “Managing Fiscal Risks”.

“Boosting productivity is the key to a stronger economy, a more sustainable fiscal position and, crucially, a better quality of life for everyone,” wrote the Chancellor, Philip Hammond.

“That is why we are building a globally competitive economy through our modern Industrial Strategy, increasing public investment to its highest sustained level in over 40 years through the £31 billion National Productivity Investment Fund, and equipping our workforce for the high-skilled, high-wage jobs of the future.”

He also cited specific steps such as reforming the tax system and raising the pension age. The document does not, however, mention specific tax rises to pay for the promised NHS funding increase.

With many thanks to: The Independent for the original story.

Brexit: Theresa May accused of ‘cowardice’

Prime Minister Theresa May has been accused of “cowardice” and caving into the demands of hard-line Brexiteers.

It followed the government decision on Monday to agree to a legal guarantee that there will be no post-Brexit customs border in the Irish Sea.

The SDLP and Alliance said there is now a real danger of the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal.

However, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said the move would preserve peace.

DUP seeks legal guarantee
At-a-glance: The new UK Brexit plan
Why the EU is silent on May’s Brexit plan.
The proposers of “New Clause 37” – an amendment to the Customs Bill – argued that it would prevent a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

On Monday night, MPs approved the clause without going to a vote, but two other amendments tabled by Tory Brexiteers scraped through by just three votes in the Commons.

Media caption’The Good Friday Agreement has been thrown around willy nilly’
New Clause 37 directly contradicts the EU’s legal draft of the so-called “Irish backstop”, which suggested Northern Ireland should be treated as part of the European Union’s customs territory.

That legal version of the backstop has already been rejected by Mrs May. However, the prime minister has said she will abide by the principles of a protocol on a future backstop which it negotiated with Brussels in December.

The amendment was backed by both the DUP and the pro-Brexit Conservative European Research Group or ERG.

East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson said he could not understand the “furore” surrounding the vote and that he was pleased that there was no opposition to the amendment ruling out a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Mr Wilson said he hoped the vote would sent a message to Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar and EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier and that it would negate the backstop which he described as a “surrender to the Irish Republic and the EU”.

However, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood accused Mrs May of cowardice, saying that ruling out the backstop will “effectively drive us to a ‘no deal’ Brexit and probably a hard border in Ireland”.

“That is not acceptable to democratic Ireland,” he added.

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg wanted to rule out an Irish Sea border in law

Alliance Brexit spokesman Stephen Farry said Parliament had “undermined the interests of Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement”.

“The backstop does not cut off Northern Ireland from the Great Britain market, rather allowing us to more easily be part of both the UK and EU economies,” he added.

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said that her party had never argued for a border in the Irish Sea and never argued for Brexit.

“Brexit is of the making of the Brexiteers. What we need to ensure is that there is no hardening of the border on our island,” she said.

“The simple way out of this is for Britain to remain within the single market, and remain within the customs union. That’s the answer.”

The amendment was proposed by a number of well known pro-Brexit MPs, including the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, Labour’s Kate Hoey and the former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson.

The DUP is due to meet the government later this week to discuss the Brexit plan.

John Campbell, BBC News NI Economics and Business Editor

The amendments which the prime minister is accepting to the Customs Bill have implications for her room to manoeuvre on the backstop.

The EU backstop proposal said Northern Ireland should remain in the customs union: the amendment would explicitly prevent that.

The prime minster has already rejected Northern Ireland in the customs union so it may be no big deal on that issue.

But the EU backstop also proposed that EU law on VAT should also continue to apply in Northern Ireland.

One of the amendments would also explicitly prevent this.

This could be a problem, as the UK outside the EU VAT system could mean that VAT processes have to happen at the border.

The UK government’s position in regard to ongoing participation in the EU VAT area has never been clear.

At a push, it might still be open for an arrangement where Northern Ireland remains in the single market for goods as that is not dealt with in the amendments.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 and Parliament is considering a number of new laws needed to prepare for this and for life after the end of a proposed transition period.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story

Brexit: Chequers plan not dead, insists Liam Fox

Theresa May’s Brexit plan is “not dead”, a senior minister has insisted despite concessions made to Tory MPs to avoid a Commons defeat on trade.

The government scraped home by three votes on two occasions after agreeing to Brexiteers’ demands to change the wording of the Customs Bill.

Liam Fox said it did not change policy as the amendments had been “cut and pasted” from the PM’s Chequers plan.

He also warned pro-European Tories against “refighting the referendum”.

The international trade secretary told the BBC that feelings were running high but calls from some Tories to stay in a customs union, which will be voted on later, would send completely the wrong message to the EU.

MP Guto Bebb quits as minister after Brexit vote
MPs to vote on early summer recess
Brexit: All you need to know
The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 but has yet to agree how its final relationship with the bloc will work.

The government, which does not have a Commons majority, has been under pressure from MPs on both sides of the Brexit debate.

The government twice survived by just three votes on Monday after a backlash from pro-EU Tories who accused the prime minister of “caving in” to the party’s Eurosceptic MPs.

Fresh test ahead in Commons
Ministers accepted a series of demands from Brexiteers who are unhappy at the PM’s Chequers blueprint for future relations with the EU, believing it keeps the UK too closely tied to the bloc.

But this angered MPs from the party’s pro-EU wing who refused to back the new amendments, saying they would undermine the UK’s recently-announced negotiating position.

By 305 votes to 302 – with 14 Tories rebelling – MPs backed an amendment that prevents the UK from collecting taxes on behalf of the EU, unless the rest of the EU does the same for the UK.

Applying EU tariffs to products destined for the EU is part of Mrs May’s plan to avoid friction at UK borders after Brexit.

Another amendment, to ensure the UK is out of the EU’s VAT regime, was backed by 303 to 300, with a Tory rebellion of 11. Three Labour MPs voted with the government. Current and past Lib Dem leaders Sir Vince Cable and Tim Farron – who want to stop Brexit – did not vote.

MPs will carry on debating Brexit on Tuesday when the Trade Bill comes to the Commons.

It gives the government the power to build new trade relationships around the world after the UK leaves the EU, and MPs who support staying in the EU’s customs union are seeking to change its wording.

‘Strong feelings’ on both sides

Media captionAnna Soubry criticised colleagues who have a “gold-plated pension” and support Brexit
Tory MP and Remainer Heidi Allen said she wished the prime minister had “faced down the amendments.”

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What was agreed at Chequers wasn’t perfect to us, wasn’t perfect to Leavers either, but I think the prime minister had worked exceptionally hard to find a decent first pitch to put to the EU and move forward from that.

“We were all set [on the Remain side] to drop all our amendments and back it, then suddenly we had these rather extreme last minute manoeuvres, which seem to us to deviate the prime minister from her plan and we weren’t prepared to do that.”

But Mr Fox said the amendments “did not differ very much” from the government’s agreed position. Asked if the Chequers plan was dead, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today “I don’t think so”.

“The wording in the white paper was that the UK and the EU should together agree a mechanism for the remittance of relevant tariff revenue,” he said.

“As far as I could see the amendment looked like a bit of a cut and paste from the white paper.”

He said the government could “not please everybody” and there had to be compromises but Brexit had been backed by 17.4 million people in a referendum and legislation implementing that decision approved by MPs.

“I do not understand why people thinks this lacks democratic legitimacy. It is very clear where it comes from.”

Little room for manoeuvre
Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg

It looks a mess because it is a mess. It’s getting harder and harder for the prime minister to get things through Parliament – and while calls for a second referendum are widely rejected, that sentiment could change if this kind of gridlock continues.

The PM has spent the last two years trying to compromise. She has a divided party and no majority. There are no easy choices.

But the divisions in the Tory party are daily reducing her room for manoeuvre. In a debate about principle, the problem for some is that compromise is a dirty word.

Read Laura’s blog

Who rebelled?
The Conservative rebels on Monday were the long-time pro-EU MP Ken Clarke, Heidi Allen, Guto Bebb, Richard Benyon, Jonathan Djanogly, Dominic Grieve, Stephen Hammond, Philip Lee, Nicky Morgan, Robert Neill, Mark Pawsey, Antoinette Sandbach, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston.

The three Labour MPs who rebelled against their party whip by voting with the government were Frank Field, Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer – all of whom are pro-Brexit.

Former Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins who now sits as an independent also supported the government on one of the amendments.

How has the EU reacted?
BBC Europe editor, Katya Adler said the one priority the EU has is making sure it gets a deal, rather than a “cliff edge” Brexit.

She told Today: “They are following all the ins and outs, and all the turbulence, in UK politics extremely carefully.

“[But] they are wondering if the prime minister – or anyone who could or might take over from her – would even have the political strength to get a deal agreed here in Brussels, then passed by parliament back home.

“All my EU sources say they want to engage constructively with the whitepaper and avoid giving the impression that it is dead on arrival. But importantly, as everyone knows, time for negotiation is running short. They want to complete the withdrawal agreement.”

With many thanks to: BBC England for the original story.




Vote Leave: Brexit campaign ‘broke electoral law’ in referendum

Brexit campaign group Vote Leave has been fined £61,000 and referred to the police after an Electoral Commission probe said it broke electoral law.

The investigation found “significant evidence of joint working” between the group and another organisation – BeLeave – leading to it exceeding its spending limit by almost £500,000.

Vote Leave also returned an “incomplete and inaccurate spending report”, with almost £234,501 reported incorrectly, and invoices missing for £12,849.99 of spending, the watchdog said.

BeLeave founder Darren Grimes has also been fined and referred to the police for breaking the group’s spending limit by more than £665,000 and wrongly reporting the spending as his own.

Veterans for Britain were also found to have inaccurately reported a donation it received from Vote Leave and has been fined £250.

‘Refused to cooperate’
Bob Posner, from the Electoral Commission, said: “The Electoral Commission has followed the evidence and conducted a thorough investigation into spending and campaigning carried out by Vote Leave and BeLeave.

“We found substantial evidence that the two groups worked to a common plan, did not declare their joint working and did not adhere to the legal spending limits. These are serious breaches of the laws put in place by Parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums.”

He added: “Vote Leave has resisted our investigation from the start, including contesting our right as the statutory regulator to open the investigation. It has refused to cooperate, refused our requests to put forward a representative for interview, and forced us to use our legal powers to compel it to provide evidence.

“Nevertheless, the evidence we have found is clear and substantial, and can now be seen in our report.”

Vote Leave was the officially designated campaign group for Leave in the UK’s referendum in 2016 into whether or not the UK should stay in the European Union.

The result of the referendum was 51.9% for Leave and 48.1% for Remain. The UK is due to officially leave the European Union at 23:00 GMT on 29 March, 2019.

‘Motivated by political agenda’
A Vote Leave spokesman said: “The Electoral Commission’s report contains a number of false accusations and incorrect assertions that are wholly inaccurate and do not stand up to scrutiny.

“It is astonishing that nobody from Vote Leave has been interviewed by the commission in the production of this report, nor indeed at any point in the past two years. Yet the commission has interviewed the so-called ‘whistleblowers’ who have no knowledge of how Vote Leave operated and whose credibility has been seriously called into question.

“Vote Leave has provided evidence to the Electoral Commission proving there was no wrongdoing. And yet despite clear evidence of wrongdoing by the Remain campaign, the commission has chosen to ignore this and refused to launch an investigation.

“All this suggests that the supposedly impartial commission is motivated by a political agenda rather than uncovering the facts.

“The commission has failed to follow due process, and in doing so has based its conclusions on unfounded claims and conspiracy theories.

“We will consider the options available to us, but are confident that these findings will be overturned.”

With many thanks to: BBC England for the original story

Liam Fox’s Trade Bill Set To Crush Disabled People!

#ToriesOutIn2018 ✊

Liam Fox’s #Brexit #tradebill set to crush disabled people!! 😠😠😠😠😠

🔴As it stands, ministers would have the right to tear up the human rights of disabled people to facilitate trade deals the President of the CBI says will be of no benefit to Britain!!

🔴According to a letter sent to the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, the bill “lets ministers change a wide range of laws – including the Equality Act – without parliamentary scrutiny, in order to implement international trade agreements”.

It continues: “There are no safeguards to prevent ministers from using these new powers to remove rights granted by Parliament.”

Its 20 signatories include Liberty, the Business Disability Forum, Disability Rights UK, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Mencap, The National Aids Trust, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, Amnesty International UK, Ambitious About Autism and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations.

With many thanks to: B Heard Media for the original posting.

Northerners cast adrift once again, Northerners loose their EU citizens rights.

In other words your Irish passport gives you the same rights as someone in Honolulu or Timbuktu holding an Irish passport. You will be part of the Irish diaspora

WHILE all the drama at Chequers and thereafter filled the news agenda with customs facilitioan arrangements, common rule book, services, no-one in Britain or the Republic cared, and hardly anyone here noticed, that your rights as an EU citizen have gone down the Swanee.

Yes, yes, they were supposed to be protected, guaranteed even. The taoiseach last December in a statement to the North of Ireland’s nationalists promised: “I want to assure you that we have protected your interests throughout these negotiations. Your birth right as Irish citizens, and therefore as EU citizens will be protected.”

You might have thought paragraph 52 of December’s Joint Report clinched that. It stated: “The people of the North of Ireland who are Irish citizens will continue to enjoy rights as EU citizens, including where they reside in the North of Ireland.” Both parties to the report (the UK and EU) agreed in paragraph 52 to ‘examine arrangements required to give effect to the ongoing exercise of, and access to, their EU rights, opportunities and benefits.’ They didn’t. We know the UK is very hostile to anyone in the UK retaining any EU rights and strongly resisted the contents of paragraph 52.

However the EU Commission didn’t like the idea either and worried about creating a precedent for EU citizens not resident in the EU. There was no pressure from the Irish government who placed all their eggs in the ‘no border’ basket and may have felt to insist on northerners’ EU rights as well risked antagonising the commission. In any event when it came to the Irish Protocol in the draft Withdrawal Treaty paragraph 52 is substantially repeated but there are no arrangements or mechanisms ‘to give effect to the exercise of, and access to, EU rights.’

On June 26th an answer from President of the Commission Jean Claude Junker to Martina Anderson, Sinn Féin’s MEP, put the tin lid on the matter. Anderson, who has been knocking her brains out on this subject for months, wrote to Juncker in April asking what rights there will be and what mechanisms. His answer was clear. None. After Brexit Irish citizens in the north will no longer reside in an EU state so, ‘Irish citizens will no longer benefit from the UK’s participation in EU programmes, policies and activities when this participation ends following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.’ In other words your Irish passport gives you the same rights as someone in Honolulu or Timbuktu holding an Irish passport. You will be part of the Irish diaspora.

Niall Murphy of KRW Law has helpfully provided a catalogue of some practical consequences. You won’t be able to vote in EU elections. As you have read here before, next year your EHIC card (pictured below) lapses. You will need travel insurance in the EU. If you are elderly or chronically I’ll you’re not going to be travelling unless you’ve plenty of money to afford the premium.

You won’t be able to work in the EU if you need a professional qualification because the mutual recognition of qualifications lapses with Brexit. Your children won’t be able to avail of EU rates for university fees if they want to study say, in the Netherlands instead of paying exorbitant fees in the UK. There’s more, much more, on foot of lost EU membership, all courtesy the DUP who prop up the appalling crew in Westminster.

The Irish government knew all this. If they didn’t, Anthony Collins SC, one of the Irish judges in the European Court of Justice, warned them in his Brian Lenihan Memorial lecture in February this year. He was ignored. The negotiation of mechanisms for access to rights for northerners was left entirely to the EU and the British, both of whom are hostile to the concept, though for different reasons.

It’s possible the Irish Protocol in the Withdrawal Treaty could be amended to treat northerners ‘as if resident in an EU state’ but unlikely for it opens another front in negotiations when the British still haven’t presented anything on the Irish government’s priority, the border. So folks, despite Varadkar’s promise that your rights as ‘Irish and therefore as EU citizens will be protected’, mar dhea, once again northerners have been tossed overboard to lighten the load.

With many thanks to: Brian Feeney and The Irish News for the original story.


Brexit: UK trade deal with US could trigger ‘break-up’ of NHS, leading expert warns | The Independent