Closed Boris Johnson insists he will get Brexit deal done in October — as it happened

Brexit

A live blog from FT.com


What’s expected today on Brexit?

It’s been a hectic week. But there’s yet more on the docket today. Here is a look at what, roughly, our UK political team is expecting:

- Court ruling on Gina Miller legal case for injunction to stop Boris Johnson from suspending parliament

- Opposition parties to hold private talks on next steps

- Boris Johnson visits Scotland

- Lords expected to complete scrutiny of bill looking to block no-deal Brexit


Wetherspoons to cut price of a pint to ‘illustrate’ Brexit benefits

Wetherspoons chairman Tim Martin is one of the most outspoken UK business executives on the benefits of breaking away from the EU. The company’s earnings statements often include mini-dissertations on the advantages of Brexit, while Mr Martin has vowed to bring down the price of beer if there is a no-deal exit.

On Friday, the group said it would begin reducing prices to “illustrate” his point.

Mr Martin said:

These tariffs are collected by the UK government and sent to Brussels. Provided we leave the Customs Union on 31st October, the government can end these protectionist tariffs, which will reduce prices in supermarkets and pubs.

In order to illustrate this point, Wetherspoon has decided to reduce the price of Ruddles bitter, brewed by Greene King.

A lot of politicians have misled the public by suggesting leaving the Customs Union would be a ‘cliff edge’ or ‘disaster’.

This is the reverse of the truth. Ending tariffs will reduce prices.


Labour’s Emily Thornberry says general election ‘very attractive’

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said on Friday a general election is “very attractive”. She was, however, not willing to give details as to when one might take place, writes the FT’s Eoin McSweeney.

“We need to get this immediate crisis dealt with first. And then we will go for a general election and it will be about Brexit, but it will also be about all the other issues that are so important to this country,” she told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.

Ms Thornberry added that she is concerned that no matter what Boris Johnson promises, it is still up to him to advise the Queen when the general election should be.

She claims that he cannot be trusted, “given that he has shown himself to be a manifest liar, and somebody who has said he will die in a ditch rather than stop no deal”.

“I hope he would obey the law. That we need to have a guarantee on”, she said.

Earlier on the programme, Professor Meg Russell said it was possible to continue a process no confidence and this was put to Thornberry.

“Meg is a very clever woman and I would never contradict her while also listening very carefully to what she says,” Ms Thornberry said. “Any possibilities we would look at carefully. As a plodding politician and lawyer, as far as I can see, looking at the rules, it would be difficult for us to have a successful motion of no confidence.”

Ms Thornberry will campaign for a Remain vote if there is a referendum, but acknowledges there has to be a viable Leave option.

We have been completely clear, that, what ever deal is finally agreed by what ever government, we would demand a referendum. We want to look after jobs in the economy.


Jeremy Corbyn in bid to thwart Boris Johnson’s plan for mid-October elections

FT political editor George Parker has written a sketch on the current state of play in the Labour party:

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader, will on Friday look to thwart Boris Johnson’s plan for an October 15 general election when he discusses tactics with opposition leaders.

Mr Corbyn, backed by senior Labour figures, argues that the opposition should only agree to a snap election once Mr Johnson has been forced to take a no-deal Brexit off the table.

Emily Thornberry, shadow foreign secretary, confirmed Mr Corbyn would host a conference call of opposition leaders on Friday to discuss a united response when Mr Johnson makes his second bid to hold an early election on Monday.

She said a no-deal Brexit had to be excluded before an election took place. “This crisis has to be sorted before we do anything else,” she told the BBC’s Today programme. “Let’s deal with the immediate crisis first, then have an election.”

Peers are expected on Friday to conclude their scrutiny of emergency legislation intended to block a no-deal Brexit. The measure, which would require the prime minister to seek a delay to Brexit if there was no deal on the table, is expected to receive royal assent on Monday.

Mr Corbyn and SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford agreed in principle on Thursday that an election should not take place until Mr Johnson had sought that extension to the Article 50 exit process at an EU summit on October 17-18.


Sterling under pressure after a rollercoaster week

The pound is under some pressure this morning after a rally on Thursday that had pushed it 3 per cent up from the start of the week as fears of a no-deal Brexit ebbed and investors cheered repeated blows to Boris Johnson’s attempts to push one through.

Sterling was down 0.2 per cent against the dollar to trade at $1.2304 early on Friday. Against the euro, it was down 0.3 per cent at €1.1137.

The currency began the week at $1.2141 and veered from the week’s low of $1.1957 on Tuesday to pick up speed on Thursday when it peaked at $1.2353.

Take a look at Eva’s very nice chart from yesterday in her round-up:
Pound climbs as Boris Johnson faces repeated blows over Brexit


Ingram Pinn on the sleep of reason

Ingram Pinn picks on Jacob Rees-Mogg’s reclining position in the Commons for his weekly illustration of Brexit shenanigans:

The sleep of reason produces monsters

Supreme, as ever.

The MP for North East Somerset and the leader of the House was meanwhile
widely condemned by politicians and medical experts after comparing a doctor who confronted him about the risks of a no-deal Brexit to disgraced anti-vaxxer Andrew Wakefield.

James Blitz explains: Rees-Mogg rebuked for comparing doctor to anti-vaxxer


Is Boris Johnson splitting the Tory party?

In a week when Conservative grandees, such as Nicholas Soames, Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke, have been expelled from the party, the government lost its majority and is at loggerheads with the Commons, and Boris Johnson’s brother quit politics, the FT’s Miranda Green and Robert Shrimsley discuss whether this was part of prime minister’s plans for delivering his “do or die” Brexit.

Is Boris Johnson splitting the Tory party?


Former defence minister Michael Fallon to step down at next election

Sir Michael Fallon, former defence secretary, confirmed this morning he is stepping down at the next general election, reports Eoin McSweeney.

He does not want his party to forget the 5m Conservatives who voted to remain in the EU and hopes they feel they can “come and stay with” the party. He said his decision has nothing to do with the events of this week.

“This has nothing to do with Brexit,” he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.

On the government’s expulsion of Tory grandees this week and any signs of it pulling back from that decision, Sir Michael said:

That’s a decision for the PM and chief whip


Finnish PM says ‘no’ to renegotiating Britain’s EU deal

Finland’s prime minister says there will be no renegotiating of Britain’s deal to leave the EU, reports say.

“It seems pretty obvious now that we are not getting Brexit with an agreement,” said Antti Rinne at a news conference in Helsinki, reported Reuters.

We are not going to open this agreement we negotiated between Britain and European Union

Mr Rinne, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the bloc, said the “situation in Britain is quite a mess”, reported Reuters. “We don’t know what is happening there.”


High Court dismisses Gina Miller’s challenge to five-week prorogation

The High Court on Friday dismissed a legal challenge by anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller to stop prime minister Boris Johnson suspending parliament for five weeks, reports Jane Croft.

The legal challenge focused on whether Mr Johnson’s advice to the Queen on suspending parliament for five weeks ahead of a Queen’s speech was lawful.

On Friday, three senior judges including the Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett ruled that Mr Johnson’s plan to prorogue parliament was lawful and said their written reasons would follow at a later date.

Gina Miller’s legal appeal — along with a separate Scottish court case on proroguing parliament — is likely to be heard at the Supreme Court from September 17.

Critics of Mr Johnson’s plan have claimed that he wants to suspend parliament to avoid it stopping a no-deal Brexit. The prime minister has claimed that the shutdown is needed ahead of new “exciting” domestic legislation to be announced in the Queen’s speech on October 14.

During Thursday’s legal challenge, Ms Miller’s barrister David Pannick QC argued that Mr Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament was an “abuse of power” and that the courts should step in to protect the sovereignty of parliament.

He argued that Mr Johnson’s plan involves shutting down parliament for five weeks effectively “silencing” it at a crucial time in the run-up to the UK leaving the EU on October 31.

He also pointed out that in the past 40 years parliament had never been prorogued for longer than three weeks and it was the length of the shutdown that had caused concerns.

Lord Pannick told the court that “the rule of law demands the prime minister does not have unfettered power” and said “no prime minister has abused his power” to advise on a prorogation for “such manifestly bad reasons”. The courts could intervene to protect parliamentary sovereignty, he claimed.

Mr Johnson’s decision on suspending parliament has been “substantially influenced by a wholly extraneous and improper consideration”, namely hindering parliament from stopping a no-deal Brexit, Lord Pannick told the High Court, adding Mr Johnson had “seized this mundane power and used it improperly”.

He asked the court to declare that the prorogation of five weeks, in the specific context of current events, was an abuse of power because it breached parliamentary sovereignty at a moment when “time is of the essence” over Brexit.

During Thursday’s legal challenge, the court was referred to sensitive documents, including secret Downing Street memos that included a handwritten note from Mr Johnson saying proroguing was not “especially shocking” and saying: “The whole September session is a rigmarole” intended to show “that MPs were earning their crusts”.

In cabinet meeting minutes dated September 2 that were also released as part of the legal challenge, the prime minister told cabinet that “progress with the EU should not be exaggerated but it was substantial” and “whilst there was a good chance that a deal could be secured, there was also a high chance that it could not”.

The government opposed Ms Miller’s legal challenge and argued that the case should not be considered by the courts because prorogation is “high policy and politics”, not a matter of law.

James Eadie QC, representing Mr Johnson, claimed to the High Court that parliament had been debating Brexit in recent days and the case would take the courts into “inappropriate territory” and would take the judiciary into a “political maelstrom”.

Ms Miller was supported in her legal battle by former Conservative prime minister John Major, as well as the Welsh government, Scottish Lord Advocate and Labour’s Shami Chakrabarti who made written submissions.

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Gina Miller statement: Appeal hearing on September 17

Gina Miller, the anti-Brexit campaigner challenging the government’s five-week prorogation of parliament, has put out a statement, reports Edwin Esosa.

It says:

We are pleased that the judges have given us permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, which we will be doing, and they felt that our case has the merit to be handed up, so we are looking to sit in the Supreme Court on the 17th September for the appeal hearing.

Today we stand for everyone, we stand for the future generations, and we stand for representative democracy. To give up now would be a dereliction of our responsibility, we need to protect our institutions, it is not right that they should be shut down or bullied, especially at this most momentous time in our history. My legal team and I will not give up the fight for democracy.


And here’s Gina Miller’s statement in full


Gina Miller vows to fight on over prorogation

Speaking outside court anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller said that she planned to keep fighting her legal battle in the Supreme Court, reports Jane Croft.

As our politics becomes ever more chaotic we feel it is absolutely vital that parliament should be sitting.

Today we stand for everyone, we stand for the future generations and we stand for representative democracy. To give up now would be a dereliction of our responsibility.

We need to protect our institutions. It’s not right that they should be shut down or bullied especially at this most momentous time in our history.


Simon Kuper: How European decision makers view Britain

Politicians, diplomats and business groups across the EU, Simon Kuper has found, are remarkably united around a tough stance towards Britain.

They have no plans to give in to Boris Johnson’s demands to renegotiate a deal nor do they want Britain’s anti-no-deal forces to delay the UK’s departure from the EU.

Very few Europeans are still open to the UK’s staying in the bloc and most dread a potential second British referendum.

Read the full story here


Boris and a bull

Prime minister Boris Johnson is out this morning campaigning Scottish farmers. The photo above, taken by Press Association photographer Andrew Milligan, shows Mr Johnson wrangling a bull during a visit to Darnford Farm in Banchory.

The bull bumped into the police officer in the photo, reports Mr Milligan.


UBS Wealth Management: ‘Main threat’ to sterling is Tory election win

Sterling has recovered a bit in recent days after hitting its lowest level against the US dollar since a flash crash three years ago. But UBS Wealth Management is out with a note today reminding investors that the direction of travel could easily change.

Mark Haefele, the group’s chief investment officer, notes that the “main threat to sterling’s recovery is if [Boris] Johnson’s Conservative party were to win with a majority in an early election.”

“They could then overturn the legislation requiring them to ask for an extension, increasing the threat of leaving without a deal,” he said.

He notes that a no-deal Brexit could send the British currency sinking back from around $1.23 today to $1.15 “or even lower.”


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Johnson hires Conservative writer Montgomerie as social justice adviser

Exclusive: Boris Johnson has made a new big hire. The prime minister has signed up influential Conservative writer Tim Montgomerie to be his new social justice adviser, writes Sebastian Payne.

Mr Montgomerie is one of the UK’s most prominent Conservative commentators and campaigners. He founded the ConservativeHome website in 2005, which has become the most influential site for the party’s grassroots.

He also founded the Conservative Christian Fellowship and worked as comment editor of The Times. He is also a regular commentator for several outlets, including the FT. He appeared on the FT’s politics podcast during the Tory leadership contest.

Mr Montgomerie will be working out of the Cabinet Office, reporting to both the prime minister and the chancellor. He will be starting in the new role imminently.


Johnson: ‘We must get Brexit done’

Boris Johnson has insisted the UK “must” complete Brexit by the end of October despite the stinging rebuke he received this week in parliament.

Speaking in Scotland where Mr Johnson was unveiling fresh funding for farmers, Mr Johnson said “people in this country want to get on and do it.”

He added: “I’ll go to Brussels. I’ll get a deal.”

Mr Johnson’s comments come as the PM has faced a bruising week in which an alliance including a group of Tory rebels moved to block a no-deal Brexit on October 31. He has called for a general election, but the Labour party has refused thus far to agree to such a measure.

The PM also said that expelling the 21 rebel Tories, including big names like former chancellor Philip Hammond, out of the party “grieved me deeply”. He framed that decision as necessary to move on with Brexit and promised to “reach out” to them.


Lib Dems’ Umunna to challenge Tories in Westminster constituency, report says

Chuka Umunna, a former shadow business secretary and now a Liberal Democrat, told London’s Evening Standard that he plans to challenge the Conservatives in the constituency that covers the City of London, Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street.

The Cities of London and Westminster constituency, whose Tory MP Mark Field had his majority slimmed down to 3,148 in the 2017 general election, voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU with 72 per cent in the 2016 referendum.

The pro-Remainer Mr Umunna, who this year left the Labour party to set up Change UK and has since gone to the pro-EU Lib Dems, says in an interview with the Standard that his campaign will be billed as a mini-referendum on Boris Johnson’s threat of a no-deal Brexit. Mr Umunna, who joined the party in June, is the Lib Dems’ foreign affairs spokesman.

Here’s the interview


Umunna confirms he will stand on a pro-EU ticket in key London seat

Chuka Umunna, the Liberal Democrats foreign affairs spokesman, confirms he will stand as a candidate in the constituency of the Cities of London and Westminster, challenging the Tory MP Mark Field who has a slim majority of about 3,000.


Police boss ‘disappointed’ Brexit overshadowed PM’s recruitment speech

The chief constable of the force whose student officers were a backdrop for Boris Johnson’s campaigning speech in northern England has expressed disappointment they were used in a section of the visit not related to police recruitment.

John Robins, chief constable of West Yorkshire, said on Friday that his force had been told the prime minister would give a five-minute speech on police recruitment in front of his officers about plans to recruit new officers, reports Robert Wright.

The prime minister, visiting Wakefield on Thursday, was then due to go to the National Police Air Service’s base on the same site to give a 10-minute speech away from officers. However, the visit to the NPAS was cancelled and the speech in front of the officers covered other issues.

The chief constable said in Friday’s statement:

The good news of extra officers was overshadowed by the media coverage of other events. It was the understanding of West Yorkshire Police that any involvement of our officers was solely about police officer recruitment. We had no prior knowledge that the speech would be broadened to other issues until it was delivered.

The force had been told the NPAS section of the speech was cancelled “minutes” before the speech in front of the officers went ahead.

Mr Robins said:

I was therefore disappointed to see my police officers as a backdrop to the part of the speech that was not related to recruitment.

He added that he was proud of the “resilience and professionalism” of “every single one” of the student officers – an apparent reference to how one recruit appeared to faint during the prime minister’s speech.

With the recruitment of additional officers alongside them over the next few years, we will hopefully be in a better position to now deliver the service that the public deserve and respect.



Shadow minister demands Johnson apology over police visit

Labour’s shadow policing minister called on the prime minister to apologise to the chief constable of West Yorkshire following his visit to a police training facility in the north of England, reports Robert Wright.

Boris Johnson used student officers in Wakefield as a backdrop to a campaigning speech rather than one on police recruitment, prompting a riposte from the chief constable of the force on Friday.

Louise Haigh, shadow policing minister, has added her voice:

Boris Johnson has deceived the police by knowingly using officers for a nakedly party-political stunt, without their prior knowledge.

This is a serious breach of trust and the Prime Minister must immediately apologise for putting serving officers in this intolerable position.


Exclusive: Labour threatens to ban bankers’ bonuses

The FT’s Jim Pickard writes:

Financial services companies in the UK will face severe constraints, and perhaps a ban, on awarding bonuses under a future Labour government, the shadow chancellor has warned.

John McDonnell told the Financial Times that he was putting the City of London on notice that it was time to end bonuses voluntarily or face draconian curbs.

“If it continues and the City hasn’t learnt its lesson, we will take action, I’ll give them that warning now,” he said. “If we have to take action, we will. People are offended by bonuses.”

The shadow chancellor said that one of his first moves on entering the Treasury would be to explore ways to crack down on extravagant payments to bankers and others in the financial services sector.

He said he would launch a consultation looking at options ranging from increasing shareholder power to restrictions on the size of bonuses.

“It’s become part of the City culture and it’s happened over years,” Mr McDonnell said. “It’s become part of the culture and it is so separate and distinct and isolated from the rest of the real-world economy and that’s why people are so offended by it. It’s a reflection of the grotesque levels of inequality that people now find so offensive.”

Read more here.


Lib Dems hit ‘significant milestone’ in record membership, party says

The pro-EU Liberal Democrats have added thousands to their membership, increasing the total to a record, the party leader said.

The Lib Dems said they have 120,845 party members, while a further 17,102 have registered as party supporters.

Jo Swinson, party leader, said of the “significant milestone”:

More and more people are joining the Liberal Democrats, and showing their commitment to stopping Brexit.

We are an open, inclusive and progressive party that is growing in parliament and across the country.


Lib Dem statement on party membership


MP in Wiltshire constituency to step down at next election

Claire Perry O’Neill joins the rollcall of Conservative MPs who have announced their intention to stand down before the next general election, a list that includes former defence secretary Michael Fallon and the prime minister’s brother Jo Johnson, writes Edwin Esosa.

Ms Perry O’Neill, MP for the Wiltshire constituency of Devizes for nine years, is to head up the UN climate conference of the parties next year.

She said on Friday:

I remain in full support of our PM and his brave Brexit strategy as I can see no alternative if we want to honour the referendum result


Scottish court does not grant order blocking parliament suspension

A Scottish appeals court on Friday declined to grant an interim order preventing Boris Johnson from proroguing parliament, writes Jane Croft.

The Court of Session’s Inner House heard an appeal in a case brought by more than 70 parliamentarians that want the courts to declare plans by the prime minister to suspend parliament are unlawful.

The group lost their legal challenge at the Edinburgh’s Court of Session (Outer House) on Wednesday when Lord Doherty ruled that the plans by Mr Johnson were lawful and were a matter of “high policy and political judgment” and not something that courts could pass judgment on.

The parliamentarians launched an immediate appeal, which finished on Friday.

On Friday three senior judges declined to make an interim injunction preventing the prorogation and said they would rule on the case on Wednesday.

Jo Maugham QC, the anti-Brexit campaigner whose good law project is backing the parliamentarians’ petition, tweeted that parliament would in effect be unsuspended if the Scottish court found in his favour.


What if there’s an unusual omission in the evidence, asks David Allen Green

Some legal cases are more interesting for what does or does not happen during the proceedings than for the result, says David Allen Green. Sometimes it is the evidence or a missing piece of it that can be the most important factor.

He says in The curious incident of the missing witness statement that the British government’s failure to provide official evidence looks conspicuous.


Signing off

Thank you to all who joined us for a big week in UK politics. We’re shutting down the blog for the day, but will be back in business for more excitement on Monday.


UK’s Frost puts forward plan for single regime on veterinary and animal checks

One last item from FT correspondent Mehreen Khan before we go:

The FT has details on today’s meeting today between David Frost and his EU counterparts. Mr Frost put forward a plan for the UK to allow for a single regime to check phytosanitary goods like live animals between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

According to a leaked internal note seen by the FT, the commission “reluctantly” accepted the need to open the discussions. Mr Frost was also told that any such agreement – should it be included in the divorce deal – could not be unilaterally changed should there be a new Northern Irish government.

Michel Barnier also had a phone call today with Stephen Barclay, UK Brexit secretary, where “nothing new emerged”, the commission told EU27 diplomats. “The UK repeated that the backstop will never be accepted by the House of Commons in its current form and that we must be pragmatic”, said the note