Closed Brexit: Commons Speaker John Bercow to step down — as it happened

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A live blog from FT.com


Where things stand

It was a busy weekend for Number 10 after Amber Rudd, a high-profile moderate Tory, said she would quit both the government and as a Conservative MP.

There’s plenty to read from our UK politics team:

-Jim Pickard’s analysis of the weekend’s events and where things will go from here.
-Arthur Beesley on how Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar has told Boris Johnson not to expect any Brexit breakthroughs
-And finally, the latest view from the FT’s editorial board


Sterling slips: Morning read from currency analysts

The pound is down a tad this morning, just below the $1.23 level, as analysts remain uncertain over the path of UK politics and the shape Brexit may eventually take.

Here is a round-up of what a handful of analysts are saying:

Unicredit:

Evidence that we might avoid a no-deal Brexit on 31 October with a possible three-month delay is offering some relief to sterling across the board. Still, the risk of a possible snap election in the UK in the autumn is still acting as a brake against a complete turnaround in sentiment in the GBP’s favor, leaving GBP-USD capped above 1.23 and EUR-GBP resilient below the 0.90 baseline.

Goldman Sachs:

A dramatic week in UK politics has narrowed the path to a “no deal” Brexit, skewing near-term risks to Sterling to the upside.

First, Parliament passed legislation forcing the government to request a Brexit extension should it fail to reach a deal with EU negotiators. Second, a group of opposition parties has reportedly agreed to thwart the Conservative government’s efforts to force a general election before an extension has been secured.

We think the net effect significantly lowers the odds of a “no deal” outcome next month. However, beyond October we believe the odds of a general election remain high, and we are sufficiently unsure about PM Johnson’s likely strategy over the coming weeks to recommend new longs at this stage. But we think the possibility that the PM backs away from demands for an early election and pivots to some type of revised deal (e.g. one which replaces the controversial backstop with other arrangements acceptable to Brussels) might be underpriced in GBP.

Barclays:

Political dynamics in the UK adds fresh uncertainty to both the near- and long-term outlook for GBP. We think the probability of no-deal Brexit on Halloween has gone down, lowering cumulative probability of no-deal.

However, we believe it is premature to remove it as our base case given the still large potential of that outcome. In the interim, we expect that GBP value will reflect two opposing forces of rising “option value” of the GBP as the probability of delayed Brexit has risen versus an increasing discount for uncertainty over the direction of UK policy as an election becomes near certain.

We are not changing our GBP forecasts as no-deal Brexit still remains a significant probability, but the risks clearly have skewed towards the post-Brexit lows we forecast occurring in Q1 20 rather than Q4 19. In the near term, we think the GBP’s, largely position-driven ascent, will likely run out of steam, skewing risks to the downside for the pound.


Former minister Rory Stewart ‘very confident’ MPs can stop no-deal Brexit

Former international development secretary Rory Stewart said he is “very very confident” that MPs can stop a no-deal Brexit.

“I remain very very confident that we can stop no-deal,” he told Radio 4′s Today‘s programme. Until recently, “the formal policy of the cabinet was to avoid a no-deal which was why extensions were put in place and why we were focusing on negotiating a deal”, Mr Stewart said, who was a candidate in the race for Tory leadership that Boris Johnson won in July.

“We signed up for an orderly exit, we got a good deal,” he said. Mr Stewart was one of the 21 MPs who was suspended from the party last week.

He does believe there are other unhappy cabinet members: “Everybody, particularly who was in the cabinet with me and Amber under Theresa May’s government, was very aware of the dangers of a no-deal Brexit.”

He added: “I believe that what we should be doing is to make the positive case to return the Conservative party to the centre ground.”


Sterling under further pressure

The pound is down against both the US dollar and the euro as London dealings pick up steam.

Sterling is currently down 0.3 per cent against the buck at $1.2247, and by 0.4 per cent against the common currency at €1.1098.

The fall comes ahead of what is expected to be another frenetic week in UK politics. Later today, Boris Johnson is poised to push, for a second time, for snap elections. But analysts reckon his bid will ultimately fail.

His government is under sharper pressure after Amber Rudd, seen as a centrist within the Conservative party, quit in protest of the government’s recent actions.


On today’s docket…

The House of Commons is to begin sitting today at 14.30 London time.

The full agenda is listed below, but a few highlights via Jim Pickard:

-Debate on the Northern Ireland Act (part of a bid by Dominic Grieve to thwart a no-deal Brexit). Julian Smith threatened to quit last week unless Boris Johnson agreed to emergency laws to protect Northern Ireland after no-deal. This may be raised.

-Mr Johnson is also set to attempt for a second time to call snap elections. Without the backing of opposition parties, the prime minister is expected to fail.

-The PM is also set to suspend parliament this evening.


Science and tech to power UK growth over next 20 years, report shows

Science, technology and healthcare will power economic growth in the UK after it has left the EU, according to a report from BNP Paribas. The report, which uses gross value added and employment levels for its forecast carried out by Cebr, says the scientific, professional and support services industries will more than double in size over the next two decades and will have 25 per cent increase in employment. This will mean the sector becomes the biggest in the economy by 2038 and will be worth £560bn, BNP Paribas said the report showed.

Transport, storage and communications will have the second-fastest economic growth in the period, with 92 per cent increase, and will be worth £451bn by then to become the second largest industry. The sector will add 900,000 jobs in the next 20 years, the report said.

Anne Marie Verstraeten, UK country head, BNP Paribas Group, said:

Over the next 20 years, the environment and technology will increasingly be the catalysts of change for all sectors of the UK economy. Such change inevitably breeds challenge, but it also triggers real opportunities for UK PLC to put its leadership position and creativity in these two areas to work, and, in so doing, create sustainable growth and new jobs.


UK GDP for July better than expected

UK economic growth for July was more than expected as estimated gross domestic product for the month was up 0.3 per cent, better than the 0.1 per cent forecast in a Reuters poll. That’s better than the no change from the previous month.

From July 2018, GDP rose 1 per cent.

The pound reversed early losses against the dollar to rise 0.1 per cent at $1.2295. Against the euro it was €1.1141, up 0.04 per cent.

Rob Kent-Smith, head of GDP at the Office for National Statistics, said: “GDP growth was flat in the latest three months, with falls in construction and manufacturing.

While the largest part of the economy, the services sector, returned to growth in the month of July, the underlying picture shows services growth weakening through 2019.

The trade deficit narrowed due to falling imports, particularly unspecified goods (including non-monetary gold), chemicals and road vehicles in the three months to July.”


Leo Varadkar says ‘stakes are high’ in talks with Johnson

Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar has said the “stakes are high” as he prepares to meet his UK counterpart Boris Johnson.

The taoiseach said on Twitter:

British Prime Minister @BorisJohnson has arrived at Govt Buildings. We’ll be talking #Brexit. The stakes are high. Avoiding the return of a hard border on this island and protecting our place in the single market are the Irish Government’s priorities in all circumstances.


Johnson reiterates he wants to get a deal for the UK to leave EU

Boris Johnson, meeting his Irish counterpart in Dublin, says he thinks a deal is possible, though adds that negotiations have been going on too long.

He acknowledged the “complexities” with the border issue, adding that “we can ensure unchecked movement of goods and people”.

Mr Johnson said: “The UK could get through no-deal but it would be failure.”

With “sufficient energy and a spirit of compromise can fix this,” he said. “I want to get a deal.”


Pound rebounds as Johnson meets Varadkar in Dublin

Sterling extended its gains as Boris Johnson met his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar in Dublin and insisted he wants a deal.

The currency rebounded off earlier losses with a 0.3 per cent rise against the dollar. It rose as high as $1.2320 and was recently trading at $1.2312. It had earlier dropped to as low as $1.2235 against the dollar. Against the euro it was up 0.2 per cent.


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Leo Varadkar tells Boris Johnson: ‘No backstop is no deal’

The Irish prime minister insisted on Monday that without a backstop to prevent a hard border on the island Ireland, there would be “no deal” on Brexit.

Leo Varadkar said: “No backstop is no deal”. His remarks directly counter UK prime minister Boris Johnson, who has said the backstop negotiated by his predecessor Theresa May would not stand because it risks locking the UK into EU laws.

Mr Varadkar claimed that the UK has still not proposed a legal, operative alternative to the backstop. The taoiseach also warned, “if there is no deal, it will cause severe disruption for British and Irish people alike”.

Additional reporting by the FT’s Edwin Esosa.


UK gilts fall after economy shows growth in July

The yield on the 10-year government bond rose following a report that showed a greater than expected increase in gross domestic product in July, easing fears that the economy was heading towards recession.

The yield on the benchmark gilt climbed about 5 basis points to 0.553 per cent early Monday, according to Refinitiv data. Yields move inversely to prices. The report helped boost sterling, which was recently up 0.5 per cent against the dollar. It rose 0.4 per cent against the euro.

The services industry, which makes up about 80 per cent of the economy, returned to growth with a 0.3 per cent rise from the previous month, the Office for National Statistics reported on Monday.

GDP had shrunk in the second quarter, raising concern over a looming recession for the economy. Recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction.


MP group urges transparency in picking next BoE governor

A group of MPs have urged the chancellor to publish a shortlist of candidates for the job of central bank governor.

Twenty-eight MPs, headed by Catherine West, have written to Sajid Javid to request more transparency in the process that will pick the successor at the Bank of England to Mark Carney, who is due to step down in January, for the next eight years.

The letter says:

It is crucial that the appointment of the net governor is made on merit, not narrow political expediency.

At a time of such political uncertainty, it is inadequate to allow this decision to b emade by the chancellor behind closed doors.

“We the undersigned therefore urge the Treasury to increase transparency by providing us with a public shortlist of candidates who have been shortlisted for the position of Bank of England governor,” said Catherine West, backed by a cross-party list of MPs who include Ian Blackford, Sarah Wollaston, Stephen Kinnock, Angela Smith, Caroline Lucas and Margaret Hodge.


FT poll shows voters prefer Johnson to Corbyn

In case you missed it:

Boris Johnson is seen as a better choice of prime minister by almost twice as many voters as his rival, Jeremy Corbyn, according to a new poll for the Financial Times.

The Tory leader has been mired in political chaos since he took office in late July, having lost his majority, sacked 21 MPs and seen his own brother walk out of the government.

Yet the poll of 2,103 people by BritainThinks, a research and strategy consultancy, suggests that Mr Johnson enjoys much stronger support than the leader of the Labour party. Some 30 per cent of those polled preferred the Tory leader as prime minister, compared with 14 per cent for Mr Corbyn.

However, 34 per cent of those polled said they did not know who would make the best leader — a bigger proportion than supported either Mr Johnson or Mr Corbyn.

Read the full story by Jim Pickard.


Former Tory Margot James would vote for Johnson Brexit pact

Margot James, one of the 21 rebels ejected from the Conservative party last week, has said that she will vote for Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal if he can bring one back, writes the FT’s Edwin Esosa.

When asked on BBC television whether she wanted Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn to be prime minister, she replied “neither”, adding that she hopes the outcome of an election, if called, would be a coalition government lead by someone more moderate than Messrs Corbyn or Johnson.

She said “There are decent people within the Conservative party, the Labour party and within the Liberal Democrats who could lead”.

Ms James also said that she has not ruled out joining the Liberal Democrats and that she won’t be voting for the Conservatives in a potential general election.


Sterling hits highest level in six weeks

Eva Szalay, FT currencies correspondent, writes:

Sterling climbed to a six-week high against both the euro and the dollar on Monday after investors reacted to better-than-expected economic growth data for July and as traders with negative bets unwound their positions amid a more-optimistic Brexit backdrop.

The pound traded as high as $1.2360 and the euro weakened to £0.8926 after UK prime minister Boris Johnson told his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar that he wants a deal to be agreed on Brexit. Investors are waiting to see if the PM could defy a bill that is expected to become law later today that would require the UK to ask for an extension to the current October 31 departure deadline.

“The market was very negatively positioned last week and any good news like headlines this morning will trigger large knee-jerk moves,” said Jane Foley, head of currencies strategy at Rabobank in London.

Part of the good news for sterling came from UK data, which showed that the country’s economy grew at 0.3 per cent in July, outpacing analysts’ estimates for a 0.1 per cent reading.

“While parliament seems to be falling apart, the economy is holding up reasonably well. July’s surprisingly strong rise in GDP suggests that it has not fallen into a recession,” said Paul Dales, chief UK economist at Capital Economics.


Ex-Tory rebel Richard Benyon to exit politics

The FT’s Sebastian Payne writes:

Richard Benyon, the MP for Newbury and one of the 21 rebels expelled from the Conservative party last week, has announced he will not be standing again. In a statement, he said that there had been discussions about bringing some of the rebels back but he was leaving politics:


Downing Street lobby briefing: prorogation to go ahead

Prorogation will go ahead later on Monday so parliament will be suspended until a Queen’s Speech on October 14, even if, as expected, MPs refuse to agree to Boris Johnson’s motion for an early election, writes George Parker.

Downing Street insists the “prime minister’s government will not be extending the Article 50 process” but refuses to speculate on what Boris Johnson will do if he cannot get a deal at the European Council on Oct 17-18.

Asked if he would break the law by refusing to seek an extension – as laid down by the new anti-no deal legislation – Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “Governments obey the law but the prime minister will not be asking for an extension.”

On Northern Ireland:

Downing St says Mr Johnson’s dabbling with an “all Ireland” approach to plant and animal health did not mean he was hoping to revive the European Commission’s original idea of a Northern IrelandI-only backstop, in other words the Brussels suggestion that Northern Ireland would stay in the single market with border checks on the Irish Sea on trade with the mainland.

Asked when Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, or anyone else might see the new British proposals for the backstop, No 10 said:

We have been working on a variety of ideas but the PM also said it doesn’t make much sense to have these discussions in public.

Judging by recent comments from Amber Rudd, former cabinet minister who quit Mr Johnson’s government this weekend, and Michel Barnier, chief EU Brexit negotiator, the discussions are not going on much in private either.


Top union leader ratchets up anti-Johnson rhetoric at TUC conference

The UK’s most senior trade unionist has vowed to back any workers calling strikes if Boris Johnson tries to circumvent legislation barring a no-deal Brexit, in a sign of the deepening political crisis over the UK’s plans to leave the EU, writes Robert Wright in Brighton.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, made the threat in her keynote address to the group’s annual gathering in Brighton. The group is a key supporter of the opposition Labour party, which is heavily dependent on the TUC’s biggest member unions for funding.

The TUC has been far clearer than the Labour party about the importance of avoiding a no-deal exit from the EU and has strongly backed calls for a second vote on EU membership, in contrast with the Labour party’s more equivocal stance.

Ms O’Grady acknowledged in her address that many people felt overwhelmed, anxious and intimidated amid the UK’s political crisis over Brexit, something that she said made it all the more important they should join a trade union.

In the trade union movement, we stand up to bullies.

Make no mistake. We will defend working people and I’m here to give a warning: if the prime minister tries to trick us, if he refuses to obey the law and workers vote to strike to defend their jobs, then the gloves are off.

She wanted to make it “crystal clear” that “this whole movement” would join any such fight, she went on, adding that trade unions would stand by the rights of EU citizen workers in the UK.

In a speech that included attacks on popular enemies of the left including Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons, and Donald Trump, Ms O’Grady backed Labour MPs’ refusal to vote for a general election.

She called on MPs to “hold their nerve” and agree to an election only after a delay to Brexit was assured.

She finished her speech with a call for the election of a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn.

Together we can win a government of the people, for the people and, for the sake of our democracy, for the sake of our common decency, let’s get Jeremy in and send Boris Johnson packing.


Ruth Davidson attacks Johnson over last week’s expulsion of 21 MPs – interview

Ruth Davidson, former Scottish Conservative party leader, launched an attack on Boris Johnson and his government about the 21 MPs who were expelled from the party last week, including longstanding members such as former chancellors Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke, as well as Nicholas Soames.

In an interview with London daily the Evening Standard, Ms Davidson, who stepped down from her role leading Scottish Tories last month, said:

Kicking 21 Conservatives — many very senior and well known by the public — out of the party makes us less of a broad church and, in voters’ minds, less representative of the country as a whole.

The full interview: Ruth Davidson in stinging attack on PM for expelling 21 Tory MPs


Nigel Farage calls for ‘clean break Brexit’

Nigel Farage, Brexit party leader, has tweeted:

A clean break Brexit is the only way forward.

The “Boris bravado”, Mr Farage tweets, has “disappeared in Dublin” as Mr Johnson says no deal would be a “failure of statecraft”.

Mr Farage added that Mr Johnson is going all out for Theresa May’s “deal”, with Northern Ireland to be hived off from the rest of the UK.


Deutsche Börse’s Eurex makes fresh euro clearing push ahead of Brexit

Deutsche Börse has made a fresh attempt to pull euro interest rate swaps businesses from the UK by announcing it will scrap booking fees until the end of the year for customers that want to switch their portfolios to Frankfurt, writes the FT’s Philip Stafford.

Investors and companies use interest rate swaps to hedge risk and most euro-denominated business is handled in London, at the London Stock Exchange’s LCH business. The EU wants to extend its supervision of the market once Britain leaves the trading bloc although has stopped short of demanding euro swaps are cleared in the EU.

Amid political uncertainty in London, in recent weeks EU authorities have reiterated that companies should prepare for a no-deal Brexit. Brussels has put in place contingency plans that will allow EU-based companies to use UK clearing houses and other infrastructure for their derivatives trades if Britain leaves the EU without a deal. That permit is due to lapse at the end of March next year.

Eurex Clearing has been pushing a profit-sharing incentive scheme for banks, to serve as an EU-based alternative to LCH. Although it has processed around €13tn, most of the business has been in lower margin deals and not steadier and more lucrative swaps. By contrast LCH has processed more than €195tn in euro-denominated swaps this year.


Poll shows Johnson would fare worse than May in election – Sky

A Downing Street poll shows that Boris Johnson, if an election were called now, would do worse than his predecessor Theresa May, according to Jason Stein, who was a Tory special adviser and Amber Rudd aide until Saturday night.

Sam Coates, Sky News deputy political editor, reports on what Mr Stein said:

Mrs May won 317 seats in the 2017 general election, down 13 from the previous vote, held in 2015.

Reporting by Edwin Esosa


Opinion: Boris Johnson’s Britain is a test case for strongman politics

Gideon Rachman writes:

Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, Rodrigo Duterte, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Narendra Modi, Viktor Orban — it still seems a bit startling to add the name of Boris Johnson, to that roll-call of “strongman” leaders from the US, Brazil, the Philippines, Turkey, India and Hungary. After all, the British prime minister has built his political career by marketing himself as a “good chap”, affable, well-read, a liberal at heart. What has he got in common with thugs like Mr Duterte or Mr Erdogan?

Quite a lot, as it happens. In recent years, strongman politics has flourished all over the world. It is no longer confined to authoritarian states such as China and Russia. As Mr Trump, Mr Orban and Mr Bolsonaro have all demonstrated, even democracies can elect leaders who revel in a cult of personality and delight in their willingness to trample over political and legal norms.

The strongman playbook is now well-established. Its key features include a willingness to bend or break the law; to fire public servants if they fail to demonstrate loyalty; and to delight supporters with “politically incorrect” comments on race and sex. The strongmen justify their contempt for liberal niceties by claiming that they represent the people against a corrupt and out-of-touch political class.

Read the full column.


Johnson and Varadkar ‘establish common ground in some areas’

Arthur Beesley reports from Dublin:

The British and Irish governments said “significant gaps remain” between Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar, despite some “common ground” being established at their talks in Dublin.

The talks on Brexit and on efforts to break the political stalemate regarding Northern Ireland come amid tension in Anglo-Irish relations over the future of the Irish border. Mr Johnson rejects the “backstop” to maintain an open border but Mr Varadkar said before the meeting that he had yet to receive a viable alternative to it.

In a joint statement after the talks, London and Dublin, said: “While they agreed that the discussions are at an early stage, common ground was established in some areas although significant gaps remain.”

Both Ireland and the UK were committed to securing an agreement between the EU and the UK and they recognised that the negotiation takes place through Michel Barnier’s Brussels task force.

The statement said the two leaders had a “positive and constructive meeting” at Mr Varadkar’s office, their first face-to-face encounter since Mr Johnson took office in July.

“This was an essential and timely opportunity for the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister to establish a relationship and a better understanding of each other’s positions.

They spoke privately over breakfast for more than half an hour before joining their delegations for another half-hour meeting,” it said.

Here is the full statement:

The Taoiseach and the Prime Minister had a positive and constructive meeting in Government Buildings this morning. This was an essential and timely opportunity for the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister to establish a relationship and a better understanding of each other’s positions.

They spoke privately over breakfast for more than half an hour before joining their delegations for another half hour meeting.

While they agreed that the discussions are at an early stage, common ground was established in some areas although significant gaps remain.

Ireland and the UK are committed to securing an agreement between the European Union and the UK, and recognise that negotiations take place through the Brussels Task Force.

They also shared their commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and the restoration of the power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland.

They look forward to meeting each other again in the near future.


Dom-v-Dom: Grieve, Cummings and prorogation plans

It wouldn’t be another political week without some Dom-vs-Dom action, writes Sebastian Payne.

Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, has been scorning the efforts by Dominic Grieve, the former Conservative attorney general and prominent pro-Remain organiser, to retrieve all communication of some senior government officials regarding the prorogation of parliament.

An emergency debate under standing order 24 of the House of Commons is set to take place later, which will request the WhatsApp, telegrams, emails, iMessages, you name it, from government officials including Mr Cummings.

It’s essentially a Freedom of Information request in the form of a House of Commons debate.

The list of aides too is curious, with a handful of Downing Street advisers and special advisers as well as an assortment of ministers.

In response to Mr Grieve’s motion, Mr Cummings told colleagues in a No 10 meeting this morning:

For a supposedly adequate lawyer who loves the [European Convention on Human Rights], Grieve doesn’t seem to realise that his request for private messages is blatantly illegal and will be rejected by the Cabinet Office. We love the rule of law in No10.

Downing Street insiders added that the “lawyers here all laughing” at Mr Grieve’s efforts. We’ll find out later whether the motion passes and what, if any, legal impact it will have.


Mark Prisk becomes latest Tory to quit politics

Sebastian Payne writes:

Another Conservative MP has announced he won’t be standing at the next election. Mark Prisk, the MP for Hertford and Stortford since 2001 and a junior minister in David Cameron’s government, has announced that he is quitting politics.

Although he said it was a “difficult decision”, he did not cite Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy as a reason for his departure (Mr Prisk supported Remain in 2016).
But Mr Prisk has lamented the decline in compromise in a letter to his local Tory association chairman:

This decision is personal and is not in reaction to Brexit. At 57 I feel now is the time for me to move on to the next phase of my life and a new career. I do, however, lament the wider decline in public discourse and the rise of narrow ideology over pragmatic, common sense.

Democracy in the UK, as elsewhere, needs us to listen and think before we speak. A healthy society needs us to respect others’ views and seek out ways we can work together. Too often these values are being ignored, which I deeply regret.

Mr Prisk’s constituency in Hertfordshire is one of the safest Conservative areas in the country, with a majority of 19,035 at the last election. It is a plum seat for any Tory candidate.


UK beer lovers to wince at sterling pinch

For Britons heading to Munich next week for the town’s annual beer bonanza, sterling’s drop will hit their pockets hard, writes Eva Szalay.

This year, punters will pay an extra 16 per cent for steins of lager at the Oktoberfest compared with pre-Brexit exchange rates in 2016, according to money broker Caxton.

The weakness in sterling will dent the purshasing power of other holidaying Brits. Before the referendum, punters paid £1.63 for a pint, which now costs 38 per cent more at £2.25.

Caxton urges bargain hunters to head to the Czech Republic, where even as prices have risen 22 per cent in sterling terms since the plebiscite, that still translates as £1.30 per beer.

Scandinavian countries are the most expensive for a pint: prices have climbed 16 per cent in Iceland and 9 per cent in Norway since 2016 to £7.07 and £7.66.

Says Caxton:

It’s enough to make you go tea [sic] total!


Campaigner Liberty launches legal challenge to ensure government complies with no-deal legislation

The FT’s Jane Croft writes:

Liberty, the human rights campaign group, on Monday launched a legal challenge which aims to ensure that the UK government upholds its obligations under new legislation which is intended to avert a no-deal Brexit on October 31.

The new European Union (Withdrawal) (No 2) Act – which is expected to receive Royal assent on Monday- requires Mr Johnson to seek an extension to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU if no exit deal can be agreed.

Liberty, which is not affiliated to any political party, says it has launched a judicial review legal action in response to media reports which suggest that the government intends to ignore its obligations under the act. Liberty says such an action would be “plainly unlawful”.

In a letter to the prime minister, Liberty says it will withdraw the threat of legal action within the next two days if Mr Johnson makes clear in a statement that the government will comply with its legal obligations under the act.

Its letter says:

We are gravely concerned by reports in the media suggesting that it is your intention to ignore your obligations under the Act. We consider that a decision by any Minister of the Crown – let alone the Prime Minister – to deliberately evade obligations under primary legislation would be a grave affront to the rule of law and the UK’s constitutional settlement and would have a profoundly detrimental impact on the whole fabric of our legal system and constitutional order.

Martha Spurrier, Liberty director, said:

We hope this action is unnecessary. However we would be failing in our duty if we sit back when doubts about the execution of the law swirl over Westminster.


Dutch investors turn tables on Brexit Britain

The UK last year invested nearly six times more in the Netherlands to a record amount compared with its pre-Brexit days of two years earlier, a report out today showed, whereas the Dutch have pulled €11bn from Britain.

Statistics Netherlands, using central bank figures, found that the flow of British investment to the Netherlands more than doubled in 2017 from €14bn three years ago. Last year it rose to €80bn.

Direct investment the other way however decreased, with some existing investment being withdrawn. In 2016 the Netherlands invested a total value of €50bn in the UK, halving that in 2017. Last year, it recalled €11bn, data from De Nederlandsche Bank revealed.


Bill to block no-deal Brexit becomes law

The legislation passed last week by the Commons, which was backed by 21 Tory rebels who voted against their own prime minister, has now officially become law according to The Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler

Lord Fowler said the bill received royal assent on Monday.


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Commons Speaker John Bercow to step down

John Bercow is stepping down as speaker of the House of Commons by the latest on October 31. In a statement to MPs, Mr Bercow said that if Boris Johnson is successful in bringing about a general election, he will quit immediately. If not he will step down on the day the UK is due to leave the EU.

In an emotional statement, Mr Bercow expressed his gratitude for his decade in the speaker’s chair and wished his successor the best. But he also made a thinly-veiled attack on the Johnson government for its alleged attacks on parliamentary democracy:

This has been the greatest privilege and honour of my professional life for which I will be eternally gratefully. I wish my successor in the chair the very best fortune in standing up for the rights of honourable and right honourable members individually, and for parliament institutionally as the speaker of the House of Commons.

Mr Bercow has been in the Commons for 22 years. Before taking up the speaker’s chair, he was a right wing Conservative MP. Typically former speakers receive a peerage and will take up a seat in the House of Lords.

Mr Bercow’s tenure as speaker has been divisive. On the one hand, he has been a very strong defender of the role of parliament. After the MPs’ expenses scandal, he was widely acknowledged for restoring confidence in the Commons and boosting the role of backbenchers. His frequent granting of urgent questions has helped to make Commons the cockpit of the nation once again.

But for his critics, Mr Bercow has been irascible speaker who has veered into pomposity. Once a right wing Eurosceptic, many Tories think he has shifted leftward. He has particularly riled Eurosceptic Conservative MPs, who believe he has consistently sided with Remain-minded parliamentarians in the face of convention.

He has also been at the centre of bullying allegations, which he has denied.

The Benn legislation, which will force Boris Johnson into requesting another Brexit delay, only came about thanks to his granting of an emergency debate last week.

None of this would have come about without the unique stance of Mr Bercow. For his supporters and critics, this sums up his legacy.


Sterling slips after Bercow announces resignation

Sterling pared it’s earlier gains after John Bercow’s resignation announcement and fell from the day’s highs, but it remained in the black and traded around the $1.2330 level in the immediate aftermath, reports the FT’s Eva Szalay.


Person in the News: John Bercow

Here’s a story written by George Parker on John Bercow and the challenge he faces in the House of Commons:

John Bercow may have swapped his oak and ebony throne for a Turkish sunlounger this week, but even while on holiday the voice of the diminutive UK House of Commons Speaker thundered around Westminster over what he saw as Boris Johnson’s attempt to sideline MPs to secure Brexit. “A constitutional outrage,” he declared.

Mr Bercow has acquired cult status around the world for his theatrical manner and dogged insistence that British MPs must be able to hold the Conservative government to account as it tries to extricate Britain from the EU. In an era of political chaos, the Speaker is a reassuring figure with his trademark orotund instruction: “Order, order.”

The role of House of Commons Speaker is part of Britain’s ancient parliamentary fabric, which is being ripped by the jagged political edges of Brexit. Even the monarch, Queen Elizabeth, was drawn into the fray this week when Mr Johnson asked her to formally suspend, or prorogue, parliament for five weeks in the middle of the Brexit crisis.

Within seconds of the monarch approving the request from her retreat in the Scottish Highlands, Balmoral Castle, Mr Bercow was fighting back, claiming the prime minister was trying to “stop parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country”.

Mr Bercow’s intervention itself was immediately denounced as “unconstitutional” by critics, who said the traditionally neutral Speaker had no right to express personal opinions in such a way. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading Eurosceptic cabinet member, cited the edict of a predecessor: “Speaker Lenthall said that he had ‘no eyes to see, no tongue to speak, unless directed by the House’.”

But Mr Bercow, for all his criticism of the government, has never been bound by convention. After bending Commons rules this year in a move that led to a Brexit defeat for Theresa May’s government, the Speaker intoned that if parliament were always bound by precedent “nothing would change — and things do change”.

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Punters see Lindsay Hoyle as favourite to replace Bercow

Lindsay Hoyle, veteran Labour MP for Chorley, is the clear favourite among UK punters to replace John Bercow as Commons Speaker, according to betting shop William Hill.

Here are the odds at the moment:

-Lindsay Hoyle (4/5)
-Harriet Harman (4/1)
-Chris Bryant (10/1)
- Jacob Rees-Mogg (25/1)


High Court will not consider legal move by Liberty

The FT’s Jane Croft writes:

The High Court confirmed on Monday afternoon it would not consider a judicial review application from Liberty, the UK human rights group, with the prime minister as defendant.

Liberty on Monday had launched a legal challenge to ensure the government seeks an extension to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU if no exit deal can be agreed. A bill preventing a no-deal Brexit and ordering the government to request an extension after October 31 has now become law. Liberty had said it was launching the legal challenge amid media reports the government would not obey the new law.

A spokesman for the judiciary said in a statement: “The court said the claim was entirely hypothetical and the application for urgent consideration was without merit. The court can always make arrangements for an urgent hearing if the occasion arises.”


Labour MP Lindsay Hoyle to enter Commons Speaker race

Lindsay Hoyle, a longtime Labour MP, has said he plans to stand as a candidate to replace John Bercow as Speaker of the House of Commons.

“Members of Parliament we are clearly in unprecedented times and it will be vital to have an experienced Speaker who can provide the stability and leadership the House of Commons requires in order to remain at the centre to our political system,” Sir Lindsay said on Twitter.

Sir Lindsay has been MP for Chorley since 1997 and is currently Deputy Commons Speaker.


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