Merkel ally says Brussels ready for no-deal Brexit

Elmar Brok, a member of Germany’s Christian Democratic Unionist party who is close to German chancellor Angela Merkel, has said the EU is “prepared for a no-deal Brexit”, reports Eoin McSweeney.

Mr Brok poured cold water over the all-Ireland food standards zone Boris Johnson briefly mentioned in parliament yesterday as a solution to the Irish backstop issue.

“The backstop is one of the principles we have in order to defend the integrity of the internal market and defend the interest of Ireland,” Mr Brok told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Food products from a non-member state must be checked at the point of entry, according to EU rules.

Labour tells donors the battle ‘is on’

Cat Rutter Pooley writes:

“It’s on!” say Labour in a fundraising email this morning (they’re not wrong about that).

They’re calling on members to “Stop No Deal and win a Labour Government”.

“Last night’s victory was a vital step in preventing a disastrous No Deal Brexit. And once that is secured, we’ll head towards a General Election,” they say.

Ruth Davidson on Nicholas Soames exiting Tory party

Ruth Davidson, who last week quit as leader of the Scottish Conservatives, tweeted this on Nicholas Soames, grandson of Winston Churchill:

Don’t forget today’s spending review – plus the rest of the day’s events

Today will see not only the first spending review by the Johnson administration – including an extra £2bn for Brexit preparations, writes Jim Pickard. In the afternoon MPs will vote on the second reading of the bill that forces Boris Johnson to seek a delay to Brexit.

One amendment put forward is an attempt to revive Theresa May’s deal, led by Labour MP Stephen Kinnock – who did not vote for it in the spring.

The bill is set to move to the House of Lords as early as Wednesday night.

Mr Johnson’s motion for an early election, which now appears to be doomed, is likely to take place at about 9pm on Wednesday. He needs 424 MPs to back him to succeed, which appears impossible without Labour support.

Pound rally picks up momentum

That pound rally is really gaining pace right now, reports Cat Rutter Pooley. We’re up more than 0.5 per cent for the day against the dollar at $1.2148. Just a reminder of where we stood yesterday — sterling sank as low as $1.1957.

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Shadow Brexit secretary says Johnson has ‘no mandate’ for no-deal

Sir Keir Starmer said Boris Johnson had “no mandate” to leave the EU without a deal on October 31, reports Jim Pickard.

“Rather than coming to parliament and saying ‘this is my proposal’… he has taken the opposite approach which is ‘I will shut down parliament’,” the shadow Brexit secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme .

There has been a revolution in recent weeks to stop him taking that destructive path. We have a carefully constructed plan … and we’re not going to be deflected from that.

Opposition MPs did not trust the prime minister and did not believe a word he said when it came to guaranteeing the date of a general election, said Sir Keir.

Having taken control from Boris Johnson last night we’re not going to give control back to him … it’s a trap.

The shadow Brexit secretary said Labour and other opposition parties could still deploy a vote of no-confidence in Mr Johnson in the coming days – once the bill blocking a no-deal Brexit has passed.

Meanwhile, Eoin McSweeney reports that Ian Blackford of the Scottish National party echoed Sir Keir’s sentiments on Sky News: “Boris Johnson can’t be trusted.” Mr Blackford said a no-deal Brexit must be removed as an option before the SNP agrees to a general election.

Westminster reels while Clarke says Tories are now ‘the Brexit party rebadged’

Westminster is still reeling from Boris Johnson’s decision to remove the whip from the 21 MPs who rebelled last night, writes Jim Pickard.

Among them are eight former cabinet ministers including Philip Hammond, who was chancellor of the exchequer until only a few weeks ago.

For many of the rebels, who have been Conservative MPs for years, it’s a moment of personal anguish.

Rory Stewart, former international aid secretary and one of 21 rebels who will now lose the whip, said he would seek re-selection as a Conservative MP from his local constituency.

Mr Stewart said that leaving the EU without a deal was the wrong thing to do: “To deliver Brexit like this is to create a poison pill which for 40 years will divide this country straight down the middle.”

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David Gauke, former justice secretary, struck a more phlegmatic note, saying on Twitter: “Oh well. These things happen.”

Ken Clarke, the veteran former chancellor who will also be thrown out of the party, said he no longer recognised his own party: “This leader, I don’t recognise this. It’s the Brexit Party, rebadged…the most right-wing cabinet any Conservative Party has ever produced. They’re not in control of events.”

Booted out by text

Rory Stewart, who had the whip withdrawn last night after voting against the government, said he learnt that he would be expelled from the Tory party by text message, reports Eoin McSweeney.

“This is not a Conservative way of behaving,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Labour says it won’t back plan for snap election

Boris Johnson’s plan to hold an early general election as an escape route out of Westminster’s paralysis was undermined on Wednesday morning when the opposition Labour party confirmed it would not back the move, writes Jim Pickard.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has said repeatedly that he wants to hold a general election.

But last night he seemed to suggest that his party would not support any such move until and unless the legislation preventing a no-deal Brexit has passed through parliament.

This morning that position has been further crystallised after Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary, said Labour would not be voting for an early election. The opposition party is wary of a trap whereby an election would be triggered but then Mr Johnson would seek to move the date until after October 31, allowing the UK to “crash out” of the EU without a deal.

“We are not voting for a general election today,” Sir Keir told Sky News. “We are not dancing to Boris Johnson’s tune. If Johnson says the election will be on 15 October no one trusts him.”

Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, also said her party would not back an early general election at this stage.

Pound rallies hours after government loses vote

Sterling recently rebounded above $1.21 in early London trading, hours after MPs defeated Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit plan and took control of the House of Commons.

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The UK currency was up 0.3 per cent against the dollar at $1.2125 early on Wednesday. Against the euro it picked up slightly with a 0.2 per cent rise to €1.1036.

The prime minister late last night lost the vote 328-301 as Conservative rebels and opposition MPs joined forces. This potentially leaves Britain on the brink of a snap general election. The pound yesterday tumbled to a three-year low, dropping below the $1.20 level, on a tumultuous day at Westminster.

“Anyone hoping that this week will bring more clarity might well be disappointed,” says Commerzbank’s Antje Praefcke. “The market does not really know what to make of all this uncertainty. It is caught between hope and trepidation so that sterling is holding up quite well.

“I can nonetheless only repeat: the risk of a no-deal Brexit remains in place and hedging the side that is most painful continues to make sense,” she added.

A quick reminder:
Here’s the list of 21 Tory MPs who defied the government in last night’s vote. It includes many heavy hitters such as former chancellors and cabinet ministers:

The 21:
Guto Bebb
Richard Benyon
Steve Brine
Alistair Burt
Greg Clark
Kenneth Clarke
David Gauke
Justine Greening
Dominic Grieve
Sam Gyimah
Philip Hammond
Stephen Hammond
Richard Harrington
Margot James
Oliver Letwin
Anne Milton
Caroline Nokes
Antoinette Sandbach
Nicholas Soames
Rory Stewart
Edward Vaizey

Another big day at Westminster

MPs prepare to vote on emergency legislation that aims to block a no-deal Brexit. This could herald a general election.

So, to round up what was a momentous day in the House of Commons yesterday:

— MPs seized control of parliament and the Brexit agenda
— Prime minister Boris Johnson lost key vote by 328-301 (52:48) and his majority
— Twenty-one Tory MPs, led by chancellor Philip Hammond, defied their party and backed moves to pass an emergency law to stop a no-deal Brexit
— The 21 have been kicked out of the party
— ‘Rebel alliance’ includes Tory, Labour and other opposition MPs
— To call an election Mr Johnson would need the support of two-thirds of MPs under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act of 2011
— Boris Johnson lost his majority when former minister Phillip Lee crossed the floor and defected to the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats

Via Financial Times