This Week in British Politics: 17th-23rd September

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Backtracking, crisis talks, and misconduct accusations dominated the headlines last week as the all-important countdown to Brexit judgment day marches on. 

Are checks between Northern Ireland and Britain now on the table?

With the Irish border problem causing a deadlock in Brexit negotiations and progression, May has thrown a spanner in the works as she hinted that she’s now willing to compromise on the issue in order to push Brexit negotiations forward. Further substantiating this claim, the Independent has reported that Britain is set to accept some checks taking place between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

During an intense dinner with EU leaders in Salzberg, May criticised the EU’s ‘backstop’ approach, and asserted that the idea of her accepting the separation of Britain into two customs territories was ‘not credible’. However, she failed to mention regulatory checks (which are technically different to customs checks) at Irish Sea ports in her attack. It has in turn been suggested that this omission was tactical, acting as a subtle sign of her change of heart and what’s to come.

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A no-deal Brexit could lead to serious issues with the UK’s economy, according to the Bank of England and International Monetary Fund

As part of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) annual assessment of the UK’s economy, they predicted that, in terms of World Trade Organisation, a no-deal Brexit would lead to ‘substantial costs’ for the economy. Furthermore, they suggested that a disorderly exit from the EU would lead to a ‘significantly worse outcome’ overall, and noted that the challenges in getting a completed deal were ‘daunting’.

Meanwhile, the Bank of England’s governor Mark Carney is having crisis meetings with senior ministers to discuss the adverse effects a no-deal Brexit would have on the economy. Sources have suggested to the BBC that his worse case scenario is house prices falling by 35% over three years. It is also rumored that during this meeting, he warned Downing Street that the pound would fall, inflation rise and mortgage rates would spiral – this means that many homeowners would be left with negative equity.

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May’s Panorama interview: it’s Chequers or nothing

Although her view on Northern Ireland customs is clearly tentative, an interview with Nick Robinson on ‘Panorama’ has shown that when it comes to the Chequers plan as a whole, May isn’t giving much room for compromise.

When conversation turned to the ‘meaningful vote’ that would be cast by MPs regarding any agreement with the EU, the Prime Minister appeared to give a thinly-veiled warning about the consequences of voting against the Chequers deal: ‘Do you really think the European Union is going to give a better deal at that point [following all these negotiations]?’, she asked.

When asked whether she was suggesting that it was either her deal or no deal, May said that ‘the alternative to that [the Chequers plan]would not be having a deal’.

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Boris Johnson’s ‘misconduct’ case gets financial backing – does that mean it will go to court?

For the past two years, private prosecutor Marcus J Ball has been building a case against the former London Mayor. He claims that Johnson committed misconduct in public office over his claims that the UK sends the EU £350 million per week.

Thanks to numerous public crowdfunding campaigns, he has raised nearly £70,000 to further his case.

In a 48,000 page document that he plans to bring to court soon, Ball details his argument on how Johnson knowingly misled the public in the run-up to the Brexit referendum.

As well as working with a group of solicitors, Ball is working closely with Lewis Power QC, who’s a prominent barrister of Church Court Chambers, London.

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The Liberal Democrats Autumn Party Conference 

The autumn conference took place between 15th-18th September in Brighton, as burning questions on the Lib Dems’ stance on Brexit and future leadership were finally answered.

Despite Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable admitting that he was ‘uncertain’ whether he’d still be in his role next year, he made it clear that – contrary to claims that he’d step down before the general election – he had no immediate plans or intentions to resign. Rather, he affirmed that he’d be ‘pretty busy for quite a long time’ in his role.

This, in turn, dampened growing anticipation that popular anti-Brexit Gina Miller would replace Cable as the leader  – a view she later confirmed when, in her speech, she said to the audience that ‘I am not addressing you as your leader-in-waiting’.

Cable (below) was also grilled by disgruntled and unconvinced activists on some of his more radical proposals for the party, which include a plan to give non-paying supporters a say on Lib Dem policy and allowing non-MPs to lead the party.

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Finally, the party reaffirmed their beliefs that Brexit should be stopped, with Cable confirming the party’s intention to oppose May’s Chequers plan in a meaningful vote. He said that ‘we [as a party]are absolutely solid that we need to vote against Brexit and stop it’.

He also emphasized the importance of the ‘People’s Vote’ scheme, which would give the public the opportunity to vote on the final Brexit deal. Cable said that this could be arranged ‘in a matter of weeks’.

Meanwhile, former party leader Nick Clegg used the conference as a platform for his own preferences. A vocal opponent of the Chequers plan, the former Deputy Prime Minister said that to avoid the dreaded no-deal Brexit, European leaders were looking at extending the deadline for Brexit.

For Clegg, it would show that there’s a middle-ground between the Chequers deal and no-deal, as it would give Britain more time to explore other options.

More articles in This Week in British Politics
  1. This Week in British Politics: 8th-14th October
  2. This Week in British Politics: 17th-23rd September
  3. This Week In British Politics: 8th-15th July
  4. This Week in British Politics: 5 March – 11 March 2018
  5. This Week in British Politics 19-25 February 2018
  6. This Week in British Politics: 1-7 January 2018
  7. This Week in British Politics: 15-21 January 2018
  8. The Week in British Politics: 12 March – 18 March 2018
  9. This Week in British Politics: 2nd – 9th September 2018
  10. This Week in British Politics: 10th – 16th September
  11. This Week in British Politics: 1st – 7th October
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Wessex Scene's friendly neighbourhood Opinion Editor with a love of memes, food and complaining. Also News Editor at the Soton Tab and occasional contributor to The Daily Touch.

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