Diary Day 646: more lost time. There was an afternoon of drama as the House of Commons debated the EU Withdrawal Bill sent back again from the Lords with a meaningful vote amendment they had inserted which reflected what Theresa May had promised Dominic Grieve, but then failed to deliver. To cut a long story short, Theresa May succeeded in creating a split in her own rebel MPs by giving a concession at the last minute. Something to do with the Speaker of the House of Commons deciding whether the MPs should have a meaningful vote. It is all rather vague.
Anyway, Dominic Grieve, who briefly enjoyed heroic status among pro EU people, let his fans down by caving in and opposing his own amendment, to calls of “shame”. Nicky Morgan also voted against, along with other former rebels. The Tory rebels were reduced to six: Heidi Allen, Ken Clarke, Phillip Lee, Antoinette Sandbach, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston.
Four Labour MPs, all prominent Brexit supporters – Frank Field, Kate Hoey, John Mann and Graham Stringer – rebelled to back the Government.
One Labour MP was brought in to vote in a wheelchair. Another who voted, Lib Dem Jo Swinson, was due to give birth. But the amendment was defeated by 319 votes to 303, a majority of 16.
In the evening the same day the Lords gave up the fight and the bill was passed.
How much does it matter? The ship of fools is on a collision course with reality, whatever they think.
The following day Airbus published a Brexit Risk Assessment briefing, downloadable from its website. This stated some facts. In a nutshell, Airbus directly employs 14,000 people at 25 sites in the UK and supports over 110,000 jobs in the UK supply chain. A no deal Brexit would be likely to severely disrupt production. It would “force Airbus to reconsider its footprint in the country, its investments in the UK and at large its dependency on the UK…
“This extremely negative outcome for Airbus would be catastrophic…”
Airbus went on to state that Brexit with an agreement and transition period would “still pose a significant amount of risk and be difficult to manage as the proposed transition phase seems too short for governments to agree on all important open points, and for Airbus and its tier one suppliers to agree and implement all changes with their extensive UK supply chain.”
Airbus added: “Past the transition phase, the new EU/UK relationship will entail new procedures, regulatory regimes, duplication of tasks, divergence of standards etc… potentially leading to higher complexity, more effort, more cost, more risks; more friction/delay in our cross-channel, deeply integrated supply chain… operating today on a just-in-time basis.
“Until we know and understand the new EU/UK relationship, Airbus should carefully monitor any new investments in the UK and should refrain from extending its UK suppliers/partners base.
“Customs Union and a harmonized regulatory framework with the EU on aviation are the two major issues for Airbus that will determine its future strategy in UK, and they need to be addressed urgently.
“The critical issues amongst others are the increased cost base due to trade procedures, airworthiness efforts and difficulty to move people. For trade procedures (non-tariff cost) alone, an OECD study estimates the range of the recurring extra cost between 2% and 15% of overall trade. This translates to up to €1B per year to be borne by the Airbus UK-related aerospace ecosystem.”
This was all predicted.
Inside the silo of the right-wing UK politicians and media various people snapped back at Airbus. But Airbus is a multinational business with its headquarters in Toulouse. Words will not alter the arithmetic of profit and loss.
The Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman, Tom Brake, said: “Whilst the Conservatives may wish to ignore reality and pat each other on the back after two years of achieving precisely nothing in the Brexit negotiations, they cannot expect businesses to act in the same way.”
There was a march on the second anniversary of the fateful referendum. I was there. We Lib Dems assembled in large numbers in St James Square in central London. I have read that we were the largest single group on the march. According to the event timetable Vince Cable was due to speak to us at 12.15 and we were due to move off at 1 pm. He arrived late and we did not start to move until 10 minutes to 2. There was some grumbling, as we could not see the reason for this.
Only later when I saw an aerial video published by ITV news did I realise that plans had been disrupted because the turnout had greatly exceeded the organisers’ expectations. We couldn’t set off earlier because we couldn’t enter Pall Mall; it was absolutely full of marchers. The front of the march, carrying a huge banner demanding a People’s Vote, had filled Parliament Square before the people at the rear even set off. It was not 100,000 people but far more than that. Estimates range from 200,000 to approaching half a million. The latter estimate is a rough one based on the facts, recorded by aerial photography, that St James Street, Pall Mall, Whitehall and Parliament Square were all simultaneously packed with people and that the known capacity of those places adds up to about half a million.
Pictures of the march were main news items around the world. We are making waves.
The atmosphere was good-humoured, the placards creative. The police were present but looked on impassively and there was no trouble from us. The front door and brass name plates of the Cabinet Office did get decorated by anti-Brexit stickers but that was about all. I heard though that a small counter-demonstration, which the police kept away from us, had attracted some English Defence League thugs who hung around and caused some unpleasant incidents. Where the targets were people, I gather that the police swiftly moved in, but they stood by where the targets were property, such as beer glasses and public furniture.
Some of us have since reported some unnerving online stalking, which suggests that aggressors in the crowds were targeting known individuals. After Jo Cox, we have to be alert. There are weirdos out there.
That’s enough for an already long diary entry. I’ll need another to catch up.