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Apr 3, 2018

The Guardian Brexit Briefing on April 3, 2018

EU Referendum Morning Briefing

Brexit weekly briefing: less than a year to Brexit day

None of the ‘pre-anniversary’ coverage could confidently say what Brexit might look like
A protester outside the Houses of Parliament
A protester outside the Houses of Parliament. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Jon Henley


Welcome to the Guardian’s weekly Brexit briefing. You can also catch up with our Brexit Means … podcast right here.
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The briefing will be taking a brief break next week and will be back on 17 April.

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Brexit’s “pre-anniversary” was the cue for an avalanche of articles, programmes and series to mark the occasion, none of which – for obvious reasons – could predict with any confidence what Brexit, when it finally happens, might actually look like.
But with a year to go until Britain formally leaves the EU, Theresa May toured “the four nations of the union”, taking care to avoid backing Boris Johnson’s claims of a “Brexit dividend” (the IFS, OBR and Treasury all say there won’t be one) or saying whether, having voted remain, she had changed her mind.
Britain would be “strong and united” but also “different”, she said, promisingly. First, though, the government has to survive a series of key votes, particularly on the customs union, before parliament’s crunch “meaningful vote” on the final deal, which is expected in October (but could yet be put off till January).
In the Lords, nine senior Tories, including two former cabinet ministers, have put their name to cross-party amendments to the EU withdrawal bill, supporting a series of substantial changes to the government’s flagship bill to leave the EU.
The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, caused consternation among Labour remainers by suggesting an anodyne “blah, blah, blah” accord would “probably” pass the party’s six tests for the final deal, which include delivering “the exact same benefits as we currently have as members of the single market and customs union”.
But the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, insisted Labour would “not support a withdrawal deal” if the tests were not met. The party also aims to amend the EU withdrawal bill in the Lords to prevent the government from presenting the “meaningful vote” as a choice between accepting the deal and crashing out without one.

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The Guardian’s finely argued editorial on 29 March – a year before Brexit day – called for an urgent change of course by parliament to avoid a departure “on terms almost certainly decided by a rightwing clique of Tories”:
A Brexit that would bring the country together is the softest of soft Brexits. But May decided, without even consulting her cabinet, to go for an extreme model. Only a year is now left until the official moment of departure. The troubling reality is that outside the EU Britain would be worse off in economic terms under every scenario. Leaving the EU will not enhance Britain’s place in the world, it will damage it. Yet without sustained evidence that millions of people have had a change of heart, the case for completely reversing the decision is difficult to make. Here is the paradox: Brexit does not fix the underlying problems that led many people to feel that they simply had to reject EU membership to get some kind of redress from a political system in which they had lost confidence, and the negative economic consequences of Brexit will be felt hardest in places where the leave vote most looks like a cry for economic help. MPs will now have to find a way to leave while mitigating the harm done by leaving. Resisting a course that harms the country is not an offence against democracy. Time is running out. Now is the moment to demand a change of course, before it is too late.
Polly Toynbee argued that the Brexit ultras are afraid because their project now looks toxic, but it’s hard to see what can stop it:
This fear and loathing from the winners suggests they are not idiots, they can see Brexit is not going well: polls show most people agree. The UK doesn’t hold the whip hand, while foreigners from every continent give pitying looks at a country taking leave of its senses. Remainers have better reasons to be miserable. Daily they scour opinion polls, but the needle is stuck ... I wish there were more than a remote chance Brexit could be stopped, but most voters just want to get on with it. I never stop believing, but let’s face it: only some unimaginable cataclysm can swing public opinion decisively for remain in the very short time left.



This afternoon I was watching a guy in Pettigo trying to build a garden shed. He had it half built. Then it fell down. His neighbour looked over the fence and said ‘Sam, are you ok?’. Sam said ‘I’ve made a complete f**king Brexit of it.’ And his neighbour said ‘You have, surely’.
— The Irish Border (@BorderIrish) April 1, 2018