No say on trade deals for UK in EU customs union, says ex-WTO chief

Pascal Lamy likens customs union to second division and WTO terms to fourth division

The British government would have no say over new trade deals if it was in a customs union with the European Union, a former head of the World Trade Organisation has said.

The comments from Pascal Lamy, who is also a former EU trade commissioner, will dent the hopes of MPs who favour a customs union but seek to retain British influence in the EU.

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DWP acted ‘perversely’ in sacking of disabled woman, judge finds

Department discriminated against Isabella Valentine, employment tribunal rules

A disabled woman was discriminated against when she was unfairly sacked by the Department for Work and Pensions, which behaved in a “perverse” and “blinkered” manner, a judge has found.

Isabella Valentine was employed by the DWP on a programme designed to get vulnerable, long-term unemployed people back into work by nurturing and training apprentices over a 12-month period, bringing them to a point where they could apply for jobs in the usual way. Instead, “inexplicable and strange” disciplinary measures were taken by the DWP after just four days’ sickness that led to Valentine’s dismissal.

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Our cross-party bill doesn’t threaten Brexit – it just gives us more time | Yvette Cooper

I’m fed up with cries of betrayal from ministers who fudge and fail. Theresa May knows we need to rule out no deal, but she’s too weak to do it
• Yvette Cooper is a Labour MP

Today, the prime minister has to put forward her Brexit plan B. But Theresa May’s repeated delays mean there are now only 67 days left until the 29 March deadline – and I am really worried the government is drifting by accident into a damaging and chaotic “no deal” that would hit manufacturing, jobs, food prices, policing and security.

That is why, with other cross-party select committee chairs and MPs, I’m putting forward a new bill; it means that if we reach the end of February and things still aren’t sorted out, then parliament would get a vote on whether to extend article 50 and give everyone a bit more time.

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‘Brexit with an open border’ is a fantasy. Still Theresa May chases it | Simon Jenkins

Instead of returning to the Irish border, the prime minister should be opening up the debate beyond a minority of hardline Tories

Theresa May’s Irish backstop is Donald Trump’s wall. It is the howl of power thwarted by the implacable opposition of a democratic assembly. The prime minister today again sets her face against MPs who are now desperately searching for a parliamentary consensus on how to leave the EU.

She will plead with her Tory right wing – which is what it is – to support a supposedly “tweaked” deal on the Irish border under Brexit. For two years, experts have hunted the fantasy of “Brexit with an open border”, and found only a contradiction in terms. You cannot have a customs union and not a union. Yet May apparently believes she can convince her ever more ramshackle coalition to the contrary. This time she has hours rather than days to prove it.

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We can’t leave a no-deal decision in the hands of wiped-out Theresa May | Gina Miller

That’s where a bruised prime minister is leading us – what a horrifying epitaph it will make. It’s time to ask the people again

It is nothing less than despicable that, when our opposition and our government can clearly see they need to work together to get us out of this Brexit chaos, they are refusing to do so. And that means Theresa May could quite conceivably allow Britain to exit the EU without a deal, without any serious plans in place, and without reference to parliament. To prevent a no-deal outcome requires MPs to proactively replace this legal default position with something else.

Related: A citizens’ assembly is now the only way to break the Brexit deadlock | Gordon Brown

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It’s the defining issue of Brexit, but who understands Northern Ireland? | Matthew O’Toole

When I worked at No 10, Westminster was oblivious to it – and is now content to have all its complexity represented by the DUP

Have you ever visited Northern Ireland? You should go – it’s a fascinating place. In fact, if it were less fascinating – that is to say, less complicated – then the UK’s departure from the EU would have been easier. You have that to thank us, or resent us, for.

Before you visit you should familiarise yourself with some of the basic geography. First of all, where is Northern Ireland? Obviously it’s in Ireland, but only in one version of Ireland. It is on the island of Ireland, but not in the political state legally named Ireland. So it’s in Britain? Not quite, it is not on the island of Britain but it is in the United Kingdom – the state often referred to as Britain. It can therefore be described as being in both Britain and Ireland, one politically and the other physically. But unpack that sentence further: it is not on the island of Britain or in the state of Ireland. It is neither and both at the same time.

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England’s rebel spirit is rising – and it wants a no-deal Brexit | John Harris

In the face of political stasis, the seductive myth of Britain standing alone against its oppressors is taking hold

In my innocence, I didn’t expect many people to be in a central Portsmouth Wetherspoons at 10.30am on a Friday morning. But there they all were, in their droves: passionate supporters of Brexit, there to hear the pub chain’s founder and chairman, Tim Martin, make the case for Britain leaving the EU with no deal. Martin has been on the road since November, with the aim of visiting at least 100 of his boozers. The day we crossed paths, he was traversing the south coast, moving on to Southampton and Weymouth: given that it has whetted the appetite of what remains of the country’s local press, drawn large crowds and shifted huge amounts of food and drink, the whole thing looks to have been an unlikely success.

Related: Why are people cheering for no deal? Because they’re thinking about it the wrong way | Anand Menon

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Corbyn holds back from conceding to calls for second EU referendum

Labour leader seeks to balance pressure from rival wings of party before PM reveals her Brexit plan B

Jeremy Corbyn is likely to refrain from making fresh moves towards backing a second referendum until after the government’s Brexit plan B is voted on later this month, as he seeks to balance pressure from rival wings of his party.

Labour strategists believe there is a firm majority both in the shadow cabinet and in parliament against an immediate shift towards full-throated support for a referendum, the Guardian understands.

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The Guardian view on Theresa May’s challenge: no change, no Brexit | Editorial

At the weekend, two former prime ministers showed they understand the need for new Brexit approaches. Theresa May needs to learn the same lesson

On Monday afternoon in the Commons, Theresa May will update MPs about any progress she may have made on Brexit options following her conclusive parliamentary defeat last week. It is expected to be a holding statement, to enable her to carry on consulting as she hunts for the elusive formula that can win a Commons majority, retain EU agreement and keep her government alive.

Given Mrs May’s approach and personality, this could be a long search. Don’t hold your breath for the outcome. One of Mrs May’s most disabling qualities in this situation is her political rigidity. In spite of last week’s defeat, she struggles to see that everything about her premiership has changed. She remains formally in charge of the government. But, on the issue that defines British politics, she is no longer in charge at all. She merely leads one of the many groups with no majority that make up the patchwork of Commons Brexit opinion. Mrs May will both fail and fall if she does not change her approach. She needs either to find Brexit allies, in which case she must compromise on policy, or to reset the Brexit process in some way, which will require an even bolder form of leadership. Over the weekend, as it happens, two former prime ministers came to her aid in different ways with practical suggestions – though she is unlikely to thank either of them for doing so.

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Carmakers ramp up preparations for a no-deal Brexit

A host of major manufacturers move their business from UK regulators and stockpile parts

Carmakers are ramping up their preparations for a no-deal Brexit, with a host of major manufacturers moving regulatory approval for their vehicles from the UK to other parts of Europe.

Manufacturers are preparing alternative regulatory arrangements, a key concern for the closely supervised vehicle industry. Toyota, Honda and Bentley are among the car manufacturers with major British factories who have looked to new regulators in the EU since the Brexit vote.

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How admirable that MPs want to amend Brexit. It won’t work | Matthew d’Ancona

The Commons is coursing with radicalism, but there’s no way to break the impasse that doesn’t involve a fresh referendum

Constitutional folklore is notoriously unreliable. Liberal statesman John Bright, for instance, did not, as is so often claimed, declare in 1865 that the British legislature was “the mother of all parliaments”. That particular distinction he accorded to England. Likewise, and more importantly, it is not true that parliament is sovereign. That authority is vested in “the Queen-in-parliament”: which is to say, ministers of the Crown acting in tandem with the Commons and the Lords. The question, always, is where the balance between government and parliament lies.

Since the second world war, the general trend has been towards the aggregation of power in the executive. In 1976, former lord high chancellor Lord Hailsham went as far as saying we live in an “elective dictatorship”. Tony Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, spoke of the creation of a “Napoleonic” state. Yet last week’s historic defeat of Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the Commons was a milestone in a quiet counter-revolution. Ever since Iraq, parliament has assumed that it has a right of veto over any significant declaration of military hostilities; select committees, though still no match for their US counterparts, have flexed their muscles.

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A citizens’ assembly is now the only way to break the Brexit deadlock | Gordon Brown

Let’s extend article 50, and use 2019 to engage with the British people on Britain’s future

Parliament must inflict a second defeat on the government – by voting next Tuesday to extend article 50 for a year. Not as a delaying tactic, but for a purpose: to enable a process of nationwide consultation and reflection. Key to this would be a series of citizens’ assemblies whose thinking would then lead to constructive reconsideration by parliament of our relations with Europe, including the options of a renegotiation followed by a referendum.

Related: Power to the people – could a citizens’ assembly solve the Brexit crisis?

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It’s heartwarming to hear MPs speaking up for press freedom | Roy Greensalade

Recent initiatives are a step forward in helping editors and reporters under attack

In too many countries, it is open season on journalists. Ruling politicians, acting like the monarchs of regimes past, openly denigrate the men and women who seek to hold them to account and thereby encourage their citizens to follow suit. The most obvious example is US president Donald Trump and his declaration that journalists are enemies of the people purveying “fake news”.

Presidents and prime ministers elsewhere have taken his lead, from Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – jailer at the last count of 68 journalists – to Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, who deals with critical media outlets by buying them up and closing them down, and on to the Czech president, Miloš Zeman, who thought it amusing to hold up a mock assault rifle labelled “for journalists”.

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Brexit: No 10 hits out at MPs trying to delay article 50 to avert no deal

Downing Street says it is ‘extremely concerning’ MPs could attempt to override the government

Downing Street has said it is “extremely concerning” that MPs could attempt to override the government to suspend or delay the article 50 process to leave the EU in their effort to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

A slew of backbench amendments are expected to be attached to the prime minister’s statement on Monday on the way forward for the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

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Keir Starmer: Northern Ireland backstop likely in any Brexit scenario

Labour’s Brexit spokesman says renegotiation of May deal unlikely before UK leaves EU

Any withdrawal agreement is likely to require a backstop, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, has said, admitting that a renegotiation was unlikely to be possible in the time before the UK is set to leave the EU.

Starmer has previously been highly critical of the backstop, which would keep Britain in an effective customs union with the EU as an insurance policy to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland, with no unilateral right for the UK to exit until a technological solution to keep open the border can be found.

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Nigel Farage to lead new pro-Brexit party if EU departure delayed

Former Ukip leader says he will ‘re-enter the fray’ if Brexit is put back beyond 29 March

Nigel Farage is being lined up as leader of a new pro-Brexit party if Britain’s departure from the European Union is delayed beyond 29 March.

The former Ukip leader said he had offered his enthusiastic support to the Brexit party after being sounded out as its potential leader.

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The idea that Britain can develop an independent trade policy is absurd | Will Hutton

When selling across borders is ever harder, life without European allies will be parlous

So devastated is the British economy beyond Greater London that only two regions are strong enough to be net contributors to the exchequer – the south-east and the east of England. The rest of the country depends on the buoyancy of London’s service-based economy and accompanying tax revenues to support their schools, hospitals and social benefits.

It is this same economic and trading weakness that explains our current account deficit, estimated to be £85bn in 2018, with a deficit in goods approaching £150bn. Without the surpluses Greater London earns in services, including finance, education, consultancy and law, much of Britain would be flat on its back. Of course there should have been an industrial policy to benefit the whole country and a reshaping of our capitalism decades ago, but Thatcherite Tories and New Labour failed us. We are where we are and the dangers are stark and little understood.

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Labour youth tell Corbyn: come off the fence on Brexit

Young metropolitan supporters threaten to defect if party leader doesn’t change his mind

Much has been made of the need for Jeremy Corbyn to listen to pro-Brexit voters in Labour’s northern heartlands. But it is becoming apparent that his other major support base – young people in metropolitan areas – can no longer be taken for granted.

Several of Labour’s gains in the 2017 election were in university towns and cities where students turned out in droves to support the leftwing leader. On Saturday, however, many of those same young people were demonstrating to show that Corbyn may not be able to count on their support if he doesn’t oppose Brexit. They have a new message for him: “If you’re with us, we’re with you” – the implication being that, if you’re not, we’re not.

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Corbyn expected to back move to block no-deal Brexit

Labour is considering a proposal that would force Theresa May to extend Britain’s membership of the EU

Jeremy Corbyn is poised to back a plan to block a no-deal Brexit as pressure builds within Labour and the trade unions for a delay to Britain’s EU departure.

It is understood that the leader and his shadow cabinet team are preparing to support a proposal that would force Theresa May to request an extension to Britain’s EU membership should no Brexit deal be agreed by early March.

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Norway Plus is not a silver bullet to resolve Brexit impasse

Trying to emulate the Norwegian model will only disillusion and betray both the Leave and Remain camps

Norway is known for its fjords and mountains, its coastline and the mystical northern lights. It is a fitting backdrop then for the Brexit saga’s latest myth, which centres around the Scandinavian country’s close but separate relations with the EU – an idea for a new deal being marketed as Norway Plus.

With gleaming public services funded by vast oil wealth and some of the highest taxation in the world, an economic philosophy of state-owned capital, rather than market liberalism, and 70% of workers signed up to union contracts, it is understandable that some in the Labour party are starting to see Norway as a silver bullet for the unfolding Brexit chaos. But by mimicking Norway’s EU relations, we will not magically gain our own $1tn sovereign wealth fund. It is far too late for that – Margaret Thatcher squandered our North Sea oil in exchange for tax cuts in the 1980s.

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Its compass smashed, the ghost ship Brexit sails into ever darker waters | Andrew Rawnsley

We are weeks from crashing out of the EU, but there’s no sign that anyone is prepared to compromise, least of all Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn

The curse on the crew of the Flying Dutchman damned them to sail the seas for eternity with no hope of ever reaching port. It came to mind during the dark tempests in which parliament first dismasted the government by rejecting its Brexit deal and then voted to leave that same government afloat. In the hope of gathering some intelligence about how the captain of the Brexit ghost ship intends to navigate her way out of this hell, I turned to a senior and clever Tory who is a close shipmate of the prime minister. How will it end? Came his sagacious reply: “I haven’t got a fucking clue.”

This much we do know. At 11pm on 29 March, one of three things must happen. Britain will crash out of the EU without a withdrawal agreement or a transition period. This will mean the overnight termination of decades of legal and trading agreements with both our continent and the rest of the world, an outcome that will deal severe reputational damage to this country and unleash disruption for which it is not at all prepared. Or Britain’s politicians will have to collectively confess that they cannot find a solution and seek to prolong or revoke the withdrawal process, damning us to sail on without landfall in sight unless this is accompanied by the promise of another referendum to resolve the deadlock. Or parliament will, very hard against the deadline, finally give its approval to something. This may not be a safe harbour, but the approval of a withdrawal agreement would be a port of sorts until the beginning of the next stage of the negotiations covering future relations.

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The Tories now treat the nation as they have long treated the poor | Nick Cohen

From universal credit to Brexit, the party is hellbent on diminishing us all

Brexit did not come from nowhere. The jerry-built utopianism, the indifference to and ignorance of how the British live and what they need to keep them safe, the know-nothing pride in ignorant generalisations and the cocksure love of sweeping solutions have their roots in the right that emerged a decade ago.

Before the Brexiters wrecked the country, they wrecked the lives of the poor. Universal credit was the Conservatives’ fantasy when they took power 2010. Iain Duncan Smith offered a dream so seductive that even his natural critics could not find it in their hearts to condemn him unequivocally. His grand project would remove disincentives to work. It would simplify the complicated and create a benefits system that was “a doorway to real aspiration and achievement”.

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What has the Women’s March accomplished, beyond mere visibility? | Jessa Crispin

Amid a storm of criticism surrounding the organization’s leaders, we should also look at what political action, if any, the group has taken to create structural change

In two short years, the Women’s March has gone from amassing good will (and hefty donations) to amassing suspicion. Once heralded for organizing the single largest protest in America’s history, now the only thing anyone wants to talk about is the leaders’ association with antisemitic, homophobic, transphobic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

This weekend, the third women’s march on Washington, with corresponding local marches in cities across the United States, will be taking place, but it risks being overshadowed by the storm of criticism that has arisen about alleged antisemitic rhetoric within the group’s leadership and investigations by the Daily Beast and Tablet into the possible mishandling of funds.

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Give MPs free vote on Brexit options, says Sir John Major

Ex-PM urges Theresa May to stage series of ‘indicative’ votes as way out of impasse

Sir John Major has called for MPs to be allowed to have a free vote on a series of options to solve the unfolding Brexit crisis, saying he feared millions would be hurt if Britain crashed out of the EU with the wrong deal.

The former prime minister called on Theresa May to stage a series of “indicative” votes in parliament to establish if any proposals could command a majority.

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Corbyn and May must compromise to see off a no-deal Brexit | Caroline Flint

The destructive brinkmanship from no-dealers and people’s vote supporters must be defeated
• Caroline Flint is Labour MP for the Don Valley and a former minister for Europe

I was reminded this week of the film Unstoppable, where a runaway train threatens disaster; and Denzel Washington and Chris Pine must save the day. Our Brexit train is truly out of control. Not only is any route to Brexit subject to attempts to frustrate it, there is no agreement over who should drive the train.

The Tory European Research Group reminds MPs that leaving with no deal is the default outcome if nothing is agreed. The no-deal Brexiteers would have the UK leave with no agreement on the money the UK owes, EU citizens, the Northern Ireland border, tariff-free trade or security arrangements.

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