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News Brexit - Press releases

Monday's Business and Politics round-up

18 Feb 2019

Person reading the news on their smartphone on a train

Good morning,

The Labour party could face a bit of a shake-up this morning, as it has been reported that several Labour MPs are set to announce their resignations over the party leadership’s handling of Brexit and the anti-Semitism row.

Reports of potential resignations came just the day after Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell appeared on the Andrew Marr Show, where he said that the party was “dealing with” any issues that might result in a split. Mr McDonnell added that they were “holding together on Brexit” and would be “ruthless” about the claims of anti-Semitism. He urged his colleagues to “stay in and fight”.

In other news, UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has said that it is possible to mitigate the risks associated with involving the Chinese technology company Huawei in UK telecoms projects. There have been concerns that the Chinese government has been using Huawei as a proxy so it can spy on other countries, which led to the US, Australia and New Zealand banning the company from supplying equipment for their 5G networks.

UK mobile companies, including EE, Vodafone and Three, have been working with Huawei on developing 5G networks and are waiting for the decision on whether they can continue working with the tech firm. The Government's review looking into the issue is expected to be completed in March or April.

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The great divide

There appear to be splits on every corner of Westminster these days, with Prime Minister Theresa May also seeking to address divisions within her party. She wrote to all Conservative MPs over the weekend in an effort to get them to unite behind her Brexit deal. Addressing her colleagues, Mrs May said that “history will judge us all” over the party's handling of Brexit negotiations.

Mrs May will return to Brussels for further talks this week and is expected to speak to leaders of the EU member states too. UK Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox will also be in Brussels today and will reportedly outline how he thinks Britain can remove the risk of being trapped in EU’s customs union indefinitely through the Irish backstop.

A number of Brexiteers have called for the Irish backstop part of the Withdrawal Agreement to be replaced, but the EU has so far refused to reopen the agreement. Other Tory MPs have proposed different solutions – Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said yesterday that he doesn’t think “it’s the mechanism that matters, it’s the objective,” suggesting that changes to the backstop could be made without reopening the withdrawal deal.

It is expected that MPs will be given a chance to vote on the revised deal next week, but it remains doubtful whether the Prime Minister’s plea for unity will be successful. The Sunday Times reported leaked WhatsApp messages yesterday in which the deputy chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) Steve Baker called Mrs May’s negotiations with Brussels “a complete waste of time”.

In other Brexit news, Australian Government has said it is ready to sign a fast-tracked trade deal with the UK in a no-deal Brexit scenario. However, it also pointed out that it is unlikely that Britain would be able to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which involves 11 countries, in the short-to-medium term. 

Regulated media

MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee have concluded an 18-month long investigation into fake news, calling for a new regulator to oversee content on social media sites, which would be financed by a new tax on tech companies.

Other recommendations proposed in the report include introduction of a compulsory code of ethics, similar to the guidance issued by Ofcom, and social media companies to be forced to take down sources of harmful content. It has also called for the Government to reform current electoral laws on other countries’ involvement in UK elections.

The inquiry looked into the effects of disinformation on past electoral events, including 2016 US presidential election and EU referendum. It focused predominantly on Facebook and its business practices before and after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

“We need a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people,” said Damian Collins, Conservative MP and chair of the committee. He added that democracy was at risk as a result of targeted disinformation campaigns through social media platforms from sources that cannot be identified.

Facebook has welcomed the report, saying that they “are open to meaningful regulation and support the committee’s recommendation for electoral law reform”. The company pointed out that it has already made some substantial changes to tackle the issue of fake news.

Can't fly with me

British regional airline Flybmi filed for administration on Saturday, resulting in cancellations of all their flights. The airline flew to 25 European cities and employs 376 people who are based in the UK, Germany, Sweden and Belgium. Details of what would happen to their jobs have not yet been announced.

Flybmi has blamed Brexit uncertainty and rises in fuel and carbon costs which led to its collapse. “Current trading and future prospects have also been seriously affected by the uncertainty created by the Brexit process, which has led to our inability to secure valuable flying contracts in Europe and lack of confidence around Flybmi's ability to continue flying between destinations in Europe,” the company said in a statement.

Thousands of Flybmi passengers have been stranded across Europe as the airline would not offer refunds or alternative travel options. The airline has taken down its website and replaced it with a statement which informs customers not to come to the airport unless they have rebooked on another flight.

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Contact Press Office

Donjeta Miftari, Head of Communications  

020 7451 3285

Euan Holmes, Press Officer

020 7451 3280

Press office