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Three things that could influence Britain rejoining the EU  

Welcome to Friday’s Early Edition from i.

In 2019, Britain was slathered in adverts reminding people to “Get Ready for Brexit” as the 31 October deadline for leaving the EU approached. The government spent £46m on a campaign that “had little effect on public preparedness” and was described by critics as an “expensive propaganda stunt”. But the cost of that failed campaign is just a drop in the ocean compared to what analysts and think tanks say Brexit has cost the British economy. Earlier this year, Bloomberg Economics said £100bn is being lost a year and that the economy is 4% smaller than it might have been if the Remain vote had won. Leaving the EU has already contributed to higher food bills, and now, with inflation soaring far above the rates of most European countries, it has come up for blame once again. That anger is being felt by the public, as evidenced by a string of recent polls which show a growing appetite for rejoining the bloc. Earlier this week, a BMG poll for i showed 57 per cent of voters blamed or partially blamed the UK’s departure from the EU for high inflation. Another, last month, revealed the proportion of Brits who want to rejoin the EU has climbed to its highest levels since the referendum took place in 2016 – with 58.2% saying they would now vote to rejoin. On top of that, Rishi Sunak is under pressure to rejoin the EU’s science and research scheme Horizon, and Labour is being squeezed by some of its own MPs to adopt a more radical policy on the issue. It may feel like the tide is turning, but what could push it to change? We’ll take a look after the headlines.

Today’s news, and why it matters

The Home Office has confirmed that murals of cartoon characters painted on the walls of an asylum centre in Kent for unaccompanied children have been painted over following an order from Robert Jenrick. Sources told i that staff “horrified” by the “cruel” order, were resisting carrying out the work. A former child refugee said: “Painting over the pictures of cartoons and animals in a reception centre, to communicate hostility to the children who arrive there, is an act of abject cruelty by this Government.”

An eight-year-old girl has died following a major incident where a car collided with a building at a primary school in Wimbledon, south London, on Thursday morning. The driver of the Land Rover, a woman aged in her 40s, has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. It is not being treated as terror related.

The Cabinet Office must hand over Boris Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages, notebooks and diaries to the Covid inquiry by Monday afternoon after it lost a High Court challenge. Government insiders said they would comply with the ruling, but were concerned that it would set a precedent for further demands for important documents and messages held by serving ministers.

A senior MP has said Parliament should not use the criminal bar of what constitutes sexual assault if it is to tackle inappropriate behaviour. Caroline Nokes, chair of the women and equalities select committee, told i that there is a culture of “victim shaming and blaming” in Westminster that is leaving MPs and other staff free to continue their behaviour.

Boris Johnson and his allies have been condemned for their repeated dismissal of the Chris Pincher allegations after an official report found he groped the testicles and backsides of two separate men. A former minister told i: “Johnson knew about Pincher’s behaviour and he chose to look the other way because he was useful to him in that role of deputy chief whip. It was an ‘eff you’ to the Parliamentary party because in his words we are ‘only people’.”

A living standards crunch is needed to bring down inflation and avoid prolonging the economic crisis, two former Tory chancellors have told i. Conservative grandees Norman Lamont and Philip Hammond both endorsed the strategy adopted by Jeremy Hunt of avoiding giveaways which would ease the impact of the increase in living costs.

Three things that could influence Britain rejoining the EU:

Time: There’s both good and bad when it comes to the amount of time Britain stays out of the EU, in terms of whether it would give it a chance to rejoin. On the European side, it may make things more difficult, due to strained relations and wariness. Last month, senior EU officials said renegotiating the current Brexit deal was off the cards, as some industries called for those talks to be re-opened to save their industries. On top of that, the longer the UK is out of the bloc, the further it may stray from the meeting the criteria for re-joining. “The longer we leave it the more complicated accession is because the more we diverge and the EU will have changed,” says Professor Anand Menon, director of the UK In A Changing Europe think-tank told i. However some commentators believe that as it goes on, calls to rejoin will grow even louder, partly because the problems caused by Brexit will become more prominent, and partly because the younger more pro-EU generation will become more influential. The FT’s Gideon Rachman pointed out earlier this year: “Demographics and economics suggest that the Rejoin sentiment will strengthen over time. And, sadly, the damage done to the UK economy by Brexit is likely to become increasingly evident.” The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland made a similar point, saying because “Brexit has proved to be both disastrous and unpopular … it’s easy to conclude that it’s only a matter of time before we reverse the decision we took seven years ago today.” And most recently senior Tory Tobias Ellwood told i politicians needed to admit Brexit was a mistake and rejoin the single market. “I didn’t know anybody who voted Remain or Brexit, who expected us to be where we are today,” he said.

Labour’s policy: There is a push now for Sir Keir Starmer to adopt a more radical policy towards Brexit ahead of the next election, as the public mood shifts. “The fog that was there for so long after we left the EU, when no-one wanted to talk about Brexit because people had voted for it, is starting to lift,” Labour MP Stella Creasy, chair of the Labour Movement for Europe, said earlier this month. “The public have moved on from 2019 but politics has not. At the Labour Movement for Europe we have said we cannot avoid this issue, we have got to talk about it because too many people’s jobs are at stake,” she added. Labour’s existing policy on Brexit was underlined by shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy in a speech last month, which he said was to pursue a more “pragmatic” and improved relationship with Brussels, and a pledge to improve the UK’s trade deal with the EU when it comes up for review in 2025. However possibly pushing change is the Labour Movement for Europe, which has tabled amendments to the party’s national policy forum. They call for Labour to push for better access to the single market, including joining the Pan-Euro-Mediterranean Convention, which offers preferential treatment to some Balkan and Middle Eastern states, and paving the way to negotiate a new bespoke customs union for the UK. Read the full story here.

The cost: Britain is unlikely to be able to gain the kind of agreement it previously had with the EU, including exemptions from the Euro currency and possible Schengen. It’s previous “rebate” on contributions would also be unlikely to be implemented, meaning that rejoining could cost an additional £5.6bn a year. Negotiations could be “politically toxic”, Professor Menon says, due to the lack of a rebate and the fact the EU could demand higher overall contributions than before, as it expands eastwards and becomes poorer. “If we’re applying we’re a demander, so it’s extremely unlikely the EU will show much flexibility about anything,” he says. Read the full story on how rejoining Brexit could take a decade here.

Support for rejoining the EU is growing (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty)

Around the world

Bundles of cash, gold bars and a cupboard full of wigs have been found at the Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s house in St Petersburg in a raid by Russia’s security service, pro-Kremlin media said. Among the items purportedly found at the grand residence were weapons and cartridges, passports, wigs, gold bars and money in various currencies totalling millions.

Twitter has threatened to Facebook’s owner Meta over its new Threads social media platform which launched this week, according to reports. News website Semafor published a letter by a Twitter lawyer to Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg demanding “Meta take immediate steps to stop using any Twitter trade secrets” or ”other highly confidential information”.

More IVF babies are born after egg collection in the summer rather than in the autumn, according to scientists. Researchers in Australia have found that transferring frozen then thawed embryos to women’s wombs from eggs collected in the summer resulted in a 30 per cent higher likelihood of babies born alive than if the eggs were retrieved in the autumn.

One of Australia’s largest beer companies has sent a bespoke “England Bitter” beverage to the English cricket team in time for the third Ashes test at Headingley. A poster for the beer, which is normally branded Victoria Bitter, or VB, reads: “England, when you’re feeling less bitter, we’ve got a beer with your name on it”.

Watch out for…

the sentencing of Connor Chapman, who was convicted yesterday of murdering Elle Edwards in Wirral, Merseyside on Christmas Eve last year.

Thoughts for the day

Twitter provided companionship during dark political times – we can’t let it die. It is a mechanism which allows group communication around the world on a scale unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, argues Ian Dunt.

Treating sexual harassments allegations as political fodder fails victims. For so many denizens of Westminster, the only calculus at play when confronted with a sexual harassment allegation is a political one, says Kate Maltby.

I left the UK for Canada and now I can’t afford to come home. Despite my longing for my loved ones, the cost of living crisis means I cannot foresee ever living in Britain permanently again, writes Hannah Shewan Stevens.

‘Life as a digital nomad swept me off my feet and I have loved every second. Still, I thought that flying back at some point was inevitable’ (Photo: Ascent Xmedia via Getty/Stone RF)

Culture Break

The ‘racist’ Miss Saigon musical is back on stage – and people are angry. A revival of the controversial musical has sparked backlash, with some voices in British theatre arguing it shouldn’t be staged at all. Its creators – and its detractors – explain themselves to Holly Williams.

Joanna Ampil (The Engineer) and Jessica Lee (Kim), stars of Miss Saigon at Sheffield Theatre (Photographer Michael Wharley)

The Big Read

Inside Putin’s crumbling empire as he scrambles to regain his footing. Moscow police will train in urban combat tactics, machine gun use, and grenade throwing to improve skills after the rebellion, according to pro-Kremlin media.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, pictured on his armoured train, is torn between his natural instinct to hide and his desire to tighten his grip on power with grand-standing public appearances (Photo: Alexey Druzhinin/RIA-Novosti/AFP)


Sloppy England’s casual mindset lets them down again at Headingley. Mark Wood takes a five-wicket haul but Australia finish the day on top as England’s batsmen toil before the close of play, writes Chris Stocks.

England’s Joe Root takes a catch to dismiss Australia’s Travis Head off the bowling of Chris Woakes (Photo: Reuters)

Something to brighten your day

Grey whales off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, are known to be curious about passing boats, but their reason for approaching them may be even more intriguing, it’s been claimed. The captain of a whale watching boat in the region says the creatures have learned to approach vessels in order to have painful parasites removed. Paco Jimenez Franco said: “Once I removed the first one, she approached again so that I could continue. I have done it repeatedly with the same whale and others.”

A tourist touches a grey whale off Baja California, Mexico (Photo: Getty Images)

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