Thursday briefing: Corbyn rebuffs Brexit referendum calls

Thursday briefing: Corbyn rebuffs Brexit referendum calls

Top story: ‘Don’t let May run down the clock’ Good morning, I’m Warren Murray and it is my genuine pleasure to bring you the first Guardian morning briefing of 2019. Jeremy Corbyn has indicated he is still a long way from charting a course to a second Brexit referendum, as MPs prepare for the “meaningful…

Top story: ‘Don’t let May run down the clock’

Good morning, I’m Warren Murray and it is my genuine pleasure to bring you the first Guardian morning briefing of 2019.

Jeremy Corbyn has indicated he is still a long way from charting a course to a second Brexit referendum, as MPs prepare for the “meaningful vote” on Theresa May’s proposed withdrawal deal. A new study reveals an overwhelming majority of party members want the Labour leader to sideline his instincts and back a second referendum – though most remain loyal to his leadership.

Labour decided at its annual conference in Liverpool to try to force a general election – only if that failed could a second referendum be considered. “The issue of another referendum was of course one of the options,” Corbyn said yesterday, “but that was very much after the votes have taken place in parliament.” Corbyn said May should return to Brussels once her deal was voted down to find an agreement that Labour could support, including a full customs union. Some Labour MPs including Chi Onwurah want article 50 extended so that May cannot “run down the clock” towards a hard Brexit.

Over the festive period, the PM has embarked on telephone diplomacy with EU leaders including the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, as she tries to get legally binding reassurances on the Irish border backstop. Cabinet ministers have privately urged the prime minister to prioritise securing an agreement that would bring the DUP, which is propping up her government, back on board.

News from space – China’s state media is this morning reporting the first ever soft landing on the far side of the moon, achieved by its Chang’e 4 spacecraft. Much further afield – and looking so much more like a conjoined potato than an unfinished snowman if you ask the Briefing – Ultima Thule has been photographed as the New Horizons space probe zipped past the “trans-Neptunian object” 4bn miles from Earth.

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New Horizons beams home close-ups of Ultima Thule – video

It must be hard to get a decent shot when you’re doing 31,500mph but Nasa has promised better photos to come.

New year catch-up – It’s our first chat in a while so let’s do the rounds …

> The US remains in the grip of a government “shutdown”. Donald Trump overnight arranged a border security briefing to try and convince Democrats to fund his Mexico border wall but it didn’t work. The shutdown enters its 13th day on Thursday.

> Two people were arrested as suspected people smugglers last night as part of the response to Channel crossings. The home secretary, Sajid Javid, is being criticised for saying it should be harder to seek asylum and migrants should have stayed in France.

> Shares in Apple have tumbled after it cut sales forecasts, citing the unforeseen “magnitude” of the economic slowdown in China. Apple has said it expects sales revenue of around $84bn, down from an earlier estimate of $89bn-$93bn.

> The populist Jair Bolsonaro has been sworn in as Brazil’s president and wasted no time in handing over chunks of the Amazon to agribusiness. Indigenous campaigners warn of an increase in deforestation and violence against indigenous people.

> Overcrowding on trains is at its worst in years, according to a Labour trawl of official figures. Separate numbers show that in 2017 trains were cancelled or ran late at the highest rate in 17 years. The release of the figures coincides with anger over the average 3.1% increase in fares.

Still going solo – Eight and a half years after 16-year-old US sailor Abby Sunderland had to abandon a round-the-world attempt, her yacht Wild Eyes has remarkably been found still afloat (though admittedly upside down) off the coast of South Australia. The barnacle-encrusted hull was first sighted by a tuna fishing spotter plane and then investigated by a police helicopter and commercial boats.

The yacht Wild Eyes was found overturned off the coast of Kangaroo Island.

The yacht Wild Eyes was found overturned off the coast of Kangaroo Island. Photograph: South Australian police

Sunderland was rescued on 12 June 2010 midway between Madagascar and Western Australia in the Indian Ocean after Wild Eyes had its mast snapped off in the wild weather. The Californian said footage of the rediscovered yacht made her “very emotional … It brought back many memories, good and not so good, but it was neat to see it after so long. It looked a little creepy but that’s to be expected after so long.”

Lunchtime read: Exercise in futility

Our relationship with exercise is complicated. We all know it’s necessary, and as the new year rolls around we anticipate finding the drive we need. But in the end hundreds of millions of us can’t face actually doing it.

Man at a desk rigged with a bicycle-powered computer

What we all needed for Christmas?

Is it possible the problem lies at the heart of the idea of exercise itself? Sedentary lifestyles, argues Vybarr Cregan-Reid, are the real problem. Modern life and work are less physically demanding than ever, and even if we go to the gym on a Saturday morning, our absolute inactivity at other times can still be damaging to the body. The answer, writes Cregan-Reid, is to build activity into our everyday lives.


The World Anti-Doping Agency has been warned by its own athlete committee that if it does not ban Russia again it will have failed clean athletes. Russian authorities ignored a 31 December deadline to hand over doping data from their Moscow lab. Goals from Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford have continued Manchester United’s resurgence and left Newcastle looking over their shoulder. Over at Manchester City, Barney Ronay writes that Pep Guardiola’s side face the new challenge of winning ugly after Liverpool leapt from four points behind City to seven points clear at the top. Kevin De Bruyne is back in contention for City’s pivotal Premier League clash with Liverpool. Play is under way in the fourth test between Australia and India at the SCG – the tourists won the toss and have gone in to bat. And never let it be said darts players are unconcerned with political matters – Michael van Gerwen has used the occasion of his third PDC world championship title to refer to Brexit as “Brex-shit”.


Asian markets have been mixed after that Apple downgrade of sales projections. The Japanese yen, seen as a relatively safe asset, strengthened against the dollar, euro and several other Asian and European currencies. The FTSE is forecast to open down. The pound has been trading around $1.254 and €1.104 overnight.

The papers

A small device that could detect cancer through exhaled molecules leads several papers including the i: “Cancer breath test trialled in the UK” and the Mail: “The cancer breathalyser”. Brexit features on the front pages of the Guardian: “Corbyn defies Labour calls to seek second referendum” and the Express, which has Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay writing: “Brace yourself for a no-deal Brexit”.

Guardian front page, Thursday 3 January 2018

Guardian front page, Thursday 3 January 2018.

The Telegraph says “Javid calls on Navy to save lives in Channel”, the Times reports: “Universities face credit crunch as debt spirals” and the FT has “Tesla tumbles as sales figures suggest tough year ahead”. The Mirror’s lead story is an interview with Billy Connolly, who says “I feel my life slipping away … but I’m not scared” and the Sun has a story about a bouncer “Killed by mob at VIP sex club”.

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