Theresa May to be frozen out of decision to appoint Jean-Claude Juncker's successor: Brexit News for Friday 10 May

Theresa May to be frozen out of decision to appoint Jean-Claude Juncker's successor: Brexit News for Friday 10 May
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Theresa May to be frozen out of decision to appoint Jean-Claude Juncker’s successor

Theresa May is set to be frozen out of any say in the decision to select Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission, a senior EU official has said. The high-ranking official conceded that legally Britain had every right to play a full part in the decision. “But do you really think she will have any say over the president of the next commission?” the official said, “it would be unacceptable for the leader of a member state that is leaving to have any say.” There is growing expectation that EU leaders could back Michel Barnier, the chief Brexit negotiator, to take over the Commission after the European elections, despite that putting the European Council on a collision course with the European Parliament. The Telegraph understands that Britain expects to exercise its right as a member state up until the moment of Brexit. But the prime minister will be conscious of the risk of appearing to sabotage the appointment. – Telegraph (£)

May plans new indicative votes as she’s warned she could end up with an ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’ Brexit no-one wants

Theresa May has been warned that she could end up with an “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet” Brexit deal that no-one wants if she presses ahead with plans to give MPs a new round of so-called indicative votes. The Prime Minister is preparing to hold the votes in the next fortnight if Brexit talks with Labour collapse, and wants to find a mechanism that would force Parliament to choose a way forward, rather than risking another stalemate. One of the methods under consideration is to make MPs rank the alternative Brexit outcomes in order of preference, so that second and third preference votes are counted if no one option gets a majority. But one Cabinet source compared the technique to a scene in the comedy drama Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, in which builders use it to settle a dispute over what colour they should paint their hut. The source said: “There is a scene in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet where the builders pick a colour to paint their shed and end up with yellow. They are all baffled because no-one voted for yellow, but it turns out that two people put it down as their second choice.” – Telegraph (£)

Tories ‘not even bothering’ with EU election manifesto…

The Tory Party faces further humiliation today as three of Westminster’s four main parties launch their EU election campaigns – while Theresa May’ Government has no real campaign to speak of. Senior Tories are gearing up for the Conservative Party to take a battering as disillusioned voters back Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in protest against Theresa May’s handling of Brexit. So much so, the party has not yet published a manifesto and is not expected to hold an official launch campaign – despite there just being two weeks to go until Britons head to the polls on May 23. A Tory official told the Daily Mail: “What would we put in it?” Another told the Financial Times: “We don’t have a hope in hell. I’ve had angry emails about the bloody postal leaflets landing this week.” – Express

…as party officials fear they could come sixth in the election

Conservative officials fear the party could come sixth in the European elections, with their support plummeting to single digits. Candidates running in the election said the party was “almost in denial” that the poll was happening and continued to insist they would not need to take up their seats in the European parliament, despite fading prospects for a cross-party deal with Labour that would enable Brexit to happen before 2 July. The fears of a dismal performance have been stoked by the fact that the party plans to spend no money on candidate campaigning, will not publish a manifesto and is refusing to hold a launch. One MEP said candidates were funding their campaigns out of their own pockets, unlike previous years when there was a central pot of funding available. They have been told they are allowed to have their own regional manifestos, but many are not bothering, and there will be no central party manifesto. – Guardian

Controversial Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins told EU boss he ‘wants to be an EU citizen’

Theresa May’s controversial top EU negotiator Olly Robbins asked to become a Belgian citizen, the country’s former PM has revealed. Guy Verhofstadt has told how the senior civil servant issued the request to him with a quip. Mr Robbins has been bitterly criticised by Tory Brexiteers for being too pro-EU and wielding huge influence over the PM. Mr Verhofstadt – who is now the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator – told a behind-the-scenes BBC4’s documentary on Brexit: “Olly Robbins came to me, ‘Guy, can I become a Belgian citizen after this whole thing? Because I don’t think I will return’. Mr Robbins on Thursday night refused to comment on the claim. – The Sun

  • UK’s chief negotiator ‘joked that he would want EU citizenship after Brexit’ – Independent

Labour can unite our country, claims Jeremy Corbyn…

Labour can “unite our country” and heal the divisions caused by Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn said, as he launched his European elections campaign. Mr Corbyn said the party backed “the option of a public vote” if a “sensible” Brexit deal cannot be agreed and there is not a general election. He said cross-party talks on Brexit were “difficult” as the government’s “red lines remain in place”. The European elections take place in the UK on 23 May. The UK was due to leave the EU on 29 March, but as no deal was agreed by Parliament, the EU extended the deadline to 31 October. It can leave the bloc earlier, but if the UK has not left by 23 May, it is legally obliged to take part in the EU-wide poll and send MEPs to Brussels. – BBC News

WATCH: Jeremy Corbyn launches Labour’s EU election campaign, full speech

…but he is called ‘two-faced’ after claiming a second referendum could be a ‘healing process’ while warning of Brexit ‘endless loop’

Jeremy Corbyn was branded two-faced after claiming a second referendum could be a “healing process” – while also warning it would leave Britain “stuck in this endless loop”. Launching his Euro elections campaign in Medway, Kent he defied calls from Labour Remainers to become an anti-Brexit party, saying they were looking at the issue the “wrong way around”. He added: “They tend to think the first question is Leave or Remain, as if either is an end in itself.” And Mr Corbyn told Remainers for “a bit of understanding of why so many people felt so frustrated with the system that they voted to leave”. But after his speech he was confronted by a Labour activist asking how to explain Labour’s confusing Brexit policy to voters on the doorstep. Changing his tune, Mr Corbyn replied: “The view we put forward, the party conference put this forward, the national executive agreed this, that we should include the option of having a ballot on a public vote on the outcome of the talks and negotiations on what we’re putting forward.” – The Sun

  • Second referendum could heal the UK, says Jeremy Corbyn . – City A.M.
  • Second Brexit referendum could heal the country, says Jeremy Corbyn – The Times (£)

Lib Dems mocked over ‘B*****ks to Brexit’ stunt on EU election manifesto

The Lib Dems were accused of cheap gimmicks last night after they stamped “b*****ks to Brexit” on their EU election manifesto. But the X-rated catchphrase risked backfiring as it could breach Ofcom rules of what can be broadcast on telly before the 9pm watershed. Chris Leslie, a Change UK MP, told The Sun: “It’s a bit shock jock. I agree with them, but I think we need to win this on the strength of our argument not by lowering the tone.” Sir Vince batted off accusations he was using “toxic” language. He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “Maybe as a country we have lost our sense of humour, but it’s an attempt to put in a more pungent way what an awful lot of people think. There may be one or two wallflowers who get offended.” Meanwhile, talks between the Lib Dems and Change UK to unite behind a single stop-Brexit candidate in the Peterborough by-election collapsed in failure last night. The two parties had planned to throw their joint support behind an activist in the People’s Vote second referendum campaign. – The Sun

‘I miss her,’ says Juncker as EU heads meet without May

EU leaders met without Theresa May on Thursday and launched the process of divvying up the bloc’s top jobs, with the European council president, Donald Tusk, announcing a strategy that could see the UK outvoted. Before the end of the year five EU jobs will fall vacant, including the presidents of the European commission, European central bank and Tusk’s own position. At the meeting in the Romanian city of Sibiu, called to look ahead to the EU’s post-Brexit future, Tusk said he wanted EU leaders to agree nominations in June, saying decisions could be made via qualified majority voting if there was no unanimity. “Consensus is always better than voting,” he told journalists after the summit. “But I have no illusions that consensus will be easy or possible. And I will not wait three months.” EU leaders, including the British prime minister, will get their say at a special summit on 28 May, soon after European elections. In theory May could find herself overruled, as David Cameron was in 2014 when he tried unsuccessfully to block the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker. – Guardian

Anti-Brexit ‘unity’ candidate pulls out of Peterborough by-election after internal squabbles and pressure from Labour Remainers

Femi Oluwole, of our Our Future Our Choice, the influential young campaigner for a people’s vote, came within a whisker of being the single pro-referendum candidate in the Peterborough by-election. He was a candidate until just two hours before the official deadline for registering – and as a consequence none of the Change UK, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens or Renew would have fielded independent candidates. However he pulled out at the last moment, because – he tells me – he became concerned that if he had run, Labour’s vote would have been significantly reduced and that might have led to electoral success for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. He also says there were complicated legal issues for OFOC. That said Change UK have issued a release in which they allege that “senior figures campaigning for a People’s Vote” who support Labour had “made clear they would strenuously disrupt the campaign and obstruct an independent candidate”. – Robert Peston for ITV News

  • Fifteen candidates to fight the by-election – BBC News

Fraser Nelson: The Tories can only survive now if they become the party of no deal

With every passing week, the depth of the Tories’ problem becomes clearer. Nigel Farage is hoovering up Conservative voters in their millions, with the aim of keeping hold of them long after the European Parliament elections. He hopes to pick up where Ukip left off, going after Labour in the north and the Tories in the south. “At this rate, we’ll be lucky to get 10 per cent of the vote,” says one Cabinet member. “He is asking why anyone would trust what the Tories say on Brexit. We need a leader with an answer.” There is no shortage of would-be candidates. The race has begun, wives are being paraded and wide-ranging speeches are being written. Theresa May is turning out to be an inspiration in that so many MPs think they could do a better job. The latest is Esther McVey, one of the many former work and pension secretaries, who declared yesterday. She didn’t offer much of a reason, but none is really needed nowadays. As a Brexiteer, she can promise to see off Mr Farage by delivering Brexit – but then again, they all say that. The question is how. – Fraser Nelson for the Telegraph (£)

Tom Harris: The Labour party can try and avoid talking about Brexit all it likes – it’s still going to get a kicking on 23rd May

It was perfectly sensible for Jeremy Corbyn, at this morning’s launch of Labour’s European parliamentary elections campaign, to focus, not on Brexit itself, but on jobs, trade, workers’ rights and the environment. Just because few of his audience (at least, those beyond the hall) will base their votes on such issues doesn’t mean he should forget all about them. And politically speaking, it makes sense for the Labour leader to try to drag everyone’s focus away from his own party’s divisions over Brexit policy and towards stuff that everyone in Labour can agree on. Alas, it was a futile endeavour. As the question and answer session showed, journalists only want to focus on what a Labour vote will mean as far as the Brexit process goes. Is a cross against the Labour candidate a vote in support of Brexit? Or one in support of a second referendum? – Tom Harris for the Telegraph (£)

Iain Martin: Eurocrats remind us why we voted for Brexit

If Nigel Farage had commissioned a party political broadcast to expose the arrogance of the European Union elite he couldn’t have come up with anything as damning as a documentary shown this week. At one point in Brexit: Behind Closed Doors, made by a Belgian filmmaker for the BBC, the prattling of Eurocrats as they moved from dining room to dining room was so self-satisfied I had to check who was behind it. Surely only a Brexiteer would want this stuff broadcast? No, it turns out to have been a European co-production made with support of the Flanders Audio Visual Fund and the Belgium (I’m not making this up) Tax Shelter. The star of the show is Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s floppy-haired Brexit coordinator, who was followed by TV cameras during the period in which British negotiators tried, and failed, to get Britain out of the EU. Any dispirited Brexiteer who needs reminding why they voted three years ago to leave the EU should watch it. I suggest that my Remainer friends should watch it too and then try telling me, with a straight face, that our future lies in an organisation as ghastly as this. – Iain Martin for The Times (£)

Michael Deacon: Jeremy Corbyn sounds even more bored with Brexit than the rest of us

The opinion polls look clear. On May 23, the European elections will be a fight between Nigel Farage’s lot, and Jeremy Corbyn’s lot. Or to put it another way: the Brexit Party versus the Please Don’t Mention Brexit Party. Yesterday, at the University of Kent, Mr Corbyn launched Labour’s European election campaign. Short of sharing a tub of Chicken McNuggets with Tony Blair at a Royal wedding street party, he looked as if he’d rather have been doing pretty much anything else. It’s not that he opposes Brexit. It’s just that, quite plainly, he isn’t very interested. I’ve seen Mr Corbyn gives speeches about things he actually cares about. I’ve seen him at rallies, feverish with indignation, barking into loudhailers about austerity and inequality and the countless evils of the Tories. What he’s saying may be incoherent, hackneyed, misguided – but you can at least be sure he means it. – Michael Deacon for the Telegraph (£)

Finn McRedmond: On the road with the Brexit party: Is Nigel Farage about to blow up British politics?

It is just before 6pm in Peterborough on Tuesday, and huge queues have formed outside the Kingsgate Conference Centre. Nigel Farage is preparing to take to the stage at the Brexit Party’s latest rally. Previous events have been attended in droves. An estimated 1,750 turn out tonight. The branding inside the centre is slick – every seat is decked with a placard bearing the party logo and slogan – “change politics for good.” The stage is set beneath a giant screen bearing the logo and seven banners in the party’s chosen colour – an inoffensive sky blue. It all looks notably softer than Farage’s previous outfit – UKIP – which became instantly recognisable with its brash purple and yellow. There’s a common trope in the media that Brexit voters tend to be older and white. While analysis of the demographics suggests there is some truth in that, the crowd at Kingsgate tonight suggests a different story. Youngsters are few and far between, but there are some. The majority of the crowd look middle aged. Among them are many Peterborough locals, although one woman has travelled from Devon to be here. – Finn McRedmond for Reaction

Telegraph: Labour and the Tories are ignoring the warning signs of profound electoral change

Labour now pledges a customs union Brexit if it can get it, a general election if it can’t, or a second referendum if that doesn’t work either. One would imagine that offering something to everyone would make them very popular. The polls, however, don’t look good. The country can see through Labour’s demand for a permanent customs union, which the Tories probably won’t give them, MPs might not even endorse and the EU is likely to reject. Jeremy Corbyn’s real strategy is to talk and talk and let the Government take the blame for inaction, but it’s not winning many votes. It was the Remain parties that surged in the local elections; it’s the Brexit Party that is shaping up to be the story of the Euro elections. The truth is that there are few votes to be won in chasing a fast-diminishing centre ground. – Telegraph (£) editorial

Brexit in Brief

  • Labour’s Brexit Position is so unambiguous, no one can decide how ambiguous it is, or isn’t – Tom Peck for the Independent
  • My letter to the Attorney General about the delay Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – John Redwood’s Diary
  • Behold the strange return of British pluralist politics – Dr Stephen Barber for Comment Central
  • I had to heckle Theresa May – it was the only way to make her listen to grassroots anger – Stuart Davies for the Telegraph (£)
  • May’s Euro leaflet shames Tory MPs who blocked Brexit deal – The Times (£)
  • Brexit tears apart big parties’ support ahead of European poll – FT (£)
  • Audience erupts as Farage silences Soubry in heated BBC Question Time row – Express