Civil servants ordered to wind down emergency plans for no-deal Brexit with 'immediate effect': Brexit News for Friday 12 April

Civil servants ordered to wind down emergency plans for no-deal Brexit with 'immediate effect': Brexit News for Friday 12 April
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Civil servants ordered to wind down emergency plans for no-deal Brexit with ‘immediate effect’

No deal Brexit plans have been shelved by the Government “with immediate effect” as Theresa May faced mounting pressure from Cabinet ministers, Tory Eurosceptics and the DUP to name a date for her departure. Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary, told the civil service to “wind down” worst-case scenario no-deal planning after the European Union imposed a further six-month Brexit delay on Theresa May. Crispin Blunt, a Eurosceptic Tory MP, said that the end of no-deal planning represented a “complete betrayal” of the referendum and described the move as a “dereliction of duty”. A Government source said that while Operation Yellowhammer, which involves “doomsday” contingencies for a no-deal Brexit, is being wound down other plans remain in place. A succession of senior Eurosceptic Tory MPs urged the Prime Minister to quit amid mounting concern that Britain will have to participate in the European elections next month. Taxpayers now face a £109million bill if Britain participates in the “non-event” European elections on May 22, with even the Prime Minister declining to say if she will participate in them. – Telegraph (£)

  • Emergency £4 billion plans for No Deal Brexit scrapped by Government – The Sun

> Owen Paterson MP today on BrexitCentral: The mini-deals allowing us to leave without a Withdrawal Agreement are done – let’s embrace a WTO Brexit

Theresa May defies Tory calls to resign after Brexit is delayed until Halloween…

Zombie Theresa May stared down furious calls to resign – and insisted soft Brexit talks with Labour could stop Britain being stuck in the EU until Halloween. Amid uproar over new Brexit delay, the PM gave the biggest hint yet that she is edging closer to a customs union pact with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour in a desperate bid to break the logjam. Speaking in the Commons, she told MPs there was “more agreement” between the two on a post-Brexit customs arrangement than many believed. And referring to the cross-party talks she said: “We are sitting down seriously to find a way that enables this House to ensure that there is a deal that commands a majority so that we can leave the European Union.” The PM met Jeremy Corbyn again for 20 minutes – and a number of Tory Ministers are expected to meet their Labour ‘Shadows’. But mutinous Tory Eurosceptics used a Commons debate to demand she quit over her “abject surrender” to Brussels on Wednesday night – where she signed up to a six month Brexit extension to avoid a No Deal departure. It means Britain could be stuck in the EU until at least October 31. – The Sun

…as she is accused of ‘frittering away’ £109 million bill on ‘charade’ of EU elections…

Theresa May has been accused of potentially “frittering away” more than £100 million of taxpayers’ money on “non-event” and “pointless” European elections for which many Conservatives say they will refuse to campaign. Taxpayers face a bill of some £109 million to stage the elections on May 23 which even Theresa May’s spokesman yesterday repeatedly declined to say if she would campaign in them. A further £2 million a month could also have to be spent on any elected MEPs’ salaries, expenses and staff, potentially for four months from taking their seats on July 2 until the October 31 extension granted by the EU. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said it was “utter humiliation” to be forced to fight elections and “fritter away” more than £100m on such a charade when schools needed more money. “We cannot possibly consider fighting these absurd elections. We must resolve instead to say no,” he said. – Telegraph (£)

…at which Conservatives ‘will get a kicking’ and lose half of their 18 MEPs, predicts outgoing Tory MEP

The Conservatives are set to lose half of their MEPs in next month’s European Parliament elections, Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman has said. The Tories were left with just 18 out of 73 MEPs following the last comparable 2014 European Parliament elections. Asked on Chopper’s Brexit Podcast – which you can listen to easily by logging in or subscribing below – for his forecast in the May 23 European Parliament elections – in which the UK will participate after Theresa May delayed Brexit to October – Mr Campbell Bannerman said: “It [Tory vote share] will be halved, [leaving] about 10 MEPs. It could be worse that that. It becomes the perfect protest vote – that benefitted UKIP last time [in the 2014 European Parliament elections]. MEPs will not be there for very long so it is the perfect protest vote, and that means we will get a kicking… Unfortunately it is a major issue.” Mr Campbell Bannerman, who sat in the European Parliament between 2009 and 2019  and used to be deputy leader of UKIP, is not standing in the elections because it would not be “honourable”. – Telegraph (£)

Nigel Farage vows fightback against ‘establishment’ betrayal of Brexit

Nigel Farage is vowing to lead a fightback against an establishment which he said has betrayed the country over Brexit. The former UKIP leader will step up the pressure on Theresa May with the launch on Friday of his newly formed Brexit Party’s campaign for the European elections on May 23. Many Tories fear they will haemorrhage votes to the new party amid growing frustration with the continuing deadlock at Westminster. In an article for The Daily Telegraph ahead of his launch event in Coventry, Mr Farage described the latest delay to Brexit as “nothing short of a national humiliation”. He said Britain was governed by a “ruling class” which no longer believed in the country and made clear he intended to pitch the campaign as a “battle between the people and the politicians. We are a great nation and a great people. But we are being held back by weak leadership. The time to change this is now,” he wrote. “We see the next few weeks as the beginning of a fightback against an establishment that has wilfully betrayed our trust. Indeed, the word ‘Brexit’ is no longer just about leaving the European Union. It symbolises a wider battle between the people and the politicians. Our two-party system is shattered. It must be put out of its misery. The electorate has the power to effect this desperately needed change if it acts now.” – ITV News

May must use Brexit delay to tear up the hated Irish backstop and finally seal a deal, says DUP’s Arlene Foster…

Theresa May is today under fresh pressure to rip up her Brexit deal and scrap the hated Irish backstop. DUP boss Arlene Foster called on the PM to use the six-month delay to Brexit to start talks again and push the EU into compromising. She warned that if Brussels doesn’t shift its position, the EU will be responsible for triggering a No Deal scenario. Ms Foster’s demand was echoed by Boris Johnson – and his father Stanley, who is planning to stand as a Tory candidate in Euro elections. The DUP boss today confronted the EU’s Brexit envoy Michel Barnier in Brussels. She pressed the case for a revised withdrawal agreement without the backstop – which Unionists fear will break up the UK and tie the country to Europe indefinitely. Asked if there’s any chance of the agreement being rewritten, Mrs Foster said: “It depends whether they want to get a deal. – The Sun

…after Boris Johnson holds talks with the DUP as pressure increases on May

DUP chiefs have held private talks with Boris Johnson and his Tory leadership campaign team as Theresa May faces repeated challenges to her dwindling authority. The prime minister brushed aside calls by Tory Brexiteers yesterday for her resignation but was put on notice by her supposed allies in the Democratic Unionist Party that the clock was running down on the deal under which they prop up her government. Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, would not say whether she had confidence in the prime minister. “The confidence and supply agreement we signed is with the Conservative Party and whoever the leader of that party is we will work with,” Mrs Foster said in Brussels after a meeting with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator. It was disclosed later that Mrs Foster and Nigel Dodds, the DUP deputy leader, had met Mr Johnson and members of his team in the Commons for 40 minutes on Wednesday. This was the latest encounter between the DUP leadership and candidates to replace Mrs May, according to a source, who said that prospective Tory leaders were keen to “pay homage” to the party critical to the survival of a Conservative government. – The Times (£)

EU leaders boast how the Brexit delay allows Britain to hold a second referendum and ‘think about the future of their country’

Crowing EU leaders boasted how the six-month Brexit delay allows Britain to hold a second referendum – and stay in the bloc. It came as Eurocrats signalled Brexit could be extended again if no agreement is reached by the new October 31 deadline. Speaking yesterday Czech PM Adrej Babis said his “personal wish” for Brits to use this time to change their mind. He said: “Me personally I hope you will stay in the EU finally. Maybe you will have elections and a second referendum. It’s for the British people to think about the future of their country.” Slovakian PM Peter Pellegrini added he believed the extra time would give Britain the time to arrange a new poll. He said: “I think now we gave Great Britain a chance and enough time to make some final decision.” EU Council chief Donald Tusk late on Wednesday night told Polish media he hoped the UK could now remain – before adding quickly it was his “personal, quiet dream”. – The Sun

Geoffrey Cox says ministers will ‘listen’ to demands for second Brexit referendum…

Geoffrey Cox said ministers would “listen” to demands for a second Brexit referendum in the strongest sign yet the Government is ready to water down its negotiating red lines. The Attorney General said the aim of Brexit compromise talks with the Labour Party was to “find common ground” as he told MPs the Government had entered discussions without any “preconditions”. David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, also said the Government was “certainly willing” to discuss the merits of a Brexit deal based on the UK being in a customs union with the European Union. Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn suggested the Government was now “willing to move” on key issues to strike a deal. The Labour leader had a “short meeting” on Thursday afternoon in Parliament with Theresa May to “check in” on the status of the talks which are due to continue today. Tory Brexiteers fear they will lead to a softer break from the bloc which will rob the UK of the ability to have its own independent trade policy. – Telegraph (£)

…while Scotland Secretary suggests May is ‘certainly willing’ to discuss deal on a customs union

The UK Government is willing to discuss a compromise on the UK staying in the customs union in talks with Jeremy Corbyn, according to the Scottish Secretary. David Mundell, speaking after Theresa May agreed another extension to Brexit, refused to say if a second referendum had been considered in ongoing talks with Labour. But he added: “The Government is certainly willing to discuss a customs union, but a customs union would require to command a majority of support in Parliament. A customs union has been put forward previously in Parliament and hasn’t commanded a majority, partly because we’ve had the usual politicking, the SNP who say they support a customs union then didn’t vote for it. So nothing that goes forward will actually be successful unless we can command majority support for it in Parliament.” – Telegraph (£)

Government could bring forward Brexit Bill to break deadlock on the deal

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn agreed last night to press on with Brexit talks as the prime minister spelt out a new route to reaching a deal in the Commons. The party leaders held a short meeting in parliament after Mrs May updated MPs on the latest Brexit delay. In notably warmer exchanges she suggested that the two sides were closer than many realised on the key issue of the customs union while Mr Corbyn did not repeat a previous claim that she was refusing to move from her “red lines”. The prime minister said that making Brexit happen was going to require a change of approach. She acknowledged that reaching agreement with Labour “will not be easy” but said it was in the “national interest” that they should try. “This is not the normal way of British politics and it is uncomfortable for many in both the government and opposition parties,” she said. – The Times (£)

  • Theresa May hopes for final shot at forcing withdrawal deal through parliament before Euro elections – Independent

Iain Duncan Smith: We must leave in June if no deal is reached to avoid having to fight in the European elections

On the 20th March Theresa May said, in forceful terms, “as Prime Minister, I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than 30th June.” Yet on Wednesday, only 22 days after that statement, the PM agreed to delay our exit by a further 201 days. The commitment to not delaying beyond June seems to have gone the same way as the 2017 manifesto and the Government is now, it seems, pursuing a course of action as though any deal will do. Up until the 29th March most people didn’t really focus on the twists and turns of Parliament. While many were perplexed, most reassured themselves that having triggered Article 50, we would be leaving on 29th March 2019. After all they had heard the Prime Minister say so. However, once we didn’t leave I noticed a real anger on the streets. One woman shouted from her windows: “you all told us we would be leaving the EU, no ifs no buts – Brexit on 29th March.” It should be clear to all politicians that if we give our word we will do a thing and if we don’t people will feel betrayed. Bad as that reaction was, the intensity of that anger will grow when they realise that we aren’t going to leave until October. – Iain Duncan Smith MP for the Telegraph (£)

Nigel Farage: My Brexit Party will give people the chance to change politics for good

Three years after the British people voted decisively to take back their independence, they have a chance to speak again. The new Brexit Party will ask the electorate not only to support a clean break from the European Union, but also to begin a political revolution in the UK. No Brexiteer – least of all me – wanted to contest the European elections on 23 May. But from disaster springs opportunity. Next month’s enforced ballot will allow us to bring about a far wider change in our broken political system. I attended the European Summit this week. Frankly, it was an embarrassment. European leaders dined in fine style while deciding Britain’s future. That it has come to this is nothing short of a national humiliation. That bullying triumvirate of unelected EU bureaucrats Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier know this only too well. Regardless of your political view, nobody should want to see their leader humbled on the world stage as Theresa May has been. With that said, I am not certain that there are many others in her party, or indeed the House of Commons, who could have been much more effective. The fact is, our ruling class no longer believes in Britain. In them, there is a blithe acceptance of managed decline. I feel differently. We are a great nation and a great people. But we are being held back by weak leadership. The time to change this is now. – Nigel Farage MEP for the Telegraph (£)

Fraser Nelson: If anything, this horror show has strengthened my support for Brexit

Was I wrong to back Brexit? Those on my side of the debate have been laughing off the various disasters for quite a while now. Don’t worry, we have said, it was never going to be easy, but it will all come right in the last minute. Unfortunately, it didn’t. Which raises an awkward question: did I get it wrong? As a lifelong Europhile who voted Leave after much heartache and agonising, I like to think I’m open-minded about this. With another six months ahead of us, there is plenty of time to reflect. Does anyone seriously think an extra six months will make this Parliament vote for that deal? A general election may be the only way to break the deadlock – but polls suggest that, with things as they are, Nigel Farage’s new party (together with his old one) will decimate Conservative support. Brexit might end up meaning Jeremy Corbyn. If that isn’t cause for a rethink, I’m not sure what is. – Fraser Nelson for the Telegraph (£)

Lionel Shriver: Dear Remainer Parliament: you won. Now revoke Article 50 – if you dare

Dear Remainer parliament. Although we’re the voters who spurned the petition for this very course of action, we the undersigned formally request that you please revoke Article 50 at your earliest convenience. For Philip, Oliver, Dominic, Amber, Greg, et al (forgive the familiar first names, but over the last few months we’ve come to feel we know you so terribly well), this appeal from your nemeses may come as a surprise. After all, it was to appease us knuckle-draggers that you invoked the Article in the first place. Apologies for seeming so fickle. But in what Charles Moore has aptly dubbed Europe’s contemporary ‘empire’, all roads lead not to Rome but to Brussels. In the interest of geographical expedience, we would eschew driving a byzantine spaghetti of motorways and roundabouts and still ending up in Belgium. We’d just as soon take the shortcut. – Lionel Shriver for The Spectator

Jonathan Miller: UK might be going to the dogs with Brexit — but at least we’re not France

An embattled, incompetent leader distrusted and disliked by a vast majority of voters. A wobbly economy. A re-energised opposition. Huge street protests. Squabbling with European partners. The world looks on in horror wondering how a leader who was so popular two years ago could get things so wrong. Not Theresa May, but Emmanuel Macron, the President of France and the politician who may be the greatest Brexiteer of them all — the loudest advocate for pushing Britain out the door, deal or no deal. Just two years ago, Macron was the great centrist hope not just of France but Europe. The country’s youngest ever president was elected aged 39¾. He promised to drag France out of political, economic and social sclerosis. He quickly discovered that reform of a state is easy to talk about but difficult, if not impossible, to achieve and his domestic failure has been spectacular and comprehensive. The suburbs are in turmoil and Macron’s vaunted reform project has ground to a halt. The legions of civil servants remain in place. State spending accounts for a gargantuan 58 per cent of the economy — it is 38 per cent in the UK — with the highest taxes in Europe to pay for it. – Jonathan Miller for The Sun

Sunder Katwala: Why the unexpected European elections are so hard to predict

As with Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition, nobody was expecting the European Elections to take place in Britain this May. The extension of Article 50 means that the British Government is now asking voters to elect British MEPS to sit in the 2019-24 European parliament, in an election which will take place 35 months after a majority voted to leave the European Union on June 23rd 2016. There are few clearer symbols of how the Brexit process has not gone to plan. These would be the most unusual and hard-to-predict elections ever held in Britain. The Prime Minister will today say they can still be prevented by an outbreak of consensus on her deal, but the chances of such a breakthrough within days are becoming vanishingly small. There are many rival predictions about what might happen – but nobody can know for sure which will be proved right. – Sunder Katwala for CapX

Telegraph: It’s not ‘Theresa May’s deal or no Brexit’, the choice is now ‘Brexit or Mrs May’

Theresa May says the choice facing the nation is between her deal and no Brexit, but increasingly it looks to be between Brexit and Mrs May. We lurch from one delay to another. Britain was hoping to leave on March 29, then April 12. The Prime Minister went to Europe this week to seek a deferral until June 30 but the EU27 gave her until October 31 instead – not an act of generosity but proof that they don’t believe Mrs May can win Parliament’s support for the Withdrawal Agreement. What is Britain expected to do with these extra months? The agreement cannot be renegotiated, so that presumably rules out fresh support from the backbenches or the DUP. If Labour and the Government do strike a deal on a customs union, which is no kind of Brexit at all, it will split the Tories in two (if the party isn’t already in tatters following the European and local elections). Mrs May’s leadership is defined by bloody-mindedness: she sits tight and waits for others to change their mind. The strategy has backfired catastrophically and the longer MPs are without decisive, imaginative leadership, the more they descend into self-important provocation. – Telegraph (£) editorial

The Sun: You think our nation is humiliated now? Wait until MPs revoke Article 50

The slow death of Brexit is now following the Remainers’ script exactly. The plan was always to obstruct it long enough to argue the 2016 referendum “no longer has a mandate”. To say that leaving the EU, which they used to claim had negligible impact on our sovereignty, is in fact too hard. That it’s “undeliverable”. Remainer politicians told 17.4million Leavers a pack of lies about honouring their vote. Now, as they hoped, Brexit is “delayed” again. And the EU, with whom some openly colluded, are gloating about it maybe being reversed. You think our nation is humiliated now? Wait until MPs revoke Article 50. The Tories are carrying the can, and fair enough. But at least most have tried to deliver what the majority wanted. Corbyn’s MPs duped Leavers, then opposed every step towards Brexit, in a disgusting assault on our democracy. Let’s hope democracy bites them back. – The Sun says

Brexit in Brief

  • EU rivals hit out at Emmanuel Macron for trying to talk tough on Brexit to boost his battered image at home – The Sun
  • The pampered life of a British MEP is about to get even cushier – Madeline Grant for the Telegraph (£)
  • Parliament must heed Tusk’s words and not waste time on breaking Brexit impasse – The Yorkshire Post says
  • Donald Trump fires warning to ‘brutal’ EU for being ‘tough’ on UK saying: ‘It will come back to bite you’ – The Sun
  • Brexit pressures expose cracks in Franco-German relationship – FT (£)