Brexit talks between the Conservatives and Labour are about to close after six weeks, without an agreement: Brexit News for Friday 17 May

Brexit talks between the Conservatives and Labour are about to close after six weeks, without an agreement: Brexit News for Friday 17 May
Sign up here to receive the daily news briefing in your inbox every morning with exclusive insight from the BrexitCentral team

Brexit talks between the Conservatives and Labour are about to close after six weeks, without an agreement

Brexit talks between the Conservatives and Labour are about to close without an agreement, the BBC has learned. Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn will now move to a second phase, aimed at agreeing a process of parliamentary votes designed to find a consensus. It comes after Mrs May promised to set a timetable for leaving Downing Street following the next Brexit vote in June. Ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said he will stand in the Conservative leadership election that will follow. The UK was due to leave the EU on 29 March but the deadline was pushed back to 31 October after MPs rejected Mrs May’s proposed deal – the withdrawal agreement that was negotiated with the EU – three times. That prompted attempts to find a way to end the impasse through cross-party talks between Labour and the Conservatives. But BBC Newsnight political editor Nicholas Watt said Tory whips had given up hope of finding agreement with the Labour leader on a Brexit deal. – BBC News

Tearful Theresa May forced to agree to stand down: PM will be out by 30th June at the latest

Theresa May’s backbenchers have called time on her premiership and paved the way for a new Prime Minister to be in place by the end of July. During an emotionally-charged meeting with senior members of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, Mrs May was forced to agree to stand down within weeks so the Conservatives can elect a new leader before Parliament’s summer recess. Mrs May agreed that she will announce the date of her departure after a vote on her Brexit bill in the first week of June, regardless of whether it is passed by MPs. With the leadership election taking up a minimum of three weeks, it means Mrs May must resign by June 30 at the latest. The race to succeed her is now effectively underway, with Boris Johnson confirming for the first time on Thursday that he will “go for it”. Mrs May’s future was decided during an hour-long meeting with the executive of the 1922 Committee, whose chairman, Sir Graham Brady, described “a very frank exchange” between the two sides. – Telegraph (£)

How the ‘men in grey suits’ called time on Theresa May’s premiership

When the moment she had been dreading finally came, Theresa May raged against the dying of the light. The Conservative Party’s most powerful backbenchers had just made it clear that her premiership was at its end, but the Prime Minister pleaded with them to be given more time. Tears welled in her eyes as she made her argument for just a little longer in Downing Street. She dabbed at her nose with a handkerchief. Yet the sympathy and patience of the 1922 Committee had run out. “She voiced her view about Brexit, which she regards as a debt of honour,” said one of those present. “She was emotional – a lot more emotional than I have ever seen her before. There was a bit of tearing but she quickly got back to a strong view about what needs to be done.” What needed to be done, however, was for her to leave Number 10 within the next six weeks, and preferably sooner. “It was a very frank discussion,” Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee said later, confirming, in his own understated way, just how much tension was in the room. “I tried to make sure that all the views represented on the executive were expressed and we had a very frank exchange with the Prime Minister.” – Telegraph (£)

Senior Tories warn the party will be forced to back a no-deal Brexit after EU elections wipeout next week…

Tory MPs will be forced into backing a No Deal Brexit after next week’s Euro elections, senior Brexiteers believe. Hardline backbenchers have vowed to take Britain out of the EU without a deal on October 31. And they insist that the European election polls – likely to be a disaster for the Tories – will push the Commons into supporting No Deal in order to win back furious Leave voters. Theresa May’s Brexit deal is on course for a fourth defeat when it returns to Parliament next month. Cabinet ministers have warned that if the withdrawal agreement collapses, the only options will be No Deal or revoking Article 50 and staying in the EU. Previous Commons votes have suggested that MPs would block a No Deal Brexit, with ministers threatening to resign in protest against it. – The Sun

…which the Brexit Party is forecast to win…

The latest polling for the European Parliament elections shows that Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is likely to gain the most seats in the UK, as establishment parties are forecast to lose their majority across the European Union. The vote takes place in the UK on Thursday 23 May, with the Europe-wide results expected on the evening of Sunday 26 May. These are expected to see establishment parties across the continent suffer, both at the hands of the populist-Right as well as resurgent liberal parties. The result is likely to be a more fragmented European Parliament, with the centre-Right EPP and centre-Left S&D forecast to lose their combined majority. – Telegraph (£)

…while the Lib Dems leapfrog Labour for second place as the Tories trail in the latest poll

The Liberal Democrats have overtaken Labour while the Tories are pushed to fifth place, according to a poll for The Times before the European elections. The Lib Dems appear to be picking up support from Labour and Green voters after Sir Vince Cable argued that opponents of Brexit should vote for his party. YouGov interviewed 7,192 British adults between Sunday and Thursday this week. When asked whom they would support in the European elections, 35 per cent said the Brexit Party, up 1 point on the week before. Lib Dems were on 16 per cent, up 1, Labour on 15 per cent, down 1, Greens on 10 per cent, down 1, Conservatives on 9 per cent, down 1, Change UK unchanged on 5 per cent and Ukip unchanged on 3 per cent. The decline of the Conservatives into single figures is likely to increase the panic in the party’s high command, with 62 per cent of Tory voters in the 2017 general election now saying that they will vote for the Brexit Party in the European elections. Only one in five who backed the party at the last general election is sticking with the Tories in the European elections. – The Times (£)

Corbyn’s Labour squeezed by ardent Brexiters and Remainers – FT (£)

Boris Johnson confirms he will ‘of course’ run to succeed May

Boris Johnson has confirmed he will run to replace Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party, claiming he has a “boundless appetite to try to get it right”. Speaking at a private event in Manchester alongside the BBC presenter Huw Edwards, Mr Johnson told those in attendance “of course I’m going for it”. “I don’t think that is any particular secret to anybody,” he added. “But you know there is no vacancy at present.” It marks the first time that the former foreign secretary has publicly stated his intention to run. Mr Johnson is the Grassroots favourite to succeed Mrs May, topping every leadership poll published in recent months. He is expected to run as the candidate offering a “clean Brexit”, but faces stiff competition from Dominic Raab, the former Brexit Secretary. – Telegraph (£)

May pleads for time as Boris Johnson targets No 10 – The Times (£)

Top Eurocrat sneers Brexit is ‘Game of Thrones on steroids’ because it’s so bloody

Brussels’ second-in-command has said political divisions over Brexit have turned Britain into an episode of “Game of Thrones on steroids”. Frans Timmermans, who is deputy chief of the Commission, compared Westminster to the bloodthirsty TV series, which follows the fates of warring clans. He jibed: “Look at what the divisiveness of Brexit has done to the UK. Today the UK looks like Game of Thrones on steroids.” The hit US show, which ends this week after eight series, is renowned for unpredictable plot lines marked by brutality and betrayal. It is also famous for the routine deaths of major characters, often in bizarre and bloody unexpected ways. The Dutchman’s remarks came during a debate over who should take over running the Commission from the retiring Jean-Claude Juncker. – The Sun

Jean-Claude Juncker says £350m bus slogan was a lie as deputy calls Brexit Britain ‘Game of Thrones on steroids’ – Telegraph (£)

Stop blaming Brexiteers for Brexit and ask yourselves why, Labour peer tells Remainers

Remainers should stop blaming people who voted to leave the European Union, a senior Labour peer has said. Lord Falconer told this week’s Chopper’s Brexit Podcast – which you can listen to easily by logging in or subscribing below – that Remainers had to do more to tackle the arguments put forward by the likes of Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage. He said: “It’s not the people who vote for Farage who are in the wrong, it is the fact that the situation allows Farage to sneer at us so effectively. I find Farage to be very slippery politically. He’s manipulative, he sees which way the wind is going and he goes with it, but I completely agree with you that we should not blame the people who are voting for him. And one of the horrific mistakes that the Remain campaign makes the whole time is, as it were, to fail to distinguish between the voters who voted for leave.” – Telegraph (£)

Remaining in EU a must, say Scottish Labour MPs

Labour’s leading Scottish candidate in the European elections and more than half of the party’s MPs north of the border have said that staying in the EU is “non-negotiable” in a direct challenge to their leadership. David Martin, Britain’s longest-serving MEP, hit out at Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Leonard’s stance on Brexit as he called on the public to elect MEPs “who believe in a better future leading and not leaving the EU”. In an open letter to voters, signed by four of the seven Scottish Labour MPs, Mr Martin said it was in the country’s best interest to continue to play an integral role at the heart of the EU. Mr Corbyn, the UK party leader, has been criticised within the party for failing to take an anti-Brexit stance or to push for a second EU referendum in negotiations with the UK government. – The Times (£)

Nigel Farage opens up possibility of Brexit Party cutting income tax

Nigel Farage has left the door open to fighting the next election on a pledge to slash the top 45p rate of income tax. The leader of the Brexit Party is under increasing pressure to publish more of his policy plans beyond the single issue of taking the UK out of the European Union by leaving the single market, customs union and jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The Brexit Party is currently vetting candidates to fight every seat at the next general election, which Mr Farage privately believes could come as soon as late October. The Brexit Party could pick up dozens of seats from voters disillusioned with the Brexit policies of Labour and the Conservatives, and leave it holding the balance of power if there is a hung Parliament allowing him to deliver his own policies. Internal polling shows that the Brexit Party is well placed to win some Tory seats which were held with a majority of 13,000 at the last election. Mr Farage has already asked his team to start working on a suite of policies to unveil after next week’s European Parliament election, the Telegraph understands. The party is also mulling holding an annual party conference, or rally, this autumn. – Telegraph (£)

James Bartholomew: Remainers are terrified to admit that Leavers aren’t all working class, white, and poor

Before I went to a dinner party in Kensington last week, I got a message from the hostess: “Don’t mention the B word!” In the posh parts of London now, it is perfectly fine to discuss sex and religion. But the subject that must be avoided at all costs is Brexit. London is the second most pro-Remain region in the UK after Scotland. We London Leavers swap stories about friends who, on discovering our views, have dropped us or been angry with us. Many of us have decided to keep quiet about our true opinions to avoid confrontation or scorn. We are the hidden Leavers. We quietly know and recognise each other like members of a persecuted sect. But there are more us than you might think. The proportion of Leavers in London in the referendum was 40 per cent. Even Scotland had a big minority of Leave voters – 38 per cent – though you wouldn’t think so to listen to Nicola Sturgeon. Remarkably, for the European elections, a YouGov opinion poll puts the Brexit Party in joint first place with the Lib Dems in our “Remain” capital. That should give Sadiq Khan a shock. – James Bartholomew for the Telegraph (£)

Iain Duncan Smith: I hadn’t thought it was possible to make this situation any worse – but Mrs May has managed it

For some time we have all got used to switching on the radio in the morning, to listen to the political version of the weather forecast. “The government will continue further talks with the Labour Party; so far they have been constructive… coming together… making progress… exploring options.” This whilst everyone listening can see the huge storm brewing outside their windows as the public line up in droves to reject Westminster’s lowest common denominator political stitch up and vote instead for the Brexit Party. As the government keeps up this ridiculous mantra that what the public wants is for them to do a deal with a Marxist Labour party, which would include membership of a Customs Union, the public instead are voting with their feet. Worse, the daily parade of the political elite with their banal commentary on the machinations of these sham talks have confirmed the public’s worst view of politics. – Iain Duncan Smith for the Telegraph (£)

John Crace: Change UK is dying before it even learned to walk

A recent opinion poll put Change UK on 2%. What wasn’t so clear was whether that figure had been rounded up or down. Just five minutes before its major EU election rally in the Remain heartlands of Bath was about to start, there were still plenty of seats available in the cricket pavilion where it was being held. And there were only 32 chairs to start with. A few late stragglers helped fill the room, but the media still well outnumbered supporters. Change UK is dying before it even learned to walk. Its MPs know it. Its candidates know it. The public knows it. Change UK never really wanted to change anything. What it wanted most of all was for things to stay the same. For the UK to remain in the EU and for the extremes of both the Tory and Labour parties to shut up and go away. – John Crace for the Guardian

Asa Bennett: Tory MPs are getting set for Theresa May to go down fighting for her withdrawal bill

Theresa May lives to fight another day after meeting with the 1922 Committee of backbenchers today. She has certainly bought herself the right to fight for at least two more weeks until she has to meet with the 1922 again. Their next meeting, which Sir Graham Brady announced would take place  “as soon as” MPs have had a chance to vote on her withdrawal agreement bill, would be when they “decide the timetable for the election of a new leader”. That means their next meeting can be pencilled in for early June, as Andrea Leadsom confirmed this morning the Government’s plan to put the WAB to MPs for its second reading in the week beginning Monday 3rd. Admittedly, the Commons leader did not specify which day. What significance could the choice have? Mrs May will undoubtedly be looking for whenever she thinks might provide the most clement political weather so she has the best crack at winning support for her bill. – Telegraph (£)

Telegraph: Theresa May leaves No 10 the way she ran it: in a cloud of mystery

Theresa May bows out of British politics the way she has run things: with little explanation. Yesterday, a statement mutually agreed with the 1922 Committee revealed that the Prime Minister will meet with Sir Graham Brady in June, after the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and decide a timetable for a leadership election. Why didn’t Mrs May announce this herself? Where was the compelling message of duty and sacrifice? She has always eschewed storytelling, perhaps believing that actions speak louder than words. But politics requires communication. Mrs May couldn’t explain why she stayed in the job after the 2017 election. She refused to say if she would vote for Brexit given a second chance. And it is in keeping with her character to talk in terms of timetables rather than a definitive exit. – Telegraph (£) editorial

The Sun: Get Brexit, in any form, now — or the country faces having Jeremy Corbyn in No10

Theresa May’s time is almost up — and as it stands her party looks doomed too. The chances of her Brexit deal passing in three weeks are zero, or close to it. A new Tory leader and PM is desperately needed, to inspire some hope in the country, the Government and party. Maybe he or she can reset Brexit talks, or even steer us out with No Deal. But they will face the same problems and the same Commons mathematics. Even now The Sun believes getting Brexit over the line, even via Mrs May’s deal, is the best option. Why? Because not doing so leads almost inevitably to a Corbyn Government. And that is worse than anything Brexit, in any form, could throw at our country. – The Sun says

Brexit in Brief

  • The Attorney General writes me a letter – John Redwood’s Diary
  • Is the Brexit Party’s Ann Widdecombe the epitome of today’s Conservative? – Get Britain Out’s Joel Casement for Comment Central
  • Brenda from Bristol despair – another General Election is all but inevitable – Julian Harris for City A.M.
  • How Brexit will affect the European Parliament elections in the EU27? – Dr Sara Hagemann for The UK in a Changing Europe
  • Nigel Farage wins backing of reality stars and boxer Dereck Chisora on bizarre trip to Towie nightclub Sugar Hut – The Sun
  • Aslef votes to maintain anti-EU position – Morning Star
  • Brady’s statement following the ’22 Executive’s meeting with the Prime Minister. Full text. – Conservative Home