Theresa May to launch last-ditch attempt to gain MPs' approval for her Brexit deal with 'bold offer': Brexit News for Sunday 19 May

Theresa May to launch last-ditch attempt to gain MPs' approval for her Brexit deal with 'bold offer': Brexit News for Sunday 19 May
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Theresa May to launch last-ditch attempt to gain MPs’ approval for her Brexit deal with ‘bold offer’

Theresa May is to launch a last-ditch attempt to gain MPs’ approval for her Brexit deal, with a “bold offer” to Labour and Conservative critics. This week Cabinet ministers will be consulted on concessions that Number 10 hopes could win over support from the Opposition and some Tory rebels if they are inserted into the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB), which Mrs May is planning to introduce to the Commons next month. The disclosures came as a Gallup International poll conducted across the EU found that a majority of the bloc’s citizens believe it should renegotiate the deal if Parliament refuses to back it. In total, 52 per cent of those surveyed in 27 EU countries agreed that the European Commission should renegotiate, which it is currently refusing to do. Some 34 per cent disagreed. In the UK, 51 agreed and 19 per cent disagreed. Mrs May proposed concessions, including new measures on workers’ rights, are partly based on those discussed in talks between the Government and Labour which collapsed last week. Mrs May will also consult the Cabinet on holding a series of Commons votes on potential customs arrangements with the EU. Government figures are telling MPs that such a relationship could be broken off after just six months, in line with other EU trade deals that contain break clauses of between six and 24 months. – Sunday Telegraph (£)

  • Theresa May plans ‘bold offer’ to get support for deal – BBC News
  • Theresa May prepares to make ‘bold offer’ to MPs in final bid to get Brexit deal over the line – ITV News
  • Theresa May will make ‘big, bold offer’ to MPs to get hated Brexit deal voted through Parliament – The Sun
  • PM will make a ‘bold offer’ to Labour MPs in last-gasp attempt to get her Brexit deal over the line – Mail on Sunday

Withdrawal Agreement Bill ‘should include public vote,’ says Sir Keir Starmer…

The government should add a public vote to the Brexit legislation which MPs will vote on next month, the shadow Brexit secretary has told the BBC. Sir Keir Starmer said including another referendum in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill would “break the impasse”. Talks between Labour and the government to find a compromise Brexit deal broke down on Friday without agreement. Theresa May has said she would consider putting different Brexit options to MPs to see which ones “command a majority”. Labour’s preferred plan is for changes to the government’s Brexit deal or an election, but if neither of those are possible, it will support the option of a public vote. – BBC News

  • May could end impasse with ‘confirmatory’ vote, Sir Keir Starmer claims – Sky News

…as Labour chairman attacks use of ‘confirmatory ballot’ phrase

Ian Lavery, chairman of the Labour party, has accused senior colleagues in the party of trying to mislead the public by using the phrase “confirmatory ballot” to describe a second referendum. His comments reflect the unease of some top Labour officials about a possible rerun of the 2016 vote. Mr Lavery is one of the party’s most strident opponents of such a move, which he describes as “self harm”. The Labour chairman told the FT that he was “not sure” about why other senior Labour figures had begun to refer to a “confirmatory ballot” — an idea floated by MPs such as Keir Starmer, Brexit spokesman, and deputy leader Tom Watson. “I’m not saying it is trying to hoodwink people,” Mr Lavery said. “But it is trying to appease people . . . trying to be something it isn’t. It’s a second referendum.” The party’s formal position since last autumn is to push for a softer Brexit than Theresa May wants; seek a general election and — if that fails — pursue other options including a second referendum. – FT(£)

Starmer blames ‘wannabe Tory leaders’ for Brexit talks failure

The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, has blamed “wannabe Tory leaders” for the breakdown of cross-party talks as he renewed his call for a second referendum on leaving the EU. The government and Labour sought to blame each other after talks to find a compromise Brexit plan collapsed on Friday, leaving any remaining hopes of an imminent solution to the impasse in tatters. While both sides insisted the discussions had taken place in good faith, the prime minister said a key sticking point had been Labour splits over a second referendum, while the opposition said May’s imminent departure from Downing Street meant there was no guarantee any promises would be kept by her successor. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Starmer said: “The real problem was this question of how on earth do you future-proof any deal – if there was a deal – against an incoming Tory leader?. Because … the prime minister said before we started the talks that she would be going. It’s not for me to criticise that, that’s her judgment about when she wants to go. “But it does mean that during the talks – almost literally – sitting in the room as we’re talking, cabinet members and wannabe Tory leaders were torpedoing the talks with remarks about not being willing to accept a customs union.” – Observer

Brexit Secretary warns no-deal preparations must be sped up

Preparations for a no-deal Brexit should be brought forward “at pace” if MPs do not back the prime minister’s deal, the Brexit secretary has warned. The comments are likely to reignite the debate about whether the government should be prepared to take the UK out of the European Union with no-deal if – as expected – MPs fail to back the withdrawal agreement when it returns to the House of Commons in June. Stephen Barclay told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Members of Parliament do need to face facts, and if the deal were not to go through then there are only two alternatives – you either leave with a no-deal or you revoke. “If parliament won’t back a deal, I do think we need to bring forward our preparations to mitigate no-deal, because we will need to use the additional time we have, and we need to move at pace to do so.” The Brexit secretary was speaking on a visit to Quinn Industrial Holdings, a cement manufacturer with sites that straddle the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Lorries and employees at the firm are estimated to make more than 900 border crossings every day. – Sky News

Early election would ‘kill Brexit’ and hand power to Corbyn, Health Secretary Matt Hancock warns

Theresa May’s successor must not call an early general election because it risks handing Jeremy Corbyn the keys to Number 10 and “killing Brexit altogether”, Matt Hancock has warned. With the Brexit Party riding high in the polls ahead of Thursday’s European Parliament elections and Labour projected to win the most seats if a general election was called tomorrow, the Health Secretary urged MPs to “deliver Brexit and move forward”. MPs will be given one more chance to vote for Mrs May’s Brexit deal next month, but with Labour formally ending cross-party talks on Friday the vote has little chance of success. Mrs May has agreed to step down regardless of the result of the vote, but Mr Hancock, who is himself expected to run for the Tory leadership, cautioned against the idea of her successor calling an election to seek a new Brexit mandate. In an exclusive interview, he told The Telegraph: “I think a general election before we’ve delivered Brexit would be a disaster. People don’t want it. I’m with Brenda from Bristol. We need to take responsibility for delivering on the referendum result. “Who knows what the outcome of a general election would be under these circumstances? A general election before that not only risks Jeremy Corbyn, but it risks killing Brexit altogether. We’ve got to deliver Brexit in this parliament, then we can move forward.” – Sunday Telegraph (£)

  • Matt Hancock warns the next Prime Minister not to hold a general election until Britain leaves the EU – iNews

Labour panic as Remain voters switch to Liberal Democrats in Euro election polling…

Senior Labour figures were engaged in a desperate battle to shore up the party’s support on Saturday night, amid warnings that its stance on Brexit was helping to “detoxify the Lib Dems”. With just days left before the European elections at which Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is expected to triumph, shadow cabinet ministers are among those concerned that Labour’s ambiguous position on Brexit has helped revive the Lib Dems. It comes as new polling seen by the Observer suggests Vince Cable’s party is running in first place in London and could even beat Labour overall. One senior party figure warned: “If the consequence of Labour’s Brexit position and this European election is to essentially detoxify the Lib Dems, then that’s a real problem.” Clive Lewis, a shadow Treasury minister, said “lifelong Labour voters” would not back the party this week due to its Brexit stance. He added: “It feels like we’ve given [the Lib Dems] the political equivalent of resuscitation.” – Observer

  • Labour panic as Remain voters switch to Lib Dems in EU elections sending warning to Corbyn – Express

…and even Tory grandee Lord Heseltine declares his support for the Lib Dems…

Tory grandee and Remainer Lord Heseltine has said he will not vote for his party in the forthcoming European elections. Writing in the Times on Sunday, the former Deputy Prime Minister said: “In four days’ time, when I place my cross on the ballot paper for the European parliamentary elections, I will vote for a party other than the Conservatives. “The reason for my experiment with the Lib Dems is, of course, the government’s position on Brexit. “I cannot, with a clear conscience, vote for my party when it is myopically focused on forcing through the biggest act of economic self-harm ever undertaken by a democratic government.” Lord Heseltine finished his article by saying: “The issue could not be more urgent. Time is short. The stakes are huge.” – LBC

…while the Brexit Party is forecast to win most votes…

The latest polling for the European Parliament elections shows that Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is likely to gain the most votes 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. The latest polling average puts Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party ahead of the two major parties, on 35 per cent compared to Labour’s 15 per cent and the Tories’ 9 per cent. This would mark the Conservatives falling to their lowest vote share in a national election since they formed in 1834. The Lib Dems are, for the first time, ahead of Labour in second place on 16 per cent. Greens and Change UK – both backers of a second referendum – collectively have support of 15 per cent of the public, against no-dealers Ukip and the Brexit Party’s collective 38 per cent. These latest results are taken from a representative sample of over 7,000 British adults conducted between 12th and 16th May. – Sunday Telegraph (£)

…and the Tories are in for a Brexit Party trouncing, while Remainers abandon Labour

More voters now say they would back the Brexit party at the next general election than the Conservatives, according to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer. Nigel Farage’s party increased its support by three points to 24% of the vote, leapfrogging the Tories and trailing Labour by just five points. The Conservatives claimed 22% of the vote, the same figure they recorded in last week’s poll. The Brexit party also maintained its 14-point lead when voters were asked who they would back in next week’s European elections, maintaining 34% of the vote. Labour secured 20%, with the Liberal Democrats up to 15% support. The Tories were on 12%, up one point on a week ago. While the Remain vote remains split between several parties, the Lib Dems have become the top choice for Remain voters. The party increased its share of Remain voters to 29%, up seven points. Labour’s share of Remain voters was down three points on 28%. The poll found that if Labour were to switch and clearly back a second referendum with an option to remain in the EU, the party could win back a large number of Remain votes in Thursday’s vote. In such a scenario, Labour’s vote share increased to 30%, a 10-point increase on its current position. – Observer

  • Populist surge sinks Tories and squeezes Labour as European elections loom – Sunday Times (£)
  • Brexit Party overtakes Tories in poll of general election voting intentions – Independent

Brexit Party now pulling in £100,000 in donations a day as Nigel Farage mulls historic European election victory

The Brexit Party is now attracting donations of £100,000 a day as it prepares for a crushing victory at this week’s European Parliament elections. Nigel Farage, the party’s leader, said he had taken on extra staff to process the donations and ensure they are permissible under electoral law. The leader of the Brexit Party also told The Sunday Telegraph he was talking to “one or two” Conservative MPs about defecting. But he scotched talk of a pact with the Tories to deliver Brexit, saying he he would find it difficult to support any leader such as Boris Johnson who had voted for Theresa May’s deal. – Sunday Telegraph (£)£)

Irish Deputy PM Simon Coveney: No-deal Brexit planning ‘at full speed for many months’

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has strongly defended the Government’s record on preparing the country for a possible no-deal Brexit. Speaking in Curraheen in Cork, at an event involving Down Syndrome Cork and Voxpro, Mr Coveney said the Government “continues to focus intensively on no-deal Brexit contingency planning”, even if that is not always represented in the media. He said: “I can reassure people, that in the background, we have never taken our foot off the accelerator in terms of that contingency process.” The Tánaiste added: “Our planning for a no-deal Brexit has been at full speed for many months. And we haven’t slowed down – even after the extension of the Article 50 process.” Mr Coveney described the breakdown in Brexit talks between the British Conservative and Labour parties as “disappointing and a setback”. – RTE

Tory Remainers launch bid to block no-deal Brexit leadership candidates

A 60-strong group of Tories led by Amber Rudd and Damian Green will launch a bid to block leadership candidates backing a no-deal Brexit, as they urge MPs to reject “narrow nationalism”  and the “comfort blanket of populism.” The One Nation Caucus, which is backed by eight pro-EU Cabinet ministers, is preparing to issue a “declaration of values” tomorrow before going on to hold hustings to interrogate would-be successors to Theresa May. The document, designed as a draft manifesto for the next Conservative leader, will state that the “climate change emergency” should be given a comparable level of attention and urgency as counter-terrorism, to help draw support from younger voters. In an apparent swipe at Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab, the former Cabinet ministers, sources claimed that the One Nation group would “stop any leadership candidate who endorses a ‘Nigel Farage no-deal Brexit’ which would damage the economy and make it harder to release public funds” – equating strident pro-Brexit candidates with the former Ukip leader. – Sunday Telegraph (£)

Vote for a pro-EU party, not mine, says Labour’s Dame Margaret Hodge

Jeremy Corbyn’s row with Dame Margaret Hodge escalated last night after the MP said party members should vote for pro-EU candidates in the European elections, even if it means not voting for Labour. Hodge has clashed often with the Labour leader on his handling of anti-semitism and his approach to Brexit. At an event last week hosted by Progress, the Blairite think tank, Hodge was asked if she agreed with a panellist who dismissed tactical voting and said all members should vote Labour in the upcoming contest. A leaked tape reveals the 74-year-old Barking MP responded: “No, I don’t.” She said: “I think taking whatever action you need, within your locality, that gives you the best likelihood of electing somebody who will be a pro-European MEP, I think is the way you should go, I really do.” Hodge added: “I know that’s controversial but sometimes we allow the tribalism of politics to override the values and judgment we need to take on particular issues.” Labour rules state that any member who supports someone standing against a party candidate must be expelled. – Sunday Times (£)

Theresa May: My Withdrawal Agreement Bill will be a bold new offer to MPs

When the government puts the Withdrawal Agreement Bill — the law that will take the UK out of the EU, deliver Brexit and allow us to move forward after three years of hard work — before parliament in a couple of weeks, it will truly be decision time for MPs. Before that happens, the British people will go to the polls in the European elections on Thursday. I hope that everyone who wants to see Brexit delivered in a responsible way as soon as possible will vote for the only party that can actually deliver that: the Conservative Party. The other parties standing in this election either cannot deliver Brexit or have so far refused to do so. Only the Conservatives can and will. But whatever the result on Thursday, it will then be for MPs to take a decision. When the Withdrawal Agreement Bill comes before MPs, it will represent a new, bold offer to MPs across the House of Commons, with an improved package of measures that I believe can win new support. It will deliver a Brexit that honours the decision the British people took in the referendum with a Brexit that is good for jobs, good for our security, and which sets the whole UK on course for a bright future outside the EU. The cabinet will consider the details of those changes next week. It will also consider whether holding votes in parliament to test support for possible solutions would be a useful prelude to MPs considering the legislation. But whatever the outcome of any votes, I will not be simply asking MPs to think again. Instead I will ask them to look at a new and improved deal with fresh pairs of eyes — and to give it their support. While the deal MPs are to vote on will be different, the dynamics of their decision will remain the same. A majority of MPs are against leaving without a deal; whatever you think of that as an outcome, parliament will do all it can to block it. The British people want Brexit resolved, so our country can move forward and address the many other issues that they care about. They will be looking to parliament to break the impasse. Backing the withdrawal bill is the way to do that. It is now high time we delivered. –  Prime Minister Theresa May for the Sunday Times (£)

Crispin Blunt: Conservatives must form pact with Brexit Party or Jeremy Corbyn may become Prime Minister

In 2016 the British people were given the decision over the Country’s future. They chose Leave. Eighty per cent of MPs elected in 2017 promised to implement that decision. That decision means either leaving with the PM’s Deal or No Deal. No other Brexit option exists. But almost all Labour MPs and enough Conservatives have decided they know better and are trying to reverse the people’s decision. Surprise, surprise, voters are now demanding what they were promised and there will be a tidal wave of support for the Brexit Party next week in the unwanted EU Parliament elections. Only delivering Brexit can start to repair people’s trust in their politicians. In early June, Parliament will reject her deal for the 4th time but won’t support No Deal. That will be the end for Theresa May who has got us into this terrible mess. The new Conservative leader and PM must be prepared to face down this rotten Parliament elected in 2017. A general election is the only certain way to get rid of it. There are now only three parties committed to Brexit. UKIP have gone loopy and have been supplanted by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. Ninety per cent of Conservative MPs and members support delivering Brexit. – Crispin Blunt MP for The Sun

Richard Tice: Two-party politics or that “new car feeling” at the European Elections? It’s up to the voters

Voters have a clear choice on Thursday in the European elections. There is a fresh, bright option on the ballot paper to consider. So will you vote for more of the same, two-party political set up, with the same people, the same broken promises, the same tired structures, the same party games and the same waste of our taxpayers cash? Or do you decide that enough is enough, and the current system does not work for the country, its people and future generations? Do you choose to stick to the same old status quo, even though you know in your heart of hearts that the country could do so much better and be much better run? I hope not. Because our potential is so much greater. Like buying a new car, voters have a choice here – to remain with the same large, complacent company whose vehicles might sound OK but are filled with old technology and ultimately likely to be unreliable, or to take a joyful leap to a new manufacturer, with fresh technology that everyone is talking about, sometimes in whispers, sometimes in open conversation, but almost always with excitement. The Brexit Party, which I chair, was launched just over five weeks ago. This is my first campaign, and the experience has been electric. We have toured the length and breadth of the country, holding big rallies that tens of thousands of people have attended in person and many millions have watched on live streams and social media. I have been truly humbled by the incredibly positive reception. There is a huge appetite to change politics for the good in our country, so that it works for the people, not the same old establishment. – Richard Tice for the Sunday Telegraph (£)

Janet Daley: Tories and Labour are despised over Brexit – but there is a path out of this democratic crisis

Jeremy Corbyn blamed the breakdown of the cross-party Brexit talks on the “weakness and instability” of Mrs May’s government. To which Mrs May responded that the talks had failed because “…there is not a common position in Labour about whether they want to deliver Brexit or hold a second referendum which could reverse it.” They were both right. Which is to say, the leadership of both major parties is utterly discredited. What satisfaction they may gain from trashing one another is neither here nor there. Their credibility in the country is gone. The leaders themselves are in a race to the bottom in opinion polls. And the minor parties are simply serving the purpose of protest vehicles for a furious electorate: none of them, at this point, offers anything that could count as a plausible prospectus for government. Voters would be within their rights to ask, quite seriously, whether anyone in this game is seriously interested in governing at all, or even in conducting a sensible discussion about what the business of running a national government consists of now. We have grown so accustomed to this chaos that it threatens to become normalised but it is very important to appreciate how very startling it is. I certainly cannot recall a time in British political life when both main parties were almost universally regarded as useless. Generally the prevailing disenchantment is with the party in power while (at least some) hope and optimism is attached to the Opposition – especially if it has been out of office for a long period. But for both parties to be pretty much equally despised is, I think, quite unprecedented in modern times. – Janet Daley for the Sunday Telegraph (£)

The Sun:Thursday’s European election is the real People’s Vote for whingeing Remainers

Whingeing Remainers have been demanding a second people’s vote on Europe since the moment they lost the first one. Well at long last they have got one. It is happening on Thursday and it is called the Euro elections. According to second referendum fanatics like Keir Starmer, Vince Cable and Anna Soubry, the British public have been desperate to get back in the ballot box and reverse their own Brexit vote. On Thursday 211 Leave candidates face off against 288 Remainers in 12 regions with 73 seats. According to one new poll 31 per cent will back Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, compared to 22 per cent for Labour and a 9 per cent for the Tories. And 90 per cent of those who will vote for the Brexit Party would do so again in a general election. Far from rejecting Brexit, voters seem about to give the Westminster ditherers who blocked it the kind of thrashing Manchester City have just handed Watford in the FA Cup Final. If the polls are right one thing should be immediately clear. No politician, let alone party, will ever be credible if they just bury their head and keep demanding a second referendum to reverse Brexit. – The Sun says

Nicky Morgan:  Brexit has changed the job of an MP for ever

The job of an MP is never static (there is no job description), but since the EU referendum of 2016 the task of being a constituency representative has definitely become more challenging. Leaving aside the result of any such vote, a referendum is an act of direct democracy that sits uneasily with the concept of a parliamentary representative democracy. I and many other parliamentary colleagues have had to revisit and re-evaluate what being a representative now entails. Usually MPs stand on a party manifesto which, if it forms the platform for government, will involve us voting on a range of issues, some of which our constituents feel strongly about and many they do not. But the act of voting on a binary question in a referendum has meant that our constituents feel even more invested in how parliament handles that outcome than they would in a normal election. And the trouble with such a close result which, so far, has not been resolved is that they care very much more than normal how their elected representative is handling the implementation of that vote. I have written two open letters to my constituents about how I intend to vote on the withdrawal agreement, spoken at public meetings and in many private events too. The reactions to all are helpful in calibrating my views as their representative. And then, of course, there are the comments on social media, which vary between questioning, ridicule, abuse and threats. Sadly, as the months have gone by the level of threats has risen, resulting in prosecutions and sentences. I work very closely with my local police force on a variety of constituency cases. Never did I expect to become a police case myself. The response from the police and parliamentary authorities has improved hugely and I am grateful for it. But I do not want my staff to put up with abusive calls, horrible messages and having to police my Facebook page. Twenty-first-century, post-Brexit parliamentary representation would be unrecognisable to Burke. We need to work out how to keep the extra engagement, restore a place for MPs to exercise judgment and lose the abuse. – Nicky Morgan MP for the FT(£)

Claire Fox: Meet the secret Brexiteers

Much has been made of the Brexit Party’s insurgency amongst people in Leave-voting communities, who have been subject to disparaging and patronising establishment contempt ever since they dared to vote the ‘wrong’ way in the EU referendum. But far less attention is given to the minority of Leave voters who work and live in the professions and other areas where support for Remain is the default position. One woman who approached the Brexit Party stall in Chester last week told me his: “I am a solicitor; my friend here is a physiotherapist and we are both fed up of being shunned by colleagues because we voted Leave. I just don’t tell people anymore.” She speaks for millions. Maybe it is because I am part of the media/ policy intelligentsia circle (or, at least, I was until I became an apostate and decided to stand as an MEP), but over the past three years I have come across a wide range of Secret Brexiteers who dare not admit they voted Leave. – Claire Fox for The Spectator

Brexit in Brief

  • The Tories need a bold Brexiteer leader who delivers. Step forward, Penny Mordaunt – Asa Bennett for the Sunday Telegraph (£)
  • St Theresa took up her cross – and got nowhere – Dominic Lawson for the Sunday Times (£)
  • McDonald’s refuses to sell milkshakes during Nigel Farage campaign to spare him a dousing – Independent