You’ll split the party if you agree to Labour’s customs union, top Tories warn Theresa May: Brexit News for Tuesday 14 May

You’ll split the party if you agree to Labour’s customs union, top Tories warn Theresa May: Brexit News for Tuesday 14 May
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You’ll split the party if you agree to Labour’s customs union, top Tories warn Theresa May…

Theresa May will sacrifice the “loyal middle” of her party if she strikes a deal with Labour to keep Britain in a customs union with the EU, a group of former cabinet ministers and senior Tories has warned. Thirteen of Mrs May’s former cabinet colleagues as well as Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, have written to her with a plea to reject Jeremy Corbyn’s key demand for a cross-party agreement to secure ratification of her Brexit divorce deal. The group includes Gavin Williamson, who was dismissed as defence secretary this month, and the two leading Brexiteer candidates to replace Mrs May: Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab. Also included are Maria Miller and Sir Michael Fallon, who supported Remain in the referendum. The group points out that they all voted for her deal on March 29. – The Times (£)

  • Full text of the customs union letter to Theresa May – The Times (£)

…as she is urged to axe the Brexit talks with Labour after they demand second referendum…

Theresa May was today urged to pull out of Brexit talks with Labour after the party demanded a second referendum. Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer insisted a so-called “people’s vote” would be the price of any deal between the two main parties. Top Tories from both sides of the Brexit divide warned the PM the negotiations are now doomed to failure. Brexiteer Nigel Evans blasted: “Time for Theresa to walk away from talks – confirmatory referendum on a rejected deal which leads to remaining in EU is a total betrayal of the people’s vote. These talks have been a complete waste of time – negotiating Brexit with a party which wants to stop Brexit!” – The Sun

  • Pull plug on Brexit talks with Labour, Theresa May urged – The Times (£)

…although the talks continue for the time being…

Downing Street insisted on Monday night that Theresa May would try to keep alive faltering Brexit talks with Labour, amid warnings from senior Tories that opposition demands would cause a devastating split in the Conservative party. Thirteen of Mrs May’s former cabinet colleagues wrote to the prime minister ahead of a crucial cabinet meeting on Tuesday warning that she would sacrifice the “loyal middle” of the party if she struck a deal with Labour to keep Britain in a customs union. Liam Fox, trade secretary, will lead cabinet opposition to any pact that includes Labour’s central demand of a permanent customs union, a proposal which he says would prevent Britain from operating a fully independent trade policy. – FT (£)

…as Downing Street consider ‘definitive votes’ as a last throw of the dice to break the deadlock

Theresa May is moving towards holding a series of “definitive votes” on different Brexit options in a bid to break the impasse if compromise talks with Labour break down. The Prime Minister is expected to ask MPs to rank different Brexit outcomes in order of preference under the plan which will be activated if the two sides cannot strike an agreement. Downing Street views the votes proposal as potentially its last throw of the dice as the Government attempts to find a Brexit strategy capable of securing the support of a majority of MPs. A Brexit compromise deal with Labour remains No 10’s “Plan A” but should talks collapse then ministers will move onto their “Plan B” of offering MPs votes on alternatives. The Government will aim to agree with Labour on a list of Brexit options which MPs would be asked to vote on in a bid to ensure the process commands the support of a majority in the House of Commons. – Telegraph (£)

Jeremy Corbyn warned Labour is haemorrhaging support as he agrees to simplify Brexit message…

Jeremy Corbyn was attacked by his own MPs on Monday night over Labour’s Brexit policy and warned that the party was “haemorrhaging” support and risked handing victory to Nigel Farage in the European elections. The Labour leader was told that the party would be punished at the polls in 10 days’ time unless he caved in to Remainer MPs and provided a clear commitment to a second referendum. During a 90-minute meeting in Parliament, more than a dozen Labour MPs stood up to criticise the party’s handling of Brexit and the launch of its election campaign. Peter Kyle, one of the main campaigners for a fresh public vote, urged Mr Corbyn to “simplify” Labour’s position “to make people realise we are speaking with absolute sincerity”. Stephen Doughty, MP for Cardiff South, claimed that Labour was being outflanked by the Brexit Party because Mr Farage had delivered a “clear message” to voters. – Telegraph (£)

…while Deputy Leader Tom Watson defines Labour as a ‘Remain and reform party’

Jeremy Corbyn is under mounting pressure from senior frontbenchers to offer a clear commitment on a second referendum, with his deputy branding Labour a “Remain and reform” party. In a sign of growing tensions within the shadow cabinet, Tom Watson on Monday morning claimed that Labour’s would be heading into the European elections fighting to remain in the European Union. His comments appeared to directly contradict claims made by his colleague Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, who last month claimed Labour was “not a Remain party” and was “committed” to Brexit. Mr Watson also suggested that a “confirmatory ballot” was the only way to break the deadlock in Parliament, adding it would be “difficult” for his party to facilitate Brexit unless a so-called “people’s vote” was guaranteed. Mr Corbyn has so far resisted calls for Labour to campaign for a second referendum under all circumstances, insisting that his priorities are either to secure a deal which meets the party’s demands or force a general election. – Telegraph (£)

  • Any deal unlikely to pass without second referendum promise, Starmer says – Independent

Nigel Farage says he will stand to be an MP again and is ready to do a ‘deal with the devil’ to deliver Brexit…

Nigel Farage said he plans to stand as an MP for the eighth time, as he said he would “do a deal with the devil” if it allowed him to deliver Brexit. The Brexit Party leader said it is his “duty” to prevent the referendum being “railroaded”, and that he would be prepared to prop up a Tory prime minister in the event of a hung Parliament. Mr Farage has previously unsuccessfully stood for election to the House of Commons seven times, in five general elections and two by-elections. Asked by LBC radio if he would run for Parliament again, he said:  “I’m going to have to [stand] of course. It’s a duty, it’s a duty, it’s a duty. We cannot ever allow again a great democratic exercise like this to be railroaded aside by career politicians of the Labour and Tory parties.” Asked if he would join forces with the Tories to deliver Brexit Mr Farage said: “If we can save £39billion, come out of the Customs Union, come out of the Single Market, come out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and be a genuinely independent, self-governing democracy that can choose its own future, I’d do a deal with the devil to get that.” – Telegraph (£)

  • Nigel Farage would back a hard‑Brexit Tory government – The Times (£)

…and that the Brexit Party will unveil full policies after the EU election

The Brexit party will present a “full slate” of policy ideas once next week’s European elections are over, Nigel Farage has pledged, as he ramped up his attacks on the BBC following a bad-tempered television interview on Sunday. Addressing a party rally in West Yorkshire, Farage said that up until the European elections, where his party leads in the polls, he would talk only about Brexit-related matters. “Thereafter, of course we’re going to put a full slate of policies up before the British public – political reform, more help for the regions, scrapping of ludicrous projects like HS2,” he told the crowd in Featherstone, near Pontefract. The rally saw Farage condemn “career politicians who have never done a deal in their lives” as the cause of the Brexit impasse. Ann Widdecombe, the former Tory minister who is standing in the south-west for the Brexit party, condemned the civil service and said the group would “sweep the traitors out of Westminster”. – Guardian

Jacob Rees-Mogg urges May to quit as he claims a majority of Tories will back the Brexit Party in European elections…

Jacob Rees-Mogg has urged Theresa May to quit to end the “complete vacuum of leadership” as he claimed the majority of Tory members he meets say they would vote for the Brexit Party. The staunch Brexiteer said he did not “see how a leader can go on” with so little support from party faithful, saying Ms May had lost the backing of Conservative associations across the country. As a remarkable new poll put the Conservatives in fifth place in the upcoming European elections, Mr Rees-Mogg said the activists he was meeting were saying they would vote for Nigel Farage’s insurgent outfit. The YouGov survey ahead of next week’s contest place the Tories on just 10 per cent, some 24 points behind the Brexit Party, and trailing Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party. Mr Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of backbench Brexiteers, told LBC: “I’ve never known the Tory Party in this position. Normally when you go and speak to Conservative associations and you’re not fully supportive of the leader of the party, whoever that leader happens to be, you’re not the most popular person in the room.” – Independent

…and says the Brexit Party’s rise shows Tories must focus on winning back Eurosceptics

The rise of the Brexit Party shows the Tories must focus on their Eurosceptic credentials and disregard Remain voters if they want to win another election, Jacob Rees-Mogg has suggested. Mr Rees-Mogg said Nigel Farage’s new party had cost the Conservatives “three quarters of our vote” and it was “forgetting” about those voters that was “destroying” the Tories. The chairman of the European Research Group of Tory Eurosceptic MPs claimed the current polling situation demonstrated the Conservatives do not need a “joint ticket” of a Leaver and a Remainer during the forthcoming leadership contest. Instead the party must fully commit to Brexit and forget about the “small band of pro-Europeans” who vote Tory, he suggested. “There was the view that for the Conservatives to win we needed to win back the pro-Europeans and have a coalition with them and perhaps have a joint ticket for the next leader,” he told LBC Radio. – Telegraph (£)

Michael Gove tells Tory plotters to back off the PM until she has delivered Brexit

MIichael Gove on Monday night told Tory plotters trying to oust Theresa May to back-off until she has delivered Brexit. Rushing to the PM’s aide, he said she will be Prime Minister “for a while to come yet”. And told her critics: “It’s all our priority in politics to make sure that referendum mandate is honoured and then to give Theresa the time, space and dignity to leave in a way that she believes is right.” Urging them to tone down their aggressive attacks on the PM, Mr Gove added: “I think it’s important for us all to acknowledge that she’s very graciously said that she will stand down when the withdrawal agreement is ratified. “It’s all our priority in politics to make sure that referendum mandate is honoured and then to give Theresa the time, space and dignity to leave in a way that she believes is right.” – The Sun

Arlene Foster says a weak DUP vote at the European election would be interpreted as a vote for no Brexit

DUP leader Arlene Foster has warned voters that a poor performance by the DUP in this month’s European elections will be interpreted in London and Brussels as a vote for no Brexit. Backing DUP candidate Diane Dodds, Mrs Foster added that she was opposed to a confirmatory Brexit referendum as it ‘would place democracy at risk’. “I am opposed to a second referendum but weak DUP vote will be interpreted in London and Brussels as a vote for no Brexit,” she said Mrs Foster, who was attending the launch of her party’s European election manifesto in Belfast, also criticised Prime Minister Theresa May for lacking the vision of a strong United Kingdom post-Brexit. “What people want to see is democracy being respected. Unfortunately it hasn’t been respected and we have a Remain parliament, therefore parliament has not been able to deliver on Brexit in the way it should have been delivered upon,” she said. “We have a Prime Minister frankly who doesn’t have the vision for the United Kingdom post Brexit that we all want to see. We want to see a United Kingdom that is strong post-Brexit and has a close relationship with Europe.” – Irish News

  • Second Brexit referendum ‘places democracy at risk’ says Arlene Foster – Belfast Telegraph
  • Arlene Foster says Brexit vote would put ‘democracy at risk’ – BBC News

John Curtice: Thanks to the Brexit Party, the Conservatives can expect their worst ever result next week

There have been plenty of previous challenges to the electoral grip of the Conservatives and Labour. The Liberal Democrats have long been snapping at their heels, regularly winning around a fifth of the vote until they entered the 2010-15 Coalition. In the last Euro-election in 2014 Ukip shocked the political establishment by coming first. Scotland is now a SNP fiefdom. However, until now these challenges have occurred separately, not in combination. Ukip’s challenge coincided with a collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote. The SNP does not threaten the two main parties south of the border. Now, though, with the Brexit impasse still unresolved, the two big parties find themselves under challenge from all sides at once. Most obvious is the threat posed by Nigel Farage’s Brexit party. Leave voters unhappy at the failure to leave the EU by now are flocking to the party in seemingly ever increasing numbers. – Sir John Curtice for the Telegraph (£)

Nigel Farage: Andrew Marr’s obsession with my past betrays the bias at the heart of the BBC

I’m not the first person to have been on the receiving end of BBC bias, and I won’t be the last. But with an election campaign under way, I had expected our state broadcaster to behave responsibly in its coverage of this pivotal moment for democracy in Britain. Not a bit of it. On Sunday 
I was on The Andrew Marr Show. I anticipated a tough and free-flowing interview about the Brexit Party, our candidates, their strikingly different backgrounds, our campaign, and the merits of MEPs and the EU elections. Instead, shortly after the interview began, Marr produced a piece of paper and started reading scripted questions relating to things I allegedly said or thought years ago – questions, by 
the way, which I am certain I have been asked by others on many previous occasions. I am well aware of the saying “For a politician to complain about the press is like a ship’s captain complaining about the sea”. But I genuinely thought Marr wanted to learn more on behalf of BBC viewers about what is happening now rather than focusing on positions I reportedly took a long time ago. I am not scared to discuss the past; I just happen to believe that the present and future are more urgent. Britain is politically paralysed. The stakes could not be higher. – Nigel Farage MEP for the Telegraph (£)

Tom Harris: Under John Smith, Labour would never have been so dishonest about Brexit

One of the most distasteful, but inevitable, fashions in modern politics is to lay claim to the support of a deceased politician. Listening to Tom Watson shamelessly claim on Radio 4’s “Today” programme this morning that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is the same party as the late John Smith’s, had me wincing. Claiming to have the support of late political leaders is a trusty tactic that – let’s face it – many of us have tried. On the right, the favoured imaginary endorsements tend to come from Churchill and Thatcher. Isn’t it remarkable how many people claim to know exactly how these former prime ministers would have voted in the 2016 EU referendum? – Tom Harris for the Telegraph (£)

Andrew Gimson: A general election would be vastly preferable to another EU referendum

“You can’t change the rules in the middle of the game.” That cry is often heard in playgrounds when the losing side attempts, by springing some outrageous change in the rules on its opponents, to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. To desperate Remainers, who see no other way of reversing the result of the previous referendum, an “affirmative vote”, as they have taken to calling it, seems an acceptable dodge. They have convinced themselves that leaving the EU will be so disastrous it justifies tearing up the terms and conditions under which the 2016 referendum was held. Leave voters do not see things in this light. They were promised by Parliament that the result of the last referendum would be binding. – Andrew Gimson for Conservative Home

Matthew Lynn: Five policies the Brexit Party must take up to truly change politics

Third, fourth or fifth? You can debate where the Conservative and Labour parties will come in the European elections next week. But there can no longer be any argument about which one will come first: the Brexit Party. Nigel Farage’s new group has surged to first place in the polls, and looks too far ahead for any of its rivals to catch it now. The party may have been set up as a protest vehicle for the Euro elections. And yet its success, and the uncertainty around what happens to our departure from the European Union, suggests it may turn into a permanent force in British politics. Right now, it deliberately doesn’t have any policies other than leaving the EU. But if it endures, that can’t last. So what should a Brexit Party economic policy look like? – Matthew Lynn for the Telegraph (£)

Henry Newman: The Tory poll collapse is nothing to do with May’s Withdrawal Agreement. MPs should vote for it – thus delivering Brexit

Some would have us believe that the reason that the Conservatives are doing so badly in the polls is Theresa May’s Brexit deal. In fact, its precipitous decline coincided not with the advent of the Prime Minister’s deal, but with the failure to deliver Brexit on March 29. If the Withdrawal Agreement had passed the Commons earlier, and we had left the EU at the end of March as planned, it’s hard to see how the Brexit Party would have gained anything close to its current support. The Conservative Party’s polling held up reasonably well after the Brexit deal was agreed by Cabinet, and well into 2019. Nigel Farage’s party’s meteoric rise is a direct result not of discontent over the details of the deal, but of delaying Brexit. And of course the European elections themselves are both an obvious manifestation of the lack of Brexit and a perfect platform for the Brexit party. – Henry Newman for Conservative Home

Brexit in Brief

  • The questions the “People’s Vote” don’t answer – The Blue Anchor
  • Even if the Brexit Party succeed at the European elections, it’ll have no impact on Brexit – Independent editorial
  • European elections are a second referendum in all but name – Walter Ellis for Reaction (£)
  • Future trade with the EU: what matters to Labour’s heartlands? – Bryan Gould for Politeia
  • The battle is no longer for Brexit but for democracy – Gerald Warner for Reaction (£)
  • Heidi Allen challenges Nigel Farage to live TV debate before EU polls – Guardian
  • In Brexit quagmire, UK parliamentary session is longest in over 350 years – Reuters
  • Thatcher would have ‘sliced through’ Juncker, says her former adviser – The Times (£)
  • Letter to Brexit Secretary about the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) – John Redwood’s Diary