Theresa May to make plea for Brexit delay until 30th June at EU summit: Brexit News for Wednesday 10 April

Theresa May to make plea for Brexit delay until 30th June at EU summit: Brexit News for Wednesday 10 April
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Theresa May to make plea for Brexit delay until 30th June at EU summit…

EU leaders are to meet for an emergency summit in Brussels to decide whether to offer the UK another delay to Brexit. Prime Minister Theresa May wants to postpone the date the UK leaves the EU beyond this Friday, until 30 June. But the EU is expected to offer a longer delay, after European Council President Donald Tusk urged the other 27 leaders to back a flexible extension of up to a year – and with conditions. Every EU member state needs to agree before a delay can be granted. Mrs May will head to Belgium this afternoon, after her weekly clash with Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons. That head-to-head follows five days of talks between the government and Labour officials aimed at breaking the Brexit impasse. At the summit – which begins at around 18:00 local time (17:00 BST) on Wednesday evening – Mrs May will formally present her case for a short delay until 30 June, with the option for the UK to leave earlier if her Brexit deal is ratified. The other EU leaders will then have dinner without her and discuss how to respond.BBC News

…as a majority of her MPs fail to support her position on the extension…

Theresa May was hit by a thumping Tory Eurosceptic rebellion last night as a staggering 177 Tory MPs failed to support a June 30 extension. Some 97 Tories voted against the motion to seek a delay in a move forced on the Government by Labour’s Yvette Cooper. And a further 80 abstained including Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox – despite being ‘whipped’ by party chiefs to support it. Sources claimed party chiefs had “turned a blind eye” to those sitting out the vote. And dozens are thought to be away from Westminster on holiday despite Easter recess being cancelled. But it meant just 131 Tories actually backed the PM’s formal request. The vote was effectively symbolic given the PM had already asked Brussels for the request – but it consolidates it in law to try and prevent a No Deal. – The Sun

  • May faces growing Tory unrest as MPs approve Brexit delay – Guardian
  • Commons backs Brexit delay in spite of Tory revolt – FT(£)

> On BrexitCentral: MPs back Article 50 extension until 30th June but 99 Tories oppose it – how every MP voted

…but Donald Tusk recommends the EU insists on a year-long Brexit extension…

Brexit is poised to be delayed by up to a year after European leaders warned Theresa May that her proposal for a short extension until the end of June was too much of a “risk” following weeks of Parliamentary chaos. Ahead of a key summit in Brussels on Wednesday evening to decide on the Brexit extension, Donald Tusk wrote to EU leaders on Tuesday evening saying there was “little reason to believe” Mrs May would get a Brexit deal through Parliament before the summer. She had been given a deadline of this Friday to come up with a new plan or risk leaving the EU without a deal. In his letter to EU leaders, Mr Tusk wrote: “Our experience so far, as well as the deep divisions within the House of Commons, give us little reason to believe that the ratification process can be completed by the end of June. “In reality, granting such an extension would increase the risk of a rolling series of short extensions and emergency summits, creating new cliff-edge dates… if we failed to agree on any next extension, there would be a risk of an accidental no-deal Brexit. This is why I believe we should also discuss an alternative, longer extension. One possibility would be a flexible extension, which would last only as long as necessary and no longer than one year.” Mr Tusk also left little doubt that he hopes a longer delay will result in Britain remaining in the EU, as he said: “Such a longer extension would allow the UK to rethink its Brexit strategy…the UK can revoke Article 50 at any time.” – Telegraph (£)

  • Theresa May facing prospect of being offered longer Brexit delay at EU summit – Sky News
  • May’s hopes dashed as EU targets delay of up to a year – Guardian
  • Invitation letter by President Donald Tusk to the members of the European Council (Art. 50) – European Council

..and other reports say the UK is likely to be offered an extension until the end of the year

Britain is likely to be offered a final long extension ending on 31 December after the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, failed to convince the bloc’s capitals that Theresa May has a plan to break the Brexit impasse. A number of member states, most prominently France, along with Slovenia, Greece, Austria and Spain, remain sceptical about a lengthy extension, citing the risks to the EU of Britain behaving badly. Barnier implored EU ministers meeting in Luxembourg to keep the pressure on MPs to back the deal by supporting May’s request for a Brexit delay only up until 30 June, a leaked diplomatic note of the debate reveals. But, according to the note seen by the Guardian, there is instead growing support for the idea of a lengthy extension, with a Brexit delay of around nine months now looking likely, sources claimed. None of the EU27 ruled out such a delay during the meeting of EU affairs ministers, The Guardian has learned. The most wary instead insisting on a “mechanism” to keep check on the British government’s behaviour. – Guardian

  • Leaked document: EU leaders to offer Brexit extension – Politico

Don’t humiliate Theresa May over Brexit extension, Tusk warns Macron

European leaders have urged President Macron not to “humiliate” Theresa May as the price of granting her a long Brexit extension. In an appeal before tonight’s critical summit, Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, called on EU leaders to treat Britain with respect or risk poisoning future relations. Mr Tusk warned that the French president’s favoured approach of an extension with “good behaviour” review clauses would create “constantly shifting” no-deal cliff edges and continued uncertainty for European businesses and citizens. EU leaders, who must agree any extension unanimously, are split on how tough to be, with Mr Macron arguing that Britain should be relegated to an “intermediate member state” and excluded from important decisions. He also wants a “mechanism” to push Britain into a no-deal Brexit if the EU judges that a future Brexiteer government is behaving badly. France is backed by Greece, Austria and Spain, who fear that a new Conservative leader later this year will try to sabotage EU decision-making or tear up the withdrawal agreement to get rid of the Irish backstop. – The Times (£)

Michel Barnier urges UK to agree customs union and warns that no-deal Brexit would be Britain’s fault

Michel Barnier has urged Britain to join a customs union with the EU after Brexit before warning that a no-deal departure would be the UK’s fault alone. He said that Britain could always cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50 to avoid a no-deal and warned that Brussels would not relax any of its red lines, such as freedom of movement, even if the prime minister did. “We are not willing to compromise in any way the very foundations of the EU,” the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said.  Mr Barnier said that if talks between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn were successful, the EU would be ready to change the terms of the UK-EU future relationship to allow for closer links with Brussels. Labour has called for a customs union with the EU. “Our expectation is that this dialogue will conclude with a positive result, which will allow us at last to have a positive majority , at last , in the House of Commons,” he said.

  • A customs union would mean curbs on Britain’s independent trade policy but Mr Barnier said that EU countries were no less global for having their free trade negotiated for them by the European Commission. – Telegraph (£)

‘Extending Brexit uncertainty’ is not an option, ministers warn Theresa May ahead of summit

Theresa May faces a cool reception in Paris and Berlin after France and Germany heaped pressure on the prime minister to deliver at tomorrow’s Brexit summit in Brussels. Mrs May is visiting Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday to convince them to grant her request to extend the Article 50 process, which must be unanimously approved by all the EU-27 leaders. The prime minister has caved to EU demands that she seek a cross party agreement with Labour to break the Brexit deadlock in the House of Commons and get the withdrawal agreement ratified at the fourth time of asking. EU Europe ministers are meeting in Luxembourg to prepare the bloc’s response to a British request to extend Brexit beyond the April 12 deadline to June 30. Amelie de de Montchalin, France’s Europe minister,  said Paris would demand a clear Brexit strategy from the prime minister. Mr Macron warned last week that the EU could not be “held hostage” to the political crisis in the UK. She said, “The UK has asked for an extension. The French position hasn’t changed. We consider this demand is neither agreed nor automatic. – Telegraph (£)

Emergency no-deal Brexit work intensifies at vital government department

Emergency no-deal Brexit planning has been ramped up at a key government department responsible for food supply, with officials now working 24 hours a day to minimise potential disruption. HuffPost UK has learnt that the EU Exit Emergency Centre (EUXE), based in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), has intensified operations this week amid fears of a potential accidental no-deal Brexit on Friday. A no-deal Brexit would see tariffs imposed on goods travelling to and from the EU and the introduction of customs checks, potentially causing major delays at ports. EUXE staff have therefore moved on to around the clock shifts while Defra policy teams are prioritising exit work in areas like ensuring an adequate food supply and that livestock, waste and other imports and exports to do not get stuck at the border. – Huffington Post

Hours of Brexit talks leave the Tories and Labour as far apart as ever…

Theresa May’s hopes of persuading European Union leaders that she can reach a deal with Labour to break the Brexit deadlock appeared doomed last night after cross-party talks broke down without progress. Sources on both sides of the negotiations said that four hours of detailed discussions yesterday had served only to show “just how far away” the two parties were. Labour said that ministers had failed to offer any further concessions to break the deadlock and feared that Mrs May was being prevented from compromising by cabinet hardliners. Meanwhile, senior Conservative sources questioned Labour’s sincerity in wanting to come to a deal, pointing to division among Jeremy Corbyn’s backbenchers on a second referendum. While both sides agreed to resume discussions tomorrow, the failure to make progress means Mrs May will be unable to provide EU leaders with a roadmap to a deal when she briefs them at a special Brexit summit tonight. – The Times

…as May considers plan to let MPs thrash out Brexit deal if talks with Labour fail

Theresa May is considering a new plan to bring legislation to the House of Commons to allow MPs to thrash out a compromise Brexit deal among themselves, if talks with Labour fail to reach a consensus. Numerous cabinet sources confirmed to the Guardian that a plan had been discussed to bring forward the withdrawal agreement bill, which could be a way to attempt to bypass a meaningful vote in parliament. It is understood May and her team have gone cool on the idea of MPs having more indicative votes, which she had suggested would be binding if talks with Labour do not progress. However, Labour is keener on bringing forward the withdrawal agreement bill to test support for amendments on various options. A Labour source said this had been discussed in the Cabinet Office on Tuesday, but ruled out frontbench support for the plan at this stage. Three cabinet sources said the plan was very much on the table, with the bill potentially being brought forward within a week. However, others played down the idea, saying the government acknowledged it still did not have the numbers for the withdrawal bill to pass the Commons. – Guardian

  • Commons could vote on a new Brexit deal ‘in days’ if May reaches an agreement with Labour, say ministers – Daily Mail

Labour and Tories reluctantly prepare for European elections

The official starting gun has been fired on a set of UK European elections that are distinct in two particular ways: first, they might never happen; and second, if they do, the smaller parties are looking forward to them more than the main ones. On Monday, a “day of poll order” was laid in parliament, putting in place the legal groundwork for voting on 23 May, something that will not happen if Theresa May secures a Brexit deal in the interim. The Electoral Commission is thus busy preparing teams to oversee an election that could be cancelled at the last minute, a situation the watchdog conceded was unprecedented but said was entirely a matter for the government. Amid this Schrödinger’s election, parties must select candidates, prepare campaigns and tee up activists, all in the knowledge it could be for nothing. On top of this, the Conservatives and Labour seem braced for something of a kicking. For Labour this could be a misplaced fear – a poll for the Open Europe think tank put the party on 37.8% of the vote. In contrast, the poll had the Conservatives at just 23%. But the situation is hugely unpredictable. European elections have long been a chance for UK voters to back smaller parties, not least as the PR system means they are rewarded. In the last poll, in 2014, Ukip won the most votes and got 24 MEPs. And if this election happens there will be more parties than ever hoping to capitalise, particularly on disgruntlement with Brexit. As well as a resurgent Ukip, Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party is busy recruiting candidates. – Guardian

  • Tories revolt against Theresa May as Britain prepares to hold elections for EU parliament – iNews

Philip Hammond suggests MPs could revoke Article 50 to prevent no deal sinking the value of pound

Philip Hammond suggests MPs could revoke Article 50 to prevent no deal sinking the value of pound. Philip Hammond raised the prospect that MPs will revoke Article 50 this week rather than allow Britain to leave without a deal if Brexit talks collapse. The Chancellor warned on Tuesday that the value of the pound could fall significantly if Theresa May fails to reach agreement on a Brexit delay with Brussels. He suggested that the impact of uncertainty on the markets could encourage MPs to vote to reverse Brexit by revoking Article 50. David Lidington, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, is said to have warned that the Government would no longer be in control and that Parliament and the Speaker would determine how to proceed. Mr Hammond and Mr Lidington made the comments during a meeting on Tuesday morning in which ministers including Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, James Cleverly and Chris Grayling “war-gamed” a series of scenarios for this week. Mr Hammond, the Chancellor, and Mr Gove, the Environment Secretary, both raised the prospect that MPs will vote to revoke Article 50 rather than accept no deal on April 12. – Telegraph (£)

Cabinet Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom demands a ‘proper Brexit’

Andrea Leadsom defied Theresa May and signalled a new Brexiteer revolt today as she urged the Prime Minister to use a trip to Berlin to demand a ‘proper Brexit’. The Commons Leader said Mrs May should tell Angela Merkel to make the EU re-write the Brexit divorce deal and tear up the Irish border backstop. Following the first hammering of her deal, Mrs May asked the EU to reopen the deal to change the backstop – a provision designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland even if UK-EU trade talks fail – and was rebuffed. Mrs Merkel herself has repeatedly said the deal, negotiated over the past two years, cannot be renegotiated. But Mrs Leadsom went rogue today and insisted she had heard ‘rumours’ the German government might finally be prepared to budge at the 11th hour. Downing Street dismissed the plea as Mrs May’s spokesman said the PM ‘set out in her statement to Parliament last week that the EU has repeatedly said it cannot and will not reopen the withdrawal agreement’. – MailOnline

> WATCH: Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom on Sky News

Liam Fox tells Tory MPs that Customs Union would be ‘worst of both worlds’ in leaked letter

Liam Fox has told Tory MPs that a Customs Union is the “worst of both worlds” and will leave Britain unable to set its own trade policy in a leaked letter obtained by The Telegraph.  The International Trade Secretary said that the UK will itself be “traded” by the European Union as it sells access to British markets as part of future deals after Brexit. His comments, in a four-page letter to the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, come as the Prime Minister is in negotiations with Labour over a new deal that could include membership of a customs union after Brexit. The strength of his intervention suggests that Dr Fox would be unwilling to stay in Cabinet if the Prime Minister was to pursue a customs union with the EU. In the letter he said: “We would be stuck in the worst of both Worlds, not only unable to set our own international trade policy but subject, without representation, to the policy of an entity over which MPs would have no democractic control. “This is something that Labour do not presently seem to understand. As I said at the meeting, in such a scenario the UK would have a new role in the global trading system.”We would ourselves be traded. As the famous saying in Brussels goes, if you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” – Telegraph (£)

  • Fox tells Tory MPs customs union would be ‘worst of both worlds’ – Guardian

DUP says PM’s ‘pleading is humiliating’

It is painful to watch the prime minister “pleading” with EU leaders to grant another extension to the Brexit date, Arlene Foster has said. The DUP leader told the BBC she found it “humiliating that we are having to go and beg so that we can leave”. On Wednesday, a special EU summit will take place as leaders consider Theresa May’s request. The UK is still scheduled to leave the EU on 12 April, unless a delay is agreed. The prime minister met Angela Merkel in Berlin, and will meet Emmanuel Macron in Paris, as she urges both to back her request to delay Brexit again until 30 June. After the talks, Ms Merkel said a delay that runs to the end of the year or the start of 2020 was a possibility. But Mrs Foster criticised the Prime Minister saying she “needed to be strong, she needed to show leadership, and I’m sorry to say that hasn’t been evident in this past couple of months”. – BBC News

  • DUP savages Theresa May over ‘begging’ meetings with Macron and Merkel – Express
  • Sidelined DUP accuses May of ‘humiliating’ UK with Brexit delay talks – Belfast Telegraph

> WATCH: DUP Leader Arlene Foster on BBC News

Tory MP dares Theresa May to sack him from government role over support for second Brexit referendum

A Government aide to Philip Hammond said he is willing to risk losing his job in order to address a People’s Vote rally as he said it would be “nonsensical” for him to be sacked for speaking his mind. Huw Merriman, a Tory MP and parliamentary private secretary to the Chancellor, said he supported a second referendum because he believes it is the only way to deliver Brexit. Mr Merriman voted in favour of holding a second referendum when MPs held indicative votes on different Brexit options and he said it would be the “politics of the mad house” if he was fired for explaining that decision. Whips had made it clear to him that he would be sacked or forced to resign if he went ahead with his plan to address a second referendum meeting on Tuesday, he said. Mr Merriman said he expected to be “pelted by tomatoes” at the meeting because he would be arguing in favour of Theresa May’s Brexit deal and a referendum ballot paper which pitched that agreement against revoking Article 50. He said: “I am going to speak and I think it is really important to explain the way I voted last week. “But also I think it is important to explain to that rally that they don’t just speak for people who want to Remain, they need to speak for people that actually want the Prime Minister’s deal through and to leave the EU which is what I support.” – Telegraph (£)

PM will be out next month when Tories suffer a council elections bloodbath, MPs warn

Theresa May will be out next month when the Tories suffer a council elections bloodbath, Cabinet Ministers believe. One told The Sun a disastrous showing would almost certainly be the “tipping point” as it would prove how toxic the PM now is for the party. “It’s clear to people now that the party’s not the problem – she’s the problem”, they said. It came as senior MPs lined up to slate Mrs May for “humiliating” the Conservative Party. Separately grassroots Conservative associations were circulating a no confidence motion – panning the PM’s decision to “sup with the devil” and talk with Jeremy Corbyn. And the Tory grassroots website Conservative Home stormed: “The Cabinet must tell May to go”. Nigel Evans, a member of the 1922 Committee, accused the Prime Minister of “defrauding” Leave voters by opening the door to Labour for talks on a soft Brexit. And he compared her to Japanese Emperor Hirohito for the ‘kamikaze’ decision to agree to European Elections “because we know what the result is going to be”. – The Sun

Britain split down the middle over preference for no deal or no Brexit, Telegraph poll reveals

Britons are split down the middle on whether the UK should leave the European Union without a deal – or scrap Brexit altogether, according to new poll for The Telegraph. The study by ComRes found that 38 per cent of Britons back leaving the EU this Friday without a trade deal, while 40 per cent backed revoking Article 50 and remaining in the EU. A similar proportion thought that a nationwide referendum between Theresa May’s deal and remaining in the EU (38 per cent) and a second nationwide referendum between Remain and Leave (39 per cent) was “very or somewhat acceptable”. The EU has given the UK until Friday to make progress on a withdrawal agreement or leave without a deal. ComRes said the findings “reflect the impasse the Government and Parliament finds itself” in as the Prime Minister continues to hold cross-party talks with Labour. Andrew Hawkins, ComRes chairman said: “Given that four dramatically different possible Brexit outcomes are all equally acceptable to voters, Theresa May has a clear choice. “Most of her own voters either want to leave the EU with No Deal this Friday or would grudgingly accept her own deal. “If she opts for any of the alternatives, which she appears to be heading towards, it will result in an outcome which is regarded as unacceptable by at least seven in ten 2017 Conservative voters. – Telegraph (£)

Shanker Singham: There is still time to change tack and secure a better deal from the EU

As EU luminaries lament the fractured, disorderly state of British politics, and urge that we decide what kind of Brexit we want, it should be remembered that there is already a majority in the House of Commons for a substantive solution which takes us into phase 2 of negotiations. This is the Brady amendment which provides that there should be legally binding alternative arrangements to the Irish backstop. Although the PM’s withdrawal agreement was voted down as expected on December 12, the Brady amendment’s proposals were merged with the Malthouse Compromise, which brought warring factions of the Conservative Party together. Brady passed – largely because of progress in this area, and also because of commitments the government made about how phase 2 of the negotiations would be conducted with a new team and a new approach. The Prime Minister agreed to look seriously at the Malthouse Compromise, and extensive meetings were held in the Cabinet Office. Frustratingly, for those MPs who were able to reach some consensus, these proposals were never put seriously to the EU. It is time now to recognise and take advantage of the only majority in the House of Commons – even after our MPs sat through multiple indicative votes. The EU cannot say that Parliament is not for anything. It is for the current Withdrawal Agreement with the Brady Amendment changes to the backstop. – Shaker Singham for the Telegraph (£)

Patrick O’Flynn: As an MEP, I accepted that voters wanted rid of us. The idea we could be back for another term is shocking

Have you heard about the country where the prime minister has awarded herself the power to call an election out of the blue and then cancel it midway through the campaign? Undoubtedly you have. After all, it’s the same country that promised its people it would implement whatever they decided about absorption into a supra-national bloc in a “once-in-a-generation” vote and yet is now busily ripping up that pledge. I’m hardly being cryptic here, am I? But it still grieves me to note that the country in question is the United Kingdom. The way we are headed, African dictators will soon be dispatching election observers to our shores to confirm our processes meet their own benchmarks for “free and fair”. Which, alas, increasingly they do. When Theresa May’s latest begging letter to the EU’s Donald Tusk was published last Friday, it committed to firing the starting gun on UK elections to the European Parliament but also contained the astonishing notion that she could “cancel the European elections” once they were under way. That remarkable approach was confirmed in the Commons on Monday. The idea that it would be unfair to expect opposition parties to invest money and resources at the last moment on an election they had been assured was not going to happen while facing the prospect of the plug being pulled by a rival participant before polling day, did not appear to have occurred to Mrs May. – Patrick O’Flynn MEP for the Telegraph (£)

John Longworth: MPs should take heart from the public’s view of no-deal and swing behind it

To my mind, the most remarkable finding of the Telegraph’s latest poll on Brexit outcomes is the support that leaving with no deal on Friday has garnered. That 38 per cent of people  think of it as an acceptable outcome is astonishing given they do so in the face of the extreme prejudice of the UK and EU political and business establishment against no-deal. This has only been reinforced by the relentless bias of much of the broadcast media with its negative lexicon of “crashing out” and “cliff edge”. That level of support is broadly similar to the number of people who think cancelling Brexit (40 per cent) or various formations for a second referendum (38 to 39 per cent) would be acceptable outcomes. In other polls the relative strength of support for no deal has been even higher. With levels of support for various options so tight, it would be wrong to argue that the British public is now so disaffected that MPs can grant themselves licence to turn their backs on the largest democratic exercise in this country’s history. The EU referendum held in 2016 remains the only opinion poll that really matters, and regular people up and down the country knew what they were voting for. – John Longworth for the Telegraph (£)

Asa bennett: A long Brexit delay could end with EU leaders playing no-deal chicken with a Brexiteer PM

European leaders are waiting to hear Theresa May’s case for another Article 50 extension, but that has not stopped Brexiteers from sticking their oars in. Andrea Leadsom has declared that it would be “fantastic” for the Prime Minister to also secure Angela Merkel’s support for reopening the Withdrawal Agreement to improve the backstop. But Michel Barnier, the German Government and Downing Street have made clear it would only be fantastic in the sense that it is not going to happen. Meanwhile, Jacob Rees-Mogg has been arguing over the last few days that the United Kingdom should use any long Brexit delay to begin a diplomatic dirty protest. “We should be as difficult as possible”, the European Research Group chairman tweeted last week, suggesting that the UK should “block Mr Macron’s integrationist schemes” as part of the many initiatives in the bloc it would target. That specific threat ensured the French President would be on guard, and his curt insistence shortly after that the case for a long extension was “not evident or automatic” showed it succeeded. But the ERG chairman was not cowed by this response, responding on Twitter by arguing that “the Prime Minister’s promises have not invariably proved reliable and there has been little sincerity from the EU”. In effect, he was warning EU leaders that a like-minded Brexiteer would do all they could as prime minister to disrupt the bloc. Such rhetoric has succeeded in encouraging the leaders of the EU’s remaining 27 member states to find new ways to limit the UK’s ability to kick up a stink. A memo seen by BuzzFeed suggests they are considering obliging the UK to follow an “enhanced” duty of sincere cooperation during a further extension, which it could end if both sides agree that the UK is failing to behave. Agreeing to a long extension under such terms will pave the way for a high-stakes game of Brexit chicken as soon as a Brexiteer takes over from Mrs May. – Asa bennett for the Telegraph (£)

Freddie Jordan: Barnier is tired and out of ideas. The EU can break the deadlock with a new negotiator

Brexit fatigue is behind us. I would suggest that we are now closer to Brexit multiple organ failure. So whenever I feel myself and others slipping into a coma of disinterest when the words ‘backstop’ or ‘managed no deal’ creep insidiously into the most unlikely conversations, I spare a thought for those who have unwillingly been at the centre of this process for years – and may continue to be for many more to come. I’m not talking about Theresa May. Whilst the Prime Minister will no doubt snap into a frenzied trance of PTSD in ten years time when an ‘extension’ is sought for the conservatory or a re-run of ‘Deal or No Deal’ bursts onto the screen, she has clung like an offensive barnacle to her office and deserves to be tired of it. No – I actually mean the stony, Easter Island-faced troop of top EU bureaucrats who currently boast the greatest risk of falling into a Brexit Early Grave. Make no mistake – Mr Juncker, Mr Tusk and Mr Barnier have consistently behaved ruthlessly, vindictively and unimaginatively. And their knee-jerk intransigence over the Irish backstop is just infantile. “You voted for Brexit” they whine. “To us, that demands the irreversible breakup of your nation. You knew that, right?” And the solution to their toxicity bizarrely lies with Brexit Secretary 3.0 Steven Barclay, who fell into his position only a few months ago and appears to be the only one in Westminster still offering cheery smiles and a chirpy demeanour, albeit until he opens his mouth and an unstoppable tide of prevaricating, dreary nonsense spills out. But when I see the energy and good nature that the fresh-faced Barclay brings to his impossible and thankless role, it throws the malice with which the EU bigwigs are conducting themselves into even sharper relief. And it finally makes sense. The EU negotiating team must be replaced – Freddie Jordan for the Telegraph (£)

Chris Moncrieff: Does the Theresa and Jeremy show hold key to a successful Brexit?

Is that unruly mob at Westminster – there is no other way to describe them – at last coming to their senses, or is that too much to hope for? The Conservative/Labour talks on Brexit seem to have achieved at least a faint glimmer of shaky consensus. The trouble is that the forces on both sides of the Commons – and now in the House of Lords as well – seem hell-bent on frustrating anything which looks like achieving a satisfactory Brexit. This so-called “elite” appear to think that their views are more important than those of the winners of the referendum who voted to leave the EU. What right have these we-know-best, self-regarding individuals to dishonour the pledge that parliament gave that it would support the outcome of that referendum? They claim that the situation has changed beyond recognition since that poll nearly three years ago. Well, of course it has, because of the delaying and obstructive tactics they have employed – on both sides of the argument. And, whatever you think about Theresa May, she is at least, to her immense credit in the face of tremendous odds, trying to honour that pledge that parliament gave (even though she voted Remain). We must live in hope, however slender that is, that the Recalcitrant Ones will eventually also agree to honour that undertaking. – Chris Moncrieff for the Belfast Telegraph

Martin Howe: Ignore the spin and bluster: the Cooper-Letwin Bill changes very little

Two things are being said by the media about the Cooper-Letwin Bill, which has now become the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019. First that it has ruled out no-deal; and secondly that this Act has been imposed on an unwilling government by a Remainer-dominated Parliament. Neither of these things are true. Assuming that the government’s motion in the Commons under the Act is carried today with the date of 30 June unchanged, the Act will merely oblige the Prime Minister to do what she wanted to do anyway. In fact she has already done it in her letter to Tusk last Friday, which asks for an Article 50 extension until 30 June. Having asked for that extension, the new Act imposes no further duty on her. In particular, it imposes no duty on her whatsoever to agree on behalf of the United Kingdom to an extension to a different date. Or to an extension which is subject to conditions, if that is what the European Council offers her tomorrow in their alarm at the thought of what a less servile replacement Prime Minister could do with the UK’s vote and veto during an extension period. So, she has it in her power to walk away from the table in Brussels tomorrow, and thereby fulfill the pledges to deliver Brexit she gave to hear Party when she stood to be leader, and her pledges to the country in her 2017 General Election manifesto. If she does this, we will automatically leave the European Union at 11pm on Friday and will regain immediately full control of our laws, borders and money. We will take back full control of our affairs, without the need for the permission of the European Union. Will she do this? Regrettably her recent behaviour – particularly claiming to have “no choice” but to enter into talks with Labour – indicates that her numerous past protestations that “no deal is better than a bad deal” were insincere and uttered with no intention of following through on them. – Martin Howe QC for the Telegraph (£)

Philip Johnston: The ‘deep state’ was never going to allow a no-deal Brexit to happen

People often ask who is advising Mrs May, especially since her two trusted political aides Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill resigned after the 2017 election debacle. The answer, as it is for any prime minister, is the Cabinet Secretary and the panoply of senior civil servants from across Whitehall who report to him. The more isolated politically a prime minister is, the greater the influence of the officials. Some prime ministers are more beholden than others to their advice. Here, then, is a prime minister unable to get her Brexit policy through Parliament, being advised that leaving the EU without a deal would be calamitous for the nation. This counsel, moreover, is not coming from the Opposition, or Remainer MPs, or the CBI or the media. It is coming from her own officials, the people she sees every day of the week and on whose judgment she must rely if the mechanisms of governance are not to break down. What does a prime minister do when her principal aide advises in terms that a no-deal Brexit will harm relations with the UK’s European neighbours, damage the country’s security, push up food prices, risk popular unrest, and require the reintroduction of direct rule over Northern Ireland? The truth is that Mrs May never intended to take the UK out with no deal. It was always a phoney threat. She never meant no deal was better than a bad deal for the simple reason that she considered no deal to be a bad deal. It does not matter whether you believe Sir Mark’s dire predictions or dismiss them as a reprise of Project Fear activated during the referendum campaign. If you are the Prime Minister you can hardly take no notice and recklessly plough on with all the consequences that no deal would entail. That was what Mrs May concluded. – Philip Johnston for the Telegraph (£)

Brexit in Brief

  • I will fight to be MEP, says Stanley Johnson – Telegraph (£)
  • Anger at Theresa May will cost the Tories dear at local polls as Brexit has political activists in despair – Mark Wallace for The Sun
  • Don’t boycott your ballot in these farcical European elections – spoil it! – Allison Pearson for the Telegraph (£)
  • ERG members are putting Brexit in jeopardy, I had no choice but to quit – Daniel Kawczynski MP for the Telegraph (£)
  • Nigel Farage says his new Brexit Party will unleash political revolution and terrify Tories at the European Elections –  The Sun
  • In their own words, how MPs swore to honour the referendum result and then U-turned – Daily Mail
  • The practicalities of fighting a Euro election look no more appealing than the principle of holding one – Mark Wallace for ConservativeHome