Theresa May’s Brexit deal faces a possible record Commons drubbing next week: Brexit News for Friday 11 January

Theresa May’s Brexit deal faces a possible record Commons drubbing next week: Brexit News for Friday 11 January
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Theresa May’s Brexit deal faces a possible record Commons drubbing next week…

Cabinet ministers broke ranks to call for a softer Brexit deal yesterday as Theresa May headed for an ever-bigger record defeat. The PM is on course for an eye-watering defeat by a majority of 228 during the meaningful vote on Tuesday, research by the BBC found. In a huge blow to No10, it emerged that 19 more MPs have come out to oppose her EU agreement since she delayed a vote on it in December, fearing a catastrophic drubbing. Judging by their public comments so far, a total of 433 MPs will still vote against it – including 111 Tories – and just 206 will back it. It came as Theresa May called Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest union donor – Unite’s Len McCluskey – as part of a new charm offensive to woo Labour backers to her deal. She also called GMB general secretary Tim Roache for the first time in three years as the Government signalled it would back an amendment by Labour MPs to protect workers’ rights. In one ray of hope for the PM, two Tory MPs revealed they had switched to supporting the PM, including her former policy chief George Freeman who said: “We’re playing with fire”. – The Sun

  • Theresa May heading for unprecedented defeat when Brexit deal comes before Parliament – Express

…as May calls on union chiefs in a bid to save her deal

Theresa May was appealing to Britain’s biggest unions last night in an attempt to win Labour support for her Brexit deal. The prime minister called Len McCluskey, the head of Unite, as she intensified her efforts to build support across party lines. The call was Mrs May’s first conversation with Mr McCluskey, who has been a vociferous critic of the prime minister and her government. She also telephoned Tim Roache, head of the GMB, after meeting a small group of Labour MPs in Westminster on Monday. The efforts to build cross-party support came after it was claimed that the prime minister could be heading for a defeat by more than 200 in Tuesday’s meaningful vote on her Brexit deal. Unite declined to comment officially, but did not contradict No 10’s claim that the call had been constructive. “Len’s a dealmaker. He would have approached the call with an open mind,” a source said. Mr Roache was less positive but stopped short of rejecting the overture outright. – The Times (£)

  • Theresa May calls union chiefs to seek support for deal – BBC News

Theresa May’s Brexit deal threatens national security, says the former head of MI6

The former head of MI6 has called on MPs to block the Prime Minister’s Brexit withdrawal agreement, warning it “threatens national security”. Sir Richard Dearlove joined forces with Lord Guthrie, the former chief of defence staff, to take the unprecedented step of writing to Conservative Association chairmen. They described Theresa May’s deal as a “bad agreement” and accused the EU of demanding a £39billion “ransom”. The letter states: “Your MP will shortly be called upon to support the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement. As a former chief of the secret intelligence service, with my colleague Lord Guthrie, who served as chief of the defence staff shortly before I was in charge of MI6, we are taking the unprecedented step of writing to all Conservative Party Chairmen to advise and to warn you that this withdrawal agreement, if not defeated, will threaten the national security of the country in fundamental ways. Please ensure that your MP does not vote for this bad agreement.” – Telegraph (£)

  • Theresa May’s Brexit deal will ‘threaten national security’, warns former MI6 chief – Independent

Cabinet row over ‘no deal’ made public as ministers contradict each other

Two of Theresa May’s top ministers have contradicted each other over the likely impact of a “no-deal” Brexit, as tensions over the possibility of leaving the EU without an agreement broke into the open. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson told Sky News that Britain would “succeed regardless” of how the UK leaves the EU. His comments were in stark contrast to Business Secretary Greg Clark, who said in an interview with Sky News Sunrise that leaving without a deal would cause “incalculable damage” to British industry. The comments came as MPs continued to debate the prime minister’s Brexit deal in the House of Commons ahead of a vote on her agreement next Tuesday. A defeat would ratchet up the chances of Britain leaving without a deal on 29 March, the day the UK officially leaves the EU. The government’s position is that it is confident of avoiding this, but is prudent to prepare for such a scenario just in case. Theresa May has warned MPs the only way to avoid a no-deal Brexit is to support a deal, with hers the only deal on the table. – Sky News

Northern Ireland’s DUP holds fast against May’s Brexit deal

If Theresa May’s Brexit deal is to be saved, people like Ross Reed, who runs a storage company in Northern Ireland, could play a vital role. Mr Reed was a close friend for 40 years of the late Ian Paisley, the founder of the Democratic Unionist party, a preacher who made his name over decades of conflict as the opponent of compromise. But at a time when Northern Ireland’s politicians hold sway over the fate of Mrs May’s draft agreement to leave the EU, Mr Reed thinks the time of compromise has arrived. “The agreement that’s on the table is not perfect but would any agreement be perfect?” he said, arguing that no one has come up with a viable alternative to Mrs May’s treaty. Mrs May’s hope is that such arguments from Northern Irish business people will help win round her nominal allies in the DUP, which provided her with a majority in Westminster, as she tries to beat the odds and win House of Commons backing for her deal. Her problem is that at present the business case against a no-deal Brexit shows little sign of changing the DUP’s minds — or those of its supporters. – FT (£)

Theresa May should turn her back on the DUP and work with Labour to deliver Brexit, says Nicky Morgan

Theresa May should stop trying to win over hardline anti-EU MPs from the Democratic Unionist Party and Conservative Party and do a deal with Labour to deliver Brexit, Nicky Morgan says today. Ms Morgan, a former Tory Cabinet minister and current chairman of the Treasury select committee, tells today’s Chopper’s Brexit Podcast: “The Prime Minister will have to decide – and some of us have been urging her for months – she either carries on trying to win over the DUP and some of the hardest Brexiteers in the Conservative party, or she builds a cross party consensus.” Ms Morgan says that she would like Mrs May to move towards a Norway-plus deal – which would not stop freedom of movement – but adds “we will see”. She says: “Brexit should be a non-party political issue. … At the end of the day if we want to deliver this and get the right result for the country then it should be a cross party effort. – Telegraph (£)

Jeremy Corbyn concedes Brexit may have to be delayed if Labour managed to force a general election…

Jeremy Corbyn has conceded that Labour could delay Brexit if it forced a snap election, acknowledging for the first time that an extension of Article 50 is now a “possibility”. Speaking in Wakefield, a strong Leave constituency, the Labour leader yesterday stressed that his priority was securing a general election, which he argued would provide the party with a “renewed mandate” to deliver Brexit. To the anger of Remain-supporting Labour MPs, he scotched suggestions that he is preparing to throw his weight behind a second referendum, describing it as just one of several options available to him if a snap election cannot be achieved. Mr Corbyn also insisted that there were “no splits” in the shadow cabinet on how to proceed with Brexit, and insisted that he and his shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, were united on the issue. He said that Sir Keir’s suggestion that extending Article 50 may be “inevitable” had simply highlighted the “practicalities of negotiating”, adding: “Quite clearly, moving into office at a period right up against the clock, there would need to be time for that negotiation.” Later, when asked to explain how Labour could hold a general election and renegotiate the Brexit deal with Brussels in just three months, a senior source said there were ways to achieve both before 29 March but did not expand further. – Telegraph (£)

> WATCH: Jeremy Corbyn’s speech in Wakefield yesterday

…as Michael Gove brands Labour’s Brexit policy ‘b*****ks’ in Parliament…

The ruling came after Michael Gove lampooned a Labour frontbencher during a debate on the Brexit deal. Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner was previously overheard describing his party’s unclear policy on Brexit as “b****ks”. Picking up on the gaffe, the Tory Environment Secretary told the Commons: “We now know from Labour’s own front bench that their official position is ‘b****ks’. The Shadow International Trade Secretary speaks the truth with perfect clarity.” To reels of laughter, Mr Gove added: “We’re grateful to the Constant Gardiner for the way in which he has cast light on the testicular nature of Labour’s position”. Lib Dem MP Sir Ed Davey then called on Speaker John Bercow to rule on whether it was appropriate for the swear word to be used in the chamber. Mr Bercow said: “There was nothing disorderly about the use of the word. I think it is simply a matter of taste”. – The Sun

  • Michael Gove brands Labour’s Brexit plans ‘b*****ks’ in Commons attack – Independent

> On BrexitCentral today: Other highlights from yesterday’s debate

…and Labour MPs face a backlash over secret Brexit talks with government

Labour MPs who discussed backing Theresa May’s Brexit deal in return for safeguards on workers’ rights faced a furious backlash today. Supporters of a second referendum and allies of Jeremy Corbyn — normally at odds — combined to condemn the prime minister’s attempt to get the deal through on Labour votes. Mrs May signalled that she could back changes to her deal suggested by John Mann in a meeting with him and a handful of other Labour MPs yesterday, as revealed by The Times. Greg Clark, the business secretary, continued the wooing today, calling on MPs from opposition parties to work together to prevent the “disaster” of a no-deal Brexit. “If we have a guarantee that works on workers’ rights and conditions, that’s significant,” the business secretary told the Daily Mirror. Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secretary and a close ally of Mr Corbyn, moved to shut down the emerging signs of cooperation. “When it comes to the crunch I don’t trust the Conservatives on workers’ rights,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Even the noises that are being made in the press by the Conservatives don’t mean any such agreement would be legally binding when it comes to protecting workers’ rights.” – The Times (£)

May demands explanation for Bercow’s decision to allow vote to give MPs more power…

Theresa May has called for John Bercow to fully “explain” why he broke with Commons rules to allow a vote that will give MPs a greater say over her Brexit strategy. The prime minister stepped into the bitter row surrounding the actions of the Commons speaker, saying: “I was surprised at that decision; it’s for the speaker to explain that decision.” The intervention came as the Japanese prime minister, speaking alongside Ms May warned: “The world is watching the UK as it exits the European Union.” Shinzo Abe said a no-deal Brexit must be avoided if Japan is to “invest more into your country and to enjoy further economic growth with the UK”. The comment was seized on by the anti-Brexit Best for Britain group. Labour MP Martin Whitfield said: “It is humiliating for the prime minister to be told to her face that the whole world wants to avoid a no-deal scenario, yet she still refuses to rule it out. – Independent

…while the Speaker is accused of taking a ‘kamikaze’ approach over Brexit as he prepares to step down this summer

John Bercow has been accused of taking a “kamikaze” approach to his role over Brexit because he is preparing to stand down. The Speaker ignored legal advice and parliamentary precedent to allow a vote that gives the Prime Minister just three days to present a “plan B” if her Brexit deal is voted down. One source said that Mr Bercow’s diary is empty from May, paving the way for him to leave after Brexit. “He is going out in a blaze of glory,” a source said. “It is kamikaze. He doesn’t care.” However James Duddridge, a Tory MP and prominent critic of John Bercow: “He has nothing else to go do. There will be a revolt against him going to the Lords. He loves the trappings of office. I can’t see him going.” Theresa May yesterday said she was “surprised” by Mr Bercow’s actions and said he should “explain” himself. She called for legal advice to be published. – Telegraph (£)

Shinzo Abe tells Theresa May the ‘whole World’ wants UK to avoid no-deal Brexit

The World does not want a no-deal Brexit, the Japanese Prime Minister said as he gave his “total support” to Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement. Shinzo Abe warned that the “World is watching” during a joint press conference with Mrs May in Downing Street. It came as two Tory MPs, George Freeman and Trudy Harrison, revealed that they are switching sides to support her deal. There were also suggestions that Sir Edward Leigh, who was knighted shortly before Christmas, could now back the Prime Minister. However an analysis by the BBC suggested that opposition to Mrs May’s Brexit deal has hardened and she is poised to lose by 228 votes – the biggest Commons defeat on record. The record currently stands at 166 under Ramsay MacDonald’s minority administration in 1924. It came as a series of ministers issued stark warnings over a no-deal Brexit. Greg Clark, the pro-European Business Secretary, said that a no-deal Brexit would be a “disaster” that would cause “incalculable damage”. However Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, publicly contradicted Mr Clark. Asked if he agreed with the Business Secretary, he replied: “Not at all. Britain has always been a nation that will always achieve and will always deliver. We can be optimistic and confident. Whatever is our future, Britain will succeed and do incredibly well.” – Telegraph (£)

  • Japan’s Abe says whole world wants UK to avoid no-deal Brexit – FT (£)

Ex-Brexit minister to put pressure on May with new deal proposal

A leading Brexiter MP is planning to publish a blueprint explaining how Theresa May should employ tough negotiating tactics with the European Union. Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister, is collecting support for a suggested written ministerial statement for the government, which its backers believe would be a pathway to better withdrawal terms and an independent trade policy. It comes amid Tory expectations of a Commons defeat for May’s withdrawal deal in the vote on Tuesday. Another former minister told the Guardian that serving ministers could stand down to vote against the deal. Baker, a leading figure in the backbench European Research Group (ERG), said he is drawing up specific suggestions to force the EU to come to the table. “I’m very clear what should be done. I’m clear that we can write down the right way forward and I am as confident as I can be that the right plan could rescue the negotiations for the country, the government, the Conservative party and the EU. Of course, in the usual way we will make constructive suggestions for the right way forward,” he said. Baker declined to offer further details on his plans. – Guardian

Tory chief whip Julian Smith clashes with No 10 on Brexit debate

The government’s chief whip contradicted Downing Street today after it suggested that MPs would only be given 90 minutes to debate a plan B for Brexit. No 10 said this morning that under a rebel amendment forced on the government yesterday ministers would not be obliged to grant MPs a full debate on an alternative to Theresa May’s deal. But after furious MPs criticised the time limit Julian Smith, the Tory chief whip, said that “no decision” had been made on the format of the debate. In response to a point of order in the Commons from Yvette Cooper, Mr Smith said: “The government will do everything it can to ensure that the House is fully consulted in every eventuality next week, and the information that she has is not correct.” Downing Street said earlier that there would “only be 90 minutes of debate on the motion” and that “only one amendment could be selected”. John Bercow, the Speaker, said that under parliamentary procedures it was true to say debates under such standing orders had to be concluded in 90 minutes, but added: “However it’s also true to say that such provision is often disapplied by an order of the House.” – The Times (£)

Quit day job and plan for no‑deal, thousands of civil servants told

Up to 4,000 civil servants are being asked to abandon their day jobs to work on no-deal Brexit preparations under plans being rolled out across Whitehall. Officials in education, justice and welfare are among staff in five government departments being asked to take up new roles within weeks, The Times has learnt. None will be replaced and the secondments are expected to last at least six months. Whitehall sources said ministers were being told to reduce demands on their departments. Jonathan Slater, permanent secretary at the education department, told staff yesterday that the priority was ensuring that “key services continue to operate” but other areas of the department’s work are likely to be mothballed. “Please, if you feel able, put yourselves forward to help the civil service with the vital work that needs to be done now to minimise the consequences of a no-deal exit,” he said, adding that he was “in discussion” with Damian Hinds, the education secretary, about “what this could mean for our work”. – The Times (£)

Chris Grayling faces fresh humiliation as Eurotunnel say his £103million Brexit contracts with ferry firms breach state aid rules

Chris Grayling faced fresh humiliation yesterday after Eurotunnel said his £103 million Brexit contracts with ferry firms broke state aid rules. And the Le Shuttle operator said the deals were also a “unilateral breach” of Britain’s concession agreement with the firm. In a leaked letter, Eurotunnel chief Jacques Gounon storms: “It is with serious concern that we have read details of agreements between HMG and certain ferry operators. I must bring to your attention the distortionary and anti-competitive effects of such an action.” He separately revealed the Department for Transport had been in talks with the business about “running additional rail freight trains”. The Sun revealed on Wednesday that the DfT had been in negotiations with foreign-owned freight firms DB Cargo and GB Railfreight about running extra services at night to relieve pressure on Dover. – The Sun

City of London Corporation votes against second Brexit vote

City of London Corporation councillors have voted overwhelmingly against supporting a second referendum on Brexit, as the House of Commons wrangles over how to proceed in the likely event it votes against the Prime Minister’s deal next week. The court of common council, the Square Mile’s historic legislative body, today debated a motion by councillor Sir Mark Boleat on whether it should “support the holding of a referendum on the terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union with the electorate being given a choice that includes remaining in the European Union.” In a debate that ran over the usual time limit, 31 councillors voted in favour of the motion and 60 against. Chair of the policy and resources committee Catherine McGuinness said that while she was “concerned as any member of this court at the sorry state of Brexit preparations”, the Corporation had not received any direction from business or trade associations to advocate for a second referendum. She said the Corporation enjoyed a “special voice” in the City because it spoke “on the basis of pragmatism, not politics”. – City A.M.

Fraser Nelson: Mrs May is tormenting Tory MPs with doses of Corbynism because she knows no deal is getting more likely

Brexit was a profound psychological shock for most MPs but for some reason, the grieving process seems to be happening in reverse. Normally, denial comes first – then anger, bargaining, depression and (finally) acceptance. This time, the referendum result met immediate acceptance from all sides, after which depression quickly followed. Then came bargaining with the European Union. This ended in anger, with Cabinet resignations and a botched attempt to depose the Prime Minister. The final stage is denial, which we have now entered. It looks as if it might last for some time. The denial – suffered by all parties – is over a simple fact. That two years ago, when MPs voted for Article 50, they also voted to leave the European Union without a deal on March 29. And unless a majority of MPs vote for an another plan, this is what will now happen. The noise and fuss from the Commons serves only to highlight the lack of a consensus behind any other idea. The Prime Minister is quite right to say it’s her deal, or no deal and the latter now looks more likely. – Fraser Nelson for the Telegraph (£)

Owen Paterson: The EU’s crowing about Mrs May’s Brexit deal shows why my fellow MPs must reject it

It is not often that Donald Trump and the EU Commission’s Secretary General, Martin Selmayr, agree. But on the Withdrawal Agreement, they are as one. It looked “like a great deal for the EU” to Trump, and Selmayr confirmed to the Passauer Neue Presse in December that the EU had “negotiated hard and achieved their aims.” As my colleague Greg Hands has pointed out, Selmayr went even further. “This exit from the EU,” he said, “doesn’t work” for the UK. These statements mirror Selmayr’s and his colleagues’ previous boasts that “losing Northern Ireland was the price the UK would pay” and that the UK “would have to swallow a link between access to products and fisheries in future agreements.” This arrogant bragging is unsurprising to those long sceptical about the EU’s intentions, but it is still shocking. It is certainly a long way from the commitment – enshrined in Article 8 of the Treaty on European Union – to “develop a special relationship with neighbouring countries, aiming to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness…characterised by close and peaceful relations based on cooperation.” – Owen Paterson for the Telegraph (£)

Sir Richard Dearlove: If the Withdrawal Agreement is passed it will present a grave threat to our national security

At this late stage in the Brexit debate, it has become dominated by discussions of the economic risks of leaving the EU to trade on WTO terms, the behaviour of Westminster protesters and the antics of the Speaker. In the midst of this, we are losing sight of a far greater issue: the very real risks to our national security were Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement to be agreed by Parliament. Her deal – which the Government still maintains amounts to “taking back control” – would in reality erode our ability to take charge of our own affairs while putting at risk our place at the heart of Nato and the functioning of the vital Five Eyes information sharing alliance (made up of the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). Given that the first duty of the state is the defence of its citizens, this is a grave matter indeed. So grave, in fact, that alongside my colleague Field Marshal Lord Guthrie, a former chief of the defence staff, I have taken the step of writing to the chairman of every Conservative association in the country, asking them to help persuade their MP to vote down Mrs May’s deal when it is finally put to the House of Commons. – Sir Richard Dearlove for the Telegraph (£)

Robert Peston: For Theresa May, to lose is to choose

One of the big reasons Brexiteer Tories don’t want the UK in the Northern Ireland backstop is that they fear the UK out of the EU but in the backstop would continue to be a rule taker from Brussels till we all die. And one of the reasons Labour Brexiteers have struggled to support the Prime Minister’s version of Brexit is that they are not confident a future British government would continue to adopt the high employment and environmental protections that the EU has championed. To use the emotive language of Boris Johnson, Tory Brexiteers want no Brussels vassalage (or the absolute bare minimum) and Labour Brexiteers want some vassalage. So perhaps the best measure of the PM’s desperation to win the vote on her deal is that she is trying to appease both sides: she is supporting the Swire amendment to her “meaningful vote” motion on her Brexit plan which would supposedly help to get the UK out of the backstop after a year, and considering support for the Mann amendment that would see the UK following EU employment and environmental standards in perpetuity (and even adopting revised EU standards after Brexit). – Robert Peston for ITV News

Ben Houchen: Free Ports would allow Brexit to boost the most deprived regions of the UK

Life after Brexit means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To the academic Brexiteer it could be the sunlit uplands of Free Trade and Free Speech, while to the arch-Remainer it means a nightmarish hellscape of disorder and scarcity. But to Britons who voted both leave and remain, life after Brexit should mean change. Real, visible, demonstrable change. Whether we leave with no deal or the EU’s proposed deal, the onus is on the nation’s politicians to make life after we leave both visibly different and better than before. The threat to our democracy if we coast along, or worse, ignore the will of the people, is real. Putting blue passports and other changes to international travel aside, making ‘Brexit’ feel like ‘Brexit’ means delivering the promises of the referendum. To Conservatives this means – or it certainly should mean – more freedom for individuals in the immediate term, while looking at how we create a better world for future generations, and do justice to those who came before us. In short, those of us who believe in both Britain and Brexit need to protect the vision that was sold to voters when we won the referendum in 2016 – taking back control. We need to clearly demonstrate that politicians have listened, learned and will think and act differently to before. This can be achieved in a number of ways. – Ben Houchen for ConservativeHome

Tom Harris: Trying to rejoin the EU after 29th March would be a waste of Labour’s time, no matter how passionately MPs may feel

On Twitter earlier today I posed what I considered to be an interesting question: assuming we leave the EU on March 29 (or even a slightly later date), will Labour MPs press their leadership to include a commitment in its next general election manifesto to negotiate re-entry? The query gets to the heart of the latest (but by no means the biggest) schism between Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the great majority of his parliamentary party. Corbyn, a lifelong Eurosceptic, leads a party which, at least over the last 30 years, has been devoutly pro-EU, to the point where most of them are campaigning against the commitment in the party’s 2017 manifesto (on which they were all elected) to honour the result of the 2016 referendum. Most of these MPs are desperate to avoid leaving the EU under any circumstances and have been pressing the leadership to get behind a second referendum that Remainers hope will overturn the 2016 result. Corbyn, to their chagrin and anger, has so far refused to do so. And in a speech earlier today he repeated the line he’s been sticking to for some time: better to have a general election, after which he and his ministers can go back to Brussels, not to revoke Article 50, but to negotiate a “jobs first” Brexit. – Telegraph (£)

Quentin Letts: British politics is an open, sloshing bucket of petrol and blatant Bercow could be the spark that ignites it

On the television news they sometimes report punch-ups in foreign parliaments – distant places such as Thailand and the Ukraine. It makes for terrific viewing, legislators whacking each other, biting, kicking and generally behaving worse than Tyson Fury in a mood. We laugh at such scenes, don’t we? We think ourselves superior, reckoning such mayhem could never occur in our House of Commons because, my dears, we’re British. We drink tea. We are far too ­civilised for such fisticuffs. After Tuesday’s extraordinary events at Westminster, when anger nearly boiled out of ­control, don’t count on it. Commons Speaker John ­Bercow, blatant as a bad ­shoplifter, bent the rules to help his mates who are trying to stop Brexit. Bercow ignored centuries of established procedure, over-rode his clerks and let hardline Remainer MP Dominic Grieve spring an amendment on an unamendable motion. I’ll spare you all the technicalities but it was like a judge, overseeing the trial of one of his golf club cronies, suddenly ­ripping up legal ­convention to give the defence a deadly advantage. – Quentin Letts for The Sun

Iain Martin: After Brexit, our politics needs an overhaul

A rare example of a welcome parliamentary innovation has been the decision to hire several skilled photographers to take pictures of the dramatic goings-on inside the Commons chamber. The Times carried one such image yesterday. It showed the preening Speaker, John Bercow, at the centre and MPs clustered around in the half-light during the latest Brexit dust-up. So striking was the image that it attracted considerable comment, comparing it to paintings from the Renaissance. The artist it immediately put me in mind of, though, was William Hogarth, the 18th-century English satirist whose prints chronicled the greed, incompetence and decay of the politics of his period in popular caricatures. The spectacle at disintegrating Westminster right now is horribly Hogarthian. Consider the antediluvian, orotund warblings of the Speaker, his self-satisfied tone suggesting a bullying headmaster from a bygone age. The party leaders are hopeless, perhaps the most hopeless in a century. Cabinet government and collective responsibility have disintegrated. The main parties are broken and appear to be on the verge of splitting up. – Iain Martin for The Times (£)

The Sun: Remainer MPs have systematically misled voters by pretending to honour the referendum result while plotting to destroy it

Remainer MPs clearly now have no intention of carrying out the majority’s Leave instructions, either from the ­referendum or from last year’s election when both the Tories and Labour stood on pro-Brexit platforms. If Corbyn gets the snap election he claims to want, what will be the point of either main party’s new manifesto? Who is mug enough to believe them? Remainer MPs have systematically misled voters, respecting the referendum only when they thought they would win it, then pretending to honour the result while plotting to destroy it. Thanks to their sickening sabotage, Government incompetence and a Commons Speaker gone rogue, Brexit is now fighting for its life. And they are cock-a-hoop, ready to reject Theresa May’s deal and enforce some even worse version, so absurdly soft as to be meaningless. It would be a near-perfect result for Remain diehards… a non-Brexit to suit the referendum’s losers while flicking a sneering, Geldof-style V-sign at the hapless 17.4million winners they despise. Don’t like it? Suck it up, as Remainer Anna Soubry would say. But Leavers won’t. It’s too late for that. A supersoft Brexit will solve nothing. – The Sun

Baroness Deech and others in a letter to the Guardian: Universities needn’t fear a no-deal Brexit

In their political intervention, the Russell Group and other university organisations are confusing the constitutionally damaging withdrawal agreement, which must be voted down, with the future partnership, which is yet to be agreed (Universities sector fears ‘biggest threat’ of no-deal exit, 4 January). British universities are the strongest and most attractive in Europe. With a clean sovereign Brexit, British universities get the best of both worlds. They escape the European commission’s shackles imposed through the withdrawal agreement and, like other successful third-party countries (Israel, Norway and Switzerland, for example), can participate in EU programmes like Horizon 2020 at will. Now is the moment to tell the EU that the UK will be a close partner in academic research in the same way as 15 non-EU nation states are at present and that the UK will pay its way, as we did before. This is a win-win situation which does not require the UK to surrender sovereignty or accept destructive conditions. – Guardian

Brexit in Brief

  • Labour’s pro-Europe MPs are risking a no-deal Brexit – Philip Collins for The Times (£)
  • Labour’s approach to Brexit – John Redwood’s Diary
  • What could change the dynamics of Brexit vote? – Laura Kuenssberg for BBC News
  • What Britain really thinks of the Brexit deal – the latest polling – Telegraph (£)
  • The number of Tory MPs who oppose the deal stands at 71. Two more against, two now for.  – ConservativeHome
  • The Tory MP leading the push for a Norway-style Brexit is facing a deselection battle – Buzzfeed
  • High-profile MEP claims Article 50 will be extended – Express