Dominic Raab resigns as Brexit Secretary: Brexit News for Friday 16th November

Dominic Raab resigns as Brexit Secretary: Brexit News for Friday 16th November

Dominic Raab resigns as Brexit Secretary…

Dominic Raab quit as Brexit secretary after feeling he had been cut out of an 11th-hour draft of Theresa May’s deal. Friends said Mr Raab had been very concerned about unexpected changes in the wording to part of the future deal between the UK and the EU. These would have tied the government’s hands in future negotiations, he felt, telling the chief whip that he would have to resign minutes after Wednesday’s cabinet meeting ended. Yesterday a former cabinet colleague accused Mr Raab of caring little for principles and of instead positioning himself for a leadership bid. David Mundell, the Scottish secretary, came under pressure to quit after Mr Raab and others mentioned concern for the future integrity of the UK in their resignation letters. In an extraordinary statement, Mr Mundell said that he was “not taking lessons on standing up for our United Kingdom from carpet-baggers” who had a new-found concern for the integrity of the UK. “Only a couple of years ago Dominic Raab was proposing to introduce a bill of rights into Scotland which would have overridden the Scottish legal system and devolution,” he told ITV Borders. “So I’m not impressed by his latter-day commitment to the Union. I’m sure that this is more about manoeuvring and leadership.” – The Times (£)

> Watch on BrexitCentral’s Youtube Channel: Dominic Raab speaks to Beth Rigby after he resigns from Cabinet

…and others follow him out of the Government in opposition to the PM’s Brexit agreement

Two Leave-backing ministers – including the Brexit secretary – have resigned from the cabinet as Theresa May faces a growing backlash to her draft agreement for leaving the EU. Dominic Raab quit as Brexit secretary on Thursday morning – delivering a significant blow to the prime minister’s chances of getting her agreement with Brussels approved by parliament. His departure was followed by the resignation of Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey – with two junior ministers and several ministerial aides also quitting their roles in protest. Speculation of further resignations has been swirling around Westminster since, as doubts grow about Mrs May’s future in 10 Downing Street. Other cabinet Brexiteers gave no public comment on the draft deal, which had been discussed at a five-hour meeting on Wednesday. The turbulent developments shook financial markets, with the pound falling sharply and banking and housebuilding stocks also under pressure in early-day trading. – Sky News

> On BrexitCentral: Dominic Raab heads host of ministerial resignations over Brexit deal

Theresa May offers Michael Gove the Brexit Secretary job…

Michael Gove has been offered the job of Brexit secretary in the wake of Dominic Raab’s resignation, as Theresa May battles to shore up her authority, but he is demanding a shift in the government’s negotiating strategy first, Whitehall sources say. As the most senior figure from the Vote Leave campaign still inside May’s deeply-divided cabinet, Gove’s backing is regarded as pivotal to her efforts to keep her Brexit deal alive. – Guardian

…but he rejects it and is now on the edge of quitting the Cabinet himself

Michael Gove delivered his ultimatum to Theresa May in Downing Street 15 minutes before she was due to face the cameras. The environment secretary was being primed to replace Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary who quit yesterday morning. The prime minister’s aides booked the meeting in a sign that they expected it to end in mutual agreement. It was not to be. The meeting overran badly after Mr Gove said that he would take the job only if Mrs May renegotiated the divorce deal and cancelled the special EU summit on November 25.Mrs May turned up 25 minutes late to the press conference, with the media wondering why she looked more wooden than normal. In truth, she was unnerved because yet another cornerstone of her Brexit plan had gone awry with Mr Gove on the brink of resigning. – The Times (£)

  • Michael Gove ‘turns down Brexit secretary job’ and is ‘contemplating resigning – The Mirror
  • May leadership on brink as Gove considers resignation – Express
  • Theresa May under pressure after Gove rejects Brexit secretary job – BBC News

Theresa May vows to fight for her Brexit deal…

Theresa May was battling to save her Brexit deal and her own position as prime minister on Thursday after a series of ministerial resignations and the threat of a Eurosceptic coup left the Conservative party on the brink of civil war. Mrs May insisted she would stick to her plan, which would keep Britain closely tied economically to the EU, and said she was not about to quit in spite of growing criticism from Brexiters in her own party. “I believe with every fibre in my being that the course I’ve set out is the right one for our country and for all our people,” Mrs May told a news conference. “Am I going to see this through? Yes.” Mrs May warned that Britain would embark on “a path of deep and grave uncertainty” if it abandoned the withdrawal deal it had agreed with the EU this week. Dominic Raab resigned as Brexit secretary in protest at the exit plan, while Esther McVey walked out of her cabinet job as work and pensions secretary; two other junior ministers also joined the government “Brexodus”. It was hoped that Mrs May had persuaded Penny Mordaunt, international development secretary, not to quit. – FT (£)

  • I am going to see this through, says Theresa May – BBC News
  • May vows to carry on as Brexit’s hardliners try to topple her – Bloomberg

> Watch on BrexitCentral’s Youtube Channel: Prime Minister’s press conference statement in full

…as she is now expected to face a no confidence vote within days…

Theresa May declared she would resist pressure to stand down after two cabinet resignations and threats that Michael Gove may leave as well. The prime minister struck a defiant tone during a No 10 press conference this evening after a wave of ministerial resignations and departures from junior government roles. Dominic Raab resigned as Brexit secretary, Esther McVey quit as work and pensions secretary and the leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg submitted a letter of no confidence in Mrs May along with Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister. Sources told The Times that No 10 expected Mr Gove, the environment secretary, to resign tonight. No 10 has not commented. Mr Gove was offered the Brexit job today but would only accept if he could go to Brussels and renegotiate the deal, something that Mrs May said at the press conference was impossible. – The Times (£)

  • No confidence vote in Theresa May expected next week as Jacob Rees-Mogg insists he is not mounting coup – Telegraph (£)

…with Jacob Rees-Mogg now leading the charge against her

Jacob Rees-Mogg delivered one last threat to Theresa May before submitting his letter of no confidence in her leadership. In a brutal intervention during the prime minister’s statement, the Brexiteers’ shop steward accused her of no longer telling the truth about her negotiations with the EU. Given that what she says about Brexit and what she does “no longer match should I not write to my honourable friend the member for Altrincham and Sale West?” he demanded. The MP in question was sitting immediately behind Mr Rees-Mogg in a packed Commons chamber. Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee and the man who must inform Mrs May if he has enough letters to prompt a confidence vote, did his best to appear inscrutable. It was Mr Rees-Mogg’s deputy at the European Research Group, the Brexiteer faction that has now broken with the prime minister, who did more damage to her authority. – The Times (£)

  • Jacob Rees-Mogg submits letter of no confidence in Theresa May – FT (£)

> Watch on BrexitCentral’s Youtube Channel: Jacob Rees-Mogg talks to the press after the ERG meeting in Parliament

Scottish Tory MPs start to swing behind Brexit deal but demand Union guarantee…

Scottish Tory MPs have started to swing behind Theresa May’s Brexit deal but demanded further assurances it will not undermine the Union. Senior party sources said a majority of the 13-strong group are expected to back the agreement after the Prime Minister assured them that the EU’s future access to British fishing waters would not be linked to trade. But Luke Graham, the Ochil and South Perthshire MP, told the Telegraph he wanted further guarantees about the extent of the special arrangements for Northern Ireland. Colin Clark, the Gordon MP, said he was reassured on fishing but is also understood to harbour concerns about the agreement damaging the integrity of the Union. This newspaper disclosed that several MPs were furious over the deal meaning the province will remain more aligned to EU regulations in some areas than the rest of the UK. They warned this is the more important than fishing as it “plays into the hands” of the SNP, which has demanded that Scotland gets the same deal. – Telegraph (£)

…with one of David Mundell’s colleagues texting him to demand he resign

One of the Scottish Secretary’s own Conservative colleagues has urged him to quit over his support for the draft Brexit deal, claiming he cannot be a Unionist if he stays in his post. In a WhatsApp message to David Mundell, MP Ross Thomson said “no Unionist” could support the proposals and told him he should follow Dominic Raab and Esther McVey out of the Cabinet. But the Scottish Secretary said he had no intention of standing down and launched his own attack against Mr Raab and Ms McVey, who both cited concerns for the integrity of the UK. In his message, Mr Thomson said the draft Brexit deal could lead to a “separate regulatory regime in Northern Ireland” which would undermine the UK by aligning it more closely with the EU. – i News

Donald Tusk hints UK could cancel Brexit if MPs reject May’s deal

EU leaders said they were hoping for a “no-Brexit scenario” on Thursday as they suggested that Britain could call off the entire process if it did not like the terms of the deal. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said reversing the referendum result would be the EU’s preferred outcome of the negotiations. “The EU is prepared for a final deal with the United Kingdom in November. We are also prepared for a no-deal scenario but of course we are best prepared for a no-Brexit scenario,” said Mr Tusk at a press conference in Brussels. He added: “Since the very beginning we have had no doubt that Brexit is a lose-lose situation and that our negotiations are about damage control.” Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament co-ordinator, added that he would like to see the UK eventually “rejoin the European family,” though he expressed doubts that this could be achieved by a second referendum. – Telegraph (£)

‘Soft’ Brexit agreement not a done deal, warn EU leaders…

France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, has welcomed the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement but warned Paris would be vigilant on its final terms, amid mounting concern from EU member states that the UK was being given too soft a deal. An agreement was “good news for the French economy, good news for all French firms,” Le Maire told French public television on Thursday. “It’s in everyone’s interest that Brexit should go ahead smoothly.” However, he stressed France would be “cautious” over formally signing off the divorce deal to ensure it “guards French and European interests”. If the UK stayed in a customs union, as envisaged until an agreement on future trade was negotiated, “we must be sure it respects all EU rules”, he said, including on taxation and environmental standards. The deal “must not weaken our common market”. – Guardian

…but Brussels warns the current deal is ‘the best we can do’…

EU officials have warned those calling for Theresa May to go back to Brussels that the negotiators have “exhausted the margin of manoeuvre” in the talks and the draft deal is “the best we can do”. As members of the cabinet and other ministers were handing in their resignation letters to the prime minister, the EU was trying to sell the deal to critics in London and member states who have expressed concerns. One official said the negotiators had nowhere else to go, adding that the political masters on both sides should reflect on the impact of having more talks and what it would do to the process with so little time before the UK leaves the bloc. “[As] negotiators, we are happy to stand over the agreement, and we think it is the best we can do collectively with the constraints that we have on both sides,” the official said. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, was said by the head of the Greens in the European parliament, Philippe Lambert, to have told all the party leaders in Strasbourg on Thursday the deal was the best available given the UK’s demands and Brussels’ red-lines. – Guardian

  • EU leaders shun prospect of reopening Brexit talks – FT (£)

…as Angela Merkel kills hopes of more EU concessions

Angela Merkel has quashed hopes that the European Union could step in to rescue the Brexit agreement with further concessions. Governments across Europe have tried to shore up support for the agreement struck by Theresa May’s cabinet yesterday amid mounting concern that Britain could end up tearing itself out of the EU without a formal deal. The German chancellor said that a no-deal Brexit would be the “worst and most chaotic scenario” but clearly signalled her reluctance to yield more ground to the British side.“We have a document on the table that Britain and the remaining 27 EU states have agreed,” Mrs Merkel said in Potsdam. “There is, as far as I am concerned, no question of further bargaining at present.” Several German industry bodies have warned members to steel themselves for a disorderly Brexit as Olaf Scholz, the finance minister, said that such an outcome would be “problematic for the entire European Union” but disastrous for Britain. – The Times (£)

  • EU leaders dismiss talk of renegotiating draft agreement – BBC News

How May’s deal leaves Britain bound to Brussels

Britain’s exit treaty includes an intricate governance system, based on the Ukraine-EU agreement. A five-person panel can be called to arbitrate disputes, but all matters of EU law — which covers the bulk of the treaty — must be referred to the ECJ in Luxembourg. Its rulings are binding, but do not have direct effect in the UK. “This is not a real arbitration tribunal — behind it the ECJ decides everything,” said Carl Baudenbacher, the former president of the European Free Trade Association court, which oversees the EEA agreement. “This is taken from the Ukraine agreement. It is absolutely unbelievable that a country like the UK, which was the first country to accept independent courts, would subject itself to this.” – FT (£)

Iain Duncan Smith: Theresa’s May Brexit plan concedes our sovereignty in a way even worse than if we stayed in the EU

In December last year, the Prime Minister surprised us all by proposing to accept a deal with the EU in which we were committed to the Northern Ireland backstop. On top of that, the UK agreed to pay the EU £39 billion to allow the UK to have a two-year transition period after the end of the Article 50 process. Although we would have left the EU we would remain locked to the customs union and the single market, bound by all regulations and overseen by the European Court of Justice. This, Oliver Robbins, her civil service negotiator, told her was required to unlock future trade talks. I begged the PM not to sign up to the arrangement. I said that if she did sign, that would mark the end of her negotiations because two of the critical things the EU wanted were about to be handed to them without anything in return. Sadly, she did not take my advice, and the EU, far from entering trade talks, continued to demand further concessions. – Iain Duncan Smith MP for the Telegraph (£)

Anne-Marie Trevelyan: This Brexit deal is so bad I could not stay in this Government any longer

It has been an honour and a privilege to serve my country in this Government. After poring over the detail in the Withdrawal Agreement way into the early hours of yesterday morning, it became obvious to me that I had to resign.  I did this with the heaviest of hearts. 17.4 million voters asked us to step away from the EU project and to become a strong, independent nation once again. It was a proud and historic moment – and the largest democratic result ever seen in the United Kingdom. This wasn’t a vote to leave Europe or to pursue an isolationist future.  It was a call to build a stronger and more prosperous future outside the institutions of the EU, and to remain a good friend and protector to our European neighbours through NATO and joint security arrangements. Becoming a self-governing, free-trading nation, unafraid to stand on our own two feet, is a destiny we should embrace. – Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP for the Telegraph (£)

Iain Martin: No deal is better than May’s Brexit surrender

The prime minister’s capitulation to Brussels could leave us trapped inside a customs union for as long as the EU likes. When Norway is mentioned in the context of Brexit, it is usually a reference to the relationship between Oslo and the European Union, which some Tories hope could be the basis for our future. This week, though, the more appropriate Norwegian analogy relates to the crisis of May 1940, when a botched operation on the Continent brought about the humiliation and resignation of a prime minister. Westminster was similarly febrile yesterday because Theresa May delivered a dire deal that deserves to fail. Even a moderate Brexiteer like me regards the central component of the proposed arrangement with the EU as unconscionable and unacceptable. – Iain Martin for The Times (£)

Fraser Nelson: Despite the revulsion at Mrs May’s deal, she is confident that opponents won’t move against her

It’s hard not to admire Theresa May’s resilience. She looked confident, even relaxed in Parliament  as she outlined the details of a Brexit deal that seems to be reviled almost universally. Her strategy is to say that her deal, with all its flaws, is better than no deal, better than no Brexit. Those who resigned did so because they disagree and think that, even now, there is a better deal to be had – and they are joining the backbenches to force the Government to look for one. Ambitious, to be sure, but we’re living in a political era where the seemingly impossible happens all of the time. But Mrs May changing her mind, and dropping her deal due to internal pressure? Her intransigence is famous; it’s her greatest virtue and her worst vice. She reached the top by keeping on going, when others give up. Even now, she believes that her deal is the best available way of delivering Brexit, bringing control of the borders, the money, the farms, the fisheries and laws. Other plans, she believes, are fantasy: pragmatists will back her. – Fraser Nelson for the Telegraph (£)

Nicky Morgan: I am backing Theresa May’s deal – the alternative would damage Britain

There are many paradoxes in the whole Brexit process. And one of them is that my MP colleagues who now say they will use the “meaningful” vote in the Commons on the proposed withdrawal agreement to vote against it objected so strongly when 11 of us rebelled against the government in 2017 to secure that vote. As I know to my personal cost, that rebellion led to a torrent of abuse, threats of violence and deselection for the 11 Conservative “mutineers”. And now, nearly 12 months later, that vote is almost upon us. We often hear how important votes in the House of Commons are, but this one really, really matters. We live in a representative democracy. Each MP has to vote as a representative, thinking each time about the implications of how they vote for their constituency and constituents. Sometimes those votes and the decisions are easier than others. This time we owe it to our constituents to think extremely long and hard before we cast our vote in December on the withdrawal agreement and the outline of a future relationship with the EU. – Nicky Morgan MP for the Guardian

Shailesh Vara: Theresa May’s one-sided Brexit plan has left us with a halfway house that pleases no one

My decision to resign as a government minister yesterday was not an easy one. And given that, during the referendum, I had decided that on balance it was better to remain in the EU, my reason for resigning – that we would not be a sovereign nation if the draft Withdrawal Agreement was accepted – has surprised some. Once the public had voted to leave, I was in no doubt that it was for Parliament to deliver on the result, irrespective of what MPs’ personal views were. I should add that I am not in favour of a second referendum. There was no mention of it during the referendum campaign and, frankly speaking, the vast majority of those who want one see this as another means of achieving what they failed to secure the first time around. – Shailesh Vara MP for the Telegraph (£)

Richard Tice: May’s deal is the worst deal in history

Theresa May had always repeated what I have known to be true in business: “no deal is better than a bad deal”.  But now, even in the face of multiple Cabinet resignations and growing anger among her Parliamentary colleagues at her proposed deal, her actions suggest she believes that any deal is better than a no deal.  The regrettable reality is that her deal is not only a bad deal: it is the worst deal in history. For nothing in return, by way of a guaranteed free trade deal, the Prime Minister is willing to hand over at least £40 billion, potentially £60 billion.   We will have no say in the EU, but payments will continue until the EU decides we can leave the arrangement. May’s deal misses the point of Brexit entirely, and will result in losing control of our money and continuing to make massive payments to the EU indefinitely – since they have no incentive to stop, having captured us in their “naughty” chamber. – Richard Tice for ConservativeHome

John Redwood: Theresa May’s deal is worse for Britain than staying in the EU

The prime minister always told us that no deal is better than a bad deal. She has tried her best to negotiate a good deal, but has ended up with a very bad deal. What is on offer entails the United Kingdom agreeing to pay the European Union another £39bn, in return for 21 months or more of additional talks to see if a new partnership can be arranged. Why would the EU be more willing to offer preferential trade terms and other benefits once we have agreed to pay it a large sum of money, when over the past two years and four months it has not been prepared to do so? The EU has made it crystal clear that, if a country wants to stay in the customs union and single market, it has to obey all the rules and laws of the EU and cannot enter into new free trade deals with other countries on its own initiative. The EU thinks that if you belong to the single market you have to make budget contributions and accept freedom of movement. The 17.4 million leave voters fully understood that Brexit meant leaving the single market and customs union as well as the EU: both remain and leave campaigns told them that was so, and the EU agreed; the government also said we would have to leave the single market and customs union. The deal on offer does not respect this, keeping the UK in both the single market and customs union for another 21 months, with further commitments thereafter if a full partnership agreement has not been reached in the meantime. – John Redwood MP for the Guardian

Kathy Gyngell: Betrayal in our time: Mrs May’s Brexit ‘deal’

Last night, watching Mrs May deliver her studiously impassioned (any deal is better than no deal), statement in Downing Street, this question of when is a compromise a betrayal echoed down the decades. May would rather threaten her own people with ‘Brexit Reversal’ than square up to the EU. Their declarations are 79 years apart but the similarities between May and Chamberlain struck me – stubborn, vain, self-opinionated and dishonest, and under the delusion that what they ‘achieve’ is the pinnacle what is politically possible. Well, some may decide to join in this game of pretence and act co-conspirator, but most won’t be taken in. As an example of Orwellian doublethink, the ‘concession’ the BBC has repeatedly told us she ‘won’ from the EU to allow us to stay in the very Customs Union it was her duty to get us out of, is hard to beat. – Kathy Gyngell for The Conservative Woman

Brexit in Brief

  • It’s elementary, the only way through this Brexit impasse is a second referendum – Tony Blair for the Telegraph (£)
  • The woman I know will stand and fight – Katie Perrior for The Times (£)
  • The detail is worse in the Agreement – John Redwood’s Diary
  • The maths probably won’t work for May, however hard she tries – James Forsyth for The Spectator
  • The Irish Backstop deal… why we’re in it, why we can’t leave and why it could bring down the Government – Telegraph (£)
  • Inside Tories’ dramatic 24-hour Brexit meltdown after Dominic Raab’s resignation in protest at Theresa May’s soft deal with Brussels – The Sun
  • What’s next in Britain’s Brexit drama – Politico
  • Why Mulberry is committing to manufacturing in Somerset post-Brexit – Telegraph (£)
  • How Michael Gove has been left with Theresa May’s future in his hands – Telegraph (£)
  • Second EU referendum now ‘more likely’ than ever before – PoliticsHome
  • ‘Double or quits for Theresa May’: How Europe reacted to day of turmoil over Brexit deal – Telegraph (£)