Theresa May sends ministers across the country today to drum up Brexit deal support: Brexit News for Friday 7th December

Theresa May sends ministers across the country today to drum up Brexit deal support: Brexit News for Friday 7th December

Theresa May sends ministers across the country today to drum up Brexit deal support

Theresa May is deploying her dwindling band of loyal ministers across the country today, in a bid to shore up support for her Brexit deal. The chancellor, health secretary and Brexit secretary are among those being dispatched, ostensibly to talk to local employers and businesses about the benefits of the agreement. The reality is that their presence in local constituencies is designed to put pressure on backbenchers to come onside. Mrs May said: “We have delivered a deal that honours the vote of the British people. “I’ve been speaking to factory workers in Scotland, farmers in Wales and people right across the country, answering their questions about the deal and our future. Overwhelmingly, the message I’ve heard is that people want us to get on with it. And that’s why it’s important that ministers are out speaking with communities across the UK today about how the deal works for them.” – Sky News

Cabinet ministers demand answers as Chief Whip privately admits May will lose Tuesday’s vote…

Cabinet ministers told Theresa May on Thursday night that she must come up with an 11th hour plan to get her Brexit deal through the Commons as the Chief Whip admitted she will lose Tuesday’s vote. The Prime Minister was confronted in Downing Street by Amber Rudd and other senior ministers who demanded to know what she intends to do to salvage the vote, and her Brexit deal with it. During a crisis meeting in Downing Street called by Mrs May they offered her four options – including a postponement of the vote – but came away exasperated when she refused to commit to any of them. At one point a frustrated Ms Rudd asked her: “What do you want to do, Prime Minister?” only to receive a “non-committal” reply. Julian Smith, the Chief Whip, conceded for the first time that the Government is heading for defeat, and the ministers warned Mrs May that a defeat by 200 votes was not impossible. Mrs May is understood to have agreed with them that such a catastrophic defeat had to be avoided at all costs. – Telegraph (£)

  • Size of task facing Theresa May  becomes clear as footage shows chief whip failing to get Tory MP on board – Telegraph (£)

…while May reportedly considers delaying the vote to break the deadlock

Theresa May is said to be weighing a plan to postpone the crunch vote on her Brexit deal in an attempt to avoid a landslide defeat that would risk a major U.K. political crisis. The prime minister was urged by allies in her Tory party to delay the parliamentary vote on the U.K.’s divorce agreement with the European Union amid predictions she would lose it badly. Defeat would put the U.K. on course to crash out of the EU in March without a deal, and could trigger a fresh attempt to topple May and even a general election. – Bloomberg

‘Meaningful vote’ compromise bid dismissed by Brexiteers

A government bid to find a compromise to win over rebels before the Commons Brexit vote has run into criticism. A Tory backbench amendment – understood to have No 10’s backing – offers MPs more of a say over the contentious issue of the Northern Ireland backstop. DUP leader Arlene Foster dismissed it as “legislative tinkering” while Tory Brexiteers said it was “desperate”. Many MPs have expressed concerns about the backstop, aimed at preventing a “hard border” on the island of Ireland. It would mean Northern Ireland staying aligned to some EU rules, which many MPs say is unacceptable. The UK would also not be able to leave the backstop without EU agreement. – BBC News

It’s time to go back to Brussels, urges Tory backbench chief Sir Graham Brady

The leader of the Tory back benches last night told Theresa May to go back to Brussels for further talks rather than see her Brexit deal defeated heavily next week. Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, who relays backbench opinion to Downing Street, broke cover to appeal for her to consider a delay to the vote on Tuesday. Downing Street remains adamant that Mrs May is pressing ahead with the vote as scheduled despite growing cabinet unease. The prime minister yesterday called a group of supportive senior ministers to a meeting in No 10, including David Lidington; David Gauke; Amber Rudd; Karen Bradley; Philip Hammond; Michael Gove; Julian Smith; Liam Fox and Stephen Barclay. Andrea Leadsom, the Brexiteer leader of the house, was also invited. Although once considered hostile, Ms Leadsom has backed the deal — unlike Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, a notable absentee. The prime minister’s spokeswoman said that Brexit was discussed but did not give further details. A senior Downing Street source suggested that it was little more than an update. – The Times (£)

David Mundell warns wavering Tory MPs a no-deal Brexit poses greater threat to Union than backstop

A no deal Brexit poses a greater threat to the United Kingdom’s survival than the Northern Ireland backstop, the Scottish Secretary has warned wavering Tory MPs ahead of next week’s crucial vote on the agreement. David Mundell, who suggested in October he would quit if the deal introduced a “differentiated settlement” for the province, said he had since made a different “judgment” based on “what is the greatest threat to the integrity of the UK.” While he admitted he is not “totally comfortable” about the backstop, he said his “clear conclusion” was that the “chaos and division” created by a no deal Brexit would be far worse for the Union. In a keynote speech in London, he warned Nicola Sturgeon “craves” this outcome “to propel her obsessive pursuit of independence.” He said she was pursuing a “threadbare and cynical strategy.” The First Minister yesterday told MSPs that the chances of stopping Brexit and remaining in the EU are the highest since the Brexit vote. – Telegraph (£)

Esther McVey: I knew Theresa May’s Brexit deal was terrible but my Cabinet colleagues just crumbled

Esther McVey has revealed how demanding a vote on Theresa May’s “terrible” Brexit deal prompted a “meltdown” in Cabinet as colleagues “crumbled” around her. The former Work and Pensions secretary revealed how she was “shouted down” by Cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill, Britain’s top civil servant, after asking for a vote on the biggest decision taken by politicians in nearly half a century. Denying suggestions she had been “emotional” during the tense exchanges at last month’s five-hour Cabinet showdown, which resulted in her resigning along with Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, the Liverpudlian MP told the Telegraph: “No one in Cabinet supported me. I was astounded. What I was asking for was a vote on the most important issue in a generation.” Calling on Cabinet colleagues to “reflect upon” why they refused to be “accountable”, the former TV presenter turned politician described the deal as “terrible” and said she had told the Prime Minister it was “the worst of both worlds” and a “deal for nobody”. – Telegraph (£)

  • McVey attacks Cabinet after resignation over May Brexit deal – Express

Theresa May has to say ‘no’ to Brussels next week to save her job – and Brexit, says Dominic Raab

Theresa May could have to resign next week over Brexit, her former minister in charge of her talks has admitted. Asked on this week’s Chopper’s Brexit Podcast if Mrs May will have to quit next week, Dominic Raab said: “I hope not. I hope she can instead show the resolve, grit and determination which is her at her best. “She has got to be willing finally to say to Brussels ‘no’. If she can do that then she can still turn this round.” Mr Raab said he thought the deal would be voted down, adding “if the deal is voted down I would like the Prime Minister to go back to Brussels and set out our best final offer”. This would address the backstop issue – which ties the UK to EU regulations after Brexit – while making clear that the UK is transitioning to a “best in class” free trade deal with the EU. Mr Raab said EU officials were deeply suspicious Brexit because they see themselves as being in a struggle against populism or “the forces of darkness”. – Telegraph (£)

Leave campaigners said to be preparing quietly for a second referendum

Prominent Leave campaigners are making behind-the-scenes preparations for a second referendum, according to MPs and activists, in the growing belief that stalemate over Brexit in parliament could eventually force the issue back to the electorate. Several people involved said that a key aide to Lynton Crosby, the Australian political strategist behind the Conservatives’ 2015 election victory, has been working with Eurosceptic MPs in plotting the future course of Brexit. This has included informal conversations on how to handle another plebiscite. David Canzini, a former head of campaigns for the Conservative party, is said to be working at CTF Partners — Sir Lynton’s consultancy, which has close ties to Boris Johnson, a leading Eurosceptic — with Brexit-supporting MPs on the so-called “Chuck Chequers” campaign against Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. – FT (£)

Lib Dem MP Stephen Lloyd resigns party whip over Brexit stance

Lib Dem MP Stephen Lloyd has quit the party’s group in Parliament so he can vote for Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The Eastbourne MP says he remains a member of the party, but wants to keep his promise to voters to respect the result of the referendum. “I have decided that the only honourable thing for me to do is resign the party whip in Parliament,” he said. His departure reduces the number of Lib Dems MPs to 11. The party opposes Brexit and backs a further referendum. The party’s position is that they will vote against the Brexit deal Theresa May has negotiated with the EU, when MPs vote on it next Tuesday. In a statement Mr Lloyd said: “I have come to the conclusion that I cannot honestly uphold the commitment I made… to accept the result of the referendum, vote for the deal the prime minister brought back from the EU and not back calls for a second referendum – whilst supporting the Lib Dem parliamentary party’s formal position of voting against Theresa May’s deal and advocating a ‘People’s Vote’.” – BBC News

Labour could back another Brexit referendum, suggests Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed his party could support a second referendum on the UK’s EU membership, in a seismic intervention before the House of Common’s votes on Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday. Mr Corbyn made the statement in an article for The Guardian. The Labour Party has said it could push for a second public vote if it is unable to force a General Election. The Labour leadership is coming under pressure from ‘People’s Vote’ supporters within the Party to back another referendum. Mr Corbyn argued that, should Mrs May’s deal get rejected by Parliament, “the best outcome would be to let the country decide on the way ahead. That means a General Election”. – Express

Tony Blair says there’s no point in a vote on the ‘half in, half out’ Brexit deal

Tony Blair believes Theresa May should scrap next week’s vote on her Brexit deal as she is about to hit a “brick wall at speed”. The former Prime Minister told journalists on Thursday afternoon May needs to begin finding a compromise that will pass through the Commons instead of pushing ahead with her “half in, half out” Brexit proposal. Speaking at a lunch in parliament, Blair repeated his call for another referendum on Brexit, and said it should essentially be a re-run of the 2016 vote, with the options of remaining in the EU or leaving completely on the ballot paper. His comments came as May held a meeting with her cabinet colleagues Michael Gove, Amber Rudd, Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox in Downing Street as the likelihood of the Prime Minister’s deal getting through the Commons next Tuesday diminished even further. Asked whether he would go ahead with the vote if he was Prime Minister, Blair replied: “Personally, I don’t see what the point is of going down to a huge defeat.” – City A.M.

EU judges to deliver Article 50 ruling on eve of May’s crucial vote

The EU’s top court will say on Monday whether Britain can unilaterally halt Brexit, potentially offering a boost to those opposed to leaving the European Union on the very eve of a crucial and tumultuous vote in the British parliament. In a brief statement on Thursday, the Court of Justice in Luxembourg said judges would deliver a ruling at 9 a.m. (0800 GMT) on Dec. 10 in a case brought by Scottish politicians who argue Britain can simply withdraw its plan to leave in March, without waiting for the approval of the other member states. Prime Minister Theresa May is battling to get a Brexit deal that she negotiated with the European Union through parliament and insists there is no question of her stopping Brexit. But in a vote due on Tuesday, the treaty faces opposition from lawmakers both for and against Britain leaving the bloc. Acting with rare speed in a case only brought in October, a legal adviser to the court said on Tuesday that Britain could indeed make a U-turn entirely of its own accord. Such advice is usually, though not always, followed by the judges. – Reuters

‘Settled status’ for EU citizens in Britain thrown into doubt if there’s no deal…

EU citizens hoping to stay in the UK after Brexit will face a stricter cut-off point in the event of a no-deal scenario, according to a government policy paper published on Thursday. The news came as Whitehall officials briefed senior MPs on the “hair-raising” potential consequences of leaving the EU without an agreement. Greg Clark, business secretary, meanwhile told Sky News that crashing out of the EU with no agreement would be “crazy” because it would destroy the foundations of some of Britain’s most successful industries. The new paper from the Department for Exiting the European Union prompted anger from Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit-co-ordinator for the European Parliament. Under the government’s current plan, all EU citizens who have lived in the UK for over five years by the end of December 2020 will be allowed to seek “settled status”. – FT (£)

…with ministers braced for an influx of British expats from the EU

Ministers are braced for an influx of British expats in the event of a no-deal Brexit if the European Union fails to guarantee their right to stay living on the continent. There are approximately one million UK nationals living in the EU with a quarter of them aged 65 or over and their status if there is a disorderly Brexit remains unclear. The UK has set out the terms on which EU nationals will be able to stay living and working in the UK if no divorce deal is agreed and it has pleaded with Brussels to take reciprocal action. A failure to reciprocate could have significant consequences for Britons abroad and would likely force many to return to the UK, potentially placing a considerable strain on public services, particularly the NHS. Under the UK’s no-deal offer on citizens’ rights, EU nationals who move to Britain before Brexit in March 2019 could apply for the right to stay, with an application deadline of December 31, 2020. – Telegraph (£)

Temp wages rise at fastest rate in over a decade as demand from Brexit emergency planning sets in

Wages for temporary workers have risen at the fastest rate in eleven years as seasonal pressures combine with no-deal Brexit emergency planning. Warehousing employers are reporting particularly acute difficulties in recruiting staff according to data produced by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC). While the Christmas shopping season and a move towards internet shopping have driven up demand for warehousing staff in recent years, manufacturing firms have also reported that they are stockpiling in a bid to mitigate no deal Brexit risks. Some 29pc of recruitment agencies had not been able to meet their clients’ demand for warehouse workers, according to REC, and 80pc had used EU staff to fill temporary or seasonal roles in the past. Neil Carberry, chief executive of REC said staff shortages in warehousing have been severe for the past two years. Low unemployment levels and fewer EU workers had made the retail “crunch” between November’s Black Friday Shopping event and Christmas particularly difficult. – Telegraph (£)

Jeremy Corbyn: Labour could do a better Brexit deal. Give us the chance

The botched Brexit deal that Theresa May has put to parliament this week is a monumental and damaging failure for our country. Instead of the sensible agreement the prime minister could have negotiated, it is a worst-of-all-worlds deal that works for nobody, whether they voted leave or remain. Instead of taking back control, it gives up control. Instead of protecting jobs and living standards, it puts them at risk by failing to put in place the basis for frictionless trade. For two and a half years the Conservatives have been negotiating with themselves, rather than the European Union. The result has been a lockdown withdrawal agreement, which ties Britain either into extending the transition phase at unknown cost – or tips us into a lopsided backstop agreement from which there is no independent exit. As the legal advice the prime minister tried to prevent us from seeing this week spells out, the backstop would “endure indefinitely” without the say-so of the EU. What that means in practice is that the wish list of the government’s “future partnership” agreement with the EU would remain just that, without the leverage to get a long-term and effective trade deal. Meanwhile, Britain would have no say in either its own customs arrangements or key market regulations. While workers’ rights would be allowed to fall behind, restrictions on state aid to industry would be locked in. – Jeremy Corbyn MP for the Guardian

Matthew Elliott: The UK deserves a stronger Brexit deal

On Tuesday, British lawmakers voted, for the first time in history, to hold the government in contempt of Parliament. The move came after ministers failed to comply with a motion passed last month requiring the publication of the attorney general’s full legal advice on the Withdrawal Agreement, which details how Britain intends to leave the European Union. The contempt vote forced the release of the attorney general’s advice Wednesday, and the document did little to reassure members of Parliament of the merits of Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal with Brussels. At stake in these maneuvers is Britain’s relationship with the EU post-Brexit: Will Britons be a truly self-governing nation once more, free to enter into trade agreements that benefit us — or will we continue to have Brussels mandarins making our rules and setting our economic agenda? The EU has never been a mere free-trade bloc like the newly renegotiated NAFTA. Over the decades, the EU has evolved into a quasi-government. The integration process has always moved in one, centralized direction, with power concentrating in Brussels. – Matthew Elliott for the New York Times

Ben Bradley: A vote for May’s deal is a vote for mediocrity. Brexit could still be so much more

Back in January 2017, in her Lancaster House speech, the Prime Minister had it all together. She would, she said, seek to negotiate “a bold and ambitious free trade deal” with Europe that would also give us the ability to strike out around the world. She did not pretend this would have the same benefits of full membership – we were leaving – but that we could have a different, positive relationship. She was aiming to take back control of our money, borders and laws. These, she said quite rightly, were at the heart of the reasons why people voted to leave. She said that ‘’no deal is better than a bad deal’’, and that if the EU would not give us something that worked for the United Kingdom then we could walk away and succeed on our own merits. It is hard, looking back, to understand how it can have gone so wrong since then, and that from those bright and optimistic beginnings, the Government now presents us with this choice: vote for mediocrity or risk chaos. – Ben Bradley MP for the Telegraph (£)

Philip Collins: There is a way for Theresa May to keep her Brexit deal alive

Britain is lost in the cul-de-sacs and loops of Europe but there is a way out. Let’s call it the Theresa May algorithm. The place to start is with the most conspicuous fact about the European question, which is that almost nobody has changed their mind. Shifts in public sentiment have been minimal and opinions in parliament have hardened. The sign that people have stopped thinking is when every development confirms a prior view. The former attorney-general, Dominic Grieve, this week put down an amendment which gives parliament a greater say in the event that Mrs May’s deal falls on December 11. Does this mean that the prospect of Britain leaving the EU without a deal is now off the table? Lord Adonis, for the vote again party, thinks so. Bernard Jenkin, shop steward of the Euro-bores, thinks not. Funnily enough, exactly as they thought before. – Philip Collins for The Times (£)

Simon Nixon: A referendum could be May’s only chance to avoid a greater disaster

Of course, it’s still possible that Theresa May will persuade parliament to ratify her Brexit deal. She has until Tuesday to convince MPs that hers really is the only deal on offer, that there won’t be a better one and that the only alternatives are no deal or no Brexit. Perhaps the government’s defeat this week on an amendment that would hand parliament control over what happens next if her deal is defeated really will spook enough Brexiteers into her camp to carry her over the line. But so far it looks unlikely. The rebellion appears to be growing as MPs from both sides of the Brexit divide appear to have decided that a deal that sets the UK up for years of uncertainty and cliff-edges, as it tries to negotiate a future relationship with an EU that holds all the cards, is simply not in the national interest. Besides, for every Brexiteer who might be more inclined to back her if no deal is off the table, there may be a Remainer who feels it is now safer to vote against her. – Simon Nixon for The Times (£)

Simon Jenkins: Our warring MPs should realise all Brexit roads lead to Norway

From the moment Britain voted for Brexit in 2016, there was only one way to go. It was back to the European Free Trade Association (Efta), of which the UK was a member before 1973. Nothing else made sense. As a Eurosceptic, I voted to remain only because I thought it wrong for Britain to leave Europe’s one conclave of nations just when it was growing seriously unstable. The vote to leave had to be honoured. It was doable. But to abandon the customs union and single market was not doable. It was reckless. I assumed – and was told – that from day one, Theresa May’s negotiating officials were of the same mind. So too were the majority of MPs and the drift of public opinion, whenever polled. All were against hard Brexit and in favour of varying versions of the single market, in other words the “Norway” model. But May scuppered any hope of cohering such a coalition, by appointing hardline ministers to the Brexit brief and then giving in to them with her red lines in the ill-judged Lancaster House speech in 2017. Instead of talking the language of compromise, which she must have known she would later have to do, she narrowed her room for manoeuvre. – Simon Jenkins for the Guardian

Tom Tugendhat: Brexit can only work if we invest in it – streamlining ports, upgrading customs, readying systems, working with neighbours

None of us chose to be here.  The Prime Minister’s deal isn’t great – it’s a compromise that leaves no one happy and disappoints many.  It buys time but does little more. But this shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s where you end up when you start from the wrong point. In June 2016, the world changed. We’d chosen to change the way we traded together with our closest partners but behaved as though we were still members. When we decided to leave the EU, we moved away from a single structure, to a more open relationship.  It’s like switching from Apple to Android. Apple is expensive but it all works together, but it’s not great with other brands. With Android you have greater choice, but none of it gels quite as well. And switching from between them is tricky. We decided to switch but continued to behave as if we were still in. It didn’t work. Instead of thinking of ourselves as still in the bloc but negotiating out, we should have recognised that we were, in truth, already out and were now a third-party negotiating in.  That would have avoided some of the confusion we have seen throughout these talks. – Tom Tugendhat MP for ConservativeHome

James Forsyth: Britain is heading towards a soft Brexit or a second referendum

Unless Theresa May delays the vote, 11 December 2018 might be about to become one of the most important in recent British history; more important even than 23 June 2016. If MPs vote down Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, as nearly all ministers expect them to, they will set Britain on course for either the softest possible Brexit or a second referendum. In the process, they may well split the Tory party. Theresa May’s strategy has been to play chicken with Parliament. Her team saw virtue in intransigence and calculated that at the last moment MPs would get out of her way. They thought that fear of no deal would bring former Remainers into the fold. Simultaneously, Leavers would reluctantly take this imperfect Brexit over the risk of no Brexit at all. So far, this plan isn’t working. Both sides think that voting down May’s deal makes it more likely that they’ll get what they want, whether it be no deal or a second referendum. ‘If you want your optimal outcome, the deal is not going to deliver it,’ one minister observes ruefully. Part of the problem, as one Tory MP explains, is that MPs can hear everything May says. So when she tries to warn Remainers of the risk of leaving without a deal, the ears of the Brexit ultras prick up. They then discount her warnings about how rejecting her deal would lead to a second vote — and vice versa. – James Forsyth for The Spectator

Telegraph: With defeat now inevitable, May’s best chance may be to delay this vote

On the third day of the debate over the Government’s EU withdrawal deal, MPs heard from the politician who many regard as its principal architect – Philip Hammond, the Chancellor. He has been determined from the outset to ensure the closest possible relationship with the European Union single market and customs union, believing that it is in the interests of British business. Mr Hammond said the deal reached last month was the only one on offer, was good for the country and the idea of renegotiating at this stage – the current policy of the Labour party – is “simply a delusion”. If he is right, then the Prime Minister is in peril. It is apparent that this deal will not go through, however hard Mrs May and her ministers seek to persuade the Commons. It might make sense to delay the vote rather than unleash all the uncertainties that will come with a heavy defeat next Tuesday. Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers, says the timing here is less important than the substance, and he is right. If the Prime Minister could find some way of guaranteeing that the UK would not be potentially locked for good in the so-called backstop, she might have a fighting chance. But Mr Hammond says this is not on the cards; and the Prime Minister is ploughing ahead. – Telegraph (£) editorial

The Sun: Why is Theresa May ploughing on with a vote she looks doomed to lose?

Why is Theresa May ploughing on with a vote she looks doomed to lose? She cannot sell the unsellable. Better to use the time in Brussels trying to fix the toxic “Irish backstop” which scores of her MPs and the DUP won’t stomach. Most people could live with the rest of her Brexit deal. But not a mechanism we cannot legally leave, potentially locking us ­forever into a customs union and dividing up the UK. Even an EU blinded by self-interest must see that. Downing Street’s defeatism is soul destroying. Chancellor Philip Hammond, with his famous no-can-do spirit, says: “The idea there’s an option of renegotiating at the 11th hour is a delusion.” Why? If the EU dislikes the backstop too, as the Government claims, it should be amenable to amending it. Argue for a time limit. Deadlines focus the mind. Set a date for a trade deal to be reached and the backstop to end. Meanwhile we can prepare our other trading options. There IS a downside for the EU if the deal is defeated. The chaos won’t be ours alone. – The Sun says

Brexit in Brief

  • Theresa May ‘faces crushing defeat unless she postpones vote’ – Robert Peston for ITV News
  • Our politics may be bad, but Europe is no oasis of stability – Telegraph (£) editorial
  • Theresa May’s deal isn’t ‘Brexit in name only’ – it’s the best way to leave the EU – Lord Leigh of Hurley for City A.M.
  • Tory Association Chairmen protest against the “misuse of Party funds” on “propaganda campaign” backing May’s deal – Mark Wallace for ConservativeHome
  • War-gaming the Brexit vote: seven scenarios for what happens next – Katy Balls for The Spectator
  • Defiant Theresa May sings Christmas carol lyrics about loyalty despite Tory mutiny – The Sun
  • ITV cancels plans for televised debate between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn – Independent
  • Kent ‘facing gridlocked and rubbish-strewn streets under no-deal Brexit’ – Guardian