May and Davis showdown over Irish backstop | Leaked Boris Brexit warning: Brexit News for Friday 8 June

May and Davis showdown over Irish backstop | Leaked Boris Brexit warning: Brexit News for Friday 8 June
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Theresa May and David Davis in hour-long Brexit showdown during ‘morning of madness’…

David Davis tore into Theresa May’s Brexit strategy yesterday in a morning of drama that saw the Prime Minister come within minutes of her government collapsing. The pair met for an hour-long showdown in the Prime Minister’s ornate wood-panelled Commons office after a year of simmering tension with her Brexit Secretary. And Mr Davis took the chance to let rip – raging about the direction in which her EU exit strategy was heading. After months of keeping quiet at being sidelined by civil servants, Mr Davis called time on “Brexit backsliding”… The self-described Tory hardman turned fire on Mrs May’s delayed blueprint for what the future relationship with Brussels will look like, and took aim at Mrs May’s civil service exit guru Oliver Robbins. Mr Davis wants the 150-page White Paper published before a crunch meeting of EU leaders in two weeks time to scotch claims from Brussels that the UK does not know what it wants from exit talks. And he fears his vision of Brexit had been watered down by Mr Robbins who had blocked the publication by demanding it be rewritten a fifth time. – The Sun

…as Theresa May agrees to ‘meaningless’ 2021 cut-off date in Brexit bodge to prevent Cabinet walkout…

Theresa May saw off a Cabinet walkout with a fudge that could tie Britain to the EU until at least December 2021. As Brexit Secretary David Davis threatened to quit, the PM agreed to a “time-limited” plan where the UK would mirror EU customs rules after Brexit. But senior Government insiders admitted the new “cut-off” date was meaningless and unenforceable. And No 10 conceded Britain may be left on the hook for billions more in fees to the EU… Mrs May had insisted on a text that said the UK would mirror all current Brussels rules on customs indefinitely. Last night she refused to guarantee the backstop option will end by the date agreed with Mr Davis. She said: “The backstop is time limited. It may never be used.”… A senior Government source said Mr Davis had been “bambooz­led”. – The Sun

  • May denies Cabinet were kept in dark about ‘backstop’ proposals after clash with David Davis – Independent
  • May and Davis ‘agree customs backstop wording’ – BBC News
  • Govt now ‘expects’ Northern Ireland backstop plan to end before 2022 after David Davis resignation talk – Sky News
  • Theresa May sets 2021 end date for customs backstop after David Davis threatens to quit – Telegraph
  • Anxious hours yield show of unity on the way ahead for Brexit – The Times (£)
  • Theresa May ends Brexit standoff without fireworks – FT (£)
  • Theresa May sidesteps catastrophic Cabinet row with last-minute customs compromise – Independent
  • Backstop can’t be time limited, claims Varadkar – The Times (£)

…but the PM refuses to guarantee the backstop will end in 2021…

The prime minister has refused to guarantee her proposed Brexit “backstop” will end in December 2021, despite the date being stated as an expectation in a government negotiating paper… The inclusion of the December 2021 date in the latest government document on the Temporary Customs Arrangement, as it has become officially known, is thought to have been a response to demands for a clear time limit from Brexit Secretary David Davis. Earlier in Westminster, he came close to resigning over the issue. But questioned by reporters during her flight to Canada for the G7 summit in Quebec, Theresa May twice refused to give a cast-iron guarantee that the backstop arrangement would expire in 2021. – Sky News

  • May refuses to guarantee ‘backstop’ end date – BBC News
  • May refuses to give ‘cast iron guarantee’ over customs backstop – Guardian
  • Concessions to Davis will not alter the course of Brexit – Sam Coates for The Times (£)
  • Is this really all it takes to seduce David Davis? The Brexit ‘backstop’ memo, annotated – Janet Daley for the Telegraph (£)
  • David Davis outmanoeuvred by Theresa May despite apparent Brexit victory – Henry Zeffman for The Times (£)
  • Theresa May staggers over the line with Brexit plan – Tom McTague and Charlie Cooper for Politico
  • Number 10’s time limit a fudge of a fudge of a fudge, just like the rest of their Brexit policy – Guido Fawkes
  • What’s the big picture behind Brexit ‘backstop’ drama? – Laura Kuenssberg for BBC News
  • How the Irish ‘backstop’ has divided Theresa May’s Cabinet – James Blitz and Chris Giles for the FT (£)
  • Another day of Brexit chaos in Westminster – Catherine Neilan for City A.M.
  • Theresa May survives another political crisis, but no one’s satisfied – Tim Ross, Ian Wishart and Kitty Donaldson for Bloomberg
  • The David Davis resignation crisis is over for today – but this is just the start of troubles to come – John Rentoul for the Independent
  • UK offers clarity at last, but will Barnier like what he sees? – John Walsh for The Times (£)
  • Bridge to a (not very brave) post-Brexit world – Bruno Waterfield for The Times (£)
  • Brexit backstop: An iceberg lies dead ahead, yet we have no plan – Peter Foster for the Telegraph
  • Britain Expects: One word in the Brexit backstop proposal speaks volumes about the importance of pragmatism in pursuit of an orderly withdrawal from the European Union – Times leader (£)
  • The Brexit backstop row: much ado about nothing – Guardian editorial
  • It looks like the long-feared Brexit sell-out has moved a giant leap closer as David Davis’ ‘end-date’ is revealed as non-legally binding – The Sun says

…as a senior Government official launches an extraordinary attack on David Davis

An extraordinary briefing from Number 10 to The Sun, essentially calling David Davis stupid and claiming he has been completely outplayed by May and Robbins. The “senior government source” told Tom Newton Dunn that DD had been “bamboozled by drafting again”: “The language about the time limit is all expectations and aspirational. DD hasn’t got anything concrete. Remember, a few weeks ago DD agreed to the backstop because it was time-limited and would go alongside agreement of a preferred long-term end state for customs. As of now, he has nothing on long-term end state, and a highly dubious expectation of a time limit that has to be agreed by the EU Commission. I like DD, but she’s done him like a kipper again.” – Guido Fawkes

Boris Johnson warns that Theresa May must show more ‘guts’ on Brexit or UK will be ‘locked in orbit around EU’ in leaked remarks…

Boris Johnson has warned that Britain could end up “locked in orbit around the EU” in his most critical comments to date of the Prime Minister’s handling of Brexit. The Foreign Secretary told Tory donors that the UK could end up effectively “in the customs union and to a large extent still in the single market” unless the Government had the “guts” to pursue the right policies… Mr Johnson made the comments at a private dinner with Tory donors which were recorded by one of the attendees and leaked to the media on Thursday night, and later published on Buzzfeed News… He said there was a high chance of a Brexit that crossed the “red lines” of Brexiteers, keeping Britain “locked in orbit around the EU, in the customs union and to a large extent still in the single market…so not really having full freedom on our trade policy, our tariff schedules, and not having freedom with our regulatory framework either.” – Telegraph

…as he attacks Philip Hammond’s Treasury as the ‘heart of Remain’

Boris Johnson has described Philip Hammond’s Treasury as “the heart of Remain” and accused it of sacrificing the benefits of Brexit to avoid short-term disruption… The decision to disband the official Brexit campaign group Vote Leave and to cease campaigning after the EU referendum was an “absolutely fatal mistake”, he said… In remarks likely to be seen as critical of the Remain-supporting Mr Hammond, Mr Johnson expressed his anger at what he sees as the Treasury’s attempt to exaggerate “mumbo jumbo” short-term consequences of leaving the EU in order to scupper key parts of Brexit. He said of the Treasury: “What they don’t want is friction at the borders. They don’t want any disruption. So they’re sacrificing all the medium and long-term gains amid fear of short-term disruption . . . That fear of short- term disruption has become so huge in people’s minds that they’re turning them all wet. Project Fear is really working on them. They’re terrified of this nonsense. It’s all mumbo jumbo.” – The Times (£)

  • Explosive leaked recording reveals Boris Johnson’s private views about Britain’s foreign policy – Buzzfeed
  • Boris Johnson ‘warns of Brexit meltdown’ – BBC News
  • Leaked recording reveals Johnson’s views on Brexit negotiations and Trump – Sky News
  • Boris Johnson blasts Treasury as ‘heart of Remain’ – FT (£)
  • Boris warns Brexit is in danger of being sold out – Guido Fawkes
  • Leaked comments by Boris Johnson expose cabinet divisions – Guardian
  • Boris Johnson launches blistering attack on Philip Hammond as Theresa May faces calls to ditch Brexit blocking chancellor – The Sun
  • Boris Johnson admits there may be a Brexit ‘meltdown’ – Guardian
  • Boris Johnson says Trump could handle Brexit better and warns of ‘meltdown’ in explosive leaked recording – Independent
  • Boris Johnson’s remarks will have resonated with many Brexiteers – Telegraph editorial (£)

European Research Group MPs tell May to sack Olly Robbins

Tory MPs in the ERG have told Theresa May to sack her Remainer Brexit adviser Olly Robbins. Representations have been made to the chief whip that Robbins’ Irish backstop is unacceptable and has put Number 10 on a course towards selling out on Brexit, and his position is no longer tenable. May has to choose whether she wants to persist with Robbins’ sellout plan that gives up on the opportunities of Brexit, or back down and agree with David Davis. It is difficult to see how both Robbins and DD can stay in the government if things carry on like this. – Guido Fawkes

May offers Tory rebels compromise ‘breathing space’ over EU Withdrawal Bill…

The government has proposed a 28-day breathing space if parliament rejects Theresa May’s Brexit deal, as it looks for a compromise with Conservative rebels to avoid a string of defeats in the House of Commons. The EU withdrawal bill is returning to the Commons for 12 hours of debate next week — now spread over two days after protests from backbenchers over the prospect of an all-night sitting. The government’s flagship Brexit bill was peppered with 15 amendments by the House of Lords, which ministers must now decide to accept, or urge MPs to vote down. Downing Street tabled a series of “amendments-in-lieu” on Thursday night – offering its own tweaks to the legislation – after talks with Tory rebels, including Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve… But the “mutineers” are still expecting fresh concessions before Tuesday and Wednesday’s debates. “They are looking at compromising on customs amendments,” said one. – Guardian

…as she reveals Government’s plan to wrap up trade and customs legislation before summer recess too

Theresa May has confirmed that the British government hopes to wrap up its main Brexit legislation before the summer holidays, setting the scene for a hectic few weeks of Parliamentary scrutiny. Until recently it was thought that the Tory government might try to delay certain bills — on customs and trade— until the autumn for fear of struggling to get them through a sceptical House of Commons. However, the prime minister told reporters en route to the G7 in Canada that both bills would be put before MPs before the “summer recess” when politicians disappear for a long break… Asked if she had a message for [anti-Brexit] rebels, she merely said: “I hope what everybody will see next week when they come to vote . . . is the importance of ensuring that we get the EU Withdrawal Bill onto the statute book because it’s that EU Withdrawal Bill that ensures that we’re able to have that smooth transition when we leave the European Union.” – FT (£)

Britain’s export sales soar by more than 6 percent and defy Project Fear predictions of a post-Brexit slump in trade

Export sales have soared in every corner of the UK, new figures have revealed – defying Project Fear warnings of a collapse in trade after the Brexit vote. HMRC revealed exports from England between January and March were up 6.5 per cent on last year, and by 12.1 per cent in Scotland, 7.1 per cent in Wales and 4.9 per cent in Northern Ireland. A regional breakdown shows exports were up for every region of England too. East Midlands saw the biggest increase – from £18.4 billion to £21.2 billion of exports, equivalent to 15.2 per cent… International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the figures showed Brexit was already benefiting every part of the country. He said: “As we continue our path to Brexit, HMRC’s latest figures clearly show every part of the UK making the most of global opportunities as goods exports rise across the country. More than 100,000 businesses are expanding their horizons and making the most of the demand for quality British goods.” – The Sun

  • The UK tech industry pulled in more than three times as much investment as any other European country post-Brexit, with London leading the way – City A.M.

EU opens door to UK participation in €100bn research programme

Brussels has opened the door to the UK’s continued participation in EU-funded science and innovation projects but with safeguards to prevent post-Brexit Britain from getting more money out of the programme than it will pay in entry fees… The €100bn programme, known as Horizon Europe, will be one of the largest funding initiatives in the world for scientific research. The present seven-year programme has a budget of €77bn, of which the UK is contributing about €10bn… [Carlos Moedas, EU science and research commissioner] said the commission’s legal text supporting Horizon Europe was written “in a way that can include the UK as a ‘third country’”. Successive EU R&D programmes have welcomed outside participation, with countries such as Israel and Switzerland paying to become “associated” with the initiatives. UK-based research leaders responded positively to the announcement from Brussels. – FT (£)

Brexit has created ‘new divide’ in SNP, study finds ahead of party conference

Brexit has split the Scottish Nationalists and Eurosceptic voters have fled the SNP for the Tories, according to a detailed analysis published ahead of the party’s conference starting on Friday. Sir John Curtice, Britain’s most eminent psephologist, and Ian Montague found “a new divide” has been created in the nationalist movement over their attitudes to leaving Europe. In a report for the National Centre for Social Research (NCSR), they said Nicola Sturgeon’s pro-EU stance had cost her party votes and seats in last year’s snap general election… The survey of 1,234 Scots also found that nearly six out of 10 (58 per cent) describe themselves as Eurosceptic compared to only 37 per cent who say they are Europhiles… The report further undermined Ms Sturgeon’s decision to demand another referendum on the back of the Brexit vote, with many Remain voters’ support for the EU “too weak” to be a “deal breaker” over wanting to stay in the UK. – Telegraph (£)

  • Brexit vote failed to deliver a surge in support for Scottish independence, claims Sir John Curtice – The Sun
  • Independence report exposes divisions in Scottish National Party – FT (£)

WTO Brexit would cost France billions a year, finds study

A hard Brexit will cost French wine and cheese-makers hundreds of millions of euros a year, research suggests. A study by Oliver Wyman, the consultancy, said that the annual cost to French business and industry would be €4 billion if Britain stayed out of the customs union after Brexit and traded with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms… Although the losses would be bigger in Germany and Holland, Brexit may hurt more in France because it will damage some of its most cherished industries if the analysis is correct. The study says that of the French sectors food and wine would be hit hardest, with costs of €900 million a year. French wine and spirits producers could lose more than €200 million a year and cheese-makers more than €100 million, the study says… Britain was the second biggest market for French wine and spirits last year, with imports worth €1.3 billion. – The Times (£)

The Sun: It looks like the long-feared Brexit sell-out has moved a giant leap closer as David Davis’ ‘end-date’ is revealed as non-legally binding

It’s hard to avoid concluding that the sellout of Brexit we have long feared took a giant leap towards completion yesterday. We hope we’re wrong. The Government intends to offer the EU a “backstop” arrangement that could shackle us to its restrictive ­customs rules for ever to resolve the over-hyped Irish border issue. Brexit Secretary David Davis managed to get an end-date inserted, December 2021, but it was fudged as a mere “expectation”. It is not legally binding. It is supposedly temporary. But that is naïve. It gives the EU no incentive to negotiate the free trade deal we want. They will have us where they want us. They can reject Irish solutions for ever… No wonder Remainers are cock-a-hoop. Is there embarrassment in No10? Or fear? No. Just glee, that Theresa May had stitched up Davis with the wooliness of the wording. “She’s done him like a kipper again,” said one source. It’s not the Brexit Secretary done up like a kipper. It’s Brexit and 17.4million voters. Mrs May must stand up for them. All we see is capitulation. – The Sun says

Telegraph: Boris Johnson’s remarks will have resonated with many Brexiteers

Many will agree with what the Foreign Secretary had to say. Prophecies of post-Brexit doom are blown out of all proportion, he said; nevertheless there is an “argument” within the Government about how to leave, and the Brexit Britain ends up with might not be the one Brexiters want. “Unless you have the guts to go for the independent policy, you’re never going to get the economic benefits of Brexit.” … Mrs May and Mr Davis cooked up a fudge – the UK Government “expects” the backstop to last until the end of December 2021 at the latest – but here is proof that Brexiters are concerned that Britain is edging towards a compromise that will keep the country trapped within the orbit of the EU. It’s also undeniable that Whitehall has not made plans for an alternative. Mr Johnson suggests Britain will only get what it asks and prepares imaginatively for… The sense of drift must end. We are exiting the EU, but to what purpose? Mr Johnson, like many Tories, clearly yearns for some positivity and vision. – Telegraph editorial (£)

Paul Goodman: The water’s temperature is still rising – but at least the frog has a nice shiny new waistcoat button

Once the backstop kicks in, it cannot as matters stand be rescinded by one party to the agreement only. So if the EU wishes the backstop to continue to apply indefinitely (as it well might), it doesn’t matter whether the Government proclaims an end date – because, as we’ve seen, the EU isn’t bound by it… It is therefore very hard to see what David Davis has gained from the technical note on the customs agreement agreed with the Prime Minister today. That note doesn’t bring forward the publication of the Government negotiation White Paper, which May has delayed. It doesn’t advance preparing for No Deal if necessary, thereby putting a rocket up the Chancellor. It doesn’t set out a route map to regulatory divergence in some cases – the subject of so much discussion at the Chequers summit. It doesn’t remove Olly Robbins from his role as the Prime Minister’s chief Brexit negotiator, and put Davis, or another Minister, properly in charge. It doesn’t do any of these things because they are beyond its remit. But all of these matters have been the subject of vociferous complaint this week from Ministers and MPs – mostly, though not all by any means exclusively, Brexiteers. They have simply not been addressed today. – Paul Goodman for ConservativeHome

Leo McKinstry: Welby’s worship of European Union is nonsensical

Speaking to an assembly of European churches, [the Archbishop of Canterbury] extravagantly declared that the Brussels bureaucracy was not only “the greatest dream realised for humans” since the end of the Roman empire, but also had delivered “hope for all its people”. In further exultations he claimed that the EU had brought “peace” and “prosperity” to the continent… It insults our intelligence to pretend that the monstrously awed political institution of the EU is more important than the Renaissance in the story of mankind. Indeed, the catalogue of supposed achievements that he ascribes to the European Union is baseless. He talks of peace but it was Nato, not the EU, that protected Europe from Soviet tyranny, just as it was Nato that helped to end the conflict in the balkans in the 1990s after Brussels had stood impotently by. Far from promoting stability, the EU has brought Europe soaring crime and terrorism through its obsession with free movement, precisely the reason why there has recently been such a eurosceptic populist revolt against Brussels across the continent. Welby blathers about challenging “the divisions of our societies” but it is the EU, with its dogmatic inflexibility and lack of accountability, that helped to create those divisions and distrust… Just as empty is Welby’s talk about EU prosperity. In truth, the EU is a vast engine of debt, over-regulation and job destruction, as shown by the brutal unemployment rates of young people in southern Europe… What really motivated Brexit was the natural human wish for democratic control over our own laws, trade, justice and borders. There is nothing ignoble or prejudiced about such an instinct. As Welby should recognise, the desire for freedom from unelected foreign rule has been behind so many of the great, anti-imperial liberation movements in history. – Leo McKinstry for the Express

Comment in brief

  • Theresa May’s compromise Brexit might just work – and many of her MPs agree – Fraser Nelson for the Telegraph (£)
  • May has been moving her red line on the ECJ too quietly for Britain’s own good – Raphael Hogarth for The Times (£)
  • We must stop bad bosses using migrant labour to drive down wages – Frances O’Grady for The Times (£)
  • Is Corbyn softening his Brexit stance? – Ben Kelly for Reaction
  • Corbyn’s positioning on Brexit has come straight out of the Blair playbook – this doesn’t feel like principle-driven politics – Andrew Grice for the Independent
  • Sadiq Khan’s meddling is a bigger threat to London than Brexit – Brian Monteith for City A.M.
  • Despite what some might say, Paul Dacre’s departure from the Daily Mail won’t stop Brexit – Will Gore for the Independent

News in brief

  • Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan sparks chaos with suggestion that UK could have referendum to choose between accepting deal or leaving with no deal – The Sun
  • Michael Gove will double UK’s ‘Blue Belt’ and announce 41 new Marine Conservation Zones to protect our sea life – The Sun
  • Pharma industry seeks early EU-UK drugs agreement – FT (£)
  • Theresa May warns EU not to hit back too hard on US tariffs or risk sparking a major trade war – The Sun
  • Britain could be left behind in economic slow lane unless government lifts investment and productivity, CBI warns – The Times (£)