Theresa May warns of 'uncharted territory' if MPs reject her deal: Brexit News for Monday 07 January

Theresa May warns of 'uncharted territory' if MPs reject her deal: Brexit News for Monday 07 January
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Theresa May warns of ‘uncharted territory’ if MPs reject her deal…

Next week’s vote would “definitely” go ahead, she told the BBC, as she promised new safeguards for Northern Ireland and to look at giving MPs more say in shaping future EU negotiations. The UK’s March exit was “in danger” if MPs did not back the deal, she said. But one Tory Brexiteer said support for leaving without a deal was “hardening”. And one senior Labour figure said she believed a general election may be inevitable “within months” if there was deadlock in Parliament and Mrs May could not get her deal through. Asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr if the vote would “definitely” go ahead in the second week of January, she replied “yes, we are going to hold the vote”. She said she truly believed hers was a “good deal” for the country and that it was up to its opponents to spell out the alternatives to it. “If the deal is not voted on, then we are going to be in uncharted territory,” she said. “I don’t think anyone can say what will happen in terms of the reaction we see in Parliament. – BBC News

  • Theresa May says UK will be in ‘uncharted territory’ if MPs vote down her Brexit deal – Sunday Telegraph (£)

> WATCH: Theresa May’s Andrew Marr interview in full

…and says that critics of her deal are risking democracy…

Writing in the Mail, Mrs May said: “The only way to both honour the result of the referendum and protect jobs and security is by backing the deal that is on the table.” She said “no one else has an alternative plan” that delivers on the EU referendum result, protects jobs and provides certainty to businesses. “There are some in Parliament who, despite voting in favour of holding the referendum, voting in favour of triggering Article 50 and standing on manifestos committed to delivering Brexit, now want to stop us leaving by holding another referendum,” she said. “Others across the House of Commons are so focused on their particular vision of Brexit that they risk making a perfect ideal the enemy of a good deal. Both groups are motivated by what they think is best for the country, but both must realise the risks they are running with our democracy and the livelihoods of our constituents.” – BBC News

  • PM urges ‘new spirit’ as she tries to convince MPs to back her Brexit deal – Sky News

…as she plans to plead for the EU to give ground and rescue her deal…

Theresa May is preparing to make another desperate plea to EU leaders to offer a concession on the Irish backstop as she attempts to win over Brexiters who have vowed to vote down the government’s deal. The prime minister on Sunday promised to hold the meaningful vote in parliament in the week beginning 14 January despite growing opposition from Conservative backbenchers and the Democratic Unionist party, whose votes are required to push the deal through parliament. As MPs prepare to return to Westminster with the crucial Commons vote looming on the withdrawal agreement, Downing Street insisted that new compromises could still be won from Europe that would ensure the safe passage of May’s plan. – Guardian

  • Germany and Ireland step up efforts to find Brexit border ‘fix’ – Guardian

…while seeking to charm Tory rebels over drinks…

Theresa May will invite Tory opponents into Downing Street for drinks on Monday and Wednesday as she faces an unprecedented digital grassroots campaign cementing opposition to her Brexit deal among MPs. The prime minister will meet members of the European Research Group and other opponents to discuss her deal, which is due to be put to the Commons the following week. She held a pre-Christmas meeting with Jacob Rees-Mogg, the European Research Group leader, and Bernard Jenkin, among ten Tory MPs invited to discuss the Tory party’s future as part of Mrs May’s “masochism strategy”. – The Times (£)

…in advance of offering MPs three pledges in a bid to win them over

Theresa May will this week unveil a hat-trick of pledges in a last-ditch bid to win support her Brexit deal – after warning the UK could plunge into chaos if it’s voted down. And insiders revealed she will deliver promises in three areas to win over the 100 plus furious Tory MPs who have vowed to oppose her. She plans to produce a commitment from Brussels by Friday that will effectively time-limit the hated ‘backstop’ to a year. She also hopes to offer a Parliamentary veto on the backstop once we leave the EU and a package of measures for Northern Ireland, which will see the UK align with any temporary EU rules the province is forced to accept. The PM – who took her annual trip to a constituency swimming pool gala on Saturday – told the BBC: “What we’ll be setting out over the next few days is assurances, measures in these areas.” – The Sun

  • Theresa May pins hopes on getting EU to agree 2021 deadline – The Times

Theresa May is stoking apocalyptic fears about no-deal Brexit to win over her rebels, says former Trade Secretary Lord Lilley…

Theresa May has been accused by senior Tories of trying to scare MPs into backing her EU Withdrawal Agreement with an “apocalyptic” vision of what would happen in a no deal Brexit. In a report aimed at debunking “myths” about leaving the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms, Lord Lilley, the former trade secretary, said the Government was trying to “play up the supposed horrors” of leaving the EU ahead of this month’s Parliamentary vote on the deal. – Telegraph (£)

Lord Lilley – knighted by the PM last year – said Government was being “extraordinarily irresponsible and self-contradictory” in a staggering attack backed by Eurosceptic backbenchers. It came as Theresa May spoke with European Commission chief Jean Claude Juncker in a desperate bid to prize concessions out of Brussels ahead of a crunch vote on her Brexit deal on January 15th. Ex-Tory party leader Iain Duncan Smith warned attitudes against the PM’s deal on the backbenches had “hardened” over the Christmas break – and that the chances of a No Deal were now “more than 50 per cent”. And in a report designed to downplay the fears of a No Deal, Lord Lilley blasted Government for spreading scare stories that helped “Brexit opposing media” to “demonise” the idea of leaving the EU without a deal in place. The former Trade Secretary said that resorting to WTO terms after March 29 should be seen as a “safe haven” for business and consumers alike while negotiations over a free trade deal with Brussels continue. – The Sun

…as he lists 30 ‘Brexit no-deal truths’ to destroy ‘apocalypse’ myths…

Senior Tory Lord Lilley has set out a 30-point report rejecting the Theresa May’s “apocalyptic” vision of the impact of no-deal Brexit. The former trade secretary accused the Prime Minister of trying to “play up the supposed horrors” of leaving the European Union on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms. And he has written a report, which will be sent out to MPs on Monday, listing what he describes as 30 “truths” about leaving the EU without a deal. He said: “The Government is clearly determined to play up the supposed horrors of leaving with no Withdrawal Agreement in the hope of persuading MPs to vote for the EU’s unloved draft ‘deal’. “The Government is in the bizarre position of preparing to leave on WTO terms, while pretending that its preparations will be unsuccessful.” – Sunday Express

> Brendan Chilton on BrexitCentral today: Trading on WTO rules will be a liberation for the UK – and the Labour leadership needs to embrace it

…and Tory Brexiteers conclude ‘no deal would be okay’ as May fails to change minds…

Theresa May has been told “nothing has changed” despite the prime minister beginning a fresh New Year bid to deliver her Brexit deal. Tory MPs opposed to Mrs May’s deal told Sky News on Sunday they had heard nothing to prompt them to change their minds. One Brexiteer suggested MPs attitudes had recently “hardened” towards a belief leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement would be “absolutely okay”. And the DUP, who prop up the minority Conservative government at Westminster, signalled their opposition to the deal had not weakened. Having pulled a pre-Christmas vote on her deal due to the prospect of a significant defeat, Mrs May insisted the vote will now “definitely” go ahead in mid-January. – Sky News

> WATCH: Tory MP Peter Bone tells Sophy Ridge opinion has hardened in favour of no-deal over Christmas

…as Boris Johnson says a no-deal Brexit is the ‘closest to what people voted for’ in the 2016 referendum

Boris Johnson last night claimed a No Deal Brexit is the “closest to what people voted for” in the 2016 Referendum. And he urged Cabinet Ministers to mirror the British public’s “optimism and self confidence” for the possible exit scenario. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson said the public had rejected the “downright apocalyptic” forecasts of what could happen if Britain leaves without a deal on March 29. He added: “They didn’t vote for anything like Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement. They voted to come out. “It is No Deal or WTO terms that actually corresponds to their idea of coming out, and they view that option with a confidence that is now directly proportional to the growing strength of Government warnings against it.” – The Sun

  • The British people won’t be scared into backing a woeful Brexit deal nobody voted for  – Boris Johnson MP for the Telegraph (£)

DUP says there is ‘no way’ it will back the PM’s deal

There is “no way” the Democratic Unionist Party will back Theresa May’s Brexit deal, a leading figure has said. Sammy Wilson told the BBC he was “more alarmed” than ever about what the deal would mean for Northern Ireland. The DUP, which props up Theresa May’s government, has held talks with the PM in recent days as she tries to persuade MPs to back the deal later this month. The PM is seeking further legal assurances from the EU but it has said negotiations will not be re-opened.   – BBC News

200 MPs call on Theresa May to rule out no deal…

More than 200 MPs from different political parties have signed a letter to Theresa May, urging her to rule out a no-deal Brexit. The MPs – including both Leave and Remain supporters – have been invited to meet the prime minister on Tuesday. Tory ex-cabinet minister Dame Caroline Spelman, who organised the letter with Labour MP Jack Dromey, said a no-deal Brexit would cause job losses. It comes ahead of a crucial Parliament vote on whether to back Mrs May’s deal. Dame Caroline Spelman – who was environment secretary for two years when David Cameron was prime minister – told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour programme that 209 MPs had signed the letter. She said: “Crashing out of the EU without a deal will cause job losses and bring to an end the renaissance of manufacturing that we’ve seen in regions like mine in the West Midlands, and both Jack Dromey and I know the human interest and impact of this.” Asked if the prime minister “gets it”, Dame Caroline said: “Yes, I definitely think she gets it. She wouldn’t have invited us to come in and see her if she didn’t.” Dame Caroline said the signatories to her letter included Brexit and Remain supporters – but the letter did not bind them to supporting the PM’s withdrawal deal. – BBC News

  • More than 200 MPs urge May to rule out no deal as Johnson dismisses ‘downright apocalyptic’ warnings – Independent

…some of whom are threatening a Trump-style shutdown over Brexit…

An all-party group of senior MPs will launch an audacious attempt to derail a no-deal Brexit this week by starving the government of cash and creating a Donald Trump-style shutdown. MPs will vote on Tuesday on two amendments to the Finance Bill that would lead to a gridlock in Whitehall unless Theresa May wins approval from parliament for a deal with Brussels. The former Labour cabinet minister Yvette Cooper is at the head of a group of select committee leaders who have tabled an amendment that would rob the Treasury of its no-deal powers if ministers pressed ahead without the support of MPs. Last night she vowed that the group — which includes former Tory ministers Nicky Morgan, Oliver Letwin and Nick Boles — would try to amend every single piece of legislation going forward to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Two members of Theresa May’s team last night admitted the plan could lead to “total paralysis” at the top of government. The Finance Bill grants the Treasury the right to spend money on a no-deal Brexit and wider powers, which are not defined, that could be used for emergency interventions in the event of no deal. – Sunday Times (£)

…while another group demand May betray the Brexit vote and keep the UK in a ‘Common Market 2.0’

With Theresa May’s “meaningful vote” approaching and looking precarious, Tory MP Robert Halfon and Labour’s Lucy Powell have devised a deal to avoid leaving the EU under World Trade Organisation conditions. The “Common Market 2.0” idea would see the UK still subject to single market regulations and sending billions of pounds a year to the EU. The pair suggested the new economic alliance would offer frictionless trade through full access to the single market. They also said such a move would ensure that union of the UK would not be compromised as it would “eliminate the need for the Irish backstop ever to be activated”. Outlining their proposal to avert a no-deal in The Telegraph, they added: “Common Market 2.0 builds on what people originally supported when we joined the original European Economic Community in 1973.” Their plan advocates for the softest Brexit possible and would likely cause anger among Leave voters. – Express

May to hold Brexit crisis meeting to decide whether Parliament must sit through weekends and holidays

Theresa May will decide on Monday whether to cancel MPs’ February break and make them work at weekends as time runs out to pass Brexit legislation before Britain leaves the EU. The Prime Minister will summon the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and the Chief Whip Julian Smith to an emergency meeting to carve out the necessary parliamentary time in the three months left before the March exit date. Aides have already warned Mrs May she is likely to end up with “bad legislation” because she has delayed the meaningful vote on the deal for so long that there is little time left to scrutinise new arrangements, whether she ends up with a deal or no deal. Mrs May resisted pressure from Labour to shorten MPs’ Christmas holiday, but Whitehall sources said she is now giving serious consideration to making MPs sit through a 10-day break scheduled to run from February 15 to 25 inclusive. Mrs May could also force MPs to sit every Friday and even at weekends if she deems it necessary. – Telegraph (£)

  • Will Theresa May cancel MPs’ weekends and holiday time? – Express

Parliamentary rules will stop Theresa May staging repeat votes to force her deal through

Parliamentary rules will prevent Theresa May bulldozing her Brexit deal through by staging multiple repeat votes until the Commons surrenders, MPs believe. The tactic – increasingly seen as the prime minister’s only hope of rescuing her unpopular agreement – is explicitly barred by procedures to stop the government bullying the legislature, they say. Even if Ms May tries to evade the rules by changing a few words of the motion put before MPs, it would be ruled out of order if it is “the same, in substance, as a question that has been decided”, the rules say. The crucial hurdle emerged after the prime minister refused several times to rule out bringing back the vote “again and again and again” if, as expected, she loses heavily next week. With the Commons deadlocked on what should happen next, she is expected to use the looming threat of a no-deal Brexit, now just 81 days away, to pile pressure on MPs to back down. “I’ve consulted with the clerks of the House of Commons on this,” he told Sky News. “You cannot simply bring the same motion again and again and again – you cannot do that. And – even if you sought to bring a different motion through changing one word – if, in substance, it’s the same thing, under the rules of the House of Commons you can’t keep bringing it.” – Independent

Labour faces ‘mass challenge’ over Brexit policy…

Thousands of Labour members have demanded their party oppose Theresa May’s Brexit deal and back a second referendum over EU membership. The call comes before a key party gathering which will be held amid warnings that some are already ending their membership over the issue. The pressure emerges as the biggest Brexit poll conducted since the referendum suggests support for Labour would fall significantly should it back or allow its MPs to back a Brexit agreement. More than 5,000 Labour members and supporters have contacted the party before its policy meeting of senior figures this week. Labour’s national policy forum, which includes trade union bosses, senior party officials and shadow cabinet ministers, meets on Wednesday. Officials will offer testimony that local members are quitting over the party’s refusal to oppose Brexit. – Guardian

…as a shadow cabinet minister suggests the party will back a second referendum

The shadow international trade secretary said Labour would return to Brussels to renegotiate the Brexit deal if they won an early general election. The party would then put their new deal to the public to vote on. The move marks a major U-turn in Labour policy, as Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly refused to back a second referendum. Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr Gardiner said: “If we as a new, incoming Labour government were to go to Europe without those red lines we know that we could get a different, better deal and that’s what we want to try and achieve. At that stage it makes sense to go to the country and say ‘here we are, this is what we have managed to negotiate, this is the deal that we have managed to conclude because we don’t have the same red lines as Theresa May, we think it’s a better way forward’. And it seems to me, at a personal level, what I would then say is that is the time when we would then say to people ‘now make your decision on what we have managed to conclude’.” – Sunday Express

  • Future Labour government could hold referendum on Brexit deal – iNews

Michael Gove claims no-deal could be disastrous for farmers

We are sitting in his office on his first day back at Westminster surrounded by boxes of Christmas chocolates, his hessian shopping bag and recyclable coffee cup while he contemplates the year ahead. “A no-deal could be disastrous,” he warns. “It could be less than 90 days away. The impact would be particularly bad for farmers. Tariffs of 40 per cent could be slapped on meat exports to the EU and subject to strict inspection regimes by the French. There would be hold-ups and delays at Calais and we could lose the benefits of leaving the common agricultural policy.” These stories of doom and destruction do not seem to have frightened his colleagues and Conservative Party members into saying they will support the prime minister’s deal.  – The Times (£)

Former MI6 chief tells MPs to vote down May’s agreement

MPs should vote down the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, says the former head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove. The former intelligence chief – “C” – and Falklands hero Major-General Julian Thompson, along with other former senior military and security figures, have warned that the government has during Brexit negotiations embedded the UK in EU defence and security structures, without seeking proper parliamentary oversight or approval. The group has been warning that the Prime Minister’s deal constitutes a threat to national security, putting UK forces and intelligence and security interests under the emerging superstructure of EU policy. – Reaction

New ad campaign warns Brits to renew passports and check travel plans now in case of No Deal

Brits must take action now in case of a No Deal Brexit, the Government is warning in a new advertising blitz. Ministers plan to flood social media and radio with adverts telling the public to renew their passports and check travel plans.The ads will also warn businesses to take action to ensure the economy doesn’t crash after we quit the EU. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay today announced the campaign will begin next week. The ads will be the first direct instruction to members of the public to take action in case we end up leaving the EU in March without a deal. Writing in the Daily Express, Mr Barclay said: “Now, as 2019 begins, we will accelerate our No Deal planning further. – The Sun

150 lorries to test traffic around Dover in no-deal Brexit rehearsal

Monday morning will be a big day in the story of Brexit. Not in Westminster, or Brussels, but in a windy corner of Kent. There, at the disused Manston airfield, around 150 lorries are due to gather for a Brexit rehearsal. It will be one of the first public displays of how life might change in just under three months’ time. There are still signs pointing you towards the airfield marked as “Kent International”, even though a plane has not landed here for more than four years. There is a vociferous campaign to return it to aviation but, more pressingly, Manston is being eyed up as a lorry park. Hence Monday’s test.  – Sky News

Theresa May: Jeremy Corbyn didn’t even read my Brexit deal before he rejected it. His policy is a cynical tissue of incoherence

When MPs cast their vote on our withdrawal from the EU, they will determine the future course our country will take. A democratic process, begun when the Conservative Party won an overall majority in a General Election with a manifesto commitment to hold an in-or-out vote, continued through a keenly fought referendum, will culminate in the representatives of the people having their final say. The approach of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership has been very different. Their Brexit policy is a cynical tissue of incoherence, designed to avoid difficult decisions. He did not even bother to read the deal before he came out against it. He tells one group he would keep the UK in the single market, while promising another an end to free movement. Throughout, he has provided the opposite of leadership, serving not our national interest but always his own political interest. So this is my appeal to my party, to Parliament and our country: in this New Year let’s discover a new spirit of common purpose. Let’s agree a Brexit deal that moves us forward into a brighter future with confidence. – Theresa May MP for the Mail on Sunday

Boris Johnson: The British people won’t be scared into backing a woeful Brexit deal nobody voted for

Time and again the Brexit debate turns into a tribute to the wisdom of the British people – and their instinctive ability to sort fact from nonsense. Over the last few weeks, they have been bombarded with warnings of what could happen to this country in the event of a “no-deal Brexit” – otherwise known as coming out on World Trade terms. Whether prompted by No 10 or not, establishment figures have taken to the airwaves to warn of the perils of rejecting Theresa May’s lamentable Withdrawal Agreement; and we now have a cumulative forecast that is downright apocalyptic. No one denies that there is work to be done so that, if we do leave on WTO terms, we are ready. There has been for far too long a confected hysteria about no deal, and a determination to make it taboo. That deliberate hysteria has prevented sensible preparations from being made. The good news is that the work seems to be at last under way, and it should now be stepped up with enthusiasm – remembering that any problems can be lubricated by a £39 billion saving. In the final analysis, the public seem to think that in so far as there may be short-term challenges, they are worth meeting now, in order to gain the benefits of Brexit, in free trade and self-government. The Government, for now, sees it the other way round, and wants to keep us forever locked into a very bad deal for fear of short-term inconvenience. That would be a tragic mistake. – Boris Johnson MP for the Telegraph (£)

Bill Cash: Theresa May’s monstrous Brexit deal would leave Britain at the mercy of its competitors

In the early Thirties, at a time of great historic change, Sir Winston Churchill demanded in the House of Commons: “Tell the truth to the British people. They are a tough people, a robust people.” Now, as then, it is time for straight talking. While Europe is on the cusp, our unemployment rate is at a mere 4 per cent. We have come through not only Project Fear in 2016 unscathed, but weathered the storms over the past 40 years of the massive unemployment generated by John Major’s ERM and the economic crash of 2008. As Churchill said, we are a tough and robust people. And if there is no deal because of EU intransigence, let us also remember the huge advantages of our language, democratic values, our commitment to the rule of law, and the opportunities of global trade on our own terms which we can enjoy if we leave without a deal. The Reversers haven’t got a leg to stand on and the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement would simply leave us at the mercy of our competitors. – Sir Bill Cash MP for the Sunday Telegraph (£)

Matt Ridley: No-deal provides certainty and saves billions for Britain

Suppose Britain leaves the EU on March 29 with no deal, just a series of last-minute fixes on things such as aviation and data. And suppose it proves to be a fairly damp squib, with a handful of problems, talked up breathlessly by the BBC, but no significant shortages in shops, or disruptions to supply chains. Instead of repeating debunked stories about shortages of Mars bars, sandwiches, insulin, clean water, cut flowers, Premiership footballers, Glyndebourne sopranos — as the BBC’s Gary Lineker did at the weekend about medicines — can we discuss what might actually happen? As Lord (Peter) Lilley and Brendan Chilton (of Labour Leave) write in a report published today: “Scares about import delays are particularly ludicrous since Britain will control its own borders. Why on earth would we prevent things we need from entering our country?” Exporters to the EU worry about tariffs, but they will average 4 per cent, dwarfed by the 15 per cent fall in the exchange rate since the referendum. Businessmen I speak to generally say they have prepared their own companies, but worry others haven’t. That’s what many said about the Y2K Millennium Bug, a comparison drawn by Lord Lilley and Mr Chilton. The social collapse that was to follow computer failures at midnight on December 31, 1999, never materialised, even in countries that spent little on preparation. It is highly likely that the downsides of a clean break in March are being exaggerated, the upsides underestimated. – Matt Ridley for The Times (£)

Iain Duncan Smith: A return to project fear? They can’t be that stupid

Downing Street have got it into their heads that they can get MPs to back their Brussels deal simply by ramping up warnings about a No Deal Brexit, but they must know that isn’t the case. Like some broken and distorted record, Project Fear runs on and on, with less and less effect. Even the most loyal of advisers must know that attitudes simply haven’t changed. Yet with diminishing effect, there are yet more plans to use this tactic as MPs return to Westminster this week. First, there have been briefings that there will be an amendment to the vote to allow Parliament to leave the backstop that keeps us tied to EU customs rules, defying any agreement struck. Second, there is to be a ‘clarification’ on the backstop sought from the European Union by the Government in the form a new ‘protocol’. Third, we are told that the Government will simply go on putting the deal back to the Commons until – worn down by the process – Parliament accepts the deal. As MPs come back after the Christmas break, we do so knowing that all has not gone according to plan for the Government, because Project Fear has gone wrong. Crowded out by the drone chaos at Gatwick and illegal migrants arriving in growing numbers, it hasn’t worked. – Iain Duncan Smith MP for the Mail on Sunday

Jacob Rees-Mogg: You can’t scare us! Brexiteers are made of sterner stuff

The terminology used of “crashing out” is designed to make the flesh creep in the hope of bullying people into accepting a bad deal. Expensive, with a price tag of £39 billion, while ineffective, for the backstop could leave us shackled to the European Union for a generation. The Government hoped that as those fears fructified so Members of Parliament who opposed the proposal would soften under the influence of local party members. Those who want Brexit would be afraid that the risks of leaving without a deal would prevent any exit at all while those who want to remain were to fear the “cliff edge”. Fortunately, Conservative Association members are made of sterner stuff. The Party in the country at large is not especially ideological and is usually loyal to its leader. There is no Momentum-style movement but in the dozens of associations I have addressed I meet people who tend to be involved in other good causes. They accept the democratic norms but in return deserve to be listened to. Even the thought that they are being pressurised to change their minds would be counterproductive. They are not lightweight flibberty-gibbets but pillars of their communities who cannot be pushed around. – Jacob Rees-Mogg MP for the Sunday Express

Peter Mandelson: Theresa May’s Brexit plan reduces us to beggars in Brussels

I have spent my adult life arguing for the UK to secure a relationship with Europe that is as close as possible, so it might seem sensible to embrace Theresa May’s “compromise” Brexit on the basis that half a cake is better than none. But I feel sure it would be the wrong thing to do… The British people would hate being neither in nor fully out, cast into a legal and political no man’s land in which, desperate to maintain trade in goods, we would have to agree to follow EU rules with no say in making them. This goes beyond the much-contested Irish backstop (with or without its cosmetic adjustment). It is because, quite simply, we would end up akin to a regulatory satellite of the EU without recourse to any balanced system of legal rights or protections. – Lord Mandelson for the Sunday Times (£)  

Michael Fabricant: As time goes on, more people are waking up to the benefits of a ‘mitigated no deal’

On Wednesday next week, with just 79 days before Brexit is due, MPs will commence the debate on whether to accept Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement.The crucial vote will come the following week. As we go through the division lobbies, MPs will have in mind how their own constituents voted in the referendum. Almost 60 per cent of mine supported Brexit . But Tory MPs, particularly those with an eye on the leadership, will reflect on another poll, too. This week, YouGov found that 57 per cent of Conservative Party members would prefer no deal, and only 23 per cent Mrs May’s deal.  – Michael Fabricant MP for the Telegraph (£)

Norman Lamont: Theresa May’s Brexit tactic is to run down the clock until March but slippery EU’s deal is never final

Most Brits will give an exasperated sigh when they realise Parliament is back tomorrow – facing exactly the same Brexit deadlock as before Christmas. It is an unprecedented situation — a Prime Minister and Government surviving on a knife edge, frustrated on a measure of massive historical importance by a large minority of its own backbench supporters. Theresa May’s tactic is to run down the clock until MPs feel they have no option but to back the Government’s deal and avoid a no-deal departure. The Government has been blitzing constituencies to put pressure on MPs via their supporters. But a recent poll indicated that 57 per cent of Conservative constituency workers think a no-deal Brexit would be better than the PM’s deal. So that tactic hasn’t worked, and a nasty Commons confrontation looms. It is not surprising that David Davis, the former Brexit Secretary, has suggested the PM should postpone the vote for a second time. If the EU refuses to budge, the automatic legal position is that the UK will leave on March 29, even if there is no deal and stalemate in Parliament. There is very little that Parliament can do to stop that now. It is what Parliament has voted for in the past. My guess is that the EU may well come up with some concession, perhaps a legally binding clarification, and that there will be a lot of arguing, probably right up to midnight on March 28. But whatever happens, the next day we will leave. – Lord Lamont for The Sun

Jonathan Ford: May’s backstop could lock Britain in a regulatory iron maiden

The mischief lies in the so-called Irish backstop, which would leave the whole of the UK still subject to single market regulation in state aid even though the country was formally outside the EU. As a consequence, Britain will continue to apply not only those substantive state-aid rules that existed at exit, but any new ones too. The rules are only part of any state-aid decision. What really matters is the discretionary power possessed by the commission to approve or disapprove — sometimes with conditions — any plans member states propose which trigger state-aid concerns. That is inevitably a political process. The UK’s Hinkley Point nuclear project was generously state-aided. But the commission blessed it because two big member states — Britain and France (which was supplying the technology) — had the clout to ram it through. While that clout disappears along with Britain’s representation in Brussels at Brexit, UK interests are in theory protected because the discretionary power passes from the EU to the Competition and Markets Authority. But really it does not. In practice the UK regulator will have to get the European Commission’s sign-off, and the final arbiter will be the ECJ. And that is just in Great Britain. In Northern Ireland, the commission will remain in total control of the whole process itself. – Jonathan Ford for the FT(£)

Ed Conway: Singapore can teach us a lesson after Brexit

Is it this whiff of Empire that appeals to Brexiteers seeking a template for Britain’s post-EU existence? There are, after all, plenty of other small dynamic economies Britain might seek to emulate. What about South Korea, Taiwan or Dubai? As Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the Victorian who put Singapore on the map, might have put it, an awful lot of rot has been spouted about the place by critics and cheerleaders alike since we voted to leave the EU. Every time Theresa May, Philip Hammond or, in the case of this week, Jeremy Hunt praise Singapore, they provoke howls of indignation from economists who declare they don’t know what they’re talking about. But might the ministers have a point? – Ed Conway for The Times (£)

Charles Moore: Remainers are wrong to think the world hates Britain for seeking independence

Neil MacGregor, OM, is not only a great museum director, but also – in as much as British culture tolerates such a thing – a great public intellectual. When he ran the National Gallery, he showed us on television how Christian art saw salvation. When he directed the British Museum, he explained the world in 100 objects. Early this century, for this newspaper, I got him to write a beautiful part-work about the greatest paintings in British public collections. In all his expositions, he has a genius for using the particular to explain the general. Nowadays, MacGregor lives in Berlin. From that vantage point, he looks back at his own country. Hence his series, which ran every day on BBC Radio 4 this week, called As Others See Us. On each day, MacGregor visited a single country – starting with Germany, continuing through Egypt, Nigeria and Canada, and ending up yesterday with India. In each, he chose three thinkers, writers, political or business leaders, and asked them to tell him how they regard Britain today. -Charles Moore for the Telegraph (£)

Sunday Times: The clock is still ticking and yet nothing has changed

It is often said about the Brexit negotiations that the clock is ticking, usually by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator. In one respect, however, time has stood still. When, on December 10, Theresa May announced that she was pulling the House of Commons vote on her Brexit withdrawal agreement — as exclusively predicted by this newspaper — it was in the expectation that fellow EU leaders would come to her aid at a summit in Brussels. They did not. Having made clear that the agreement was not up for renegotiation, the EU stuck to its line. The prime minister’s humiliation was not as stark as at Salzburg in September but she returned empty-handed. Thus the debate in parliament on her agreement will resume tomorrow, with a vote scheduled for Tuesday, January 15, and — to coin a phrase — nothing has changed.Prime ministers only have so many lives, and Mrs May looks set to use up a few more this month. We sometimes take comfort from the fact that Britain is good at muddling through. As things stand, it is easy to see the muddle but much harder to imagine how we get through it. Meanwhile the clock ticks on to March 29. – Sunday Times (£) editorial

Nile Gardiner: A no-deal Brexit will strengthen the Special Relationship, the beating heart of the free world

America’s plain-spoken and highly effective ambassador to London, Woody Johnson, recently spelt out what US policymakers widely believe. He told the BBC that the prospects for a “quick, massive bilateral trade deal” between the US and the UK are bleak under Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement. He also said that the UK is “in need of leadership” over Brexit. He is absolutely right. Mr Johnson is a stalwart backer of Brexit, and his frequent statements in support of Britain’s exit from the EU reflect the overwhelmingly pro-Brexit optimism of US leaders. But the Trump presidency understands that Mrs May’s hugely flawed exit deal could tie Britain indefinitely to the EU customs union, making a future trade agreement between the world’s largest and fifth largest economies impossible. President Trump has mocked the May proposal as “a great deal for the EU”. In contrast, from the perspective of many in Washington, a “no-deal” Brexit would be a great opportunity for Britain. I have yet to meet a senior US government official who thinks such a course of action would be disastrous for the UK. – Sunday Telegraph (£)

Robert Peston: Theresa May will soon face the decision of her life over Brexit

The Prime Minister does have a strategy to prevent what she sees as the chaos of a no-deal Brexit. The flaw in it is that the strategy probably has a shelf life of just over one week. Because her strategy is to persuade MPs to back her version of leaving the EU in a vote on 15 or 16 January, and in the words of one of her senior ministers: “I will be shot for telling you this but we are going to lose that vote”. So what then? Well, amazingly, no one around her – not her ministers, not her officials – seem to know. Why not? “She won’t tell us” says a minister. “We go to see her. We give her our ideas about what to do next. She listens politely. She even asks questions. But none of us have a clue whether she agrees, whether she is persuaded. She gives us no hints. It is quite remarkable”. There is paralysis at the top of government on the most important question of our age at a time when time is desperately, horrifyingly short. These are conditions in which an organised opposition with a clear sense of direction could have a decisive, momentous influence on this country’s destiny (the lesson of Attlee in 1940 is instructive). But Labour too is desperately divided – and Jeremy Corbyn’s position on Brexit seems as distant from that of his party’s members as May’s is from Tory members. Britain needs leaders and leadership, now more than ever. Who, if anyone, can and will seize the moment? – Robert Peston for The Spectator

Sandi Dunn: It wasn’t easy, but I’ve finally found the courage to come out as a Lexiteer

At a Christmas party, my host rose to toast the coming year, 2019, and the Remain future… after a “people’s vote”. Nonplussed, glass raised, my mind raced. Should I join the toast, or should I “come out”? In my mind’s eye I saw myself, potentially as a hypocrite, so, I stuck up my hand and said, “I have something to confess… I’m a Lexiteer!” After an awkward pause the party commenced. The party guests were a typical middle-aged bunch of decent, professional, lefty Londoners. The wine flowed and as the evening progressed several guests sidled up to me with friendly yet puzzled expressions to find out why I’d joined the Brexiteers. At the party – and henceforth whenever the chance arises – my opening gambit is along the lines of, “Well, haven’t you read the Lisbon Treaty, the EU rule book, said to be impossible to understand but designed to alter the way EU members govern themselves?” It is the bloc’s unfair punishment of the ordinary people of Greece, TTIP, and nothing effective in the CAP for organic farming that led me to agree that the EU is a neoliberal, pro global-capitalism project first and foremost. And as for the Remainers’ campaign for a “people’s vote”, as professor of economics Yanis Varoufakis points out, “it seems a direct insult to Leavers to imply their winning vote wasn’t made by the [right] ‘people’”. I have since joined Varoufakis’s Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DieM25) which appears to be a sustainable way of becoming truly European. Simply staying inside the EU won’t cut it. – Sandi Dunn for the Independent

Robert Halfon: Time for MPs to grasp the nettle and unite behind a ‘Common Market 2.0’ Brexit

The UK is a great country with a proud history. Yet, one thing most will probably agree on, we aren’t exactly covering ourselves in glory. The public feel alarmed at the seeming mess we have got ourselves into with Brexit. Many are fed up to the back teeth of hearing about all the endless ‘Groundhog Day’ twists and turns and permutations what might or might not happen. It’s getting worse, not better, as we head towards the exit door without any agreement over a deliverable plan. That is why MPs from all parties are reaching the conclusion that we need to put aside tribal, political differences and accept every option carries risks. No one outcome is anyone’s ideal. It is for this reason, we have come together to argue for a Brexit deal that delivers the result of the 2016 referendum and protects the economic interests of working people in constituencies across the country from Manchester to Harlow. Our plan is that after the transition, in December 2020, the UK should join a new Common Market for the twenty-first century. – Robert Halfon MP for the Telegraph (£)

Brexit in Brief

  • Brexit. Four great Commons debates that show how we got here – and what’s at stake – Richard Ritchie for ConservativeHome
  • Brussels: the facade of democratic accountability – Ian Silvera for 1828
  • Seaborne Freight boss: The cleaner Brexit the better – The Times (£)
  • People’s Vote march was attended by a third of the number that organisers claimed, official estimate says – Sunday Telegraph (£)

And finally… Vote Leave’s Matthew Elliott on Channel 4’s Brexit: The Uncivil War

On New Year’s Day I exchanged messages with a friend who asked me how I felt about Brexit: The Uncivil War. I sent a one-word reply: “Apprehensive.” This was not so much because of the publicity, which incorrectly suggested that Trump-supporting billionaires and Russian emissaries were going to dominate the film’s plot, but more because the referendum and particularly its aftermath was brutal. I felt apprehensive about reliving it in glorious Technicolor… Watching the film, however, turned out to be cathartic and fun. Screenwriter James Graham has managed to turn the referendum campaign into a compelling story, whose central character naturally had to be Vote Leave’s campaign director, Dominic Cummings, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. – Matthew Elliott for the FT (£)