Brexit talks deadlocked before tomorrow’s Commons vote on May's deal: Brexit News for Monday 11 March

Brexit talks deadlocked before tomorrow’s Commons vote on May's deal: Brexit News for Monday 11 March
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Brexit talks deadlocked before tomorrow’s Commons vote on May’s deal…

Brexit talks between the UK and the EU remain deadlocked, Downing Street has said just a day before MPs are due to vote again on Theresa May’s deal. Mrs May spoke to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday night after a weekend of negotiations failed to find a breakthrough. Talks will resume on Monday morning with the aim of securing changes to the deal before Tuesday’s vote. The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March. BBC political correspondent Chris Mason said the deal had not been substantially changed and “the prospect of another big loss looms.” The government has been seeking changes to the Irish backstop, the safety net designed to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland, and only to be used as a last resort. But the details of it were a sticking point for many MPs when they voted her deal down in January. They worry that – in its current form – the backstop may leave the UK tied to the EU indefinitely. – BBC News

  • Theresa May battles to save Brexit deal amid threats to oust her – Guardian
  • Theresa May desperately attempts to salvage Brexit deal with 48 hours before critical Commons vote – Independent
  • Theresa May faces another crushing defeat in Brexit vote amid ‘deadlocked’ talks with EU – Evening Standard

…as Jeremy Hunt warns that Brexit could be lost if the deal is rejected…

Conservative MPs should back Theresa May’s deal this week or risk losing Brexit altogether, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned. There was “wind in the sails” of those opposing Brexit and the consequences for the party will be “devastating”, if it is not delivered, he said. Mr Hunt told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show some MPs wanted to “kill” the deal, in order to delay Brexit, with the ultimate aim of getting another referendum on the issue. “Within three weeks, those people could have two of those three things,” he said, adding that Labour’s position made the third more likely. He said: “We are in very perilous waters, and people who want to make sure that we really do deliver this result need to remember that if it fails… they are going to say: ‘There was a party that promised to deliver Brexit, we put them into No 10 and they failed’, and the consequences for us as a party, would be devastating.” He added: “We have an opportunity now to leave on March 29, or shortly thereafter. And it’s very important that we grasp that opportunity because there is wind in the sails of people trying to stop Brexit.” – BBC news

  • Europhile MPs could be two thirds of the way to stopping Brexit by the end of the week, warns Jeremy Hunt – Telegraph (£)
  • ‘We could end up losing Brexit’: Hunt says Britain may not leave EU after all, as pressure for second referendum grows – Independent
  • Jeremy Hunt warns Britain is two thirds of the way to a second EU referendum – The Sun

> WATCH: Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt discusses Brexit on The Andrew Marr Show

…and Michael Gove tells Tory rebels to save Brexit by backing May’s deal…

Michael Gove has warned Tory rebels they have less than 48 hours to save Brexit. Writing in the Daily Mail, he made a rallying call ahead of tomorrow’s vote declaring “everyone who believes in democracy” should back Theresa May’s deal. He claims the PM’s deal is the only way to make sure Brexit happens – and heal the bitter divisions in the UK. Gove insisted that while the deal is a “compromise”, it “provides the best way of delivering an exit that can secure our country’s unity and prosperity”. He also warned of “economic turbulence” if we crash out without a deal. Mrs May is heading to Brussels this morning to secure changes to her deal. The second so-called meaningful vote on the Brexit deal comes after it was rejected by a majority of 230 MPs in January. If the deal is rejected again MPs will get the chance to vote on leaving the EU without a deal or delaying Brexit. – The Sun

  • Vote Leave leader Michael Gove warns rebel Tory MPs that they have less than 48 hours to save Brexit – Daily Mail

…although some senior Tories have urged May to put the Brexit vote on hold…

Theresa May has been urged by senior Conservative MPs to pull tomorrow’s meaningful vote on her Brexit deal if she fails to secure significant concessions from Brussels. In phone calls with Downing Street, leading Tories in the Commons warned that the prime minister could face another three-figure defeat if she went ahead with her plan. They have advised her to halt the vote and replace it with a motion setting out the kind of Brexit deal that would be acceptable to Tory MPs to keep the party together and put pressure on Brussels. “As it stands her deal is going to be defeated,” a senior party source said. “It has been made clear to Downing Street that it would be eminently sensible to avoid that by proposing a motion that the party can support. Whether they listen or not is another matter.” – The Times (£)

  • Senior Tory MPs urge Theresa May to cancel Brexit vote – City A.M.

…while one minister claims ‘only two’ members of Cabinet still support May as she faces growing pressure to quit

Theresa May is facing increasing pressure to resign within weeks after it was claimed she has lost the backing of all but two of her Cabinet ministers. The Prime Minister has already said she will not contest the 2022 general election, but her ministers want her gone by July so that a new leader can conduct the next phase of the Brexit negotiations if Britain avoids a no deal exit. Members of the Cabinet have privately discussed whether they should tell her at the end of this week that her time is up, after what is expected to be a series of disastrous votes in Parliament. Parliament will then vote on whether to delay Brexit, which Eurosceptics have warned would hand the reins to the EU and make Mrs May’s position untenable. Mrs May could even be gone by Wednesday night if Labour tables – and wins – a fresh no confidence vote in the Government, which Downing Street fears could happen. Her main rivals have been preparing their leadership bids for months, with Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, making a speech today about the need for a “second chance society” as part of his ongoing attempt to prove he is ready for the job. Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson, Sajid Javid and Liz Truss have also been sounding out MPs to gauge support. One Cabinet source told The Telegraph: “I would say there are only two ministers in the Cabinet who still support her. Everyone else has lost faith in her ability to lead.” – Telegraph (£)

Health minister vows to quit if Theresa May does not let Tory MPs vote to stop no-deal Brexit

Public health minister Steve Brine told the BBC’s Westminster Hour he would find it “very difficult” to stay in a government that backed leaving the EU without an agreement. Mrs May faces the prospect of another hefty defeat in the second meaningful vote on her Brexit deal this Tuesday amid little sign that she has gained any concessions from the European Union. If MPs reject her deal again, a Commons vote on whether or not to leave the EU without a deal will take place. Mr Brine was asked whether he would be willing to resign or be sacked unless Mrs May allowed Tory MPs a free vote on ruling out no-deal in that event. He said: “I think a free vote would be very smart… I would find it very difficult, and I would say, actually impossible to be part of a policy that was pursuing actively no deal.” The minister – who has been in his post since the 2017 election – said he was “not fatalistic” about a no-deal and acknowledged that the UK would not “close up shop”. But he warned rebel Brexiteer MPs: “Those of us that are in ministerial office and in government departments – and sit in the Cabinet Office meetings and look into what no withdrawal agreement looks like – take our word for it, [we know] it isn’t pretty. And there’s no need for us to do it.” Pressed again on whether he would have to quit or be sacked if MPs were not given a free vote, Mr Brine said: “Indeed. Yeah… And it’ll be a great shame, because there’s lots of good things going on in my department and, you know, I play a tiny weeny role in them.” – PoliticsHome

EU prepares to demand multi-billion pound increase on the UK’s divorce payment in return for a Brexit delay

The EU is preparing to impose punitive conditions on Britain as its price for agreeing a Brexit delay if Theresa May is forced to ask for an extension this week. Member states are “hardening” their attitudes towards a delay and will demand “legal and financial conditions” including a multi-billion pound increase to the £39bn divorce payment. With no signs of a breakthrough in the Brexit negotiations to change the existing exit deal, Parliament is expected to reject the deal for a second time on Tuesday, before voting later in the week to extend Article 50. EU sources suggested that the only way for Mrs May to win the vote is if she finds her “inner Churchill” and reaches out across the political divide for cross-party support. – Telegraph (£)

  • EU ‘will charge Britain £1billion a month’ over any Brexit delay if Theresa May is forced to ask for an extension this week – MailOnline

Labour won’t force a second referendum vote this week say top MPs…

Labour will not force a Commons vote this week on holding a second Brexit referendum, top MPs in the party have said. Brexit chief Sir Keir Starmer dumped cold water on claims the party would row in behind an amendment calling for a ‘People’s Vote’ in just two days’ time. His comments, just 19 days before Brexit, come despite Labour shifting its position two weeks ago to “put forward or support” a pro-People’s Vote amendment following months of pressure by members. Focus was building around a plan by the MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson that it had been thought was to be put before MPs this Tuesday. But speaking today, Sir Keir argued Tuesday – which is when MPs will vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal – was the wrong time to decide on a public vote. Sir Keir appeared to suggest the bid cannot yet win a vote by MPs, and indicated the issue may only come to a vote the following week. “There is a strong sense it should be an up-down vote on the [Brexit] deal [on Tuesday]”, the Shadow Brexit Secretary told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday.  – Mirror

  • Sir Keir Starmer risks Labour Brexit fury as he suggests party will not back second referendum bid this week – Telegraph (£)

> WATCH: Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer’s interview on Ridge on Sunday

…but Labour would back a delay to seek a better deal, says John McDonnell

The shadow chancellor has said Labour would back a delay to Brexit to help secure a better withdrawal deal, as the party retreated from supporting a parliamentary vote on a second referendum this week. John McDonnell said it was no longer the right time to vote on a second referendum on Tuesday, because the priority should be defeating May’s Brexit and then trying to help negotiate a better one. He had previously said Labour would either put forward an amendment calling for a second referendum or support a backbench one at the time May put her Brexit deal to a vote on 12 March. McDonnell suggested Labour would back an extension to article 50 to give time to seek a better deal when that option is put to a vote on Thursday. He said the party could help to secure such agreement involving a customs union within weeks, but that article 50 should be extended as long as was necessary to strike a deal. He said it was still Labour’s policy to support a second referendum, but only if parliament proved unable to agree on a better outcome than May’s withdrawal agreement. – Guardian

> WATCH: Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s interview on The Andrew Marr Show

All but two constituencies want their MP to reject May’s Brexit deal

The majority of voters in nearly all the 632 parliamentary constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales want their MPs to reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal, according to the most in-depth research into public opinion on the issue. The constituency-by-constituency analysis, based on YouGov polling of more than 25,000 voters shows that there are only two — Christchurch, in Dorset, and South Holland and the Deepings, in Lincolnshire — where more support the prime minister’s deal to withdraw from the EU than oppose it. This suggests that if any vote in parliament precisely reflected the “will of the people” then even May would have to vote against her own negotiated agreement: voters in the prime minister’s Maidenhead constituency oppose it by 54% to 46%. Not a single member of the cabinet represents a seat where voters want to see the deal passed, according to the research. Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, comes closest: voters in his South Staffordshire seat are split 50-50 on May’s agreement. The research also shows that if Labour is perceived as having enabled Brexit then the party could suffer catastrophic losses at the next election, with the Tories winning a 200-seat majority. – The Times (£)

  • No majority support for Theresa May’s deal in any constituency, analysis shows – Independent

Tony Blair secretly advising Emmanuel Macron on Brexit as former PM is accused of ‘unacceptable’ behaviour

Tony Blair has been accused of “unacceptable” behaviour after it emerged he has been briefing Emmanuel Macron on how to force Britain to stay in the EU. The former Labour prime minister believes that if the EU stands its ground over the Brexit deal, Parliament will cave in and accept a customs union – which would keep Britain yoked to Brussels – or a second referendum that could cancel Brexit altogether. Sources in Paris confirmed to The Telegraph that Mr Blair had been speaking to the French President about Brexit. He is reported to have told Mr Macron to “hold firm” and wait for events to play out in London that end in Britain staying in the EU. Peter Bone, a Eurosceptic Conservative MP, said: “It is totally unacceptable for a former prime minister to go around the heads of European countries and undermine the Government’s position. I’m not sure we could find another time in modern history when this has happened. “Tony Blair has to realise he has had his time as prime minister and I’m surprised and disappointed he has done this. I doubt he would have liked it if his predecessors had done this to him. – Telegraph (£)

No-deal Brexit would boost UK’s economy by £140bn over 15 years, forecast Economists for Free Trade

A no deal Brexit would boost Britain’s national output by £140 billion over 15 years, a think tank report has forecast. The Economists for Free Trade (EFT) study predicts that escaping from EU constraints such as membership of the tariff-wall customs union and the tightly regulated single market will help deliver a 7 per cent boost to the economy in the long-term. Lower prices on food, clothing and footwear would help households across the country – easing the pressure for higher taxes, according to economist Professor Patrick Minford. And leaving on World Trade Organisation terms would allow Britain to trade freely with non-EU countries that are currently frozen out of EU and UK markets by high tariffs. Other benefits of a clean break Brexit would see Britain replacing Brussels red tape for home-grown regulations, an end to benefits and wage subsidies for unskilled EU migrants and binning the UK’s £10 billion a year fee for EU membership. The EFT report found that the EU’s tariff wall pushes up prices for food and manufacturing goods in the UK by 10 per cent. Scrapping the tariff wall would boost national output by 4 per cent. Eliminating EU red tape would boost UK GDP by a further 2 per cent, while another 1 per cent boost would come from ending benefits for EU migrants and our annual £10 billion contribution to the Brussels budget. – The Sun

Unions attack May’s Brexit pledge on workers’ rights

Labour MPs are being a sent a legal opinion warning that government promises to guarantee workers’ rights after Brexit do not offer any credible assurances. The critical legal assessment of Theresa May’s plan to “embed the strongest possible protections” of employment entitlements has been commissioned by two unions, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA). The evaluation has been drafted by Aidan O’Neill QC, an expert in European law who practises in both England and Scotland. He has been involved in several article 50 Brexit cases in the supreme court. ast week the business department committed itself “not to reduce the standards of workers’ rights from EU laws retained in UK law” and to assess whether future EU legislative changes should be adopted. The initiative is part of the prime minister’s strategy to persuade Brexit-inclined Labour MPs to back her withdrawal deal in the Commons meaningful vote this week. – Guardian

  • Labour MPs warned that Theresa May’s worker rights vow ‘not enforceable’ ahead of crunch Brexit vote – PoliticsHome

CBI claim a no-deal Brexit would stifle next generation’s opportunities

An open letter was penned by the CBI and signed by companies including Coca-Cola, Bombardier Aerospace, Norbrook Laboratories which produces veterinary drugs and defence firm Thales. It said a no-deal exit will result in significant damage to export markets, supply chains, consumer spending power and the country’s competitiveness. An open letter was penned by the CBI and signed by companies including Coca-Cola, Bombardier Aerospace, Norbrook Laboratories which produces veterinary drugs and defence firm Thales. It said a no-deal exit will result in significant damage to export markets, supply chains, consumer spending power and the country’s competitiveness. Northern Ireland industry also noted “with much regret”, uncertainty around future funding for local infrastructure given the immediate loss of approximately £450 million from the European Regional Development Fund which was once earmarked for significant infrastructure projects. “The uncertainty linked with Brexit has additionally contributed to significant skill and labour shortages.” – Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson: Brussels has treated the British Government with condescension bordering on contempt over Brexit

It is safe to say that for much of the past 46 years the EU has treated the political anxieties of the UK government with a condescension that borders on contempt. We may be right and prescient – as we were over the euro, or immigration control, or the Euro-army, or the intrusion of EU law into every “nook and cranny” of our lives, as Douglas Hurd once put it. But all too often we are simply patted on the head, like some half-witted child, and told to run along. In their chronic disdain for the UK position, I am afraid that the EU has been fortified by repeated evidence of our basic wobbliness: that we are not in the end prepared to defend the logic of our case. For decades the mantra in Brussels has been that Britain objects, Britain protests – but in the end Britain always signs up. Never has that EU contempt been clearer than today, as we struggle to leave. Our negotiators have done their best to explain UK democratic and constitutional objections to the Irish backstop. They might as well have been talking to the wall. No, says the EU, there will be no time limit. There will be no unilateral escape mechanism. The way ahead is clear. If the EU really will not budge on the backstop – and that has yet to be tested – then for many months I have argued, with many others, that the UK should leave on a different basis. We should come out on time, at the end of this month, but with a mutually agreed standstill in the existing arrangements, so that we can use the period to the end of 2021 (a very long time) to do a proper free-trade deal. That is the option, now called the Malthouse Compromise, that commands support from Leavers and Remainers across the party. The EU doesn’t think we have the guts. Our partners think they have us where they want us. They think that in the end we will sign up to these Carthaginian terms. We must politely and respectfully show they are mistaken. We can still have a Brexit that is friendly, and smooth, and orderly. But will I vote for this backstop, as things stand? No way. – Boris Johnson for the Telegraph (£)

Michael Gove: Only by backing the Prime Minister’s deal with the EU will ensure Brexit happens and heal the bitter divides across the country

Along with a majority of other people, I voted to reinvigorate our democracy by taking power back from unaccountable institutions and taking back control of our laws. I recognise, however, that while the majority to leave was decisive, executing that decision, like all democratic decisions, means respecting everyone in our democracy. Forty-eight per cent of the country voted to remain. Their voices need to be listened to, their hopes incorporated in our plan for the future. That doesn’t mean giving in to the much smaller number who want to overturn the decision and frustrate Brexit. But it must mean that none of us Leavers should try to make our perfect Brexit the enemy of the common good. Which is why I hope that everyone who believes in our democracy — in the importance of delivering Brexit and in the critical need to unite our country — will get behind the Prime Minister’s deal this week. It is, of course, a compromise. But so many of the great British traditions and institutions I and many others value are the result of compromise. This deal means we have the absolute freedom to decide who comes into this country, and on what terms. It also allows us to decide what pan-European programmes, if any, we want to join in. As one of the leaders of the Leave campaign, I know that two of the most resonant demands from voters were control of our borders and money. This deal delivers — completely and, as it happens, without compromise — on both. – MIchael Gove MP for the Daily Mail

Jacob Rees-Mogg: We’ve suffered 47 years of penal servitude

Geoffrey Cox’s main task as he negotiates with the European Union is to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse or, as Rumpelstiltskin did in the fairy tale, weave gold from straw. It is not an easy task as the Government’s negotiating hand has been undermined by those who never accepted the result of the referendum and think that they – with their preternatural powers – know best. On the other hand, it is simple.The Attorney General needs to insert an end date into the treaty or something of equal legal force. The Withdrawal Agreement is a rotten accord. There would seem some logic in saying to the EU “let us copy Article 50 and paste it into this agreement” as then the backstop could be cancelled with fair notice and the position would be no worse than today. If Geoffrey Cox could achieve this then his return to Westminster would be a heroic one. If this cannot be achieved then the default position is that the UK leaves without a deal. Some MPs say that they could never agree to this but many of them voted for the Article 50 Act that sets out the timetable and then stood on a Conservative manifesto which stated clearly that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. If such people were to use Parliamentary prestidigitation to delay, in the hope of preventing Brexit, the honour and trustworthiness of politicians would fall to a new low. If honour and truth prevail instead, then on March 29 there would be an opportunity to use the gains of departure for the nation’s benefit. – Jacob Rees-Mogg MP for the Express

Liam Halligan: Escape from Brussels – it’s now or never

Tensions are rising ahead of this week’s crucial votes in the House of Commons. It’s make-or-break time for Brexit. Negotiations with Brussels are stalled, with scant hope of a breakthrough. Geoffrey Cox looks and sounds the part, with his courtroom jowls and booming baritone. But the Attorney General won’t secure meaningful concessions on the Irish backstop before Tuesday’s vote on Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement – for the simple reason that Brussels has no interest in being flexible. The eurocrats will go through the motions, of course. But they’ll conclude, “with regret”, it’s “unfortunately impossible” to include a simple break-clause in May’s heinous withdrawal agreement. The UK, then, is set to remain locked in a one-sided treaty, paying £39bn we don’t legally owe for the European Court of Justice to hold sway as long as Brussels says so. Britain will have no voice, no vote and no veto over eurocrat diktat, which will determine not only domestic law, but our trade policy with the EU and the rest of the world – again, with Brussels deciding when this ghastly arrangement ends. The EU wants May’s deal to fail – which is why, despite Cox’s efforts, there won’t be any concessions. Brussels assumes the Commons will block no deal, leaving the UK scrambling to arrange an extension period, which could itself extend for years, the granting of which will involve even more concessions, while opening the door to a disastrous second referendum. That’s why, when her deal falls, May must finally honour the referendum result and implement Brexit regardless, leading her party through the division lobbies to uphold no deal. With Labour leavers, and the DUP, she might yet have the numbers. Escaping the Remainers’ trap poses risks, but the world is watching – and now is the time to be bold. – Liam Halligan for the Telegraph (£)

Daniel Hannan: The reason Brussels won’t compromise? It’s hoping Remainer MPs will keep us in

Stand back for a moment and ask why the EU won’t give Theresa May the tweak she is asking for. Britain, after all, has caved in on every other point. There will still be a role for European judges after we leave. Any disputes will be arbitrated asymmetrically, giving precedence to EU institutions. European social and environmental laws will be cut and pasted on to our statute books. We will fork over £39 billion – a sum which no international tribunal would uphold. And we will do all these things without the trade deal that was meant to be the quid pro quo. MPs, including members of the supposedly uncompromising European Research Group (ERG), have surrendered on each of these issues for the sake of reaching a deal. They have baulked only at the Irish backstop. And even here, their objection is astonishingly modest. They will swallow the idea of a backstop, as long as there is an eventual way out of it. But they won’t swap a temporary arrangement for a permanent one. At least EU membership has an exit mechanism – Article 50. Britain is thus being asked to exchange a voluntary and contingent relationship for one where Brussels will control our global trade in perpetuity. No serious nation could agree to that. Nor could any serious nation accept the vindictive demand, tabled only in late 2017, for the regulatory annexation of part of its territory. This is not a treaty being proposed in a spirit of mutual advantage. It is an aggressive claim, like Austria-Hungary’s 1914 ultimatum to Serbia. – Daniel Hannan MEP for the Telegraph (£)

Tim Wallace: 10 reasons to be cheerful about the UK economy as we head towards Brexit

Even at the best of times Philip Hammond is rarely mistaken for a ray of sunshine. ‘Spreadsheet Phil’ has cultivated an image of the sober and unflashy accountant – a steady pair of hands with a grip of the nation’s purse strings. And this is not the best of times. On Wednesday he must address a parliament hostile to Brexit, beset with panic and rife with recriminations, just weeks away from the day on which Britain is supposed to leave the EU. The Chancellor has already ruled out any juicy tax cuts or generous spending giveaways. Instead the main event on the day will be new economic forecasts. On the positive side, the public finances are performing more strongly than expected. Tax revenues are buoyant. Borrowing is down to its lowest level since 2001-02. On the other hand, the global economy is slowing and this could drag down the UK and result in less tax being collected. Any cuts to the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecasts will be pounced on by the gloom-mongers. There are plenty around. Gridlock in Westminster has infected the national mood. In some quarters, this has given rise to an belief that the country is on the brink of utter ruin. But such pessimism runs contrary to almost all the evidence. Britain is thriving. – Tim Wallace for the Telegraph (£)

Ambassador Woody Johnson: Don’t let the EU’s chicken scare stories stop Britain and America striking a magnificent trade deal

Today I will join the nation in enjoying probably the finest of all British institutions: the great Sunday roast. And I suspect that families across the country will sit down at the table this week and end up talking about the topic that has been dominating the news: chlorinated chicken. We’ve had spirited public debate recently – as you would expect from the great British public. But, ultimately, the issue of how chicken should be cleaned is just a distraction. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: the very idea of ‘chlorinated chicken’ is simply the EU’s way of blocking fair competition from the American poultry industry. The fact is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with chlorine washes. You might disagree with us when we say that it is safer than other methods of cleaning chicken, but it is certainly not unsafe. You already eat chlorinated salads and drink chlorinated water and, until 1997, you ate chlorinated chicken here in Britain. – US Ambassador to the UK Robert ‘Woody’ Johnson for the Mail on Sunday

Charles Moore: Faced with Brexit scare stories, the stubbornness of the British people is most heartening

Almost the only heroes in this long Brexit saga are the voters. The latest opinion poll – commissioned, admittedly, by a pro-Brexit group – says that 44 per cent of them agree Britain should leave the European Union with no deal if there are “no more concessions from the EU” (an odd way to put the question, since so far there have been no EU concessions at all). This figure is up six points from the one in January. Only 30 per cent now disagree with the proposition (the rest don’t know). The magnificent thing about this poll – and most others on the subject – is how little voters have moved in two and half years, despite the most relentless barrage against the full Brexit from the leaders of all political parties, and from almost everyone else with power in this country. It is impossible, of course, to speak with authority about exactly what millions of people think, but my impression is not that people have become more (or less) ideologically pro-Brexit. It is rather than they are showing two traditional national virtues. The first is common sense. What is the purpose, people ask, of embarking on a major constitutional change which has been voted for and then half-cocking it? The performance of all the main parties seems shameful. Theresa May’s idea that she should keep coming back to the House of Commons to ask the same thing seems almost babyish. The second is a dislike of being bossed around. Our leaders have not been straight with us either. So let’s just go: we were always independent before 1973 and we can be so again, though it may be tricky at first. – Charles Moore for the Telegraph (£)

Telegraph: MPs have a duty to make sure Brexit happens on time

By the end of the week, Theresa May will know the fate of both her Brexit deal and her premiership. Tomorrow, MPs look likely to vote down the Withdrawal Agreement she reached with the EU last November, which has already been defeated by a record 230 votes in January. That will lead to a second vote on Wednesday on whether the country should still leave as planned on March 29, without a deal. Since that is the date for departure set out in an Act of Parliament agreed by a vast majority of MPs, this is what should happen next. Yet the expectation is that the Commons will vote against leaving without a deal and seek to postpone Brexit. For many Remainers, that would be the precursor to  cancelling it altogether. We still do not know whether the Government will whip Tory MPs to vote to leave on March 29 in Wednesday’s vote should it come to pass. Mrs May used to say that no deal is better than a bad deal, and the logic of that position is to oblige her MPs to fulfil the promise made in the party’s 2017 manifesto. Yet if she does so then a score of Government ministers will resign and dozens of Tory MPs will rebel. It is a quandary that can only be resolved by a free vote; but for that to be offered would in itself be an indication of how the Prime Minister is losing control of events. These are odd times. Tomorrow, Remainers who would rather stay in the EU will be voting for a Withdrawal Agreement that involves leaving, while Leavers will vote against the deal and thereby risk staying. But amid all the different permutations and calculations, Parliament should have one aim, and that is to ensure the country leaves on the date for which MPs voted. – Telegraph (£) editorial

Nicky Morgan: Five questions for MPs this week. But whatever their answers, they should vote for the Withdrawal Agreement

It feels as if this will be a momentous week for Parliament and for the Government and therefore for the whole of the UK. I still maintain that most people simply want us to ‘get on with Brexit’, and would much rather MPs and Ministers spend more time discussing the issues they really care about. At this early stage of the week, it seems we will have three key votes – although if the draft Withdrawal Agreement is approved on Tuesday, then subsequent planned votes on No Deal (on Wednesday) and, if the Commons votes against No Deal, on extending Article 50 (on Thursday) won’t be needed. And it would be better if we didn’t have to have them – which is one of the reasons I will support the Withdrawal Agreement. How should this week’s votes be approached? Brexit doesn’t begin or end this week. But we can bring the withdrawal phase to a close. And we can then get on with thinking about how to, and who should, negotiate the future relationship. The choice between responsible Government or chaos is in our hands. The country will not forgive the Conservatives if we opt for chaos. – Nicky Morgan MP for ConservativeHome

The Sun: Voting down Theresa May’s deal doesn’t lead to No Deal — it leads to No Brexit, no democracy, no power in the world

The definition of optimism is the Leave-backing MP who believes he can defeat Theresa May’s deal tomorrow and Brexit will still turn out fine. Because it doesn’t matter now how much the majority of voters want Brexit in full, with No Deal if necessary. Parliament’s Remainer majority no longer cares what Leavers want. If they did, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Some Remainer MPs will back Mrs May’s deal, knowing it’s doomed. It will be their last remotely pro-Brexit act. Once they see Leave MPs pass up perhaps their last chance to secure our exit they will pretend they have done their best by the 17.4million majority and set about defying their will more openly. We wish it were otherwise, but voting down the deal doesn’t lead to No Deal. It leads to Mrs May begging the EU for help which it will not supply because it wants Brexit reversed at any cost. It leads to the panicked postponement of Article 50, then the softest possible Brexit — unrecognisable to Leavers — or a second referendum the Establishment will do its utmost to skew for Remain. It leads to the upending of our democracy, the possible collapse of the Tory party and the world’s fifth biggest economy then being handed over to Marxists and Communists who loathe the West and back anti-Semitic terrorists. Such mayhem should petrify everyone. But especially Leave-backing Tories. Yet they are poised to reject a deal which, while very far from perfect, they would have gladly taken had it been offered up before the 2016 referendum. They must think again. – The Sun says

Trevor Kavanagh: Theresa May’s Brexit leadership has left the UK grovelling as it faces the abyss

Whatever emerges from the ashes of this week’s Commons votes, nothing can conceal the humiliation this country has suffered under Theresa May’s lock-jawed leadership. The PM has tarnished one of the jewels in the British crown — respect for this once-great nation in the eyes of the world. Thanks to her, a clutch of faceless EU bureaucrats and their feckless Tory allies have shredded the UK’s reputation for statesmanship and cool diplomacy. Great Britain — the world’s fifth-largest economy, nuclear power and permanent member of the UN Security Council — has been reduced to an object of international pity. Allies across the Commonwealth, America and even our erstwhile EU partners (France apart) are embarrassed to watch a great democracy grovelling before the unelected Burghers of Brussels. Even if Attorney General Geoffrey Cox returns today with his famous cod-piece bulging, it’s lose-lose for Brexit. He might persuade enough Tory MPs to vote Mrs May’s botched and rebadged Chequers Deal through Parliament. But it will be at enormous cost. – Trevor Kavanagh for The Sun

Express: A clear duty in the key week for Brexit

At the start of another crucial week in British politics our MPs need to have one thing on their minds and one thing only. The British people are heartily sick of their machinations over Brexit and they want Britain to leave the EU properly, not stay in a single market under Brussels rule or be asked to vote again. Jacob Rees-Mogg is right that perpetual penal servitude to Brussels is not acceptable. But Brexiteer MPs must remember that Theresa May’s deal is far better than no Brexit, and that is what the Remainer Parliament seems set to try to deliver. In the end, it is now up to the EU and Brussels bureaucrats to be reasonable and to allow an exit to the backstop – and not in a way which tries to split Northern Ireland away from the rest of the United Kingdom. What is obvious now though is that the protracted process and the contempt of the Remainer establishment has already severely damaged trust in politics in this country. The BMG poll which shows that more people think MPs are supportive of EU interests over British ones is not surprising. This week that has to stop and the British people need the assurance that we are leaving the EU cleanly and properly, with or without a deal. – Express editorial

Henry Hill: Cox is out of line with Downing Street on the backstop

Earlier this week, the media reported that Geoffrey Cox had struck a new note in the negotiations over the Irish backstop: claiming that it could breach the European Convention on Human Rights. According to the Guardian, the Attorney General argued that because Northern Ireland would be subject to a legislature in which it was unrepresented, British citizens there could say the arrangement breached Protocol 1, Article 3 of the Convention, which “protects the right of people to vote in order to choose their legislature”. Nor was this new tone confined to press reports from the negotiations. On Thursday this week Gavin Robinson, the Democratic Unionist MP for Belfast East, asked the following question in the Commons: “I understand that the Attorney General’s conversations with the Cabinet are privileged, but has he turned his mind to the concerns that, should the backstop be indefinite, it is likely to breach the commitments under the Belfast agreement, and indeed the commitments that are given to me as a Northern Ireland citizen under article 3?” Cox’s reply was superficially evasive, but eye-opening: “The hon. Gentleman knows that if I were to answer that question, I would be breaching the Law Officers’ convention. All I can say is that I turn my mind to a great many of the legal implications of the treaty, and those that he has mentioned have not escaped me.” All of this paints a clear picture: that Cox, the expert lawyer charged by the Prime Minister with finding a solution to the backstop, has ended up taking a very different view of its compatibility with the Belfast Agreement to the official line laid down by Downing Street. – Henry Hill for ConservativeHome

Paul Goodman: Do you think it looks bad for May next week? If so, it’s even worse than you think. Here’s why

Do you think it looks bad for Theresa May next week?  If so, know now that it’s even worse than you thought. On Tuesday, the Commons will hold a “meaningful vote” on the Government’s Brexit plan. It it is defeated, the Prime Minister has pledged to hold a vote on No Deal the following day.  If the House votes against that too, she has promised a vote on extension on Thursday. Now it is possible that those last two votes may not happen at all. If she loses on Tuesday, May could seek to avoid those later votes – which would split her Party, enrage the parts of her Party on the losing side in each, and threaten her own position.  She might argue that instead of holding them, her deal should be put to the Commons for the third time. We shall see. But either way, an important procedural aspect of Tuesday’s vote, and potentially of those later votes too, is being underplayed. The Government motion in each case is amendable. This means that Labour, the ERG, Oliver Letwin et al can seek to tack on to any motion that is debated any amendment that they want.  Each could try variously, for example, to force formal membership post-Brexit of the Customs Union. Or to slap conditions on No Deal. Or to specify a length for extension with which the Government disagrees. Now MPs obviously can’t simply put down any amendment they like to anything they like. Ultimately, the Speaker determines what’s in order, which amendments are selected, and which are voted on. That’s more good news for the Government (not). – Paul Goodman for ConservativeHome

Dinah Glover: Party members’ message to May. Amend the backstop – or drop your deal

Two weeks ago, a motion that I presented to the Party’s National Convention meeting passed with overwhelming support and since then, thanks to ConservativeHome’s encouragement, Associations around the country have been tabling the motion at their AGMs.  It said that we must honour the EU referendum result – otherwise democracy will be damaged for a generation. But what does that mean? It means that we have to become a sovereign nation again: not a nation in a semi-detached relationship with the EU, joined to it, but with no control over whatever emanates from its institutions. The EU has, by using the Irish border as a negotiating, political and emotional tool, caught us in what has become known as the backstop. If we enter it, there will currently be no guaranteed exit without the acquiescence of the EU – and, after all, why would it easily let us out of the backstop since it would put us where they want us, namely in that semi-detached condition. We would still be adhering to EU rules but now with no say, unable to do meaningful trade deals with the rest of the world – and thus losing one of the most obvious advantages of leaving the EU. Not only would this settlement be a lesson to the other countries who might want to leave the EU in the future, but it might well leave asking to rejoin the EU, down the line, on terms surely less advantageous terms than those we currently have. As the motion that was passed by the National Convention says, Conservative MPs need to honour their manifesto pledges, both of 2015 (namely, that the referendum result be implemented) and of 2017 (namely, that we will leave both the Customs Union and the Single Market. If the legally binding exit route from the backstop cannot be achieved, then MPs should support leaving on March 29th without the Withdrawal Agreement. We need to be clear: a delay will not deliver a change of mind in the EU.  At best, it would delay Brexit; at worst, an it would provide opportunities to thwart it. – Dinah Glover for ConservativeHome

Brexit in Brief

  • May should resign a year after Brexit date – Philip Collins for The Times (£)
  • Protest warns Britain ‘is heading for a dog’s dinner of a Brexit’ – Belfast Telegraph
  • ‘Next negotiation will be for Bake Off’: Tory MPs suggest PM’s days are numbered – Guardian