Brexit timetable thrown into turmoil as Theresa May is forced to cancel Cabinet meeting pencilled in for today: Brexit News for Monday 12 November

Brexit timetable thrown into turmoil as Theresa May is forced to cancel Cabinet meeting pencilled in for today: Brexit News for Monday 12 November

Brexit timetable thrown into turmoil as Theresa May is forced to cancel Cabinet meeting pencilled in for today…

Theresa May has been forced to abandon plans for an emergency cabinet meeting to approve a Brexit deal, after fresh opposition at home and abroad plunged her timetable into turmoil. The prime minister shelved the meeting, pencilled in for Monday, slamming on the brakes after fierce resistance in her cabinet and in Brussels threatened to derail the path to an agreement. A government source conceded that an outline deal might not be ready by Tuesday – making it increasingly unlikely that a special EU summit to sign it off can be held in November, as hoped. That would leave the UK having to ramp up hugely expensive no-deal preparations and in danger of being unable to pass all necessary legislation before the Brexit deadline next March. – Independent

…although the crunch meeting could still be tomorrow, despite EU rejection of key customs plan…

The Prime Minister is scheduled to hold a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday yet is still as loggerheads with the EU, and is coming under increasing pressure at home. May endured a tough weekend following the resignation of transport minister Jo Johnson over the government’s handling of Brexit negotiations, which are reported to be on the brink of falling apart following the EU’s rejection of one of May’s key solutions to avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland. May proposed that the whole of the UK should be kept in a temporary customs union with the EU to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland, with a mechanism that would allow the UK to leave either on its own accord or with the EU’s consent. In a further blow to the Prime Minister, the Sunday Times reported that senior EU officials have rejected May’s “independent mechanism” to end the temporary backstop arrangement. On Friday the brother of former foreign secretary Boris Johnson lamented the way in which the Prime Minister had conducted the negotiations, branding it a “failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the Suez crisis”. – City A.M.

  • May races to revive Brexit plan as pressure mounts – FT (£)

…meaning she now faces a 48-hour deadline before having to trigger No Deal projects

Theresa May was last night 48 hours from having to trigger hundreds of millions-worth of No Deal projects as Brexit talks entered deadlock. The UK’s Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins held yet another round of intense talks with the EU’s Sabine Weyand yesterday to try and solve a row over customs and the Irish border. But Whitehall sources warned the chances of a deal being ready to present to Cabinet meeting on Tuesday or Wednesday morning were drifting away. They admitted if the PM is unable to put a withdrawal agreement before the Cabinet in 48 hours the chances of a November summit with the EU are off. This means having to authorise No Deal projects for new IT systems and projects to protect Britain’s borders. November 15 is the deadline for Ministers to place an order for ships to bring in necessary supplies – and to put plans in place to stockpile medicines – in a cash of a chaotic No Deal. One source said: “It’s going down to the wire. If it doesn’t happen this week it will have to be a December summit – and it all gets much tighter.” – The Sun

Theresa May’s plan comes under siege from all wings of the Tory Party…

Theresa May’s Brexit plan is under siege from across the Tory party as she attempts to overcome the final sticking points with Brussels in time to push it through a critical meeting of her cabinet ministers on Tuesday. As time to strike a deal runs out, leading Brexiters have told the prime minister they remain deeply opposed to her idea for an exit mechanism that could allow the UK to quit a temporary customs arrangement if Brexit talks collapse. Cabinet Brexiters have pushed for a unilateral route, with the international trade secretary, Liam Fox, the first to say publicly the power to leave the backstop – the UK’s insurance policy if talks fail – should rest with the “sovereign” British government. – Guardian

  • Theresa May under pressure from Tories on both sides with time running out to agree EU divorce deal – Evening Standard
  • Cabinet divided as exit risks coming off rails – Express

…as Andrea Leadsom insists the UK must not be trapped in a backstop…

The Brexiteer minister urged Tories to back the PM and said she was “sticking in government” to work for a good deal. But the UK must not be “held against its will” in any “backstop” aimed at avoiding a hard Irish border, she said. On Friday, pro-Remain minister Jo Johnson quit the government and called for a new referendum on the final deal. Asked if other ministers might resign, Commons leader Mrs Leadsom told BBC 5 live’s Pienaar’s Politics she was not expecting any, adding: “I do urge colleagues to support the prime minister. “We are at a very difficult stage. What we have to do is hold our nerve and keep negotiating, make sure that we are pointing out to our EU friends and neighbours that it’s in all of our interests to get a good deal.” – BBC News

  • Theresa May’s Brexit plan will be voted down if it ‘traps’ UK in Customs Union, Andrea Leadsom warns – Telegraph (£)
  • Customs lock-in after Brexit not ‘will of the people’ – Politico

…and Boris Johnson calls for Cabinet mutiny over May’s ‘total surrender’ to Brussels

The former foreign secretary suggested that if May’s plans for a backstop customs deal with the EU, aimed at preventing a hard border in Northern Ireland, went through the UK could be reduced to the status of a colony. In a stinging attack on the PM’s proposals ahead of a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Johnson said May’s agenda would see the UK “remain in captivity”. Johnson said plans for a backstop, which would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU if a solution to the Irish border issue could not be found, would be worse than remaining in the EU. May is under fire from both wings of the Tory party after the shock resignation from the Government of Johnson’s pro-European brother Jo, who also delivered a withering attack on the PM’s stance. That move fired speculation that more ministers who backed Remain in the referendum campaign could also quit. – Huffington Post

  • My brother is right – Mrs May’s deal is the biggest statecraft failure since Suez – Boris Johnson MP for the Telegraph (£)

Brussels wants to tie environment and state-aid rules to Brexit ‘backstop’

The EU is pushing Theresa May to accept far-reaching environmental targets and tough policing of state-aid rules as part of a Brexit “backstop” plan for the Irish border, making demands that are likely to create more problems for the UK prime minister in Westminster. European Commission negotiators have told EU diplomats that Britain is resisting some detailed “level playing field” provisions being included in the backstop arrangement to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. Some of the most sensitive are environmental targets that the EU has agreed on for 2030. These require member states to draw 32 per cent of their energy from renewable sources, and aim to slash energy consumption by 32.5 per cent compared with business-as-usual projections. Another is a demand that the European Court of Justice oversees how the UK applies the bloc’s restrictions on state subsidies to companies. The moves are an example of the kinds of guarantees Brussels is seeking as part of plans for an all-UK customs union with the EU. – FT (£)

Cabinet ministers ‘voiced doubts at PM’s plan at start’

Several cabinet ministers expressed significant doubts about the prime minister’s preferred Brexit plan from the start, the BBC has learned. Parts of Theresa May’s plan were described as “worrying”, “disappointing” and “concerning” by members of her top team back in July. Mrs May is struggling to broker an agreement on Brexit with ministers. Two ministers have told the BBC they believe there is little chance the deal would get Parliament’s backing. One of them said it was “self-harming” for the PM to keep pursuing the same strategy. Mrs May’s preferred plans for Brexit were agreed at Chequers – the prime minister’s country retreat – in July, in a marathon cabinet meeting lasting nearly 12 hours. Afterwards, Mrs May said the cabinet had reached a “collective” agreement on the basis of the UK’s future relationship with the EU after Brexit. – BBC News

Theresa May’s Brexit deal faces ‘Titanic’ defeat as Tories join forces with DUP…

Theresa May’s Brexit deal faces a ‘Titanic-style’ defeat, it’s been declared today after hardline Tories joined forces with the DUP. The Prime Minister was handed a battering from all sides – Brexiteers, Remainers, Labour and the EU – as time ticks down to exit day next March. Mrs May is expected to summon her Cabinet this week to agree a new deal to take to the EU for approval before Christmas. But that deal then has to pass a vote in the UK Parliament – and today key figures from all sides of the debate spoke out to warn it won’t happen. One Cabinet insider told The Sun on Sunday: “She’s like a ship’s captain who can see an iceberg ahead but won’t change course – even when members of the crew leap overboard.” The row is over plans for a “backstop” – backup plan – to keep the UK covered by EU customs rules if there is no deal. Critics fear this will drive a wedge between rules for Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – and keep the UK tied to the EU with no clear way of getting out. – Mirror

…but the DUP cannot veto final Brexit deal, says Taoiseach Varadkar

The Taoiseach has said that no one political party could exercise a veto over a Brexit agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom. Speaking in Paris where he attended Armistice commemorations, Leo Varadkar spoke of a contemporary challenge facing Europe and listed “the fact that for the first time a member state of the European Union is leaving” as one of the greatest threats to the continent and to Ireland. Asked if there was a danger that Arlene Foster’s Democratic Unionist Party would sabotage an agreement on an orderly Brexit, Mr Varadkar said, “There isn’t, nor should there be, any one political party anywhere in the UK or Europe that should have a veto on this.” The DUP “have influence”, Mr Varadkar acknowledged. But, he added, “Ultimately this will be a decision for the UK government and after that Westminster and the European Council.” He cast doubt on how representative the DUP is of wider opinion in Northern Ireland. – Irish Times

Brexit might prompt ‘accidental’ leadership change in Britain, says Jacob Rees-Mogg…

Britain could be heading towards an “accidental” change of Prime Minister and an unceremonious crash out of the European Union, the influential Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg has warned. But he said Australia’s experience – changing prime ministers so often that they had become “short let” or “Airbnb” leaders – showed why it was more important to get Britain’s withdrawal from the EU right, rather than replacing Theresa May with a more pro-Brexit leader. Rees-Mogg, whose stunning political rise has been coined “Moggmentum”,  has emerged as the leading backbench voice pushing for a strong Brexit, and he is favoured by Tory party members to become the next leader. Speaking exclusively to Fairfax Media from the London offices of his hedge fund, Somerset Capital Management, Rees-Mogg insisted that there was no plot to bring down Theresa May, with whom he is at odds over Brexit. – Sydney Morning Herald

…while former Cabinet minister John Whittingdale says May must quit if Brexit deal is rejected by Parliament

John Whittingdale – who is vice-chair of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers – said Mrs May would have “staked her credibility” on getting the deal done, and warned her against trying to stay on to restart talks with the EU. The former Culture Secretary told the BBC’s Westminster Hour: “I think if the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan doesn’t get through Parliament I think it’s quite difficult to see how the Prime Minister can continue because she has staked her credibility. “It’s very hard for her to turn round and say ‘OK, well my plan’s been torn up by Parliament, I’ll go away and think of another one.” The warning came as Mrs May was forced to shelve a planned Cabinet meeting to discuss a Brexit deal as talks with the EU dragged on. – PoliticsHome

Brexit has left Government a ‘bit worn out’, concludes ambitious Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Tom Tugendhat

A senior Conservative MP has said voters will likely want a change at the top once Brexit is sorted out – and it is “hardly surprising” the government has become a “bit worn out” by negotiating Britain’s exit from Europe. Tom Tugendhat, who is seen by many as a future Tory leadership candidate, told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that he was “waiting to see what deal the prime minister brings back”. But he added: “I haven’t made any great secret of the fact that I would consider running for my party leadership at some point.” – Sky News

Second referendum still an option, insists Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry

The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, has attempted to calm Labour dismay at Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement that “we can’t stop Brexit”, by insisting the option of campaigning for a second referendum was still on the table. The senior Labour politician said the vote to leave the EU “ought to be abided by” and that there were still “several stages” before the party would back a “people’s vote”, but that “all the options remain on the table”. Corbyn angered Labour MPs and supporters when he said Brexit could not be halted in an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel on Friday in which he also urged the entire country to recognise why people voted to leave. – Guardian

Military could be used in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, says Defence minister

Work is under way on the possibility of using the military in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit, a defence minister has said. Tobias Ellwood said talks were being held behind the scenes about contingency plans. He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “It is the job of the Chief of Defence Staff, indeed the MoD and the Defence Secretary, to consider all scenarios whether how vague or rare they might be or whether they might be something that’s expected, we have to plan for every single scenario. “So yes, there are contingency plans being made, there are discussions being held behind the scenes as to what support our armed forces will do.” Mr Ellwood added: “If there is a requirement to provide assistance, we are looking right across the full spectrum of requirements to make sure that we are prepared to, necessarily, stand up if asked to do so.” – Sky News

  • Army ‘ready to help’ if UK leaves with no agreement – Mirror

Remainer MEPs launch desperate ‘stop Brexit’ plot

The revelation comes after Jo Johnson, 46, the Remainer younger brother of Boris, quit the Government in what appears part of a co-ordinated attempt to force a second referendum. Mr Johnson yesterday appeared to confirm rumours that other Remainers in the Government are set to follow him out, in support of the People’s Vote campaign. A senior source has also revealed that Remainer ministers are being privately questioned over their loyalty by the Whips’ Office. The email was signed by Remainer MEPs from all parties including Tory Charles Tannock, 61, who has defied his party’s leadership and ignored its manifesto backing Brexit. Writing to fellow MEPs, the group said: “Despite our political differences, as UK MEPs we are united around one fact: if you wish to allow the UK to remain within our EU family, then all ways to do so will necessitate an extension of the Article 50 timetable. “Whilst we acknowledge that many details of the next few months remain unclear, it is in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and respect that we ask you, our European friends, to start thinking about this possibility and be ready for this eventuality.” – Express

Macron wants Europe to buy its own military hardware

Europe must increase military spending, but the money should go to European, not American companies, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview in which he delivered a rebuke to Donald Trump’s self-proclaimed nationalism. In the CNN interview, Macron was asked about Trump’s tweet, shortly after arriving in Paris on Friday night, accusing Macron of being “very insulting” by calling for the creation of an EU army to help protect against threats, including Russia, China and even the United States. Macron clarified his point to say that he very much wanted to see European allies not only spend more but to develop their own autonomous military capabilities and to buy European-made materials. France just happens also to have one of Europe’s biggest defence manufacturing industries. – Politico

Boris Johnson: My brother is right – Mrs May’s deal is the biggest statecraft failure since Suez

I really can’t believe it but this Government seems to be on the verge of total surrender.  With every day that passes we seem to be getting more craven. We have already agreed to hand over £40bn for nothing – and certainly not a trade deal – in return. We have agreed to become the punk of Brussels, signing up not just to their existing rulebook but to huge chunks of future regulation – even though we will have no say in drafting that legislation. We have agreed against all promises that the European Court of Justice will have a say in the enforcement of that regulation in the UK. We have been so feeble in our preparations to leave the EU on WTO terms, and so unnaturally terrified of the consequences (greatly exaggerated by the scaremongers) that we have now said we will remain in the so-called customs union. Which means that our trade policy will be run by Brussels at least until 2022, and – at this rate – long beyond that date. – Boris Johnson MP for the Telegraph (£)

Amber Rudd and Andrew Percy: Why a Canada-type deal won’t work for Britain

Canada, a great and progressive free-trading nation, of so much more than moose and Mounties, is an unwitting participant in our Brexit debate. Canadian friends are a little nonplussed to find their wonderful country, or rather its trading relationship with the EU, quoted repeatedly as a basis for a future UK-EU relationship. We are two Conservatives who voted for different sides in the EU referendum; one Leave, one Remain. We both understand that there was a public call for change. Moreover, we are two patriots who want the best for our country and recognise the difficulty in securing a deal that works for everyone, let alone one that satisfies everyone! – Amber Rudd MP and Andrew Percy MP for ConservativeHome

FT: A salutary Brexit warning from the serious Mr Johnson

The last lap of the Brexit negotiations always carried the risk of more resignations from Theresa May’s government. The departure of transport minister Jo Johnson, however, was unexpected and damaging. It may yet have a decisive impact on the political dynamics at Westminster if, as the prime minister hopes, the government reaches a deal with the EU27. Whether Mrs May can win the consent of parliament now looks to be in question. Most of the running against her attempts to forge a compromise with Michel Barnier’s Brussels negotiating team has been made from Brexiters promoting the fantasy of a painless break with the EU that would see Britain reinvent itself as a world power. Their cheerleader, Mr Johnson’s elder brother, Boris, resigned as foreign secretary in the summer. By contrast, the younger, and more serious, Mr Johnson’s decision reflects deep-seated concern among pro-European Conservatives about the shape of the emerging agreement. He did not pull his punches. – FT (£) editorial

Laura Kuenssberg: Why May’s Brexit deal may be impossible

It is no secret that Theresa May is struggling to get her cabinet on board. Seven days ago it felt that the ingredients for concluding this vital stage of the Brexit deal were there, waiting perhaps for the political moment to feel right. But a week on, tortured negotiations continue both between the UK and the EU, and between Downing Street and those who gather at Number 10 for the weekly cabinet meeting. And perhaps you shouldn’t be surprised at how reluctant the cabinet is to sign up. The simple explanation of why they aren’t all gladly rushing to back exactly the prime minister has been planning? Many of them didn’t like it much from the start, and some of them don’t believe it has a chance of passing Parliament now. This is not just about the problems of the Irish border, but about the prime minister’s overall preferred plan for Brexit, brokered in the heat of the summer at her Chequers country retreat. There’s no secret that the proposals were unpopular with the big Brexiteers. The dramatic departures of David Davis and Boris Johnson saw to that. But what is only now clear from cabinet sources is just how widespread the discontent was – expressed not just by Eurosceptics but by former Remainers too. – Laura Kuenssberg for BBC News

Mary Dejevsky: Brexiteers are livid – they’ll not go down without a bloody fight

Did you march for a second, “people’s” referendum in the hope of fending off Brexit? Are you banking on a fresh slew of ministerial resignations and the new political balance in the Johnson family to clinch the argument? And might you then be expecting a civilised, fact-based campaign to reverse the result of June 2016? Well, I hate to disappoint you. But even in the unlikely event that the prime minister executes a U-turn on a new referendum (or someone does it for her), that civilised, fact-based campaign is not going to happen. How do I know? Because I spent some time this weekend with the Bruges Group, at its conference “Brexit or Bust” – and if you thought the Brexiteers of middle England were going to roll over quietly and accept either a new vote or a different majority, you are grievously mistaken. To a man and woman they are livid, even in the anticipation. – Mary Dejevsky for the Guardian

Brian Monteith: No Deal-Plus increasingly becoming most likely outcome

If you ever had any doubts that the European Union leadership would kick a proverbial opponent when down then you only need to look at the treatment they are dishing out to the Prime Minister. With May’s “Chequers-minus-minus” likely to mean remaining in her rebranded Customs Union, Single Market and Common Fisheries Policy; a Norway-style deal where we would continue to be rule takers at a heavy price; a second referendum continuing to divide the country and lead to demands for a third-time-lucky if Leavers lost (although my money would be on a bigger Leave majority); the only alternative must be to live under World Trade Organisation rules that give us time to negotiate the trade deal that is already on the table for Great Britain, but not yet Northern Ireland. With that in mind, Jacob Rees Mogg has come forward with a plan called “No Deal – Plus” which would mean spending time between now and the end of March on ironing out what problems might exist but sweetening the EU with an offer of two years’ net payments of £20bn. – Brian Monteith for the Scotsman

Ian Birrell: Theresa May’s Brexit deal would weaken the nation, and no deal would be a disaster. What’s next?

Once again, the lions have been let down by donkeys. There are many villains in the Brexit debacle: David Cameron for calling a disastrous ballot, Theresa May for triggering Article 50 with no idea of resolution, Boris Johnson for perpetually putting ambition before national interests, Jeremy Corbyn for failure to offer any opposition. But finally we arrive at the moment in this corrosive chapter of our history when lies and posturing confront hard political reality. It has been a dismal saga from start to finish, diminishing an influential democracy previously seen as a bastion of pragmatic common sense. Already the upper-crust generals of Leave bleat about betrayal as they duck responsibility for their actions. Some such as Johnson have already fled the cabinet frontline as the consequences of their actions become apparent. Others like Iain Duncan Smith, the worst Tory leader in memory, and Owen Paterson, arguably the worst cabinet minister this century, still parrot soundbites such as “Downing Street needs to wake up and stare Brussels down”. It is pathetic given the circumstances. Ian Birrell for iNews

Nick Cohen: Citing ‘the people’s will’ won’t save our leaders in a post-Brexit carnage

Britain’s worst politicians, which is to say the leaders of the Conservative and Labour parties, pretend that the democracy of a second referendum is a danger to democracy. Outsiders may believe that the true danger lies in a Brexit that threatens the hard-won peace in Ireland, the union with Scotland, the living standards of the poorest people and regions and Britain’s influence in the world, for the sake of a fantasy that was invented by charlatans and is being implemented by incompetents, so unqualified in statecraft they can neither agree among themselves nor be honest with the public about the dismal choices ahead. Not so, according to the far left and far right that drive the agendas of the major parties – and when in our history have such minor figures dominated “the major parties”? After all other arguments against putting the Brexit choices to the electorate fail, they turn to the threat of violence. “There will be a backlash the likes of which the political classes in this country simply cannot understand,” warned Nigel Farage. Rather than say that a decent left must fight Farage and the thugs he imagines swarming on to the streets, John McDonnell agrees, as he and Jeremy Corbyn have agreed with Farage on Brexit throughout their careers. – Nick Cohen for the Guardian

Matthew d’Ancona: Logic points to a people’s vote. Instead, we face political collapse

Only now – in the symbolic form of the intractable Irish border question – has the grim reality of the process started to be more generally acknowledged. You cannot be both in and out of the EU (on this, the hard Brexiteers are quite right). You cannot have a porous Irish border unless Northern Ireland, or the whole UK, stays in the EU customs union until the matter is resolved. And the power to end this “backstop” cannot be reserved, unilaterally, by the UK. All the logic – remember that? – points to an extension of article 50, more talks and a people’s vote. Much more probable is a political collapse in which May is ousted, or a general election is forced by parliamentary impasse – or both. Is Labour ready to take the strain? Because all this is going to happen very soon. Until then, the Brexit train grinds on to nowhere; it is not the people that are sovereign, but the timetable. – Matthew d’Ancona for the Guardian

Brexit in Brief

  • The UK’s financial services profession is surprisingly resilient to Brexit woes – Simon Culhane for City A.M.
  • Spanish prime minister calls for second Brexit vote – Politico
  • Leeds MP’s fears over jobs ahead of knife-edge vote on Brexit deal – Yorkshire Post
  • UK eyes Ramsgate port expansion to cope with chaotic Brexit – FT (£)