Tentative Brexit divorce deal collapses after Raab and Barnier meeting: Brexit News for Monday 15 October

Tentative Brexit divorce deal collapses after Raab and Barnier meeting: Brexit News for Monday 15 October

Tentative Brexit divorce deal collapses after Raab and Barnier meeting…

A tentative deal on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement reached at technical level in Brussels Sunday collapsed following a meeting between EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his U.K. counterpart Dominic Raab. An EU diplomat said that Barnier would make a statement about the state of play in the talks Sunday evening after updating EU ambassadors. Indications that a tentative deal at negotiator level was close, began to emerge mid-afternoon Sunday, when the U.K.’s Department for Exiting the EU released a statement that Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab would make an unscheduled trip to Brussels. “With several big issues still to resolve, including the Northern Ireland backstop, it was jointly agreed that face-to-face talks were necessary ahead of this week’s October European Council,” a spokesperson said in a statement.Subsequently, EU diplomats said a meeting of EU ambassadors had been scheduled for 6.30 p.m. Sunday evening. Three EU diplomats said the meeting was intended to allow ambassadors early sight of the divorce deal, but after the meeting between Barnier and Raab, an EU official said the EU negotiator would update them on the U.K.’s remaining objections. – Politico

  • Brexit talks reach stand-off as May brands draft deal a ‘non-starter’ – FT (£)
  • Theresa May puts brakes on customs union deal with Brussels amid Cabinet opposition – Telegraph (£)

…as both sides agree to halt talks until Wednesday’s European Council summit…

British and EU negotiators called a pause in their talks on a Brexit deal on Sunday and will wait for the outcome of a summit mid-week before any resumption, four EU sources told Reuters.“Despite constructive and intensive negotiations, several key issues remain unresolved,” one senior EU diplomat said. “No further negotiations are planned ahead of the European Council. The EU negotiator will brief the leaders who will then assess the progress so far.”Others also said EU negotiator Michel Barnier would brief leaders of the 27 other member states when they meet for dinner in Brussels on Wednesday, on the eve of a regular EU meeting which British Prime Minister Theresa May will also attend. – Reuters

…while EU leaders line up ‘no-deal’ emergency Brexit summit for November…

EU leaders are preparing to hold an extraordinary “no deal” Brexit summit in November to deal with the potential consequences of the UK crashing out of the bloc should Theresa May fail to deliver decisive progress on the Irish border issue this week, the Guardian can reveal. A special meeting of heads of state and government at which the EU had hoped to sign off on the Brexit negotiations next month may instead be turned into a emergency summit to discuss the bloc’s response to a cliff-edge Brexit.The plan is likely to pile further pressure on the British prime minister by illustrating the EU’s seriousness about allowing the UK to crash out if the alternative were a deal that would undermine the integrity of the single market or prove unacceptable to the Republic of Ireland.The European council president, Donald Tusk, told May last month that he needed to see “maximum progress” by this week’s European council meeting of leaders on the issue of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland. A Brexit summit to finalise the terms of the political declaration on a future trade relationship has been pencilled in for the weekend of 17-18 November, in the event the negotiating teams find a compromise position on avoiding a hard border. EU sources said they had expected the summit to be a sombre ceremonial event. – Guardian

…and ministers have been told to start implementing plans for a no-deal Brexit within weeks

Ministers have been told to start implementing plans for a no-deal Brexit within weeks as last-ditch talks in Brussels between Britain and the EU broke up after little more than an hour. Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, travelled to Brussels yesterday for an unscheduled meeting with his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, amid speculation that officials on both sides had reached agreement over the so-called Irish backstop. But Theresa May’s hopes of sealing a deal at the summit in Brussels that starts on Wednesday were left on a knife-edge when both sides declared that there had been no consensus. The Times has learnt that senior civil servants have warned ministers that whatever happens this week, the government’s contingency plans for Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal agreed must start being put into effect by the end of the month. Rather than wait for the conclusion of talks in Brussels, or the ratification of any deal by MPs, the work of stockpiling medicines and telling businesses to begin registering for new customs processes must begin shortly, ministers have concluded.Those involved in the discussions said that if the government delayed taking action to prepare for a no-deal Brexit beyond this month, it faced being under-prepared by March 29 next year, when Britain officially leaves the EU. – The Times (£)

No chance of time limit on Brexit border backstop, insists Irish Foreign Minister…

The government is doubling down on its insistence that the Brexit backstop plan to avoid a hard border in Ireland will not have a time limit. Government figures say that the Irish position on the backstop is “unchanged” and that although talks are intensifying, it is unlikely that there will be deal before or at this month’s summit. The backstop will effectively tie the UK to EU rules until a better solution for the border is agreed.Theresa May, the British prime minister, will tomorrow attempt to persuade her cabinet to support her backstop plan before she tries to sell it to EU leaders when she travels to Brussels for a crucial summit on Wednesday. She has suggested a temporary arrangement for the UK to remain in the customs union while the Irish border issue is resolved. Brexiteers want a time limit placed on that agreement but Irish government sources said yesterday that the only acceptable time specification would be a clause stating that the agreement would be in place “unless and until” a better deal was reached in a future trade agreement.The British government is also facing opposition from Arlene Foster, the DUP leader. Leaked emails released over the weekend were said to show that she told a Conservative MEP that a no-deal scenario was the likeliest outcome of Brexit talks. – The Times (£)

  • May will not insist on backstop ‘end date’, Matt Hancock admits – i News

> Watch on BrexitCentral’s YouTube Channel: Matt Hancock says he “hopes” that the transition period would be “temporary and time-limited”

… as Labour demand the Government publish its Irish border backstop plan

Labour is pressing the government to give MPs the chance to debate Theresa May’s plans for the Irish border backstop before she flies to a crunch summit with EU leaders this week. Brexit secretary Dominic Raab returned from Brussels on Sunday night without agreement, after face-to-face talks with his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier. Disagreement centres on the backstop – the legally enforceable protocol insisted upon by the EU27 to prevent a hard border arising in Ireland. Keir Starmer said it was “deeply disappointing” that no deal had been reached. The shadow Brexit secretary said: “The details of any proposed backstop agreement need full and searching scrutiny in parliament, not least because the final deal will need parliamentary approval. “I would therefore urge the prime minister to publish the latest backstop proposal today – alongside an oral statement – to provide sufficient time to scrutinise and debate it.” – Guardian

Theresa May asks Tories to swallow Brexit plan at No 10 dinners

No 10 will begin a two-day charm offensive today in an attempt to win sceptical backbenchers round to Theresa May’s Brexit plans.Brexiteer MPs have been invited in groups for lunch and dinner today and tomorrow after a weekend during which Conservative splits over Mrs May and her approach to negotiating with Brussels were laid bare. The meals are a resumption of the dinners at which aides tried to sell her Chequers plan before the Tory party conference.Sources at No 10 played down the idea that the dinners were linked to the European Council summit, which begins on Wednesday. The meals are expected to be hosted by Robbie Gibb, Mrs May’s communications chief…The most likely candidates to quit are Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Penny Mordaunt, who have grave concerns about the UK being left in an indefinite customs union. They will meet over pizza tonight in Mrs Leadsom’s Commons office to discuss how to respond to Mrs May’s backstop proposals. They are expected to be joined by Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, and Liam Fox, international trade secretary. One source said Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, would be present. – The Times (£)

Ruth Davidson and David Mundell threaten to quit if Brexit deal undermines ‘integrity’ of the UK…

Ruth Davidson and David Mundell have warned Theresa May they are prepared to resign if a Brexit compromise creates a “new border down the Irish Sea”. The Scottish Conservative leader and the Scottish Secretary fear any special status that keeps Northern Ireland in the single market could “undermine the integrity of the UK” and boost the SNP’s ambition to break-up Britain. Under a so-called “backstop” plan – which would come into play if a wider trade agreement cannot be agreed – the UK would remain subject to EU customs rules for a limited period.Tory Brexiteers fear this could turn into a permanent arrangement, while the senior Scottish Tories are concerned Northern Ireland would face new controls separating it from the rest of the UK. – Telegraph (£)

…as Nigel Dodds says the DUP isn’t afraid to break their pact with the Tories over the proposed deal

The DUP is not bluffing in its threat to break the confidence and supply deal keeping Theresa May in power, Nigel Dodds has insisted.The party’s Westminster leader said he had been “crystal clear” with the Conservatives that “one part of the UK cannot be left behind” after Brexit. His comments were a reference to EU plans to keep Northern Ireland in a customs union and large parts of the single market – effectively creating a regulatory trade border down the Irish Sea – to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland…The DUP – whose 10 MPs prop the PM up in her minority government – has already threatened to vote down the upcoming Budget if she agrees to an arrangement which treats Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK. Some have accused the party of bluffing, insisting there is no way they would trigger a general election which could usher in a Jeremy Corbyn government. Breaking cover on the issue today, Mr Dodds said the confidence and supply deal was “based on a common understanding that we would leave (the EU) as one nation”.“We will not be party to the abandonment of fundamental principles and harm to the Union to be codified forever in a Withdrawal Agreement,” he wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph. – Politics Home

  • We are not bluffing – we would never gamble with the Union – Nigel Dodds for the Telegraph (£)

Jeremy Hunt tells eastern European counterparts a Brexit deal is needed to maintain global security

A Brexit deal is needed to maintain global security in the face of new and emerging threats, Britain’s foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has told his eastern European counterparts.Mr Hunt was at the foreign affairs council in Luxembourg ahead of a crunch week in which prime minister Theresa May will be taking her proposal for a deal to the European Council’s October summit. He told the UK’s partners that issues such as cyber attacks, chemical weapons, terrorism and migration can only be tackled as a united force following Brexit. “This is a crucial week both for the UK and our European partners,” Mr Hunt said. “The importance of achieving a Brexit deal that respects the autonomy of the EU and the sovereignty of the UK cannot be overstated.”And delivering this is vital for our security too because economic relations sit at the heart of all our partnerships, including the vital security alliances we have with our friends in Europe.” – Irish News

Emily Thornberry blasted for Labour’s ‘silly’ Brexit tests…

Emily Thornberry was challenged on Labour’s six Brexit tests which were branded as “silly” requirements aimed to trigger a general election.The Shadow Foreign Secretary was put on the spot by BBC host Andrew Marr as he said Labour’s Brexit tests have been designed to make May’s final deal fail in Parliament. The BBC host pointed out one of the tests says Theresa May’s Brexit deal must guarantee the UK will maintain the same benefits of being a member of the EU outside of the bloc. A provision which Mr Marr claimed to be impossible to achieve unless the Prime Minister agrees to keep the UK in the customs union and the single market. – Express

> Watch on BrexitCentral’s YouTube Channel: Emily Thornberry denies that Labour’s six Brexit tests are designed for the fail them.

…while Labour’s Caroline Flint breaks ranks to say she would back Theresa May’s Brexit deal

Labour’s Caroline Flint yesterday broke ranks to declare she would back Theresa May’s Brexit deal – and urged colleagues to follow suit. Risking outrage from ‘Corbynistas’, the former Europe Minister said she didn’t view the decision as a vote of confidence in the Tory Government, but a choice about whether or not Britain crashes out of the EU with No Deal. Ms Flint told Sky News: “I think if a deal like that comes back it cannot be called a hard Brexit. “And I would have to very much weigh up what my decision is and, to be honest, if it’s a reasonable deal that meets all those requirements that I’ve put forward to support a deal then I think I would.” She added: “The question I think for some of my Labour colleagues is why wouldn’t you support a deal? Why would you stand along Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees Mogg who wants us to crash out without a deal and that’s the choice behind us.” – The Sun

> Watch on BrexitCentral’s YouTube Channel: Caroline Flint: “People want to feel that we have a fair and managed migration system”


Boris Johnson: The EU are treating us with naked contempt – we must abandon this surrender of our country

There comes a point when you have to stand up to bullies. After more than two years of being ruthlessly pushed around by the EU, it is time for the UK to resist.  With painful politeness, we have agreed to the EU’s timetable for discussions. We have consented to hand over huge quantities of taxpayers’ money – £39bn of it. We have quite properly volunteered to protect the rights of EU nationals in the UK. So far we have nothing to show for our generosity and understanding. We are now entering the moment of crisis. Matters cannot go on as they are.  In presuming to change the constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom, the EU is treating us with naked contempt. Like some chess player triumphantly forking our king and our queen, the EU Commission is offering the UK government what appears to be a binary choice. It is a choice between the break-up of this country, or the subjugation of this country, between separation or submission. It is between treating Northern Ireland as an economic colony of the EU, or treating the whole of the UK as such a colony. It is a choice between protecting the Union or saving Brexit. It is a choice between two exquisitely embarrassing varieties of humiliation. It is an entirely false choice. It must be rejected, and it must be rejected now.  – Boris Johnson in the Telegraph (£)

Nigel Dodds: We are not bluffing – we would never gamble with the Union

From day one, we have been crystal clear about our red line in the Brexit negotiations, both publicly and privately. The UK joined the Common Market together and we must leave the EU together. One part of the UK cannot be left behind, bound to rules set in Brussels. The constitutional and economic consequences of such an approach would be catastrophic in the long run. The importance of what is decided on the backstop issue cannot be understated. This backstop is going to be legally operational and binding, unlike the political declaration on any future trading relationship. And what is being proposed would bind the UK and Northern Ireland into a trap whereby Northern Ireland remains subject to certain Single Market rules and the UK including Northern Ireland remains in the Custom Union unless and until the EU decides that something better comes along that they can agree with. That is why the issue of a time limit is so important. How can we hand over the decision on our future trading and economic future to the EU?  Nigel Dodds for the Telegraph (£)

The Times: Time for Compromise

The time for hard choices over Europe is almost here. On Wednesday the October meeting of the European Council will discuss the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. It is natural, in a negotiation, for every interest to increase its demands as the deadline approaches in the hope of winning as much as possible. The worry is that this time everyone means what they say and that the result is chaos. Every relevant faction is unyielding at present. Theresa May has defiantly stuck to her Chequers plan despite opposition both within her own party and within the EU. Conservative advocates of Brexit have vocally denounced Chequers as tantamount to a betrayal of the 2016 referendum result. Though it has never been entirely clear what this faction wants they are clear they will accept nothing else. The official Labour line is also murky but it seems the party is preparing to vote against Mrs May’s deal, no matter what it is. Meanwhile, looking on from Brussels, the negotiators of the EU have stuck resolutely to the positions they struck at the outset. The upshot of all this adamantine behaviour will be either chaos or paralysis. It is time for all concerned to move a little. – Editorial from the Times (£)

Trevor Kavanaugh: Theresa May is leading Britain to our worst defeat since 1066 with Brexit

For two nail-biting years, wide-eyed optimists like me have put our trust in Theresa May’s promise: “Brexit means Brexit”. This week, there is a whiff of betrayal in the air. As negotiations flicker to a halt, it seems Brexit actually means abject surrender, taking orders from Brussels and standing mute as the Council of Europe assumes control of our economy. We risk being sold down the river. Barring a last-minute revolt by Tory Brexiteers, Brussels has won and we have lost. The world’s sixth-largest economy will not just be worse off outside the EU, but reduced to a powerless political pawn on its margins — and paying for it. Sniggering can be heard across the capitals of Europe, with France guffawing loudest. The British Lion is a toothless kitten and we are the laughing stock of Europe. Unless stopped by her Cabinet, her MPs or by Parliament itself, this Prime Minister seems to be leading us to the greatest defeat since the Norman Conquest in 1066, the last time we capitulated to a foreign power. – Trevor Kavanaugh for the Sun

Mark Harper: EU has interpreted the Brexit Irish backstop to suit itself

The EU has interpreted December’s backstop to suit itself, effectively demanding a border in the Irish Sea in what amounts to a de facto annexation of Northern Ireland by the EU in a flagrant breach of both the Belfast Agreement as well as the territorial and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom. Our allies in the Democratic Unionist Party are obviously committed to protecting the Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but so is the Conservative and Unionist Party. Our own manifesto at the 2017 General Election spelt out how we as a Party were committed to “ensure that as we leave the EU no new barriers to living and doing business within our own union are created”.Rightly, the Prime Minister has been resolute in her defence of the United Kingdom, saying that the EU’s proposal is such that “no UK Prime Minister could ever agree to it.” – Mark Harper MP for the Express

Stephen Booth: Why no-deal will only shave a small slice off growth – if we act wisely over the medium-term

We do not assess the short-term implications of a No Deal Brexit, which are difficult to predict. We estimate the impact of moving to a steady-state relationship whereby UK-EU trade is subject to tariffs, a customs border, and new non-tariff barriers. Our assumption is that aircraft would continue to fly to and from Europe, and that the EU would treat the UK like the United States of America rather than, say, North Korea. We also show that the steps the UK could take – which do not require negotiation – unilaterally to liberalise our tariff regime and increase our openness to services and foreign investment could further reduce the economic impact of No Deal to an average reduction in growth of -0.04 per cent. – Stephen Booth for Conservative Home

Paul Goodman: It’s time for an end to illusions. May must choose between the backstop and her country.

ConservativeHome’s first law of the Brexit negotiations is that if Theresa May can put off a difficult decision, she will.  It is clear that the options she is mulling include staying in the Customs Union in all but name. This would suggest an end to her confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP, the loss of the Government’s majority and the resignation of Cabinet Ministers.So the easiest path to take is the one of least resistance.  Put the moment of decision off. Let this week’s European Council pass. Search for compromise as Michel Barnier’s clock to tick on. This is the form: the Prime Minister postponed a customs decision earlier this year, setting up two Cabinet working groups whose conclusions she then studiously ignored…So sooner rather than later – before many weeks are up, even if not this week – May must make her choice.  To go with a customs union and the backstop would have a consequence which many are talking about; and another, no less crucial, which fewer have spotted. The first is that a UK-wide customs union would shipwreck a central aim of Brexit: agreeing transformational worldwide trade deals. – Paul Goodman for Conservative Home

News in Brief

  • Jeremy Corbyn under fresh pressure from sister party to back a final say Brexit referendum – Independent
  • Merkel’s Bavaria ally CSU suffer ‘massive losses’ in regional election – BBC News