Downing Street claim customs union 'temporary' but not 'time-limited': Brexit News for Saturday 13 October

Downing Street claim customs union 'temporary' but not 'time-limited': Brexit News for Saturday 13 October
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Downing Street claim customs union backstop would be temporary…

Downing Street has sought to play down suggestions Theresa May is prepared to backtrack on her Irish border stance in a bid to agree a Brexit deal. The future status of the frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic has emerged as a key sticking point in the exit negotiations. A particular source of contention is what the “backstop” – the fallback option for border arrangements in the event the two sides cannot reach an agreement by the end of the transition period – will look like…May’s spokeswoman said the PM stood by her original position, telling journalists at a daily briefing: “The prime minister would never agree to a deal which would trap the UK in a backstop permanently.” – Sky News

  • DUP says ‘critical’ that Brexit backstop is time-limited – Reuters

…but refuse to say it would be time-limited…

Theresa May has abandoned her pledge that a deal to keep the UK in the EU customs territory must be “time-limited”, paving the way for likely cabinet resignations. The prime minister’s spokeswoman refused – four times – to say the “backstop” agreement, to avoid a hard border in Ireland, would have a strict end date, the assurance she set out four months ago. Instead, No 10 said only that it must be “temporary”, a much looser word that – pro-Brexit ministers fear – will leave the UK locked into an effective customs union for many years to come. – Independent

…as Ireland say they ‘cannot accept’ a time limit on the Brexit backstop

Ireland’s deputy prime minister has warned the UK government his country “can’t accept a time limit” on a Brexit backstop agreement aimed at preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland. Simon Coveney, who is also Ireland’s foreign minister, directly contradicted UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab’s stance on a key part of the UK’s withdrawal agreement. As part of a divorce deal, the UK and EU are seeking a fallback agreement to avert a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, should a future EU-UK trade agreement not prevent this.  – Sky News

Government plan possible Brexit transition extension to appease DUP…

Secret plans to allow an extension of the transition period in the Brexit withdrawal agreement could result in the UK living under all EU rules well beyond the 21-months so far negotiated, the Guardian can reveal. The expected offer of an extension is designed to convince Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, that the “backstop” plan to avoid the creation of a hard border on the island of Ireland will never come into force. If such a clause was triggered, the whole of the country would be locked into a prolonged period of what EU diplomats have previously described as a state of “vassalage”, with the House of Commons being forced to accept Brussels regulations without having any say on them. – Guardian

  • Theresa May vows to foil EU ‘trap’ to keep UK in customs union forever amid Tory-DUP war over backstop plan – The Sun
  • Furious Brexiteers on the verge of quitting over Theresa May’s plan to keep UK in customs union after Brexit – The Sun

…which would cost the UK billions of pounds in extra payments…

The Brexit transition period could be extended by another year to help Theresa May find a solution to the Irish border problem, The Telegraph has learnt. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, proposed the move, which would also buy Mrs May more time to strike a trade deal with Brussels. It would mean Britain remaining tied to the EU until the end of 2021, rather than December 31, 2020, which is the current agreement. Tory Eurosceptics reacted with fury, saying the move would add up to £17 billion to the Brexit bill and could also cost the Conservatives the next election because none of the benefits of leaving the EU would have been felt by the time of the poll in 2022. And the DUP, on whose votes Mrs May relies for her working majority, said the time had come to “show the EU negotiators the door”. – Telegraph (£)

…but Theresa May is reportedly considering dumping the DUP to break the deadlock on Brexit

Theresa May is contemplating breaking with the Democratic Unionist Party to get her Brexit deal through parliament after relations between the parties worsened. The prime minister is fighting on multiple fronts amid signs that some of her cabinet could walk out next week over the backstop, her insurance plan to keep the Northern Irish border open. Intensive talks are under way between the DUP and the Tories over the relationship between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain after Brexit. At the heart of the dispute is Mrs May’s plan to break a deadlock in talks with the European Union by permitting exports travelling between these areas to be checked. – The Times (£)

  • Tory-DUP war of words over Brexit intensifies – BBC News

Tory Commons leader Andrea Leadsom ‘ready to quit’ over Theresa May’s Brexit plans…

Tory Commons leader Andrea Leadsom is prepared to resign if Theresa May compromises further on her Brexit plan, The Independent understands. The cabinet member’s decision to consider her future follows a meeting of senior government ministers on Thursday evening, when the prime minister revealed some details of her new proposals to break the deadlock over the Irish border. Ms Leadsom, an arch-Brexiteer, is understood to be ready to leave the cabinet if Ms May backs any plan that could keep the UK in the EU’s customs territory permanently and is currently “considering discussions that have taken place”. – Independent

…but told ITV May must be given the “opportunity” to strike a good deal

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom appeared to contradict an earlier story on her resignation threat by telling broadcasters that the PM still deserves an ‘opportunity’ to get a good Brexit deal. – ITV

The Irish border “problem” isn’t a problem, says former Government Chief Whip

Mark Harper MP thinks a hard border is easily avoidable and, fresh from his walking holiday in Northern Ireland, he tells Christopher Hope that solving the issue merely requires goodwill on both sides. Also on the podcast: Chris Bryant MP, former Labour Europe Minister; Chris Skidmore MP, Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Policy Commission; Martin Baxter, expert pollster from Electoral Calculus; Mark Mason, author of ‘The Book of Seconds’ and Kate McCann, The Telegraph’s Senior Political Correspondent on what’s going on in the fast-moving world of Brexit. – Telegraph (£)

UK would lose rebate if it stayed in EU

The EU’s Budget Commissioner has confirmed that Britain would lose its  budget rebate in the highly unlikely scenario that the UK stays in the EU.  Gunther Oettinger made it clear that the UK would not keep the “mother of all rebates” if it held a second referendum and decided to stay in the EU: “Even if, in the improbable but pleasant case if the UK were to Remain… the  gradual exit from the rebate would still be kept. – Guido Fawkes

Government release more no-deal papers

The government has released the latest batch of papers advising households and businesses about the impact of a “no-deal” Brexit. Covering areas from train travel to consumer rights and caviar imports to diamond trading, here’s what they say: Electricity: The government has warned a no-deal Brexit means the single electricity market on the island of Ireland might not be able to continue. A government paper states: “Separate Ireland and Northern Ireland markets will be less efficient, with potential effects for producers and consumers on both sides of the border.”  Amid fears of power outages in such a scenario, ministers have admitted they will need to take action to keep the lights on in Northern Ireland with “contingency planning work” already underway. It has previously been reported one Whitehall plan could see thousands of electricity generators requisitioned at short notice and put on barges in the Irish Sea. – Sky News

  • Government claims it will lose dozens of trade deals in ‘no deal’ Brexit – Politico
  • Eurostar services could stop under ‘no-deal’ Brexit – Sky News
  • Brits may not be able to watch Netflix or use Spotify abroad if there’s no Brexit deal with the EU – The Sun
  • No-deal Brexit threatens Grand National – Irish runners could be barred from returning home after race – Telegraph (£)
  • Brexit no-deal plan to use motorway as ‘car park’ – Politico
  • UK would be excluded from EU’s emissions trading system in no-deal Brexit – Reuters

Spanish train manufacturer picks UK for massive factory

Spanish train manufacturing firm TALGO has shortlisted six sites to host a 40,000sq metre manufacturing facility,  built to construct a new generation of trains, and creating 1,000 jobs. Despite operating its trains operating in 28 countries, from Germany, to  the U.S., to Saudi Arabia, all six of TALGO’s shortlisted sites are in the U.K. – Guido Fawkes

PM’s ‘Rasputin’ Oliver Robbins charms Brussels and splits Tories

It is an irony not lost on Theresa May’s most senior aides that the man they have charged with delivering Brexit is rather more popular with his opponents than he is with his own side. European diplomats, with whom Oliver Robbins spars daily, wax lyrical about his “charm” and “brilliance”. But back home the words used to describe the government’s chief Brexit negotiator are less favourable: “secretive”, “cliquey” and “not a team player”. Some Tory MPs are even more damning, suggesting that he has an almost Rasputinesque hold over the prime minister and is masterminding an establishment plot to thwart the will of the people who voted for Brexit. – The Times (£)

Charles Moore: Theresa May is throwing away the biggest political opportunity of our era

Mrs May’s catastrophic handling of Brexit has been marked by U-turns and broken promises Theresa May cares, above all, about “burning injustices”. She often tells us so. Yet she seems determined, next week, to ignite the biggest injustice yet. She goes to Brussels ready, it seems, to frustrate the result of the EU referendum. Her Conservative election manifesto last year promised that “we will no longer be members of the single market and the customs union”; but in fact, unless she changes, we shall be. The “deep and special partnership” with the EU with which she wants to replace them is nowhere to be seen.  – Charles Moore for the Telegraph (£)

The Sun: We’re told that a Brexit deal is close — but is the EU intent on pushing UK to violent chaos?

They say a Brexit deal is close. We just don’t see how it can be done. The EU is making a demand of Theresa May she cannot fulfil without national humiliation, mass Cabinet resignations and near-certain Commons defeat.  Brussels must know it is utterly unreasonable to demand we stay locked in their customs union indefinitely. Or that they should dictate when we can finally leave. Which they never would. A 17.4million majority voted to leave. MPs voted that meant leaving the customs union. Our democracy, sovereignty and trading future are all at stake. Mrs May must defend all three. God knows what happens next week if she doesn’t. – The Sun says

Telegraph: Theresa May’s short-term Brexit fix creates serious long-term problems for Britain

The Conservative Party is waking up to what many have warned for a long time: the Chequers compromise leads logically to Britain staying in the customs union, even if Number 10 insists it won’t be a permanent arrangement. The Prime Minister might argue this is necessary to get the country through withdrawal, and maybe Leave MPs calculate that once she’s done that, they can boot her out and negotiate a Canada-style trade deal. Nevertheless, what Mrs May is trying to sell is a short-term fix that creates long-term problems. It could be the making of an interminable crisis. No one voted for half-in, half-out. – Telegraph (£)

James Forsyth: Theresa May steps back from sorting out the Brexit Irish backstop — and the Government hasn’t decided what to do next

Sunday night was when a deal on the Irish backstop was meant to be done. The idea was that the Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab would then head out to Brussels on Monday to settle things with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator. On Tuesday, it would be put to Cabinet and then Theresa May would head to Brussels to meet the other 27 leaders on Wednesday night. But this timetable is slipping fast. The UK and the EU are still far apart on crucial questions, and the Government hasn’t decided what to do next. A Brussels smash-up looks more likely than an agreement at this point. One member of the inner Cabinet who attended its ­discussion on Thursday night tells me that the meeting “didn’t really settle anything”.  It looks like the UK and the EU are ­heading for another Salzburg-style smash next week. I am told that “the PM chaired as opposed to opined”. What the meeting was discussing was whether the so-called backstop should have an end date to it. This backstop would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU until and unless a trade deal is signed between them. – James Forsyth for The Sun

Victoria Hewson: The CP-TPP is the perfect trade partnership for post-Brexit Britain

This week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan added his voice to those calling for the UK to accede to the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CP-TPP). This trade agreement between a group of 11 countries that border the Pacific has been identified by the UK’s Department for International Trade as a priority for Britain’s post-Brexit trade policy, despite the geographical challenges involved. To begin with, this would not be a replacement for EU trade. The EU, as a large and near neighbour, will probably always be our biggest single trading partner. But businesses in the UK already export more outside of the EU than they do to it – and the CP-TPP leads the way in opening up global trade in a way that the WTO has not been able to do for decades. It also achieves deeper liberalisation than the EU has been able to in its agreements with member countries like Japan and Canada. – Victoria Hewson for City A.M.

Patrick Benham-Crosswell: No surrender!

So after all the huffing and puffing to date, it seems that Mrs May’s calculation is that the threat of a Corbyn government (arising from a general election) will scare the DUP into continuing to support her and her ludicrous Chequers non-Brexit plan. I fear that she and the coterie of fools that surround her have seriously underestimated the resolve of Ulster Unionists, the depth of their belief in the United Kingdom and their repudiation of compromise. – Patrick Benham-Crosswell for ConservativeWoman

Brexit in Brief

  • Cabinet ministers should think again about resigning over Theresa May’s botched Brexit – Tom Harris for the Telegraph (£)
  • Why a soft Norway-style Brexit is growing on Leave voters – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)
  • May facing a Brexit meltdown – Gavin Rice for Reaction
  • British diplomats not flying the flag in Brussels – Guido Fawkes
  • Juncker: Viktor Orbán ‘no longer has a place in the EPP’- Politico
  • Brexit deal with the EU will give economy a double boost, Philip Hammond vows – The Sun
  • Jeremy Corbyn suggests EU only backs Israel ‘because of the Holocaust’ – The Sun
  • UK says it will maintain existing EU sanctions after no-deal Brexit – Reuters
  • UK to recognise EU train operators for two-years after any no deal Brexit – Reuters