May seeks Labour votes to pass Chequers-style agreement: Brexit News for Saturday 6 October

May seeks Labour votes to pass Chequers-style agreement: Brexit News for Saturday 6 October
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May’s secret bid to get Labour to back Brexit deal…

Theresa May has drawn up plans for a secret charm offensive aimed at persuading dozens of Labour MPs to back her Brexit deal even if it costs Jeremy Corbyn the chance to be prime minister, the Guardian has learned. Senior Conservatives say they have already been in private contact with a number of Labour MPs over a period of several months, making the case that the national interest in avoiding a no-deal outcome is more important than forcing a general election by defeating the government on May’s Brexit deal. Now, with talks in Brussels entering their frantic final phase, the prime minister and her party whips are stepping up efforts to win backing for a compromise deal that one minister described as a “British blancmange”. They are convinced they will need Labour votes to win, after a fractious Tory conference in Birmingham, at which determined opponents of the prime minister’s approach, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, won plaudits for saying they would vote against it. – Guardian

  • Can Mrs May really count on the Beast of Bolsover to save her skin? – Dan Hodges for the Mail on Sunday

…as UK prepares to stay in Customs Union…

British and European officials are closing in on a deal that would resolve one of most intractable elements of the Brexit negotiations, diplomats claimed today. Senior figures in Brussels said that there was now “good will on both sides” and a realistic plan to solve the Irish backstop question. They cautioned that the proposals, tabled informally by the government this week, raised “fundamental issues” that still required intensive work on both sides before a deal could be announced. The whole of the UK would remain within an EU-wide single customs regime until the technology could be proved to work to ensure there was no need for hard border in Ireland. At the same time Northern Ireland would diverge from Britain and follow single-market regulations that cover the sale of good crossing the border. – The Times (£)

  • EU negotiator Michel Barnier signals Brexit breakthrough is ‘very close’ after fresh compromise from Britain – The Sun
  • The EU must understand that Northern Ireland is not some pawn in a power game – Telegraph editorial (£)
  • Five reasons the DUP wants to sink Theresa May’s latest Brexit proposal – Telegraph (£)

…and Jean-Claude Juncker says ‘polyphonic chorus’ of UK must be arranged into “melody”…

The range of ministers’ views on Brexit are a “polyphonic chorus” that need to be arranged into a “melody”, Jean-Claude Juncker has said, as he voiced hopes for a deal by November. The European Commission president warned the negotiations were “not easy” and criticised the “different signals” he was receiving from London. But he said he was optimistic of a final settlement next month. It comes as a group of pro-EU political parties from Northern Ireland held crunch talks with Brussels’ chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. Speaking at the Austrian parliament on Friday, Mr Juncker said: “Negotiations are not easy because we also have to be critical that we receive different signals from London. “There is a polyphonic chorus at the level of the British cabinet and we try to arrange the pieces… so that they become a melody.” – Sky News

  • Chance of a deal has grown says Juncker – BBC News
  • A Brexit deal can be done in two weeks says Leo Varadkar – Telegraph (£)

…after EU set to formally reject Theresa May’s Chequers plan

Brussels will formally reject Theresa May’s plea for frictionless trade between Britain and Europe next week in a move that will pile further pressure on the prime minister. European negotiators will publish their official response to Chequers on Wednesday and are expected to offer a trade deal much less ambitious in scope than the prime minister had hoped for. Two EU diplomats told Bloomberg that the paper would contain “about 30 to 40 per cent” of Mrs May’s pitch for a wide-ranging trade and security deal. Such a limited offer will increase pressure on the prime minister domestically, with some Brexiteer cabinet ministers warning that she has until the EU summit, a week on Wednesday, to prove that Chequers is viable. Otherwise, they claim, they will demand that Mrs May changes course, pursues a Canada-style deal and faces down the EU over its Irish backstop demands. – The Times (£)

Unilever bosses scrap move to Amsterdam from UK

Brexit Britain passed the Marmite test today after Unilever bosses scrapped their plans to move their headquarters from London to Amsterdam. The consumer goods giant which produces Marmite, Coleman’s Mustard, Comfort, Radox, PG Tips, Vaseline and many other famous brands ditched its plans in what has been seen as a show of confidence in Britain after Brexit. It is understood that major shareholders in the company were angered by the plans to move out of the UK and potentially cut it off from the benefits of financing in the City of London. Tory MP Jacob Rees Mogg, the leader of the pro-Brexit European Research Group and a former investment banker, welcomed the move and said that the management at Unilever had listened far too much to the Project Fear messages about Britain from Remainers. He said: “The truth is that London is the biggest financial centre in the world not Amsterdam. – Express

Philip Hammond’s Project Fear scare warnings made Brexit talks even harder, says David Davis

Philip Hammond’s “no risk” approach to Brexit is causing problems for Theresa May, an ex-colleague has said. Former Brexit Secretary David Davis told the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast the chancellor was among those advising the prime minister “we can’t take that risk and don’t do that”. Mr Hammond has said no-one voted for Brexit to end up worse-off. The chancellor is seen by Brexiteers as being too cautious and too ready to believe leading businesses’ concerns about the economic impact of the UK leaving the EU without a deal and Treasury forecasts about the negative effect on economic growth and the public finances. Mr Davis, who quit the cabinet in July in protest at the direction of Brexit policy, suggested that despite being an “old mate of mine”, Mr Hammond was acting as a brake on the chances of getting the best possible deal. – BBC News

No 10’s plan to prevent second Brexit vote

Downing Street has been accused of trying to tie parliament’s hands with a plan to avoid a vote on a second Brexit referendum and secure Commons support for Theresa May’s Chequers proposals. The prime minister’s office is examining plans to stop MPs voting on amendments to the “meaningful vote” — the moment in late November or December when the Commons passes judgment on the Brexit deal that Mrs May brings back from Brussels. No 10 wants the Commons to agree to vote on the motion on the deal first, rather than the amendments. This would bypass alternative plans, which could include a second referendum. – The Times (£)

Gibraltar says it will shut down Brexit talks if its British sovereignty is challenged

Gibraltar last night warned Theresa May and Spain that they would not hesitate to collapse Brexit talks if the UK tried to pull an eleventh hour hoodwinking of the Rock. Amid fears Brussels and Madrid are planning a fresh assault on Gib’s sovereignty, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said he would “not blink” in the face of No Deal. He added: “I remain very confident that Gibraltar will be part of the UK – EU Withdrawal Agreement. “That is, so long as no one thinks that at the last minute we are going to be pushed to accept things which will not be good for Gibraltar. – The Sun

Charles Moore: The ‘border issue’ isn’t about Northern Ireland, it’s about keeping us in the EU

Mrs May is being outwitted by the European Commission. On Tuesday, Theresa May said she was “cross” with Boris Johnson. “He wants to tear up our guarantee to the people of Northern Ireland”, she said.The Prime Minister was not challenged on this point. Knowing the limited appetite of a British, particularly an English audience for discussion of Northern Ireland, the London media generally defer to politicians on the subject and scurry on to other topics. Yet her claim to be the defender of what she calls “our precious Union” is, given what she has so far negotiated, very strange. – Charles Moore for the Telegraph (£)

John Baron: Clamber aboard the ‘Canada +’ life raft, Prime Minister!

Despite her Salzburg mauling, and Labour’s continued Brexit jumble, the Prime Minister remains adrift, clinging to her Chequers Agreement. I strongly advise her to jump ship into the ‘Canada +’ free trade life raft.  Since the declaration of Article 50 in March last year, the clock has been ticking on our departure from the European Union. What that exit looks like, and the terms of our future relationship with the EU, have remained up for grabs, and will be further debated when Parliament returns after the party conference season. – John Baron MP for CommentCentral

Ross Clark: Unilever’s U-turn is another blow to Project Fear

How funny. Remember how, when Unilever announced back in March that it had decided to move its headquarters from London to Rotterdam, it was all to do with Brexit? According to the Guardian’s subheadline on 14 March: ‘Brexit and favourable business conditions in Netherlands said to be behind decision’. The following day an FT leader asserted: ‘Unilever’s protestations that [the move] has nothing to do with Brexit do not convince’. It went on to add: ‘The decision is clearly coloured by the approach Theresa May has taken on Brexit, and by the way she has handled relations with business.- Ross Clark for The Spectator

  • Unilever’s surrender is a victory for shareholder democracy  – George Trefgarne for CapX
  • Unilever decision a welcome vote of confidence in Brexit Britain – Gavin Rice for Reaction

Asa Bennett: Liam Fox is backing Mrs May’s plan, despite it dooming him to obscurity

Michael Gove showed Brexiteers how to justify staying in cabinet when he urged those sceptical of Theresa May’s plan not to “make the perfect the enemy of the good”. The Gove doctrine has its critics, Boris Johnson being the most vocal, but it has plenty of subscribers around the top table. Dominic Raab told Tory members this week that he still thought the proposals thrashed out at Chequers were worthwhile, even if they were not “perfect”. The Brexit Secretary went on to predict that the Government would end up delivering a “seven and a half out of ten Brexit”. – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)

Pieter Cleppe: Why the EU should soften its stance on the Irish border

With the Conservative Party Conference out the way, the Brexit negotiations have picked up pace. EU diplomats are reported to be more optimistic a deal can be reached, with some of them even thinking they are “very close”. This optimism is thanks to ever stronger indications of a possible fudge for the Northern Irish border, which I described in my last CapX piece and which was first brought to light by The Telegraph’s Peter Foster, in the middle of the Summer. The UK government is, however, still working out the details of its backstop proposal. – Pieter Cleppe for CapX

Brexit in Brief

  • Geoffrey Cox – the most important politician you’ve never heard of – Katy Balls for The Spectator
  • Budgeting for populism amid EU hypocrisy – TIm Hedges for The Commentator
  • Stars line up to pay coach travel to Brexit ‘people’s vote’ march – Guardian
  • ECJ to hear case on whether UK alone can reverse Brexit on November 27 – Reuters
  • EU drafts tough contingency plans for no-deal Brexit – FT (£)
  • NHS to offer £18k for British doctors to return from Australia to plug GP gap – The Sun
  • UK will preserve integrity in any Brexit deal, Brexit ministry says – Reuters
  • Brexit and the nuclear industry – BBC News
  • Trade deal with Chile expected – Express
  • Central London firms shrug off Brexit, office take-up rises 6 percent in third quarter – Reuters