May fires back at Boris | Barnier dismisses backstop: Brexit News for Saturday 9 June

May fires back at Boris | Barnier dismisses backstop: Brexit News for Saturday 9 June
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Theresa May fires back at Boris Johnson over Brexit claim…

Theresa May publicly rejected yesterday Boris Johnson’s claim that her efforts to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland were “dictating” Brexit policy. The prime minister emphasised the importance of solving the border issue as she struggled to steer clear of reacting to the explosive remarks made by the foreign secretary at a private dinner on Wednesday night. He had said that she needed to show “guts” in the Brexit talks and criticised the Treasury, which he branded “the heart of Remain”, as he claimed it was sacrificing the long-term gains of Brexit by focusing on stemming the immediate economic pain that he conceded lay ahead. Responding to his comments, a recording of which was passed to The Times, Mrs May told Sky News in Quebec, where she was attending the two-day G7 summit: “There are strong views. Boris has strong views on Brexit, but so do I.” She dismissed his warning of a “meltdown” between Britain and the EU, adding that at each stage in the talks British negotiators had sat down with the Brussels team to resolve issues. – The Times (£)

  • Theresa May still has confidence in Boris Johnson, says Downing Street in wake of leaked Brexit bombshell recording of Foreign Secretary – Telegraph
  • Theresa May dismisses leaked recordings of Boris Johnson criticising her Brexit plans – Sky News
  • Boris Johnson’s leaked ‘Brexit in meltdown’ comments praised by Leave-backing Tories – The Sun
  • Leaked Brexit speech: what Boris Johnson said — and what it means – Lucy Fisher for The Times (£)
  • For once I agree with Boris – Donald Trump would do a much better job of Brexit – Nigel Farage for the Telegraph (£)
  • Boris Johnson is right – our Brexit negotiators could do with a bit more Trump-style bluster – Charles Moore for the Telegraph (£)

…as Michel Barnier dismisses David Davis’s calls for a time-limited backstop and calls for customs checks in the Irish Sea instead…

It came as Michel Barnier poured scorn [on] Theresa May’s Brexit customs plan before vowing the EU “would not be intimidated” by British threats the day after Mr Johnson claimed Mrs May was readying to take “the fight to the enemy”. “Backstop means backstop,” the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator said in a mocking echo of Mrs May’s “Brexit means Brexit” mantra and in reference to a clause to prevent the return of a hard border in Ireland… He warned that any backstop to prevent the return of a hard border in Ireland could only apply to Northern Ireland and not the whole of Britain as the UK has suggested… Any backstop could not be temporary, he said, a day after David Davis threatened to quit the government over Mrs May’s plan to keep the whole of the UK aligned with EU customs rules if no other solution could be found to prevent the return of a hard border in Ireland. – Telegraph (£)

  • Barnier lukewarm on backstop and vows EU will not be intimidated over Brexit – The Times (£)
  • Michel Barnier’s jibe at PM as Brexit impasse on Irish border remains – Sky News
  • Michel Barnier questions Theresa May’s ‘backstop plan’ – BBC News
  • Barnier: Backstop cannot be applied to the whole of UK – City A.M.
  • Michel Barnier pours cold water on UK Brexit backstop plan – Politico
  • Michel Barnier rejects UK’s Irish border ‘backstop’ proposal – FT (£)
  • Brexit backstop idea explained – and how it could prevent a hard Irish border – Telegraph
  • A Hotel California Brexit? – Telegraph

> WATCH: Michel Barnier rejects UK-wide backstop and insists that Northern Ireland alone remains part of EU’s customs territory

…before sparking confusion over the EU’s position with a hasty clarification after his press conference…

But to the delight of the Brits the snooty Eurocrat was forced into a humiliating climbdown last night after fluffing his press conference lines. Straight after he came off stage Mr Barnier was forced to use Twitter to point out the EU had not in fact dismissed all of the UK’s plan… [H]is officials later admitted there had been “some confusion” due to the remarks, which left one member of his team with their head in their hands. They insisted Mr Barnier had only meant to point out that the EU’s version of the backstop, which includes parts of the Single Market too, is not available UK-wide. Mr Barnier’s own backstop plan has already been rejected by Britain and enraged the DUP because it only applies to Northern Ireland and would draw a border down the Irish sea. The EU negotiator admitted that his blueprint would lead to “checks on ferries” in the crossing but insisted this was just “a form of decentralisation”. – The Sun

…as Theresa May and DUP furiously hit back at his suggestion that the UK must have an internal border between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain

Theresa May has hit back at the EU for resurrecting plans to put a Brexit border in the Irish sea – and insisted she would never split up the UK… Mr Barnier argued that checks on ferries crossing between Northern Ireland and the UK in the event of the back-up plans being needed would be much less disruptive than checks along a 500km land border. That would effectively put the border back in the Irish sea – something which has already been thrown out by Britain and Northern Ireland… Deputy DUP leader Nigel Dodds stormed: “This is nothing more than an outrageous attempt to revert to the annexation of Northern Ireland. We will not accept such a proposal.” Instead he said the focus should be on getting a trade deal, and to forget about the back up plans altogether. – The Sun

  • Theresa May’s officials reportedly considering keeping Northern Ireland aligned with EU as a last resort – Bloomberg

Brexit ministers were reportedly prepared to resign in ‘triple resignation pact’ with David Davis…

The Brexit Secretary had agreed with Steve Baker and Suella Braverman that all three would quit on Thursday if Theresa May did not make concessions over her backstop plan to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland… The document was also briefed to key Remain-supporting MPs by Gavin Barwell, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, as part of a strategy to keep them onside ahead of next week’s vote. Leave supporters in the Cabinet who asked to see the document were told it was “not ready” for circulation… One Brexiteer who was shown the document, however, was David Davis, and he did not like what he saw… On Thursday morning Mr Davis confronted Mrs May in her office behind the House of Commons, spending a full hour airing his grievances, which were numerous. A source said one of the main arguments was about who was in charge of the Brexit negotiations – Mr Davis or Olly Robbins, the Prime Minister’s Europe Adviser. The source said: “David needs to show he has the authority as an elected and accountable person, leading these discussions, and has the backing of the Prime Minister.” One MP grumbled: “The Prime Minister regards anything that emerges from Olly Robbins’s lips as a holy writ. She is 100 per cent reliant on Robbins and for some reason she regards him as the oracle.” – Telegraph

  • Rumours that Robbins considering private sector switch – Guido Fawkes
  • Theresa May’s soft approach to facing down a hard Brexit: Staunch Leavers are losing arguments as their threats prove empty – FT editorial (£)
  • The Brexit negotiation and the Government’s position. There is a glimmer of light – Paul Goodman for ConservativeHome

…as May is accused of delaying a Cabinet deal on Brexit by another month by ordering a second Chequers summit…

The PM has revealed she has asked her top 10 Cabinet ministers to her country retreat again in a bid to break a new deadlock among them. The Brexit [war cabinet] will be told there they must thrash out a solution on what customs relationship to have with the EU, so the government’s full Brexit blueprint can finally be published in a white paper and put to Brussels. But the day-long confrontation – after a first Chequers showdown on Brexit in February – is not until the first week of July, as she wants the landmark EU Withdrawal Bill to pass through the Commons first… But a senior Tory source said: “Theresa doesn’t need to drag everyone off to Chequers and waste another month bloody month. She just needs to show some leadership and crack a few Cabinet heads now.” – The Sun

  • Brexit trade proposals will not be published until after EU summit – BBC News
  • Theresa May to hold ‘away day’ at Chequers in bid for Brexit cabinet consensus – Sky News
  • Theresa May to hold Brexit peace summit for feuding cabinet – Guardian

…while furious Tories say Theresa May should sack ‘roadblock’ Hammond after explosive Brexit row with Boris

Theresa May [yesterday] faced calls to sack gloomy Philip Hammond after Boris Johnson accused him of running “the heart of Remain” in an explosive leaked recording. The pro-EU Chancellor risked infuriating rivals in the Cabinet as he hit back at Boris and told him we need to “engage” with Europe and “compromise” to get a Brexit deal. The open war in the Cabinet has now spilled out to the rest of the Tory party – with Brexiteer MPs calling for the PM to sack Mr Hammond immediately… Treasury sources lashed out at the Brexiteers, claiming they’re only speaking out “because they know they’ve lost the battle”. One official told The Sun: “They’re firing pistols back over their shoulders.” …Ex-Tory leader, Lord Howard, defended Boris, saying he was right to highlight the Treasury’s dislike for Brexit. – The Sun

  • Hammond slaps down Boris Johnson after he claims Treasury trying to ruin Brexit – Express

Remain-backing Tory MP reports church-going pensioner to the police over critical email and leaves her ‘living in fear’

A church-going pensioner was ‘left living in fear’ after her Tory MP reported her to police over a highly critical email. Linda Banahan, 64, wrote to Antoinette Sandbach’s local Conservative association accusing her of treachery after she defied the Prime Minister by backing rebel amendments in the Commons over Brexit. In an email, which she copied to Remainer Miss Sandbach, 49, the retired careers adviser warned that she could no longer vote for her because of her lack of loyalty to Theresa May and the party. But Mrs Banahan, who volunteers on the chaplaincy team at a local hospital, said she was left suffering from anxiety and high blood pressure after Miss Sandbach sent a ‘heavy-handed’ response warning that she had passed the message to police. Mrs Banahan last night accused Miss Sandbach of ‘seeking to shut down freedom of speech by reporting emails she does not like to the police’. She told the Daily Mail: ‘Here I’ve got an MP who is bullying people when they contact her legitimately. She has threatened to have the police come round. Isn’t it right, as their elected MP, Antoinette Sandbach should be ready to be held accountable for her voting behaviour without so easily taking offence and responding so heavy-handedly?’ – Daily Mail

Anti-Brexit group backed by billionaire George Soros claims it has lined up 40 MPs for campaign to hold second referendum and keep us in EU…

Best for Britain claim public opinion has turned against the decision to exit the bloc, and published “roadmap” to a fresh vote after Theresa May brings back a deal from Brussels in the autumn. They say their plan is aimed at resolving the “nightmare of Brexit”, but they have been accused of being an “anti-democracy movement”. John Longworth, co-chairman of pro-Brexit group Leave Means Leave, said: “They are insulting British voters and our proud British democracy. It is absolutely shameful that they continue to work against the best interests of Britain.” At an event in Westminster [yesterday] morning the group revealed they are planning a summer of campaigning planned across 100 constituencies, and will spend £500,000 on billboards and newspaper advertising… Best for Britain indicated they already have 40 [MPs] on side, and said there could be a new referendum in early 2019, claiming the EU would allow Britain to delay our official exit date to hold the vote. – The Sun

  • Best for Britain launches campaign for another referendum – BBC News
  • Best for Britain recruits MPs to back second Brexit referendum – Guardian
  • Best for Britain chief Lord Malloch-Brown storms off live radio interview after being accused of being out of touch by Julia Hartley-Brewer – The Sun

…as Jolyon Maugham QC loses yet another legal case aimed at stopping Brexit

Scotland’s top court has rejected yet another attempt by Remoaning lawyer Jolyon Maugham to reverse the referendum result. Maugham had wanted the European Court of Justice to rule on whether the UK could unilaterally withdraw its decision to trigger Article 50, and stay in the EU instead. The Court of Session in Edinburgh threw out Maugham’s bid, saying it was never going to happen. – Guido Fawkes

  • Scottish judge rejects attempt to get ruling on UK stopping Brexit – Guardian

The Sun: Why are we trying to appease aggressive foreign powers hell-bent on crushing Brexit?

The EU’s response to Britain’s latest offer was as arrogant, contemptuous and destructive as we have come to expect. When will Theresa May get real? The chances of a decent deal from here look tiny. Boris Johnson hit the nail firmly on the head: our strategy lacks guts. We are trying to appease aggressive foreign powers hell-bent on crushing Brexit and preventing us from succeeding outside their grip. We are bending over backwards to be reasonable with unreasonable people… Every possible basic preparation for doing so with no trade deal MUST be made immediately. Failing that, we could crash out into near-certain chaos, or Mrs May will be forced to accept any last-minute crumb the EU offers us. That would be catastrophic for Britain and her. Does she want to be the Prime ­Minister who faced Brussels down and delivered Brexit in full? Or who lost her majority — exactly a year ago — then bungled the negotiation and sold 17.4million Leave voters down the river? Unless she can get a grip on this fast, she will be gone by the autumn. – The Sun says

Telegraph: It’s time for MPs to do their democratic duty and back Brexit

Next week, we discover whether or not the Commons truly represents the people. Remember that both Labour and Conservative MPs were elected on a promise to deliver Brexit. Labour’s manifesto was vague on detail, but the Tories clearly pledged to take the country out of the single market and customs union… MPs must, in obedience to their manifestos and the referendum result, strike down any attempt to thwart Brexit. How can any British politician at this stage comfortably ally themselves with the EU? There was a lot of attention paid to a spat between David Davis and Theresa May on Thursday morning over whether or not the UK’s request to remain within the customs “backstop” should be time-limited. Whatever differences they had look trifling in light of Brussels’s reply: Michel Barnier, its chief negotiator, said that only Northern Ireland can remain in the backstop, not the entire UK. The EU has insisted as a point of (alleged) principle that Britain cannot cherry-pick: this is an example of the EU cherry-picking. Worse, it wants to divide a sovereign state in two. – Telegraph editorial (£)

James Forsyth: The bewildering battle of the Brexit backstop is a fight that can’t end well for the UK

If this country is still stuck in the backstop at the time of the next election, Davis is surely right that the Tories will pay a heavy electoral price. Those voters who are backing them to deliver Brexit will feel bitterly let down. This week, the Government came far closer than most people realise to collapsing. Both David Davis and Boris Johnson are becoming increasingly angry at No10’s approach to Brexit. The two, who have previously not been close, are now coordinating. They both pushed back heavily against Mrs May’s initial backstop proposal. One close friend of the Brexit Secretary tells me “the whole thing is shambolic” and that “he would go, if he thought it was the right thing to do”… Barnier is determined to keep on salami-slicing the UK position until this country is left with almost none of the benefits of Brexit. This is why the Government should have rigorously prepared for no deal. Its failure to do so has left the UK in a dangerously weak negotiating position. – James Forsyth for The Sun

Tom Harris: Boris Johnson keeps warning of Brexit betrayal. But is he lifting a finger to stop it?

The question for impatient Leavers across the country is: how long will this “unity” last, especially in the face of almost daily reports of Brexit being delivered in name only? And how can such unity survive what many fear will be a sell-out of everything the Leave campaign stood for? And as we know, such fears of a betrayal are not confined to ordinary members of the public. Johnson made clear to a meeting of Conservative Way Forward on Thursday night that he fears that Brexit, even a Brexit that is irreversible, “will not be the one we want.” … On one hand, this will provide some comfort to committed Leavers who still yearn for a definitive break with the EU and for Britain to promote an independent trade and immigration policy that isn’t dictated by Brussels. On the other hand, if this really is Johnson’s view, how long can he remain in his post? … Does Johnson mean what he says? At what point will he insist that his own vision of Brexit is delivered, in opposition to that of the Prime Minister? – Tom Harris for the Telegraph (£)

Iain Martin: HMRC admits double-counting in its £20bn customs warning

It is understandable that on Brexit some stories get more attention than others. Big or bad numbers are more interesting than small or manageable numbers. Even so, it is surprising that there are not more repercussions when a key number that dominated the news turns out to be bogus or a mistake. When the head of HMRC said recently to a Commons committee that the bill to British business for customs (forms etc) would post-Brexit be up to £20bn a year, it was a huge story… Now, it turns out that the number was wrong and surprisingly little attention has been paid. ‎This week, Jon Thomson of HMRC clarified the sums. The Tory MP Simon Clarke published a clear account of the ‎methodology on Brexit Central this week… ‎Now it is clear one large number was miles out, might we ask if the other numbers cited by HMRC and anti-Brexit forces are reliable? Indeed, is the estimate there out by as much as £18bn, as the highly-respected economist Graham Gudgin put it last week? That £20bn figure helped drive the debate. It shocked business, analysts and politicians. It was wrong. By more than £350m a week…‎ – Iain Martin for Reaction

> Simon Clarke MP on BrexitCentral this week: Getting the facts straight on the true cost of “MaxFac”

Syed Kamall: Europe’s biggest ports are being refreshingly practical about Brexit

There is no doubt Rotterdam will be hugely affected by our departure from the European Union, which will require significant changes to the way the port operates. But while many British commentators and journalists predict chaos – or even “Armageddon” – managers in Rotterdam are keeping calm and getting on with the job. A port the size of Rotterdam faces constant challenges and, for its staff, throwing up your hands in despair is not an option. So time and again when I asked about Brexit during my visit the answer boiled down to: “It’s a shock, but it’s not the worst thing to happen” and “We’ll deal with it.” On Tuesday senior officials from Calais and Zeebrugge delivered a similar message to the Treasury Select Committee. As someone who spends a considerable amount of time discussing Brexit in Brussels, it is difficult to over-emphasise how refreshing that attitude is… In contrast to this ‘can do’ approach, EU negotiators are continuing with their ‘can’t do’ response when presented with UK proposals to overcome the Irish border issue and shape the wider post-Brexit relationship. – Syed Kamall MEP for ConservativeHome

Brexit in brief

  • Special Report: Remain campaign cheating – Guido Fawkes
  • Is the Commons about to destroy Brexit? – Get Britain Out’s Joshua King for the Commentator
  • Remainers need courage to go for the kill – Matthew Parris for The Times (£)
  • Labour is too timid, too tactical on Brexit – Guardian editorial
  • ‘Now insure your lawnmower’: Meddling EU directive is slammed by Eurosceptic group Get Britain Out – Express
  • Look out, it’s the lawnmower police – ConservativeWoman
  • Nicola Sturgeon calls for Scotland to be given powers over migration – Guardian
  • Germany’s finance minister Olaf Scholz suggests euro clearing be moved to Frankfurt – FT (£)
  • Manfred Weber’s pitch for Commission top job – Politico
  • Ex-Remainer Richard Madeley says it’s time for us all to back Brexit – The Sun
  • Business still waits for answers on Brexit – The Times (£)
  • You can still avoid destructive trade war, May tells Trump at G7 summit – The Times (£)
  • Arron Banks refuses to appear before Commons committee – BBC News
  • Leave.eu founder claims DCMS Committee is pursuing witch-hunt against Leave groups and accuses it of leaking evidence to pressure group – The Times (£)
  • Suffering from Brexit anxiety? Remainer psychotherapists offer free counselling – Guardian