Labour and DUP unite in bid to force Theresa May to publish Brexit deal legal advice: Brexit News for Sunday 2 December

Labour and DUP unite in bid to force Theresa May to publish Brexit deal legal advice: Brexit News for Sunday 2 December
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Labour and DUP unite in bid to force Theresa May to publish Brexit deal legal advice…

The Democratic Unionist Party will join Labour and other opposition parties tomorrow in a bid to force the Government to publish its legal advice on Brexit – a move that could delay the crucial vote on Theresa May’s plan. In an explosive alliance that will rock the Government, Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s Westminster leader, Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrats’ Brexit spokesman, and Stephen Gethins, the SNP’s Europe spokesman, will write a joint letter to John Bercow, the House of Commons Speaker. The letter will insist that the Government is in contempt of Parliament for failing to publish the full Brexit legal advice from Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, that underpins Mrs May’s deal, and call for an urgent debate to resolve the constitutional row. Eurosceptics believe that the advice will warn that the UK cannot escape the EU customs union after Brexit. The row could delay the start of a marathon 40-hour debate set over five sitting days on the Brexit deal, starting on Tuesday. – Sunday Telegraph (£)

  • May warned of ‘historic’ constitutional battle over Brexit legal advice – Belfast Telegraph
  • Brexit legal advice: Theresa May faces fresh battle – BBC News

…as it is is suggested the Attorney General’s devastating advice ‘could sink May’

Britain would be trapped “indefinitely” in a customs union with Brussels if MPs back Theresa May’s Brexit deal, according to leaked details of the attorney-general’s legal advice, which the government has suppressed. Senior ministers say the prime minister is refusing to publish the advice because it contains a stark passage that makes clear the UK could end up locked in a “backstop” arrangement with the European Union. In a letter to cabinet ministers last month, the contents of which have been disclosed to The Sunday Times, Geoffrey Cox declared: “The protocol would endure indefinitely.” The government’s top law officer ruled that the only way Britain could escape the backstop would be to sign a new trade deal, which could take years. But he warned Britain could remain trapped if those talks collapsed. The details — confirmed by three serving cabinet ministers and the former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab — will enrage Eurosceptics and are likely to harden opposition to the deal. More than 100 Tory MPs have already signalled they will oppose their own government in the crunch vote on December 11 that has left May’s premiership hanging by a thread. – Sunday Times (£)

Senior Brexiteer Tory MP brands Theresa May’s Brexit deal ‘illegal’

Chairman of the House of Commons European scrutiny committee Sir Bill Cash wrote in the Telegraph that the proposed withdrawal agreement is “illegal” because it violates a new UK law passed earlier this year. He wrote: “The Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement is incompatible with the Withdrawal Act 2018. This act, enacted on 26th June, converts all EU law into British law and makes the entire European Communities Act 1972 null and void from 29th March 2019. “However, under Mrs May’s contaminated agreement, during the transitional period after Britain leaves the EU, from 29th March 2019 to 31 December 2020, a tampered version of the 1972 Act will remain in place. “In other words, the 2018 Act of Parliament – the law of the land, which takes primacy over a treaty – will be scaled down and rubbished.” Mr Cash argues that unless another act is passed, then on March 29, 2019, Mrs May’s deal will become illegal under the law. He added that one way to solve this issue would be for Mrs May, “or more likely a future leader”, to walk away from the proposed agreement. – Sunday Express

May puts on brave face at G20 while Brexit deal flounders back home…

It is a message devoid of the context that her version of the deal looks likely to be voted down in parliament by more than half of the backbenchers in her own party, many of whom have based their opposition on the belief that the backstop provision threatens the opportunity to forge trade deals. During the summit, yet another minister – Sam Gyimah – resigned, refusing to back the deal. Yet when pressed on how the government is preparing for plan B, May has stressed that none exists, and that she is focused on winning the vote in parliament on 11 December. Throughout the two-day summit correspondents have repeatedly asked if it might be seen as irresponsible to have no plan in place for a second vote, a renegotiation offensive, for an offer to the Labour party or for a commitment to pursue no deal. Each time May has deflected. It is a deliberate strategy by No 10 to focus minds on the vote in parliament as the real moment of truth. They believe that without convincing colleagues that beyond defeat lies only chaos, the prime minister loses vital leverage. – Observer

…as she vows to stay on after Brexit after Shinzo Abe says Britain must avoid a no-deal exit

Theresa May has insisted she has “a lot more still to do” as she denied that she might have just days left as Prime Minister. Mrs May said she, rather than a possible successor, would be the Prime Minister who took Britain out of the EU as she promised once again to “deliver on Brexit”. The Prime Minister faced the media at the conclusion of the G20 summit in Argentina, where questions about her ability to win the vote on her Brexit deal – and what happens if she loses – were top of the agenda. Asked what her legacy would be if her visit to Buenos Aires proved to be her last foreign trip as Prime Minister, Mrs May refused to entertain the idea that she might be forced to resign if she loses heavily on December 11. She said: “There is a lot more for me still to do, not least delivering on Brexit and being the Prime Minister that does take the United Kingdom out of the European Union.” – Sunday Telegraph (£)

  • Theresa May seeks to reassure world leaders – BBC News
  • Theresa May insists she will be the leader to take UK out of the EU – Observer

Nine days to save my historic Brexit deal, warns defiant Theresa May

Theresa May declares today that there are just nine days to save Brexit as she offers the country a stark choice between a “brighter future” or more “uncertainty and division” if MPs reject her deal. In an interview with The Sunday Times, the prime minister said the period before parliament votes on the Brexit deal on December 11 would be among the most “significant in this country’s history in recent years”. May warned ministers plotting behind her back that there was “only one deal on the table” — dashing hopes that she will pivot to a Norway-style “plan B”. Asked if she is looking forward to celebrating Christmas as prime minister, May said: “Over the next nine days I am not going to be giving Christmas much thought at all. I am going to be focusing on this deal.” – Sunday Times (£)

Brexiteers accuse Theresa May of signing off a blank cheque – as the £39bn bill owed to the EU could be even higher

Theresa May is signing off a “blank cheque” by agreeing to the Brexit divorce bill, a leading Brexiteer has warned. The multi-billion payment to leave the EU is open to “uncertainties” as the expected £39 billion bill could be higher, it’s claimed. The financial settlement agreed by the PM and the EU could vary, according to the National Audit Office. The final total could be affected by costs outside the settlement already agreed including access to EU agencies. Risks are also associated with liabilities linked to the EU’s pension scheme which is a “particularly uncertain part” of the settlement. There is also a fear that the exchange rate could cause UK costs to rise, as payments to the EU will be in euros after 2020. The Treasury and Office of Budget Responsibility insist the payments will be between £35 billion and £39 billion. – The Sun

Confusion over the Brexit deal stance of International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt

A senior Cabinet minister has backed the Prime Minister, even though she says she does not support her Brexit deal. Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary, has criticised MPs who are threatening to vote against the plan on December 11 and said now is the time to rally behind Mrs May. In an interview with her local newspaper, the Portsmouth News, the minister said she was confident Mrs May was trying her best to deliver a Brexit that would “work for the nation”. She said: “What the public want to see is their members of parliament and their members of government working hard to get the best result for their communities and their country. “Everything else that is a distraction to that  should cease.” Ms Mordaunt criticised attempts by Jacob Rees-Mogg and other Tory backbenchers to unseat the Prime Minister, saying: “That was not helpful.” – Sunday Telegraph (£)

Don’t make best Brexit the enemy of the good, says Michael Gove

If MPs vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal then the U.K. enters “dangerous waters,” U.K. Environment Secretary Michael Gove warned in the Daily Mail today. Gove, who was a prominent Leave campaigner ,acknowledged that the deal is not what many Brexiteers wanted. “Is it perfect? Far from it. Does it deliver 100 per cent of what I wanted? No. But then we didn’t win 100 per cent of the vote on June 23 2016,” he said. But he told MPs, “we must not make the best the enemy of the good.” “Indeed, if we don’t accept this deal, I believe we enter dangerous waters. We risk a softer Brexit, no Brexit at all, or no deal,” he said. Gove argued that, despite having reservations about the Northern Ireland backstop — which is designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland if no other solution can be found — it would not be in the EU’s interests to keep Britain in it long-term because it offers some of the benefits of membership. – Politico

Former Science and Universities Minister Sam Gyimah says another referendum may be the only option

Science and universities minister Sam Gyimah quit after Mrs May pulled the UK out of the EU’s Galileo sat-nav system, following a row with Brussels. He said the decision showed the UK will be “hammered” in Brexit talks. Mr Gyimah is the 10th person to resign over Mrs May’s Brexit agreement. He said he intends to vote against it. Speaking on the Today programme on Saturday, Mr Gyimah – who voted Remain – said: “Looking at the deal in detail, we don’t actually have a deal. We have a deal in name only. “We have given up our voice, our veto and our vote. Our interests will be hammered because we will have no leverage.” He urged Mrs May not to rule out another referendum if she loses the 11 December vote. “If Parliament was in deadlock, Theresa May could get herself out of that deadlock by backing a second referendum,” he said. – BBC News

Key Labour figures urge the party to prepare for a new Brexit referendum…

A powerful group inside Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet is urging Labour to be ready to campaign for a possible second Brexit referendum if Theresa May’s deal is defeated and the party cannot force a general election. The move comes amid signs that support for another public vote is widening at Westminster. The shadow cabinet alliance pushing Labour to prepare for the option of a second public vote includes Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer, deputy leader Tom Watson, shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd and Richard Corbett, the leader of Labour MEPs in the European parliament. The Observer can reveal that Starmer told a meeting of the shadow cabinet last Wednesday that Labour should be ready to “move quickly through the gears” to call a no-confidence vote in the government immediately if, as expected, May’s blueprint is defeated when MPs vote on it on 11 December. – Observer

…as Corbyn calls on May to go head to head against him in TV Brexit debate

Jeremy Corbyn has said that he wants Theresa May to debate with him in a one-on-one format, amid a continuing dispute over which broadcaster would host the event and in what format it would be held. The main broadcasters have proposed their own respective formats after Labour accepted a challenge from the prime minister to debate with Corbyn about her Brexit deal on live television. The BBC’s would include a panel of 20 prominent commentators that are equally split between supporting and opposing May’s Brexit deal, while Sky and ITV’s bid would be a more straightforward head-to-head. Labour has claimed the BBC format would be “messy and confusing”, and presents May with the opportunity to cast her opponents as divided since one side would be unanimous in its support for her plan. – Observer

Britain will sign United Nations proposal to make immigration a human right

International Development Minister Alistair Burt said the UK “is supportive” of the UN’s Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration document which is the subject of a major UK meeting next week. MEP Marcel de Graaff announced today: “It is declaring migration as a human right so it will, in effect, become impossible to criticise Mrs Merkel’s welcome migrants politics without being at risk of being jailed for hate speech.” But it has been pointed out that accepting the principles could technically see EU citizens in court for criticising migration between EU member states. Mr Burt said: “The UK Government is supportive of the UN’s Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, both as a step forward in international co-operation to tackle irregular migration and as a framework to help us deliver our commitments under the sustainable development goals. – Sunday Express

Priti Patel: Britain should have no fear in pursuing a WTO Brexit

The very fact that the entire machinery of the British government is devoted to re-hashing “ Project Fear” tells you everything you need to know about Theresa May’s proposed withdrawal agreement. It is not Brexit. Whether through weakness or design, it is a thinly disguised attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes — led by a set of people who are wedded to the idea of staying in the EU. The Brexit deal, as it stands, sets the UK and the EU up for many more years of uncertainty. In two years, if no future trade deal is finalised, we could be in the same position we are today — with the implementation period being extended further or the Northern Ireland backstop applying. It is a recipe for chaos: the only certainty with this deal is more uncertainty. Priti Patel MP for the FT (£)

Michael Gove: Don’t sink Brexit!

I campaigned for it heart and soul. And now I want to see it through. Although the deal limits our ability to control some of the existing laws and rules relating to manufactured goods and agricultural products, it does give us control of rules over services which make up a far larger proportion of our economy and it allows us to reject new EU rules we think are bad for business. And why risk that damage when this deal can deliver much of what we campaigned for? The choice facing my colleagues in Parliament is momentous. Get this wrong and we may put in peril the Brexit the British people voted for and want us to deliver. It’s time for all of us to put our personal perfect plan to one side, recognise the reality of the choice we face, and start to bring the country back together again. The United Kingdom has been a force for good in the world all my adult life, now we can use the tools this deal gives us to aim even higher, and create a brighter future for our children. Let’s not, at this critical hour, risk the chance to reclaim our democracy and renew faith in our country. – Michael Gove MP for the Mail on Sunday

Keir Starmer: MPs cannot be expected to support a deal without knowing precisely what they are signing up to

Parliament is about to make one of the most important decisions in a generation: whether to vote for or against the proposed Brexit deal. In preparation for that decision, MPs must have access to the fullest possible information about what they are voting on. That’s why it was so important that Labour secured an order from Parliament for MPs to be given access to the Attorney General’s full legal advice to the Cabinet on the final deal. And yet, following comments by the Prime Minister this past week, the Government looks set to defy that order of the House of Commons. To treat Parliament with such disrespect is not a good look from ministers who want to persuade MPs to back their deal. So I’m putting them on notice. If the full legal advice is not forthcoming, we will have no alternative but to start proceedings for contempt of Parliament – and we will work with all parties to take this forward. Sir Keir Starmer MP for the Sunday Telegraph (£)

Bill Cash: Theresa May’s Brexit deal is illegal and must be stopped

The Prime Minister and the Government, however, have failed to abide by the essential safeguards established by conventions of collective responsibility, the Ministerial Code, the Cabinet Manual, and the Civil Service Code. These have stood the test of time in the interests of good governance and stability within the rule of law, but are now being breached. It is clear from recent articles in The Sunday Telegraph and elsewhere that former ministers, including the former Brexit Secretaries David Davis and Dominic Raab, were either “bypassed” or “hoodwinked” throughout this process. There are reports of ministers frequently not receiving papers until the last minute. There is cabinet dysfunctionality over the greatest issue of our time. The fault lies squarely in No 10 and with her advisers. – Sir Bill Cash MP for the Sunday Telegraph (£)

Daniel Hannan: No deal is now the only option left – and we must respond by liberalising our economy

There won’t be a deal. The EU has overplayed its hand. Clocking the defeatism of Britain’s negotiators, its representatives made deliberately harsh and vindictive demands: a lengthy period of non-voting membership, the regulatory annexation of Northern Ireland and continuing EU control of Britain’s trade and tariffs. But the United Kingdom, thank God, is a parliamentary democracy. Our MPs are not about to accept the sort of terms that a victorious power dictates to a defeated adversary. Instead of fantasising about what we might ideally have wanted, let’s focus on what’s on the table. attitudes change when people feel they are being bullied. And, make no mistake, if the EU refused to agree with Britain even the minimal courtesies that democracies take for granted with their neighbours, people would conclude that Britain was, in effect, being blockaded. In such a climate, voters would accept reforms that, in more tranquil times, they might see as too much bother. – Daniel Hannan MEP for the Sunday Telegraph (£)

Janet Daley: However Brexit ends, May’s stitch-up will corrode trust in democracy for decades to come

It’s all going according to plan. The great establishment stitch-up is no longer even bothering to stay undercover, having recruited its most formidable forces – the Bank of England and the supposedly neutral agents of the Treasury – in its last desperate moves. Theresa May has now explicitly ruled out all the plausible candidates for a Plan B, including a Norway model which was gathering steam at an alarming pace, allegedly leaving only No Deal as an alternative to her wildly unpopular proposal. And, in this last ditch battle, No Deal (invariably described by the BBC as “crashing out”) is getting the full horror show treatment. I once heard a police detective say that if a witness’s description of an event was absolutely identical every time he told it, it gave grounds for suspicion. When people are genuinely recollecting, or sincerely arguing, their accounts are spontaneous, not memorised or rehearsed. I wonder if Mrs May and her minders realise how much the peculiarly pre-scripted lack of variation in her speech itself gives rise to distrust. Combined with an utter refusal to address even reasonable dissent, it has surely increased the public animosity to her take-it-or-leave-it “deal”. Janet Daley for the Sunday Telegraph (£)

Roy Hattersley: Even the infamous Tory whips won’t try to stop this Brexit rebellion

Between now and 11 December reports on Theresa May’s chances of success and survival will contain almost casual asides about near-criminal behaviour in the House of Commons. Government whips – desperate to win the vote that endorses the prime minister’s Brexit deal – will be said to resort to bribery, bullying and blackmail. Some stories will be exaggerations. Others will be pure inventions – peddled by the whips themselves to enhance their reputation as the stormtroopers of parliamentary politics. Tales of female MPs reduced to tears in the tea room will help to obscure the inconvenient, though undeniable, fact that, as the Brexit crisis developed, the whips failed to fulfil their most important duty – the collection of intelligence, not the enforcement of discipline. Had the Tory whips been the eyes and ears of the government, they would have known, within days of news of the Chequers proposals reaching Westminster, that May’s Brexit deal was certain to be rejected by the House of Common, and then the prime minister would have been given time to change course. It is too late now. And the idea the whips can redeem their failure by pressure and persuasion is nonsense. – Roy Hattersley for the Observer

Sunday Telegraph: Many younger Tory MPs are passionately pro-Brexit. Theresa May should listen to them

Leadership does make a difference. To approach Brexit as a dangerous hurdle shapes not just rhetoric but policy: if you can’t see the potential in Brexit then you’re never going to exploit it. What Mrs May has signed up to is often described as a Remainer’s Brexit, an attempt to keep things so close to the status quo – Britain’s future so tied to the single market – that we lose the chance to reform our economy and do something new. Ultimately, as the MPs argue, a determination to rewrite Mrs May’s withdrawal deal is not a sign of ideological, obsessive Euroscepticism: actually, Brexiteers are as desperate to move the country on as everyone else. Indeed, the younger an MP is, the more they must see this as a vote on their own future as well as the country’s, and the more they surely want to see a Brexit that truly resolves the debate around our relationship with Europe, while giving Parliament the tools to build a better future in the wider world. – Sunday Telegraph (£) editorial

Sunday Telegraph: Mrs May is duty-bound to reveal the full legal advice on the Withdrawal deal

With just nine days to go before the vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, it is time for the Government to release the full advice on the implications of the Withdrawal Agreement. If the only arguments against are that full publication only happens in exceptional circumstances and at a prime minister’s discretion, then we have to point out that these are exceptional circumstances and Mrs May is duty-bound to use her prerogative. Instead, she denies full clarity not just to MPs but to her Cabinet, too. No wonder some have raised the possibility that ministers are backing the deal without knowing the legal ramifications. The alliance growing against Mrs May’s deal now combines Remainers and Leavers, and every minister who walks out of office and every MP who takes the risk of opposing the Government is to be applauded for their courage. Mrs May must not be allowed to steamroller this through under the cover of legal darkness. – Sunday Telegraph (£) editorial

Stephen Booth: The backstop. It’s problematic for the EU as well as the UK – whatever you’re told to the contrary.

The so-called “backstop” is understandably the most controversial aspect of the Brexit deal parliament will begin debating this week. It is certainly less than perfect, but it offers the UK far more than its fiercest critics suggest. It provides an exit route from the EU, would free the UK from many of its current obligations, and provides a platform from which we can improve our position in future. It creates genuine problems for Northern Ireland, but also the potential to act as the gateway for securing free trade in goods with the EU. Although billed simply as an insurance policy against a hard border in Ireland, it is actually quite likely that, following the standstill transition, the backstop will provide the basis for the UK-EU relationship as negotiations over the future relationship continue. – Stephen Booth for ConservativeHome

Brexit in Brief

  • The dishonest and duplicitous Mrs May is the Cardinal Wolsey of our time – David Starkey for the Sunday Telegraph (£)
  • CCHQ is printing thousands of postcards to promote the Brexit deal – Harry Phibbs for ConservativeHome
  • Theresa May is the last person to sell her own Brexit deal – Dominic Lawson for the Sunday Times (£)
  • ‘A worse surrender than Singapore’ – Theresa May accused of EU capitulation over military – Sunday Express