Jean-Claude Juncker warns Theresa May that a permanent customs union is the price for revisiting the backstop: Brexit News for Sunday 27 January

Jean-Claude Juncker warns Theresa May that a permanent customs union is the price for revisiting the backstop: Brexit News for Sunday 27 January
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Jean-Claude Juncker warns Theresa May that a permanent customs union is the price for revisiting the backstop…

Jean-Claude Juncker has told Theresa May in a private phone call that shifting her red lines in favour of a permanent customs union is the price she will need to pay for the EU revising the Irish backstop. Without a major shift in the prime minister’s position, the European commission president told May that the current terms of the withdrawal agreement were non-negotiable. Details of the call, contained in a leaked diplomatic note, emerged as Juncker’s deputy, Frans Timmermans, said there had been no weakening of the resolve in Brussels in support of Ireland, and accused the Tory Brexiters of a “cavalier” approach to peace. “Let me be extremely clear: there is no way I could live in a situation where we throw Ireland under the bus,” Timmermans said. “As far as the European commission is concerned, the backstop is an essential element for showing to Ireland and to the rest of Europe that we are in this together.” – Observer

  • Juncker says customs union is price to pay for backstop – Bloomberg

…as ministers warn her she must demand EU concessions if she wants to salvage her deal

Ministers and MPs have told Downing Street that Brexiteers and the DUP will only help to keep her proposals alive this week if the Prime Minister commits to seeking specific changes from the EU to alleviate MPs’ concerns. The warnings came amid frantic talks between No 10, ministers and MPs aimed at averting a crisis if a majority of the Commons fails to rally around a solution to save Mrs May’s deal. As fears grow that time is running out to legislate, Downing Street is planning to extend the hours of Commons sittings and keep MPs in Westminster on Fridays as well as provide help with childcare to ensure laws can be passed. Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee, tabled an amendment calling for the controversial Irish backstop to be replaced with “alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border”. Sir Graham hopes MPs who fear the current deal could leave the UK “trapped” in the backstop could coalesce around the amendment. But one senior Tory figure said Sir Graham’s amendment was too vague. Another said: “A compromise out there over this backstop and [the Brady amendment] is wholly feasible but everybody needs to know, what is [Mrs May’s] position?” Another senior Brexiteer said: “Graham Brady’s amendment is fine but we need the Government to say it’s going to go back to the EU and say we can’t have the backstop in anything like its current form.” – Sunday Telegraph (£)

Theresa May’s Brexit deal can go from zero to hero if she just ditches Irish backstop, says Iain Duncan Smith

He signalled that Brexit-backing MPs could rally behind the PM if she can persuade EU chiefs to ditch the dreaded backstop. Senior Tories have given Mrs May a fresh glimmer of hope ahead of her another crunch Commons vote this week. Rebels who helped inflict a humiliating defeat a fortnight ago are ready to back an MP’s bid to strengthen her arm when she goes into battle in Brussels. They will back an amendment by Sir Graham Brady stating they will support the deal if the backstop – which could keep the UK locked indefinitely in the Customs Union and unable to strike its own trade deals – is swapped for “alternative arrangements”. In a further boost, the DUP is preparing to throw its weight behind the move – giving Mrs May and the EU an opening to break the deadlock. Mr Duncan Smith, who has held private talks with the PM, said: “Many people now think she has got to go back to the EU and seek changes to her agreement. “The most important one will be to replace the backstop with an alternative protocol that will not damage the UK’s chances of striking trade deals with non-EU countries. “That’s the position of many Brexiteers right now. But we wonder if that’s where the PM is.” – The Sun

Leo Varadkar accused of stirring tensions over ‘doomsday’ remarks on troops at border

The Taoiseach was heavily criticised after he said that in a worst-case scenario, armed customs posts could be back after the UK leaves the EU. He told Bloomberg TV the border at present was “totally open”, but that if things went badly wrong it would “look like 20 years ago”. Asked to describe what a hard border would look like if the outcome of Brexit was a worst-case scenario, Mr Varadkar said: “It would involve customs posts, it would involve people in uniform and it may involve the need, for example, for cameras, physical infrastructure, possibly a police presence or army presence to back it up.” After months of refusals to answer questions on the impact of a no-deal, Mr Varadkar’s gaffe was viewed as a sign of the panic in the Irish Government at the prospect of a looming hard Brexit. Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has moved to deny plans to deploy 600 gardai to the border. But Mr Varadkar’s interview in Davos confirmed police and troops could be needed for a hard border. An Irish Government spokesman later clarified that Mr Varadkar was not referring to the Irish Defence Forces. “The Taoiseach made it clear in the interview that the Government is determined to avoid a no-deal scenario and the consequent risk of a hard border,” the spokesman said. – Belfast Telegraph

Any changes to Plan B need legal clout, Ulster Unionist leader warns DUP

The Prime Minister’s ‘Plan B’ for Brexit will be meaningless unless it addresses the backstop problem in legally binding text with the EU, Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann has warned. The Sun newspaper reported that the DUP could soften its opposition to the backstop within Theresa May’s deal with the EU if it was time-limited, something Brussels officials have rejected in the past. DUP sources told the Belfast Telegraph the party could vote for an amendment that swaps the backstop for “alternative arrangements” to avoid a hard border. Mr Swann said: “With speculation in the media that the Prime Minister’s ‘Plan B’ will be acceptable to the DUP, as long as it guarantees a time-limited backstop, it must be made absolutely clear to the government that any changes to the Prime Minister’s plan must remove the threat to the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom. And even if a ‘Plan B’ is passed in Westminster, it will be meaningless unless there are changes in the legally binding text of the Withdrawal Agreement agreed at EU level. It is perfectly understandable that the Prime Minister wants to get a deal through Parliament with majority support to enable her to return to negotiations with the EU, but if she gets that she must go to the EU with the determination that any amended deal which addresses the backstop problem is legally binding.” – Belfast Telegraph

MPs facing longer hours to help break deadlock

MPs may need to work longer and lose their February half-term break if Brexit is to be delivered on time. The government is to consult Parliament on what extra hours will be needed to get its legislation onto the statute book before the planned 29 March exit. BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said the government’s demand to extend the parliamentary day was a way of Mrs May sending a signal to MPs that she intends to stick to the planned March departure. The House of Commons recess between 14 and 25 February could be cancelled, and MPs would be asked to start earlier and finish later on days they sit. – BBC News

Philip May enters No. 10 Brexit civil war, thwarting Gavin Barwell’s cross-party deal

Theresa May’s husband has been dragged into a Downing Street civil war after urging the prime minister to keep fighting for her Brexit deal. Philip May helped to persuade his wife to seek a deal with Brussels that could win over Tory Eurosceptics and their allies in the Democratic Unionist Party. However, his intervention sparked recent claims that Gavin Barwell, the No 10 chief of staff, has accused him of thwarting a plan to get a cross-party deal for a customs union with the EU. Barwell said, in front of witnesses, that Philip May helped to “scupper” attempts to reach out to Labour MPs. Accounts of his comments came from two reliable sources. One said: “Philip May was flamed by Barwell for scuppering the outreach to Labour.” Another said he “took a pop at Philip May”. The prime minister’s husband shuns the limelight but was twice instrumental in convincing his wife not to resign — after the 2017 general election and again after the party conference that year. Sunday Times (£)

Guy Verhofstadt says both big British parties have put politics ahead of country

The European Parliament’s Brexit spokesman has said that both big British parties have put political interests ahead of the national good. Guy Verhofstadt said that in his Belgian homeland a “majority” committee would have been formed to break the Brexit impasse. It comes after Theresa May was criticised for not being prepared to compromise on her ‘red lines’ in recent cross-party talks, while Jeremy Corbyn came under attack for refusing to take part in the talks at all. But it in an interview with L’Echo newspaper, Mr Verhofstadt said: “The question is whether an agreement can be settled between the two major parties, Labour and the Conservatives. Still, this situation is the result of British politics. Elsewhere, in Belgium for example, a joint majority opposition committee would have set itself up to make a decision in the country’s interest. At the moment, it seems that the interest of British parties is more important than that of their country. That said, last Monday, Theresa May partially opened the door, for the first time, during her speech to the British parliament. Jeremy Corbyn too.” – Independent

UK could avoid $1.5 billion EU tax bill on no-deal Brexit

A no-deal Brexit could create yet another headache for the European Union as it prepares to hand dozens of U.K.-based companies a tax bill that is expected to top $1.5 billion. With just over two months left until Britain’s scheduled departure date of March 29, time is running out for the European Commission to order the U.K. to recoup money from companies granted illegal tax breaks. A decision is likely just before Brexit, people familiar with the case have said. But how the EU could ensure U.K. compliance with any order is not clear. “The issue is not the chance of an appeal,” and which court would hear it, “but how to actually enforce a decision taken just before the Brexit date,” said Raymond Luja, tax professor at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and also counsel to law firm Loyens & Loeff in Amsterdam. “What if the U.K. simply would ignore it?” A no-deal Brexit would mean the withdrawal agreement and transition period negotiated for months toward an orderly EU exit, wouldn’t apply anymore. The U.K. and its two EU judges would also cease to be part of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, leading to the question of how the EU could enforce court decisions on a country that’s left the bloc. – Bloomberg

Ministers to issue a call to action to help firms avoid checks at UK ports if we leave the EU without a deal

Letters will be sent to 140,000 firms this week instructing them how to evade border chaos. Companies who use UK entry points to import goods will be advised to register on the government portal from this week. It forms part of the no deal planning process to ensure firms who use Roll-on Roll-off ports being undertaken by HMRC. The measures would apply to goods, such as cars and cargo, but not dangerous materials that would still have to be declared. The move comes as the Treasury have handed out funding across Whitehall to prepare for leaving the EU. In the latest round of planning for no deal, the Home Office was given £480 million to employ more Border Force officers and boost national security. Defra were given £410 million to guarantee trade in food products, fish and chemicals carries on as before. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has told MPs that 3,500 personnel are on stand-by to be deployed to aid government departments. – The Sun

Tory fury as election watchdog seeks police powers amid fears of bias

The election watchdog is planning to hand itself powers of prosecution in time for a second Brexit referendum, prompting fears that pro-Leave groups could be unfairly targeted with criminal charges. The Telegraph has learnt that the Electoral Commission is proposing to prosecute political parties and referendum campaign groups itself, rather than passing on all potentially criminal cases to the police. The watchdog, which has faced repeated accusations of bias against bodies that campaigned for Brexit in 2016, is preparing to announce plans for a new “capability” to launch criminal proceedings, despite internal concerns about a potential backlash. The commission claims it could hand itself the powers without ministers bringing forward legislation, by altering its enforcement policy later this year following a public consultation. Matthew Elliott, the former chief executive of Vote Leave, the official 2016 pro-Brexit campaign, which has been investigated multiple times by the watchdog, said: “The Electoral Commission’s recent bungles have already demonstrated that it is not fit for purpose, so this plot to award themselves the power to prosecute is extremely worrying. If they wish to extend their remit, they should make the case to Parliament. It is anti-democratic for a quango which has shown bias to become both judge and jury in elections and referendums.” – Sunday Telegraph (£)

  • Watchdog urges tighter rules for a second EU referendum – Observer

Downing Street urged Queen to call for calm, Jacob Rees-Mogg claims

The Queen’s intervention on Brexit would only have been made on the advice of Downing Street, a leading Brexiteer claimed yesterday. Jacob Rees-Mogg said it was inconceivable that the monarch would have been expressing her own private views on Brexit when she called for “common ground” in looking for “new answers”. However, he backed cabinet ministers and the leader of the opposition in welcoming the Queen’s intervention, which he described as sensible. “Constitutionally, the Queen can only speak on the advice of her ministers and could not have said this without the agreement of the government,” he said. “This is not the Queen’s point of view; it is Her Majesty’s Government speaking. There is not a private view of the Queen.” He added: “It is sensible for the government to encourage Her Majesty to intervene. It is perhaps a reminder to MPs to respect the constitutional norms and that nobody ever gets exactly what they want in politics. Calmness and goodwill is a better solution than endless rows.” – Sunday Times (£)

Dublin minister rebuffs idea of Ireland dumping the EU and ‘throwing its lot in’ with the UK

Ireland’s Europe minister dismissed a suggestion the Republic should leave the EU after she was asked – given the her economy’s reliance on Britain for exports, revenue and jobs – why it didn’t just “throw its lot in” with the UK. Helen McEntee was questioned on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on the current state of affairs on Brexit and on how a hard border could be avoided should the UK crash out of the EU at the end of March without a deal. Veteran host John Humphrys put it to the minister that instead of Dublin saying the UK had to stay within the single market and customs union to avoid a hard border “there has to be an argument” for Ireland to instead leave the EU. It was put to her that the Britain was “massively important” to Ireland in terms of the economy, “it accounts for 50% from the Republic, it’s worth about 65billion euros a year and sustains over 400,000 jobs and so on,” said Humphries. “There has to be an argument doesn’t there, that says instead of Dublin telling this country that we have to stay within the single market etc, within the customs union etc, why doesn’t Dublin, why doesn’t the Republic of Ireland leave the EU and throw in their lot with this country?” – Belfast Telegraph

SNP hatch fresh plot to frustrate Brexit – ‘We need to stop the clock’

The SNP is plotting to stall Brexit by lodging a fresh amendment to Theresa May’s deal, it has emerged. MPs have been tabling amendments in Parliament to Mrs May’s deal after she suffered a historic defeat by an eye-watering 230 votes earlier this month. SNP MP Ian Blackford will table an amendment on Monday calling on the Prime Minister to take into account Scottish Parliament’s, the Welsh Assembly’s and Commons’ votes to “overwhelmingly” reject her deal. The amendment proposes plans to extend Article 50 which is the mechanism which began the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.  A call for a no-deal Brexit to be completely ruled out and demands that Scotland will not be taken out “against its will” is also included within the amendment. Mr Blackford said: “With just a matter of weeks before the Brexit date, the Prime Minister must change course before it is too late. The Tories think they can do anything they like to Scotland and get away with it, but in this crucial week the wishes of the people of Scotland must not be ignored. If, as the Prime Minister claims, the UK is a partnership of equals, then she must stop putting the interests of the right-wing of her party ahead of the interests of the people of Scotland.” – Express

Bring on no-deal, say Dover’s Brexit backers

Residents of Europe’s busiest ferry port, they were on opposing sides in the 2016 referendum. Trevor Barlow, who converts cars for use on racetracks, voted to leave the EU; Tony Fisher, a carpenter, to remain. Not much separates them now. Neither betrays any sympathy for an effort by MPs — to be voted on this week by the House of Commons — to prevent Britain from crashing out of the EU without an agreement. Instead, like a growing proportion of the electorate, the two middle-aged friends see a no-deal Brexit less as jumping off the cliff to certain harm, more as a leap into the unknown. Although Dover is more likely to feel the effects of no-deal than almost anywhere in the UK, that does little to dissuade many residents, 62 per cent of whom voted in 2016 to leave the EU. – FT(£)

Carole Malone: Let’s take Remain off the Brexit table

Amber Rudd, who’s only been back in government for five minutes, petulantly announced this week she’ll quit – unless Mrs May takes No deal off the table. If I was Mrs May, I’d say – Off you go, luv. In fact, I’d sack her. Because Shenanigans like this are precisely why Parliament is paralysed. t would remove the logjam and Mrs May could appoint ministers who back her and Brexit and wouldn’t keep trying to throw both under a bus. Let’s not forget 498 MPs voted to set No deal as the legal default position when they triggered Article 50. And many of them were elected on manifestos pledging to take the UK out of the EU. And it’s rank hypocrisy to now try to change that. No deal HAS to be kept on the table. It’s the only bargaining chip we have. Why would the EU give us a half-decent deal if it isn’t? Take it away and Brussels would get its £39billion (for nothing). They then stick two fingers up at us and say they’ll give us a deal if and when they feel like it. As Tory MP Johnny Mercer said this week now is the time for courage. Time for Mrs May to stare down the EU and see this through. If not, Brexit, democracy and the trust of the British people will be lost. And THAT’S not an option. – Express

Philip Sagar: Nick Boles is our trusted MP but his Brexit egotism is hard for us to take

“The people I work for have made a momentous decision. I advised against it. But they call the shots and I will now do everything I can to help make a success of it”. These were the words of our MP and my friend Nick Boles on the morning after the referendum in June 2016. To his credit, helping make Brexit a success did appear to be what he was doing in seeking a Plan B after the Prime Minister’s deal was rejected by Parliament. But now he’s changed his tune. On December 18 last year, he tweeted that: “If at any point between now and 29th March the government were to announce that ‘no deal’ Brexit had become its policy, I would immediately resign the Conservative whip and vote in any way necessary to stop it from happening”. Never in almost four years as Association Chairman for Grantham and Stamford have I received so many emails, letters, phone calls and comments from association members, angry conservative voters and friends, who feel utterly betrayed by their MP. – Philip Sagar for the Sunday Telegraph (£)

Daniel Hannan: Singapore shows us how we might make a success of Brexit – even if we get there by accident

The Foreign Secretary plainly grasps that the way to make a success of Brexit is to make the UK a more attractive place to do business, not least by adopting Singapore-style free trade. Theresa May shows little sign of moving in that direction. The Government should be preparing for independence by cutting taxes, making mergers and acquisitions easier, streamlining bureaucracy. Instead, it is raising taxes, making takeovers harder and faffing about with executive remuneration, workers on company boards, gender pay and so on. That difference in approach explains why Sir James Dyson is shifting his HQ to Singapore. Britain has a Government that is keen on higher public spending and blasé about over-regulation, and an Opposition that is terrifyingly hostile to free enterprise. Singapore, by contrast, has spent five decades consciously wooing investors through light regulations, low taxes and a secure legal system. Unsurprisingly, many businesses responded and, in consequence, Singapore has low unemployment and high wages. – Daniel Hannan MEP for the Sunday Telegraph (£)

James Heappey: The public haven’t changed their minds on Brexit – now it’s time for MPs to give voters what they want

In Westminster there is no shortage of politicians willing to tell you that people did not know what they were voting for in the referendum. The public were duped, so these MPs say, by a dodgy campaign that promised them the moon on a stick. Some of those politicians will be honest enough to admit that they think Brexit should be cancelled and the people saved from themselves before any lasting damage is done. While I don’t agree with them, I grudgingly respect their conviction. You’d think that if Brexit really was so disastrous and if the people really had been so completely misled, these MPs would be on TV openly championing its demise. But they’re not – and that’s because hundreds of them represent constituencies that voted to leave, and when they escape SW1 at the end of the week, they meet constituents who say they know exactly what they voted for. They’ve not changed their minds and they’re not scared that we’re teetering on the brink of disaster. They’re just angry that Parliament seems incapable of delivering what they voted for and still very much want. That anger is growing, too. The Brexit process is being meddled with, parliamentary procedure is being arbitrarily changed and people are starting to feel cheated. – James Heappey MP for the Sunday Telegraph (£)

Janet Daley: Brussels should be careful what it wishes for – resistance from Britain will be hell if it keeps us in

There is, at five minutes to midnight, a glimmering of hope. The European Union might possibly, just maybe, conceivably be about to relent over the Irish backstop, which is the insuperable obstacle to reaching any sort of remotely acceptable agreement. Judging by the confused and contradictory messages emerging from the previously implacable Fortress Brussels, you might almost think that they had given up on their blood pact with our own Remain fifth column. Perhaps they have concluded that Project Kill-the-whole-thing-off – frustrating any attempt to reach a plausible agreement so that in the end, with a whimper of exhaustion, we just give up the silly idea of leaving – might be a dead duck. Those Leave-voting constituencies now being represented in Parliament by irreconcilable Remainers will be able to wreak vengeance not just on their own MPs but on the whole governing consensus that has let them down. The elections scheduled for this May to that ludicrously overblown Strasbourg Parliament are already expected to favour populist, nationalist candidates even from the countries whose governments cleave most strongly to the centrist project like France and Germany, let alone the acknowledged troublemakers to the East. And there would be Britain, imprisoned but unbowed, with its enraged population urging it on to give respectability and coherence to the resistance movement. The argument for “reforming” from within was lost long ago. Now there could be professionals to organise rebellion and systematic obstruction from within. Britain would have found its natural role in Europe. Message to Brussels: is that what you really want? – Janet Daley for the Sunday Telegraph (£)

Dia Chakravarty: Where are the lost voices of Brexit?

Since the referendum, it has suited everyone – from the media to politicians – to create lazy stereotypes of Leavers and Remainers, because that way one can pick a side and firmly pitch one’s tent. Are you representing middle-class, urban Remainers in Hampstead or the left-behind working class Leavers in Hartlepool? It’s precisely this stereotyping which has made the debate around Brexit – a topic which so many feel so strongly about – so stale of late. On a turnout of 72 per cent, over 52 per cent in Wales voted to Leave – yet many MPs representing the region actively speak against them in Westminster. Forty-four per cent Northern Irish and 38 per cent of Scottish voters in the referendum chose to Leave. When was the last time we heard from either of these groups? – Dia Chakravarty for the Sunday Telegraph (£)

John Mann: Why it would be catastrophic if Remainers Dominic Grieve, John Bercow, Keir Starmer and Amber Rudd succeed in delaying or halting Brexit

The truth is that a large majority of MPs are Remainers in their hearts and souls and are struggling to bring themselves to recognise the reality of the situation. It was us MPs who voted to give you, the people, the say on leaving or remaining in the European Union. And you voted, in higher numbers than you have ever bothered voting for any of us. Yet the same MPs who gave you a say are coming up with every excuse for why your views should not be listened to. Of course there are Remainer MPs whose constituencies voted heavily to remain. There are MPs with, I have to say it, courage, who have always argued strongly in a way that they have always known is different to their voters. These people are consistent and have my respect. But there are just as many who are in danger now of sitting on the fence until rigor mortis sets in, coming up with process rather than substance. They are simply hoping that others will do the dirty deed and respect the will of the people. It is also, for every Labour and Conservative MP, the manifesto promise that we stood on at the last election. We voted for a referendum. We promised to respect the result. We got re-elected promising the same, yet Parliament continues to sit on the roundabout to nowhere. It is time to stop the shenanigans and work across the political divide to bring our country and our people together. At stake is our democracy. And in a democracy the winner prevails. – John Mann MP for The Sun

Dominic Lawson: Quite so, Your Majesty — time to compromise on Brexit

Everyone else has had their say in the Brexit debate; now the head of state has put in a word. In remarks interpreted as expressing the Queen’s concern over the increasingly bitter and chaotic state of British politics, Her Majesty told the Sandringham branch of the Women’s Institute: “I, for one, prefer the tried and tested recipes like . . . coming together to seek out the common ground and never losing sight of the bigger picture. To me these approaches are timeless, and I commend them to everyone.” The message to her parliament could not have been clearer. On the other hand, where is that common ground that might best heal the divisions in the country? The greatest degree of unity throughout the kingdom over Brexit is, of course, the Queen’s concern. One of her subjects, Matt Singh (the only polling analyst to predict correctly that the Conservatives would gain an overall majority in the 2015 election), has conducted a novel survey that may indicate where that can be found. Singh’s firm, Number Cruncher Politics, asked Britons which out of “May’s deal”, “No-deal Brexit” and “Remain in the EU” they judged acceptable and which unacceptable. Singh’s conclusion: “As far as the public is concerned, then, Theresa May’s deal is unloved, but it’s the closest thing to a compromise that most could live with.” Which is all the Queen was calling for. – Dominic Lawson for the Sunday Times (£)

Adam Boulton: My money is still on May. The PM will take us out, on her terms, on March 29

Christmas is in the recycling bin so I can only paraphrase Michael Brunson’s scribbled message in our annual exchange of festive greetings. “I admire your perseverance in the ST on Mrs May’s deal,” the former political editor of ITN wrote. “I disagree.” This characteristically trenchant put-down from the sage of north Norfolk is not the only reason why I’ve had faint-hearted moments of late about the prime minister’s chances of gettinga deal in place by her chosen deadline of March 29. Few would have predicted the huge 230 majority against her plan or that she would have to fight two votes of confidence — in her leadership of her party and in her government — and win both comfortably. Yet Theresa May and her deal are indeed still in place and I won’t cancel my bet that they’ll last long enough to take the UK out of the European Union by the end of March, without a delay and without another referendum. – Adam Boulton for the Sunday Times (£)

James Forsyth: Can Theresa May get any Brexit plan through the Commons?

Tuesday is the last chance for those MPs who want to secure as meaningful a Brexit as possible. That evening, MPs will vote on a series of Brexit amendments designed to show the EU what kind of withdrawal agreement the Commons would accept. If one of them passes, then Theresa May can go back to Brussels and say: look, this is what will get the deal through my parliament. It would give her a decent chance of getting the EU to engage. But if none of these amendments can muster a majority, then the EU will simply sit tight. It knows that this parliament is fiercely opposed to no deal, and so isn’t concerned that the UK will actually go down that route. Number 10 won’t be drawn on whether a government amendment will be tabled or not. But leading Cabinet Ministers are confident it will be. There is no guarantee that a government amendment will carry the day. ‘To pull this off, you need the ERG to come in behind it—and that’s quite a big ask’ says one of those intimately involved in these discussions. This source warns that ‘emotionally a lot of them will find it very difficult’. But these Brexiteer MPs need to realise that if nothing passes on Tuesday, then parliamentary efforts to extend Article 50 will gather more support. Brexit itself will be in danger and this country will end up with a super soft Brexit or no Brexit at all. – James Forsyth for The Spectator

Richard Kemp and Lee Rotherham: The backstop’s not the only danger in May’s deal. Its defence and security plans will undermine NATO

This week’s Aachen summit declaring closer integration between Germany and France in defence and foreign policy will inevitably give rise to headlines about an EU military force. Commentators here in the UK often describe these developments as risible and unnecessary, like endless EU’s directives on cucumbers, and look no further. But neglecting the details and the hazardous effects for the UK is a serious error. To date, even many MPs still have failed to familiarise themselves with developments and the extent to which the UK has become involved. The topic has been almost absent from the public debate over the future shape of the post-Brexit deal, despite its consequences for defence and, more broadly, for the encompassing range of security and international relations issues with which the matter is closely bound. A Whitehall mantra of ad hoc participation contrasts with the heavy and legalistic obligations stated in the entry agreements that Whitehall has permitted and which the EU has no will to change, nor any requirement to do so. Given proven trends, and demonstrable ambition, that time will come. The UK will then, by negligence, have contributed to a catastrophic defence rift between the continents of Europe and North America. And of more direct and immediate concern, it will have triggered the breakdown the unique and irreplaceable defence and security relationship that the UK has with the US. – Richard Kemp and Lee Rotherham for ConservativeHome

Brexit in Brief

  • Martial law plans being drawn up in the event of a no-deal Brexit – Mirror
  • UK firms plan mass exodus if May allows no-deal Brexit – Observer
  • Mock soldiers man Irish border checkpoint in Brexit protest – Belfast Telegraph