Civil servant accuses ministers of 'Project Fear Mark III' over no-deal Brexit: Brexit News for Thursday 03 January

Civil servant accuses ministers of 'Project Fear Mark III' over no-deal Brexit: Brexit News for Thursday 03 January
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Civil servant accuses ministers of ‘Project Fear Mark III’ over no-deal Brexit…

The Government is failing to be “frank” with the public about the extent of no-deal preparations because it wants to shore up support for Theresa May’s “disastrous” Brexit deal, a civil servant says. The official, who is involved in drawing up contingency plans, writes in The Telegraph that claims that Britain will “crash out” in the event of a no-deal Brexit are “absolutely untrue”. Describing the claims as “Project Fear Mark III”, the civil servant says that “very detailed plans” have been made are now being executed to ensure that a cliff-edge Brexit is “simply not going to be an option”. The civil servant writes: “If the Government was to be frank with Parliament and the country, what justification would be left for its disastrous Withdrawal Agreement? “What would Remainers do without a Project Fear? They would need to think up convincing positive arguments for staying in the EU, something that has so far proved beyond them.” – Telegraph (£)

  • Of course no-deal has been planned for – but does the Government want you to think otherwise? – Anonymous civil servant for the Telegraph (£)

…while Andrea Leadsom explains that MPs cannot prevent a no-deal Brexit if they fail to approve May’s plan…

MPs cannot prevent the UK from leaving the EU without a deal if they fail to approve Theresa May’s plan or an alternative, Andrea Leadsom has warned. The Leader of the Commons insisted the Government will not “down tools” on preparations for a no-deal Brexit even if MPs succeed in a bid to force them to do so. Her intervention, which is likely to anger pro-Remain Cabinet colleagues, comes in an interview with The Telegraph in which the former Leave campaigner also warns that those advocating a second referendum risk driving voters away from the Conservatives and sparking support for “extremist parties”. It comes after ministers, including Amber Rudd and David Gauke, publicly warned against the Government leaving without a deal, with Mr Gauke suggesting he could quit if it pursued such a course. Lord Lamont, the former Chancellor, said it was “extremely foolish” to talk down the option as Mrs May was simultaneously attempting to extract fresh concessions from the EU on her existing deal. – Telegraph (£)

  • Theresa May’s grip on Cabinet loosens as two ministers present rival Brexit plans – Telegraph (£)

…but Justice Secretary David Gauke hints at quitting Cabinet if Government backs no-deal Brexit…

David Gauke could be the latest cabinet minister to quit Theresa May’s government over Brexit as the UK faces leaving the European Union without a deal. The Justice Secretary said he would find it “very difficult” to remain in cabinet after the prime minister said a no-deal Brexit is a possible outcome if her plan is rejected by MPs in January’s Commons showdown. He said: “I think making a conscious decision to proceed with no deal would not be the responsible course of action.” Mr Gauke added he would be “very surprised if the prime minister went down that route”. Asked if he could remain in the cabinet if that became the government’s policy, he told the BBC’s Political Thinking with Nick Robinson podcast: “I think it would be very difficult for me in those circumstances. – Sky News

  • David Gauke doubts PM would back no-deal – BBC News
  • David Gauke hints at quitting Cabinet if Government backs no-deal – Telegraph (£)

…and Philip Hammond is accused of failing to release no-deal funding

Philip Hammond has been accused by Cabinet colleagues of failing to provide the money needed to prepare Britain for a no-deal Brexit, The Telegraph has learned. James Brokenshire, the Housing Secretary, has written to the Treasury warning that a no-deal Brexit could put pressure on councils as they face a potential “influx” of elderly expats and the risk of civil unrest on the streets. His department was given £35million to help councils prepare for Brexit, less than half of the amount it requested. Mr Brokenshire warned that the failure to provide more funding would lead to a “significant risk of disruption”. The Daily Telegraph understands that at least one other department has complained about the Chancellor’s failure to release more money for no-deal preparations. A source said: “The Treasury is not releasing the money. It’s all very well Philip Hammond to tell Cabinet that he’s putting £2bn into no-deal preparations, but it’s no good if they won’t actually release the money.” – Telegraph (£)

No-deal Brexit ferry contract sparks concerns

Concerns have been raised over the readiness of a British firm contracted by the government to run extra ferries in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Seaborne Freight was awarded a £13.8m contract this week to run a freight service between Ramsgate and Ostend. The firm has never run a ferry service and a local councillor said it would be impossible to launch before Brexit. The government said it had awarded the contract in “the full knowledge that Seaborne is a new shipping provider”. The Department for Transport said that “the extra capacity and vessels would be provided as part of its first services”. “As with all contracts, we carefully vetted the company’s commercial, technical and financial position in detail before making the award,” it added. – BBC News

  • Chris Grayling ‘makes no apologies’ for giving no-deal ferry contract to company with no ships – Independent
  • Channel crossings from Ramsgate will reopen in time for No Deal Brexit, claims Transport Secretary – The Sun

Michael Gove ‘to recruit military planner’ to draw up no-deal contingencies

Michael Gove is set to become the first minister to employ a military planner as fears continue to grow surrounding the possibility of food shortages in the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The military planner is set to be in place by January and has been offered to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) by the Ministry of Defence, to help ensure that rural communities have enough resources in the event of a ‘worst case scenario’. Contingency plans will be drawn up, based on a blueprint known in Whitehall as Operation Yellowhammer, which assumes that trade between Calais and Dover will become severely disrupted. Part of the planner’s job would also be to assess alternative routes into Britain for food supplies and to carry out preparatory work to ensure that rural communities are supplied. – Daily Mail

Germans sound the alarm at cost to EU of no-deal Brexit if we don’t hand over £39bn

The EU’s German budget chief said Europe would suffer without the £39billion Britain has previously promised to pay after Brexit. Gunther Oettinger’s warning come as a boost to Brexiteers who insist we can get a better deal from Brussels because they’re terrified of No Deal. The Merkel ally, who is European Commissioner for the budget, told the German press No Deal would lead to higher bills for the rest of the continent. Asked what the impact would be, he said: “That depends on whether the British would be prepared to honour their rights and obligations until the end of 2019. “If that doesn’t happen, then next year a middling-three-figure million amount will be added to Germany.” That suggests the total extra contributions for the whole of the EU would end up being several billion euros to make up for the money they wouldn’t get from the UK. If Theresa May’s deal is approved by Parliament next month, Britain will pay a £39billion divorce bill to Brussels. – The Sun

Irish PM admits there will be no hard Irish border in the event of no deal…

Leo Varadkar explained that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, it would still be aligned to EU customs and regulations as things currently stand. He said problems would only arise if the UK decided to make changes. “In the event of a no deal Brexit – I am nearly always loathe to speculate on because it is speculation, and a lot of it raises more questions than I can give answers. If the UK crashed out of the European Union at the end of March they would still be aligned on customs and regulations,” he said. “So the problem would only arise if they decided in some way to change their customs and regulations – and that’s where it could get difficult. “But that is something obviously we are going to have to talk to them about in a no-deal scenario. – Irish Examiner

…but the DUP’s Nigel Dodds says Dublin’s failure to address the border in no-deal plans is proof the backstop is ‘a trap’

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has said the fact that the Republic and the European Union have not addressed the border in published plans for a no-deal Brexit has exposed the backstop as a “trap”. Despite the looming possibility of the UK crashing out of Europe without a deal, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that Dublin has made “no preparations whatsoever” for a hard border. He added that he felt if the Irish Government made plans for a hard border it would become a “self-fulfilling prophecy”. Mr Dodds claimed: “The utter hypocrisy of those espousing the current withdrawal agreement with its trap of a backstop has been completely exposed. “The EU published its no-deal plans. There are detailed plans for a wide raft of sectors. But it totally avoids spelling out what happens on the border. What does that tell you? “Even in the event of a so-called no-deal scenario a hard border won’t happen. – Belfast Telegraph

  • Arlene Foster vows to get better Brexit deal amid ongoing uncertainty – Belfast Telegraph

Theresa May says UK can ‘turn a corner’ if MPs back her Brexit deal…

In her new year message, the prime minister said 2019 would mark a new chapter for the country outside the EU. Should MPs approve the exit terms later this month, she said the UK could “move forward together” and concentrate on other issues like housing and health… In her message, Mrs May said MPs had an “important decision to make”. “In 2019 the UK will start a new chapter. The Brexit deal I have negotiated delivers on the vote of the British people. If Parliament backs a deal, Britain can turn a corner. The referendum in 2016 was divisive. But we all want the best for our country and 2019 can be the year we put our differences aside and move forward together, into a strong new relationship with our European neighbours and out into the world as a globally trading nation.” An orderly Brexit, she argued, would enable the UK to “focus its energy” on other challenges, such as addressing housing shortages, improving technical education and ensuring the £20bn in extra spending planned for the NHS during the next five years ensures the health service continues to be “there for us when we need it”. – BBC News

…although No. 10 admits there is ‘more work to do’ as May seeks to win EU concessions

The Prime Minister spoke to the European leaders over the Christmas break while Parliament broke up for its annual recess. A Downing Street spokeswoman said that while discussions between the UK and EU had continued, she was still working on getting the “legal and political assurances” required. MPs are due to debate the Withdrawal Agreement hammered out with Brussels on January 9 before a meaningful vote the following week. But the spokeswoman said “there is still more work to do” just nine days before her key Brexit deal returns to the Commons for a key vote that will shape the UK’s future. She said the Prime Minister had “been in contact with European leaders and that will continue in the lead up to the vote”. The spokeswoman added: “Her focus is certainly on getting the assurances that MPs want ahead of that vote taking place. – Express

  • Theresa May’s Christmas plea for a united Brexit front – Express

Liam Fox puts chances of Brexit at ‘50-50’ if MPs reject May’s deal

Liam Fox, a leading Brexit supporter, believes the only way to be “100% certain” Britain will depart is if MPs vote for the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement, adding: “If we were not to vote for that, I’m not sure I would give it much more than 50-50.” His comments, in an interview with The Sunday Times, come amid claims that Julian Smith, the chief whip, has raised pressure on Conservative MPs over Christmas. Today Fox weighs in as he warns colleagues it is a “matter of honour” to back May. Failure would be “incendiary”. Parliament contracted out its sovereignty to the public by holding a referendum, Fox says. “So parliament cannot now, with any honour, renege on that result. Were they to do so, I think you would shatter the bond of trust between the electorate and parliament. And I think that would put us into unprecedented territory with unknowable consequences.” – Sunday Times (£)

  • ‘Some people would rather see Britain fail than Brexit succeed’ – Liam Fox interview in the Sunday Times (£)

Jeremy Corbyn says Brexit would go ahead if Labour won a snap election…

Jeremy Corbyn says Labour will continue with Brexit if the party wins a snap general election in the new year. The Labour leader said he would seek to secure a better deal with Brussels than the one struck by Theresa May to allow the UK to leave EU on 29 March. In an interview with the Guardian, he said it would be a “matter for the party to decide” Labour’s position on a second EU referendum after facing calls from some of his own MPs to back a People’s Vote. But he added: “My proposal at this moment is that we go forward, trying to get a customs union with the EU, in which we would be able to be proper trading partners.” –  Sky News

  • Jeremy Corbyn finally admits Brexit would go ahead if Labour won a snap election – The Sun
  • Corbyn warns of ‘complete mess’ in New Year message – BBC News
  • Corbyn urged May to cut short MPs’ break for Brexit vote – BBC News

…which infuriates Labour Remainers…

Jeremy Corbyn faced a backlash from pro-EU Labour supporters last night for saying the party would continue with Brexit if he won a snap election. A shadow minister questioned Mr Corbyn’s stance while some members threatened to resign from the party. One said she had voted for Mr Corbyn twice as leader and fought and campaigned for the party but would be “damned” if she’d campaign for a Labour election manifesto offering Brexit. Clive Lewis, a shadow Treasury minister, described the woman as a solid comrade adding: “She’s not the first member to say this to me and it’s becoming a genuine concern.” – The Times (£)

…some of whom claim supporting Brexit could cost Labour seats…

Momentum activists and MPs from Labour’s left who have consistently backed Jeremy Corbyn have warned the leader’s decision to support Brexit even if there is a second referendum could demotivate campaigners and cost the party seats. Their comments follow Corbyn’s interview with the Guardian on Saturday, in which he said he would recommend the party advocates Brexit in the event of a fresh vote and criticised EU laws on state aid, which he said blocked investment. While Corbyn has already faced criticism from the centrist wing of his party, which has long been sceptical of his approach to Brexit, the expressions of dismay from his base will raise concerns of broader disillusionment with his strategy. Labour passed a motion at its party conference in September that it would seek a general election as its first choice, but left open the option of supporting a second referendum. – Guardian

  • Labour members push Corbyn to support new EU referendum – The Times
  • Corbyn defies calls from within Labour to back second Brexit referendum – Guardian

…as some Labour MPs launch a campaign to kill-off no deal…

Theresa May faces a bitter New Year Brexit battle after cross-party MPs last night launched a campaign to kill-off a No Deal. Labour veterans such as Yvette Cooper joined forces with Tories Oliver Letwin and Nicky Morgan to threaten a Parliamentary mutiny. They tabled an amendment to the Government’s Finance Bill on January 8 which will effectively block part of it unless the PM’s agreement with Brussels is voted on before Brexit on March 29. And they said it was just the start of a concerted campaign to hijack parliamentary procedure to modify legislation to try and make a No Deal –where we leave the EU without a trade deal – impossible. – The Sun

  • Labour and Tory MPs strengthen efforts to prevent no-deal Brexit – Guardian

…while John McDonnell indicates Labour opposition to ‘indicative votes’ for MPs on Brexit

Labour is opposed to the idea of MPs having “indicative votes” on options to try to resolve the current parliamentary impasse over Brexit, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said. Senior cabinet ministers including business secretary Greg Clark and trade secretary Liam Fox have proposed giving MPs indicative votes on various Brexit options ranging from a no-deal exit to a second referendum if parliament rejects Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement. Prime minister Theresa May has so far dismissed the idea, as she tries to win round Eurosceptic Conservative MPs strongly opposed to the Brexit deal before a crunch Commons vote next month. But some of Mrs May’s allies believe she could ultimately endorse giving MPs the opportunity to express their views on alternative Brexit outcomes if she suffers defeat on her withdrawal agreement in the Commons. Mr McDonnell told the Financial Times that indicative votes would be unlikely to achieve a breakthrough in the parliamentary gridlock, adding that they appeared to be a stalling mechanism that would push Britain ever closer to the Brexit date of March 29 without an exit deal. – FT (£)

Donald Trump wants UK-US trade deal done by 2020 election, reveals Congressman…

Donald Trump wants to complete a UK-US free trade deal before the 2020 presidential election, one of Britain’s most active supporters in the US Congress has revealed.  George Holding, the Republican congressman from North Carolina, told The Daily Telegraph that Mr Trump “absolutely” wants an agreement to be wrapped up before his re-election bid.  Mr Holding said he had discussed the issue with the US president and Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative, during a meeting in the White House this summer.  “He ran [for office] on doing bilateral agreements,” Mr Holding said of the president. “If the US and the UK can do a bilateral agreement and it captures services and financial services … we can dictate terms to the world.” The news is a welcome boost for Theresa May, whose Brexit deal Mr Trump has openly disparaged over fears it limits the chance to strike a full UK-US free trade deal by keeping Britain too tied to the European Union. – Telegraph (£)

…as US Ambassador in London warns that May’s plan threatens such a deal

Donald Trump’s offer of a “quick, massive, bilateral trade deal” will not be possible if Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement is approved, the US ambassador to the UK has warned. Woody Johnson told the BBC the UK was “in need of leadership” over Brexit… Mr Johnson told Radio 4’s Today programme there was still hope for a UK-US trade deal. “What I’m focusing on here is something the president has also said – that is looking forward to, and hoping, that the environment will lead to the ability for the US to do a quick, very massive bilateral trade deal,” he said. He added it could be “the precursor of future trade deals with other countries around the world for Great Britain that will really take you way, way into an exciting future. We’re still going through the stages of deciding exactly where the country is going,” said Mr Johnson. “If it goes in a way that allows these kinds of agreements to occur then I think that will be very positive in the president’s eyes.” Asked if that would go ahead under the current proposed Brexit deal, which MPs are due to vote on in January, he replied: “It doesn’t look like it would be possible.” He said ministers – and the prime minister – had to “measure the impact of all the other trade offs” and how different trade agreements would benefit the UK. – BBC News

New EU fishing rules could have ‘grave’ impact on UK industry

New EU rules on fishing quotas could have a “grave” impact on the UK’s fishing industry, a House of Lords committee has said – just a day before the new policy is introduced. Under previous rules, crews often discarded, into the sea, fish that took them over their quota for that species. But under the new policy, fishers must bring the full haul back to shore. This change is to stop fish being wasted. The legislation has been called “badly designed” by UK industry bodies. The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment sub-committee heard evidence that the legislation could mean fishermen hitting their annual quotas much earlier in the year and have to stop fishing. The committee was told this would be particularly problematic in “mixed fisheries” where it would be hard for boats to avoid catching a fish species for which they have a very low quota. – BBC News

EU planning to hit small businesses in UK with VAT bombshell after Brexit, MPs warn…

MPs have warned of the dangers of the Brexit transition period after it emerged that hundreds of thousands of small businesses could be forced to pay VAT for the first time after Britain leaves the European Union. Brussels is preparing to reduce the threshold at which businesses start paying VAT from a turnover of £85,000 to £76,700 in a bid to “harmonise” tax systems. MPs on the EU scrutiny committee warned Britain will have to accept the move if it comes into force after Brexit in March 2019 because it will lose its right to veto the plans. Under the terms of the Prime Minister’s deal, the UK will be required to implement the directive during the transition period, which could last until December 2022. The “backstop” arrangements in Mrs May’s deal could require Northern Ireland to remain aligned with EU VAT law “indefinitely”, meaning the new threshold could stay in place long after the transition is over. In a report the MPs said: “If the Agreement is ratified and the Directive took effect during the transition, the Treasury would have to transpose it into UK law. This could have significant implications for small businesses. – Telegraph (£)

…while newly-knighted Sir John Redwood calls for a post-Brexit VAT cut

MPs are demanding the Government uses its Brexit freedoms to slash tax, as shock figures show the high street is on life support. It comes as a think tank said the taxman will take almost £6billion this Christmas – £5.2billion of that from VAT. Retail experts say the extortionate tax burden, along with bad weather and unfair online competition, has seen the number of high street shoppers drop by up to 10.3 per cent in the crucial week before Christmas. The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) said each household would stump up £211 for the taxman this Christmas. When Britain ends the transition period in 2020, the Chancellor is free to halve the rate or abolish it completely. Ex-education secretary Nicky Morgan, who chairs the Treasury select committee, has suggested VAT should be scrapped and former minister John Redwood says Britain is “over-taxed”. He said: “We should take off VAT from things that should not be taxed and let’s start by cancelling VAT on domestic fuel. People should be allowed to spend more of their money on their own priorities and not the Government’s.” – Express

Theresa May urged to delay Brexit vote again as attempts to win party rebels to her side fail

Theresa May has been urged to delay the “meaningful vote” on her Brexit deal for a second time after Government whips failed over Christmas to persuade enough MPs to back it. David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, says time is Mrs May’s “friend” as Brexit day looms, because “the more we prepare to leave the EU without a deal, the more likely a good deal becomes”. Writing in The Telegraph, he insists a deal will be reached “at the eleventh hour” because the EU is worried about losing the £39bn “divorce payment” that would come with a Brexit deal. The vote, which was delayed at the last minute in December, is currently scheduled for the week beginning January 14. Mrs May will begin a charm offensive next week by inviting every Tory MP to Downing Street for drinks parties that will take place on Monday and Wednesday, in the hope that she can win over those who doubt her Brexit deal. – Telegraph (£)

  • David Davis: The closer we are to no deal, the better the chance of a good deal – Sky News

Brexit deal provides certainty, Gove to tell farmers

In a speech to the Oxford Farming Conference, Mr Gove will argue the agreement struck last year will ensure a smooth transition period for agriculture after the UK leaves the EU. He will also say Brexit will provide farmers with a “world of opportunity”. Mr Gove will pledge investment in robotics, artificial intelligence and other innovation, to boost yields.In his speech, the environment secretary will promise to “continue to demonstrate the case for, and put in place the policies that underpin, long-term investment in British agriculture and the rural economy”. He will say: “A week can be a long time in politics, but farming requires the patience and foresight to see beyond the immediate and scan the far horizon. It is a quintessentially long-term business, one that benefits from as much certainty as possible about the future.” – BBC News

Ministers consider how to get plans for no-deal through Dáil

The government is set to discuss its Brexit contingency measures when the cabinet meets today. Last month the coalition decided to prioritise planning for a no-deal Brexit, in addition to its preparations for Britain exiting the European Union with a deal on March 29. It published a 132-page document outlining preparations for a worst-case scenario. It identified 200 issues the state would have to contend with — including aviation, road haulage, customs checks and the introduction of tariffs and other barriers — if Britain left the EU without a deal. The plan outlined the potential damage a no-deal Brexit would have on the economy, affecting trade flows, supply chains, economic and business operations, the labour market and consumer spending. The cabinet will be updated today on all of this work as well as the political situation in Westminster. Ministers will discuss the Dáil schedule and the work under way on potential no-deal legislation. Some 45 pieces of legislation could be required. Last night Downing Street played down expectations that Theresa May, the British prime minister, had won EU concessions on her Brexit deal. – The Times (£)

Get your act together, Jean-Claude Juncker tells British MPs

Most MPs deeply distrust Theresa May’s Brexit plans, Jean-Claude Juncker has claimed, in comments that are likely to take his relationship with the prime minister to new depths. The European Commission’s president also accused the British public of being “entirely unreasonable” and told the British political class to “get their act together”. He was rebuked by Mrs May earlier this month for describing her at a summit of EU leaders as “nebulous”. Mr Juncker, the former Luxembourg prime minister, told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag: “I have the impression that the majority of British MPs deeply distrust both the EU and Mrs May. It is being insinuated that our aim is to keep the United Kingdom in the EU by all possible means. That is not our intention. All we want is clarity about our future relations.” Mr Juncker, 64, said it was “entirely unreasonable” to expect the EU to come up with answers for the government’s difficulties over the Brexit deal. “I find it entirely unreasonable for parts of the British public to believe that it is for the EU alone to propose a solution. My appeal is this: get your act together and then tell us what it is you want. Our proposed solutions have been on the table for months.” – The Times (£)

May to provide clearer language on Brexit backstop, says Hunt

Theresa May will present MPs with new “clearer language” on the nature of the backstop agreement, the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has claimed, as the prime minister held telephone talks with the German chancellor and other EU leaders. Talks with the heads of EU countries and the DUP have been quietly going on during the festive period, Whitehall sources have confirmed, as May prepares to face mutinous MPs when she returns to the Commons having promised legally binding concessions. A German government source confirmed Angela Merkel had spoken with May on Christmas Eve and again on Wednesday, as part of a series of calls the British prime minister has made to EU leaders over the festive period as she attempts to guide her Brexit deal through the Commons. Downing Street remained silent on the details of the calls and has not revealed the list of EU leaders, but a No 10 source said May had more calls lined up this week. Berlin said it could not comment on the private conversations. Cabinet ministers have privately urged the prime minister to prioritise securing an agreement which would bring the DUP, which is propping up her government, back onboard. – Guardian

May to press EU leaders for Brexit concessions

Prime minister Theresa May will on Thursday launch a round of EU diplomacy as she seeks “clarifications” to sell her Brexit deal to sceptical MPs, who return to Westminster next week ahead of a vote on the package. She is expected to speak this week to EU leaders including German chancellor Angela Merkel, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and European Council president Donald Tusk in an attempt to break the Brexit logjam. Mrs May is seeking legally binding assurances that a so-called backstop plan — intended to avoid a hard Irish border, based on proposals for a temporary UK-EU customs union — will be time-limited. Brussels has so far refused to offer such assurances. Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Wednesday the prime minister wanted to give MPs confidence that Britain could not be “trapped” in a customs union with the EU. “Theresa May has been very clear: this isn’t just about words but about text which has legal force,” he added. “The EU has agreed the backstop is temporary, and that’s a word they have agreed. So what we’re saying, very simply, is we’re not asking for anything new but we are asking you to define what ‘temporary’ means.” – FT (£)

  • PM rang Angela Merkel for second time in nine days in desperate bid to improve Brexit deal ahead of crunch Commons vote – The Sun

Brussels warned UK will go it alone- ‘We are preparing’

In an exclusive article for the Daily Express, EU Exit Secretary Stephen Barclay reveals that a new publicity blitz urging the public to be ready for a sudden break with Brussels will be launched next week. He also warns MPs the Prime Minister’s plan is “the only workable deal that delivers on the democratic choice of the British people”. His forthright message comes as Westminster is braced for parliamentary hostilities over Brexit to reopen next week ahead of the so-called “meaningful vote” scheduled for the week beginning January 14. “We are preparing for all scenarios,” the Cabinet minister says, adding: “As 2019 begins, we will accelerate our no deal planning further.” Mr Barclay’s article today is expected to be seen as a fresh warning to Brussels of the need for further concessions in the row over the “backstop” border mechanism. UK negotiators are understood to have quietly resumed talks with their EU counterparts in recent days in the push to win assurances “with legal force” that the backstop will not keep the UK indefinitely trapped in a customs union with Brussels. – Express

Pro-EU veteran Ken Clarke blasts ‘hardcore Remainers’ who are plunging Britain into crisis with bid to cancel Brexit

He also blasted Theresa May for failing to reach across the political divide to build support for her deal with the EU. Mr Clarke is known for his strong support of the EU and was the only Tory MP to vote against the triggering of Article 50 which legally enacts Brexit. But he said campaigners trying to secure a re-run of the 2016 referendum are on the wrong track. The ex-Chancellor told Politico: “Some of my normal political allies, hardcore Remainers like me, seem to believe they can oppose it, cause a chaotic crisis, and that will cause another referendum, which might reverse the result. “The purpose of a referendum is to get round a parliamentary majority to make Parliament irrelevant. Mussolini was brilliant at using them.” Mr Clarke is backing the PM’s deal when it comes for a vote in Parliament later this month. But he predicted it was unlikely to pass – and criticised Mrs May for not working with other parties to get a deal which could succeed. – The Sun

Spanish PM Sánchez confirms Brits’ rights won’t change after Brexit

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Friday reassured British citizens living in Spain that their rights will not change after the U.K. leaves the EU in March. “Their rights will be preserved whatever the scenario,” Sánchez said during an annual year-end press conference. The government has been working on legislation to allow British citizens living in Spain — many of whom are retired — to retain the same rights they now have, even if the U.K. leaves the bloc without a deal, but Sánchez said such benefits would be contingent on Spaniards having the same reassurances in Great Britain, Reuters reported. Sánchez said that by February, his government would present a law on citizens’ rights that would also outline measures to protect bilateral commercial relations. – Politico

Bookings take off as EU gives guarantee on holiday flights

Travel industry bosses say they hope to escape lightly from a no-deal Brexit after the European Commission guaranteed flights to some of Britain’s most popular holiday destinations. The confirmation that direct flights from Britain to Europe will operate as normal, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, provided a boost for the industry, which said bookings were higher for summer holidays than at the same time last year. Noel Josephides, chairman of the Sunvil travel company, said families could book their holidays with confidence, but urged ministers to “get a grip” and resolve Brexit quickly to ensure bookings did not slump. He said: “When you look at the chaos in government, you can’t fail but to be worried. It’s not a normal market.” – The Times (£)

George Osborne says people should vote Remain in another referendum

He said that if there was another referendum, he would urge people to vote to reverse the Brexit decision. “There is a way of course for the government to avoid that and they are terrified of an election – they can themselves embrace a referendum. “It’s not that you say to people, look, two years ago you made the wrong decision, you were stupid. “I think she should have started where she has tried to end up, which is a more conciliatory partnership with the European Union, or associate membership. “And that is clearly under discussion in Downing Street even though it’s denied. – BBC News

  • George Osborne claims May’s top advisors are planning for second referendum – Express

Civil Servant: Of course no-deal has been planned for – but does the Government want you to think otherwise?

Every day there is some fresh claim in the press – backed up by people who should (and perhaps really do) know better – that we must accept whatever outrageous terms we are offered by an intransigent EU because we are not prepared for no deal and it would be a disaster. This line is pushed by Remainer Cabinet ministers trying to scare us into swallowing the Withdrawal Agreement, and their friends campaigning for a second referendum – the Work & Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd’s brother Roland prominent among them. This is Project Fear Mark (I think) III, which claims that we will all “crash out” over the white cliffs of Dover into the Channel at 11pm on 29 March 2019 and wake up to certain chaos and doom. If true, it would be a terrible indictment not only of this government but also of our civil service. And it is absolutely untrue, as anyone who, like me, has been involved in Brexit work for the past two-and-a-half years in Whitehall will tell you. – Anonymous civil servant for the Telegraph (£)

David Davis: By preparing for no deal properly, we will get the good Brexit democracy demands of us

We are told that another decisive moment looms, in the form of the forthcoming Commons vote on the proposed Withdrawal Agreement. Of course, we have been here before. We have seen many supposedly decisive moments since the 2016 referendum: triggering Article 50, passing the EU Withdrawal Act, the December meaningful vote that never was, to name but a few. Before we whip ourselves into another frenzy, perhaps it is time to take stock? I have always said that the EU would push and push until finally we reach a resolution at the eleventh hour. Recent events only reinforce my analysis. Indeed, anybody who really understands how negotiations work understands that time is our friend.We know that the EU is worried about the loss of the £39 billion “divorce” payment if there is no deal. EU Budget Commissioner Gunther Oettinger has said that the remaining 27 member states will face a hefty bill if the UK does not pay. We also know that the UK’s no deal preparations are well advanced. A senior civil servant, writing in The Telegraph last week, said the Government is failing to be frank about the degree of preparation. So this is the moment to be hard-nosed about these issues. The more we prepare to leave the EU without a deal, the more likely a good deal becomes. – David Davis MP for the Telegraph (£)

Fraser Nelson: Despite the Brexit warnings, Britain has never been a better place to live

There is no such thing as a newspaper that only prints good news, nor would there be much demand for one. We read the press to understand the world’s problems and Brexit has brought plenty of them – political ones, at least. But beyond Westminster, how did things go in 2018? The answer is: surprisingly well. It will sound preposterous, but we might well have just had the best year in British history. And next year might be better still. There are no signs of a country turning inwards. More of our companies are trading internationally than ever before – and more people are thinking internationally. Airlines loathe Brexit and the headaches it brings, but when calculating their 2019 schedules they have to factor in undimmed demand from a globally minded island. About half of the UK population intends to go abroad next year, most to continental Europe. A recent survey of Irish business found most see Britain as their best international bet for investment in the next three to five years. None of the above good news vindicates Brexit which, of course, hasn’t happened yet. Britain still has all too many problems – and may have a lot more if the Government implodes next year. But we reach the end of 2018 with a country that has never been healthier, wealthier or (as the new official wellbeing index now tells us) happier. All told, it’s a pretty decent basis on which to wish each other a happy new year – despite Brexit. – Fraser Nelson for the Telegraph (£)

Kate Hoey: Jeremy Corbyn must trust his instincts and back a no-deal Brexit

Since 17.4 million people voted to Leave the European Union in 2016 the Government has wasted time indulging in feeble negotiations. These have eventually yielded a Withdrawal Agreement that wouldn’t actually withdraw us from very much. Now, though, a window of opportunity is opening up for the UK. Beyond the smokescreen of confusion within our majority Remain Parliament, a straightforward path to economic development, political stability and true national sovereignty has emerged. If the Government won’t take it, then it is a golden opportunity for the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn should take the lead by calling for the UK to leave the entanglements of the Brussels bureaucracy by discarding Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement and opting instead for what is sometimes referred to as a “no deal Brexit”, in other words life within the simpler and more accommodating framework of the World Trade Organisation. Anyone who reads the detail in the Withdrawal Agreement will realise immediately that the scaremongering about the WTO is as nothing compared to the truly frightening implications of the document the Prime Minister wants us to vote for. – Kate Hoey MP for the Telegraph (£)

Iain Martin: No-deal Brexit is not the end of the world

This is where the phrase “managed no deal” comes in. It has been derided by Remainers who say that if the prime minister’s deal is not passed next month, we should stay in the EU or run around in circles screaming for two months. It is certainly possible that in February and March, the EU will refuse to answer the phone and implement nothing but minimal safeguards, in line with the documents it released this week. There is another way to look at this, though. If there is no deal, what should a British government be trying to achieve? Compromise with our neighbours is the answer. A key area is the rights of people, whether EU citizens living in Britain or British citizens living in the EU. – Iain Martin for The Times (£)

Fraser Nelson: No-deal Brexit would be a risk, but it’s the best option we have left

Brussels always has been annoying when you think about it, but I always tried not to. In the days when that was an option. And the scale of the no-deal disruption? It’s hard to tell because of hysteria, claim and counter-claim. Border chaos is not inevitable if, as French officials have said, fewer than one in a hundred trucks would have to be checked at Calais. Common sense arrangements on aircraft, driving licenses and even expat pensioners have already been agreed. In its list of disaster scenarios, the Irish government this week considers the possibility that British companies thrive under no-deal, especially if the pound becomes more competitive, posing a risk to Irish rivals. Its “highest priority” is not building a hard border, and we would not build one either. – Fraser Nelson for the Telegraph (£)

Daniel Hannan: Blame Remainers for opening the door to a no-deal Brexit, but it may now be the least painful option

If Britain leaves the EU with no deal, we shall have Gina Miller to thank. It was her court case that gave Parliament the decisive say over the disengagement. She hoped that MPs would use it to block Brexit. Instead, they are blocking Theresa May’s withdrawal terms, thus making it likelier that Britain leaves without an agreement. Never underestimate the law of unintended consequences. I don’t want to single out Ms Miller. A number of Remain-supporting politicians have made a similar miscalculation. By loudly and pompously declaring that they “won’t allow” a no-deal outcome, they have encouraged Brussels to dig in, and so, paradoxically, made a no-deal outcome more probable. In the immediate aftermath of the referendum, there was an almost universal assumption that a bargain would be reached. Neither side, after all, wanted a disorderly breach, which could risk a disruption in trade, a loss of market confidence and a renewal of the euro crisis. True, Eurocrats reckoned they had the stronger hand, because cross-Channel commerce is disproportionately important to the United Kingdom (and Ireland, come to that). But they didn’t want a breakdown – an outcome that Donald Tusk described as “unthinkable”. – Daniel Hannan MEP for the Telegraph (£)

Jeremy Hunt: Why I’m looking to Singapore for my vision of post-Brexit prosperity

When Singapore became an independent country in 1965, its leaders described it as the moment it ‘plugged into the international economic grid’. While the circumstances of Britain’s departure from the EU are different, there could be few better instructions for us as we make our post-Brexit future. So this year I will skip the last of the turkey sandwiches to fly east and strengthen Britain’s links with some of the most dynamic economies of the world. The remarkable transformation of Singapore, from a tiny territory devoid of natural resources into the world’s eighth-richest country, is a reminder of the tidal shifts that can exist within the ebb and flow of the changing world order. – Jeremy Hunt MP for the Mail on Sunday

  • Hunt says the UK should not ‘underestimate its strength’ after Brexit – Daily Mail

James Bartholomew: While politicians posture and panic, the ‘little people’ will get us through a no deal Brexit

Before long, the show will start all over again. Theresa May will probably strut her stuff in Brussels and Berlin. Jean-Claude Juncker will reject British demands, insult Mrs May, then say she’s terrific. Emmanuel Macron – boy wonder that he is – will take time out from the chaos in his own country to be condescending about ours. Crisis summits will be held. Angela Merkel will look worried. Subliminally, we in the audience will get the impression that everything depends on presidents and prime ministers arriving and departing in black limousines. They are, of course, important. All right, very important. But what tends to be forgotten is the role played by “the little battalions”: actors in the drama who don’t get into the headlines – people who do not “run” the economy but “are” the economy. If we end up with no deal, their activities will be crucial. – James Bartholomew for the Telegraph (£)

Mark Wallace: There’s precious little sign that the Prime Minister’s campaign to win Tories over to her deal is working

Our latest ConservativeHome survey – responded to by around 1,200 Party members – has found 71 per cent of members still do not support the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement, with 25.9 per cent in agreement with her proposal. That result shows remarkable consistency from the November survey, which found 71.7 per cent against and 24.94 in favour. An optimist might see a very slight improvement there for Theresa May, with one per cent switching their view in her favour. But realistically that is such minimal movement that it would be reasonable to declare “nothing has changed” in members’ views on the principle of the matter. Of course, disagreeing with the Prime Minister’s deal and wanting it voted down are not necessarily one and the same view. In November’s survey we asked a supplementary question – did respondents think MPs should vote for the deal or not – and doing so identified a gap between principle and practice. While around 25 per cent of members supported the deal, around 30 per cent thought MPs should vote for it. That phenomenon offered Downing Street a slim hope, but a hope nonetheless, that if outright support was too much to ask then it might be possible to build at least some kind of reluctant acceptance among Eurosceptic Party members. – Mark Wallace for ConservativeHome

Iain Dale: Brexit Derangement Syndrome breaks out everywhere. Adonis, Bridgen – and now, alas, Boles. Everyone’s going bonkers

In my role as a Brexit doctor, I have diagnosed various politicians and commentators with Brexit Derangement Syndrome. It predominantly affects ultra-Remainers. The symptoms are to lose all sense of perspective and say and tweet rather mad things. Andrew Adonis has it worse, closely followed by Alastair Campbell, Sarah Wollaston and Anna Soubry. On the Brexit side Andrew Bridgen also suffers from it, and Jacob Rees-Mogg showed signs of symptoms after the vote of confidence in Theresa May, although he seems to have recovered since. Unfortunately, my good friend Nick Boles has seemingly now contracted it. – Iain Dale for ConservativeHome

Alp Mehmet: Immigration ‘control’ plan will just make matters worse

This proposal to admit an unlimited number of low-skilled workers from a range of countries, supposedly for a limited time, is truly astonishing. The Home Office cannot be unaware of the potential for abuse of such a half-baked scheme. They (HO) will know only too well that there is no way in which the departure of such short-term visa holders could be enforced. They simply do not have the resources. As it is, they are able to compulsorily remove only 9,000 immigration offenders per year.  – Alp Mehmet for ConservativeWoman

  • The Immigration paper has been written with the wrong assumptions – Eric Kaufmann for The Spectator

James Forsyth: Can Theresa May get the DUP back on board?

Westminster might it be on its Christmas holidays, but the question that is still on everyone in government’s mind is can Theresa May find a way to get the DUP to back her Brexit deal. As I write in The Sun this morning, key Cabinet Ministers believe that her only chance of winning the meaningful vote comes from getting the DUP on side.One Secretary of State who has kept open lines of communication with them, tells me that ‘by grim necessity, they will need something more than cosmetic concessions to vote for the deal’.- James Forsyth for The Spectator

Brandon Lewis: MPs must vote for May’s deal or risk Corbyn at the helm

Whether you voted remain or leave, few would deny that this is the most important issue facing Britain at this time, and I firmly believe it’s only right that this government delivers a Brexit that allows us to continue to build a strong and prosperous United Kingdom as we leave the European Union, and for future generations to come. Soon after my colleagues and I return, Parliament will vote on the government’s Brexit deal. This is the only workable deal that delivers on the will of the referendum. This week has shown us just what the Labour Party has become under Jeremy Corbyn – shudderingly incompetent with an unattractive strain of nastiness and dishonesty bubbling underneath. This is not a Party you want running Brexit negotiations, let alone running the country. But doing anything other than voting for the PM’s Brexit Deal in January risks both. The 650 MPs in Parliament have a big decision ahead of them next month. I hope they take some time over Christmas to make the right one. – Brandon Lewis MP for the Express

Brexit in Brief

  • How Bercow might thwart Brexit – Guido Fawkes
  • Leavers are the true cosmopolitans – Patrick West for Spiked
  • Hardline Remainers reject democracy itself in elitist attempt to subvert Brexit – Robert Tombs for the Telegraph (£)
  • Brussels takes a festive break, but the EU27 are busy planning a no-deal New Year – Jon Henley for The Guardian
  • “For mighty dread had seized their troubled mind” – Paul Goodman for ConservativeHome
  • No-deal Brexit risks a rude economic shock for Germany and fragile eurozone – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard for the Telegraph (£)
  • The good news about Britain’s economy you might not have heard – Ross Clark for The Spectator
  • Amber Rudd slams ‘ghastly’ Jean-Claude Juncker’s ‘grotesque’ behaviour towards women – The Sun
  • May and Rees-Mogg had pre-Christmas ‘peace’ talks The Times (£)
  • Euro MPs can claim for Viagra, slimming products and anti-ageing treatments on the taxpayer – The Sun
  • Project Fear 2? Or is a no-deal Brexit really about to bite Britain? – The Times (£)
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg reads eurosceptic nursery rhymes – Express
  • Faith in Brussels shattered as only 40% trust bloc, finds new report – Express
  • Brexiteers’ anger at Sadiq Khan’s ‘politicised’ New Year fireworks – Telegraph (£)
  • Zizzi and Ask restaurant chains begin using Welsh mozzarella rather than Italian – Telegraph (£)