As publication of legal advice hardens opposition to her deal, the EU is reportedly prepared to offer May a lifeline by extending Article 50: Brexit News for Thursday 6th December

As publication of legal advice hardens opposition to her deal, the EU is reportedly prepared to offer May a lifeline by extending Article 50: Brexit News for Thursday 6th December

As publication of legal advice hardens opposition to her deal, the EU is reportedly prepared to offer May a lifeline by extending Article 50…

The EU is prepared to discuss extending Article 50 if Theresa May’s Brexit deal is rejected next week, after her proposal was badly undermined by the Government’s own legal advice. The Prime Minister will travel to Brussels on December 13, two days after the Parliamentary vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, when EU leaders are ready to discuss postponing Brexit. Mrs May insists Britain will leave the EU on March 29 next year, but EU sources have said her fellow leaders would be open to the idea of extending the Article 50 process if it meant avoiding a no-deal Brexit. Mrs May’s chances of winning next Tuesday’s vote were dealt a fresh blow on Wednesday when the Government published its legal advice on the deal, which warned that Britain could be yoked to the EU forever if the Irish backstop came into force. The legal advice, prepared by Geoffrey Cox QC, the Attorney General, also makes it clear that Northern Ireland and mainland Britain would be subject to different customs regimes under the backstop, creating a regulatory border in the Irish Sea. – Telegraph (£)

…as May’s attempt to woo Brexiteers with Irish backstop ‘parliamentary lock’ falls flat…

Theresa May has stepped up last-ditch efforts to try to win over Brexit-backing MPs after government legal advice warned the Irish backstop could leave the UK trapped in “protracted and repeated rounds of negotiations” for years to come. But Brexiters immediately rejected one idea mooted by Downing Street, of promising a “parliamentary lock” – giving MPs a vote before the backstop could be implemented. The prime minister is holding a series of face-to-face meetings with groups of MPs, seeking to persuade them there is no viable alternative to her approach. With just six days to go until the vote on her controversial deal, which May is expected to lose heavily, Downing Street confirmed the prime minister was keen to find ways to offer MPs extra reassurance about the backstop, in the hope they will support her. But Steve Baker, of the European Research Group (ERG), dismissed the parliamentary lock plan as “silly”; while Jacob Rees-Mogg said it would require the 585-page withdrawal agreement to be renegotiated – something No 10 has insisted is impossible. – Guardian

…while some ministers urge her to avoid defeat next week by delaying the big vote

It has been dubbed “63 minutes of Mayhem” and the moment Jeremy Corbyn accused the Prime Minister of being “in office but not in power”. With Mrs May becoming the first Prime Minister in 40 years to be defeated three times in one day – and the Government now widely expected to suffer a further, possibly fatal, humiliation at Tuesday’s meaningful vote, many are understandably asking: what happens next? At last weekend’s G20 in Argentina, Mrs May said the country had “nine days to save Brexit” but as she fights for her political life, Tory sources are now speculating that the Prime Minister may make her own dramatic last-ditch attempt to save her Brexit deal. Insiders have told the Telegraph that at least three Cabinet ministers have urged Mrs May to “pull” the vote on December 11 in a last-minute bid to buy more negotiating time. A well-placed source said: “It’s in the Government’s hands to decide when to have the vote and I know of at least three cabinet ministers who have been urging her to pull it altogether. They have effectively told her – the deal isn’t going to fly until the backstop comes out. – Telegraph (£)

  • Theresa May urged to postpone next week’s crucial Brexit Commons vote as EU leaders say leaving date can be moved beyond March – The Sun
  • Cabinet rebels tell May to postpone her Brexit vote – Daily Mail
  • Theresa May urged to call off vote – The Times (£)

Nigel Dodds says the DUP will be voting against the Brexit deal…

DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds has indicated that his party would bring Theresa May’s government down if the Prime Minister got her Brexit deal through the House of Commons. DUP support for Mrs May’s administration in any confidence motion would depend on the deal being defeated or ditched by the Prime Minister. Mr Dodds told ITV’s Peston the DUP would not be voting for Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement “as things stand”, adding he could not see “much being changed that will be effective” before the meaningful vote on December 11. The Prime Minister’s deal was “bad for the United Kingdom, certainly bad for Northern Ireland given the legal advice that we have forced out of the government today,” Mr Dodds told Robert Peston. “The deal that the Prime Minister has put forward is not one that honours the spirit of the confidence and supply agreement and certainly not one we can support,” he said. Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Dodds met with European Research Group (ERG) Chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg and Deputy Chairman Steve Baker and told the Brexit-backing Tories that the DUP’s support for Mrs May could be conditional on the deal being defeated. – ITV News

  • Theresa May told she could be finished if she continues with Brexit deal – Metro

…and tells Tory Brexiteers: ‘reject the deal and we will not bring down the Government’…

The DUP has assured Brexiteers it will not bring down the Government if they reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal next week. Nigel Dodds, the DUP Westminster leader, told a meeting of Tory Brexiteers on Wednesday night that his party would support the Government in a confidence vote if the draft withdrawal agreement is thrown out by Parliament next week. However, it will withdraw its support if Mrs May’s deal goes through – wiping out her working majority in Parliament and raising the spectre of a general election. Mr Dodds warned the Prime Minister that there would be “implications” if her deal “squeaks” through Parliament next week. Whilst he refused to say whether the party could continue to work with Mrs May, he said the draft withdrawal agreement is “not one that honours the spirit of the confidence and supply agreement and certainly not one we can support.” – Telegraph (£)

…as Johnny Mercer becomes the 104th Tory MP to denounce May’s Brexit deal

Rising Tory star Johnny Mercer will today deliver a fresh blow to Theresa May by branding her Brexit deal “a total failure of the political class”. The former Army officer-turned-MP will become the 104th Tory MP to denounce the EU agreement. Speaking on Day 3 of the marathon Commons debate about it, he will reveal that he too has also now decided to vote against it next Tuesday, as he sees it as unambitious and a betrayal of voters’ trust. While praising the PM for having resilience “in spades”, Mr Mercer will tell the Commons: “To force through this deal, crossing her own red lines, speaks to a democratic deficit that I have always spoken out against, and must now oppose in the lobbies”. The deal’s ambitions also fall woefully short of Brexit voters’ hopes for change, the 37 year-old MP will say. The former Remain supporter, tipped as a future Tory leader, will add: “Measured against the expectations and hopes of the nation in what should be an opportunity for huge reform in this country, it is not good enough. Politics is ultimately about the people. You cannot promise them that no PM would sign anything that treated Northern Ireland differently, and then do just that.” – The Sun

Theresa May to give Michael Gove the final say in the Commons Brexit debate

Theresa May has handed the task of winding up the five-day debate on her Brexit deal to Michael Gove, a leading Cabinet Brexiteer, in a move that surprised MPs. Although No 10 said it was not convention for a debate to be closed by the opening speaker, it had been widely expected she would take the chance to make a final appeal to MPs to avoid defeat. It may be that Downing Street believes Mr Gove, a leading figure in the referendum campaign to quit the EU, could sway backbench Brexiteers, but it opens her up to further criticism if the strategy backfires. In the Commons today, the scale of the task was laid bare as former ministers, senior Tory MPs and DUP MPs voiced their opposition to the deal. Mark Harper, the Tory former chief whip who revealed in today’s Daily Telegraph that he planned to disobey  the party whip for the first time in 13 years as an MP, said Mrs May’s deal would see the Tories’ relationship with the DUP break down and make it impossible to govern. – Telegraph (£)

Weary EU leaders are united: there is no time for more talks

There could scarcely be a less auspicious time for Britain to return to Brussels and seek to restart the Brexit negotiations in the hope of a more attractive deal. With rioting on the streets of French cities, a looming stand-off over Italy’s debt and a weakened Angela Merkel preparing to cede control of her party, the European Union has neither the time nor the inclination to revisit the Irish border question. In crude terms, Europe’s problems stem from much the same source as Brexit: popular anger at liberal immigration policies, the rising cost of living and a political class that is struggling to sustain its democratic legitimacy. The unrest is at its most violent in France. Over the past week the so-called yellow vests, a largely leaderless movement united by dissatisfaction with President Macron, have waged an insurrection of torched cars, looted shops and running battles with police. The protests, triggered by an increase in fuel tax, have left more than 100 people injured and the Arc de Triomphe defaced with anti-Macron graffiti. – The Times (£)

Liam Fox says Remain MPs could try to ‘steal Brexit from the people’ as Parliament asserts its power

Liam Fox claimed Remain-backing MPs could try to “steal Brexit” as he warned Parliament has the power to stop the UK leaving the European Union. The International Trade Secretary said it would “entirely be possible” for MPs to try to change key pieces of Brexit legislation to block Britain’s divorce from Brussels. It came as Westminster wrestled with the significance of MPs winning a vote on Tuesday to hand the House of Commons greater control over the Brexit process. Some MPs believe the vote has given them the ability to dictate to the Government what happens next in the event Theresa May’s Brexit deal is rejected on December 11 – including ruling out a no-deal divorce or holding a second referendum. – Telegraph (£)

  • Government minister Liam Fox admits MPs can stop Britain leaving EU – Independent
  • MPs may try to steal Brexit from British people – BBC News
  • Double-dealing MPs accused of plot to ‘steal’ Brexit from the British people as top Tories say May will be forced to resign if she loses key vote – The Sun

Back PM for the sake of our security, urges Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid said yesterday that MPs faced the most important decision since the Second World War next week as he insisted that Theresa May’s Brexit deal was the best option available. Opening the second day of debate on the withdrawal agreement, the home secretary claimed that the deal delivered a solid foundation for security co-operation with EU partners, in a clear indication that there is much yet to be agreed. He later confirmed that the future partnership declaration “does not guarantee” the future of three European databases that track criminals, suspects and missing persons. He also confirmed that the UK would be out of the European arrest warrant but insisted “that does not mean that we cannot continue to co-operate” through another agreement. A no-deal Brexit would mean an immediate and probably indefinite loss of some security capability, he added, which would cause operational disruption when Britain left the EU, suggesting delays at the border. – The Times (£)

  • Sajid Javid warns of security risks if May’s Brexit plan rejected – Guardian

Philip Hammond says failure to leave the EU would be a betrayal…

The economic costs of Brexit are worth paying to avoid large numbers of people “feeling betrayed”, Philip Hammond has said. The chancellor told MPs that the UK’s success “depends on us executing the instructions of the British people in the referendum, leaving the EU, but doing so in a way that minimises the impact on our economy and maximises the opportunity that we have in the future”. Mr Hammond was being questioned on the government’s analysis of different models of Brexit, which showed an economic hit whichever is pursued. He told the Treasury select committee: “Any solution which left the country divided, left a large segment of the population feeling betrayed . . . would have a negative political and societal impact that would far outweigh the very small economic impact that the white paper scenario is showing.” The chancellor added: “We need a way forward which heals our country. We are a deeply fractured country, with opinion heavily polarised and trust in the political system correspondingly damaged. I would suggest . . . that divided countries are not successful countries.” – The Times (£)

…as he prepares to open Commons debate today focusing on the economic impact of May’s deal

Brexit’s economic effects will be the focus of a Commons debate later, as government whips work behind the scenes to gain support for Theresa May’s deal. Ministers will say it creates a unique partnership with the EU, while Labour argues it will make people poorer. Late on Wednesday, chief whip Julian Smith tried to win over pro-Brexit Tories, while civil servants will brief senior MPs on a no-deal scenario later. However, one Brexiteer complained this was a bid to “spook grandees”. Before the third of five days’ debate, it has been suggested by some Conservatives that the prime minister ought to postpone next Tuesday’s vote to avoid defeat. A government source told the BBC that whips are looking at all options to deliver a majority. BBC political correspondent Nick Eardley said there was “fervent speculation around Westminster” about what ministers could offer to win support, including giving backbench MPs more of a say on whether the controversial “backstop” is adopted or not. – BBC News

No-deal Brexit fears could save May from heavy Commons defeat, ministers claim

Fears of a no-deal Brexit could help Theresa May avoid a heavy Commons defeat and mass Tory rebellion on her controversial EU plans, ministers believe. More than 80 Eurosceptic backbenchers are preparing to defy the Prime Minister and vote against her controversial EU-UK plan next Tuesday. But in a little-noticed element of Parliamentary procedure, the Government’s main motion will not be put to a vote if MPs first back a cross-party amendment rejecting both a ‘no deal’ outcome as well as her own proposals, senior Government sources have told HuffPost UK. The amendment, tabled by Labour’s Hilary Benn, will not be backed by Brexiteers but could gain a narrow Commons majority if enough ‘Remainer’ Tories – particularly those worried about crashing out of the EU without any agreement – support it. If Benn’s amendment passes with a small number of Tory votes, the PM’s deal will have been rejected. – Huffington Post

Jeremy Corbyn ‘misses open goal’ with no mention of Brexit at PMQs

Jeremy Corbyn was tonight accused of missing an “open goal” after he failed to mention Brexit once during Prime Minister’s Questions, just hours after Theresa May had suffered the most bruising day for any prime minister in the Commons for 40 years. The Labour leader was expected to seize on the hat-trick of defeats suffered by Mrs May on Tuesday evening, which saw the Government found to be in contempt of Parliament and forced to publish the Attorney General’s legal advice on the proposed EU Withdrawal Agreement. But rather than press home the advantage, Mr Corbyn focused his six questions on the problems associated with the roll-out of universal credit, accusing ministers of creating a “hostile environment” for benefit recipients. While he was cheered on by a number of Labour MPs, Tom Brake, the Brexit spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, claimed that Mr Corbyn had failed to address the most pressing issue of the day. – Telegraph (£)

Unite leader warns Labour against backing second EU referendum

The Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, has privately told Labour MPs the party should have severe reservations about backing a fresh Brexit referendum, saying voters could see it as a betrayal. The deep scepticism from one of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest and most powerful supporters is likely to unnerve MPs and campaigners hoping the party is warming to the idea of a fresh Brexit vote. Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, hit back at McCluskey’s warning, laying bare the tensions in the party. “To suggest it represents a ‘betrayal’ grossly distorts Labour’s position and is deeply unhelpful to those seeking a solution to an an issue that is reaching crisis proportions,” he told the Guardian. McCluskey met around two dozen MPs in the House of Commons on Tuesday, where he voiced fears about the impact that backing a second Brexit vote would have on Labour. The private intervention comes at a fractious time for the party, as the leadership agonises over what its tactics should be if Theresa May loses a vote on the Brexit deal in parliament. – Guardian

Government splurges more than £50k of taxpayers’ cash promoting May’s Brexit deal on social media

Downing Street has spent more than £50,000 over the past three months promoting Theresa May’s Brexit deal on social media. The Prime Minister was accused of throwing taxpayers’ money “down the drain” by Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who obtained the figures with a parliamentary question. No details were given of how the money was spent, but a series of clips promoting the deal have been released on the theresa-may and 10DowningStreet Twitter feeds and the Prime Minister’s Facebook page with the hashtag #BackTheBrexitDeal. Releasing the figures in a written reply, Cabinet Office Minister Chloe Smith stressed that the £52,509 spend amounted to less than 0.02% of the total Government communications budget of £300 million a year. Ms Moran, a supporter of the Best For Britain campaign for a second EU referendum, said: “It beggars belief that the Prime Minister is spending over £50,000 of taxpayers’ money promoting a deal that literally no-one wants.” – Mirror

Michael Fallon: If MPs reject May’s Brexit deal we will have the time and space to think again

Parliament has taken back control. Or has it? I didn’t vote for Dominic Grieve’s amendment to help frustrate Leave or to try to engineer a second referendum by the back door. On the contrary, I voted to reduce the chances of a no-deal Brexit, and to allow us all to take wider stock of our negotiations. We are voting next week because earlier this year Parliament, aware of the fundamental importance of these negotiations, and sensing perhaps the weakness of the minority government, rightly decided that it should have the specific right to vote on the “deal”. But Parliament should not over-reach itself: it doesn’t follow from the Withdrawal Act that Parliament should abrogate to itself the function of government. It is not for Parliament to take responsibility for designing the deal: that remains the duty of the executive. Parliament can of course help, and is doing so. By passing the Grieve amendment we have given everybody involved, Government and Parliament, more opportunity to consider the options. – Sir Michael Fallon MP for the Telegraph (£)

Jenni Russell: A second Brexit referendum may push us over the edge

Two friends came to supper last week, each in different cabs, each mulling over the wilful implosion that is Brexit. Both ended up discussing it with their taxi drivers, each of whom had been a Leaver, each confessing that they felt they had been lied to, and had they known differently, would have voted Remain. So, said my friends, hopefully, if there were a second referendum, you’d change your vote? The drivers were regretful, surprised. Oh no, they said. They’d have to stick by their principles. They couldn’t go back on what they’d done. This, in a nutshell, is why a second referendum may not be the deliverance that Remainers like me are longing for. – Jenni Russell for The Times (£)

Robert Blackburn: What happens next if Theresa May’s Brexit deal is defeated?

In the tense period between now and the parliamentary vote on the prime minister’s Brexit deal on December 11, many politicians and commentators will be contemplating a government defeat that could trigger a constitutional crisis with uncertain outcomes. Among the scenarios that might arise are Theresa May’s resignation as prime minister, a no-confidence motion in the government passed in the House of Commons, a general election required under the terms of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, and/or a newly constructed Conservative government or Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government taking office. If the Brexit deal is voted down, May will have to consider her position as prime minister in consultation with her cabinet colleagues. If she chooses to resign her office, the Conservative Party will immediately proceed to elect her successor as party leader. The Queen would then formally appoint that person as prime minister. – Robert Blackburn QC for The Times (£)

Philip Stephens: Theresa May has lost control of Brexit

So this is what they meant by taking back control. Theresa May’s government has drawn up plans to allocate space on European ferries arriving at the British port of Dover. Trucks carrying medicines will get permits to make the crossing from Calais; so too, perhaps, those with components for vital business supply chains. Britain’s consumers have been warned. There will not be enough room for luxuries such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Crashing out of the EU in March without a deal would see the restoration overnight of Britain’s national sovereignty. This surely would be Brexit at its purest — manna for those in Mrs May’s party seeking a complete rupture with the continent. Decisions on the opening and closing of ports and borders would be a matter for the Westminster government alone. Britain, in the lurid language of the Brexiters, would have cast off the shackles. So runs the theory. Now the reality is beginning to impose itself. Calais-Dover by a large measure is Britain’s most important trade route. It operates with the consent and co-operation of France. Whitehall officials estimate the inevitable post-Brexit imposition at Calais of EU checks and controls would cut traffic — imports to, as well as exports from, Britain — by more than four-fifths. The effect would be to choke off supplies to much of British business and leave stranded in France much of the produce destined for British supermarket shelves. So much for sovereignty. – Philip Stephens for FT (£)

Allister Heath: Remainers think they can cancel Brexit, but it can only be delayed

Which camp is most useless, most amateurish, most delusional? Is it the Brexiteers, with their romanticised vision of Westminster democracy, or the Remainers who believe that the greatest vote in British history can be willed away? Is it those who thought that Brexit would be straightforward, because unlike in France, Ireland or the Netherlands, which held and ignored European referenda, Britain’s institutions and democracy were superior? Or those who believe that stopping Brexit will be easy, that Parliament can return to its old, discredited ways, defying its bosses, the voters, with no consequences? Both sides have been terrifyingly naïve. Brexiteers thought they understood the rules: you win the referendum, the government leaves the EU. They didn’t realize the game was rigged. The anthropological rituals and language of democracy still exist, and have even been extended in recent years, but they are now largely a charade to camouflage a massive power grab by the bureaucracy. – Telegraph (£)

The Sun: The Tories must prevent Remainer MPs from stealing Brexit from the ­British people

There is now a real danger that Remainer MPs will “steal Brexit from the ­British people”, warns Cabinet Minister Liam Fox. He is absolutely right. The Tories, if they do nothing else, MUST prevent that. It is sickening that the pro-EU lobby and its relentless propaganda machine has dragged us to the brink of this calamity. For more than two years these slick, lavishly-funded, highly organised politicians and campaigners have sabotaged Brexit negotiations. Nothing matters more to them than the europhile elite reimposing its will. The second referendum they clamour for is the fastest and surest route to potentially unimaginable disorder. But it has never been closer. Three years ago, politicians gave the “people” they profess to care about so much the decision to leave or remain in the EU. The Commons vote for a referendum was overwhelming: 544 to 53. – The Sun says

Brexit in Brief

  • Our estimate of how many Conservative MPs oppose the Brexit deal. It’s now 68. Mercer has made up his mind – against May. – Mark Wallace for ConservativeHome
  • May is making new enemies, not finding fans – Laura Kuenssberg for BBC News
  • Why Dominic Raab’s dreams of renegotiating the Irish backstop will remain just that – a dream – Telegraph (£)
  • These 20 Labour MPs are on a Brexit watchlist drawn up by Remain campaigners and Momentum – Buzzfeed News
  • Exodus? What exodus? City offices in demand – The Times (£)
  • Brexiters’ dilemma laid bare after May’s defeats – FT (£)
  • Plan for UK nationals in French civil service to be protected from no-deal Brexit – Politico
  • How Commons defeat for PM could change the course of Brexit – Sky News