Donald Tusk's claims of a 'special place in hell' for 'no plan' Brexiteers prompts British fury: Brexit News for Thursday 7 February

Donald Tusk's claims of a 'special place in hell' for 'no plan' Brexiteers prompts British fury: Brexit News for Thursday 7 February
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Donald Tusk’s claims of a ‘special place in hell’ for ‘no plan’ Brexiteers prompts British fury…

Brexiteers who advocated leaving the European Union without also putting forward a detailed plan setting out how to do so will have a “special place in hell” reserved for them, Donald Tusk has said. The president of the European Council insisted Brussels would not be making “any new offer” on Brexit and suggested the EU remained unwilling to budge on the backstop. Mr Tusk’s intervention sparked an explosive backlash among hardline Eurosceptics and will have dashed Theresa May’s hopes of breaking the Brexit impasse when she meets him tomorrow for showdown talks. Mr Tusk, standing alongside the Irish premier Leo Varadkar, said: “I strongly believe that a common solution is possible and I will do everything in my power to find it. A sense of responsibility also tells us to prepare for a possible fiasco. The Taoiseach and I have spoken about the necessary actions in case of no-deal -I know that you will also be discussing this shortly with the European Commission.” – Telegraph (£)

  • Tusk warns of ‘special place in hell’ for those who backed Brexit without a plan – Guardian
  • Brussels says Tusk wasn’t joking, Brexit really is hell – Politico

> Jonathan Isaby today on BrexitCentral: Donald Tusk not only unfairly attacked Brexiteers yesterday, but reminded us the EU is anti-democratic

> WATCH: Donald Tusk: “Special place in hell… for those who promoted Brexit”

…with EU bosses set to snub Theresa May’s demands in Brussels today

Theresa May is braced for a bruising encounter with European leaders today after Donald Tusk declared that there will be “a special place in hell” for the leaders of the Brexit campaign. Downing Street believes that the prime minister will receive little sympathy from Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the commission, as they meet for the first time since her Brexit plan was defeated in the Commons. The prime minister is also meeting Mr Tusk, president of the European Council, and Antonio Tajani, president of the European parliament. Mrs May does not believe that the EU will give any additional help in time for next week’s Commons votes over her approach on Brexit. While Brussels may allow a change to the withdrawal agreement, in the form of a legally binding letter making clear that the backstop insurance policy is temporary, this will not emerge until much closer to the March 29 Brexit deadline, The Times understands. – The Times (£)

  • Theresa May set for crunch talks with EU leaders in Brussels after Tusk’s ‘hell’ comments – Telegraph (£)

May reportedly to delay new vote on her deal until the end of the month…

Theresa May is preparing to delay a second vote on her deal until the end of February, a month before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU, in a move which ministers believe means an extension of Article 50 is now inevitable. Julian Smith, the chief whip, is understood to have signalled in Cabinet on Tuesday that the vote will not be held next week, as previously expected, because the Prime Minister will not have renegotiated her deal in time. The vote is now being planned for the week starting February 25, prompting a Cabinet split amid concerns from Remainers who fear it will increase the risk of no deal. Mr Smith is understood to have warned that John Bercow, the Speaker, could attempt to undermine the Government’s plans and force it to hold the vote sooner. A Cabinet minister told The Telegraph that next week would be too soon to hold a vote on the Prime Minister’s deal. “We are not there yet with the negotiation,” the minister said. “From the EU’s point of view, it hasn’t even started. Theresa May has not yet gone to Brussels.” – Telegraph (£)

…amidst claims that she will abandon the ‘Malthouse Compromise’…

Theresa May will abandon a Brexit compromise deal backed by both Leave and Remain supporting Tories, including arch-Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg, according to a Brexiteer Cabinet Minister. The proposals, known as the Malthouse Compromise, are designed to stop the UK getting stuck an EU customs union after Brexit. This outcome could happen under the current Northern Ireland ‘backstop’, designed to stop a hard-border being placed across Ireland. However according to one Cabinet Minister the Prime Minister has privately abandoned the plan, and is just waiting for Brussels to reject it. Speaking to The Sun they commented: “The PM needs Brussels to kill off Malthouse quickly. She can’t do it herself, she knows the EU has to do it for her or the European Research Group will never forgive her. But until that happens, she won’t be able to do the new deal that the member states want to do too now.” – Express

…while trying to woo Labour with workers’ rights law

Theresa May is expected to propose a draft bill guaranteeing that UK workers’ rights will keep pace with those in Europe in an attempt to get Labour MPs to back her Brexit deal. Backbench Labour sources said the bill would probably be proposed before the next meaningful vote and could include strengthened protections for agency workers and a “regression lock” that would ensure workers’ protections never slip below European standards. MPs who have met May over the past few months have made it clear they need guarantees to be made in primary legislation because they do not trust that she will remain in No 10 for much longer. Those who are in negotiations with the government have insisted the bill must be tabled and have had at least one day of second reading within the next few months. The Labour MP John Mann, one of the key figures behind the push for legislation, said: “There needs to be a bill produced soon. We aren’t basing anything on a promise, with all due respect to the prime minister. We are doing it based on statute.” – Guardian

Only ‘sensible’ option is to delay Brexit by extending Article 50, says Labour…

Labour has urged the government to either delay Brexit, embrace a customs union or let MPs decide a way forward, during a prime minister’s questions fronted by stand-ins for Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. With May holding talks in Northern Ireland, David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister and de facto deputy prime minister, appeared in her place. Standing in for Corbyn was Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary. Thornberry used all her questions to probe Lidington on what she said should be a “sensible, grownup discussion” about the next steps forward on Brexit. Their exchanges were notably more polite than the usual barbs exchanged by the prime minister and Labour leader. Thornberry was nonetheless scathing about May’s hopes of securing sufficient changes to the Irish backstop to assure her backbenchers during talks in Brussels later this week, saying she was running out of time. “I hope he will understand the concern all of us have, not just in this house, but across the country, that we have a government treading water in the Niagara River while the current is taking us over the falls,” she said. – Guardian

…as Jeremy Corbyn faces a backlash from pro-EU Labour voices over his Brexit demands…

Jeremy Corbyn is facing a backlash from pro-EU Labour figures after setting out five demands that need to be met in order for the Prime Minister to get his party’s support for a Brexit deal. In a letter to Theresa May, the Labour leader insisted the PM needs to get Labour’s priorities enshrined in the Political Declaration setting out future relations with the EU. Mr Corbyn said securing in law the demands, which include joining a customs union, is the only way of achieving Labour support and uniting the country. But the move, which came as Mrs May heads to Brussels for talks with EU leaders on Thursday, has angered prominent party members who have accused Mr Corbyn of putting the Brexit policy agreed at Labour’s conference “in the bin”. The Labour leader has told the PM that just seeking modifications to the Northern Irish backstop proposals is not enough to win widespread backing and that she must change tack on key red lines. – Telegraph (£)

  • Corbyn offers May terms on backing softer version of Brexit deal – FT (£)

…while the party sheds 50,000 members…

More than 50,000 Brits have abandoned Labour in an apparent protest against Jeremy Corbyn’s shambolic leadership. Leaked figures reveal party membership is now 512,000 after one in ten activists quit the party in the past year. Insiders have blamed the Labour leader’s dithering on Brexit. A further 30,000 could go as their subs are in arrears – meaning they’ll be struck off the membership rolls if they don’t pay. Labour has still four times more members than the Tories. But it’s the first confirmation of a fall which has been privately rubbished by Labour HQ in recent days. Labour has 104,000 members in Greater London, compared with just 26,000 in the ‘North’. A Labour source said: “There are always spikes in people joining during general elections, which then lapse between elections.” Mr Corbyn has alienated some followers with his confused stance on Brexit. The party leader has played both sides – backing our EU exit to please Northern Leave voters, but hinting he could back a second referendum as demanded by young Remainers. – The Sun

…and a leaked union report claims not opposing Brexit could lose Labour 45 seats

A trade union affiliated with the Labour party has claimed that Jeremy Corbyn’s party could lose an additional 45 seats in a snap election if it fails to take an anti-Brexit position, in a leaked report. The report, drawn up by the transport union TSSA and including extensive polling, was sent to the leftwing pressure group Momentum. It appears to be an attempt to pile pressure on the Labour leader over Brexit. It claims that “Brexit energises Labour remain voters” disproportionately, and warns: “There is no middle way policy which gets support from both sides of the debate.” The Guardian understands that while the report was sent to Momentum, it was not commissioned or requested by the group. Sources inside the party stressed that there were risks from turning either way on Brexit – and other polls showed a different picture. – Guardian

May’s deputy bravely comes out to bat for the Brexit he desperately tried to stop

With Theresa May on alternative arrangements in Ireland, in came her de facto deputy to defend a Brexit he fervently campaigned to prevent. The arch-Europhile sucked it up and tried to mock Labour over Sir Keir Starmer’s call to “explore” keeping free movement. He kicked back calls to delay Article 50. And he even agreed with arch-Eurosceptic Andrew Bridgen that it would be completely wrong to have a second referendum. But then we’re getting used to politicians these days arguing for things they privately have no desire to carry on with. Over on Labour’s bench, Shadow Foreign Secretary and Remainer Emily Thornberry popped up to urge the Government to seek a customs union with the EU. But that was largely that as ‘Lidders’ enjoyed highlighting Mr Corbyn’s gaffe last week when he opposed the Irish ‘backstop’. Ms Thornberry at least began with a bit of her customary sass as she rose to the despatch box. – The Sun

> WATCH: David Lidington and Emily Thornberry exchange blows as they fill in at PMQs

Liam Fox says zero tariffs a ‘possibility’ in a no-deal Brexit

Liam Fox said on Wednesday there was a “possibility” the UK government might cut tariffs to zero to help keep trade flowing if there was a no-deal Brexit. But the International Trade Secretary insisted the move would have to be a collective government decision — and that he personally had always been against full tariff liberalisation because of the impact it would have on sectors of the UK economy. Senior cabinet ministers are meeting on Wednesday afternoon to discuss their policy on tariffs under a no-deal scenario. It is understood that the cabinet subcommittee, which includes figures such as Mr Fox and chancellor Philip Hammond, will consider four scenarios — ranging from total liberalisation to WTO terms to a “pick and mix” approach. Ministers are expected to choose the last scenario, which would involve zero tariffs on imports in some sectors — but not in others. At a hearing of the Commons International Trade Select committee, Mr Fox said the government had not yet taken any decision on what its policy would be on “day one tariffs” in the event of no deal. – FT (£)

Minsters slam the EU for ‘mucking us around’ after warning Britain could lose access to data under no-deal Brexit

Ministers face a fresh Brexit crisis as the EU warns the UK may not be able to access data stored in the Continent in a No Deal. Furious Ministers have slammed Brussels for “mucking us around” after saying it could take six months to a year to re-certify Britain as GDPR compliant if we leave without a deal. Insiders claim it could cause chaos for companies and individuals who may lose access to personal data stored in Europe – or on “clouds” registered in the EU. Whitehall officials have spent weeks trying to work out where Government departments and agencies store personal data. One Minister told The Sun: “It’s crazy and a perfect example of how the EU is mucking us around. We were one of the first member states to adopt GDPR. They’re telling us we’ll have to wait until we’re a third country to be re-certified and that the process could take six months.” The GDPR rules – General Data Protection Recognition – came into force last year to set out new rules on how businesses, organisations and governments can collect and handle data. – The Sun

Pro-second vote MPs hold their fire until after May’s Brussels trip

Exasperated supporters of a second referendum plan to hold their fire again when Theresa May comes back to parliament next week to set out the next stage of her Brexit strategy. The Lib Dem leader, Sir Vince Cable, has sent a message to activists, explaining “there is still everything to play for”, and “the People’s Vote is alive and well” – but his party does not plan to table a referendum amendment yet. Campaigners believe that, with less than 50 days to go until exit day on 29 March, they would still fall short of commanding a majority among MPs if they attempted to force the issue of a referendum now. Instead, they plan to wait and see what if any changes to the backstop the prime minister manages to secure from her diplomatic offensive in Dublin and Brussels. The prime minister has promised that if she has not struck a revised deal with the EU27, including “alternative arrangements” on the backstop, she will table a statement to the House of Commons on 13 February – which MPs will be able to amend and vote on. – Guardian

BBC faces Brexit bias accusations over £4m in EU funding

The BBC has received nearly €5million in funding from the European Union since 2015, The Daily Telegraph has learnt, prompting accusations from Brexiteers that the broadcaster risks a conflict of interests. The EU has given the BBC €4.8million (£4.2million) under its Horizon 2020 programme, which provides grants for research and development. Nearly €1.5million is earmarked for ongoing projects involving the corporation. Theresa May has said that she wants the UK to stay in Horizon 2020 after Brexit, and European Commission sources have said that the BBC will be able to apply for funding. However, this is likely to be subject to strict criteria, such as free movement of people. Writing for The Telegraph online, Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, said the funding compromised the BBC’s ability to report impartially on Brexit. “Can’t the BBC see the conflict of interests?” he said. – Telegraph (£)

John Longworth: No Mr Tusk, ‘hell’ is being trapped in the wretched European Union

The self-styled Satan, the EU’s very own diablo, Donald Tusk wishes a special place in hell for Brexiteers and the punishment beating that the EU seems determined to meet out has reached a new apogee of hyperbole. The fact that a supposed serious politician at the centre of the engine room, dare I say furnace, of the EU matrix has stooped so low must indicate that the unholy Brussels Trinity of Tusk, Selmayr and Junker are feeling the heat. After all, under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement that our Parliament has so far refused to endorse, they’d be poking us with a three-pronged stick for eternity. The UK would be trapped forever in the dungeon of the Customs Union, unable to adjust tariffs, unable to make meaningful trade deals around the world, unable to escape. We would be  doubly damned with continued jurisdiction of the European Court, triply damned with no say in the rules that the EU would want to torture us with, and selling our souls for a ransom of at least £39 billion. A perfect devil’s brew, but if our establishment sup with the devil, what else must we expect. – John Longworth for the  Telegraph (£)

Stewart Jackson: It’s our arrogant EU overlords who deserve a special place in hell

It’s hard to understand the strategic thinking behind the latest Trumpian foot-in-mouth verbal eruption from the €33,000-a-month European Council president, Donald Tusk. His theological musings about consigning Leave supporters to hell is hardly soothing balm. The Austrian statesman Metternich, on hearing of the death of the French general Talleyrand inquired: “What did he mean by that?” We may well ask the same of Mr Tusk. At a time of maximum sensitivity, as we head towards the denouement of Brexit without a withdrawal agreement between the EU and Britain nailed down, Mr Tusk’s bombastic rhetoric has rightly enraged British observers, and not just hardcore Brexiteers. It even obscured the good news that he has at last given up on the chances of a second referendum. Is it a “dead cat” strategy? Is he seeking to divert attention from what may have to be key concessions from Brussels as March 29 approaches and Mrs Merkel applies the thumbscrews to the EU Commission and the cocky and pugilistic Irish government? – Stewart Jackson for The Times (£)

Greg Hands: I voted Remain, but Tusk’s devilish condemnation of Brexiteers won’t help us reach a compromise

As someone who voted Remain in 2016, I find European Council President Donald Tusk’s comments today that Brexiteers deserve a “special place in Hell” unworthy and unhelpful. What we need from President Tusk and the whole of the Brussels machine is a spirit of compromise, not words of devilish condemnation. Tusk should have stronger feelings towards Britain. He was Deputy Speaker of the Sejm, the Polish Parliament, in 2004, when Poland joined the European Union. Ironically given Brexit, Britain was the principle advocate of Polish accession to the European Union. Poland might not be in the EU – and therefore Tusk in his job – if the UK hadn’t been such an early and forceful arguer for enlargement in the 1990s. But this is part of a pattern: top EU politicians and officials have moved the negotiations away from finding a reasonable compromise with Britain, towards complete intransigence, straining relations with many of the member states, who want to maintain good relations with Britain. Michel Barnier, according to French newspaper Le Point, told friends in the weeks after the Referendum and when he was appointed the EU’s Brexit negotiator, that “I would have succeeded in my task if, in the end, the deal is so hard on the British that they preferred staying in the EU”. – Greg Hands MP for the Telegraph (£)

Alex Morton: If Brexit is impossible, what is the point of politics?

The current debate raging about Brexit has occasionally thrown up a view – expressed more by columnists than politicians – that Brexit is so difficult that, for practical purposes, it might as well be impossible. We simply are incapable of leaving. This argument is distinct from the argument for or against the compromises of May’s deal, or even the argument put forward by Nick Boles and Oliver Letwin around EEA membership. The Boles and Letwin view is that while a harder Brexit is possible, the economic and political disruption of a complete split is too great, particularly given Northern Ireland. They suggest instead a compromise version, which trades off retaining economic integration and some loss of control for exiting the political drive toward ‘ever closer union’. – Alex Morton for ConservativeHome

Asa Bennett: How Juncker’s ‘monster’, Martin Selmayr, could still terrorise Britain after Brexit

Nothing happens in Brussels without Martin Selmayr’s say-so. He is the most powerful unelected individual in Europe, wielding greater influence than many heads of European Union member states. Even the Brexit negotiations are not safe. After welcoming a group of MPs to Brussels on Monday, the European Commission’s Secretary-General poured cold water on the idea that the United Kingdom could be offered legally-binding guarantees over the contentious backstop proposal. “On the EU side, nobody is considering this,” he declared on Twitter, even though Angela Merkel had suggested it would need to be addressed “creatively”. Michel Barnier remains, at least in name, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator. But in practice, British negotiators are said to have shifted their focus onto Mr Selmayr, a lawyer by training, instead. Theresa May’s chief Brexit pointman Olly Robbins, according to Pieter Cleppe, from the independent think-tank Open Europe, now meets him whenever he visits. – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)

Andrew Pierce: Donald Tusk’s jibe about a ‘special place in hell’ just for Brexiteers was juvenile, spiteful and offered yet more proof we must leave

Even by Donald Tusk’s standards, the passage in his speech yesterday about the ‘special place in Hell’ reserved for Brexiteers was deliberately unpleasant and provocative. Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, was overheard joking about the outrage it would cause in Britain. Mr Tusk, the former Polish prime minister, nodded, laughed and then, to drive home the point, tweeted the inflammatory remarks. The episode infuriated the Brexiteer Tory MPs who Theresa May is desperately trying to keep on side as her negotiations with Brussels enter a critical phase. ‘You wonder if that’s why Tusk does it,’ said one senior exasperated Government source. Mr Tusk certainly seems to relish winding up Britain’s Brexit negotiators. When Mrs May went to Salzburg to sell her Brexit plan last year, Mr Tusk released an Instagram picture offering her some cake. ‘Sorry, no cherries,’ was his punchline – a childish attempt to suggest that her so-called Chequers plan was not going to be allowed to cherry-pick concessions from Brussels. – Andrew Pierce for the Daily Mail

Nigel Farage: How can the BBC be fair about Brexit when it takes money from the EU? We need answers

Hours after last week’s so-called ‘Brady Amendment’ passed through the House of Commons, I addressed the EU parliament in Brussels. In the space of three minutes I told those unelected bully boys Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier, both of whom were present, that the British people are sick of them ridiculing Theresa May. I also made clear why I think UK public opinion is edging closer to a no-deal Brexit and sensed the panic in the room when I reminded them that in this scenario they could kiss goodbye to the £39 billion exit fee this country has promised to pay. I was blunt and to the point. When I made this speech, the BBC ignored it. Instead, its news bulletins broadcast excerpts of a speech given on the same day by the Belgian politician Guy Verhofstadt, the EU parliament representative on Brexit, in which he savaged Britain’s current position in pretty much every way he could think of. I accept that the BBC was under no obligation to transmit my words to its audience. With that said, I did find it bizarre that the BBC thought it acceptable to tell licence fee payers what Verhofstadt thinks of Brexit. This curious editorial decision has been underlined in recent days because it transpires my speech has to date been viewed on social media more than six million times. That’s a million views per day. – Nigel Farage MEP for the Telegraph (£)

Nick Timothy: In order to survive after Brexit, the Tories need to be more than the party of freedom

When the Conservatives emerge from Brexit – scathed or unscathed, in one piece or several – they will need to address several enormous challenges. As globalisation and technology reshape our economy, work is becoming, for many people, more precarious and less well paid. As new markets emerge and old markets change, neither workers nor consumers have the protections they once enjoyed. As baby boomers get older, younger families face higher taxes or fewer services. As wealth accrues in the hands of a fortunate minority, opportunity is becoming not more equal but less. To tackle these great changes, Conservatives need to ask fundamental questions about their values. Ask Tory MPs what they believe, and many will answer, with feeling: “Freedom”. Yet individual freedom is only one value, among several, that Conservatives should respect. Values like security, justice, equality and dignity are just as important and they all, in their different ways, conflict with freedom. A Conservative solution to Britain’s housing shortage, for example, would not simply remove all constraints on development. People value the conservation of the natural environment and the regulation of their built surroundings. – Nick Timothy for the Telegraph (£)

The Sun: Donald Tusk’s hatred for Brexit and tantrums show his disregard for democracy

We knew one of the EU’s leaders is a ­staggering drunk. Turns out the other is a staggering fool. Donald Tusk is meant to be the sensible one. The diplomat. Yet with one jaw-droppingly crass ­diatribe about Brexit campaigners he has further poisoned the negotiating well and converted hordes of aghast Remainers to Leave’s cause. What possessed him? What did he hope to gain from such a tantrum? Did he think Boris Johnson and others alone would feel chastened? That 17.4million Leave voters wouldn’t feel they too were being abused? It couldn’t be clearer what disdain Tusk and his arrogant acolytes also have for them. The Sun doesn’t believe in hell, or a “special place” roped off there awaiting leading Brexiteers. But if we wanted to match Tusk’s juvenile rhetoric, we might speculate that Satan’s flames are more likely to consume an unaccountable elite whose ideology condemned millions across the continent to long-term unemployment. – The Sun says

Telegraph: What was the real motivation behind Donald Tusk’s provocative outburst?

Donald Tusk, the EU Council president, looked to be carrying the burdens of the world when he gave his latest news conference about Brexit in Brussels. His melancholy might account for his distinctly undemocratic outburst on the eve of crucial talks aimed at avoiding a no-deal withdrawal from the bloc. Mr Tusk said there was a “special place in hell” reserved for those who had promoted Brexit without a plan to implement it safely. Yet this was no off-the-cuff remark by a wearied Eurocrat dreading another encounter with Theresa May, but what appears to have been a deliberately provocative statement intended to isolate Brexiteers in Britain, who are seen by Brussels as the main obstacle to a deal. To this extent, Mr Tusk is right – the Government has not been able so far to articulate a means of leaving the EU that can command a majority in Parliament. – Telegraph (£) editorial

Brexit in Brief

  • Here are five ways Brexit Britain can enjoy a great trading future even without a deal – Adam Taylor for the Telegraph (£)
  • Well done Donald Tusk for showing why Britain is right to leave the EU – Iain Martin for Reaction
  • The most revealing part of Tusk’s press conference wasn’t about Brexiteers going to hell – Katy Balls for The Spectator
  • Donald ‘special place in Hell’ Tusk’s greatest hits – Telegraph (£)
  • May has ‘Commons majority’ for Brexit ‘plan C’ – but won’t yet discuss it with Juncker – Express
  • A car crash waiting to happen? What German business really thinks about the Brexit negotiations – Telegraph (£)
  • The backstop and the EU Political Declaration are a double trap – Telegraph (£)