Theresa May told her Brexit deal is 'dead as a dodo' by her own MPs as she confirms key vote for 11th December: Brexit News for Tuesday 27th November

Theresa May told her Brexit deal is 'dead as a dodo' by her own MPs as she confirms key vote for 11th December: Brexit News for Tuesday 27th November

Theresa May told her Brexit deal is ‘dead as a dodo’ by her own MPs as she confirms key vote for 11th December

Theresa May’s Brexit deal was declared “as dead as a dodo” by her own backbenchers last night as she announced that MPs will vote on it on December 11. The Prime Minister had hoped that when she returned from Brussels with a deal signed off by the other 27 EU nations her critics would fall into line. Instead, opposition to the deal from all sides of the House of Commons was as firm as ever, with 34 Tory backbenchers attacking it during a gruelling two and a half hour debate. Mrs May tried to reassure MPs that the highly controversial “backstop” for Northern Ireland is “an insurance policy that no-one wants to use” but insisted: “There is no deal that comes without a backstop, and without a backstop there is no deal.” Her plea fell flat as she had to endure 31 MPs from all sides criticising her before a single MP expressed any support for the deal. It was the third time in 10 days she had put herself forward for a mauling in the House of Commons over the Brexit deal, but it was, importantly, the first time MPs had been able to express their views on the agreed deal, rather than a proposed deal. Julian Smith, the Chief Whip, wrote to MPs last night confirming a five-day debate on the Brexit deal beginning on December 4, with the “meaningful vote” happening on Tuesday, December 11 – two days before Mrs May next meets EU leaders in Brussels. – Telegraph (£)

  • May struggles to sell Brexit deal to hostile Commons – The Times (£)
  • Brexit deal vote date confirmed in House of Commons as December 11 – The Mirror

‘We feared it would not be possible’: EU grimly satisfied as Brexit plan pays off

European Union leaders were solemn as they prepared to endorse the Brexit deal on Sunday but, among the architects of the pact, there was a sense of grim satisfaction that the strategy they had planned all along had worked. Provided MPs in Westminster backed the deal, the worst appeared to be averted. Despite last minute dramatics from Spain over Gibraltar, the Brexit divorce treaty had cleared a significant hurdle. “There have been many times when we feared it would not be possible to bring this process to a conclusion,” a senior EU official said before revealing it was only just after 2pm on Saturday that it was known for certain the summit would go ahead. “This has been a long process, a difficult process. It has been difficult in the UK and difficult for us. In one way we have exceeded our expectations in terms of unity,” the official added. – Telegraph (£)

Donald Trump brands May’s deal ‘a good deal for the EU’ as he says it threatens the prospect of a US-UK free trade agreement

President Trump delivered another blow to Theresa May’s Brexit deal last night by saying that it could hamper trade between Britain and America. He said that the agreement sounded “like a good deal for the EU”. President Macron of France had claimed the deal would let his country “leverage” access to fishing waters after Brexit. Mr Trump’s criticism came at the end of another grim day for Mrs May. Former Tory loyalists joined a Commons attack on her deal and another Conservative MP submitted a letter of no confidence in her leadership. The Times has also learnt that the prime minister is coming under pressure to give her MPs a date for her departure to secure their support for her Brexit deal. Asked for his view of the agreement struck by the EU and Britain, Mr Trump said at the White House: “Sounds like a great deal for the EU. I think we have to take a look at seriously whether or not the UK is allowed to trade because right now if you look at the deal they may not be able to trade with us, and that wouldn’t be a good thing. I don’t think they meant that. I don’t think that the prime minister meant that and hopefully she’ll be able to do something about that. But right now as the deal stands they may not be able to trade with the US and I don’t think they want that at all — that would be a very big negative for the deal.” A Downing Street spokesman said the political declaration that the EU agreed was “clear we will have an independent trade policy” and so would be able to sign deals with other countries. – The Times (£)

  • Donald Trump slams May’s Brexit deal as ‘great for the EU’ and warns it will harm prospects for a UK-US trade deal – Telegraph (£)
  • Donald Trump warns US-UK trade on brink due to May’s EU deal – Express

May confirms she is challenging Jeremy Corbyn to a live TV debate on the night of the I’m A Celebrity final…

Theresa May today challenges Jeremy Corbyn to a live Brexit TV debate, set for December 9 — the night of the I’m A Celebrity final. The PM uses an interview in The Sun to lay down the gauntlet to the Labour leader. She wants to expose what she insists is the Opposition Leader’s failure to offer any workable alternative to hers for leaving the EU. The primetime TV clash will now be the climax of Mrs May’s titanic two week fight to win MPs’ support to save her controversial divorce deal. – The Sun

  • Theresa May agrees to TV debate with Jeremy Corbyn – The Times (£)

…as she is told she should debate Tony Blair, not Corbyn, to win over sceptical MPs…

Theresa May has been told in Cabinet that she must “debate Tony Blair not Jeremy Corbyn” if she is to convince Tory MPs to support her deal ahead of a crunch Commons vote, The Telegraph has learned. The Prime Minister was on Monday told by Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, that she must take on the arguments of committed Remainers such as Mr Blair and Lord Adonis, the Labour peer, if she is to win the support of her party. His intervention came during a discussion in Cabinet about plans for a televised debate with Mr Corbyn, the Labour leader, as part of a bid to win over 90 Tory MPs who are opposed to her plans. A source said that Mr Hunt was proposing that Mrs May should reframe the debate as one with senior Remainers rather than proposing a head-to-head with Mr Blair. – Telegraph (£)

…while Labour would seek to block People’s Vote campaign taking part in Brexit TV debate

Labour will not allow a representative of the People’s Vote campaign to take part in any televised Brexit debate involving Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, with the party instead pushing for a format that would allow the opposition leader to criticise the prime minister’s domestic policies. May’s team has proposed holding a live primetime TV debate ahead of a crunch parliamentary vote next month on Britain’s exit from the EU, prompting a discussion over the debate format and which broadcaster would host it. It also led to calls from parties that support a second EU referendum – including the Scottish National party, the Green party and the Liberal Democrats – to have a representative on the panel. Corbyn’s team swiftly jumped at the offer and confirmed their willingness to take part, saying: “Jeremy would relish a head-to-head debate with Theresa May about her botched Brexit deal and the future of our country.” – Guardian

Theresa May warned not to rely on Labour MPs’ Brexit votes as she sends Chief of Staff on mission to woo them

Tory Eurosceptics reacted with fury on Monday after Theresa May’s chief of staff invited Labour MPs to a briefing on the Brexit deal in the hope of persuading them to support it. Backbenchers warned Mrs May that her time as Prime Minister would effectively be over if she had to rely on the Opposition to get through the most important vote of her premiership. It came as it emerged that a Downing Street task force set up to save Brexit is already resigned to losing the vote on the deal, and is engaged in damage limitation. Aides reportedly believe that if Mrs May loses the vote on December 11 by more than 100 votes she will have to resign immediately, but if the losing margin is lower than 100 she will battle on and try to win a second vote. – Telegraph (£)

Downing Street establishes special Whitehall unit to ‘save Theresa May’s Brexit’

A few days after Theresa May presented ministers with her Brexit deal, there was a reshuffling of desks inside the Cabinet Office at 70 Whitehall — and not because of another resignation. The prime minister’s aides had decided to set up a crack team whose sole focus would be on what many in Westminster now consider an impossible task: getting the deal through parliament. Drawn up of senior advisers from Downing Street, officials in the Cabinet Office Europe unit who had worked for Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins, and aides from the Brexit department, the team was given a small office and the rather unimaginative name “Project Vote”. It is working closely with chief whip Julian Smith and a group of senior Tories who sit on what has been called the “Final Vote board” to war-game the scenarios that lie ahead as May’s government comes to its crunch point… According to Whitehall officials who are familiar with the operation, Project Vote has “already priced in” losing the meaningful vote in the Commons slated for Dec. 11. – Buzzfeed News

Prime Minister Theresa May visits Wales as she fights for Brexit support

Prime Minister Theresa May will visit Wales this week as she fights for support for her Brexit deal. The PM will tour the Royal Welsh Winter Fair in Builth Wells on Tuesday before meeting with Welsh political leaders on what’s been dubbed a “campaign” to win the public’s backing for her deal. It comes just days after clearing the major hurdle of having her Brexit deal backed in Brussels. Leaders of the remaining 27 EU nations approved two documents that have been two years in the making – the Withdrawal Agreement and a Political Declaration about the future relationship between the EU and the UK. On Monday, it was confirmed that MPs will vote on the deal on Tuesday, December 11 – a hurdle she must overcome if her deal is to be enshrined in UK law. In Northern Ireland later this week, the prime minister will attend a community event at Queen’s University Belfast, before attending meetings with all five political parties in Belfast. – WalesOnline

Ministers consider backing ‘Norway plus’ as Brexit plan B

Almost half of Theresa May’s cabinet have held talks to weigh up the possibility of backing a soft Brexit option as a plan B if parliament rejects the prime minister’s EU withdrawal deal. Four cabinet ministers have held meetings to discuss the “Norway plus” plan amid concerns at the top of government that May will struggle to muster enough votes to get her proposals through the Commons. Five other, remain-backing ministers – David Lidington, Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd, David Gauke and Greg Clark – are understood to have agreed to try to get the prime minister to support a softer departure from the EU. Their favoured option is believed to be staying in a permanent customs union, which is currently Labour policy, increasing the likelihood of the plan making it through the Commons. “We see that as the best way of guaranteeing frictionless trade if the deal falls,” one said. The group have been meeting weekly for some time, either at the Treasury or in their Commons offices, to discuss the government’s options if the deal is defeated. “They just don’t make as much of a fuss about it as their Brexit-supporting colleagues,” one source said. – Guardian

European judges to examine Brexit cancellation case

Judges at the European Court of Justice are to examine whether the UK can call off the process of leaving the EU without permission from member states. The UK will leave the EU on 29 March under the terms of “Article 50”, which MPs triggered in March last year. A group of Scottish politicians have lodged a court challenge to find out if this can be unilaterally revoked. The UK government has opposed the case being heard, but failed to prevent it going before judges in Luxembourg. A ruling is not expected straightaway on Tuesday. The case is being heard against the backdrop of Prime Minister Theresa May fighting to sell her draft Brexit deal to MPs, ahead of a vote in the Commons in December. Those pushing the court case said it could give MPs an extra option when considering whether to approve the draft deal or not, because it could keep the prospect of calling off Brexit altogether on the table. – BBC News

Theresa May regrets EU ‘queue-jumpers’ comment

Theresa May has said she regrets saying EU workers will no longer be able to “jump the queue” after Brexit. “I should not have used that language in that speech,” she told MPs during a debate on her Brexit deal with the EU. But she said she stood by her point that migrants should be “judged” on their skills not “where they come from”. SNP MP Philippa Whitford had called on the prime minister to apologise for her “thoughtless and insulting comments”. “Last week the prime minister managed to insult and upset over three million European citizens, who live and work in this country,” said the Central Ayrshire MP. “Over 150,000 of them – like my German husband, a GP here for over 30 years – felt absolutely thrown away, when they have spent decades here looking after us when we are ill.” Mrs May said she had always strived to protect EU nationals’ rights during Brexit negotiations – and had “delivered” on that in the withdrawal agreement she agreed with the EU on Sunday. – BBC News

  • I should not have called EU citizens queue jumpers, says Theresa May – Politico

Michael Fabricant: I must vote against this deal, to save my party

On the morning of January 17 2017, seven months after the EU referendum, Theresa May said at Lancaster House: “We will pursue a bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union. This agreement should allow for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and the EU’s member states.” Recognising what continued membership of the single market and customs union after Brexit would entail, she added that it “would mean complying with the EU’s rules and regulations… without having a vote on what those rules and regulations are… It would to all intents and purposes mean not leaving the EU at all”. Words echoed by Dominic Raab, when reflecting on the exit deal shortly to be voted on in Parliament. So how did the Government lose its way? Historians will come to write the story of how Lancaster House morphed into present Government policy. It will be a story of the inflexibility of EU leaders, the botched 2017 general election, and the tin ear of British political leadership. By leaving most of the negotiations to civil servants, any semblance of political sensitivity was lost. And voices in Cabinet argued that business leaders wanted no change to the present customs arrangements without any regard to the advantages of leaving the customs union. – Michael Fabricant MP for the Telegraph (£)

Nick Boles: Only the ‘Norway Plus’ plan can save Brexit

In Westminster, everyone is hunting for a Brexit Plan B. Newspapers are full of reports of various minister meetings behind closed doors over pizza in a desperate attempt to find an answer. For three months, an alternative has been hiding in plain sight. It has been a lonely task plugging the Norway option — Brexit via the European Economic Area — to my Conservative colleagues. Most Remainers and pragmatic Leavers have supported Theresa May’s efforts to negotiate a bespoke deal based on the Chequers proposals. And most hardline Brexiters have been holding out for that Fantastic Beast of Johnsonian folklore: the SuperDuper Canada deal. But in recent days something has changed. Last week four Cabinet ministers invited me in to talk about my plan. Even before the ink has dried, Tory MPs have concluded that the prime minister’s deal is dead on arrival. Desperate to avoid the calamities of crashing out with no deal, or a second referendum, most are seeking something else. – Nick Boles MP for FT (£)

Alan Cochrane: Nicola Sturgeon jumping the gun on fishing in the Brexit deal exposes her party’s ludicrous policy

For reasons that must be obvious to all the SNP is desperately trying to pin the title of ‘traitor’ on Theresa May and David Mundell. Of course it’s true that’s all fair in love, war … and politics but the campaign being waged by Nicola Sturgeon is bizarre in the extreme. She says that the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Scotland are guilty of betraying Scotland’s fishermen because EU leaders, led by French president Emmanuel Macron, want continued access to Britain’s fishing grounds for their trawlers on the same basis as they have now under the Common Fisheries Policy. Note the verb … they want continued access. They haven’t been granted that access, in fact both PM and SoS have said in terms that are entirely unambiguous that the UK will be leaving the CFP and that Britain will be in charge of negotiating which countries’ boats will have access, and under what conditions, to Britain’s fishing grounds. But in Ms Sturgeon’s book want appears to be exactly the same as gets. – Alan Cochrane for the Telegraph (£)

William Hague: Eight Eurosceptic reasons why we should support Theresa May’s Brexit agreement

Why would I, as someone who campaigned so hard against joining the euro and opposed a whole string of EU treaties, vote for the deal Theresa May is now presenting to the country? I have to recognise that many people I like and respect are dead against it, and that would no doubt include many of my former constituents in Yorkshire. Like them, I can hardly regard it as the perfect deal, and can think of changes I would have loved to make to it, particularly with regard to the so-called backstop and the risk of getting stuck in it. And I don’t think the whole process has been beautifully handled. I argued in these pages after the uncertain outcome of last year’s election that expectations of what could be negotiated needed lowering then, and the Cabinet should have faced up to the need for awkward compromises. If that had happened, perhaps people would not feel so disappointed and outraged now. – Lord Hague for the Telegraph (£)

Robert Peston: Treasury won’t tell us costs of Theresa May’s Brexit

The publication by the Treasury of its forecasts of the economic impact of Theresa May’s Brexit deal, versus no-deal and staying in the EU, has been keenly awaited. But it turns out that what we will read, probably on Wednesday, will be almost irrelevant. Because what the Treasury has modelled is not the deal actually struck on Sunday by Theresa May, but her Chequers plan. And, as you will be keenly aware, the rest of the EU has rejected her Chequers combination of the UK staying in the single market for goods and the dual-tariff customs territory the Facilitated Customs Arrangement. In other words, we will be asked by the Treasury to compare two scenarios that the PM herself admits could yet happen – particularly no Brexit and a non-deal Brexit – with one scenario, Chequers, that cannot possibly happen. – Robert Peston for ITV News

Julian Jessop: The problem with the latest Brexit growth forecasts

The latest Brexit analysis from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) is the usual worthy read, but says nothing new. It doesn’t provide any compelling evidence for or against staying in the EU, or accepting No.10’s proposed deal instead of “no deal”, despite what the usual suspects are claiming… controversially, NIESR’s results depend on a big and harmful reduction in net migration from the EU (not offset by increased migration from the rest of the world). That’s a possible result of Brexit, of course, but it isn’t inevitable. The outcome would depend on policy choices still to be made by this and future governments. It certainly seems odd for opposition politicians to cite this as an argument against Brexit, unless they never expect to be in power again. – Julian Jessop for CapX

Tim Stanley: Bored with Brexit? How patronising, Mrs May

You can tell a lot about a product from the way it is sold. The Government intends to run a general election-style campaign to get its withdrawal deal through Parliament, and its twin weapons are apathy and fear. Vote for this deal and we need never discuss Brexit again; vote it down and we will run out of water and die. This mix of cynicism and hysteria suggests we are being sold a flawed deal by people who never really understood what Brexit was about. Parliamentary critics of the withdrawal plan focus on one fundamental flaw: the backstop. Once we leave the EU we get two years of status quo in which to negotiate a new trade pact; if we fail, which seems likely, we either extend this expensive transition or we enter a disagreeable customs arrangement, a backstop prison wherein the EU sets the rules and we have no influence. We can only walk away if the EU agrees to it. – Tim Stanley for the Telegraph (£)

Brian Monteith: Spain has taught UK lesson over Gibraltar Brexit panic

The Spanish Prime Min­ister, Pedro Sánchez, has done the UK a service. By causing a brief but fevered panic over the issue of Gibraltar he has deftly illustrated what lies ahead if Westminster chooses to pass the Cabinet’s Withdrawal Agreement. That he threatened to veto the draft proposal was not the point; he could not have done so as the council could have passed the proposal by a qualified majority of 20 votes out of 27. The real lesson that comes from the episode is the Spanish are ready to use their veto when it does matter, as indeed will the French and probably some of the other 27 EU member states, too. It needs to be understood that the Withdrawal Agreement is not the end game, but merely lays out the parameters of how we leave. Any final deal will need the unanimous approval of the 27 EU members – and at that point Spain shall have a veto – and will use it. – Brian Monteith for The Scotsman

Henry Newman: May’s deal could be saved with prompt improvements – such as a Stormont lock

Last week, I set out how the Prime Minister should seek improvements to the Brexit deal before Sunday’s Brexit summit. She got halfway there. On the Political Declaration, she succeeded in substantially improving the document – achieving a clear choice between a Canada plus arrangement, and a closer Chequers minus plan, with Canada plus as the default. However, she did not secure changes to the Withdrawal Agreement. The ineluctable problem she now faces is that when Parliament rejects her deal on the 11th December she will have a tough choice: seek further changes in Brussels or prepare for No Deal. Both the UK and EU will be extremely reluctant to change agreed texts, but they may be left with little alternative if Parliament says no. We have been here before – David Cameron’s deal worked in the theory of Brussels, but fell apart on contact with Westminster politics. Theresa May’s deal is actually better than I had expected in various ways. Yet even in areas where she has secured victories, Downing Street is failing to cut through noisy cries of betrayal. And because MPs have begun to doubt her motives, the Prime Minister faces an uphill battle to explain how the deal would work. – Henry Newman for ConservativeHome

Brexit in Brief

  • May needs the stars to align if her Brexit deal is to pass the Commons – Christian May for City A.M.
  • Fact-checking the dubious Withdrawal Agreement arguments being put to MPs – Anna Bailey and Sir Richard Aikens for ConservativeHome
  • My letter to Jeremy Corbyn: your nation is threatened – back a people’s vote – Gina Miller for the Guardian
  • Will May’s one-woman tour succeed in selling her Brexit deal? – Tom Harris for CapX
  • More false forecasts – John Redwood’s Diary
  • EU court throws out WW2 veteran’s Brexit challenge – Telegraph (£)
  • Theresa May: SNP wants ‘real sell-out’ of Scottish fishermen – Telegraph (£)
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg condemns May over £39bn EU divorce bill – Express
  • Ex-MEP becomes 27th Tory MP to publicly back vote of no confidence in Theresa May – Telegraph (£)
  • How will your MP vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal? – Guardian