Theresa May spent yesterday meeting EU leaders in a bid to rescue her Brexit deal: Brexit News for Wednesday 12 December

Theresa May spent yesterday meeting EU leaders in a bid to rescue her Brexit deal: Brexit News for Wednesday 12 December
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Theresa May spent yesterday meeting EU leaders in a bid to rescue her Brexit deal…

She has met Dutch PM Mark Rutte and Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel after postponing a Commons vote on the deal. The UK PM has said she needs assurances about the Northern Ireland border plan to get backing from MPs, many of whom want firmer legally-binding guarantees. Mrs Merkel said the Brexit deal could not be re-negotiated but she was still optimistic a solution could be found. But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn labelled Mrs May the “runaway prime minister” and said the trip was a “waste of time and public money”. The prime minister, now in Brussels, is understood to be seeking legal guarantees that the UK will not be trapped in the Northern Ireland backstop plan indefinitely.  – BBC News

  • Desperate May dashes to continent in search for concessions – Guardian
  • May tours Europe as Brexit rebellion continues at home – The Times (£)

…and will visit Dublin for crucial talks with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this afternoon…

Theresa May will travel to Dublin following Cabinet on Wednesday afternoon for talks on Brexit with Taioseach Leo Varadkar, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman has announced. The Irish Government has said it is intensifying its no-deal Brexit preparations. Mrs May will fly on to Brussels later that evening ahead of the European Council meeting on Thursday, but no further meetings in the Belgian capital have yet been announced.The UK Government, meanwhile, has confirmed the withdrawal agreement will return to the Commons before January 21. The DUP has said it will need to be significantly altered in order to garner its support. – Belfast Telegraph

  • Theresa May to meet Leo Varadkar in Dublin Wednesday – Politico
  • May to meet Foster and Varadkar – BBC News

…but is now facing a no confidence vote in her leadership tonight…

The chairman of the backbench 1922 committee of Conservative MPs, Sir Graham Brady, said: “The threshold of 15% of the parliamentary party seeking a vote of confidence in the leader of the Conservative Party has been exceeded. In accordance with the rules, a ballot will be held between 1800 and 2000 on Wednesday 12th December in committee room 14 of the House of Commons. The votes will be counted immediately afterwards and an announcement will be made as soon as possible in the evening. – Sky News

  • Theresa May to face leadership challenge – BBC News

…as Jean-Claude Juncker warns there is ‘no room whatsoever’ for renegotiation of her deal

Mr Juncker said the Withdrawal Agreement is the “only deal possible”. MEPs applauded as he said: “There is no room whatsoever for renegotiation, but of course there is room if used intelligently, there is room enough to give further clarifications and further interpretations without opening the Withdrawal Agreement. “This will not happen: everyone has to note that the Withdrawal Agreement will not be reopened.” Mr Juncker said the Irish backstop was the “big problem”, explaining: “We have a common determination to do everything to be not in the situation one day to use that backstop. “But we have to prepare: it’s necessary for the entire coherence of what we have agreed with Britain and it is necessary for Ireland. Ireland will never be left alone.” – ITV News

  • Juncker deals May heavy blow as she meets EU leaders for crisis Brexit talks – News and Star

May says EU leaders are ‘determined’ to solve Irish border issue…

Theresa May says there is a “shared determination” among EU leaders to solve the Irish border problem preventing MPs from backing her deal. She was speaking after meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The prime minister says there can be no EU withdrawal deal without a backstop plan for the Irish border. But she said she was seeking guarantees that it would be “only temporary” to address the concerns of her own MPs. Speaking in Brussels, Mrs May said a backstop was “a necessary guarantee for the people of Northern Ireland”. “Whatever relationship you want with Europe in the future, there’s no deal available that doesn’t have a backstop within it. “But we don’t want the backstop to be used and if it is, we want to be certain that it is only temporary. And it is those assurances that I will be seeking from fellow leaders over the coming days.” – BBC News

…while they are reportedly telling her she must stop ‘feeding Brexiteers red meat – or risk getting eaten’

As Mrs May embarked on a whistle-stop tour of the EU, including the Netherlands, Germany and Brussels, diplomats expressed growing exasperation at Mrs May’s constant attempts to placate the impossible demands of clean-break Brexiteers with unrealistic promises. The message will be the same one Mrs May received from Europe over the weekend, when the Telegraph understands Mrs May was directly warned against feeding unreasonable expectations. “She was told ‘don’t keep feeding them red meat. We know how this ends. You get eaten up last,” said a senior EU diplomat. The uncompromising tone comes as Mrs May seeks a “legally binding assurance” that the UK will not be trapped indefinitely in the Irish backstop arrangement that puts the UK into a customs union with the EU to avoid the return of a hard border in Ireland. – Telegraph (£)

Parliament will get a vote on May’s Brexit deal by 21st January…

Downing Street said she will stick to the deadline of the EU withdrawal act, which gives 21 January as the date by which the Prime Minister must state how the government plans to move forward if no Brexit deal is agreed. The news comes as May arrived in Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in an attempt to woo European leaders to change some of the terms of her Brexit deal. However, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ruled out further to-and-fro between the UK and EU this morning. Meanwhile, the EU and Ireland are preparing for a no-deal Brexit scenario. European Council President Donald Tusk has organised a meeting for Thursday to make preparations, saying: “We will not renegotiate the deal, including the backstop, but we are ready to discuss how to facilitate UK ratification. As time is running out, we will also discuss our preparedness for a no-deal scenario.” – City A.M.

…as it is claimed she told top EU officials she intended to pull this week’s Brexit vote 24 hours before she told senior Cabinet ministers

May held phone calls with the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker, on Sunday, with further discussions on Monday morning, a senior EU source said. But cabinet sources told BuzzFeed News that they only learned the vote was being pulled when May opened an emergency conference call at 11:30am on Monday by informing them that she had “reluctantly” taken the decision. May’s retreat was first reported by Bloomberg News while she was still on the call with her cabinet. Downing Street insists the decision had not been taken when May spoke to EU leaders. A Number 10 spokesman said: “This is completely untrue. The decision was not taken until after her conversations with EU officials. As the PM said in the Commons yesterday, the decision was made in consultation with the cabinet.” It has been reported that May called a number of ministers over the weekend to tell them that she was “reluctantly going to postpone the vote”. However, a second well-placed cabinet source said they had not been aware of May’s decision until Monday. – BuzzFeed News
Theresa May ‘told EU leaders about plan to delay Brexit vote before her own cabinet’ – Mirror

Andrea Leadsom questions Bercow’s ‘impartiality’ on Brexit in shocking attack on Speaker

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Leadsom suggested that Mr Bercow was biased against leaving the European Union. She claimed his pro-EU views on the debate were “well-known” and presented a “challenge” and a “problem” to the ongoing crisis surrounding the Brexit process. During the heated debate in the House of Commons on Monday, Mr Bercow criticised the Government for pulling the key vote on the Brexit deal at the last-minute. He branded the decision from Prime Minister Theresa May “deeply regrettable” and called her tactics “deeply discourteous”. The Speaker told MPs yesterday: “This is not the way the business of the House is ordinarily conducted, it’s a most unfortunate state of affairs.” Speaking to John Humphrys, Ms Leadsom said: “I think he’s made his views on Brexit on the record. “It is a matter for him. But nevertheless, I think it’s a challenge. And I think all colleagues need to form their own view of that. “And the problem with that of course is the chair’s impartiality is absolutely essential.” She refused to deny that he was “tainted” over his public admission of Brexit. Ms Leadsom added: “The position of the Speaker is a matter for him and parliament, not a matter for me.” – Express

  • Tory Andrea Leadsom suggests Speaker John Bercow is biased in stinging attack – Mirror

EU steps up no-deal Brexit plans for derivatives traders

Brussels is planning to grant temporary market access to UK clearing houses in the event of a no-deal Brexit as it steps up preparations to prevent financial turmoil should Britain crash out of the EU. A draft decision seen by the Financial Times would grant “equivalence” rights allowing European traders to continue to use crucial UK derivatives clearing services temporarily in the event of a no-deal. The plans give Brussels the legal means to fulfil commitments made by the EU in October to prevent a sudden breakdown in access to UK-based clearinghouses, which form a core part of the plumbing of the financial system. The access rights would apply for all classes of cleared derivatives. “Such services are critical for ensuring financial stability,” the document says. “A disruption in the provision of clearing services could also affect the implementation of central banks’ monetary policy.” – FT (£)

Opposition parties give Labour until the end of the day to table a parliamentary no-confidence motion in Theresa May

Parliamentary leaders from the other opposition parties wrote a letter to Mr Corbyn, saying there is an “overwhelming” case for a confidence motion following Ms May’s decision to defer the crunch Commons vote on her Brexit deal. SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford issued the Labour leader with an ultimatum, saying he must act before close of play on Tuesday or other parties would be forced to intervene. Mr Corbyn is facing growing pressure to put forward a no-confidence motion in the government after the prime minister was forced to pull a vote on her Brexit deal at the eleventh hour to avoid a catastrophic defeat at the hands of Tory backbenchers. – Independent

Remainers launch bid to force a second Brexit referendum by twisting Jeremy Corbyn’s arm to back it

Remainers who want a second Brexit vote are trying to twist Jeremy Corbyn’s arm and get him on side. Politicians from the Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru have written to the Labour boss begging him to move a motion of no confidence in Theresa May. They think that will help pave the way for a second referendum on Brexit. Remainers say that the time to try and oust her is now because the Government don’t have a working majority. But even if all the other parties in Westminster teamed up, there still wouldn’t be enough votes to bring the Government down unless some Tories or the DUP voted with them. The Northern Irish party has said they will support the PM in a confidence vote at the moment. Yesterday Mr Corbyn chickened out of the bid to force Mrs May out of office, amid the day’s Brexit chaos. The Labour boss won’t bring forward a vote of no confidence forward until she comes back to the House of Commons with changes, which he thinks will mean nothing to MPs. The party don’t want to act prematurely in case they lose and end up accidentally keeping her in office. – The Sun

MPs condemn ‘unrealistic’ government analysis of Brexit deal

The government kept MPs in the dark when it presented an overly optimistic assessment of its Brexit deal, rather than a realistic prediction of the final relationship, an influential committee of MPs has found. The Treasury select committee, chaired by the former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, found that the UK government had also failed to give adequate information on how the backstop mechanism would affect the economy. Morgan said committee members had found it “difficult” to give MPs adequate advice on the Treasury’s economic analysis of the withdrawal agreement and political declaration, given what was in front of them. The Treasury had analysed the economic implications of the white paper – the government’s plan for the UK’s future relationship with the EU – which was based on Theresa May’s proposals from her Chequers summit. However, that was an unrealistic expectation of what could be achieved, the committee found. “The committee is disappointed that the government has modelled its white paper, which represents the most optimistic reading of the political declaration, rather than a more realistic scenario,” Morgan said. The report itself found the Chequers plan “does not represent the central or most likely outcome” of the negotiations for the future relationship. “Therefore, it cannot be used to inform parliament’s meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement,” it concludes. – Guardian

Rees-Mogg brutally slaps down Brexit delay proposal

Sky News host Kay Burley suggested revoking Article 50 could put an end to the tension between Theresa May and MPs Mrs May created after announcing she would pull her proposed Brexit deal from Parliamentary scrutiny. But Mr Rees-Mogg quickly shot down the suggestion: “We could just ignore all democracy and install a dictatorship but it would be a really shocking approach to take when 17.4 million voted to leave. “When I said dictatorship, it would be an overthrowing of that vote in June 2016, when we decided to leave. The Government were suddenly to say ‘we’re revoking Article 50,’ it would be a real scandal.” He continued: “It would be ignoring the biggest democratic exercise this country ever had which was then reinforced by the General Election – in which both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party committed to implementing the result of the referendum. “Can politicians just say anything and do the reverse? Can they pile lies upon lies? “People are saying ‘ I didn’t vote for a deal, I voted to leave.’ It’s leaving that needs to be delivered upon and that means out of the customs union, out of the single market, out of the European Court and not paying them large amounts of money. “All things Theresa May used to promise, that’s what she has to deliver on.” – Express

Employment figures at a record high (despite Brexit)

New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the UK continues to have the best jobs market in decades with the unemployment rate at a near record 40 year low, 4.1% and employment rate at a joint-record of 75.7%. The figures also show real wages are up for the ninth month in a row, with regular pay up 3.3% on the year – its fastest growth in almost a decade. Today’s (11 December 2018) figures also reveal the youth unemployment rate has almost halved since 2010, with female employment at a near record high of 71.2%. Over 3.3 million more people have entered work since 2010, meaning an average of 1,000 more people in work every day. Sectors across the economy are benefiting, with 23,000 more manufacturing jobs in the last year and 22,000 more jobs in the hospitality sector. – GOV.UK

Owen Paterson: Why I have handed in my letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister

It would be a travesty if the democratic verdict of the 2016 referendum – the largest in British history – were not delivered, yet the Prime Minister’s proposed “deal” is so bad that it cannot be considered anything other than a betrayal of clear manifesto promises. These broken promises typify more than two years of poor Government decision-making. It was a mistake not to begin intense preparations for leaving on WTO terms the moment the result was delivered, approaching the negotiations with a stronger hand, positioned to walk away without a deal and consequently much more likely to secure a good one. Throughout this process, I have sought to support the Government. The conclusion is now inescapable that the Prime Minister is the blockage to the wide-ranging free trade agreement offered by Tusk which would be in the best interests of the country and command the support of Parliament. I, therefore, have no confidence in Theresa May as Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party – Owen Paterson MP for the Telegraph (£)

Charlie Elphicke: The Cabinet must decide today to trigger no deal preparations in full

Indeed, the full mobilisation of action plans should have been ordered weeks ago. If it had been, Government departments would by now actively be taking all necessary measures. Businesses would be engaged in making full scale preparations for every eventuality. Yet even now as the clock counts down to Brexit Day, it is not too late to act and ensure that Britain stands  17.4 million people – including two thirds of my constituents in Dover and Deal – knew it would not be easy and that there would be challenges and risks of disruption. They knew that because, during the 2016 EU Referendum, it was pretty much all the Remain campaign talked about. We were warned of gridlock on the roads to the Channel Ports. We were told the Calais Jungle would be moved to Dover. We were even warned of a terrible economic calamity in which millions would lose their jobs and house prices would collapse. Despite all these dire warnings, the people voted to Leave.ready. The country stood ready in 2016 to make the call for our nation’s independent future. It is now time for our Government to match the political courage of the British people. We must concentrate all our energies to deliver for the people – to plan, not to panic. That way we can ensure that in just over 90 days we will be Ready on Day One, whatever the future may bring. – Charlie Elphicke for ConservativeHome

Daniel Hannan: We still have time to switch course from disaster. Just. It’s up to Conservative MPs to act now

If there is a second referendum, Leavers will surely organise a boycott. Having listened to all the assurances that the 2016 referendum would be final and binding – assurances that were made especially strenuously, funnily enough, by Nick Clegg and John Major – why legitimise a rerun? After all, the people demanding a new referendum are, by definition, people who don’t accept referendum results. So we’d presumably end up with a 99 per cent Remain vote on a turnout of less than 40 per cent, invalidating the whole exercise. And in the meantime? In the meantime, Britain would have suffered a reputational collapse worse than Suez, having tried and failed to recover its independence. Our democracy would go through its worst trauma since 1832. And – it seems almost a small thing given the scale of the national tragedy, but for what it’s worth – the Conservative Party would be finished. Is there a way to avert this disaster? Yes. We are where we are as a result of the decisions made by May. She believes in the proposed deal, she tells us, with every fibre of her being. A new Prime Minister could remove the backstop and offer the EU the rest of the Withdrawal Agreement. Brussels would initially reject this proposal, but a different leader might do the one thing that she has not been ready to do, namely prepare, fully and spiritedly, for a no-deal withdrawal – while leaving the offer on the table. – Daniel Hannan MEP for ConservativeHome

Philip Davies: Why this Brexit deal betrays everyone who voted ‘Leave’

I, like many who voted to leave, am incredibly frustrated by how unnecessarily complicated this has become; and the lack of belief in how great our country can be standing independently is quite frankly astounding. A tactical negotiator would have said that, as the fifth-largest economy in the world and a core market for European trade, the EU would make a grave mistake if they pushed Britain too far. A resolute leader would have ensured that those who voted remain did not manipulate parliamentary sovereignty to hinder Brexit, and a competent Prime Minister would deliver on a promise that is a true reflection of the people asked for. The negotiations and the deal presented are the epitome of why we are better off out of the EU. They demonstrate the reality all along that our relationship with the EU is based on the EU taking exactly what they want, and remaining ignorant to what really matters to individual countries. – Philip Davies MP for the Telegraph and Argus

Paul Goodman: Chicken May

It is possible to think May now believes that, under that pressure, the EU will fold next year, and offer a time limit or a unilateral exit from the backstop. Or that she is concluding the Commons would collapse, even if the EU did not – that, with March 28 and no deal imminent, Labour would buckle and abstain, together with other opposition parties. Or that even if Jeremy Corbyn did not, some Labour MPs would. Meanwhile, Conservative opponents could be steered into the abstention column, and Tory abstainers into the aye lobby. Now, this scenario makes many assumptions: that the Prime Minister will still be in place; that there is no Cabinet revolt; that the Commons has not, by the New Year, wrested control from the Government altogether; that MPs do not (if May seeks to spin out her dealings with the EU) revolt, propose the postponement of Article 50 and perhaps a second referendum, and then see her back down; that the Prime Minister has not been censured, or the Government no confidenced. But one can also see how the truth could be found here – that May is not so much a headless chicken herself, or seeking to chicken out of Brexit but, rather, now sees before her this game of chicken unfolding as next year begins. It would have one immeasurable plus from her point of view. It would if successful be a win. Her deal would have triumphed. She would have crushed her internal opponents – hard Brexiteers, Norwegians, second referendum supporters: the lot. The stage would be set for her to go on and on and on towards 2022. – Paul Goodman for ConservativeHome

Henry Newman: There are only two European Council options this week – a managed no deal, or a backstop with an exit

It’s far from clear that any deliverable changes could actually secure the support of some of the Prime Minister’s toughest critics. The criticisms of her deal are – for some – as much an expression of lack of confidence in her leadership, as about any specific policy concern. Unfortunately, Theresa May is not a brilliant advocate at the best of times. Now, when she is up against a wall of noise and a widespread sense of betrayal, she is struggling to be heard. She should level with the European Council and offer them two broad options. Either give up on improving the deal, in which case they need to recognise that it will likely not pass the Commons. Or, seek to make limited but substantive changes to help it on its way through. If it’s to be No Deal, then the leaders should agree to authorise discrete side agreements (on matters such as aviation, citizens rights and so on). That way they can mitigate a chaotic No Deal. – Henry Newman for ConservativeHome

Lord Ashcroft: People are tipping further away from the Prime Minister’s deal

The vote has been deferred while the Prime Minister seeks “reassurances” from the EU, but her message to the Commons yesterday was clear – this is the only Brexit deal on the table, and there is no realistic prospect of substantially changing it.Theresa May’s campaign to sell the agreement to sceptical MPs and the public therefore continues. Half of all voters now think the deal sounds worse than remaining in the EU on our current terms, with just under one in five saying it would be better. Even Conservative Leave voters are closely divided on this question, with 39 per cent saying the deal beats our current membership package and 38 per cent saying it does not. Lord Ashcroft for ConservativeHome

Robert Peston: Is Theresa May re-arranging deckchairs?

Leaving the EU is uncannily like being in the EU – characterised and degraded by a chronic absence of trust on both sides. The casualty this time looks set to be the PM – who has gone to the Netherlands and then Berlin and Brussels – to urge EU leaders to give her some words that will prove to her critics in Parliament that the backstop they hate will not be forever. Her chances of success are similar to mine if I were to ascend the south face of K2 in flip-flops. What May is likely to be offered, at best, according to sources in European capitals, is “interpretative statements to the Withdrawal Agreement [which enshrines the backstop]”. They will have “legal value” but “they cannot change or contradict the Withdrawal Agreement”. Even for the EU 27 to do that, EU leaders would have to know what “interpretation” would actually secure a majority for Theresa May as and when she finally puts the Brexit plan to a Commons vote.- Robert Peston for ITV News

Stephen Bush: Why isn’t Labour moving to bring down the government? Because it would mean having to work out what it really wants on Brexit

What’s the point in a leader of the opposition who won’t oppose? That’s the question that Jeremy Corbyn is facing. In the last few weeks alone, Theresa May has been defeated on budget votes, had to abandon a flagship commitment to ban high-calibre rifles, and now has pulled the vote on the agreement she has negotiated with the European Union in order to avoid a crushing defeat in the House of Commons. Labour’s public rationale is that they won’t bring a motion of confidence forward when they have no chance of winning one, and the support of the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Caroline Lucas isn’t enough to overcome the combined might of the Conservatives and the DUP in parliament. Several high-ranking aides and some frontbenchers have gone further, claiming that they only have “one shot” to remove Theresa May thanks to the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. So what’s the row really about? It all comes back to the thorny matter of Labour’s Brexit policy, the product of fraught, late-night negotiation between the party leadership, the trade unions and ordinary members. As so often as far as Labour and Brexit are concerned, the party’s warring tribes can agree on what words to say, but disagree on what the words mean. – Stephen Bush for the Telegraph (£)

Oliver Letwin: MPs get down to nitty-gritty… and Norway points the way

In the real world, we need to find some way forward that can both be accepted by the EU and gain a majority in the Commons. Otherwise, we face either the ghastly prospect of a no-deal exit or the almost equally ghastly prospect of a second, hugely divisive referendum. Enter “Norway-plus” . This means the UK becoming a member of the European Free Trade Area (Efta), and having a customs union with the EU at least until we have negotiated a replacement customs arrangement. It’s not perfect for Leavers, because there would be freedom of movement and we would still make financial contributions; but we would have an “emergency brake” on mass migration of the kind David Cameron tried so hard to get, and our financial contribution would be much smaller. Nor is it perfect for Remainers because we wouldn’t have a vote on the rules of the single market but we would participate in the technical committees on those rules, and be consulted about them. – Oliver Letwin MP for the Evening Standard

Jon Tonge: Why it would be wrong for DUP to view May’s humiliation as victory

It represented a victory – if perhaps a temporary one – for Nigel Dodds and his Westminster colleagues. Humiliatingly, the Prime Minister was forced to abandon a vote to avoid a rout. She acknowledged it was the “Irish backdrop” that was causing most angst among parliamentarians, well beyond the DUP 10. Quite why it took until yesterday for the PM to realise her chances of winning a parliamentary majority were akin to those of the DUP taking West Belfast at the next election, one can only wonder. The Prime Minister offered precious little to assuage DUP anxieties. Going back to Brussels to seek clarification of the backstop arrangement seems a colossal waste of time. Even though Arlene Foster categorically ruled out “domestic tinkering”, the PM hopes that making the political declaration a bit ‘nicer’ for the DUP might somehow change the music. Equally, though, yesterday’s humbling of the PM did not mean DUP victory. The fracture between political and economic unionism – for decades marching in step (literally, in days of yore) – that has emerged in recent weeks is serious and potentially irreparable. All the survey evidence from LucidTalk suggests a growing shift in favour of Irish unity among Northern Ireland’s population. A border poll may not be long delayed.Theresa May got one clear message across in the Commons yesterday: that an absolutist defence of the Union may endanger its existence. – Jon Tonge for the Belfast Telegraph

Dominic Waghorn: Is Theresa May letting the Brexit clock run out to raise the stakes on her deal?

There have been smiles, handshakes, kisses and hugs for Theresa May as she has toured European capitals in a desperate bid to save the withdrawal deal. A certain amount of respect too and no doubt pity. But nothing that is going to help her, not yet. Not so far as we know. Quite the opposite. The suspicion forming is the prime minister is playing for time rather than seriously expecting significant concessions from Europe. Is she letting the clock run out, raising the stakes? When she finally brings the withdrawal agreement, amended or not, to the House Commons, the choice for MPs will be starker because the risk of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit all the more real. It also might concentrate minds in Brussels where no one wants a no-deal outcome.  – Dominic Waghorn for Sky News

Alexander Downer: No deal need not be a disaster

Surely it would be best to retain tariff and quota free trade between the UK and the EU – that’s what there is already. That can only be achieved if both sides agree to that. But if the UK and the EU can’t agree then the trade relationship reverts to WTO rules. Many say this would be “disastrous” or “catastrophic”. Really? Most of the world trade in the main according to WTO rules. Australia has several trade agreements but more generally it operates according to the WTO. That means there are some tariffs and quotas which inhibit exports but Australia can decide on its own import rules. Indeed, Australia has unilaterally reduced tariffs over the last three decades bringing in imports more cheaply than was the case when there were tariffs and quotas. Australia isn’t in the EU and it gets by. I’ve noticed MPs claiming that British trade with the EU outside of a Customs Union would mean huge delays at Dover and other ports. Well, all of Australia’s trade is outside of a Customs Union; all of it. We don’t have huge queues at our ports. Nor does the UK at ports which trade with non-EU countries like America. To the outsider familiar with trade policy, the story about the M20 being turned into a parking lot sounds like a childish scare campaign. – Alexander Downer for The Spectator

Daniel Finkelstein: May’s chosen path still leads to no-deal Brexit

To complete the withdrawal agreement process, it is not enough for the government to get parliament to approve the so-called “meaningful vote” on the principle of the deal. It must also pass, through every stage and through both houses, a withdrawal agreement bill. Such legislation is not only necessary to ensure parliament has the powers to implement the agreement, but is also formally required for the withdrawal agreement to be ratified. No bill, no deal. Now consider what this means. Whatever “clarifications” and “assurances” Theresa May might get from other European leaders in the next few days, they will not be enough for her to win the meaningful vote without some Labour backing. She must know this. Her aim is surely to reduce the rebellion on her own side so that that the support of a modest number of Labour rebels will be enough for her to get the deal over the line. There is a widespread view that the chance of having no deal is pretty low because such an outcome would be calamitous and, anyway, there is no majority for it. It’s surely too stupid a thing to allow actually to happen? That view is wrong. It is incredibly complacent. Mrs May has returned with the only deal we are going to be offered and parliament won’t pass it. This by itself means that the chances of no deal are very high indeed. Looked at another way, the things we have to do now to secure a deal are looking forbiddingly difficult. – Daniel Finkelstein for The Times (£)

Brexit in Brief

  • Carrying on in a disaster can be virtue but Theresa May must end this Carry On farce and go – Jacob Rees-Mogg for The Sun
  • Britain’s WTO Opportunity – Get Britain Out’s Joel Casement for CommentCentral
  • Bored of Brexit? How the B-word went from advertiser’s dream to branding disaster – Leon Emirali for City A.M.
  • Can May really win back MPs’ trust? – Isabel Hardman for The Spectator
  • As the Brexit ‘meaningful vote’ in Parliament is delayed – what are the next steps for Theresa May? – Daniel Capurro and Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)
  • Nigel Farage warns Tory MPs are losing patience with ‘stalemated’ May – Express