Theresa May is the first Prime Minister in 40 years to suffer three Commons defeats in a single day: Brexit News for Wednesday 5th December

Theresa May is the first Prime Minister in 40 years to suffer three Commons defeats in a single day: Brexit News for Wednesday 5th December
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Theresa May is the first Prime Minister in 40 years to suffer three Commons defeats in a single day…

Parliament passed two votes that will force the release of confidential legal advice given to the cabinet on the Brexit divorce. MPs then defeated the government to ensure that they have a say over what happens next if they reject Mrs May’s agreement with Brussels. They overshadowed her passionate defence of the agreement, her leadership and negotiation as she opened five days of debate before the crucial vote on Tuesday. “I have spent nearly two years negotiating this deal. I have lost valued colleagues. I have faced fierce criticism from all sides. If I had banged the table, walked out of the room and delivered the same deal, some might say I had done a better job — but I didn’t play to the gallery,” she said. In a message aimed squarely at Brexiteers who say that defeat in the Commons will force Brussels to offer improved terms she added: “Don’t let anyone think there’s a better deal to be won by shouting louder.” She urged the Commons “with my whole heart” to broker “an honourable compromise” that would reunite a country divided by Brexit. – The Times

…as MPs vote to demand a greater say if the Brexit deal is voted down…

MPs approved an amendment from former Tory Attorney General Dominic Grieve which aims to give them a greater say should the Brexit deal be defeated on December 11. The government lost by 22 votes – 321 to 299. If Prime Minister Theresa May loses the crunch Brexit vote next Tuesday, the Government has 21 days to come back to the Commons to outline what happens next. The vote tonight means MPs will be able to amend any future Government statement on withdrawal plans. The Labour MP added: “It is essential the House of Commons has the opportunity, if the deal is voted down next Tuesday, to give itself a voice to express a view about what happens next. “What (Dominic Grieve’s) amendment does is remove the obstacle to that and I hope the whole of the House will vote for it.” – Mirror

  • How Dominic Grieve has killed no-deal Brexit – Express

…while ministers will publish the full Brexit legal advice after the Government is defeated in contempt votes…

The government will publish its full legal advice on Theresa May’s Brexit deal after MPs found it in contempt of Parliament for not doing so. The Commons supported a motion, backed by six opposition parties, demanding full disclosure by 311 votes to 293. Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom indicated the attorney general’s full and final advice would be released on Wednesday. An attempt by ministers to refer the whole issue to a committee of MPs was earlier defeated earlier by four votes. – BBC News

  • Secret Legal Advice On Brexit To Be Published After Theresa May Suffers Historic ‘Contempt of Parliament’ Defeat – Huffington Post
  • Government forced to hand over ALL Brexit legal advice after humiliating Commons defeat sees it found in contempt of Parliament for first time ever – The Sun

…although Andrea Leadsom rejected the claim that the Government was in contempt of Parliament over Brexit advice

The Commons Leader said ministers had treated MPs “with the greatest of respect” as she argued that Attorney General Geoffrey Cox had gone out of his way to satisfy Parliament’s motion calling for the release of the full legal text provided to Cabinet on Theresa May’s deal. Mrs Leadsom, responding to the contempt motion, warned MPs they must “exercise caution in this matter”. She said: “The use of this motion has happened very rarely in the history of Parliament and I don’t think any member of this House can be in any doubt that the information that the Attorney General provided yesterday was a very frank assessment of the legal position. “The questions posed by members on all sides addressed the key issues we must all consider on the legal effect of the Withdrawal Agreement.” She added: “No honourable member could say in all honesty that the Attorney General has done anything other than treat this House with the greatest of respect, there can be no question that he or the Government has acted in a manner which is contemptuous of this House.” – Belfast Telegraph

Ministers fight for Theresa May’s deal as Commons debate continues today

Security will be the focus of the second of five days of debate in the Commons, where Tuesday’s marathon session extended into the early hours. Ministers will plough on with attempts to win over MPs on Wednesday, with eight hours of debate on the security and immigration aspects of the withdrawal agreement. Meanwhile, Mrs May is expected to continue trying to convince small groups of her MPs to back the plan in private meetings. “I promise you today that this is the very best deal for the British people and I ask you to back it in the best interest of our constituents and our country,” she told the Commons on Tuesday. The PM’s allies will make it clear to Brexit-supporting backbenchers that this could lead to a new referendum – or a deal that doesn’t end free movement – in the hope that more of them will now back what she has negotiated. But one minister confided to me that it would still be an uphill battle for Theresa May as what he described as “Brexit purists” could “mess up” her plans. – BBC News

> On BrexitCentral today: Highlights from the Meaningful Vote Debate – Day One

ECJ Advocate General opines that the UK can revoke Article 50 without consent from the EU27…

The UK should be able to unilaterally cancel its withdrawal from the EU, according to a top European law officer. The non-binding opinion was delivered by an advocate general of the European Court of Justice. A group of Scottish politicians has asked the court whether the UK can call off Brexit without the consent of other member states. While the advocate general’s opinions are not binding, the court tends to follow them in the majority of its final rulings.The ECJ statement said the advocate general had proposed that the Court of Justice should “declare that Article 50 allows the unilateral revocation of the notification of the intention to withdraw from the EU”. It added: “That possibility continues to exist until such time as the withdrawal agreement is formally concluded.” The Court of Justice (ECJ) will deliver its final ruling at a later date. – BBC News

  • Top EU law officer says UK can halt Brexit by revoking Article 50 – Sky News
  • Give Britain the chance to cancel Brexit, says ECJ advocate general – The Times (£)
  • The small print of today’s Article 50 opinion reveals yet another ECJ power grab – Charles Day for The Spectator

…which is celebrated by Remain-backing politicians

A cross-party group of politicians has said the UK can “stop the clock” on Brexit after a top European law officer said the country can unilaterally revoke its withdrawal from the EU. Alyn Smith MEP, one of those who brought the case, said the opinion issued by a European Court of Justice (ECJ) advocate general shows that “we now have a roadmap out of the Brexit shambles”. The case was brought forward in February by a group of Scottish politicians – Labour MEPs Catherine Stihler and David Martin, Joanna Cherry MP and Alyn Smith MEP of the SNP, as well as Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, together with lawyer Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project. Mr Smith said: “This is a huge win for us, and a huge step forward from the highest court in the business, and confirms what we have been hoping for: that the UK can indeed change its mind on Brexit and revoke Article 50, unilaterally. Mr Maugham also welcomed the opinion. He said: “It’s a very important moment, it makes the path to remain much easier. – Belfast Telegraph (£)

What could the Brexit legal challenge mean for Parliament?

The case was initially brought to court by a group of politicians from four parties, working in three different parliaments. The current group features Green MSPs Andy Wightman and Ross Greer, SNP MEP Alyn Smith and Labour MEPs David Martin and Catherine Stihler. According to the Good Law Project, the ECJ has three options. It could rule Article 50 is not reversible, that Parliament can reverse its decision to leave up until the date of departure if the European Council agrees, or the ECJ can agree with Mr Sanchez-Bordona in saying the UK can revoke Article 50 without needing permission from the other member states. The campaigners say it means the UK Parliament will get clear guidance from the European Court of Justice about the precise powers open to it as it votes on the deal. Scotland’s most senior judge made the different roles of the parliament and court clear when he ruled in September that the case could go to Europe. He said the ECJ would not be advising Parliament on “what it must or ought to do”. Instead, he said it would be “merely declaring the law as part of its central function”. How Parliament chooses to react to that judgment is entirely a matter for it. – Daily Echo

May’s Brexit deal could destroy Britain, says former Bank of England Governor

The former governor of the Bank of England launched a blistering attack on the government this morning, likening Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal to the appeasement of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Lord King of Lothbury, who ran the Bank from 2003 to 2013 and is a Brexit supporter, said that the compromise plan was the worst of all worlds and that Britain was now facing a deep political crisis. In an opinion piece for Bloomberg, Lord King said that the government would never be forgiven if it approved the deal, which was the result of “incompetence of a high order”. “There have been three episodes in modern history when the British political class let down the rest of the country: in the 1930s, with appeasement; in the 1970s, when the British economy was the “sick man” of Europe and the government saw its role as managing decline; and now in the turmoil that has followed the Brexit referendum. In all three cases, the conventional wisdom of the day was wrong.”- The Times (£)

Former Chief Whip becomes latest Tory loyalist to reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal

Former Tory chief whip Mark Harper has declared that he will vote against Theresa May’s Brexit deal in next week’s meaningful vote. Writing in the Telegraph, he warned that the agreement “compromises the integrity of our country” and breaks Conservative manifesto promises. His comments are a further blow to the Prime Minister who is braced for a second day of Brexit debate in the Commons after losing three crucial votes last night. Mr Harper, who served as chief whip under David Cameron, wrote: “The Cabinet’s proposals are not acceptable because they threaten the integrity of our country, keep us trapped indefinitely in a customs union and leave us in a weak negotiating position for our future relationship.” He criticised the Northern Irish backstop arrangement, saying “the EU’s proposal would undermine the UK common market and threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK by creating a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea, and no UK Prime Minister could ever agree to it”. The Forest of Dean MP added: “I’m just very disappointed that as a loyal MP I’ve found myself in this situation that in order to keep to the promises we made just last year in the general election I’ve been forced to vote against the cabinet’s proposals. “Keeping promises in politics is important and I think many colleagues also feel they have been misled.” – PoliticsHome

We will not repay £1bn if Brexit vote passes and Tory pact ends, says DUP’s Sammy Wilson

In an interview with the Press Association, Mr Wilson said the “threat” to Northern Ireland would be removed if the deal was defeated, in which case the DUP would be “committed to supporting the Government throughout the life of this Parliament”. And he dismissed suggestions his party would consider abandoning the Government if there was a confidence vote, saying that there would be “no reason” to support it if Mrs May’s deal failed to get through the Commons. Mr Wilson said: “Ironically, voting down a deal is probably more likely to ensure the confidence and supply arrangement goes on… “It may well be that this could go through. If it goes through and she persists with this deal then the confidence and supply arrangement is finished, because we couldn’t possibly support a Government that was persisting in breaking up the Union. “But our focus at the minute is on making sure that the deal doesn’t go through, and if the deal doesn’t go through, then the arrangements we would have with the Conservatives – well, why would we break it?” – Belfast Telegraph

Norway option is worst of all Brexit outcomes for UK, say EU sources

Senior officials say the UK would have to follow the relevant parts of the EU rulebook in full and would not be allowed to delay the adoption of laws, a cause of perennial tension between Brussels and EFTA countries. Given the size and proximity of the British economy, EU member states would regard the competition risks too great, according to one EU senior source, who added: “With the UK we cannot accept such a slippage.” Setting on the path towards a Norwegian-style status does not require any change in the Brexit 585-page withdrawal treaty or the non-binding political declaration, which leaves Briain’s options open. The EU would be ready to craft new language on EEA-EFTA membership to help the UK government, if necessary. Yet EU officials have long been sceptical about the UK choosing the Norway option, which curbs sovereignty. “Norway is the worst of all outcomes for the UK because that is Brexit in name only,” said the senior EU source. – Guardian

BBC cancels plans for Sunday night Brexit debate

The BBC has cancelled plans for a Sunday night televised Brexit debate between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn after Labour objected to the format. The move, which will allow viewers to watch the scheduled final episode of David Attenborough’s Dynasties programme on BBC One, still leaves open the possibility of a similar debate on ITV this weekend. The prime minister proposed the debate on her deal with the EU last week, prompting days of discussions between political parties and the broadcasters over who would host the programme. Labour backed a proposal by ITV, which consisted of a simple head-to-head format hosted by Julie Etchingham, while Downing Street preferred the BBC’s offer of a debate featuring a panel of experts and representatives of smaller parties.- BBC News

  • BBC fails to agree Brexit debate format – Politico

Overseas investment into the UK at highest ever level

The UK remains a top destination for investment, with new figures showing that inward stock is at the highest level since records began. International Trade Secretary and President of the Board of Trade, Dr Liam Fox MP, said, “As we prepare to leave the European Union, foreign investors from around the globe are as confident as ever investing in the UK. The significant rise in the amount of investment from Asia is evidence that the growing economies are important partners for the UK, relationships which I am committed to developing and deepening. Foreign Direct Investment has an overwhelmingly positive and transformative effect on the UK economy, bringing jobs, prosperity and growth. My international economic department is focused on ensuring that the effects are felt in every part of the country.” – GOV.UK

Scotch Whisky Association backs Prime Minister’s Brexit deal

It urged MPs to take its position into account in the critical Commons vote next week. The industry body published a Brexit briefing, stating: “On balance, the draft Withdrawal Agreement and accompanying Political Declaration on the Future UK-EU Relationship stand up well against the Scotch Whisky industry’s Brexit priorities. “The SWA therefore supports approval of the two negotiated texts by the UK and European Parliaments. “If the deal is rejected, this will create considerable uncertainty for the industry and greatly increase the potential of a no-deal Brexit in March 2019.” The announcement follows leading Scottish businessman Sir Ian Wood saying Theresa May’s deal is “workable” and better than the current situation with Europe. – Belfast Telegraph

No-deal Brexit could send food prices soaring, claims Bank of England Governor

Bank boss Mark Carney told MPs prices would soar ‘quite quickly’ after Brexit because of increased tariffs, import costs and the plummeting value of the pound. The 10 per cent price hike would be a result of ‘the most extreme’ no deal scenario, he said, but that even in an ‘orderly’ no deal withdrawal, food prices could rise by at least 6 per cent. Mr Carney’s warning comes after the Bank’s apocalyptic Brexit forecasts last week, which said the worst-case no deal scenario would send Britain into a recession worse than the financial crisis. It warned under no deal, growth could fall by up to 8 per cent, the pound would crash, inflation would soar, interest rates jump, unemployment skyrocket and house prices could go down by nearly a third. – Metro

Toyota warns No Deal could cost £10m a day as it shifts jobs to Belgium

Tony Walker, deputy managing director of the Japanese motor maker, told MPs the company would have to “stop-start production” for months at its plants because of chaos in its supply chain. The problems would not only stem from extra checks or delays at Calais, but the fact trucks bringing in parts may not arrive “in sequence”. The warning came as car industry chiefs said over one-in-ten companies had relocated part of their business to the EU so far. Mr Walker said: “We do not just have the 50 trucks, we have to have them in sequence, it is no good if we have 49 trucks and truck 17 is missing.” He arrived: “So without the withdrawal agreement and withdrawing with a no deal, we would have stop start production for weeks, possibly months. “It would be very, very difficult to us to cope with. The value of the cars we can make is £10 million a day, if we lose that sort of value, it’s very, very challenging for us.” Mr Walker added that ‘type approval’ or testing of production samples the new Corolla had already moved from Toyota’s plant in Burnaston in the East Midlands to another in Belgium. “I’m sorry about that,” he said. – The Sun

> John Redwood MP today on BrexitCentral: Those scare-mongering about trading with the EU on WTO terms misunderstand how modern factories operate

Mervyn King: May’s Brexit deal is a betrayal of Britain

When Tony Blair and Boris Johnson unite in their condemnation of the “deal” under which Theresa May proposes that the U.K. should leave the EU, you know something has gone badly wrong. The withdrawal agreement is less a carefully crafted diplomatic compromise and more the result of incompetence of a high order. I have friends who are passionate Remainers and others who are passionate Leavers. None of them believe this deal makes any sense. It is time to think again, and the first step is to reject a deal that is the worst of all worlds. If this deal is not abandoned, I believe that the U.K. will end up abrogating it unilaterally — regardless of the grave damage that would do to Britain’s reputation and standing. Vassal states do not go gently into that good night. They rage. If this parliament bequeaths to its successors the choice between a humiliating submission and the abrogation of a binding international treaty, it will not be forgiven — and will not deserve to be. – Former Bank of England Governor Lord King of Lothbury for Bloomberg

John Redwood: Brexit no deal? It’s no problem – we’ll keep trading and be better off

The establishment economists have let us down badly. They helped create the last two big recessions that hit jobs and incomes in 1992 and 2008, with the former collapse resulting directly from the EU policy of mismanaging the pound in their currency system forcing us into cripplingly high interest rates. They got their forecasts of what would happen if we voted to leave the European Union hopelessly wrong. I have asked the Government if any big company has cancelled contracts, with no response that they have. If we just leave we will have the £39 billion withdrawal gift to the EU to spend on our own priorities. Why don’t they put that into their economic forecasts? That is a near two percent gain to national income and output. We will expand our public services, hiring more nurses, doctors and teachers, and accelerating improvements in our transport system to cut congestion. On my forecast, if we assume some loss of exports, some increase in domestic substitutes, a gain from more business confidence once we are out, and the big gains from tax cuts and more spending, we end up better off out. We should see a gain of around one per cent of national income and output when you add it all up. That does of course assume we have a government that believes in Brexit, gets on with it, and fires up the UK economy with the right policies as soon as we are free to do so. – John Redwood MP for the Express

Mark Harper: I cannot support a Brexit deal that would clip our wings when we should be spreading them

This is an article I never wanted to write, having been loyal to my Party and its leadership for my entire 13 years in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister said that the EU’s proposal would “undermine the UK common market and threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK by creating a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea, and no UK Prime Minister could ever agree to it”. However, regrettably, the Withdrawal Agreement that is currently in front of us does exactly this. Personally, I don’t think any UK Prime Minister should agree to such an arrangement, and I am not prepared to do so. This not only compromises the integrity of our country, but also breaches a promise in the Conservative manifesto, that the Conservative Party would “ensure that as we leave the EU no new barriers to living and doing business within our own union are created.” Brexit should be an opportunity for our country to spread its wings, not have them clipped. – Mark Harper MP for the Telegraph (£)

Lee Rowley: Brexit is an economic prize for the taking if MPs reject this deal and go for independence

The economic impact of Brexit should be one of the most important debates to have. Instead it has become one of the most artificial, polarising and facile. It shouldn’t be like this. Reasonable people on both sides can see that Brexit presents both economic opportunities and challenges – both immediately and then, more importantly, for the long-term and the next generation. To take advantage of those opportunities, we could start by cutting through the current rancid (social) media fog. Economics is not a science. Estimates are not facts. Statistics need to be contextualised. Assumptions need to be understood. The last time economists tried to guess what would happen with Brexit, just before the vote, they weren’t hugely successful. While we should absolutely take heed of what experts are saying, they are not Gods. This is no way to debate leaving the European Union. So, enough with the Project Fear scare stories on economics. Most people know there are careful considerations needed in the short-term to steer the UK through the next couple of years. If the Government was focusing properly on Brexit, instead of this doomed deal, they would be looking at that. But let’s also look to the future; our future prosperity is in our hands not the European Union’s. Let’s take it. – Lee Rowley MP for the Telegraph (£)

Julia Lopez: The PM’s deal slithers us into an indefinite limbo and is a deceit on the electorate

Let’s get on with it,” concluded the Prime Minister in a recent letter to MPs selling the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. It is a seductive sentiment, and one which the Government hopes will persuade exasperated voters and equally weary MPs to unite behind the deal in time for a happy Christmas. Behind the allure, however, is a starker threat to Conservative MPs. Accept this deeply unattractive deal with the EU or take the finger-jabbing blame of your constituents for whatever scenario plays out next (a sour pick’n’mix of No Brexit, General Election, Corbyn Government, No Deal or Second Referendum, according to distaste). The desire to have an independent global trading policy is being portrayed as the fanatical preoccupation of a hardcore of Conservative Brexiteers. In truth, it ought to be the aim of every Conservative MP who wants to deliver our manifesto, maintain the electorate’s faith in democracy and carve an ambitious new role for the UK in the world. By killing the prospect of our own regulatory and customs tax policy, the Withdrawal Agreement not only stifles our ability to design the kind of dynamic trade strategy that was one of Brexit’s greatest appeals but represents a deceit that voters will not easily forget. – Julia Lopez MP for the Telegraph (£)

Nigel Dodds: Attorney general should be urging MPs to bin the backstop

The attorney general Geoffrey Cox recognises that the backstop is deeply unattractive and unsatisfactory therefore rather than recommending it to the United Kingdom, he should be urging MPs to ‘bin the backstop.’ People voted to take back control of their money, laws and borders. It is utterly outrageous that this Withdrawal Agreement could now place control in the hands of lawyers and international courts rather than in our own sovereign parliament. The Withdrawal Agreement is a bad deal for the United Kingdom. The DUP will continue to use its influence in the House to argue for a better deal. One which does not mean we take rules from Brussels with no democratic controls over making them and one where Northern Ireland does not diverge away from the rules of our main market in Great Britain. – Nigel Dodds MP for the News Letter

The Sun: Theresa May’s defeats were huge blows to her Government and possibly Brexit

She has lost the DUP on whose votes she has relied since her election disaster. She has all but lost control of Brexit too. If and when her EU deal is defeated, Parliament can enforce an even softer one or even try to foist a second referendum on an already enraged public. The Sun warned the PM — yet she chose to call the DUP’s bluff, just as she did with Parliament over publishing the Attorney General’s Brexit legal advice. She has acted as if running a confident, healthy majority Government instead of taking care to keep her fractured minority and DUP allies together. The Brexit deal vote next week will, we predict, end the same grim way. Likewise a second attempt. The PM’s best hope is surely to make the deal acceptable to them, by ditching the toxic Irish backstop or inserting a route out of the restrictive customs union it sets up. Admittedly, we cannot see the EU considering it. But who knows? But voters will remember a Labour Party that put its own interests first at a critical point in our national history. And which reneged on its manifesto and backed a second referendum, as it will. As for Mrs May, we can only admire once again her calm determination even after her own Government was found in contempt of Parliament. She had a decent riposte too: that Parliament will be in contempt of the people if it does not honour the referendum result. – The Sun says

Ross Clark: The Article 50 ruling is good news for Remainers – and hard Brexiteers

How Remainers are feasting on the ruling (although not final judgement) from the European Court of Justice suggesting that Britain could unilaterally revoke Article 50 at any point up until 29 March next year and remain in the EU under existing terms. If the final judgement confirms the ruling it will destroy the argument that Michael Gove made at the weekend – that reversing our decision to stay in the EU would lead to vastly inferior terms, the loss of Britain’s rebate and so on. It will also heap huge pressure on Theresa May if she loses next week’s seemingly doomed vote on her withdrawal bill. While Downing Street has described the ECJ ruling as hypothetical, she will have to fend off a reinvigorated campaign for a second referendum. But hang on a minute, is the ruling really only good news for Remainers? On the contrary, it should give encouragement to Brexiteers who want to leave the EU properly, and without being tied into some kind of customs arrangement which prevents us from developing our own trade policy. In trying to make the case for her deal, Theresa May has relied heavily on the argument that it is the only form of Brexit that is practically possible. We can’t allow ourselves to drift towards a ‘no deal’ withdrawal, she asserts, because it would create too much havoc. – Ross Clark for The Spectator

Chris White: May faces a huge task – and she has made it harder for herself by neglecting the Whips’ Office

The Prime Minister has decided to go for a Brownian masochism strategy – a tour of the four nations, a TV debate, meeting business leaders in Number 10. Yet while her attempt to increase public support for the deal may yet succeed, it is not in the public domain where the vote will be won and lost. Her electorate is not the 38 million people who can vote in a general election, but the 639 MPs eligible to vote on Tuesday evening. MPs are just like any cross section of society, and it’s just the same with the ‘rebels’ who are planning to vote against the Government. Some can be persuaded to change their minds on policy grounds, others that to vote against the Government will let Jeremy Corbyn into power. Many have ambitions for higher office, more still have local constituency concerns such as the need for a local bypass or improvements to a local hospital. A few will be dazzled by promises not of advancement, but knighthoods or peerages. What is damning is that we have known for two years that this vote is coming, and no effort has been made to retain or bring back any experienced whips in the office for what is the most crucial vote the Government could face. – Chris White for ConservativeHome

Tom Harris: Revoke Article 50? That would mean ignoring the referendum result completely

If, as seems likely, the court rules in support of its advocate general next week (after the vote on Mrs May’s withdrawal deal), then those of us who are not lawyers but who pay attention to politics and who therefore assumed that Article 50 could be unilaterally binned by the UK alone will be proved right. But how does that help the Remain case? Even if a majority of MPs were willing to revoke Article 50 (doubtful), the legislative process remains in the control of the government. Is Mrs May or any likely successor willing to tear their party and the country to shreds in order to… what? Ignore the 2016 referendum result? There is a way to revoke Article 50, and it’s the same one that has always been available: appoint a new prime minister and government that supports defying the 17.4 million who voted Leave. The current government could have done so at any point since February 2017 when Article 50 was triggered. So go on: make the Remainers’ day. Give in and let’s see what happens to our political classes then. – Tom Harris for the Telegraph (£)

Sam Coates: Leavers want renegotiation on backstop

Cabinet Brexiteers are set to press Theresa May to return to Brussels next week to try to negotiate a unilateral exit mechanism from the Northern Ireland insurance policy, something that has already been rebuffed by the EU. Some, including Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, have been telling friends that they are likely to ask Mrs May to attempt once again to negotiate such an exit mechanism, using the scale of the expected parliamentary defeat as a mandate to reopen talks. It comes despite cabinet being told yesterday that the EU would not re-open the deal even if there were a heavy defeat. Andrea Leadsom, leader of the Commons, would support reopening the deal but thinks that it is impractical because the EU would say no and she wants the cabinet to start focusing only on “no deal” preparations. The mood at yesterday’s cabinet was described by one source as “quite fraught and nervous”. They added: “There is a general desire among ministers for the PM to start showing more of her hand on what Plan B will be.” Some government sources believe that calling a second referendum on her deal is Mrs May’s only way out now. – Sam Coates for The Times (£)

Charlie Cooper: Theresa May’s day of Brexit losses

Theresa May stood up in the House of Commons at 5:46 p.m. Tuesday to formally begin a weeklong Brexit debate that will culminate in a vote to ratify — or reject — the Brexit deal she agreed with Brussels last month. In a crowded House of Commons, May looked isolated as she made a final plea for her deal. If the vote is lost, she will face calls from Labour to resign — and it was possible to discern a valedictory tone in her statement. It’s now more likely than ever that the only way forward is one supported by parliament — whether it’s an attempt to renegotiate with Brussels (as fruitless as that seems), a general election forced by a successful vote of no confidence (as Labour has threatened), or a second referendum on EU membership. – Charlie Copper for Politico

Laura Kuenssberg: Brexit debate: Parliament ‘taking back control’

Whether it is the decision on whether the government is in contempt of Parliament (in other words, in lots of embarrassing trouble for ignoring the demand to publish the full Brexit legal advice), or MPs asking for the right to tell ministers what to do if there is a second attempt by the government to get Theresa May’s Brexit compromise deal through the Commons (the attempt by Dominic Grieve today, that could take ‘no deal’ off the table for good), or what seems now, the likely rejection of Theresa May’s agreement with the EU next week, those manoeuvres, those sub-plots in the Brexit drama, amount to one central thing – slowly but surely, Parliament grasping the levers of power – one might even say, taking back control. – Laura Kuenssberg for BBC News

Matthew Lynn: Relax – a no-deal Brexit will be fine

In the run-up to the vote, we have already heard warnings about the cost to business and the economy of not taking the deal the prime minister has negotiated because the only other alternative is nothing at all – and that would impose horrendous costs on the economy and business. But there is a point that is usually overlooked. In fact, businesses have already made plenty of preparations for “no deal”. And, most importantly, those preparations are largely one-off costs. While leaving the EU will undoubtedly do some damage to the British economy, and cost some money, by now the hit has largely been taken. After Christmas it won’t make much difference whether we leave with a deal or not. – Matthew Lynn for MoneyWeek

Thomas Roulet: Voters just want Brexit done, so Remainers should be wary of trying to stop it in another vote

As much as I want to see a People’s Vote putting an end to Brexit, the behaviours I study as a social scientist makes me extremely cautious – to not say deeply pessimistic – about the outcome of a People’s Vote. The reality is that British voters have committed to Brexit in June 2016 and all political energy in the last two years has been focused on shaping this deal rather than “on the many other important issues facing [Britons] here at home” – in Theresa May’s very own words. The Prime Minister is in fact playing on that by repeating over and over that her constituents want her to “Get on with it”. Indeed, last August, already 60% voters just wanted to be done with Brexit. But the rhetoric around the current Brexit deal on the table capitalizes on this itching desire to move on. – Thomas Roulet for the Telegraph (£)

Telegraph: The PM’s Brexit plan has crumbled into a parliamentary shambles

The Prime Minister then opened the debate with a powerful speech setting out her arguments in favour of an agreement that at the moment seems to have little chance of getting through Parliament. Despite her best endeavours, her authority is draining away.Yesterday’s events were emblematic of the mess the Government is in – assailed on all sides and buffeted by events over which it has no control. The plan was for Mrs May, having secured a deal with the EU, to persuade her colleagues of its efficacy, thereby securing a narrow win. But it began to go awry last Monday when the extent of the opposition on her own benches became apparent. In truth, it began to go awry when Mrs May lost her Commons majority last June. – Telegraph (£) editorial

Mark Wallace: Tory activists flatly refuse to deliver leaflets backing May’s EU deal

It is a peculiar situation when a Party leadership sends out campaign material to its grassroots in the hope that members who mostly disagree with a policy will agree to deliver leaflets urging voters to lobby in favour of that policy, as a way to dissuade a growing number of that Party’s own MPs from opposing the policy in a Commons vote. I have asked CCHQ how much Party money is being spent on this campaign, how many leaflets have been printed, and how many associations have agreed or refused to take part, but they have declined to release any of those numbers. Instead, they have issued the following short statement: “CCHQ routinely supports, promotes and campaigns for Conservative Government policy.” Meanwhile, large numbers of these new leaflets seem destined to head straight into the recycling bin. – Mark Wallace for ConservativeHome

Brexit in Brief

  •  With a heavy heart, I am leaving Ukip. It is not the Brexit party our nation so badly needs – Nigel Farage MEP for the Telegraph (£)
  • Brexit betrayal: How Macron and Merkel shot down PM’s EU demands – Tom Evans for the Express
  • When does Parliament vote on the Brexit deal? The ‘meaningful vote’ date and next steps explained – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)
  • Ministers are asking for my vote next week. But I’m asking them for a vision – now. – Johnny Mercer MP for ConservativeHome
  • Wetherspoon boss to visit Black Country to push for ‘no deal’ Brexit – Express and Star
  • Guy Verhofstadt brands Brexit voters “stupid” – The Parliament magazine