Cabinet on standby for Brexit breakthrough but Theresa May says deal 'will not be at any cost': Brexit News for Wednesday 7th November

Cabinet on standby for Brexit breakthrough but Theresa May says deal 'will not be at any cost': Brexit News for Wednesday 7th November

Cabinet on standby for Brexit breakthrough but Theresa May says deal ‘will not be at any cost’…

Theresa May has told her Cabinet she is confident of agreeing a Brexit deal – but insisted that it “will not be done at any cost” to the UK. The Prime Minister said the withdrawal agreement is “95%” complete as hopes rose that a breakthrough could be imminent on how to maintain an open border in Ireland. Mrs May’s top team met for almost three hours in Downing Street to discuss the current state of play in the Brexit negotiations. And they were told by the Prime Minister to “stand by your diaries”, with the possibility of an emergency Cabinet meeting taking place later this week to sign off on a deal. That would then allow an extraordinary EU Council summit to take place by the end of November to formally agree it, teeing up a crunch Commons vote in December. – PoliticsHome

  • PM tells ministers she wants deal but ‘not at any cost’ – BBC News
  • Theresa May tells Cabinet she will not accept Brexit deal ‘at any cost’ – Evening Standard

…as ministers require more time to consider issues relating to the Irish backstop…

The prime minister’s spokesperson said ministers needed more time to consider possible mechanisms that will prevent the UK from being tied to the European Union through a backstop arrangement to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland. May’s spokesperson told reporters that while 95 per cent of the Withdrawal Agreement had been concluded, there were a number of issues relating to the Northern Ireland backstop “that we still need to work through and these are the most difficult”. – City A.M.

…with Michael Gove demanding that the Cabinet be given the full legal advice on the issue…

During a Cabinet meeting in London on Tuesday, ministers including the pro-Brexit campaigner Michael Gove demanded to see the full government legal advice underpinning a plan for resolving the deadlock in the U.K.’s negotiations with the European Union.While the gathering broke up without agreement after two hours, May’s officials are considering calling a second meeting — potentially to sign off the proposal — later this week, people familiar with the matter said. One person suggested an emergency Cabinet meeting could even be held on Saturday in the hope of securing a deal with the EU in Brussels before the end of the month. – Bloomberg

  • ‘No government has ever published legal advice’ says Damian Green amid calls for backstop advice to be revealed – talkRADIO

Brussels reportedly to offer border compromise in Brexit boost for Theresa May…

Brussels is preparing to back a compromise proposal on Ireland to resolve the last big sticking point in the Brexit negotiations. Senior EU figures have indicated that they are prepared to offer Theresa May an “independent mechanism” by which Britain could end a temporary customs arrangement with the bloc. Both sides are attempting to agree a backstop position that would avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic in the event that a solution cannot be agreed during the transition period, which will start after Brexit in March. Mrs May wants to keep open the option for Britain to maintain customs and regulatory alignment with the EU after this period, to prevent a hard border until a long-term fix can be found. “The essence of a backstop is that it is not time-limited,” an EU source said. “But if the idea was a review mechanism, then that would imply mutual decision-making on the future. In that case it is a revision clause, not a termination clause.” – The Times (£)

  • Leo Varadkar seeks to smooth way to Brexit deal – FT (£)

…but Michel Barnier dismisses talk of a backstop compromise as he warns ‘we are not yet there’

Michel Barnier has cast doubt on reports that Brussels could offer the UK an escape route from the Irish backstop, an EU demand which could keep Britain in the bloc’s customs territory after Brexit. After reports that Brussels was preparing to back a compromise deal creating an independent mechanism that could give the UK a way out of a temporary customs arrangement with the EU after Brexit, the EU’s chief negotiator told reporters in Bratislava: “I don’t see what you’re speaking about, a review clause. First of all, don’t believe everything you read. We are not yet there. We have more work to do.” He said, “ I don’t want to go into the details, we’re willing to consider improvements to the backstop but we need to reach an agreement for this backstop and we need a genuine backstop, an operational backstop to the point. “Backstop means backstop. And a backstop cannot have a time-limit.” Mr Barnier also warned that unless there was a breakthrough on the Irish issue, there would be no Brexit deal. – Telegraph (£)

Theresa May still aiming to give MPs a vote on a deal before Christmas…

Theresa May is aiming to give MPs a vote on both a Brexit withdrawal agreement and outline future trading relations with the EU before Christmas. But in a bid to reassure Brexiteers that she will not make too many concessions to get a quick deal with Brussels, she told ministers at cabinet that she would not agree terms “at any costs”. The prime minister discussed the timetable around Brexit negotiations and options relating to the vexed issue of what happens to the Irish border with her team of top ministers on Tuesday. But it came as hopes of getting the withdrawal agreement signed off with European leaders at a special summit in November appeared to be receding, with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier saying an agreement on the Irish border was still “not close”. – Independent

…as a leaked plan to sell a Brexit deal emerges

As a PR plan it is certainly ambitious, featuring endorsements from world leaders and an interview with Theresa May by David Dimbleby. However, Downing Street insists a leaked “communications grid” supposedly intended to sell a Brexit strategy does not reflect its thinking. Details of the plan, seen by the Guardian among others, lay out an apparent timetable for the month, from a cabinet meeting on Tuesday to a House of Commons vote on the deal it says will take place on 27 November. The days between are filled with a list of media events and supportive statements, beginning with a triumphant announcement from the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, that the cabinet has agreed a deal. “The narrative is going to be measured success, that this is good for everyone, but won’t be all champagne corks popping,” the leaked note says. Among later events in the schedule are a speech by May to the CBI conference, which the leaked planner says would argue the agreement “brings the country back together, now is the time for us all to unite behind it for the good of all our futures etc”. – Guardian

  • In full: The notes of apparent plan to sell Brexit deal – BBC News

Downing Street launches Brexit ‘business councils’

Prime Minister Theresa May has formed five new business councils to advise on how to create the best business conditions in the UK after Brexit. Big names on the forums include Tesco boss Dave Lewis, ITV chief Carolyn McCall, entrepreneur James Timpson, and CBI head Carolyn Fairbairn. Each council will meet three times a year, twice with Mrs May and once with a senior cabinet minister. They will provide advice and policy recommendations on big business issues. Each group will be co-chaired by two business leaders and have “around ten members representing core sectors of the UK economy, as well as a representative from the UK’s key business groups. Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Brexit presents a huge opportunity to build a better, stronger economy for people all over the country. “So I’ve asked these new councils to advise us on the opportunities and challenges facing business as we shape the UK for the future.” – BBC News

DUP chief whip says UK is headed for no-deal Brexit

The Ulster Unionists who prop up the UK prime minister’s government have suggested Theresa May is “heading for a no deal” in the Brexit negotiations. Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the Democratic Unionist party chief whip, made the comments on Twitter as exit talks intensify. Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, on Monday tweeted: “The Irish position remains consistent and v clear that a “time-limited backstop” or a backstop that could be ended by UK unilaterally would never be agreed to by IRE or EU.” – FT (£)

Labour says it will vote down a ‘blind Brexit’ deal with no details about future relationship

Labour will vote down any Brexit deal that does not contain details about what kind of trade deal Britain will have with the EU, Sir Keir Starmer has said. The party’s shadow Brexit secretary is travelling to Brussels on Wednesday for meetings with senior EU officials where he is expected to make clear that the opposition party is opposed to a so-called “blind Brexit”. Any Brexit deal will include two elements. Firstly, a withdrawal agreement – solving separation issues like Ireland, the divorce bill and citizens rights. But Theresa May has also promised a separate “political declaration” – a detailed outline of what Britain’s future trade relationship with the EU will look like, mostly on trade. – Independent

  • Labour will vote down ‘blind’ Brexit deal, Sir Keir Starmer warns PM – Sky News
    Keir Starmer warns Theresa May: Labour will vote down a ‘blind Brexit’ deal – PoliticsHome

Emmanuel Macron calls for creation of a ‘true European army’ to defend against Russia and the US

Emmanuel Macron has called for the creation of a “true European army” to allow the EU defend itself from threats ranging from Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin. The French president has pushed for closer EU defence union since coming to power last year but has been so far met with limited success amid foot-dragging by other member states. “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” Mr Macron told France’s Europe 1 radio in an interview. “When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s Euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security.” The French president continued: “We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army.” – Independent
France’s Macron pushes for ‘true European army’ – BBC News

  • ‘EU lied for 50 years’: Farage attacks Macron’s plans to build a ‘true European army’ – Express

Arron Banks’s firm and Leave.EU face £135k fines over data misuse…

Brexit campaign group Leave.EU and the Eldon Insurance company, owned by Arron Banks, face fines totalling £135,000 over breaches of data laws, a report from the information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, has confirmed. The report, released on the commissioner’s website, stated that Leave.EU and Eldon – trading as GoSkippy – were each being fined £60,000 for “serious breaches” of the law that governs electronic marketing. A separate £15,000 fine has been levied against Leave.EU for a further breach of email regulations in the opposite direction, sending 300,000 emails to Eldon customers with a Leave.EU newsletter. – Guardian

  • Brexit campaign group Leave.EU and Arron Banks insurance firm fined £135,000 for breaking data laws – Independent
  • Brexit campaign group backed by Arron Banks ‘is fined £60,000’ for using details of insurance customers – Mail Online

…but the Information Commissioner crushes Carole Cadwalladr’s conspiracy theories

Guido readers will be well-versed in Carole Cadwalladr’s various conspiracy theories about how a secret nexus of data companies conspired to rig the Brexit vote. In an inconvenient twist for the Orwell Prize-winning journalist, the report out today from the Information Commissioner’s Office has crushed most of her central claims. Carole claimed that Leave.EU was working with Cambridge Analytica. The ICO found that there was “no evidence of a working relationship between Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU” beyond “preliminary discussions”… Meanwhile Vote Leave was given a clean bill of health for its data work with AIQ – Guido Fawkes

UKIP leader lambasts UK MEPs wanting Article 50 extension

The leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party called fellow British MEPs “a bunch of snivelling quislings who are desperate to keep their seats on the EU Parliamentary gravy train.” Gerard Batten was responding to an email, seen by Politico, sent to all members of the European Parliament calling for “an extension of the Article 50 timetable.” Fourteen MEPs from across the political spectrum wrote: “Despite our political differences, as U.K. MEPs we are united around one fact: if you wish to allow the U.K. to remain within our EU family, then all ways to do so will necessitate an extension of the Article 50 timetable. Whilst we acknowledge that many details of the next few months remain unclear, it is in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and respect that we ask you, our European friends, to start thinking about this possibility and be ready for this eventuality.” Batten wasn’t impressed. – Politico

Government risking people’s health by failing to guarantee safety of chemicals after Brexit, peers claim

The government is putting British citizens’ health at risk by failing to ensure the safety of dangerous chemicals after Brexit, a damning parliamentary report has warned. Ministers have “not done enough” to secure the UK’s participation in the EU’s chemical regulation scheme or find an alternative once Britain leaves the EU, creating a “huge cliff edge” for companies that risk losing access to £18bn of exports, a committee of peers said. The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee said the government’s proposals for a UK chemicals database were “not credible” and raised “serious legal concerns”. As a result, the committee said, there is an ongoing threat to human and environmental health, and a risk of chaos for businesses that rely on the thousands of chemicals imported from the EU. – Independent

James Forsyth: Second Cabinet likely this week to decide on Brexit backstop

It looks like today’s [Tuesday’s] Cabinet will only be the first of two meetings this week. I understand that another one, which may well make an actual decision, is now likely to be held later in the week. Today’s was significant for an intervention from Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general. Cox’s contribution was about balancing risks. He, I am told, did say that Northern Ireland would be under various, different regulations under the current proposals. But he said that a unilateral withdrawal mechanism—which a large number of Cabinet ministers again backed—wouldn’t be a panacea to all the UK’s problems in the Brexit talks. – James Forsyth for The Spectator

Greg Hands: Remaining in a customs union beyond 2020 would be unacceptable to many Conservative MPs – and here’s why

It’s been suspected since the very beginning of the Brexit negotiations that the EU would be most satisfied with a Brexit deal which binds the UK as closely as possible to its current arrangements, but without the UK having a seat at the table after next March, and for the UK to pay as much as possible for this diminished arrangement. A key part of this goal has been for the UK to be bound into a customs union. Note that this is beyond what even Norway or Switzerland have, which are both outside of the EU Customs Union. As I have written before on this site, the only significant country which is outside of the EU, but in a customs union with the EU, is Turkey. Turkey ended up in this very unsatisfactory state because it thought at the time (the mid-1990s), it was on its way into the EU. We, on the other hand, have voted to leave. – Greg Hands MP for ConservativeHome

Andrew Green: Norway, for now or forever, isn’t the way to travel. It would mean no real control of migration from Europe

A chorus has developed in recent weeks in favour of a “Norway-based” alternative to the Brexit negotiations which seem to have become heavily bogged down. Nick Boles, with the support of Nicky Morgan and the cautious backing of William Hague, favours “Norway for Now”, under which membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) would be temporary while something better was negotiated. Frank Field has made a similar suggestion. Others favour “Norway forever”, which would mean permanent membership of the EEA. Both these groups seek to skate over a vital weakness in their proposals – namely, the absence of any effective means of controlling continued immigration from the EU. This is an issue that has certainly not gone away. EU net migration peaked at 190,000 in the year leading up to the referendum. It has since declined to about 90,000 per year – mostly, it is thought, due to uncertainty over the implementation of Brexit. Nevertheless, its scale and perhaps above all, the fact that we have absolutely no control of it make it a continuing major concern for the public. – Lord Green of Deddington for ConservativeHome

Peter Foster: The final Brexit negotiation boils down to this: will the UK ever be able to quit the dreaded Irish backstop?

The big debate over Brexit now comes down to this: if the Irish backstop kicks in and the UK finds itself in a ‘temporary’ customs union with the EU, who will ultimately get to decide whether or not the UK can ever leave? Brexiteers are deeply anxious that the UK will get trapped in this customs union, unable to set its own tariff rates and strike trade deals around the world as an independent country. They argue that no serious country would give up the right to determine its own trade policy, handing the keys to its own future to a foreign trading power – the European Union. Government sources indicate that Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general, is briefing the cabinet on Tuesday on two different approaches to solving this problem: a unilateral right to walk away, or a dispute resolution mechanism, with an independent arbitration body. – Peter Foster for the Telegraph (£)

James Blitz and Jane Croft: Attorney General holds the key to unlocking a Brexit deal

Not since Peter Goldsmith ruled that it was legal for the UK to go to war in Iraq has an attorney-general played such a contentious part in British politics. But Geoffrey Cox, Theresa May’s attorney-general, has assumed a critical role in determining whether the UK should sign up to a compromise with the EU on Northern Ireland that would break the impasse in the Brexit negotiations. In 2003, Lord Goldsmith came to the controversial judgment that the Iraq invasion was permissible under international law. Brexiter ministers have been hoping that Mr Cox — who voted Leave in the EU referendum — will stop Mrs May riding roughshod over their concerns about the terms on which the UK leaves the bloc. But at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting he warned of the need for compromise on a Brexit withdrawal treaty, according to people briefed on the discussions, and now appears to hold the key to the prime minister’s efforts to unlock a deal. – James Blitz and Jane Croft for the FT (£)

Tony Lodge: Dangerous Chequers plan risks undermining Britain’s energy security after Brexit

The Government’s Chequers plan to maintain “continued and broad co-operation on energy” with the EU after Brexit should concern those who hoped to see the UK deliver more secure and cheaper energy in the future. The proposals as they stand are dangerous, unaccountable, expensive and risk undermining Britain’s security of supply and competitiveness after Brexit. Remaining aligned with EU energy policy, as set out in Chequers, will entail a series of important concessions and cross-Channel energy supply commitments which will primarily benefit the European market and its generators. These include proposals from the European Commission for the mandatory sharing of gas supplies. This could lead to gas rationing in the UK following a severe weather front in Europe alongside a gas supply crisis there. – Tony Lodge for the Yorkshire Post

Alastair Benn: People’s Vote hokum shows the British system is not built for referendums

“We need a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal.” It’s quite hard to work out why that phrase sticks in the craw. Perhaps it is the sublime speciousness of it – elite distrust of popular democracy rejigged as “real democracy”. Or perhaps it’s the inauthenticity of it – the aping of the language of populism without absorbing the meaning of its anti-establishment ethic. But there’s another more interesting dimension to it too. The fact that the logic of a “People’s Vote” (whereby the “People” can now, supposedly, get the right answer to the question they were previously duped into answering all wrong) is so superficially compelling to its activist base – and to its luminous celebrity proponents – illustrates just how alien referendums are to the British democratic ethos. – Alastair Benn for Reaction

Matt Ridley: Britain is ripe for agriculture innovation after Brexit

We are at risk of missing out on a revolution that could bring wildlife back to the countryside. If the UK, post-Brexit, looked afresh at available technologies and innovations in which Britain already leads the world, then British farmers and consumers, as early adopters, would reap both economic and environmental benefits.These include better returns on investment, lower reliance on subsidy, greater ability to compete in world markets, lower reliance on chemicals, lower use of tillage, and extensive land sparing for nature 
which could be built into policy. Britain should be at the forefront of encouraging this innovation in agriculture to take place. – Matt Ridley for the Spectator

Natasha Clark: Brexit breakthrough? What are the new Brexit options and could they work?

Brexit negotiators on both sides are still trying to thrash out an exit deal that everyone will be happy with – and it’s easier said than done. Today Theresa May will set out more options to her divided Cabinet, with the hope of getting something signed off within weeks or we face No Deal. No10 sources say that sealing a withdrawal deal is unlikely at all this week, but Mrs May is set to redouble efforts to get an agreement under wraps soon, so there’s enough time for MPs to vote on it. If enough progress is made, then a special summit could be hosted within weeks to sign the paperwork and get ready to leave the EU next March. Of course, politicians still have the choice to abandon talks with Brussels and go it alone from next year – with no agreement in place at all. If a deal isn’t sorted soon, No Deal planning must be started properly, to make sure we are ready by March. – Natasha Clark for The Sun

Vernon Bogdanor: Ireland would suffer as much as UK in the event of a ‘no deal’

As a Remainer, I regret the British people’s vote in 2016 to leave the EU. But they were in effect acting as a sovereign people, entitled to make that choice — and the British government is implementing their decision by using the constitutional procedure foreseen in the EU treaties. I equally regret the Irish government’s decision to leave the Commonwealth back in 1949, which, in my view, made the Northern Ireland issue more difficult to solve. But the Irish government was also entitled to make that choice, even though some argued that it was in breach of the Anglo-Irish Treaty accepted by the Dáil in 1922. Were the Northern Ireland issue to prevent an EU-UK withdrawal agreement being signed, so that there is a “no-deal” Brexit, the Irish Republic would probably suffer as much as Britain. And whatever form Brexit takes, the relationship with Britain is likely to prove of great importance to the Republic, potentially as great as its relationship with the rest of the EU. – Vernon Bogdanor for the FT (£)

Brexit in Brief

  • Why is the Remain campaign not being scrutinised at the same time as Arron Banks? – Telegraph (£)
  • After Brexit, Britain has the chance to create a Restoration Economy – David Hill for CapX
  • SNP accused of twisting Brexit poll to boost support for independence – Belfast Telegraph
  • UK tourism minister refuses to discuss Brexit at World Travel Market – Metro
  • Theresa May urged to ensure EU citizens do not have to pay to stay in UK after ‘shameful’ treatment – Independent