Geoffrey Cox says there is 'still hope' of a Brexit breakthrough: Brexit News for Wednesday March 6

Geoffrey Cox says there is 'still hope' of a Brexit breakthrough: Brexit News for Wednesday March 6
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Geoffrey Cox says there is ‘still hope’ of a Brexit breakthrough…

Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, has said there is still hope of a Brexit breakthrough as he arrived in Brussels to meet Michel Barnier. He was accompanied by Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, who has written to Mr Barnier saying Britain is prepared to ringfence the rights of EU citizens if there is a ‘no deal’ Brexit. The three men were due to have dinner on Tuesday evening although there is little hope of an end to the impasse over the backstop. Meanwhile, Simon Coveney, the deputy prime minister of Ireland, warned it was too early to be optimistic but said that the EU and Dublin wanted to ensure the backstop was temporary. Mr Cox told told Sky News, “I’m sure there is, there’s always hope. Reasonable conversations are going on but you’re not going to expect me to comment, these are very sensitive discussions. Let’s see, we are having very constructive dialogue at the moment. I’m not going to comment on the detail at this point. These are sensitive discussions and they must stay private for the moment.” Simon Coveney said, “We want to ensure that the backstop is a temporary arrangement. We have been building on documents published in December and building on timelines.” – Telegraph (£)

…although Downing Street is reportedly ‘not hopeful’ of securing the necessary guarantees on the backstop

The UK’s Brexit future has been thrown into chaos after it emerged Downing Street is not expecting last-ditch talks in Brussels to produce a breakthrough, making the option of a delay or crashing out of the EU with no deal more likely. Negotiations in the Belgian capital last night saw Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox attempt to secure additional assurances on the Irish backstop. But after a four-hour meeting, UK and EU negotiators left empty handed. And despite Mr Cox earlier expressing hope that a deal could be done, the Prime Minister was not hopeful they would succeed, Bloomberg reports. Meanwhile, chief whip Julian Smith has reportedly told Cabinet ministers he is not confident Mrs May’s deal will pass when it comes before the Commons again next week. The gloomy outlook from Number 10 means a delay to Brexit is looking more likely as an extension to the Article 50 process appears to be the only option with a chance of commanding a majority. Britain is due to leave the EU in 24 days, but Parliament’s rejection of Mrs May’s deal in January has cast major doubt over when, or if, Brexit will take place. – Express

Government to slash up to 90% of trade tariffs if UK leaves EU with no deal

The Government will slash Britain’s trade tariffs to more than at any point in history if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal, Sky News has learnt. The Department for International Trade (DIT) intends to cut 80-90% of all tariffs imposed on goods imported into Britain, according to Whitehall sources. The cuts, which will be outlined in documents published if the prime minister fails to get parliamentary backing for her EU withdrawal bill next week, represent a bombshell for many manufacturers and farmers in the UK. Since tariffs are a charge on thousands of types of goods entering the country, they protect domestic producers from overseas competitors. According to government sources the 10-20% of more sensitive items which will retain their protection includes cars, beef, lamb, dairy and some lines of textiles. However, the vast majority of tariffs, including those on the component parts used to make cars, many finished food products and even some farm produce including cereals, will be eliminated entirely. – Sky News

No-deal damage would be less than we feared, admits Mark Carney

A disorderly no-deal Brexit would be only half as damaging as the Bank of England warned three months ago, Mark Carney has said. In November the Bank said that after three years the economy would be between 4.75 per cent and 7.75 per cent smaller than under the prime minister’s plan if there was a hard Brexit. Mr Carney, the Bank’s governor, told peers yesterday that contingency plans put in place would reduce the damage by 2 percentage points in the “disruptive” model or 3.5 percentage points in the worse “disorderly” one. Both scenarios assumed that there would be significant border frictions, a market crash and a sterling collapse on March 29. The new estimates mean that the cost of no deal might be as low as 2.75 per cent of GDP compared with the government’s proposed deal. That represents the lasting damage after three years and equates to about £55 billion. Meanwhile it emerged yesterday that ministers were planning to cut 80 to 90 per cent of all tariffs on goods imported into Britain to avoid price rises. – The Times (£)

  • UK financial system ready for no-deal Brexit but EU faces risks due to ‘lack of action’, Bank of England warns – City A.M.
  • Britain has softened the blow of ‘no deal’ Brexit, says Bank of England – but EU will feel the pinch as it is not prepared – Telegraph (£)

Ex-MI6 chief says a no-deal Brexit would be far better than May’s offering

The former head of MI6 and dozens of senior academics have said a no-deal Brexit would be far better for Britain than Theresa May’s “disastrous” deal. Sir Richard Dearlove said there would be “no tangible benefits” from a Brexit conducted under Mrs May’s deal, which would merely “prolong the agony”. In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, he is joined by 33 academics and business leaders who say that a no deal Brexit would offer “immediate opportunities”. It came as the Governor of the Bank of England admitted his previous predictions of the impact of no deal had been too gloomy. In November Mark Carney said no deal would result in a reduction of between 5 and 8 per cent of Britain’s gross domestic product, but on Tuesday he told a House of Lords committee the economic hit could be as low as 2.5 per cent over three years, with the worst case scenario being 6 per cent. He told peers: “There has been progress in preparedness, and that reduces the level of the economic shock.” – Telegraph (£)

No Deal is better than uncertainty, says head of German industrial federation

The head of the German federation of industries has claimed the British are “lost” and has thrown doubt on Berlin’s backing for a short Brexit extension, claiming an “economy can live better with bad conditions than with uncertainty”. Dieter Kempf, the chairman of the Bundesverbandes der Deutschen Industrie, said the 100,000 companies he represents and their 8 million employees have prepared for a no-deal scenario in March, not in May. Speaking in the wake of the British prime minister’s suggestion that the UK could request a two-month Brexit delay, Kempf told the Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad that he felt no relief at the apparent U-turn by Theresa May. He said: “Everything is better than a chaotic Brexit. But is procrastination good? No. Uncertainty is bad for the economy. If we talk about a period of two and a half weeks, it is good if we avoid a hard Brexit. But what will change in three to four weeks? The British House of Commons knows very well what it does not want, but not what it wants. It cannot decide. The British are lost, they can’t find the way to the exit. That makes it difficult for a negotiating partner.” – Guardian

Theresa May’s offer to protect workers’ rights post-Brexit rejected by union leaders

Theresa May’s effort to woo Labour support for her Brexit deal has received a further setback after unions rejected a package on workers’ rights she is unveiling today. The package includes new laws to give MPs a chance to vote on whether to match any new workers’ rights introduced by the EU after Brexit. Mrs May says that unions and businesses will have an “enhanced role” in informing regular updates to parliament. She and Greg Clark, the business secretary, are also promising to rationalise existing enforcement bodies to crack down on the abuse of agency and casual staff. However, the TUC and two of the Britain’s three biggest unions rejected the package as inadequate. Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, called on MPs to reject what she said was “blatant window dressing”. Tim Roache, the general secretary of the GMB, said “history will not be kind” to Labour MPs who voted for the Brexit deal based on the “nods and winks from a lame duck prime minister”. Dave Prentis, boss of Unison, said Labour MPs should not be “hoodwinked” and without a formal commitment to cement existing rights written into the withdrawal agreement today’s package was worthless. “European laws have made working in the UK safer and better. Brexit mustn’t mean UK employees become the cheapest to hire and the easiest to fire,” he said. – The Times (£)

Chief Whip warns Cabinet that a rejection of May’s deal next week could result in ‘soft’ Brexit

The chief whip, Julian Smith, has warned cabinet ministers that, if MPs reject Theresa May’s deal a second time next week, parliament would take control and force a softer Brexit. As part of attempts to win over Brexit-supporting ministers, Smith struck a pessimistic note on Tuesday about the parliamentary arithmetic, the Guardian understands. He suggested the most likely outcome if the deal were rejected again would be that MPs opt to take a no-deal Brexit off the table and extend article 50. A softer Brexit would then emerge as the majority view in parliament, through a process of “indicative votes”. The prime minister will announce a package of measures designed to safeguard workers’ rights on Wednesday as part of a last-ditch attempt to boost support for her deal and she is likely to fly to Brussels for talks before next week’s vote. The workers’ rights pledges are aimed at winning over Labour MPs in Brexit-backing areas and followed the announcement on Monday of a £1.6bn fund for left-behind towns. – Guardian

Irish police plans for post-Brexit armed units on the border are not necessary, says DUP Chief Whip…

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said Garda plans to deploy armed support units around the clock along the border to deal with the fallout from Brexit are not necessary. Sir Jeffrey was speaking after it emerged that training has almost been completed for additional Irish officers to expand two existing units to allow them to provide a 24-hour armed service. Senior officers along the border are concerned that there will not be enough experienced personnel to cope with the additional workload that will arise after Brexit. Gardai are facing the threat of renewed violence from dissidents and the ongoing activities of criminal gangs determined to exploit any fresh opportunities that could emerge. The Irish government has been eager to avoid panic when it comes to the matter of policing the border after Brexit. The stance in political circles is to play the long game in terms of security reaction rather than opt for a strong numerical response in policing. Among the major developments are plans being finalised by Garda chiefs to deploy armed support units on a round-the-clock basis. – Belfast Telegraph

…as Irish Deputy PM eases Brexit tensions with intervention on backstop

The border backstop is temporary, Simon Coveney said in a conciliatory intervention as “difficult” negotiations continued between Britain and the EU. Theresa May’s government continued efforts to secure legally binding changes to the mechanism to avoid a hard border as next week’s Commons’ vote looms. Geoffrey Cox, the British attorney-general, and Stephen Barclay, the British Brexit secretary, dined with Michel Barnier and the EU’s chief negotiator’s team in Brussels last night. Theresa May’s negotiators want a guarantee on the temporary nature of the border and whether alternative arrangements, including technology, could be introduced in the future that would replace the mechanism. Mr Coveney, tánaiste and foreign affairs minister, said that he understood the negotiations have been “difficult”. “We want to ensure that the backstop is only a temporary measure, we have always said that, it’s in the withdrawal agreement,” he said yesterday after cabinet met to continue its no-deal planning. “We are trying to clarify that temporary means temporary and that Geoffrey Cox and others can recommend to their parliament they won’t be trapped indefinitely.” – The Times (£)

Labour to order MPs to vote for amendment calling for second Brexit referendum, John McDonnell announces

Labour will order its MPs to vote for a backbench motion that would trigger a fresh Brexit referendum, John McDonnell has said. The shadow chancellor said the party would back an amendment being tabled by Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson after it dramatically shifted its policy last week to support a fresh public poll. The Labour leadership had asked for the original Kyle-Wilson amendment to be redrafted to allow the party’s MPs to support another referendum without approving Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The initial text had pledged back for the prime minister’s exit plan providing she put it to a public vote. Speaking at a briefing for Westminster journalists, Mr McDonnell said he hadn’t seen the final text but added: ”We’re trying to ensure our members don’t have to vote for Theresa May’s deal to get to the stage. There doesn’t necessarily have to be a reference to Theresa May’s deal…We don’t want an explicit reference to Theresa May’s deal.” – Independent

Donald Tusk claims ‘external anti-European forces’ meddled in Brexit referendum

Donald Tusk has claimed external powers meddled in the Brexit vote as he called for EU member states to do more to protect the upcoming European elections. Speaking at a press conference in Brussels with the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, the European council president said he agreed with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who used a column in the Guardian and other newspapers to call on European countries to be alert to malign influences. “There are external anti-European forces, which are seeking – openly or secretly – to influence the democratic choices of Europeans, as was the case with Brexit and a number of election campaigns across Europe. And it may again be the case with the European elections in May,” said Tusk, a former prime minister of Poland and vociferous critic of Vladimir Putin. Tusk’s intervention echoed fears Russia sought to foment anti-EU sentiment during the 2016 EU referendum campaign in the UK. – Guardian

Chancellor loses “deal dividend” as political chaos means businesses will not hike investment

British businesses are moving their investment to other countries because they are tired of waiting for a Brexit deal, top economists have warned amid fears the Article 50 deadline could be extended. The Chancellor had said a ‘deal dividend’ could boost the economy when a deal is signed because those businesses which have postponed plans to spend on big projects would unleash the cash all at once as the future of Brexit became clear. But analysts at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) think the amount pent up investment is diminishing. “If firms expect there to be barriers to trade with the EU under a final Brexit outcome, or at least perceive the risk of barriers to be high, they will make investments in the rest of the EU and elsewhere instead of the UK to ensure they can continue selling their goods and services after Brexit. Investment data and company surveys suggest that this is what is already happening,” said senior economist Arno Hantzsche. – Telegraph (£)

Downing Street waging ‘black ops campaign’ against Remainer Amber Rudd, claims Times journalist  

Theresa May has started a “black ops campaign” against Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd as the Remainer is now no longer allowed to give live broadcast interviews, claimed reporter Rachel Sylvester. Speaking on BBC Politics Live, The Times’ journalist argued the Prime Minister now “regrets” allowing Amber Rudd to re-join the Cabinet, following the Work and Pensions Secretary’s threats she would resign in the event of no deal Brexit. Ms Sylvester argued the pressure to restrict the pro-Remain frontbencher comes not only from Brexiteers in the Party but also from Number 10. She said: “There is a real kind of black ops campaign against Amber Rudd, a lot of private briefings. Partly driven by Brexiteers who are very crossed about what she said on Europe and ruling out a no deal. But also what I think people are particularly worried about around her is that some of it is coming from Number 10. She’s not allowed to do any live broadcast interviews.” – Express

We’ll stay in the UK, says Bentley boss

Bentley will keep its car production in Britain, not move it to the Continent nor shut its factory in Crewe, and will return to profitability this year, its chief executive has said, despite criticism and warnings from shareholder directors at Volkswagen, its German parent company. Bentley is one of a clutch of heritage luxury British automotive marques, producing more than 10,000 cars a year with prices starting at £150,000, and employing 4,000 workers. It was taken over by VW 20 years ago. Last year it made losses of at least £125 million as the launch of a money-spinning new Continental GT was delayed by nine months after the company stopped production of its predecessor model and others. This prompted Wolfgang Porsche, 75, and Hans Michel Piëch, 77, of the founding Volkswagen family shareholders, to openly criticise Bentley in the German media, which labelled the British manufacturer VW’s “problem child” Speaking at the Geneva Motor Show yesterday, Adrian Hallmark, 56, the former Jaguar Land Rover manager who became Bentley’s chief executive last spring, hit back, admitting that neither he nor the company knew how deep a crisis Bentley was in. – The Times (£)

Lord Sugar confident in start-ups after Brexit as as he opens new Tropic Skincare HQ

Lord Sugar may be a Remainer, but the tycoon on Tuesday said Brexit won’t deter London firms from investing. The Apprentice star thinks the way Brexit is being handled by politicians is a “disaster”. However, he added:  “I don’t believe [Brexit] will deter domestic start-ups choosing to open in, and invest in, London.” He is looking for British entrepreneurs to back. His comments came as he and 30-year-old Susie Ma, an Apprentice runner-up, today opened a new Croydon HQ for their jointly-owned Tropic Skincare, which will house 160 staff. The 48,000 square feet property is five times the size of the firm’s previous home. The vegan beauty firm was founded by Ma when she was 15 and started selling homemade goods from a stall in Greenwich market. Sugar took a 50% stake in 2011. Sugar hopes to grow revenues from £40 million last year to £250 million within five years. – Evening Standard

Esther McVey: A loss of trust over Brexit could break our politics. And I shudder to think of the consequences

In the nearly two years since the last general election, trust in politics has been stretched to breaking point. However, I fear it is nothing compared to the battering it is about to come under during the coming weeks and months. As the balance of power shifts from the Government to Parliament, in the event of a revised Brexit EU deal being rejected on 12 March, we should take a moment to think about what it means for trust in our politics. By mid-March, the likelihood is that we will either see the Prime Minister’s deal accepted or we will have an extension to Article 50. Both of these options are going to have serious implications for trust not only in our party, but in our politics as a whole. The vast majority of MPs made a promise to their voters to deliver the outcome of the EU referendum. While the outcome of the 2017 general election gave us an indecisive result, both main parties were clear in their commitments to deliver Brexit. Yet the past year has seen MPs indulge their own fixation with continuing EU membership rather than the promises they made to the electorate. – Esther McVey MP for ConservativeHome

Kate Hoey: ‘Hardline Brexiteers’ – the way the BBC describes pro-Brexit MPs is not impartial

The word “hardline” has been creeping into descriptions of MPs who are pro-Brexit for a year or so now. After hearing it in a BBC news bulletin this week, I wrote in to complain. The BBC received £3.8bn from licence fee payers last year. Unlike other media, it has a special duty, as defined in its charter, to be scrupulously impartial. Munro’s argument that it is following where other media lead is therefore not an excuse. It’s an abrogation of the BBC’s duty to the British public. The Corporation was warned about its biased use of language about the EU in 2005, when the referendum was first mooted. Lord Wilson of Dinton conducted an independent inquiry into bias claims, which concluded that the BBC was “not succeeding” in being impartial in its coverage of Europe. The BBC promised to do better but the sloppy and loaded approach has become worse since the referendum. First came the phrases “hard” and “soft” Brexit. This painted those who wanted a clean break with Brussels as hard and unyielding, and those who did not as cuddly and reasonable. Another term picked up by BBC journalists to describe leaving the EU was “divorce”.  Jean-Claude Juncker frequently refers to the EU as a “family”, and in 2016 began referring to Brexit as a “divorce”. By autumn 2017 a survey by News-Watch, which searches for BBC bias in coverage of the EU, showed BBC presenters and correspondents using “divorce” as the core definition of what Leavers wanted. – Kate Hoey MP for iNews

Jim Fitzpatrick: The only way to avoid a Brexit delay or a second referendum is to support the Prime Minister’s deal

I campaigned and voted Remain, and my borough of Tower Hamlets voted 67% Remain also. However, we lost. Further, Parliament voted overwhelmingly to trigger Article 50, and the subsequent Labour manifesto of 2017 confirmed we would respect those decisions. Labour’s position was to try to frustrate the Government by trying to secure a General Election. We tried to do this through our Vote of No Confidence but we lost. My position therefore has been essentially to prevent a No Deal Brexit, and the only way I can see to do that is by supporting the alternative, which is the Prime Minister’s deal. I don’t support a delay now – nor do I support another referendum. For colleagues who also don’t support a delay or another referendum, the only way to assure that is to support the Prime Minister’s deal. The country elects us to make decisions, and we have done everything so far to get our own or our Party’s views through. None have succeeded – and now it’s crunch time. If the PM’s deal is supported next week, I expect an amendment along the lines of Kyle-Wilson to put the deal to a referendum for approval. There are two problems with this. Firstly, Labour’s policy is for a “credible deal” to be put to the people, and I thought Labour didn’t believe hers to be “credible”. There appear to be four options which will confront MPs next week. The PM’s Deal, Delay, 2nd Referendum, and No Deal. The Attorney General is in Brussels still trying to tweak the “Deal”, but I’m not confident he will be able to return with anything positive, so the backstop will remain an issue. – Jim Fitzpatrick MP for PoliticsHome

Henry Newman: Dear Mr Macron, your arrogance will only make Europe’s problems worse

Cher President Macron, It’s kind of you to write, especially when you’ve had so much going on at home recently. I share many of your concerns about Europe’s future, but we disagree profoundly about some of the causes of Europe’s problems and the right solutions to them. At the start of your letter, you launch a bitter attack on Brexit. But perhaps it would be worth reflecting more on why the Continent’s second biggest economy (yep, sorry), and one of Europe’s most innovative, tolerant and diverse societies chose to leave. This wasn’t some fit of pique – or a bolt from the blue. As David Cameron warned in 2013, democratic consent for the EU was “wafer thin” in the UK. These problems have been building for a long time. Now, I know you don’t agree with the result of our referendum. You opposed us holding one altogether. But you will recognise that the right to exit is afforded to every member in EU law through a fundamental treaty. I recall you telling Andrew Marr that France would “probably” have voted to leave, if it was asked. You may prefer that the choice is never offered, but that’s hardly a sustainable basis for democratic legitimacy. – Telegraph (£)

Asa Bennett: Brexiteers should thank Emmanuel Macron — his vision of the EU shows why we have to leave

Back in the 2014 elections to the European Parliament, Ukip topped the polls in the United Kingdom, a clear sign of the growing mood among the British people that culminated with them voting to leave the European Union altogether two years later. A fresh round of European elections loom this May, an event that British voters should not expect to participate if Brexit is secured this month, but the leaders of the remaining 27 members are in full campaign mode. Brexit cannot be forgiven by the pro-EU ideologues, as they are working hard to hold the fort against the Eurosceptic and populist barbarians they see pounding at the gates. So Emmanuel Macron, who is trying to keep the gilets jaunes and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally at bay in France, continues to pour scorn on Britain as it heads to the exit door. The President is balancing that with a full-throated defence of the EU, in an attempt to show the British what they are missing. But Brexiteers should be pleased with the plan he is pursuing unabashedly, as it vindicates their decision to leave the bloc. – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)

Philip Johnston: Theresa May’s gamble has backfired – her MPs would sooner extend Brexit than accept her awful deal

The original Star Chamber was a courtroom in the old Palace of Westminster whose ceiling was emblazoned with golden stars on a background of lapis lazuli blue. There in the 16th and 17th centuries gathered the most powerful jurists in the land, ostensibly to ensure the fair application of the law to prominent personages whose power might otherwise have intimidated lower courts. It began life with the best of intentions yet became synonymous with the wielding of arbitrary authority. In days of yore, so august an office holder as the Attorney General might have expected to sit on the Star Chamber panel. Instead, the incumbent, Geoffrey Cox QC, will be cast in the role of defendant when he concludes his discussions with the EU about securing changes to the Withdrawal Agreement that might get it through Parliament next week. Eight Brexiteers with legal backgrounds have been convened to act as a self-styled Star Chamber to judge the merits of the Attorney General’s endeavours. The old Star Chamber became notorious for reaching its verdict in advance. I suspect that is Mr Cox’s fate. What is being asked of him is quite extraordinary given his position as the Government’s chief legal adviser. It is to negotiate a change to a draft treaty that, just a few months ago, he said could permanently trap the UK in the so-called Irish backstop so that he can return to MPs and reverse his previous opinion. – Philip Johnston for the Telegraph (£)

Robert Peston: Will Prime Minister Theresa May vote for or against no deal?

We have a Tory government and governing party irredeemably split on the biggest question of our age, namely how and whether to leave the European Union. And we have a Labour opposition in a disorderly civil war between backbench MPs and Lords on the one hand, and a leadership team under Jeremy Corbyn over a perceived failure to cut the cancer of antisemitism from the party – and, perhaps worse than that, the undermining of due process by officials close to Corbyn. In other words, there is chaos on both sides of the Commons, compounded by the collapse to zero in the working majority of Theresa May’s administration following those defections to The Independent Group. It is not just the PM of whom it could be said she’s in office, but not in power. Parliament as a whole looks like a Disneyland representation of democracy – all sound and fury, signifying little but self indulgence. In 25 years of taking a close and perhaps unhealthy interest in politics, I’ve never known anything like it. Ministers daily threaten resignation over a Brexit strategy that the PM won’t actually share with them. – Robert Peston for ITV News

Beth Rigby: It’s time for the Brexiteers to take May’s deal

Michael Gove evoked the spirit of French philosopher Voltaire when he pleaded with fellow Brexiteers to back Theresa May’s Brexit divorce deal late last year. “I’m a realist and one of the things about politics is you mustn’t, you shouldn’t, make the perfect the enemy of the good.” Like many of his Vote Leave colleagues, the environment secretary doesn’t much like Mrs May’s Brexit deal. He – like other Brexiteer cabinet colleagues – considered resigning over it. But in the end, he has backed an imperfect deal because it at least delivers Brexit. That is good enough for Mr Gove. His is a realism that is not widely shared by eurosceptic colleagues in the backbench European Research Group. They have repeatedly told Mrs May that they will not support her deal – and to prove it 118 voted against it in January as the prime minister suffered a record-breaking parliamentary defeat at the hands of her own party. Next week she will ask them again to vote for her deal: but her ministers are sceptical with some already muttering about when to hold meaningful vote number three. – Beth Rigby for Sky News

Stewart Jackson: Brexiteers are playing a long game, and will never vote for Theresa May’s miserable deal

So, as we begin the Meaningful Vote Part 2 vortex, hurtling toward climax in the House of Commons next week, the Prime Minister has rolled the pitch with tasty sweeteners to Labour MPs in Leave-supporting seat, to save her miserable deal from yet another shellacking. It displays again a typically tone-deaf approach, speaking to a patrician mindset from Remainers, that all it really takes is a few baubles and soothing words about immigration and the whole sorry contraption can be pushed over the line: The UK would be locked permanently into international treaty obligations from which it will take years to disentangle. The idea that Labour MPs in any great numbers facing as they do the Momentum deselection putsch, will gambol gaily through the lobby to prop up the flagship policy of the May government is deluded. It’s worth repeating to those who focus endlessly on short term tactics and ignore long term strategy: It’s not about money per se but democracy, freedom, self governance and independence. – Stewart Jackson for the Telegraph (£)

Lee Rotherham: The Irish backstop isn’t the only problem with the Brexit deal

The Irish backstop is the spectre that has long haunted the Brexit negotiations. This afternoon, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox head to Brussels to seek changes or clarifications on that part of the deal that the government hopes will give the deal it life in the House of Commons. It is understandable that the backstop has been the focus of so much attention. Its presence in the deal limits the prospect of Brexit delivering a light touch, equivalence-based and truly intergovernmental trade agreement. But what would we be left with if the backstop were suddenly to disappear overnight? Ditching it would certainly be a tremendous advance, but one which would only provide a partial relief. Three quarters of the main text would still remain, and it is far from devoid of problems. This is particularly, but not exclusively, the case in areas where decisions made now carry enduring consequences and liabilities into the post-transitional period. – Lee Rotherham for CapX

Chris Moncrieff: Can Theresa May pull off her Houdini trick and silence her Brexit critics?

There is nothing like a strict deadline to concentrate the mind. As Brexit Day, March 29, moves inexorably closer, there appears to be at least some discernible thawing among the icy crags of Tory backbench rebellion, which could yet give Theresa May a chance – at one time thought impossible – to achieve an agreement by the due date. This latest development has been welcomed by Dr Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary. And, should it persist, the Prime Minister may yet be able to achieve that miracle on time, for which she has been striving relentlessly for months. What a triumph that would be. But these painful negotiations have had their very ugly side. The threat by three Cabinet ministers – Greg Clark, Amber Rudd and David Gauke – to side with the rebels was a total disgrace. This disloyal trio should have been sacked on the spot. But, whatever happens at Westminster in the next three weeks, both the main political parties appear to be in danger of shedding more members to the new Independent Group of deserters. – Chris Moncrieff for the Belfast Telegraph

The Sun: President Macron has neatly summarised the reasons Britain is right to leave the EU

We should thank the megalomaniac French President Macron for neatly summarising the reasons Britain is right to leave the EU. His magnificently self-important ­letter to the “Citizens of Europe” inadvertently gives the game away. “Europe is not just a market. It is a project,” he says. Well, yes. That’s the problem. It’s a project to create a European superstate we never consented to. He credits the EU with bringing “peace, prosperity and freedom”. But Nato is responsible for the peace and freedom. And prosperity hasn’t found its way to, say, Greece, or the vast numbers condemned by the euro to unemployment. And it’s hard to swallow anyway from a man whose economy is flat-lining and his cities under siege from enraged, ­yellow-vested anti-EU protesters. Macron admits the EU has problems and speaks of the “European trap”. But, incredibly, it turns out this trap is “NOT being part of the European Union”. And off he goes into a tantrum about Brexit. The icing on the cake, though, is his idea of EU reform: more Brussels control. Brilliant, Emmanuel! A few Leavers might have been wobbling. No longer. – The Sun

Brexit in Brief

  • Emmanuel Macron now poses a bigger risk to the EU than Brexit – James Crisp for the Telegraph (£)
  • Let’s call an end to EU protectionism – Frederick Wild for the European Foundation
  • Emmanuel Macron’s call for further integration reminds Brexiters why they voted to Leave – Telegraph (£)
  • Will the European Research Group’s three legal tests help pass Theresa May’s Brexit deal? – Olivia Utley v Jayne Adye for City A.M.
  • Half of UK holidaymakers could shun European mini-breaks after Brexit – Independent
  • Domestic M&A deal value reaches decade high in 2018 despite Brexit uncertainty – City A.M.
  • Ofcom to review depth of analysis and impartiality of BBC news and current affairs output – PressGazette