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The Prime Minister, Theresa May, will chair a meeting of the Cabinet this morning, where ministers are expected to consider the merits of holding “definitive votes” on different Brexit outcomes. The Cabinet is also expected to discuss details of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and consider whether the Government should accept the Labour Party’s demands on the environment and workers’ rights. A Downing Street spokesman yesterday did not give further details of when the Bill would be published.
This comes as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, will give a speech later today at the CBI where he is expected to say that “there is a real risk of a new prime minister abandoning the search for a deal, and shifting towards seeking a damaging No Deal exit as a matter of policy.” Meanwhile, the Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, said this morning, “if we get to the end of October and it’s not possible to get a deal, leaving the EU is the most important thing.”
Elsewhere, the “One Nation Caucus” of moderate Conservative MPs, chaired by Nicky Morgan, met yesterday evening to discuss the direction of the party after May steps down. The group is expected to produce a list of demands for any future leadership candidate. One of the members of the group, former Cabinet minister Damian Green, told the BBC yesterday that the group agreed that “it would [be] massively better for this country to have a [Brexit] deal, so we don’t see No Deal as a good option for this country.”
This comes as the former Work and Pensions Secretary, Esther McVey, said that the next leader of the Conservatives must be a “Brexiteer who believes in Brexit,” and announced she would be prepared to lead the UK out of the EU without a Brexit deal.
Separately, in an interview with Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias, Open Europe’s Dominic Walsh said that May’s potential departure “certainly complicates matters… Ultimately, a new leader will not change the parliamentary arithmetic.”
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The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said in a press conference in Cyprus yesterday, “We have offered all options to the United Kingdom, from the single market to the customs union or a free trade agreement. We are now waiting for clarity from the United Kingdom. In the meantime, we keep preparing for a No Deal. This is not, and will not be, the EU’s choice. It is for the UK to take its responsibilities.” He added, “Ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement is the only way to secure a transition period” that would give the UK “time to sort out its negotiation positions” and both sides time to “figure out what specific arrangements are necessary in relation to the Northern Irish border on top of the overall EU/UK relationship.”
Barnier also commented on Turkey’s recent illegal operations within Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, saying, “The EU stands clearly behind Cyprus and expects Turkey to respect the sovereign rights of the EU member-states”, and expressing his “grave concern over Turkey’s announced intention to carry out drilling activities within the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus.”
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Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday said, “The free movement of goods and people across Europe is vital for Scotland’s economic success. But those benefits that we all enjoy are plunged into peril by Brexit,” adding, “Blocking Scotland from trading freely with the European Union post-Brexit will be catastrophic to businesses here.”
Elsewhere, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the Scottish National Party have moved “from soft independence to hard independence,” because “they will now leave the British pound, they will leave the UK currency union. ”
Elsewhere, the interim leader of Change UK, Heidi Allen, said yesterday that the party might exist in a “slightly different” format at the time of the next General Election, depending when that takes place. Appearing on the Radio 4’s Today programme, yesterday, Allen said, “I see a modern world of coalition where it isn’t just about two big parties, I think the whole way Parliament operates in Westminster needs a damn good shake up and I want to be part of that.”
This comes as deputy governor of monetary policy for the Bank of England, Ben Broadbent, said that it is wrong to suggest that the UK should pursue a No Deal Brexit merely to end uncertainty for businesses. He added, “A repeated series of cliff-edges, each of which is expected to be decisive but in reality just gives way to the next cliff, is more damaging for investment than if it had been clear at the outset that the process will take time.”
All the ministers from the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), which supports Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s coalition government, resigned from their posts yesterday after Kurz fired the FPÖ’s Interior Minister, Herbert Kickl. This follows after FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache resigned on Sunday over video footage showing him discussing government contracts with a Russian investor. Kurz said, “In the conversations that I had with [Kickl] and with others in the party I had the impression that he did not fully appreciate the ramifications of the accusations.”
In an article for Conservative Home, Open Europe’s David Shiels looks at the upcoming European elections in Northern Ireland, and what the results might mean for Brexit and the backstop. He argues, “It is possible that the Remain majority in Northern Ireland could assert itself, but the Unionist parties could equally become entrenched in their pro-Brexit / anti-backstop message.”
Elsewhere, in a piece for The Spectator’s Coffee House blog, Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe assesses the record of the European Commission under the presidency of Jean-Claude Juncker. He argues, “There is very little introspection within the EU institutions as to why Brexit happened… In practice, the body has simply continued with business as usual, proposing to scrap national vetoes for foreign policy and taxation, while it pushes for European taxes.”