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Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to announce today that she will travel to Brussels in a final attempt to secure concessions from the EU on the backstop protocol, amid reports that senior ministers have told May she must take a tougher approach with the EU to win support for her deal, the Sunday Times reports. A senior Cabinet minister said, “We have heard the MPs loud and clear. They want to vote for the deal but they have one big issue with it, which is the backstop. They want to see us fight for it.” The paper reports that this could delay Tuesday’s Brexit vote, despite Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay’s assurance yesterday on the Andrew Marr show that the vote is “going ahead.” This comes as Theresa May spoke by phone with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and European Council President Donald Tusk last night.
Elsewhere, referring to his previous tenure as Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab said this weekend, “I made clear that [the backstop] had to be time-limited and finite. And [EU chief negotiator] Michel Barnier, at one point in one of our meetings, said, ‘I understand it needs to be short.’ But I’m afraid after that the technical track for the negotiations took it in another direction and I was very clear with the Prime Minister that we should have stood firm at that point, and that was back in July.”
Meanwhile, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington and Justice Secretary David Gauke have reportedly been in talks with Labour MPs to discuss whether there is a majority in the House of Commons for a second referendum or a Norway-style deal if May’s deal is rejected. The Sunday Times reports that MPs are now most likely to support a “people’s vote.”
This comes as Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood told the Sunday Times, “If parliament does not agree a Brexit deal soon, then we must recognise that the original mandate to leave, taken over two years ago, will begin to date and will, eventually, no longer represent a reflection of current intent.”
Separately, Deputy Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party Nigel Dodds told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, “We entered into the confidence and supply agreement [with the Conservative party] in relation to supporting Brexit on the basis of our shared values… to deliver control of our laws, borders and money for the UK, and also that the UK would leave the EU as one United Kingdom. If Theresa May wishes to go down a different path from that, then she can’t count on our support.”
The Sunday Times The Financial Times The Sun Twitter
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Prime Minister Theresa May said if MPs reject her deal on Tuesday, “[the UK] would truly be in uncharted waters… It would mean grave uncertainty for the nation with a very real risk of no Brexit.” May also warned against the prospect of a general election which could lead to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn gaining power, which she described as “a risk we cannot afford to take.” “The Labour Party see this as a way of trying to engineer a general election. They are not looking at the national interest. They are playing party politics for their own short-term political gain and frankly that would lead to long-term national pain,” May added. She also mentioned that she received over 3000 personal messages from the general public supportive of her deal saying, “The overwhelming message from people is: let’s get this deal done and then we can focus on the future. People say, ‘look, we just wish you the best because we really want to see Brexit and we want to get on with this.’”
Separately, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said on Saturday, regarding May’s Brexit deal, “If it doesn’t get through, anything could happen: people’s vote, Norway-plus, any of these options could come forward. None of them are as good as the current arrangement we’ve got with the withdrawal agreement to vote on Tuesday.” Rudd told the Times that while she favours May’s deal, her second preference was for a so called “Norway-plus” model, which would involve continued UK membership of the Single Market and ‘a’ customs union, added that “[It] seems plausible not just in terms of the country but in terms of where the MPs are,” however she cautioned that “Nobody knows if it can be done.”
Meanwhile, a Cabinet minister told the Observer that “[May] is so committed to her deal, and a second referendum could now be the only way of getting it.” The paper reports that the Cabinet is split over whether to support a second referendum as a means of overcoming the political deadlock they find themselves in, as attempts to convince the Prime Minister to postpone Tuesday’s vote on Brexit deal have failed. In a piece for the Guardian, Justice Secretary David Gauke dismissed both the options of a second referendum and a Norway-style option as “Great risks,” adding that a second referendum “is by no means guaranteed to be a silver bullet. In fact, it is more likely to entrench division and lead to at least a further year of damaging uncertainty.”
Buzzfeed News reports that the number of Conservative MPs who have publicly said they cannot support the Brexit deal has reached 110. This comes after former Conservative Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell MP wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that he could not support the deal, which he said “does the reverse of what it says on the tin. Far from settling matters over Europe, it perpetuates the deep divisions that have engulfed our country.”
Elsewhere, the Sun reports that the Home Secretary Sajid Javid is preparing to launch a leadership bid in the event that Theresa May is forced from power.
Mail on Sunday
The Sunday Telegraph
In an interview with ITV yesterday, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Government’s Brexit deal was “ridiculous” and argued, “The crucial thing now is for everyone to concentrate on now is defeating [the Government’s] deal, because it would damage the economy, damage the rights of people in this country, and not give anyone any satisfaction of what they believe they vote on in the referendum.” He also said the deal “would take away the insurance that there would be a parallel of rights on both sides of the Channel…[We should] make sure that we are not able to fall behind where there are improvements that happen on the other side of the Channel.” Speaking about Labour’s position, Corbyn argued, “I want us to negotiate an arrangement with the European Union which does protect rights and make sure that we do keep a parallel of consumer, environmental and working conditions with the European Union, and a trade arrangement with the European Union where we have a say, and of course access to the market.” He also reiterated Labour’s policy to push for a general election if this deal is voted down, and, failing that, to consider other options including a second referendum. However, he said “A rerun of the referendum would be met with a lot of dismay” and cautioned that “there is no automatic right to have a referendum.”
Elsewhere, Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said on Sunday that Labour’s preferred deal would be “a customs union with a British say in future trade deals; a strong single market relationship; and a guarantee that we won’t fall behind in rights and protections, both environmental protections, consumer rights and workers’ rights.” She also criticised the backstop arrangement, saying, “It’s not a backstop; it’s a full stop quite frankly. We’ve got a deal on the table now that essentially puts Northern Ireland in a completely different situation to the rest of the UK.” Asked if Labour’s policy would be to get rid of the backstop, she said, “The backstop was installed to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. A permanent customs union would do exactly the same thing and it would offer that long-term certainty.”
The Andrew Marr Show: Transcript
Two members of the Government are resigning, and a Cabinet minister is considering their position amid fears that Prime Minister Theresa May’s Government is crumbling ahead of Tuesday’s vote, the Sunday Telegraph reports. Will Quince MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, has formally announced his resignation, saying “[I] implore the Prime Minister to go back to the European Union and find another way.” Another Parliamentary Private Secretary who remains anonymous has told the party whips they will be resigning today. The anonymous minister said several members of the Government were “wrestling with decisions to resign.” Additionally, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt is reportedly deciding over the next 48 hours whether she will support the Prime Minister’s deal or resign from the Government.
The Sunday Telegraph
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced a new amendment to the Fisheries Bill which would oblige the Government to “pursue a fairer share of fishing opportunities than the UK currently receives under the Common Fisheries Policy.” Gove said that “We are taking back control of our waters and will secure a fairer share of fishing opportunities for the whole of the UK fishing industry as we leave the EU,” adding that the amendment would “give legal weight” to this commitment. He has also announced an extra £37.2 million of extra funding for the fishing industry during the transition period., while the Government has already pledged to match funding from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
Yesterday the Committee on Exiting the European Union published its report on the Government’s EU Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, saying “It is clear that after 20 months of intense negotiations, only the terms of the UK’s exit are fully known; the nature of the future relationship with the European Union is not, and therefore does not provide long-term certainty.” The Committee added, “The Political Declaration is neither detailed nor substantive. It only sets out a series of options, and people and businesses will continue to face significant uncertainty about the terms of our trade with the EU after the transitional period ends.” The Committee’s Chair, Hilary Benn, said that “It is because the Government has refused to face up to the hard choices confronting us that this deal would represent a huge step into the unknown.”
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The European Court of Justice (ECJ) this morning ruled that the UK can unilaterally revoke “The notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU,” which “would have the effect that the United Kingdom remains in the EU under terms that are unchanged as regards its status as a Member State.” In a press release, the Court stated, “The revocation must be decided following a democratic process in accordance with national constitutional requirements. This unequivocal and unconditional decision must be communicated in writing to the European Council.”
European Court of Justice
The Belgian coalition government has lost its majority in parliament after the Flemish Nationalist Party resigned over disagreements with signing the UN Migration Pact. Belgium will have regional, federal and European elections in May. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said the minority Government would provide “continuity” until these elections.
In the German Christian Democratic Party (CDU) Congress on Friday, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was voted the new leader of the party, winning the second round against Friedrich Merz with 517 out of 999 votes. Kramp-Karrenbauer is seen as the more centrist candidate and emphasised her 18 year experience in politics in her Friday speech, whilst her leading opponent, Friedrich Merz, a former banker, advocated for “a decreasing role for the state” and a “greater control of German borders” to recapture votes lost to the Alternative for Germany Party (AfD). German Chancellor Angela Merkel will remain in her post until 2021, despite resigning from the CDU leadership.
In a recent blog post, Open Europe’s Dominic Walsh and the Open Europe team looks at some of the misconceptions about the Brexit deal, which MPs will be voting on this Tuesday. The post sheds light on many of misleading claims made by supporters and detractors alike, proving a much needed reality check.