May eyes progress on future relationship to sell Brexit deal

Changing leader won’t make negotiations easier, says embattled UK prime minister.

Theresa May said Sunday that she would seek further concessions from Brussels on the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU after Brexit, but that she would not reopen talks on the controversial backstop arrangement.

Despite serious opposition from her party to the text setting out the U.K.’s departure from the EU and a series of government resignations last week, May stood behind the 585-page draft Withdrawal Agreement in an interview with Sky’s Ridge on Sunday show.

The interview is part of a government push to sell the deal to MPs and the country which has included a rare radio phone-in appearance by the prime minister Friday morning and soft interview with the Daily Mail about how she is dealing personally with the pressure.

In the Ridge interview, she emphasized that what is still up for negotiation is the future relationship between the EU and the U.K. beyond the Brexit transition period, a seven-page outline of which was published Wednesday.

“We won’t agree the leaving part until we’ve got what we want in the future relationship,” May said, revealing she planned to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels this week.

The prime minister could face a leadership challenge as early as next week.

“Getting that future relationship right is necessary. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” she said.

But while critics of her deal differ on what they view as an optimal future relationship with the EU, it is the backstop arrangement that is causing unease in her party as well as outright hostility. The backstop is intended as an insurance option that would kick in once the stand-still transition period comes to an end.

Under its provisions, the U.K. would remain in a Single Customs Territory with the EU, applying the bloc’s quota and tariff regime. Most controversially, the backstop can only be terminated if both sides agree — giving the EU an effective veto.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, May’s former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said the prime minister should reopen negotiations on the withdrawal text rather than be “blackmailed and bullied,” raising particular concerns over the fact the U.K. is unable to withdraw from the backstop unilaterally.

Anti-Brexit campaigners in London | Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

But May emphasized that the backstop was only an “insurance policy.”

“What we’re talking about is a backstop that we never intend to use, [and] it’s not the only option on the table,” she said.

“The backstop can only ever be temporary. Under the legal arrangements of the EU they cannot enter into a permanent relationship on the terms of this backstop,” she said.

“The thing that’s going to make a difference to people’s lives is the future relationship,” she said, adding: “It’s in the national interest to get that deal right.”

The prime minister could face a leadership challenge as early as next week amid widespread dissatisfaction in her party about the deal she presented to Cabinet Wednesday.

When asked if she knew whether enough Tory MPs had submitted a request to trigger a confidence vote in her leadership among Conservative party members, she said: “As far as I know, no.”

What I said was we couldn’t stop it because we don’t have the votes in parliament to do so” — Jeremy Corbyn

“A change of leadership at this point isn’t going to make the negotiations easier and it isn’t going to make the parliamentary arithmetic any easier,” she said, referring to the fact that the Conservative party doesn’t have a majority in the U.K. House of Commons.

May declined to describe how the government would respond if it loses the parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal, stating “we’re not at that point” yet.

However, she said she was determined to “deliver what people in the country voted for,” and criticized a lack of clarity from other political parties on their stance to the Brexit deal, stating that opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn “hasn’t even fully read it.”

Interviewed on the same program, Corbyn said the government should accept it would not win the backing of MPs for the deal and that it should go back to Brussels and negotiate to stay in a customs union with the EU.

Dominic Raab said the prime minister should reopen negotiations on the withdrawal text | Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

“We’re saying now to the government you’ve haven’t got a majority in parliament for this. You don’t have majority support in the country. You have to go back and do something better,” he said.

Corbyn was also questioned on his stance on a second national vote on Brexit, having previously come under fire for saying in an interview with Der Spiegel that “Brexit can’t be stopped.”

He qualified that position by saying: “What I said was we couldn’t stop it because we don’t have the votes in parliament to do so.”

Asked if there should be a second referendum, he said, “I don’t think that’s an option we’re going to get given.” But pressed again he added, “I think it’s an option for the future but it’s not an option for today. If you had a referendum today what’s it going to be on? What’s the question going to be?”

He added that he didn’t know how he would vote in such a hypothetical referendum.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The Withdrawal Agreement … has lots of flaws within it. But more fundamentally there is no clarity whatsoever about the future relationship between the U.K. and the EU. So the House of Commons is going to be asked to effectively endorse a blindfold Brexit.”


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Dominic Raab: Restart Brexit talks and say UK won’t be ‘bullied’

Former Brexit secretary says without changes to the deal, Britain should walk away with a ‘clean break.’

Britain should reopen Brexit negotiations with the EU and show that it will not be “blackmailed and bullied,” former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said today in an interview with the Sunday Times.

Raab delivered a devastating critique of Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiating strategy — one that, until he quit the post on Thursday, he had spent four months implementing.

The prime minister could face a leadership challenge as early as next week amid widespread dissatisfaction in her party about the deal she presented to Cabinet on Wednesday. Raab is a prime contender to stand, alongside fellow Brexiteer and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

“If we cannot close this deal on reasonable terms we need to be very honest with the country that we will not be bribed and blackmailed or bullied and we will walk away,” said Raab. “I think there is one thing that is missing and that is political will and resolve. I am not sure that message has ever landed.”

“I don’t think we should look like we’re afraid of our own shadow. We need to be going out there and grasping opportunities,” he said.

He said the final straw was hearing news that the EU intended the backstop customs arrangement, which was negotiated to prevent the need for a border in Northern Ireland, to form the basis of the U.K.’s eventual economic relationship with the bloc. POLITICO was first to report that Tuesday night.

Asked if someone on the U.K. side had prevented him from knowing earlier he said, “Yep.” When asked who, he said: “I don’t know. I’ve asked how this change was made and who licensed it and there’s not been a clear answer.”

Raab says London should go back to the negotiating table and demand the U.K. is given a mechanism for withdrawing from the backstop unilaterally. Under the current deal both sides must agree, giving Brussels an effective veto.

If the other side refuse to renegotiate, Raab says Britain should walk away with a “clean break.” At that point he advocates publishing plans to cut taxes and stimulate the economy.

“This isn’t Dunkirk. The short-term risks of disruption can be managed,” he said, referring to the rushed evacuation of British servicemen from wartime France in 1940. “They can’t be eliminated. We need to be honest about that. But far better that than to allow a pretty controlling and manipulative relationship with the EU to become abusive.”

Raab came under fire this month for saying he “hadn’t quite understood” the U.K. reliance on the Dover-Calais trade route.

Raab suggested to the Sunday Times that without the backstop terms, the deal would be acceptable to Brexiteers. “The frustrating thing is we got close to a deal which would have been acceptable,” he says. “It’s clear that we cannot now exit the backstop without the EU exercising a veto and that could be years and years down the line. It’s the worst of all worlds.”


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David Davies: I voted and campaigned for Leave. But here’s why I’m supporting May’s Brexit plan.

Opposing this proposal serves only to help those who wish to undermin eour desire to respect the referendum result. It is only by being united that we can fight them off.

David Davies is Chair of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, and is MP for Monmouth.

Ever since I entered Parliament in 2005, I have passionately and sincerely campaigned for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Back in 2011, long before it became policy, I joined the Parliamentary rebellion to support a referendum on the issue.

Immediately after the referendum was announced, I began my daily campaign for Leave, both in my constituency and across the UK. I have knocked on countless doors and addressed many meetings in aid of this cause. So I do not think anyone can say I have not done my bit for Brexit.

It is precisely because of my longstanding support for Brexit that I will be backing the deal proposed by Theresa May.  It is not perfect, and there are many things I would like to have seen done differently in the negotiations. The Government should have begun planning earlier for no deal ,and made clear our willingness to follow this path if necessary. This would undoubtedly have increased our leverage in the negotiations.

And, there are areas where I will seek further reassurance. Not least, that no deal planning continues so that we maintain our ability to walk away if we have to.  But all of us have to deal with where we are now – with the circumstances in front of us.

This deal will take us out of the EU on 29th March 2019, as planned. Not as far out as I or many of my colleagues would like, but out nonetheless. And once we are out, there is no returning.

Franklin D Roosevelt famously asked people to ‘judge him by the enemies he made’. The Prime Minister would do well to ask the Conservative Party to do the same when it comes to this deal.

It is telling that some of the most vehement opponents of the deal are longstanding Remainers, who are explicit about their desire to overturn the referendum result. And, of course, the entire Labour frontbench, which smells an opportunity to try and remove the Conservative Government from office and usher in a Marxist one.

If this was truly as bad a Brexit as many claim, it is hard to see why those groups are working so hard to defeat it. Ultimately, their aim is for Brexit to fail. The reason they are working so hard to stop this deal is because they know that, if it is passed and we do leave in March next year, there is no going back.

After working and campaigning so hard for Brexit, I cannot understand why my colleagues would rather walk through the lobbies with those who have spent the past years trying to thwart them. Surely they can see doing as much would only play into their hands.

Many of my colleagues believe that if this deal is voted down, it will lead to us getting a better deal, with a cleaner break from the EU or just to no deal at all. But, with the greatest respect to them, there are no guarantees. It is just as likely, and possibly more likely, that we will end up locked into the Customs Union and Single Market permanently or, even worse, that we do not leave at all.

Lining up against this deal fundamentally risks what we have all worked so hard to deliver. Ultimately, it only serves to help those who wish to undermine our position and our desire to respect the result of the referendum. It is only by being united that we can fight them off.

This has been shown through the recent history of the Conservative Party. I fought my first general election in 1997. And, as with many of our candidates that year, I was resoundingly beaten. Why? Because our party had spent the past four years tearing chunks out of each other over Europe. The public have always taken a dim view of such division and self-interest. They will do so again. In the end, they simply want us to get on with it.

There is undoubtedly more work to be done over the coming weeks and months – even years. But this deal allows us to end the free movement of people, end our contributions to the EU budget, end our membership of the Common Agricultural Policy, take back control of our waters by ending the Common Fisheries Policy and have the ability to strike our own trade deals for the first time in over 40 years. Most of all ,it allows us to leave the European Union.

The honest truth for those of us that have long supported Brexit is that if this deal had been offered to us before the referendum, we would have gratefully grabbed it with both hands. We should all do so now.

A first glance at some of the main points in May’s deal

We set five tests for it. Does this draft agreement pass them? And does it really take back control of our borders, laws and money?

When Theresa May set out her strategy for the Brexit negotiations, she set out three goals: to take back control of Britain’s money, laws, and borders.

As the talks have progressed, more issues have emerged – not least Northern Ireland and the territorial integrity of the UK. So this month we suggested a further five points to consider.

They are: would the deal hive off Northern Ireland? Does it threaten to break up the Union? Would it trap the country in a customs union? Does it hand over money for nothing? And does it more closely resemble Chequers, or ‘Canada’?

Below, we take a look at how the Prime Minister’s proposals measure up against these yardsticks.

Are we taking back control of our money?

Probably. We’re paying the so-called ‘divorce bill’ as part of the Withdrawal Agreement, so won’t be able to use it as leverage during the future relationship. Lee Rotherham also points out that there’s little mention of the UK regaining our share of EU assets, despite lots of mention of our liabilities to the bloc.

Perhaps more ominously, we will continue paying in during the initial ‘transition period’, and if we choose to extend it Article 138 says that our contributions will be established at an ‘appropriate’ level by the Joint Committee. One Labour MP compared this to signing an insurance agreement without knowing what the excess was.

The question is whether, or how, we end up disentangling ourselves from the EU during that period. Some of these issues may only become clear when the future relationship is negotiated.

Are we taking back control of our laws?

When it comes to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, the negotiators seem to have made some progress. Compared to the EU’s initial proposals (which a former ECJ judge denounced as ‘leonine’) its role is substantially reduced, and the idea that it would be the mediating institution in disputes between the UK and the EU is gone. One analyst has dubbed this a ‘solid win’.

On the other hand, this piece in the Financial Times suggests that the role of the ECJ, especially during the transition, could be much greater than the above analysis suggests, and that it might in effect remain the ultimate arbiter of UK-EU disputes.

Beyond that, there are other points of concern. First, Rotherham reports that the deal locks the UK into the European Convention on Human Rights, precluding any possibility of repatriating judicial supremacy to these islands – a longstanding Conservative ambition, and one shared by the Prime Minister.

Moreover, there was extensive ‘level playing field’ provisions (Annex 4) which would prevent future British governments from setting independent policy in a broad range of areas, and Rotherham suggests that the section on equivalence could end up with Britain in “in a fax democracy version of a Regulatory Union, and probably in a form of Customs Union.”

Finally, there is the salient fact that the backstop proposals, if implemented, don’t contain any procedure for the UK’s unilateral withdrawal (at least not without resiling from our entire negotiated relationship with the EU). This is a serious curb on the practical power, if not the technical sovereignty, of Parliament.

CCHQ is taking pains to combat the idea that the backstop is inescapable. In an email to the National Convention, Brandon Lewis writes:

  • “If both sides agree the future relationship is ready we would leave the backstop. This judgement would need to be taken in good faith and with view to their commitment on best endeavours.”
  • “If there is a disagreement, a special conference would try and resolve the differences.”
  • “If that failed to reach an agreement it would go to independent arbitration as to whether the NI protocol is still needed to meet its objectives.”

According to Article 170, “independent arbitration” means “the International Bureau of the Permanent Court of Arbitration”, an intergovernmental organisation based at The Hague. The five-person panel will comprise two members apiece from the UK and the EU, plus one independent member, whittled down from a shortlist of 25 (Article 171).

On the face of it this could allow the UK – if it had a very strong case – to climb the chain of appeals and have EU objections to withdrawing from the backstop overridden at the PCA. That doesn’t seem a likely scenario, however, and can’t be spun – as Lewis is trying to do – as a practical, reliable means of quitting the backstop.

Are we taking back control of our borders?

Eventually, probably. The Withdrawal Agreement at least doesn’t commit the UK to maintaining freedom of movement in perpetuity, and it has been argued in some quarters that the Government has actually managed, to an extent, to divide the ‘four freedoms’ and secure some form of market access without unlimited EU immigration.

However, the UK will have to maintain our current policies – including freedom of movement – at least until the end of the ‘transition period’ in 2021. Unless a full future relationship has been negotiated by then (and experience doesn’t offer much grounds for optimism) we will then probably use our one-off extension of the ‘transition period’, further prolonging freedom of movement.

If we revert to the backstop, freedom of movement comes to an end, but at present that option looks likely to be so unpalatable that few prime ministers would choose to enter it if they can help it.

The upshot of all that is that is that we aren’t locked in to freedom of movement indefinitely, but we probably won’t be able to introduce new controls for years.

On a final note, Rotherham suggests that, despite what David Mundell and other Scottish Conservatives have been saying about the UK becoming an ‘independent coastal state’, in fact the fate of British fishing stocks is still on the table.

Will it hive off Northern Ireland?

The barriers are less than they might have been – it doesn’t look as though there will be a customs border down the Irish Sea – but Northern Ireland is still a case apart under the proposed backstop, which is why it features in a huge share of the deal’s text.

Whilst the customs union provisions will be UK-wide, Ulster will remain additionally subject to a range of single market rules and other EU laws including VAT and excise (Article 9), Agriculture and environment (Article 10), the single electricity market (Article 11), and in part state aid (Article 12).

This will put Northern Ireland in the problematic position of having its economy regulated by a foreign legislature in which it is unrepresented (although MEPs from the Republic of Ireland might try to claim that mantle), and with the explicit intention of prioritising its alignment with the EU and Irish markets rather than the British one, despite the latter accounting for vastly more of its external sales.

Since the British Government will also have no right to withdraw, this means that Northern Irish voters will have no democratic control over important areas of law via either Stormont or Westminster.

However, RTE’s Tony Connelly has tweeted to explain how the EU intends to allow GB-NI trade to run smoothly… and it sounds a lot like the combination of targeted checks, back-office enforcement, and technology that was supposedly incapable of allowing for a ‘frictionless’ north-south trade border without the backstop. A Dutch customs expert has also told MPs that a technical solution on north-south trade is perfectly practical (video available).

If Dublin and Brussels are sincere when they say that their goal is simply to ensure smooth trade and avoid giving would-be terrorists obvious targets, this holds out some hope that the customs element of the backstop could be obviated entirely by a proper north-south arrangement.

However, it may be very difficult to get this done in practice. As the Prime Minister told the Commons on Thursday, under these proposals the backstop cannot be revived once it is set aside. That will make the other side very wary about doing so.

The problem of Single Market rules, however, would remain regardless.

Does it threaten to break up the Union?

The backstop poses several potential dangers to the integrity of the United Kingdom, both in relation to Northern Ireland and elsewhere.

First, there are the long-term ramifications of the Northern Irish economy potentially re-aligning away from the mainland in the course of a decade (or longer) locked into structure that gives preferential treatment to north-south commerce, and of Irish politicians unofficially – but probably publicly – presuming to act on its behalf inside the EU.

Ian Lucas, the Labour MP for Wrexham, highlighted the extraordinary way in which the agreement handles GB-NI trade in a question to the Prime Minister on Thursday.

Not to be under-estimated either is the damage this could do within political unionism. Northern Ireland’s position in the United Kingdom has not been strengthened by its almost complete political isolation, and if the links forged over the past couple of years were burned in the process of passing this deal it would represent a significant step backwards.

But the backstop isn’t just a problem for Northern Ireland. As Joanna Cherry, an SNP MP, has pointed out, such a high-alignment and asymmetrical arrangement makes life much, much easier for separatists across these islands. Not only does it restore the high floor for ongoing relations which made ‘independence in Europe’ so saleable, but it throws in an added advantage in that Scotland could theoretically regain its status as a ‘rule maker’ whilst not missing out on any trade with rUK.

This, and not just solidarity or high unionist principle, is presumably why both David Mundell and Ruth Davidson threatened to resign in the event of a withdrawal agreement which offered differential treatment for Ulster. Since that’s exactly what we’ve got, their u-turn on this is hard to explain.

Nor is all quiet on the Welsh front: during questions in the Commons yesterday a Plaid Cymru MP once again illustrated the dangers of the backstop by asking May to assure him that there would be no border between England and Wales if the latter were to adopt the Northern Irish settlement.

Would it trap the country in a customs union?

There seems a very strong chance of this. As previously explained, the backstop would lock the UK into a customs union without the ability to withdraw unilaterally. Worse, that would be a customs union in which the Government had no input into the rules.

Of course, neither side officially wants the backstop to come into force. But there are reports that, on the EU side at least, it is viewed as something to be built out on when constructing the future relationship, rather than merely a refuge of last resort if the negotiations falter. There is therefore a risk that integration on this level becomes the basis of the future partnership.

Does it hand over money for nothing?

Our editor posed the following question: “Since a future trade deal will be covered by an unenforceable political declaration – not the Withdrawal Agreement – what safeguards are there against shelling out £40 billion for nothing?”

The short answer seems to be “not many”. The political declaration on the future relationship is broad-strokes, to say the least, and whilst it could potentially shape up into a good agreement there are also plenty of areas where things could go wrong from London’s perspective. Rotherham also sets out in his Brexit Central piece several ways in which he thinks the financial settlement is unfair on Britain.

What is certain is that if the UK hands over the entire divorce bill it won’t be able to use those billions, and the threat of the EU being under-funded, as leverage during the negotiations. (The IEA have suggested one way in which London might split the payments, holding back £19.8 billion earmarked for “outstanding budget commitments”.)

Chequers or Canada?

This one we can’t definitively answer. The withdrawal agreement is not the future relationship, and the document we have on the latter is too short to draw clear conclusions from. A lot will depend on how the negotiations go between next March and the ultimate end of the transition period in “20XX” (note: not even “202X”!).

Whether or not an all-UK ‘Canada’ arrangement is possible seems to depend on whether the Government can negotiate to have the EU’s minimal-friction, tech-enabled, and intelligence-led customs arrangements applied to north-south trade from Northern Ireland instead of east-west.

However, there are ominous indicators. As our editor highlighted on Friday morning, the final spur for Dominic Raab’s resignation was the insertion, without his knowledge, of a commitment to pursue ” ambitious customs arrangements that build on the single customs territory provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement”. That doesn’t entirely close off the path to Canada, but it heavily skews the parameters of the negotiations towards a settlement that looks more like Chequers.

Brussels won’t allow Brexit deal do-over

EU negotiator Michel Barnier tells ambassadors the EU has a ‘duty’ to stick to its red lines, despite political turmoil in London.

Brussels is on edge, but it has no intention of going back to the Brexit drawing board.

Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told a meeting of EU27 ambassadors Friday morning that whatever political “difficulties” Theresa May is experiencing in London, the bloc has a “duty” to stand firm on its key Brexit red lines, according to EU diplomats present.

For her part, May is standing firm on the deal in the face of a gale of criticism and is intent on pushing the deal to a vote in the House of Commons. But if political opponents in her own party succeed in forcing her to seek a better deal, there is no sign that any of the EU27 red lines will change.

We cannot “compromise” or engage in “cherry-picking” or “bargaining,” Barnier told ambassadors, referring to requests to reopen the draft deal that was agreed by the British Cabinet on Wednesday. He added that he expects “difficult negotiations” ahead.

Barnier also expressed a desire to help the British government in its efforts to ratify the text in a vote of MPs. And he said that there could be room for movement on the EU side in specific areas, such as enhanced cooperation on phytosanitary regulations and so-called technical barriers to trade. It is a moment not for triumphalism, he said, but for “encouragement.”

“All eyes are on London. We see there are some turbulences” — EU diplomat

The chief negotiator’s presentation at the more than two-hour meeting reflects a dilemma for Brussels. While EU countries want to help May get the deal through parliament, there is a reluctance at such a late stage to radically unpick the agreement — despite threats to May’s leadership and a series of ministerial resignations over the deal.

Diplomats say that some tweaks might still be possible if they could make the difference between the deal succeeding or crashing, but the kind of radical overhaul proposed by Brexiteers such as former Brexit Secretary David Davis is simply not on the table. There is “no question” of that, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday.

“If we renegotiate something it could be on very small details,” said a senior EU diplomat “[but] it will not be on the main issues.”

“Europeans are not scared, but very cautious, and everybody hopes the deal will be approved,” he added, saying that the first major challenge will be the tight timescale to consider the details of the deal before a hastily arranged EU leaders’ summit on November 25.

There is “no question” of radical overhaul of the deal, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said | John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

“Some of us will need to consult our MPs on the text, and make the necessary democratic deliberations in our countries,” the diplomat added.

“All eyes are on London,” said another EU diplomat. “We see there are some turbulences.” Asked about the mood in Brussels, the diplomat said: “It’s a feeling of relief that at least there’s a text on the table.” A third diplomat added: “Everyone is committed to getting the ball over the line.”

In any case, as Barnier said Wednesday, EU capitals feel that they have already given significant ground in the final stages of the talks. And not everyone is happy with all aspects of the final deal.

“We had to accept compromises,” said the second diplomat. “There are some points that also make some EU members uncomfortable.”

The diplomat cited the EU’s acceptance of an all-U.K. customs backstop — as an insurance measure to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland — and the decision to kick negotiations about fisheries access into the transition period that will immediately follow Brexit day in March next year. “It’s not clear, and it will affect millions of jobs,” said the senior EU diplomat. “There’s nothing precise.”

Barnier was briefing ambassadors on the state of ongoing talks about the political declaration — the document that will accompany the 585-page Withdrawal Agreement. Only a cursory seven-page outline of that was published on Wednesday evening and the chief negotiator indicated that several issues are still in play.

“Any regulatory gap is a serious issue” — Senior diplomat

On security matters including participation in EU agencies such as Europol and Eurojust he said, according to two EU diplomats, that the U.K. does still “not accept” the full ramifications of not being an EU member country. But Barnier added that both sides share the aim of close cooperation. And on mechanisms to ensure there is a level playing field between British and EU businesses after Brexit, EU ambassadors expressed reservations in the discussion following Barnier’s briefing.

“Any regulatory gap is a serious issue,” said the senior diplomat, adding that the text “isn’t clear” on environmental and social measures. “The consequences are important because it could enhance any regulatory gap on major issues.” One country’s representative is also “worried” that the text offers too much to the U.K. on services.

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire | Sébastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images

Despite the desire not to contribute to political instability in London, not all EU politicians are adopting a softly softly approach. France’s economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, said on Friday that Brexit is leading Britain into “a nightmare” and called on “lying and irresponsible” Brexiteers to abandon their project, or face economic meltdown.

“The British politicians, who have argued for Brexit, now have a choice between reneging on their absurd political promise or an economic disaster of which the British people will be the first victim,” he said.

His more cautious colleagues may be hoping that the people he is referring to are too preoccupied to notice.

David Herszenhorn contributed reporting.

Richard Tice: May’s deal is the worst deal in history

For nothing in return, by way of a guaranteed free trade deal, the Prime Minister is willing to hand over at least £40 billion, potentially £60 billion.

Richard Tice is an entrepreneur, campaigner and co-founder of Leave means Leave

Theresa May had always repeated what I have known to be true in business: “no deal is better than a bad deal”.  But now, even in the face of multiple Cabinet resignations and growing anger among her Parliamentary colleagues at her proposed deal, her actions suggest she believes that any deal is better than a no deal.  The regrettable reality is that her deal is not only a bad deal: it is the worst deal in history.

For nothing in return, by way of a guaranteed free trade deal, the Prime Minister is willing to hand over at least £40 billion, potentially £60 billion.   We will have no say in the EU, but payments will continue until the EU decides we can leave the arrangement.

May’s deal misses the point of Brexit entirely, and will result in losing control of our money and continuing to make massive payments to the EU indefinitely – since they have no incentive to stop, having captured us in their “naughty” chamber.

A UK-wide EU Customs Union would kill off the idea of Global Britain.  We would not be able to strike our own trade deals with old and new friends around the world.  That would means the same protectionist high costs for consumers and, in reality, no access to new EU trade deals with third countries.  We would also have no influence at the WTO, no protection against trade dumping and have our own tariffs decided by the EU.

The EU is terrified of a competitive UK. It’s terrified of our innovation, flexibility and attractiveness to the world.  That’s why under May’s deal, EU competition, environment, employment and state aid rules would apply.

Taxation without representation is not Brexit.  Continued European Court of Justice oversight is not Brexit.  This deal will only succeed in disenfranchising the UK electorate, possibly forever, and result in Dublin having more of a say than London over large parts of the UK economy.

Don’t be fooled by those who say this is only a transitional arrangement.  Once we hand over £40 billion for a transition process that may never end, there is no longer any incentive for the EU to come back to the table to talk trade.  And what kind of maso-sadist Prime Minister would want to re-open negotiations with the EU in the future?

There are just seven pages of non-binding waffle on the “future framework” of a possible trade deal, which the EU has no incentive to finalise; yet there are almost 600 pages of room for EU traps and mischief on everything else in the Withdrawal Agreement.  The backstop, is a backdoor to the EU, with EU regulatory control and no time limit.

Worse still, we could only break this terrible deal with EU approval, which they have zero reason to give.  As Michel Barnier’s deputy, Sabine Weyand, has said to EU Ambassadors, the backstop will be used to lock the UK inside the EU indefinitely as a feeble vassal state.

Brexit is the opportunity of a lifetime.  But May is determined to rob us of those opportunities by handcuffing parts of our country to the EU Internal Market and chaining us to the EU Customs Union.

With her ministers abandoning ship in large numbers, her position is on the edge. However, she could avoid the current national humiliation and a vote of no confidence if she immediately shook up her negotiating team, removing Olly Robbins first, and bring in competent Brexit-supporters and businesspeople as I recommended on this site last December.  She should then go back to Brussels, and make clear that she’s aiming for a sensible and achievable Canada+ deal, which we know they are happy to do.

Pushing on with May’s current deal would betray not only of the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the EU, but also destroy the idea of Britain as a strong, independent-minded and innovative nation with so much to offer the world.  Should it get that far, Parliament has an obvious decision to make: no deal is better than a bad deal, and this is the worst ever deal in history.

4 steps to UK’s Brexit future

Theresa May’s draft deal sets out the steps to a future UK-EU relationship

It may not feel like it after a bruising few days, but Theresa May is one step closer to a Brexit deal. However, there’s still a long way to go before she can run through a field of wheat in celebration.

Here’s the path to the U.K.’s eventual future relationship with the EU in (a maximum of) 4 stages.

Theresa May’s statement to MPs on the draft Brexit deal

The prime minister said that delivering Brexit involved ‘difficult choices.’

The full prime minister’s statement to the House of Commons on the draft deal negotiated between her government and the EU27. 

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to update the House on our negotiations to leave the European Union.

First, I want to pay tribute to my Rt Hon Friends the Members for Esher and Walton and Tatton.

Delivering Brexit involves difficult choices for all of us.

We do not agree on all of those choices but I respect their views and thank them sincerely for all that they have done.

Mr Speaker, yesterday we agreed the provisional terms of our exit from the European Union, set out in the Draft Withdrawal Agreement.

We also agreed the broad terms of our future relationship, in an Outline Political Declaration.

President Juncker has now written to the President of the European Council to recommend that “decisive progress has been made in the negotiations.”

And a special European Council will be called for Sunday 25th November.

This puts us close to a Brexit deal.

Mr Speaker, what we agreed yesterday was not the final deal.

It is a draft treaty that means we will leave the EU in a smooth and orderly way on 29 March 2019 and which sets the framework for a future relationship that delivers in our national interest.

It takes back control of our borders, laws and money.

It protects jobs, security and the integrity of the United Kingdom.

And it delivers in ways that many said could simply not be done.

We were told that we had a binary choice between the model of Norway or the model of Canada. That we could not have a bespoke deal.

But the Outline Political Declaration sets out an arrangement that is better for our country than both of these – a more ambitious free trade agreement than the EU has with any other country.

And we were told we would be treated like any other third country on security co-operation.

But the Outline Political Declaration sets out a breadth and depth of co-operation beyond anything the EU has agreed with any other country.

So let me take the House through the details.

First, on the Withdrawal Agreement, the full legal text has now been agreed in principle.

It sets out the terms on which the UK will leave the EU in 134 days’ time on 29th March 2019.

We have secured the rights of the more than three million EU citizens living in the UK, and around one million UK nationals living in the EU.

We have agreed a time-limited implementation period that ensures businesses only have to plan for one set of changes.

We have agreed Protocols to ensure Gibraltar and the Sovereign Base Areas are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.

And we have agreed a fair financial settlement – far lower than the figures many mentioned at the start of this process.

Mr Speaker, since the start of this process I have been committed to ensuring that our exit from the EU deals with the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

I believe this issue can best be solved through our future relationship with the EU. But the withdrawal agreement sets out an insurance policy should that new relationship not be ready in time at the end of the implementation period.

I do not pretend that this has been a comfortable process — or that either we or the EU are entirely happy with all of the arrangements that have been included within it.

Of course this is the case — this is an arrangement that we have both said we never want to have to use.

But while some people might pretend otherwise, there is no deal which delivers the Brexit the British people voted for which does not involve this insurance policy.

Not Canada +++. Not Norway for Now. Not our own White Paper.

The EU will not negotiate any future partnership without it.

As the House knows, the original proposal from the EU was not acceptable as it would have meant creating a customs border down the Irish Sea and breaking up the integrity of our United Kingdom.

So last month, I set out for the House the four steps we needed to take.

This is what we have now done and it has seen the EU make a number of concessions towards our position.

First, the EU proposal for a Northern-Ireland only customs solution has been dropped and replaced by a new UK-wide temporary customs arrangement that protects the integrity of our precious Union.

Second, we have created an option for a single time-limited extension of the Implementation Period as an alternative to bringing in the backstop.

As I have said many times, I do not want to extend the Implementation Period and I do not believe we will need to do so. This is about an insurance policy.

But if it happens that at the end of 2020 our future relationship is not quite ready – the UK will be able to make a choice between the UK-wide temporary customs arrangement or a short extension of the Implementation Period.

Third, the Withdrawal Agreement commits both parties to use best endeavours to ensure this insurance policy is never used.

And in the unlikely event that it is needed, if we choose the backstop, the Withdrawal Agreement is explicit that it is temporary and that the Article 50 legal base cannot provide for a permanent relationship. And there is also a mechanism by which the backstop can be terminated.

Finally, we have ensured full continued access for Northern Ireland’s businesses to the whole of the UK internal market.

Mr Speaker, the Brexit talks are about acting in the national interest – and that means making what I believe to be the right choices, not the easy ones.

I know there are some who have said I should simply rip-up the UK’s commitment to a backstop.

But this would have been an entirely irresponsible course of action.

It would have meant reneging on a promise made to the people of Northern Ireland during the Referendum campaign and afterwards that under no circumstances would Brexit lead to a return to the borders of the past.

And it would have made it impossible to deliver a Withdrawal Agreement.

As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, I have a responsibility to people in every part of our country and I intend to honour that promise.

Mr Speaker, by resolving this issue, we are now able to move on to finalising the details of an ambitious future partnership.

The Outline Political Declaration we have agreed sets out the basis for these negotiations and we will negotiate intensively ahead of the European Council to turn this into a full future framework.

The Declaration will end free movement once and for all.

Instead we will have our own new, skills-based, immigration system – based not on the country people come from, but on what they can contribute to the UK.

The Declaration agrees the creation of a free trade area for goods, with zero tariffs, no fees, charges or quantitative restrictions across all goods sectors.

No other major advanced economy has such an arrangement with the EU. And at the same time, we will also be free to strike new trade deals with other partners around the world.

We have also reached common ground on a close relationship on services and investment, including financial services which go well beyond WTO commitments.

The Declaration ensures we will be leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy.

So we will decide how best to sustain and support our farms and our environment, and the UK will become an independent coastal state once again.

We have also reached agreement on key elements of our future security partnership to keep our people safe.

This includes swift and effective extradition arrangements as well as arrangements for effective data exchange on Passenger Name Records, DNA, fingerprints and vehicle registration data.

And we have agreed a close and flexible partnership on foreign, security and defence policy.

Mr Speaker, when I first became Prime Minister in 2016 there was no ready-made blueprint for Brexit.

Many people said it could simply not be done.

I have never accepted that. I have been committed day and night to delivering on the result of the referendum and ensuring the UK leaves the EU absolutely and on time.

But I also said at the very start that withdrawing from EU membership after 40 years, and establishing a wholly new relationship that will endure for decades to come, would be complex and require hard work.

I know it’s been a frustrating process – it has forced us to confront some very difficult issues.

But a good Brexit. A Brexit which is in the national interest is possible.

We have persevered and have made a decisive breakthrough.

Once a final deal is agreed, I will bring it to Parliament and I will ask MPs to consider the national interest and give it their backing.

Voting against a deal would take us all back to square one.

It would mean more uncertainty, more division, and a failure to deliver on the decision of the British people that we should leave the EU.

If we get behind a deal, we can bring our country back together and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.

Mr Speaker, the British people want us to get this done. And to get on with addressing the other issues they care about.

Creating more good jobs in every part of the UK and doing more to help families with the cost of living.

Helping our NHS to provide first class care and our schools to give every child a great start in life.

And focusing every ounce of our energy on building a brighter future for our country.

So Mr Speaker, the choice is clear. We can choose to leave with no deal. We can risk no Brexit at all. Or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated. This deal.

A deal that ends free movement; takes back control of our borders, laws and money; delivers a free trade area for goods with zero tariffs; leaves the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy; delivers an independent foreign and defence policy, while retaining the continued security co-operation to keep our people safe; maintains shared commitments to high standard; protects jobs; honours the integrity of our United Kingdom; and delivers the Brexit the British people voted for.

I choose to deliver for the British people.

I choose to do what is in our national interest.

And I commend this Statement to the House.


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Esther McVey latest UK Cabinet minister to resign over Brexit deal

The work and pensions secretary said she could not defend a deal that handed control to the EU.

LONDON — Theresa May’s work and pensions secretary, Esther McVey become the second Cabinet minister to resign Thursday over the prime minister’s draft Brexit deal, saying it would be ‘handing over control’ to the EU.

McVey quit just an hour after Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab’s resignation and was swiftly followed by Suella Braverman, a junior minister at the Department for Exiting the EU. Braverman, who is a former head of the European Research Group of backbench Brexiteer MPs, tweeted she looked forward to “working to support Brexit from the backbenches.”

In her letter to the prime minister, McVey, a longstanding Brexit supporter, accused May of putting a deal to Cabinet that “does not honor the result of the [2016 EU] referendum.”

Ministers reached a “collective” decision to approve a draft Brexit agreement with Brussels after five-hour meeting on Wednesday. McVey is reported to have spoken out strongly against the plan.

“The proposals put before Cabinet, which will soon be judged by the entire country, means [sic] handing over around £39 billion to the EU without anything in return,” she wrote, “It will trap us in a customs union, despite you specifically promising the British people we would not be.”

McVey “I could not look my constituents in the eye” and defend the draft deal.

In her letter to the prime minister, Braverman said that the negotiations had been an “uncomfortable journey.”

“Throughout this process, I have compromised. I have put pragmatism ahead of idealism and understand that concessions are necessary in a negotiation,” she said, “However I have reached a point where I feel that these concessions do not respect the will of the people.”


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Labour indicates it won’t back Theresa May’s Brexit deal

Draft no longer mentions ‘frictionless’ trade, says Starmer.

U.K. shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer dismissed the draft Withdrawal Agreement struck by EU and U.K. negotiators as “inadequate in so many ways,” and signaled that Labour would not back the deal.

Starmer told the BBC’s Today program Thursday that while he had yet to fully read the deal in detail, early indicators weren’t good, and “if it’s not good enough, why on earth should Labour back it?”

The opposition Labour party has said for months that it will not accept a “vague or blind Brexit” deal, Starmer said, adding there is “nothing in [the draft deal] about a comprehensive customs union.”

The deal would effectively lead to a “trade agreement that makes it harder to trade, not easier to trade,” Labour’s Brexit chief said.

Referring to the section in the draft agreement on customs arrangements, Starmer noted that at first glance, it appeared “there will be more friction at the border. It doesn’t even use the phrase ‘frictionless’ anymore.”

The 585-page draft document, agreed Wednesday, demonstrates that it is “impossible to replicate the benefits” Britain now has in the European Union, Starmer said.

“Why on earth would you back a deal as bad as this one?” he concluded.


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