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Conservatives accused of 'giving up governing' after accepting Labour amendments to Budget

9 hours 33 minutes ago
Theresa MayTheresa May
Theresa May's pact with Arlene Foster's DUP is under strain.

The Conservatives have been accused of "giving up governing" after accepting a number of Labour amendments to the Budget in the face of a fresh DUP rebellion.

In a fresh blow to Theresa May, the Government refused to push the changes to a vote after the DUP signalled they would not support them as part of their protest against the Prime Minister's Brexit deal.

That effectively removed the Prime Minister's working majority, meaning they faced almost-certain defeat.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the move proved that the Government was "falling apart in front of us".

MPs had been expecting to vote on a string of Labour amendments to the Finance Bill on tax evasion, gaming duty and Fixed Odds Betting Terminals.

But after accepting that they were set to lose the votes, ministers indicated that they would be accepting the amendments.

John McDonnell said: "It’s absolutely staggering that the Government has accepted all Labour amendments to the Finance Bill because it couldn’t rely upon the DUP’s support.

"The Tories are in office but not in power. We’re watching a government falling apart in front of us."

One Labour source told PoliticsHome: "The Government have given up governing."

The latest blow to the fragile voting pact between the Conservatives and DUP came just 24 hours after the Government narrowly avoided defeat in a key Finance Bill vote.

The Northern Irish party are angry at the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement, which they claim effectively creates a new border between the province and the rest of the UK.

In a statement tonight, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds called on the Prime Minister to renegotiate the deal.

He said: "It is increasingly clear this deal does not have support necessary to pass the meaningful vote in Parliament.

"A large number of Conservatives, both Brexit supporters and ardent Remainers, are against it. Labour, SNP, Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru are against it. Unionists in Northern Ireland, and indeed unionists across the UK, are appalled at the constitutional implications of the deal.

"Therefore, rather than presenting a binary choice, it is time for the Prime Minister to work for a better deal. We recognise the genuine concerns that people have expressed about leaving the European Union on a ‘no deal’ basis. It is very clear that if we wish to avoid that scenario then the only option is to look beyond this withdrawal agreement and work for a better deal.

"A stubborn determination by the PM to pursue a binary choice of this deal or no deal is not in the country's interests.

"The confidence and supply agreement was based on shared objectives for strengthening and enhancing the Union and an exit from the European Union that benefits all parts of the United Kingdom. We have kept to our word, but even Cabinet members have found themselves having to resign because this deal does not represent those shared objectives in relation to the Union.

"The Government will require DUP support to deliver its domestic agenda.  We will continue to use our influence for the good of everyone across the United Kingdom.

"If the Government can look beyond a withdrawal agreement, which is uniting people from across the political spectrum against it, and instead work towards a better deal, then an outcome can be delivered that truly works to benefit all parts of the United Kingdom."

Meanwhile, it emerged tonight that former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will speak at the DUP conference in Belfast on Saturday.

Kevin Schofield

Theresa May resurrects 'Max Fac' customs plan in bid to avoid hard Irish border

15 hours 18 minutes ago
Irish borderIrish border
Avoiding a hard Irish border has become the key sticking point in the Brexit negotiations.

Ministers have resurrected an ambitious plan to use technology to maintain an open border in Ireland after Brexit, it has emerged.

The Cabinet this morning discussed whether so-called "maximum facilitation" - or Max Fac - could be used to avoid having to erect customs posts between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Pro-Brexit ministers lobbied for the futuristic system to form the basis of the Government's Brexit proposals earlier this year.

But the idea was described as "magical thinking" by the EU and did not feature at all in the Brexit blueprint agreed by the Cabinet at Chequers in July.

HMRC boss Jon Thompson also warned that introducing Max Fac could end up costing UK businesses £20bn a year.

At the moment, the two proposals for avoiding a had Irish border are either extending the post-Brexit transition period, or keeping the UK in a customs union with the EU as a "backstop" alternative.

Following this morning's Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister's official spokesman confirmed a report in The Sun that Max Fac was back on the table.

He said: "There was discussion in Cabinet about the fact the withdrawal agreement recognises and keeps open the potential for alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

"Both the text of the Northern Ireland protocol itself and the outline political declarations note ‘the Union’s and the United Kingdom’s intention to replace the backstop solution on Northern Ireland by a subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland’."

He added: "One possible alternative arrangement could involve technological solutions."

Asked if the necessary technology had been invented yet, the spokesman said: "I think in terms of what technological solutions could be, they’re all things that are being looked at/have been looked at."

The Prime Minister also held talks in Downing Street last night with Brexiteers including Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson to discuss using technology on the Irish border.

Eloise Todd, boss of the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, said: "This breakthrough is based on technology that Number 10 admits doesn’t exist yet. We are reaching new levels of desperation with the Government eager to paper over the cracks of a deal that would leave British families poorer, take away our say over EU laws and threaten the integrity of the UK."

Kevin Schofield

Government forced to publish Brexit impact assessment after Commons climbdown

23 hours 37 minutes ago
EU and UK flagsEU and UK flags
The Government was forced to concede on Brexit impact assessments.

Ministers will be forced to publish a report on the impact of Theresa May's Brexit plan after a Tory rebellion forced a Commons climbdown.

The Conservatives were facing a Parliamentary defeat over calls by supporters of a second referendum that the Government make public its assessment of the benefits of the Prime Minister's blueprint compared to what the UK gets from EU membership.

But during a Commons debate last night, Treasury minister Robert Jenrick said ministers will bring the document forward to allow MPs to read it.

Among the Conservatives who had been gearing up to rebel was Jo Johnson, who quit as rail minister in protest at the Prime Minister's Brexit plans.

He said: "If we have learned anything from the chaos of the past 30 months, it is that facts are sacred.

"This debate has been characterised by falsehoods and misinformation from day one. It is extraordinary that we have now had to force the Government, at this relatively late stage, to publish the vital information necessary for an informed public debate. Some may say that this horse has long bolted, but I say it is better late than never."

Labour MP Chuka Umunna said: "This was the first test of strength facing the People’s Vote campaign in Parliament since the Government published their draft deal, and it is one that we in the campaign have won after gaining support from all sides of the House.

"The Government was planning to con the British people. It is vital at this crucial time for our country that MPs and the public know the full facts about the cost of Brexit and how it compares to the deal we already have inside the EU.

"Brexit is not about a political psychodrama or who is up and who is down in Westminster – or in and out of the Government – it is about the future of our country and our young people in particular. And the People’s Vote campaign is gaining ground all the time.

"Just last week, the Prime Minister admitted that a People’s Vote and ‘no Brexit’ was a realistic outcome of this whole sorry mess. As more and more people see the widening gap between what was promised and what this draft Brexit deal actually delivers – a £50 billion divorce bill for no say in our future – the support for a People’s Vote will grow ever stronger."

Kevin Schofield

Keir Starmer says Labour will work with other parties to block no-deal Brexit

1 day 11 hours ago
Keir Starmer Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer addressed the Parliamentary Labour Party tonight

Labour will work with MPs from other parties to stop the UK falling "off a cliff" by crashing out of the EU without a deal, Keir Starmer has declared.

The Shadow Brexit Secretary said no deal "is not an option" if the Commons votes down the withdrawal agreement struck between Theresa May and Brussels.

He told a meeting of Labour MPs and peers that a range of Parliamentary devices could be used to prevent a no-deal scenario, which many experts have said would cause economic chaos.

Theresa May is facing almost-certain defeat when she brings her Brexit deal to the Commons next month, with Labour, the SNP, Lib Dems, the DUP and many Tories vowing to vote it down.

Sir Keir told a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party: "The deal the Prime Minister has brought back is a miserable failure of negotiation. It falls far short of a deal Labour could support.

 "If Theresa May’s deal fails to command the support of Parliament, then we will not stand back and allow her to take this country off a cliff.  No deal is not an option. Labour will not countenance no deal - and nor would many of the Prime Minister’s own MPs. 

"It would be politically unsustainable for any government to deliver a no deal without the consent of Parliament. There will be opportunities to make the majority against no deal heard. Motions will be tabled, amendments will be pressed and a no confidence vote can be triggered.

"And let me be clear: Labour will work with all sides to make that happen."

His comments came after Jeremy Corbyn told business leaders attending the CBI annual conference that Brexit could be a "catalyst" for the economic transformation of the country.

Kevin Schofield

Jeremy Corbyn says Brexit can be ‘a catalyst’ for transforming Britain's economy

1 day 13 hours ago
Jeremy CorbynJeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn during the EU referendum.

Brexit can be "a catalyst" for radically transforming Britain's economy, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

In comments which risk angering pro-EU Labour MPs, he said leaving the bloc could lead to the industrial and economic renewal of the UK's nations and regions.

Addressing business leaders at the CBI conference, Mr Corbyn also said "the rules of the game need to change" if Britain's wealth is to be shared more fairly around the country.

Mr Corbyn said the 2016 vote to leave the EU had been caused in part by the rising levels of poverty caused by the financial crash a decade ago.

"It could not be clearer, business as usual isn’t working," he said. "And when the rules of the game aren’t working for the overwhelming majority, the rules of the game need to change.

"That means a new settlement for business and a stronger say for the workforce where government will drive a higher rate of investment in infrastructure, education, skills and the technologies of the future and the largest businesses that can afford it will pay a bit more towards the common good.

"To meet the greatest challenges facing our country today, we shouldn’t fear change, we should embrace it.

"Deep-seated change is needed to avoid a damaging Brexit that will hurt enterprise, jobs and living standards, and instead use it as a catalyst for economic transformation.

"Change is needed to prevent the destruction of our environment that endangers all of our futures. And change is needed to tackle the huge inequality that has distorted the economy and disfigured our society."

Mr Corbyn said a Labour government would offer "a stronger say" for workers and a “new settlement” for business which would include the largest firms paying “a bit more towards the common good”.

'COMMAND AND CONTROL'

But CBI Boss Carolyn Fairbairn said: "Firms have made an offer to Labour – to work with business in a new partnership to solve the issues facing the UK and build a truly competitive and fair country.

"From rigid employment rules to blunt public ownership, the Labour approach sounds more command and control, than partnership. This is not the change that is needed.

"Labour and business do share an ambition to tackle inequality, but the way to achieve this is through collaboration based on the belief that enterprise is a force for good."

Mr Corbyn's intervention comes a day after he told Sky News that he did not know how he would vote in a future referendum on Britain's EU membership.

He also refused to say whether or not Brexit could be stopped - arguing only that Labour did not have the numbers in parliament to block it alone.

His speech comes hours after Theresa May told delegates the final Brexit date could be pushed back to the next general election in 2022.

The transition - currently scheduled to last between the exit date of March 2019 and December 2020 - will see the UK remain tied to most EU rules in a bid to smooth its withdrawal from the bloc.

Nicholas Mairs

David Davis criticised over Brexit transition period gaffe

1 day 14 hours ago
David DavisDavid Davis
David Davis resigned as Brexit Secretary earlier this year.

David Davis has been mocked after claiming the UK will still be able to enter a post-Brexit transition phase even if it fails to reach a withdrawal agreement with the EU.

The former Brexit Secretary made the claim in an article for the ConservativeHome website.

European and British negotiators have already agreed that the transition phase, which is due to run until the end of 2020 and during which the UK will still be subject to EU rules, can only kick in if a Brexit deal is reached.

But Mr Davis said: "We can deliver an honest and clean Brexit, leaving all the possibilities such as global free trade deals open for bright future. If we need to leave with no deal and negotiate a free trade agreement during the transition period, so be it. Let’s be clear and honest and tell the EU that’s what we are prepared to do."

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, of the pro-EU group Best for Britain, said: "These comments by David Davis are completely unbelievable. He is frankly just deluded or just plain stupid.

"It seems like the man who was in charge of delivering Brexit doesn't understand the process. Surely you can't have a transition without a deal?

"The truth is that there are two genuine options available to the Parliament and to the country: firstly the Government’s deal that loses us decision-making power and would leave us worse off, and second, our current deal that would keep our prosperity, keep our say over EU laws and trade agreements and deliver what the majority of people in the UK now want."

Kevin Schofield

Brexit: Theresa May admits UK could be tied to EU rules up to next election

1 day 14 hours ago
Theresa MayTheresa May
Theresa May addressed the CBI annual conference today

Theresa May today admitted the final Brexit date could be pushed back to the next general election - amid claims the UK could be tied to EU rules for another four years.

The Prime Minister said it was “important” that the so-called implementation period should end before the country goes to the polls again in 2022.

Her comments appear to contradict her Business Secretary Greg Clark – who this morning said the UK should have the choice of extending the implementation for the whole of 2022.

The transition - currently scheduled to last between the exit date of March 2019 and December 2020 - will see the UK remain tied to most EU rules in a bid to smooth its withdrawal from the bloc.

But reports emerged last night that EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier discussed adding a full year to the interim period with ambassadors from the remaining EU 27 member states.

The extension is thought of as a way to keep the Northern Irish border open in case no future trade deal is agreed - and would serve as an alternative to the so-called 'backstop' plan which is hated by Brexiteers.

Mrs May has previously said the implementation period could be prolonged by “a matter of months” - and today moved to quash suggestions it could last beyond the scheduled 2022 election.

“From my point of view I think it is important that in delivering for the British people we are out of the implementation period before the next general election,” she told bosses at the CBI annual conference.

A Downing Street spokesman meanwhile said: “The PM has always been clear that the implementation period ends in advance of the next general election and that remains the case.”

He added that the Government did not expect a transition extension would be needed - but it “makes sense” to have the option “in case the future relationship isn’t ready for some reason”.

It would be an alternative to the so-called ‘backstop’ proposal – which would see the whole of the UK remain in the EU customs union and would mean some regulatory differences for Northern Ireland.

Mr Clark told the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning that there was “value” in having the option of a transition extension up to the end of 2022.

He said: “It would be at our request and that would be a maximum period… it would be an option for us and there is value in having an option.”

'IGNORE MY TORY REBELS'

Elsewhere, Mrs May told Brits they should listen to business figures when evaluating her draft Brexit deal, rather than her pro-Brexit Tory backbenchers who hate the plan and want to topple her.

“Don’t just listen to politicians. Listen to what business is saying,” she told the CBI hall in central London.

“Listen to what business that is providing your jobs and ensuring that you have that in come that puts food on the table for your family is saying.

“And business is saying ‘we want a good deal with the EU and we want a good trading relationship with the EU’.”

But Tory MP Anna Soubry - speaking on behalf of the anti-Brexit People’s Vote campaign - said the draft withdrawal agreement “is a deal that pleases no one and will mean years of uncertainty and lost investment for British business”.

She added: “Business and investment are already taking a big hit from Brexit, and the situation will get much worse if we leave the EU.”

CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn said: “Future prosperity depends on getting the Brexit deal right. The overwhelming message from business is to make progress, don’t go backwards.

“We need frictionless trade, ambitious access for our world-beating services and a transition period which draws us back from the cliff edge.

“Anything less than that and jobs and investment could suffer.”

emilio.casalicchio

EXCL: Calls for Lib Dem MP Stephen Lloyd to lose party whip over support for Brexit deal

1 day 17 hours ago
Lib DemLib Dem
Stephen Lloyd has come under press from party activists after pledging to support the Prime Minister's Brexit deal

Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Lloyd is facing calls to have the party whip withdrawn over his support for Theresa May's Brexit deal, PoliticsHome can reveal.

The Eastbourne MP is facing pressure from leading party activists after he pledged to support the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal when it is put before Parliament next month.

Dozens of Liberal Democrat members, including serving councillors and parliamentary candidates, have signed an open letter calling for Mr Lloyd to lose the whip over his opposition to the party’s calls for a second Brexit referendum.

The letter, which has now attracted over 70 signatures, said members were “dismayed” with his decision.

“The Prime Minister's deal offers nothing that could be construed as a liberal, or Liberal Democrat, policy position when it comes to our future relationship with the European Union,” 

“It strips the EU citizenship that was the birthright of millions of our citizens in a vast raid on individuals' rights, and shuts off the four freedoms, endangering people's livelihoods across Britain. Nobody has been able to put this damaging deal to the people either at an election or through a people's vote, and nobody therefore has a direct mandate to support it.

“This is the most important issue of this political generation: we do not believe that those who actively vote for an illiberal deal at the end of an isolationist process can be seen as acting in any way within the wide spectrum of beliefs that our party seeks to contain.

The letter concludes: “It is with sadness but resolve that we therefore call upon the parliamentary party to suspend the whip from Stephen Lloyd.”

But Mr Lloyd, whose constituency voted Leave in 2016, refused to back down from his position.

He told PoliticsHome: “I campaigned and publicly debated for Remain during the 2016 referendum, and still believe that remaining within the European Union is in the best interests of our nation.

“I also made a promise during the campaign that I would not support calls for a second referendum, and would support the final negotiated deal the Prime Minister brings back to the Commons. And as my constituency Eastbourne knows, when I give my word to the town I keep it.”

Liberal Democrat MPs are set to meet on Tuesday to thrash out their formal response to Mrs May's deal with the party expected to vote against the plan when it comes to Parliament in December.

But Norman Lamb, the party’s MP for Leave-voting North Norfolk, has so far refused to comment publicly on how he is intending to vote.

Cllr Zoe O’Connell, one of the leading signatories of the letter, told PoliticsHome: "Supporting this deal does not respect the result of the referendum, because what is proposed fails to deliver on the desperate promises made by the Leave campaign.

"If those promises can not be fulfilled, then the democratic thing to do is to remain - and the best way of verifying that this is the will of the people is, right, now, a People’s Vote or a general election."

Ms O’Connell, who also serves as a vice-chair on the party’s Federal Conference Committee, added: “Unquestioningly supporting any deal delivers on neither of those and lets down those who campaigned for the Liberal Democrats.”

A party spokesperson refused to comment on whether Mr Lloyd would lose the whip but added: “The Liberal Democrats are fighting to give people the power to stop Brexit through a People’s Vote. We are proud to have consistently led the campaign for this since the 2016 referendum and more and more people are now standing with us.

"Theresa May’s deal is a mess and not what the public were told they were voting for – the people must be given the final say on this deal."

john.johnston_25922

Extending Brexit transition period to 2022 is ‘an option’, says top Cabinet minister

1 day 20 hours ago
Business Secretary Greg ClarkBusiness Secretary Greg Clark

Cabinet minister Greg Clark has risked infuriating Brexiteers by suggesting extending the Brexit transition period until 2022 is “an option”.

The Business Secretary said the period - in which the UK and EU will maintain a broadly similar relationship the one they have now - could run on until 2022 in order to give more time for negotiators to strike a full trade deal with the bloc.

It is currently due to expire by December 2020, but Tory Brexiteers fear the option of extending contained in Mrs May’s draft Brexit deal could cost taxpayers billions in extra payments while keeping the UK in the single market and customs union.

But speaking to the BBC Today Programme, Mr Clark said there was “value” in having the option if negotiations on the future relationship were only “weeks and months” from being completed when the proposed transition ends.

He said: “It would be at our request and that would be a maximum period and it would be for this purpose: if the negotiations are making good progress but haven’t quite been finalised, to have the option, and it would be an option for us and there is value in having an option.

“Rather than going in for a temporary period into the backstop and having a second change, to have the option, if the UK wanted, to extend the transition period.

“The point is, to have the option, that if we had the option, we don’t have to choose it, the strongest preference is clearly to complete the negotiation.”

He added: “It would be our discretion, it would be purely up to us if we wanted to, and there may be reasons why we may not want to take that up, it would be available to us.”

“It would be at the time, and there we would be a discussion in Government, and no doubt in Parliament as to what was the best thing.”

His comments follow reports that EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is in favour of the two-year extension to ensure that a full deal is in place before the UK exits the bloc.

But the move risks sparking the anger of Tory Brexiteers who have previously slammed suggestions of an extension.

Theresa May is under mounting pressure to back down on her Brexit plan, with Eurosceptics drumming up support for the 48 letters of no confidence needed to trigger a Tory vote on her leadership.

Simon Clarke, one of 25 Conservative MPs who have publicly urged a leadership challenge, called on his colleagues to ensure "action is taken".

Speaking to the Today programme he said: "This is absolutely the day at which we stand at the bar of history on this." 

He added: "It is quite clear to me that the captain is driving the ship at the rocks."

But the Prime Minister will strike a defiant tone today when she tells the CBI business group her agreement with the EU is "final".

 

 

john.johnston_25922

Extending Brexit transition period to 2022 is ‘an option’, says top Cabinet minister

1 day 20 hours ago

Cabinet minister Greg Clark has risked infuriating Brexiteers by suggesting extending the Brexit transition period until 2022 is “an option”.

The Business Secretary said the period - in which the UK and EU will maintain a broadly similar relationship the one they have now - could run on until 2022 in order to give more time for negotiators to strike a full trade deal with the bloc.

It is currently due to expire by December 2020, but Tory Brexiteers fear the option of extending contained in Mrs May’s draft Brexit deal could cost taxpayers billions in extra payments while keeping the UK in the single market and customs union.

But speaking to the BBC Today Programme, Mr Clark said there was “value” in having the option if negotiations on the future relationship were only “weeks and months” from being completed when the proposed transition ends.

He said: “It would be at our request and that would be a maximum period and it would be for this purpose: if the negotiations are making good progress but haven’t quite been finalised, to have the option, and it would be an option for us and there is value in having an option.

“Rather than going in for a temporary period into the backstop and having a second change, to have the option, if the UK wanted, to extend the transition period.

“The point is, to have the option, that if we had the option, we don’t have to choose it, the strongest preference is clearly to complete the negotiation.”

He added: “It would be our discretion, it would be purely up to us if we wanted to, and there may be reasons why we may not want to take that up, it would be available to us.”

“It would be at the time, and there we would be a discussion in Government, and no doubt in Parliament as to what was the best thing.”

His comments follow reports that EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is in favour of the two-year extension to ensure that a full deal is in place before the UK exits the bloc.

But the move risks sparking the anger of Tory Brexiteers who have previously slammed suggestions of an extension.

Theresa May is under mounting pressure to back down on her Brexit plan, with Eurosceptics drumming up support for the 48 letters of no confidence needed to trigger a Tory vote on her leadership.

Simon Clarke, one of 25 Conservative MPs who have publicly urged a leadership challenge, called on his colleagues to ensure "action is taken".

Speaking to the Today programme he said: "This is absolutely the day at which we stand at the bar of history on this." 

He added: "It is quite clear to me that the captain is driving the ship at the rocks."

But the Prime Minister will strike a defiant tone today when she tells the CBI business group her agreement with the EU is "final".

 

 

john.johnston_25922

Defiant Theresa May tells Tory critics: my Brexit deal is final

1 day 23 hours ago
Theresa MayTheresa May
Theresa May

Theresa May will go on the offensive today as she insists her Brexit agreement with the EU is “final”.

The embattled Prime Minister, who is facing the prospect of a leadership challenge as well as mounting pressure from her own Cabinet to renegotiate key parts of the draft deal struck with the EU, will tell the CBI business group that the pact has been "agreed in full".

Five Cabinet ministers - including Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom - are expected to meet today to discuss their joint push for changes to the plan, which has drawn anger over its 'backstop' provision to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.

Mrs May's critics fear that the current proposals will leave the UK locked in an indefinite customs tie-up with the EU and are demanding the right for Britain to unilaterally pull out of that arrangement.

But Mrs May will insist: "The core elements of that deal are already in place. The Withdrawal Agreement has been agreed in full, subject of course to final agreement being reached on the future framework.
 
"That Agreement is a good one for the UK. It fulfils the wishes of the British people as expressed in the 2016 referendum."

Defending the deal, the Prime Minister will insist it gives the UK "control" of its money, law and borders, and will specifically highlight plans to give the UK "full control" of its immigration system.

"It will no longer be the case that EU nationals, regardless of the skills or experience they have to offer, can jump the queue ahead of engineers from Sydney or software developers from Delhi," she will tell business leaders.

"Not only will this deliver on the verdict of the referendum. It should lead to greater opportunity for young people in this country to access training and skilled employment."

Mrs May's defiant message came as a senior Conservative warned his colleagues against "hunting down" the Prime Minister by triggering a leadership contest.

Former chief whip Andrew Mitchell drew parallels between the current Tory bid to secure 48 letters of no confidence in Mrs May and the ousting of ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He told the Times: "If these letters succeed in triggering a challenge then the party will turn in on itself and that is not a good place for the Conservatives let alone the country."

Mr Mitchell added: "It will end making us look like we’re hunting the prime minister down as happened with Margaret Thatcher. It will do the party untold damage in the eyes of the public."

Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 backbench committee of Conservative MPs, on Sunday denied that Mrs May's critics had yet hit the threshold needed to trigger a vote of no confidence.

'ALTERNATIVE PLAN'

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will meanwhile step up his criticism of the Prime Minister today, accusing her of spending two years striking a deal that will "leave the country in an indefinite halfway house without a real say over our future".

He will tell the CBI: "A good Brexit plan for this country is not just about what can be negotiated with Brussels.

"It must also include a radical programme of investment and real change across our regions and nations.

"Brexit should be the catalyst to invest in our regions and infrastructure, bringing good jobs and real control to local communities and people.

"If the Prime Minister is unable to negotiate an agreement that can win a majority in parliament and work for the whole country, Labour’s alternative plan can and must take its place."

The Prime Minister's deal also drew fresh criticism from Boris Johnson, the ex-foreign secretary who has been touted as a possible contender in any Tory leadership contest.

Warning that the deal would subject the UK to "colonial rule by foreign powers and courts", he added in his Telegraph column: "We can turn this round. But we are not one-nil down. We are five-nil down, and if we go on like this the second half will be worse."

Matt Foster

Defiant Theresa May tells Tory critics: my Brexit deal is final

1 day 23 hours ago

Theresa May will go on the offensive today as she insists her Brexit agreement with the EU is “final”.

The embattled Prime Minister, who is facing the prospect of a leadership challenge as well as mounting pressure from her own Cabinet to renegotiate key parts of the draft deal struck with the EU, will tell the CBI business group that the pact has been "agreed in full".

Five Cabinet ministers - including Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom - are expected to meet today to discuss their joint push for changes to the plan, which has drawn anger over its 'backstop' provision to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.

Mrs May's critics fear that the current proposals will leave the UK locked in an indefinite customs tie-up with the EU and are demanding the right for Britain to unilaterally pull out of that arrangement.

But Mrs May will insist: "The core elements of that deal are already in place. The Withdrawal Agreement has been agreed in full, subject of course to final agreement being reached on the future framework.
 
"That Agreement is a good one for the UK. It fulfils the wishes of the British people as expressed in the 2016 referendum."

Defending the deal, the Prime Minister will insist it gives the UK "control" of its money, law and borders, and will specifically highlight plans to give the UK "full control" of its immigration system.

"It will no longer be the case that EU nationals, regardless of the skills or experience they have to offer, can jump the queue ahead of engineers from Sydney or software developers from Delhi," she will tell business leaders.

"Not only will this deliver on the verdict of the referendum. It should lead to greater opportunity for young people in this country to access training and skilled employment."

Mrs May's defiant message came as a senior Conservative warned his colleagues against "hunting down" the Prime Minister by triggering a leadership contest.

Former chief whip Andrew Mitchell drew parallels between the current Tory bid to secure 48 letters of no confidence in Mrs May and the ousting of ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He told the Times: "If these letters succeed in triggering a challenge then the party will turn in on itself and that is not a good place for the Conservatives let alone the country."

Mr Mitchell added: "It will end making us look like we’re hunting the prime minister down as happened with Margaret Thatcher. It will do the party untold damage in the eyes of the public."

Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 backbench committee of Conservative MPs, on Sunday denied that Mrs May's critics had yet hit the threshold needed to trigger a vote of no confidence.

'ALTERNATIVE PLAN'

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will meanwhile step up his criticism of the Prime Minister today, accusing her of spending two years striking a deal that will "leave the country in an indefinite halfway house without a real say over our future".

He will tell the CBI: "A good Brexit plan for this country is not just about what can be negotiated with Brussels.

"It must also include a radical programme of investment and real change across our regions and nations.

"Brexit should be the catalyst to invest in our regions and infrastructure, bringing good jobs and real control to local communities and people.

"If the Prime Minister is unable to negotiate an agreement that can win a majority in parliament and work for the whole country, Labour’s alternative plan can and must take its place."

The Prime Minister's deal also drew fresh criticism from Boris Johnson, the ex-foreign secretary who has been touted as a possible contender in any Tory leadership contest.

Warning that the deal would subject the UK to "colonial rule by foreign powers and courts", he added in his Telegraph column: "We can turn this round. But we are not one-nil down. We are five-nil down, and if we go on like this the second half will be worse."

Matt Foster

Labour snatches poll lead as Tory support plummets after week of Brexit chaos

2 days 8 hours ago
Labour rosetteLabour rosette
The news is a boost for Labour.

Support for the Tories has plummeted after the agreed Brexit plan put forward by Theresa May sparked a civil war in the party, new polls have suggested.

Two surveys carried out during the height of the bitter Tory in-fighting this week saw the party lose between three and five points, giving Mrs May her worst polling numbers since she became Prime Minister. 

Labour snatched leads over the Conservatives after the Brexit showdown saw two senior Cabinet members and a number of other senior figures quit the Government in opposition to the draft deal.

A ComRes poll for the Sunday Mirror and Sunday Express saw Tory support fall 3 points since September - from 39% to 36%.

Labour has remained steady on 40%, giving Jeremy Corbyn a four-point lead.

Meanwhile, an Opinium poll for the Observer found the Tories had slumped five points to 36%, handing a lead to Labour after the party jumped two points to 39%.

The fall was driven by Leave voters deserting the party in droves, with 10% now saying they would no longer vote for Mrs May’s Conservatives in a general election.

But the poll also found the draft withdrawal deal failed to command support from the wider public. Only 22% of those surveyed though the deal was acceptable.

Despite the drop in support for the Conservative party, Mrs May has retained her lead over Mr Corbyn on who is viewed as the best prime minister, by 30% to 23%.

Adam Drummond, Opinium's head of political polling, said: “With the country almost as divided as on referendum day two-and-a-half years ago, it's no surprise that we find ourselves in a messy situation now that the actual form of Brexit has been announced.

“The backlash against the deal, similar to that against Chequers in July, has seen Leavers start to flee the Conservatives, giving the Tories their lowest vote share since Theresa May became Prime Minister.

BREXIT DEAL IMPACT

The new figures come as a separate Populus poll found that just one in 10 voters believe Mrs May’s deal will have a positive impact on them and their family compared with the UK’s current relationship with the EU.

The poll, carried out for pro-EU campaign group Best for Britain, found 44% supported a second referendum on Brexit - rising to 59% when those who said they were unsure were excluded.

Eloise Todd, head of Better for Britain, said: “People think May’s deal is bad, and the majority of people in the country believe they should have the final say on Brexit.

“Our country is at a crossroads. Politicians have to decide whether to keep trying to deliver a botched Brexit, or to come clean and set out what we lose if we leave the EU. It’s time to listen to the will of the people and deliver a final say on Brexit.”

Mrs May has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of holding a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, saying last week: “We gave people the choice; we should deliver on the decision they took.”

Matt Foster

Labour snatches poll lead as Tory support plummets after week of Brexit chaos

2 days 8 hours ago

Support for the Tories has plummeted after the agreed Brexit plan put forward by Theresa May sparked a civil war in the party, new polls have suggested.

Two surveys carried out during the height of the bitter Tory in-fighting this week saw the party lose between three and five points, giving Mrs May her worst polling numbers since she became Prime Minister. 

Labour snatched leads over the Conservatives after the Brexit showdown saw two senior Cabinet members and a number of other senior figures quit the Government in opposition to the draft deal.

A ComRes poll for the Sunday Mirror and Sunday Express saw Tory support fall 3 points since September - from 39% to 36%.

Labour has remained steady on 40%, giving Jeremy Corbyn a four-point lead.

Meanwhile, an Opinium poll for the Observer found the Tories had slumped five points to 36%, handing a lead to Labour after the party jumped two points to 39%.

The fall was driven by Leave voters deserting the party in droves, with 10% now saying they would no longer vote for Mrs May’s Conservatives in a general election.

But the poll also found the draft withdrawal deal failed to command support from the wider public. Only 22% of those surveyed though the deal was acceptable.

Despite the drop in support for the Conservative party, Mrs May has retained her lead over Mr Corbyn on who is viewed as the best prime minister, by 30% to 23%.

Adam Drummond, Opinium's head of political polling, said: “With the country almost as divided as on referendum day two-and-a-half years ago, it's no surprise that we find ourselves in a messy situation now that the actual form of Brexit has been announced.

“The backlash against the deal, similar to that against Chequers in July, has seen Leavers start to flee the Conservatives, giving the Tories their lowest vote share since Theresa May became Prime Minister.

BREXIT DEAL IMPACT

The new figures come as a separate Populus poll found that just one in 10 voters believe Mrs May’s deal will have a positive impact on them and their family compared with the UK’s current relationship with the EU.

The poll, carried out for pro-EU campaign group Best for Britain, found 44% supported a second referendum on Brexit - rising to 59% when those who said they were unsure were excluded.

Eloise Todd, head of Better for Britain, said: “People think May’s deal is bad, and the majority of people in the country believe they should have the final say on Brexit.

“Our country is at a crossroads. Politicians have to decide whether to keep trying to deliver a botched Brexit, or to come clean and set out what we lose if we leave the EU. It’s time to listen to the will of the people and deliver a final say on Brexit.”

Mrs May has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of holding a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, saying last week: “We gave people the choice; we should deliver on the decision they took.”

Matt Foster

Theresa May tells Cabinet plotters Brexit withdrawal deal will not be changed

2 days 18 hours ago
michael-govemichael-gove
Michael Gove is said to be among those pushing for changes to the Brexit deal.

Theresa May today issued a thinly-veiled slapdown to Cabinet colleagues who argue her Brexit agreement can still be negotiated.

The Prime Minister said her focus between now and when the draft withdrawal plan gets the rubber stamp from EU leaders was the future trading relationship with the bloc.

She made the comments after reports Andrea Leadsom was leading five Cabinet members in a push to secure changes to the plan to protect the Northern Irish border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Pro-Brexit figures in the party have been left outraged that the so-called ‘backstop’ proposal could see the UK locked in a customs arrangement with the EU unless the bloc agrees to release it.

Ms Leadsom told the BBC yesterday the withdrawal agreement could be “improved” - and is thought to have Michael Gove, Liam Fox, Penny Mordaunt and Chris Grayling backing her.

But Mrs May told Sky News today ahead of the crucial European Council summit next Sunday to lock in the deal: “The focus this week will be on a future relationship.”

But in a threat to the EU, she added: “There is indeed more negotiation taking place and nothing is agreed until everything is agreed…

“We won’t agree the leaving part - that was the withdrawal agreement - until we have got what we want in the future relationship.”

And she insisted the backstop plan was an “insurance policy” that both the UK and EU would do their best to avoid.

Mrs May revealed she would be heading back to Brussels this week for talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Elsewhere, Dominic Raab - who quit as Brexit Secretary over the withdrawal plan - also urged Mrs May to change course, arguing the backstop plan was unacceptable.

He said parts of the proposed 500-page document were “fatally flawed,” would “taint” the future trading negotiations, and amounted to “a clear breach of the promise every Conservative went into the last election with.”

Asked on the BBC Andrew Marr show if it was worth the £39bn Brexit divorce bill, he simply said: “No.”

Matt Foster

Theresa May tells Cabinet plotters Brexit withdrawal deal will not be changed

2 days 18 hours ago

Theresa May today issued a thinly-veiled slapdown to Cabinet colleagues who argue her Brexit agreement can still be negotiated.

The Prime Minister said her focus between now and when the draft withdrawal plan gets the rubber stamp from EU leaders was the future trading relationship with the bloc.

She made the comments after reports Andrea Leadsom was leading five Cabinet members in a push to secure changes to the plan to protect the Northern Irish border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Pro-Brexit figures in the party have been left outraged that the so-called ‘backstop’ proposal could see the UK locked in a customs arrangement with the EU unless the bloc agrees to release it.

Ms Leadsom told the BBC yesterday the withdrawal agreement could be “improved” - and is thought to have Michael Gove, Liam Fox, Penny Mordaunt and Chris Grayling backing her.

But Mrs May told Sky News today ahead of the crucial European Council summit next Sunday to lock in the deal: “The focus this week will be on a future relationship.”

But in a threat to the EU, she added: “There is indeed more negotiation taking place and nothing is agreed until everything is agreed…

“We won’t agree the leaving part - that was the withdrawal agreement - until we have got what we want in the future relationship.”

And she insisted the backstop plan was an “insurance policy” that both the UK and EU would do their best to avoid.

Mrs May revealed she would be heading back to Brussels this week for talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Elsewhere, Dominic Raab - who quit as Brexit Secretary over the withdrawal plan - also urged Mrs May to change course, arguing the backstop plan was unacceptable.

He said parts of the proposed 500-page document were “fatally flawed,” would “taint” the future trading negotiations, and amounted to “a clear breach of the promise every Conservative went into the last election with.”

Asked on the BBC Andrew Marr show if it was worth the £39bn Brexit divorce bill, he simply said: “No.”

Matt Foster

Jeremy Corbyn: I don’t know how I would vote in a second EU referendum

2 days 19 hours ago
Jeremy CorbynJeremy Corbyn
The Labour leader was asked about the chances of a second referendum on Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn today admitted he does not know how he would vote if the country faced a second EU referendum.

The Labour leader said another vote could be an “option for the future” but said it was unclear what the referendum question would be.

And he refused to say whether or not Brexit could be stopped - arguing only that Labour did not have the numbers in parliament to block it alone.

Mr Corbyn has resisted calls to back a vote on the final Brexit deal Theresa May brings back from Brussels - although Labour has refused to rule one out.

Asked  by Sophy Ridge about the possibility on Sky News today, he said: “I think it’s an option for the future but it’s not an option for today. 

"If we had a referendum tomorrow what is it going to be on - what is the question going to be?”

Asked how he would vote if the issue was put to the public again, he said: “Well I don’t know how I’d vote. What would the options be at that time?

"But I wanted us to Remain in the EU, that was my vote in that referendum.” 

Mr Corbyn insisted Labour could not support the draft Brexit plan Theresa May agreed this week - but he admitted he had not read “every last word” of the 500-page document.

He said instead that he had read “many summaries and many other analyses”.

The admission provoked fury from Theresa May, who hit back on the same show, saying: “He hasn’t even read it - he doesn’t even fully know what is in it. 

"And yet he is saying he is going to vote against it. Why? Because he is playing party politics.” 

Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis blasted on Twitter: “Unbelievable… Jeremy Corbyn admits he has not read the withdrawal agreement in full. He wants to vote against something he has not even read! Am beyond words!” 

He added: “Having admitted he has not fully read the Withdrawal Agreement, how can anyone listen to Labour or Jeremy Corbyn & he doesn’t even appear to understand what Implementation Period is or when/how it is enacted.

'FANTASY POLITICS'

Elsewhere, Mr Corbyn insisted Labour could take over from the Government if MPs reject the proposed deal and still have the time to strike a new agreement with Brussels which would retain the current benefits of EU membership.

“The EU is very used to 11th hour stuff,” he said. “Look at the way the Lisbon Treaty was negotiated, re-negotiated then re-negotiated again.

“The issue has to be you go back to Europe and say 'listen, our parliament doesn’t agree with this and doesn’t accept it. People of this country don’t. There are jobs on both side of the Channel at risk here'."

But he denied that his claim was "fantasy politics," saying: “We need an agreement. A serious, sensible agreement. And I believe the Labour options are the serious ones that could achieve that.”

Asked whether Brexit could be stopped, he said: “We couldn’t stop it because we don’t have the votes in parliament to do so."

It comes after his Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer appeared to contradict him by saying the UK withdrawal from the EU could in fact be stopped.

emilio.casalicchio

Jeremy Corbyn: I don’t know how I would vote in a second EU referendum

2 days 19 hours ago

Jeremy Corbyn today admitted he does not know how he would vote if the country faced a second EU referendum.

The Labour leader said another vote could be an “option for the future” but said it was unclear what the referendum question would be.

And he refused to say whether or not Brexit could be stopped - arguing only that Labour did not have the numbers in parliament to block it alone.

Mr Corbyn has resisted calls to back a vote on the final Brexit deal Theresa May brings back from Brussels - although Labour has refused to rule one out.

Asked  by Sophy Ridge about the possibility on Sky News today, he said: “I think it’s an option for the future but it’s not an option for today. 

"If we had a referendum tomorrow what is it going to be on - what is the question going to be?”

Asked how he would vote if the issue was put to the public again, he said: “Well I don’t know how I’d vote. What would the options be at that time?

"But I wanted us to Remain in the EU, that was my vote in that referendum.” 

Mr Corbyn insisted Labour could not support the draft Brexit plan Theresa May agreed this week - but he admitted he had not read “every last word” of the 500-page document.

He said instead that he had read “many summaries and many other analyses”.

The admission provoked fury from Theresa May, who hit back on the same show, saying: “He hasn’t even read it - he doesn’t even fully know what is in it. 

"And yet he is saying he is going to vote against it. Why? Because he is playing party politics.” 

Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis blasted on Twitter: “Unbelievable… Jeremy Corbyn admits he has not read the withdrawal agreement in full. He wants to vote against something he has not even read! Am beyond words!” 

He added: “Having admitted he has not fully read the Withdrawal Agreement, how can anyone listen to Labour or Jeremy Corbyn & he doesn’t even appear to understand what Implementation Period is or when/how it is enacted.

'FANTASY POLITICS'

Elsewhere, Mr Corbyn insisted Labour could take over from the Government if MPs reject the proposed deal and still have the time to strike a new agreement with Brussels which would retain the current benefits of EU membership.

“The EU is very used to 11th hour stuff,” he said. “Look at the way the Lisbon Treaty was negotiated, re-negotiated then re-negotiated again.

“The issue has to be you go back to Europe and say 'listen, our parliament doesn’t agree with this and doesn’t accept it. People of this country don’t. There are jobs on both side of the Channel at risk here'."

But he denied that his claim was "fantasy politics," saying: “We need an agreement. A serious, sensible agreement. And I believe the Labour options are the serious ones that could achieve that.”

Asked whether Brexit could be stopped, he said: “We couldn’t stop it because we don’t have the votes in parliament to do so."

It comes after his Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer appeared to contradict him by saying the UK withdrawal from the EU could in fact be stopped.

emilio.casalicchio

Top Tories plot to keep UK in single market if Theresa May's Brexit plan rejected

2 days 23 hours ago
UK and EU flagsUK and EU flags
MPs from across the political divide have condemned Mrs May's deal

Top Tories are plotting a “fallback plan” to keep the UK in the EU single market if MPs vote down the deal struck by Theresa May, it has been reported.

Senior figures are in talks with opposition MPs over a Commons amendment that would see the UK remain in the European Economic Area - the so-called Norway option - the Sunday Telegraph says.

It comes as the withdrawal agreement the Prime Minister hammered out with the EU looks increasingly unlikely to pass the so-called “meaningful vote” in parliament in the coming weeks.

MPs from across the political divide have condemned it, with the Labour party and the DUP - whose 10 MPs prop up the PM in her minority administration - vowing to vote against it.

But influential former ministers such as Nick Boles believe their proposal for a Norway-style model is the only route that could win a majority in parliament, the Sunday Telegraph says.

They believe it could gain support from some 70 pro-EU Labour MPs if they first fail to secure backing for amendments calling for a second EU referendum.

Mr Boles told the paper: “We are in discussion with Labour MPs and also the SNP and Plaid Cymru.”

He said remaining in the EEA would give the UK a platform to influence single market rules, from which an “emergency brake” on free movement could be negotiated.

But the proposal is sure to be met with stiff opposition from pro-Brexit MPs - who see the Norway option as little better than remaining in the EU as a full member.

Matt Foster

EU 'will increase divorce bill by £10bn' if Brexit delayed

2 days 23 hours ago
EU flagEU flag
An extension could add billions to the £39bn the UK has already agreed to hand to Brussels.

Theresa May faces a fresh wave of Tory anger amid claims Brussels will demand a further £10bn from the UK if Brexit is delayed.

The Prime Minister said last month that the post-Brexit transition period could be extended by “a matter of months” if more time was required to reach a deal and protect the Northern Ireland border.

She argued a delay could stop the backstop proposal to keep the border open - which has been heavily criticised by pro-Brexit figures in her party - ever having to be triggered.

But according to the Observer, the EU will insist that any extension to the transition must last at least a whole year - adding a £10bn bill on top of the £39bn the UK has already agreed to hand to Brussels.

Tory MPs already angry about paying the multi-billion pound divorce settlement will be outraged at a further payment and at being tied to the bloc for another 12 months.

The EU will demand that the maximum length of time for an extension is confirmed this week, according to the Observer, ahead of a crunch summit of EU leaders, during which the draft withdrawal agreement is set to be rubber stamped.

At the moment the draft withdrawal plan says a joint EU-UK committee would “before 1 July 2020, adopt a single decision extending the transition period up to [31 December 20XX]”.

But a No 10 source told the paper any details of an extension were “still part of an ongoing negotiation”.

Matt Foster
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47