(Reuters) Prime Minister Theresa May has been told by senior Conservative party colleagues that she will have to set a timetable for her departure date from Downing Street in return for passing her Brexit deal, the Financial Times reported on Monday.
The prime minister’s chief whip, Julian Smith, is understood to have told May that some Conservatives will only vote for the deal if they are certain she will not lead Britain into a second round of talks with the EU on a future relationship, the newspaper said on.ft.com/2UCV2ua.
(FT – Video) The prime minister brokered legal tweaks to her Brexit deal and brought it back for MPs to vote on. It failed to pass once again. We discuss all of the Commons votes against a no-deal exit, in favour of an extension to delay leaving the EU and the prospect of indicative votes. Plus, we look at whether Theresa May and Geoffrey Cox can win over more MPs and whether a third or even fourth vote could pass.
(Scotsman) The government’s dwindling hopes of passing its Brexit deal have been thrown into disarray by the Commons Speaker John Bercow, who dramatically ruled out a third vote unless there were substantial changes.
Mr Bercow said parliamentary rules dating back to 1604 made clear that a government could not bring back the same or similar motion “ad infinitum” even though MPs keep rejecting it. With just 11 days until Brexit is scheduled to take place, it means the Prime Minister has little alternative but to ask EU leaders for a lengthy delay of up to two years at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.
“Decisions of the house matter. They have weight,” the Speaker said. “It is a necessary rule to ensure the sensible use of the house’s time and the proper respect for the decisions which it takes.” Critics of Mrs May’s deal on both sides of the Brexit debate cheered the shock announcement, with Brexiteers arguing the government should embrace a no-deal exit, while campaigners for a second EU referendum said the only way for the government to save its agreement was to accept putting it to the people.
The Commons Speaker blindsided ministers with his intervention yesterday afternoon, which means that without changes to the Brexit deal, a further vote cannot be held until a new parliamentary session begins. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Speaker did not warn us of the contents of the statement or indeed the fact that he was making one.” Downing Street gave no official response, but shortly after Mr Bercow’s statement, the Solicitor General Robert Buckland said the UK was in the grips of a “major constitutional crisis” and warned that the government could be forced to prorogue parliament, asking the Queen to bring the current session to an end months early.
“There are ways around this – a prorogation of parliament and a new session – but we are now talking about not just days but hours to 29 March,” Mr Buckland said. “Frankly we could have done without this, but it’s something we’re going to have to negotiate with and deal with.” Citing rules set out in the parliamentary handbook Erskine May, Mr Bercow told MPs: “If the Government wishes to bring forward a new proposition that is neither the same nor substantially the same as that disposed of by the House on March 12, this would be entirely in order.
“What the Government cannot legitimately do is resubmit to the House the same proposition – or substantially the same proposition – as that of last week, which was rejected by 149 votes.” Any change must be “not different in terms of wording but different in terms of substance” and would need to be “in the context of a negotiation with others outside the UK”, Mr Bercow added. While the government had signalled it wanted to bring back the deal for a third vote today or tomorrow, Downing Street said on Monday that it wouldn’t do so until it was clear that it could win.
Travelodge targets parents to plug potential Brexit staffing crisis Nicola Sturgeon accuses Theresa May of undermining Holyrood over DUP Brexit deal A number of leading critics of the deal, such as European Research Group chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg, said they were now willing to back it to avoid a lengthy delay. However, in his Telegraph column, Boris Johnson said it was impossible for “anybody who believes in Brexit” to back the deal in its current form, and 23 Eurosceptic Tory MPs also said they were still opposed.
There is also no sign of the government’s DUP shifting their stance to support the deal despite talks between the party and ministers over the weekend. “The deal can’t be brought back,” Mr Blackford told journalists after the Speaker’s statement. “If there’s an extension, you have to ask – for what purpose? “There has to be a purpose to it, and ultimately we have to reach the conclusion that we need to put this back to the people. That’s the right thing to do.”
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said the Prime Minister would be forced to “change the deal in a fundamental way or face the other alternative, which is taking this back to the people with the option to remain”. Mr Blackford added that if the government tried to push ahead with a no deal Brexit, parliament would seek to have Article 50 revoked. “In such a scenario, we have to be able to apply a handbrake,” he said.
FT political commentator Robert Shrimsley examines the prime minister’s parliamentary options. He says we are in the end-game of this stage of Brexit and considers Mrs May’s strategic choices after a tumultous week in the Commons
The warnings come amid growing pressure from the US, which has told its allies any collaboration with the Chinese tech firm could compromise intelligence sharing agreements.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is part of GCHQ, is currently preparing its annual report into the safety of Huawei equipment.
While the findings of the report are yet to be published, the NCSC has previously indicated it has not seen any evidence of spying by the Chinese firm.
One US official told the Financial Times a significant risk of 5G is that it is based on software, meaning the network can be altered even after the equipment has undergone testing.
“One analogy that we can often use is, one minute you’re holding a 5G coffee cup that is transmitting back telemetric data on what the temperature is what the actual liquid is inside. And then the next moment that object can turn into something radically different,” the source said.
“While a huge opportunity, it is also deeply concerning to us from the perspective of national security.”
The official cast doubts over the UK’s programme for testing Huawei equipment, which is carried out at a dedicated NCSC facility in Banbury known as ‘The Cell’.
“The mandate that the UK and their Huawei oversight centre has is a purely technical mandate about looking at a piece of equipment that is sitting in front of you,” the person said.
“Ours is a much broader question about how trust is changing in the way in which 5G networks will work in the future. Right now, back doors exist by definition, that’s how the manufacturer runs the network.”
The NCSC declined to comment on the report. Earlier this year the spy organisation’s boss, Ciaran Martin, said the UK has “arguably the toughest and most rigorous oversight regime in the world for Huawei”.
“Huawei’s presence is subject to detailed, formal oversight, led by the NCSC,” he said at a cyber security conference in Brussels.
“We also have strict controls for how Huawei is deployed. It is not in any sensitive networks – including those of the government.”
The Trump administration has launched a campaign urging its allies not to use the Chinese firm’s equipment. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has previously warned that countries using Huawei technology in their 5G networks risk damaging their relationship with the US.
The Chinese firm has denied all allegations of spying and accused the US of operating a coordinated smear campaign. Earlier this month the company sued the US government, claiming a law limiting its US business was unconstitutional.
UK government exploring how to use international convention as a potential means of escaping the Irish backstop.
British Prime Minister Theresa May | Jack Taylor/Getty Images
LONDON — There’s a new Brexit deal in the works: Britain will close its eyes if Europe bites its tongue.
In a bid to get Theresa May’s deal over the line — and stop a Brexit delay of 21 months or longer — the U.K. government has turned to an obscure clause in an obscure international treaty to prove to hard-line Euroskeptics that there is a way out of the Irish backstop.
With May’s Brexit deal likely to be voted on in the House of Commons this week for a third time, ahead of the prime minister traveling to Brussels on Thursday to seek an extension of Article 50 irrespective of whether or not her deal passes, London is looking for creative — some say dubious — ways to bring opponents on board.
That’s where Article 62 of the Vienna Convention — a treaty that lays down the rules about international treaties, or legal agreements between countries — comes in.
Under one option set out by the Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay, the U.K. could make a statement saying that if there are “unforeseen circumstances” arising from the implementation of the backstop, the U.K. would have the right to walk away.
British Prime Minister Theresa May | Niklas Halle’n/AFP via Getty Images
Barclay confirmed the U.K. is looking at this scenario in a parliamentary answer to Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg last week.
Barclay spelled out one possible “unforeseen” circumstance in his answer to Rees-Mogg. He said if the U.K. deemed that the backstop was “no longer protecting the 1998 [Good Friday] agreement in all its dimensions,” that could be enough for the U.K. to pull out of it.
In other words, if the backstop, which is there to protect the open border in Ireland — a central part of the peace process — is later seen to be actively undermining the peace process, the U.K. could seek to declare the arrangement null and void.
The problem for the U.K. government, according to EU officials aware of the proposal, is that “unforeseen circumstances” are hardly that if they are known about in advance.
One international law expert, who did not want to be named, said the Vienna Convention argument is “weak.”
One senior government official from an EU27 member country said the EU would “not be surprised to see a truly unilateral declaration of this or another sort tried out” over the coming days. “The question for us would be how far to bite our tongues,” the official said.
If the EU does bite its collective tongue, the U.K. government hopes Brexiteers will close their eyes to what many experts and EU officials believe is the dubious legal basis of the Vienna Convention option in a bid to get the deal done.
If the EU and the Brexiteers both play their part, the argument goes, the Brexit deal might still have a chance of passing.
Changes in the small print
The Withdrawal Agreement drawn up by the U.K. and EU states that the backstop is necessary to protect key elements of the Good Friday peace agreement.
One section of the backstop text acknowledges that it is needed “so as to maintain the necessary conditions for continued North-South cooperation … in accordance with the 1998 Agreement.”
However, in the joint “instrument” subsequently agreed by both sides — which provides interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement — the relationship between the backstop and the Good Friday Agreement appears to have changed.
Instead of being “necessary,” the joint instrument says the new structure of governance for Northern Ireland contained in the backstop “does not affect or supersede the provisions of the 1998 Agreement in any way.”
It adds that the backstop does not alter “in any way” those areas where Belfast and Dublin agreed to work together under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. These areas will continue to be “matters for the Northern Ireland Executive and Government of Ireland to determine,” the joint instrument states.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said the “legal risk” that the U.K. would have no way of unilaterally leaving the backstop remains “unchanged” after Theresa May’s latest round of negotiations with the EU | Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images
Unionists briefed on the matter say this section is key because it suggests the U.K. government is concerned the backstop, far from being “necessary” to protect the Good Friday Agreement, may, over time, serve to undermine some of its core provisions. Nationalists in Northern Ireland — and EU officials — fiercely dispute this.
Nevertheless, by inserting the clause into the joint instrument, the U.K. has set up an extra test for the backstop that ministers believe could justify withdrawal should the backstop ever risk becoming permanent.
Addressing Rees-Mogg on Tuesday, the Brexit secretary said the issue is whether there might be “exceptional circumstances that might change the basis on which the U.K. might enter into an agreement.”
He explained: “If the United Kingdom took the reasonable view, on clear evidence, that the objectives of the protocol [backstop] were no longer being proportionately served by its provisions — because, for example, it was no longer protecting the 1998 agreement in all its dimensions — the U.K. would first, obviously, attempt to resolve the issue in the Joint Committee [to be set up as part of Withdrawal Agreement] and within the negotiations.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay attending a Cabinet meeting in February | Leon Neal via Getty Images
“However … it could respectfully be argued, if the facts clearly warranted it, that there had been an unforeseen and fundamental change of circumstances affecting the essential basis of the treaty on which the United Kingdom’s consent had been given.”
In this instance, Barclay said, “Article 62 of the Vienna Convention on the law of treaties … permits the termination of a treaty in such circumstances.”
He added: “It would, in the government’s view, be clear in those exceptional circumstances that international law provides the United Kingdom with a right to terminate the Withdrawal Agreement.”
A senior official from an EU27 member state dismissed the basis of the argument, saying it is perfectly possible to foresee that it would not be possible to find an agreed solution to the Irish border.
The official added that the regulation of trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland “is not and never has been a competence of the GFA [Good Friday Agreement] institutions.”
With just 15 days to go until the UK is due to leave the EU, British lawmakers have voted to delay Brexit by at least three months. EU leaders will have the final say, with many demanding a clear reason from London.Watch video02:32
UK lawmakers vote to request delay in leaving EU
Lawmakers in the House of Commons overwhelmingly backed a government motion on Thursday to ask for a three-month delay for Britain’s departure from the European Union, which is currently scheduled for March 29.
The move has also paved the way for a third vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce deal with the European Union, which could take place early next week.
With a vote of 412 to 202, lawmakers overwhelmingly backed the government’s motion to ask the EU to push the divorce date back to June 30.
The government’s motion states that it would ask for the three-month delay — but on the condition that Parliament approves May’s withdrawal agreement with the EU.
Lawmakers also overwhelmingly voted down the prospect of a second referendum — with only 85 MPs backing the amendment, while 334 voted against it.
An amendment that would have given lawmakers more control over the Brexit process narrowly lost, with 312 voting in favor and 314 against.
An amendment to block May from bringing her divorce deal back for a third vote was withdrawn.
BREXIT TIMELINE: CHARTING BRITAIN’S TURBULENT EXODUS FROM EUROPEJune 2016: ‘The will of the British people’After a shrill referendum campaign, nearly 52 percent of British voters opted to leave the EU on June 24. Polls had shown a close race before the vote with a slight lead for those favoring remaining in the EU. Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had campaigned for Britain to stay, acknowledged the “will of the British people” and resigned the following morning.
The vote means May’s government will ask the EU for a one-off extension to Article 50, extending the divorce date until June 30.
But there is one condition: May will only ask for the short-term extension if lawmakers approve the withdrawal agreement she negotiated with the EU. British lawmakers have already rejected May’s divorce deal in two prior votes by record margins.
Should MPs vote to support the deal by March 20, May will request the short-term extension when she heads to an EU leaders summit in Brussels, which is taking place on March 21 and 22.
If her deal is rejected a third time, the prime minister will still try to secure a short-term delay, although she will be heading to Brussels without a clear reason for the extension — something EU leaders have said is a must in order to secure a delay.
May has warned that the UK could face a much longer Brexit delay if her deal is not approved, and that the UK would have to hold European Parliament elections in May if an extension goes beyond June.
Although British lawmakers voted to support extending the Brexit deadline past March 29, it’s not certain the EU will grant it.
EU leaders have expressed frustration at the political turbulence taking place in London, saying they would grant an extension but would need a concrete reason from the UK for doing so.
Shortly following the vote on Thursday, a European Commission spokesperson emphasized that any extension would require “unanimous approval” from the leaders of the remaining 27 member states.
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, said British lawmakers need to make clear what they want and that the EU should push the UK to move Brexit forward.
“We have to increase the pressure,” Verhofstadt told German broadcaster ZDF. “How many votes have there been, and every time it’s a negative majority, a majority against something. The time has come where we must see a broad majority that goes beyond the party lines.”
The decision also throws more uncertainly onto Britain’s trade relationship with the EU. In light of the vote, the head of Germany’s main association of chambers of commerce and industries, DIHK, told the press that European businesses have been left with no idea what scenario to be ready for and when.
“The companies no longer have any idea what they should be preparing for,” Martin Wansleben told the publisher Funke Mediengruppe.
“In addition to uncertainty about what is going to happen, now there’s uncertainty about when it will happen.”
Trump ‘surprised at how badly’ Brexit has been going
US President Donald Trump weighed in on the upheaval surrounding the UK’s departure from the EU on Thursday, saying he is “surprised at how badly” the negotiations have been going and that the Brexit debate is “tearing the country apart.”
He also criticized May’s handling of the negotiations, saying she did not heed his advice.
“She didn’t listen to that, and that’s fine. I mean … she’s got to do what she’s got to do. But I think it could have been negotiated in a different manner, frankly,” Trump told reporters at the White House ahead of a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
Trump added that he still hopes to secure a “large scale” trade agreement with the UK.
O Brexit revelou os limites da democracia numa Europa perplexa perante um mundo que lhe escapa. Não se riam do Reino Unido, para o resto do mundo não se rir de vós.
Tudo deveria ter sido muito simples: os cidadãos do Reino Unido votaram para deixar a União Europeia, o governo invocou o artigo de saída, a data ficou marcada, e no próximo dia 29 o Reino Unido deveria sair da UE. Acontece que provavelmente não vai sair. Nem no dia 29, nem, também provavelmente, em qualquer data próxima. Afinal, nada era simples. Uma das razões invocadas para justificar a saída — a soberania parlamentar – tornou-se rapidamente uma das razões para essa saída ser difícil: afinal, não bastava o referendo, o parlamento também tinha de votar. Pior: também muito rapidamente, descobriu-se que o voto pela saída não definira qual o tipo de saída. Mais ainda: a maioria de 2016 começou a parecer demasiado curta e circunstancial para não poder ser revertida em novo referendo. E eis como, ao fim de dois anos, estamos quase no princípio, com o Brexit a ameaçar tornar-se uma doença crónica da UE.
Há quem culpe Theresa May, demasiado fraca, e há quem culpe os brexiteers, demasiado intransigentes com qualquer acordo. Há quem culpe Jeremy Corbyn, apostado em usar o Brexit para precipitar novas eleições. E há quem, claro, culpe Bruxelas, tentada a fazer do Reino Unido um exemplo de como, na integração europeia, a porta de saída é a porta para o inferno. Todas essas acusações terão algum fundamento. Nenhuma, porém, captura a verdadeira dificuldade.
O cepticismo britânico em relação à Europa não une, divide: divide a Inglaterra, mais eurocéptica, de Gales, Escócia e Irlanda do Norte, mais europeístas; divide Londres, mais europeísta, das províncias, mais eurocépticas; e finalmente, divide cada um dos partidos de governo, Conservadores e Trabalhistas, ambos estilhaçados em correntes e facções. Os Conservadores, mais eurocépticos, têm uma líder suspeita de querer ficar na UE, e os Trabalhistas, mais europeístas, têm um líder suspeito de querer sair. No parlamento, as únicas maiorias são negativas.
O eurocepticismo britânico também não é homogéneo nem corresponde a um projecto claro. Na restante Europa, é costume atribuí-lo a alguma ressaca imperial, ou a complexos de insularidade. Há alguma coisa disso, mas não é só isso. O eurocepticismo já foi esquerdista nos anos 70, quando os Trabalhistas fizeram campanha contra a adesão à CEE, para depois ser direitista nos anos 90, quando os Conservadores se começaram a agitar contra o “federalismo” de Bruxelas. Neste momento, ninguém sabe o que o Brexit poderá significar: uma Singapura, com um governo conservador, ou uma Venezuela, com um governo de Corbyn? Mas também ninguém sabe o que ficar na UE significa.
Ora, nada disto é muito diferente do que se passa na restante Europa, onde as votações em candidatos hostis à UE começam a ser enormes: em França, em Abril de 2017, Marine Le Pen e Jean-Luc Mélenchon conseguiram, em conjunto, 40% dos votos; na Itália, em Março de 2018, o Cinco Estrelas e a coligação de Matteo Salvini, tiveram 69%. É verdade: nada aconteceu. Muita gente já se desiludiu com a UE, mas ninguém descobriu alternativa. Os europeus vivem num mundo em que pesam cada vez menos, e em sociedades em que a continuidade demográfica e os modelos sociais não parecem garantidos. Toda a gente tem soluções – mais nacionalismo para uns, mais europeísmo para outros –, mas nenhuma solução tem uma maioria. Somos, a esse respeito, todos britânicos. A grande diferença é que o Reino Unido, através do referendo, por mais circunstancial que tenha sido a sua origem, enfrentou a questão. Mas como se tem visto, nem sempre votos e debates levam a soluções. O Brexit revelou os limites da democracia numa Europa perplexa perante um mundo que lhe escapa. Não se riam do Reino Unido, para o resto do mundo não se rir de vós.
A man stands in front of a British flag outside the Houses of Parliament, ahead of a Brexit vote, in London, Britain March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal is ready to support a delay to Britain’s exit from the European Union if London properly justifies such a request, but it has to be sufficiently long so that the sides can find an acceptable solution, the Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
“Allowing an extension by just some weeks we would create an illusion that the current problem is of a technical nature, when what we’ve got is a political issue,” the ministry’s statement said.
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, but on Wednesday its parliament rejected withdrawing without a deal, paving the way for a vote that could delay Brexit for weeks or even months.
(GUA) European council president suggests extension should be granted if it helps UK ‘rethink strategy’
Donald Tusk is to appeal to the EU’s leaders to be open to a long Brexit delay to allow the UK to rethink its goals in the negotiations.
In what appears to be a shift in the EU’s red lines, the European council president suggested a lengthy prolongation could be granted simply to give Westminster time to recalibrate.
Officials have until now insisted that only the triggering of a general election or second referendum could justify delaying Brexit beyond 29 March by more than a few months.
But in an intervention on Thursday morning, Tusk tweeted: “During my consultations ahead of [the leaders’ summit next week], I will appeal to the EU27 to be open to a long extension if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy and build consensus around it.”
The move by Tusk will be seen by some as an attempt to help Theresa Mayscare Brexiters into supporting her deal or face a prolonged extra period of EU membership during which the risk of a softer Brexit or second referendum would rise.
But it also reflects the concern that a short extension of a few months would not resolve any of the issues in Westminster and merely wire-in a no-deal scenario this summer.
MPs will vote on Thursday evening on whether to request an extension until 30 June to allow the necessary legislation to be passed should May’s deal finally be ratified in the coming days.
The motion is amendable, and the prime minister has warned Brexiters that a longer extension could be in play should her deal be rejected again at a likely third vote by 20 March.
The 27 heads of state and government are not agreed on the issue of an extension but would need to come to a unanimous view when they meet at a summit in Brussels on 21 and 22 March.
Delays of between a few weeks to as long as 21 months have been mooted, with the Irish deputy prime minister, Simon Coveney, being the latest on Thursday to suggest that such a lengthy delay could be helpful despite the complications.
“If you have a long extension of article 50, that opens up the debate in a much broader way to the overall approach that the United Kingdom takes to Brexit. That may facilitate a fundamental rethink, it may not, we just don’t know,” Coveney said.
“If you have a long extension of, say 21 months to the end of 2020 – whatever the period would be – then Britain has a legal entitlement to have representation in the European parliament.”
Detlef Seif, the Brexit point person for the Christian Democrat party of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and that party’s leader, Annegret-Kramp Karrenbauer, told the Guardian the European commission could relax its refusal to negotiate the terms of a future trade deal during such a 21-month extension in order to “rebuild trust”.
“I agree with [EU deputy chief negotiator] Sabine Weyand that the much-discussed technical solution for doing customs checks without the infrastructure of a hard border don’t yet exist,” said Seif. “But if Theresa May were to submit a declaration to Brussels in which she stated her intention to spend the next 21 months developing such technical solutions in order to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, then that should suffice to grant an extension.”
To make an extension more attractive to hardliners in the Conservative party, Seif added that the EU should loosen its red lines around talks over the future relationship.
“It was right to rule out talks about the future relationship in the early stages of the negotiations, since the Brits showed very clearly that they would not have talked about their financial obligations otherwise. But now that we have a basic agreement in place, there should be space to talk about what Britain’s relationship with the EU will be in the future. We are getting to a place where both sides are expecting the worst of each other – it’s time to rebuild trust.”
But a number of EU capitals have concerns that a long delay would be used by Eurosceptics in the European elections to claim that the bloc was keeping the UK trapped.
Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister, who is the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator, tweeted: “Under no circumstances an extension in the dark! Unless there is a clear majority in the House of Commons for something precise, there is no reason at all for the European council to agree on a prolongation. Even the motion tabled for this evening by the UK government recognises this.”
The prospect of a lengthy delay has been made more palatable after the UK’s advocate general in the European court of justice, Eleanor Sharpston, described claims that the European elections in May would be an “insuperable obstacle” to a lengthy extension as “oversimplified and fallacious”.
But Sharpston said there were legal measures the EU could take to avoid such an undesirable outcome, and that there was precedence from when Croatia joined the EU.
She said: “One way of ensuring continuing UK representation in the European parliament during an article 50 extension might therefore be for the UK to agree with the EU just to extend the mandates of the UK MEPs who have already been democratically elected and who have been sitting in the current European parliament.
“Another possible solution might be to revert to the [old parliamentary assembly] practice of sending nominated MPs from the UK, rather than directly elected MEPs, to participate in the European parliament during that period.”
Theresa May appealed to members of Parliament to back her deal or risk seeing Brexit canceled, as the European Union made a new offer in talks that falls far short of U.K. demands.
Barnier makes a new offer on the backstop — letting Britain exit the backstop, but keeping Northern Ireland in it. That’s not acceptable to May.
May declines to say which way she’d vote in a ballot on a no-deal Brexit
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt: history will judge both sides badly if there’s a no-deal Brexit
U.K. Said to Have Rejected EU Offer Already (5:20 p.m.)
The U.K. had already rejected the EU’s latest offer — that it would allow the so-called Irish backstop to apply only to Northern Ireland rather than the whole U.K. — on Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the situation.
It’s essentially a return to the EU’s initial plan for the border, and Theresa May has long said such a solution would be unacceptable because it would effectively create a barrier between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.
The EU also offered to bolster good-faith and best-endeavor provisions in the deal. The U.K. government was unhappy with the EU’s proposals, according to another person familiar with the situation.
EU Makes New Offer, But Sees No Progress (4:20 p.m.)
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier told European ambassadors that there’s been no progress in Brexit talks, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Still, he outlined new proposals in an effort to make the so-called Irish backstop less controversial in the U.K. The headline-grabber is allowing Great Britain to leave the backstop unilaterally, leaving Northern Ireland behind. May has always said that would be unacceptable, and it’s essentially a return to the EU’s initial plan for the border.
He has also offered to bolster good-faith and best-endeavor provisions in the deal to make them more “actionable by an arbitration panel.”
Barnier, who is said to have told ambassadors he fears the blame game has started, vowed to keep working to find a solution.
“The EU will continue working intensively over the coming days to ensure that the U.K. leaves the EU with an agreement,” he said on Twitter.
In a further sign that talks aren’t making progress, U.K. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox — who is leading British efforts — isn’t expected back in Brussels this weekend, two people familiar with the situation said.
Labour’s Kyle: Dozens of Tories Back Amendment (3:15 p.m.)
Labour lawmaker Peter Kyle told Bloomberg that “several dozen” Conservatives support his planned amendment to withhold approval of May’s Brexit deal unless it’s confirmed in a public vote.
Kyle said he and his co-sponsor Phil Wilson haven’t yet decided whether to propose the plan for consideration with Tuesday’s meaningful vote on May’s deal. He suggested they would only propose the amendment, which is supported by Labour, if the vote looks close. At the moment, the House of Commons “is hardening against the government,’’ which looks likely to lose by a wide margin, he said.
Tories who support the amendment “will only come across to it when they feel that every other avenue has been explored,” Kyle said. “If the House believes it’s going to defeat the prime minister decisively again, then we’re going to have another week of exploring” options. The amendment “has to go down at a moment where it is an effective tool to get us out of this mess,” he said.
Kyle also said he and Wilson met with Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Thursday to discuss the amendment, and had a “mutually constructive conversation.”
DUP Stands Firm (3:00 p.m.)
As the cliff edge nears, DUP Leader Arlene Foster called on the EU to move into “deal-making mood,” another sign the bloc is holding firm as the U.K. seeks to eat away at the backstop. Once again, Foster, whose party props up May’s government in Parliament, demanded legally-binding changes to the withdrawal agreement and outlined her opposition to postponing Brexit day.
“I am not convinced that an extension makes a deal any more likely,” Foster said in an emailed statement issued in response to May’s speech. “In my experience, a firm deadline always makes a deal more likely in the closing moments of any negotiation.”
May Refuses to Say How She’d Vote on No-Deal (1:20 p.m.)
Following her speech, May refused to say how she’d instruct Conservatives to vote on the question of leaving the EU without a deal if Parliament rejects her divorce agreement next week — or how she’d vote herself.
As things stand, not enough members of Parliament in her Conservative Party are likely to back her deal on Tuesday, meaning May will have to bring further votes on a no-deal Brexit and on extending negotiations with the EU. Brexit supporters argue that May should vote for leaving the EU without an agreement and instruct her party to do the same.
But that would risk provoking multiple ministerial resignations, so she’s more likely to designate it a so-called free vote where there’s no party line to take.
May: Brexit Might Not Happen If Deal Is Rejected (12:50 p.m.)
May said that Brexit might never happen if MPs refuse to back her deal with the EU in a decisive vote in Parliament next week.
“Back it and the U.K. will leave the EU. Reject it and no one knows what will happen,” she said in a speech in Grimsby, northern England. “We may not leave the EU at all,” she said. “The only certainty would be uncertainty.”
EU Says It Has ‘Offered Ideas’ on Irish Backstop (12:10 p.m.)
Asked about Prime Minister Theresa May’s effort to shift the Brexit blame onto the European Union, the EU executive in Brussels said it “has offered ideas” on how to break the impasse over the Irish-border backstop.
“You have followed the process of negotiation and talks very closely, so you know that the EU side has offered ideas on how to give further reassurances regarding the backstop,” said Alexander Winterstein, a spokesman for the European Commission, the EU executive. “Intensive work is ongoing as we speak,” he told reporters in Brussels on Friday.
May Calls EU Leaders to Try to Break Impasse (11:30 a.m.)
Theresa May spoke with her counterparts in Bulgaria, Portugal and Denmark on Thursday to set out the U.K. position on the Brexit talks, her spokeswoman Alison Donnelly told reporters in London on Friday. “She will continue to engage today and over the course of the weekend” in phone calls with other EU leaders, Donnelly said.
The premier doesn’t currently have plans to travel to Brussels over the weekend, Donnelly said. That’s a sign that a breakthrough isn’t yet in sight. Nevertheless, Donnelly said the premier still intends to hold the vote she has promised on her Brexit deal on Tuesday.
Brexiteer Says May Not Playing ‘Strongest Cards’ (11 a.m.)
Conservative Brexiteer Andrea Jenkyns said “it’s looking highly unlikely” May will get her deal through Parliament next week unless there is movement around the contentious Irish backstop issue.
Speaking to Bloomberg TV, Jenkyns said she still hoped the EU would offer further concessions as the deadline to Brexit day nears, but that the U.K. hasn’t been playing its “strongest cards.”
“We’ve seen the way the EU operated with Greece. They said they wouldn’t give any more money in a bailout and then in the final weekend, the final 24 hours, they came up with something,” she said. “It’s whoever blinks first, and unfortunately we’ve blinked first every time.”
Barclay to Give Committee Evidence Before Vote (10:30 a.m.)
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay will take questions from the House of Commons Committee on Exiting the European Union at 4 p.m. on Monday, according to an Parliament email, ahead of the key vote Tuesday on May’s Brexit deal.
Barclay canceled an appearance this week due to talks with the EU in Brussels, and committee chairman Hilary Benn used a parliamentary session on Wednesday to ask Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow to intervene.
Though Bercow said he had no power to force Barclay to appear to answer lawmakers’ questions, he also stressed that “it’s desirable in terms of the scrutiny and accountability process” for Barclay to go before the committee. It appears he listened.
EU Calls Last-Minute Brexit meeting (10:25 a.m.)
The EU’s 27 national ambassadors are convening an emergency meeting to discuss Brexit at 3 p.m. in Brussels today, an EU official said. In the behind-closed-doors discussion, the bloc’s Brexit negotiators will update the envoys on the latest situation following May’s speech in the U.K., with talks between the two sides looking set to roll into the weekend.
Cox Won’t Be Back in Brussels on Friday (8:45 a.m.)
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who’s leading the negotiations for the U.K., won’t be heading back to Brussels on Friday, British officials said. No visit had been formally announced, but it adds to the sense that the two sides don’t have much to say to each other.
While there are no plans for a trip today the situation is fluid and both Cox and Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay are ready to travel at short notice — potentially over the weekend — if necessary, the officials said.
Hunt: EU Risks Poisoning Relations with U.K. (7:20 a.m.)
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said May has been “extremely dignified” in the way she’s approached the negotiations with the EU and the bloc needs to give ground as the talks draw to a close.
“History will judge both sides very badly if we get this wrong, we want to remain the best of friends with the EU — that means getting this agreement through in a way that doesn’t inject poison into our relations for many years to come,’’ Hunt told BBC Radio 4.
He said the EU needs to be “flexible” and to understand that British negotiators are making a very clear request for clarity on the Irish border backstop to get the deal through a vote in the House of Commons. “If this ends in acrimony, people will say the EU got this moment wrong and I really hope they don’t.”
(Express) JEREMY Corbyn last night held talks with Tory Remainers plotting to keep Britain shackled to the European Union.
The Labour leader and key anti-Brexit MPs in the party discussed proposals (Image: Getty Images)
The Labour leader and key anti-Brexit MPs in the party discussed proposals that would keep freedom of movement and make the UK follow single market rules in the meeting with Conservative former ministers Sir Oliver Letwin and Nick Boles. The plan would also leave the country bound by future decisions made by Brussels without any power in the process. Mr Corbyn last year privately admitted to Labour MPs the Norway-style deal would leave the UK as a “rule taker”.
May’s deal initially failed to win enough approval in Parliament because of widespread opposition to a key part of the deal known as the “Irish backstop,” an insurance policy designed to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland if the EU and U.K. fail to strike a trade deal in a 21-month transition period post-Brexit.
Many lawmakers didn’t like the fact that Northern Ireland could remain closely-aligned to the EU due to the backstop and that it had an indefinite nature. The U.K. would also need the EU’s agreement to leave the backstop.
Now, the Brexit deal is to be put to MPs again on Tuesday March 12, although little appears to have changed.
Deal or no deal?
Here’s a selection of expert opinion on whether the Brexit deal will pass muster this time, or whether it will fail, leading to a potential Brexit delay or a “no-deal” scenario.
“We suppose that Parliament’s vote on March 12 will be another overwhelming rejecting of the negotiated deal, since the deal will be the same. Some theorize that with a “delayed Brexit” alternative now on the table, hardliners will vote in favor of what they call a “bad deal” rather than see Brexit delayed … We do not think MPs will be swayed by that.”
Carl B. Weinberg, chief international economist at High Frequency Economics (Note, March 4).
“We currently don’t expect the deal to go through when voted on next week, though it might be a closer outcome than in January. Some pro-Brexit MPs may decide to vote for the deal, but the same prospect of a delay that is leading them to soften their position will be seen as a positive development by some pro-remain members. Also, the fact the EU now knows the consequence of a defeat will be a delay has relieved the pressure on them to make more meaningful concessions on the backstop. A 2-3 month delay is our expectation, at the end of which a harder deadline would give the deal a much better chance of being approved.”
John Wraith, the head of U.K. rates strategy and economics at UBS, told CNBC.
“Politically, the risk that the Brexiteers might miss the Brexit train, and the opening up of the political center creates a set of incentives that could well lead to a deal”
Michael O’Sullivan, the managing director of Credit Suisse in the Private Banking & Wealth Management Division (Note March 3).
“We doubt May can achieve victory at this stage … A two-to three-month extension of Article 50 appears likely with May securing passage of the deal by early April,”
Bruce Kasman, managing director and head of economic research at J.P.Morgan (Note, March 2).
“Next week’s vote will be on a knife-edge vote — as such, we only put the odds of May’s deal going through at 55 percent … If May fails to win (House of Commons) backing this month, a very different deal would likely return in June — such as Common Market 2.0 or a Norway Plus agreement based on membership of the single market and a customs union. The real prospect of that might just tip enough euroskeptics into May’s column.”
Mujtaba Rahman, managing director of Europe at Eurasia Group (Note, March 4).