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Media Hub

Former Irish PM brands Boris Johnson a 'buffoon' who will 'ruin Ireland' over Brexit

2 hours 30 minutes ago
Bertie Ahern
Bertie Ahern urged Theresa May to stand up to Boris Johnson

Former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern has branded Boris Johnson a "buffoon" whose Brexit demands would ruin Britain and Ireland.

The ex-Taoiseach namechecked the Foreign Secretary as he called on Theresa May to either stand up to those in the Tory party pushing for a hard Brexit, or risk being brought down as Prime Minister.

"If she has 350 members and 70 of them are rebels, something you have to say, what do we do with the 280, and she has to do that," he told the Meath Chronicle.

"If she keeps going from crisis to crisis, and listening to that buffoon, Boris - he’ll ruin us, never mind ruin them - she has to face up to that. If she doesn't she can't survive."

The former Fianna Fáil leader urged current Irish leader Leo Varadkar to press for as much agreement as possible on Brexit at the upcoming EU summit - or face being outmanoeuvred when the deal is finally presented in October.

"I’m not saying we can finish it all by June, but if we are to drag it out until the end, the British could come in the last few days with their €50 billion cheque and say: ‘We’re going to do this and we’re going to do that, and going to do the other’.

"And they’ll say to the French and the Germans who are making the running on this, we’ve given the Irish a lot, now is the time for the Irish to move, and the pressure will come back on us."

He said talks over the border had so far left both sides with "nothing", pinning the blame on Britain for dismissing solutions which had been put forward.

"We had a deal on 15th December which people believed was cast iron. By 15th March it was a ‘ridiculous deal which no British prime minister could implement’.

"Now it’s a backstop if nothing else. They have no intention of doing that," he said.

"We have been dragged through the December summit with little or nothing. Then there was the March summit, and what have we got and now when she couldn’t get the customs partnership through, she’s looking at another thing."

Mr Ahern, who served as Taoiseach at the time of the Good Friday Agreement, also batted away "ridiculous" calls for a poll on Irish reunification following predictions of a nationalist majority in Northern Ireland by 2021.

"It wouldn't get you to Christmas… A waste of space, and those who are suggesting it are being highly responsible and should stop," he told the paper.

"The only way it would work is when the nationalist and republican communities and a 'reasonable' share of the loyalist and unionist people want it – but with the unionists and loyalists totally opposed, it is ridiculous.

"The only united Ireland will be a negotiated one – and it won't happen in my lifetime."

Nicholas Mairs

Chief whip Julian Smith 'contacting local Tory associations' to pile pressure on Brexit rebels

8 hours 9 minutes ago
Julian Smith
Julian Smith has been pulling out the stops to quell the Tory Brexit rebellion.

Tory chief whip Julian Smith has been contacting party activists in seats held by rebel MPs in a bid to stave of government defeats on Brexit.

Senior Conservative sources branded to move, which is designed to pile pressure on pro-EU backbenchers, "outrageous".

Details of the tactic emerged after Theresa May survived her latest showdown with the rebels over the EU Withdrawal Bill.

A last-ditch compromise offered by Brexit Secretary David Davis on giving Parliament a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal was enough to prevent around half a dozen Tory MPs voting with Labour.

But the extent of the Government's anxiety was laid bare after it emerged Mr Smith had begged senior officials in local Conservative associations for help.

A Tory insider said: "The chief whip has been contacting local associations telling members to put pressure on their MPs not to vote against the Government on Brexit.

"It's an outrageous tactic, but shows how worried they are about the damage that the rebels can inflict upon them."

Around 14 Tory rebels would be enough to defeat Theresa May on the floor of the Commons, a result which could prove devastating for her leadership.

The next flashpoint is expected to be over calls for Britain to remain in a customs union with the EU after Brexit.

More than a dozen Conservative MPs have put their names to a cross-party amendment to the upcoming Customs Bill which would bring that into effect.

kevin.schofield

EXCL Dominic Raab calls on Theresa May not to 'cower in a corner' in Brexit negotiations

21 hours 59 minutes ago
Dominic Raab is a minister in the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local GovernmentDominic Raab is a minister in the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government
Dominic Raab is a minister in the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government

A Government minister has called on Theresa May not to "cower in a corner" as she tries to strike a Brexit deal with Brussels.

Dominic Raab said the Government risked looking as though it was "afraid of our own shadow" rather than aiming for an ambitious withdrawal agreement.

The Prime Minister has been accused of conceding too much to EU negotiators in areas such as the size of the Brexit divorce bill.

Expressing his frustration at the progress made so far, housing minister Mr Raab said British negotiators must show "political ambition" in order to get the best possible deal for the country.

In an interview with The House magazine, the Brexiteer said the Government must come up with an aspirational message on Brexit – and not allow “the din of criticism to swallow up the debate”.

He said: “Britain is a great country. We’ve got a huge amount going for us, from our commercial nous and the ability of our entrepreneurs, through to English as the lingua franca for business, for law, and all those cultural soft power aspects.

“I think we should go into these negotiations with a bit of economic self-confidence. The economy has held up and proved far more resilient than some of the naysayers suggested. We should go into it with political ambition. So, yes, mitigate the risks but we should grasp the opportunities.

“One thing I get nervous about, or anxious, is that we don’t cower in a corner so fixated on the risk that we look somehow afraid of our own shadow. Britain is a hell of a lot better than that.

“So, yes, let’s take the risks seriously. I don’t want to be cavalier about that. But let’s also grasp the opportunities. If we do that and we show a team effort, then this country will go on to bigger, better things.”

He continued: “We need to really make sure that we come up with that aspirational message, we are talking about the tangible opportunities, and do not allow the din of criticism to swallow up the debate.”

Mr Raab said leaving the EU could the standard living improve as prices fall, which he argued was an “inexorable result of an energetic and liberal approach to free trade”.

“So, let’s talk about the upsides and manage down the risk sides. I think that’s the key to a sensible, balanced approach to Brexit,” he said.

The Government’s flagship Withdrawal Bill finally passed through Parliament this week before Theresa May heads to an EU summit later this month.

Mr Raab called on his party to show “a bit more unity of purpose” as Brexit proceeds to the next phase.

Sebastian Whale

Dominic Raab: We must not ‘cower in a corner’ over Brexit

22 hours 16 minutes ago
Housing Minister Dominic Raab
Housing Minister Dominic Raab

From building more houses to doing right by the families of Grenfell, Dominic Raab is ‘restless’ to achieve results. And as the country prepares to leave the European Union, the Brexiteer wants to see a unity of purpose, not just in his own party but across the country. He talks to Sebastian Whale

Though it lacked the pomp of Donald Trump’s Singapore summit with the leader of North Korea, David Davis and Dominic Grieve’s public coffee in Parliament this week was an unlikely rapprochement between two leading Conservative figures with diametrically opposed views on Brexit.

Having served as chief of staff to both senior Tories, did Dominic Raab help broker a peace deal behind the scenes? “I wouldn’t put it any way like that, but I know them both very well. I’m a huge fan of both of them. I like both of them as friends,” he replies. “I make the point to everyone that wants to listen and certainly to my good friend Dominic, that we need to keep the team together.”

Raab cuts a relaxed figure in his pokey parliament office as we convene on the day the government sees off a rebellion over a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal. A key figure in the Leave campaign, he takes a cordial approach on the EU debate. The ‘latte summit’ between Grieve and Davis was right up his alley.

That said, and with the Withdrawal Bill now out of the way, the Housing Minister believes his Tory colleagues should be mindful of the referendum and the party’s manifesto as crunch votes loom over the customs union. “We were very clear we were coming out of the customs union, there can’t be any tricksy fudging of that. There’s good reasons why we want to come out of the customs union. We all need to be true to the promises that we made,” he says.

“At the same time, all my professional experience – I started my life as a business lawyer at Linklaters, I spent six years at the Foreign Office doing all sorts of things – shows that you want teams together that get the best out of everyone, no matter what their skillset and what their viewpoint is. I think we’ve got a great opportunity to do that. I’ve worked with Dominic, I’ve worked with DD. I’ve worked with David Lidington, Sajid Javid and now with James Brokenshire – all people on the Remain side. I’ve never had a row, a flounce or anything like that with any of my colleagues that have taken a different view.

“What we’ve got to do as a government and as a parliamentary party and indeed as a country, is show that we are bigger than the sum of our parts. If we take a bit more of that approach, a bit more unity of purpose, we’ll get a great result out of Brexit. We’ll also unite the country, which is what I think most people, whether they voted Leave or Remain, feel that is our responsibility as politicians to do.”

Raab has previously said he supports “full fat” Brexit. Amid talk of an extended transition period and efforts to keep Britain in a customs union with the EU, does he fear we are heading for a diet version?

“No, I think if we’re true to our promises that we’ve made in our manifesto – and the mandate that we got from the referendum, which was to take back control over our borders, our laws and our money – I think we ought to on the Brexit side be flexible about the bridge to that end state,” he says. “So, for example, on the implementation period, I thought actually that was quite a sensible approach, because we’re giving businesses the certainty to prepare and plan, but also it’s given us some finality because we know it will be done by December 2020.”

But does he believe, as Downing St has claimed, that Britain stands to benefit from a Brexit dividend? “Um, look, the way I describe it is I think there are all sorts of – by the way, I never said there weren’t risks with Brexit. I said that during the referendum campaign,” he replies. “The truth is, there are risks and there are rewards; there are risks and there are opportunities. We need to manage the risks, and I’ve talked about some of them with the implementation period, but we also need to be confident about grasping the opportunities.

“Britain is a great country. We’ve got a huge amount going for us, from our commercial nous and the ability of our entrepreneurs, through to English as the lingua franca for business, for law, and all those cultural soft power aspects.

“We should go into these negotiations with a bit of economic self-confidence. The economy has held up and proved far more resilient than some of the naysayers suggested. We should go into it with political ambition.

“One thing I get nervous about, or anxious, is that we don’t cower in a corner, so fixated on the risk that we look somehow afraid of our own shadow. Britain is a hell of a lot better than that.

“So, yes, let’s take the risks seriously. I don’t want to be cavalier about that. But let’s also grasp the opportunities. If we do that and we show a team effort, then this country will go onto bigger, better things.”

---

Raab returned to ministerial life after the election, following a brief interlude on the backbenches in the wake of the referendum. In January, the Esher and Walton MP switched from the Ministry of Justice to taking on the housing brief. And he was thrown in at the deep end, with the PM earmarking housing as her number one domestic priority and the Grenfell disaster, which took the lives of 72 people, looming large in the public consciousness.

Raab witnessed the “live, raw grief” of the survivors and a “very powerful sense of resilience and strength” in the community during services dedicated to the disaster earlier this month. “It’s one of those moments in your career where I guess everything else almost pales into insignificance and you just want to do what you can to help. I feel a huge sense of responsibility,” he says.

“I actually feel quite a strong sense of privilege, because I’ve got to know quite a number of the families and Grenfell United and they’re smart people, they’re proud people, they’ve been through hell and back. You just want to help them as best you can.”

But with families yet to be rehoused and the Grenfell inquiry stuttering into gear, have the government and Kensington and Chelsea council done right by those affected? “There’s all sorts of lessons that can be learned. Certainly, for example on the rehousing, it has not happened swiftly enough,” replies Raab, who adds that progress has been made but “not nearly fast enough”. “I think rather than getting into the blame game… I’m focused relentlessly on helping the individuals and the needs and support to move.”

The Hackitt report into building regulations and fire safety did not call for a ban on flammable cladding, leading local MP Emma Dent Coad to conclude that the families had been “betrayed”. But Raab says that the government will outlaw combustible materials on high rise residential buildings, and is consulting on the right way to do so.

Ministers also “rule nothing out”, Raab adds, on looking at measures to see that leaseholders in the private sector are not “unfairly burdened” by having to pay to replace such cladding on their buildings.

Housing could well be a key factor at the next election. On the day we meet, Tory MPs head to No10 armed with a series of proposals they claim would build more homes amid concerns it is slipping off the government’s radar.

Raab meets with MPs every day, he says, to hear their ideas. He hails the 217,000 new homes that were built last year, but concedes there is further to go. He once more finds himself “restless” to ensure that every policy lever is pulled to “get the right homes built in the right places and to bring the affordability down”. And he is excited by the prospect of building more modular homes, which can be erected at a swifter pace and, as they are produced in factories, come with less disruption than traditional methods.

But a lot is at stake for the government to mend the broken system. Can they win back the voters they need without doing so?

Raab argues that Labour and Jeremy Corbyn “do not believe in home ownership”, citing the party’s opposition to cuts to stamp duty and position on Right to Buy. He adds: “One of the problems we’ve got is we’ve been selling this dream of Britain as a property-owning democracy and I think a lot of young people look at it and think well, actually this is well beyond our reach.

“So, the problem for us is less that Labour are offering something compelling, but that we’re being held to our promises. That’s absolutely right, that young people hold us to the promises we’ve made and the dream that we’ve set out and want to see that made a reality. So, it’s definitely a challenge, but one that we should be excited about grasping. It’s only the Conservatives that really believe in home ownership in this country.”

He adds: “I do think that come the next election we need to revive the dream of home ownership. It’s not just for the next generation, it’s for really anyone on a lower and middling income who are doing the right thing, working, putting in those extra hours, believing what we believe in which is that home ownership is a great stepping stone for social mobility. We need to make that a reality for them.”

Will leaving the European Union help with this endeavour? Raab, the son of a Czech-born Jewish father, stands by his claim, based on data from his own department, that immigration has an upward pressure on house prices.

“Immigration has got huge benefits to this country, and indeed to the construction sector which has been very reliant on cheap, skilled and semi-skilled labour from abroad,” he says. 

“I’m the son of a refugee. I’ve got a Brazilian wife. No one understand more from a very personal point of view the huge advantages of immigration. But we ought to have a sensible, balanced approach and take into account the pressures that uncontrolled immigration can have too.”

Though Raab disagrees with his fellow leaver, Priti Patel, who told The House earlier this month that the government is being “relentlessly negative” on Brexit, he adds: “We need to really make sure that we come up with that aspirational message, we are talking about the tangible opportunities, and do not allow the din of criticism to swallow up the debate.”

Raab believes that Brexit could see an improvement in the cost of living for “ordinary lower and middle-income families”, which he says is the “inexorable result of an energetic and liberal approach to free trade”.

So, if the public stand to benefit from lower house prices and improved living standards, as Raab claims, why aren’t they hearing about it?

“Well, they are from me,” he smiles. “Look, we’ve obviously got to address some of the criticisms as well. That’s the responsible thing to do. There are many and they tend to dominate the debate, because Brexit, as so much with our political life these days, has shown that the fringes on both sides tend to dominate the political discourse.”

He concludes: “Sometimes, we do need to reach out beyond the bubble to what ordinary people are thinking about. Frankly, whether they voted Leave or Remain, most people think we should get on with Brexit, make a success of it, and want to see a bit of unity of purpose among their politicians.

“That’s what I’m certainly committed to trying to do.”

Sebastian Whale

Sajid Javid in fresh row with Brussels over post-Brexit rights for expats

1 day 7 hours ago
Sajid Javid
The Home Secretary said EU member states' plans to reassure UK citizens living abroad were 'not good enough'

The Home Secretary has called on European Union countries to provide much more detail on the fate of British expats living abroad after Brexit.

Sajid Javid - who will later set out more detail of the UK's plans for EU citizens - said other member states needed to act to reassure Brits that their rights would be protected after Britain leaves the bloc.

Mr Javid said: "Publishing details of how we will administer our settled status scheme shows we are honouring the commitments made towards EU citizens living in the UK.

"But I am concerned that I have not seen any similar plans on how EU member states are going to support British nationals in their countries.

"This is not good enough and I hope both the European parliament and commission will exert more pressure for them to do this as soon as possible."

Ministers have so far pledged that EU citizens who have been in the UK for five years by the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020 will be able to apply for "settled status", allowing them to continue to live and work in Britain.

The Home Secretary will today set out a "statement of intent" and draft immigration rules in a bid to reassure EU citizens in the UK that their rights will be protected.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, has said he is "far from happy" with preparations by EU member states to accommodate UK citizens.

But the Brexit chief also raised questions about the UK's own preparations, urging ministers to shed light on how a promised new independent watchdog to safeguard EU citizens' rights would work in practice.

He warned: "The European Parliament still has a number of very serious concerns over the UK Government's registration process, including the need to better cater for vulnerable groups and the high cost of the settled status process for EU citizens who exercised their legal right and moved to the UK to work before Article 50 was even triggered.

“Why should EU citizens be financially punished for the Brexit referendum outcome, when we don’t even know yet what the future EU-UK mobility agreement will look like?"

Today's Home Office publication is expected to spell out how the new British scheme will operate, who will be eligible for it and how much it will cost.

Ministers have promised that a new online registration scheme for EU citizens will bring the process into line with that used to apply for other key documents like a driving license or passport.

But Jane Golding, chair of the British in Europe expat group, told the Independent that Mr Javid's fresh criticism of member states was "a bit late and a bit rich".

"What the Home Secretary appears not to realise is that it is the UK government that has thrown its own nationals in Europe into this uncertainty by insisting on introducing settled status for EU citizens in the UK so that it became an option for us in the EU 27 in December’s last-minute deal," she said.

"The EU 27 was not interested in settled status up until then."

There are currently some 3.8 million EU citizens living in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics, with around 900,000 British citizens living in EU countries.

Matt Foster

WATCH Tory minster admits no Brexit dividend to fund NHS boost for at least two years

2 days ago
Brexit
Jackie Doyle Price appearing on the BBC Daily Politics today

A Conservative minister has been forced to admit a major funding boost for the NHS will at least initially come only from taxes and borrowing rather than a so-called Brexit dividend.

Mental Health minister Jackie Doyle-Price accepted that for at least the first two years after Brexit the UK would see no cash coming back from Brussels.

Theresa May has been condemned for insisting the £20bn-a-year increase for the Health Service will be at least party funded by cash that will no longer be sent to the EU.

During the EU referendum, the official Vote Leave campaign peddled the claim that the UK would take back control of some £350m a week it sends to Brussels.

The IFS thinktank has argued the so-called Brexit dividend cannot exist since existing spending commitments, the Brexit divorce bill and an expected economic downturn will swallow the cash.

Ms Doyle-Price appeared to accept any dividend was impossible, at least while the UK remains tied to EU institutions immediately after Brexit, when she appeared on the BBC Daily Politics today.

When presenter Andrew Neil noted that the UK would still be paying into EU coffers during the Brexit transition period for two years, she said: “Indeed.”

But she added: “This funding settlement looks to give certainty to the NHS for the future. We have said it will come from the Brexit dividend and from taxes. We are looking at a five-year plan.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also tried to press the Prime Minister on the issue when he faced her at PMQs today.

He said: "Mr Speaker, her figures are so dodgy they belong on the side of a bus. We do expect that from the Foreign Secretary but why is the Prime Minister pushing her own Mickey Mouse figures?”

But Mrs May shot back: “We have set a five-year funding settlement that will be funded. There will be money that we are no longer sending to the EU that we will be able to spend on our NHS…

"But perhaps I can tell them what another Labour member said a few weeks ago?

“He said: ‘We will use returned from Brussels after Brexit to invest in our public services.’

“It was him - the Right Honourable Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition."

emilio.casalicchio

Brussels chief: Post-Brexit trade talks could last entire transition period

2 days 2 hours ago
Guy Verhofstadt
Guy Verhofstadt heads up the Brexit operation for the European Parliament

The UK could still be negotiating its future trade deal with the EU right up until the moment the Brexit transition period ends, top Brussels bigwig Guy Verhofstadt said today.

The Brexit chief for the European Parliament said the so-called 'political declaration' could take months longer to hammer out than claimed by Brexit Secretary David Davis.

He also reiterated the Brussels position that the Irish border ‘backstop’ proposed by Theresa May was "not acceptable", and rejected her preferred post-Brexit customs model.

Cabinet minister Mr Davis has said the 'political declaration' - setting out the two sides' intentions for a future free trade agreement - could be finalised at the EU summit in October this year.

In April, he said the agreement could be converted into a fully-formed trade treaty by the time the UK quits the bloc in March 2019, before the beginning of the two-year transition period.

But Mr Verhofstadt today poured cold water on those hopes, telling MPs he saw the timetable "a little bit differently".

"It will take more than a few weeks and a few months to do that," he told the cross-party Exiting the European Union Committee this morning.

"I think it shall be necessary to use the whole transition period to detail this political declaration."

He said it would take a long time to hammer out a direction for trade, economic ties, security and other areas.

"I am optimistic by nature," he went on. "But I’m not so optimistic that you can do it in three months."

BACKSTOP 'NOT ACCEPTABLE'

Elsewhere, Mr Verhofstadt heaped scorn on the 'backstop' option proposed by the UK to keep the Irish border open in the event a new system for customs ties with Brussels is not finalised in time.

The Prime Minister was criticised by Brussels for putting an expected end date of December 2021 on the emergency measure, which would see the UK remain in a close customs arrangement with the bloc.

But Mr Verhofstadt blasted: "What is on the table was not acceptable for a number of reasons.

"First, the backstop was not a backstop because it was only temporary. Secondly there was no regulatory alignment. So it was lacking the two main elements to be acceptable."

He also rejected the so-called 'customs partnership' proposal preferred by the Prime Minister for after Brexit, which would see the UK collecting tariffs on behalf of Brussels.

"We are not going to outsource the EU's customs competences to the UK," he told the MPs.

Elsewhere, he said staying in the EU single market for goods only - a proposal apparently under consideration by Downing Street - would be "very difficult if not impossible" because goods are so wrapped up with services.

emilio.casalicchio

GCHQ chief warns Britain ‘critical’ in foiling European terror plots amid post-Brexit security row

2 days 6 hours ago
Jeremy Fleming
Jeremy Fleming said there needed to be mechanisms allowing both sides “to share insight and expertise”

The head of GCHQ has ramped up calls for UK-EU security ties to be defended after Brexit as he revealed British intelligence thwarted four terror plots on the continent last year.

Jeremy Fleming said his organisation’s ability to work with European partners “saves lives” as a row over Britain’s access to major security information rumbled on.

It comes after Michel Barnier warned yesterday that Britain risked being shut out of key European Union security and policing databases.

The EU's chief negotiator said while both sides would continue to "cooperate strongly", Britain would not be able to take part in the European Arrest Warrant and said UK officials would play no part in running joint agencies including Europol.

But in a pointed intervention, Mr Fleming said it was important that there are mechanisms that allow both sides “to share insight and expertise”.

“We’re leaving the EU but not Europe. And after Brexit the UK will continue to work with the EU and the EU member states,” he said after a meeting with officials at Nato in Brussels.

“We have excellent relationships with intelligence and security agencies right across the continent.

“For example, in the last year we’ve played a critical role in the disruption of terrorist operations in at least four European countries.

“Those relationships, and our ability to work together, save lives. That will continue after Brexit, for the benefit of the UK and for Europe.”

He also cited the need to join together in tackling online activity from the Islamic State group and criminal gangs.

And he hit out at the Russian government for its "blatant disregard for the consequences of its actions" following the Salisbury attack.

Mr Fleming said: "These threats are more complex and more global and none of us can defend against them alone. They require a pooling of resource, expertise and, critically, data so that we can investigate and disrupt our adversaries."

Nicholas Mairs

Theresa May piling pressure on Labour Brexiteers to help her defeat Tory rebels on crunch vote

2 days 7 hours ago
Theresa May
The vote will come down to the finely-balanced Commons arithmetic

Theresa May is relying on Labour Brexiteers to help her defeat Tory rebels in a tense Commons showdown on the EU Withdrawal Bill.

In a surprise move, Conservative whips are urging Labour MPs in Leave-backing constituencies to vote against their own party leadership on calls for Parliament to have a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal.

Westminster sources said they were even promising to go easy on Labour backbenchers by putting up "paper candidates" in future elections if they back the Government in this afternoon's vote.

The Prime Minister is facing yet another rebellion from around a dozen of her pro-EU backbenchers, who say MPs should have the power to stop the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.

But she hopes that enough Labour MPs will defy Jeremy Corbyn and back the Government to hand her a crucial victory.

One Labour source told PoliticsHome: "This vote looks extremely close. The Tories really could vote against May in numbers to give Parliament a meaningful vote.

"Imagine being the Labour MP that gives her a wafer thin majority. They would basically be saying that they trust her word when all past experience proves that it isn’t worth the paper she won’t write it on."

The latest twist in the Brexit saga comes after the House of Lords overwhelmingly backed an amendment on Monday which would give Parliament the power to block a no deal Brexit - something the Prime Minister said she “cannot accept”.

It mirrored an agreement that chief Tory rebel Dominic Grieve and fellow Conservative MPs thought they had struck with Theresa May last week, but which the Prime Minister ditched after it was opposed Brexiteers.

Number 10 has insisted it will stick to its guns, with the Prime Minister's spokesperson arguing that the compromise amendment from the upper chamber would "undermine" talks with the EU.

But Tory rebels - including Anna Soubry and Dr Philip Lee, the minister who quit last week to defy the Government over Brexit - have also insisted they will not budge.

Speaking on Radio Four's Today programme, Dr Lee said the rebels were standing firm: "My understanding is that the position taken by colleagues is solid."

AMENDABLE MOTION

The vote will come down to the finely-balanced Commons arithmetic after Mrs May lost her majority in the snap general election last year.

The Lords clause would require ministers to lay an amendable motion in the Commons if there is no Brexit deal by February next year - allowing MPs to potentially extend the Article 50 process or call a second referendum.

Ministers have allowed parliament a symbolic vote but do not want any motion to be amendable.

Mr Grieve said yesterday: “I am hopeful the government will listen to what has come back from the Lords and we may be able to achieve some form of sensible compromise...

“The differences between us is not very great, but it is a significant difference. It is absolutely right Parliament cannot micromanage the government's negotiating.”

He added: “To be absolutely clear, if this amendment was carried in the Commons, it would not force the government to do something.”

'CANNOT ACCEPT'

The Prime Minister's spokesperson said yesterday: "We cannot accept the amendment on a meaningful vote agreed in the Lords.

“Agreeing to amendable motions would allow parliament to direct the Government’s approach to exiting the EU, binding the Prime Minister’s hands and making it harder to secure a good deal for the UK.

"It also does not meet the reasonable tests set out last week by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and any new amendment must respect the referendum result and cannot undermine the negotiations or undermine the constitutional role of Parliament and Government."

emilio.casalicchio

Tom Brake MP: MPs – Delegates or Representatives?

2 days 7 hours ago
EU flag

When it comes to today's debate on whether Parliament gets a 'meaningful vote' on Brexit, Lib Dem MP Tom Brake says MPs will be judged on "how they weighed their responsibilities and how they then acted."

The past two weeks have seen febrile and high-tension activity in Westminster as Parliament and Government wrestle with, and over, Brexit.  The sparks will continue to fly through the summer and autumn.  They should.  Brexit is fundamental to the economic and political direction of the UK; indeed to what we are as a country.  And the issues go to the heart of our constitution: who protects the rights of citizens - their elected representatives in Parliament; or the Government?

But what are the constitutional responsibilities of individual Members of Parliament when voting on Brexit legislation, particularly in light of the Referendum.

The responsibilities of Members of Parliament were defined by Burke as to use: “not [their] industry only, but [their] judgment” and by Sir Winston Churchill, citing Burke, who characterised the position as “the first duty of a member of Parliament” is “to do what he thinks in his faithful and disinterested judgement is right and necessary for the honour and safety of Great Britain” .

In essence, Members of Parliament are elected, as individuals, to use their judgement and experience responsibly in the UK’s best interests.  They are not mere agents, cyphers or creatures of party whips’ will.

It is ever more claimed by Brexiters that ‘the will of the people’ was settled in the 2016 Referendum and politicians must simply implement it.  The worse Brexit actually looks for the UK, the louder and more often that is said.  But was it? For ever? And what really was it? And who interprets it?  Crucially, what is that ‘will’ now – when it matters, after two years of reality and what is an MP’s primary Brexit role?

The Brexit responsibilities of Members of Parliament are of a different quality from passing legislation which can be repealed or a policy that can be rejected by the electorate, at the next election.   A higher degree of prudence, judgement and confidence is required for decisions which have a fundamental and long-term impact on the country’s future.  And those decisions need to take account of the interests of the UK’s young people, who will bear the consequences for much longer.  That applies whether the decisions are to leave, stay in a customs union or seek EEA membership.  They also apply to whether Parliamentarians should seek an extension of the 29 March 2019 deadline for mature reflection.

The Referendum had no legal effect, as a matter of law.  Its impact was, and is, political.

Members of Parliament have to consider the current political relevance of the Referendum when it is now clear that almost every basis upon which Brexit was put to the UK electorate in 2016 was fundamentally wrong. 

It is not ‘easy’; there will not be £350m a week for the NHS; there is no Brexit dividend; the EU does not need the UK more than the UK needs the EU; it will not be free to leave; there is not a better trading future for the UK outside the EU; immigration isn’t likely to drop substantially.

Meanwhile the UK’s economy has already moved from being the best (June 2016), to the worst (or close to) performing in the G7.  Studies show the UK is already losing more than £350m a week, even before leaving.  The UK is losing international influence, credibility, investment and authority. 

People recognise, whatever their views in 2016, that the process is far more complex than thought, or promised; and is absorbing, or threatening, far more of the UK’s government resources and assets that was ever contemplated in 2016.  Brexit is actually preventing the UK from addressing the many other issues that it urgently needs to address.

So much has changed, and is now known, since the Referendum. Polls show a small balance for Remain – by a similar degree to the 2016 Leave majority - so what is the ‘will of the people’ today – when it really matters? Moreover, due to demographic change, pro-EU sentiment is certain to increase. Democracy is a dynamic process, not a historical prison.

It is time to call time on Project Fantasy: the Brexit Emperor has no clothes. 

Of course, Parliamentarians need to give appropriate political weight to the Referendum result: it was an historical political moment.

But the 2016 Referendum imposes no obligation on Members of Parliament to do what is bad for the UK now.  The obligation it does impose, should MPs change their stance, is for that stance to be ratified in a public vote on the final deal.

Members of Parliament have a constitutional responsibility to use their votes to do what, after careful consideration, they consider is right for the UK, and its future, as a whole.

They are not bound, constitutionally, simply and blindly to implement a ‘result’ of the Referendum nearly three years later, come what may. The country did not vote to leave at any cost, or in any circumstances.  There is no basis upon which Parliamentarians can put their rationality or higher duties to one side and ‘simply follow orders’ – particularly when those orders are out of date and were wholly unclear.

Members of Parliament rightly are fully protected by Parliamentary Privilege from any personal legal consequences of how they vote.  But they will not be immune from the judgement of history as to how they weighed their responsibilities and how they then acted.  This will include the position they adopted in relation to the ‘meaningful vote’ division this Wednesday.

Anonymous

WATCH Theresa May's former deputy pours scorn on her 'Brexit dividend' claim

2 days 23 hours ago
Damian Green
Damian Green has said he would not use the term "Brexit dividend"

Theresa May’s former deputy has joined criticism of the Government’s claim that a major increase in NHS spending will be funded through a “Brexit dividend”.

Ministers yesterday insisted the £20bn-a-year rise by 2023 would be funded by tax hikes, which were yet to be decided on, and money saved by no longer having to pay-out to Brussels as an EU member state.

But Damian Green, who was forced to resign as Cabinet Office minister in December, said it was “fanciful” for ministers to try and predict the amount of cash available to the Treasury in three to four years from now.

He also distanced himself from the idea that it could be part-funded by a “Brexit dividend”, a claim that has already been shot down by respected thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

“I wouldn’t use that phrase, because the fact is we don’t know..,” he told the BBC’s Daily Politics.

“The amount of money the Chancellor will have to spend or the amount he will have to borrow depends on the state of the economy, the amount of growth we have, which dictates the amount of taxation people and companies can pay. Broadly speaking, it’s as simple as that.”

Mr Green added that figures around growth were “guesswork” as he pointed out that the Government’s stance does not square with that of top economists who say Brexit will “depress” the economy.

He added: “The effect of Brexit on the economy, most economists are actually saying that it will depress growth a bit, although it won’t lead to the huge recession we were warned would happen before the referendum…

“The Government’s own figures are looking-ahead guesswork, as are every other economist’s figures, so the idea that you can say what the state of the public finances is going to be in 2021-22 is pretty fanciful.

“All economic projections are fanciful for that point of view.”

The claim by the long-term ally of Mrs May’s comes after the Prime Minister herself doubled down on the pronouncement amid growing criticism yesterday.

Paul Johnson of the IFS has dismissed the suggestion that the cash would come from Britain leaving the EU, telling the BBC on Sunday: “There isn’t a Brexit dividend.”

He argued the forecast downturn in the economy as a result of Brexit, the so-called 'divorce bill' and other payments to maintain some EU functions meant any extra money had already been spent.

Conservative MP and chair of the Health Select Committee, Sarah Wollaston, meanwhile branded it “tosh” which “treats the public like fools”.

Nicholas Mairs

Number 10 lobby briefing on cannabis, US immigration policy and Brexit

3 days ago
Number 10

Here is a summary of this morning's briefing for lobby journalists by the Prime Minister's official spokesman.

CANNABIS 

Downing Street has today hit back at an article by Lord Hague, in which he called for the decriminalisation of cannabis.

The former Tory leader wrote in the Telegraph that the war against the drug had been “comprehensively and irreversibly lost" and called for the law to be changed.

But the Prime Minister’s spokesman insisted that the Government’s position would remain the same.

The spokesman said: “The harmful effects of cannabis are well known and there are no plans to legalise it.”

US IMMIGRATION POLICY

Responding to reports emerging from the US of child immigrants being separated from their families and detained in large warehouses, the spokesman outlined the UK’s own “humane” approach.

“I would point you to the UK’s own immigration policy. It does not apply these measures and we do not intend to do so.

"The welfare and safeguarding of children is at the heart of our immigration policy. We do not separate child asylum seekers or refugees from their families,” he said.

“We believe that we have a humane system."

The spokesman added: “Our own position is guided by the refugee convention and the European Convention on human rights. That is what we adhere to, but obviously I can’t speak for other countries.”

GRIEVE AMENDMENT

The spokesman confirmed that the Government would not back an amendment, tabled by Tory backbencher Dominic Grieve and passed by the Lords yesterday, on a meaningful vote for Parliament on the final Brexit deal.

The spokesman said it would instead table an alternative amendment, which it hoped would pass in the Commons tomorrow.

He said: “We cannot accept the amendment on a meaningful vote agreed in the Lords. Agreeing to amendable motions would allow parliament to direct the Government’s approach to exiting the EU, binding the Prime Minister’s hands and making it harder for the Prime Minister’s hands and making it harder to secure a good deal for the UK. 

“It also does not meet the reasonable tests set out last week by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for exiting the European Union and any new amendment must respect the referendum result and cannot undermine the negotiations or undermine the constitutional role of Parliament and Government. 

“Our original amendment struck the right balance between respecting the tests set out by the Government as well as delivering on the aims of Dominic Grieve’s own amendment. That is why we will be retabling our original amendment today and looking overturn the Lord’s decision tomorrow.”   

Elizabeth.Bates_30914

Theresa May to face down Brexit rebels as she rejects Lords amendment on 'meaningful vote'

3 days ago
Theresa May
The Prime Minister's spokesperson said the Government 'cannot accept' the House of Lords' call for a beefed-up 'meaningful vote' on Brexit

Theresa May is braced for a fresh Brexit rebellion as Downing Street said it "cannot accept" a compromise tacked onto its flagship EU exit bill by the House of Lords.

The Lords last night voted 354 to 235 in favour of an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill which would give MPs the power to intervene to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

The amendment was said to mirror an agreement that chief Commons Brexit rebel Dominic Grieve and fellow Conservative MPs thought they had struck with the Prime Minister last week in a bid to head off a rebellion - but which was later ditched by Mrs May amid howls of outrage from Brexiteers.

Number 10 today insisted it was sticking to its guns, with the Prime Minister's spokesperson arguing that the compromise amendment from the upper chamber would "undermine" talks with the EU.

The Prime Minister's spokesperson said: "We cannot accept the amendment on a meaningful vote agreed in the Lords. Agreeing to amendable motions would allow parliament to direct the Government’s approach to exiting the EU, binding the Prime Minister’s hands and making it harder to secure a good deal for the UK.

"It also does not meet the reasonable tests set out last week by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and any new amendment must respect the referendum result and cannot undermine the negotiations or undermine the constitutional role of Parliament and Government."

Downing Street meanwhile claimed that its own amendment - which does not give Parliament the power to seize the reins of the Brexit process - satisfied the concerns of key Tory rebels.

"Our original amendment struck the right balance between respecting the tests set out by the Government as well as delivering on the aims of Dominic Grieve’s own amendment," the spokesperson said.

"That is why we will be retabling our original amendment today and looking overturn the Lords' decision tomorrow."

Amid criticism from Brexiteers who have accused him of trying to kill off the UK's departure from the European Union, Mr Grieve this morning said it was "complete nonsense" to suggest that a vote against the Government tomorrow would bring down Mrs May's administration.

"This is the end stage of the consideration of the details of a piece of legislation," he said.

"Whichever way the vote ultimately goes, the idea that the Government is going to be endangered by this difference of view within the House of Commons which might lead to its defeat is complete nonsense."

Matt Foster

Brexit Britain to be booted out of key policing agreements, says EU's top negotiator

3 days 2 hours ago
Michel Barnier
Michel Barnier urged Britain to show "more realism about what is and what is not possible"

Post-Brexit Britain will be shut out of key European Union crime-fighting measures unless there is "more realism" from the UK Government, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator has said.

Speaking at a conference in Vienna, Michel Barnier made clear that Britain would not be able to take part in the European Arrest Warrant - which allows police to work across EU borders to apprehend suspects - and said UK officials would play no part in running joint agencies including Europol.

"It is particularly hard to speak about what will no longer be possible, but I have to speak the truth,” he said.

"The UK decided to leave the EU, I regret profoundly the decision, but it is a democratic decision and we have to respect it. Now we are working towards an orderly withdrawal.

"If we want to build a new relationship, we need a basis of good will, a basis of confidence between us – but we also need more realism about what is and what is not possible."

Mr Barnier said that while the EU would continue to "cooperate strongly" with Britain on policing and justice after Brexit, the UK's insistence on leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice meant members states could not "continue cooperating with the UK without these safeguards".

"The UK is not ready to accept free movement of people, the jurisdiction of the ECJ and the Charter of Fundamental Rights," he said. "This means that the UK cannot take part in the European Arrest Warrant."

Mr Barnier's speech came as the EU's 27 member states set out their joint stance on security cooperation, making clear that while they want to see "streamlined" exchange of information between UK and European authorities after Brexit, there will be "no access" to the cross-border Europol policing agency's database once Britain leaves.

The bloc also said there would be "no participation" in Europol's management board, and warned that leaving the ECJ meant there was a "potential risk of lowering the standards of protection for individuals" subject to extradition.

The tough stance from the EU is likely to trigger a furious response from the UK side, however.

Earlier this month Home Secretary Sajid Javid warned Brussels it would be "wrong and reckless" to weaken security ties with Britain.

He added: "When the British people voted to leave the European Union, they were not voting for us to stop working with our European allies to keep everyone safe.

"So it would be wrong and reckless for anyone to advocate any unnecessary reduction in this cooperation."

 

Matt Foster

WATCH: Tory Brexit rebel Dominic Grieve admits MPs could ‘collapse the Government’ over Brexit bill

5 days 1 hour ago
Dominic Grieve
Dominic Grieve is among pro-EU rebels pushing for a greater role for parliament in any 'meaningful vote'

Pro-EU backbencher Dominic Grieve has admitted MPs could bring down the Government by voting against the final Brexit bill.

It comes as the former attorney-general made clear he would not accept the Government’s meaningful vote amendment on the Brexit bill this week, after he and his allies after deemed it “unacceptable”.

Mr Grieve has been pushing to ensure a meaningful vote hands parliament the right to direct the next steps if the deal is rejected by MPs.

The Government proposals meanwhile would only give the House the right to debate a motion “in neutral terms” - making it impossible for MPs to make changes.

Mr Grieve today said the pledge given to him by the PM in a bid to buy off his support in amendments last week "had to be fulfilled" when the bill returns from the Lords on Wednesday.

“We could collapse the Government, and I assure you I wake up at 2am in a cold sweat thinking about the problems that we have put on our shoulders,” he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics.

“The difficulty is that the Brexit process is inherently risky, really risky. Risky to our economic wellbeing, to our international relationships and ultimately to our national security."

However, the former frontbencher said the alternative to a Commons say over the Brexit process was a “slavery clause” that bound MPs to taking action they may think would go against the country’s interest.

“Of course note will be taken of it in Brussels, but I can’t save the Government from getting into a situation where parliament might disagree with it," he said.

“The alternative is that we’ve all got to sign up to a slavery clause now, saying whatever the Government does, whenever it comes to January, however potentially catastrophic it might be for my constituents and for my country, I’m signing in blood now that I will follow over the edge of a cliff. And that I can tell you, I am not prepared to do."

The Government’s Solicitor-General, Robert Buckland, said on the same programme that the rebels’ amendment would hand the EU a “trump card” against Brexit Secretary David Davis, given there would then be a “third party” in the relationship.

“David Davis needs to be able to go out there and have a firm negotiating hand,” he said.

“My worry is about no matter how well intentioned Dominic’s amendment might be [...] it actually plays badly in the most important negotiation - which is over in Brussels”.

Nicholas Mairs

Theresa May ‘meeting with Labour MPs’ to save crunch Brexit votes

5 days 5 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May is expected to have to head off fresh Brexit bill challenges this week

Theresa May is reportedly holding secret talks with Labour MPs in a bid to ensure the Government wins knife-edge Brexit votes.

The Prime Minister is said to have called on pro-Leave opposition members last Monday amid fears over the amendment backed by pro-EU Tories which would hand parliament control of Brexit talks should they vote down the final deal.

The Sun on Sunday says at least three senior Labour MPs are understood to have met her, ahead of the vote last Tuesday, which the Government won after a series of pledges to the rebels.

A Whitehall source said: “The Labour MPs are simply staying true to their principles and staying true to the Labour manifesto they were elected on.

“Seventy per cent of Labour constituencies voted Leave and they want to see the result of the referendum honoured.”

However the revelations come as Mrs May faces a fresh headache on Wednesday when the bill returns to the Commons, having not satisfied the rebels with her promises that sealed the last vote.

Tory MP Stephen Hammond told the Sun the process was “hijacked” by Brexiteers in Government after the PM refused to give in to the group’s demands.

The bill is due to come back to the Commons this week after a day in the Lords, which is “100 per cent certain” to result in the Government’s own amendment being rejected in favour of the rebels’, according to the Independent.  

The paper reports that Mrs May has been warned by the Commons backbenchers that failing to compromise further would be a “high-risk gamble and one they will lose”.

And they added that they are “very confident” they have the numbers to vote down the plans, with more MPs ready to break cover in their opposition to the bill as it stands.

One Conservative rebel told The Independent: “We’ve got the numbers. I’m very confident of that. We would have had the numbers last week.

“If they’re gambling on [winning a Commons vote], that’s a very high-risk gamble and one they will lose. Our numbers are increasing, not diminishing.”

They added: “Throughout these negotiations we’ve been calmly trying to find a common-sense and logical way forward that is in the best interests of the country. We’ve been dialling it down while the hard Brexiteers have been ramping up the rhetoric in the media. It’s disgraceful.”

Nicholas Mairs

Ministers 'fear crashing out of the EU' if Brexit deal not secured by October

6 days 6 hours ago
The UK is set to leave the European Union at the end of March 2019
The UK is set to leave the European Union at the end of March 2019

Ministers privately fear that the UK could crash out of the EU empty handed if a Brexit deal is not secured by October, according to reports.

The Sun and The Telegraph report that a crisis meeting was held this week between Brexit ministers and Commons leader Andrea Leadsom amid concerns parliament will not be able to ratify the withdrawal agreement before Article 50 comes to an end in March.

Should a deal be struck with the EU, the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill would need to be brought into force to underpin the new arrangement.

But Ms Leadsom has reportedly warned ministers about the timetable constraints prohibiting the legislation passing through parliament unless a Brexit deal is struck by October.

A source told both papers the meeting “was real doomsday stuff, that left Brexit ministers in no doubt that time is really running out.”

A Commons source said: "The understanding is that if we leave without the Withdrawal and Implementation Bill we leave without a deal. 

"We'd end up in legal limbo because this bill delivers the agreement. Without it we have no idea what would happen next, nor what the EU would do."

Sources told the Telegraph that if ministers are forced to rush the new legislation through the Commons, MPs could be made to sit through the night, over recess and debate could be cut from eight days to one.

According to The Sun, Ms Leadsom told ministers it would be unlikely that the Government could use special Expedited Legislation measures to fasttrack the bill through parliament, given the Tories’ slender majority as a result of the confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP.

A Government spokesman said: "We are constantly assessing the parliamentary timetable to ensure all the required bills are passed before our exit from the EU.

"While we share with the EU the intention to agree a deal by October, we are ready for all scenarios."

Sebastian Whale

Ministers failing to take Brexit Irish border dilemma seriously, say MPs

1 week ago
Irish border
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee hit back at the Government's response to its recommendations

The Government has been accused of failing to take concerns around keeping an open Irish border after Brexit seriously by a powerful Commons committee.

In a damning response, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee said the Government's response to their concerns had left them "none the wiser" about ministers' plans to solve the issue.

Dr Andrew Murrison, the Conservative chair of the committee, has written to Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley accusing the Government of failing to "engage" with the committee’s key points.

He added that no new proposals on keeping an open and invisible border between Northern Ireland and the Republic after Brexit had been communicated in nearly two years, while on some issues, the minister made “no attempt” to address the points.

Dr Murrison said responses given to key recommendations by the committee were "brief" and that four had been grouped together with only a total of four lines in response.

"It is only right that those who engaged with the inquiry, and stakeholders across Northern Ireland, are able to see a full and proper response from the Government," he wrote.

"We have published what we have received as we did not wish to add further delay to making public those comments we have received from the Government.

"We do, however, view this response as inadequate and request that the Northern Ireland Office look to provide further detail on our recommendations as soon as possible."

He specifically repeated demands for clarity on proposals to keep an open and invisible border, how a future EU-UK relationship could avoid border infrastructure and for an explanation on what "full alignment" with the EU would entail.

The Chair added that a response given on the issue of "fuel-smuggling" was not new information as it was the basis of a response to a written question in 2015.

"We are disappointed with the lack of detail provided by the Government in response to our report on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland," he said in summary.

"We had hoped that the Government would recognise our intent and engage seriously with the issues we highlighted in our report. Instead we have been provided with little more information than when we published our findings three months ago.

"Time and again in the response the Government refer back to previously published documents or agreements to set out their position. They have provided the very broadest impression of their intentions when our recommendations asked for detail.

“As a Committee we were expecting more at this stage but are left none the wiser on progress made on the border conundrum."

Nicholas Mairs

Two-thirds of voters believe Theresa May making bad job of Brexit

1 week ago
Theresa May

Two-thirds of voters believe Theresa May is doing a bad job of negotiating Britain's departure from the European Union.

A YouGov poll for The Times shows that 66% think the Government is making a mess of Brexit - the most since she became Prime Minister nearly two years ago.

Just 21% of Brits think ministers are doing well in their negotiations with Brussels, giving an overall satisfaction rating of minus 45%. That is down from minus 39 per cent two weeks ago.

The grim findings for the Prime Minister emerged as she was plunged into a fresh war with Tory Brexit rebels after they rejected her attempts to strike a peace deal over their demands for a meaningful vote on the final deal.

Labour have also closed the gap on the Conservatives, according to the same poll. The Tories are down two points to 42%, with Labour up to on 39%.

There was some better news for Mrs May, however. Despite her ongoing leadership woes, the proportion of voters who think she would make a better Prime Minister than Jeremy Corbyn has actually increased.

According to the poll, 39% believed she was the best person for the job, up two points. Meanwhile, just 24% of voters believe Mr Corbyn is the most suitable candidate.

kevin.schofield

EXCL David Lidington: Question of re-joining the EU will not come up in my lifetime

1 week ago
David Lidington joined the Cabinet Office in January this year
David Lidington joined the Cabinet Office in January this year

Pro-Remain Cabinet minister David Lidington has said the prospect of re-joining the European Union will not come up in his political lifetime.

The de facto deputy PM argued it was a “red herring” to talk about the UK’s future membership of the bloc and instead the focus should be on constructing a “close partnership” with Brussels after Brexit.

The 61-year-old former Europe minister also claimed he could not see any UK government opting to be part of President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for closer EU integration.

But the Cabinet Office minister said he does not “resile” from anything he said during the referendum campaign about the risks of leaving the European Union.

When asked, in an interview with The House magazine, whether he could see the UK re-join the European Union, he replied: “It’s not going to be in my political lifetime that those questions will come up. People went through the referendum and they accept the result.

"I also think that if you look at what President Macron is saying about the need for the eurozone to integrate more closely, I mean, that’s not something I could see the United Kingdom – under any government – wanting to be part of.

"I think it’s a red herring to talk about re-joining. The question now is how can we construct the most beneficial close partnership with the European Union that works to our interests."

During the referendum campaign, Mr Lidington warned that Brexit would be a “massive risk”. Asked if he still felt the same way, he replied: "I’m not resiling from anything I said or did in the referendum, but I’ve always said that whatever the outcome of the referendum, it was a result that everybody should accept.

"The majority view among Conservative MPs and I think the majority view in the country whichever side people voted on, is a decision has been taken.

"They now want that decision delivered and acted upon but done so in a way that maintains close relationships between ourselves and our European neighbours and which, in particular, prioritises trade and the economy and security cooperation as well.

"I think people look at this with a very pragmatic eye. I do the same.

"Clearly, I wanted the referendum to go a different way. But not only have I accepted the result but when I talk to ministers in the 27 other EU governments, they don’t question the legitimacy of the referendum.

"They say to me things like, ‘it was a very sad day, but it was a valid result, you know. It was clear, the turnout was high, we have to accept your decision, we have to get on in constructing this new relationship’.”

Mr Lidington became Cabinet Office Minister in January after Theresa May’s former deputy, Damian Green, left the Government.

He was Britain’s longest serving Europe Minister when in the Foreign Office between 2010 and 2016.

Sebastian Whale
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47