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Theresa May names Steve Barclay as new Brexit Secretary after Dominic Raab's resignation

1 day 15 hours ago
Stephen Barclay
Steve Barclay is the new Brexit Secrerary.

Theresa May has named Steve Barclay as her new Brexit Secretary after Dominic Raab stormed out with a blast at her EU deal.

The Leave-supporter steps into the shoes vacated by Mr Raab, who plunged Mrs May's government into turmoil yesterday with a warning her Brexit agreement posed "a very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom".

The appointment of Mr Barclay - who has never held a Cabinet-level job and was previously a health minister - comes just hours after Michael Gove turned down the job Mr Raab himself held for just four months.

And it comes hard on the heels of the dramatic Cabinet comeback of Amber Rudd, who takes on the work and pensions brief exited by Esther McVey.

Confirming the appointment, Mrs May's spokesperson said: "He has experience across government, in the whips office, as Economic Secretary at the Treasury,  and also at the Department of Health and Social Care."

They added: "The Prime Minister has a good, strong relationship with all her ministers and she thinks he will do a first-class job."

Mr Barclay's appointment won early backing from Stewart Jackson, the former Tory MP who served as chief of staff to his predecessor-but-one, David Davis.

The arch-Brexiteer predicted Mr Barclay, a former banker, would keep the department "in good hands".

 

But Labour said the appointment "changes absolutely nothing".

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer blasted: "After two years of negotiation, the Prime Minister has failed to deliver a Brexit deal that can command the support of Parliament. 

"A new face in the Brexit department will do nothing to bring this divided Government back together."

The appointment puts to bed rumours that Mrs May, who initially tapped up Environment Secretary Michael Gove for the job, could disband the Department for Exiting the European Union altogether.

With the Prime Minister insisting MPs either have the choice of backing her deal or leaving the EU without an agreement, Downing Street said the new Brexit Secretary would lead on planning for a no-deal and on getting her deal through Parliament, where she faces an uphill struggle to win support. Mrs May will meanwhile take personal control of remaining talks with the EU.

The appointment comes as speculation continues to mount that Mrs May will face a vote of no confidence from her own MPs in the coming days.

In a bid to shore up her support, Mrs May has also appointed a prominent Remain-backing rebel, Stephen Hammond, to the Health and Social Care job vacated by Mr Barclay.

Kwasi Kwarteng, a Leave-supporter, will meanwhile step into the shoes of Suella Braverman as a minister at the the Brexit department, while former culture minister John Penrose takes on the Northern Ireland Office job left vacant by the resignation of Shailesh Vara.

Matt Foster

WATCH: Liam Fox contradicts Theresa May on Brexit as he declares: A deal is better than no deal

1 day 17 hours ago
Liam Fox
Liam Fox has said he will not be quitting the Cabinet.

Liam Fox has contradicted Theresa May by insisting that getting a Brexit deal will always be better than crashing out without any agreement.

The Prime Minister famously said "no deal is better than a bad deal" when she set out her Brexit vision at Lancaster House in 2017.

She has repeated the phrase on numerous occasions since then, insisting that she would rather take the UK out of the EU without an agreement rather than sign up to a sub-optimal deal.

But in a major split with Mrs May, International Trade Secretary Dr Fox said the precise opposite as he called on his Conservative colleagues to support her.

He said: "I hope that we all take a rational and reasonable view of this. We are not elected to do what we want, we are elected to do what is in the national interest and ultimately I hope that across Parliament we will recognise that a deal is better than no deal.

"Businesses do require certainty, confidence, as they go forward and there are those around the world who are waiting to get certainty also to begin to discuss trade agreements with the United Kingdom."

Downing Street sources insisted that there had been no change to the policy previously set out by the Prime Minister.

But critics said Dr Fox's remarks were further proof of the Government's disarray over Brexit.

Shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman  said: "It’s good Liam Fox has finally dumped the ridiculous slogan: no deal would be better than a bad deal. 

"Parliament doesn’t have to choose between bad and even worse - there are other options available in these negotiations. If Theresa May ditched her reckless red lines and reached out to the sensible majority in Parliament, she could deliver a better Brexit deal for this country.”

Labour MEP Catherine Stihler, of the Best for Britain group, said: "This is a rebuke to the hardline Brexiteers who want to push Britain over the cliff-edge.

"It demonstrates the extent of the civil war engulfing the Tory Party.

"A no-deal scenario would undoubtedly be more calamitous than a deal approved by EU member states, costing hundreds of thousands of jobs. But there is no such thing as a good Brexit deal. The only way to protect jobs and grow our economy is as part of the EU.

"Rather than trying to flog this deal that won't get through parliament, the remaining Cabinet ministers should back a people's vote with the option of remaining in the EU."

kevin.schofield

‘Who the f*** does he thinks he is’: Broadcaster Melvyn Bragg takes aim at Cameron, Brexiteers and… ‘that weasel’ Macron

1 day 21 hours ago
Melvyn Bragg presents Radio 4's In Our Time
Melvyn Bragg presents Radio 4's In Our Time

Brexit has become a cult like the Moonies, David Cameron is a “smarmy PR man”, Emmanuel Macron is a “weasel” and Theresa May could emerge “better than Boudica” if she backs staying in the EU. That is according to veteran broadcaster Melvyn Bragg.

In a colourful interview with The House magazine, the South Bank Show host hit out at “squirearchal, hedge funding, overprivileged” Brexiteers and accused them of offering no evidence for their arguments.

He also branded David Cameron “contemptible”, “pusillanimous”, a “leading wimp” and attacked him for apparently seeking a return to frontline politics, asking “who the f*** does he think he is”.

Lord Bragg, who presents Radio 4’s In Our Time, also called on Jeremy Corbyn to “come off the fence” and back Remain at a second referendum, warning his “dallying is doing the Labour party no good”.

The full interview can be seen here. Below are a selection of his quotes:

On Cameron:

“I’m looking forward to getting hold of his book, I can tell you. Self-serving, and now this swaggering on – ‘I’m very bored, I’d like another job now. Bit bored, so I’d like to be Foreign Secretary’. He ran away. He ran a lousy campaign and then he ran away – he said he’d stay but ran away, he resigned from the Commons – we’ve never heard a pip or a squeak from him. He didn’t go on the Remain march, he didn’t do anything. Cameron could have saved his name by leading the Remain minority.”

When asked about the Lords’ role on scrutinising Brexit, the Labour peer said:

“It’s terrific but we don’t have an impact. We’re derided. The stance of the Cameronites and duds like that is that ‘oh if they oppose us then we must abolish them’. What a witty, thoughtful, intelligent reaction to being opposed – ‘oh let’s abolish them’. Bloody child’s play. It’s like ‘I would like another job’ – who the f*** does he think he is?”

More Cameron:

“Now, Cameron, with his usual bloody stupidity, should have said ‘it’s got to be at least a 55%’ and so on. But he didn’t think that through because he doesn’t think things through. He is a smarmy PR man.”

On the Brexit result:

“They were lied to. There’s no getting around it. And Cameron – contemptable Cameron – got everything wrong. He needn’t have called it, he just gave into his right wing because he’s a pusillanimous person. Then the BBC gave Farage the space on radios… he didn’t have a seat in parliament, but he seemed to be on the radio every day.”

On "dangerous" Boris and Farage:

“Boris Johnson, of course, gave his exhibitionist, narcissistic, self-seeking backing to it. People like Farage and Boris, some newspapers think ‘oh they make news, they’re so colourful’. They’re dangerous these people and so it turned out to be.”

On the "cult" of Brexit:

“These bunch of squirearchal, hedge funding, over-privileged people who think it’s going to be okay – it’s going to be okay for them. They’re not going to suffer – not a bit of it. They don’t offer any evidence now. It’s ceased to be a programme or a process, it’s a cult. It’s a bit like the Moonies. They just believe it because they believe because they believe it. Because they are who they are, they think them believing it is significant. No, it isn’t.”

On “traitorous” James Dyson:

“Their so-called figureheads like [Sir James] Dyson runs away, buggers off – traitorous you could say, in some ways. ‘I’m a big Brexit man’ – as soon as he sees an opportunity, he goes to Singapore. Puts two billion in there when he could have done it here. Isn’t he rich enough? He’s the biggest landowner in the country. How greedy can somebody get?... Horrible... Everything is wrong about it. It speaks to what is wrong about our country. It also has unleashed feelings that are very unpleasant. We were getting on pretty well.”

On minorities being right:

“Forty-eight per cent is not a minority. This country has been built on minorities. The slave trade was abolished because of the minority pegging away. The suffragettes, the trade unions… universal education came in… again and again and again. Minorities turn into majorities quite quickly, especially when they’re right. I won’t go as far as Oscar Wilde, who said that minorities are always right. They’re not always right – but they were in this case.”

On Theresa May/Boudica:

“Wouldn’t it be great – this is a fantasy – for Theresa May’s reputation... if she had the guts to say ‘I wasn’t elected to make this country a much worse place. I wasn’t elected to drive this country over a cliff. I was elected to do the best I could for it, and I’ve now discovered after a year or two… there’s no good news. There is no good news, so what am I supposed to do? Say come on chaps, let’s be the charge of the light brigade and get ourselves shot to bits just to show them we’re obstinate and stupid? Or is it to say, let’s rethink this because we might have got it wrong. The man who never made a mistake never made anything’.

“If she did that, I think she’d emerge better than Boudica.”

On his message to Jeremy Corbyn:

“I would like for Jeremy Corbyn to go flat out for another referendum and back it and say Remain because that is going to be the way to keep this country prosperous, to keep it tolerant by accepting people who come from other countries instead of setting up a system that repudiates people from other countries.”

“I’d say come off the fence, back Remain and get on with it. His dallying is doing the Labour party no good.”

“They should be streaking away, they should be streaking away. So, that’s disappointing.”

And on immigration fears:

“I was canvassing in Carlisle for the Labour party – you couldn’t believe it really – they were worried about immigration. Nearly ninety per cent of the people in Carlisle had been born in and around Carlisle… but ‘oh, this terrible threat of immigration!’”

“Why didn’t the Labour party tell people that. Why isn’t the Labour party behind the truth?”

How disappointed are you in the Labour party?

“Very… They’re fudgers, fudgers and fudgers.”

Sebastian Whale

Momentum heaps pressure on Labour MPs to vote down Theresa May's Brexit deal

2 days ago
Momentum
Momentum will launch a campaign to lobby Labour MPs

Momentum has heaped pressure on Labour MPs to vote down the Brexit deal struck by Theresa May - teeing up a tense stand-off with anti-EU figures on the left.

The pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaign group said a defeat for the Prime Minister on her Brexit plans would be the “best opportunity” to topple the Government and usher in a socialist administration.

Labour has all-but confirmed it will whip its MPs to vote against the draft withdrawal agreement when it comes before the Commons next month.

Supporters of Mr Corbyn were left angry earlier this year when a handful of pro-Brexit Labour MPs voted with the Government on a crucial amendment that could have seen Mrs May brought down.

The Tories are meanwhile hoping to bring moderate Labour MPs on side in the hope they will support the deal in a bid to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Momentum has launched a website called votedownthedeal.co.uk to help Labour members lobby their MPs to reject the Government plans.

It will also release a string of social media videos condemning the deal, alongside a petition and a fundraising drive.

John Taylor, a member of the Momentum National Coordinating Group, said: “Corbyn and Labour members have been clear, this Tory Brexit deal fails Labour’s six tests, will be a disaster for our country and Labour MPs must vote it down…

“Defeating the Tories is our best opportunity to rollback privatisation, increase living standards and rebuild Britain for the many. We can vote down the deal, push for a general election and elect a socialist Labour government.

“Whether leave or remain, Labour members are united in their opposition to May’s Brexit deal, and I hope Labour MPs support a general election over four more years of Tory rule.”

Three of the Labour MPs who backed the Government in July - Kate Hoey, Frank Field and Graham Stringer - faced votes of no confidence by their constituency parties in the wake of the move.

Mr Field has since resigned the party whip to sit as an independent MP.

emilio.casalicchio

Michael Gove considering his future after turning down PM's offer to become Brexit Secretary

2 days 1 hour ago
Michael Gove
Michael Gove leaves the emergency Cabinet meeting earlier this week.

Michael Gove is on the brink of becoming the latest Cabinet minister to quit after turning down the offer of becoming Brexit Secretary.

Theresa May asked him to replace Dominic Raab, who resigned yesterday in protest at the Brexit deal she has struck with Brussels.

But Leave-backing Mr Gove rejected the offer after the Prime Minister told him there was no chance of trying the renegotiate the agreement, which has angered many Brexiteers.

According to The Times, the Environment Secretary delivered the news to Mrs May just moments before she delivered a Downing Street press conference urging MPs to support her.

The drama came at the end of a day which had already seen three other ministers, plus a string of parliamentary aides, quit their posts, and heard fresh calls for Mrs May to step aside.

It is understood that Mr Gove planned to sleep on whether or not to resign from the Cabinet, and will announce his decision either today or over the weekend.

If he were to quit, it would be another hammer-blow to the Prime Minister's authority and her chances of staying in the job.

Meanwhile, the future of International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling - two more Cabinet Brexiteers - are also in the balance.

Ms Mordaunt met with Mrs May last night to once again press the case for MPs to have a free vote on the Brexit deal.

Asked whether she had been successful, a friend told PoliticsHome: "I wouldn't rule out anything in politics."

kevin.schofield

Tory MP urges David Mundell to quit as Scottish Secretary over Brexit deal 'threat to Union'

2 days 1 hour ago
David Mundell
Scotland Secretary David Mundell has thrown his weight behind the draft Brexit deal

An outspoken Tory MP has piled pressure on Scottish Secretary David Mundell to quit in protest at Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Brexiteer Ross Thomson said “no Unionist” could back the plan and urged the Cabinet minister “in the gentlest and strongest terms” to stand down.

Mr Mundell has insisted he has no plans to resign and yesterday described Dominic Raab, who quit as Brexit Secretary, as a “carpet-bagger”.

The Scottish Secretary said last month that he could not back any Brexit deal that “delivers a differentiated settlement for Northern Ireland,” as it could fuel the SNP case for Scottish independence.

Under the terms of the draft withdrawal agreement struck by Theresa May, the province alone will remain in aspects of the EU single market as a way of avoiding a hard border with Ireland.

In a WhatsApp message to Mr Mundell, seen by the BBC, Aberdeen South MP Mr Thomson said the so-called ‘backstop’ plan would leave Northern Ireland “more closely aligned with the EU than the UK”.

He added: "We have already seen the SNP leaping on this calling for a differential deal in Scotland.

"This arrangement, I feel, is something no Unionist can support. Given that two members of the Cabinet have resigned on the basis that the proposals put at risk our Union I want to urge you in the gentlest and strongest terms to follow suit."

But Mr Thompson said he would support Mr Mundell in his decision as he was a “great Secretary of State” who was doing an “incredible job”.

The Cabinet minister has said he backed the draft withdrawal agreement because he believes quitting the EU without a deal would be “appalling” for Scotland.

'CARPET-BAGGER'

In a blast at Mr Raab yesterday, he said: “I am not taking lessons for standing up for our United Kingdom from carpet-baggers.

“Only a couple of years ago Dominic Raab was proposing to introduce a bill of rights into Scotland which would have overwritten the Scottish legal system and devolution.

“So I am not impressed by his latter day commitment to the Union. I am sure this is more about maneuvering and leadership.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said Mr Mundell and Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson - who joined his warning last month - should stand down if they have any “backbone”.

'SEE THIS THROUGH'

Mrs May also suffered the resignation of Esther McVey as Work and Pensions Secretary yesterday, as well as those of two junior ministers and three governmental bag carriers.

The European Research Group of pro-Brexit Tory MPs urged colleagues to trigger a vote of no confidence in her leadership, while scores of her own backbenchers savaged her Brexit deal in the Commons.

But in a defiant message last night, the Prime Minister refused calls from Tory critics to resign and insisted: “I am going to see this through.”

emilio.casalicchio

EXCL Tom Watson: Second EU referendum now 'more likely' than ever before

2 days 2 hours ago
Tom Watson
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson.

Tom Watson has said another EU referendum is now "more likely" than it has ever been before.

In comments which will delight pro-EU campaigners, Labour's deputy leader said the chances of a so-called "people's vote" have risen as a result of the chaos which has hit Theresa May's attempts to get Brexit through Parliament.

His remarks, in an interview with The House magazine, come just days after Jeremy Corbyn angered many Labour MPs by declaring that Brexit "can't be stopped".

Labour's official policy, as agreed at the party's conference in September, is to push for a general election in the first instance if the Prime Minister cannot win Commons backing for the deal she has struck with Brussels.

However, the option of supporting another referendum - with Remain a possible option on the ballot paper - remains on the table if no election takes place.

Mr Watson said: "To re-state the Labour conference position, we think for a complex deal like this the best way to assess its merits are in a meaningful vote. We need to really press very hard to make sure that whatever motion comes to the House can be amended.

"If you get to the point, and it’s looking more likely, where Parliament cannot decide what the best option is, we think that’s the point where you go to the people in a general election. They voted to leave the European Union, they didn’t vote for food shortages or problems with medical supplies or not to be able to sell goods to the European markets. They voted to bring sovereignty back to the UK.

"If that plan isn’t going to work the way to do it is to put your option to the people in a general election. If we don’t get that, then obviously a people’s vote is still on the table and our position has not changed."

He added: “We’ve been saying that is on the table for a year-and-a-half. At that time, it seemed very unlikely that there would be a people’s vote, that was the insurance option at the end of a series of unlikely events.

"It seems to me that it is more likely given the weakness of Theresa May’s position. She leads a government without a majority, it now looks like she leads a Cabinet without a majority as well. Given the weakness of her own government, I think it is more likely that we could get there."

Jeremy Corbyn sparked a row within Labour by claiming Brexit was inevitable in an interview last week with German magazine Der Spiegel.

He said: "We can’t stop it. The referendum took place. Article 50 has been triggered. What we can do is recognise the reasons why people voted Leave."

But he was later contradicted by Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, who said: "Well, Brexit can be stopped. But the real question is what are the decisions we are going to face over the next few weeks and months."

kevin.schofield

ANALYSIS: Theresa May must try harder if she doesn't want MPs to Boycott her Brexit plan

2 days 13 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May held a press conference at Downing Street tonight

It was another make-or-break occasion for the Prime Minister, but she failed to seize the moment, says Emilio Casalicchio.

Weary hacks, still trying to make sense of the events of the past 36 hours, trooped into 10 Downing Street to hear Theresa May's take on another extraordinary day.

Would she seize the initiative, John Major style, by calling on her critics to "put up or shut up"? Fat chance.

Her opening statement about serving in high office being an “honour and a privilege” as well as a “heavy responsibility” pricked up the ears of hacks at the Downing Street press conference tonight eager for this most headline-averse Prime Minister to provide a news line.

But the address soon descended into the usual platitudes about the benefits of her Brexit deal and the need for unity to deliver it. Journalists were so surprised at the brevity of her speech that the PM was met with stunned silence at the end instead of hands shooting up to ask questions.

When the questions came they failed to elicit much more information to inspire a divided nation. Probes about her warring party, the tough parliamentary arithmetic and the seemingly inevitable vote of no confidence in her leadership were mostly met with the same response: I am doing my job to secure a deal and deliver on the result of the referendum, MPs must do their duty in the national interest when the vote comes.

Her central warning to critical MPs was that those who refuse to back the vote in the Commons, and in doing so either trigger a no-deal departure or cancel Brexit altogether, will be punished by their constituents.

But for such a threat to work, the PM surely needs evidence that the country backs her plan - and none appears to exist. Polls suggest the public thinks her deal is a doozy, with Sky Data saying just 14% support it compared with 31% who would prefer a no deal and 54% who would prefer no Brexit at all. Try telling ERG members like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who today called for her head, that backing her withdrawal deal could lose them their seats.

Rather, her threat will ring hollow to MPs, while her uninspiring message is too weak win over a sceptical public.

The PM cannot be faulted for her determination to soldier on. She even noted her admiration of cricketer Geoffrey Boycott who “stuck to it and he got the runs in the end”.

But she omitted to mention the famous Yorkshireman's other noted characteristics - he regularly bored spectators rigid and then run out his team-mates. Come to think of it, maybe she is even more like him than she realises.

emilio.casalicchio

Defiant Theresa May rejects Tory calls to quit and declares: I am going to see this through

2 days 13 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May addressed the media at a press conference in Downing Street.

Theresa May has warned Tory MPs who want her ousted from her job that she is determined to "see Brexit through" to the end.

The Prime Minister's personal authority has taken a battering on a day which has seen a number of ministerial resignations as well as Tory MPs submitting letters of no confidence in her leadership.

But at a hastily-arranged Downing Street press conference, Mrs May insisted she believes "with every fibre of my being" that the deal she has secured with Brussels is the right one for the country.

Eurosceptic Tory MPs have reacted with fury to her plan, which will see the UK remain in a customs union with the EU after Brexit as a way of avoiding a hard Irish border until a future trade deal can be agreed.

However, in a section which has angered her DUP allies, Northern Ireland will also have to stay in parts of the EU single market, thereby tying it closer to Brussels than the rest of the country.

And the customs arrangement will only come to an end with the agreement of Brussels, meaning the UK cannot unilaterally walk away from the set-up.

The Prime Minister insisted it was the best possible deal she could have secured, and called on MPs to back it when it comes before the Commons next month.

"My approach throughout has been to put the national interest first," she said. "Not a partisan interest and certainly not my own political interest.

"I do not judge harshly those of my colleagues who seek to do the same but who reach a different conclusion. They must do what they believe to be right, just as I do. I’m sorry they have chosen to leave the Government and I think them for their service. 

"But I believe with every fibre of my being that the course I have set out is the right one for our country and all our people."

Mrs May insisted the draft agreement she had struck with the EU delivered on the referendum result by ending free movement, bringing back control of British laws and end the payment of billions of pounds a year to Brussels.

And she said: "I believe this is a deal which is in the national interest. And am I going to see this through? Yes."

Asked if there was any point at which she would quit as a result of the pressure she is under, the keen cricket fan said: "You might recall from previous comments I’ve made about cricket that one of my cricket heroes was always Geoffrey Boycott. And what do you know about Geoffrey Boycott? He stuck to it and he got the runs in the end."

'NO CONFIDENCE'

On a day of Tory civil war, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey both resigned this morning in protest at her Brexit blueprint, as did junior ministers Shailesh Vara and Suella Braverman.

Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg then announced that he had submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister, increasing speculation that enough have now been sent in to trigger a formal vote.

In his letter, the European Research Group chairman said: "The draft withdrawal agreement presented to Parliament today has turned out to be worse than anticipated and fails to meet the promises given to the nation by the Prime Minister, either on her own account or on behalf of us all in the Conservative Party manifesto.

"It is of considerable importance that politicians stick to their commitments or do not make such commitments in the first place. Regrettably, this is not the situation, therefore, in accordance with the relevant rules and procedures of the Conservative Party ... this is a formal letter of no confidence in the leader."

Other MPs followed suit, but it is understood they are still short of the 48 letters needed to trigger a vote.

kevin.schofield

Tory civil war breaks out as Theresa May faces vote of confidence

2 days 17 hours ago
Jacob Rees-Mogg
Jacob Rees-Mogg announces he has submitted a letter of no confidence in Theresa May.

Deep Tory splits over Europe have burst into the open after Theresa May's Brexit deal left her political career hanging by a thread.

A vote of confidence in the Prime Minister is likely within days after her backbenchers reacted with fury to the proposals contained in the 585-page draft withdrawal agreement.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey both resigned in protest at her Brexit blueprint, as did junior ministers Shailesh Vara and Suella Braverman.

Conservative MPs also lined up in the Commons chamber to savage her blueprint, with some urging her to consider her own position.

In another blow for the embattled Tory leader, leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg announced that he had submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister, increasing speculation that enough have now been sent in to trigger a formal vote.

In his letter, the European Research Group chairman said: "The draft withdrawal agreement presented to Parliament today has turned out to be worse than anticipated and fails to meet the promises given to the nation by the Prime Minister, either on her own account or on behalf of us all in the Conservative Party manifesto.

"It is of considerable importance that politicians stick to their commitments or do not make such commitments in the first place. Regrettably, this is not the situation, therefore, in accordance with the relevant rules and procedures of the Conservative Party ... this is a formal letter of no confidence in the leader."

Asked at a press conference outside Parliament who he thought should replace Mrs May, the North East Somerset MP said: "You’ve got Boris Johnson and David Davis, you’ve got Dominic Raab and Esther McVey and Penny Mordaunt. You have streams of talent within the Conservative Party who would be very capable of leading a proper Brexit."

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker also announced that he had submitted a no confidence letter, and Graham Brady, chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, is expected to tell Mrs May later that enough have been submitted to trigger a vote.

But Mr Rees-Mogg's actions sparked an angry backlash from pro-Remain Tories, with prisons minister Rory Stewart taking to Twitter to mock his party colleague.

Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan said: "If they try and displace the Prime Minister they risk detroying the Government and perhaps, for a long time, the Conservative Party.

"Some of those in the ERG wing of the Conservative Party are being ideological and theoretical and not practical. Practical to me looks like backing the Prime Minister 100%."

In another sign of the bitterness within the Tory Party, Scottish Secretary David Mundell launched an extraordinary attack on Dominic Raab for quitting the Cabinet.

He said: "I am not taking lessons for standing up for our United Kingdom from carpet-baggers.

"Only a couple of years ago Dominic Raab was proposing to introduce a bill of rights into Scotland which would have over written the Scottish legal system and devolution. So I am not impressed by his latter day commitment to the Union. I am sure this is more about maneuvering and leadership."

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kevin.schofield

MPs line up to savage Theresa May’s Brexit deal as she fights for political survival

2 days 19 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May was repeatedly warned her deal will not be voted through by MPs.

Theresa May faced a cross-party onslaught of criticism over her Brexit deal today as she fought for her political life.

The Prime Minister was grilled by MPs in the wake of the Cabinet giving the green light to the draft withdrawal agreement she has struck with Brussels.

Before she had even arrived in the House of Commons, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey both resigned in protest at her Brexit blueprint.

Junior ministers Shailesh Vara and Seuella Braverman also quit, and speculation is mounting that more frontbenchers will follow suit throughout the day.

Despite those blows, Mrs May insisted she was still determined to put her proposal to a Commons vote next month and asked MPs to back it "in the national interest".

She said: "Voting against a deal would take us all back to square one. It would mean more uncertainty, more division, and a failure to deliver on the decision of the British people that we should leave the EU.

"If we get behind a deal, we can bring our country back together and seize the opportunities that lie ahead. The British people want us to get this done. And to get on with addressing the other issues they care about."

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described the draft withdrawal agreement as a "botched deal that breaches the Prime Minister’s own red lines" as well as the six tests set for it by his party.

"The Government is in chaos," he said. "Their deals risks leaving the country in an indefinite half-way house without a real say when even the last Brexit Secretary who, theoretically at least, negotiated the deal, says ‘I cannot support the proposed deal’ what faith does that give anyone else in this place or in this country?"

In a brutal intervention, DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds told the Prime Minister she could no longer be trusted.

He said: "I could today stand here and take the Prime Minister through the list of promises and pledges that she made to this House and to us, privately, about the future of Northern Ireland and the future relationship with the EU. But I fear it would be a waste of time since she clearly doesn't listen.

"The choice is now clear. We stand up for the United Kingdom, the whole of the United Kingdom, the integrity of the United Kingdom, or we vote for a vassal state with the break-up of the United Kingdom."

Tory MPs also lined up to condemn the deal as the Prime Minister had to wait nearly an hour before anyone rose to support her.

Leading eurosceptic Mark Francois said: "Prime Minister, the whole House accepts that you have done your best. But the Labour party have made plain today that they will vote against this deal. The SNP will vote against it. The Liberals will vote against it. The DUP will vote against it - our key ally in this place will vote against it.

"Over 80 Tory backbenchers, well it’s 84 now and it’s going up by the hour, will vote against it. It is therefore mathematically impossible to get this deal through the House of Commons. The stark reality, Prime Minister, is that it was dead on arrival at St Tommy’s before you stood up.

"So I plead with you - I plead with you to accept the political reality of the situation you now face."

Jacob Rees-Mogg, chair of the European Research Group of Brexiteer Tory backbenchers, dropped a strong hint that he will submit a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister with Graham Brady, chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee.

However, former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, a leading Remain supporter, gave the withdrawal agreement her backing.

She said: "I want to pay tribute to the fact that the Prime Minister did get agreement in Cabinet. And can she reassure us that regardless of however many ministerial resignations there are between now and that vote that the agreement will come to Parliament and Parliament will have its say and that she is clear that voting that agreement is in the national interest?"

Downing Street sources later insisted that the Prime Minister still believed she would be in her post when Britain leaves the EU next March - and that there will be no general election before 2022.

They also ruled out the prospect of the Commons vote on the deal being a free vote, a key demand of International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who is also tipped to quit the Cabinet.

kevin.schofield

Melvyn Bragg: “Brexit has become a cult. It’s a bit like the Moonies"

2 days 19 hours ago
Melvyn Bragg is a veteran broadcaster
Melvyn Bragg is a veteran broadcaster

Since the referendum, Melvyn Bragg has made it his business to familiarise himself with all things Brexit. The broadcaster fears that leaving the EU will be a disaster for the country – but sees a way out for his party and Theresa May. He talks to Sebastian Whale 

The morning of 24 June 2016 began just like any other for Melvyn Bragg. He woke up at his usual time and switched on the news. What he heard left him dumbfounded. “I was knocked sideways,” he says, shaking his head as though reliving the sense of disbelief. “I was completely unprepared for it. I thought, oh Christ!”

For the Labour peer, the referendum result provoked a renewed sense of political purpose. “Ever since then I was wondering, how can we reverse that?” he says. “It seemed to me, only knowing a bit about it, that it was going to be very bad. Since then, I’ve made it my business to know a lot about it.”

“I’m a news junkie,” the author adds with vigour. “It’s the best novel going.”

I’m visiting Bragg at his central London office just off Oxford Street. He is slumped comfortably into an armchair in the corner of a meeting room with a mug of tea held by both hands resting on his chest. The host of the South Bank Show has been through a tumultuous year. He got pneumonia soon after a hip replacement and divorced his second wife (and mother to two of his three children) after 44 years of marriage. His voice, deeply familiar to listeners of Radio 4’s In Our Time, is frail. That said, looking handsome as ever in a three-piece suit, his appearance defies his 79 years of age. “That’s my lucky genes,” he says with an electrifying showbiz smile.

The softness of Bragg’s speech masks an underlying anger at the political class over Brexit, which he fears will have widespread implications for his beloved creative industries and the UK. During our 40-minutes together, which is less an interview than a speech punctuated by a few questions, he airs gripes with many of the usual suspects associated with the debate – and even finds time to have a crack at “that weasel Macron”. His chief target is one David Cameron, or “contemptible Cameron” as he calls him with a Trumpian flourish.

“He got everything wrong. He needn’t have called [the referendum], he just gave into his right wing because he’s a pusillanimous person,” he says. That marks one of seven mentions of the former PM during our time together. “Now, Cameron, with his usual bloody stupidity, should have said ‘it’s got to be at least a 55%’ and so on. But he didn’t think that through because he doesn’t think things through. He is a smarmy PR man… Cameron is the sort of leading wimp… God knows Cameron is useless.”

So, I take it Bragg is looking forward to reading Cameron’s memoirs?

“I’m looking forward to getting hold of his book, I can tell you, yes. Self-serving, and now this swaggering on – ‘I’m very bored, I think I’d like another job now. Bit bored, so I’d like to be Foreign Secretary’. He ran a lousy campaign and then he ran away… we’ve never heard a pip or a squeak from him. He didn’t go on the Remain march, he didn’t do anything. Cameron could have saved his name by leading the Remain minority,” Bragg argues.

Another Cameron swipe flows from a question about the House of Lords’ role on Brexit. “It’s terrific but we don’t have an impact. We’re derided. The stance of the Cameronites and duds like that is that ‘oh if they oppose us then we must abolish them’. What a witty, thoughtful, intelligent reaction to being opposed – ‘oh let’s abolish them’. Bloody child’s play. It’s like ‘I would like another job’ – who the f*** does he think he is?”

He delivers the final line with a grin so cheeky that I burst into laughter.

Though Bragg says he didn’t see Brexit coming, he’s not short on ideas of how it came about. Alongside “contemptible” Cameron, he points the finger at the BBC (whose HQ is just around the corner) and others for giving airtime to Nigel Farage. “Boris Johnson, of course, gave his exhibitionist, narcissistic, self-seeking backing to it. People like Farage and Boris, some newspapers think ‘oh they make news, they’re so colourful’. They’re dangerous these people and so it turned out to be,” he says.

Bragg, who grew up in a “two-up, two-down” in West Cumberland (and still has hints of a Cumbrian accent), says the working class had been “severely neglected by both parties over the last 30 years at least”. “Nobody gave a s*** about them… it was a sod them vote, partly,” he argues, and one of “sheer bloody-mindedness”. Successive politicians had failed to communicate the virtues of the European Union or “substantial contributions” it made to British life, he adds.

Does he feel conflicted about his hometown voting for something he thinks would be a disaster? He takes a rare pause. “No, it doesn’t make me feel conflicted. They were lied to,” he replies.

Bragg, who was appointed a Labour peer in 1998, is also unhappy with his own party for failing to communicate the benefits of immigration. “The interesting thing is that the people in this country most comfortable with immigration were people in London, where there was most immigration,” he says.

“I was canvassing in Carlisle for the Labour party – you couldn’t believe it really – they were worried about immigration,” he continues, barely containing his amusement. “Nearly ninety per cent of the people in Carlisle had been born in and around Carlisle! … but ‘oh, this terrible threat of immigration!’”

After gathering himself, he asks: “Why didn’t the Labour party tell people that? Why isn’t the Labour party behind the truth?”

How disappointed is he in his party? “Very,” he says. “They’re fudgers, fudgers and fudgers.”

Despite that, Bragg says it is “impossible for him” to consider his party membership and insists he wouldn’t prefer a switch to the crossbenches in the Lords. “I’ve been Labour since I’ve been a member of nearly anything.”

What is his message to Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit? “I’d say come off the fence, back Remain and get on with it. His dallying is doing the Labour party no good… They should be streaking away [in the polls].”

Brexiteers, naturally, also feel his wrath. “These bunch of squirearchal, hedge funding, overprivileged people who think it’s going to be okay – it’s going to be okay for them. They’re not going to suffer, not a bit of it. They don’t offer any evidence now. It’s ceased to be a programme or a process, it’s a cult. It’s a bit like the Moonies. They just believe it because they believe because they believe it. Because they are who they are, they think them believing it is significant. No, it isn’t,” he says.

“Their so-called figureheads like [Sir James] Dyson runs away, buggers off – traitorous you could say, in some ways. ‘I’m a big Brexit man’ – as soon as he sees an opportunity he goes to Singapore, puts two billion in there when he could have done it here. Isn’t he rich enough? He’s the biggest landowner in the country. How greedy can somebody get?... Horrible… It speaks to what is wrong about our country. It also has unleashed feelings that are very unpleasant. We were getting on pretty well.”

Though Bragg says he would not consider leaving Britain now, would he if he was my age? “I wouldn’t leave because you particularly aged 27 are able to do something. I would say there was more reason for staying than leaving. Where would you go to, New Zealand? Being taken over by the Chinese. Australia? Taken over by the Chinese… France with that weasel Macron?” he asks.

“I have no intention of thinking of leaving this country… but your generation, like my son and two daughters, their job is to dig in and try to change things, which they try and do. There is no point in buggering off.”

Due to work commitments and his health, Bragg picks and chooses his time to speak in the Upper Chamber. In October, he gave a speech in which he warned Brexit would be “dire” for the creative industries. The sector, which employs more than two million people and is growing at twice the rate of the overall economy, would suffer from the end to free movement of people and the flow of goods; will miss out on key cross-border projects and grants, and receive less support on copyright law outside of the EU, he argues. In a nutshell, he fears that Brexit will jeopardise Britain’s success in the industry.

A poll by the Creative Industries Federation found that 96% of its members voted Remain. Why is the sector so heavily against Brexit? “They see what’s happening on a daily basis. Imagine taking the [London Symphony Orchestra] on a three-day tour and every instrument has to be checked in, every person – it’s ludicrous. They won’t go,” he says.

“The EU was helpful in all the performing arts in allowing the performing artists to come and go across Europe. That’s been an enormous strength. Last year, 96 performances by major orchestras took place in Europe. It’s very important.”

With political playwright James Graham’s drama on Brexit due out next year, what about the idea that the referendum could lead to a renaissance in the arts and form a new counter-culture? “I don’t think it’s strong enough… maybe there is a counter-culture, maybe not. I don’t see any Brexit novelists turning up. James Graham is the sort of talent that would have turned up anyway,” he replies.

Bragg, who was Chancellor of Leeds University for more than 15 years, adds: “The arts are a very good barometer. They are a good canary in the mine. It’s going to be dreadful.”

What is his message to those who say here is a member of the liberal elite, writing off something the British people voted for before it has happened?

“I haven’t turned against it. I have concluded that it’s a very bad thing for this country. It’s not ideological, it’s practical, it’s empirical,” he says.

“It’s an extremely bad thing for this country in many, many ways. It’s bad for society in the sense it’s saying, ‘we don’t want them’. It’s bad for our commerce. It’s bad for the arts, universities – we know about that. It’s bad for the country. What stacks up are the negatives. You tell me how many positives there are.”

He adds: “My opinion was that it was a dubious proposition and I’ve watched it very carefully over the last two years. In fact, I must be one of the very few people in this country who enjoy discussions on Brexit.”

He’s probably right on that one.

Bragg still holds faith that Theresa May could change course. He says the PM could salvage her reputation by rejecting the “Charge of the Light Brigade” approach and instead declare that she was not elected to make the country worse off. “If she did that, I think she’d emerge better than Boudica”.

“Now, there would be a bit of egg on our face. But what’s egg on our face compared with being destitute?” he asks. He turns his attention to the negotiations and that “weaselly little Macron” again, before pausing. “I think he’s a… I dunno… I’m personalising it a little too much.”

With the mug of tea still largely unmoved from his chest, and his voice reaching full health, he concludes:

“Forty-eight per cent is not a minority. This country has been built on minorities. The slave trade was abolished because of the minority pegging away. The suffragettes, the trade unions… universal education… again and again and again and again.

“Minorities turn into majorities quite quickly, especially when they’re right. I won’t go as far as Oscar Wilde, who said that minorities are always right. They’re not – but they were in this case.”  

Sebastian Whale

READ IN FULL: Dominic Raab's explosive resignation letter to Theresa May

2 days 22 hours ago
Dominic Raab
Dominic Raab's resignation letter.

Read the full letter from the outgoing Brexit Secretary to Theresa May as he quit over her Brexit deal.

Dear Prime Minister,

It has been an honour to serve in your government as Justice Minister, Housing Minister and Brexit Secretary.

I regret to say that, following the Cabinet meeting yesterday on the Brexit deal, I must resign. I understand why you have chosen to pursue the deal with the EU on the terms proposed, and I respect the different views held in good faith by all of our colleagues.

For my part, I cannot support the proposed deal for two reasons. First, I believe that the regulatory regime proposed for Northern Ireland presents a very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom.

Second, I cannot support an indefinite backstop arrangement, where the EU holds a veto over our ability to exit. The terms of the backstop amount to a hybrid of the EU Customs Union and Single Market obligations. No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime, imposed externally without any democratic control over the laws to be applied, nor the ability to decide to exit the arrangement. That arrangement is now also taken as the starting point for negotiating the Future Economic Partnership. If we accept that, it will severely prejudice the second phrase of negotiations against the UK.

Above all, I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto at the last election. This is, at its heart, a matter of public trust.

I appreciate that you disagree with the judgment on these issues. I have weighed very carefully the alternative courses of action which the government could take, on which I have previously advised. Ultimately, you deserve a Brexit Secretary who can make the case for the deal you are pursuing with conviction. I am only sorry, in good conscience, that I cannot.

My respect for you, and the fortitude, you have shown in difficult times, remains undimmed.

Yours sincerely,

Dominic Raab

Matt Foster

Government in turmoil as Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab quits over Theresa May's deal

2 days 22 hours ago
Dominic Raab
Dominic Raab

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has plunged Theresa May's Government into crisis as he dramatically resigned just hours after she agreed a deal with the EU.

The leading Cabinet minister said he could not support a deal that posed a “very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom” as he became the first of Mrs May's senior ministers to walk out over the plan.

Mr Raab - who only took on the job over the summer following the departure of David Davis - said he could not back an “indefinite backstop arrangement” for Norhern Ireland that he said would leave the European Union with a “veto over our ability to exit” a customs union with the bloc.

“No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime, imposed externally without any democratic control over the laws to be applied, nor the ability to decided to exit the arrangement,” he said.

“That arrangement is now also taken as the starting point for negotiating the Future Economic Partnership. If we accept that, it will severely prejustice the second phase of negotiations against the EU.”

The outgoing minister added: “I appreciate that you disagree with my judgement on these issues. I have weighed very carefully the alternative courses of action which the government could take, on which I have previously advised. Ultimately, you deserve a Brexit Secretary who can make the case for the deal you are pursuing with conviction. I am only sorry, in good conssicend, that I cannot.”

The high profile exit came just hours before the Prime Minister was due to update MPs on her Brexit agreement. In a further blow, Mrs May was hit by the resignation of Northern Ireland minister Shailesh Vara this morning.

The depature of Mr Raab - the Cabinet's most high-profile Eurosceptic - will heap pressure on other top ministers who spoke out against Theresa May's deal to follow suit.

The outgoing Brexit Secretary was among 10 Cabinet ministers, including Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey who openly criticised the plan at a marathon Cabinet session last night.

Labour seized on the departure of Mr Raab and said Mrs May had "no authority left".

Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett: "The Government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit Secretary has refused to back the Prime Minister's Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unravelled before our eyes.

"This is the twentieth Minister to resign from Theresa May’s Government in her two year premiership. Theresa May has no authority left and is clearly incapable of delivering a Brexit deal that commands even the support of her Cabinet - let alone Parliament and the people of our country."

Under the Prime Minister's plan, the UK will remain in a customs union with the EU as a way of avoiding a hard Irish border until a future trade deal can be agreed.

However, Northern Ireland will also have to stay in parts of the EU single market, thereby tying it closer to Brussels than the rest of the country.

And the "temporary" customs arrangement will only come to an end with the agreement of Brussels, meaning the UK cannot unilaterally walk away from the set-up.

Matt Foster

READ IN FULL: Shailesh Vara's resignation letter to Theresa May over 'half-way house' Brexit deal

2 days 23 hours ago
Resignation letter

Read the first resignation letter to Theresa May over her Brexit deal as Northern Ireland Office Minister Shailesh Vara quit.

Dear Prime Minister,

I write to offer my resignation as a Minister in your Government. I do so with sadness but I cannot supoort the Withdrawal Agreement that has been agreed with the European Union.

The EU Referendum offered a simple choice - to either stay in or leave the EU.

The result was decisive with the UK public voting to leave and that is what we, their elected representatives, must deliver.
The Agreement put forward however, does not do that as it leaves the UK in a half-way house with no time limit on when we will finally be a sovereign nation.

Given the past performance of the EU, there is every possibility that the UK-EU trade deal that we seek will take years to conclude. We will be locked in a Customs Arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say. Worse, we will not be free to leave the Customs Arrangement uniltaterally if we wish to do so. Northern Ireland in the meantime will be subject to a different relationship with the EU from the rest of the UK and whilst I agree there should be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, the economic and constitutional integrity of the UNited Kingdom must be respected.

With respect Prime Minister, this Agreement does not provide for the the United Kingdom being a sovereign, independent country leaving the shackles of the EU, however it is worded.

We are a proud nation and it is a sad day when we are reduced to obeying rules made by other countries who have shown that they do not have our best interests at heart. We can and must do better than this. The people of the UK deserve better. That is why I cannot support this agreement.

It has been an honour and privilege to serve as a Minister in the Northern Ireland Office and I leave with the fondest of memories.

Yours,

Shailesh Vara

Matt Foster

Fresh blow for Theresa May as minister quits over Brexit deal

2 days 23 hours ago
Shailesh Vara
Shailesh Vara is MP for North West Cambridgeshire.

Theresa May has been dealt yet another blow after a minister quit the Government in protest at the Brexit deal she has struck with the EU.

Shailesh Vara, who voted Remain in the referendum, said the draft agreement would mean the UK was "reduced to obeying rules made by other countries who have shown that they do not have our best interests at heart".

The North West Cambridgeshire MP said "it has been a joy and privilege" to serve as a Northern Ireland minister, but the contents of the 585-page deal had left him with no option but to resign.

Under Mrs May's plan, the UK will remain in a temporary customs union with the EU after Brexit as a way of avoiding a hard Irish border until a future trade deal can be agreed.

However, Northern Ireland will also have to stay in parts of the EU single market, thereby tying it closer to Brussels than the rest of the country.

And the customs arrangement will only come to an end with the agreement of Brussels, meaning the UK cannot unilaterally walk away from the set-up.

The draft agreement does allow the UK to extend the post-Brexit implementation period - which is due to run until the end of 2020 - on a one-off basis, but the 585-page document does not specify how long that could potentially last for.

In his letter, Mr Vara said the agreement would leave the UK "in a half-way house with no time limit on when we will finally be a sovereign nation".

He added: "Given the past performance of the EU, there is every possibility that the UK-EU trade deal that we seek will take years to conclude. We will be locked in a Customs Arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say.

"Worse, we will not be free to leave the Customs Arrangement uniltaterally if we wish to do so.

"Northern Ireland in the meantime will be subject to a different relationship with the EU from the rest of the UK and whilst I agree there should be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom must be respected.

"With respect Prime Minister, this Agreement does not provide for the the United Kingdom being a sovereign, independent country leaving the shackles of the EU, however it is worded."

 

 

Labour Brexiteer Kate Hoey, who is from Northern Ireland welcomed Mr Vara's resignation.

She tweeted: "Well done . This deal is not in the interest of the U.K. in general and Northern Ireland in particular. In your time as a Minister your respect for NI people was noted in contrast to others!"

The resignation came just hours before Mrs May is due to be grilled by MPs in the Commons, and will increase speculation that other ministers could follow suit and trigger a potential leadership challenge against the Prime Minister.

kevin.schofield

Business leaders welcome Theresa May Brexit agreement following no-deal fears

3 days ago
EU and UK flags
Businesses have welcomed Theresa May's Brexit deal.

Business groups have welcomed Theresa May’s draft Brexit agreement after months of warning about the danger of crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Firms congratulated the Prime Minister for avoiding a “cliff edge” exit, which leaders long-warned as a risk to jobs and to industries’ success.

Under the deal, the UK will stay in a so-called "implementation period" keeping the country in the customs union and single market until the end of 2020 while negotiations continue on a future trade deal.

The deal will also keep the UK in a customs union with the EU in the longer-term to avoid a hard Irish border until that trade deal can be agreed.

The agreement was last night signed off by Cabinet following a more than 5-hour “impassioned” discussion and is expected to be voted on by MPs next month.

CBI Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn, who in September said leaving the EU without a deal posed “catastrophic risks” said: "If passed, it moves the UK one step away from the nightmare precipice of no deal and the harm it would cause to communities across the country.

“Securing a transition period has long been firms’ top priority and every day that passes without one means lost investment and jobs, hitting the most vulnerable hardest. Time is now up.

“This deal is a compromise, including for business, but it offers that essential transitional period as a step back from the cliff-edge.

She added that more clarity on the final relationship was needed given uncertainty remained high, and said the Government must “secure frictionless trade, ambitious access for our world-beating services” beyond the transition period due to kick in in from 29 March.

“The UK has had many months of discussion and division. A long journey still lies ahead but now is the time for decisions. And the first decision is to avoid no deal,” she added.

Mrs May’s agreement has been roundly attacked by hardline Brexiteers however, with Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the Tories’ European Research Group, branding it “profoundly undemocratic” as he urged MPs to block it.

Meanwhile Sammy Wilson, from the DUP, who the Tories rely on for an overall parliamentary majority, railed against the text, saying the PM accepted "a deal she said she would never accept".

'THINK LONG AND HARD'

However Institute of Directors boss Stephen Martin called on MPs “to think long and hard about how they react to this first-stage agreement”.

“Leaving the EU without a deal is a very bad outcome for businesses, workers and consumers, and this is simply an inherent risk that comes with voting down any withdrawal deal,” he said.

“Our members will adjust to a new relationship with the EU, but they must be allowed to do this in as smooth and orderly manner as possible.

“We, like many, will be seeking clarification from both sides about several areas, in particular on the remaining detail for the future framework declaration.

“But we are also heartened to see that provision has been made for an extension to the transition period, which may be needed not only to avoid the deployment of the backstop but also to ensure firms have enough time to adjust to any new changes once the new economic partnership has been agreed.”

Elsewhere British Retail Consortium CEO Helen Dickinson, said the draft agreement was a “welcome step towards a deal”.

“It is vital that we avoid the cliff edge of no deal in March 2019 as this could immediately lead to consumers facing higher prices and reduced availability of many everyday products,” she said.

Nicholas Mairs

MPs to grill Theresa May on Brexit deal as she braces for leadership challenge

3 days 1 hour ago
Theresa May
Theresa May will be grilled by MPs on the contents of her Brexit deal.

Theresa May will attempt to sell her Brexit deal to MPs this morning - as her Tory critics step up their attempts to remove her from Downing Street.

The Prime Minister will make a statement to the Commons after her Cabinet reluctantly backed the draft withdrawal agreement she has struck with Brussels.

But speculation is mounting that enough letters of no confidence in her performance could be submitted by angry Tory MPs, setting in train a chan of event which could lead to a full-blown leadership contest.

One Conservative sources told PoliticsHome: "If you're in a car and it's heading for a wall, it makes sense to change driver before it gets there."

Mrs May last night told the country that "difficult days lie ahead" after a marathon five-hour Cabinet meeting during which a third of her top team spoke out against the deal she has struck with Brussels

Under the plan, the UK will remain in a customs union with the EU as a way of avoiding a hard Irish border until a future trade deal can be agreed.

However, Northern Ireland will also have to stay in parts of the EU single market, thereby tying it closer to Brussels than the rest of the country.

And the "temporary" customs arrangement will only come to an end with the agreement of Brussels, meaning the UK cannot unilaterally walk away from the set-up.

The draft agreement does allow the UK to extend the post-Brexit implementation period - which is due to run until the end of 2020 - on a one-off basis, but the 585-page document does not specify how long that could potentially last for.

Tory Brexiteer Conor Burns last night told Sky News: "I have consistently said we don’t want to change the PM, we want to change the policy of the PM.

"However there comes a point where if the PM is insistent that she will not change the policy, then the only way to change the policy is to change the personnel.”

However, PoliticsHome understands that the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers is not formally organising any coup at this stage.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the group's chair, last night called on Tory MPs to vote against Mrs May's deal, but did not say that she should be replaced as leader.

kevin.schofield

Ex-Number 10 aide Nick Timothy savages Theresa May over Brexit deal ‘capitulation’

3 days 1 hour ago
Nick Timothy
Nick Timothy and co-chief of staff Fiona Hill quit as Theresa May's top aides after the June 2017 snap election

Theresa May’s Brexit deal is a “capitulation” and proves the Prime Minister never believed Brexit could be a success, her former joint-chief of staff has said.

In a scathing attack on the PM and her negotiators, Nick Timothy said voters who backed leaving the European Union in 2016 would find the draft agreement with the EU a “horror show”.

The deal keeps the UK in a customs union with the EU to avoid a hard Irish border until a future trade deal can be agreed, while Northern Ireland will also have to stay in parts of the EU single market.

The top adviser, who quit Number 10 following Mrs May's disastrous snap election result in June of last year, wrote in the Daily Telegraph: "The proposal presented to Cabinet is a capitulation.

“Worse, it is a capitulation not only to Brussels, but to the fears of the British negotiators themselves, who have shown by their actions that they never believed Brexit can be a success.

“This includes, I say with the heaviest of hearts, the Prime Minister.

“If you believe people voted for Brexit to control immigration, and you fear it brings only economic downsides, you might consider the draft agreement the least bad outcome for Britain.

“If you believe Brexit can restore surrendered sovereignty, reform our economy and change the country, you will find it a horror show.

The 585-page draft document was last night signed off by Cabinet after a more than five-hour long tussle which the Prime Minister admitted had been “impassioned”.

Speaking outside Downing Street, she said: “This deal, which delivers on the vote of the referendum, which brings back control of our money, laws and borders, ends free movement, protects jobs, security and our Union; or leave with no deal, or no Brexit at all.”

However Brexiteer Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey was reported by the Telegraph as on the verge of quitting, after she was shouted down by the chief whip and cabinet secretary after demanding a vote by ministers on the deal.

Mr Timothy said MPs must use their Commons vote on whether to accept the agreement next month to “escape this trap” and suggested they use Britain’s leverage on security to renegotiate a better deal in the four-and-a-half months until the Article 50 deadline expires.

He added that Mrs May had “abandoned” her original Brexit strategy and had failed to meet the Lancaster House tests she set out before triggering Article 50 in March 2017.

And he blasted the concession that Britain could not unilaterally quit the backstop arrangement, designed to keep open the Irish border in the event of no agreement after the transition period.

“We will have surrendered the chance to take control of our laws. And we will be forced to make payments to Brussels for the privilege of our access to the single market,” he said.

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP and supporter of the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign Layla Moran MP said of Mr Timothy had “savaged his former boss and has eviscerated her Brexit deal in a single op-ed”.

“Nick Timothy, once famously dubbed her 'brain' has claimed that she never thought Brexit would even succeed,” she said.

“If true, this is a shocking admission and shows that the Prime Minister has wasted two years in an infernal Brexit groundhog day.

"The Prime Minister owes an apology to the 3 million EU citizens in the UK who have faced sleepless nights over their futures. And to all who have already lost contracts and jobs due to the sluggish economy."

Nicholas Mairs

Theresa May rocked by Cabinet split as she admits 'difficult days lie ahead' on Brexit

3 days 8 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May addresses the nation outside 10 Downing Street after the five-hour Cabinet meeting.

Theresa May won the backing of her Cabinet for her Brexit vision despite deep splits among her most senior ministers, it has emerged.

The Prime Minister told the country that "difficult days lie ahead" after a marathon five-hour Cabinet meeting during which a third of her top team spoke out against the deal she has struck with Brussels.

Under the plan, the UK will remain in a customs union with the EU as a way of avoiding a hard Irish border until a future trade deal can be agreed.

However, Northern Ireland will also have to stay in parts of the EU single market, thereby tying it closer to Brussels than the rest of the country.

And the "temporary" customs arrangement will only come to an end with the agreement of Brussels, meaning the UK cannot unilaterally walk away from the set-up.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and  Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson were among the 10 Cabinet minister who told today's meeting that they were unhappy with the deal.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, another critic of the plan, clashed wth Theresa May as she demanded the issue be put to a vote, only to be over-ruled by Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill.

But despite the reservations of many of her colleagues, Mrs May secured their collective backing for the deal - although Downing Street still fear that some ministers could resign in the coming days.

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister said: "The choices before us were difficult, particularly in relation to the Northern Ireland backstop. But the collective decision of Cabinet was that the Government should agree the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration.

"This is a decisive step which enables us to move on and finalise the deal in the days ahead. These decisions were not taken lightly but I believe it is a decision that is firmly in the national interest.

"When you strip away the detail the choice before us was clear. This deal, which delivers on the vote of the referendum, which brings back control of our money laws and borders, ends free movement, protects jobs security and our Union, or leave with no deal, or no Brexit at all?

"I know that there will be difficult days ahead. This is a decision which will come under intense scrutiny and that is entirely as it should be and entirely understandable.

"But the choice was this deal, which enables us to take back control and to build a brighter future for our country, or going back to square one with more division, more uncertainty and a failure to deliver on the referendum."

She added: "I believe that what I owe to this country is to take decision that are in the national interest and I firmly believe with my head and my heart that this is a decision that is in the best interests of our entire United Kingdom."

Mrs May held talks on Wednesday night with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and DUP boss Arlene Foster, but the signs are that she will faces a huge battle to get her deal through Parliament.

Ms Foster tweeted: "We had a frank meeting tonight with the Prime Minister lasting almost an hour. She is fully aware of our position and concerns."

It is thought that more Tory MPs have submitted letters of no confidence in her, leading to speculation that a vote could be called as early as tomorrow.

kevin.schofield
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47