The scale of the compromises made by Theresa May in Brexit negotiations has been laid bare tonight. The draft Withdrawal Agreement reveals that there will be more regulatory checks between Northern Ireland and Britain – a red line for the DUP. The UK will also potentially be locked in a backstop to avoid a hard Irish border ‘unless and until’ another solution can be found, with no unilateral ability to exit. That would mean obeying environmental and other rules to keep a ‘level playing field’. Meanwhile, the document leaves open the option of indefinitely extending the transition period – essentially staying in the EU but having no say in setting the rules.
THE extent to which Britain faces being stuck with the EU for years to come finally emerged yesterday. Furious Eurosceptics said Downing Street had committed the UK to “slavery” as the bumper 585-page Withdrawal Agreement was published shortly after the PM addressed the nation. It confirmed the UK could extend a post-Brexit transition phase beyond New Year’s Eve 2020 — at a cost of billions more — if it needed more time to thrash out a trade deal. And MPs were alarmed to see the document detailed the transition could be extended for an indefinite date of “[31 December 20XX]”. A final date will thrashed out by next month’s EU Council with sources saying last night it could be a matter of months or “few years”. It also revealed Britain would not be able to walk away from the Irish border backstop – a post Brexit customs insurance plan – unless it also had permission from the EU.
The Prime Minister has betrayed the principles of Brexit and is subjecting the United Kingdom to political slavery at the hands of Brussels, Brexiteers have said, as the details of the Prime Minister’s deal leaked to Irish media Tuesday afternoon. Brexiteers within the Conservative party met Tuesday as the news emerged of a “technical level” agreement emerged — apparently leaked to Irish journalists sympathetic to the European Union but not to figures within the United Kingdom — and spoke of launching a “coup” against the Prime Minister, Britain’s The Times reported in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Several prominent pro-Brexit figures lined up to condemn the plan, which if the leaks are representative of what has been agreed, would see most promises and red-lines promised by the Prime Minister broken or ignored.
THERESA MAY’S squalid deal that purports to deliver the June 2016 referendum decision to quit the European Union should be opposed root and branch. Her priority all along, while reciting deceitfully the mantra “Brexit means Brexit,” has been to concentrate negotiations with the European Union on a package of priorities demanded by the City of London financial sector and her Business Advisory Council. When she, David Cameron and George Osborne led the Remain side into the referendum campaign, they warned that leaving the EU would mean turning our backs on both the EU single market and the customs union.
Theresa May has won the approval of her ministers for her Brexit agreement, but there are growing rumblings of discontent despite what she has hailed as a “decisive step forward”. The Prime Minister’s top team signed off on the draft text following a marathon five-hour cabinet meeting, in what represents a breakthrough in the exit process two-and-a-half years on from the referendum. But Sky News has been told as many as 10 ministers spoke out about what was on offer and made their misgivings known. Sky sources said the gathering was “very split”, with Mrs May getting the agreement through on a majority rather than with unanimous backing.
Theresa May has secured her deal in Brussels but her fight to get it actually in place in time for Brexit day is just beginning. If the Cabinet agrees to the deal the biggest hurdle will be the ‘meaningful vote’ on the plans in Parliament. This is expected to take place in December to ensure the deal is over its biggest hurdle before the end of the year. The Prime Minister needs at least 318 votes in the Commons if all 650 MPs turns up – but can probably only be confident of around 230 votes. The number is less than half because the four Speakers, 7 Sinn Fein MPs and four tellers will not take part.
Theresa May said “difficult days lie ahead” as she announced her Brexit deal had been approved by the Cabinet. One of the chief obstacles could be the House of Commons, where a simple majority of MPs will need to vote for the blueprint for the deal to be given the green light. The magic number is 320, a majority of the 639 voting MPs in the Commons which excludes suspensions, the Speaker, three Deputy Speakers and seven Sinn Fein MPs who abstain from attending the UK Parliament. The Parliament website lists 93 MPs who are ministers of Government and would therefore be bound to support Theresa May’s Brexit plans owing to collective responsibility.
Gerard Batten MEP and UKIP Leader on the cabinet accepting Theresa May’s ‘Not Really Leaving the EU Deal’: “In the morning we can expect a complete betrayal of the Referendum result. Mrs May has threatened the cabinet with accepting her Not Really Leaving the EU Deal or the threat of a general election and the spectre of a Corbyn Marxist government.” “This is exactly what I have predicted since the historic and spectacular Referendum result. UKIP’s position is unilateral and unconditional withdrawal. “The real struggle to leave the EU now begins in earnest. UKIP will never give up the fight for a complete and total exit from the EU. “If this surrender deal is implemented, UKIP will be the political resistance movement, fighting in the electoral beaches, fields, lanes, and landing grounds. UKIP will never surrender.”
European Union countries will seek to drive home their advantage over Britain and try to secure further concessions in fishing and finance, despite the Cabinet appearing to be ready to back the Brexit deal. Britain and the European Commission have agreed a draft Brexit deal, reaching a compromise over the vexed issue of how to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland after the UK leaves the EU. But diplomats from the EU-27 warned on Wednesday, as government ministers debated the agreement, that the deal is not guaranteed their support and they will push for more.
Brussels will “retain all the controls” over swathes of British regulation under the Brexit deal struck by Theresa May, EU negotiators have told member states. A leaked diplomatic note from a meeting between Commission officials and ambassadors from the EU’s 27 countries reveals how Brussels views the “level playing field” rules signed up to by the prime minister. “We should be in the best negotiation position for the future relationship. This requires the customs union as the basis of the future relationship,” deputy chief negotiator Sabine Weyand said, according to the note seen by The Times newspaper. “They must align their rules but the EU will retain all the controls. They apply the same rules. UK wants a lot more from future relationship, so EU retains its leverage.”
Michel Barnier conceded that securing backing for the provisional Brexit deal struck with the UK would be difficult as he unveiled a new customs union along with a joint pledge to keep the EU and UK in permanent regulatory lockstep. As the EU’s chief negotiator revealed the withdrawal agreement and political declaration on the future deal in Brussels, he said the documents offered evidence of “decisive progress” in the talks. Barnier told reporters in a press conference, however, that he recognised that the “path is still long” in getting agreement on both sides of the channel, and called on the UK parliament to “assume its responsibility”.
Michel Barnier today hailed the deal thrashed out with Theresa May as a ‘decisive and crucial’ step in delivering Brexit. In a day of high drama, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator hailed the deal in a press conference in Brussels minutes after Mrs May got sign off for it from her Cabinet. The PM emerged from the marathon five-hour meeting to declare she believes with her ‘head and heart’ her deal ‘is firmly in the national interest’ – and her ministers had backed her. And in a carefully orchestrated show to unity, Mr Barnier addressed a press conference in Brussels to hail the deal. He said: ‘This agreement is a decisive and crucial step in concluding these negotiations.’
The DUP today lashed Theresa May‘s Brexit plan as a ‘bad deal’ which MPs will reject – as their pact to prop her up in No10 hangs in the balance. Sammy Wilson, the party’s Brexit spokesman, said many in the country will be ‘appalled’ at the deal the PM has thrashed out with Brussels. And he vowed that the DUP will vote against it when the deal comes heads to Parliament for a titanic battle next month. His words are a major blow for Mrs May as the DUP’s 10 MPs are propping the Tories up in Number Ten in a confidence and supply deal.
Theresa May’s DUP allies look set to abandon her as they warn her Brexit deal will break up the UK. Mrs May handed over £1.5billion barely a year ago for the Northern Irish party’s 10 MPs to vote with her in Parliament because she doesn’t have a majority. But as DUP chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told the BBC: “This deal has the potential to lead to the break-up of the UK. “That is not something we can support.” The news is a major blow to Theresa May just hours after she secured a draft deal with Brussels. Cabinet ministers will examine the deal at 2pm – but the DUP are opposed to plans for customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
ARLENE Foster flew to London to warn Theresa May the DUP would bring down her Government unless she changed course on Brexit. The furious Ulster hardliner hinted the confidence and supply agreement propping up the Tories was not dependent on Mrs May being leader. The DUP leader said there would be “consequences” for Mrs May if she put forward a deal which threatened to break up the United Kingdom. “If she decides to go against that, if she decides to go against herself – because on many, many occasions she stood up in this very place and said she will not break up the United Kingdom, there will be no difference between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – if she decides to go against all that, then there will be consequences,” said Mrs Foster. “Of course there will be consequences. We could not as Unionists support a deal that broke up the United Kingdom.”
The DUP has described the government’s Brexit text as a “poor deal” after Prime Minister Theresa May announced the cabinet had voted to support it. East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson reacted angrily to the news saying it was “a deal she (Mrs May) said she would never accept”. DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds met the prime minister on Wednesday night. Mrs Foster described the meeting as “frank” on a Twitter post. Both parties held the discussions at the prime minister’s office in the House of Commons. The meeting, which lasted around an hour, took place after the text of the draft withdrawal agreement had already been published.
The chairman of the Conservative Party has admitted there is “work to do” to get the DUP to back the prime minister’s draft Brexit agreement. Theresa May secured Cabinet approval of the draft agreement on Wednesday evening, but faces an uphill battle to get it through a Commons vote. Appearing on ITV’s Peston, Brandon Lewis denied the deal with the DUP propping up the Tory government was “in tatters”. He told the programme: “I do accept we have got work to do over the next few weeks with colleagues as they go through the detail of this deal.”
The Irish government breathed a sigh of relief last night as its Brexit red lines were met in the draft withdrawal treaty between Britain and the EU. Chief among the commitments was the assurance that a hard border would not emerge again on the island and Britain could not unilaterally leave the temporary customs arrangement. Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, praised Theresa May for staying “true to her word” on the Irish border. Speaking shortly after the draft deal was published, Mr Varadkar said it had been one of the better days in politics.
THERESA MAY and her negotiating team have “shown by their actions that they never believed Brexit can be a success”, the Prime Minister’s former joint chief of staff has argued. Nick Timothy used a newspaper column to stage the intervention. The former Downing Street aide fell out of favour after the disastrous 2017 General Election. He was one of the key architects of Mrs May’s catastrophic snap election campaign. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said: “The draft agreement fails the Lancaster House tests set by Mrs May. “It has no chance in the Commons.” Mr Timothy, who alongside Fiona Hill was blamed for Mrs May’s catastrophic 2017 General Election campaign, argued the European Commission “knows it has won hands down” and “the silence in Brussels is revealing”.
THERESA May hailed a “decisive step” towards Brexit last night after narrowly winning the backing of her Cabinet for her draft deal with the EU. Following five hours of bad-tempered wrangling in Downing Street, senior ministers agreed by a wafer-thin majority to support the deal thrashed out with Brussels negotiators. MPs now faced a choice between backing her deal that delivered on the 2016 EU referendum vote or “no deal or no Brexit at all”, she said. “I believe that what I owe to this country is to take decisions that are in the national interest, and I firmly believe with my head and my heart that this is a decision which is in the best interests of our entire United Kingdom,” said the Prime Minister.
Theresa May last night hailed her Brexit deal as being in the ‘national interest’ after convincing her Cabinet to back it – but only after a stormy five-hour meeting in which minister after minister had spoken against the plans, sparking fears of an imminent coup against her leadership from furious Brexiteers. Mrs May finally won the day after declaring it was ‘this or Jeremy Corbyn’, but the fallout from the discussions left at least one minister – Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey – on ‘resignation watch’. In all at least 10 mutinous ministers spoke out against Mrs May’s draft deal with Brussels during the meeting that stretched into yesterday evening.
Furious Brexiteers are ready to launch a no confidence vote in Theresa May in protest at the ‘betrayal’ in her draft EU deal. For the first time members of the hardline European Research Group led by Jacob Rees-Mogg are warning the Prime Minister she has run out of time. A vote will be called if 48 Tory MPs send letters to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers. Rumours have swirled for months that Sir Graham was close to the threshold but no contest has ever emerged.
A wave of Brexiteers are poised to submit letters of no confidence in Theresa May, hardliners claimed last night, prompting predictions of a contest within days. The leadership of the European Research Group (ERG), which represents about 50 or more hard Brexiteers, decided to start pulling support from Mrs May yesterday afternoon. Key ERG figures urged colleagues to write letters of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee. As the cabinet meeting dragged into its fifth hour, however, the group stopped short of asking that they be sent amid growing expectations of resignations within days. Under the rules, Sir Graham must hold a vote of no confidence if he receives 48 letters from Tory MPs.
There are strong rumours tonight that Brexiteer Tory MPs may finally force a no confidence vote against Theresa May. Sam Coates from The Times was the first to hint of more letters going in, except this time “from non-usual suspects”. The Beeb’s Laura Kuenssberg has also been told of Brexiteer anger so great that there could be a no confidence vote tomorrow. Conservative MP Conor Burns has summed up the potentially shifting move against Theresa May, saying: “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.” Are pro-Brexit MPs finally going to try and oust May?
ERG Chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg has written to all Conservative MPs calling on them to vote down Theresa May’s draft withdrawal agreement. Short and to the point…
Pro-Brexit Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has hit out at Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to meet with Jeremy Corbyn before her own party’s MPs after putting forward her EU Withdrawal Agreement, and has insisted that May would lose a confidence vote. Speaking on ITV’s Peston, Dorries said of the late night meeting with the Labour Leader: “Which has gone down really badly with those few MPs who were from my side of the party who who were still giving her the benefit of the doubt. “In fact one has just said ‘the fact that she is calling in the Leader of the Opposition in to speak to him before she talks to her own MPs is the final straw’.”
The European Commission has said it is “delighted” that the leaders of France and Germany have backed the creation of a “real” EU army. A spokesperson for the commission’s president Jean-Claude Juncker said he was “pleased” that the argument for the force seemed to be “going in our direction”. Addressing the European Parliament on Tuesday Angela Merkel said she supported a “real, true” European army, echoing an identical call by her French counterpart Emmanuel Macron the week before. Speaking on Wednesday, the commission’s spokesperson tried to attribute credit for the idea to Mr Juncker, noting that he had previously endorsed such a force.
Fixed odds betting terminals
Theresa May has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown over the reform of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in the face of a Commons rebellion. A cut in the top bet on the machines from £100 to £2 to combat problem gambling will now come into force in April, six months earlier than planned. More than 20 Tory MPs set out to sabotage Treasury plans to push it back to October. Tracey Crouch resigned as sports minister over the delay, which had been condemned by MPs who believe the cut is vital to protect vulnerable people and families. The change was announced in a written statement to MPs by Jeremy Wright, the culture secretary, yesterday.
Theresa May today made a humiliating U-turn on her decision to delay curbs to ‘crack cocaine’ gambling machines after a Tory revolt. The Government sparked fury by deciding to delay the slashing of the maximum stake on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2, by six months. The decision, announced by Philip Hammond in the Budget, was condemned by charities and caused the shock resignation of Sports Minister Tracey Crouch. But after a fortnight of mounting pressure, the Government today announced they will abandon the delay and bring the implementation forward to April next year.
Ministers have unveiled plans for a specialist “housing court” to speed up the settlement of property disputes between landlords and tenants. The designated court, according to the government, will be “particularly important” for families and vulnerable tenants “who live with the fear of suddenly being forced to move”. It comes after the then-communities secretary, Sajid Javid, announced at the Conservative Party conference in 2017 the government would explore the idea to deliver “more effective” justice. Mr Javid’s successor, James Brokenshire, has now issued a “call for evidence” to consult on the housing court for the next two months – seeking views from tenants, landlords and owners.
NHS staff shortages could triple in a decade, without a radical boost to recruitment efforts, major thinktanks have warned. Analysis by the King’s Fund, the Health Foundation and the Nuffield Trust suggests the health service could be short of more than 350,000 staff if it continues to lose staff and cannot attract enough from abroad. On such trends, one in four posts would be vacant, compared with one in eight today. The think tanks said “worryingly” high numbers of hospital doctors and nurses were taking early retirement, and not being replaced in sufficient numbers. It follows research which shows just one in 20 trainee GP intends to work full-time, with the average family doctor working just three and a half days.
The NHS faces a catastrophic shortage of 350,000 staff by 2030 unless it can attract new workers, experts warn. Three leading health sector think-tanks claim the workforce crisis is now a greater threat to services than financial challenges. The NHS is already struggling with growing staff shortages, with a record 107,000 unfilled vacancies and more staff working part-time. The King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and The Health Foundation warn that the widening staffing gap could lead to spiralling waiting times and declining care quality. Richard Murray, policy director at the King’s Fund, said the NHS had less than a year to act or risk creating a downward spiral caused by ‘unbearable’ working conditions. Mr Murray said: ‘They have very little time.’
Legal experts have accused the Government of sneaking in a new “death tax” by the back door without proper parliamentary scrutiny. New rules will mean estates worth £2m or more pay £6,000 in probate fees, up from £155 currently. The 3,770pc increase is a reduction on the original plans, which would have meant a bill of £20,000 for the largest estates. A “grant of probate” allows the executor to access and distribute someone’s estate when they die. The fiercely unpopular changes have been dubbed a “stealth death tax” and a de facto increase on top of existing inheritance levies (IHT). Experts have now warned that the probate fee structure will not be thoroughly debated in Parliament, as any other tax rule changes would. The changes are expected to be introduced in April 2019, but the rules already form part of the law, it has emerged.
Surging oil prices sent household bills spiralling at rates not seen since 2012, keeping pressure on family finances despite costs easing for other goods and services. Gas prices are picking up sharply, rising by 7.6pc over the 12 months to October. Electricity is also up 9pc on the year and petrol prices are up 11.5pc at 131p per litre, a four-year high. By contrast food price inflation fell to 0.4pc, the smallest annual rise in 18 months. On a monthly basis food prices have now fallen for two consecutive months, helping families with the weekly shop. Clothes and shoes are also getting cheaper with prices down 1.1pc on the year.
The owners of two of Britain’s biggest energy suppliers have revealed contingency plans for the collapse of the companies’ planned merger, opening the door to a fresh shake-up of the sector. SSE agreed last year to spin off its household supply unit and merge it with Npower, part of the German utility Innogy, to form an independent supplier listed in London. It admitted yesterday that there was uncertainty over whether the deal would go ahead because the combined company “couldn’t achieve a listing on the premier section of London Stock Exchange in its current form”.