Brexiteers have released their much-vaunted alternative Brexit plan this morning. Dubbed “Plan A+”, the plan attempts to set out a viable alternative to Chequers and respond to the common critiques of a Canada+ model.
The paper is written by Shanker Singham and Radomir Tylecote of the IEA and will be launched later this morning by a panel including David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg. Read for yourself here…
“The border issue is eminently solvable if the political will is there. I do question, therefore, why it has become so intractable. It seems to me this issue has become the proxy for the negotiations as a whole. Why? Perhaps as a way to keep us tied to the single market and the customs union; perhaps to punish us for leaving; or perhaps it has more to do with internal Irish politics.
In any case, the heads of both the British and Irish customs authorities have told us that a hard border is not necessary. Jean-Claude Juncker, Leo Varadkar and Theresa May have all said that they would never enforce one.
There will be no hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It’s that simple.”
Must-read article by David Davis in the FT, in which the former Brexit Secretary denounces May’s Chequers deal threatens democracy, squanders the opportunities of Brexit and kills our ability to strike trade deals.
Last week, the government’s Brexit white paper told the country it could look forward to a “common rule book” with the EU. We now face continued harmonisation with the bloc’s rules on goods. Unfortunately, this jeopardises the opportunities offered by Brexit. Under this plan agreed by the cabinet at Chequers, the prime minister’s country residence, Britain would have to obey EU regulations, follow EU rules on how all goods are made, and on a huge range of interconnected areas such as environment and food production. The chance to become a credible trading partner will be compromised and we will be unable to strike free trade deals. As Donald Trump aptly pointed out, it would “kill” the prospect of a US-UK deal. Without control over goods, we would lack the crucial leverage to open up the UK’s export of services to the rest of the world. Not controlling our own regulation is far from an arcane technicality. It would mean that the UK is simply not running its own economy. How laws are made is also a central indicator of whether we have a functioning democracy. If parliament determines laws, we have one; otherwise, we do not. If British democracy is now at stake, so too is our future prosperity.
Those Brexiters still backing the deal should take a step back and remember this is the former Brexit Secretary saying it is not Brexit…
If Davis Davis was in any doubt as to how he has been rendered impotent by Number 10, Playbook quotes an Irish minister:
“We deal with Olly Robbins. We don’t deal with the tea boy.”
It’s a zinger because it’s true. You have to wonder how much more DD can take – every few days there are briefings against him from Remainers in Downing Street and Whitehall, openly deriding the Brexit Secretary in the press for failing to steer the government away from the alignment course set by Robbins. How much more will he have to take at Chequers next week…
An extraordinary briefing from Number 10 to The Sun, essentially calling David Davis stupid and claiming he has been completely outplayed by May and Robbins. The “senior government source” told Tom Newton Dunn that DD had been “bamboozled by drafting again”.
“The language about the time limit is all expectations and aspirational. DD hasn’t got anything concrete.Remember, a few weeks ago DD agreed to the backstop because it was time-limited and would go alongside agreement of a preferred long-term end state for customs. As of now, he has nothing on long-term end state, and a highly dubious expectation of a time limit that has to be agreed by the EU Commission. I like DD, but she’s done him like a kipper again.”
Tory MPs in the ERG have told Theresa May to sack her Remainer Brexit adviser Olly Robbins. Representations have been made to the chief whip that Robbins’ Irish backstop is unacceptable and has put Number 10 on a course towards selling out on Brexit, and his position is no longer tenable. May has to choose whether she wants to persist with Robbins’ sellout plan that gives up on the opportunities of Brexit, or back down and agree with David Davis. It is difficult to see how both Robbins and DD can stay in the government if things carry on like this.
On the DD resignation rumours front, yesterday afternoon his allies were insistent that he would be staying. The mood worsened by the evening, with one friend of Davis putting the chances of him quitting at 50-50. This morning another ally of DD says he is considering his position. You have to wonder what Davis has to lose from quitting. If he backs down he will go down as the Brexit Secretary who didn’t make good on his threats and allowed Robbins’ Remainer Brexit. If Davis does resign, one ally says, May is “toast“. It’s DD-Day…
Number 10’s latest fudge is that their Northern Ireland backstop – which keeps us fully aligned to the EU – will be time-limited but with no actual limit set. Brexiters only signed up to it last month after being promised it would be strictly time-limited. Yet again this is a ridiculous position from Downing Street. Olly Robbins’ backstop plan does not work, his hybrid model does not work, their trajectory towards close alignment with Brussels is not a real Brexit. One ally of David Davis insists he will not resign, though a second ally says it is more 50-50. He is being openly mocked by Remainers in the government who claim to have “outsmarted” him. His close friend Iain Dale sent this cryptic tweet last night:
I sense the political sands are about to shift. Dramatically.
Worrying developments in the Cabinet row over Olly Robbins’ new sellout fudge potentially keeping us in the customs union forever. Remainers in the government are gloating that David Davis has been “outsmarted” by Robbins and briefing that he doesn’t have the balls to kill it.
All eyes on DD. One weary gvt source cautions against expecting any reaction: “It looks like DD might be being outsmarted by Olly Robbins but will it be all bark and no bite again” Others say he’s digging in tho
It wd be very Theresa May to resolve this by delaying the decision
Tory MPs and Cabinet ministers are telling Theresa May to ditch her ‘customs partnership’ fudge, with government sources claiming even Jeremy Heywood thinks it is a “turkey“. David Davis has been lobbying against Number 10’s so-called hybrid model, in which the UK would collect import tariffs on behalf of Brussels, continue to follow the Common Commercial Policy, stay in the single market for goods and effectively throw away our ability to strike new trade deals. There is a split among May’s top civil servants – this model is the brainchild of Olly Robbins yet Heywood reportedly thinks it is over-complicated and unworkable. It certainly isn’t a ‘clean Brexit’. “May and Robbins are the only ones still backing it,” says one well-placed source. The fudge has also convinced the EU that we are not set on leaving the customs union, encouraging Brussels to play hardball and offer a binary choice between a customs union and no deal. May will be told to drop the customs partnership at Wednesday’s meeting of the Brexit sub-committee.
Insiders say there are attempts by May’s Downing Street Europe unit, which consists of her special adviser on Europe Denzil Davidson and her Europe and Trade adviser Ed de Minckwitz, to “roll the pitch” ahead of caving on the customs union. Once again this comes down to May putting Remainers in charge of her Brexit policy. She needs to get a grip on this quick, it is in danger of kicking off…
Brexiter Tory MPs are demanding that Theresa May makes next month’s customs union vote a confidence vote, and are making clear that letters will go in to Graham Brady if she attempts to further fudge the issue.
It is now the view of Leavers that the customs union has to be made an issue of confidence (though it can’t be a formal vote due to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act) and this has to happen next month. The government’s fudge so far has led the EU to reject the UK’s proposals and offer a binary choice between a customs union and no deal. May has to say once and for all that Brexit, and her premiership, means not staying in a customs union. This has to happen next month – if the crunch is delayed further the negotiation on customs will be doomed as Brussels and Remainers continue to work to undermine the UK position, and it will be too late to turn it around. Brexiter MPs know they cannot allow a situation where May is outplayed in the negotiation with Brussels, defeated by Remainers in the Commons and bounced into ‘reluctantly’ accepting membership of a customs union.
Following yesterday’s Sunday Times story, Brexiter ministers let it be known that they could not stay in the government if May caved on the customs union. There was talk that David Davis would resign if Number 10 capitulates (though this would not be the first time he has threatened to quit). After Sajid Javid’s tweet yesterday it’s clear that it’s not just Brexiters for whom this is a red line. Certainly a raft of junior ministers would go. In the end Number 10’s Cabinet wargaming is a moot point. They know that if they surrender on the customs union, the letters would immediately go in and that would be that…
The Moggs and Bones of the Tory Brexiteer wing have never supported the idea of a transition period, and they are getting a lot of attention again today. Guido gets the impression that most Tory Brexiteers, and certainly those in the Cabinet, are still on board with a transition so long as it is time-limited to two years. Most have agreed to compromise and accepted that not much will change in those first two years after Brexit day. Their view is that there is no point spending political capital negotiating over the transition and that our cards would be better played making sure we get a good trade deal. That seems sensible, what matters is the end state is a proper Brexit allowing us to diverge from the EU in future.
There is however one aspect of the transition that does worry Leavers up and down the party. They have been concerned to learn of some of the new EU rules Britain could be forced to accept during the transition – there are as many as 20 new directives and diktats that Leavers want us to be able to reject. David Davis says it will take the EU at least two years to get their new laws through so we shouldn’t worry. That isn’t reassuring MPs, as the UK cannot be an obstacle to the swift passage of new legislation after March 2019. Having to take new rules during the transition would not look like we are transitioning out of the EU…
UPDATE: DD’s words of reassurance for Brexiters:
“we will have to agree a way of resolving concerns if laws are deemed to run contrary to our interests and we have not had our say…
… and we will agree an appropriate process for this temporary period.
So that we have the means to remedy any issues, through dialogue, as soon as possible.”
The standout moments from DD’s appearance in front of the Brexit select committee were his sparring with new ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg. The Mogg said once again that we will be a vassal state of the EU during the transition, one of his favourite lines:
“If on the 30th of March 2019, the UK is subject to the ECJ, takes new rules relating to the single market and is paying into the European Budget, are we not a vassal state?” asks @Jacob_Rees_Moggpic.twitter.com/65c7x9Xovc
Jacob Rees-Mogg asks David Davis about an @FT piece by @GeorgeWParker, which quotes a ‘government official spokesperson’ as saying: “leaving the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice was never formally a red line” pic.twitter.com/FDPYtUB98U
Emily Thornberry tells Labour activists some home truths…
“…we must all acknowledge, that there are sickening individuals on the fringes of our movement, who use our legitimate support for Palestine as a cloak and a cover for their despicable hatred of Jewish people, and their desire to see Israel destroyed.”