EU’s Good Cop Bad Cop Game

Last night in Berlin, Angela Merkel made surprisingly positive noises towards a surprisingly diplomatic Boris Johnson, that surprised even Number 10 in their warmth. Despite this morning the PM’s team playing down their significance, Merkel told a press conference yesterday that:

“I see possibilities… It was said we will probably find a solution in two years, we can maybe find it in the next 30 days.”

Insiders are not expecting today’s “working lunch” with Emmanuel Macron to go anywhere like as smoothly, already briefing the meeting will be “frank”, a diplomatic word for frosty. The French President told reporters last night  “Renegotiation of the terms currently proposed by the British is not an option that exists, and that has always been made clear by President Tusk.” Good cop bad cop…

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis told the Today Programme this morning that he recognises the thirty day timetable as an important timeframe as the UK Government does not expect serious crunch discussion until the end of September, after it can be proved to the EU that Parliament cannot stop No Deal. As long as Parliament doesn’t stop Number 10 holding its strong line, the Government expects the EU to properly engage until Conference recess towards the end of next month…

David Davis Hasn’t Urged May to Delay Meaningful Vote

A number of media outlets are reporting today that David Davis has urged Theresa May to delay the meaningful vote again in an op-ed in the Telegraph. He hasn’t.

As his op-ed actually reads:

“And let’s be clear: the Withdrawal Agreement does not respect the referendum result. That is why the meaningful vote had to be delayed and one wonders if even the January vote will go ahead.

“Attempts to frighten MPs into supporting it are unlikely to work, because voting down this substandard deal will not result in no Brexit. How could it? There is no mechanism for that to happen. The UK will leave the EU on 29 March. That is nailed down in primary legislation and international treaty commitments. There is no wriggle room.”

At no point does he urge May to delay the vote. His main points are the importance of no deal preparations and that MPs should ignore “briefings that Continuity Remain elements will seek to extended Article 50 or force a second referendum”. Guido understands that DD is in fact a bit miffed that this misinterpretation of his remarks has taken hold. Not helped by the Telegraph’s own front page

Delaying the vote again will not change the fundamental lack of support for May’s deal in the Commons, nor the fact that the EU currently sees no need to move on its position. May actually losing the vote will force the EU to make a choice – does it throw away the possibility of any deal or come back to the table? It will be the latter…

Brexiteers and DUP Publish Alternative Backstop Proposal

While the country anxiously waits for the result of tonight’s confidence vote, it is worth remembering that the problems of May’s deal, and particularly the backstop, have not gone away. However, Brexiteers hoped to do just that with the launch of a new 59-page report this morning, complete with 6 annexes including a fully drafted alternative Irish backstop protocol, by “Brexiteers’ Brain” Shanker Singham, lawyer Robert MacLean and Dutch customs expert Hans Maessen. It is not a wishlist, it is a fully legally operable text…

Also on hand to launch the report were former Brexit Secretary David Davis, former Northern Ireland minister Shailesh Vara, and crucially, DUP leader Arlene Foster. The bottom line is that even if May survives tonight’s vote, she has no majority in Parliament without the DUP’s support. If the Government are going to get their deal through they need to start listening to alternative proposals instead of just sticking their fingers in their ears…

Steve Baker Sets Out Tory Leadership Shortlist

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker has renewed his call for MPs to submit letters of no confidence in the PM, telling Today that Conservative MPs need to realise that we “cannot go staggering forward any longer like this” and that it is Theresa May’s “duty now to go”. More letters have reportedly gone in since yesterday’s debacle but somehow they’re always around “5 letters short” of 48…

When pressed on who should replace her, Baker gave a shortlist of four Brexiteers – Esther McVey, Dominic Raab, David Davis and Boris Johnson – and called on them to decide between themselves who would be the chosen candidate. Good luck with that…

“There are four people who have resigned from the Cabinet – Esther McVey, Dominic Raab, David Davis and Boris Johnson – the four of them need to work out between them which one of them is going to be our candidate to unite the country, unite the party, and take us out of the EU successfully.”

Boris is certainly back in the frame after his weighty appearance setting out a clear plan for how to proceed on Marr on Sunday, while Tory MPs are the one constituency he has consistently struggled to win over, his enduring popularity with Tory members and the country as a whole is not something MPs can ignore. Raab is Boris’s most likely challenger – he has burnished his credentials with his principled resignation although he does not have the public recognition factor of Boris or DD. DD has been out of the spotlight of late, while McVey’s support may end up being crucial to one of the other candidates if she does not go for leader herself.

Baker is right that Brexiteers should unite around a candidate when the inevitable leadership contest comes – Remainer Cabinet ministers including Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt are also on manoeuvres and the risk is real that Brexiteer infighting could lead to a repeat of the situation where a Remainer PM simply wins the race by default. Whether politicians are willing to put their egos to one side and back one of their main rivals is another matter…

Group Launched by Davis, Fox, and Raab Calls for May to Go

Conservative Voice, the grassroots Conservative group originally launched by David Davis, Liam Fox, and Dominic Raab has written to its members encouraging them to contact their MPs, telling them to “stand up for Brexit” and “change course urgently.”

“It will be painful to hold a leadership contest now, at this moment of crisis in the UK’s affairs. Yet we can see no alternative. With the clock ticking on Brexit, all our options are bad, but a leadership contest is the least bad.”

Read the full explosive letter here:

Guido would expect Liam Fox to disown the call, not sure about the others…

DD: Government Must Release “Complete” Legal Advice

David Davis has added his voice to calls for the Government to release the legal advice they have received on the Irish backstop. Davis told Today that there was “no argument whatsoever” that at the very least the Cabinet should have access to the full information before making their decision on the deal, while rejecting Matt Hancock’s suggestion on Peston last night that Geoffrey Cox answering questions in Parliament would amount to sufficient scrutiny:

“What we must see is the complete legal advice, not a summary, not something that just glides and glosses over the difficult issues, but the actual legal advice.”

Interestingly, Hancock did add that it would be a “decision in exceptional circumstances for the Prime Minister”. Under the Ministerial Code, the legal advice can be released if the “law officers” i.e. the Attorney General agree to it. May herself attacked Brown and Blair for not showing legal advice they had received on the Iraq War to the Cabinet and MPs, labelling it a breach of the ministerial code. The circumstances of Brexit are at least as exceptional as those of the Iraq War…

In any case, MPs may seek to take the decision out of her hands, with Tory rebels considering supporting a humble address motion from Keir Starmer in Labour’s opposition day debate next Tuesday which could compel the Government to release the advice. If there is nothing to hide in the advice, the Government can avoid the whole row by simply agreeing to release it in full…

ConHome Leader Survey: Boris Still Leading… Just

Sajid Javid continues to inch his way up in the estimations of Tory members, meanwhile Boris’ support has slipped by ten percentage points. Last Month Boris was on 30%, and David Davis on 6%. This month Boris falls to 19%, with DD soaring to third place on 13%. Michael Gove, who once topped the survey is now firmly in the also rans. The wider top ten includes the fresh faces of Penny Morduant, Liz Truss and James Cleverly. It’s a very wide field and there’s all to play for…

David Davis: “Terror Will Win” on Brexit

David Davis has given his prognosis for how the Brexit talks will eventually play out, predicting that “terror will win”. Speaking alongside the “Brexiteers’ brain” Shanker Singham at the Institute of Economic Affairs, Davis told a room packed with numerous MPs including Steve Baker, Owen Paterson, Simon Clarke, John Penrose, Eddie Hughes and the DUP’s Nigel Dodds and Sammy Wilson that the “irrational fear of no deal” would ultimately win out and a deal would get through Parliament, possibly at the second attempt:

“Terror will win, the fear of no deal… I think the irrational fear of no deal, a WTO deal – that will win and there will be a deal. It may take two passes – it may be a deal that’s agreed in Brussels and fails in Westminster and comes back again, it may take two passes.”

Guido largely agrees with his analysis – the strength of opposition to the deal May appears to be edging towards cannot be underestimated if it still includes an unlimited backstop that locks the UK into the customs union, hence it may well be voted down the first time round. This will no doubt unleash Project Fear on levels not even seen during the referendum, with MPs coming under immense pressure to vote again until they get the ‘right result’. Sound familiar?

However, the pressure will not just be on the UK if the deal falls in Parliament the first time. The EU, and Ireland in particular, do not want a ‘no deal’ scenario either if they can possibly help it. This may be the time when the EU finally starts to seriously move on its position…

UPDATE: Davis has just tweeted this clarification

David Davis Sells Out

Brexiteers need not panic, the former Brexit Secretary has not betrayed the Eurosceptic cause. Instead, a black-tie gala dinner at the Carlton Club hosted by the Margaret Thatcher Centre, which he is addressing, has sold out within days of tickets going on sale. Proving that the old bruiser still has box office appeal in Tory circles. Will David Davis still give his after-dinner speech if he is Prime Minister?

David Davis Cashing in on Speech Circuit

David Davis famously lost the Tory leadership to David Cameron on the back of a comparatively poor speech. Nevertheless he has now got permission to sell his public speaking services – so long as he doesn’t tell any Brexit negotiating secrets. Guido thinks we have already got the benefit of his views on the Brexit negotiations for free. DExEU have also banned him from lobbying. Presumably his unpaid lobbying against Chequers is permitted…

DD “Stitched Up” by Downing Street

David Davis has told Peston he was “stitched up” by Downing Street before warning the EU could do the same to the UK:

“If I can be stitched up by Number 10, Britain can be stitched up by the European Commission in exactly the same way if we don’t get absolutely explicit guarantees on timetable.”

Brexiteers are concerned that another stitch up is indeed on the way with Theresa May calling a meeting of a limited group of Cabinet ministers tonight at 5pm for an “update” on the negotiations. The suspicion is that this a move to shore up the loyalists in preparation for a deal with major concessions being presented as a fait accompli to the full Cabinet next week, just as happened with Chequers. Can the Cabinet Brexiteers stomach a full climbdown on the customs union?

The DUP are also furious about the emerging deal and deliberately abstained on a division on the Agriculture Bill last night to send a warning signal to Number 10 that their threat to vote down the Budget is serious if the Brexit deal breaches their red line on Northern Ireland. Downing Street is banking on rebellious MPs falling into line when it comes to the crunch votes. Increasingly the signs are that they aren’t going to play ball…

DD: Chequers “Just Wrong”

DD not beating around the bush with his views on Chequers…

In Full: Alternative Brexit Plan

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…

DD: “There Will Be No Hard Border… It’s That Simple”

David Davis in his Brexit speech in Munich says:

“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.

[…] Read the rest

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DD on Govey

David Davis says of Michael Gove…

“he is clever. But sometimes clever men miss the obvious.”[…] Read the rest

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Davis: I’ll Vote to Chuck Chequers Proposal

The former Brexit Secretary tells Marr “The Chequers proposal is almost worse than staying in…”[…] Read the rest

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DD: May’s Chequers Plan Is Not Brexit

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.

[…] Read the rest

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Humphrys Blows DD Interview

[…] Read the rest

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READ: Davis Resignation Letter in Full

[…] Read the rest

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David Davis Resigns

Guido understands David Davis has resigned. Dexeu midnight runner…

UPDATE: Steve Baker also resigns.[…] Read the rest

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