Selmayr Reveals Not One UK Negotiator Really Wanted to Leave

Tonight’s Panorama is proving to be another revealing affair – on Brexit this week rather than the chronic anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. There’s already been the revelation from Barnier that May was never serious about ‘no deal’. Juncker’s “monster” Martin Selmayr had another fascinating nugget on Today…

Nick Robinson reveals that Selmayr made an “extraordinary secret offer” to David Lidington to put Brexit “on ice” for five years to develop a new intra-EU partnership instead. Selmayr then talks about how he floated the idea in a late-night session with UK negotiators: “I think we all agreed in the room but we all are officials and we had to respect the mandate that was given and that was unfortunately to negotiate a divorce.” Hardly surprising that they came back with such a terrible deal given not one of them genuinely believed leaving was a good idea…

Selmayr himself won’t be around for any more late-night negotiating sessions, Libération’s Jean Quatremer has got the fascinating inside scoop on how the “sulphurous” Selmayr has been swiftly defenestrated after trying to hijack the process of picking a new Commission President to get another pliant puppet put in place. Guido somehow suspects it won’t be the last we’ll be seeing of him…

Meet the Candidates: Team Rory

Much like the man himself, Rory Stewart’s campaign has meandered between novelty and farce, what there’s no doubt about is that he’s made the biggest impression of all the rivals jockeying for position behind Boris Johnson. Behind the stunts and awkward videos however, there’s a well-organised campaign team skilled in the art of astute press management. Just look at the Telegraph’s front page this morning which Rory has cleverly tried to spin as an attack on his past links to MI6 – as if a front page putting him in the same bracket as James Bond is remotely negative publicity. Guido lifts the lid on the team holding the camera while Rory takes his “selfie” videos…

Rory’s campaign manager is his wife, Shoshana Clark, who moved to Afghanistan with her first husband to work for Stewart’s Turquoise Mountain charity in 2006, only to promptly leave him for Stewart and become Chief Executive of the charity. Another key part of the team is Rory’s SpAd Lizzie Loudon, an alumni of Vote Leave, Theresa May’s press team and, naturally, Hanbury Strategy. Also on Team Rory are Ramsay Jones, David Cameron’s former Scotland adviser and James Johnson, a current Downing Street SpAd and Theresa May’s pollster. Guido hopes the SpAds are following the strict civil service rules and have either resigned their jobs or are taking unpaid leave to work on the campaign…

Rory’s robust anti-No Deal stance has scooped him up endorsements from key members of the Tory Remainer establishment that previously looked to be getting behind Hunt – Justice Secretary David Gauke is a key part of his campaign while May’s deputy David Lidington also came out for Rory yesterday. Regular Remainer rebels including Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve, Nicholas Soames, Antoinette Sandbach and Caroline Spelman have all lined up behind Rory as well, he’s yet to win backing from a single Brexiteer. Not exactly a representative cross-section of the Tory Party…

Rory’s trousered over £50,000 in the last few weeks including £10,000 from Russian Hedge Fund manager Lev Mikheev, £10,000 from Khaled Said, son of Saudi political fixer Wafic Said, and £5,000 from Edwina Snow, wife of Remainer snowflake Dan. A handsome war chest for Team Rory to play with, if they can make it through this week…

Social media support: Rory’s eccentric social media game needs little introduction, it has achieved levels of cut-through most of his rivals can only dream of. Rory’s personal Twitter following has rocketed up to 169k in recent weeks while he has a moderate Facebook following of 15k. He’s even got more Instagram followers than Insta-queen Liz Truss…
Mainstream media support: Pretty much every non-Tory in the media…
ConservativeHome members survey: 16.33% (2nd)
PaddyPower odds: 8/1 (2nd)

Raab Accuses Lidington of Sabotaging Backstop Changes

Dominic Raab has done a lengthy interview with the Spectator’s Katy Balls covering everything from karate to feminism. However the moment that will raise Brexiteer eyebrows the most is when Raab directly blames Theresa May’s deputy David Lidington for sabotaging his attempts to renegotiate the backstop as Brexit Secretary:

‘I think there was a window of opportunity,’ he says. ‘The frustrating thing is that it was closed by our own side.’ Specifically, he suspects, by David Lidington, Theresa May’s de facto deputy, who held his own talks with the Irish and seemed to stop what No. 10 saw as Raab’s freelancing. ‘It wasn’t ruled out by Coveney, it was ruled out by Varadkar. The only thing that happened in between is that he met David Lidington. It’s clear what happened.’

This will do nothing to ease widespread Brexiteer suspicions that the backstop was just a ruse cooked up from the start by Theresa May’s inner circle of Remainer advisers…

Government Confirms UK Will Hold European Parliament Elections

The Government have finally confirmed the least surprising political news in some time – that European Parliament Elections will go ahead. David Lidington confirmed that there would not be enough time to complete the ratification of Brexit before 23rd May. There wasn’t a single person outside Downing Street who believed there was…

Tory Leadership Hopefuls: Who Are You?

We could be days away from a Tory leadership race if Theresa May loses a no confidence vote. The jostling for position on the Tory benches is becoming blatant. Leadership hopefuls are tapping up donors for support, assembling campaign teams and beaming as they glad-hand fellow MPs. With that in mind WPI Strategy commissioned a 2,000 head poll from Deltapoll with fieldwork done last week (25/26 March). They asked the public “Who would you recognise in the street?”

David Lidington would be recognised by 1 in 20 people – which seems on the high side. Liz Truss would be recognised by 1 in 14 people proving that not everyone is on Instagram. Dominic Raab will be disappointed that his brief profile raising period as Brexit Secretary means that 1 in 9 people claim they know his face. Then we get into potential leaders who do have some recognition with voters. Amber, Saj and Hunt are recognised by a quarter to a third of voters, Mogg (who is not running) and Gove are recognised by two fifths of voters. There is only one candidate who stands out with over three quarters of the public recognising him – Boris.

Government Instructs Electoral Commission to Prepare for European Parliament Elections

David Lidington has today written to the Electoral Commission to instruct them to prepare for European Parliament elections. He says the Cabinet Office will reimburse “reasonable spending by Returning Officers on contingency preparations.” Read the letter in full below:

Lidington Denies He Wants To Be PM

Leave Means Leave Serve Legal Notice to Government Over European Parliament Elections

With speculation of a Brexit extension growing by the day, there are increasing suspicions that the UK and EU will stitch something up to avoid the hugely embarrassing spectacle of the UK taking part in the next European Parliament Elections, even if Article 50 has been extended past when the elections are due to take place in May. Farage will be the big winner – the Tories will be routed…

Leave Means Leave have now served legal notice on the Government to notify them that they will be taking legal action to ensure that voters can still take part in the European elections if the UK has failed to leave by that time. LML founder Richard Tice warns that “we cannot be in a situation where we become trapped in the EU without a say.” They have served a ‘pre-action’ notice to David Lidington today, Lidington now has a week to respond…

Read the legal letter in full here:

Lidington Skewered Over Backstop

David Lidington’s lacklustre performance at the Despatch Box was summed up by his dithering response to this question from Mark Francois on whether it was still Government policy to “replace” the backstop, after already refusing to commit himself to leaving a customs union in response to Greg Hands. Not hard to see why Brexiteers have little faith with lifelong Europhile Lidington now supposedly leading the renegotiations…

Greg Clark’s Soft Brexit Push is Sign of Things to Come

Remainer Cabinet ministers are not even bothering to wait for Theresa May to be defeated in the meaningful vote next week before putting forward their Brexit ‘Plan B’ ideas. Heavily Remain-leaning Business Secretary Greg Clark has broken ranks to come out and call for ‘no deal’ to be taken off the table and for the Government to pivot towards a softer Brexit to get the deal through with Labour support, neither of which are Government policy. Yet.

Clark doubled down on Today, pointedly saying that “not just the Government, but the whole of Parliament” would work out the “shaping of the final deal”. He is not alone, Lidington, Gauke and Rudd have also made their opposition to ‘no deal’ explicit. The question for Brexiteers is to what extent they are outliers or actually represent mainstream Cabinet thinking. Or even the view of Number 10…

While Downing Street has still not taken ‘no deal’ off the table publicly, privately they are extremely adverse to allowing ‘no deal’ to happen. For now their Plan A is still to get enough Tory and DUP MPs back on board to eventually get May’s deal through. If this proves to be impossible, Plan B will not be to press ahead with ‘no deal’ but to seek support from the Labour benches instead by softening up the deal further, think customs union and much more of this. Bercow’s willingness to play fast and loose with Parliamentary procedure opens the door to worse…

Brexiteers are right in their criticisms of the deal but they have a much bigger fight on their hands in trying to force ‘no deal’ in whatever happens next than many realise. How far will an unholy alliance of Downing Street and Cabinet Remainers with Labour’s Remainer MPs be prepared to go to force through a Brexit-in-name-only rather than allow ‘no deal’ to happen?

Lidington: “Hopes” Backstop Over by 2022

Three days ago the government said it “expects” the backstop to have ended by December 2021. Now Lidington says his “hope” is that it’s over by the 2022 election. Does anyone believe them? 

“Cavemen” v “Grow Up” – Double Sexism PMQs Faux Outrage

Labour are calling Lidders sexist for telling Thornberry to “grow up”, and Number 10 have even slapped him down and said May would not have used that language.

Meanwhile some Tory MPs are saying Thorners is sexist for calling them a “coalition of cavemen”.

How about everyone calms down and gets off the outrage bus…

DPMQs: Who’s Asking the Questions?

The Prime Minister is in China. David Lidington is deputising, Labour field Emily Thornberry.

Q1 Ian Mearns (Gateshead) If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 31 January.

Q2 Mr Mark Harper (Forest of Dean)

Q3 Colin Clark (Gordon)

Q4 Mr David Lammy (Tottenham)

Q5 Mr Ranil Jayawardena (North East Hampshire)

Q6 Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge)

Q7 Alex Cunningham (Stockton North)

Q8 Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst)

Q9 Ged Killen (Rutherglen and Hamilton West)

Q10 Richard Drax (South Dorset)

Q11 John Mann (Bassetlaw)

Q12 Angela Crawley (Lanark and Hamilton East)

Q13 Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South)

Q14 Craig Tracey (North Warwickshire)

Q15 Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay)

Comments in the comments…

Lidington: Tory Plotters Have Had Too Much Sun and Prosecco

May in the Lords

Theresa May and Commons leader David Lidington are sitting on the steps of the throne in the House of Lords as they begin their Brexit debate this afternoon, to remind peers of the democratic mandate issued by the elected chamber. Sound.

UPDATE: Another angle:

DPMQs: Who’s Asking the Questions

Theresa May is in Bahrain so Leader of the House David Lidington is deputising. Emily Thornberry up for Labour.

Oral Questions to the Prime Minister

Q1 Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire)

Q2 Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West)

Q3 Bob Blackman (Harrow East)

Q4 Amanda Milling (Cannock Chase)

Q5 Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough)

Q6 Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith)

Q7 Patrick Grady (Glasgow North)

Q8 Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire)

Q9 Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire)

Q10 Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham)

Q11 Craig Williams (Cardiff North)

Q12 Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay)

Q13 Steve Baker (Wycombe)

Q14 Richard Graham (Gloucester)

Parliament’s Lawyer Shreds Tory Purdah Spin

Europe minister David Lidington has set out the government’s compromise on ‘purdah’ ahead of tonight’s vote – only to have his spin shredded by parliament’s top lawyer. In a damning email leaked to Guido, Speaker’s Counsel Michael Carpenter says Lidington’s arguments against letting the purdah rules apply in full are “unsound“.

One of Lidington’s main arguments against purdah is that “the legal advice we have received suggests that this could extend to individual elected representatives” – i.e. it would gag all MPs in the run up to the referendum. Carpenter dismisses this as “too literal a reading“. MPs would not face restrictions.

Another of Lidington’s key claims is that purdah would stop ministers from conducting European Union business. Carpenter says “I do not share the view“. Lidington suggests that the “full rigour” of purdah would prevent ministers communicating what is going on in Brussels. But Carpenter says the rules “expressly allow the issue of press notices without any restriction as to their content“.

He concludes of the Europe minister: “Mr Lidington seems simply to repeat the unsound arguments advanced before“. That’s two of the government’s main arguments on purdah torn apart by parliament’s top laywer ahead of tonight’s crunch vote…

EU Purdah Stitch Up: Full Letter From Lidington to Tories

Minister for Europe David Lidington has written to Tory MPs to tell them they are still planning on stitching up the EU Referendum, but it’s ok because they they will ‘work with them’ to do so:

16th June 2015

Dear Colleague,

EU REFERENDUM BILL

I am writing ahead of the Committee Stages of the Bill to address some of the key concerns raised by colleagues during the Second Reading debate last week and to set out the Government’s approach.

As you know, the Government’s intention in bringing forward this Bill is to fulfil our General Election Manifesto pledge to let the British people decide our country’s future in the European Union. It is our clear intention, through the Bill, to provide a straightforward, fair and effective framework for the referendum.

Timing of the Referendum

As stated during the debate, the government is keen to maintain as much flexibility as possible over the date of the referendum. The bill sets out a requirement to hold the referendum by the end of 2017 at the latest, and the Prime Minister has always been clear that if we can hold it earlier, then we will. This has lead to a great deal of speculation that the Government intends to hold the referendum in May 2016 in combination with elections to Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies. I can confirm that this is not the case. We have now tabled an amendment to specifically rule out 5th May 2016 as a date. If we are not able to debate it during committee, it will be retabled at report.

Section 125 of PPERA 2000

A number of colleagues raised concerns in the debate about Clause 25 and Schedule 1 of the Bill. I am grateful for the constructive way in which these concerns were raised.

The effect of Clause 25 is to disapply S.125 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. It therefore removes the statutory restrictions placed on Government publications in the final 28 days before the referendum. Under S.125, Government and Ministers are prohibited from publishing during the 28 days prior to polling day any material which deals with any of the issues raised by a referendum question; and which puts any arguments for or against a referendum outcome.

As the Foreign Secretary set out during the debate, after careful consideration we believe that it is unworkable and inappropriate to fully apply S.125 in this instance. It is unworkable because the restriction on publication is so broad that it could prevent Ministers from effectively conducting the significant amounts of ordinary day-to-day business between the Government and the EU that will necessarily continue during the pre-poll period. And it is inappropriate because the Government, having taken a position on the outcome of our negotiations with the rest of the EU, will naturally be obliged to account to Parliament and the British people.

The Foreign Secretary said during the debate that the Government will exercise proper restraint to ensure a balanced debate during the campaign. We have no intention of, for example, spending public money to deliver mailshots to households ​in the last four weeks of the campaign.

Working out a system that will reassure colleagues and voters that the referendum is a fair fight, yet will preserve the Government’s ability to act in the national interest is not straightforward. It is important that it is legally clear and robust.

Therefore, we will work with colleagues over the next few months to understand their specific areas of concern and bring forward at report stage in the Autumn government amendments that command the widest possible support within the House and put beyond any doubt that the campaign will be conducted throughout in a manner that all sides will see as fair.

I look forward to working with you during its passage.

Yours sincerely

David Lidington MP
Minister for Europe

Yeah, that should do it…

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Quote of the Day

In response to the news that Emily Thornberry described the Lib Dems as “like the Taliban” over their new revoke Article 50 Brexit policy, the former Lib Dem leader responded:

“Come on Emily, if we really were like a Middle East terrorist group, don’t you think Jeremy would’ve invited us to a conference fringe meeting before now?”

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