Rees-Mogg: I Won’t Back the Deal Unless the DUP are on Board

Theresa May’s promise to step down last night if the deal passes looks to have unlocked substantially more support for the deal – a clear majority of the ERG have now come over including big beasts Boris and IDS – although a hard core of around 20-30 diggers-in remains. They are “still looking for a ditch in which to die”, in the words of one MP there…

May’s biggest hurdle now is the DUP, who put out a fresh statement last night confirming they still could not support the deal, before Nigel Dodds brutally put down any suggestion that they could abstain instead of voting against it:

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has now been branded everything from “traitor” to “eurofederalist” after saying it’s May’s deal or no Brexit on Monday, reiterated his position on Peston last night that he will still vote against the deal unless the DUP are on board. However, he does suggest how domestic law could be used to address the DUP’s concerns. Will it be enough? We’ll find out soon enough…

UPDATE: It’s still a no from the DUP according to Laura Kuenssberg “For avoidance of doubt, DUP will vote against agreement tomorrow, party source says”

 

Nigel Dodds Blasts May Over Brexit Delay

The chances of the DUP coming over to May’s side look pretty remote after Nigel Dodds seared Theresa May with an excoriating set of questions on the backstop and why she delayed Brexit. May can’t answer any of them, she just goes into European Commission Spokesperson mode…

Brexit Big Beasts Going Wobbly

Brexiteers are getting seriously nervous after Parliament voted this week first to block no deal, and then in favour of an Article 50 extension – with Theresa May’s support – with another load of egregious antics from Bercow thrown in. The Benn/Cooper/Letwin coup was seen off by just two votes. While neither of the main votes was legally binding, the fact that an extension was proposed by the Government and carried with a majority of over 200 has alarmed many committed Leavers…

Numerous Brexiteer MPs have been dropping hints over the past few days that they are starting to feel that voting for May’s dire deal may be the lesser of two evils, given the risks of losing Brexit altogether once lengthy delays start being put into law. The price is that May herself agrees to quit

Resolute Leaver Lucy Allan told the FT: “I have to seriously consider supporting the prime minister’s deal, although in my view it is a worse option than remain”. Conor Burns added: “I’m actively looking for reasons to support the withdrawal agreement. That’s why the attorney-general’s advice was so important, critical to many of us to see whether we could be persuaded to support it.” Burns is one of Boris’s closest allies…

Even Esther McVey dropped a very strong hint today, saying “people are going to have to think a different way next week”. Her diehard Eurosceptic other half Philip Davies already raised eyebrows by voting for the deal at MV2…

Other leading Brexit supporters are also coming round to this view, Fraser Nelson wrote in The Telegraph yesterday that May’s deal is:

“a pale imitation of the Brexit that could have been, the Brexit a different leader might have been able to negotiate. It’s half a Brexit – but it’s better than no Brexit.”

Matt Ridley tweeted out Fraser’s article this morning, adding: “I am fairly sure now, after yesterday’s votes, that this is right.” Even deeply committed Brexiteer economist Professor Patrick Minford wrote yesterday: “Let not the best with little chance be the enemy of the good with a reasonable chance”…

The DUP will be in London all weekend to try to hammer out further reassurances from the Government over the backstop, after Nigel Dodds told the press “we want to leave with a deal” this afternoon. Ultimately they still hold the key, if the DUP come over then many MPs will follow, if they don’t budge then MV3 is going the way of MV1 and 2…

May Ducks Boris and Nigel’s Questions

Theresa May ducked the opportunity to respond to both Boris Johnson and Nigel Dodds’ questions, as to whether there will be changes to the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement. May’s responses are typically non-committal… 

“There are a number of options”

If there are no legal changes, May can expect a similar result second time round…

DUP: EU’s “Meaningless” Letter Only “Bolsters Our Concerns”

Theresa May’s letter of reassurance from the EU has gone down like a lead balloon with the DUP, who have dismissed it as “meaningless” without legally binding changes and said that in fact it “bolsters our concerns” about the backstop. Nigel Dodds even hit out at May directly over comments she made about Northern Ireland’s position in the UK, calling on her to “cease from such foolish talk”. Not looking good for May’s hopes of using a DUP reversal as a catalyst to get other Brexiteers back on board…

Number 10’s DUP Charm Offensive Falls Flat

Number 10’s DUP charm offensive appears to have fallen flat, with DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds releasing a statement following lunch with the PM today, confirming that in his party’s view May’s deal still “flies in the face of the Government’s commitments on Northern Ireland”. Dodds also hit out at “nonsense propaganda” about a hard border, arguing that it was “becoming clearer by the day that no one is ever going to construct a border”. He’s not wrong.

Downing Street have been focusing their efforts on the DUP in the hope that moderate Tory Brexiteers will fall into line if the DUP’s concerns over the backstop are assuaged. That is not going to happen without legal changes to the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop in particular. Not how Downing Street wanted to start off the year…

DUP: Tories Should Uphold Their Side of the Confidence and Supply Agreement

“We’re abiding by our side of the bargain… to deliver control of our laws borders and money for the UK, and also that the UK would leave the European Union as one United Kingdom. If Theresa May wishes to go down a different path from that then she can’t count on our support on the Brexit deal that she has but forward, obviously, and it obviously has consequences…”

DUP: We’d “Rather Be Shafted By Labour” Than Accept Backstop

Tory MPs turned out in force for last night’s weekly ERG meeting, with around 80 MPs in attendance as well as notable guests including Chief Whip Julian Smith and May’s Deputy Chief of Staff, JoJo Penn. Jacob Rees-Mogg informed the ERG of the outcome of his and Steve Baker’s earlier meeting with Nigel Dodds, where Dodds made clear that the DUP would support the Government in any confidence motion if the Withdrawal Agreement was rejected. If the Withdrawal Agreement went through their support was far from certain…

Also in attendance were DUP MPs Sammy Wilson – who was “cheered to the rafters” by Tory MPs – and Ian Paisley Jr, who made the point directly to Julian Smith’s face that while the DUP had been very happy working with the Tories, they would “rather be shafted by Labour” than accept the backstop. As Dodds pointed out later on Peston, you don’t need a General Election to bring down a government:

Smith himself addressed the meeting later on, while he didn’t get a hostile reception from the ERG, his points were all shot down in the detail. Smith suggested that some tinkering was possible but gave an impression of a government that was reluctant to ask EU member states for any further changes. The overall message remained clear: it’s the PM’s deal or nothing, the Government has no other plans. And they wonder why the EU has been able to play them like a fiddle from start to finish…

Dodds: Cabinet is Panicking

DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds has stirred the pot again this afternoon by telling ITV News that a sense of “panic” is emanating from “a lot of Cabinet ministers” who are “very unhappy with what they are hearing.” DUP staying true to their negotiating style – quite happy to sit back and watch chaos unfold rather than concede any ground…

DUP Welcome ERG’s New Irish Border Plan

The DUP have put out a statement welcoming the ERG’s new paper on the Irish border. Westminster Leader Nigel Dodds said it was a “positive and timely development” while also hitting out at those who “have used the border issue, and the political process in Northern Ireland more generally, to try to mould Brexit to their way of thinking or to thwart it altogether”.

“The paper published by the European Research Group today is a positive and timely development.

“The paper makes clear that, in the event of a free trade deal being negotiated with the EU, there are sensible practical measures which can ensure there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

“It therefore accurately reflects the fact that the border issue is no impediment to the negotiation by the UK of a comprehensive trade deal with the EU. This a position we have consistently articulated.

“For too long some have used the border issue, and the political process in Northern Ireland more generally, to try to mould Brexit to their way of thinking or to thwart it altogether. That should stop

“We will continue to work closely with the Government and other colleagues in the House of Commons to ensure the best deal is secured for the country as a whole and for Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom.”

Guido understands that the DUP has decided to take a more vocal stance on Brexit after growing unhappy about the way their position has been bandied about as something of a political football in internal Tory arguments over Chequers. Many senior figures within the party are more sympathetic to Mogg than May on Brexit. The DUP’s 10 votes are crucial to May’s majority…

Tories Optimistic They Have Numbers For Boundaries Vote

Guido hears Number 10 are increasingly optimistic that they have the numbers to proceed with boundary reforms which would cut the number of MPs to 600 and reduce the electoral bias towards Labour. The DUP have softened their opposition to the proposals, with their MPs apparently convinced they won’t lose their seats and may even be able to remove independent Sylvia Hermon. Nigel Dodds is less keen and still fears the reforms could reduce unionist representation. The DUP’s dilemma has been whether to back boundary reform, reduce Corbyn’s chances of becoming PM but risk weakening their position in Northern Ireland, or oppose it and risk handing two Irish republicans the keys to Number 10 and 11. The Tories think a new map presented in January should be enough to convince the DUP to get onside. As one minister puts it: “The fate of the next Prime Minister relies on Nigel Dodds’ vanity…”

Nigel Dodds Threatens to Publish Labour’s 2010 and 2015 Correspondence With DUP

Well this would be a lot of fun at the expense of hypocritical Labour MPs this afternoon. Go on Nigel, you know you want to…

Corbyn Squirms Through Dodds Falklands Skewering

No one demolishes Corbyn quite like Nigel Dodds. He absolutely nailed him on his Falklands comments at PMQs today.

Cameron: IRA Sympathisers Should Be Ashamed

It took until the penultimate question, but PMQs finally came to life when DUP MP Nigel Dodds stood up and lambasted newly appointed  Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell for his views on the IRA. The labour benches listened in silence…

“The oppositions leader has appointed a Shadow Chancellor who believes terrorists should be honoured for their bravery, will the Prime Minister join with all of us on all sides of this house in denouncing that sentiment and standing with us on behalf of the innocent victims and for the bravery of our armed forces who stood against the terrorist?”

Cameron responded by saying “people who seek to justify” the actions of the IRA “should be ashamed of themselves“. Corbyn looked down sheepishly…

UPDATE: The one Labour MP who said “hear, hear” to Nigel Dodds’ question received a death stare from Angela Eagle.

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