These are the slides Number 10 is using to try to convince MPs and Tory association chairmen of their Chequers plan. Convinced?
An excellent, must-watch interview with Steve Baker in which he explains why Theresa May must change her Brexit policy, reveals how Downing Street blindsided Dexeu and expresses righteous anger at Number 10 briefing against Brexiters. Leave Tory MPs – especially those being offered career advancement – should watch and listen…
Gavin Barwell has invited Labour MPs in for a briefing on the government’s Brexit policy, as he seeks opposition votes to keep Theresa May’s plan alive. Worth remembering what Barwell thinks of Brexit – he tweeted this the day after the referendum result:
Proud that my home town and the great city of which it is part rejected the politics of hate and division yesterday
— Gavin Barwell (@GavinBarwell) June 24, 2016
May accordingly appointed him as her chief of staff and one of the key figures in delivering Brexit. As Theresa once said, you can’t deliver Brexit if you don’t believe in Brexit…
The extremely well-connected Brexit wonk Charles Grant writes in the FT today that the government is considering asking to stay in the single market for goods. Guido also understands this is under active consideration in Number 10. Grant writes that this means de facto accepting ECJ rulings and EU rules and regulations, and potentially a compromise on free movement:
“The challenge, however, is that the EU would never agree to Britain being in the single market for goods unless it adopted all relevant rules, submitted to a punishment mechanism for any deviation, and accepted some oversight by the European Court of Justice… If the UK does request membership of the single market in goods, the EU’s initial reaction will be no. Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator, says the single market is “ binary” — you are either in all or none of it — and must involve free movement of labour.”
If we agree to become a rule-taker on goods and accept ECJ rulings, we are clearly not taking back control of laws. If we have full alignment with Brussels regulations on goods, that severely hampers our ability to strike trade deals with other countries – that is not taking back control of trade policy. If there is a compromise on free movement, that is not taking back control of borders. And it is unfathomable the EU would agree to all this without the UK making significant ongoing payments of vast sums to Brussels. That is not taking back control of money. Staying in the single market for goods crosses May’s own red lines, and goes miles beyond the red lines of Brexiters.
Number 10 may have wagered that they can buy off Brexiters like Boris and Gove by agreeing to spend the Brexit dividend on the NHS (even though this is disingenuous and the NHS money is mostly tax rises). But surely there is no way Boris, Gove, Fox and Davis – or any Brexiter for that matter – could stay in the government if their red lines were rubbed out like this. This would be the softest of Brexits – Cabinet Leavers must stand up to Number 10 on this…
Over the last 48 hours there has been speculation that the whips are going soft and considering a further compromise to Dominic Grieve ahead of tomorrow’s Commons vote.
Lots of talk in SW1 of further government concessions to D. Grieve & co.
— George Trefgarne (@GeorgeTrefgarne) June 19, 2018
Guido isn’t sure what else there is to concede on. Number 10 has given Remainers absolutely everything they want, short of the ability to stop Brexit entirely. We are heading towards a very ‘soft’ Brexit, closely aligned to Brussels. We are staying in a customs union for years after Brexiting, possibly longer. By the end of the negotiation, things might be even closer to the Hammond / Remainer vision of Brexit than that. Further concessions are not acceptable.
Remain MPs who Guido has spoken are increasingly unimpressed with the Grieve / Soubry / Hailsham attempt to block Brexit. Most Tory Remainers accept that Brexit has to happen, and that it would be a dangerous betrayal of democracy to allow Grieve and co to get their way. Indeed, Tory Remainers are privately accusing Grieve of dishonesty over his motives. His talk of blowing up the government went down spectacularly badly, too. At least Hailsham and the rebels in the Lords are honest about wanting to stop Brexit.
How many Tory Remainers have come out to endorse Grieve’s plot to keep us in the EU this week? The likes of Nicky Morgan have been quiet for days. Julian Smith must hold firm, win round the majority of the more sensible Remain rebels, and see Grieve off tomorrow with no further concessions…
Have to say the Number 10 press team have played a blinder this morning. First they got Marr to agree to an easy pre-record interview rather than a live. Then they got the BBC to lead all morning on the Brexit dividend rather than the fact that the money is actually coming from tax rises. And to complete the hat-trick they had May interviewed by her former head of broadcast Tom Swarbrick on LBC. He was working in Number 10 three months ago. Good day for British journalism…
All the above photos are taken from Theresa May’s official Facebook page uploaded a few hours ago. Her and Phil apparently in the back of a Hercules flying to Quebec across the Atlantic, the Red Box strapped into the military transport, her thanking the pilot after arriving safely in Quebec. And then getting off an Airbus 330 Voyager kitted out for VIPs at a cost of many millions…
Hold on, the pictures above released on her official Facebook page show her roughing it in the back of a Hercules military transport. Yet Guido also has these pictures, showing Her Majesty’s Lobby holding power to account over some G&Ts in the luxurious surrounds of a VIP Airbus Voyager…
Are we being played? What is really going on?
UPDATE: Explanation from Number 10: She travelled to Canada on the Voyager, and then across Canada on a C130.
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…
Theresa May has broken her deadline of publishing the government’s Brexit white paper this month after signalling it won’t now appear until after the EU summit this month. David Davis is kicking off and threatening a Cabinet protest. Guido understands the white paper is finished, ready and waiting to go but is being blocked by a combination of Number 10, the Treasury and HMRC. Downing Street is refusing to even share it with Cabinet ministers, despite requests to see it. This has caused almost as much annoyance as – yet another – delay to the Brexit plan. It is a joke that the UK is going into the next summit with the EU having delayed May’s promise to give “precise” details about what she wants from Brexit by now. It is ridiculous that Cabinet ministers are not being involved in the process. This delay is yet more evidence Number 10 is fudging Brexit and putting us on a path to staying very close to the EU…
Number 10 twist the knife into Bercow:
“PM has seen the alleged remarks and clearly thinks they are unacceptable. If a complaint is made then it should be fully investigated.”
Could the Speaker’s time finally be up?
If any further proof were needed that the civil service is working against Brexit, this morning’s revelation in The Sun that Olly Robbins held back evidence in favour of the Max Fac model just about sums it up. May’s Europhile Brexit adviser stands accused of deliberately not including evidence that a technological solution can be found to solve the Irish border question in his presentation to the Brexit sub-committee. Meanwhile, George Trefgarne reports that Number 10 and the Treasury nixed plans to trial Max Fac next year:
2. My understanding is HMRC were ready to trial the Max Fac systems in August, but this has been pulled by No10 and the Treasury
— George Trefgarne (@GeorgeTrefgarne) May 10, 2018
If the civil service stopped trying to fight Brexit and just got on with it, things would be going a lot better for Number 10.
684 days have passed since Britain voted for Brexit. Theresa May has been Prime Minister for 664 days. There are just 325 days – ten months – until we are supposed to be leaving the EU. Still, the UK government does not have a policy on customs.
Boris has given an interview to the Mail today in which he brands Number 10’s customs partnership proposal “crazy”. Guido has outlined the problems with it here. The customs partnership is dead in its current form, but the papers are full of speculation Downing Street is going to plough ahead with a rehashed version of the model rejected by the Brexit sub-committee last week.
Just as worryingly, Number 10 is putting off the decision yet again. Customs won’t be discussed at Cabinet today, we are told, nor at the next meeting of the sub-committee on Thursday. There are reports that the Commons vote on customs may even be delayed until the autumn, as May desperately tries to fudge what is already a fudge. Continually delaying the decision on customs is becoming a dereliction of duty. The uncertainty is harming the economy. The vague UK position is encouraging Brussels to wind down the clock and keep us in a full customs union. If Number 10 delay any further, the choice will be between a customs union and no deal, outcomes no one wants. Get on with it…
Tory MPs want Theresa May to add Brexit-supporting trade experts to her Number 10 team after concerns were raised that the current crop of policy aides are out of their depth and not signed up to the PM’s plan for leaving the customs union. The revelation that May’s senior aides “will not be crying into our beer” should the UK be forced to remain in a customs union has enraged Brexiters. As Guido reported yesterday, knives are out for the Number 10 Europe Unit, Denzil Davidson and Ed de Minckwitz, who are accused of attempting to “roll the pitch” ahead of caving on the customs union.
Davidson helped negotiate David Cameron’s failed pre-referendum deal with the EU, which hardly inspires confidence. There is consternation that de Minckwitz, who was one of Stronger In’s top advisers during the referendum and played the role of Boris in BSE’s debate prep, inexplicably holds the trade brief. When you add the Remainer-filled Europe Unit to May’s Remainer chief of staff Gavin Barwell – who blames Brexit for him losing his seat – and her Remainer chief EU adviser Olly Robbins – who came up with the disastrous ‘customs partnership’ fudge – it is clear that none of the PM’s top Brexit aides are true believers.
Some Leavers are lobbying for the role of DIT’s Crawford Falconer, someone who actually has trade expertise, to be beefed up. Others want Number 10 to listen more to the likes of the IEA’s Shanker Singham and the group Economists For Free Trade. There have been serious concerns for a while now that the calibre of May’s Brexit advisers is so low that “Heywood and Robbins run rings around them”. One of the key problems with Number 10’s approach to Brexit is that none of her Brexit aides believe in the cause. Pro-Brexit advisers, Nick Timothy even, would never have allowed their position on the customs union to become so vague. As Theresa May herself said, “You can only deliver Brexit if you believe in Brexit…”
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…
Guido can reveal the latest updated version of our ever popular SpAd List. Our analysis of the data reveals there is an incredible gender gap in Number 10. Of the 39 Downing Street SpAds a mere 6 are women, a meagre 15%. This is a significantly worse figure than across the rest of government. Being a Downing Street SpAd is it seems 85% a boy’s job…
Overall Guido counts 95 SpAds, 23 of which are women, that’s 24%, better than in Number 10 though not that impressive. Back in October Theresa May announced a “new drive” on gender equality in the workplace, “calling on companies to take steps to improve workplace equality”. There are more Johns and James’ working in Number 10 than there are women…
Guido can reveal Theresa May’s head of broadcast Tom Swarbrick is leaving Number 10. Former LBC man Swarbrick, who was one of the brightest up-and-coming journalists around before he moved over to the dark side, has been with May for the long haul since summer 2016. The move has been in the works for a while and today is his last day – no pressure making sure the PM’s Brexit speech lands well. Good luck…
The late night activities of Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s chief of staff in Number 10, are usually limited to tweeting from Nando’s. On Monday night however, it appears he was choking the chicken rather than eating it.
Barwell’s Twitter account replied to a pornographic tweet featuring two ‘teen schoolgirls’ and their ‘mom’, as well as a second video from the niche website Blacked.com. Guido has analysed the tweets and determined it is impossible that Barwell was hacked or clicked on a funny link. The only way he could have tweeted a reply featuring these handles – which were tagged into the original porn tweet – is if he was viewing the tweet in question. The porn account’s name is “Twinkystar“, and Gavin was viewing it on his Android device at 9:21pm. At least he wasn’t doing it in the office, right Gavin?
UPDATE: Barwell has now deleted the tweet, proving he does have access to his account.
UPDATE II: Told Barwell was not in Downing Street when he sent porn reply (phew!). No. 10 source: “Gavin Barwell replied to this tweet, which was in his timeline, in error. He has deleted the reply and regrets the embarrassment this has caused.”
Jeremy Heywood is feeling “heat” from Number 10 this morning according to Whitehall sources. Guido will believe it when he sees it, Theresa May’s aides usually allow the Cabinet Secretary to walk all over them. The Sun reveals Heywood “played a key role in coordinating” the Brexit doom document and was consulted on it last month. The Times reckons he was ultimately “responsible” and “timed the paper’s release to “soften up” Cabinet ministers before a crucial meeting next week to discuss the government’s objectives for a future economic relationship with the EU”. Which means Heywood has several questions to answer this morning:
- What was his role in the genesis of the project?
- When did he find out about it?
- When did he tell ministers about it?
- When did he tell the Prime Minister?
- Why did his civil servants start the project off their own backs, without permission from ministers?
- Which civil servants were involved, in which departments?
- To whom was the work accountable?
- What role did the cross-Whitehall Government Economic Service play?
- Is it normal for departments to carry out work about which their ministers have no knowledge?
- According to Tim Shipman’s “Fall Out”, Heywood thought the Treasury’s referendum predictions were wrong. How? Why? How are these figures different? What lessons have been learned since then?
A senior government source says this morning that Heywood has “exceeded his mandate”… Number 10 have plenty to be asking him…