May lines up Cabinet Brexit showdown with fears ministers could QUIT over bid to ‘bounce’ them into concessions as negotiations with EU heat up
- Theresa May is scrambling to put together a Brexit deal within the coming weeks
- PM is expected to call a Cabinet meeting to sign off any package agreed with EU
- Ministers fear Mrs May could ambush them with more concessions to Brussels
The PM (pictured in her Maidenhead constituency at the weekend) is set to gather Cabinet on the eve of a crunch EU summit to get sign-off for a divorce deal with Brussels
Brexiteers are braced for Theresa May to try to ‘bounce’ them into fresh concessions to the EU at a crunch Cabinet meeting next week.
The PM is set to gather her team on the eve of a crunch EU summit to get sign-off for a divorce deal with Brussels.
The package is expected to include a ‘backstop’ to avoid a hard Irish border that would effectively keep the whole UK in the customs union as a ‘temporary’ measure until a broader trade agreement is finalised.
But ministers fear Downing Street could attempt to ambush them with more compromises, as happened when Mrs May forced her Chequers trade blueprint through Cabinet over the summer.
The row comes amid a frantic battle to get negotiations with the EU over the line before the summit next week.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the two sides were ‘closing in’ on a deal, but but there still seems to be deadlock over the Irish border.
The PM insists she will not accept demands for Northern Ireland to be hived off from the rest of the UK within the EU’s customs jurisdiction.
Her alternative ‘backstop’ plan is designed to fall away in favour of a Chequers-style trade arrangement – that would effectively keep the UK in the single market for goods to keep the borders open.
However, even if Mrs May can secure an agreement with the EU, it is far from certain that she will be able to get it past Parliament.
Jeremy Corbyn says he would oppose arrangements that do not keep the UK more closely tied to Brussels – although there are claims that dozens of Labour MPs could defy him.
And the DUP – whose 10 MPs are propping up Mrs May in power – has warned of a ‘blood red’ line against any extra regulatory or customs checks between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.
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The issues could come to a head at Cabinet on Tuesday, with several ministers on ‘resignation watch’.
Government sources told The Times they were expecting to be ambushed and told to get on board with the plan or resign. ‘Will they ‘do a Chequers’ and say back it or f*** off,’ the source asked.
Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt raised fresh doubts about Mrs May’s position yesterday by repeatedly stopping short of giving explicit backing to her Chequers blueprint.
Meanwhile, former Brexit secretary David Davis warned of ‘dire’consequences for Conservatives at the next general election if the Government sticks to its negotiating stance on EU withdrawal.
In a letter to fellow Tory MPs, he said a deal based on Mrs May’s Chequers plan would deliver ‘none of the benefits of Brexit’ and reduce the UK to being ‘a rule-taker from Brussels’.
The missive part of a coordinated ‘grid’ of action by Eurosceptics designed to force a change of course from Mrs May.
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis warned Chequers could cost the Tories the next election in a letter to fellow MPs yesterday
Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt (pictured in Downing Street yesterday) has insisted she ‘fully supported’ the PM – but stopped short of giving full-throated backing for her Brexit blueprint
Arlene Foster (pictured, left in Brussels with DUP MEP Diane Dodds yesterday) has warned Mrs May to respect the DUP’s ‘blood red’ line that no new checks are brought in between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK after Brexit
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has tried to cool tempers by urging unity behind Mrs May’s efforts to secure a Brexit deal.
‘I think that the Prime Minister is doing an excellent job in difficult circumstances and I think that she has got to make the judgments about how we land a good deal, so I’m backing the Prime Minister to get a good deal and I think the whole nation should get behind her,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
‘We are entering the end phase of these negotiations, we all know that EU negotiations tend to run up to the last minute and the person to make the judgments on getting the best deal in the national interest is the Prime Minister.’
In the Commons last night, Mr Raab differences remained between the UK and EU on the withdrawal agreement but insisted ‘we are closing in on workable solutions’.
He told Tory Brexiteers their calls for a Canada-style trade deal would be a ‘shortcut to no deal’.
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney warned of ‘carnage’ if Britain crashed out of the EU but said he believed it was ‘unlikely’ that would happen.
Mrs May told her Cabinet yesterday that Britain will not accept an EU withdrawal deal without a ‘precise’ political declaration setting out how its requirements on trade and security will be delivered.
Despite optimistic comments from senior EU figures about the prospect of progress at the October 17-18 European Council summit, the PM made clear that agreement has not yet been reached on key issues including the Irish border.
Mrs May will take the first session of PMQs later since a party conference season dominated by Brexit divisions.
How does Theresa May’s Chequers deal compare with a Canada-style free trade deal?
Britain would stick to EU rules on goods by adopting a ‘Common rulebook’ with Brussels, but in the services sector.
Theresa May says this would allow the UK strike free trade deals globally, but the scope would be limited by commitments to the EU.
The blueprint should minimise the need for extra checks at the borders – protecting the ‘just in time’ systems used by the car industry to import and export parts.
The UK Parliament could choose to diverge from these EU rules over time.
But there is an admission that this would ‘have consequences’.
Britain would set up something called a Facilitated Customs Arrangement.
This would see the UK effectively act as the EU’s taxman – using British officials to collect customs which would then be paid on to the bloc.
The borders between the UK and EU will be treated as a ‘combined customs territory’.
The UK would apply domestic tariffs and trade policies for goods intended for the UK, but charge EU tariffs and their equivalents for goods which will end up heading into the EU.
Mrs May says her plan will prevent a hard Irish border, and mean no divergence between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.
There would be no need for extra border checks, as tariffs on goods would be the same.
Single market origin rules and regulations would also be sufficiently aligned to avoid infrastructure.
Britain would strike a Canada-style free trade deal with the EU, meaning goods can flow both ways without tariffs.
As it is a simple free trade deal, Britain would not be bound by the rules and red tape drawn up in Brussels.
The arrangement would be a relatively clean break from the EU – but would fall far short of full access to the single market.
Eurosceptics have suggested ‘Canada plus’ in key areas such as services and mutual recognition of standards.
The UK would have broad scope to strike free trade deals around the world.
Technology would be used to avoid extra customs checks on the borders.
As a result goods travelling into the UK from the EU and vice versa would be tracked and customs paid without extra checks.
The EU has suggested this is ‘magical thinking’.
The EU says the Canada model would mean border controls are required between Northern Ireland and the Republic to protect the single market and customs union.
It insists Northern Ireland must stay in the bloc’s customs jurisdiction in order to prevent that.
Mrs May has signalled she agrees with the analysis – seemingly the reason she is reluctant to go down this route.
But Brexiteers point out that there is already a tax border between the UK and Ireland, and say technology and trusted trader schemes can avoid the need for more infrastructure.
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