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Withdrawal Bill debates in Commons today and tomorrow are crucial for Brexit and for May

“Theresa May’s resolve will be tested like never before this week, as MPs devote the next two days to debating the key Brexit bill which will shape the UK’s future relationship with the European Union. The EU Withdrawal Bill, which, when passed into law, will determine how the UK leaves the bloc, is due to be debated in the Commons on Tuesday afternoon. Over the course of the following 36 hours, MPs will debate 15 amendments, many of which, if passed, could fatally undermine the Government’s negotiating position and leave Mrs May’s hold on power hanging in the balance. Focus on the Bill has intensified in recent weeks after hostile amendments were passed by peers in the House of Lords. Senior Brexiteers have labelled them “wrecking” amendments because they threaten to fundamentally alter the legislation to the extent that it no longer reflects its original intention, or the Government’s position.” – Daily Telegraph

  • It’s a critical 48 hours of votes – FT
  • It’s “judgement day” for May – Daily Express
  • Here’s a guide to the “key amendments” – The Times
  • And here’s an assessment of the parliamentary arithmetic – Guardian
  • The votes will be “nailbiting” – Daily Mail

Editorials:

  • The bill is much more than a “technical document” – The Times
  • It was “supposed to be a straightforward piece of legislation” – Daily Express
  • MPs must “respect our decision” – The Sun 

Comment:

  • They are “blundering near the precipice” – Polly Toynbee, Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: The real meaning of the meaningful vote

Tory Remainer MPs reach “breathing space” compromise with May over amendment

“Pro-European Tory MPs handed Theresa May a stay of execution last night after they signalled that they would not use a crunch vote to demand that Britain remain in a customs union with Europe. In a compromise brokered after hours of talks, a leading Tory rebel said that she would drop her support for a Lords amendment to the government’s flagship Brexit bill that would force ministers to negotiate a customs union with Brussels. Instead, a fresh amendment is expected to be tabled — backed by the rebels — that will commit Britain to negotiating a new customs “arrangement” with the EU. However, in a sign that the compromise had only bought time for the government, Nicky Morgan, the former education secretary, said that pro- Europeans could still vote against the government on the issue in future unless the prime minister’s plan for a customs partnership was successful. “We’ve given her a breathing space, a bit of time,” she said.” – The Times 

>Today: Henry Newman’s column: Navigating the EU Withdrawal Bill through unamended without a majority is nightmarish – but possible

May “issues final plea” at 1922 Committee meeting

“Theresa May has issued a final plea to Conservative Brexit rebels not to undermine her negotiating clout with Brussels by voting against the government on the EU withdrawal bill as it returns to the House of Commons on Tuesday. The prime minister faces a knife-edge result on an amendment to give parliament a meaningful vote on the final deal as Tory remainers threatened to support the change, brought in by peers, and Labour rallied all but its most pro-Brexit MPs behind it. … The prime minister told Tory MPs at a meeting of the backbench 1922 Committee, attended by ministers including chancellor Philip Hammond and Brexit secretary David Davis, that defeats over the Brexit bill would undermine her negotiating position with Brussels. “We must think about the message parliament will send to the European Union this week. I am trying to negotiate the best deal for Britain,” she told the packed room.” – Guardian

  • She tells them to “think of the nation” – The Sun

>Today: MPsEtc: Yesterday’s 1922 Committee meeting: “It was like a meeting of the Russian Parliament.”

McKie: May has “succeeded in uniting the party” — against her

“Theresa May was, yet again, calling for unity last night, while addressing the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs. She has already succeeded in uniting the party. Unfortunately for her, it’s not the EU Withdrawal Bill that has brought them together, but their shared conviction that the Prime Minister is rubbish at her job. Although that judgment is undoubtedly correct, and shared by party members – a survey for Conservative Home last week found that two-thirds of them wanted Mrs May gone before the next election – she was still right to urge MPs to fall into line.” – Herald

  • Here’s why the rebels must get behind May – William Hague, Daily Telegraph
  • We must “restore” the bill’s original purpose – David Lidington, Daily Telegraph
  • Britain has a great opportunity – Tony Abbott, The Sun

Labour faces “bitter split” over Norway-style approach

“Labour will be plunged into a bitter Brexit split tomorrow as over 70 MPs defy the leader and vote in favour of Britain taking a Norway-style EU membership. Despite a last-minute plea from Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, Europhile Labour MPs vowed to support a Lords amendment calling for membership of the European Economic Area. At the same time as many as 10 Labour MPs could side WITH the Government to back Theresa May’s Brexit plans and ensure they pass. Led by Caroline Flint, the Brexit-backing MPs have sent a stinging letter to Jeremy Corbyn urging him not to bow to pressure from pro-EU colleagues.” – The Sun

  • Labour MPs with Leave constituencies write to Corbyn warning him against model – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • May will “fail to deliver the Brexit Britain needs” – Keir Starmer, Guardian

Meanwhile, Davis’s meeting with Barnier “ends in frustration”

“David Davis returned from Brussels empty-handed on Monday after Michel Barnier rejected major parts of Britain’s ‘backstop’ customs plan to avoid a hard border in Ireland. Mr Davis told the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator that work needed to speed up on preparing the future UK-EU trading relations in the hour long meeting in Brussels, which ended in frustration over the vexed issue of the Irish border. “It is like we are coming from two different places at the moment,” one well-placed EU source told The Telegraph.” – Daily Telegraph

  • They were “coming from different places” – The Sun
  • The UK timetable is “under pressure” – FT

And both Italy and Malta refuse to let ship carrying migrants dock

“The fate of 629 migrants on a rescue ship in the Mediterranean was in the balance last night amid fears of mutiny. Italy and Malta have both refused to let the vessel dock and charity workers said the passengers were becoming ‘increasingly anxious and desperate’. The rescuers had initially shielded the migrants from the knowledge that they were stranded in international waters. But, faced with a barrage of questions, they last night told them why they had been stuck at sea since Saturday night. Pictures showed humanitarian workers desperately trying to calm tensions on board the Aquarius as food supplies dwindled. The situation threatens to spark a fresh EU migration crisis – with Italy vowing to turn away boats carrying migrants from Africa.” – Daily Mail

More Brexit

  • Future divorce bill disputes to be “ruled on by ECJ”, against Davis’s assurance – The Times
  • Leavers have a “Russian problem” – Hugo Rifkind, The Times 

Hammond to “raise £10bn extra tax” for NHS, as May to allow in more foreign doctors

“Philip Hammond is preparing to raise up to £10 billion in extra tax to help to boost the NHS on its 70th birthday. Theresa May is also to lift a cap on skilled workers from outside the EU that blocks foreign doctors from coming to Britain. The move will precede the expected announcement next week of a package of measures to improve the health service. The prime minister has promised a “multiyear” funding settlement for the NHS to address long-term financial needs, which were highlighted this winter when thousands of nonemergency operations were postponed. Precise figures are being negotiated, but health experts calculate that the NHS faces an annual £20 billion funding gap by 2022 because the ageing population is placing greater demands on services.” – The Times

  • Review on highly-skilled migrants has not yet reported – Guardian

May: my initial response to Grenfell disaster was “not good enough”

“A year ago on Thursday, 70 people lost their lives as Grenfell Tower was engulfed in a fire so ferocious it shocked Britain to the core. The 71st victim, baby Logan, was stillborn just a few hours after his parents fled the choking fumes. Pily Burton, rescued from her flat on the 19th floor, passed away seven months later. It was a tragedy unparalleled in recent history and, although many people did incredible work during and after the fire, it has long been clear that the initial response was not good enough. I include myself in that. The day after the disaster I made the first of a number of trips to the site, thanking the firefighters for their work and holding a short meeting with the team in charge of the response.” – Evening Standard 

More Conservatives 

  • Johnson “backs” bridge to unite mainland Britain and NI – Daily Telegraph
  • APPG led by Clarke calls for inquiry into “UK role in human rights abuses” – Guardian

And other parties

  • Phillips calls for lifting of online trolls’ anonymity – Guardian
  • DUP defence spokesman calls for amendment to new counter-terror legislation – Belfast News Letter

Trump and Kim form a “very special bond”

“Kim Jong-un declared the beginning of a new era of relations with the United States, after what Donald Trump described as the forming of “a very special bond” between the North Korean leader and US president. At the end of their first summit meeting in Singapore, the two leaders signed a document that Mr Trump said was “very impressive” – although no details of its contents were immediately available. “Today we had a historic meeting,” Mr Kim said, as the two men sat side by side at the signing table. “We have decided to leave the past behind, and we are about to sign a historic document.” – The Times

  • Kim “vows to destroy all his nukes” – The Sun 
  • Meanwhile, May says meeting Trump was “difficult”, but that Britain will stand by communique – Guardian
  • Though she sides with Trudeau over “tariff war” – The Sun

>Today: Videos: WATCH: That Trump & Jong-Un handshake

>Yesterday: International: Trump – a mad dog strategy, or just a mad dog?

News in Brief

  • Remainers need to focus on free movement of people – Stephen Bush, New Statesman
  • Salvini and the ship – Nicholas Farrell, Spectator
  • Thoughts on corporate governance reform – James Jarvis, CapX
  • Trump and civil service partisanship – New Yorker
  • He’s desperate – Askold Krushelnycky, Reaction

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