Published:

May confirms she’s “prepared to consider extending the transition period”…

“Theresa May was on Thursday evening increasingly isolated over her plan to keep Britain tied to the EU for longer as she was savaged by both wings of her party and left in the cold by EU leaders. Mrs May confirmed on Thursday that she was prepared to consider extending the transition period – currently due to end in December 2020 – by “a matter of months” in an attempt to break the deadlock over the Northern Ireland border issue. The move enraged Brexiteers who said it would cost billions, and angered members of the Cabinet who said they had not formally agreed the plan before she offered it up as a bargaining chip.” – Daily Telegraph

  • She still “can’t accept” hard border in Ireland – Guardian
  • Tusk says “not enough progress made” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: “There are a few but considerable outstanding issues in relation to the Irish backstop”, says May

…These latest “concessions” make this the “most perilous week” of her time as prime minister

“Theresa May faces the most perilous week of her premiership after infuriating all sections of her party by making further concessions to Brussels. Her offer to extend the transition period after Brexit — made without cabinet approval — enraged both Remain and Leave Tory MPs. With confidence in No 10 ebbing away, rival blocs of Conservative MPs stepped up plotting against the prime minister. David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, was calling ministers yesterday to urge a change of course in the negotiations. “He is definitely on manoeuvres,” said one recipient of a call. Allies of Mr Davis say that he wants to “change the policy not the PM”, but it is thought that a small but growing band of Conservative MPs would like to see him installed as a caretaker leader.” – The Times

  • There was an “angry backlash” from backbenchers – Guardian
  • She’s “increasingly isolated” – Daily Telegraph
  • Lord Bridges “joins revolt” – The Sun
  • IDS shows his frustration – Daily Express
  • But Merkel wants the EU as well as the UK to back down on the backstop – Financial Times
  • Meanwhile, she went drinking with Macron on Wednesday night… – The Sun
  • …And Juncker stops Tusk-Selmayr fight – Daily Express
  • Will May survive? – Daily Express
  • She’s still convinced she’ll get a deal – Herald
  • ERG to “embarrass” her by backing gun amendment – Guardian
  • Juncker tells EU leaders that May “needs help to sell deal to parliament” – Guardian
  • Brexiters to attempt to “put legal block” on UK making more financial contributions without parliament’s consent – Daily Express 

Comment:

  • This is a “dangerous” idea from May – Andrea Jenkyns, Daily Telegraph
  • It could work. No, it couldn’t – Dominic Sandbrook and Daniel Hannan, Daily Mail
  • She “has a wobbly tightrope to walk” – Patrick Kidd, The Times
  • She needs to go – Nigel Farage, Daily Telegraph
  • Watch out for Javid – Stephen Pollard, Daily Express
  • Labour could save the day – Manuel Cortes, Guardian

Editorials:

  • Tories are “in despair” – The Sun
  • May is failing here and abroad – Guardian

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Let’s be frank. The entire commentariat class hasn’t a clue what will happen next

Cochrane: Scotland would not put up with this

“…For much of that time it has been the “Irish Problem”, and the need to avoid a hard border, that has trumped what Theresa May might have believed were aces in her hand as she reached for a deal. However, just when what was seen by some as a chink of light was emerging from this week’s Brussels summit, in the shape of an extended transition period over the UK’s exit, along came the Scots to say, in effect: “Up with this we will not put.” In what could yet emerge as a major crisis for the Prime Minister, it seemed clear last night that any acceptance by Mrs May of a longer transition is a complete non-starter – unless she can cope with another resignation from her Cabinet and an open revolt by her entire Scottish party.” – Daily Telegraph

Patel: We must “give effect to the referendum result”. There’s no point in extending the transition

“…Of course, it’s important that we leave in an orderly fashion. When we formally exit on 29 March 2019, it’s crucial that there’s a smooth path to a future, permanent trading relationship. Businesses understandably need some time to prepare for the new arrangements. But this must be time-limited. The end of 2020 is already long enough. I see no point in us building a bigger bridge to nowhere. Why would we extend the transition phase when we don’t know where or what we are even transitioning to? The transition period will only kick in at the end of March next year if we secure a withdrawal agreement. And to secure this, both sides have committed to agreeing an Irish border backstop – an insurance policy designed to prevent the need for customs checks. It is this that is causing the deadlock.” – Guardian

UUP leader says Varadkar is “breaking Belfast Agreement” over Irish Sea border

“The Irish Prime Minister is breaking the Belfast Agreement requirement for unionist consent by insisting on a border between NI and GB in the Irish Sea, UUP leader Robin Swann has said. Mr Swann said today that the EU should give Prime Minister Theresa May the flexibility she is requesting in Brexit talks – and that undermining the Belfast Agreement to facilitate the preferred Irish ‘backstop’ proposal is not a sensible way forward. Dublin is pressing for EU customs checks to treat the island of Ireland has a single unit, whereas unionists would prefer a “frictionless” soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland which makes no distinction between the Province and the rest of the UK.” – Belfast News Letter 

  • Merkel calls for an answer – FT
  • She and Macron ask Barnier to be “flexible” over Ireland – The Times
  • Hunt says backstop could “go on forever” – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Here’s a thought experiment on Ireland – Henry Newman, The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Merkel will rescue the Prime Minister. Where have we heard that before?

Nelson: A “no deal” plan would need to be bold and striking. Here are some ideas

“…At a recent Cabinet meeting, Sajid Javid listed the options: if talks fail, he said, there can be an immediate stimulus. A chance to push through long-overdue changes and advertise Britain as a self-confident country, presenting itself anew to the world – with tax cuts to show it means business. Other Cabinet members are talking to each other about similar ideas. A plan to ameliorate a no-deal Brexit is starting to emerge. It would need to be bold, striking – and, ideally, focus minds in Brussels. In his Budget this month, for example, the Chancellor could say that, in the event of no deal, Britain would immediately begin unilateral free trade by abolishing all import tariffs on everything except food…” – Daily Telegraph

  • Leadsom says vote will only be over any final deal – Guardian

>Yesterday: MPsEtc: Fox. Go for the Export Dividend. “Based on a ten per cent uplift in exports, the budget deficit could reduce by some £20 billion.” His trade speech: full text

Mercer calls May’s government a “shit show” and claims there’s “absolutely no chance” he’d run for parliament now

“A Conservative MP has said that he would not vote Tory, in a withering critique of Theresa May’s government. Johnny Mercer, 37, who left the army in 2013 and was elected in Plymouth, Moor View in 2015, told House magazine that there was “absolutely no chance” he would run for parliament now. Asked how he would vote, he said: “Just being honest, I wouldn’t vote. Of course I wouldn’t, no.” Theresa May’s government, he said, was a “shit show” and he would not join it if he were offered a job. He appeared to suggest that he was more comfortable with David Cameron’s leadership of the Conservative Party than Mrs May’s.” – The Times

Fox withdraws from Saudi economic forum following Khashoggi murder

“Liam Fox, the UK trade secretary, and the US Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, joined key European partners in pulling out of a major economic forum in Saudi Arabia nicknamed Davos in the desert, in response to the alleged murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Reports of Khashoggi’s gruesome murder at the hands of a gang of 15 men with links to the Saudi royal court have already led to many western media firms and bankers pulling out, and the political lead from Fox and Mnuchin is likely to accelerate the boycott of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in Riyadh next week. Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi regime, was apparently tortured to death and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, having entered the building to obtain a divorce certificate.” – Guardian

More parliament 

  • May speaks of Choudary’s “strict licence conditions” – The Sun
  • Select committee calls for earlier ban on petrol and diesel cars – The Sun

More Conservatives

Labour 

  • Blair and Brown reunite at Jowell memorial service – Guardian
  • Umunna’s well-paid new job… – The Times
  • Hammond calls Labour’s economic plans “reckless” – The Sun

Collins: We should copy Canada and legalise cannabis

“This week Canada became the second country, after Uruguay in 2013, to legalise the use of cannabis. People with convictions for possessing up to 30 grams will be pardoned and Canadians will henceforth be free to order marijuana products through websites run by provinces or private retailers. Canada follows the US states of Washington, Nevada, California, Massachusetts and Colorado which have all legalised cannabis for recreational use. Prohibition has done nothing to control use but has instead created a criminal supply chain. It has put people through court proceedings who ought to be nowhere near the criminal justice system and it means that drugs come on to the black market without any regulation of their strength.” – The Times

  • The “future is clear” on this – Simon Jenkins, Guardian

News in Brief

  • Housing? It’s the supply-side, stupid – John Myers, CapX
  • Not me too – Walter Ellis, Reaction
  • Is May lying? – Stephen Bush, New Statesman
  • The truth about Ireland – James Forsyth, Spectator
  • Khashoggi left a final column – Robin Wright, New Yorker

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