Can a Government-crafted amendment to next week’s vote save May’s face?

“However Mrs May would have to ask Parliament’s permission to put back the vote, running the risk that she could be humiliated by being forced to go ahead with it against her will. An alternative under discussion is a Government amendment to next week’s vote on the Withdrawal Agreement that would, in theory, give MPs more control over the Northern Ireland backstop arrangement – the main stumbling block in the way of the deal. Mrs May could even go to Brussels before the vote and plead with the EU for a last-minute concession on the backstop to ease the logjam. It came as Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, told the Commons it was “simply a delusion” to think that Brussels would offer Britain a better deal at this late stage, which could undermine any attempt by Mrs May to persuade rebel MPs otherwise. Esther McVey, who resigned as work and pensions secretary last month over Brexit, has told The Daily Telegraph that the Government has lost the public’s trust by trying to sell a “terrible” deal to the public.” – Daily Telegraph

  • EU leaders give May the chance to ask for more at summit – The Times
  • How May could yet get her plan through Parliament – Daily Telegraph
  • Shock poll savages exit plan – Daily Express


  • McVey: I knew deal was terrible, but colleagues just crumbled – Daily Telegraph
  • Hammond insists Withdrawal Agreement is only way to stop chaos – The Times
  • Rudd demands 11th-hour solution – Daily Mail
  • Ministers and EU turn screws on rebels – The Sun


  • May’s powers of persuasion reach their nadir… just when she needs them most – Mark Wallace, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Exclusive. Tory Association Chairmen protest against the “misuse of Party funds” on “propaganda campaign” backing the deal


Or will the vote be pulled altogether – as Brady now urges?

“The leader of the Tory back benches last night told Theresa May to go back to Brussels for further talks rather than see her Brexit deal defeated heavily next week. Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, who relays backbench opinion to Downing Street, broke cover to appeal for her to consider a delay to the vote on Tuesday. Downing Street remains adamant that Mrs May is pressing ahead with the vote as scheduled despite growing cabinet unease. The prime minister yesterday called a group of supportive senior ministers to a meeting in No 10, including David Lidington; David Gauke; Amber Rudd; Karen Bradley; Philip Hammond; Michael Gove; Julian Smith; Liam Fox and Stephen Barclay. Andrea Leadsom, the Brexiteer leader of the house, was also invited. Although once considered hostile, Ms Leadsom has backed the deal — unlike Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, a notable absentee.” – The Times

  • Rivals circle as the Prime Minister refuses to back down – Daily Express
  • May’s indecision leaves even loyalists wondering what will happen – Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister hits back at calls for delay – The Sun

No Deal:

  • Threat of no deal a ‘political hoax’, Labour MPs told – The Times
  • Warning that settled status of EU nationals could be in doubt – FT
  • Ministers will order pharmacists to ration drugs – Daily Telegraph
  • Bodies could be left unburied, council warns – The Guardian


  • May’s best chance could now be to delay the vote – Daily Telegraph
  • Why plough on with a vote she looks sure to lose? – The Sun

>Today: Tom Tugendhat MP in Comment: Brexit can only work if we invest in it – streamlining ports, upgrading customs, readying systems, working with neighbours


Hunt warns that reversing Brexit ‘risks social unrest’

“Any attempt to reverse Brexit or give up control of immigration will lead to social unrest, Jeremy Hunt has said, warning that people would lose faith in democracy if the referendum result were overturned. The foreign secretary said Theresa May’s “hawkish” approach to curbing migration meant she was more in tune with voters than her four predecessors as prime minister, insisting that Britain could not accept freedom of movement as the price of a deal with the EU. In an interview with The Times Red Box politics podcast about the threats to democracy around the world, Mr Hunt said parliament must be “very careful” not to “get out of step with where the public are on Brexit”. He urged MPs to back Mrs May’s deal in Tuesday’s vote and warned that any attempt to frustrate or soften Brexit risked a public backlash. “For me as someone who voted Remain, my view is we will not have social stability in this country if we end with a solution that doesn’t mean that we have parliamentary control of immigration policy,” he said.” – The Times

  • Leave campaign plans quietly for a second referendum – FT
  • McCluskey attacked by Labour veterans over opposition to vote… – The Sun
  • …but Corbyn sends strong signal that he will back one – Daily Mail
  • Collapse in pound would be no bad thing, claims Davis – The Times


  • May should offer MPs a second referendum, knowing they’ll reject it – Philip Collins, The Times
  • You want a people’s vote on Brexit? Be careful what you wish for – Ellie Mae O’Hagan, The Guardian


Senior Norwegian politicians reject ‘Norway Plus’

“Norway Plus, the increasingly touted cross-party plan for the UK to leave the EU but join Norway in a free trade trade area inside the EU single market, has been rejected by senior Norwegian politicians and business as “neither in Norway nor the UK’s interest”. The UK would need Norway’s permission to join its EFTA club. The rejection is a blow to an influential cross-party group led by the Tory MP Nick Boles with private cabinet support that is looking for a Plan B if, as expected, Theresa May’s deal is rejected by MPs next Tuesday. Norway Plus was also condemned on Friday by David Miliband, the former Labour foreign secretary, and Jo Johnson, the former Conservative universities minister, as throwing away a key advantage of current membership “in the form of our vote, voice and veto around the table”. Their joint assault on Norway Plus, in a pamphlet written by the People’s Vote campaign, is in some senses confirmation that the Boles plan could become a credible rival to a second referendum as a MPs search for a way out of a potential Commons deadlock.” – The Guardian

  • Warring MPs should realise all Brexit roads lead to Norway – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian

>Today: Interviews: As May’s defeat looms, Johnson sketches a manifesto: “People want to see a bit of gumption and a bit of leadership”

Mundell claims Brexit poses a greater threat to the Union than the backstop

“A no deal Brexit poses a greater threat to the United Kingdom’s survival than the Northern Ireland backstop, the Scottish Secretary has warned wavering Tory MPs ahead of next week’s crucial vote on the agreement. David Mundell, who suggested in October he would quit if the deal introduced a “differentiated settlement” for the province, said he had since made a different “judgment” based on “what is the greatest threat to the integrity of the UK.” While he admitted he is not “totally comfortable” about the backstop, he said his “clear conclusion” was that the “chaos and division” created by a no deal Brexit would be far worse for the Union. In a keynote speech in London, he warned Nicola Sturgeon “craves” this outcome “to propel her obsessive pursuit of independence.” He said she was pursuing a “threadbare and cynical strategy.” The First Minister yesterday told MSPs that the chances of stopping Brexit and remaining in the EU are the highest since the Brexit vote.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Northern Irish solution re-opens Scottish question – FT

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Unionist parties unite against backstop as Varadkar rules out fresh talks

Fraser Nelson: Operation ‘Stop Boris’ is in full swing

I have stopped trying to understand why Boris annoys so many Tories, but he currently seems to have more enemies than any other MP has friends. The Stop Boris faction is perhaps the largest leadership group in parliament, and met last week to compare notes. They intend to announce that, if he becomes leader, they would immediately resign the Tory whip in protest. They claim to have about 20 MPs in their political suicide pact, enough to deny their party a majority. So they’d say to their colleagues: back Boris, and lose power. They are now ready to go. One of the Stop Boris group even met his constituency party chairman last week to seek approval for his sitting as an independent MP. Permission was granted, he says, because his local party members hate Boris even more than he does. Such claims puzzle Boris, but they don’t deter him. He regrets not pushing ahead with his last leadership bid and won’t pass the chance up this time. He is not a schemer, which is precisely his problem. He hasn’t bothered to butter anyone up, which is seen by his enemies as arrogance.” – Daily Telegraph

  • A vote for May’s deal is a vote for mediocrity: Britain can be so much more – Ben Bradley MP, Daily Telegraph

Ministers outraged by Smith’s ‘secret documentary’

“Cabinet colleagues rounded on the Conservative chief whip last night after it emerged that he had invited television cameras to film him for a documentary during the past two weeks. Tory MPs were shocked to discover that Julian Smith, who took his post a little more than a year ago, had invited ITV News to film his meetings and discussions with rebel MPs. Downing Street did not deny that it had been informed of the filming only after it began, in a move likely to strain relations at a critical stage before Tuesday’s vote. One cabinet minister called Mr Smith’s decision “crazy”. A backbench MP wrote: “OMG. A fly on the wall documentary. Just what you need to be happening when you’re focusing on the most important vote of your government!!!!!” Few chief whips are actively popular in the party but Mr Smith has made firm enemies. In the interview he says little of substance, refusing to talk about the discussions over the vote or relationship with the DUP, merely repeating that he wants to stop MPs thwarting “the will of the people” by voting down the deal.” – The Times

McVey attacks ‘bully’ McDonnell

Esther McVey has accused John McDonnell of inciting violence against her, saying his “lynching” comments made it unsafe for her to walk the streets of her constituency. Labour’s shadow chancellor was criticised in 2014 for repeating comments calling the former work and pensions a “b****” who deserved to be “lynched”. Describing McDonnell as a “bully”, the Tatton MP, 51, told the Telegraph: “Labour always made it very personal against me because I was a Liverpudlian who dared to become a Conservative. Then I stood and after 10 years I won and they couldn’t believe that would happen in a Merseyside area. Then I was put in charge of benefits. “When I got the lynching comments I thought – you haven’t thought about the power of your words, John McDonnell, to come into a council estate and say something like that unthinkingly. “Maybe you’re not going to do anything John, but you don’t understand what could happen on social media and you didn’t realise what unforeseen consequences and how dangerous then my life was going to become in that area.”” – Daily Telegraph

Ministers and NHS chief ‘at loggerheads’ over targets

“The head of the NHS and the government are at loggerheads over how much the health service can be improved for the £20.5bn extra Theresa May has pledged to give it, the Guardian can reveal. Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, has been having major disagreements behind the scenes in recent weeks with Downing Street, the Treasury and Department of Health and Social Care about how much the forthcoming NHS long-term plan can promise to boost care. “Tension” and “difficulties” have emerged during detailed horsetrading between the two sides amid sharp differences of opinion over the extent of the document’s ambitions, well-placed NHS and Whitehall sources have told the Guardian. Negotiations have left ministers “fed up” and “deeply irritated” that Stevens is refusing to include explicit guarantees they believe will reassure voters that the service will improve dramatically over the next five years thanks to the extra money… Ministers have told NHS England the plan should include specific annual improvements it will promise to make every year between 2019-20 and 2023-24 in its most challenging areas.” – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • Brexit is breathing fresh life into the British constitution – Andrew Gimson, CapX
  • There can be no Brexit deal as long as delusions of easy alternatives persist – Wolfgang Münchau, Reaction
  • The gilets jaunes have become a symbol of resistance worn with pride by the downtrodden – Gavin Mortimer, The Spectator
  • The UK’s unnoticed export boom underlines why a no-deal Brexit is nothing to fear – Marcus Gibson, Brexit Central