Cross-party manoeuvres against May gather steam as Rudd breaks ranks on Norway…

“MPs are lining up to sack Theresa May if her Brexit deal is rejected on Tuesday. Labour is seeking to join forces with rebel Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party to bring the prime minister down by voting against her leadership. Although the vote would not be binding it would place enormous pressure on Mrs May to resign. Conservative MPs reported “febrile” communications yesterday from those jockeying for position before a potential contest. Among those expected to run are Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Amber Rudd, Liz Truss, Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove. In a sign of ebbing cabinet confidence that Mrs May can win Tuesday’s vote, Ms Rudd today becomes the first cabinet minister to break the taboo of discussing a “Plan B” to Mrs May’s deal. In an interview with The Times Ms Rudd says that a Norway-style Brexit, which would keep Britain tied to large parts of European law, “seems plausible not just in terms of the country but in terms of where the MPs are”… Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, fears that a formal attempt to collapse the government and trigger a general election is doomed to fail even if Mrs May loses heavily. Instead, Labour is planning to ask MPs to register their opposition with a vote expressing no confidence in her ability as prime minister.” – The Times

  • Cabinet ministers tell Prime Minister to quit if deal falls – Daily Telegraph
  • Duncan Smith says May would have to resign – The Sun
  • Rivals vie to take power if the Prime Minister is forced out – The Times
  • ‘Operation Stop Boris’ underway amidst claims MPs would quit – Daily Mail
  • Peer floats ‘Remain Plus’ alternative – Daily Express


  • May: a survivor cornered by Brexit – FT
  • Rudd: ‘If there’s a new referendum, we’re better off in’ – The Times
  • The loaded, leftie elites conspiring against Brexit – The Sun

>Today: Mohammed Amin in Comment: If there is a second referendum, no deal must be kept off the ballot paper

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

…as Brexiteers claim that deal makes Ulster a ‘separate country’…

“Northern Ireland will be turned into a “separate country” under direct Brussels rule under Theresa May’s Brexit deal, a scathing report from a Eurosceptic group has warned. Detailed analysis of the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement and legal advice to the Government showed the province would remain subject to more than 300 EU laws after Brexit, according to the report from Lawyers for Britain. It also condemned the backstop border protection mechanism as a “complete capitulation” to the EU’s demands. The report, written by leading lawyer Martin Howard QC, said Northern Ireland would effectively be ruled by a “foreign power” after Brexit under the Prime Minister’s deal. Northern Ireland citizens would get no say over rules and regulations imposed by Brussels, it added. They would no longer have “have the same privileges, and be on the same footing” as the rest of the country. “Great Britain will essentially be treated as a third country by Northern for goods passing from Great Britain into Northern Ireland,” said the report.” – Daily Express

  • Patel sparks fury for suggesting no-deal consequences give UK leverage over Ireland – Daily Express

…Hancock warns of six months of border chaos…

“A disruptive no-deal Brexit could lead to six months of chaos at the borders, the government has warned. If Britain left the European Union without a deal in March, ferry services between Dover and Calais and traffic using the Channel Tunnel would face severe disruption until the end of September, it said. The warning was included in a letter sent by Matt Hancock, the health secretary, to the pharmaceutical industry and the NHS yesterday… Michael Fabricant, the Conservative MP for Lichfield, said that he did not believe the six-month figure. He wrote on Twitter: “Government say they expect six months of chaos at British ports if we Brexit without Chequers. When the Treasury set up a meeting for me with HMRC, the senior officer said ‘I feel like kicking in the TV every time I hear about queues at Dover — this just won’t happen.’ ” He added: “This Project Fear stuff is getting childish.”… The warning was made four months after Mr Hancock told pharmaceutical companies to stockpile an extra six weeks’ worth of drugs in case there were a no-deal Brexit.” – The Times

  • Ports boss says Government warnings of major disruption are ‘misleading’ – Daily Telegraph
  • May mocked for ‘last throw of the dice’ doom-mongering – Daily Express


…and grassroots opinion hardens against the deal

“Theresa May’s efforts to encourage Tory activists to bring her MPs into line have failed, a Conservative Home survey for The Times suggests. The prime minister has held meetings and conference calls with activists and launched leaflet campaigns to convince the party to back her Brexit deal. A survey of 1,262 Tory members, taken on Thursday and yesterday, suggests that 72 per cent reject her deal and want their MP to do the same. Twenty-six per cent want their MP to accept the deal and 2 per cent are unsure. The scale of unhappiness with Mrs May is stark. Asked if she should resign if she loses the vote on her deal next Tuesday, 62 per cent say yes, 34 per cent say no and 4 per cent do not know. One moderate Tory MP, who has been fastidiously loyal to Mrs May in recent weeks, told The Times: “This could be the moment I put in a letter. I never thought I’d say it but it’s probably better to get it over and done with.” … The failure to secure the backing of activists will be a personal blow for the prime minister. She has always prided herself for being in tune with the grass roots, having spent most of her life actively working for the party.” – The Times

  • May falters in bid for voters to pressure MPs – FT
  • Wavering Tories ‘mystified’ by weak whipping operation – The Times
  • Last-ditch bid to win round Leavers rubbished – The Sun
  • Pro-Brexit aides threaten to quit over the backstop – The Guardian
  • Deal backed by just three Conservative MEPs – The Sun


  • Three reasons the ‘meaningful vote’ may never happen – The Times
  • Is your constituency one of just two which back the Prime Minister? – Daily Telegraph
  • Fear and loathing in the regions – The Times
  • Ten ways the Government has erred over Brexit – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: May should quit if she loses next week – our special survey with The Times

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

James Forsyth: At this point, May is gambling with her premiership

“A way to avoid such a humiliation would be to find an amendment that could pass the Commons. This means there would be no vote on May’s deal as it currently stands, enabling the Government to argue that it hadn’t actually been defeated. Though, as one source admits, voters would be left baffled by this procedural trick. This approach isn’t guaranteed to work either. First of all, it would rely on John Bercow selecting the amendment — which is far from certain. The Speaker is supposed to be impartial, but Bercow has long used his power to cause the Government trouble. Much of Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting was taken up with ministers complaining about him. Liam Fox, the Trade ­Secretary, called Bercow “a disgrace to his office”. Also, some Tory rebels are itching to defeat the Government. They are discussing whether to vote against ALL amendments, regardless of whether they agree with them or not, so they can make clear their opposition to May’s deal. Some in Cabinet think that if MPs voted for an amendment setting out what would make the deal acceptable to Parliament, it would strengthen May’s hand with the EU.” – The Sun

  • If Parliament thwarts Brexit, why would voters ever trust it again? – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • MPs will feel the hand of history as they decide Brexit – Ben Macintyre, The Times
  • As a Unionist, I just can’t in good conscience support this deal – Ross Thomson, Daily Telegraph
  • Rebel MPs risk destroying the Tory Party – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail
  • Norway Plus would be a disaster for Labour’s radical vision – Luke Cooper, The Guardian
  • Parliament takes back control as power drains from May – Camilla Cavendish, FT
  • Whatever happens now, we’re not leaving on March 29 – Katy Balls, Daily Telegraph
  • There’s only one route to No Deal: ditch May and fight an election – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Nick Hargrave’s column: The Conservative split is coming. Indeed, it is already here. Unless…

Grayling ‘seriously considering’ backing ‘flawed’ rail upgrade

“The transport secretary is seriously considering a recommendation to spend almost £3 billion on a “flawed” and “detrimental” rail upgrade in the north of England that will do nothing to improve reliability or air pollution on a slow and delay-plagued line, sources have told the Guardian. In recent briefings, Department for Transport officials have told stakeholders that its Board Investment and Commercial Committee (BICC) has recommended to Chris Grayling that the 76-mile TransPennine route between Leeds and Manchester should not be fully electrified. If the plan is put in place, tunnels will not be made big enough to carry modern freight trains and not enough additional track will be laid to allow fast trains to overtake slow services. “It will be a downgrade of another downgrade,” according to the shadow rail minister, Rachael Maskell, who said she was passed information from “well-placed” sources. “Reliability and capacity has been taken off the table,” she said, accusing Grayling of “ruining all of the TransPennine ambition.” If Grayling follows the advice, critics warn it would undermine the government’s oft-stated claim that the £2.9bn upgrade would “deliver faster, longer, more frequent and more reliable services across the north of England, from Newcastle, Hull and York towards Manchester and Liverpool via Leeds”.” – The Guardian

Brokenshire offers new training to people working with spice addicts

“Homeless workers are to be specially trained in how to handle addicts high on Spice for the first time. The move – to be announced by Housing Secretary James Brokenshire – is a telling sign of how endemic the powerful drug has become on Britain’s streets. More than 600 council staff and charity volunteers will be taught how to bring round rough sleepers who have passed out from overdosing on it. The outreach workers will also learn how to persuade them into kicking the synthetic drug, which turns users into zombies. Mr Brokenshire told The Sun: “Sadly, all too often there is a direct link between the use of dangerous psychoactive substances and people sleeping rough. New training for outreach workers on issues such as Spice will mean these vital staff have the specialist knowledge and skills they need to help some of the most vulnerable people recover from life on the streets.” The new training is part of the government’s Rough Sleeping Delivery Plan, to be published on Monday.” – The Sun

Further resignations plunge UKIP into chaos

“The resignation of three MEPs from Ukip over the appointment of the far-right campaigner Tommy Robinson as adviser has plunged the party into turmoil, forcing its leader to pull out of his European party group. The leader, Gerard Batten, announced his resignation from the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group (EFDD) after an exodus of senior figures from the party, including the EFDD president, Nigel Farage. Batten said he could not remain in the EFDD while Farage launched “continual attacks on me and Ukip in the UK media”. On Friday Ukip’s former leader Paul Nuttall announced he was quitting the party, as did David Coburn, its leader in Scotland, and Nathan Gill, a Welsh MEP. Later, the London assembly member Peter Whittle, Ukip’s 2016 candidate for London mayor, also resigned. Several other leading Ukip figures have also quit in recent weeks over the party’s lurch to the far right. They include the former leadership candidate Suzanne Evans and the MEP Patrick O’Flynn. Nuttall, who led the party during the 2017 election, said Batten’s appointment of Robinson was a catastrophic error that would tarnish Brexit. Farage quit the party on Tuesday, saying it had a fixation with Batten’s anti-Muslim policies.” – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • Former MI6 chief tells MPs to vote down May’s agreement – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • The Brexit test – Oliver Wiseman, CapX
  • Gibraltar Chief Minister “was pressured into backing May’s deal” – David Scullion, Brexit Central
  • Britain is heading towards a soft Brexit or a second referendum – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • What Corbyn can learn from Mexico’s populist president – John Kampfner, UnHerd