Will Cox or Lidington be found in contempt of parliament today over withholding legal advice?

“Ministers face being held in contempt of parliament today after refusing to publish the attorney-general’s legal advice on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. John Bercow, the Speaker, announced last night that he would accept a motion of contempt against the government for failing to comply with a Commons order to publish the advice. The motion, which will be debated today, could result in Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general, or David Liddington, Mrs May’s de facto deputy, being suspended from parliament. “I have considered the matter carefully and I am satisfied that there is an arguable case that a contempt has been committed,” Mr Bercow told MPs. “It will then be for the House to decide on that motion.”” – The Times

  • Opposition parties unite over the issue… – FT
  • …and Bercow agrees there’s an arguable case – Daily Telegraph
  • Cox could be suspended – Daily Mail
  • Outrage grows over secret decision-making – Daily Express
  • Meanwhile top ECJ advisor suggests UK will be able to revoke A50 – Guardian


  • The secrecy convention is totally misguided – Geoffrey Robertson, The Times


Attorney-General criticised as he tells Commons of pitfalls and advantages of backstop

“Theresa May’s Brexit “backstop” would be just as painful for the European Union as the UK, the Attorney General said on Monday as he insisted it would deliver significant advantages for Britain. Geoffrey Cox told the House of Commons the backstop would give the UK many of the benefits of being a member of the bloc without the responsibilities. But he faced attack from both sides of the chamber as he sought to defend the Prime Minister’s deal and criticised MPs for demanding the Government handover its Brexit deal legal advice in full.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Key points from his speech – Daily Express
  • Robbins admits the backstop is an “uncomfortable necessity” – The Times 
  • King calls Deal “dubious” – Daily Telegraph
  • Grayling speaks of No Deal risks to ferries – FT


>Today: ToryDiary: Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: Cox delivers a majestic counterblast to all those who think the Brexit deal is a sell-out

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Cox – “There is no unilateral right for either party to terminate” the Northern Ireland backstop

Commons begin five days of debate in run up to vote. Prime Minister to say Deal is only solution

“Theresa May today tells MPs her deal is the only way to deliver on Brexit as the Commons endgame begins. The PM will open the five-day debate in Parliament which will end with the crunch vote on her withdrawal agreement a week today. She is on course for a heavy defeat in the Commons as opposition parties team up with Tory rebels and the DUP to vote down the deal. The debate starting today is Mrs May’s final chance to convince MPs they should perform a last-minute U-turn and save her career. Mrs May will make the opening speech in the Brexit deal debate this afternoon, after a Cabinet meeting with her senior ministers.” – The Sun

She starts calling in groups of MPs as it’s asked: will she resign if she loses the vote?

“Theresa May has begun seeing Conservative MPs in small groups to try to save her job, knowing that she will face calls from Labour to resign if she loses the Brexit vote a week today. She saw groups of two to five Tory MPs selected by the whips in her Commons office in an attempt to underline the seriousness of opposing her deal. There is despair in government’s top ranks that MPs are treating the vote as a “moment of purity” when they could vote against her deal with impunity, thinking that there would be further opportunities to vote again within days.” … Tories are unclear over whether Mrs May will resign if her deal is comprehensively defeated. One said that the prime minister was “fed up” and could go if MPs rejected the deal decisively. David Lidington, her de-facto deputy, could be nominated by the cabinet to take over temporarily, despite the uncertainty over the Democratic Unionist Party’s allegiance.” – The Times

  • What happens after the vote? – FT
  • Rees-Mogg says MPs should listen to electors – Daily Express


  • Even Robbins knows Deal is bad – The Sun


>Yesterday: Howard Flight’s column: No Deal is better than this Bad Deal

Wallace: Why is May on tour? She should be trying to persuade backbenchers instead

“… May has strengths – you don’t become Home Secretary by being talentless. Nor do you survive the role, or its very own hostile environment, for a record time without determination and grit. But it is hardly controversial to say that campaigning is not her most comfortable territory. Like any MP, she has knocked on innumerable doors over the years, and she is genuinely warm and witty in person, but the nation saw her struggle to translate that on camera last year. The sensation that the wheels were coming off her campaign visibly made the experience even worse as time went by. … With only a few days to go before that crucial decision, the Prime Minister is yet to convince scores of her own backbenchers, never mind the DUP or the waverers on the Labour benches whom she would need in order to construct a majority.” – the i 

  • Don’t be fooled into thinking there are no alternatives to Deal – Suella Fernandes, Daily Telegraph
  • They’re all just bickering – Rafael Behr, Guardian

Labour is ready to call a confidence motion if the Government loses the vote

“Labour would almost certainly seek a vote of no confidence in Theresa May’s government if she loses the key Commons vote on her Brexit deal in nine days’ time, Keir Starmer has said. Setting out the likely choreography for opposition efforts if, as expected, May is defeated on 11 December, the shadow Brexit secretary said it seemed impossible that May could remain in office if she was defeated on her flagship policy. “I think the prime minister, as we all know, is going to struggle between now and that vote,” Starmer told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday show, saying that if she were to lose, May would have to outline her next move to the Commons.” – Guardian

Hague: MPs won’t allow No Deal

“By voting against the PM’s plan, Tory hardliners are ensuring Brexit will fail The law states that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union on Friday March 29 at 11pm. This is set out in primary legislation, the EU Withdrawal Act, with the qualification that it can only be changed if a Minister of the Crown proposes a regulation to do so. It is thus the default option that we leave the EU then, with or without a deal – a fact that is an undoubted encouragement to most of the Tory MPs planning to vote down Theresa May’s deal.” – Daily Telegraph

Javid indicates immigration policy paper will not be published before vote

“The Government’s future immigration policy will not be published before MPs vote on the Brexit deal, Sajid Javid has indicated. The Home Secretary told the Commons that the reforms would amount to the “biggest change in 45 years” in immigration rules, but could not confirm when they would be shared with the public. It prompted fresh accusations from those who oppose Mrs May’s deal that Parliament will be asked to agree to a so-called “blindfolded Brexit” when it votes on December 11. Mr Javid, speaking at Home Office questions, said the Government’s immigration White Paper would be announced “soon”, telling MPs the UK would move to a more “skills-based system”.” – Daily Telegraph

Sylvester: The immigration policy “stand-off” is representative of Tory disagreement over Brexit and Britain

“The government’s white paper on immigration, first promised over a year ago, has been delayed yet again because the Home Office still has not agreed the plans with No 10. MPs will now have no idea what will replace the free movement of people when they give their verdict on the prime minister’s Brexit deal in next week’s crucial “meaningful vote”. It is ridiculous that the cabinet has no collective position on such an important plank of domestic policy but the stand-off points to a profound disagreement at the very top of the Conservative Party about the meaning of the referendum result and also what kind of country the UK should be after leaving the EU.” – The Times

  • May will offer younger EU migrants working visas to meet jobs need – The Times 

Sturgeon calls on May to seek delay and “workable alternative” to Deal

“Nicola Sturgeon has called on Theresa May to change course in order to avoid an “utterly disastrous” no-deal Brexit if the Prime Minister’s plans are rejected by MPs in a crunch vote on December 11. Scotland’s First Minister called for the UK’s departure from the European Union to be delayed in order to find a “workable alternative” to Mrs May’s Brexit deal, which faces widespread opposition in the Commons. But in talks at Westminster, Mrs May urged the First Minister to listen to Scottish business chiefs and back the deal or risk going back to “square one”. Ms Sturgeon said: “I used today’s meeting with the Prime Minister to reiterate that it cannot – and must not – be a false choice between her proposed deal and a no-deal outcome, which threatens to be utterly disastrous for jobs, business and living standards.” – Herald

Does Dublin see Deal as a “stepping stone” to a united Ireland?

“The Irish government is desperate to lock Northern Ireland into the EU withdrawal deal, a leading economist and University of Cambridge academic has claimed. Dr Graham Gudgin, chief economic advisor to the think-tank Policy Exchange and also a visiting professor at Ulster University, believes political leaders in Dublin see the agreement as a “stepping stone” to a united Ireland. Commenting after Attorney General Geoffrey Cox was quizzed by MPs in the House of Commons yesterday about the legal implications of the withdrawal deal, Dr Gudgin said his answers came as “no surprise”. “He confirmed what is obvious from reading the agreement, that the UK will be trapped into remaining in a customs union and subject to other EU rules, essentially forever unless the EU agrees that we should be able to leave,” he said.” – Belfast Newsletter 

Select Committee says Grayling should take responsibility for rail meltdown

“Chris Grayling should accept personal responsibility for the meltdown of rail timetables over the summer, MPs have said in a damning report. The transport secretary failed to avert the crisis that brought misery to millions of commuters after the biggest single change to train schedules attempted, a cross-party committee has concluded. The MPs found that Mr Grayling was at “the apex” of the hugely complex system controlling Britain’s railways and had the power to halt the changes. Although he was not given “all the information” required for a decision, the transport select committee found that he should have been “more proactive”. Decision making at Mr Grayling’s department was inadequate, unclear and at times “simply did not exist”.” – The Times

  • It calls for fare freeze – Guardian
  • Meanwhile, Science Committee criticises fizzy drinks policy – The Sun
  • And Lords Committee says freelance workers’ tax unfair – The Times 

More Conservatives

  • Javid defends “Asian paedophiles” comment – Guardian

>Today: Judy Terry in Comment: While the state is failing, the voluntary sector is tackling the loneliness and anxiety – of young and old

News in Brief

  • Good old Cox –  Katy Balls, Spectator
  • The Brexit app – Sam Knight, New Yorker
  • Macron’s fight – Rupert Darwall, CapX
  • The recession is coming – Helen Thomson, New Statesman