Published:

Cabinet at war as May offers Brexit delay…

“Senior cabinet ministers were accused by their colleagues of sabotaging talks with the EU last night after they forced Theresa Mayto give MPs the chance to delay Brexit. The prime minister bowed to a cabinet rebellion and will allow MPs a vote to stop Britain leaving without a deal on March 29 if her agreement falls in the Commons again. They can then vote to ask the EU to extend negotiations for a “short, limited” period. The concession provoked acrimony in cabinet. Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, David Gauke, the justice secretary, and Greg Clark, the business secretary, were accused of “kamikaze” behaviour by Liz Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury. The Remain-supporting trio threatened to resign unless Mrs May promised to find a way of avoiding no-deal if her Brexit plan were defeated. They were rebuked by the prime minister for breaking cabinet collective responsibility and Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, said that the EU was now less likely to give concessions.” – The Times

  • Remainers lashed for ‘kamikaze tactics’ – Daily Mail
  • ‘Tears of rage’: inside the remarkable meeting – Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister caught between rival factions – The Times
  • May’s plea to MPs: back her deal – Daily Mail

Europe:

  • Brussels to offer May a backstop ‘out’ – The Sun
  • EU says Britain risks ‘midsummer no deal’ – The Guardian
  • Delay could force UK into European elections – The Times
  • EU agrees tough post-Brexit financial services rules – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: “The key is the DUP.” A letter to the Prime Minister from her Chief of Staff.

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Commons sketch: May threatens to drive everyone over a cliff, then offers a concession

…and DExEU warns on cue that Britain is ill-prepared for no deal…

“British businesses and households are not ready for a no-deal Brexit, the UK government said on Tuesday, as officials warned that they could not mitigate the damaging consequences of crashing out of the EU next month. With the deadline for leaving the bloc just over four weeks away, an official summary of Britain’s preparedness for no-deal concluded that there is not enough time left for the government to avoid disruption. Any difficulties would be amplified by a general complacency that Britain will not leave the EU without a deal, the report said. The document will increase pressure on MPs to vote against a no-deal Brexit if the prime minister’s deal is rejected in the House of Commons on March 12, and will add to the view in parliament and financial markets that the chances of a no-deal Brexit are receding.” – FT

  • Public has ignored no-deal ad campaign, officials admit – Daily Telegraph
  • Critical no-deal plans running late – The Times
  • Departure could be postponed by two years, May warned – Daily Telegraph
  • Business warns that delay causes problems – FT
  • Piecemeal delays bad for car plants – The Guardian

Analysis:

  • May backs down to buy herself time – Robert Shrimsley, FT
  • Time has run out to ratify the deal, so what are May’s options? – Matt Bevington, Times Red Box
  • The next set of votes – Henry Mance and Jim Pickard, FT

>Yesterday:

…Rees-Mogg ‘softens opposition to the Withdrawal Agreement’…

“Jacob Rees-Mogg, the head of the leading Eurosceptic faction of Conservative MPs, has softened his opposition to Theresa May’s Brexit deal, amid rising hopes in Downing Street that the prime minister might win approval for a revised agreement next month. Mr Rees-Mogg, told the Financial Times that he was no longer insisting that the contentious “Irish backstop” be scrapped as a condition for his support for Mrs May’s deal and was prepared to consider other legal fixes to ensure it did not become permanent. “I think people are rather struck by her doggedness and don’t want to stand up and take a potshot at her,” he said of the prime minister he sought to unseat as leader of the Conservative party last year. Mr Rees-Mogg and his pro-Brexit European Research Group of MPs will play a vital role when Mrs May returns to the Commons for a decisive vote on a revised deal with the EU – as she has promised to do by no later than March 12.” – FT

  • Brexiteers warn that three-month delay won’t resolve deadlock – The Sun
  • ERG leader warns of surge in right-wing extremism – Daily Telegraph
  • Furious Brexiteers demand May gets rid of ‘plotters’ – Daily Express

Comment:

  • The ERG must know May’s deal is our last chance to leave – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Politicians should be more polite, like Rees-Mogg – Charlotte Gill, Times Red Box

Editorial:

  • Backbenchers must not sleepwalk into no-Brexit destruction – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: The motion backing Leave that every Conservative Association should pass during this AGM season

>Yesterday:

…and Corbyn’s second referendum pledge angers his allies

“Allies of Jeremy Corbyn turned on the Labour leader yesterday over his decision to back a second referendum. He was criticised in a shadow cabinet meeting the morning after his surprise announcement that he would support another vote if he could not get the deal he wants through the Commons. The decision is supported by Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, and John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor. However, it came as much more of a surprise to other frontbenchers. Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secretary, Rebecca Long Bailey, the shadow business secretary, and Andrew Gwynne, the shadow communities secretary, are thought to have raised concerns about the new position, along with Ian Lavery, the party chairman. All four represent seats that voted to leave in the 2016 referendum.” – The Times

  • Fifty MPs set to defy leader over new policy – The Sun
  • Backlash anticipated – The Guardian
  • Labour MPs warned party could face ‘catastrophic’ damage – Daily Telegraph
  • Civil war erupts over shift in position – The Sun
  • Competing divisions in Labour’s Brexit debate – The Guardian
  • Scottish Labour leader pressed to clarify referendum stance – The Scotsman

More:

  • Independent Group table second referendum amendment – Daily Express
  • Jailed MP could wear tag to vote on Brexit – The Times

Comment:

  • Corbyn is committed to a vote he must pray will never happen – Alison Pearson, Daily Telegraph
  • Labour will win more votes than it loses for this – Peter Kellner, The Guardian

Raphael Hogarth: Brexiteers should back a codicil to solve the backstop

“In short, a maximalist interpretation would say that nothing can change on the island of Ireland as a result of Brexit. A narrower interpretation would not. It would still say that there can be no new physical infrastructure on the frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic. But it would contemplate new costs and burdens for traders and governments on both sides of the border… If the UK and the EU shared that narrow interpretation then, some years from now, when new computer systems were up and running and new officials in post, it would be much easier for the UK to leave the customs union and step further outside the single market (though not, probably, all the way). And if, in 2022, the parties could not agree on what a new deal had to achieve in order to replace the backstop and they ended up in a dispute before an arbitration panel or the European Court of Justice over the matter, then any declaration setting out that shared interpretation would be the judges’ first port of call.” – Times Red Box

  • We shall leave with a deal which avoids an indefinite backstop if MPs hold their nerve – Theresa May, Daily Mail
  • Extending Article 50 is just a route to overturning the referendum – Priti Patel and Grant Shapps, Daily Telegraph
  • The utter folly of taking no-deal off the table – David Davis, Daily Mail

More:

  • May has the hardliners in her sights – Matthew Parris, The Times
  • Delay could mean Britain never breaks free from the EU – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph
  • A brave Brexiteer would back a second vote – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
  • May finally admits that there is no ‘clean Brexit’ – Rafael Behr, The Guardian
  • Another referendum is now essential – Martin Wolf, FT
  • We ought to be ashamed of the MPs trying to block Brexit – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

>Today: Dominic Walsh in Comment: The EU and the backstop. This “rules-based organisation” has shown flexibility before. As it can and should now.

MPs blame Grayling for more rail chaos

“Passengers should expect more chaos on the railways this year because the government has failed to “get a grip” on problems with the network, MPs say. A cross-party committee says that the 2018 “year from hell” could be repeated thanks to timetable changes and increases in engineering work. Ministers have repeatedly promised to ensure that the publicly owned Network Rail and private rail companies collaborate more closely to minimise disruption but a report published today by the public accounts committee says that the Department for Transport “still has a way to go” to improve its strategic management of the railways. The report says that “passengers and taxpayers risk continuing to pay the price for the department’s failures” because changes have not been made.” – The Times

Labour response to Hezbollah ban provokes fresh antisemitism row

“The Labour leadership was accused of inflaming the row over antisemitism in the party yesterday by criticising a decision to declare Hezbollah’s political wing a terrorist organisation. Labour suggested that the declaration was motivated by the leadership ambitions of Sajid Javid, the home secretary, and called for new evidence of why the group should be outlawed. Britain had previously drawn a distinction between the military and political branches of the Lebanese Shia group and outlawed only the former, but Downing Street said that the links between them meant separating the two was “untenable”. Hezbollah was founded in the 1980s with financial backing from Iran. It has 12 MPs in the Lebanese parliament and two cabinet ministers. Jeremy Corbyn has previously been criticised for referring to members of Hezbollah as “friends”. Four years ago he said that there could be no Israeli-Palestinian peace process without talks involving Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas.” – The Times

  • Opposition claim Javid is just trying to boost leadership hopes – Daily Telegraph
  • Williamson says party has been ‘too apologetic’ – The Sun
  • MP criticised after arranging screening for ‘witch hunt’ film in Parliament – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • The Government must not stop at Hezbollah – Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph

Corbyn apologises ‘unreservedly’ for breaking rules on trip

“Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has “apologised unreservedly” for breaching Commons rules by not declaring an overseas trip to America with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Mr Corbyn admitted that he had not declared a trip to New York City in April 2014 to attend a nuclear non-proliferation conference for CND. But he was cleared by Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, of breaking Commons rules by not declaring another 16 trips – including one when he was present at a wreath laying ceremony in a Tunis cemetery – between 2011 and 2014. The Tunis trip was cleared by Ms Stone because Mr Corbyn said it would have cost £656 – just £4 below the £660 threshold at which overseas visits had to be declared at the time – although he admitted that it had “not been possible” to find the actual cost of the visit.” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • ‘Equality of opportunity’ is scarcely less unrealistic than ‘equality of outcome’ – Henry Hill, 1828
  • The real centre of British politics may not be where you think – Matt Singh, CapX
  • We need serious politicians to stick around and not run away – Allan Massie, Reaction
  • Westminster’s splitting headache: who will quit next? – Katy Balls, The Spectator
  • The trouble with TIGgers – Graeme Archer, UnHerd

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