Brexit deal 1) Johnson to fly to Brussels today to pin down deal

“Boris Johnson is heading to Brussels for a crunch EU summit on Thursday as he tries to get a Brexit deal breakthrough across the line. After a roller coaster few days of political twists and turns when an agreement seemed within touching distance, talks continued as the Prime Minister faced his EU counterpart before an expected Parliamentary showdown on Saturday. Donald Tusk, the European Council president, said the “basic foundations of an agreement are ready” and could “theoretically” be agreed with Britain on Thursday. Talks in Brussels continued into the night as Mr Johnson likened the negotiations to the prison break drama Shawshank Redemption, in which an escaper has to crawl through a sewer to reach freedom. But Mr Johnson must first convince the DUP to back his newly crafted deal, before putting it to an all-important vote in Parliament on Saturday. The DUP dug in over the nature of a “consent” mechanism for Northern Irish parties that would replace the “veto” on a deal that they had in the original proposal that was tabled by the British side. Officials still hope to be able to put the text of a deal to the 28 EU leaders when they meet on Thursday, but the Brexit section of the three-day summit could be pushed back to Friday to enable further talks on Thursday morning. Downing Street said “hurdles” still remained, mainly over consent and the exact nature of Northern Ireland’s customs relationship with the EU and the UK. If a deal is agreed in Brussels by Friday night, attention will shift to Saturday’s sitting of Parliament, where MPs will hold a crucial vote on whether to accept it.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Tusk days deal is in sight but doubts remain on British side – Daily Telegraph

Brexit deal 2) But the future of VAT in Northern Ireland is apparently unresolved

“Boris Johnson’s fate was in the hands of the DUP last night as Arlene Foster held out against a Brexit deal before today’s European summit. Her opposition emerged as the most significant obstacle to an agreement, and risked dashing the prime minister’s hopes of avoiding another delay to Britain leaving the EU. Michel Barnier, the bloc’s chief negotiator, told ambassadors last night that an agreement was all but done, opening the way for a formal sign-off today. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said that the “final sprint” had made her confident of success. Downing Street moved to kill off hopes of a breakthrough overnight after the DUP refused to drop objections to key elements. A last-minute row over whether EU rates of VAT should apply in Northern Ireland was also threatening the deal. However, an EU diplomatic source said: “The VAT problem is a smokescreen for another problem in London.” Negotiations between the EU and Britain were set to continue through the night and talks with the DUP are due to resume early today. Mr Johnson is likely to fly to Brussels this morning before the crucial EU summit, where any deal would be signed off. As deadlines slip, his last hope is to persuade his allies to come on board in time for the gathering’s second day tomorrow. MPs are expected today to agree to sit on Saturday, allowing Mr Johnson a chance to put any deal to a so-called meaningful vote in the Commons.” – The Times

  • DUP says it cannot support customs terms in deal – The Guardian

Brexit deal 3) The DUP is still holding out and hasn’t agreed to back Johnson

“Boris Johnson compared the final stages of trying to get a Brexit deal over the line to a scene from The Shawshank Redemption when he addressed the cabinet yesterday. In the film the protagonist Andy Dufresne escapes prison after years of wrongful incarceration by crawling through half a mile of raw sewage before emerging into the fresh night air. When Matt Hancock, one of the younger cabinet members, revealed that he had not seen the 1994 movie, Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, told him: “It is an 18 certificate.” It is actually a 15. While the reference to the scene was lost on ministers such as the health secretary, they understood the sentiment. After weeks of threats, the collapse of talks and the subsequent blame game, a deal finally appeared to be on the horizon — but not quite. For much of yesterday the prime minister’s biggest challenge was not in agreeing a deal with Brussels but trying to negotiate one with the Democratic Unionist Party. His travails had more than an echo of Theresa May’s experience nearly two years ago when she was forced to pull out of an interim agreement after a furious response from Arlene Foster, the leader of the Northern Irish party. Then, as now, the DUP’s anger was based on its fear that the government was prepared to sell out unionism for the sake of an expedient deal that suited the rest of the UK. “It’s groundhog day, it really is,” one ambassador said in yet another cinematic reference.” – The Times

  • DUP rejects latest Brexit plan – FT
  • Brexit deal on brink as DUP hold cards – Daily Express
  • Blow for Johnson as DUP says it cannot back deal – Belfast Telegraph
  • Pound sinks after DUP blow to deal – FT

Brexit deal 4) And nor has the ERG

“Mr Johnson told a meeting of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbench MPs on Wednesday night that there was “good progress but still two or three outstanding issues” and that he was “taking nothing for granted”. He also compared the final push for a deal to being at the Hillary Step of Everest – famed as the last big obstacle climbers face before trying to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain. If a deal is agreed in Brussels by Friday night, attention will shift to Saturday’s sitting of Parliament, where MPs will hold a crucial vote on whether to accept it. Mr Johnson appeared to have won over almost all of the so-called “Spartans” in his party – the hardline Brexiteers who refused three times to back Theresa May’s deal. Steve Baker, the chairman of the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG), said “great progress” has been made in talks with No 10. Speaking to Sky News after a meeting in Downing Street, Mr Baker said: “We have made great progress in our discussions with No 10,” adding: “Really at this point, it just remains to wish the Prime Minister every possible success as he goes to negotiate for our country.” Asked if he would back a deal, he said: “I know everybody is desperate for us to say whether we can vote for it, but until we can see it, we can’t say.” – Daily Telegraph

  • No Deal opponents ask for long delay – The Times
  • Snubbing Brussels meetings was folly, says former envoy – The Times
  • Three years on poll puts Leave ahead by 8 points – The Times
  • Twists and turns along road ahead – The Times
  • Johnson has youth on his side, new poll shows – Daily Telegraph

Brexit deal 5) While Corbyn may row in behind a second referendum

“The Labour leader is understood to support backing an amendment to a new vote on a withdrawal agreement that the prime minister hopes to put before parliament on Saturday. Yesterday the government confirmed that it intended to call MPs back for a special Commons sitting on Saturday in the hope of getting a deal approved, in principle, by MPs. Even if that vote passes, the prime minister will still need to pass legislation to implement the agreement through both houses of parliament by the October 31 deadline. Labour sources suggested Mr Corbyn was minded to back an amendment that would make the Johnson deal subject to a second referendum. Such a move would win favour from the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and a handful of the 21 Tory rebels who lost the whip over supporting the Benn act, which obliges the prime minister to request an extension if there is no deal. However, some of those who want a second referendum believe their best hope may be to try to defeat the government in a vote to force Mr Johnson to go back to the people. One source said that Labour would back a second referendum if Mr Johnson submitted a full legal text to MPs before Saturday under the terms prescribed by previous Brexit legislation. Peter Kyle, one of two Labour MPs who came up with the proposal for a confirmatory vote, said they were keeping their options open.” – The Times

  • Labour would support referendum attached to deal – The Guardian

MP quits and says Corbyn is a threat to Britain

“A Jewish Labour MP has quit the party after more than half a century, accusing Jeremy Corbyn of being a danger to Britain. Dame Louise Ellman, 73, told The Times that she had been “deeply troubled for a long time” by the “growth of antisemitism in the Labour Party” under the leader and by his inability to deal with it. The expected election had forced her to act as she could not tell her constituents to vote him in as prime minister. “There is certainly a possibility, if not a likelihood, that Jeremy Corbyn could become prime minister, and this means I’ve had to face taking a decision,” she said. “I believe that Jeremy Corbyn would be a danger to the country, a danger to the Jewish community as well, but a danger to the country too. “In that situation I do not wish to stand as a Labour MP, asking people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister. So I have come to the conclusion that I have to resign.” Dame Louise has been the MP for Liverpool Riverside for 22 years, an elected representative for 49 years and a party member for 55 years. She said that the decision to quit was traumatic.” – The Times

Culture secretary opens door to BBC becoming subscription service

“The BBC could be made to scrap the TV licence and charge a Netflix-style fee, the culture secretary has suggested. Nicky Morgan has opened the door to the BBC becoming a subscription service, saying she was “open-minded” about a change if it would raise enough revenue for the corporation. Giving evidence to the Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee, Ms Morgan was asked by the Tory MP Julian Knight: “The BBC moving to a subscription service is being floated as a potential policy for the next Conservative manifesto. What is your view?” She replied: “I would need to understand what that would do to their income. I think that the BBC is a very important institution, it’s an enormous part of our soft power around the world, but undoubtedly the sector is changing. We all know from streaming services and the way the younger generation consume services, it is going to change.” She added: “I am open-minded and I will listen to evidence on all sides.” – The Times

  • May attacks immigration plans – The Sun
  • Victory for judge who blew whistle on state of courts – The Times
  • UK drops age verification for porn websites – FT
  • ‘We’re all hypocrites’ admit Extinction Rebellion stars – The Times
  • Former SNP deputy leader says Sturgeon wrong to call for indyref2 next year – Daily Telegraph
  • Police accused of conspiring to silence council chief’s critics – The Times
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