In Depth

Brexit: Theresa May says ‘trust me’ to deliver

PM appeals to the public for ‘help’ in bid to break Brexit deadlock

Theresa May has sought to break the Brexit deadlock within her own party by urging her warring cabinet to “trust me to deliver”.

Writing in The Sunday Times, the prime minister appealed to Brexiteers by promising to “take back control” of Britain’s borders, money and laws.

But in an acknowledgment of the deep divisions within her top team, May said “there would have to be compromises” in any final deal.

Her words come ahead of another crucial week as Tory divisions over the post-Brexit customs plan reach breaking point.

With her cabinet split over her proposals for a customs partnership, prominent Brexiteer Michael Gove was the latest minister to break cover and criticise the Prime Minister’s plan, which would oblige the UK to collect tariffs on behalf of the EU.

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, the Environment Secretary said that the customs partnership model had significant flaws and would mean that the British government would effectively become a “tax collector” for the EU.

He also dismissed calls by a growing number of MPs to extend the transition period beyond 2019, saying he would not back a delay to the UK leaving the customs union to allow new border technology to be developed, under his preferred “max fac” solution.

The Sunday Telegraph says at least a dozen of the 28 ministers in May’s cabinet are planning to block her proposal.

However, appearing on the Andrew Marr show after Gove, Ireland’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said any infrastructure or technology on the border would be unworkable, break a commitment from the British Government and usher in “a very difficult summer” for the negotiations.

But in a surprise boost for the PM, arch-Remainer and former Conservative chancellor, Ken Clark, told the BBC Sunday Politics that if May pushes through the customs partnership he and likeminded MPs might vote for it rather than holding out for a customs union.

In response to the PM’s letter, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said he thought that in appealing to the people, May was hinting that she might take the issue to another election.

“That still seems unlikely,” says Politico, “but make no mistake: the situation is getting more febrile by the day.”

9 May

Fresh Lords defeat makes ‘no deal’ Brexit less likely

The House of Lords last night dealt another blow to Theresa May’s flagship Brexit legislation by voting it down for the seventh time.

An amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill giving MPs the power to prevent the UK from leaving without a deal, or make the Prime Minister return to negotiations, was approved by 335 votes to 244, the BBC reports.

The amendment was sponsored by a cross-party group of peers including former Conservative cabinet minister Douglas Hogg, Labour’s Dianne Hayter, William Wallace of the Liberal Democrats, and David Hannay, an independent.

Yesterday Hogg told the upper chamber: “Whatever the outcome, terms, or no terms, this country’s future should be determined by Parliament, ultimately by the House of Commons, and not by ministers.”

It was a “heavy defeat” on a “crucial” vote that could “pave the way for Parliament to send ministers back to the Brussels negotiations if MPs vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal”, says The Guardian.

The new amendment strengthens one put forward by Conservative MP Dominic Grieve “guaranteeing MPs a vote on the final deal, which won a shock victory in the Commons in December”, the newspaper adds.

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer called the latest Lords vote “a hugely significant moment in the fight to ensure Parliament has a proper role in the Brexit negotiations and that we avoid a no-deal situation”.

The defeat was described by Bloomberg as “yet another headache for May”, coming just 24 hours after Home Secretary Amber Rudd resigned amid the row over immigration targets.

 
20 April

Brexit: divorce bill ‘set to exceed £39bn’

The total cost of Britain’s payments to the European Union after Brexit may cost “billions more” than Theresa May’s original estimate, Whitehall watchdogs have warned.

In December, the Prime Minister and the 27 other EU leaders agreed the draft terms of an exit deal that would see Britain paying the EU between £35bn and £39bn.

But a National Audit Office (NAO) report published today say that while that estimate is “reasonable”, even “relatively small changes” in factors including inflation, the exchange rate and the UK’s future economic performance could cause a considerable variation.

The NAO also points out that the Government’s estimate excluded a £2.9bn commitment to continue paying foreign aid through the EU’s European Development Fund.

The auditors add that Britain could be paying for the exit settlement until at least 2064 when EU pension liabilities are taken into consideration, The Independent reports.

Responding to the NAO report, Labour MP Meg Hillier, the chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said ministers should “be clear with the British public what we are paying for and why”.

“I fear the cost of the UK leaving the EU could increase further,” Hillier added. “Our children and grandchildren risk being saddled with paying off this bill for decades to come.”

A government spokesperson said: “We have always been clear that we will honour commitments made while being part of the EU, and we have negotiated a settlement that is fair to UK taxpayers and means we will not pay for any additional EU spending beyond what we signed up to as a member.”

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