Tuesday 13th November 2018


Today PM May has announced a technical deal with the EU. Details not yet available to anyone other than May and her circle, but leaks appearing from RTE in Ireland. Massive opposition and dissatisfaction from Boris Johnson, ERG and the DUP as well as many many others.  A feeling by many people of betrayal and surrender by Theresa May. Cabinet Meeting tomorrow at 2pm.  Is this the beginning of the UK as a vassal state or could it be the start of the end of Theresa May. ? Is this the end of the UK dream to make independent trade deals? Time will tell.

Non-resignation watch: Andrea Leadsom “had a good discussion with the PM and will be at cabinet for further conversations with colleagues tomorrow”

The ConservativeHome website says Raab, Cox, Gove, Fox, Mordaunt and others should resign tomorrow if May persists with the deal.

Conservative Home

This is a red rag for Brexiters and DUP that you would think means the deal is DOA. NI-only backstop to the backstop essentially remains in the deal.

Understand that substance-wise draft Brexit deal has the options reported last Fri.: if by summer 2020 there is no trade deal that avoids a hard border in Northern Ireland, choice is between extending transition or customs union/level playing field/provisions for Northern Ireland.

🚨 Jacob Rees-Mogg: If true this fails to meet the Conservative party’s manifesto and the commitments the PM has made. This is the vassal state, it is a failure of the negotiations, it is a failure to deliver on Brexit, it divides up the UK. Cabinet should not support it.

Brexit timeline:

-Technical level agreement reached –

May meets key ministers tonight,

one-on-one -Cabinet

tomorrow -EU27 ambos meet

tomorrow -TBD:

timing of possible May announcement,

EU-UK presser, when to pub docs

If all goes well, sherpas meet 21 Nov.

Brexit euco 25 Nov

The DUP, Boris, ERG preemptive strike against May’s deal shows just how hard it will be for her to get it through the Commons 


This is the moment of truth. This is the fork in the road. Do we pursue a future as an independent nation or accept EU domination, imprisonment in the customs union and 2nd class status. Cabinet and all Conservative MPs should stand up, be counted and say no to this capitulation.

Forget all the noise and focus on the big picture. PM is going to recommend daylight robbery: paying £39bn for nothing in return; effectively handcuffing us to the Single Market and chaining us to the Customs Union forever. It is the worst deal in history. Cabinet must reject it.

Boris Johnson tells that PM’s deal is “a chronicle of a death foretold” and “vassal state stuff”, as UK will be staying in large parts of the single market and a customs union. “Am I going to vote against it? The answer is yes”.

This was Dominic Raab on his way out of his briefing with Theresa May about her Brexit deal. Great pic from

“It’s vassal state stuff”- former foreign secretary Boris Johnson says he will vote against draft agreement More:

Senior Tory warns – ‘today the Commons showed the Govt has no majority for the PM’s Brexit policy. If the PM tries to impose BRINO on the parliament she will break both the govt and the party.

There may be provisions relating to Northern Ireland within the text and within annexes to take account of a scenario whereby the UK-wide customs arrangement does not sufficiently avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, understands

A review mechanism is understood to be part of the text.

It’s understood there is one overall backstop to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. It will be in the form of a UK-wide customs arrangement, but will have “deeper” provisions for Northern Ireland on the customs and regulatory side.

Sources saying the original backstop wording “unless and until…”- which crosses DUP and ERG red lines, lives on in the withdrawal text…Irish have been consistently saying it had to.

This is how the EU backstop will work, I have learned. It is the “swimming pool” model – GB in shallow end, Northern Ireland in deep end. will get it through her cabinet. I am pretty sure DUP and Tory Brexiters will hate it.

On the controversial – some would say “life or death” – question of how to keep open the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the backstop, this is what I am told has been agreed.

It is what’s described in Brussels as the “swimming pool” approach – in other words it has a shallow end and a deep end, when it comes to measures aimed at making sure trade is completely frictionless between NI and the ROI, and fairly frictionless between Great Britain and the EU27.

GB would be in the shallow end, NI in the deep.

Or to be more precise, the whole of the UK would stay in the customs union if a long-term trading relationship between the UK and EU isn’t negotiated and implemented by the end of 2020 – which no one (with the possible exception of the PM) expects it to be.

In fact most EU politicians expect the backstop to be the reality of our trading relationship with the EU for many years.

But – and this is reassuring for May, and perhaps for most in the Cabinet – EU leaders don’t really like this version of the backstop, which is largely May’s preferred model of how to keep open that border in Ireland (in that sense it can be seen as a victory for her in the negotiations).

So there will be an option after the UK leaves the EU next March, during the 21 month transition period, to negotiate some other arrangement that would have the same effect as the backstop (and yes I know this is confusing – but probably what mostly matters is that only the backstop will be legally binding, and that is what will upset many of her MPs).

But in addition to being in the customs union, Northern Ireland would also remain in much of the single market, that part of it pertaining to goods: Northern Ireland alone would be forced to follow all EU directive and laws in relation to goods flowing back and forth between NI and the ROI.

Now that will infuriate the DUP, whose 10 MPs sustain Theresa May and the Conservative Party, because they will see it as doing what they say the PM promised never to do, namely introduce a new border between GB and NI in the middle of the Irish Sea; it would, they fear, increase the danger of a fragmentation of the nations of the UK.

The EU will work hard to reassure Northern Ireland’s unionist politicians that there would not be a border in the Irish Sea in any meaningful sense.

But this aspect of the backstop – the deep end for Northern Ireland – could well undermine the agreement between the DUP and the Conservative Party for the DUP to back all important government legislation, and possibly wreck it, throwing into jeopardy the PM’s ability to govern.

And if the DUP votes with Labour and hardcore Tory Brexiters AND hardcore Tory Remainers against her Brexit deal – which is an anti-May coalition I anticipate – the PM would lose the “meaningful vote” on the deal by a large margin.

The point is that many of May’s Brexiter MPs will hate that GB even in the shallow end will be forced to follow EU rules on competition, the environment, goods standards and employee protection – because the EU is insisting that if the UK derives the benefit of being in the customs union, it has to compete on a “level playing” field. And for as long as the UK is in that customs union, it will be prohibited from doing trade deals with non EU countries.

Many Remainers share the Brexiters’ concern that May’s version of Brexit would see the UK as a relatively powerless taker of EU rules.

As I write, I do not know whether the PM will get this proposal through her Cabinet. But even if she does, I have literally no idea how she would get it through parliament.

For the avoidance of doubt, what’s finally been negotiated is much less toxic to May than the EU’s original proposal of Northern Ireland alone remaining in the customs union and the single market. But it will still upset many of the MPs who sustain her in power.

To state the obvious, much will hinge on how and whether the UK could get out of the backstop – about which we will presumably learn all tomorrow.


Attorney general Geoffrey Cox has told colleagues the backstop deal is ‘mutually uncomfortable’ but there is independent arbitration. That does not sound like the unilateral break clause ministers demanded.

Jeremy Corbyn on the Brexit draft agreement.  

That’s why EU governments want level playing field and regulatory alignment written into withdrawal agreement because it won’t be a legal commitment to have a customs union later but one that’s up and running now.

That’s why EU governments want level playing field and regulatory alignment written into withdrawal agreement because it won’t be a legal commitment to have a customs union later but one that’s up and running now.

That’s why the July 2020 to rendez-vous is important. Joint committee will decide if trade talks will supercede Irish border, or to extend transition because that prospect is close. The most likely option, the custom union is already done, “fully operational”.

Weyand told Coreper ambos last Friday that “customs union will be fully operational in the withdrawal agreement” “Fully operational” – so no need for a customs treaty in transition, or a guarantee of one.

Just a thought and informed guess: I think the backstop to the backstop has gone More in due course.

What’s in the Brexit text? Sounds like UK will not sign up to “dynamic realignment” across range of areas as France had pushed for. Instead will Brits commit to following EU rule book in areas like state aid. Others like environment or taxation will be softer “non-regression”.

Tentatively encouraging news: it seems tomorrow’s EU27 ambassadors meeting in Brussels has been provisionally changed to discuss “state of play” in Brexit at 3pm rather than original “no deal preparedness”.

It’s finally coming. After sitting on publication, college of EU commissioners in Strasbourg today will approve its minimalist no deal contingency plans. Publication date has yet to be decided. Today would be a hostile move – has seen the text

EU diplomats had expected commission’s no deal planning – which is run by Martin Selmayr – to be watered down but document to be adopted by college lays out minimal, temporary measures (until end of 2019) with almost nothing on emergency customs, road travel, food exports

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