14th November 2018.” Brexit est arrive”.

A hard day at the office for PM May. After enduring difficult questions at PMQs, in the afternoon there was a virtual 5 hour Cabinet Meeting. she emerged to announce her Brexit deal had been approved. But rumours are now circulating that 10 or 11 Ministers had reservations on various aspects of the deal. The result is that , if enacted, the UK will be in a permanent customs union with the EU and will be unable to do the global trade deals, certainly in goods, which Liam Fox has been advocating for the last two years. PM May says that the UK will take back control of its laws, but a brief search of the draft Withdrawal Agreement published tonight (now on this website) shows that the European Court of Justice will have the overriding say. This could mean that the UK could NEVER break free from the EU.

There is currently major opposition to these proposals, which look as if they will not receive the support of Parliament. Many are asking just what was the point of Brexit. Many are asking for a secound vote.

Cabinet did reach a collective position, but certainly not unanimous. I’m told 9 ministers spoke against the agreement – Fox, Hunt, Williamson, Penny Mordaunt, Javid, Leadsom, Evans, Mordaunt and Grayling.

Raab didn’t speak against it but is said to have had a ‘downer’ on it, Mundell also described as a ‘waverer’ – there was not a final vote, but numbers were 18-11 depending how you categorise the waverers, according to one minister.

Straight after the cabinet meeting Philip Hammond, chancellor and Greg Clark, business secretary held a conference call briefing with up to 200 business figures. Hammond thanked the executives for their help in publicising what he called the “horrific” impact of a no deal Brexit

Other cabinet sources say those who spoke against the deal were not making arguments for alternative deals or even criticising the content – but expressing reservations about whether it can get through the House.

Esther McVey is said to have twice called for a vote but it was refused – she is udnerstood to have been the strongest and most explicit opponent of the deal – lots of chatter about her resigning.

Still unclear what Raab is going to do…. he is the Brexit Secretary after all but it sounds like he wasn’t exactly enthusiastic in the meeting – chatter about his position too – let’s see – conflicting stuff out there right now.

We asked Rees Mogg if he’ll move against her before she has a chance to take this to Parliament? ‘the office of Prime Minister is a leasehold not a freehold’

Break: Theresa May confirms Cabinet has agreed her Brexit divorce deal with the EU after “a long detailed and impassioned debate”.

PM says choice before MPs is her deal, or no deal and risk “no Brexit at all”. Adds: “I know there will be difficult days ahead”. She ain’t wrong there.

No Cabinet minister has resigned rather than back May’s deal, No10 sources say. At least, not yet.

Big Brexit news: it appears Chequers has been chucked. A senior Govt source has refused to say PM is still pushing for an FCA or Common Rulebook in future trade deal: “We may get frictionless trade through another way”.

Shorter Irish Backstop GB-NI remain in “single customs territory, but NI is treated ‘as if’ in the EU, following Union Customs Code and SM rules. This will persist “unless and until” (Article 1) it is superseded by arrangement that obviates need.

BUT this is balanced this with an assertion that the arrangements are “intended to apply only temporarily” and – in Article 2(1) – a commitment that that both sides “shall use their best endeavours” to reach that “subsequent agreement”.

The protocol then sets out three options to be considered in July 2020 as the end of the transition approaches – either conclude a deal, “extend” the transition period (with payments to be agreed) or trigger the Irish backstop noted above.

The entire arrangement is managed by “a joint consultative working group” and, under Article 20, the UK can “notify” the EU if it believes the backstop is no longer necessary, but cannot unilaterally pull out of the deal..

“Within 6 months of such a notification, the Joint Cmme shall meet at ministerial level to consider the notification,” but the backstop shall cease to apply only if the EU and UK “decide jointly…the Protocol shall cease to apply, in whole or in part.

So chapeau to UK negotiators who always said they’d get EU to agree all-UK backstop. But there still isn’t really an exit mechanism, only a ‘best endeavour’ clause and – the UK will argue – fairly light level playing field requirements that motivate EU to seek exit.

To be clear DUP won’t like it. ERG and Brexiteers won’t like it But none have come up with better ideas – as I write here Let’s see what the morrow holds…

One big macro deal thought. The never-ending backstop locks the U.K. into a customs union. But it also takes away the crash out to WTO/MFN world. Can’t happen. That’s a huge shift if this deal goes though. And a huge loss of leverage on EU side.


More joy for Brexiteers. Article 4: provisions of EU law in the withdrawal agreement will “produce the same legal effects” in the UK as in member states. This means supremacy over domestic law.. 

“Long and impassioned debate” by cabinet. “Collective position of cabinet” to agree draft Withdrawal Agreement and Outline Political Declaration . There were dissenters! “Difficult days ahead” admits

. seeing DUP leader at 20.30. As if she hasn’t had enough criticism of her Brexit plan today from those allegedly on the same side as her!

Cabinet source: “only one cabinet minister involved in Leave campaign spoke in favour of the prime minister’s deal. That was Michael Gove”. Extraordinarily divided cabinet on this Brexit plan.

show guest ⁦⁩ tells Brexiter colleagues of ERG why he will vote against PM’s Brexit plan. Hear him explain why at 10.45 tonight  

The UK’s status as a non-voting member of EU in transition can be extended beyond 31 Dec 2020 to “31 December 20XX”. I am quoting from the Withdrawal Agreement. I thought the whole point was EVERYTHING agreed. Apparently not.

The paragraph that all “true” Brexiters hate – on how exit from the customs union backstop can only be agreed “jointly” by UK and EU. 

Tory Brexiters become angrier and angrier as they wade through 585 pages of the Withdrawal Agreement. “This is a worse capitulation than we feared” said one. They tell me there will be enough letters.

slightly amazed we have conceded this. 

This is what we have to work with. 

European Commission have published a fact sheet on the backstop. Spells out what checks will need to take place on trade between Britain and Northern Ireland. 

Lots of drama in Cabinet as they discussed what one member called the ‘ugly sister’ deal. More on soon, including how Hunt and Raab urged May to go back and get more from Brussels & 2 ministers said they wouldn’t vote for No Deal.

Am told Esther McVey’s push for a vote went on for several minutes. Cabinet colleagues think she is almost sure to go.

Thing that would worry me most if I was Number 10 is that both Hunt and Raab urged May to go back to Brussels and get more.

Sounds like a classic Geoffrey Cox contribution at Cabinet today.

In another sign of how this is a world turned upside down, it was David Lidington who made the argument for getting out now and fixing Brexit later. 


CABINET: Penny repeated plea for free vote, and colleagues think Esther McVey may be “on the brink”. Pension Secretary demanded a minuted vote of who was against the deal. Got “very emotional” when PM rebuffed her, some sources say “aggressive”. Deets:

The Sun.

We’ve done an account of today’s cabinet meeting. Unlike others we haven’t tweeted the details. The Times..

Tomorrow’s Daily Telegraph is an absolute cracker with an incendiary piece from Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s former chief of staff. ‘This is capitulation. The Commission knows it has won hands down’  The  Telegraph

“Theresa May is finished” Former David Davis aide Stewart Jackson predicts the 48 letters needed to trigger a no confidence vote will be received by next week.


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