Morning Briefing: May's impossible Trinity - Kent, carpark of England - OBR's no-deal warning
As Theresa May gets closer to clinching a deal with the EU, her chances of ramming it through Cabinet and Parliament get slimmer. She faces a near-impossible Trinity - satisfying hardline Brexiters, the DUP and pro-European Conservatives all simultaneously. If she buckles to the demands of one group, she loses the support of one or more of the others.
The prime minister’s current proposal - to keep the entire UK in a customs union with the EU indefinitely while also agreeing to regulatory checks in the Irish Sea - has angered two of these groups: the hardliners and the DUP, without whose 10 MPs the government doesn’t have a majority. But it shouldn’t please patriotic pro-Europeans either - as it will damage our power, prosperity and peace.
When May put the plan to her Brexit “war” Cabinet yesterday - several ministers including Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab and Liam Fox expressed concerns, according to The Telegraph. Three Cabinet ministers who weren’t invited to the meeting - Penny Mordaunt, Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom - are said to be threatening to resign.
Meanwhile, Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, has damned what she describes as a “ one-way turnstile from Northern Ireland into the rest of the United Kingdom” and effectively called on Cabinet ministers to block the prime minister’s plans. The DUP is threatening to pull down the government if it doesn’t get its way.
So what will May do? Her main options are to press on regardless, back down to pressure from the DUP and hardliners in her Cabinet or play for time.
If she presses on, she may hope her Cabinet critics will crack. She may also hope to buy off the DUP with another bung. Indeed, she is is preparing to hand tens of millions more to the DUP to buy their support - on top of the £1 billion she gave them to back her government in the first place, according to The Sun. But a DUP source told The Telegraph: “Money to sip poison to the Union slowly isn't exactly a great offer.”
If pressing on regardless seems hopeless, backing down to pressure from Tory hardliners is equally desperate. They say they want a “Canada-style” deal. But the EU will only give the UK such a deal - which would be even worse for our prosperity than the miserable one the prime minister wants - if we agree to keep the land border in Ireland open in all circumstances. That would mean an even harder sea border. The chance of getting the DUP to accept that is virtually nil.
In the circumstances, May could revert to type and try to avoid taking a decision. She wasted months during the spring and early summer before she finally brought things to a head at Chequers in July. This may be why she is now saying she doesn’t expect a deal to be reached at next week’s summit.
The problem is that there isn’t much time left. If May wastes more time, her back will be really to the wall - and she will have to make yet more concessions in the final moments of the talks to avoid taking the country over a precipice.
The prime minister has no good way forward. Except there is one: a People's Vote on whatever form of Brexit she can get - and if voters don't like it, giving them the option stay in the EU after all.
Tweet of the day
Kent, the carpark of England
In our first glimpse of the sunlit uplands of Brexit, the M26 in Kent is being turned into a parking lot for lorries backed up at Dover. Meanwhile, if Britain does crash out, people are unlikely to be prepared for the consequences. The consumer group Which? is warning that around 40% of the population doesn’t understand what a no-deal Brexit would mean for trade, prices, and travel - with flights grounded, food shortages, and energy prices soaring.
Quote of the day
“From grounded flights and delays at borders and airports, to food shortages and soaring energy prices, the impact could be immediate and catastrophic for millions of people, with disruption on a scale not seen since the consumer chaos of the 1970s.”
Caroline Normand, director of Which?, outlines the effects of a no-deal Brexit
Video of the day
Tweet of the day 2
Police not investigating Leave because of “political sensitivities”
Earlier this year the Electoral Commission reported Vote Leave, BeLeave, and Leave.EU to the Metropolitan Police for breaking electoral law. OpenDemocracy is now reporting that the Met has not begun any formal investigation: “Pushed on why there has been no progress, or no formal case logged, a Scotland Yard spokesman admitted there were issues and ‘political sensitivities’ that had to be taken into account. The Yard spokesman later added that the political issues related to ‘any allegation or referral relating to an election, and much else besides.’”
More Brexit news…
Video of the day 2
WATCH:The North East of England is going to be hit hard by Brexit. Nick Wrightson, a record shop owner in Newcastle, points out that there is nothing wrong with asking for a say on whatever Brexit we're emerges.
Hugo Dixon: Deal, no deal, or no Brexit? (Euractiv)
Polly Toynbee: The DUP has its ‘blood-red’ line. Does Theresa May dare cross it? (Guardian)
Luke Lythgoe: Naive, culpable, pipedream: the ambassador’s verdict (InFacts)
Today, Friday 11th October
|-||Michel Barnier meets with Leaders from Northern Ireland (But not DUP)|