Morning briefing: Cabinet farce - Time running out - True cost of Brexit
The Cabinet drama over Brexit is descending from shambles to farce.
It has often been said that ministers are wasting time talking among themselves rather than negotiating with the EU. It’s now even worse than that. They aren’t even talking among themselves.
Theresa May has supposedly concocted a “third” wheeze to deal with customs post-Brexit after the government’s two previous cockamamie ideas were squished. But she didn’t bother to tell her fellow Cabinet ministers - even David Davis, the Brexit secretary - what her new brilliant idea is.
The Brexiters smell a rat. They are worried they will be presented with the plan at the last minute before a supposedly crunch summit at the prime minister’s country estate on Friday and be bounced into agreeing it.
While this would certainly be May’s style, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg has an alternative theory: the reason ministers haven’t been told about the third wheeze may be because it doesn’t yet exist.
Meanwhile, the prime minister is heading off to see the Dutch prime minister today and Germany’s Angela Merkel on Thursday to talk about her Brexit plans. But Downing Street is insisting that she won’t tell them about her new wheeze. Which, of course, raises the question of why on earth she’s wasting diplomatic capital by making the trips in the first place.
Fast forward to Friday and May’s best argument with her Cabinet will probably be that, if they don’t back whatever scheme she magics up, MPs will force us to stay in a customs union when the Customs Bill returns to the House of Commons - on July 17, according to The Times. But whichever way you cut it, given that the new wheeze won’t be ready in time, that’s probably what we are going to end up doing for many years to come.
And don’t forget. Once we get to Friday, we will still only have ministers talking among themselves. The EU has made clear time and again that we have to come up with a viable solution to keep the Irish border open. That won’t just mean a customs union indefinitely; Northern Ireland will have to follow EU rules on industrial and agricultural goods too.
The snag, of course, is that this still wouldn't be enough to prevent border controls between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Which is why the prime minister wants the whole UK to align some of its rules with the EU - but only until the end of 2021. And the problem with that is that the other countries are not prepared to leave Ireland hanging out to dry after 2021.
May seems to have another scheme to “solve” that problem - a permanent single market in goods - and she apparently wants to agree that at Chequers. But the EU is saying we can’t have a single market in goods unless we have one in labour and services too. Many pro-Europeans would say that’s precisely what we want - and we may as well stay in the EU too as we will then get to make the rules rather than be a rule-taker. But fat chance of this government agreeing all that.
So at the end of the day, we have a prime minister concocting schemes she doesn’t tell her ministers about which won’t fly with the EU anyway - and many of her ministers plotting to knife her. Meanwhile, the economy dies a death by a thousand cuts and nobody is looking after the national interest. Get a grip.
HAVE YOU SIGNED THE PETITION FOR A PEOPLE'S VOTE? WE'VE HIT 175,000: NEXT STOP 200,000!
Quote of the day
“If Boris Johnson does walk out we’d all say ‘about time too’."
- an anonymous minister on Cabinet infighting
Video of the day
WATCH: Theresa May confirms what Brexit means Brexit actually means...
Time and patience running out for business
Business is tearing its hair out because of the time-wasting. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has published 23 Brexit questions still in need of answers, covering customs, regulation, worker mobility, and so on. Companies are no better informed today than on the day after the referendum. The BCC’s director general describes the list as “practical, real-world concerns of businesses of every size and sector, in every part of the UK”.
Every day uncertainty continues, investment is delayed. But there’s little chance of the BCC getting its answers fast. Did the public really vote for a botched Brexit that stifles the economy?
Tweet of the day
Paul Drechsler responds to the Department for International Trade's EU 'mythbusting':
We need to know true cost of Brexit
The chair of the Treasury Select Committee has written to the Treasury, Bank of England and Financial Conduct Authority demanding assessments of the impact of whatever Brexit deal is negotiated and of a no-deal scenario - comparing both to staying in the bloc. Nicky Morgan says MPs need to be “properly informed” before any parliamentary vote on the final deal. Quite so. But the need for information doesn’t stop at Westminster. Let the people see the true costs of Brexit - and then decide whether they want it.
Video of the day 2
Watch: Frances O'Grady of the Trade Unions Congress says the country must be allowed to determine the final Brexit deal
More Brexit news…
Ditching Theresa May will not change the political reality (FT)
May's Brexit peace offer sparks Tory infighting (Times)
Higher fuel and alcohol taxes planned to hit spending pledge (Times)
Merkel and Seehofer reach deal and avert collapse of German coalition (FT)
Top Brexit comment
William Hague: Brexit is coming - splitting the party over the deal now would just play into the EU's hands (Telegraph)
Jacob Rees-Mogg: Ignore false alarms, we are seizing our chance to be free and taking control of our future (Sun)
Rachel Sylvester: Tory plotting is turning politics into farce (Times)
Rafael Behr: May's problem: Brexit and Trumpism have become monstrous twins (Guardian)
Today, Tuesday 03 July
|10:15||Scottish Affairs committee hears evidence on future Scotland-EU trade|
|14:15||Trade Minister Hollingbery addresses EU scrutiny committee about post-Brexit EU-UK trade deal|
Tomorrow, Wednesday 04 July
|12:00||Prime Minister's Questions|
|14:15||Michael Gove quizzed by European scrutiny committee on implications of Brexit for UK fishing industry|