May hit with dou­ble blow over trou­bled EU exit deal

The Herald - - FRONT PAGE - TOM GOR­DON PO­LIT­I­CAL ED­I­TOR

THERESA May’s fledg­ling Brexit deal has suf­fered a dev­as­tat­ing dou­ble­blow, af­ter a min­is­ter re­signed, call­ing it a “ter­ri­ble mis­take”, and the DUP warned they could not vote for it.

As the Prime Min­is­ter was in Bel­gium com­mem­o­rat­ing the Armistice Cen­te­nary, Jo John­son, the brother of Boris John­son, an­nounced he had quit as trans­port min­is­ter.

The Re­mainer MP said Mrs May’s plan was “rad­i­cally” dif­fer­ent to what the coun­try had been promised, and backed a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum on Brexit.

The UK was “bar­relling to­wards an in­co­her­ent Brexit” that would leave it trapped in a sub­or­di­nate re­la­tion­ship to the EU, he said.

His de­par­ture – the sixth by a min­is­ter over Brexit – shat­tered Mrs May’s hope of get­ting a deal through her Cab­i­net in the com­ing days and through West­min­ster later this month.

Her prob­lems were com­pounded by Ar­lene Fos­ter, the leader of the DUP, whose 10 MPS keep the Tories in power, also at­tack­ing the emerg­ing with­drawal deal.

It fol­lowed a let­ter from the PM sug­gest­ing North­ern Ire­land could have a dif­fer­ent reg­u­la­tory regime from the rest of the UK un­der the lat­est Ir­ish back­stop plans.

It im­plied there could be a bor­der down the Ir­ish Sea, some­thing Mrs May has pre­vi­ously ruled out, and which the DUP would see as un­der­min­ing the Union. Mrs Fos­ter said:

“No union­ist would be able to sup­port that.”

DUP MP Sammy Wil­son added: “That, to us, is a breach of the prom­ise.”

In a lengthy state­ment is­sued on so­cial me­dia, Mr John­son said vot­ers were be­ing of­fered a choice be­tween Mrs May’s deal, which would leave the UK “eco­nom­i­cally weak­ened, with no say in the EU rules it must fol­low and years of un­cer­tainty for busi­ness”, or a No Deal Brexit that would “in­flict un­told dam­age” on the coun­try.

“To present the na­tion with a choice be­tween two deeply unattrac­tive out­comes, vas­salage and chaos, is a fail­ure of British state­craft on a scale un­seen since the Suez cri­sis.”

He said pre­vi­ous Tory promises about “the eas­i­est trade deal in his­tory”, the ex­act same ben­e­fits and fric­tion­less trade had proved to be delu­sions.

“All that is now be­ing fi­nalised is the agree­ment to pay the EU tens of bil­lions of pounds. All that may be on of­fer on trade is the po­ten­tial for an agree­ment to stay in a tem­po­rary cus­toms ar­range­ment while we dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­ity of an EU trade deal that all ex­pe­ri­ence shows will take many years to ne­go­ti­ate.”

“In­stead of Bri­tain ‘tak­ing back con­trol’, we will cede con­trol to other Eu­ro­pean coun­tries. This demo­cratic deficit in­her­ent in the Prime Min­is­ter’s pro­posal is a travesty of Brexit.

“The Gov­ern­ment’s pro­pos­als will see us out of Eu­rope, yet run by Eu­rope, bound by rules which we will have lost a hand in shap­ing. Worse still, there is no real clar­ity about how this sit­u­a­tion will ever end.”

He said: “On this most cru­cial of ques­tions, I be­lieve it is en­tirely right to go back to the peo­ple and ask them to con­firm their de­ci­sion to leave the EU and, if they choose to do that, to give them the fi­nal say on whether we leave with the Prime Min­is­ter’s deal or with­out it. To do any­thing less will do grave dam­age to our democ­racy.”

Boris John­son, who quit as For­eign Sec­re­tary over Mrs May’s Brexit plan in July, said he was “united in dis­may” with his brother at the UK’S “in­de­fen­si­ble” po­si­tion.

Shadow Brexit Min­is­ter Jenny Chap­man said Mrs May had “lost all au­thor­ity and is in­ca­pable of ne­go­ti­at­ing a Brexit deal within her own party, let alone with the EU”.

Lib­dem leader Sir Vince Cable said: “We warmly wel­come Jo John­son’s sup­port of the cam­paign to give the peo­ple the fi­nal say on the deal and a chance to exit from Brexit.”

How­ever, de­spite his party con­fer­ence vot­ing to keep an­other ref­er­en­dum on the ta­ble, Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn ruled it out in an in­ter­view with Der Spiegel.

Asked if he could stop Brexit, he said: “We can’t stop it. The ref­er­en­dum took place. Ar­ti­cle 50 has been trig­gered. What we can do is rec­og­nize the rea­sons why peo­ple voted Leave.”

At the British-ir­ish Coun­cil in the Isle of Man, Cab­i­net Of­fice min­is­ter David Lid­ing­ton, Mrs May’s de facto deputy, said he re­mained con­fi­dent of get­ting a deal through Par­lia­ment.

Af­ter “frank” ex­changes with Mr Lidling­ton at the event, Nicola Stur­geon said Brexit had high­lighted “real weak­nesses” in the de­vo­lu­tion set­tle­ment.

She said: “There have been frus­tra­tions on the part of the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment about lack of en­gage­ment and in­volve­ment – ob­vi­ously we’ve had quite heated de­bates and dis­cus­sions around power grabs on the de­volved par­lia­ments and is­sues around how the power of the de­volved ad­min­is­tra­tions are re­spected.”

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar said: “We are at a sen­si­tive point in the ne­go­ti­a­tions. A suc­cess­ful out­come is not guar­an­teed but it is pos­si­ble in the next cou­ple of weeks.”

A Down­ing Street spokesman said: “The ref­er­en­dum in 2016 was the big­gest demo­cratic ex­er­cise in this coun­try’s his­tory. We will not un­der any cir­cum­stances have a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.”

„ Jo John­son has called for a sec­ond vote on Brexit.

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