Brex­i­teers raise stakes against May

Euroscep­tics try to force PM to back down as aide says her pro­pos­als put ‘faith in democ­racy’ at risk

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front page - By Ed­ward Mal­nick WHITE­HALL ED­I­TOR

THERESA MAY was last night at­tempt­ing to pla­cate a grow­ing re­bel­lion over her plans for Brexit as 63 Tory Euroscep­tics is­sued a ma­jor new chal­lenge to her au­thor­ity and a Govern­ment aide said her pro­pos­als could cause Leave vot­ers to “lose faith in our democ­racy”.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s ad­vis­ers are at­tempt­ing to craft new lan­guage for the Brexit with­drawal agree­ment amid signs the Cabi­net will oth­er­wise refuse to agree to her pro­pos­als for a “back­stop” plan that would “tem­po­rar­ily” keep the UK in the EU’s cus­toms union.

Last night Brex­i­teer MPs sought to dis­pel claims by al­lies of Mrs May that they could be rail­roaded in the Com­mons with the help of rebel Labour votes. In a highly un­usual show of strength, a let­ter at­tack­ing the Govern­ment over its Brexit fore­casts was signed by 63 Con­ser­va­tive MPs, in­clud­ing David Davis, the for­mer Brexit sec­re­tary, Ja­cob Rees-Mogg, the chair­man of the Eu­ro­pean Re­search Group of Euroscep­tic back­benchers, and Steve Baker, the for­mer Brexit min­is­ter.

Sep­a­rately, writ­ing in The Sun­day Tele­graph, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, a pro-Leave MP who is par­lia­men­tary pri­vate sec­re­tary at the Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion, said re­main­ing in a “tem­po­rary cus­toms ar­range­ment” af­ter the end of the tran­si­tion pe­riod in De­cem­ber 2020 “means sim­ply de­lay­ing Brexit and caus­ing the 17.4 mil­lion peo­ple who voted for it to lose faith in our democ­racy, and in our demo­cratic and le­gal in­sti­tu­tions”.

In other de­vel­op­ments:

Open Europe, a prom­i­nent think tank run by an ally of Michael Gove, re­leased a new anal­y­sis stat­ing that the eco­nomic im­pact of a no-deal Brexit over the next 13 years would be “small”. Lord Wolf­son, its chair­man, and the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Next, warned of a

“su­per­sti­tious re­luc­tance” in govern­ment to “earnestly pre­pare for no deal”;

The Sun­day Tele­graph un­der­stands at least 10 Cabi­net min­is­ters have in­di­cated they would not sup­port a “back­stop” ar­range­ment ty­ing the UK to the EU’s cus­toms union un­less it spec­i­fied how the UK could ex­tract it­self;

Ar­lene Foster, the leader of the DUP, which is threat­en­ing to stop prop­ping up the Govern­ment, warned Mrs May not to ac­cept a “dodgy” Brexit deal she would later re­gret;

The Govern­ment was forced to deny it was de­lib­er­ately seek­ing to re­main in the cus­toms union af­ter as­sur­ing Nis­san it would do so in or­der to pre­vent the firm mov­ing its man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties from this coun­try. A Govern­ment spokesman said Brex­i­teers’ claims that such an as­sur­ance was made in a 2016 let­ter were un­true;

Daniel Han­nan, the Tory Euroscep­tic MEP who pre­vi­ously re­luc­tantly sup­ported the Che­quers plan, con­cedes that he was “wrong”.

Mrs May is at­tempt­ing to fend off pos­si­ble res­ig­na­tions from all lev­els of the Govern­ment over a pro­posed back­stop agree­ment with the EU, which would come into force if al­ter­nate ar­range­ments were not reached in re­la­tion to the Ir­ish bor­der.

She is sep­a­rately fac­ing a bat­tle to drive through her Che­quers blue­print for a fu­ture re­la­tion­ship with the EU in the face of a tide of op­po­si­tion from back­benchers. Euroscep­tics, in­clud­ing Boris John­son and Mr Davis, want Mrs May to tear up the Che­quers plan, and the pro­posed back­stop, and in­stead strike a free trade deal based on the agree­ment be­tween the EU and Canada, us­ing tech­nol­ogy to help solve the prob­lem of the bor­der.

“If she sends up leav­ing us in an in­def­i­nite back­stop she’ll have a landslide [of res­ig­na­tions] against her and it’s over,” one se­nior Brex­i­teer said.

Brex­i­teers have in­sisted that any back­stop ar­range­ment must come with a spe­cific end date to avoid the UK be­com­ing per­ma­nently locked into the “tem­po­rary cus­toms ar­range­ment” on of­fer. But Cabi­net min­is­ters briefed on the lat­est pro­pos­als on Thurs­day were told Brus­sels re­fused to ac­cept such an end date on the ba­sis that it could leave the bor­der without any so­lu­tion to keep trade flow­ing af­ter such a date.

Se­nior min­is­ters have in­di­cated this week­end that they could sup­port a back­stop that in­cluded a spe­cific mech­a­nism for the UK to with­draw, without re­ly­ing on Brus­sels for per­mis­sion to do so.

A source close to one pro-Leave Cabi­net min­is­ter said: “Based on con­ver­sa­tions this week­end there ap­pears to be a glim­mer of hope.”

Writ­ing in The Sun­day Tele­graph, Ms Trevelyan, the MP for Ber­wick -up­onTweed, states: “The idea of re­main­ing in the cus­toms union – even if it is called a ‘tem­po­rary cus­toms ar­range­ment’ – af­ter the end of the tran­si­tion pe­riod, into the 2020s, means sim­ply de­lay­ing Brexit and caus­ing the 17.4 mil­lion peo­ple who voted for it to lose faith in our democ­racy, and in our demo­cratic and le­gal in­sti­tu­tions. I fear that we would be in a per­ma­nent

tem­po­rary cus­toms union over which we had no con­trol of the es­cape mech­a­nism.”

The let­ter from Tory back­benchers, or­gan­ised by the Econ­o­mists for Free Trade group of Euroscep­tic econ­o­mists and Mr Baker blames the Govern­ment for leak­ing neg­a­tive Brexit fore­cast­ing and in­sists that Mr Ham­mond should re­lease the mod­el­ling it uses.

A se­nior govern­ment source said it was “baldly ridicu­lous” to sug­gest min­is­ters sanc­tioned the leak of down­beat fore­casts in Fe­bru­ary: “It is sim­ply not true.”

The new anal­y­sis by Open Europe con­cludes that a no-deal with­drawal from the EU would “not be ideal and would bring some ma­te­rial costs. How­ever, it would be a rel­a­tively mild neg­a­tive eco­nomic event”.

It states: “Our model sug­gests that a No Deal Brexit would mean the UK econ­omy con­tin­u­ing to grow but with an ef­fect equiv­a­lent to an av­er­age an­nual drag of -0.17 per cent on real GDP growth over the 13 years up to 2030. This could be re­duced to an av­er­age re­duc­tion in growth of -0.04 per cent a year if the Govern­ment de­ploys max­i­mum mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures in the form of uni­lat­eral trade lib­er­al­i­sa­tion. The eco­nomic im­pact of an exit on so-called WTO terms is, over a 13-year pe­riod, small.”

Lord Wolf­son states: “Dis­rup­tion at our ports is the sin­gle big­gest threat Brexit poses to our econ­omy. It is mit­i­ga­ble and govern­ment should be tack­ling this chal­lenge with vigour. There is a su­per­sti­tious re­luc­tance to earnestly pre­pare for no deal.”

A Down­ing Street source said: “This Govern­ment’s po­si­tion is the fu­ture cus­toms agree­ment needs to be in place by the end of De­cem­ber 2021 at the lat­est. The Prime Min­is­ter would never agree to a deal which could trap the UK in a back­stop per­ma­nently.”

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