Theresa May suffers major blow as DUP refuses to back Brexit deal

From HuffPost UK: Theresa May’s hopes of winning DUP support for her Brexit deal have been dealt a blow after the party demanded significant changes – which the EU is already refusing to allow.

After two days of talks with the prime minister and other senior government figures, the DUP on Thursday revealed it will still refuse to back the deal in its current form.

Theresa May made getting DUP support an absolute priority after delaying the Commons vote on the Brexit deal last month in the face of almost certain defeat. She was hoping their backing could start a domino effect to win over scores of Tory opponents.

[Read full article on HuffPost UK…]

No-deal Brexit ferry company owns no ships and has never run Channel service

From The Guardian: One of the companies contracted by the Tory government to charter ferries in the event of a no-deal Brexit does not own any ships, has not previously operated a ferry service and is not planning to do so until close to the UK’s scheduled departure date from the European Union, it has emerged.

Concerns have been raised about Seaborne Freight, which was awarded a £13.8m contract to operate freight ferries from Ramsgate to the Belgian port of Ostend if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, after a councillor for the Kent town queried whether it would be possible to set up the new service by the scheduled Brexit date.

The contract is one of three agreements worth a total of £107.7m signed by the government without a tendering process to help ease “severe congestion” at Dover by securing extra lorry capacity.

Seaborne hopes to operate freight ferries from Ramsgate from late March, beginning with two ships and increasing to four by the end of the summer.

But Paul Messenger, a Conservative county councillor for Ramsgate, questioned whether the government had carried out sufficient checks on the firm, telling the BBC: “It has no ships and no trading history so how can due diligence be done? Why choose a company that never moved a single truck in their entire history and give them £14m? I don’t understand the logic of that.”

Seaborne was established two years ago and has been in negotiations about running freight ferries between Ramsgate and Ostend, but no services are currently running. Narrow berths in the port mean there are few suitable commercial vessels available.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Ministers: May’s plan for three-year spending review is a fantasy

From The Guardian: Theresa May’s waning authority means the idea of concluding a three-year spending review next year is a fantasy and is only likely to be achieved if she were replaced as leader, cabinet ministers have said.

The government has promised a full spending review in 2019 as part of a pledge to end austerity in the coming years, but senior figures say May will struggle to get the plan signed off.

The review has become the subject of speculation in Whitehall given the prime minister’s pledge to step down before the next election and the unpredictable state of the Brexit negotiations.

“The idea that the cabinet is going to accept a three-year spending review is fantasy,” one government source said. “Most of them won’t even do a three-minute broadcast clip at the moment. Departments are starting to get their houses in order for a one-year sticking plaster settlement.”

Others are opposed to the idea of a one-year plan. They describe it as “kicking the can”, and believe May should instead consider quitting before the spending review to let a new leader set the direction of the party.

“She cannot be allowed to set those terms herself,” one cabinet minister said.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Theresa May confirms she will not lead Tories into next election

From The Guardian: Theresa May confirmed she will not lead the Conservatives into the next general election as she arrived in Brussels to rescue her Brexit deal.

She refused to give a date for her departure from Downing Street, but made public her promise to MPs ahead of Wednesday’s no-confidence vote that she would quit before the next poll in 2022.

“Yes, I’ve said that in my heart I would love to be able to lead the Conservative party into the next general election, but I think it is right that the party feels it would prefer to go into that election with a new leader,” May said. “People try to talk about dates; what I’m clear about is the next general election is in 2022 and I think it’s right another party leader takes us into that general election.”

The prime minister survived by a margin of 200 votes to 117 in the party confidence vote, but is still facing calls to resign from senior figures on her backbenches, including Jacob Rees-Mogg.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Brexit in chaos as Tory MPs trigger vote of no confidence in Theresa May

From The Guardian: Conservative MPs have triggered a vote of no confidence in Theresa May, plunging the Brexit process into chaos as Tory colleagues indicated they no longer had faith in the prime minister to deliver the deal.

Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, has received at least 48 letters from Conservative MPs calling for a vote of no confidence in May. Under party rules, a contest is triggered if 15% of Conservative MPs write to the chair of the committee of Tory backbenchers.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Boris Johnson’s unused water cannon sold for scrap at £300,000 loss

From The Guardian: Three unusable water cannon bought by Boris Johnson when he was mayor of London have been sold for scrap, at a net loss of more than £300,000.

Johnson bought the crowd-control vehicles from the German police in 2014, in anticipation of social unrest, without checking whether they could be used on London’s streets. In one of his most humiliating episodes as mayor the then home secretary Theresa May banned them from use anywhere in England and Wales. It left the capital’s taxpayers with three expensive white elephants.

The current mayor, Sadiq Khan, pledged to claw back as much money as possible on the redundant vehicles by selling them. But after almost two years the mayor’s office admitted defeat in its attempt to find a reputable buyer.

It announced on Monday that it has agreed to sell the vehicles for just £11,025. The fee recoups 3.4% of the £322,834.71 spent on the vehicles since 2014.

The 25-year-old vehicles cost £85,022 in 2014, but they were found to be riddled with faults and required expensive modification to make them road worthy. This included £32,000 to comply with the city’s low emission zone, and almost £1,000 on new stereos.

Who are the 14 ministers that have quit under May since the 2017 general election?

From the Morning Star: Theresa May, barely clinging on to her job as it is, has now lost her second Brexit secretary since the role was created, after only being in the job a matter of months. Here are all the ministers who have left their posts since the 2017 general election:

  • Michael Fallon
  • Priti Patel 
  • Damian Green
  • Justine Greening
  • Amber Rudd
  • David Davis
  • Boris Johnson
  • Tracey Crouch
  • Jo Johnson
  • Shailesh Vara
  • Dominic Raab
  • Esther McVey
  • Suella Braverman
  • Anne-Marie Trevelyan

[Read full article on Morning Star website…]

Jacob Rees-Mogg sends letter of no confidence in May

From The Guardian: Jacob Rees-Mogg, the outspoken chair of the backbench European Research Group of Brexiters, has called for a vote of no confidence in Theresa May, on the most perilous day of her premiership.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the MP for North East Somerset, who rejected May’s Brexit deal just moments after it was published on Wednesday night, announced that he was sending a letter to Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee, calling for a vote of no confidence.

His decision came while May was continuing to face a barrage of questions from MPs about her Brexit deal – and while Downing Street was still reeling from a string of resignations, most damagingly that of the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab.

In his letter, which was released to the media, Rees-Mogg suggested the prime minister had broken her word.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

McVey and Raab quit over Brexit deal

From The Guardian: The work and pensions secretary, Esther McVey, has become the second senior minister to quit the Tory cabinet, following the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, out of the door and throwing Theresa May’s government into turmoil.

McVey, an arch Brexiter who was known to be unhappy with the prime minister’s Brexit plans, said they had failed to “honour the result” of the referendum and had crossed her own red lines for leaving the EU.

During a tense five-hour cabinet meeting on Wednesday, McVey twice called for a vote to be taken on the deal. In her resignation letter to May, she wrote: “We have gone from no deal is better than a bad deal, to any deal is better than no deal.”

Her departure came after Raab resigned as Brexit secretary saying he “cannot in good conscience” support the deal agreed by the cabinet, kicking off what was expected to be a day of turmoil for the prime minister as she struggles to retain control of her party.

One of Raab’s junior ministers, Suella Braverman, a former chair of the hardline Brexit ERG group of Tory backbenchers, also quit, saying that the public would see the plans as “a betrayal”.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Jo Johnson quits as minister over Theresa May’s Brexit plan

From The Guardian: Jo Johnson has resigned from the government, saying he cannot support Theresa May’s Brexit deal, and MPs are being offered a choice between “vassalage and chaos”.

The MP for Orpington and rail minister published an article saying he could not vote for the deal which May is expected to bring back to parliament within weeks – and instead would be campaigning for a second referendum.

“It has become increasingly clear to me that the withdrawal agreement, which is being finalised in Brussels and Whitehall even as I write, will be a terrible mistake,” he said in an online article.

Jo Johnson said the public were being offered “an agreement that will leave our country economically weakened, with no say in the EU rules it must follow and years of uncertainty for business” or a no-deal Brexit “that I know as a transport minister will inflict untold damage on our nation”.

“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.”

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

All at sea: Raab’s ignorance of Dover-Calais stuns critics

From the Guardian: Opposition parties and pro-remain groups have criticised the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, after he admitted that until recently he did not fully appreciate the importance of the Dover-Calais crossing for UK trade.

Speaking at an event on Brexit and the tech industry, Raab said that consumers would lose out if new rules create delays at the border.

In comments reported by the Politico website, he said: “I hadn’t quite understood the full extent of this, but if you look at the UK and look at how we trade in goods, we are particularly reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing.

“And that is one of the reasons why we have wanted to make sure we have a specific and very proximate relationship with the EU, to ensure frictionless trade at the border … I don’t think it is a question so much of the risk of major shortages, but I think probably the average consumer might not be aware of the full extent to which the choice of goods that we have in the stores are dependent on one or two very specific trade routes.”

Politicians and campaigners, including the scientist and broadcaster Brian Cox, reacted to his words with surprise and alarm: “How could it possibly come as a suprise to Dominic Raab that our most important trade gateway is that which is closest geographically to our most important market?”

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

“It’s a shitshow”: leading Tory backbench MP on May’s government

From The Guardian: A leading Conservative backbencher has laid bare the extent of Tory frustrations with Theresa May by openly admitting he would not vote for the party if he wasn’t an MP, and had no interest in becoming a minister in a government he called “a shitshow”.

Johnny Mercer, who has represented Plymouth Moor View since 2015, said in an interview that in the current political situation there was “absolutely no chance” he would try to enter parliament, and intimated that May was an unimaginative “technocrat”.

Speaking to the House magazine – which last month ran an interview with Karen Bradley in which the new Northern Ireland secretary admitted knowing almost nothing about the region’s politics before she took the job – Mercer expressed deep disillusionment with modern Conservatism.

The former soldier was asked how the pre-politics version of himself would vote now. Mercer, who left the army in 2012, replied: “I wouldn’t go and vote. Just being honest, I wouldn’t vote. Of course I wouldn’t, no.”

Asked whether he would join the Conservatives, Mercer said: “If the situation was like it is now, I can safely say there would be absolutely no chance that I would try and be a member of parliament.”

Mercer, one of the more publicly prominent – and self-confident – members of the newer intake of Tory MPs, also indicated he had turned down a role in government and could never serve under May.

[Read article on Guardian website…]

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