At the start of a defining week in politics, the Prime Minister told his Cabinet in a conference call there was still a ‘long way to go’ to hammer out an agreement.
But in a reference to his breakthrough meeting with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Merseyside last week, he added: ‘Where there’s a Wirral, there is a way.’
Negotiators are working around the clock in Brussels to agree the basis of a deal by tomorrow so it can be signed off by EU leaders at a summit starting Thursday.
Boris Johnson told his Cabinet there is a ‘long way to go’ despite a breakthrough meeting with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Merseyside last week
Jacob Rees-Mogg issued an appeal to Brexiteers to trust the Prime Minister as negotiations enter a critical stage
Mr Johnson is hoping to put the agreement to a vote of MPs this weekend as the Commons sits on a Saturday for the first time since the Falklands War. But he faces the threat of a rebel plot to hijack legislation so that any deal is subject to approval in a second referendum.
Hurdles PM must clear
Brussels: Boris Johnson is in a race against time to reach a deal ahead of the EU summit on Thursday. Even if the Northern Ireland border problem is solved, EU negotiators say there might not be enough time to finalise the details.
Hardline Brexiteers: Several of the Tory MPs who voted against a deal in March are now in Government and are therefore expected to back an agreement. However others such as Steve Baker and Mark Francois will need convincing that the Prime Minister has not given too much ground.
DUP: The Democratic Unionist Party is anxious about suggestions that the PM could agree a customs border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Ex-Tory rebels: Most of the 21 rebels stripped of the Conservative whip over their attempts to block No Deal, such as Philip Hammond and David Gauke, had backed Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement. But they may now insist on a confirmatory referendum.
Labour: Nineteen Labour MPs have signalled they are prepared to back a deal agreed by Mr Johnson and the EU. However, they are coming under intense pressure not to help the PM out.
Yesterday as he briefed his Cabinet colleagues, Mr Johnson said if MPs who are against No Deal now oppose his new deal they will be ‘exposing their true aim of wanting to stop Brexit altogether’.
During the call, which lasted half an hour, it is understood he gave a very rough outline of the proposed compromises to get a deal.
According to a Cabinet source, ministers were ‘very supportive’ of Mr Johnson’s suggestions.
Jacob Rees-Mogg issued an appeal to Brexiteers to trust the Prime Minister as negotiations enter a critical stage.
The Leader of the Commons, who was a thorn in the side of Theresa May over Brexit, warned compromise was inevitable if there was to be an agreement.
He hinted he may even have to ‘eat my words’ and support a customs plan close to one put forward by Mrs May, which he once called ‘completely cretinous’.
But Mr Rees-Mogg insisted Leave supporters could have confidence Mr Johnson would not give too much ground to Brussels.
‘I think he is somebody who even the arch Eurosceptics, even a member of the Brexit Party, can trust and have confidence in,’ he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
Supporters of a second referendum yesterday claimed they were close to having enough support to push through an amendment making any deal subject to a ‘confirmatory’ public vote.
The idea of a fresh EU referendum was narrowly rejected by MPs in April by 292 votes to 280.
Jeremy Corbyn yesterday appeared resistant to Labour frontbench pressure to back a second referendum
Jeremy Corbyn yesterday appeared resistant to Labour frontbench pressure to back such a move, telling MPs who want a confirmatory vote: ‘I would caution them on this.’
But he looked increasingly isolated after Labour’s business spokesman Rebecca Long-Bailey, who was a main opponent to a second referendum, said she would now back a public vote on a deal.
She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘I think the only option we’ve got now is to let the people decide…. I know many colleagues are of a similar opinion to me.’
SNP poised to seek go-ahead for a fresh vote on independence
Nicola Sturgeon will seek another referendum on Scottish independence before the new year.
The Scottish First Minister wants to hold a fresh vote in the second half of 2020 but has not yet asked the Government to grant the ‘Section 30’ order that would allow it to take place.
The SNP leader told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday: ‘I’m putting legislation through the Scottish Parliament right now, to put the rules and regulations in place.
‘As that legislation progresses we will make that request for a Section 30 order.’
Asked whether she would request the order this year, Miss Sturgeon replied: ‘Yes. We will do it at an appropriate moment when the legislation is passing. It is likely to be over the next matter of weeks. It is coming soon.
‘Of course we don’t yet know who is likely to be in Downing Street, the situation is very fluid.’
Miss Sturgeon said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn should not ‘bother picking up the phone’ to ask the SNP to put him in government unless he backs an independence vote.
At the SNP conference in Aberdeen yesterday she repeated her view that holding a legal referendum was the only route to independence.
Boris Johnson’s use of social media is akin to ‘propaganda used by dictators down the ages’ says BBC’s Nick Robinson
Journalist Nick Robinson has likened the behaviour of Boris Johnson to a ‘dictator’ for broadcasting directly to the public on social media.
The former BBC political editor, currently a host of Radio 4’s Today programme, called the Prime Minister’s social media use a ‘form of propaganda’ and said it was undemocratic to avoid proper scrutiny by journalists.
Mr Robinson made the comments at the Cheltenham Literature Festival – where he also warned against presenters such as himself voicing their opinions.
Journalist Nick Robinson has likened the behaviour of Boris Johnson to a ‘dictator’ for broadcasting directly to the public on social media
He said yesterday: ‘There is no doubt that all politicians know that they can broadcast directly using social media. Johnson regularly does videos on Facebook and regularly does videos on Twitter.
‘And he has the great joy on Facebook of calling it the People’s PMQs which largely consists of his aides picking questions that they want him to answer.
There’s no capacity for anybody to say, “What did you mean about that?” or “Hold on a second” and so that’s democracy.’
He added: ‘It ain’t democracy, it is a form of propaganda used by dictators down the ages.’
Robinson called the Prime Minister’s social media use a ‘form of propaganda’ and said it was undemocratic to avoid proper scrutiny by journalist
Mr Robinson also said it was ‘a great danger’ to allow a party leader the chance to broadcast their own show – highlighting Nigel Farage’s radio programme on LBC.
Both Mr Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have only recently appeared on Today – after being criticised for shunning it in the past.
A BBC spokesman said last night that Mr Robinson’s ‘point is that social media on its own could be used to give a misleading impression of accountability’. A Downing Street spokesman declined to comment.
EU’s Michel Barnier pours cold water on hopes of new deal by October 31 saying backstop negotiations have not made ‘as much progress’ as hoped
It will be ‘very difficult’ to reach a new Brexit deal by the October 31 deadline, the EU’s chief negotiator warned last night.
Michel Barnier told ambassadors that Britain’s Irish backstop alternative is still not acceptable – despite concessions from Boris Johnson.
UK and Brussels negotiators locked themselves away in the EU Commission’s headquarters over the weekend to hammer out a compromise in time for a crunch summit on Thursday.
Michel Barnier told ambassadors that Britain’s Irish backstop alternative is still not acceptable
It came after Mr Johnson’s fresh proposals on how to solve the Northern Ireland border issue were given a warm reception by Irish premier Leo Varadkar last week.
But Mr Barnier said there had not been ‘as much progress’ as hoped during a briefing last night to update member states.
What happens this week?
TODAY – The Government will set out its plan for new laws in the Queen’s Speech.
TOMORROW – EU ministers will meet in Luxembourg, where the outline of a Brexit deal will need to be agreed if it is to be signed off by end of the week.
WEDNESDAY – French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet in Paris to agree their Brexit stance.
THURSDAY/FRIDAY – Boris Johnson attends a European Council summit in Brussels, where he hopes EU leaders will approve the new deal.
SATURDAY – The Commons meets for the first time on a Saturday since the Falklands War. MPs will vote on a deal if one has been agreed with Brussels. A huge People’s Vote march, protesting against Brexit, is planned in London.
He said Britain had failed to provide enough detail on the issue of customs, which has dogged talks surrounding the backstop, designed to prevent a hard border in Ireland.
Mr Barnier stopped short of calling off the talks, which will continue today and tomorrow.
But his bleak assessment dampened hopes of an imminent breakthrough, which is needed if Britain is to leave the EU on October 31 as Mr Johnson repeatedly promises.
One senior EU diplomat said: ‘It’s a kind of Groundhog Day that continues tomorrow on customs.’
Another added: ‘It’ll be difficult to have a legal text ready for the summit, but still not impossible if there’s some movement.’
A third diplomat said: ‘There’s momentum but probably not enough time. Negotiations are, as expected, not easy. But they are moving forward.’
EU officials had already privately said there was little chance of reaching a deal in time.
Mr Johnson’s plan involves creating two customs areas on the island of Ireland, which one senior EU source close to the negotiations described as ‘mind-bogglingly’ complex.
They added: ‘This requires careful legal work you can’t do hastily. That makes it all very tricky.’
The plan would see Northern Ireland being subject to EU customs tariffs as goods cross the Irish Sea from mainland Britain. But Northern Irish businesses would claim back rebates, meaning it would de facto remain within UK customs jurisdiction.
Mr Johnson’s plan involves creating two customs areas on the island of Ireland, which one senior EU source close to the negotiations described as ‘mind-bogglingly’ complex
A meeting of EU foreign ministers will take place tomorrow in Luxembourg, where they ideally want sight of final proposals.
Under the terms of the so-called Benn Act, Mr Johnson must accept whatever extension is offered by the EU if there is no agreement before October 31.
Any new legal text will have to be translated into all of the bloc’s languages and subjected to scrutiny by its legal services.
The EU parliament must then pass it, where it would have to go through committee hearings before facing a full vote. One EU source said it was ‘really unlikely’ all these processes could take place by the end of the month.
A UK Government spokesman said there had been ‘constructive discussions’ but that there is still ‘a significant amount of work to be done’.