A group of senior Conservative officials, including thirteen former Cabinet Ministers, have warned Prime Minister Theresa May that she risks losing the “loyal middle” of the Conservative Party if she agrees a Brexit deal with Labour which would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU. In a letter to May seen by The Times the officials write, “We believe that a customs union- based deal with Labour will very likely lose the support of Conservative MPs, like us, who backed the Withdrawal Agreement in March,” adding, “You would be unlikely to gain as many Labour MPs to compensate. More fundamentally, you would have lost the loyal middle of the Conservative Party, split our party and with likely nothing to show for it. No leader can bind his or her successor so the deal would likely be at best temporary, at worst illusory.”
Elsewhere, The Sun reports that at today’s Cabinet meeting, ministers will pressure May to end cross-party Brexit talks with the Labour Party. The paper quotes a senior Cabinet member as saying, “The talks will end this week whatever. I can’t see Labour carrying on with them,” adding, Whether [May] then goes or not will depend on whether No 10 have a Plan B, because we need one now, and it must be credible.” This comes as the Cabinet meets this morning, with discussions to focus on preparations for a potential No Deal Brexit scenario.
Separately, the Telegraph reports that May is moving towards holding “definitive votes” in parliament on different Brexit options if talks with Labour break down. Unlike previous rounds of “indicative votes,” the proposal would reportedly involve an alternative voting system, with MPs asked to rank different outcomes in order of preference. The least popular option would then be eliminated and its second preferences reallocated. A Government source told the Telegraph, “The difference between indicative votes and what we’re looking at is that with indicative votes people just went and said ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on everything. We’re looking at some way of finding a winner.” A Downing Street spokesman said that the Government would “ideally” have an agreement of Labour on the options for the votes.
Meanwhile, the BBC reports that the UK’s Chief Brexit negotiator, Olly Robbins, is in Brussels today to discuss how the Political Declaration on future relations could be modified.
Henry Newman: The Tory poll collapse is nothing to do with May’s Withdrawal Agreement.
In a piece for Conservative Home, Open Europe’s Henry Newman argues that the collapse of the Conservative vote for European elections “coincided not with the advent of the Prime Minister’s deal, but with the failure to deliver Brexit on March 29.” He concludes, “Ninety per cent of Tory MPs backed the Withdrawal Agreement the last time it was put to Parliament. If the rest could be persuaded to do so too, Brexit could be secured, and the Party could move on to deciding which leader should take forward the next phase of the negotiations.”
Writing for the LSE EUROPP Blog, Open Europe’s Zoe Alipranti offers an overview of the Greek political landscape ahead of the European elections. She argues, “Greece is no longer reeling from divisions over Europe, but swathes of the population hit by austerity are still largely dissatisfied with many angles of the European project.”
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