Earlier I referred totoday’s Sun storyquoting unnamed No 10 sources (them again) saying that Boris Johnson thought there was a reason why he would be able to stay PM, even if he lost a confidence vote in the Commons and MPs wanted someone else to head a government . (See12. 38 PM.)
If you are interested in the rights and wrongs of this argument, there is a good Twitter thread on this fromPhilippe Lagassé,a professor at a Canadian university and a specialist in Westminster politics.
And here is his conclusion.
If you want to know more about the origins of the Lascelles principles (named after Sir Alan Lascelles, private secretary to George VI, who set them out in a letter to the Times using the pseudonym Senex, this thread, byCatherine Haddonfrom the Institute for Government, is worth reading.
Boris Johnson tells Tory MPs if Brexit delayed he would not fight election on no-deal platform
Boris Johnsonhas promised centrist Conservative MPs he will not go into an election arguing for a no-deal Brexit and would never make a pact with Nigel Farage.
Damian Green,the leader of the One Nation group of 80 Tory MPs, told the Guardian that Johnson “looked [him] in the eye” as he pledged that he party will not shift to endorsing a no -DealBrexitas the Conservatives’ central policy.
Green said he believed Johnson’s reassurances, after he and Gillian Keegan, James Brokenshire and Victoria Prentis all met the prime minister in Downing Street to deliver the message that large numbers of Tory MPs would find a no -deal policy “unacceptable”. Green said:
We went in to say that no deal as the prime aim of government policy would be unacceptable in a manifesto and we were reassured that wasn’t the prime minister’s aim, that he still wants to get a deal now and still thinks that would be the best outcome. He has no intention of putting a no-deal policy in a manifesto.
This arose from a meeting of the one nation caucus earlier in the week. It was the principle point and we also wanted to be assured again that the Conservative party wouldn’t do a deal with the Brexit party.
We looked each other in the eye. I accept and believe the reassurances.
We accept that no deal has to be a possibility and the one nation caucus has by and large always been supportive of the government’s policy. What we want is for that to continue.
Centrist Tory MPs are worried about what would happen if the party had to fight an election before Brexit has happened, after being forced into a three-month extension by the Benn act.
Publicly, Johnson will not concede this is a possibility because he insists Brexit will happen on 31 October but most MPs think this is the most likely scenario – that his government will have to submit to the delay, possibly following a court order, and then he will immediately challenge Labor to an election to be held in late November.
In the debate in the European parliament the Brexit party MEPBelinda de Lucystrongly criticized David Sassoli, the European parliament’s president, for discussing Brexit with John Bercow, the Commons Speaker. (See (3) 53 pm.)She said that this showed Sassoli was directly intervening in the UK’s domestic politics and that he was trying to stop Brexit. “It is immoral – shame on you,” she said.
Guy Verfhofstadt,the liberal MEP and former Belgian PM who chairs the European parliament’s (Brexit) steering group, told De Lucy that it was ridiculous for her accuse MEPs of being undemocratic when her own party was not represented in the UK parliament.
He also criticized Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan, saying:
I will be less diplomatic thanMichel Barnier. I think that the proposal that Boris Johnson has put forward was not serious at all. Not serious at all because it was in fact a virtual proposal. It was not a real proposal. It gives a veto to the DUP in a number of issues. It is putting customs facilities, not on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, but in all the other parts of the island of Ireland that we don’t know yet.
And finally the proposal is to downgrade the political declaration on the future relationship by undercutting, by making a Singapore-at-the-sea, at the North Sea, like the [Brexit party], by in fact destroying the ecological social and labor standards.
Updated (at 11. 38 am EDT
Opening of European parliament debate – Highlights
Here are some of the key quotes from the European parliament hearing.
- Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, criticized the UK government for engaging in a “blame game”.He said Brexit was the choice of the British people. He went on:
Although we are respecting that choice. As it stands, we will remain in discussion with the United Kingdom on the terms of its departure.
And, personally, I don’t exclude a deal. We are, Michel [Barnier] and myself, working on a deal.
And we are not accepting this blame game, which started in London.
- Juncker said the British should not forget the need for the European parliament to agree any Brexit deal.
I would like to repeat, to the attention of our British friends, that there is not only a parliament in Westminster which has to agree, there is a parliament here.
- Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said an agreement was not currently possible.He said:
To put things very frankly, though, and to try and be objective, this particular point, we are not really in a position where we are able to find an agreement.
- David Sassoli, president of the European parliament, said that any Brexit extension should be to allow the British public to express their views – either through an election, or a referendum.He also revealed that he had discussed Brexit with the Commons Speaker, John Bercow. (See2. 45 PM.)
This is from my colleagueRowena Mason.
Obviously, this does not mean Boris Johnson has given up trying to take the UK out of the EU on (October.)
It means that, if Brexit does get extended against his wishes, and he has to fight an election, he says he will not campaign on a Brexit party-style no-deal platform, as an unnamed No 10 insider (almost universally assumed to be Dominic Cummings)told the Spectator earlier this week.
Updated (at) . 23 am EDT
Michel Barnierhas now finished. Here is some comment on what he had to say.
From the BBC’sAdam Fleming
From Mail Online’sJames Tapsfield
From RTE’sTony Connelly
Barnier says there are other issues dividing the two sides, including what to put in the political declaration.
He says there is a risk of having just a very basic free trade agreement. That might involve tax dumping and social regulation dumping (ie, the UK trying to undercut the EU.)
He says the EU wants a fair and level playing field.
He says, whenBrexithappens, it will be long term.
He says it is creating serious and specific problems. We need operational, legally-binding solutions – today, not tomorrow.
He says the EU will remain calm, vigilant and constructive. And he says it will be respectful of the UK and its leaders.
He says he will be available 24 / 7 in the coming days to try to reach an agreement.
He will respect his mandate, he says.
He says it might be “very difficult”. But, he goes on:
If there is goodwill on both sides, I think an agreement is still possible.
Barnier turns to his third point – the consent mechanism.
He says the EU wants a more important role for the Northern Irish institutions.
He says the UK plan would involve a unilateral decision being taken by the Northern Irish authorities. That means they could unilaterally decide not to introduce these arrangements.
Barnier turns to the second issue.
There must be operational solutions, he says.
He says the UK plan does not give the same security as the backstop, because it relies on ideas being worked out during the transition.
The UK propose having a joint committee to find solutions during the transition. But what happens if it can’t?
The UK or the EU would then have to impose unilateral checks. But what would happen if the UK did not enforce any checks?
He says the UK plan has led to three concerns.
First, the border issue.Boris Johnsonhas rejected the backstop, a safety net agreed with Theresa May, he says.
He says the UK and the EU agree on regulatory alignment for goods in Northern Ireland. But there is a dispute about customs. The EU wanted a backstop to avoid border checks. But the UK is asking the EU to accept a system that has not been properly tested, relying on exemptions and derogations and technology that has not been properly tested.
He says the EU needs the integrity of the single market and customs union, and proper checks. There must be credible controls, he says. The single market must be credible to consumers and companies.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chiefBrexitnegotiator, is speaking now.
He says the UK have a competent and professional negotiating team.
But he says the two sides are not in a position to reach an agreement.
Time is pressing, he says.
Juncker accuses UK government of engaging in a ‘ blame game ‘
Juncker turns toBrexit.
He says it was the choice of the UK.
He says he is not ruling out a deal.
And he does not accept this blame game, “which started in London”.
He says he would like to repeat, for the sake of the British, that the European parliament would have to approve a Brexit deal, as well as the UK parliament.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, is speaking now.
He starts with non-Brexit issues. He is currently talking about EU enlargement (the opposite of Brexit).