Keeping up? Here's a brief guide to what might have just happened in Brexit
It may have been a big 24 hours for Brexit, although we’ve said that before. While the deeply divided cabinet appears to have made progress, the vultures are again circling, coming from both Labour and Conservative party ranks.
On Thursday, the Brexit ‘war cabinet’ met for hours of tense discussions at Chequers, Prime Minister Theresa May’s official country residence. After a good eight hours of back and forth, senior sources said that “divergence has won.” In other words, the United Kingdom will demand the freedom to cast off the shackles of EU rules after the UK leaves the bloc.
Not all are seeing eye to eye though. “Hammond and Boris are still the two on the peripheries of the argument, and both are still very dug in,” one source said. “Neither are ready to budge yet, so some sort of verbal fudge looks most likely.”
Meanwhile, the Conservative’s number one pro-EU rebel, Anna Soubry, seems to be courting the Labour party to sow instability for Theresa May’s Brexit plans.
I've tabled a new amendment to #TradeBill mandating Govt to form "a" Customs Union with #EU#Brexit. It's gaining x party support @ChukaUmunna@NickyMorgan01 et al. It would be in the national interest if the Government & official Opposition also backed it. https://t.co/DepbwMoKUf— Anna Soubry MP (@Anna_Soubry) February 22, 2018
Soubry has tabled a fresh amendment to the Government’s Trade Bill. MPs are expected to vote on the bill within weeks, but as May only has a working majority of 13, the likelihood of the bill being passed has tipped in Soubry’s favor – and it would significantly undermine the PM’s authority… again.
Her move comes as Jeremy Corbyn reportedly prepares to officially commit Labour to joining a customs union with the EU following Brexit.
Jeremy Hunt is firm when he says there's no possibility of the government coming round to the idea of a customs union #r4today— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) February 23, 2018
The bill is designed to force the UK to join a customs union with the EU after Brexit – but Tory MP Jeremy Hunt firmly told the BBC on Friday that there is no possibility of the government coming around to a customs union… so watch this space.
Meanwhile, the prime minister is apparently preparing to do a backflip on past comments that EU citizens arriving in the UK during the post-Brexit transition period should have different rights than those who arrived before the change, according to The Times.
May is reportedly gearing up to bow to the pressure put on her by Brussels by giving permanent residency to EU migrants who arrive in the UK during the Brexit transition period.
The 180-degree flip would see the UK PM reverse her stance only three weeks after saying EU citizens would be treated differently when the UK exits the bloc in March 2019.
“I’m clear there is a difference between those who came prior to us leaving and those who will come when they know the UK is leaving,” she told journalists in January.
May’s stance angered the bloc, with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier stating that “if the UK wants to enjoy the advantages of the single market and customs union, it has to accept all the rules and obligations until the end of the transition.”
“To be quite frank, if these disagreements persist the transition is not a given,” he said. “As I said, time is very short and we haven’t a minute to lose if we want to succeed, and we do want to succeed in this orderly withdrawal.” May will hash out more details of the Government’s Brexit approach in a major speech next Friday – so now we watch and wait.