Closed Brexit deal crisis: May fights back — as it happened

Amber Rudd at Downing Street, London, United Kingdom - 13 Nov 2018

A live blog from

To start off our live blog on Brexit today we’re sharing a snapshot of today’s front pages after a rather chaotic day yesterday where two cabinet ministers, Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, resigned over Theresa May’s Brexit deal, along with two other junior ministers.

Pound steadies

The pound was strongly affected yesterday by Brexit drama, falling as much as 2 per cent to just over $1.27 as investors became nervous about the future political stability of the UK. But it has held its value in Asia trading this morning, even edging slightly higher, Alice Woodhouse writes from Hong Kong.

We’ll be watching what happens when the markets open in London at 08:00 GMT.

What next?

The FT’s James Blitz has summed up the possible scenarios for how Britain could now exit the EU, following the resignation of Theresa May’s Brexit secretary and increasing talk of a potential Tory leadership challenge.

David Davis interview

David Davis, the former secretary of state for the Department of Exiting the European Union, is now speaking on Radio 4′s Today programme.

Davis, who resigned in July, says he does not like the deal that is on the table. “We have been too willing to accept what the European Union signals and not test it”.

Davis: No deal is the “second best option”

Former Brexit secretary David Davis tells BBC’s Today programme he believes May’s deal will be rejected by parliament.

“When it rejects it as it will, she has to go back and renegotiate it” he says. He also says it is conceivable to back and start again. “All European Union negotiations go to the last minute” he argues.

“No deal, nobody prefers no deal, but as I’ve said many many times it is not something we are terrified of. Its the second best option. Its much better, I’m afraid, than the options in front of us today.”

“Less sovereignty post-Brexit”

To understand how the future relationship between the UK and the EU might look post-Brexit, read the FT’s Brussels Bureau Chief Alex Barker’s piece on how Britain’s parliament will be left with less sovereign control, rather than more – especially during the transition period. The ‘standstill’ until December 2020 is the House of Commons’ period of greatest impotence.

The Brexit withdrawal treaty: a recap

What with all the political drama, there is a risk of forgetting what all our MPs are arguing about.

Think tank the Institute for Government has worked through the draft agreement that Theresa May got through her cabinet but that could well be rejected by parliament.

Read it here.

The IFG says:

The transition remains as negotiated in March this year; however, it now includes the provision for the UK to request a one-off extension.

During transition, the UK would continue to be subject to all EU rules but also enjoy all rights except involvement in EU institutions.

“Geographical indications that protect products such as Champagne, Welsh lamb Parma ham will be protected under UK law.

This has important implications for trade policy as it prevents the UK from importing other countries’ versions of protected products (such as Australian feta cheese).

A single customs territory between the EU and the UK will come into force if there is no deal by December 2020.

Northern Ireland would be part of the same customs territory as Great Britain, but unlike Great Britain would have to apply EU customs law as set out in the Union’s Customs Code.

Northern Ireland will also be obliged to align with specific EU rules.

In particular, it will have to stick to the rules of the EU’s Single Market in areas such as technical regulation of goods, agricultural and environmental production and regulation, state aid and other areas of North-South cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

In order to avoid the need for regulatory checks in Ireland, Northern Ireland will have to stay in line with some Single market rules. As the rest of Britain could diverge, there will need to be some checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Resignations recap and rumours

Just as a reminder, Prime Minister Theresa May was rocked by a series of resignations yesterday from members of the government who felt they could not support her Brexit strategy, including two cabinet ministers.

They were:

Dominic Raab (Brexit Secretary)
Esther McVey (Work and Pensions Secretary)

Junior ministers
Shailesh Vara (Northern Ireland Minister)
Suella Braverman (Brexit Minister)

… and two parliamentary aides – Ranil Jayawardena and Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

In addition, Conservative party junior vice chairman Rehman Chishti quit his post.

Now Downing Street is on alert for the possible resignation of Michael Gove, the environment secretary who fronted the Vote Leave campaign in 2016 alongside Boris Johnson.

He has reportedly refused an offer from May to become the new Brexit secretary because she will not let him renegotiate the withdrawal deal.

He favours a temporary “Norway-style” tie-up with the EU until a looser trade relationship is agreed.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt is also considered to be thinking of quitting, after repeatedly asking May to grant the Tories a free vote on the Brexit deal.

The pound is holding steady

Early trading of the UK’s sterling today indicates that investors are holding tight — waiting to hear more news about the turmoil surrounding Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Theresa May takes to the airwaves

Theresa May is now live on LBC radio and is – in a rare move for the PM – taking calls from the public.

A question from the first caller, a Tory councillor, who raises concerns about the withdrawal agreement and sovereignty, asking May if she thought she should stay on as PM. May answers by reassuring the caller that the deal “will see an end to free movement” and that the UK would be leaving the EU in March as promised.

May gives no word on the future of her leadership.

May on the DUP: still working together

Pressed by LBC radio host Nick Ferrari on whether she can depend on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, Theresa May has denied that she has had a “testy exchange” with the party’s leader, Arlene Foster, over their concerns over the Northern Ireland border.

DUP MPs based in Westminster have propped up May’s minority government since the 2017 election. May said the two parties are “still working” together but would not directly answer whether she thought the DUP would vote for her deal.

“When this vote comes back every individual MP will decide how they will vote, whether they are DUP, Conservative, Labour, all parties within the House of Commons,” she said.

Another no-confidence letter

Former cabinet minister John Whittingdale told BBC Radio 4 that he also submitted a letter of no confidence in May. If 48 Tory MPs put in such a request, it would trigger a no-confidence vote in the PM.

All eyes are on Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative party’s 1922 committee, to announce if or when the threshold of 48 letters has been met.

Last night the FT’s Laura Hughes spoke to a member from the European Research Group who said the number of letters from MPs calling for a leadership had “certainly gone up but reckon they are still in 30s”.

Can the prime minister afford to lose Michael Gove today?

May is still on Britain’s LBC radio station, taking questions from the public, which are heating up .
When asked whether she could afford to lose another cabinet minister, such as Brexiter Michael Gove, who is understood to be considering his position, she responds:

“I want everyone in the cabinet to continue doing the great job they are already doing.”

Gove fronted the 2016 Leave campaign with his Conservative colleague Boris Johnson.

Speaking on LBC radio on Friday morning, May said she recognised colleagues’ concerns about the Irish backstop. “I have some of those concerns myself”, she admitted.

Asked if she had spoken to Gove about his future in cabinet, May said: “I had a very good conversation with Michael yesterday actually.”
Asked about Brexit secretary Dominic Raab’s resignation of Thursday morning, May says:

“I haven’t appointed a new Brexit Secretary yet, but obviously I will be doing that over the course of the next day or so.”

Gove, the FT has reported, has refused to replace Raab unless the prime minister rips up the withdrawal treaty agreed with Brussels and starts again.

Questioned on LBC about this, May responds:

“I don’t talk about things to do with the Cabinet reshuffle.”

£394m Brexit boost for the NHS?

May has taken a call on LBC radio from an NHS worker, asking about whether the UK’s health service will still receive £350m every week – as promised by the Vote Leave campaign in 2016 if the UK were to leave the EU.

May said the government was committed to producing a “10-year plan so we can assure the secure future of the NHS”, adding that the government would actually be able to put an extra £394m into the NHS weekly post-Brexit. A statement to watch.

Markets update

Investors are seemingly more positive about the Brexit scenario right now, following a dramatic day of Brexit news when little support was shown for Theresa May’s EU exit treaty.

Here’s the latest from our markets reporter Michael Hunter:

— UK stocks have opened higher today, with the FTSE 100 up 0.6 per cent.

— Meanwhile, the Royal Bank of Scotland’s shares regained 0.4 per cent, having fallen almost 10 per cent yesterday.

— Shares of housebuilder Persimmon found support, 0.3 per cent higher after a tumble of almost 8 per cent yesterday.

— The FTSE 250 was up 0.5 per cent this morning after falling 1.3 per cent on Thursday. Its constituents earn a greater proportion of their revenue in the UK, leaving it more exposed to fears about the dangers posed to the domestic economy by a disorderly Brexit.

— The pound reached a day-high as the prime minister was speaking live on London-based radio station LBC. Sterling was up 0.4 per cent on yesterday’s close against the dollar to just over $1.28.

A free vote on Brexit?

Still taking calls on LBC radio from the public, May is now asked whether members of parliament would get a “free vote” on the final Brexit deal – a type of vote where MPs are not pressured by party leaders and whips to move a certain way. They are traditionally allowed for matters deemed to be of conscience or ethics.

May responds delphically, so not exactly ruling it out:

“There is cabinet collective responsibility in this country. Government policy is government policy.”

Our parliamentary reporter Laura Hughes points out that Penny Mordaunt, international development secretary, is understood to have urged the prime minister in a meeting yesterday to allow a free vote.

Selling Brexit to the public: how did the PM do?

May has now finished her stint on Britain’s LBC radio station taking questions from the public. So how did she do?

Laura Hughes, a member of our Westminster team, writes in to say:

Theresa May has an extraordinary ability to plough on. Even as callers suggested she should stand down as Prime Minister, it felt like water off a duck’s back for Mrs May.

Her answers were somewhat robotic, as she continued to defend her deal. Lacking the much needed support of her own MPs, she was appealing directly to the public to back her. If she was feeling rattled, she certainly didn’t show it but there is no doubt the resignations over the last 48 hours will be weighing heavily on her.

Reports of a “likely” no-confidence vote

We’re seeing reports of a likely no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Theresa May’s leadership of the Tory party.

Here’s how the markets are reacting, from the FT’s markets reporter Michael Hunter:

— Investors are continuing to sell off housebuilders’ and banks’ shares.

— The Royal Bank of Scotland saw its shares fall a further 3 per cent this morning, meaning they’ve dropped a total of 12 per cent in the last two days. Meanwhile, Lloyds Banking Group’s shares fell by 1.9 per cent today and the housebuilder, Persimmon, saw its shares fall by 1.1 per cent.

— Demand for companies that earn revenue in dollars helped offset the pressure on UK stocks, leaving the FTSE 100 up 0.2 per cent overall from yesterday’s close.

No go for Gove

The BBC has said that Michael Gove is not resigning, citing sources at the department for environment.

Downing Street had been on alert for the possible resignation of the environment secretary and Brexiter, after he refused an offer from Theresa May to become the new Brexit secretary because she would not let him renegotiate the withdrawal deal.

Gove favours a temporary “Norway-style” tie-up with the EU until a looser trade relationship is agreed. A decision to stay on in May’s cabinet suggests he may plan to try to influence policy from inside government.

If parliament rejects, what next?

If parliament rejects the Brexit deal agreed between the UK and the EU, think-tank the Centre for European Reform has some ideas about what could come next.

A CER report outlines five possible options: no deal, renegotiation of a different deal, a general election, a second Brexit referendum, or MPs finally accepting the deal.

The CER says that in the case of no deal, the EU and the UK might negotiate mini-deals on aviation, citizens’ rights, insurance contracts, border controls etc, in order to avoid disruption for businesses and citizens.

If negotiations reopen for a new deal, the UK might end up with a softer version of Brexit, including a permanent customs union, or a “Norway option” with the UK joining the European Free Trade Association in order to remain in the EU’s single market.

The problem with this scenario, the CER says, is that the British parliament would probably find it hard to accept single market rules on a permanent basis, and neither the EU nor the EFTA countries want the UK to join just for a few years.

In the case of failed renegotiations pushing the UK towards the “cliff edge”, a general election might start looking like an attractive option, says the report. It would be welcomed by the Labour leadership. And a new Labour government might open the door to a softer Brexit or even a second referendum.

Calls for May to step down

The FT is aware of at least 20 letters of no-confidence already submitted by Tory MPs, against their party leader Theresa May. For a vote to be triggered — to decide whether or not May can remain as party leader — there needs to be a total of 48 letters.

Here’s a list of those who have already expressed their discontent with the current prime minister’s leadership, from the FT’s political correspondent Laura Hughes.

Jacob Rees-Mogg
Steve Baker
Andrew Bridgen
Laurence Robertson
Nadine Dorries
Andrea Jenkyns
Adam Holloway
Anne Marie Morris
Henry Smith
Sheryll Murray
Maria Caulfield
Martin Vickers
Lee Rowley
Ben Bradley
Simon Clarke
Peter Bone
Philip Davies
James Duddridge
John Whittingdale
Mark Francois

One Conservative MP on the list said he was aware of “more” MPs who have submitted letters, but it’s not for me to say who.”

Green shoots of support

A sign of support for May comes from a group of ministers committing themselves to stay, tweets Sunday Times political editor Tim Shipman:

Gove staying put at Defra

The big rumour bouncing around the Brexit echo chamber this morning was of the imminent resignation of Michael Gove, the environment secretary who fronted the 2016 Leave campaign with ex-foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

Political correspondent Laura Hughes writes that he is unlikely to resign, however.

An official close to Gove has told Laura: “Michael is staying at Defra. He thinks it is important to continue working with cabinet colleagues to ensure the best outcome for the country.”

That could be seen as a boost to Theresa May, in that it might quell a rebellion by the hard-Brexit faction of the Conservative party against her leadership.

But Laura’s view is:

While Mr Gove’s decision offers some relief for Theresa May, he and other Brexiters are likely to keep piling on the pressure from within the cabinet. His decision to reject an offer to become Brexit Secretary suggests he is not prepared to support the prime minister’s plan as it stands.

Brexit secretary Dominic Raab’s resignation on Thursday means a rebellion by the hard-Brexit faction of the Conservative Party against her leadership is still on the cards.

Hard Brexiters have complained in previous days that the treaty gives the UK too much of a continuing relationship with Europe going forward.

It is also worth remembering that May remains under attack from backbenchers in her own party. At least 20 Conservative MPs have sent letters to the 1922 committee, a mechanism for triggering a vote of no-confidence in the Prime Minister.

The EU prepares a tougher stance

Mehreen Khan in Brussels writes that the EU is preparing to take a tougher line on its future relationship with the UK, with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier telling member states that Britain has to face up to the security consequences of withdrawing from the bloc.

At a meeting with ambassadors from the remaining EU27 states, Barnier warned there would be “difficult negotiations” over British demands to maintain access to parts of the bloc’s internal security database, according to a diplomatic note seen by the FT.

“A deal is better than no deal”

In a further boost for Theresa May, Liam Fox, state secretary for international trade and a vocal Brexit supporter, stated during an event in Bristol that “a deal is better than no deal”.

I hope that we all take a rational and reasonable view of this. We are not elected to do what we want, but to act in national interest. Ultimately I hope that across the Parliament we will recognise that a deal is better than no deal.

Businesses do require certainty, confidence as they go forward with their planning, and there are those around the world that are waiting to get certainty also to begin to discuss trade agreements with the United Kingdom. It’s in our national interest.

You can watch the video with his speech here.

Downing Street not anticipating no confidence vote

The FT’s Laura Hughes has just been told by an official at Number 10 that there are no preparations for a no-confidence vote in Theresa May. Make of that what you will but there is still no indication that the hard-line Tory Brexiter rebels have got the 48 names needed to trigger a leadership challenge. You might recall earlier we published a list of 20 MPs who have publicly declared they have written letters.

Starmer predicts Brexit deal to fall

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer has predicted “choppy times” politically next week and said that the deal proposed by Theresa May will probably fall, reports the FT’s North East Correspondent Chris Tighe in Gateshead.

Speaking ahead of an address to a business audience, the Labour MP said that in negotiations “the prime minister started in the wrong place and she had ended up in the wrong place.”

Starmer argued that the PM should have started from the stance that Britain wanted a close economic relationship to protect manufacturing and services.

He acknowledged that within the Labour party there were “different views” on Brexit. But he said Labour’s strategy as decided at its conference – to push for a general election with a second referendum as an option – was unanimously agreed.

Starmer added that the reasons for the Leave vote in the 2016 referendum were “bigger than Brexit”, and reflected frustration at power and influence going to places other than regions like the north east of England . “I don’t think leaving the EU is going to solve all of this”, he said.

Asked by the FT what he believed the outcome of a second referendum would be if held now, Starmer declined to offer a prediction. But he said: “There’s a growing number of people who are extremely anxious and are losing confidence in the government’s ability to negotiate. There are a lot more people across the country who are saying they just don’t have confidence this is going to end well.”

Some relief for the beleaguered prime minister?

There has been some good news for Theresa May this morning with two Brexiters in cabinet giving the prime minister their support.

The vote of confidence from Michael Gove, the environment secretary, would have brought the biggest sigh of relief inside Downing Street.

Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, has also come out in support for the prime minister this morning, while yesterday, Andrea Leadsom, another hardcore Brexiter in the cabinet, told the House of Commons that she was staying in government.

Earlier today, the Sunday Times political editor Tim Shipman tweeted that he had been told by a very good source that international development secretary Penny Mordaunt and transport secretary Chris Grayling had agreed with Gove and Fox to stay on and collectively work together. We have not been able to confirm that yet.

This is the statement that Gove put out earlier to confirm he was staying on:

I’ve had a very good morning in a series of meetings with my colleagues here at Defra, just making sure that we have the right policies on the environment, on farming and on fisheries for the future.

And I’m also looking forward to continuing to work with all my Government colleagues, and all my colleagues in Parliament in order to make sure that we get the best future for Britain.

I think it’s absolutely vital that we focus on getting the right deal in the future and making sure that in the areas that matter so much to the British people, we can get a good outcome.

Another no-confidence letter

The list of Tory MPs who are using no-confidence letters to the 1922 Committee to try and trigger a leadership challenge against Theresa May is growing. The mechanism requires 48 letters from MPs. We have counted 21 so far.

The latest comes just now from Chris Green, MP for Bolton West & Atherton.

He had already resigned as an aide in the transport department, having decided Theresa May was set to deliver Brexit “in name only”, as he told the Bolton News in July.

Today he tweeted:

For those who cannot access Twitter, his tweet reads:

My constituents want a clean break from the European Union, taking back control of our laws, our borders, our money and our trade. The withdrawal proposal from the Prime Minister will not help deliver that result.

He then says:

In the run up to, during and following the 2016 EU Referendum, I held numerous public meetings and spoke with a great many constituents. The referendum result and those conversations make it clear to me what the will of the people of Bolton West and Atherton is.

Here is the list of the others who have submitted their letters, that we know of:

Jacob Rees-Mogg
Steve Baker
Andrew Bridgen
Laurence Robertson
Nadine Dorries
Andrea Jenkyns
Adam Holloway
Anne Marie Morris
Henry Smith
Sheryll Murray
Maria Caulfield
Martin Vickers
Lee Rowley
Ben Bradley
Simon Clarke
Peter Bone
Philip Davies
James Duddridge
John Whittingdale
Mark Francois

Jo Johnson: the inside story of Brexit and where it all went wrong

The FT has just published an essay by Jo Johnson, the former transport minister and pro-European, who caused ructions within government when he resigned last week over the prime minister’s handling of Brexit.

In the piece, Johnson relives the key moments in the saga, including his role in how the referendum came to take place, before going on to give a candid assessment of the government’s failures – and proposing a way out.

It recounts how Johnson led the team that wrote the Conservative party’s 2015 general election manifesto, which was based on continuing the “modernising journey” begun by David Cameron and George Osborne a decade earlier.

Aimed at addressing concerns that the Tories were the “party of the rich”, the campaign launch focused on promises to outspend Labour on the NHS and raise the income tax threshold for lower earners.

But, he adds, “there was also a need for big juicy hunks of red meat for the Eurosceptic base.” That came in the form of a promise on page 72 of the manifesto to hold an In-Out referendum on EU membership.

By way of explaining his own resignation, Johnson gives a withering view of the Brexit deal proposed by Theresa May:

Suspension of disbelief is a necessary ingredient in all storytelling. So it has been with the government’s narrative that it is delivering Brexit. There comes a point, though, when the internal inconsistencies of a work become so glaring that the effort to stave off incredulity becomes too great for the reader and the spell is broken.

To read the full essay, click here.

Sterling latest

The pound is having a much steadier day compared to turbulence on the markets on Thursday reflecting the relative easing of the febrile political atmosphere.

The pound touched its highest level for the day on Friday afternoon London trade, up 0.7 per cent at $1.2866.

But Shamik Dhar, chief economist at BNY Mellon Investment Management, cautioned that UK assets were likely to remain volatile for the foreseeable future:

Yesterday’s political developments have shifted the [Brexit] odds in favour of ‘no deal’ and small changes in those odds can generate a lot of volatility – simply because the market outcome in each scenario is so different.

Sterlings rebound was, in part, a factor of wider dollar weakness. Against the euro, the pound was only 0.1 per cent stronger with £0.8854 required for a unit of the shared currency.

Member of hardline Tory anti-EU group backs May

We’re not sure if this is a first but Jack Lopresti, a member of the European Research Group of about 60 Tory MPs led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, has issued a statement (below) saying he “fully supports the prime minister and the draft withdrawal agreement”.

That could make things a bit awkward around the breakfast table, as Lopresti’s partner is another Tory backbencher and fellow ERG member Andrea Jenkyns. She has been very public in her call for a Brexiter to replace May as prime minister and is one of the 20 or so MPs known to have submitted a letter calling for a change of leader.

Brexit cabinet ministers to meet

The FT’s Laura Hughes has been told by an official close to Andrea Leadsom that the leader of the House of Commons will convene a meeting of core Brexit Cabinet members over the weekend to discuss their concerns about the draft withdrawal treaty. They “will discuss how to move the dial and make an effort to join up on the way forward”, the official said somewhat cryptically. It’s not clear if they will seek to make amendments to the treaty agreed with Brussels but any attempts at changes are likely to meet with resistance from leaders of the other 27 EU members.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte (pictured below left, with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Theresa May) said earlier that it was “highly unlikely that we will make important changes,” echoing similar sentiments expressed on Thursday by German chancellor Angela Merkel and French prime minister Edouard Philippe.

Reshuffle coming

The FT’s Laura Hughes says Number 10 is set to brief in the next 10 to 15 minutes on the cabinet reshuffle. There are widespread reports that Amber Rudd, the former home secretary, Remain supporter and ally of Theresa May, is set to return as work and pensions secretary, replacing Esther McVey, who quit yesterday.

German government: work still to do

The German foreign minster Heiko Maas has taken to Twitter to remind everyone that “both sides still have work to do” following the “initial” Brexit agreement.

For those of you who can’t access Twitter the full text reads:
Foreign Minister @HeikoMaas on #Brexit: The initial #BrexitAgreement is an important step. But it is only one part of the journey to an orderly Brexit. Both sides still have work to do.

Emoticon Reshuffle 1: Rudd returns to cabinet

Amber Rudd will return to government after being appointed the new work and pensions secretary, writes the FT’s Laura Hughes.

Ms Rudd will replace Esther McVey, who resigned on Thursday morning in protest against the draft Brexit deal, following a heated exchange with prime minister Theresa May.

She resigned as home secretary in April in the wake of the Windrush scandal. An inquiry published this month found she was “not supported as she should have been” by officials.

Ms Rudd, who backed the Remain campaign, has spoken out in favour of Mrs May’s draft Brexit withdrawal agreement. She has said it is “not perfect but perfect was never on offer”.

She has also insisted that there is a majority in the House of Commons that “would assert itself to stop a no-deal”.

‘Wise decision’ by May to bring back Rudd

FT political commentator Sebastian Payne says Theresa May has made a “wise decision” to bring Amber Rudd, as close a confidante as any MP to the prime minister, back into the cabinet.

A liberal Conservative representing the uber-marginal seat of Hastings and Rye on the south coast of England, she is an experienced media-savvy politician. Just the sort of person, in fact, May needs to sell her Brexit deal to a sceptical nation.

Rudd will bring a warmer approach to the Department for Work Pensions compared to the toughness of Esther McVey, who resigned yesterday. Yet she faces formidable challenges in her new role. With the UN reporting that austerity has inflicted “great misery” on Britain, she will faces difficult questions about whether the government should take a new approach to poverty.

The Universal Credit welfare reforms are also rolling out across the country and success is far from assured. If these reforms are deemed too pernicious to the poorest in society, Rudd and the Conservative party will have to take the blame.

Rudd was a staunch Remainer, who has toyed with the idea of a second referendum if Britain heads for a no-deal Brexit. But for Conservatives pining for the days of David Cameron’s leadership, the return of Rudd to frontline politics is a welcome respite from the constant outrage of angry Brexiters. She has made little effort to hide her ambitions to succeed May one day. Her chances of doing so have just risen considerably.

Emoticon Reshuffle 2: new Brexit secretary

A little known MP Stephen Barclay, currently a health minister, has been appointed the new Brexit Secretary, writes the FT’s Laura Hughes. But the role will be downgraded leaving him in charge of domestic preparation for Brexit, including a no deal.

Prime minister Theresa May will assume responsibility for negotiating the future relationship.

Barclay, who voted Leave, was a City Minister under former prime minister David Cameron.

Who is the new Brexit secretary?

The FT’s financial editor Patrick Jenkins wrote a bit about Stephen Barclay when he was City minister in July 2017. This is what he said:

Dozens of the City’s finest headed down to Canary Wharf Group’s Canada Square HQ at the crack of dawn last Wednesday. The draw? Stephen Barclay, the new City minister, was holding forth at a gathering of the advisory council of The CityUK. The lobby group has an advisory council to rival the UN (latest tally: 77 members). Normally a decent proportion show up. This time there were close to 50 in attendance.

Barclay, a former banker and regulator and a key interlocutor in crucial Brexit planning, was a magnet for the top bankers, asset managers and insurers represented on the panel. Discussion was highly technical, focusing on euro clearing, regulatory equivalence, mutual recognition and the Brexit transition timetable. “He was onside with us on everything, but cautious about whether it could be delivered,” one participant reported.

John McFarlane, CityUK’s chairman, described Barclay as “impressive”. Another bigwig attendee, was rather more direct about the contrast between Barclay and his predecessor Simon Kirby, the now ex-MP who was stripped of responsibility for the City and Brexit after complaints about his competence. “It was night and day,” the bigwig told City Insider. “Barclay made a good impression, but relative to his predecessor, it was a brilliant impression.”

Brexit secretary Barclay: mixed reputation

The FT’s Sebastian Payne and Laura Hughes have penned a quick first take on the little known new member of cabinet:

The response to Stephen Barclay’s appointment as the new Brexit secretary is: who? The MP for North East Cambridgeshire has risen over the last eight years without trace. Mr Barclay worked for Barclays bank prior to entering parliament in 2010. He has since been a loyal Conservative backbencher, serving on several select committees before taking junior ministerial offices at the Treasury and Department for Health.

Now he sits at the top table of government. Unlike his predecessors David Davis and Dominic Raab, Barclay will not even notionally be in the charge of the negotiations with the EU. Theresa May has finally acknowledged that she alone is responsible for the talks. Her new Brexit secretary will deal purely with domestic preparations for exit day in March 2019.

Barclay was no doubt given the job because he supported Leave and can speak to fellow travellers in parliament and the country. His reputation among civil servants is mixed: some see him as “inept” and “the worst minister I’ve ever worked for”. Others think he is an effective fixer and the “kind of guy who sorts things out”.

Parliamentary colleagues say his chief qualities are his quietness and loyalty – both appealing to May. Similarly to Amber Rudd, who has returned to the cabinet as the new work and pensions secretary, Barclay’s chief task now is public: to help sell May’s Brexit deal.

Other ministerial appointments in reshuffle

Theresa May has also plugged the holes left by the promotion of Stephen Barclay and the resignations of two junior ministers yesterday, reports the FT’s Laura Hughes.

Stephen Hammond, a vocal pro-EU MP, has been appointed a health minister, while John Penrose has been made a Northern Ireland minister, after Shailesh Vara quit as junior minister in the Northern Ireland office. Kwasi Kwarteng has been appointed a Brexit minister, following the resignation of Suella Braverman on Thursday.

Political forces make UK ‘uninvestable’

Meanwhile, away from the Westminster bubble, some market watchers are getting increasingly concerned about whether they should be investing in UK equities because of what is happening there.

The FT’s US markets editor, Robin Wigglesworth, spotted this in a note from Berstein analyst Inigo Fraser-Jenkins:

With UK politics in the midst of Brexit turmoil what are investors meant to do? We think that the UK market might be “uninvestable” in the specific sense that the near term movement is likely to be dominated by political forces that, bluntly, are very hard to model.

Here’s a bit more from the note:

CBI: the UK should not go backwards

The CBI, the UK’s largest business lobby group, has once again urged MPs to but aside their differences and compromise to ensure the draft withdrawal agreement does not fall apart.

In a statement, the lobby group said:

We are united in the view that the government’s proposed deal represents hard-won progress. It requires all sides – including business – to compromise, but compromising is essential to avoid a damaging no deal and move on to the future. For the sake of the prosperity of our country, we must not go backwards.

Warning from Dublin

Leo Varadkar, the Irish premier, has joined other EU leaders in warning the UK government should not expect it can renegotiate parts of the draft withdrawal agreement, reports the FT’s Arthur Beesley from Dublin.

“I don’t see much room for renegotiation” of the agreement, he said, without postponing Britain’s scheduled departure from the EU next March.

The Irish premier also said Dublin would find it “very difficult” to avoid a hard border with Northern Ireland in a no-deal Brexit, going further than before to explicitly recognise the risk of physical infrastructure returning to the frontier if the agreement collapses.

“I think it’s very hard to start making amendments without everybody wanting to make amendments and you could see the whole thing unravel,” the taoiseach told reporters in Dublin.

“I certainly don’t think it could be renegotiated in the period that’s left. We’re only a few months away from Brexit now. I think any renegotiation would involve postponing Brexit and people who propose it don’t seem to want that.”

May fights back with charm offensive

The prime minister has moved to shore up her fragile position over the weekend after instructing whips to launch an intensive campaign quell party unrest over the controversial draft withdrawal deal, the FT’s George Parker and Laura Hughes report.

Theresa May held a conference call with about 300 local Tory party chairs to make her case for the Brexit deal, atlhough according to Mark Wallace of ConservativeHome not all went to plan.

“There’s a pretty bad glitch with No10’s conference call system – it offended various Tory association chairman by cutting them off the call for no reason after Chequers, too. Less charm, more offensive,” he tweeted.

Eurosceptics turn on each other

Theresa May certainly got a boost when a threatened second wave of Eurosceptic cabinet resignations failed to materialise. Ministers led by Michael Gove, the environment secretary, opted to remain in their posts to lead a campaign to improve the deal form inside the cabinet.

The move infuriated fellow Brexiters. “What exactly do they think they are going to change?” asked one Eurosceptic former minister. “The deal is already done. They aren’t going to change it. Gove just couldn’t stand the thought of being on the backbenches.”

That’s it for today

We’re going to wrap up our live coverage. After two very stormy days, Theresa May got some respite as key Brexiter cabinet ministers decided to stick with her.

Meanwhile, former Labour prime minister has written in the FT calling for an end to recriminations and the opening of “a dialogue across the country and engaging in a constructive, outward-looking conversation about our future.”

He suggests the government should establish “a new kind of royal commission” or if it is unwilling to do that then a bipartisan advisory group, representing respected national institutions, to lead “a unique consultation.”

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