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By JACK BLANCHARD
PRESENTED BY EXXONMOBIL
Good Tuesday morning.
DRIVING THE DAY
SUPPLY SIDE CRISIS: The DUP piled the pressure on Theresa May last night by delivering a hammer blow to the confidence-and-supply deal that keeps her in power. The PM’s Northern Irish allies sided with Labour in a vote on the Finance Bill, so breaking the agreement they signed with Downing Street in June 2017. (Read the relevant clause here, via Tom Newton Dunn). The DUP insists the vote was intended as a shot across the bows rather than a termination of the agreement, but the message to No. 10 was crystal clear. If May was under any illusion that she can continue to rely on unionist support to win key votes — like, say, the crucial motion on Brexit looming early next month — it has now been shattered for good. The BBC has more.
Sending a message: “We had to do something to show our displeasure,” the DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson told BBC Newsnight’s Nick Watt last night. “None of the [amendments] have financial consequences. All of them were designed to send a political message to the government — ‘We’ve got an agreement with you, but you’ve got to keep your side of the bargain, otherwise we don’t feel obliged to keep ours.’” Watch the clip.
Incoming: The DUP group should be restored to its full 10-strong number today with the return from suspension of the disgraced Ian Paisley Jr. Which in theory ought to be one more vote to help Theresa May in the Commons … but instead now looks like one more vote against her Brexit deal.
Labour ready to pounce: Senior Labour figures could barely contain their glee last night at the sight of the governing coalition tearing apart at the seams. Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Jon Trickett said the vote showed “we no longer have a functioning government.” Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell tweeted: “Constitutional custom and practice in this country dictate that if a party in government cannot command a majority in parliament, it should stand aside and allow the opposition party the opportunity to seek to form a government. We are now clearly moving into this territory.”
Side note: Labour’s celebrations were somewhat muted, however, given it somehow contrived to lose the vote despite the DUP’s support. Labour whips were completely blindsided by the DUP’s decision to vote with them on the amendment, which had called on the Treasury to produce impact assessments of the budget on inequality and child poverty. As a result Labour failed to muster enough MPs, and lost the knife-edge contest by five votes. Among the absentees was one Jeremy Corbyn, who had put forward the amendment himself but was then given permission not to vote. Oops.
So what does it all mean? To all intents and purposes Theresa May’s confidence-and-supply deal is dead — just as the Telegraph’s Harry Yorke reported last week — given one side is no longer keeping up its end of the bargain. But the constitutional muddle that is the House of Commons means her government survives to fight another day. Under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, the only way the DUP can actually collapse the government is if its MPs side with Labour and the other opposition parties to defeat May in a formal vote of no confidence in the House of Commons. This remains highly unlikely — meaning May limps on as before, unable to secure a Commons majority if the DUP decides to withhold its vote. Indeed it is probably in her interest to pretend the deal is still functioning, as to do otherwise would only add to the sense of crisis around her leadership. Don’t expect No. 10 to be asking for its £1 billion back any time soon.
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Half-baked: The brutal DUP operation stands in stark contrast to May’s Brexiteer opponents on the Tory backbenches, who over the past week have made a rapid transition from feared guerilla army to hapless band of failed saboteurs. ERG organizer Steve Baker urgently needs to hit his 48-letter threshold today, because frankly it is now time — as a mate from Stockport would say — to p*ss or get off the pot. All those fiery meetings, all those months of veiled threats, that overblown press conference outside parliament last week … it all starts to look pretty daft if you can’t follow through when it matters.
Right on cue: With exquisite timing, Team ERG is holding a press conference this morning to make the case for leaving the EU without a deal. Speakers will include Chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg, former Brexit Secretary David Davis, Tory peer and former Cabinet Minister Peter Lilley and Labour Leave co-founder John Mills. Sadly for those present, very few journos will now be going along to report on the ERG’s new report about the “myths” of leaving the customs union. Instead they will be going along to ask endless questions about the misfiring coup, and quite what happened to the 48 letters that were meant to have arrived by the weekend. They may also want to ask David Davis, who was Brexit secretary for more than two years, how he is still making elementary mistakes like this.
Infighting breaks out: The Mail quotes one Tory rebel, who has submitted a letter of no-confidence, taking aim at those who have not. “Where are these great titans of Brexit?” the MP asks bitterly. “The answer is, they’ve bottled it.” Another takes aim at Baker himself, suggesting the power of running the ERG operation has gone to his head. “Even as a Tory Brexiteer who would like May gone, I take delight in seeing Steve Baker publicly humiliated like this,” the unnamed MP tells Political Editor Jason Groves. “Since his resignation he has pranced about pretending to be a statesman. He is a self-aggrendising joke, and his colleagues view him as a laughing stock.” Yikes.
Word of caution: It’s still of course possible the rebels will hit the magic 48 number today, or indeed later this week when the final text of the political declaration on Britain’s future relationship with Europe is published. But with every passing day it looks less likely we’ll see a leadership challenge — at least not before the big Commons vote on the Brexit deal next month.
Here’s the man who knows for sure: Letter-counter-in-chief Graham Brady is due to speak at a Newington Comms breakfast event at One Great George Street this morning, on the post-Brexit outlook for business.
The irony is: Plenty of people inside No. 10 would dearly love Baker and co. to get their act together and hit the 48-letter threshold today. They believe May would win a confidence vote easily, so securing her position for another 12 months. It would mean she could not be deposed at what is likely to be her moment of maximum vulnerability — if and when parliament votes down the Brexit deal early next month.
Coup delayed? This, indeed, now appears the most likely outcome — a vote of confidence in the PM if she loses the Commons vote next month. A “senior Euroskeptic source” tells the Daily Telegraph: “Many people are saying that the meaningful vote is the right time to put in letters.” Baker himself adds: “Anyone who thinks that the moment of danger has passed has succumbed to spin. This is a process, not a moment.”
Also succumbing to spin: There’s plenty of Euroskeptic anger too at Brexiteer big beasts Owen Paterson and Iain Duncan Smith, after their emergency trip to Downing Street yesterday fizzled out with something of a whimper. Lobby journalists had been texted en masse yesterday afternoon by the crack ERG whipping operation, with an instruction to get themselves outside No. 10 to hear the fireworks after the meeting. “Confident you will want to be there afterwards,” the ERG message told them breathlessly. Really? Half the lobby dutifully filed down to No. 10 to wait around outside in the cold. Eventually OPatz and co. sauntered out … and straight past them all, saying not a single word. No. 10, it seems, was able to talk them round.
Here’s what killed the coup: The Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn reveals that Theresa May convinced IDS and OPatz she has a “secret plan” to solve the Irish border issue without resorting to the hated backstop arrangement. The secret plan is secretly hidden in the, erm, official text of the withdrawal agreement, which says the backstop will not be used if the two sides can find “alternative arrangements.” However as Brussels correspondents were pointing out last night, the EU’s idea of what those alternative arrangements might look like seems to be rather different to No. 10’s.
Batting for May: Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt comes out to bat for the PM today via an interview with the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour in Tehran. Hunt says May is “by far the best-placed person” to steer Britain through the Brexit process and has dire warnings for Tory MPs hoping to topple her. “Seeking to remove her risks the most appalling chaos that could be immensely damaging to our national reputation — but also destabilising, and potentially stopping us getting through to the other side of Brexit,” he warns. Expect to hear more from the same from the loyalist justice secretary, David Gauke, who is about to embark on a morning broadcast round.
Also weighing in behind: Former Tory leader William Hague, who makes an impassioned plea in the Telegraph today for his party colleagues not to trigger a leadership contest. Hague games out what would actually happen under a new leader, and suggests none of the plausible outcomes looks good for the Tory Brexiteers — or indeed for the country. The prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn-led government is growing by the day, he says. “I have lived through more crises in British politics than I can remember, but I have never witnessed one more serious than this,” he writes.
Counterpoint: On the opposite page, columnist Tim Stanley makes a brutal but eloquent case for why May must be replaced, and it too is well worth your time. “The backstop proposal is the most Mayite thing ever,” he writes. “In the event of Brexit going wrong, which she probably assumes it will, we will stay exactly where we are and do absolutely nothing. Even if it kills us.”
**Join our Brexit journalists for a live call this Friday at 10 a.m. GMT to discuss the Withdrawal Agreement — will the EU27 give their green light at the Summit on Sunday, November 25? And what are Theresa May’s chances of domestic success given the political turmoil at home in Westminster? For details on how to join the call, email [email protected] mentioning ‘Brexit live call’.**
ELSEWHERE IN BREXIT
KEEP ON TALKING: EU officials had hoped the final wording of the declaration on the future relationship would be published today, but with talks in Brussels still ongoing that looks in the balance. The FT and the Times both report this morning that the French are digging their heels in for wording over fishing rights, which looks certain to further enrage Brexiteers. And it follows Spain’s demand yesterday for guarantees that Gibraltar will not be included in any future trade deal, which Britain is pushing back against hard. Promisingly for No. 10, however, it seems Michel Barnier is urging EU27 nations not to push too hard for wording that would make the prospect of all this ever getting through the British parliament even less likely.
Nice timing: My POLITICO colleague Ryan Heath will be interviewing Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell at a breakfast event this morning. Brexit will be very much on the agenda, along with Catalonia, Spanish domestic politics and next year’s EU election. Watch a livestream here from 8.30 a.m. U.K. time.
Also speaking to Ryan: Former U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who tells him the draft Brexit deal is the “worst of all worlds.” In an interview in Brussels, available for POLITICO Brexit Pros, Miliband calls for a “people’s vote” on the final deal as both “the democratic choice as well as the stability choice.” He adds: “The danger of a backlash of going ahead with it is far greater than the danger of a backlash of offering people a rethink.”
EU and whose army? Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson meanwhile takes aim at the growing momentum behind plans for an EU army in Brussels. “It is an absolutely crazy idea,” Williamson tells the Mail. “NATO has delivered European security for the last 70 years, and we should feel very proud of it. Should we undermine that by forming a separate military force? Absolutely not. To begin discussing a new EU army is dangerous, and undermines the security that NATO underwrites.” Remainers *might* just be pointing out in response that Britain does kind of have a veto over this kind of thing … but only for another four months.
Today’s Brexit diary: Theresa May’s new-look Cabinet meets at 9.30 a.m., with a debut appearance from Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay … Bank of England Governor Mark Carney is before the Commons Treasury committee at 10 a.m., and will surely be asked to give his verdict on the draft Brexit deal … Rumor has it that Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is also in town, and is expected to hold talks with both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn … And the “Our Future, Our Choice” anti-Brexit campaign launches a report down committee corridor at 10 a.m. on the impact of Brexit on young people’s finances, with an event featuring Tory MPs Heidi Allen and Phillip Lee, Labour MP Owen Smith and Lib Dem MP Tom Brake.
Meanwhile on Derry Street: “So this is what a very British coup looks like,” muses a deeply unhappy Richard Littlejohn in his Daily Mail column today. He says Britain is facing a “coordinated plot” to stop Brexit, and that he now finds himself “in a looking-glass world” where words no longer mean what they used to. Whatever could this Daily Mail veteran be referring to? “The dwindling band of MPs sticking up for the 17.4 million who voted Leave are condemned as plotters and rebels,” Littlejohn complains. “Those, including Theresa May, who are doing everything in their power to prevent Britain leaving the EU, are hailed absurdly as true patriots.” Just in case Mail readers didn’t get the message, he adds that he’s “given up reading the papers” in disgust. Any paper in particular, you wonder?
Life comes at you fast: The previous page carries the Mail’s leader column, which, erm, condemns the dwindling band of MPs sticking up for the 17.4 million who voted Leave as plotters and rebels. And also labels them “hardliners,” “malcontents” and “a shambles” for good measure. Funny old world.
TODAY IN WESTMINSTER
PARLIAMENT: Sits today at 11.30 a.m. with an hour of business, energy and industrial strategy questions.
COMMONS SCANDAL: Parliament’s long-standing culinary favorites, jerk chicken and jerk pork, are now only available once a week, the excellent Speaker Jercow Twitter feed reveals. Time for some sort of campaign.
JUSTICE DAY: The head of the judiciary, Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett, gives evidence to the Commons justice committee at 10 a.m. … And at noon Justice Secretary David Gauke is due to speak at the Social Market Foundation alongside Howard League boss Frances Crook on the rehabilitation of former offenders … As mentioned, Gauke is also doing the morning broadcast round, and may well come in for some more flak today for his decision not to appeal against plans to release black cab rapist John Worboys. The parole board ruled yesterday that Worboys should not be released, after victims crowd-funded their own court challenge. Several papers splash the story, and the Mirror’s leader column says the decision “raises serious questions” for Gauke.
LABOUR PLEDGES WHITEHALL SHAKE-UP: Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner will today announce plans to end “snobbery” in Whitehall — good luck with that — by banning the civil service from demanding academic qualifications of new staff, “unless they are genuinely relevant to the role.” Rayner says automatically demanding a university degree will deliver “a deep-seated culture change” across government. Speaking at the Association of Colleges annual conference, Rayner will say firms such as Google, Penguin, Apple, IBM and Virgin Media have all removed degree and other academic qualification requirements from jobs where it is not an occupational necessity.
BOOZE NEWS: The Foreign Office publishes one of its most important annual documents today: “The Government Hospitality Wine Cellar Annual Report 2017-18.”
NORTHERN UPROAR: Senior civic leaders including Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham and Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken are before the Commons home affairs committee today to complain about the way asylum seekers are distributed around the country. Concern has been growing in regions across the U.K. this year, and this one might finally bubble over into Westminster’s consciousness today.
WRIGHT STUFF: Lego-loving Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright addresses the annual Parliament Internet Conference in Portcullis House today. He’s also taking part in a Q&A. Other speakers include Shadow Minister for Digital Liam Byrne, Commons foreign affairs committee Chairman Tom Tugendhat and Nokia U.K. boss Cormac Whelan.
EDUCATION MARCH: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will be among the speakers at a march against school cuts in Westminster this evening. It’s due to kick off outside Westminster Cathedral at about 6 p.m. — more details here.
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Justice Secretary David Gauke broadcast round: Today program (7.09 a.m.) … LBC Radio (t.b.c.) … BBC Breakfast (8.10 a.m.) … Sky Sunrise (8.30 a.m.)
Also on the Today Program: Former Cabinet Minister Peter Lilley (8.10 a.m.).
Also on BBC Breakfast: DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson (7.20 a.m.).
Also on Sky Sunrise: Labour peer Andrew Adonis (7.30 a.m.) … Tory MP Crispin Blunt (8.15 a.m.).
Also on Nick Ferrari at Breakfast (LBC Radio): Former Australian High Commissioner Alexander Downer (7.05 a.m.).
TalkRADIO: Lib Dem leader Vince Cable (7.05 a.m.) … Tory MP Andrew Bridgen (8.05 a.m.) … Green Party co-leader Siân Berry (9.25 a.m.).
All Out Politics (Sky News, 10 a.m.): PoliticsHome Editor Kevin Schofield and the Centre for Policy Studies’ Emma Barr review the newspaper comment sections (10.15 a.m. & 11.15 a.m.) … Tory MP Gillian Keegan and Labour MP Rupa Huq go head-to-head on Brexit (10.30 a.m.) … Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin discusses her new book on U.S. presidents and leadership (10.45 a.m.) … Tory rebel MP Laurence Robertson (11 a.m.) … Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts and the SNP’s Stephen Gethins debate Brexit (11.30 a.m.) … Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts (11.45 a.m.).
Politics Live (BBC2, 12.15 p.m.): Commons education committee Chairman Robert Halfon … Labour Leaver Kate Hoey MP … Times columnist Rachel Sylvester … and author and journalist Afua Hirsch.
Reviewing the papers tonight: BBC News (10.45 p.m. & 11.30 p.m.): Former FA boss David Davies and FT leader-writer Sebastian Payne … Sky News (10.30 p.m. & 11.30 p.m.): Filmmaker Jenny Kleeman and Speccie columnist Toby Young.
TODAY’S FRONT PAGES
(Click on the publication’s name to see its front page.)
City A.M.: Browder hits back at Kremlin.
Daily Express: Police chief blasts our “broken society.”
Daily Mail: Police — We may have to let violent thugs go.
Daily Mirror: Gazza on sex assault charge — Star denies attacking woman.
Daily Star: Gazza sex attack rap.
Financial Times: Nissan bid to oust Ghosn seals downfall of its former savior.
HuffPost U.K.: Theresa May’s DUP alliance in jeopardy.
i: Brexit limbo may last for another four years.
Metro: Gazza is charged with sex assault.
The Daily Telegraph: Brexiteer plotters fail to light the fuse.
The Guardian: Plot to oust May risks “appalling chaos” in U.K., Tory rebels warned.
The Independent: Now May faces fight with Europe to back her deal.
The Sun: Worboys — Now throw away the key.
The Times: Boots travel insurer faces investigation over deaths.
On the Continent: Read what the rest of Europe’s papers are saying in POLITICO’s EU press review blog here (updated daily at around 8 a.m.).
BEYOND THE M25
KHASHOGGI REPORT DUE: The CIA will today present Donald Trump with its full report into the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The Post reported at the weekend that the report concludes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the killing. It will be a big moment for Trump, who like Theresa May has forged close links with the crown prince and insisted last month: “It is possible that this took place without his knowledge.” That’s not a position that is likely to look credible after today.
LEADING THE RESISTANCE: The New York Times mag has a great feature on 78-year-old Nancy Pelosi, who looks set to lead the Democrat resistance to Trump as house speaker until a presidential candidate is agreed. “We have to be strategic in whatever we do,” she says, following her party’s house victory in this month’s midterm elections. “On the left there is a ‘pound of flesh club,’ and they just want to do to them what they did to us. That’s not who we are.”
YEAH BUT HER EMAILS: Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump has been, erm, using her private email account for official government business, the Washington Post revealed this morning. “Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of emails last year to White House aides, Cabinet officials and her assistants using a personal account, many of them in violation of federal records rules,” the paper reveals. “The discovery alarmed some advisers to President Trump, who feared that his daughter’s practices bore similarities to the personal email use of Hillary Clinton, an issue he made a focus of his 2016 campaign.”
Westminster weather: 🌧❄️🌨 Properly, properly grim. Heavy rain and sleet forecast throughout the day, with a cold wind and highs of just 4C. Wrap up warm and take a decent brolly. Or ideally, just stay in bed.
Travel: Major disruptions on the Great Western Railway between Gatwick Airport, Shalford, Redhill and Reading and on the South Western Railway between London Waterloo and Reading. More details here.
Big match: A big day for the women’s parliamentary football team, who have been in training for months and now have their first big game tonight against Crawley Old Girls. MPs and journos received their shiny new green kit this week (h/t Kate Ferguson), courtesy of sponsor iNHouseComms. Best of luck to all.
Happy birthday to: Independent MEP and (very briefly) former UKIP leader Diane James … Lord Justice of Appeal Launcelot Henderson … Former head of the Northern Ireland civil service Malcolm McKibbin … Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, who turns 70 … Former U.S. Vice President (and possible 2020 presidential candidate) Joe Biden, who turns 76 … and Governor General of Belize Colville Young, who turns 86 years old today. He’s been in office since 1993.
PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT: My editor Zoya Sheftalovich.
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