Could UK Brexit Sec Raab Be Close To Resigning From UK Govt … WAUGH ZONE
Could UK Brexit Sec Raab Be Close To Resigning From UK Govt
Anyone bored of the Brexit story will no doubt roll their eyes at yet another claim that this week is a crunch week. But the next eight days will be the last chance both
the UK and EU have to arrange a special November summit later this month. There’s been an intense round of engagement at political and official level. Although (as the Times reports) the Cabinet may not be asked tomorrow to sign off the PM’s latest proposals,
Theresa May is expected to give ministers a crucial update on the last push for a deal.
With most other issues sorted, the main sticking point for the Cabinet Brexiteers is still Northern Ireland. And here’s where Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab is using all his leverage,
alongside Attorney General Geoffrey Cox. Raab is said to have infuriated his Irish counterparts in a meeting last week in which he suggested the UK could unilaterally pull out of any deal to keep the Irish border open, with three months’ notice. De facto DPM
David Lidington flew out a few days later to smooth things over, and in the process effectively ‘contradicted’ Raab, the Telegraph’s impeccably connected Peter Foster reports.
This morning at 7.37am, Irish foreign minister (and himself a deputy PM, don’t forget) Tweeted his defiance. “The Irish position remains consistent and v clear that a ‘time-limited
backstop’ or a backstop that could be ended by UK unilaterally would never be agreed to by IRE or EU. These ideas are not backstops at all + don’t deliver on previous UK commitments.” That word ‘never’ is the most striking one. Never is a hell of a red line,
proving that Dublin can be as resolute as the DUP when it comes to borders. It’s bonfire night here in the UK and Brexiteers are not averse to plotting, nor to talking up the treasonous threats of Irish and EU threats to Parliamentary sovereignty.
Which is why the most intriguing story of the day is in the FT, which says that Raab has written to May formally asking her to back his unilateral break clause plan. “It’s the sort
of letter that could be leaked at a later stage to try to show that he was pushing for a tough stance, but that his advice was ignored,” one source says. That sounds very ominous indeed. If May keeps alive the EU’s own ‘backstop’ plan for Northern Ireland
without any break clause, Raab could well quit, and Cox along with him. He could rally a large chunk of backbench Brexiteers (could we call them ‘the Dominican Order’?) and the DUP, behind him too. Many Leave voters in Britain will want to know why we can’t
as a sovereign nation unilaterally pull out of any plan we like after Brexit. The EU will counter ‘sure, you can do that, but there are inevitable consequences’.
Even if Raab somehow agrees to a Lidington-style compromise on wording on the Irish border, some Brexiteers are too far gone. Boris Johnson (who has a Sun article saying May’s plan
is ‘a stinker’) and David Davis now sound so implacably opposed to May’s plans that it’s hard to see how they can credibly back down from their own words. That’s why some in No10 still hope that a hardcore of Tory rebels can be squeezed down to single figures,
and can in turn cancelled out by Labour MPs who are so appalled by ‘no deal’ that they will reluctantly back May’s compromise plan.
Caroline Flint has been vocal on this, and last night on ‘The Westminster Hour’ Lisa Nandy also gave a strong hint she would follow suit, saying “all MPs” should look at the deal
“with an open mind”. While she stressed that May “hasn’t begun to understand how to build a majority” across the parties, Nandy said the PM’s customs proposal “would be a really big piece of the jigsaw for Labour and something that we ought to consider”. That’s
some comfort for No.10. But in the next few days, it’s Dominic Raab who seems to hold May’s fate, and Brexit’s fate, in his hands.