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Henry Newman @HenryNewman
, 24 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
By delaying the vote on the Brexit Deal, the Prime Minister has reverted to her favourite political tactic – kicking the can down the road. Her advisers feared that if the vote had been held today, the size of the defeat would have sunk her entire prime ministership.

A thread👇
2/ But at some point the music will have to be faced. There are already, according to @ConHome over 70 Conservative MPs opposed to her deal. So, before the vote is re-introduced, the Government will need to secure meaningful changes. But how?
3/ And in delaying the vote, the Prime Minister has herself called into question her own confidence in her Government’s ability to deliver her flagship policy. She has put a big question mark right over her own authority.
4/ Re-opening deal won’t be easy. The EU are sticking to line that it’s agreed & is locked down. But without some substantive changes it’s pretty hard to see a route to ratification.
5/ Equally, if deal is re-opened, European states will try to press the UK further on fish & so-called level playing field issues. Of course, if French did insist on pressing further on, say, fish that would only make it harder for the PM to get her deal through Commons 🐟🐟🐟
6/ It’s far from clear that any deliverable changes could actually secure the support of some of the Prime Minister’s toughest critics. The criticisms of her deal are – for some – as much an expression of lack of confidence in her leadership, as about any specific policy concern
7/ Unfortunately, Theresa May is not a brilliant advocate at the best of times. Now, when she is up against a wall of noise and a widespread sense of betrayal, she is struggling to be heard.
8/ There are of course substantial problems with this deal, particularly regarding the backstop and our (lack of an) ability to exit it. But the shape of this deal was set months and months ago. And – contra the view of many – it has little to do with the Chequers Plan
9/ Critics and supporters of the Brexit deal alike are misrepresenting it, as this Reality Check 👇 from @OpenEurope explains.…
10/ Theresa May reassures no one when she conflates different elements – mixing up backstop & future relationship when describing the deal.

She claims we will have our own trade policy, but there’s a key caveat: we can have an independent trade policy when we leave the backstop
10/ Equally, she insists her deal takes back control of our money, borders & laws. Yet it would be more truthful to admit that in backstop she would have achieved 2/3 aims fully & gone a long way to reaching third (by limiting but not eliminating ECJ's direct jurisdiction)
11/ The Prime Minister’s critics come from both sides of Brexit divide, but are united in opposition to backstop.

On one hand, some such as Jo Johnson & Sam Gyimah are opposing deal to try to force 2nd referendum.

Others such as George Freeman prefer a softer exit – a Norway +
12/ At other end, hardline Brexiteers are making various demands. @BorisJohnson calls to “delay the payment of at least 1/2 the £39 billion ['Brexit bill'] until they’ve done a free trade deal by the end of 2020”. In fact it’s already case that less than half the bill is pre 2021
13/ Boris also insisted that “we can have a withdrawal agreement that does not contain the backstop”.

Unfortunately, I’m yet to speak to a single EU figure who thinks the UK could have a withdrawal agreement without a backstop.
14/ On the other side of Commons, Labour’s Brexit policy is a shambles.

Labour reject the backstop, complaining it could last indefinitely but seek to replace it with an indefinite customs union (albeit with a say over trade deals which isn’t on offer now).
15/ They claim that their customs union policy would resolve the Northern Ireland issue, yet it would do nothing to resolve regulatory questions.

Labour reject a Norwegian solution but instead support “a strong Single Market deal” – whatever that is.
16/ At the end of week, there’s yet another European summit where Prime Minister will face European leaders weary of Brexit wrangling.

From rows over Italy’s budget and Poland’s judiciary, to the crisis in France with the gilets jaunes, Brexit is far from the only show in town.
17/ But the assembled leaders should recognise that May is serious in trying to reach a negotiated deal that has a chance of passing Parliament.

And without further changes to Withdrawal Agreement, there’s a serious risk of a disorderly no deal for which neither side is ready
18/ She should level with the European Council and offer them two broad options.

Either give up on improving the deal, in which case they need to recognise that it will likely not pass the Commons.

Or, seek to make limited but substantive changes to help it on its way through.
19/ If it’s to be No Deal, then EU should authorise discrete side agreements (on matters such as aviation, citizens rights etc). That way they can mitigate chaotic No Deal

[I can't see EU going for this but PM needs to be clear that it would be irresponsible not to consider it]
20/ It would be ironic if deal failed in Commons because of a backstop to protect Irish border, thus leading to No Deal, risking the border.

So it would be better for EU to look at changes - agreements, legal instruments & commitments, to work with domestic legislation in UK
21/ 1st, we need a role for Stormont institutions in backstop

2nd, we need to rule out an internal customs border imposed on Northern Ireland, either by EU or by UK replacing backstop with a NI-only customs union

3rd, we need to look again at exit mechanisms from backstop
22/ None of this will be easy, particularly when it comes to the exit mechanism.

But the European Commission already privately acknowledges that the backstop cannot endure for the long-term.

They also say it is weatherproof but not tsunami-proof.
23/23 It’s time to make clear what is already obvious – that the backstop must be legally operable, but that it cannot be a permanent trap which a political earthquake could not ultimately sweep away.…
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