The five things you need to know about politics today

After her sofa diplomacy, all eyes will be on Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn today to see whether they really can come to some kind of agreement on the next steps for Brexit. There are still suspicions on the Labour side that this is all about binding Corbyn to a Tory plan, and Keir Starmer’s words from Friday are what matter most: “compromise requires change”. Labour insiders were dismayed that last week there wasn’t a single new offer from the government.

Labour’s wait today for some concrete proposals from May has a strong echo of the EU27 waiting in 2018 for her to produce a detailed plan that went beyond the bland phrase “a new, deep and special partnership” (some in Brussels pointed out they needed more than ‘negotiation by adjective’, especially ones that apply to pizzas rather than legal treaties). It took the PM (and her squabbling Cabinet) nearly two years to come up with her Chequers proposals last July. She has two days to avoid chaos at Wednesday’s EU summit and a leap over the new cliff-edge of this Friday’s deadline.

Expectations of a new offer have certainly been heightened by May’s makeshift video on the No.10 sofa yesterday. I have to say that it was the most natural and most conversational I’ve ever seen Theresa May in many years following her career. Of course, a change of tone isn’t enough, and the substance is what matters. A permanent customs union or ‘something approximating’ one (as Solicitor General Robert Buckland put it on Westminster Hour last night) would be a big breakthrough, though Labour is insisting on regulatory alignment, worker rights and future-proofing (aka Boris-proofing) any deal.

If MPs are weary of the deadlock, so too are the public. A new Hansard Society study has found that trust in the political system is now even lower than it was in the aftermath of the MPs’ expenses scandal. There’s an authoritarian streak too. Some 54% say ‘Britain needs a strong leader willing to break the rules’ and 42% think ‘many of the country’s problems could be dealt with more effectively if the government didn’t have to worry so much about votes in Parliament’.

‘A strong leader willing to break the rules’ is exactly how Boris Johnson’s allies may pitch his leadership bid. He’s in the Telegraph today warning a customs union would be unacceptable, as well as an unnamed MP saying May “will be thrown out” if she tries to leave the UK with no independent trade policy. I may be wrong, but I suspect the PM and Corbyn won’t do a ‘deal’ on policy. They may however do a deal on process. Will they agree to abide by the results of a new set of indicative votes, and to allow free votes by both their parties? Right now, May and Corbyn seem so near yet so far from a breakthrough. But today’s the day for one.

Remainers got extremely excited yesterday by Brexiteer Peter Oborne’s Open Democracy blog, which called for “a long pause” in the exit process and even possibly “rethinking the decision altogether”. And a long pause, or rather a year-long extension to Article 50, is what several ministers see as inevitable now. Despite his threats to scupper things, Emmanuel Macron may well relent and agree to a 12-month extension (this thread by EU think tanker Charles Grant suggests why). Macron is under huge pressure not to make life difficult for the Irish, and he and Leo Varadkar have a joint press conference later today.

A long extension would mean the UK holding European Parliament elections. And that’s a prospect that really is causing some anger among Tory MPs and ministers. As ever, however, you have to watch out for just how much they box themselves in. Will any, or many, of them really quit in protest? Andrea Leadsom told Marr the idea of taking part was “utterly unacceptable”. The logic is that she couldn’t stay in office and accept it. Liz Truss told 5Live a long extension ‘sounds like purgatory’. Brexiteer International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has told City AM: “For me the critical thing is that we leave, we do it swiftly, we don’t get locked in to fighting European elections”. Does ‘critical’ mean ‘resignation matter’?

Meanwhile, all the talk about the European elections (will TIG do well? will Farage’s Brexit party?) isn’t making John McDonnell take his eyes off the big prize. In an interview for Tortoise with former Times lobby legend Phil Webster, the Shadow Chancellor reveals he is planning for an October general election (and a Budget by Christmas, assuming he wins). Oh, and Eastenders actor Danny Dyer told ITV this morning that David Cameron had to show his face. “He needs to be held accountable. I’ll say it again. ‘Where is he? Where is the geezer?’”

As for action in Parliament today, the Lords have the remaining stages of Yvette Cooper’s European Union (Withdrawal) (No.5) Bill, which seeks to force the PM to take instructions from MPs on any Brexit date delay. The long filibuster by Eurosceptic peers last Thursday meant the bill only got its second reading late. If they wanted to cause havoc again, they could do so by going really late tonight. But the latest intel is that peers will behave themselves and send the bill to the Commons mid-evening. It will then be dealt with quickly by MPs.

The Cooper bill is far from perfect and crossbencher Lord Pannick has an amendment seeking to fix a big flaw on the flexibility for Exit Day. But if it becomes law tonight (and don’t forget that would be super quick), May will be required to bring a motion tomorrow requesting an Article 50 extension that she can put to the EU on Wednesday. Leavers may focus on the whole question of how much cash we will spend (£100m and counting) on Euro elections that may elect MEPs who then don’t take their seats. Remainers will point to the billions spent on no-deal prep.

We have Cabinet tomorrow, which is likely to be expected to sign off whatever plan May has in mind. And with all the Tory leadership speculation swirling, it could be a major grandstanding exercise. This lunchtime, Michael Gove, Penny Mordaunt and Matt Hancock are all speaking at the new think tank Onward. Hancock set out his stall in the Sunday Times yesterday with a piece stressing his youth and the compassion of his party (he also praised every wing of the party from IDS and Gove to Rudd and Hunt and Hinds). He lacks Ruth Davidson’s elan, but he speaks her language. Priti Patel (will she run, or back Boris?) follows up her Sun on Sunday leadership kite-flyer with a BrexitCentral attack on May. Liz Truss (will she run, or back Boris?) this weekend suggested actual policy votes at Tory conference. The field of runners and riders looks packed already.

Watch this secret clip of Theresa May extending Article 50.

Social media companies will face massive fines or being blocked in the UK altogether if they fail to remove harmful or illegal content from their platforms, a new government white paper sets out today. Jeremy Wright will make a Commons statement at 3.30pm. Wright told Today that penalties could include fines of up to 4% of global turnover, holding individual directors to account and closing down websites.

The online ‘wild west’ features in many guises today. A British woman faces jail in Dubai over a Facebook post. On Panorama, ex-GCHQ man Ian Levy warns Chines mobile firm Huawei’s “shoddy” engineering practices mean its mobile network equipment could be banned from Westminster and other sensitive parts of the UK.

The Jewish Labour Movement yesterday decided to stay affiliated to the party but it did pass a motion of no confidence in the leadership’s handling of anti-semitism. The Sunday Times report yesterday of repeated interference in the process included some truly shocking examples of lenient treatment proposed for severe abuses. The party claimed intenal emails had been “selectively leaked” to “misrepresent their overall contents”, and that the overall story was “seriously misleading”.

Shadow cabinet minister Andy McDonald told the Today programme he was “delighted” JLM will stay affiliated to Labour, but “some of the things that have been said are not appropriate and not helpful”. He said he “can’t accept” the allegation that the leadership is anti-Semitic. Emily Thornberry told Politico: “Some of the things that were said just turn my stomach, and the idea that these people are still in my Labour Party disgusts me.”

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