POLITICS
12/07/2018 17:00 BST

Brexit Briefing: Brexit Trumps It All

All you need to know from the craziest Brexit week yet

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1) They Really Wanted To Hide This White Paper

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After more false alarms then a David Davis resignation threat, the Brexit white paper was finally published on Thursday. If you thought the led up to its release was dramatic – Cabinet resignations, rumours of a leadership challenge (more of that below) – the day itself was equally as chaotic.

As Dominic Raab made his debut as Brexit Secretary at the despatch box to give a statement on the white paper, Labour MPs and backbench Tories found themselves without a copy of the document.

MPs rushed out of the chamber to grab boxes full of the report, and then proceeded to throw them around the Commons like the most depressing confetti in the world.

To the cries of “shambles!” and even “resign!”, Speaker John Bercow suspended the sitting for five minutes so MPs could get a copy of the white paper – not that five minutes was long enough to take in the 100-page document.

Never fear though – us journalists were given a full 30 minutes to process the report in a lock-in session this morning.

Just what one reporter, who perhaps took drowning his sorrows after the England defeat a little too seriously, really needed first thing on Thursday morning. Definitely not me. No, sir. No way.

2) Too Close For Brexiteers, Not Close Enough For Brussels 

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The white paper itself was pretty much in keeping with what had been briefed out after last week’s Chequers meeting.

As expected, May’s policy would see the UK form an associate agreement with the EU, would effectively keep the UK in the customs union and single market for goods, and could allow EU migrants to work in the UK without a visa – albeit on a temporary basis.

Those points will infuriate many Brexiteers – indeed, it is what forced David Davis, Boris Johnson and Steve Baker to quit Government.

But just because the Brexiteers are against it, doesn’t mean Brussels will like it.

The EU has consistently made it clear there can be no ‘cherry picking’ of the single market – and that’s precisely what this document does.

Effectively staying in the single market for goods, but not services, is unlikely to be an attractive proposition for the EU.

Likewise, introducing a time-limited aspect to EU migrants wanting to work in the UK waters down the principle of free movement.

If the UK can secure this deal, then what is to stop other countries wanting the same arrangement?

But at least it is a plan. It just about hangs together – but there is no doubt May will need to make compromises on certain aspects when she next sits down with Brussels negotiators.

But will she be prepared to make compromises when she sits down with Tory Hard Brexiteers?

Having refused to budge for Johnson and Davis, May will feel she needs to face down Jacob Rees-Mogg. 

This is not end of the Brexit process, but it is the beginning of the end.

3) We’re All Waiting On Boris - Again

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There was a strange moment on Monday morning when it seemed as if the future of Theresa May’s government depended on whether Suella Braverman had actually resigned as a junior minister in the Brexit department.

David Davis and Steve Baker had definitely quit, but the future of Braverman was far less certain.

If she had joined them, as had been initially reported, it might have just been enough of a tipping point to make other Brexiteers also walk out.

As it was, Downing Street stemmed the momentum, and Braverman remains in post.

What happens now? Davis and Johnson are obviously high-profile figures, but if they really want to rescue Brexit – as they see it – they need to act fast and produce a coherent alternative plan for what they would do if they were in charge.

If Johnson believes he is the person to articulate a true version of Brexit, he needs to do better research than he did for his resignation letter.

In the missive, he claimed that while he was Mayor of London the EU was blocking a redesign of lorries which would have made drivers windows lower, therefore improving visibility and preventing accidents with cyclists.

That claim is not true. As Channel 4’s FactCheck service points out: “He neglects to mention that the regulations he’s talking about were in fact put forward by the European Parliament, and backed by 570 MEPs, with 88 voting against. He also fails to acknowledge that those laws have actually been passed.”

No doubt Johnson is currently penning a manifesto, ready for publication in his favoured outlet, The Daily Telegraph.

Or perhaps he’s staying true to form and writing two.

4) Jacob Rees-Mogg Is The New Dominic Grieve 

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While Johnson is working out the next move in his illustrious career, other Tory Brexiteers are getting ready to wreck Theresa May’s negotiating position.

The European Research Group (ERG), chaired by Jacob Rees-Mogg, have tabled four amendments to the Trade Bill which would destroy key parts of the Brexit agreement reached by Cabinet last Friday.

The measures would make Brussels’ preferred backstop position of keeping Northern Ireland in the customs union illegal and would stop the UK collecting EU tariffs.

It would also stop the creation of a new customs union unless MPs vote for one, and would keep the UK out of a shared VAT collection scheme.

The Bill is due to be voted on by MPs on Monday and Tuesday next week, and if the measures are passed it would plunge May’s Brexit plans into turmoil.

In a matter of weeks, the Government has gone from fear that the Remain wing of the party would scupper the EU Withdrawal Bill, to panic the Brexit branch will ruin the Trade Bill.

And in an even more delicious twist of fate, Rees-Mogg may well have to rely on Labour Brexiteers to help get his amendments through the Commons.

For man who has repeatedly said May risks splitting the Tories if she gets her Brexit plan through on the back of Labour votes, the monocle well and truly is in the other eye.

5) Donald Trump And The Art Of The Brexit Deal

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As one crazy-haired egomaniac leaves the stage, another lands at Stansted Airport.

Donald Trump is in the UK, having jetted over from Brussels on Thursday morning. Before he left, The Donald held a marathon press conference in which he mused on Nato spending, whether he could ever be friends with Putin, and, of course, Brexit.

“Brexit is Brexit. The people voted to break it up, so I would imagine that is what they’ll do, but maybe they are taking a different route. I don’t know if that’s what they voted for,” he said, adding: “Brexit is turning a little differently - they seem to be getting involved at least partially with the EU.”

Nigel Farage immediately seized on the remarks, tweeting: “The President is absolutely right.”

Whether Trump criticising May’s plan actually helps the Brexit cause with the wider public is up for debate, but there is no doubt he could do the Prime Minister a favour in the press conference scheduled for tomorrow.

If Trump talks up the desire for a free trade deal to be secured quickly after Brexit – and that it is compatible with May’s Brexit vision – some Tory Brexiteers may well be convinced to back the negotiating position.

Of course, he could go rogue, criticise the whole thing and lament the loss of his friend Boris.

That’s the beauty of Trump - he is the Forrest Gump president: you never know what you’re gonna get.

Don’t Get Angry, Get Blogging…

At HuffPost we love a good blog, and here are the finest Brexit-penned entries from this week. Have a read, and if any of them provoke an urge in you to speak your brain, send a blog to ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com and you could find yourself in this very newsletter.

Simon Hart on why the resignations of Boris and Davis leave the Brexit project hanging by a thread

Joseph Reed on why Dominic Raab’s promotion offers hope on Northern Ireland

Prof Jenny Phillimore on how Brexit is already ‘shattering the social fabric’ of Birmingham

John Mills on why Labour shouldn’t celebrate May’s Chequers plan