The UK is now just four days away from the latest Brexit deadline and, unless another article 50 extension is agreed at the emergency EU summit on Wednesday (which probably will happen, although it is not inevitable), it will slam into no-deal at 11pm on Friday.
That’s why Theresa May is still trying to cobble together a last-minute compromise acceptable to Labour. She released an uncharacteristically homespun video yesterday defending her decision to reach out to the opposition and, as my colleague Peter Walker reports, talks between the government and Labour continue today.
Last night, on the Westminster Hour, Robert Buckland, the solicitor general, claimed that a cross-party deal to support the UK staying in a customs union with the EU was the most likely compromise that might be achieved. He said:
Whilst I don’t pretend it’s ideal – I think there are some real drawbacks with it – it does mean we deliver the end to freedom of movement and it does mean that we deliver the vast majority of, I think, the aims of Brexit, which was to leave the institutions of the European Union. It’s not perfect, but frankly in this particular hung parliament none of us can get perfection, we need to compromise… something approximating a customs arrangement or customs union I think would be the most likely outcome.
But Buckland, who voted remain, was not reflecting a consensus view amongst ministers. Yesterday Andrea Leadsom, the Brexiter leader of the Commons, indicated that this would be unacceptable. Asked if May would agree to a full customs union, Leadsom said:
My expectation – and I’m not party to the discussions – is that the prime minister will only seek to agree those things that still constitute Brexit.
And this morning, in his Telegraph column (paywall), Boris Johnson, the Brexiter former foreign secretary, said a customs union would be the “worst of both worlds”. He said:
In order to get Corbyn onside, the government is apparently willing to abandon the cardinal principle and central logic of Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn and his team have demanded that the UK must somehow leave the EU, but remain in the customs union. That is their price. If the government were to agree, it would not only mean repudiating a manifesto pledge, and tearing up a promise made thousands of times in parliament and elsewhere. It is far worse than that.
If the UK were to commit to remaining in the customs union, it would make a total and utter nonsense of the referendum result. We would be out of the EU, but in many ways still run by the EU. It would be the worst of both worlds, not just now, but forever – and that is why I find the news so appalling that I don’t really believe it.
Here is the agenda for the day.
11am: Downing Street lobby briefing.
3pm: Peers are due to start debating the remaining stages of the Yvette Cooper bill requiring the PM to request an article 50 extension.
3.30pm: Michael Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, is due to meet Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, in Dublin.
3.30pm: Jeremy Wright, the culture secretary, is due to make a Commons statement about the online harms white paper.
5.30pm: Jeremy Corbyn is due to meet Mary Lou McDonald, the Sinn Fein leader, in London.
And the government/Labour Brexit talks are due to continue, although we don’t have details as to how and when
As usual, I will be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web, although I expect to be focusing mostly on Brexit. I plan to post a summary at lunchtime and another when I wrap up.
You can read all the latest Guardian politics articles here. Here is the Politico Europe round-up of this morning’s political news. And here is the PoliticsHome list of today’s top 10 must-reads.
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