Stubborn Brussels bosses 'set up Brexit to fail from the start' as Theresa May prepares to beg them to fix hated backstop

Stubborn Brussels bosses 'set up Brexit to fail from the start' as Theresa May prepares to beg them to fix hated backstop

An EU insider and ex-Europe minister for Portugal said today that the talks were "badly designed from the start" because stubborn EU bosses "refused to discuss the future relationship" first.

Bruno Maçães said today that the way they forced Britain into the hated Northern Ireland backstop made sure that talks would never progress onto a trade deal.

He wrote in an article for Politico: "Given the state of the negotiations, however, this might be a decision the EU will come to regret."

But he also went on to slam Theresa May for "failing to push back hard enough, and early enough, on the Irish border question" – saying it was her "tragic mistake".

Meanwhile, back at home the PM is privately blaming Jeremy Corbyn for failing to work with her Brexit to get a deal done and is now set to abandon cross-party talks and focus on winning over her own Tories and the DUP instead.

It was warned last weekend that going for a customs union like Labour wants could totally split the Tories.

Last week Mrs May attempted to reach out to the Labour boss to talk about ways the two parties could work together, but he's sparked fury for refusing to get involved.

Today the Labour boss was ridiculed for insisting that No Deal threats are "empty and hugely expensive" and called on her to "reach out" to avoid a crisis – even though he's the one who won't speak to her.

Working together with parties like the Lib Dems or SNP wouldn't work because they are demanding a second referendum, ministers think.

Ahead of a Commons statement today on what she plans to do, the PM is instead preparing to launch "one more heave on the backstop", a cabinet minister said.

As she begins a frantic rush to come up with a plan to save her deal:

  • Brexiteers launched a fresh bid to calm fears about No Deal
  • Remainers are today coming forward with their plans to DELAY Brexit until the end of the year to give the PM more time  – and stop No Deal
  • Labour was warned the party could split if Jeremy Corbyn didn't block a second referendum

Why do MPs hate the Northern Ireland backstop and what can May do to win them over?

It will mean we're tied to the bloc in a customs union for years to come and have to follow their rules to make sure there's no hard border in Ireland.

The PM's insisted that there's no way we can ditch it totally because the EU just won't buy agree to it.

Here's what she could push for.

TIME LIMITED BACKSTOP

Last week an amendment was put down by an MP calling for a one year limit on the backstop, but it wasn't called to be voted on by the Speaker. The EU has said this can't be done, but after the PM's humiliation last week, could a small tweak like this save the deal?

TRADE DEAL PROMISE

The PM's said that a trade deal will have to be completed by June 2020 – but there's no guarantee of this. If the EU agreed to legally promise it in the Brexit agreement, MPs could get behind it.

LEGALLY BINDING PROTOCAL

The UK, Ireland and the EU could all legally promise they won't put up a hard border in Northern Ireland if we leave with No Deal with a fresh agreement.

CHANGE GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT?

One shocking plan could see the UK and Ireland agree a set of additional comments to the 1997 peace treaty, saying both sides would guarantee an open border.

But opening such a controversial and politically sensitive deal, which finally brought peace to Northern Ireland after the troubles, will be seen as reckless and furiously opposed by MPs, and so is incredibly unlikely.

Some ministers think the best way of pushing Brexit through is to make changes on the Northern Ireland backstop.

Yesterday key Brexiteer Jacob Rees Mogg suggested he'd rather back the deal than risk not leaving altogether.

He said this morning on LBC: "The backstop has most but not all of the problems… the ECJ, continuing oversight by that court, ability to set our own tariffs…

"If the backstop could be removed altogether, so could most of the problems be removed."

And Boris said on Friday the main obstacle to backing the deal was the hated Irish policy too.

Take out the Irish backstop and this is… better than staying in the EU

He said this morning in his column: "Take out the Irish backstop, and the deal, on balance, is better than staying in the EU, and it should be seized in the hope that we can make a better fist of the next phase of the negotiations.

"That is the way ahead, and I believe that if the Prime Minister goes back to Brussels with real take-it-or-leave-it determination she will not only get what the country needs, but she will also unite her party; and the national feeling of relief will be astounding."

MPs do have other issues with deal – including paying a whopping £39billion to Brussels without the promise of a trade deal – but it's thought that many of them could fall in line rather than risk no Brexit at all.

The PM lost last week's vote by more than 200 votes, so she has to get a considerable amount of Tories and the DUP on side to push it through.

But as the clock ticks down towards Brexit day on March 29, time is running out to get something that Parliament will pass.



How will this all end? Brexit outcomes explained

GOING SOFT

A cross-party group of MPs are frantically pushing an alternative Soft Brexit plan which could replace Mrs May's deal.

It would be welcomed by big business – but Brexit voters would be unhappy because it would mean Britain accepting open borders, and following European rules without a say.

HOW LIKELY? 3/5

HARD AS NAILS

Most of the Tory Brexiteers who oppose the PM's deal want her to return to Brussels and strike a tougher line.

But Eurocrats currently insist it's impossible to re-open negotiations.

HOW LIKELY? 2/5

REFERENDUM RE-RUN

Dozens of MPs are hell-bent on forcing Mrs May to hold a second referendum so Britain can stay in the EU.

Yet without the support of the Government it's unlikely the second vote could become a reality.

HOW LIKELY? 2/5

DEAL OR NO DEAL?

If Mrs May cannot pass a deal, the legal default is that we will leave the EU without a deal on March 29.

Despite the legal position, the majority of MPs insist they will take any measure necessary to rule out No Deal.

HOW LIKELY? 4/5

MAY TRIUMPHS – EVENTUALLY

Cabinet ministers remain adamant that a version of Theresa May's plan will eventually pass the Commons, even after losing last night.

They believe sceptical MPs will lose their nerve as Brexit Day approaches – terrified of either No Deal or a second referendum.

HOW LIKELY? 3/5

Today Remainers are launching a move to seize control of the Brexit process.

Amendments are being discussed today on what should happen next – one plan would be to give backbenchers control, and another would force article 50 to be extended.


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