May Says Leadership Challenge Threshold Not Met: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May continues her efforts to sell her Brexit deal with the European Union to the public, as internal and external opponents attack it and her.

Key Developments

  • EU envoys told future-relations talks continue with U.K.
  • A no-confidence vote in May hasn’t been announced
  • May: “As far as I know” threshold for a vote hasn’t been reached
  • Premier will return to Brussels this week
  • Labour explains their issues with the deal
  • CBI urges lawmakers to listen to business and back deal

Political Declaration Length (3:15 p.m.)

The political declaration on the future relationship between the two sides will be around 20-pages long, EU diplomats say. One of them told us that EU leaders meeting next Sunday will also adopt a statement about the EU Council’s role in the joint committee overseeing the so-called backstop.

A separate official confirmed that the two sides have yet to agree on the content of the political declaration as well as the absolute end date for the extension of the transition period to replace the current 20XX wording in the draft withdrawal agreement.

Next up from the Brussels front: EU27 European affairs ministers convene on Monday to discuss next Sunday’s summit, including how and when they’ll invite Theresa May to address it, and what they want added to the political declaration, which is still being negotiated and is scheduled to be published on Tuesday.

EU Envoys Briefed in Brussels on Brexit (2:30 p.m.)

Envoys from the 27 European Union members in Brussels were told in a behind-closed-doors briefing by the European Commission Sunday that negotiations over the future relationship declaration have yet to conclude, as disagreements persist over internal security and the economic ties between the two sides, a diplomat familiar with the discussion said.

The U.K still insists on including elements from May’s Chequers plan about the economic relationship between the two sides, which are unacceptable to the EU. It also wants to maintain the status quo on internal security matters, without accepting that it will soon become a third country, the diplomat said, asking not to be named, as the discussion was private.

As for the infamous “20XX” wording regarding the extension of the transition in the draft withdrawal treaty, the EU wants the XX to be replaced with end-2022, the diplomat said. The precise date must be agreed before next Sunday’s summit, while both sides hope to reach a deal on the future relationship declaration by Tuesday.

Raab: Backs May, Won’t Support a Challenge (11 a.m.)

Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC that while he would be voting against May’s deal, he wouldn’t be joining with lawmakers who are calling for a confidence vote in her as party leader and wouldn’t support a challenge to her.

Raab, who resigned from the Cabinet last week, said the current deal was “fatally flawed” but that only “two or three points” needed to be changed to make it work.

“It is very late in the day now and we need to change course,” he said.

Brady: Will Move Fast if Tories Want Vote on May (10:50 a.m.)

Graham Brady, the only person who knows how close Tory lawmakers are to having a confidence vote in Theresa May, has given a cheerful interview to BBC Radio. He didn’t say how many letters he’d received, but he didn’t sound like the threshold of 48 had been reached.

He said the suggestion that he was suppressing letters was “slightly offensive” and that he would move swiftly if the moment came. Once he has sufficient letters to trigger the process, he said would consult with the party leader, in this case May, and set up a vote.

“The intention is clear that if it were to happen, it ought to be a test of opinion very quickly in order to clear the air and get it out of the way so that the party -- the government at the moment -- can move on,” he said.

He joked that in the current febrile atmosphere, “I’ve become very nervous about counting or saying numbers” in public. Even his wife, Victoria, who acts as his parliamentary assistant, doesn’t know the number of letters, he said. And he added that he personally has reservations about May’s deal.

Sturgeon: Wants to Meet Corbyn to Talk Brexit (10:30 a.m.)

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC that she wanted to meet Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to discuss how they can work together to challenge the government’s plan. This meeting is unlikely to happen -- Labour and Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party are ancient, bitter enemies. Sturgeon also said she’d be setting out her position on another Scottish independence referendum soon.

May: Threshold for Confidence Vote Not Met (10 a.m.)

The prime minister told Sky News that “as far as I know” the threshold for a vote of confidence in her leadership by Conservative lawmakers had not been met.

She revealed she’ll be returning to Brussels this week to talk to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. This meeting seems to be on top of the leaders’ summit at the end of the week that was already on her schedule. May said the timing will depend on the status of negotiations.

The prime minister’s main message to her party: Don’t look at the Withdrawal Agreement, look at the Future Relationship, which is still under negotiation. She argued that the Irish backstop clause in the Withdrawal Agreement, which many of her lawmakers dislike, will never be invoked, suggesting she would prefer instead to extend the transition period.

On whether she could get her deal through Parliament, May said the issue was about delivering Brexit. “It’s about ensuring that we deliver what the people in this country voted for,” she said on Sky. “It’s essential to people’s trust in politics and trust in Parliament that we deliver.”

CBI Backs May Deal as Imperfect Compromise (9:30 a.m.)

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, has told lawmakers to back May’s Brexit deal and let the country think about other issues.

She attacked Parliament for indulging in “a political parlor game” when businesses were worrying about the prospect of Brexit without a deal, and shortages of essential supplies.

“Listen to the businesses in your constituencies,” she urged lawmakers in a Sky News interview. “Go out and talk to people and ask whether they think it’s now time to move on.”

Corbyn Calls For Close Ties to EU After Brexit (9:15 a.m.)

U.K. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has set out to Sky News what the opposition wants from a Brexit deal: a permanent U.K.-wide customs union, and future alignment with EU regulations on the environment and consumer and workers’ rights.

Can Brexit be stopped? “We can’t stop it because on our own, we don’t have the votes.”

What happens next: A general election is “not unlikely at all,” while a second referendum is “an option for the future,” not today.

Earlier:

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