U.K. Cabinet Could Meet Again This Week: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Theresa May held a Cabinet meeting to discuss Brexit, as the U.K. and European Union edge toward a deal.

Sorting the Backstop Will Open Way to Deal (4 p.m.)

A U.K. official says that once there’s an agreement on the Irish backstop, the rest of the deal could happen very quickly.

So far, there’s no date in the diary for another Cabinet meeting this week, a U.K. spokesman tells reporters. But if one is called, it would be “for the purpose of having a cabinet discussion in advance of reaching any agreement in relation to a Withdrawal Agreement.”

Varadkar Lays Out His Conditions (2:30 p.m.)

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he’s open to “creative” solutions and language in trying to break the Brexit impasse. But he told lawmakers in Dublin that, while a review clause for the backstop may even be to Ireland’s advantage, he remains opposed to any exit clause which may be triggered by one side alone or to placing a time limit on the backstop.

Another Cabinet Meeting Seen This Week (2:10 p.m.)

Three people familiar with the situation said another Cabinet meeting was possible this week. May’s spokesman declined to give a date, saying that ministers would meet before the withdrawal deal is agreed. "Wait and See," he said.

Raab, Cox Given Homework on Backstop Mechanism (2 p.m.)

While the Cabinet considered other Brexit issues, it was the mechanism by which the U.K. could leave the customs arrangement with the EU that dominated the discussion, according to a person familiar with the matter who described it as “fabulously complicated.”

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who spoke on the matter, and Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab will work on further details of the proposed arrangement before it is presented to another meeting of Cabinet, the person said.

Hopes Fading for Deal Summit in November (1:25 p.m.)

A U.K. official indicated the government was less hopeful of clinching a deal in time for a November EU summit, but wouldn’t go into detail. It would be a stretch to get it done this month, the official said.

May’s Spokesman: ‘Significant Work’ Remains (1:10 p.m.)

There’s still a “significant amount of work” to do to get a Brexit deal as the Cabinet continues to discuss how to solve the Irish border issue, U.K. government spokesman James Slack told reporters.

The Cabinet discussed the border puzzle -- and in particular how to make sure that a guarantee clause the two sides are haggling over doesn’t bind the U.K. into EU trade rules forever. Work is continuing “across government” on how an exit mechanism might work.

“Where there was a shared view is that it needs to be effective -- that we aren’t in a position where we can remain in the backstop indefinitely,” Slack said. The discussion was “constructive.”

“Don’t be under any illusion there is a lot of work to do,” he said.

Another Cabinet meeting will be held before a the divorce deal is agreed, he said -- though he wouldn’t confirm the timing. A person familiar with the situation said another meeting could be held as soon as this week.

The “deal won’t be done at any cost,” May told Cabinet, according to Slack.

Labour Wants Permanent Customs Union (12:55 p.m.)

Speaking to journalists after the Treasury Questions session in Parliament, Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell hardened Labour’s position on the kind of customs union it wants.

“The issue is permanency,” he said. “If it’s not permanent, I can’t see how businesses can make a long-term investment. We couldn’t support anything other than a permanent arrangement.”

May isn’t going to try to get a permanent customs union, so this suggests Labour will, as expected, vote against what the government negotiates.

Ministers Disagree Over Concessions for Deal (12:50 p.m.)

According to another person familiar with the Cabinet discussion, the meeting was good natured and nobody walked out -- though there was a frank exchange of views. There was agreement among ministers that they want a deal this month -- but not over whether concessions should be offered to get there, the person said.

Hammond: No Briefing on ‘Review’ Mechanism (12:45 p.m.)

Asked by Labour’s John McDonnell in Parliament whether Cabinet was briefed this morning on a customs arrangement with the EU that could be ended by a “review” mechanism, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said ministers “received no such briefing.”

This is a fairly specific denial, though, so doesn’t exclude the possibility of Cabinet being briefed on something very similar, or discussing exactly this -- but not being briefed on it.

The U.K. is looking for a mechanism to ensure it’s not tied to the EU’s customs regime indefinitely by the so-called backstop -- the legal guarantee that police and checkpoints won’t return to the Irish border.

Cabinet Meeting Said to Be ‘Good Tempered’ (12:15 p.m.)

Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting has just concluded. According to a person familiar with the matter, it was “good tempered” and another potential meeting is planned this week. The BBC reported Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said “thumbs up” as he left. The pound rose, trading up 0.3 percent against the dollar.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.