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Economic gap across Irish border 'set to widen' as Brexit looms

Report says uncertainty and breakdown of Northern Ireland’s assembly will increase disparity between north and south

The gap in fortunes between the economies of Northern Ireland and Ireland will increase in the next two years as Brexit looms, according to a new report published in Dublin.

Consultancy EY predicts 144,000 new jobs will be created across the entire island of Ireland between 2017 and 2020. However, the vast majority, 138,500, will be in the republic – the population of which is more than twice the size of its neighbour – with just 5,800 jobs in Northern Ireland, said EY.

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Published on 11 December 2017 | 7:01 pm


Theresa May tells MPs Brexit deal 'good news' for both remain and leave supporters – as it happened

Rolling coverage of the day’s political development as they happen, including Theresa May’s statement to MPs about the UK-EU Brexit deal

As I said earlier, the key fact from Theresa May’s statement was a negative: the absence of any fresh Tory row about Brexit. (See 5.54pm.)

But there was some news in what May and Jeremy Corbyn had to say. Here are the key points.

It is clear in the joint progress report, I have repeated it in my statement just now, that this offer is on the table in the context of us agreeing the partnership for the future, agreeing the next stage and agreeing the partnership for the future. If we don’t agree that partnership, then this offer is off the table.

We have always said that we will be working to negotiate our full agreement in terms of the future relationship that we have with the European Union. Of course, legally it won’t be possible for them to sign up to that agreement until after we have left the European Union and we’ve become a third county. While we are in the EU, it’s not possible to [be] a signatory of that agreement. But the pieces of work that will now go forward will be the details of the implementation period, the details of the withdrawal agreement, which will have to go through certain parliamentary processes in European member states ... and also the future relationship that we will have in trade terms and security terms with the European Union.

There are some details to be sorted out. I think the general expectation is that it will be agreed, we’ve said as early as possible in the new year, and Michel Barnier [the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator] has indicated that could be during the first quarter.

We put that amendment down because we believe it’s important that we actually confirm and people have the confidence of knowing the date on which we will be leaving the European Union, which is March 29 2019.

This is good news for people who voted Leave, who were worried we were so bogged down in tortuous negotiations it was never going to happen.

And it is good news for people who voted Remain, who were worried we were going to crash out without a deal.

Senior civil servants across Whitehall have reportedly been instructed from here on not to commit into writing any evaluation they make of the impact of Brexit on their industry sectors. Is this true and if so why the cover-up?

Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, is currently making a Commons statement. My colleague Patrick Wintour says he is striking a new tone on Yemen.

Very powerful words by the foreign secretary @borisjohnson warning that history may judge Saudis of seeking victory in Yemen by starvation. Major change in tone.

The Conservative party has decided collectively to postpone its next Brexit row until after Christmas. That is probably the most important takeaway from Theresa May’s marathon 105 minutes at the despatch box. With arch pro-Europeans and supposed mutineers like Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry (“supposed” because they don’t seem to have done much mutineering recently) praising May’s Brexit deal, alongside diehard Brexiters like Iain Duncan Smith and Sir Edward Leigh, it all felt very choreographed by the whips. But so what? That’s politics. For an afternoon at least, May has managed to unite her party. It was probably her happiest moment in the Commons since her first PMQs as party leader.

About the only Conservative who did express reservations was Philip Davies. (See 4.41pm.) But, in relative terms, even his question was supportive. According to Tim Shipman and Caroline Wheeler in the Sunday Times yesterday (paywall), last week Davies told colleagues at a dinner May should be replaced. “Philip Davies gave a speech about how crap Theresa May is,” they quoted one MP as saying. It wasn’t a speech he repeated this afternoon.

May’s statement is over. John Bercow says she was on her feet for one hour and 45 minutes. That was quite a substantial commitment, he says, although Geoffrey Boycott (see 4.30pm) would not have thought that very long, he jokes.

The SNP Carol Monaghan asks where hospitals will get the radioactive material they need to diagnose cancer after the UK leaves Euratom.

May says the government recognises the importance of this issue. Arrangements will be put in place to ensure supplies continue, she says.

Labour’s Kevin Brennan says May did not answer Peter Bone’s question (see 4.50pm) about putting Brexit date on the face of the EU withdrawal bill.

May says the government put that amendment down so that people would have confidence that the UK will leave on 29 March 2019.

May says if Ken Clarke and Iain Duncan Smith can unite in backing the deal, it must be a good one.

The Conservative Jeremy Lefroy asks when we will get a clear picture of what the transition will look like.

May says, if the European council agrees to move talks on to phase two, the transition arrangements could be agreed before the end of March.

Here is the full text of May’s opening statement.

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-statement-on-eu-negotiations-11-december-2017

Sky’s Jon Craig points out that Damian Green, the first secretary of state, is not in the chamber for May’s statement.

Damian Green not in Commons chamber for PM's Brexit statement. "He's in the HoC chairing a meeting attended by other Secretaries of State," tweets SPAD @dylsharpe. Jeremy Hunt is in Green's usual place to right of PM.

I was chairing the Digital Task Force, since you ask. https://t.co/1sPnvcWn4N

Alberto Costa, a Conservative, says he wanted an assurance that his parents, who are Italian, would not lose their rights. He thanks May for honouring her promises on this.

Huw Merriman, a Conservative, asks when the eight-year period during which the European court of justice continues to adjudicate on certain cases relating to citizens’ rights starts. On the withdrawal date, or from the end of the transition?

May says it is from the Brexit date.

Labour’s Heidi Alexander quotes a freight handler on the news last week saying you are either in the customs union or you are not. It is like being pregnant; you either are or you are not, he said. You either require customs checks or you do not, she says.

May says she does not accept the analogy.

May says any regulatory “alignment” referred to in paragraph 49 (see 3.49pm) will not involve Northern Ireland being in the single market or the customs union.

Labour’s Stephen Kinnock says paragraph 96 of the deal makes it clear the financial settlement is conditional on the withdrawal agreement, not a future trade deal.

May says that is not her understanding. She says it is clear at the start of last week’s report that the payments are conditional on trade too. Paragraph 96 refers to the future relationship, she says. (See 11.08am for a bit more on this issue.)

May says the UK will not pay for “access” to the EU in the future. But it may continue to pay to participate in certain EU programmes.

Antoinette Sandbach, a Conservative, congratulates May for acting in the national interest.

The DUP’s Ian Paisley quotes the European parliament Guy Verhofstadt as complaining about protestants in the DUP (although be pronounces his name so oddly that it is not immediately clear who he was talking about). He says the DUP were speaking up for the whole of Northern Ireland.

Shailesh Vara, a Conservative, says May should publish details of how much money the UK is saving as a result of not being in the EU.

Labour’s Stephen Timms asks for confirmation that the jurisdiction of the European court of justice will apply during the transition.

May says the UK will continue to have a relationship with the EU during the transition.

Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative, says the fact that the UK will not pay the divorce bill if there is no deal will focus minds in the EU.

May says she is optimistic for a good deal.

Peter Bone, a Conservative, asks May to confirm that the UK will be leaving the EU on 29 March 2019 and that that will be in the withdrawal bill.

May says the UK will be leaving then. She says Labour is not committed to that date.

Labour’s Wes Streeting asks about paragraph 49. (See 3.49pm.) Does this mean May has closed the door on a “disastrous no deal scenario”.

May says she remains of the view that no deal is better than a bad deal.

Labour’s Seema Malhotra asks about the chemicals industry. She quotes this story.

Talking of Regulatory Alignment: full letter to Environment Secretary Gove from the Chemicals Industry Association saying that UK must remain part of REACH & European Chemicals Agency...
Leaving “would make a mockery of regulatory simplification” post Brexit pic.twitter.com/9EoI7FNFKP

Labour’s Mike Gapes asks when the legislation for the withdrawal agreement will come to the UK.

May says the bill will come to the Commons when it is ready. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has said he wants that agreed by October, she says.

Philip Davies, a Conservative, asks why May is paying billions to the EU not legally owed.

May says the offer is in the context of a future deal. But we are a country that honours our debts, she says.

Labour’s Stephen Doughty asks how May knows that significant savings will be made after Brexit. What are they, and will she publish details?

May says the UK will save by not paying into the EU budget.

John Bercow, the speaker, says 27 backbenchers have asked questions. Another 57 want to get in, he says. He urges people to ask short questions.

Labour’s Stella Creasy asks why her constituents are not getting freedom of movement after Brexit while people in Northern Ireland are getting this.

May says the common travel area has existed for Ireland since 1923.

David Jones, a Tory Brexiter, congratulates the PM. He asks May if she will ensure money is spent upgrading customs infrastructure.

May says £3bn was set aside in the budget for Brexit planning. HMRC is putting plans in place for customs after Brexit.

The Labour MP Chris Leslie has tweeted about May’s response to his question.

Except the Prime Minister then suggested that trade in manufactured goods (let alone whole range of services) might NOT be included in her definition of “full alignment”. Quite a big loophole! Not sure the Irish Government see it that way. https://t.co/CVbDVlBN8g

Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader, asks how what May said to Leigh about regulatory autonomy is consistent with what the deal says about regulatory alignment in Ireland.

May says the point is that the UK parliament will get to decide what it wants to do.

Labour’s Chuka Umunna says senior civil servants have been told not to commit in writing any estimate of the impact of Brexit on their sectors. Is that true, and if so why?

No, says May. It is not true.

Sir Edward Leigh, a Conservative, says May with her “calm, true grit” has shown that Brexit can be done.

Will May confirm that after Brexit the UK will have “full regulatory autonomy”?

Nick Boles, a Conservative, says May’s performance was “worthy of Geoffrey Boycott”. He asks May to confirm that the payments will be made over 20 or 30 years. He asks for an assurance that she will not be handing over some humungous cheque.

May says the report says the payments will be made as they fall due, unless otherwise determined.

Labour’s Chris Leslie asks what “full alignment” means. The Sunday papers said No 10 was selling it to Boris Johnson as meaningless.

May says it is about achieving the same objectives by different means. It covers six areas referred to in the Belfast agreement.

Nigel Dodds, the DUP leader at Westminster, says DUP MPs agree the Friday document was significantly better than the Monday one. Will May confirm that Northern Ireland will not be separated from the rest of the UK?

May says she is grateful for the contributions made by the DUP.

Nicky Morgan, a Tory pro-European, thanks May for the deal, and for what it promises on citizens’ rights.

Labour’s Pat McFadden says David Davis committed the government to getting the “exact same benefits” from Brexit as it gets from single market membership. Does May agree with Michael Gove that, if the public don’t like the final deal, they can change their minds?

May says she does not agree with the interpretation of what Gove said. She says the government will not allow a second referendum.

Labour’s Alison McGovern asks when the cabinet last discussed their objectives for a final trade deal.

May says the cabinet has had a number of discussions covering Brexit.

Sir Bill Cash, a Conservative, says there is an outbreak of unity on the Tory benches. But there are still serious matters to be resolved. She says Labour has demonstrated a “complete inconsistency on every point of principle and detail”. They are a national disgrace, he says.

This is from the Spectator’s James Forsyth.

Anna Soubry praising Theresa May's plan and attacking Labour's position is bound to make Tory Brexiteers nervous

Sir Vince Cable, the Lib Dem leader, says May should invite Labour to join her government because Labour and the Tories basically agree on Brexit.

May says she does not agree.

Anna Soubry, the Tory pro-European, says there is “complete unanimity” on her side in congratulating the PM. Does May expect to have details of the future trade deal by the autumn? Or will it just be heads of agreement?

May says she expects to see details, although she says the UK will not be able to sign an actual trade deal until it is a third country, after Brexit.

Labour’s Mary Creagh asks how May will get a good deal if she cannot even get David Davis to agree with her.

May says the whole cabinet is behind the deal. Her party if “of one accord”, she says. Labour is not.

The SNP’s Joanna Cherry says part of the agreement reflects an amendment that she tabled that the government voted against.

Pleased to hear @theresa_may say courts in UK will pay “due regard” to “relevant” #ECJ case law re #EU citizens rights. This was the wording of my amendment 137 to clause 6 of #EUWithdrawalBill which Tories votes down in face of cross party support #Brexit pic.twitter.com/FYUazh7y9v

Hilary Benn, the Labour chair of the Brexit committee, says paragraph 49 (see 3.49pm) is the most important part of the deal. Can May confirm that this commitment will apply even if there is no trade deal with the EU?

May explains what paragraph 49 says. The “alignment” clause is a last resort, she says.

The Tory Brexiter Iain Duncan Smith congratulates May on the deal. He says the two-year period after Brexit will be an “implementation” period. Can May assure him that is what it will be? It won’t just be a case of carrying on with no change?

May says Duncan Smith is right.

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, asks for a firm commitment from May that there will be no return to a hard border.

She says the government had to rewrite the agreement to suit the DUP.

We really have to wonder who is running the UK? Is it Arlene Foster or [May]?

Ken Clarke, the Tory pro-European, congratulates May on her triumph last week. This provokes cheering. (MPs are surprised.) Then comes the catch; Clarke says he has never known a deal like this followed by aides briefing that it is not binding.

May thanks Clarke for his “positive comments”.

May is responding to Corbyn.

She says she set out clearly in her Lancaster House speech what her objectives were.

Jeremy Corbyn is responding to May now.

He says the UK has only just scraped through phase one.

May is now winding up.

I have always been clear that this was never going to be an easy process. It has required give and take for the UK and the EU to move forwards together. And that is what we have done.

Of course, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

May says if a new partnership with the EU is not possible, the government will take special steps to ensure there is no hard border in Ireland.

She refers to paragraph 49 in the document (pdf).

The United Kingdom remains committed to protecting North-South cooperation and to its guarantee of avoiding a hard border. Any future arrangements must be compatible with these overarching requirements. The United Kingdom’s intention is to achieve these objectives through the overall EU-UK relationship. Should this not be possible, the United Kingdom will propose specific solutions to address the unique circumstances of the island of Ireland. In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation, the allisland economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.

Lord Lawson is in the Peers Gallery listening to Theresa May.

May says the government will uphold the Belfast agreement in full.

The report reaffirms the guarantee that there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

I’ve made six key commitments to Northern Ireland as part of my negotiations with the EU: https://t.co/0iLq7DVeaq pic.twitter.com/UoXTnURISC

— Theresa May (theresa_may) December 8, 2017

On finance, May says after tough negotiations there has been a deal.

She says the agreement to carry on paying will be conditional on various factors.

Theresa May says she wants to update MPs on the Brexit talks. On the basis of a report published last week, Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president, has said he will recommend moving the talks on to phase two.

She praises David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and the whole negotiating team for the “calm and professional” approach they adopted.

Theresa May is about to start her Commons statement on the Brexit deal.

Anti-Brexit campaigner have been protesting in London and Brussels today.

Here are some pictures from London.

Outside parliament with Brits from all walks of life demanding voters get a #FinalSay on if we still want #Brexit or not. pic.twitter.com/4sPEaCOKya

The Leave side in the 2016 EU referendum failed to present a clear vision of what Brexit would mean, and the complex range of possibilities make it clear that the only democratic way to proceed is a ratification referendum once the terms of the proposed Brexit have been agreed.

That’s what the Green party has been calling for since soon after the initial vote, and it is a call that is winning increasing backing from a wide range of political actors.

Theresa May has written an open letter to EU nationals living in the UK urging them to stay after Brexit. Posted on her Facebook page in the wake of the UK-EU Brexit deal agreed last week, it starts:

As prime minister of the United Kingdom, I am proud that more than three million EU citizens have chosen to make your homes and livelihoods here in our country. I greatly value the depth of the contributions you make - enriching every part of our economy, our society, our culture and our national life.

I know our country would be poorer if you left and I want you to stay.

Here are the main points from the Number 10 lobby briefing.

Cabinet ministers said that in the wake of Friday’s announcement they had received a positive response from people who had voted both leave and remain. The prime minister said she believed the view of the public from her own constituency engagements over the weekend was “we’re on our way”.

DAILY MAIL FRONT PAGE: 'Rejoice! We're on our way' #skypapers pic.twitter.com/mXO0BXK7FE

We are clear that the agreement that was reached will be taken forward .... As [David Davis on LBC] was expressing, nobody should be in any doubt about our sincerity.

I’m just back from lobby. And - unusually - Number 10 had a story to announce: the government is accepting the amendment to the EU withdrawal bill tabled by the procedure committee last week giving the Commons the power to demand votes when ministers want to amend the law using secondary legislation.

As I explained on the blog last week, at the moment most secondary legislation gets passed at the stroke of a pen, without MPs getting a vote. This has become a big issue in relation to the EU withdrawal bill because it will give ministers extensive new powers (the so-called Henry VIII powers) to incorporate EU law into UK law this way.

As the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn reports, the European commission has admitted that the UK-EU Brexit deal agreed next week is not legally binding.

So; EU Commission confirm Brexit divorce deal "not legally binding", but "a deal between gentlemen". So David Davis is wrong to have slapped himself down on LBC today. Keep up.

European Commission: “Formally speaking the Joint Report is not legally binding because it is not yet the Article 50 Withdrawal Agreement, but we see the joint report of Michel Barnier and David Davis as a deal between gentlemen."

Tom Watson, the deputy Labour leader and shadow culture secretary, gave a speech this morning at the publication of a report from the Future of Work commission he set up. My colleague Anushka Asthana covered its main conclusions in a story overnight. Here are some of the key lines from Watson’s speech.

The commission has looked hard at the evidence about what is likely to happen to the world of work in the future – both with the right interventions and without them.

It has found that many more tasks are likely to be automated in future – but that this can enhance our jobs, not destroy them.

The problem the UK has at the moment is not that we have too many robots, but too few.

That is why our report calls for 3.5% of GDP to be spent on R&D by 2030, and within that a much higher element dedicated to technology. We recommend fixing it as a percentage of GDP.

This debate looks as if it’s about technology, but like so many other political debates it’s really about power.

And, again like so many other political debates, it is about political choices.

As technology changes the world of work, the job of politicians and policymakers is to ensure that we generate and protect good work.

Work that pays, yes, but also work that provides dignity and security, that respects people’s autonomy and choices, and allows them to exercise their creativity and judgement.

Since David Davis’s brainpower has become a talking point (see 11.08am), here is the Tory MP Andrew Mitchell (a close friend of his) saying, actually, he is very clever.

Andrew Mitchell just said @DavidDavisMP has "a brain like a steel trap, he's extremely bright" after Brexit Secretary told LBC this morning: "What's the requirement of my job? I don't have to be very clever, I don't have to know that much, I do just have to be calm." #Brexit

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, has been outlining Labour’s policy on the single market and customs union at an event in London, and it’s fair to say there’s still some constructive ambiguity going on.

Asked whether his opposition to the UK remaining in the single market after Brexit was tougher than Keir Starmer’s view, the shadow chancellor said he and the shadow Brexit secretary were in full agreement. He said:

What I said was, remaining in the single market would not respect the referendum result. But we’ve been using the phraseology ‘a single market’, not ‘the single market’ and ‘a customs union’ and not ‘the customs union’. Therefore a reformed single market or a new negotiated relationship with the single market. And Keir was exactly putting our position yesterday. We want to be as close as we possibly can to ensure a tariff-free access.

It isn’t just about semantics, it’s about achieving the objectives that we want overall, which is protecting the economy and protecting jobs.

Lucy Fisher, one of the Times’s reporters who wrote the Times splash that David Davis was so rude about (see 10.01am), says that Davis’s claim about being misreported is “disingenuous”.

David Davis clutching at straws!

Yday said gvt's Brexit compromise on Ireland was "statement of intent... much more than legally enforceable". Cue big row with Ireland.

Today insists on @LBC he genuinely meant *innocent face* it is more than legally enforceable. Disingenuous.

The Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable was on Radio 4 earlier urging Labour backbenchers to support an amendment to the EU repeal bill which would oblige the UK to remain within the single market and customs union after Brexit.

Cable told Today that while official Labour policy was “pretty ambiguous” their current stance – to leave the two arrangements but try to mimic their benefits outside – seemed very similar to that sought by the government.

We know that large numbers of Labour backbenchers do support Britain remaining within the single market and the customs union and feel the government made a mistake by ruling that out, and we hope that a lot of those Labour people, and maybe even some Conservatives, will support it.

Simon Coveney, the Irish deputy prime minister, has also welcomed David Davis’s clarification.

Welcome clarification - Davis says border pledge 'is legally enforceable' via @RTENewsNow https://t.co/k6PMf82oln

Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, has welcomed David Davis’s clarification of what he said yesterday (see 10.01am), Sky’s Darren McCaffrey reports.

BREAK: Irish PM says he’s “delighted” to hear of @DavidDavisMP remarks this morning - “very happy with the clarification” via @GavReilly from TV3

Here is a summary of all the points from David Davis’s interview on LBC.

I’m afraid the chancellor slightly misspoke ...

It says at the beginning of the thing nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. It’s a classical European Union thing. They put it in every treaty. They put it there, not us. It’s about paragraph 5, I think. [See 10.22am.]

Anyone in any doubt that David Davis was lying or mistaken yesterday shld read para 96 of the EU-UK agreement he made. Divorce bill contingent only on agreeing transition & “framework” for trade deal; not a “trade outcome” as he said on #Marr pic.twitter.com/aLwj4G7x7x

That would be a very hard way to get into Britain. You would have to be a fairly dumb people smuggler to come that way.

What’s the requirement of my job? I don’t have to be very clever. I don’t have to know that much. I just do have to be calm.

You probably don’t know, I can’t drink orange juice. It’s poison to me. It’s my Kryptonite.

Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire has said Friday’s border deal is not legally binding but it was a “solid commitment”by the UK to resolve the conundrum caused by Brexit.

He appeared on Irish radio in a bid to repair damage to Anglo Irish relations caused by Brexit secretary David Davis and other Brexiters who said over the weekend the deal on Ireland was merely a statement of intent with no legal effect.

Expect lots of reference to Paragraph 5 of Brexit agreement today. “Nothing agreed until everything is agreed”. But. Also says “joint commitments” will he reflected in “withdrawal agreement” pic.twitter.com/E91sBxvSst

I think this has given us a really solid way in which we can now approach the second phase of negotiations, with confidence. I am sure that is a positive message that the PM will be giving in parliament today as she provides her update.

In his LBC interview David Davis (see 10.01am), the Brexit secretary, said the UK was “quite certain” it could avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, even if it does not get a free trade deal that it believes would obviate the need for such a border. Davis said:

What is most symbolic [of the preservation of the peace process] is the absence of a hard border, the absence of border posts, and that sort of thing. And we are quite certain we can do that by technical and other means, even if we end up without a deal with the European Union.

Whilst the United Kingdom remains committed to protecting and supporting continued NorthSouth cooperation across the full range of contexts and frameworks, including after withdrawal, the common understanding provides that the United Kingdom aims to achieve this protection and the avoidance of a hard border through the overall EU-United Kingdom relationship. This intention seems hard to reconcile with the United Kingdom’s communicated decision to leave the internal market and the Customs Union.

Yesterday, in an interview on the Andrew Marr Show, David Davis, the Brexit secretary, alarmed the Irish government by appearing to say that assurances about the Irish border given by the UK government in the UK-EU Brexit deal were not legally binding. The full transcript is here (pdf), and here is the key quote.

One of the things I’ve always said, is we want to protect the peace process and we also want to protect Ireland from the impact of Brexit for them. So we – you know – this was a statement of intent more than anything else. It was much more a statement of intent than it was a legally enforceable thing.

A senior Eurosceptic with knowledge of the discussions involving cabinet ministers, including Mr Johnson and Mr Gove, told The Telegraph that No 10 had said a commitment to “full alignment” between the UK and the EU “doesn’t mean anything in EU law”.

A separate source confirmed that a specific cabinet minister had been told by No 10 aides that the provision was “meaningless” and was simply included to secure Ireland’s approval for the document.

THE TIMES: Ireland warns May over Brexit #tomorrowspaperstoday pic.twitter.com/zjk515jJ8O

I’ve never seen a more convoluted piece in a newspaper.

What I actually said yesterday, in terms, was we want to protect the peace process, we want to protect Ireland from the impact of Brexit for them. And I said this was a statement of intent which was much more than just legally enforceable. In other words, of course it is legally enforceable under the withdrawal agreement. But even if that did not happen for some reason, [if] something went wrong, we would still be seeking to provide a frictionless, invisible border with Ireland. They’ve completely twisted my words, I’m afraid.

Of course it’s legally enforceable ... It’s more than legally enforceable. In the event that the withdrawal agreement does not happen, then we would still be seeking to maintain an invisible border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. That was the point. I was making the point that it was much more than just in the treaty; it’s what we want to do anyway.

Here are some more lines from the David Davis interview on LBC. The tweets are from LBC’s Theo Usherwood and the BBC’s Chris Mason.

I will post a fuller summary, with the proper quotes, soon.

David Davis on Times front page: "I have never seen a more convoluted piece... they've completed twisted my words."

On border control, Davis says you'd have to be a fairly dumb people smuggler to come in via Northern Ireland.

The Chancellor "slightly misspoke" says Brexit Secretary David Davis -- "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed" and the payment "is contingent on on a deal" @LBC

David Davis tells @LBC the European Union has been making the case for a 21 month transition arrangement.

Who knew? Brexit Secretary David Davis tells @LBC: "I can't drink orange juice. It is poison to me. It is kryptonite."

DD: I don't actually believe economic forecasts. They've all be proven wrong. There are vast documents. They are not forecasts because those forecasts are always wrong.

DD: I suspect I am shackled to the mast, unless they decide I am not very good at it in which case they'll sack me. Anybody can do details. I'll let you do the details.

As with a modernist poem, or holy scripture, the meaning of the UK-EU Brexit deal agreed at the end of last week is not universally agreed. In fact, it is subject to wildly differing, or even contradictory, interpretations.

As far as the Irish government was concerned, and in the eyes of some commentators, it was legally robust, and it meant the UK was turning away from hard Brexit. But No 10 aides were reportedly claiming that some bits of it were “meaningless” in legal terms, and David Davis, the Brexit secretary, yesterday said it was a “statement of intent” rather than something legally enforceable.

Related: David Davis clashes with Ireland over Brexit deal

This is not about a hard or a soft Brexit.

The arrangements we have agreed to reach the second phase of the talks are entirely consistent with the principles and objectives that I set out in my speeches in Florence and at Lancaster House.

Brexit Secretary David Davis tells @LBC his words have been twisted; the UK commitment on the Irish border with Northern Ireland is "much more than what is just in the treaty, we want to do it anyway." His argument is it is more than a legal commitment

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Published on 11 December 2017 | 6:37 pm


David Davis clashes with Ireland over Brexit deal

Brexit secretary describes deal as a ‘statement of intent’, leading Irish government to insist it will hold UK to phase one agreement

David Davis has clashed with the Irish government after claiming that the Brexit divorce agreement between Britain and the EU was a “statement of intent” rather than something legally enforceable.

The Brexit secretary’s comments came after it was reported that Downing Street advisers had told cabinet ministers who campaigned to leave the EU that promises around full regulatory alignment were “meaningless”.

Counties and customs

Related: The New Jerusalem of Brexit is revealing itself to be a mirage | Matthew d’Ancona

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Published on 10 December 2017 | 9:26 pm


'Single market variant' only way to avoid hard border in Northern Ireland, says Keir Starmer – video

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer has said Labour is prepared to accept the ‘easy movement’ of workers between the EU and Britain in order to secure the benefits of both the single market and customs union after Brexit. Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Starmer added that Labour’s approach was ‘the only way to achieve no hard border in Northern Ireland’

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Published on 10 December 2017 | 1:51 pm


UK faces more snow over the course of the weekend

Weather warnings issued as temperatures plummet with up to 20cm of snow expected in some parts of Scotland

People living in areas already blanketed with snow should brace themselves for more and avoid travel where possible, forecasters have said.

Between 10cm and 20cm of snow is possible for some locations and an amber warning has been issued for large swaths of the UK on Sunday.

Related: Snow blankets Britain - in pictures

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Published on 9 December 2017 | 5:11 pm


More snow expected in UK during weekend – video

Snow is seen in Leeds, Northern Ireland, Birmingham and Manchester. Weather warnings are still in place for large parts of the country, with more snow forecast and temperatures expected to plummet.

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Published on 9 December 2017 | 11:53 am


The Guardian view on Brexit divorce: Tories divided | Editorial

The puzzle of Northern Ireland has seen Theresa May commit to a soft Brexit. But politically she advocates a hard Brexit, outside the single market and customs union. This tension cannot be sustained

Divorce is often a stressful, hostile process, riven by bad feeling on both sides. For Theresa May’s government, leaving a union with Europe is proving to be a humiliating experience. It has been embarrassing to witness ministers pursue a strategy of bluster, blunders and climbdowns to deliver the misguided exit from the European Union. On Friday morning the terms of the divorce settlement were reached, two months later than expected. In surrendering to reality, Britain could begin talking about how we could rub along once the divorce was finalised. It is instructive that Brexiters in the cabinet congratulated Mrs May for her capitulations, which only weeks ago they would have viewed as treason. The Tory leavers know that the ultimate prize – to depart the EU – is within their grasp. They are prepared to put aside their supposed principles to achieve it.

This is not the end of the marriage but it is the beginning of its end. The needed restoration of faith in the stability that a union of purpose provides will not come through recriminations. To inspire confidence one must demonstrate it in oneself. Yet the 15-page deal crystallises the divisions within the Conservative party. It is significant that the passage on Northern Ireland commits the UK to full regulatory alignment with the EU after Britain leaves the bloc “in the absence of other agreed solutions”. This goes beyond areas of cooperation under the Good Friday agreement and would tacitly commit Britain to many facets of EU membership as a default option post-Brexit. Such an outcome would be anathema to ardent Brexiters, who fantasise about being able to conduct free trade deals outside of the “protectionist” EU.

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Published on 8 December 2017 | 7:07 pm


Arlene Foster: Brexit brinkmanship rooted in a border childhood

The DUP leader was born into the bloodiest era of the Troubles and was never going to back down over the border question

In an age of marginal political figures seizing centre stage, it is apt that the most powerful person in Britain this week was not the prime minister but Arlene Foster, a 47-year-old County Fermanagh solicitor and the first woman to lead Ian Paisley’s staunchly loyalist Democratic Unionist party.

Until she torpedoed Theresa May’s initial Brexit deal on Monday, Foster’s most notable contribution to public life had been the spectacular mismanagement of a subsidy scheme for woodchip boilers that led to Northern Irish farmers being paid up to £1m to heat empty barns.

Related: Trade talks will not start until February at earliest, EU tells UK

Counties and customs

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Published on 8 December 2017 | 5:30 pm


What’s the Irish view on the Brexit border dispute? Difficult discussions lie ahead | Brigid Laffan

The UK-EU statement is a significant achievement that meets the needs of Dublin and the DUP – for now. But many twists and turns are still to come

• Brigid Laffan is director of the global governance programme at the European University Institute, Florence

The question of the Irish border brought the Brexit talks to a halt on Monday when the DUP stymied an emerging deal. The unfolding drama this week was no surprise to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the island of Ireland and the delicate balances that has kept Northern Ireland in an uneasy peace over the last 20 years.

The question of Ireland was always going to be one of the most difficult to resolve, and remains so. The agreement reached in Brussels is just a staging post, with many twists and turns ahead. That said, the joint statement is a significant achievement that meets the needs of the Irish government and the DUP for now.

Related: Talks through the night, a pre-dawn flight, and finally the deal was done

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Published on 8 December 2017 | 4:24 pm


Snow blankets parts of UK as Storm Caroline leaves Arctic chill

Highlands, Northern Ireland and Wales wake up to wintry scenes, with forecasters predicting 20cm could fall in some areas

Councils have urged residents to look after vulnerable people in their communities as the UK braces itself for a weekend of ice, snow and sub-zero temperatures.

The Met Office has issued weather warnings to last until late on Sunday, predicting that up to 20cm (8in) of snow could fall in some places as Storm Caroline leaves an Arctic airflow in its wake.

If you have been affected by extreme weather you can tell us about it using our encrypted form, or by sending your pictures and videos to the Guardian securely via WhatsApp by adding the contact +44(0)7867825056.

Related: The weather in November

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Published on 8 December 2017 | 4:05 pm


Ireland's leaders say deal shows Britain is edging towards soft Brexit

PM says he is delighted with agreement and promises ‘Britain will have no closer friend than Ireland’ in next stage of talks

The Irish border deal hammered out after objections from the Democratic Unionist party has inadvertently edged Britain towards a soft Brexit deal, political leaders in Ireland have said.

Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, said he was delighted with the deal because not only had it delivered an invisible border with Northern Ireland but the DUP clause had unexpectedly delivered a new promise of barrier-free trade between the whole of Ireland and the UK in the event of no deal.

Related: What’s the Irish view on the Brexit border dispute? Difficult discussions lie ahead | Brigid Laffan

Fine Gael

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Published on 8 December 2017 | 3:41 pm


Main points of agreement between UK and EU in Brexit deal

Document sets out ensuring rights of EU citizens in UK and promise of no hard border in Ireland as well as financial issues

Related: David Davis escapes MPs’ criticism over lack of Brexit assessments

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Published on 8 December 2017 | 8:41 am


How can the Tories lead Britain when they barely understand it? | Martin Kettle

The Irish border debacle reveals an uncomfortable truth: neither Theresa May nor her cabinet grasp the dynamics of these islands

No mainstream British political party is more comfortable with the rhetoric of unionism than the Conservatives. It never takes long before Tory ministers, confronted with some challenge or other from Irish, Scottish or Welsh nationalists, fall back on the mantra that they represent the Conservative and Unionist party. Theresa May does this all the time. The implication is always the same. The union is axiomatically safe in Tory hands, because they, the Tories, uniquely understand and are uniquely committed to it.

Related: Hard Brexiters have just discovered Britain is weaker than Ireland | Fintan O’Toole

Counties and customs

Related: There is a solution to the Irish border imbroglio. But blind ideology prevents it | Caoimhín de Barra

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Published on 7 December 2017 | 8:11 pm


Boris Johnson rejects claims he had to back down from telling EU to 'go whistle' over 'Brexit bill' – as it happened

Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen, as Theresa May tries to reach agreement on the UK-EU Brexit deal

We are in a position where we still need to find a way forward but, let me be very clear, the core issues that Ireland got agreement on at the start of this week are not changing.

Here are some fuller quotes from the George Osborne speech. I’m using the copy from the Press Association.

The essential question is going to be - is there going to be a change of leadership in this parliament? The Conservative party parliamentary party assumes there will be, the prime minister has said nothing about that. And at some point that is going to come to a head.

I would make the observation that it is the consensus view of the Conservative parliamentary Party that the leadership should change. So at some point something will happen.

If you as a party set yourselves against the future, if we’re hostile to business, if we think they are the problem not the solution, if the Cabinet game becomes who can get the most money out of the chancellor, if we’re anti-tech, if we talk about building homes but pretend they can only be built on brownfields, then we will lose our economic credibility and cause damage to our country’s economic future.

The Labour party chose to change its leadership rules, the new membership of the Labour party chose to head to the political fringes, and the Labour movement now lives with the consequences of that big decision.

And in my view, for all this undoubted ability to connect to younger and more disillusioned voters, Jeremy Corbyn remains the biggest obstacle to Labour winning an election.

I don’t rule it out [returning to the Commons] just because I think you can be foolish saying never to things, but it is certainly not what I think I’m going to be doing with my life in the future. I am very much enjoying editing the paper and for me aged 46, having had 20 years in politics, I’ve discovered a new career and a new life and I’m quite enjoying it.

Charles Walker, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons procedure committee, has announced that he is tabling amendments to the EU withdrawal bill for debate next week that would give a Commons committee new powers to demand votes when ministers want to amend the law using secondary legislation.

At the moment most secondary legislation gets passed at the stroke of a pen, without MPs getting a vote. This has become a big issue in relation to the EU withdrawal bill because it will give ministers extensive new powers to incorporate EU law into UK law.

In Wednesday’s debate I shall look forward to a positive response from both despatch boxes to the constructive suggestions we have made.

The process of transferring over 40 years’ worth of accumulated EU law into UK law is one of the greatest legislative challenges parliament has ever faced.

This is from ITV’s Carl Dinnen.

Not hearing that anyone is booking flights this afternoon; Foster not about to come to London, May not about to go to Brussels. Negotiations continue 'positively and constructively'.

CBI Northern Ireland has said that local businesses urgently need the government what will happen to trade arrangements after Brexit. A recent survey found 81% of its members said they did not have sufficient clarity as to what was planned. After a quarterly council meeting today, CBI NI’s director Angela McGowan said:

Business leaders are united – they want to see Brexit talks move onto the next phase as quickly as possible and are becoming increasingly impatient that negotiators can’t find a way through the deadlock on future trading arrangements, citizens’ rights and the financial settlement.

Prevarication is getting us nowhere, the people of Northern Ireland need clarity now. We find ourselves in serious danger of not only losing out on much needed foreign investment but of facing the real prospect of fantastic companies making the reluctant choice to move away from Northern Ireland.

This is from the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg.

Hear DUP and Tory Chief Whips in negotiations this afternoon

And this tweet from Lisa is worth noting too.

On Brit v Ireland - was at Fine Gael drinks last night. Taoiseach and ministers present. Many said they just cannot understand the level of ignorance about Ireland among some in Tory party.

Hilary Benn, chairman of the Brexit select committee, and other MPs on the committee have been inspecting the Irish border for the first time in a visit to Middletown between Armagh and Monagahan.

The frontier is barely detectable apart from a change in mobile phone service and the two derelict customs posts on either side of the bridge.

We do not want to see them coming back.

The customs post, the fact it is decaying, that represents progress.

By popular request (well, redfalcon BTL), here are some quotes from the UQ on Trump and Jerusalem this morning (which I did not cover earlier because it did not add much to what was said yesterday.).

Alistair Burt, the Foreign Office minister who was responding for the government, said President Trump had created a “trust deficit” in peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Burt told MPs other states would have to fill the gap left by the United States after the president’s announcement in order to ensure the “prospects for peace are not diminished”.

They told us that holding his hand and hugging him close, indulging him with the offer of a state visit, was the best way of wielding influence and shaping his policies.

But on Jerusalem, as on so many other issues before, they have been made to look like fools.

Here are some highlights on Twitter from what George Osborne, the former chancellor, said at the press gallery lunch.

On Corbyn

George Osborne on Jeremy Corbyn ‘If the Labour movement was lead by a social democrat of even middling ability they would now be 20 points ahead in the polls.’

Osborne says Conservatives should be pro-market, pro-business, fiscally responsible - but all those things will divide party.

Osborne painting himself as champion of social liberalism; warns about risk of Tories appearing to be anti-change.

.@George_Osborne tells reporters that if the Conservatives are "anti-modern and anti-metropiltan then people will be anti-us"

Tories are party of Churchill, Osborne says - but also of isolationists. Says biggest opponents of eg 0.7% aid pledge are inside party.

Interesting from George Osborne at press gallery: he, Cameron and BoJo were warned by the whips that they would end their political careers by voting for gay adoption (2002 I think) - urges Tory party not to be “anti-modern”

“The future lies with those who are able to bring the country together, not further its divisions,” Osborne says. I don’t think he means May

Osborne says that his leaked remark on May being "chopped up in his freezer" has "taught me a few things about editorial conferences".

.@George_Osborne says he hopes a future Conservative party will be advocating a "softer form of Brexit"

I asked Osborne which he believes would be worse: a Corbyn government or hard Brexit? He replies that Theresa May "doesn't have the votes" for hard Brexit in parliament.

Former Chancellor George Osborne says "I don't rule it out" a return to Parliament as an MP. #pressgallery lunch

Fascinating @george_osborne speech. Door open to tilt at City Hall or return to Parliament and no regrets for lack of Brexit planning in run up to 23 June. Not sure history will see it that way.

Osborne on his regrets: “the benefits of migration were not properly articulated when I was in government” #pressgallery

Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, has been in Portsmouth today for the HMS Queen Elizabeth commissioning ceremony. Asked by Sky News if he would issue orders for UK troops to hunt down and kill British jihadis abroad, he replied:

You can obviously appreciate that I am not going to go into operational discussion with yourself.

What we need to do is make sure that we are doing everything we can do to eliminate the the threat of extremism and terrorism reaching the streets of Britain.

A lot of people are very excited and interested in possibilities that the American administration, the Trump administration, could bring to the Middle East peace process. There is an opportunity, there is a conjuncture of the stars, there is a moment - people think - when progress could be made.

I think, this decision having been announced by President Trump, the world would like to see some serious announcements by the US about how they see the Middle East peace process and how to bring the two sides together.

Lord Macdonald, a Lib Dem peer and former director of public prosecutions, has described Gavin Williamson’s declaration that all Britons fighting with Islamic State should be killed rather than ever being allowed to return to the UK as “juvenile”. He explained why in an interview on the Word at One.

I think it is very important to understand that there are limits [to what the state can do.] In wartime soliders have immunity from prosecution for killing enemy combatants. But not in all circumstances. In wartime, if enemy soldiers have laid down their weapons and are fleeing or trying to surrender and their opponents kill them, that’s likely to be a war crime. And the situation is going to be no different in Syria and Iraq. So it simply will not be lawful in all circumstances to kill jihadis, as the secretary of state seems to be suggesting.

If they’ve laid down their arms, if they are fleeing, if they are trying to surrender, to hunt them down, as he put it, and kill them is likely to raise serious legal issues and perhaps legal liabilities for the people carrying out those killings. So I think his response needs to be a great deal more nuanced than it is. He hasn’t been in the job very long, and maybe that explains why his response is so unnuanced ...

Insecure Gavin Williamson is shooting from the hip to mask his inexperience and distract attention from the appalling cuts the government is about to inflict on our armed forces. The defence secretary risks endangering the lives of British troops with this fatuous posturing on returning British jihadis.

If he is not slapped down, any future enemy of Britain could say, ‘Why should we respect the Geneva convention on captured British soldiers when the British don’t respect it for their own citizens?’

In present circumstances it is not difficult to see that any member of the military that followed his advice could be subjected to court martial and prosecution.

The gung-ho opinions that he has expressed undermine the credibility of British armed forces in general and his office in particular.

I was surprised the secretary of state’s statement. It was inappropriate. It sounds as though we have or are on the cusp of having, on his terms, some sort of shoot-to-kill policy.

It sounds like he was shooting from the hip, it sounds like the words of an inexperienced minister, like someone speaking who has given no thought or reflection at all to the underlying issues, including the consequences of having such a policy. If you adopt that policy in relation to them, you effectively legitimising their actions in relation to us.

Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, has ruled out becoming prime minister. Although seen as someone with long-term ambitions to lead Labour, he told ITV during a visit to Pakistan that he was ruling himself out as a candidate to be the first Muslim prime minister. He said:

I never had ambitions in the first place and I’ve got no ambitions now. I love being the mayor. Why give up a job I love to do a job I don’t want? I’m absolutely ruling myself out. Forever.

Blinder from @SadiqKhan on BBC news just now. pic.twitter.com/ge1rmGjuUB

Nicola Sturgeon has strong words for Theresa May’s government at today’s session of first minister’s questions, describing it as “dissembling, mendacious and totally, totally incompetent”.

“I don’t think we’ve seen a more incompetent UK government in my lifetime and that really is saying something,” she told the Holyrood chamber.

It may well be that the case [for a second referendum on Brexit] becomes difficult to resist but I think there is a more immediate necessity and that is to stop this reckless UK government driving the entire UK over this cliff edge.

I think the majority exists in the House of Commons if Labour gets its act together, and I think the majority exists across the whole of the UK to stop that happening. The sensible compromise option and the least damaging option for our economy is to stay within the single market and the customs union so everyone who is of that view should come together and make that happen.

As long as we continue to allow our future to be in the hands of Tory governments in Westminster rather than having our future in our own hands we will always be at the mercy of reckless decisions taken by Tory government in Westminster.

Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, said he would not divulge any cabinet committee discussions about the proposed Irish deal but said “whatever agreement reached has to be consistent with the UK taking back control of its laws, borders and cash”.

During the Q&A after his speech, he also defended himself from claims that he had been defeated on the levels of money being given to the European Union as part of the deal, saying his remarks about the EU needing to “go whistle” were made at a time when sums as high as £80bn or £100bn were being discussed. (See 12.15pm.)

We need to get going, franchement [frankly], with the second part of the talks.

That’s the exciting bit.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has warned it does not want to return to an era when sex offenders, human traffickers and burglars use the Irish border to evade capture.

The deputy chief constable of the police force said 20 years ago there was a huge problem with aggravated burglaries on elderly with criminals fleeing across the border north or south to escape justice.

Criminal gangs did evade us using the border. We’ve worked hard over the last 20 years to make sure that’s not the case.

What we want to concentrate on is that we don’t diminish where we are a the moment, that our relationships are maintained [post Brexit].

Incidentally, since Northern Ireland is in the news at the moment, it is worth pointing out that Gavin Williamson’s claim that “a dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain” (see 12.35pm) shows striking ignorance of history. The circumstances were very different from what Williamson was talking about, but the deaths of Bobby Sands and other IRA prisoners in the Maze hunger strike are now generally seen as disastrous for British policy in Northern Ireland because they triggered a huge IRA revival.

Downing Street and Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, have both distanced themselves from Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary’s, uncompromising language about killing British terrorists. As Jessica Elgot reports, he told the Daily Mail:

A dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain ...

I do not believe that any terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back into this country,” he said. “We should do everything we can do to destroy and eliminate that threat.

The government position on this has been made clear a number of times in recent months, which is that if you travel to Iraq and Syria, and if you’re fighting with our enemies there, then you make yourself a legitimate target.

There are existing powers relating to other fighters who seek to return to the UK. They include exclusion orders that allow the UK to cancel an individual’s passport. In instances where people do return to the UK, where we’re clear is that they should face the consequences of their actions and that would include investigation by the police and possible criminal prosecution. Where we’ve also been clear is we will take whatever steps are necessary to protect national security.

Sky and BBC News cut away from the Boris Johnson Q&A before it finished. As often happens when they do that, they missed the best bit - with seems to be Johnson’s response to a question from Sky’s Faisal Islam.

Johnson: “V v imp that whatever happens now ha shot to be consistent with taking back control of laws borders and cash...
Go whistle was about £80-£100bn”

Just asked Foreign Secretary about whether he was briefed in Cabinet sub committee about the offer on Ireland regulatory alignment, and if he is comfortable with whole UK alignment in order to keep border open...

He said he wouldnt comment on or off record and Cabinet sub committees... he said whether the end deal “it has to be consistent with taking back control of our laws, borders and money” banging his fist on the podium

Judging from this morning’s No 10 lobby briefing, there’s no immediate Brexit news: the word “ongoing” was used at least three times, referring to negotiations, conversations and the wider process.

When asked if a new text of a deal was being circulated May’s spokesman said:

As the PM set out at the start of the week in the Commons, we think we’re close to an agreement but there’s more work to be done. It’s an ongoing process and we’ll update you as it goes along.

The European commission has said that the UK has until Sunday night to get a deal on Brexit if it wants the EU summit next week to agree to open trade talks. These are from the Express’s Nick Gutteridge and Le Figaro’s Isabelle Ory.

EU Commission says suggestions Brexit progress deadline could be extended into next week are 'not correct'. Says the deadline is actually 'this week...and our week includes Sunday'.

La Commission européenne dit que le délai pour arriver à un accord sur la première phase du #Brexit expire dimanche à minuit.

So, midnight Sunday it is. Is that Brussels time or London time, asks @JamesCrisp6 ? Both are equally valid, replies a conciliatory Commission spokesman.

Q: What do you think of what Gavin Williamson, the new defence secretary, said about eliminating Britons who fight with Islamic State?

Johnson says:

I think that ... Michael Fallon put it very well a few weeks ago when he said that anybody who goes to fight for Daesh in Syria or Iraq has got to understand that they are putting themselves in harm’s way and, indeed, making themselves legitimate targets of British armed forces, and that is the reality.

Q: On Brexit, what is the government offering the DUP in an attempt to get a deal? And how hopeful are you of getting a deal?

Johnson says he won’t give a running commentary.

Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, is now taking questions.

Q: [From the Latvian ambassador] What is your view on Jerusalem?

Ireland’s prime minister Leo Varadkar has claimed the British government plans to publish a new Brexit document to deal with the vexed issue of the Irish border.

Speaking at a press conference in Dublin today, the Taoiseach said he had spoken to Theresa May by phone yesterday on the matter.

My responsibility as taoiseach - as prime minister of Ireland - is to protect our fundamental national interest and that is the rights of Irish citizens in Ireland and Britain and also the avoidance of a return to a border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

This is from AFP’s Danny Kemp.

BREAKING - 'No white smoke' in Brexit talks yet, European Commission's @MargSchinas says - AFP

Checkpoints and cameras on the Irish border will be a target for attack by terrorist groups in Northern Ireland, the deputy chief constable for the region has said.

Drew Harris said there is still a significant level of terrorism in Northern Ireland that does not get reported by the media with 58 shootings and 32 bombing incidents this year so far.

The UK has said there will be no infrastrucure on the border, that would be an obvious place for dissident groups to rally around and also to attack.

It is highly forseeable that dissident groups would seek to take action and that would include buildings.

Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, is delivering his speech on the war against terror now. I will post highlights when I have seen the text, but if he takes questions, I will cover that in detail.

Commenting on the announcement about the Electoral Commission investigation (see 9.48am), a Momentum spokesman said much of the investigation referred to “administrative errors that can be easily rectified.” He went on:

Momentum put a lot of effort and resources into detailed budgeting and financial procedures during the election to ensure full compliance. Our election campaign was delivered on a low budget because it tapped into the energy and enthusiasm of tens of thousands of volunteers across the country.

We have a good working relationship with the Electoral Commission, and will fully comply with the investigation going forward.

At least a thousand extra policemen and women would have to be recruited to secure any “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic post-Brexit, rank and file officers have warned.

The Police Federation of Northern Ireland has said that policing in the region would be dangerously under-staffed to cope with protecting a 300 mile plus frontier if the UK left the EU and had to control a newly fortified border.

Right now, the preparatory work for a “soft” or “hard” border should be well underway. However, I don’t believe the wider security implications have featured anywhere near as prominently as trade, free movement and the Customs Union. That’s a glaring deficiency and one that ought to be addressed with some urgency.

A hard border doesn’t simply affect Northern Ireland. It would have a costly and profound impact on policing in the Republic of Ireland. You can’t upscale on one side of the border without doing the same on the other. That would be a nonsense.

Month by month the PSNI is reducing in number. Eleven per cent of the workforce is eligible to retire next year – that’s 730 in real terms. A further 331 can retire in 2019 and 2020. Recruitment plans fall far short of keeping pace with that number of departures.

Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge has breached the MPs’ code of conduct and should apologise to the House of Commons, a parliamentary sleaze watchdog has found. As the Press Association reports, the Commons committee on standards found that Hodge used parliamentary facilities, such as stationery and phones, to carry out work on the review of London’s proposed Garden Bridge for the London mayor, Sadiq Khan. The PA story says:

The committee noted in a report that the sums of money involved were “very small” and that the Barking MP, who became prominent as a scourge of wrong-doers in her former role as chairwoman of the Commons public accounts committee, said she was not aware she was committing a breach.

But it said the offence was aggravated by the fact that she allowed her parliamentary office to be used as many as 20 times for the review and “did nothing to prevent the impression being given that her work on the review was conducted on behalf of, or in some way connected with, the House of Commons”.

I am extremely sorry that I inadvertently breached parliamentary rules. I carried out this inquiry in good faith and in the public interest. I think all MPs would benefit from greater clarity in the rules governing the use of offices.

The Electoral Commission has sent out a note explaining the rules relating to spending for “permitted participants” (campaigning organisations) at an election. It says:

The law enables non-party campaigners which wish to undertake ‘targeted spending’ – intended to influence people to vote for one particular registered political party or any of its candidates – to do so within prescribed spending limits. These are £31,980 in England; £3,540 in Scotland; £2,400 in Wales; and £1,080 in Northern Ireland. These limits apply during the regulated period which is 9 June 2016 to 8 June 2017.

Registered non-party campaigners are only entitled to spend above these limits if they have the authorisation of the political party that they are promoting. If that party provides authorisation, the registered non-party campaigner can spend up to the limit authorised by the political party. It is an offence to spend above the statutory limits without the party’s authorisation. Should the party provide authorisation for a higher spending limit, any spending by that non-party campaigner up to that limit would count towards the party’s national spending limit.

The Electoral Commission has announced it has launched an investigation into whether Momentum, the pro-Corbyn Labour organisation, broke election spending rules in the general election.

In a press statement the commission said:

The investigation will look at:

whether or not Momentum spent in excess of the spending limits for an unauthorised non-party campaigner in the UK parliamentary general election;

Momentum are a high profile active campaigning body. Questions over their compliance with the campaign finance rules at June’s general election risks causing harm to voters’ confidence in elections. There is significant public interest in us investigating Momentum to establish the facts in this matter and whether there have been any offences.

“Once complete, the commission will decide whether any breaches have occurred and, if so, what further action may be appropriate, in line with its enforcement policy.

There’s an urgent question in the Commons at 10.30am on President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

UQ today on the implications of President Trump’s decision to move the United States embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (Thornberry). This will then be followed by Business Questions, then a statement on: Adult social care

Theresa May wanted to wrap phase one of the Brexit talks on Monday. It is Thursday, and we are still waiting for a deal. Last night Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, said he was expecting a new text by the end of today. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said it has to be finalised tomorrow if EU leaders are going to agree to open trade talks next week. Perhaps we will get a settlement within the next few hours, although it is starting to look as elusive as the government’s Brexit impact reports.

Here is our overnight story with all the latest.

Related: Brexit: UK has 48 hours to agree potential deal or talks cannot progress

We don’t have to have, we have never said we will have and we don’t want a situation where in future our laws are identical to those of the EU. There will be areas where we do things in a very similar way, there are will be areas where we don’t do things in a similar way.

That’s all the prime minister was seeking to achieve, to make sure we can ensure that trade flows as freely as possible across the border of Northern Ireland and southern Ireland.

I remain absolutely optimistic that we will reach a successful point, we will move on to the trade talks, because ultimately it is in everybody’s interests for that to happen ... If you are running a business in the Republic of Ireland and shipping foods to the EU, the relationship with the UK is pretty fundamentally important, because your goods need to go through the UK.

Some of the best talent that we can have in the UK marketplace is coming from students that have chosen to study here and then stayed for some extended period afterwards. We’ve noticed that impact already, more through a sense from non-UKs or foreigners that this might not be such a hospitable place any longer. It’s more psychological than contractual, as it were. But I think it’s something we must really be very careful about.

London will take hits in the context of Brexit. Some jobs will move from London to the continent. I think big parts of the euro-denominated corporate banking business will be forced into Europe.

It’s possible that through the Brexit negotiations that there is some sort of extended passporting rule, but none of us are expecting that quite frankly, or preparing for that. We have to prepare for the worst. Our regulators in the UK require us to prepare for the worst.

They are quite interesting but they are pretty underwhelming. They don’t really include an impact assessment, as far as I can tell.

I would have thought there would have been a proper impact assessment, a proper assessment of what the impact of leaving the EU is going to be on different sectors of the economy.

We shouldn’t be allowing ourselves to be bullied into promising more and more money or giving up the goal of regulatory autonomy or being dragged into a long period of uncertainty without clarity on what we are getting at the end of it.

Continue reading...

Published on 7 December 2017 | 4:59 pm


Irish border checkpoints would be terror targets, police chief warns

Brexit committee hears that buildings on a hard border would provide ‘opportunity’ for dissident attacks and recruitment

Checkpoints and cameras on a future hard Irish border would be a potential target and recruitment tool for dissident terrorist groups in Northern Ireland, the region’s deputy police chief has warned.

Drew Harris said paramilitary activity was still a major concern after 58 shootings and 32 bombing incidents so far this year, which had gone largely unreported by the media.

Counties and customs

Brexit select committee toeing the Irish border - the change in road surface is only marker if border pic.twitter.com/1qbjxewnpV

Related: How Brexit looms over the Irish border: 'It's the Berlin Wall approaching us'

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Published on 7 December 2017 | 4:05 pm


Storm Caroline raises fears of death and injury in north of UK

Met Office warns of flying debris in severe gales of up to 90mph as Scotland is hit by power cuts and travel disruption

Severe gales and snow showers have caused travel disruption, school closures and power cuts as Storm Caroline reaches the UK.

The storm brings the threat of injury and even loss of life to northern parts of the UK, Met Office forecasters said. It is feared that winds of up to 90mph in northern Scotland could send debris flying, damage buildings and cause power cuts.

Related: Weatherwatch: real-time maps of air pollution will soon make it easy to see where danger lies

If you have been affected by extreme weather you can tell us about it using our encrypted form, or by sending your pictures and videos to the Guardian securely via WhatsApp by adding the contact +44(0)7867825056.

Related: The weather in November

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Published on 7 December 2017 | 2:31 pm


UK has 48 hours to agree potential Brexit deal or talks cannot progress

Michel Barnier, EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, tells member states British government must agree deal over Irish border by Friday

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has told member states that the British government has just 48 hours to agree a text on a potential deal or it will be told that negotiations will not move on to the next stage.

Barnier informed EU ambassadors that Downing Street had told him a potential solution was being worked out that could possibly satisfy both Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party and the Republic of Ireland, but that it had yet to be signed off by any of those involved.

Related: Chancellor says UK will pay Brexit bill even if it fails to get free trade deal

Related: MEPs say UK has conceded on Ireland border in Brexit talks

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Published on 7 December 2017 | 12:00 pm


For the DUP, the border question is raw identity politics | Graham Gudgin

The British government must have been aware of the DUP red lines around an Irish border as its raison d’etre is to keep the UK together

The whole point of the DUP is to safeguard Northern Ireland’s position within the UK. As unionists, they believe in the nation state and see the UK as the rock on which our prosperity, security and identity is built. It is unsurprising that these views have lead them into a strongly pro-Brexit stance, though even then there is a pragmatism to their politics that is sometimes missed. The government would have known what the DUP’s red lines were before the latest round of talks hit the buffers.

The Irish government denies the charge that it asked that Monday’s Brexit paper be kept from the DUP, but the reality is that the DUP had received only an emollient verbal briefing and had been asking for days to see a paper. It was passed to them only as Theresa May was going to lunch in Brussels; the frantic phone calls that followed stopped the deal in its tracks.

Related: Northern Ireland is not a bargaining chip | Robin Swann

Counties and customs

Related: In rejecting this EU deal, the DUP has sold Northern Ireland down the river | Brian Lucey

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Published on 7 December 2017 | 10:49 am


Grayling: UK does not need identical laws to EU for Irish border trade

Regulatory equivalence would allow free flow of trade, says senior Tory as deadline looms for first-stage Brexit deal

The UK does not have to have identical laws to Brussels in order to align regulations to allow free-flowing trade, one of the cabinet’s leading Brexiters, Chris Grayling, has said, hinting at the path the government may pursue to break the stalemate over the Irish border.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has told member states that the British government has less than 48 hours to agree a text on a potential deal or negotiations will not move on to the second stage.

Inside the EU, both Ireland and Northern Ireland (as part of the UK) are part of the single market and customs union so share the same regulations and standards.

Counties and customs

Related: For the DUP, the border question is raw identity politics | Graham Gudgin

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Published on 7 December 2017 | 9:19 am


Irish PM: May to present new text on border deal 'tonight or tomorrow' – as it happened

Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen, including Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs, David Davis being questioned by the Brexit committee and Philip Hammond being questioned by the Treasury committee

I am closing this liveblog now. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Here’s a roundup of what happened this evening:

My colleagues Daniel Boffey, Lisa O’Carroll and Rowena Mason have the full report on today’s events.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has told member states that the British government has just 48 hours to agree a text on a potential deal or it will be told that negotiations will not move on to the next stage.

Related: UK has 48 hours to agree potential deal or Brexit talks cannot progress

Lord Bassam will quit his job as Labour’s chief whip in the House of Lords in the New Year after questions were raised about his expenses claims, a Labour Lords source has said.

The government has won the latest Commons votes over key Brexit legislation, amid warnings that dissident republicans would target border officials if there is no deal.

Majorities ranging from 20 to 28 helped ministers ensure the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill remains unamended after five days of MPs examining it line by line, although further battles await in the final three days before Christmas.

Here’s a little more from my colleague Lisa O’Carroll in Dublin.

Varadkar flatly denied accusations that he stopped the DUP seeing the text of the Brexit border deal which was due to sealed on Monday.

I didn’t discuss it with Theresa May, I didn’t need to because I know it isn’t true.

I can assure you that no such instruction was given by the Irish government nor do I think the UK would obey such an instruction.. that’s obviously untrue.

Fresh and urgent moves to salvage the Brexit negotiations were underway on Wednesday night after Theresa May told the Irish prime minister she will come back with fresh text on the Irish border “tonight or tomorrow”.

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar revealed that there was “room to manoeuvre” the deal into the right position before the European council summit next week.

Having consulted with people in London [May] wants to come back to us with text tonight and tomorrow. And I expect to move forward as well – I want us to move forward if it’s possible next week.

I explained my position to her, she explained her position to me. It was a very good call. We were willing to look at any proposals the UK have.

We cannot just say because we need a soft Brexit that we will somehow compromise on some of these things on the table, citizens rights, the ex-bill, the border.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has dismissed Arlene Foster’s claim that Ireland didn’t want her to see border deal text. He was speaking at the press conference with the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, which my colleague Lisa O’Carroll is reporting from.

BREAKING Varadkar dismisses Arlene Foster claim that Ireland didn't want her to see border deal text:" I can assure you that no such instruction was given by the Irish govt nor do I think the UK would obey such an instruction.. that's obviously untrue."

Varadkar: Regulatory alignment is not about imposing the same laws on either side - only in the areas on north-south activities. Laws already diff. You can buy fireworks north of the border, but not south

Jobs will be moved out of Britain unless Theresa May secures progress in Brexit negotiations at next week’s summit of European Union leaders, a leading business lobbying group will warn.

The CBI will say more than half (60%) of firms with Brexit contingency plans will activate them by Easter, meaning jobs leaving the UK, unless the December 14-15 European Council summit green-lights trade and transition talks.

Today, Brexit uncertainty looms over almost every aspect of doing business in the UK. Every day, companies are having to plan for the worst while hoping for the best. They are making choices that will determine new jobs, new plants and new investments in the years ahead. Businesses will press snooze for as long as they can - but the alarm will go off.

No company wants to move jobs or shift production - but business will if it has to. No-one wants to leave their homes or jobs - but EU citizens will if they feel they are no longer wanted.

My colleague Lisa O’Carroll is in Ireland where a press conference between Leo Varadkar and the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is taking place following their meeting.

The taoiseach says Theresa May “wants to come back to us with text tonight or tomorrow” and that she hopes for a deal next week.

BREAKING: Dutch PM - deal on Irish border is "doable". "I am very much an optimist to my core. It still could be doable to reach sufficient progress. It is also in our interest." in Dublin with Varadkar

BREAKING: Varadkar says Theresa May "wants to come back to us with text tonight or tomorrow". Still hopes for a deal next week.

Varadkar:" I agreed to look at any text with a positive and open look."

Varadkar on call with May: "Facts are room to manouevre is small. I absolutely believe that PM May is negotiating good faith. " "We didn't discuss any text in phone call - that will be done by the sherpas"

Varadkar: Regulatory alignment is not about imposing the same laws on either side - only in the areas on north-south activities. Laws already diff. You can buy fireworks north of the border, but not south

Another Labour MP, this time David Lammy, has written to speaker John Bercow regarding David Davis.

He says he has called for Bercow to initiate the contempt of parliament proceeding. It will be interesting to see whether the speaker takes any action given the vote taken by the Brexit committee earlier.

Update: Earlier this afternoon I wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons calling on him to initiate contempt of Parliament proceedings and bring forward a debate on a resolution of contempt of Parliament after @DavidDavisMP was shown to have misled and lied to Parliament. https://t.co/J63TewJzFU

The DUP have said it is continuing to hold talks with the government to find a solution to the Irish border question.

A party spokesman said:

There is still plenty of work to be done. The (government and DUP) teams in London are continuing to work through the detail.

A group of 19 Tory MPs have co-signed a letter urging Theresa May to ignore those in the party suggesting that she walk away from the negotiating table, which they say is “highly irresponsible”.

The letter condemns their Eurosceptic colleagues who “seek to dictate terms” which could lead to Britain leaving the European Union with no deal.

We also wish to make it clear that we are disappointed that, yet again, some MPs and others seek to impose their own conditions on these negotiations. In particular it is highly irresponsible to seek to dictate terms which could lead to the UK walking away from these negotiations.

Those who say that if such an outcome happens the UK will ‘revert to World Trade Organisation’ rules deliberately make it sound as if this is some status quo which the UK simply opts to adopt.

Full letter from 20 Tory MPs to PM criticising Brexiter colleagues who “seek to impose their own conditions on these negotiations”... and “deliberately make” WTO option “some status quo” pic.twitter.com/mcw8hBmZMn

Labour MP Chuka Umunna has written to John Bercow, the speaker of the house of commons calling for action on whether David Davis has misled the house.

UPDATE: In light of the finding of the @CommonsEUexit this evening that the Brexit impact assessments don't exist, I have written to the Speaker to ask him to consider whether the Govt have misled the @HouseofCommons since the Brexit Secretary told us last year they did exist. https://t.co/DqZEfNc46Z

The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg says that 20 Tory MPs have written to the prime minister about their pro-Brexit colleagues.

Here’s her tweet on the contents of the letter:

20 Tory MPs write to PM accusing pro-Brexit colleagues of being 'highly irresponsible to seek to dictate terms which could lead to the UK walking away'

The Brexit committee has released this statement regarding David Davis, which means it is unlikely that he will face contempt proceedings. However that won’t stop Labour MPs pushing for a vote on it.

The committee on Exiting the European Union agreed the following resolution:

That, in view of the statement that no impact assessments have been undertaken, the Committee considers that the Government’s response to the resolution of the House of 1 November has complied with the terms of that resolution.

So David Davis won't be found in contempt... 10 Tory MPs and one DUP voted that he had complied with resolution on releasing Brexit impact assessments. Rest of Brexit committee (8 opposition MPs) said he hadn't.

This is Nicola Slawson taking over from Andrew Sparrow.
Here are some details of the phone conversation that Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had this afternoon.

A No 10 spokesperson said:

They both agreed about the paramount importance of no hard border or physical infrastructure at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister said how she recognised the significance of this issue to the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland and how this remained a joint priority for both Governments, and the EU, to resolve.

The Prime Minister said we are working hard to find a specific solution to the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland that respects the integrity of the UK, the European Union and the Belfast Agreement.

Wednesday's Times: "MoD bans Hammond from using its planes" (via @AllieHBNews) #bbcpapers #tomorrowspaperstoday pic.twitter.com/QLxzI3SYSn

The chancellor has been banned from using a fleet of RAF jets and helicopters until the Treasury settles a bill with the Ministry of Defence, The Times has learnt, amid a growing spat between two cabinet ministers.

Philip Hammond’s department is said to owe a six-figure sum for past flights with No 32 (The Royal) Squadron. An order has been issued to officials who take VIP bookings for the aircraft not to accept any more requests from the chancellor until he pays up, according to a defence source ...

There is no greater champion of defence than me. I was defence secretary for almost three years. I am a huge advocate for our armed forces.

There is no question of the defence budget being cut. The defence budget is being increased but I recognise also the defence is facing some pressures, particularly around currency movement. A lot of defence procurement is denominated in US dollars.

Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, has used Twitter to reassert Ireland’s demand for the phase one issues in the Brexit talks to be resolved “credibly” before the EU opens trade talks (ie, moves on to phase two).

Very true. Ireland like UK wants to move Brexit to phase 2, where we will support a comprehensive EU-UK trade deal facilitating barrier free, seamless trade. But we must finalise Phase 1 issues credibly first. Our asks r not unreasonable but are important pic.twitter.com/zj4PXQItET

The SNP amendment was voted down by 316 votes to 296 - a majority of 20.

The prime minister has joined children singing carols outside Number 10. This is from ITV’s Paul Brand.

LATEST PICS: PM sings Silent Night. Bet she hasn’t had one of those for a while. pic.twitter.com/yF3vh8byAE

The first half of the EU withdrawal bill debate has just finished.

At the end Sylvia Hermon asked the Brexit minister Robin Walker for an assurance that the Good Friday agreement would be preserved. He said it would be. She then asked for a guarantee that this would be written into the new legislation promised by the government implementing the Brexit deal. Walker said the deal was still being negotiated, but that the government wanted to enshrine the Good Friday agreement principle in the deal, so there was “a logic” to what she was proposing.

Theresa May and Ireland’s prime minister spoke by telephone this afternoon, Leo Varadkar’s office has confirmed. An official said:

They took stock of developments since Monday.

The Taoiseach reiterated the firm Irish position regarding the text as outlined by him on Monday.

A 64-year-old man was taken to hospital last night after a brawl in Parliament’s sports and social bar, which has shut indefinitely pending a police investigation. A man has been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and affray.

Police were called to the bar, which is generally frequented by parliamentary staffers on Tuesday at 6.30pm. A Met Police spokesman said:

Police were called to a courtyard within the House of Commons to reports of an altercation between two males. One male, aged 57, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and affray.

He has been taken to a central London Police station where he remains at this time. A second man, aged 64, was taken to hospital by London Ambulance Service for treatment to non life threatening injuries. No other persons were involved.

The former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has called for David Davis’s resignation. He said:

David Davis needs to go. He has mislead parliament and under his leadership the Brexit department has turned incompetence into an art form.

I am not one to call for ministerial resignations every two minutes and I’ve nothing against David Davis as a person but it is now clear he deceived MP. He is also writing the government’s Brexit strategy on the back of a fag packet.

This is from Sky’s David Blevins.

BREAK: During phone call with PM, the Taoiseach "reiterated the firm Irish position regarding the text as outlined by him on Monday." #Brexit

BREAK: Michelle O'Neill, Sinn Fein leader at Stormont, tells @SkyNews "We need the Taoiseach to stand firm in the national interest" and ensure what was agreed is not retracted. #Brexit

The prime minister’s spokesman told journalists at the afternoon lobby briefing that tje cabinet will discuss the government’s preferred “end state” in terms of post-Brexit trade and security relations with the remaining EU by the end of the year, regardless of what progress has been made in negotiations by that point.

There are only two more Cabinet meeting scheduled for 2017, on December 13 and 20.

Theresa May spoke to Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, this afternoon by phone, No 10 has said.

This is what Philip Hammond, the chancellor, told the Treasury committee about the UK’s “Brexit bill” payments not being conditional on the UK getting a trade deal.

Asked if the exit payments would be conditional on there being a future trade deal, he replied:

Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed in this negotiation. But I find it inconceivable that we as a nation would be walking away from an obligation that we recognised as an obligation. That’s just not a credible scenario. That’s not the kind of country we are. And frankly it would not make us a credible partner for future international agreements.

And we will fight our corner vigorously where there is any scope for debate.

But where it is clear that we have entered into an obligation, we will meet that obligation.

As if things weren't going badly enough, No10 slaps down Hammond. PMOS: "Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and that applies to the financial settlement".

It is clear that the economic and fiscal consequences of getting the right deal for Britain, compared to a less favourable deal for Britain over the years to come, would be significantly larger than any of the sums of money that are in question in this negotiation.

Sky’s Faisal Islam has more from the EU withdrawal bill debate. The DUP’s Ian Paisley is speaking now, and he is backing the government on the Hermon amendment.

DUP’s @ianpaisleymp speaking against Hermon amendment to EU Withdrawal Bill says the European Union has “nothing to do with the Good Friday Agreement” apart from the fact that @MichelBarnier turned up for a photo-op when it was signed

DUP’s Paisley is now quoting the 4% GDP hit to the RoI economy as detailed in its own impact assessments of No Deal...
Note: there are no UK equivalents from which to quote

Parliament’s sports and social club, the most rackety of all the bars in the House of Commons, has been closed indefinitely after a fight, the Times’ Henry Zeffman reports.

NEW: Parliament's sports and social bar shut indefinitely after brawl last night. Police were called at 6.30. 57 year old man arrested for GBH and affray. 64 year old man taken to hospital by ambulance. Understand they were Commons staff

The Treasury committee hearing is over. Nicky Morgan ends by telling Hammond he is not trending on Twitter, as David Davis was after his committee hearing this morning. (See 11.57am.) Hammond says (correctly) that that is probably a good thing ...

In the Dail earlier today Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, said that talks on a UK-EU Brexit could run into 2018 if there is no agreement in the next few days. As the Irish News reports, he said:

We want to move to phase two but if it is not possible to move to phase two next week because of the problems that have arisen, well then we can pick it up of course in the New Year.

The strong whiff of no-deal brinkmanship in comments from the Taoiseach & the DUP's key figure, Nigel Dodds, today. The Taoiseach said earlier that if there's no breakthrough this week "well then we can pick it up, of course, in the new year". pic.twitter.com/TYW2nEiVi7

There are ongoing discussions at chief whip level between the DUP and the Tories, DUP sources said in Belfast today. The sense is that this will “creep into January” at this stage, they said. The DUP, though, are watching if Theresa May heads back to Brussels today, tomorrow or Friday.

In the Commons Robin Walker, the Brexit minister, is speaking now. He has just told MPs that the government will not accept Sylvia Hermon’s amendment. (See 2.03pm.) He said the government was strongly committed to the Good Friday agreement, but could not accept the amendment for technical reasons. Hermon said she was very disappointed. The Tory MP Ken Clarke said if the government wanted to improved the wording of the amendment, it could. And several MPs say if government MPs vote against the amendment, it will look as if they are voting against the Good Friday agreement.

Here is the full quote from Philip Hammond earlier about how the cabinet has not had a specific discussion about the final Brexit outcome it wants. (See 2.21pm.) He said:

The cabinet has had general discussions about our Brexit negotiations, but we haven’t had a specific mandating of an end-state position.

That is something that will be done first in the sub-committee constituted to deal with this issue, and logically that will happen once we have confirmation that we have reached “sufficient progress” and are going to begin the phase two process with the European Union.

This is beyond parody. The government is flailing around trying to get agreement to move on to talks on the future UK-EU relationship. Yet they don’t even know what they want that relationship to be once they make that progress. They are breathtakingly dysfunctional.

It has been 18 months since the referendum, it’s shocking that the Cabinet has not even discussed what they all think Brexit will look like. These people are making this up on the fly.

If the government has no idea on the end state, how on earth are they ready to move onto the next stage of talks? The cabinet is frankly an embarrassment.

In the comments BTL someone asked what Philip Rycroft, the Brexit department permanent secretay, said when he gave evidence to the committee this morning. I was not listening carefully, but my colleague Rafael Behr was, and he has written about Rycroft in a good column on the whole hearing.

Here is an excerpt.

So how did this misunderstanding arise? Davis had previously referred to work undertaken in “excruciating detail” to consider the economic consequences of quitting the EU under various scenarios and for various sectors of the economy. (But he claims never to have called them “impact assessments”.) Setting aside the technical definition, the question still arises of how meticulous, forensic work undertaken over a long period of time behind closed doors in Whitehall morphed into stuff you could find on Google; what one committee member described as a “cuttings file”.

One explanation is that the redactions removed all the valuable material. This is possible but it requires believing that the department had too much stuff to share and required time only to sift and remove it. Yet the permanent secretary, Philip Rycroft, giving testimony after Davis, essentially admitted that the opposite was true. He had been surprised by his ministerial bosses’ offer to parliament and had promptly required to oversee a process of rapid collection and collation of data. In other words, DexEU hasn’t spent the past three weeks taking things out. It has been scrabbling around for stuff to put in.

Related: David Davis is bluffing on Brexit. And now it’s clear for all to see | Rafael Behr

The Irish government “needs to be more open” about its Brexit plans with the Democratic Unionist Party to assure them it is not using negotiations to forge a united Ireland by stealth, a leading member of Ireland’s opposition party has said.

Fianna Fail’s Brexit spokesman Stephen Donnelly spoke amid heightened tensions in north-south relations in Ireland and concerns that the DUP had not been brought on board before.

We have to respect the DUP which has a legitimate identity which is British, and concerns that there is going to be a break up of the United Kingdom.

If they have concerns, you have to listen to them. We have to tell them that nobody is trying to bounce the unionists into anything.

This is from Sky’s Faisal Islam.

Understand Brexit Committee reconvening soon to debate its view on whether Davis fulfilled terms of binding resolution on impact studies or whether it is contempt

Politico Europe has had a detailed briefing on the 15-page draft UK-EU deal that was circulating on Monday before the DUP said it was unacceptable. In a very thorough story, Tom McTague and Maia De La Baume summarise what it said. Here is an excerpt.

The 15-page draft agreement lays out the scope of the U.K.’s financial settlement with Brussels as well as the ongoing influence of the European Court of Justice in U.K. legal matters post Brexit. The commitments contained in the document include an agreement that the U.K. shall:

Meet its share of the cost for projects signed off in the 21 months after Britain leaves until the end of the EU’s 7-year budget which finishes on December 31, 2020 — the so-called reste à liquider;

Back in the Treasury committee, Labour’s Alison McGovern asks if it the case that the cabinet never specifically discussed whether to leave the single market and the customs union. Hammond says the cabinet has discussed lots of things, but he says the decision to leave the single market and the customs union was a logical consequence of the vote to leave the EU. So there was no separate decision, he says.

Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, is facing calls to “pick up the phone” to Arlene Foster to try and repair relations between Belfast and Dublin in a bid to finesse an Irish border deal.

Just two days after the Democratic Unionist Party leader torpedoed the Brexit deal, Varadkar faced questions in the Irish parliament about the deterioration of north-south relations, now at their most strained in decades.

I would think it appropriate that all parties should be seeing the text at the same time. Obviously the European commission with our involvement negotiates on one side with the UK government on the other, but at the point at which texts are being shared with political parties I don’t see why the green party, which is north and south, shouldn’t see the text at same time as Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail and the DUP.

Hammond says the cost to the country of having a “less favourable” Brexit deal - ie, a no deal Brexit - would dwarf the cost of what the government is expecting to pay when it leaves (around £50bn, according to some reports.)

Q: Are future payments to the EU dependent on the EU offering the UK a future trade relationship?

Hammond says that it is the case that nothing is agreed in the talks until everything is agreed.

Q: Has the cabinet discussed the end state, where the UK wants to get to after Brexit?

Hammond says there have been discussions about Brexit, but not a specific one about the end state.

Q: Did the draft UK-EU deal mean the government would have been committed to regulatory alignment for the whole of the UK in the event of there being no Brexit deal? Is this what the Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar meant yesterday when he spoke about the three options in the paper.

Hammond says the UK and the Irish government are both committed to keeping an open border, and to respecting the Good Friday agreement.

Q: Do you support the OBR review the impact of the Brexit deal, compared to staying in the EU or there being no deal?

Hammond says he does not think it as binary as that.

Philip Hammond says his spring statement will take place on Tuesday 13 March.

Now that Hammond has switched the date of the budget to the autumn, the “spring statement” is the equivalent of the old autumn statement.

Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is now giving evidence to the Commons Treasury committee. The hearing is about the budget, but Nicky Morgan, the committee chair, has just said the committee will be asking about “topical events” too.

I will be covering it reasonably closely, while also keeping on eye other stories.

In the Commons MPs have started the EU withdrawal bill debate. They are spending four hours debating Northern Ireland issues, and then they will spend four hours debating whether parliament should get a vote on the “Brexit bill”.

The lead amendment in the first section is this one, tabled by the independent MP from Northern Ireland, Sylvia Hermon. It is new clause NC70, and it would require ministers to abide by the principles of the Good Friday agreement when implementing the EU withdrawal bill.

Lady Hermon’s amendment to EU Withdrawal Bill, to preserve the principles of Good Friday Agreement, was seen by government as a threat. But in light of today’s chaos, is it an opportunity to reassure EU and Dublin about Irish border? It will be debated tomorrow pic.twitter.com/BYAhSQroiR

These are from the BBC Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming.

European Commissioners discussed the Brexit negotiations for half an hour at their regularly weekly meeting this morning. An EU official said Jean-Claude Juncker is prepared to meet Theresa May at any time, including on days next week in the run up to the European summit. (1)

President Juncker wants to support Mrs May to avoid the collapse of her government. (2)

As usual the questions from Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, got overlooked earlier because I was writing the snap verdict. So here they are.

Blackford said the Conservative/DUP gave the Northern Irish unionists a veto of Brexit. He said:

Is this a prime minister who is in office, but not in power?

What we are doing is working for a deal that will work for the whole UK. There are particularly circumstances for NI ... but as we look ahead and during the negotiations we are consulting and talking with all parts of the UK and we want to ensure that we get the right deal for the UK.

The clock is ticking and we need a deal that keeps us in the single market and the customs union. To do otherwise will devastate our economy and cost jobs ... Anything less will be a failure of leadership.

Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, said there was “still work to be done in London” after her short telephone call to the prime minister this morning over the Brexit-Irish border issue.

Following her conversation with Theresa May, the DUP said Foster was ready to fly to London to examine the finer points of any agreement that is hammered out given that the party claimed they were kept in the dark over this week’s earlier proposal, which they rejected. The DUP said Foster would travel over if there is a credible deal on the table.

The solution to Britain’s Brexit crisis in Ireland is clear. The north of Ireland should have designated special status within the EU ensuring that we remain within the customs union and the single market ... This is a common sense, practical, and achievable proposal and does not change the constitutional position of the north.

The SNP’s Pete Wishart uses a point of order to ask about the Brexit impact assessments. The government must be in contempt, he says. He says he has written to the speaker about this, and awaits his reply.

John Bercow, the Commons speaker, says he understands Wishart’s concern about this, and respects it. He says he is “very conscious of his responsibilities” and will discharge them. This is of concern to MPs from all sides of the House. He says this has been the subject of correspondence between David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and the Brexit committee. He says he aware of reports of what happened at the committee this morning. But he will not rush to judgment. He will await the committee’s conclusions. Then he wills study it without delay and return to the Commons.

PMQs is over. This is from the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg.

Remember how well organised the Brexiteers are ... IDS last night, Bone, Mogg, Jenkin today - more organised than the govt?

Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts says in the EU withdrawal bill debate MPs saw the government’s “imperialist” agenda in grabbing power from the devolved adminstrations.

May says the government is taking powers back from the EU.

Bernard Jenkin, a Conservative, says countries like Canada, Japan, the US and Australia are strongly in favour of free trade deals with the UK. But we won’t get those opportunities if we are shackled to EU regulation.

May says the UK wants a good trade deal with the EU, and the freedom to strike other deals too.

Lucy Frazer, a Conservative, asks May to commit to supporting farmers.

May can. She says leaving the EU will allow the government to have an agriculture policy that meets the needs of the UK.

Labour’s Karen Buck asks about police numbers in London.

May says the Met’s budget has not been reduced. It is up to the London mayor to decide how that money is spent.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative, asks May to apply a fresh coat of paint to her red lines before she goes to Brussels because on Monday they were starting to look a little pink.

May says her principles remain.

John Baron, a Conservative, asks about cancer care.

May says survival records are at a record high. Of course the government wants to do more. She says she would be happy to meet Baron to discuss this.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, a Conservative, asks about new figures showing literacy improving.

May pays particular tribute to Nick Gibb, the minister for school standards, and to teachers around the country.

The SNP’s Alan Brown says DUP MPs are worth more each than Ronaldo. But Scottish Tories are costing Scotland more than £200m each if you look at the impact of cuts.

May says the budget allocated an extra £2bn for Scotland.

May says the UK believes in the two-state solution for the Middle East.

May says she is planning to speak to President Trump about the decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. It should be a shared capital, she says.

PMQs - Snap verdict: Just when you thought our politics couldn’t get much more dispiriting, that PMQs probably set a new low. It is supposed to be a forum where the prime minister is held to account, but rarely have exchanges at PMQs seemed so ill-matched to the gravity of the issues facing the country. Corbyn tends to avoid Brexit at PMQs, and you can see why. While his questions about, say, housing or universal credit have an urgency or passion to them, today’s felt a bit more half-hearted and, despite May facing the biggest crisis of the Brexit talks, he did not manage to unsettle her at all. But if Corbyn was ineffective, May was complacent - and borderline delusional. “Very good progress” in the Brexit talks? Even the Daily Mail couldn’t swallow that. She seemed oblivious to the real prospect of the talks ending very badly indeed. She had nothing new to announce, but there were some vague hints in what she said that she thinks the solution to the Irish border problem will be simply to delay the whole thing until phase two of the talks. She kept stressing that the border was a phase two issue, even though Dublin and the EU want key assurances on this bolted down in phase one.

Corbyn says “this really is a shambles”. All the government has done is publish a redacted version. Boris Johnson used to say the EU could go whistle. Now the government is planning to pay £50bn. Can it publish an audited account?

May says nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. The only hard border is down the middle of the Labour party.

Corbyn says a deal was supposed to be done in October. The DUP only saw the deal five weeks after first asking for it. Can May now say what the government’s position is with regard to the Irish border.

May says it is the same position the government took in the Lancaster House speech, and in the Florence speech. It wants no hard border, while respecting the constitutional integrity and internal market of the UK. To those Labour MPs shouting ‘how’, she says that is part of the phase two negotiations.

Jeremy Corbyn also pays tribute to the dead police officer and to Jimmy Hood.

He says in July Liam Fox said the Brexit talks would be “the easiest in human history”. Does she still agree?

Sir Henry Bellingham, a Conservative, asks for an update on the Brexit talks.

May says the government is trying to ensure it can build a country for the future. The text being discussed reports on the progress of the talks. The talks will then move on, and those future talks will determine how the UK can maintain an open border in Ireland and open trade. The government will act in the interests of the whole of the UK, she says.

Labour’s Ruth George asks about a constituent who has had to close her nursery because she cannot continue on the government’s funding.

May says she has recently met nursery owners. They say in some areas councils are operating this system well. In other parts it is not. She says the government has improved the offer for parents.

Theresa May starts by offering condolences to the family and friends of a police officer in the Thames Valley killed yesterday, and to the family and friends of the late former Labour MP Jimmy Hood.

PMQs is about to start.

#PMQs ready to go pic.twitter.com/CZ3SFvqM7w

On 1 November the Commons passed a motion saying that the list of sectors covered by the government’s analysis reports should be laid before the House, and that the “impact assessments arising from those analyses be provided to the committee on exiting the EU”. The government did not oppose the motion, partly because it would probably have lost, although there were also claims that the whips did not realise the motion was binding. Subsequently the speaker said it was.

During the debate ministers said that, contrary to some claims, there were not 58 separate impact assessments. But ministers did little to play down the idea that some sort of impact assessments existed, and David Davis has repeated told MPs that this sort of work has been carried out. David Allen Green has a good summary of all his incriminating comments in this blog. There is also useful background in this House of Commons library briefing paper (pdf).

Benn: So, just to be clear, has the government undertaken any impact assessments on the implications of leaving the EU for different sectors [of the economy]?

Davis: Not in sectors. The Treasury, of course, has got an OBR forecast which has an implication, although even that is pretty crude ... There is no systematic impact assessment.

You don’t need to do a formal impact assessment to understand that if there is a regulatory hurdle between your producers and a market, there will be an impact. It will have an effect, the assessment of that effect is not as straightforward as people imagine.

I’m not a fan of economic models because they have all proven wrong. When you have a paradigm change - as happened in 2008 with the financial crisis - all the models were wrong. The Queen famously asked why did we not know.

Benn: Finally, did the government undertake an assessment of the economic impact of leaving the customs union before the cabinet took that decision?

Davis: Not a formal quantitative one.

There is some briefing out now on what was said in the conversation between Theresa May and Arlene Foster.

Doesn’t sound like PM and Foster call has changed much - but saves May from embarrassment of saying at PMQs that she hasn’t even spoken to her

Phone chat between @Number10gov and @DUPleader was a gesture, but no progress made to narrow gap on how to keep border open. Technical discussions between both side’s teams continue. Downing Street’s hope of concluding deal by Sunday night looks ambitious

DUP Arlene Foster was due to ask Theresa May if her party can have a seat at the Brexit negotiations.

Foster was likely to raise that prospect with the prime minister today. Ahead of her phone call to May, the former first minister of Northern Ireland said:

There is a need for us to be directly involved.

If we had been involved directly in the process, in the room, I don’t think we would have arrived at such a stark situation.

One of Arlene Foster and the DUP’s most trenchant critics from the unionist right has said she was ‘absolutely right’ to reject this week’s proposals to break the Brexit-Irish border log jam.

Jim Allister, a former DUP MEP and now leader of the hard-line Traditional Unionist Voice, said today that any moves aimed at keeping Northern Ireland inside the European Customs Union would have moved the border to the Irish Sea.

The Liberal Democrats have accused David Davis of misleading parliament. They have just issued a statement with this quote from Wera Hobhouse, a member of the Brexit committee. She said:

It is unbelievable that these long-trumpeted impact assessments don’t even exist, meaning the government has no idea what their Brexit plans will do to the country.

Ministers must now urgently undertake these impact assessments and ensure people are given the facts.

Philip Rycroft, permanent secretary at the Brexit department, is giving evidence to the Brexit committee now. I will post a summary of the highlights from Davis, instead of covering Rycroft minute by minute, and pick up the main points from Rycroft later.

The Irish government is willing to have clarifying text added to the Brexit Ireland border proposal if it will help Theresa May get the deal over the line.

No requests for changes to the deal offering “regulatory alignment” between Northern Ireland and the Republic have been made since Monday according to reports in today’s Irish Independent, which cite sources suggesting conciliatory moves in Dublin.

Davis has now finished giving evidence.

Sky’s Ireland correspondent David Blevins has just tweeted this.

BREAK: DUP sources confirm party leader Arlene Foster currently speaking to the Prime Minister on the phone. #Brexit

Benn asks a final question.

Q: Did the government undertake an assessment of leaving the customs union before the cabinet took that decision?

Wera Hobhouse, a Lib Dem, asks where the misunderstanding that there were impact assessments came from.

Davis says she will have to ask other people. He says he always used the phrase sectoral analysis. He accepts that, at an earlier hearing, when Seema Malhotra asked him about impact assessments, he might not have corrected her.

Davis says he is already late for his next appointment.

An MP points out that last week the Commons speaker, John Bercow, said nothing was more important for Davis than for him to give evidence to this committee.

The SNP’s Peter Grant goes next.

Q: In February you told MPs: “We continue to analyse the impact of our exit across the breadth of the UK economy.” The Commons motion calling for the impact assessments used that language.

Davis quotes from the better regulation manual, that gives a formal definition of an impact assessment. It says these assessments have to change continually.

Richard Graham, a Conservative, goes next.

Q: How would you be able to do an impact assessment for the financial sector without know what the Brexit outcome will be, or whether there will be a free trade deal with the US?

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative, says is is concerned about the government honouring parliament. If these impact assessments did not exist, the government did not have to publish anything, did it?

Davis agrees.

Davis says the information that has been handed over is boring but useful. It would be useful to Brussels, he says. It is the product of 10 or 15 “man years” of work.

Here are more tweets from Labour’s Seema Malhotra, a member of the committee.

.@DavidDavisMP told me "we have a major contingency plan" on #Brexit, while also saying DExEU had not started or completed a sectoral impact assessment for our economy?! #brexitshambles pic.twitter.com/QlKu7IEf8c

I was told in an FOI from DExEU that they held the Brexit #impactassessments but the Govt needed a "safe space", then they delayed in handing them over, then apparently they didn't exist and now haven't even started, Incredible.

Craig Mackinlay, a Conservative, goes next.

Q: Is it the case that you did not edit this material yourself?

Davis says he has used the term sectoral analysis for a reason; there were reports showing what a section of the economy looked like.

Back in the committee Labour’s Stephen Timms goes next.

Q: We got 850 pages of documents. How much material was not submitted to us?

The Labour MP Bill Esterson, a shadow business minister, says Davis’s evidence shows he is either “incredibly incompetent” or “incredibly dishonest”.

Did he know that the impact assessments didn’t exist when he said they did? It was either incredibly incompetent or incredibly dishonest. Either way, how is Davis still in his job? https://t.co/C0CeGLSgCH

This is from Open Britain’s Thomas Cole. Open Britain is campaigning for a soft Brexit.

David Davis has just stated that he did not think that a no deal #brexit would see a shortage of nurses in the UK, this is despite there having been a 96% drop in nurses from the EU registering in the UK since the referendum https://t.co/u9iRhlJBzu

Benn steps in.

He says the Brexit steering group in the European parliament was briefed on Monday on the draft text of the UK-EU deal. Why is that parliament getting more information than this parliament.

John Whittingdale, the Conservative former culture secretary, is asking the questions now. He says the contents of what have been released are “fairly anodyne”.

If you haven’t already, do read my colleague Jessica Elgot’s story about what MPs and peers who have read the 850 pages of Brexit reports that the government has released to the committee are saying about their contents.

Related: MPs and peers criticise tight security around Brexit impact reports

Seema Malhotra is asking the questions now.

Q: In September you told a Lords committee that “we will carry out quantitative assessments”.

Back in the committee David Davis says these reports were commissioned to show government departments how the businesses they cover would be affected by Brexit.

And this is from Labour’s Seema Malhotra, a Labour member of the committee.

.@DavidDavisMP has just admitted that the Government have not conducted a single economic impact assessments on the impact to Brexit to our economy. Staggeringly. A dereliction of duty. #brexitshambles

The Labour MP David Lammy is making a similar point.

David Davis just told @CommonsEUexit - we have not done "a quantitative economic forecast of outcome" of Brexit. "The Government has not written an impact assessment". Read my thread below and see how many times the Government has misled Parliament and the public: https://t.co/qfgVirSA7P

Joanna Cherry, the SNP MP justice and home affairs spokeswoman and a member of the Brexit committee, says Davis has effectively admitted that ministers have misled parliament.

So @DavidDavisMP has just told the Brexit Select Committee @CommonsEUexit that no impact assessments exist. I repeat. UK Govt has carried out no impact assessments re economic effects of #Brexit

The evidence of @DavidDavisMP to @CommonsEUexit just now re non existence of #brexit #impactassessments would appear to directly contradict what he & other UK Govt ministers have previously told Commons committees. This is pretty serious

Q: Is there any wording in the Commons motion about the impact assessments allowing the government to withhold information? And why didn’t the government try to amend or reject the motion?

Davis says the motion asked for documents that did not exist.

Q: You told a committee that Theresa May would have seen the summaries of the assessments carried out. What were you referring to?

Davis says he was referring to the summary outcomes of the reports that had been commissioned.

My colleague John Crace says today’s sketch is going to be a cinch.

David Davis: ‘Just because you use the word impact doesn’t make it an impact assessment’. Today’s sketch will be a transcription service

Benn asks Davis about comments he made to a committee in September, when he said detailed assessments were being carried out.

(This blog, by David Allen Green, sums up very well all the claims about the impact assessments that have been made by Davis in the past.)

Davis says the government will quantify the effect of different negotiating outcomes for different sections of the economy later in the process.

That will cover, for example, the impact of different outcomes on financial services, or manufacturing, or agriculture.

Q: Isn’t that a bit strange?

Davis says when these sectoral analyses were carried out, the intention was to help the government understand what the impact of Brexit would be.

Hilary Benn, the committee chair starts.

Q: You told the Commons that the Brexit impact assessments do not exist in the form that MPs assumed. Is that why you have not handed them over?

Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, spoke to reporters this morning as he arrived for a Nato summit in Brussels. He did not exactly lift the lid on the cabinet revolt he is supposedly leading, but he did call for the EU to let talks on a future trade deal start now. He said:

We will come up with a solution but the important thing is that that solution can only be discovered in the context of discussions on the end-state of the UK’s relations with the rest of the EU.

\We need to get on with those negotiations now, so all the more reason to get on with stage two of the negotiations.

The hearing has not started yet.

When it does, you will be able to watch it here.

The Brexit committee hearing with Davis is scheduled to last an hour.

But after he has finished, the committee is also taking evidence from Philip Rycroft, permanent secretary at the Brexit department, which could also be interesting.

This is from Sky’s Beth Rigby.

NEW: radio silence from No 10 on whether they’ll be a phone call between May & Foster. But #DUP tells @skydavidblevins currently “no plans today” for conversation

Theresa May’s Brexit difficulties show no signs of easing. Two days after the DUP scuppered the UK-EU Brexit deal at the last moment, it is now clear, as our over overnight splash reports, that a cabinet revolt is stirring.

The pro-Brexit papers have all got versions of the same story. This is from today’s Sun.

The Sun has learned that Boris [Johnson] spoke out over his fears about it at the weekly meeting of the PM’s top table of ministers this morning.

Mr Johnson told Mrs May that he “would worry if regulatory alignment bound us into the EU”.

David Davis, the brexit secretary, said that any alignment between the north and south in Ireland would apply to the whole of the UK, which Leave supporters interpreted as Britain remaining yoked to the EU.

One cabinet source said: “It seems that either Northern Ireland is splitting from the rest of the UK or we are headed for high alignment with the EU, which certainly hasn’t been agreed by cabinet. The prime minister is playing a risky game.”

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are said to be leading a revolt of Brexiteers who have a ‘genuine fear’ that Mrs May is going to push through a soft option.

The foreign secretary reportedly confronted the prime minister in a dramatic clash during cabinet yesterday over her negotiating strategy.

Continue reading...

Published on 6 December 2017 | 10:11 pm








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