- The UK’s Brexit secretary has reportedly started telling Cabinet colleagues that a no-deal exit would be preferable to the current deal being offered by the EU.
- Dominic Raab is preparing to lead a group of Cabinet ministers who insist the EU drop its demands over the Irish backstop.
- The EU appears highly unlikely to make significant concessions over the backstop measure – designed to avoid new border checks in Ireland – which offers Theresa May an even more difficult route to delivering a deal.
LONDON – Brexit secretary Dominic Raab is preparing to lead a group of Cabinet ministers arguing that a no-deal exit would be preferable to a deal that breaches their red lines.
The group of ministers will tell the prime minister that the current deal being offered by the EU is unacceptable and say that May should leave with no deal if Brussels does not make more concessions, Buzzfeed reported.
The ministers will insist that the EU drops its Northern Ireland-only “backstop to the backstop” measure and that the deal should include a “break clause” mechanism which allows the UK to leave a UK-wide customs arrangement without EU consent.
The move from such senior colleagues in Cabinet makes the prospect of a no-deal exit significantly more likely and offers May an even bigger headache as she struggles to bring back a deal from Brussels which will have the support of her Cabinet and then of parliament.
EU officials have repeatedly insisted that they will not give in to demands over the Irish backstop – an insurance measure designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland – which they see as integral to any divorce deal.
Dominic Raab has previously said the UK could be forced to leave without a deal but it was widely seen as a negotiating tactic.
In the last week, however, he has encouraged other ministers that a no-deal scenario would be manageable, Buzzfeed reported.
Number 10 had previously calculated that ministers could be bounced into supporting a deal by fear of a chaotic exit with no deal. But ministers have now decided to take a tougher line after deciding that May’s deal would fail to pass through parliament.
“There is no point agreeing a deal which will be voted down by parliament, cause the PM to fall, and result in chaos,” a Cabinet source told Buzzfeed.
Is the deal slipping away?
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier claimed on Monday that the main elements of the divorce treaty text were ready for May to present to the UK cabinet on Tuesday.
But the growing resolve among pro-Brexit ministers to oppose any deal which does not contain their demands over the backstop means the chances of a successful deal are decreasing fast.
Downing Street has also been hit by the resignation of Remain-supporting minister Jo Johnson on Friday, who warned that the prime minister was offering the public a choice between “vassalage and chaos” and called for a fresh Brexit referendum. The resignation indicates that even moderate Remainers in the party will struggle to support her deal, in which case it would almost certainly be voted down in parliament