Merkel ally: December breakthrough possible
Manfred Weber, leader of the EPP in the European Parliament and an ally of Chancellor Merkel, has left a meeting with Theresa May feeling a bit more optimistic about the prospects for the European Council meeting in December. Theresa May desperately needs that to be the moment that Brexit talks move on to Phase 2 (transition and future relationship). If that didn’t happen, she has been repeatedly warned by businesses and the Treasury, many firms will start pressing the button to move staff and units to the EU27.
In a press conference after the meeting, Mr Weber said he didn’t want to say what Mrs May had said to boost his spirits (he’d been pretty pessimistic only yesterday). But he was repeatedly asked whether the UK had promised more money beyond the £20b already conceded in the Florence Speech.
EU leaders have been clear that they weren’t expecting the UK to promise an explicit number at this phase but were expecting assurances that the UK accepted its responsibilities for outstanding spending and other liabilities. Officials have been trying to work out a way of breaking down the component parts of the bill without those headings pointing definitively to numbers.
Mr Weber said there was progress on “how to guarantee” monies, “technical arrangements” and “practicability.”
You came away from his briefing sensing that on the issue of money, the two sides could be approaching some kind of understanding. Michel Barnier has said the EU27 want an outline deal two weeks ahead of the European Council meeting in December so the government is very close to the deadline he has said matters.
In the Commons, MPs have been debating the second day of the Committee Stage of the EU Withdrawal Bill. Priti Patel gave her first speech since being forced to leave the government. She said she’d had a personal crash course in exiting. The government is not expected to lose any of the votes currently under way or the ones scheduled for later this evening.
There’s been a lot of focus instead on headlines in “The Telegaph” and the “Daily Mail” respectively calling the Tory rebels “mutineers” and “collaborators.”
One Tory rebel, Antoinette Sandbach, told Channel 4 News that the use of the word “collaborators” (the Daily Mail headline was inspired by an article by Sir Bill Cash in “The Times”) was “inflammatory and unworthy of a Member of Parliament” and condemned it as “divisive and abusive language.” She also said she found it “personally very offensive (as) my mother lived under Nazi occupation.”
Brexit supporting Tory MPs told me they refer to Vicky Ford (also featured on the front of “The Telegaph” as one of the “mutineers) as “Vichy” Ford. The former MEP told me that was “enormously unhelpful” language.
Bob Neill, also front page news in “The Telegraph,” said he thought the paper was trying to “bully” MPs but it would be “counter-productive.”