3 Feb 2016

Is the PM guilty of Euro-favouritism?

Chris Grayling spoke for others when he told David Cameron at the Cabinet table that this seemed like a good moment to end the collective responsibility gag on him and other dissenters.

But there is no appetite for mass resignations, one Cabinet minister told me this morning.

“Don’t hold your breath for that,” the minister said. “We’re exercised, very exercised,” the minister said, referring to the gag that appears to apply to them but not to the PM arguing on the other side, but “mass resignations would just look chaotic.”

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and Home secretary Theresa May arrive at a ceremonial welcome for the President of Singapore Tony Tan, and his wife, at Horse Guards Parade in London October 21, 2014. The President and his wife will be guests of Queen Elizabeth during the first state visit of a Singapore President to Britain. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS ROYALS) - RTR4AZTF

So David Cameron will today continue to dominate the domestic political stage, but expects to have few “big beasts” from his own side up against him even when the collective responsibility is lifted.

After the post EU summit Cabinet meeting, still planned for Monday 22 February, Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling, Theresa Villiers and John Whittingdale are expected to declare for “Leave.”

Priti Patel, who attends Cabinet as a Minister of State, could back Leave as well.

There is concern in parts of Whitehall that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) wasn’t consulted about some of the changes in the draft EU agreement. Phasing in tax credits for new arrival EU workers is “worse than doing nothing,” one Whitehall source said.

At a time when the DWP is trying to phase out tax credits and envelope them into the Universal Credit it could involve devising a whole new system for “graduated” tax credits to layer on top of the tax credit design just as the whole thing is supposed to be being phased out.

By contrast, the Home Office seems to have been kept very much in the loop in the last stages of the negotiation in particular, which has allowed Theresa May to claim victories in the negotiation and David Cameron to nudge Theresa May closer to a full declaration for his Remain position.

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