At home the ” running commentary” defence is under pressure. But at the EU summit, Theresa is limited to pitching ” over coffee” tonight.

 With the leak of Brexit cabinet committee documents and the Chancellor’s admission of tensions within  the committee itself, the UK government’s refusal to give “a running commentary” is under heavy pressure already.

This morning in Commons questions, the Brexit Secretary still stalled on the details but insisted in general :

Davis says the government will publish “much information” about its Brexit plans

The SDLP were given a little outing

Mark Durkan, the SDLP MP, says employment law is a devolved matter for Northern Ireland. So will it get control of employment law when powers are taken back from the EU.

Davis says there will be discussions with the devolved administrations to make sure powers go to the right place

Margaret Ritchie, the SDLP MP, asks if the government will explore ways of ensuring Northern Ireland can stay in the single market if the rest of the UK leaves.

Davis says the government is committed to keeping an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and to getting the best access to the single market. He will not go beyond that now, he says.

The Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has joined Martin McGuinness in dismissing James Brokenshire as a broken reed when it comes to defending Northern Ireland’s interests as an occasional member of the cabinet committee on Brexit when NI comes up for discussion.

.   The “ running  commentary” defence has been given scathing treatment by  major report by the  Lords European Union select committee, foreshadowing perhaps a torrid time for the government  when  the outcome of the negotiations comes as promised before Parliament.

 The FT reports (£) “Ministers keep saying that they will not offer a running commentary on the negotiations. What they offer instead, namely parliamentary scrutiny after the fact, is in reality not scrutiny at all — it could be no more than a rubber stamp.

The Lords committee called for MPs and peers to be shown a “wide range of documents” about the negotiations and to be able to make formal recommendations, which the government could reject only if it gave reasons for doing so. That would not amount to parliament “micromanaging” the process, as ministers argued.

David Davis, the Brexit secretary, has pledged that Westminster will have as large a right of scrutiny as the European Parliament. In international negotiations, a committee of the European Parliament has access to draft negotiating directives, draft amendments to those directives, draft negotiating texts and other documents.

Key findings of Lords Committee

  • It would be in the interests of Government, Parliament and the public for Parliament to vote on the Government’s Brexit negotiation guidelines before Article 50 is triggered.
  • Too much is at stake – including many key aspects of domestic policy – for Ministers and officials to be allowed to take decisions behind closed doors, without parliamentary and democratic scrutiny.
  • Allowing Parliament to provide timely and constructive commentary throughout the negotiations would increase the likelihood of Parliament and the public accepting the final deal.

In evidence  to the committee, the former head of the Foreign Office Lord ( John) Kerr  who was  “ the pen that wrote Article 50” when he worked for the Commission  said:  “don’t ask me,” when asked  how Article  50 talks would play out. In the end he thought two years for  “nasty brutish and short talks” would probably  be enough to deal with EU funding and security issues but longer would be needed for trade. Mrs May would probably be dealing with “all three baskets” at once. On the EU side who would be in charge? Kerr was emphatic.

The European Council will be in charge. The Commission may say, “No, no, no”. The treaty says that, under Article 50, the Commission is negotiating with us, and of course it will be, on what I have referred to as narrow Article 50—on the budget and that sort of thing. On a lot of other things—including, for example, foreign policy and security, internal and international—it is clear that the Commission will not be the negotiator. The negotiator will come from the Council of Ministers. Mr Tusk will be running that, whatever the Commission says.

If the government was under pressure at home, the Prime Minister  is to be reduced  to a few words “ over coffee” at her first  EU summit tonight

Donald Tusk, the European council president, has insisted Britain’s future relationship with the EU will not be on the formal agenda for the two-day meeting, but he will give May the opportunity to set out the “current state of affairs in the country” over coffee at the end of the meal.

A No 10 source said she would tell her fellow EU leaders: “The British people have made a decision and it’s right and proper that that decision is honoured. There will be no second referendum. The priority now has got to be looking to the future, and the relationship between the UK, once we leave.