Theresa May is shaping up for a fight. I rub my eyes, but for the first time yes, she even looks like a winner

Anonymous briefings from Brexiteer backbenchers claiming Theresa May is “entering the killing zone” and “ drinking in the last chance saloon” have backfired as the prime minister goes on the offensive in the Sun  in advance of a Commons statement on Monday afternoon.  Breaking the normal protocol of informing  MPs first, her Sun piece is a departure from her normal defensive stonewalling and a sign of new determination  to seize the initiative. Reports that she’s facing a cabinet revolt sound overcooked, focusing on longer time to reach the final deal  in exchange for rendering the backstop redundant. Will the Conservative party risk breakup and  the collapse of the government over that? Surely not enough of them will, though the result could be tight and require Labour support.  The Sun hedges its own bets on whether she’ll succeed with a terrible pun on the old Sinatra signature number. May Way—as she  (perhaps?) faces the final curtain. Somehow I think not.

She writes:

How are YOU doing Prime Minister?” one journalist asked me recently. I didn’t reply at the time but I’m going to give Sun readers the answer now – and it’s very simple.

None of this is about me. It’s all about you.

That’s why, when I’m confronted with tough choices during the Brexit negotiations, I don’t think about what the implications are for me. Instead, I ask myself what it means for you, for your family and for the whole of the United Kingdom.

Am I bringing back control of your money, your borders and your laws?

Am I protecting your jobs and making sure nothing gets in the way of our brilliant entrepreneurs and small businesses?

Am I protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom?

And, above all, am I delivering the Brexit that the people of this country so clearly voted for?

I need to be able to answer “Yes” to every one of these questions.

And if that means there are some difficult days in Brussels, well that’s just something I have to deal with.

Because the Brexit talks are not about me or my personal fortunes. They’re about the national interest – and that means making the right choices, not the easy ones.

But with five months to go until we leave the EU, we have already reached agreement on the vast majority of our exit deal.

What became clear at last week’s meeting in Brussels is that the very last stages of the talks are going to be the hardest of all.

This includes dealing with the so-called “backstop”: making sure that, no matter what our new relationship with Europe looks like, there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

I’ve been very clear that this must be achieved without creating any kind of border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – doing so would undermine our precious Union and put at risk the hard-won peace.

So I am working closely with my counterparts in Europe to explore every possible solution to the border issue.

Does that mean I think this negotiation will get tougher before we reach our goal? Yes

Do I have some long and difficult days ahead? I’m sure I do.

But what I’m thinking about is not how hard it all is today.

As we enter the final, crucial phase of the talks there will undoubtedly be some unexpected challenges to which we must rise.

But the finish line is in sight. And I am more determined than ever that we will get there together, with a Brexit deal that’s right for you, right for your family and right for our country.

According to the Guardian she will tell the Commons on Monday that 95% of the Brexit withdrawal agreement and its protocols are settled as she seeks to demonstrate to anxious MPs in her own party that she is making headway in the increasingly fraught divorce talks.

The prime minister is expected to confirm she has resolved with the EU the future status of Gibraltar, developed a protocol around the UK’s military base in Cyprus and agreed a mechanism for resolving any future disputes with the EU.

May will argue this is not the case and highlight all the specific areas of agreement already reached, including settling the divorce bill at £39bn, having an implementation period until at least the end of 2020 and recognising the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and vice versa.

The withdrawal agreement covers the legal agreement or treaty that the UK will sign with the EU to conclude its exit by 29 March, the end of the article 50 period. May will say that the shape of the deal across “the vast majority” of its text is now clear.

She will answer the case made in the Mail on Sunday by David Davis, touted as the replacement Brexiteer prime minister.

Even the most charitable verdict on last week’s Brexit talks in Brussels can hardly describe them as a success.The outcome has managed to anger not just Leavers but ardent Remainers as well.

Why? Because the Prime Minister appeared to tacitly endorse the idea of extending the Brexit implementation period beyond December 2020. That, in effect, would delay Brexit by another year for no apparent gain.

There would remain a Northern Irish backstop undermining the integrity of the UK, we would have to pay billions more, and there will be no agreement on our future relationship with the EU.

This will severely challenge the Prime Minister’s statement at the Conservative Conference that austerity has ended.

The consequences of the extra costs on next week’s Budget and the nation’s finances would be immense and entirely unnecessary.

Despite the flawed strategy to date, it is still possible to reset our path towards a proper free trade agreement. But we are running out of time, and we should not fear a ‘no deal’ outcome.

Given the EU’s continued intransigence, we should now step up such preparations.

The paradox is that the more we do, the less likely it becomes. Because if we do, the EU will strike a deal.

His willingness to gamble on No Deal will sink whatever chances he may have had, I predict.

 

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The Daily Telegraph reports she “faced a Cabinet revolt on Sunday night after attempting to shore up support for her Brexit plans during an hour-and-a-half long conference call with her ministers.

Esther McVey, the Work and Pensions Secretary, is said to have told the Prime Minister that she was “devastated” by plans to extend the Brexit transition period in a bid to strike a deal with the EU.

Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, warned the Prime Minister there must be a time limit on her customs backstop amid concerns that it could leave Britain indefinitely tied to Brussels.

He is said to have directly asked the Prime Minister if she had “explicitly threatened the EU with no deal” amid mounting concerns that Mrs May is making too many concessions to secure a breakthrough.

It comes as the Prime Minister faces one of the most pivotal weeks of her Premiership amid suggestions that Tory MPs are poised to trigger a confidence vote. 

On Monday she will attempt to reassure MPs during an address in the Commons. On Tuesday she will hold Cabinet, while on Wednesday she faces the prospect of a Eurosceptic revolt in the Commons and a “showdown” with Tory MPs, before holding a meeting of her Brexit inner cabinet on Thursday.

 

 

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London