“I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.” Theresa May in Brussels? Answer. Worse: humiliation

What was Theresa May actually expecting  from the EU 27 leaders in Brussels? There was always the desperate hope for one of those last minute rush to settle against the declared odds. Instead… headlines…

Daily Telegraph ( Brexiteer)

Theresa May was humiliated once again by EU leaders last night as her attempts to improve her Brexit deal were thrown back in her face.

The Sun (Brexiteer) and coiner of  dreadful puns

BRUSSELS ROUT 

Theresa May told to get stuffed by EU leaders who roast her pleas for a better Brexit deal

The Times ( moderate Leave)

EU humiliates May with refusal to budge

PM returns empty handed after Brussels strikes out demands over Irish backstop

Financial  Times (pro-EU)

Brussels scraps plan for reassurances on backstop as PM alienates European Council

Irish Times

EU leaders deliver pointed sub to May

Daily Mail ( pro-Theresa May)

EU braces itself for No Deal

 

 Juncker:If we go into negotiations on future we need to have a well constructed proposal & cogent ideas from UK. I find it uncomfortable there’s an impression in UK it’s for EU to propose solutions. I’d have thought it was rather more up to UK Gov to tell us what they want.’

Latest at midnight..

She got even less  from the leaders than  the sherpas had drafted. No specific  reassurances as yet, never mind legal guarantees.

Her request for a date to begin the talks on the final deal was denied – an obvious ruse to set a date for ending the backstop by another name.

The BBC’s Norman Smith reports that Mrs May was interrupted several times by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, during her pitch to EU leaders.

Dr Merkel  interrupted her to ask: what is the relationship  the British actually want with the EU? Mrs May could give as clear enough answer to the heads’ satisfaction.

The conclusion is forming that the leaders saw no point in making an offer  that was unlikely  to be approved in the Commons,  having been disillusioned after  she had told them she could get the withdrawal agreement through and hadn’t dared to put it to the vote.

The most pessimistic estimates of  success have been more than fulfilled. It seems  they’ve been exceeded. The EU leaders appear to have given up on Theresa May. The conclusion the British  parliament will surely reach is just as clear

Mick has caught Leo Varadkar on Sky News  “making an appeal over Mrs May’s head” to extend or revoke Article 50, suggesting there was “no majority” for Mrs May’s plan.

He said parliament could delay or scrap Brexit if the UK stays on course to crash out on 29 March 2019 without Downing Street having secured ratification of Mrs May’s agreement.

In diplomatic terms this  a bold intervention from another head of government, a sign perhaps of  Irish desperation at the prospect of No Deal . But recalling the  former  intimacy between the two governments, well said.

The suspension of Article 50 may indeed happen to buy time. a monumental  kick of the can down the road worthy of Johnny Sexton.  But not under this prime minster  whose fixed determination  has been consistent  to stick to the legal timetable and leave the  EU on 29  March 2019.

Vardakar’s  appeal also  exposes the poverty of what the EU is likely to offer

Peter Foster of the Daily Telegraph has his finger on the pulse as usual. After the EU dinner he concluded

So @theresa_may got a an absolute kicking tonight.

She made her pitch to the the EU leaders and they basically said no.

 

What are the DUP up to? They may have to decide as earlier as Monday whether to join  Labour  in a vote of no confidence in the government. ITV News’   political editor thought he noticed a change of tone  from Nigel Dodds last night After meeting Mrs May earlier in the day, does he know something we don’t? (Memo to Nigel don’t let  an interviewer put  warm words like “ an olive branch” in your mouth)..

Politics is all about words, which only sometimes mean what they seem to say. So if you took what the DUP leader in Westminster said on my show last night you would think that just maybe there is a route through the current parliamentary chaos for the PM towards a Brexit deal that MPs could approve.

The DUP’s Nigel Dodds told me:

Well I think that the Prime Minister if I may say so maybe is extending a bit of an olive branch to us in the sense that she is now sitting down with us, acknowledging that we have an issue, acknowledging that it’s not just an issue we have but many in her party are now saying that she’s listening and she’s now prepared to go out she says to get those legal changes that are necessary.”

The mots justes in what Dodds said are “legal changes”. Following a meeting he had with her, he thinks she will try to secure legally binding changes to the Ireland backstop so that either it does not drive a regulatory wedge between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, or it is strictly time limited or there is a break clause unilaterally exercisable by the UK.

And the PM seemed to confirm that offer when she said last night on the steps of Downing Street that “when I go to the European Council tomorrow I will be seeking legal and political assurances”.

How likely is the PM to secure any of that from EU leaders in Brussels, where she has headed today? The answer is that if Dodds and his colleagues continue to be purists about all of this, there is not the remotest chance.

Soft cop Nigel, hard cop Arlene?

Katy Balls of the Tory house journal the Spectator has uncovered an odd story about  the DUP  wanting NI secretary Karen Bradley sacked as some sort of sacrificial victim.

Senior Conservative figures are arguing that one of the way’s to fix this and get the party’s confidence and supply agreement with the DUP operational again is to change the team handling the DUP. The DUP feel as though they have been disrespected and ignored by the current operation. The relationship between Arlene Foster’s party and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley is particularly strained. ‘It’s irreparable,’ explains a government source. As a result, a growing number of MPs want to see Bradley moved from her brief. ‘It would go some way to mending relations,’ explains a senior Tory. In the meantime, Bradley’s colleague David Lidington is seen as a safer pair of hands to deal with the DUP – but this relationship can hardly be described as thriving.

So, will a mini reshuffle occur? Brexiteer MPs would certainly like to Philip Hammond sacked after he suggested they were extremists. That seems unlikely. But if May wants to show her MPs that she really is in listening mode, there are a few positions she could refresh without a risking a mass backlash.

While I hold no brief for Ms Bradley’s wretched performance, everybody knows that she is only her mistress’ voice ; and her mistress has only shown interest in Northern Ireland as the obstacle to a smooth Brexit in the  shape of  the backstop. It’s true that David Lidington had a good reputation as a conscientious junior NI spokesman years ago and has even been heard to utter place  names like Castlederg , but surely he’s  now over qualified for the NI brief. No doubt he can still try to stroke them from his present eminence.  Why should the DUP’s relations with the DUP be “ irreparable?”  What have either of them seriously tried to repair? What is the precise  charge against  Ms Bradley?

It has the feel of  a proxy attack on Mrs May, a sort of warning of what can happen to her if she doesn’t shape up for the DUP. And very unpleasant it sounds too.