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Tuesday 14 May 2019

Theresa May resembles a haphazard magician who has lost his box of tricks on the way to a children’s birthday party, forced to perform a couple of useless acts with the same deck of cards. The top story on the airwaves this morning is the deployment of Olly Robbins – he who once asked Guy Verhofstadt for a Belgian passport – to Brussels to beg for pointless changes to the political declaration. Lest we forget, the political declaration isn’t worth the bytes it’s stored on as it’s non-binding and offers the widest possible range of options for Britain’s future trading arrangement with the EU, including a/the customs union. And given how permanent a trap the Irish backstop is, the political declaration isn’t expected to see the light of day anyway, Britain’s continued membership of the Common Market will just go on and on and on.

That’s the truth, but try telling that to the Guardian’s brainwashed sketch writer who attended the Brexit Party’s rally in Pontefract yesterday – Yvette Cooper’s seat that voted 70% Leave.

“You couldn’t make this stuff up,” yelled the next speaker, John Longworth, the former head of the British Chambers of Commerce and Brexit party candidate for the north-east. Except he did make it up. He lied through his teeth. He told the crowd Brexit had won an overwhelming majority at the referendum, rather than a 52%-48% majority. He told them Westminster was denying them their birthright, forgetting to mention the reason the UK had not already left the EU was because of Brexiters voting down a deal for which they would have given their back teeth three years ago. He told them a no-deal, World Trade Organization Brexit would turn Yorkshire into the land of milk and honey.

Unbelievably blinkered.

As for Robbins, the prime minister is looking to meet Labour demands for changes to the political declaration, presumably along the lines of the Customs Union, the big offer the government is making to get the opposition’s backing.

But Mrs May performs Labour’s bidding at her peril. The Times report Tory Brexiteers have issued a letter telling her to back out.

“We believe that a customs union- based deal with Labour will very likely lose the support of Conservative MPs, like us, who backed the withdrawal agreement in March…

“You would be unlikely to gain as many Labour MPs to compensate. More fundamentally, you would have lost the loyal middle of the Conservative Party, split our party and with likely nothing to show for it. No leader can bind his or her successor so the deal would likely be at best temporary, at worst illusory,” the letter reads, signed by 13 former Cabinet ministers including Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab, plus Remainers Michael Fallon and Gavin Williamson.

You get the impression Boris and Raab, nominal Brexiteers who backed May’s deal, are trying to atone for their sins in voting for May’s deal. That doesn’t mean they’re wrong, however.

“Talking to Corbyn is killing us with the party in the country. It’s time to put the whole thing out of its misery,” a minister tells the Mail, while a more senior source tells the Sun: “The talks will end this week whatever. I can’t see Labour carrying on with them. Whether she then goes or not will depend on whether No. 10 have a Plan B, because we need one now, and it must be credible.”

As for Labour themselves, MPs are panicking that their wishy-washy line over Brexit is no longer paying off.

“We know we are under attack. The only way is to strengthen our message in an understandable, simpler way. I get that,” said Jeremy Corbyn at a meeting of MPs last night following the latest poll that puts the party on 16%, added insult to the injury of the catastrophic local elections.

Unsurprisingly, the message from one MP after another was for a firm commitment to a second referendum. An important reference to the Brexit Party’s phenomenal success seemed to land on deaf ears.

“Why is the Brexit Party surging? Because they’ve got a clear message…We have 4 sets of adverts, they have 36 ad streams,” said Stephen Doughty MP.

Yesterday’s Brexit Brunch drew attention to a fledgling campaign within the government to finish the job on No Deal preparations. The Sun reports Liam Fox has joined Stephen Barclay in pushing No Deal’s prospects.

“We must seriously start ramping up our no deal preparations again.” says another cabinet minister.

“We must leave by October 31, no matter what. If we don’t, things will get considerably worse for the party than they even are now.”

Andrea Leadsom might also be on board. The leader of the House of Commons wisely believes Number 10’s now confirmed plan to get indicative – renamed “definitive” – votes to set the agenda will fail.

Finally, Michael Gove has made the stunning claim that Theresa May “will be Prime Minister for a while to come yet.” Westmonster have the story.