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Thursday 28 June 2018

Today’s EU summit was supposed to mark another stage in the withdrawal process, but having failed to forge a consensus on what kind of border there should be in Northern Ireland, which will dictate Britain’s wider customs relationship with the EU, there is little for Theresa May to do, other than turn up and chip in on the migrant crisis, the dominant subject of today’s proceedings.

The prime minister will be absent tomorrow as the remaining EU leaders gather to discuss Brexit. According to the FT, Emmanuel Macron plans to deliver Theresa May a “serious and grave” rebuke over the lack of progress. Good! We say. Signs of EU desperation are beginning to show.

The summit conclusions will largely be a copy and paste job from the last gettogether in March. The EU institutions and the member states will restate their commitment to stepping up “their work on preparedness at all levels and for all outcomes”. March 29, 2019 is drawing in, the prospect of a no deal looks ever more likely, this statement carries more meaning. The EU needs to respond, its Commission needs to stop bluffing.

One addition will be the line: “if the UK positions were to evolve, the Union will be prepared to reconsider its offer.” The change was originally thought to be an olive branch from Brussels, it has now transpired that May’s lead Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins requested it specifically.

The pincer movement being orchestrated by Remainers swarming around Whitehall and Westminster is closing in. While Robbins seeks to soften up the EU with promises of a more pliant position from London, Cabinet ministers are busily working to get that position approved, namely on open borders. For her part, May will be working her EU counterparts at the summit and over the following days, in the lead up to the pivotal Chequers meeting to figure what will and what will not fly with the European elite. As reported in yesterday’s Brexit Brunch, a fissure is separating the relentlessly ideological Commission from the more pragmatic member states.

“Britain ‘heading for the worst possible Brexit’ over freedom of movement, warns Theresa May’s former top aid,” Reads the Telegraph’s front page splash today. The aid in question is none other than Nick Timothy, and the PM’s former chief of staff, the man largely responsible for the Tories’ shocking election performance a year ago that may well have cost us the Brexit we voted for.

Timothy claims that Sajid Javid is “alone” among Cabinet ministers in wanting to “put the EU on the back foot”.

With the entire Cabinet, along with four more senior ministers, attending the Cheqers summit next week to come to an agreement over Northern Ireland and customs, Theresa May has a built-in fifteen-member pro-Remain majority to rely on. Up until now, Brexit decisions have been limited to the inner “war Cabinet” which is more evenly balanced.

May is confident she will get her goods-only compromise approved, it’s now just a case of getting the finer details through, by far the most important of which is immigration. Ministers are deliberating over whether to make an offer over preferential access to the UK labour market for EU citizens in its much-anticipated white paper to Brussels, or whether to align with Javid’s position, treating them as no different to citizens from the rest of the world.

“Something like this cannot be included in the white paper, if we’re going down that route it would mean total surrender, a senior Brexiteer told the Telegraph.

“It would mean the UK would not be able to fully control its own borders – exactly the opposite of what people voted for. It would never get past the voters.”

And therein lies the answer. The Referendum may now be two years behind us, but as Westmonster point out today, Brits are still enraged by mass migration. 70% want it reduced.

Unsurprisingly, Whitehall is pushing for a generous offer now, even though the policy cannot be revealed in full until it has worked its way through the Migration Advisory Committee before it reaches the Home Secretary for final approval. But procedure never got in the way of a good plot, just ask the EU.

Quote of the day: “But the European Union, of course, was set up to take advantage of the United States. To attack our piggy bank. And you know what? We can’t let that happen,” Donald Trump at a rally in North Dakota early this morning.