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Monday 20 May 2019

Following Last week’s disappointingly light buzz around ramping up No Deal planning, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has made the reassuring call for Britain to prepare for a sovereign withdrawal from the EU, “at pace”.

“If parliament won’t back a deal, I do think we need to bring forward our preparations to mitigate no-deal, because we will need to use the additional time we have, and we need to move at pace to do so,” Barclay told Sky news.

Up until this point, the secretary of state has brandished the pathetic threat of Article 50 being revoked. That point was repeated to Sky with No Deal placed as an equal option alongside:

“Members of Parliament do need to face facts, and if the deal were not to go through then there are only two alternatives – you either leave with a no-deal or you revoke.”

A half empty, half full moment: which of the two possibilities is the more likely? Certainly, Remainers are deeply worried by the sovereign option, exposing the insignificance of those sordid motions in Parliament to block the prospect of No Deal. To block No Deal you need a deal approved by the EU, the only one the table is toxic.

The FT anticipates a humdinger of a cabinet meeting tomorrow as one minister after another grandstands over the exaggerated consequences of leaving the EU without terms. Newly minted minister for foreign aid, Rory Stewart, an ambassador of May’s deal, is hysterical about taking “No Deal” off the table. Stewart went out to bat for the Conservatives yesterday on the final broadcast of the Andrew Marr show before the European elections, not a single Brexiteer featured even though Nigel Farage’s outfit top the polls by some margin.

The same FT article quotes Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s chief of staff, with scaremongering over the breakup of the Union, truly desperate stuff.

No Deal happening is some way off, the here and now are the EU elections (see tweets below for another impressive poll) and May’s doomed Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

The Telegraph has its hands on a leaked Downing Street memo comprising of additions to the Withdrawal Deal – e.g. alternative arrangements to the backstop among others – as part of a “new and improved” and “bold offer” to MPs. It’s nothing of the sort, indeed everything being added has been tabled in one amendment or another.

“This is pretty cosmetic stuff. It will not have any effect on Leave-supporting MPs,” remarked Sir Bill Cash, who’s vote May badly needs.

Labour friendly amendments like retaining EU standards and a vote on the eventual trade agreement are in there. May had toyed with the idea of bringing Labour onside indirectly through indicative votes on these amendments and others to shore up the new “package”. However, according to the FT, the idea is being binned for fear of a Labour no show.

“We could end up with the worst of all worlds,” says an insider. “What would happen if Labour simply failed to turn up for the votes? It wouldn’t solve anything, but you’d have the governing party tearing itself to shreds in public.”

As if it isn’t already.