Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab to step up no-deal planning with weekly Cabinet updates
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab will step up Britain's preparations for a no-deal Brexit by giving his Cabinet colleagues weekly updates on the Government's plans, Number 10 has announced.
Theresa May told her Cabinet this morning that the Brexit Secretary would start briefing colleagues regularly as she continues to try and break deadlocked talks with the EU.
Ministers have repeatedly stressed that they are willing to walk away from the EU if Britain cannot strike a deal with Brussels, although the Treasury has warned such a move could blow an £80bn black hole in the public finances.
Mrs May updated MPs last night on her bid to break the impasse, telling the Commons that a deal was 95% done - with the remaining 5% centering around avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland.
Her official spokesperson said today: "Preparations around no deal continue to be essential.
"However, it is important to be clear that the Government’s priority is to secure a deal. The PM said that she planned to establish a new weekly update for Cabinet covering preparations for both deal and no deal scenarios.
"As we move towards the exit date it obviously makes sense to ensure that all ministers are fully informed of the full range of work that is taking place in relation to both scenarios."
Some have interpreted the fresh Brexit conditions Mrs May set out yesterday as making a no-deal outcome more likely.
The Prime Minister vowed to enshrine her vision of the Northern Ireland backstop in law, with an extension of the Brexit transition period - currently due to expire in March 2020 - left on the table if needed.
The UK's proposal would see the entirety of the UK temporarily stay in a customs union with the EU in the event no other arrangement can be agreed, whereas Brussels has been pushing for Northern Ireland alone to stay in its customs orbit.
But the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, has already given the UK's call for a time limit on the Northern Ireland backtop - seen as essential to satisty Eurosceptics in Mrs May's party - a frosty reception.
"The European Parliament and the European Union 27 have been clear on this from the start," he told an EU Parliament committee.
“Without a real backstop, we don’t see the possibility of having a withdrawal agreement."
However, Irish premier Leo Varadkar this morning said he had "every confidence" that the UK would honour its pledge to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.
"That is something that the UK Government has committed to in principle, committed to in writing, and I have every confidence that the UK Government will honour that commitment," he said.
"Britain is a serious country, a great country with great history. I don’t think they will want to be moving away from their commitment."
Struggling to get your head around the big Brexit backstop row? PoliticsHome has put together a handy guide on the state of play