Brexit: Chequers plan not dead, insists Liam Fox

Theresa May’s Brexit plan is “not dead”, a senior minister has insisted despite concessions made to Tory MPs to avoid a Commons defeat on trade.

The government scraped home by three votes on two occasions after agreeing to Brexiteers’ demands to change the wording of the Customs Bill.

Liam Fox said it did not change policy as the amendments had been “cut and pasted” from the PM’s Chequers plan.

He also warned pro-European Tories against “refighting the referendum”.

The international trade secretary told the BBC that feelings were running high but calls from some Tories to stay in a customs union, which will be voted on later, would send completely the wrong message to the EU.

MP Guto Bebb quits as minister after Brexit vote
MPs to vote on early summer recess
Brexit: All you need to know
The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 but has yet to agree how its final relationship with the bloc will work.

The government, which does not have a Commons majority, has been under pressure from MPs on both sides of the Brexit debate.

The government twice survived by just three votes on Monday after a backlash from pro-EU Tories who accused the prime minister of “caving in” to the party’s Eurosceptic MPs.

Fresh test ahead in Commons
Ministers accepted a series of demands from Brexiteers who are unhappy at the PM’s Chequers blueprint for future relations with the EU, believing it keeps the UK too closely tied to the bloc.

But this angered MPs from the party’s pro-EU wing who refused to back the new amendments, saying they would undermine the UK’s recently-announced negotiating position.

By 305 votes to 302 – with 14 Tories rebelling – MPs backed an amendment that prevents the UK from collecting taxes on behalf of the EU, unless the rest of the EU does the same for the UK.

Applying EU tariffs to products destined for the EU is part of Mrs May’s plan to avoid friction at UK borders after Brexit.

Another amendment, to ensure the UK is out of the EU’s VAT regime, was backed by 303 to 300, with a Tory rebellion of 11. Three Labour MPs voted with the government. Current and past Lib Dem leaders Sir Vince Cable and Tim Farron – who want to stop Brexit – did not vote.

MPs will carry on debating Brexit on Tuesday when the Trade Bill comes to the Commons.

It gives the government the power to build new trade relationships around the world after the UK leaves the EU, and MPs who support staying in the EU’s customs union are seeking to change its wording.

‘Strong feelings’ on both sides

Media captionAnna Soubry criticised colleagues who have a “gold-plated pension” and support Brexit
Tory MP and Remainer Heidi Allen said she wished the prime minister had “faced down the amendments.”

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What was agreed at Chequers wasn’t perfect to us, wasn’t perfect to Leavers either, but I think the prime minister had worked exceptionally hard to find a decent first pitch to put to the EU and move forward from that.

“We were all set [on the Remain side] to drop all our amendments and back it, then suddenly we had these rather extreme last minute manoeuvres, which seem to us to deviate the prime minister from her plan and we weren’t prepared to do that.”

But Mr Fox said the amendments “did not differ very much” from the government’s agreed position. Asked if the Chequers plan was dead, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today “I don’t think so”.

“The wording in the white paper was that the UK and the EU should together agree a mechanism for the remittance of relevant tariff revenue,” he said.

“As far as I could see the amendment looked like a bit of a cut and paste from the white paper.”

He said the government could “not please everybody” and there had to be compromises but Brexit had been backed by 17.4 million people in a referendum and legislation implementing that decision approved by MPs.

“I do not understand why people thinks this lacks democratic legitimacy. It is very clear where it comes from.”

Little room for manoeuvre
Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg

It looks a mess because it is a mess. It’s getting harder and harder for the prime minister to get things through Parliament – and while calls for a second referendum are widely rejected, that sentiment could change if this kind of gridlock continues.

The PM has spent the last two years trying to compromise. She has a divided party and no majority. There are no easy choices.

But the divisions in the Tory party are daily reducing her room for manoeuvre. In a debate about principle, the problem for some is that compromise is a dirty word.

Read Laura’s blog

Who rebelled?
The Conservative rebels on Monday were the long-time pro-EU MP Ken Clarke, Heidi Allen, Guto Bebb, Richard Benyon, Jonathan Djanogly, Dominic Grieve, Stephen Hammond, Philip Lee, Nicky Morgan, Robert Neill, Mark Pawsey, Antoinette Sandbach, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston.

The three Labour MPs who rebelled against their party whip by voting with the government were Frank Field, Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer – all of whom are pro-Brexit.

Former Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins who now sits as an independent also supported the government on one of the amendments.

How has the EU reacted?
BBC Europe editor, Katya Adler said the one priority the EU has is making sure it gets a deal, rather than a “cliff edge” Brexit.

She told Today: “They are following all the ins and outs, and all the turbulence, in UK politics extremely carefully.

“[But] they are wondering if the prime minister – or anyone who could or might take over from her – would even have the political strength to get a deal agreed here in Brussels, then passed by parliament back home.

“All my EU sources say they want to engage constructively with the whitepaper and avoid giving the impression that it is dead on arrival. But importantly, as everyone knows, time for negotiation is running short. They want to complete the withdrawal agreement.”

With many thanks to: BBC England for the original story.

 

 

 

Vote Leave: Brexit campaign ‘broke electoral law’ in referendum

Brexit campaign group Vote Leave has been fined £61,000 and referred to the police after an Electoral Commission probe said it broke electoral law.

The investigation found “significant evidence of joint working” between the group and another organisation – BeLeave – leading to it exceeding its spending limit by almost £500,000.

Vote Leave also returned an “incomplete and inaccurate spending report”, with almost £234,501 reported incorrectly, and invoices missing for £12,849.99 of spending, the watchdog said.

BeLeave founder Darren Grimes has also been fined and referred to the police for breaking the group’s spending limit by more than £665,000 and wrongly reporting the spending as his own.

Veterans for Britain were also found to have inaccurately reported a donation it received from Vote Leave and has been fined £250.

‘Refused to cooperate’
Bob Posner, from the Electoral Commission, said: “The Electoral Commission has followed the evidence and conducted a thorough investigation into spending and campaigning carried out by Vote Leave and BeLeave.

“We found substantial evidence that the two groups worked to a common plan, did not declare their joint working and did not adhere to the legal spending limits. These are serious breaches of the laws put in place by Parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums.”

He added: “Vote Leave has resisted our investigation from the start, including contesting our right as the statutory regulator to open the investigation. It has refused to cooperate, refused our requests to put forward a representative for interview, and forced us to use our legal powers to compel it to provide evidence.

“Nevertheless, the evidence we have found is clear and substantial, and can now be seen in our report.”

Vote Leave was the officially designated campaign group for Leave in the UK’s referendum in 2016 into whether or not the UK should stay in the European Union.

The result of the referendum was 51.9% for Leave and 48.1% for Remain. The UK is due to officially leave the European Union at 23:00 GMT on 29 March, 2019.

‘Motivated by political agenda’
A Vote Leave spokesman said: “The Electoral Commission’s report contains a number of false accusations and incorrect assertions that are wholly inaccurate and do not stand up to scrutiny.

“It is astonishing that nobody from Vote Leave has been interviewed by the commission in the production of this report, nor indeed at any point in the past two years. Yet the commission has interviewed the so-called ‘whistleblowers’ who have no knowledge of how Vote Leave operated and whose credibility has been seriously called into question.

“Vote Leave has provided evidence to the Electoral Commission proving there was no wrongdoing. And yet despite clear evidence of wrongdoing by the Remain campaign, the commission has chosen to ignore this and refused to launch an investigation.

“All this suggests that the supposedly impartial commission is motivated by a political agenda rather than uncovering the facts.

“The commission has failed to follow due process, and in doing so has based its conclusions on unfounded claims and conspiracy theories.

“We will consider the options available to us, but are confident that these findings will be overturned.”

With many thanks to: BBC England for the original story

Brexit: March planned as Fox says PM not bluffing on no deal

Anti – Brexit campaigners are preparing to march to Parliament Square

Senior Cabinet ministers have insisted the UK is prepared to walk away from Brexit talks without a deal, on the second anniversary of the referendum.

Liam Fox said Theresa May was “not bluffing” over her threat to quit negotiations, while Boris Johnson called for a “full British Brexit”.

It comes as anti-Brexit campaigners, who want the public to have the final say on the UK’s departure, prepare to march in London later.

They say Brexit is “not a done deal”.

Brexit: All you need to know
Reality Check: Will there be a Brexit dividend?
Have voters changed their minds about Brexit?
People’s Vote – which wants a referendum on any exit deal – said people must make their “voices heard” about the “damage” of leaving next year without agreement.

Speakers at the demo will include actor Sir Tony Robinson and campaigner Gina Miller, who fought a successful legal battle last year to ensure the UK could not trigger talks on leaving without the approval of Parliament.

The UK voted to leave the EU by a margin of 51.9% to 48.1% in a referendum held on 23 June 2016.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/embed/p06bvfyh/44575929

Liam Fox says Theresa May is not bluffing over no-deal Brexit

The UK is due to leave on 29 March 2019, 46 years after it first joined the European Economic Community, the forerunner to the EU.

But the People’s Vote campaign says this should happen only if the withdrawal deal negotiated by Mrs May and the other 27 EU members is approved in another public vote.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC it was in the interests of both sides to have a deal – but it was “essential” the EU understood that the UK could walk away if the terms offered were not good enough.

“The prime minister has always said no deal is better than a bad deal,” Mr Fox said in an interview with the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg, which was recorded on Wednesday – before Friday’s warning from Airbus that it might cease manufacturing in the UK in such a scenario.

“It is essential as we enter the next phase of the negotiations that the EU understands that and believes it… I think our negotiating partners would not be wise if they thought our PM was bluffing.”

‘Bog roll Brexit’
Meanwhile, Brexit Secretary David Davis told the Daily Express the prime minister was going to get a “good deal” from Brussels and Brexit was going to be “fantastic”.

“The best option is leaving with a good deal but you’ve got to be able to walk away from the table,” he said,

Brexit: Your guide to EU jargon
Why is Brexit taking so long?
And writing in the Sun, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned the prime minister not to allow “bog roll Brexit” that is “soft, yielding and seemingly infinitely long” – calling for a “full British Brexit” instead.

Mr Johnson said people “just want us to get on with it”.

Brexiteers Liam Fox, Boris Johnson and David Davis are optimistic about Brexit on the second anniversary of the referendum.

Labour said Mr Fox’s comments about a no-deal Brexit were the “height of irresponsibility”.

“The next time Liam Fox parrots the slogan no deal is better than a bad deal he should give some thought to the 14,000 people who work for Airbus, and the thousands of other people who have jobs dependent on trade with Europe,” said shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman.

Both the prime minister and Labour leader have rejected calls for another public vote, saying the will of the people expressed in the 2016 ballot was clear, although many Labour MPs now want another referendum.

Organisers of Saturday’s demo say people “from all walks of life” will be present, demonstrating the “growing popular demand” for another vote.

Beginning in Pall Mall and ending outside the Houses of Parliament, the protest is part of a “summer of action” by campaign groups designed to increase pressure on Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/embed/p06bvfyh/44575929

Anti-Brexit campaigner Femi Oluwole wants the Labour leader to back calls for a referendum on the final deal

 

By taking the UK out of the EU’s single market and customs union, they say the Conservative government “remains intent” on a so-called hard Brexit that will – they say – destroy jobs and damage public services.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Vince Cable, who will be at the march, told BBC Breakfast: “I think the public in general… do see there is a mess.”

He added: “We’ve only got a year to go. And I think for the big companies that employ hundreds of thousands of workers in the UK… they want some clarity about what the trading relationships will be and there is absolutely none whatever.”

But Conservative MP Peter Bone – who supports Brexit – said if there were a second vote, the leave campaign would win again.

“The vast, vast majority of people, whether they are Leavers or Remainers, just want us to get on and come out this dreadful European Union super-state,” he said.

“There were 17.4 million people that voted for leave and if there are a few thousand in London complaining about it – that doesn’t seem to really make much difference.”

The government is giving Parliament a vote on the final deal, if one is reached, in the autumn – but it remains unclear what will happen if they reject it.

With many thanks to: BBC England for the origional story.

Leave voters would rather lose the North of Ireland than give up the benefits of Brexit

This article was first published in the Telegraph

By Lord Ashcroft

It seems ironic, when we remember the sound and fury generated on both sides of the referendum campaign, that the biggest sticking point in the Brexit negotiations – the Irish border – is one that was hardly mentioned before the vote. As with so much in politics, how you see this conundrum depends on who you are and where you sit.

My latest research finds that for Nationalists in Northern Ireland, the practicality of customs checks is almost beside the point: any kind of border in an island that they see as one country is unthinkable. For them, avoiding a hard border eclipses any other potential goal of the Brexit negotiations.

But most Unionists in Northern Ireland, especially those who voted to leave the EU, believe the border issue is being deliberately exaggerated. Most think technology would make customs checks quick and easy, and do not believe a border must necessarily be a problem: as one North Antrim voter put it, “there are countries in the EU that have got a border with non-EU countries. Look and learn.” Avoiding a hard border came much lower on the Unionists’ Brexit priority list than ensuring the UK could negotiate its own trade deals and was no longer bound by EU rules.

This view is heartily shared by Leave voters in England, Scotland and Wales. Given the choice of leaving the customs union and avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, two thirds of them said they would rather leave the customs union.

But while Northern Ireland Unionists are determined that they should have the same deal as the rest of the UK, only one third of voters in Britain say it would be unacceptable for Northern Ireland to have a different EU status from the rest of the country; almost as many say this would be tolerable to get a workable deal.

There is more uncomfortable news for Unionists. A majority in Britain said Northern Ireland’s place in the UK was up to its people to decide – but if the province voted to leave, most said they wouldn’t mind either way. We also asked Leave voters in Britain whether they would leave the EU, or keep England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales together in the UK, if it were impossible to do both. Most, including more than seven in 10 Tory voters, said they would rather leave the EU.

Most people on both sides think the Brexit process is taking too long. Remainers largely blame politicians pushing for a hard Brexit, but Leave voters accuse those who want to prevent or soften our withdrawal, or the EU and European governments. While no-one envies Theresa May her task, leavers say they would see any extended “implementation period”, during which the UK continued to abide by Brussels rules, as an excuse for keeping us in the EU for as long as possible, rather than a genuine attempt to get our post-Brexit arrangements right.

Given these views – impatience with the process, determination for the UK to operate an independent trade policy, and the suspicion that Brexit opponents are deliberately throwing up hurdles – it is not hard to imagine how Leave voters would react if told the UK would not be taking back as much control as they hoped because of the Irish border, an issue they believe is being blown out of proportion.

Those who have pondered Brexit’s consequences for UK union have usually focused on the resentment felt in places where majorities voted to remain in the EU. There is certainly something in this. To many of the Remain voters we spoke to in Northern Ireland, their neighbour looked comparatively more modern and prosperous by the year. When we asked how people would vote in a referendum tomorrow, staying in the UK outpolled unification by just 49 per cent to 44 per cent. (Steady on, came the reply: a majority in the Republic said they were in favour of a united Ireland in principle, but it would not be practical or affordable for them in the next few years).

But there is another risk: that a question like the Irish border, which most Leave voters see as a relatively minor practical issue that could be resolved, should prevent the majority getting the Brexit they think they voted for.

Download the Full Report: ‘Brexit, the Border and the Union’

With many thanks to: Lord Ashcroft for the origional posting LORDASHCROFT.COM

Follow this link to find out more: https://lordashcroftpolls.com/

Independence is the means to a greater end

In the face of Brexit we must trust ourselves to meet success and failure on our own merit.

murray foote

Three days after the death of Donald Dewar in October 2000 I was cutting through Glasgow’s George Square among the dozen statues of famous names immortalised in bronze. The most recently deceased and the only female — mounted on a horse and inexplicably wearing a crown rather than the traditional traffic cone — was Queen Victoria. Since she shuffled off in 1901 not a single notable has had the honour bestowed in their memory of induction into the hall of famous George Square stiffs.

It struck me that Dewar, a son of Glasgow and Scotland’s inaugural first minister, merited a place among the revered deceased. At that point I was deputy editor of the Daily Record so I made the suggestion to my editor, who agreed it was a worthy campaign. Two years later Tony Blair unveiled a bronze Father of the Nation — slightly dishevelled, appropriately — on Buchanan Street.

I recount the details by way of demonstrating my admiration for Dewar and his greatest political achievement in reconvening the Scottish parliament after a recess lasting three centuries. His speech at the parliament’s opening a year before his death was emotional: “There shall be a Scottish parliament. Through long years, those words were first a hope, then a belief, then a promise. Now they are a reality. This is a moment anchored in our history.”

Devolution brought the biggest political change of my lifetime. Sure, establishing the apparatus of devolved government was not without its difficulties and, in the early days, critics. But the philosophy that Holyrood exists merely to mitigate the excesses of Westminster is not a belief system to which I subscribe. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to be far more progressive, dynamic, ambitious.

It is largely why in 2014, by then editor, I commissioned The Vow, the promise made on the front page of the Record by the UK’s main party leaders two days before the independence referendum of extensive new powers to Scotland. I believed a more powerful Scottish parliament was what the majority of readers wanted. And now we learn it sent Ruth Davidson apoplectic. LOL.

As we continue to labour under a vindictive Westminster administration, the nascent Scottish benefits agency will be another waypoint on the journey to more compassionate devolved government. Now we are on the brink of Brexit. But where devolution arrived bearing promise and hope, Brexit is draped in a shroud of despair. We have not yet completed our shameful retreat from the EU and I cling to the diminishing hope we never do.

I cannot tolerate a Tory government prepared to treat devolution with the blatant contempt displayed in Tuesday’s cynical one-man debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill. It was a democratic abomination. I can no longer stand by while a cabal of the privileged deprive our children the right to live in 27 European countries because they don’t like Johnnie Foreigner encroaching their elite club.

I can’t remain silent as May, Davis, Rees-Mogg, Johnson and Gove undermine the stability of a continent that has largely been at peace for 70 years. For them this is a game of ambition, for the majority of us it is unconscionable folly. I can’t wait for enough of England to wean itself off voting for the party of privilege that will never govern for anyone other than their own class.

I can’t watch a Labour Party pursue its own destructive Brexit agenda full in the knowledge that the people it professes to represent will shoulder the greatest burden. I can’t wait for that same party to recognise that Jeremy Corbyn seemed like a good idea at the time but now they must find a leader who can reunite a splintered movement capable of deposing the Tories. Nor can I await the arrival of a unicorn, that mythical federal Britain.

So independence it must be.

As Dewar said in his speech: “A Scottish parliament. Not an end, a means to greater end.” Independence is now the only option that provides any prospect of that greater end. What matters is timing and circumstance. Over the past few years heavy negative forces — like Brexit, that parade of Tory chancers and a dysfunctional opposition at Westminster — have tugged the independence stars ever nearer alignment. Last month’s growth commission report gave them another nudge.

I fully recognise an independent Scotland would face financial challenges and Andrew Wilson’s report is an attempt to address many of these realities with intrinsic honesty. I’ve considered the constitutional arguments against and, yes, the difficult decisions our independent nation would face and the sacrifices we may need to make do trouble me. But what troubles me more is the prospect of bequeathing to my daughters an isolated Britain governed indefinitely by the progeny of Rees-Mogg and their ilk.

For me, independence is about autonomy, allowing Scotland to meet success and failure on its own merit and not point an embittered finger of blame at anyone else. I have reconciled that independence would herald good and bad. I trust in us to solve the problems that will come our way. If so many other countries can, it is inconceivable that Scotland can’t. The Yes-Yes campaign which brought our parliament back from the dead 20 years ago asked Scotland to take a leap of faith and to trust in ourselves. When we are next asked the independence question, I’ll strap on my work boots and take that leap.

With many thanks to: The Times and The Sunday Times for the origional story.

Politics
Brexit
Labour Party
Conservative Party
UK politics

RUC/PSNI call for recruitment of at least 300 additional officers post Brexit – to police the Irish border.

Police in Northern Ireland are to ask the government to fund the recruitment of at least 300 additional officers for operations along the border after Brexit.

Chief Constable George Hamilton confirmed that a business case is currently being drawn up.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland is also asking for new vehicles and other equipment.

The Police Federation has asked the government to agree to the request.

Media captionWould you notice if you crossed the Irish border?
It was revealed recently that the police force delayed the sale of its disused station in Warrenpoint as a result of uncertainty about Brexit.

BBC News NI understands the police force have also delayed plans to sell disused stations in Aughnacloy and Castlederg as they may have a future customs or security role.

The call for additional resources is backed by the association that represents rank and file PSNI officers.

Speaking to BBC News NI Mr Hamilton said the proposal was to ensure the force is “match fit” and ready for the post Brexit era.

He said the additional officers were needed to help the police support other government agencies.

Image caption
Agreement between the EU and UK was reached on a 21-month “transition” period to smooth the way to post-Brexit relations
There are more than 250 crossings along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The UK and EU have both said they do not wish to see a hard border after Brexit, but they have not been able to agree on how to avoid checks on goods once the UK has left the customs union and single market.

If there is no Brexit deal it is likely customs officials will have to carry out the checks and it will be the job of the police to protect them.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the origional story.

Why the furture of the North of Ireland is crucial to Brexit negotiations

As a recent poll causes grave concern among senior Tories on all sides of the argument, Sam Coates, the Times deputy political editor, breaks down ten key reasons the province has become critical to the debate

Theresa May’s decision to challenge Jacob Rees-Mogg over the future of Northern Ireland comes amid mounting nerves in No 10 about the future of the union after Brexit.

Downing Street and key ministers have been shown polling from October that suggests opinion in the province is drifting towards a united Ireland. Another finding suggests that leaving the EU with no deal on the border could shift voters in Northern Ireland decisively in favour of leaving the United Kingdom and joining the Irish Republic.

Tory MPs are discussing the issue, with Brexiteers furiously rejecting the findings and insisting that any future border poll on a united Ireland would be winnable. One European Research Group (ERG) source said Mrs May’s insistence that the union may be at risk could “amazingly quickly [amount to] signing her death warrant”, adding “I really won’t be surprised by leadership chatter this weekend”.

Meanwhile other senior Tories are warning that intrusive technology used to enforce a “smart border” could also undermine support for the constitutional status quo among moderate nationalists. One idea for a British government smartphone app to track movement across the border is causing particular concern, amid fears that it would be unacceptable to republicans in the North.

Mrs May rejected claims by Mr Rees-Mogg that a referendum on the reunification would be easily won at a private meeting on Monday night. She argued that she was not prepared to take risks with the integrity of the Union. The intervention was seen by some Remain-supporting Tory MPs as an important argument in their favour, while angering hard Brexiteers who form part of the ERG.

The constitutional future of Northern Ireland is a live issue. Under the Belfast Agreement Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary, is obliged to hold a poll “if at any time it appears likely to him (or her) that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland”.

Sinn Fein seized on today’s story in The Times to suggest that a new referendum on Northern Ireland should be called immediately.

Michelle O’Neill, the Sinn Fein deputy leader, said: “If these reports are accurate, Theresa May is conceding that the Good Friday agreement threshold for triggering a Unity poll has been met but that she isn’t prepared to allow the people of Ireland, North and South, to exercise their democratic right.

“That is an appalling display of contempt for the democratic rights of Irish citizens. It is also a fundamental breach of the Good Friday agreement which clearly provides for a referendum. Theresa May has no right to deny democratic entitlements to the people of Ireland, North and South.”

This renewed constitutional uncertainty comes on the day the Scottish parliament is preparing to vote to deny legislative consent on the EU withdrawal bill, the first time that Holyrood and Westminster have clashed in this way, raising the constitutional temperature.

1. Polling suggests opinion shifting marginally on a united Ireland
In October 2017, 2,080 voters in Northern Ireland were asked by the pollster LucidTalk whether “Northern Ireland should remain a part of the United Kingdom or leave the United Kingdom and join the Republic of Ireland as one nation”. Some 55 per cent said Ireland should remain part of the UK and 34 per cent said it should leave and join the Republic, with 10 per cent undecided and 1 per cent declining to say.

The pollster adds: “This margin is less than previous polls. Noticeably there are a high number of undecided — but [they] would be voters in such a poll.”

2. A hard Brexit — involving ‘no deal’ — could shift opinion in Northern Ireland decisively
This is the finding which is causing concern among some senior Tory MPs.

In DecemberLucidTalk asked 2,079 Northern Irish voters how they would vote in a border poll “in the context of a hard Brexit’ and Northern Ireland leaving the EU with no deal on the border, the Good Friday agreement or citizen’s rights. The question in the referendum would be “should Northern Ireland remain in the EU through joining the Republic of Ireland or leave the EU by staying in the UK.”

The pollster recorded 48 per cent saying they would remain in the EU by joining the Irish Republic in a United Ireland and 45 per cent saying they would leave the EU by staying in the UK. Six per cent were undecided and 1 per cent would not vote.

3. The October ‘tracking’ poll should be taken more seriously than the December “no deal” poll
Anthony Wells, director of political polling at YouGov, gives the poll taken in October about leaving a clean bill of health. “The question about whether NI should stay, and the results, can be taken at face value as a prediction of how people would vote if there actually was a vote at that point.”

However he suggests that people should be cautious about relying on the “hard Brexit” poll. He said: “The bottom line is that this relies on a series of hypothetical questions. If you ask ‘how would you vote in a referendum under these particular set of circumstances’, firstly people aren’t very good at predicting their own behaviour and secondly this gives certain factors undue prominence. In a real border poll there all sorts of other factors taken into consideration — history, the economy, politics and so on — but this question is worded with Brexit at the forefront, ahead of all other considerations.”

LucidTalk also says the “hard border” question was commissioned by “Gue/ngl”, the European Parliament group which includes Sinn Fein.

4. The circumstances in which Mrs May’s customs decision could change the already fluid dynamic in Northern Ireland
In cabinet, Philip Hammond, Greg Clark, Karen Bradley and David Gauke have pushed for a so-called customs partnership, which would mean the UK collecting customs dues on behalf of the EU after Brexit. So long as standards for British goods remain closely aligned with the EU after Brexit, they claim this removes the need for a border between NI and the Republic.

Brexiteers, including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Liam Fox, want the “maximum facilitation” option. This involves a “facilitation” agreement with the EU, which would see both sides waving certain goods through the border without checks so long as advanced technology is used to monitor the situation.

5. Why there are fears intrusive technological solutions could be a problem for moderate nationalist areas of Northern Ireland
David Davis is pushing for smart technologies to be deployed to avoid physical checks. These could include automatic number plate recognition via CCTV cameras and drones, all of which would be a magnet for gangs.

However, there are fears that more sophisticated techniques bring their own challenges. A European parliament report suggested that one solution would be smartphone apps: “Information for goods and passengers can be exchanged through smartphone apps. This can include the provision of minimum information when crossing a border and the receipt of information (e.g. a barcode) by drivers to facilitate passing the border.” Another suggestion is that businesses on both sides of the border open their computer systems to the British government so goods can be tracked. A Tory source said: “How can we expect moderate republicans to submit to a British government tracking app being installed on their phones? This is just unreal.”

6. There is still the possibility of a compromise on customs
If Mrs May cannot agree the “max fac” or “customs partnership” options within the next two weeks, she will need a fudge. The most likely is that she promises the “max fac” option — eventually — but delays leaving the customs union by five or six years. This would be unacceptable to some Brexiteers, including Messrs Johnson, GoveRees-Mogg, but the prime minister may hope that arguments about the integrity of the union buy off enough of the rest.

7. The DUP want to leave the customs union — but it isn’t a red line
In a little-noticed ConservativeHome interview, Nigel Dodds, the DUP Westminster leader, said their only “absolute red line” was a border in the Irish Sea. The party does not believe that staying inside the customs union respects the referendum result. However, he adds: “We believe that the proposals put forward by the prime minister in the paper last August for either a customs partnership, whereby we would collect the revenues and then pay them back if the goods go to Europe, or the maximum facilitation streamlined approach, we believe in that, but we don’t believe in staying in the customs union.

“But at the end of the day, as long as Northern Ireland is in lockstep with the rest of the United Kingdom, for us that’s the fundamental point.”

8. What Brexiteers say publicly about these challenges
The Times reported last night that Mr Rees-Mogg, chairman of the 60-strong ERG downplayed the risk of losing a referendum on a united Ireland. Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Rees-Mogg said he was not minded to adopt a more conciliatory position

“If we were to do so it would completely undermine the heart of why we voted to leave, rendering our almost-reclaimed sovereignty a myth,” he said. He repeated calls for Britain to walk away from the negotiations if the options Mrs May gave the European Commission were rejected. “The UK will simply have to leave with no deal because the referendum result must be upheld,” he said. “Democracy is the backbone of established political societies; it fosters stability and fairness and cannot be treated so disdainfully.”

9. What Brexiteers say privately about Mrs May’s intervention and the government position
One ERG source said the prime minister’s position was “purposeless and inexplicable”, repeating the fears over a united Ireland was “unbelievably stupid” and that a border poll would be won by the union “comfortably”. They warn it veers “amazingly quickly to signing her death warrant”, adding “I really won’t be surprised by leadership chatter this weekend”.

10. What happens next
Mrs May has about two weeks left for her cabinet and party to come to an agreement that can pass parliament. It remains to be seen whether she has set herself too many red lines.

With many thanks to: The Times and The Sunday Times for the origional story.