Theresa May has been fighting to keep her Brexit plans on track despite a Cabinet row over proposals for the Irish border and a potential revolt in the Commons. The UK’s proposals for a “backstop” arrangement for the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland are to be published “shortly”, although Brexit Secretary David Davis understood to have concerns about some of the details.
Meanwhile Tory Brexit rebels were seen in Downing Street as the Prime Minister sought to avert defeat when the EU (Withdrawal) Bill returns to the Commons on Tuesday. The backstop document is expected to set out a time-limited arrangement under which the UK would remain within elements of the EU’s customs union, in the event that it is unable to agree a preferred solution for Northern Ireland.
The proposal threatens to test Cabinet unity, with Mr Davis thought to be pushing for a provision to ensure the UK can withdraw unilaterally. Asked if he could stay in his job if the Government’s backstop proposals did not have his explicit approval, Mr Davis said: “That’s a question I think for the Prime Minister to be honest.”
He said the detail of the document was still being discussed, adding: “It has been through one Cabinet committee, it is going to another one and it would be improper of me to preempt the negotiation there, but I suspect it will be fairly decisive tomorrow.”
Answering questions after a speech in London, Mr Davis also hinted at his frustration the Government’s promised Brexit white paper had not yet been published.
The Prime Minister refused to reveal when the document will be published in Commons clashes with Jeremy Corbyn. “In debates in Whitehall between fast and slow, I normally vote for fast. That’s probably a given,” Mr Davis said.“But what she (Mrs May) said today is exactly right that the White Paper will be published when it’s ready, it’s up to quality, and is exactly what we need to say.”
The Brexit Secretary is set to return to Brussels next week for talks with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.