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The U.K. government has completed the draft legal text of a Brexit deal and will send it to European Union officials this week, people familiar with the matter said. The development built on hints that staunch Brexit supporters in Britain’s ruling Conservative Party could back a deal if prime minister Boris Johnson secures one in talks with the EU.
Johnson is in Manchester at a party conference that’s been overshadowed by allegations of sexual misconduct. He insists he will lead the U.K. out of the EU next month with or without a deal.
U.K. government is set to present detailed legal text on a deal as early as Thursday, people familiar with the matter said Brexit hardliner Mark Francois signals he would consider any deal, even if it includes an Irish border backstop — the most controversial part of the previous dealOpposition politicians trying to oust Johnson met in London but didn’t come up with any concrete new movesChancellor Sajid Javid announces higher minimum wage and infrastructure spending
U.K. Completes Draft Legal Text of a Deal ( 7:30 p.m.)
Boris Johnson’s officials have finished working on a draft legal text of a Brexit deal, aimed at resolving the impasse that has held up an agreement between the U.K. and the EU, according to people familiar with the matter.
The text contains a proposal to allow the U.K. to exit the contentious “backstop” plan for avoiding goods checks at the Irish border. It could be presented to European officials in talks as early as Thursday or Friday, the people familiar with the plans said.
One of the people said there is a clear shape to a potential deal with the EU but the biggest sticking point is the EU’s insistence that Northern Ireland must remain part of its customs union. Britain wants to ensure it can leave the backstop and one option could be a time-limit, one person suggested.
It’s not clear whether the EU will agree to this as Johnson’s predecessor administration was warned that a time limit on the backstop would be unacceptable in Brussels.
EU Won’t Allow U.K. to Start From Zero on Deal (6 p.m.)
A senior European Union official closely involved with the Brexit negotiations suggested the U.K. will have little chance of leaving the bloc on Oct. 31 if the deal Boris Johnson proposes is substantially different from the one obtained by his predecessor Theresa May.
Any new proposal would have to be negotiated with the EU, translated into legal text, win support from the House of Commons, and then get consent from the bloc’s remaining 27 governments. That’s difficult within 30 days even if it’s not a lot different than what’s currently on the table, the official said.
But indications are that Johnson wants to rip up the backstop mechanism for the Irish border and start again, and that would take far more time, the official said. Starting from zero would be seen by the EU as a completely unacceptable way of going about things, the official said.
CBI Warns: Don’t Normalize No-Deal Brexit (5:15 p.m.)
Politicians shouldn’t normalize the idea of a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31, Confederation of British Industry Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn said in an interview at the Tory Party conference in Manchester. “It is an impossibility” for companies to fully prepare for such an eventuality, which would leave the U.K. “mired in uncertainty for years to come,” she said.
Corbyn Won’t Oust Johnson Until No-Deal Risk Over (4 p.m.)
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would not seek a vote of no confidence in the government until after a no-deal Brexit is off the table.
In a pooled interview after talks with other opposition leaders (2:50 p.m.), Corbyn said the priority is to force Boris Johnson to comply with legislation — known as the Benn Act — to prevent a no-deal Brexit. That forces the premier to seek an extension if no agreement is reached with the EU by Oct. 19.
“We’ll continue putting that pressure on the government,” Corbyn said, according to the Press Association.
Meanwhile there’s no sign the Liberal Democrats are prepared to drop their opposition to Corbyn as a caretaker prime minister in a government of national unity. “He simply doesn’t have the numbers,” leader Jo Swinson said in broadcast comments to reporters.
Brexiteer Francois Will Consider Backing Deal (3:40 p.m.)
Hardline Tory Brexiteer Mark Francois hinted that the inclusion of an Irish border backstop in any exit deal wouldn’t necessarily be a block to him backing it.
“If there is some form of deal, be it over the backstop or anything else, then I and my colleagues will look at it and read it very carefully,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re talking about international treaty law. My acid test will be does it genuinely mean we leave the EU.”
That’s potentially a hint at a softening in the die-hards’ tone.
No Inquiry Into Shorting Pound, Minister Says (3 p.m.)
U.K. Treasury Minister Simon Clarke said there are no grounds for an investigation into a conflict of interest over links between Boris Johnson and investors shorting the pound.
It is a “tin foil hat conspiracy” that those backing Johnson stand to make substantial amounts of money from his policy pledging to leave the EU without a deal if necessary on Oct. 31, Clarke said (see 1:45 p.m.).
“We believe it’s sensible for currency to find its own level,” Clarke told MPs in the House of Commons. “I believe Sterling will find a stable level in every different scenario.”
Asked about moves by Hedge Fund manager Crispin Odey, Clarke said he would not comment on individuals and “we do not take a position on the issue of short selling.” Investors are “entitled to hedge,” he said.
Opposition Parties Keep Meeting to Block No-Deal (2:50 p.m.)
Opposition parties will continue to meet in the coming days as they try to find a way to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
SNP member of Parliament Ian Blackford told Sky News his party still wants a vote of no-confidence but “we want to do that on the basis of the other parties coming with us as well.” A government of national unity remains an option, he said.
Former Minister Says No-Deal Could Bring Corbyn (2 p.m.)
Former Justice Secretary David Gauke, expelled from the Tory Party for defying Johnson over Brexit, warned that leaving the bloc without a deal, could usher in a Labour government led by socialist Jeremy Corbyn.
“I worry delivering no-deal would create the circumstances in which a hard-left Labour Party could win a majority,” he told a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference.
The Tories “would own a no-deal Brexit and if it is anything like as bad as the consensus view on the impact of the economy, we would be out on our ear at the next election.”
Francois Leaves Door Open to Backing Brexit Deal (1:55 p.m.)
Mark Francois, deputy chairman of the pro-Brexit European Research Group — the caucus of hardline Tory Brexiteers who blocked Theresa May’s deal with the EU — hinted at a meeting at the Conservative Party Conference the conditions under which he’d vote for a Brexit deal .
“It rather depends what’s in it,” he said. “If it means that we genuinely leave the EU at Halloween, then I will be the first in the Aye lobby. If it really means we don’t then I will be against it, and no amount of browbeating by anybody will make me change my mind.”
That got a big round of applause, but it’s an interestingly subjective judgement and leaves Francois room to decide that a new deal does represent Brexit.
Question in Parliament on Shorting Pound (1:45 p.m.)
John McDonnell, Treasury spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, will ask the government about short positions being taken against the pound in an “urgent Question” to ministers at 2:30 p.m.
The question follows comments from former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and Boris Johnson’s sister, Rachel, claiming that “speculators” among the prime minister’s financial backers stand to make large amounts of money from a no-deal Brexit.
“As his sister has reminded us, he is backed by speculators who have bet billions on a hard Brexit — and there is only one outcome that works for them: a crash-out no-deal Brexit that sends the currency tumbling and inflation soaring,” Hammond wrote in the Times on Saturday. “ They, at least, will be reassured to see no evidence at all that his Government has seriously pursued a deliverable deal.”
McDonnell wrote to Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill at the weekend asking him to investigate potential conflicts of interest in Johnson’s policy to leave the EU with or without a deal by Oct. 31. Hedge funds and other large speculators trimmed their net short positions against the pound last week, according to data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Rees-Mogg Says No Majority for Revoking Brexit (1:30 p.m.)
Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said anti-Brexit MPs, who he referred to as “remoaners” should “show the color of their money” and propose revoking Article 50 in Parliament to see if a majority would back it.
Rees-Mogg told a meeting on the fringes of the Conservative Party conference “I think we will leave on Oct. 31.”
Minister: Johnson Sex Claims Are ‘Desperate’ (12:45 p.m.)
Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng attacked the people behind allegations of sexual impropriety against Johnson, saying they were a “desperate” attempt to “destabilize” the government’s work.
Kwarteng told Bloomberg in Manchester he believes the prime minister’s denial of claims he groped journalist Charlotte Edwardes 20 years ago.
“What it says to me is that people are desperate because they see Boris as someone who is a winner and they take him seriously as a threat — and that’s why they are trying to destabilize,” Kwarteng said. “I think the prime minister should be allowed to get on with his job and run the country.”
He said he did not know anything about the allegations, was not saying anything about Edwardes, and was “not interested in” the investigations into Johnson’s links to businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri.
Johnson Denies Groping Allegation (12:20 p.m.)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson denied touching journalist Charlotte Edwardes’s thigh 20 years ago, and said voters are more interested in his government’s infrastructure spending plans.
Asked in a pooled television interview if the allegation is true, Johnson replied: “No, and I think what the public want to hear is about what we’re doing to level-up and unite the country.”
Johnson then listed planned road investments and said the government has “revolutionary” plans for buses. “Buses transform people’s lives,” he said. “If you have a good bus route it gives you access to employment that hardly any other transport mode can.”
EU Needs ‘Legally Operational Solutions’ (12:10 p.m.)
EU officials said they’re pleased the U.K. is ready to offer something more constructive to solve the deadlock (see 12 p.m.) but the devil would be in the detail and it couldn’t be more of the same vague ideas that didn’t solve the problems of the Irish border — or promised to solve them at a later date.
“It’s the U.K.’s responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the withdrawal agreement,” European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told reporters in Brussels on Monday. “Then the commission is, and remains, open to examine whether such proposals meet the objectives of the backstop.”
U.K. to Show EU More Detailed Proposals (12 p.m.)
British negotiators will present further proposals to their European Union counterparts at the end of this week, which will contain more detail on the government’s solutions for the Irish border, a U.K. official said.
In a change from the practice so far in talks since Boris Johnson became prime minister, the proposals will be left with the EU, rather than shown to them and taken away, according to the official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity.
Johnson’s team has so far been reluctant to hand over formal papers because they would be quickly disseminated to EU capitals and leaked to the media. The willingness to leave the papers with the EU suggests the U.K. is getting closer to its final position in the talks.
This week’s proposals — which will be more detailed than anything submitted so far — will cover areas where the EU has asked for more detail, including building on proposals for an agri-food zone for the whole of Ireland, the official said.
Grieve: Law Means Confidence Vote Not Yet Needed (11 a.m.)
Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve said he thinks legislation designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit — known as the Benn Act — is “robust” and means members of Parliament do not need to hold a no-confidence vote in the government prior to the legislation taking effect on Oct. 19.
“I’m always vigilant but I think the Benn Act is fit for purpose,” Grieve said.
Grieve said the key question is what happens after a Brexit delay is secured, likely until Jan. 31. A second referendum is the best way out of the impasse, he said, adding that the numbers are likely there in Parliament for a government of national unity to deliver one.
“But it very much depends on whether the Labour Party leadership are prepared to back it and accept the reality that it cannot be led by the Leader of the Opposition,” he said, referring to Jeremy Corbyn.
Grieve’s comments come ahead of a meeting between Corbyn and other opposition party leaders in Westminster, as splits emerge over how to prevent a no-deal Brexit. The Liberal Democrats have made clear they’re not prepared to back Corbyn as a caretaker premier, while there are also divisions over the timing of when to try to bring down the government. The Scottish National Party has indicated a no-confidence vote should be held sooner than later.
Javid Says No One Knows Cost of No-Deal Brexit (Earlier)
Asked about the cost to the economy of a no-deal Brexit, Javid told the BBC: “I don’t think anyone really knows the full proper answer to that question.”
But he promised a fiscal response and said the Bank of England would also act.
He declined to say how the government will pursue a no-deal exit now that Parliament has passed a law to block it. Asked if he knew what the government’s strategy was, he said: “I think I do.”
Javid Says He Trusts Johnson On Grope Allegation (Earlier)
Javid said he’s received a personal denial from the prime minister of allegations that he groped a journalist at a lunch around 20 years ago.
“If you’re referring to these allegations of personal nature that were made a couple of days ago, I’ve talked to the Prime Minister about that and he couldn’t be clearer, absolutely clear that they are completely untrue and I totally trust him on that,” he said during an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today Program.
On Sunday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock retracted his comment that the matter was a personal one, after critics pointed out that the alleged touching happened in a workplace environment. He told Channel Four he trusts the journalist who made the allegation.
–With assistance from Stuart Biggs, Jessica Shankleman, Ian Wishart and Thomas Penny.
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