Boris Johnson will continue his efforts to convince Brussels to show flexibility on his submitted Brexit plans on Friday, with his chief negotiator David Frost in “technical level” talks to determine whether formal negotiations can proceed.
EU chiefs have reportedly set an 11 October cut-off date for the UK to change its proposals, or there will be no formal negotiations before the 17 October European Council summit.
It comes as Mr Johnson faces another court showdown today, as SNP MP Joanna Cherry and Jolyon Maugham try to force him to abide by the Benn Act and request a Brexit extension in a Court of Session hearing.
Here’s Joanna Cherry QC explaining why she’s made sure the government is back in court.
The SNP MP said: “[Boris Johnson] has said on a number of occasions we’d be leaving [the EU] no matter what, we know that he has form for doing things that are unlawful, so we’re seeking the court’s assistance to make sure the prime minister obeys the law.”
Proceedings are under way in the Court of Session in Edinburgh, as the government is challenged to abide by the Benn Act.
Joanna Cherry, speaking to Good Morning Scotland earlier Friday, said: “We’re not bringing this case because we think there’s any loophole in the Benn Act.
“We’re bringing this case because we’re dealing with a British prime minister who brags about not obeying the law and has form for doing things that are unlawful.
“Boris Johnson is not above the law, whether in Scotland or south of the border, thanks to the decision of the UK Supreme Court.”
Cherry’s team are exploring the option of obtaining a nobile officium – widely known as a “nob-off” – which would allow the court’s clerk to draft and sign the Benn Act letter on behalf of the prime minister.
Reform of a contentious Stormont voting mechanism could be “helpful” in addressing concerns about handing the DUP a veto over post-Brexit arrangements, the Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith has suggested.
The Irish government is among those who have expressed fears that the” petition of concern” voting mechanism could essentially hand one Northern Ireland party, potentially the DUP, the ability to block the plan, even if a majority of politicians at Stormont support it.
Boris Johnson wants to give the currently defunct Northern Ireland Assembly a vote both on whether to opt into the all-island regulatory system in 2021 and whether to remain in it after an initial four-year period.
The petition of concern essentially allows a bloc of Assembly Members from either the nationalist or the unionist community a veto on certain decisions, even if they represent a minority in the chamber.
Ahead of talks with some of the parties on Friday at Hillsborough Castle in Co Down, Smith was asked whether reforming the petition of concern could help address concerns about the Brexit deal.
“That could be helpful,” he said. “I’ve always said that I thought consent could be an important part of unlocking this Brexit conundrum.”
He added: “I am not going to go into the detail of the negotiation with the EU but the Good Friday Agreement is very clear on consent – it means one party not dominating.
“But I think there are many ways of actually achieving it, and I think we have to really ensure that the parties keep talking and we get them back in the room, that we get them back into Stormont.
“And how that resolves itself in terms of Brexit, I think, will be a matter for the coming weeks for the negotiation team.”
Rory Stewart has now done one of his videos, explaining why he’s taking on Sadiq Khan next year in the London mayoral race. He thinks the capital is “in danger” – from Brexit, among other things.
We’re expecting the Court of Session hearing – aimed at making sure Boris Johnson abides by the Benn Act and asks the EU for a Brexit extension when requested – to begin around 11am this morning.
Barrister Jolyon Maugham, who has brought the case along with Joanna Cherry QC, has produced this handy guide to the case.
And there you have it: Rory Stewart standing to be Mayor of London.
Rory Stewart, writing in a piece for The Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, said he hoped to “start work in another part of the country”.
He’s expected to do some interviews this afternoon, so we might find out what his next move is.
All the details of his resignation from the Tory party here:
A lot of argument on social media this morning about whether Michael Gove was heckled at an event at the German embassy last night.
King’s College London professor Peter R. Neumann has claimed people shouted “nonsense” after he compared Brexit to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Gove’s adviser has told The Telegraph’s Peter Foster he wasn’t heckled, but others claim he was. So there you go.
Robert Craig, president of the Penrith and The Border Conservative Association, has suggested the reason for Rory Stewart’s resignation – and his next move – would become clear later today.
He also suggested Stewart may not have resigned if he had not had the whip removed by Boris Johnson.
“It’s a great shame and it is not unexpected given he is still out in the wilderness with the whip removed,” Craig told the Press Association. “I suppose had that changed… it seems to have become clear that that wasn’t going to change and he has other ambitions.”
Asked if Stewart would not have taken the decision if the PM had not withdrawn the whip, Craig replied: “Possibly.”
Craig said the resignation reason will become clear later in the day and that Stewart told him of the decision about two weeks ago. But he said he did not try and convince Stewart to stay in the post and instead “congratulated” him on his next venture, which he declined to reveal at this stage.
Craig praised Stewart and criticised Johnson for taking the party in an “extreme” direction. “The direction of the party… I really struggle now to align myself with the leadership and where we are heading, the extremity of where we are at. It’s not broad it’s not moderate, it’s extreme.”
Labour MP Helen Jones has claimed there is a “culture of contempt for women” in the party at all levels which must be addressed by the leadership.
In a scathing piece for Politics Home, Jones claimed female MPs were among those who faced bullying and harassment in the party.
Referring to the reselection ballots faced by Diana Johnson and Margaret Hodge, she said: “It’s no surprise to anyone that the first two Labour MPs to face trigger ballots are women nor is anyone really shocked that this has happened to women who are highly regarded in Westminster.”
Plaid Cymru’s party conference begins today in Swansea. Leader Adam Price has said he wouldn’t rule out a general election pact with pro-Remain parties, as he said a no-deal Brexit would “decimate” agriculture in Wales.
Price said crashing out of the EU would be “disastrous” and said the best way forward is to give people the final say in a referendum.
The Green Party also kicks off its conference today – it takes place in Newport in south Wales.
Some early reaction to Rory Stewart’s announcement. Apparently Stewart said at a speaking event last night that his appearance “constitutes my resignation from the Conservative party”, but the audience wasn’t sure if he was serious or not.
Rory Stewart has had enough. He is a Tory no more, and has announced he’s standing down as an MP.
Home Office xecurity minister Brandon Lewis has called the Brexit plan “a final offer”.
Speaking about Boris Johnson’s proposals on the Today programme: “From our point of view it’s a final offer. But we are open and understand the fact that the EU may come back and say. ‘Look, this deal is fine, but can we just look at this…?’ and we’ll have to look at that when we get to that point.
“But I’ve got to say, to be frank, as the prime minister said, this is our clear final deal.
“We think it’s a good deal, it’s a fair deal, it delivers both legally and security-wise for both our country here in the UK and obviously our friends in Europe.”
Asked if the government is willing to enter into negotiations, he said: “From our point of view, this is the final deal, but we’ll wait and see what our partners in the EU come back and say.”
He said it is “clear” there is now a “building majority” supportive of the plan in parliament.
A US media lawyer claiming be representing Jennifer Arcuri said she is ready to give an interview about her relationship with Boris Johnson.
Michael Walsh said the current highest bidder has offered $225,000. “The price has to be right … if you want her services, you have to pay for it,” he told The Times.
Meanwhile, a former adviser to Johnson has claimed that the prime minister asked for his friend Jennifer Arcuri to be included in a trade trip to Israel while he was Mayor of London.
Boris Johnson is expected to continue his efforts on Friday and over the weekend to convince Brussels to show flexibility on his submitted plans.
A spokesman for the PM said his chief negotiator David Frost was currently locked in “technical level” talks in Brussels to determine whether a deal could be struck in the days ahead.
Having strongly suggested the EU had until the weekend to make its mind up on an apparently “final” Brexit plan, Johnson now wants more talks with European leaders and says he’s open to changes.
According to The Times, EU chiefs are now the ones handing out deadlines, setting an 11 October cut-off date for the UK to change its proposals, or there will be no formal negotiations before the 17 October summit.
No 10 said Johnson is expected to meet with French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel “in the coming days and weeks”.
Peter Hain, the former Northern Ireland secretary, has been talking about the Brexit proposals and the dispute between the DUP and the Irish government.
“The DUP doesn’t speak for Northern Ireland. It may be the biggest party, it’s entitled to have its views respected, but it doesn’t speak for the whole of Northern Ireland.
“And what Boris Johnson is doing, as Theresa May did before her, is putting himself in the pocket of one party. And that relinquishes an honest broker role. And that is very dangerous.
“The solution is to have the same rules either side of the border for customs and trade and standards and regulations. That would solve the problems. The problem is the hard Brexiteers, including the DUP, won’t allow it.”
Lord Hain added: “The other joker in this pack is effectively leaving the DUP with a veto. Whether the arrangements get up and running at all for a common regulatory trading zone for all goods and agri-food, livestock and food produce and so forth, whether that actually happens is up to the DUP.
“And that cannot be right. It should be the decision of the whole of Northern Ireland’s politics on a cross-community basis which is the essence of the Good Friday Agreement.” He said the PM was effectively “dumping the problem” on Dublin.
DUP leader Arlene Foster is not happy with Leo Varadkar. She claimed the Irish premier “will go down in history as the man that instituted a hard border on the island of Ireland”.
It followed Varadkar’s suggestion that polls showed the majority of the British people would stop Brexit if given the chance.