May all smiles at summit with Merkel amid signs of EU shift on Brexit

May is all smiles at summit with Merkel amid signs of EU shift on Brexit as chief negotiator Michel Barnier says the deal is 80% DONE after Chequers showdown with Cabinet

  • Theresa May is battling to cling on to her job after devastating resignation blows
  • Boris Johnson and David Davis quit in protest at the PM’s ‘third way’ Brexit plan 
  • EU appears to signal a softer approach in the wake of the Cabinet showdown 
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Theresa May and Angela Merkel were all smiles together today amid signs that a breakthrough could be close in Brexit talks.

As the PM and German chancellor attended a summit in London, the EU’s chief negotiator Michael Barnier appeared to offered an olive branch to the UK.

In a striking change of tone, Mr Barnier said the Brexit deal was ’80 per cent done’ and he expected the formal publication of the government’s proposals would spark a ‘constructive conversation’.

The remarks will encourage Mrs May after she put her premiership on the line to force her ‘third way’ Brexit plans through Cabinet last week.

Boris Johnson and David Davis inflicted major blows on the government by quitting in protest at the ‘weak’ blueprint, warning that they offered too many concessions.

Mr Johnson resurfaced in public for the first time today, being spotted near his Islington home. A former senior aide suggested he would try to oust Mrs May. 

The Prime Minister herself fought to get back to work as normal today, meeting her new look Cabinet for the first time in Downing Street.  

As the PM and German chancellor attended a summit in London (pictured), the EU’s chief negotiator Michael Barnier appeared to offered an olive branch to the UK

In a striking change of tone from Brussels, Michel Barnier (pictured at the Council of Foreign Relations think-tank in New York today) said he expected the formal publication of the government’s proposals would spark a ‘constructive conversation’

Mr Barnier’s tone today was softer than last week, when he warned there was no possibility that EU would allow the single market to be compromised

Tory backbenchers are also on the verge of open insurrection against the PM. 

But Mrs May has insisted that her proposals are the only way of protecting the economy and preventing a hard Irish border, while at the same time scrapping free movement and allowing the UK to strike new trade deals.

She was expected to hold talks with Mrs Merkel on the sidelines of the Western Balkans summit in London this afternoon – and could press other EU leaders at a NATO summit over the coming days. 

Mr Barnier warned last week that there was no possibility that EU would allow the single market to be compromised.

However, speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations think-tank in New York this afternoon, Mr Barnier seemed to adopt a much softer stance.

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‘After 12 months of negotiations we have agreed on 80 per cent of the negotiations,’ he said.

He added that he was determined to reach agreement on the remaining 20 per cent by October or November.

Mr Barnier said he was pleased the UK is ‘discussing the future relationship, taking positions… and avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland’.

‘We need clarity for these negotiations to move forward for the time is very short,’ he said.

Boris Johnson has been spotted at his London home (pictured) and at Parliament this afternoon after quitting in protest at the PM ‘third way’ Brexit plan

Guto Harri (right) pictured with Mr Johnson at a book launch before he entered government

Mr Barnier refused to comment on the upheaval wracking Mrs May’s government.

How could Theresa May be ousted as Tory leader?

Theresa May faces a mortal threat to her leadership of the Conservative Party and Government. 

A Tory leadership contest can be called in one of two ways – if Mrs May resigns or if MPs force and win a vote of no confidence in her.

Calling votes of no confidence is the responsibility of the chairman of the 1922 Committee, which includes all backbench Tory MPs.

Chairman Graham Brady is obliged to call a vote if 15 per cent of Tory MPs write to him calling for one – currently 48 MPs. 

The process is secret and only Mr Brady knows how many letters he has received.

The procedure was last used in 2003 when Iain Duncan Smith was ousted as Tory leader.

If Mrs May is ousted, any MP is eligible to stand.

Conservative MPs will then hold a series of ballots to whittle the list of contenders down to two, with the last place candidate dropping out in each round. 

The final two candidates are then offered to the Tory membership at large for an election. 

‘As EU negotiator I will negotiate only with the British government… so our next negotiations will be Next Monday with the British delegation appointed by Mrs May.’

In other developments, Mr Johnson was staying tight-lipped today after his resignation drama – as his former spin doctor predicted he will try to oust Theresa May.

The former Foreign Secretary has been spotted at his London home and at Parliament this afternoon after quitting in protest at the PM ‘third way’ Brexit plan.

Despite a growing clamour from Tory Eurosceptics for a move against Mrs May, aides are adamant he is not planning anything immediate.

Guto Harri, who was his press chief, said he was certain Mr Johnson will mount a challenge for the leadership soon.

But he warned that the MP, whom he worked for as London Mayor, was in danger of going past his sell by date.

Mr Harri said Mr Johnson risked becoming an ‘old boxer’ who was ‘getting back in the ring when he shouldn’t’.

He also cautioned that the ex-Cabinet minister’s band of supporters appeared to be ‘diminishing’.

‘I would never underestimate Boris, but he’s now in grave danger of becoming the old boxer too desperate not to get back in the ring when he shouldn’t,’ he wrote in an article for GQ magazine.

‘I’ve little doubt he will challenge, and he’ll do so while his diminishing band of supporters are screaming for a spectacle.

Theresa May tweeted a picture of her new-look Cabinet team today saying they had a ‘productive’ meeting. Left to right around the table are (from number 1 up): Tory chairman Brandon Lewis, Welsh Secretary Alan Cairns, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, Education Secretary Damian Hinds, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, National Security Adviser Mark Sedwill, PM Theresa May, Chancellor Philip Hammond, Justice Secretary David Gauke, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, Scottish Secretary David Mundell, (unidentified), immigration minister Caroline Nokes, Chief Secretary to Treasury Liz Truss, Chief Whip Julian Smith, energy minister Claire Perry, Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Lord Leader Ruth Evans, Business Secretary Greg Clark, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, Trade Secretary Liam Fox, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC

Eight Cabinet ministers have now departed Mrs May’s team over the past year. Highlighted in red in this graphic, they are (front row left to right) Michael Fallon, Amber Rudd, Damian Green, Boris Johnson, Justine Greening, David Davis. On the back row is Sir Patrick McLoughlin, and on the second row to the right is Priti Patel 

‘But the last Conservative leadership race did terrible damage. Another could be a sorry sight.’

Mrs May vowed defiance today as she gathered her new-look Cabinet after filling the holes left by the departures of Mr Johnson and David Davis.

The Prime Minister praised the ‘productive’ first meeting with her reshaped team as she tries to draw a line under the furore.

She also confirmed that the White Paper setting out her controversial Brexit plans will be published on Thursday.

Mrs May scrambled to fill the holes in Cabinet last night with a series of radical moves – shifting Jeremy Hunt to Foreign Secretary and Dominic Raab into the key Brexit Secretary role.

The Prime Minister (pictured at No10 today) is trying to get back on the front foot after shoring up her team following the shattering departures of David Davis and Boris Johnson

Business Secretary Greg Clark (left) was at Downing Street for the Cabinet gathering today, as was the new Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab  

Mrs May scrambled to fill the holes in Cabinet last night with a series of radical moves – shifting Jeremy Hunt (pictured right at No10 this morning) to Foreign Secretary. Matt Hancock (pictured left today) has become Health Secretary

Matt Hancock has been promoted from the Culture department to Health Secretary as the premier digs in for an attritional battle with Eurosceptics.

Tweeting a picture of the Cabinet meeting, Mrs May said: ‘Productive Cabinet meeting this morning – looking ahead to a busy week. And sending our best wishes to @England for tomorrow!’

Downing Street said ministers ‘discussed the forthcoming publication of the White Paper on the future partnership with the EU and how no deal with is being stepped up’.

The meeting also covered Salisbury, the Nato summit and ‘formally congratulated the England team’.

Chief whip Julian Smith has been a key player in the Tory drama unfolding at Westminster. Andrew Bridgen has become the first Tory MP publicly to confirm he has sent a letter urging a no confidence vote

In a boost for Mrs May, it emerged last night that the chair of the powerful Tory 1922 committee has yet to receive the 48 letters from MPs needed to trigger a no-confidence vote.

But although she has weathered the initial shock of the resignations, furious Brexiteers have warned that a challenge could come within weeks unless she changes policy.

Andrew Bridgen today became the first Tory MP to publish a letter he has sent to the 1922 chair Sir Graham Brady calling for a confidence vote.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the Eurosceptic ERG bloc of Tory MPs, has also warned that up to 100 MPs are ready to vote down her proposals if they come before Parliament.

Who are the newly promoted Cabinet ministers?

Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary

One of the great survivors of the modern Tory party, Hunt has just concluded the longest-ever stint at the Department of Health.

A Remainer-turned-Brexiteer, Hunt is one of just three Tory ministers to have served every day as a Cabinet minister since David Cameron became PM in 2010 – alongside Philip Hammond and Theresa May.

He survived a political near-death experience as Culture Secretary in 2012 after becoming embroiled in a scandal over Murdoch’s first bid to buy Sky at the height of the phone hacking scandal.

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary

The only MP with his own smart phone app, Hancock is a deeply ambitious minister who was among the first of the 2010 intake to get on the Government career ladder.

Shortly after his first promotion, Hancock infamously compared himself to famous ex Prime Ministers Churchill, Disraeli and Pitt.

May finally have him the Cabinet promotion he craved in July 2016 and he set about expanding the Government’s digital agenda – even adding it to the name of his department. 

Bizarrely, he was filmed singing Happy Birthday to himself at Tory Party conference karaoke later that year.  

Geoffrey Cox, Attorney General 

Infamously the MP on the green benches with the highest outside earnings, Cox is prestigious and senior barrister.

He has never joined the Government in a 13-year Commons career but has earned millions continuing his work at the Bar. 

Cox was forced to resign from a committee post in October 2015 after failing to declare £325,000 in outside earnings.

He was also slammed for expense claims for a 49p bottle of milk and £2 of tea bags. 

Dominic Raab, Brexit Secretary 

A close ally of the man he replaced as Brexit Secretary, Raab has long been seen as a potential high flyer – and one who Theresa May had been keen to keep out of the Cabinet.

He was a senior campaigner in Vote Leave and a frequent face on television to defend the Government since first being made a minister in 2015. 

May dumped him from her first Government in July 2016 but he was back as Housing Minister a year later – refuelling the view among some Tories he could be a future leader. 

A karate black belt, Raab has a long history of right-wing remarks many find unpalatable – including branding feminists ‘obnoxious bigots’. 

Jeremy Wright, Culture Secretary

In a four year spell as the Government’s chief law officer under both Cameron and May, Wright’s main claim to fame was as the face of the Government’s defence in the court case on Article 50.

Wright personally led the Government’s case in the High Court – but lost, leaving him to take a back seat during the final round in the Supreme Court.

A further defeat to Gina Miller prompted some calls for his resignation. 

Moving into the main Cabinet as a full Secretary of State is a highly unorthodox promotion for an Attorney General. 


Theresa May (pictured this morning leaving No 10) welcomed the new members of her Cabinet to Downing Street for their first meeting today

How a day of Brexit chaos unfolded

Theresa May’s Government was rocked in 20 hours of Brexit chaos. This is how the drama unfolded minute by minute:  

 Sunday July 8, 23.59 

David Davis sensationally resigns as Brexit Secretary, insisting he cannot support the Chequers plan because it will hand Britain only ‘illusory’ control over its future.

Monday July 9, 00.18

Leading Brexiteer Peter Bone welcomes the ‘principled and brave decision’.


Mr Davis’ deputy Steve Baker quits Dexeu. 


Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the Tory European Research Group, tells Sky News Mr Davis quitting proves the Chequers plan is a ‘serious mistake’.


Theresa May’s letter to Mr Davis says she is sorry he is quitting after getting the UK close to exit and defends her plans.


Jeremy Corbyn tweets an attack on a ‘Government in chaos’ and claims Mrs May no longer has any authority.


Nigel Farage tweets congratulations and calls on Tory MPs to remove the ‘awful, duplicitous PM’.


Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry points out Theresa May has lost a Cabinet minister every six weeks. 


Davis tells the Today programme he is quitting because he cannot defend something ‘central’ to his job. He endorses May to carry on as PM.


Labour MP David Lammy is among the first to point out Davis is running away from responsibility as a Brexiteer.


Rees-Mogg tells LBC there will not be an immediate confidence vote but warns May to drop her Chequers plan because it won’t ‘actually deliver Brexit’.


Dominic Raab is appointed Brexit Secretary.


EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas insists Davis quitting changes nothing in the talks and says Brussels is ‘here to work’.


Boris Johnson fails to appear at either a Cobra meeting in Whitehall or the Western Balkans summit in central London.


With rumours swirling, Nigel Farage says Johnson would be a ‘hero’ if he resigned.


A removal van is spotted outside the Johnson family home in Islington. 


Downing Street announces Johnson’s resignation. Word spreads he is still writing his resignation letter and No 10 has pre-empted his announcement.


Donald Tusk tweets his continued regret at Brexit but hints at hopes the resignations could stop the entire process.


May is cheered by Tory MPs as she rises in the Commons to present the Chequers plan – but she is jeered and faces shouts of ‘resign’ from the Opposition.


Corbyn mocks the Prime Minister for taking two years to develop a plan that took two days to collapse. 


Downing Street vow May will contest any no confidence vote.


Rumours swirl 1922 chairman Sir Graham Brady has the 48 letters needed to call a no confidence vote. He denies it as MPs gather. 


May arrives at a packed 1922 Committee to loud banging of tables. 


Johnson’s resignation letter emerges, claiming the ‘Brexit dream is dying’ and May’s plan will consign Britain to a future as a ‘colony’. 


May’s response to Johnson is published saying she is ‘sorry – and a little surprised’ he is quitting over a policy he endorsed at Cabinet on Friday. 


Jeremy Hunt is appointed Foreign Secretary 


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