Advertisement

Big government shift on divorce bill to £40bn and future role of European Court of Justice

The biggest hitters in the government have this afternoon moved a long way towards giving Michel Barnier and Donald Tusk what they say they want and need in order to move Brexit talks on to the crucial next phase of discussing a so-called transition arrangement and a trade deal.

The European Union Exit and Trade (Strategy and Negotiations) sub-committee, chaired by the prime minister, made two fairly dramatic decisions.

I am told ministers agreed that the European Court of Justice could after all have a continuing role in making sure the rights are protected of three million EU citizens living in Britain.

Barnier and Tusk will be relieved. The Brexiteering ultras in the Tory party will feel betrayed.

Second, ministers gave the Brexit minister David Davis permission to indicate to Barnier that the UK would double to circa £40bn what it is prepared to hand over as a divorce payment.

Again this will be seen as important progress by Tusk and Barnier. But many Tory MPs will be worried that the offer may not have enough strings attached - that is they don’t want to promise hard cash in the absence of knowing what kind of trade deal is actually available.

So here is the thing. A consensus seems to have broken out in the senior echelons of the cabinet, including the Goves, Foxes and Johnsons, that Davis and May must be given enough negotiating ammunition to avoid the hardest of Brexits.

That will ease the relationship with the rest of the EU at this crucial juncture for talks. But it may complicate their relationship with many of their own MPs.

  • Robert Peston explains why he was "surprised" by the announcement