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Theresa May says 'wait for next Sunday’s total Brexit package before judging me'

The Prime Minister recently defended her Brexit plan in front of reporters before doing the same on Sky News on Sunday morning. Credit: PA

In a blow to hopeful Cabinet Brexiters, Theresa May appears to have said there is no scope to renegotiate the heavily criticised backstop and Withdrawal Agreement.

Her comments on Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme seemed to slap down Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove, Penny Mordaunt, Liam Fox and Chris Grayling - a group rumoured to be plotting a revision of the deal.

The Prime Minister's offer to them appeared to be 'wait and see' what the Political Declaration says next Sunday about the nature of the UK’s future relationship with the EU - as if that would reassure them.

But the Withdrawal Agreement, when signed, will be a legally binding document. The Political Declaration will be a non-binding statement of intent.

The five Cabinet Brexiters, Liam Fox, Penny Mordaunt, Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove and Chris Grayling are rumoured to be plotting for a revision of the deal. Credit: PA

The Brexiters in the Cabinet will look at the Political Declaration and fear that it presages many years of negotiation to transform it into a legal treaty.

In fact, they will see the Political Declaration’s apparent countenancing of what the PM sees as a special and unique deal for the UK - what she sees as an important victory - as making inevitable that talks to turn the framework for a future relationship into a deal will last many many years, far longer than the 21 months of the agreed transition.

So the ambition implicit in the Political Declaration actually makes more likely what the Brexiters fear most, namely that the backstop - or an expensive extension of the transition - will be implemented at the end of 2020.

It appears as though the PM is asking Cabinet Brexiters to 'wait and see' what the Political Declaration says next Sunday. Credit: PA

May will be accused by her Brexiter colleagues of the Johnsonian crime of having and eating cake - of claiming that the backstop is unlikely to be implemented - even when she eschews the kind of future relationship that would be easier and far quicker to finalise because it is largely off-the-shelf and consistent with extant EU models and deals.

I cannot see the Cabinet Brexiters, or indeed the Brexiters on Tory benches, being reassured in the slightest. The coming week will see the civil war in the UK’s governing party intensify.

Theresa May is not over the worst; she cannot yet be confident of securing her Brexit deal or keeping her job.