The significance of the draft deal reached between Britain and the EU is reflected in Wednesday’s papers.
“May faces moment of truth” is the Financial Times’ headline. The paper believes Theresa May is approaching the most dangerous moment of her premiership as she challenges her divided cabinet to back the deal and attempts to face down Conservative Eurosceptics.
The Daily Telegraph draws a similar conclusion, saying the prime minister faces a backlash from her cabinet that could threaten her premiership. While Downing Street expressed optimism, it remains unclear how the plan has any chance of passing through Parliament, the paper adds.
“Judgement Day” is the headline in the Daily Mail. It says Downing Street believes it has headed off plans that could have led to Northern Ireland being “annexed” by the EU after Brexit. But the paper says Eurosceptic ministers are under intense pressure from hardliners not to approve a “Brexit in name only”.
According to the Financial Times, the draft treaty is understood to include plans for a UK-wide customs backstop to avoid a hard border in Ireland which would keep Britain in the customs union until a final deal is agreed.
The Times says that while Mrs May will claim to have won her battle over the backstop, she has agreed that Northern Ireland will remain more aligned to EU regulations in some areas than the rest of the UK.
Peter Oborne, writing in the Mail, says that if Mrs May manages to persuade her cabinet to back her this afternoon, then she has a fighting chance of getting the deal through Parliament.
As a Commons vote won’t take place until December, he argues that gives her more than enough time for Tory whips to get to work and for hardline Brexiteers to reflect that voting the deal down could usher Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10.
Underestimated or enfeebled?
The Sun lays down a challenge to cabinet ministers: if the deal means Britain is unable to leave the EU customs union when it wants, or pays a £39bn divorce bill without leaving EU institutions, then it is a betrayal of Brexit and must be rejected.
The Express in contrast urges Conservatives to get behind what it describes as our “underestimated prime minister”, while the Mail lambasts hardline Brexiteers for issuing a wail of hysteria against the deal even before seeing the document.
The Daily Mirror, however, views Mrs May as an “enfeebled” prime minister, trapped in a pincer movement. She’s fighting her ministers and Tory MPs on two fronts, it says.
James Forsyth, on the Spectator website, says the problem for Mrs May is that the pre-emptive attacks on the broad outline of the deal make it harder for her to emphasise the progress she has made.
Writing in the FT, former Labour cabinet minister Lord Mandelson says the paradox intrinsic to Brexit is only now becoming clear: we can only secure continuity of frictionless trade by complying with the EU’s rules but without a say in them once we have left.
‘How old, Grandpa?’
Many of the papers carry photographs of the Prince of Wales among his extended family on his 70th birthday.
The Daily Mail captions the image of Prince Charles surrounded by his grandchildren: “How old are you NOW, Grandpa?”
As the Sun remarks in an editorial, while most men are thinking about kicking back a little at the age of 70, this is not an option for the Prince. He has the main role of his life ahead of him… as our King.
The Daily Telegraph says Charles is marking the occasion by publishing a manifesto on the future of the countryside, in which he warns his may be the last generation to enjoy the “life-enhancing, timeless opportunities” it offers.
While Charles is known for talking to plants, says the Times, he has now gone nuts for red squirrels. The Prince reveals in a new edition of Country Life that he even allows them into his Scottish home, it adds.
Angela Merkel’s backing for the idea of a European army is covered by a number of papers. The Times says the proposal is the latest fault line in deteriorating relations between Europe and its old ally the US.
In an editorial, the Daily Express describes the idea as “madness” which will only antagonise those EU members who think there is already far too much central control.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that Rohingya refugees are fleeing from camps in Bangladesh to avoid being repatriated to Myanmar.
Bangladesh says the programme, due to begin tomorrow, is voluntary, but the paper says there’s evidence refugees are being pressured into returning against their will and to an uncertain future.