Here's Why The Next 48 Hours Are Crucial For Brexit Talks

Isabel Togoh

It’s crunch time for the Prime Minister and not just because pizza is involved.

With just a day to go until crucial EU talks on Wednesday, a few of members of Theresa May’s Cabinet secretly convened before Tuesday’s full cabinet meeting.

Here’s an update on the current Brexit situation.

Pizza, anyone?

A third of May’s senior ministers gathered in a so-called ‘Pizza Club’ led by Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom on Monday.

It emerged over the weekend that Leadsom, along with work and pensions minister Esther McVey and International Development secretary Penny Mordaunt, would consider walking if May’s “temporary customs arrangement” was agreed to.

Mordaunt was one of the attendees, as was Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Attorney General Sir Geoffrey Cox also turned up.

What else happened on Monday?

It is not known exactly what was discussed over pizza, but ministers were rumoured to attempt to topple May.

The meeting comes after continued rumours that Tory MPs would strengthen calls for a vote of no confidence in May’s leadership. A source told HuffPost: “We never wanted to go down the letters route, but things are spiralling out of control”.

A number of Tory MPs have reportedly submitted letters of no confidence to the 1922 Committee of backbenchers. A total of 48 are needed to trigger a vote.

According to The Telegraph, Eurosceptics are threatening a vote of no confidence if the PM does not scrap her beleaguered Chequers plan.

The proposal would see Britain continue to observe EU trade rules but would be free to decide on its own laws, immigration and most other services.

Things also came to a head in the Commons, when May failed to reassure Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith that there would be a specific end date for her proposed temporary customs arrangement.

Will this be awkward for Tuesday’s full Cabinet meeting?

Much like being left out of a WhatsApp group, the secret gathering could see the rift between Brexiteers and the rest of Cabinet surface during Tuesday’s meeting.

But one ministerial aide tried to quash takedown rumours on Monday, saying: “When did sharing a slice of pizza with colleagues become evidence of sedition?

May herself has put on a blasé front, with a spokesman saying: “Cabinet ministers are free to eat whatever they choose. Cabinet colleagues have discussions with each other all the time.”

Will a deal be struck in time?

President of the European Council Donald Tusk has warned that the chances of the UK leaving the EU without a deal is “more likely than ever before”.

With just over five months to go, talks between Downing Street and Brussels remain deadlocked with no clear end in sight to the disagreements over the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Raab failed to make a breakthrough in discussions with Barnier over the weekend.

In a letter to EU leaders on Monday, Tusk said that while he hoped a deal would be struck this month, “it has proven to be more complicated than some may have expected”, he said.

Although he is holding out hope, he added: “Responsible as we are, we must prepare the EU for a no-deal scenario, which is more likely than ever before.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said negotiations could possibly be delayed until December.

What have AstraZeneca and Ford got to do with all this?

Well, they’re not exactly making things easier.

The pharmaceutical giant on Monday said it would halt all investment into the UK thanks to uncertainty over negotiations.

Leif Johansson, non-executive chairman of AstraZeneca, told a French newspaper that he feared Britain would become “an isolated island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.”

Hundreds of people are employed by the firm in the UK.

Johansson told Le Monde: “In business, uncertainty often forces you to make decision. But what is frustrating is to have to do so when the existing system works very well - this is costing us money and beings no benefit.”

Meanwhile, Steven Armstrong, the head of Ford in Europe, told the BBC that a no-deal Brexit “would certainly make us think long and hard about our future investment strategy”.

Related...