• No 10 slaps down Boris Johnson over Chequers plan criticism: In a thinly-veiled rebuke to Johnson, who claimed that the prime minister was entering negotiations with Brussels with a “white flag fluttering”, her spokesman said the country needed “serious leadership with a serious plan”. No 10’s intervention marks an escalation of the feud between the prime minister and her former foreign secretary, which has intensified since his attack on the government’s Brexit plans, widely viewed as a renewed push for the top job. Johnson used his newspaper column on Monday to accuse some members of the government of deliberately using the Irish border situation to “stop a proper Brexit”, a claim rejected by Whitehall sources. The prime minister’s spokesman said: “The Chequers proposals are the only credible and negotiable plan which has been put forward and which will deliver on the will of the British people.” He added: “There’s no new ideas in Johnson`s article to respond to. What we need at this time is serious leadership with a serious plan. That’s exactly what the country has with this prime minister and this Brexit plan.” It came after Damian Green, the prime minister’s former deputy, condemned hard-Brexit supporters, such as Johnson, for having no workable plan of their own, while the former Brexit secretary David Davis said it was not the time for “personality politics”. “What’s interesting now is that the only plan on the table is the British government’s plan. Michel Barnier hasn’t got a plan, those in my own party who object to Chequers don’t have a plan. So let’s hear what other people have.” (The Guardian)
  • Emmanuel Macron stresses opposition to ‘blind Brexit’: Emmanuel Macron, has stressed his opposition to a “blind Brexit” in which the UK leaves the EU without clarity on the terms of a future trade deal, fearing that pushing the issue down the line could lead to an extension of the 21-month transition period. A number of EU member states, including Germany, believe an aspirational political declaration on the future that ducks the most contentious trade issues now would be the best way to avoid a no-deal Brexit. The priority for the remaining 27 EU member states is to have the withdrawal agreement – on citizens’ rights, the Irish border and the £39bn “divorce bill” – completed and ratified by 29 March 2019. EU and British negotiators will then have until 31 December 2020 to sign off on a future trade deal, during which time the UK will effectively remain a member of the EU, but without voting rights. However, in recent months, Macron’s diplomats in Brussels have insisted clarity in the political declaration – a non-binding document, accompanying the withdrawal agreement and spelling out the basic principles of the trade deal to come – is vital to avoid problems further down the line. In Paris, it is feared that maintaining the unity of the 27 members on trade after the withdrawal agreement has been signed could be significantly more difficult. Without clarity now, internal EU negotiations could eat into the 21-month transition period after Brexit day, even before talks start in earnest with the UK, said an EU diplomat privy to behind-the-scenes discussions. (The Guardian)
  • EU Parliament aims to endorse any deal just two weeks before Brexit day: Danuta Hubner, head of the European parliament’s constitutional affairs committee has said that the European Parliament expects to be able to endorse any deal with London just two weeks before Britain leaves the EU, highlighting how tight the schedule is to agree on divorce terms and future ties. The European parliament’s constitutional affairs committee will first handle the agreement and has said the target to hold a vote would be a plenary session due March 11-14. (Reuters)