After a 90-minute one-on-one with the prime minister, David Davis was quick to claim victory over the backstop plan. Theresa May had backed down.
“Obviously there’s been a back and forth on this paper as there always is whenever the government publishes anything,” said a source close to the Brexit secretary.
“The backstop paper has been amended and now expresses, in much more detail, the time limited nature of our proposal.”
After a frantic back and forth overnight and into Thursday morning, the prime minister agreed to write a time-limit into the Irish border backstop proposal.
That was a definite shift in position.
Number 10 had insisted that a sunset clause could not be added; a red line Mrs May has now crossed in order to keep Mr Davis around her cabinet table and avoid a huge crisis ahead of the EU Withdrawal Bill’s return to the House of Commons.
True, the actual language of the backstop proposals is vague – and probably legally meaningless – but it is no doubt Mr Davis’s victory.
The EU will likely reject any proposals with an end date in it; but that’s a battle for another day.
The high drama of the past 24 hours was more than just political posturing from Mr Davis, say those who know him well.
This morning one ally told me it was “50-50” whether he’d stay or go.
“It’s Number 10’s move,” they added.
Another in the Davis camp told me that he was prepared to walk because of what he felt was at stake.
He and fellow Brexiteers fear the backstop plan on the Irish border could be used to keep Britain in a sort of customs union with the EU for evermore.
A sort of interminable soft Brexit. It is something they simply couldn’t countenance.
Mrs May has avoided a blow-up by giving some ground. But the bigger picture is still bleak.
Friends of Mr Davis say he is frustrated by the prime minister.
“It’s like getting on a bus, not going anywhere, with no destination,” says a Davis ally of Mrs May’s leadership.
He is angry that the white paper on the UK’s future relationship with the EU has been shelved until after the European Council summit at the end of this month; angry that the customs arrangements decision has been delayed; angry that he’s been sidelined by Mrs May’s most senior Brexit civil servant Olly Robbins.
Mr Davis hasn’t walked today, but the odds of him becoming the next cabinet minister to quit were slashed on Thursday from 8/1 to 2/1.
– SKY News