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IPSE welcomes inflation drop, but warns Brexit uncertainty is bad news for the self-employed

3 hours 11 minutes ago

IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) has welcomed the drop in inflation announced today, but warned further Brexit uncertainty after the Government’s defeat could harm the self-employed.

Office of National Statistics (ONS) data released today showed that inflation fell from 2.3 per cent in November to 2.1 per cent in December. This was driven by a drop in the price of petrol, which was, in turn, caused by tumbling oil prices and a smaller rise in air fares than last year.

Ryan Barnett, IPSE’s Economic Policy Advisor commented: “The drop in inflation – in line with expectations and close to the Bank of England target – will be welcomed by the self-employed. This is the lowest level in two years. The drop in the price of petrol by over 6p is particularly significant, given how much more self-employed people travel – both to their clients’ sites and to find new work.

“Overall, this means income in real terms is higher, and freelancers – who are vital to the health of the UK economy – will feel more money in their pocket.

“There is, however, continued uncertainty about the progress of Brexit after the government suffered a major defeat in Parliament last night. The continuing malaise has exacerbated fears of a ‘no-deal’, which our recent Confidence Index showed 81 per cent of freelancers are opposed to.

“The 4.8 million self-employed, just like the rest of the country, need clarity about the future of the economy and their ability to access clients in Europe. 

“For the sake of freelancers and the wider country, the government must avoid a no-deal Brexit and also prioritise the self-employed in any renewed negotiations with the EU.”


After Parliament's rejection of the PM's deal, what next for Brexit?

4 hours 1 minute ago

Chair of the Bar Council’s Brexit Working Group, Hugh Mercer QC, explains the options for the UK following Parliament’s rejection of the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal yesterday.

The Parliamentary vote was often presented as a binary choice between the Prime Minister’s deal and no deal, but it was never going to be that straightforward. The Supreme Court judgment in Miller means that completing the process of leaving the EU will require primary legislation passed by a majority of the House of Commons.

Now that the Prime Minister’s deal has been rejected, she must come back to Parliament within the next three days with a new plan of action. Parliament will have the opportunity to amend those proposals so, under section 13 of the European Withdrawal Act, MPs can indicate their preference for an alternative deal or, eventually, give instructions to the Government as to how it should proceed.

This is why the door is now more open to a range of other options beyond the Prime Minister’s ‘deal or no deal’.  Those options include substituting the Political Declaration for a Canada plus style arrangement, a Norway plus deal with the UK becoming an EFTA member or, conceivably, in light of the CJEU Wightman ruling, unilateral revocation of the Article 50 notice itself. Those options have different implementation risks with knock on effects for certainty as any new proposals will need to pass a majority in Parliament and some will also need negotiation and ratification with the EU27 and/or the EEA members.

All of this will no doubt lead to greater scrutiny of the underlying merits of those options by reference to the Government’s own negotiating red lines, the wider economy and other considerations in the national interest. The Government’s withdrawal agreement itself has already blurred the red lines in a number of areas, most strikingly on the jurisdiction of the ECJ over EU citizens in the UK and aligning the UK with the rules of the internal market. It remains to be seen whether Parliament will come down in favour of wider trade in goods and or services through closer regulatory coordination, or indicate a preference for greater independence.


Here's how every MP voted on Theresa May's Brexit deal

8 hours 42 minutes ago
The Government suffered a historic defeat last night

MPs voted by a majority of 230 to reject Theresa May's Brexit deal last night in the biggest Government defeat in modern history. Some 432 voted against the deal and 202 for it - with the vote splitting across party lines as well as Leave/Remain lines. Find out below how every MP cast their vote.

Conservative PPSs Tom Pursglove and Eddie Hughes are assumed to have quit their jobs as they voted against the Government.





Jean-Claude Juncker warns 'time is almost up' to avoid no-deal Brexit

18 hours 16 minutes ago
Jean-Claude Juncker
Jean-Claude Juncker

Britain is now more likely to leave the European Union without a deal after MPs “regrettably” rejected Theresa May’s Brexit agreement, EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker has warned.

The Prime Minister suffered a record-breaking defeat in the Commons, as MPs voted down her deal by 432 votes to 202.

The humiliating loss comes after two years of intense negotiations between Mrs May’s team and her European counterparts, and Mr Juncker warned that “time is almost up” for both sides to reach an agreement before Brexit day on 29 March.

"I take note with regret of the outcome of the vote in the House of Commons this evening,” the European Commission president said.

“The withdrawal agreement is a fair compromise and the best possible deal. It reduces the damage caused by Brexit for citizens and businesses across Europe. It is the only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

"The European Commission, and notably our chief negotiator Michel Barnier, has invested enormous time and effort to negotiate the withdrawal agreement. We have shown creativity and flexibility throughout.

“I, together with (EU Council President Donald) Tusk, have demonstrated goodwill again by offering additional clarifications and reassurances in an exchange of letters with Prime Minister May earlier this week. 

"The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening's vote.

“While we do not want this to happen, the European Commission will continue its contingency work to help ensure the EU is fully prepared.

“I urge the United Kingdom to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up".

Meanwhile Donald Tusk suggested that as it stood a deal was "impossible" as he called for a "positive solution" to be brought forward.

Speaking in the immediate aftermath of the defeat, Mrs May said ministers would "listen" to the result, which saw 118 Tory MPs defy the party whip to vote against her.

"It is clear that the House does not support this deal," she said.

"But tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support. Nothing about how - or even if - it intends to honour the decision the British people took in a referendum Parliament decided to hold."


Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said the defeat sparked the “beginning of the end of Brexit” as he called for a second EU referendum. 

“Labour have finally lodged a no confidence motion, after weeks of failing to do so. I have signed it and the Liberal Democrats will vote against a Conservative Government which is now in meltdown.

“However, a General Election will not offer a way forward for the country so long as Jeremy Corbyn continues to procrastinate, backing Brexit while pretending not to.

“And while the Conservatives are more divided than ever, they are likely to unite with their friends in the DUP if only to keep themselves in office.

“Jeremy Corbyn must listen to Labour members and MPs, and back a People’s Vote on the Government’s plan versus staying in the European Union.”

The call was echoed by Labour MP and Best for Britain campaigner Ian Murray, who said: "This is a historic and humiliating defeat for the Prime Minister and her government is now in total disarray.

“Parliament has rejected her deal and in parliamentary terms it is dead. We also know that Parliament will not countenance a catastrophic no-deal Brexit.

Nicholas Mairs

Theresa May to face vote of no confidence after she suffers crushing Brexit deal defeat

18 hours 48 minutes ago
Theresa May

Theresa May will fight for her political life on Wednesday after Jeremy Corbyn tabled a motion of no confidence in the Government.

The Prime Minister announced that time would be set aside on Wednesday to "confirm whether the Government still enjoys the confidence of the House" - as Mr Corbyn pressed ahead with his plan to oust Mrs May and secure a general election.

However, the Government is expected to win the vote as the DUP - which props up the minority administration - has vowed to back the Prime Minister, while no Tory MPs have said they will vote against her.

The move came after MPs voted 432 to 202 - a majority of 230 - against the withdrawal agreement she reached with Brussels after more than two years of negotiations.

Confirming he had tabled a motion of no confidence in the Government, Mr Corbyn said: "On the most important issue facing us, this government has lost the confidence of this House and this country.

"I therefore Mr Speaker, inform you, that I have tabled a motion of no confidence in this government.

"I am pleased that motion will be debated tomorrow so this House can give its verdict on the sheer incompetence of this government and pass that motion of no confidence in this government."

Under the Fixed-Terms Parliament Act, a simple majority of MPs would need to vote for tomorrow's motion saying that the "House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government".

The Commons would then have just 14 days to pass a motion saying it "has confidence in Her Majesty's Government" or a general election would be automatically triggered.

The move came after Mrs May made clear that she would allow other opposition parties to table a confidence motion if the Labour leader opted not to do so.

Speaking in the immediate aftermath of the defeat, Mrs May told the House ministers would "listen" to the result, which saw 118 Tory MPs defy the party whip to vote against her.

"It is clear that the House does not support this deal," she said.

"But tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support. Nothing about how - or even if - it intends to honour the decision the British people took in a referendum Parliament decided to hold."

Mrs May added: "First, we need to confirm whether this Government still enjoys the confidence of the House.

"I believe that it does, but given the scale and importance of tonight’s vote it is right that others have the chance to test that question if they wish to do so.

"I can therefore confirm that if the Official Opposition table a confidence motion this evening in the form required by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, the Government will make time to debate that motion tomorrow.

"And if, as happened before Christmas, the Official Opposition decline to do so, we will – on this occasion - consider making time tomorrow to debate any motion in the form required from the other opposition parties, should they put one forward."

A spokesperson for the DUP said: "We will support the government in confidence vote".

And a source from the hardcore pro-Brexit Tory MP faction the Euroepean Research Group said it would be backing the Government tomorrow. 

Matt Foster

Theresa May's government in chaos as MPs overwhelmingly reject Brexit deal

20 hours 16 minutes ago
Theresa May
Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street ahead of the meaningful vote.

Theresa May’s government has been thrown into fresh chaos after the Commons overwhelmingly rejected her Brexit deal.

In another devastating blow to the Prime Minister’s dwindling authority, MPs voted 432 to 202 - a majority of 230 - against the withdrawal agreement she reached with Brussels after more than two years of negotiations.

Jeremy Corbyn called it the "greatest defeat for the Government since the 1920s in this House" as 118 Tories defied the party whip to vote against the Government.

Mrs May - who told MPs she would "listen" to the result - will now face a vote of no confidence on Wednesday after the Labour leader pressed ahead with his plan to oust the Prime Minister and trigger a general election.

Both Labour and the SNP had surprised Parliament by dropping their planned amendments to the Government motion, thereby allowing MPs to train all of their fire on the Brexit deal.

Mrs May will now have to return to Parliament with a new plan by Monday night if she is to stand any chance of saving her Brexit vision.

The humbling defeat - which dramatically increases the chances of a no-deal Brexit - came after the Prime Minister had made a last-ditch attempt to win over MPs to her cause.

Closing five days of Commons debate, she told a packed chamber that it was a chance for MPs to back "unity over decision".

Mrs May said: "This is the most significant vote that any of us will ever be part of in our political careers. After all the debate, all the disagreement, all the division, the time has now come for all of us in this House to make a decision.

"A decision that will define our country for decades to come. A decision that will determine the future for our constituents, their children and they’re grandchildren."

“A decision that each of us will have to justify and live with for many years to come. We know the consequences of voting for this deal, they are laid out in black and white in the pages of the withdrawal agreement.

"But no one who votes against this deal will be able to tell their constituents what real world outcome they voted for, because a vote against this deal is a vote for nothing more than uncertainty, division and the very real risk of no-deal or even no Brexit at all.”

Earlier, attorney general Geoffrey Cox had told MPs to stop acting like “children” and get behind the Prime Minister’s deal.

He said: “It provides for the orderly and predictable and legally certain winding down of our obligations and involvement in the legal systems of the EU.

“If we do not legislate for that legal certainty as a matter of law alone, thousands of contracts, thousands of transactions, thousands of administrative proceedings, of judicial proceedings in the European Union and this country, will be plunged into legal uncertainty.

“It would be the height of irresponsibility for any legislator to contemplate with equanimity such a situation.

"If you were a litigant in a court, if you were dependent upon having concluded a contract on the basis of EU law and you found yourself suddenly with the rug pulled from under you, not knowing what your legal obligations would be, you would say to this House: 'What are you playing at? What are you doing? You are not children in the playground, you are legislators.' We are playing with people's lives."

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the withdrawal agreement was "a bad deal for our economy, a bad deal for our democracy, and a bad deal for Britain", which his party could not support as he repeated his calls for a general election.

He said: "Under this government more people are living in poverty, including half a million more children. Homelessness has risen every year; too many people are stuck in low paid and insecure work; too many people are struggling to make ends meet and falling into debt.

"Nothing in this Brexit deal - and nothing on offer from this Government - will solve that."

Kevin Schofield

John Bercow risks fresh Brexiteer backlash by rejecting bid to put time limit on Irish backstop

1 day 1 hour ago
John Bercow
Speaker John Bercow has already clashed with MPs over claims he wants to thwart Brexit.

John Bercow has risked a fresh row with Tory eurosceptics after rejecting two amendments designed to swing wavering MPs behind Theresa May's Brexit deal.

In a further blow for the Prime Minister, the Commons Speaker announced that just four amendments to the deal will be voted on by MPs - with two bids to provide firmer guarantees on the controversial Northern Ireland backstop left out.

Ahead of the meaningful vote on Mrs May's deal, the Speaker confirmed that MPs will get to vote on tweaks put forward by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the SNP's Ian Blackford, and Conservatives Edward Leigh and John Baron.

But Mr Bercow - who has the power to choose which amendments get voted on - opted not to pick two aimed at winning round Brexiteers and the DUP, and which had the tacit support of the Government.

Former minister Hugo Swire's attempt to rein in the backstop with six new conditions - including allowing MPs to have a vote on whether to enter it or extend the Brexit transition period - did not make the cut.

Meanwhile Conservative MP and Northern Ireland Affairs Commitee chairman Andrew Murrison had sought to fix a firm end date to the backstop, which critics fear will currently leave Britain indefinitely bound to EU rules.

His amendment said the agreement would be passed "subject to the Withdrawal Agreement treaty being amended to specify that the backstop solution shall expire on 31 December 2021".

Mr Bercow's decision effectively means MPs will have a straight vote on Mrs May's deal at 8pm - with the Government braced for a heavy defeat.

Number 10 had been hoping that strong backing for either of the Swire or Murrison amendments could send a signal to Brussels to agree changes to Mrs May's deal to help the Prime Minister get it approved by MPs.

Speaking in the Commons after the chosen amendments were announced, Mr Swire took a veiled swipe at the Speaker, who last week became involved in a bitter bias row with Brexiteers.

He asked attorney general Geoffrey Cox: "Does he agree that the non-selection of the amendment standing in my name and the amendment standing in the name of [Andrew Murrison] makes the Government’s challenge this afternoon harder, to convince those of us who are still concerned about the implications of the backstop, and what does he think can replace those two amendments?"

While the move by the Speaker is likely to enrage supporters of Mrs May’s deal, however, the DUP had already made clear that it could not get behind the last-ditch Murrison amendment.

In a statement a DUP spokesperson said: “Parliament is today being asked to vote on the legally binding withdrawal agreement negotiated by the Prime Minister. That does not contain an end date on the backstop.

“The Prime Minister has known for many weeks what we require. Amendments tabled in Parliament will have no bearing on the legal status of what has been negotiated. What is required is for the Prime Minister to go and secure legally binding changes as she promised.

“Today’s very belated amendments are part of the internal parliamentary games and do not change the need to secure legally binding changes.”

MPs will now have the chance to vote on up to four amendments, including one from Labour rejecting the entire deal and anotehr from the SNP and Plaid Cymru which tries to kill it off by saying it would be "damaging for Scotland, Wales and the nations and regions of the UK as a whole".

Number 10's hopes of allowing MPs to vote for the deal while objecting to the backstop now rest with the remaining two amendments, tabled by Tories Sir Edward Leigh and John Baron.

The Leigh amendment calls for assurances that the UK will “terminate” the entire deal if the backstop looks set to run on beyond the end of 2021.

Meanwhile the Baron amendment, which will only be voted on if Sir Edward Leigh's bid falls, tweaks the deal to say it is passed “subject to changes being made in the Withdrawal Agreement and in the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol so that the UK has the right to terminate the Protocol without having to secure the agreement of the EU”.

You can read PoliticsHome's guide to all four amendments here

Matt Foster

EXPLAINED: The Brexit amendments MPs are set to vote on tonight and what they all mean

1 day 2 hours ago
Theresa May is facing an historic Commons showdown on her Brexit plan

Before MPs cast their verdict on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, they’ll be voting on a string of amendments. While legal debate rages over the ability of the Commons to actually alter the deal - and it remains unlikely any of them will garner enough votes to pass - the four amendments could help point the way forward if the deal is defeated. PoliticsHome walks you through them.

Corbyn amendment (A) - Rejecting the deal for failing Labour’s ‘six tests’ on Brexit

This amendment from Labour’s frontbench is a straightforward bid to rubbish the deal and lay out the opposition’s objections in clear terms.

It says MPs reject the deal because it “fails to provide for a permanent UK-EU customs union and strong single market deal" and accuses the Prime Minister of failing to "protect workers’ rights and environmental standards" while putting Britain's security at risk. Expect voting on this one to fall along party lines.

In a cheeky bit of Parliamentary trolling, the amendment itself has been amended by the Lib Dems, who want it to include a pledge to back a second referendum “as endorsed by the Labour Party Conference 2018”.

Blackford amendment (K) - laying out Scottish and Welsh objections to the deal

The amendment from the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford and Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts again registers straightforward objections to the deal and tries to kill it off by saying it would be “damaging for Scotland, Wales and the nations and regions of the UK as a whole”.

It also references a recent European Court of Justice legal ruling - pressed for by the SNP’s Joanna Cherry - pointing out that the UK “has the right to unilateral revocation” of Article 50 and can therefore choose to stop Brexit.

Leigh amendment (B) - ordering ministers to ‘terminate’ the deal if no end to the backstop is in sight

The amendment put forward by Tory grandee Sir Edward Leigh - a longstanding Brexiteer who this week said he intended to vote for the deal after all - tries to beef up the language around the “temporary” nature of the Northern Ireland backstop, the part of Mrs May's deal that has enraged Brexiteers and alienated the DUP.

It presses the Government for an assurance that the UK will treat any running on of the arrangement beyond the end of 2021 as a “fundamental change of circumstances” that would require it to “terminate” the entire deal with the EU and “become an independent country once again”.

Number 10 had been hoping that an amendment on the backstop from Tory MP Andrew Murrison would get picked.

It had been thought that sizable support for the Murrison amendment - or an alternative one from Conservative Hugo Swire - could be used to convince Brussels to give ground on the plan to keep Britain in the EU's regulatory orbit to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.

But this and the Baron amendment below now remain the best hope of allowing MPs to express their concern about the plan.

Baron amendment (F) - More backstop assurances

This amendment from Conservative John Baron will only go to a vote if the above Leigh amendment falls, Speaker John Bercow has announced.

It's another amendment focused on the backstop, and tweaks the deal to say it is passed “subject to changes being made in the Withdrawal Agreement and in the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol so that the UK has the right to terminate the Protocol without having to secure the agreement of the EU”.

Matt Foster

Michael Gove warns rebel MPs ‘winter is coming’ if they fail to back Theresa May’s Brexit plan

1 day 5 hours ago
Michael Gove
Michael Gove invoked the hit TV series to try and warn off MPs

Michael Gove warned MPs seeking to vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal that “winter is coming” if they fail to back her tonight.

The Cabinet minister quoted lines from hit TV series Game of Thrones in a bid to warn MPs off inflicting a crushing defeat on the Prime Minister's EU agreement when it is put to a vote later today.

In an interview on the BBC’s Today programme, Mr Gove told MPs that democracy would be "damaged" if they failed to swing behind Mrs May’s plan.

He said: "I think if we don’t vote for the deal tonight, I think in the words of Jon Snow, ‘winter is coming’. I think if we don’t vote for the deal tonight we will do damage to our democracy by saying to people we are not going to implement Brexit."

The motto is used in the HBO series to warn of the approach of a horde of killer ghouls that carry out a massacre on the civilian population.

The Environment Secretary said: "The real danger is that if people do not vote for the government this evening we face either a no-deal Brexit with the short-term economic damage that would bring, or worse no Brexit at all.

“We know there are people in the House of Commons and outside who have never made their peace with the decision, who want to overturn it.”

Mr Gove, who has previously suggested the deal secured by Mrs May was “imperfect”, argued that the Prime Minister had in fact secured a “glistening bowl of cherries” from the EU as he pushed back against criticism of the contentious Northern Ireland backstop.

He said: “Continually, people have said that the backstop is a vice. Yes - but it is a vice which we can tighten around the European Union. That is an underappreciated point.

“I’ve said many times before that [the deal] is not perfect… You have to vote for this deal, because this is the door through which we can walk to ensure we are outside the European Union and we can determine our future.”

It is not the first time Mr Gove has referenced Game of Thrones.

In November, the Environment Secretary sparked confusion when he tweeted out the results of an internet personality quiz to decide which character from the show he was most like - revealing that he most resembled Tyrion Lannister, a politically-cunning dwarf.

And in 2014, the ardent-Brexiteer shared his admiration for the character, saying: "The moment I love the most was when he leads what is apparently a hopeless charge of his troops in defence of King’s Landing, against the forces of Stannis Baratheon, and you see there that this misshapen dwarf, reviled throughout his life, thought in the eyes of some to be a toxic figure, can at last rally a small band of loyal followers."


House of Lords overwhelmingly rejects Theresa May's Brexit deal

1 day 8 hours ago
EU and UK flags
Peers have rejected Theresa May's deal.

Peers overwhelmingly rejected Theresa May's Brexit deal - 24 hours before MPs are set to do the same.

In the latest in a long line of House of Lords defeats for the Government, peers voted 321 to 152 in favour of a motion in the name of Angela Smith, Labour's leader in the upper chamber, rejecting the agreement and ruling out a no-deal Brexit.

Afterwards, she described it as a "vote for common sense".

Although the result has no practical impact on the Government's plans, it is another sign of the widespread parliamentary opposotion to the the Prime Minister's deal.

Dick Newby, the Lib Dem leader in the Lords, said: "This resounding defeat for the Conservative government demonstrates how unpopular Theresa May’s deal truly is.

“Since delaying the vote, the Cabinet’s shambolic plans for Brexit have only increased. From ferry contracts which include no ferries, to no-deal fridges ready for stockpiling medicines, the Cabinet is wasting millions of pounds and causing many individuals great anxiety on a no-deal option which stands zero chance of being approved by the Commons.

"This vote has been an embarrassing setback for Theresa May, and she can expect more of the same (in the Commons). The Prime Minister should hand the Brexit decision back to the people -  with the option to remain in the EU."

MPs are expected to inflict a record-breaking defeat on the Prime Minister when they vote on her withdrawal agreement tonight.

More than 100 Conservative MPs have publicly spoken out against the agreement, while the DUP - who Mrs May relies on for her Commons majority - has savaged the deal.

Meanwhile, few Labour MPs appear to have been convinced to jump sides in recent weeks.

Labour is then expected to table a motion of no confidence in the Government, teeing up another huge Commons vote as soon as Wednesday.

Kevin Schofield

Theresa May on course for historic defeat as Hilary Benn withdraws Brexit amendment

1 day 8 hours ago
100 days until Brexit composite featuring Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn
The Prime Minister urged her MPs to back the deal to avoid Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister.

Theresa May is on course for an historic Commons defeat on her Brexit deal tonight after a Labour MP withdrew an amendment which could have reduced the scale of her loss.

MPs will finally be given the chance to pass their verdict on the withdrawal agreement the Prime Minister struck with Brussels last year.

The Prime Minister will hold a series of face-to-face meetings with wavering MPs ahead of tonight's vote, but all the signs are that she is heading for one of the largest government defeats in modern political history.

In a fresh blow for Mrs May, an amendment in the name of former Labour frontbencher Hilary Benn, which would have effectively killed off the Prime Minister's deal and ruled out a no-deal exit, is to be withdrawn.

It is understood that Tory MPs were being encouraged to vote for it so it could pass and therefore limit the size of the Prime Minister's subsequent defeat.

But Mr Benn said: "I have decided to withdraw my amendment to the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement motion today which would have rejected both the PM’s deal and leaving with no deal.

"It’s vital that we now get the clearest expression of view from the House on the Government’s deal - like many others I will vote against it - but I intend to pursue a ‘no to no deal’ vote at the earliest opportunity."

The Brexit Select Committee chair added: "If the Prime Minister loses tonight the Government must reach out across the House to try and find a way forward.  If this doesn’t happen, then Parliament will have to take the lead."

More than 100 Conservative MPs have publicly spoken out against the agreement, while the DUP - who Mrs May relies on for her Commons majority - has savaged the deal.

Meanwhile, few Labour MPs appear to have been convinced to jump sides in recent weeks.

Mrs May last night pleaded with Conservative MPs to back her deal in a behind-closed-doors meeting, with one minister present saying she had told them to "come together" and keep Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn "as far away from Number 10 as possible".

She also told the Commons: "Over these next 24 hours, give this deal a second look. No it is not perfect. And yes it is a compromise.

"But when the history books are written, people will look at the decision of this House tomorrow and ask: did we deliver on the country's vote to leave the European Union?

"Did we safeguard our economy, our security and our Union? Or did we let the British people down?"

Crucial to the PM's fate today will be a clutch of amendments put forward by MPs demanding that she change course.

More than a dozen have been tabled, with Speaker John Bercow revealing which ones he has chosen for debate at around 10.30am.

MPs are also pushing to seize control of the Brexit process if the deal falls, while Number 10 has said it will back amendments seeking to give Parliament more say over the implementation of the controversial Northern Ireland backstop.

The Government has also said it will back an amendment to protect workers' rights in a bid to woo Labour MPs.

But Mr Corbyn - who could call for a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister as soon Tuesday evening - told his MPs last night: "Theresa May has attempted to blackmail Labour MPs to vote for her botched deal by threatening the country with the chaos of no deal.

"I know from conversations with colleagues that this has failed. The Labour party will not be held to ransom."

Under an amendment passed last week, Mrs May will have until next Monday night to return to the House of Commons with her plan B if she is defeated.


If she loses the vote, the PM then could make an immediate Commons statement pledging to press the European Union for fresh changes to the deal.

But a Cabinet source told the Telegraph: "If she loses by more than 100 votes, and it looks like there is no way of persuading more than a few Tory rebels to change their minds, that would be pretty disastrous for the PM and hard for her to carry on.

"But if she lost by 100 or so votes and there were 80 or 90 rebels who might change their mind if she could get something meaningful from Brussels, then it's possible she could stay on."

Mrs May will also chair a meeting of Cabinet this morning, at which she is expected to set out what her plans are if, as expected, she loses tonight.

The Sun reports that Mrs May will tell her top ministers that she intends to press for a second vote on her deal if MPs reject it, after a hint of fresh concessions from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A senior Government figure told the paper: "Merkel believes there is more the EU can do once the vote is over as no deal would be a disaster for everyone, and they agreed to talk after it."

But such a move could anger Cabinet colleagues who want Mrs May to come up with an alternative plan that can command a Commons majority.

An ally of Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd told the Sun she would today urge Mrs May to "reach across the House" if her deal is rejected.

In a further blow for the PM, her deal last night suffered a heavy defeat in the House of Lords, with peers backing a Labour motion warning the deal would damage the UK's economy and security by 321 votes to 152.

Matt Foster

John Bercow says it is ‘lamentable’ that Labour MP forced to postpone birth over crucial Brexit vote

1 day 21 hours ago
John Bercow and Tulip Siddiq
John Bercow and Tulip Siddiq

John Bercow has blasted the delay in introducing proxy voting to the Commons after an MP revealed she will delay the birth of her child to vote against Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Tulip Siddiq has postponed having her caesarean section from tomorrow until Thursday so that she could be in Parliament late tomorrow evening to cast her vote.

The Labour MP told the Evening Standard that she planned to be taken through the lobby in a wheelchair by her husband Chris at tomorrow evening’s crunch vote.

Following an urgent question by Harriet Harman, Commons Speaker Mr Bercow criticised the lack of progress in bringing proxy voting in, despite the first debate on the matter having been held a year ago.

Under those proposals, MPs who are unable to be in Parliament to vote due to illness or pregnancy would have their votes cast by someone else on their behalf.

Ms Harman told MPs: “[Miss Siddiq] should not have to choose between going through the division lobby in a wheelchair, nine months pregnant, having postponed her caesarean or losing her right to vote.”

Her Labour colleague Emma Reynolds said: “How many babies do we collectively have to have in this House before we see any change?  

“I will probably be on my second before we have a policy to change and introduce proxy votes and I would just urge that there should be some urgency to this reform of the House.”

Mr Bercow said it was “uncivilised” that Ms Siddiq should have to attend the vote in her condition, and blasted “reactionary forces” who he suggested were halting progress.

He added that ministers could allow the MP to use a proxy vote tomorrow or that she be “nodded through” – whereby she would need to be in the Palace grounds, but would not need to proceed through the lobby.

“It is extremely regrettable that almost a year after the first debate and over four months after the second debate, this change has not been made,” he said.

“This is frankly lamentable, lamentable.

"Lamentable and very disadvantageous and injurious to the reputation of this House so if there is agreement that can be reached between the usual channels today and I’m chairing in the Chamber so members will need to come and tell me what has been agreed, I myself am very happy to facilitate a change for tomorrow.”

He added: “It really is time in pursuit of the expressed will of this House that reactionary forces are overcome and if people want to express their position let them not do it murkily behind the scenes, let them have the character to say upfront that they oppose progressive change and I hope that we can get progressive change, and what better opportunity to do so than before our historic vote tomorrow.”

Nicholas Mairs

Government whip Gareth Johnson quits ahead of Commons vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal

2 days ago
Gareth Jones
Gareth Johnson MP has resigned as a Government whip

A Tory MP has quit the Government on the eve of the crucial Commons vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal after he branded it “detrimental” to the country.

Gareth Johnson quit as assistant government whip after just two months in the job so that he could join dozens of Tory MPs who have pledged to vote down the agreement.

Mr Johnson, a former parliamentary aide to former Brexit Secretaries David Davis and Dominic Raab, said he could no longer “reconcile” his role of trying to persuade MPs to back the deal when he “cannot, in all conscience, support the Government’s position”.

“I have prided myself on being a loyal Member of Parliament and I was very grateful to be given the opportunity by you last year to serve in the Government Whips’ Office,” he wrote in his resignation letter to the Prime Minister.

“I am also proud of the many achievements of this Government but I believe it would be disrespectful to the referendum results of this agreement were to be implemented.

“I have therefore decoded the time has come to place my loyalty to my country above my loyalty to the Government."

He added that he had been “hopeful” that changes could be agreed with EU chiefs since Mrs May postponed the initial planned Commons vote in December but added that it was clear “that no significant change will be made”.

And he backed claimd that the deal threatened the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

“Unfortunately this agreement prevents us taking back control and instead could leave us perpetually constrained by the European Union,” he said.

“Like you, I am not only a Conservative but I am also a committed Unionist and I cannot accept the additional regulatory compliance required of Northern Ireland that would set it apart from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Read Mr Johnson's letter in full:

Former Brexit minister and vice-chair of the European Research Group, Steve Baker, tweeted that Mr Johnson's move to quit the frontbench was "the right thing to do" and that he was a “hero” for it.

It is thought that other members of the Government could also quit ahead of tomorrow night's vote.

The intervention came hours after EU heads Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk sought to give assurances to MPs that the Irish backstop cannot be permanent.

The PM admitted however that their pledges, which include assurances that the measure will be “temporary” did not “go as far as some MPs would like”, given it could not promise an end date or that UK could leave it unilaterally.


Nigel Dodds, the Westminster leader of the DUP, who Mrs May relies on to prop up her minority government, said the letter “bolsters” the Northern Ireland unionist party’s opposition.

“Despite a letter of supposed reassurance from the European Union, there are no “legally binding assurances” as the Prime Minister talked about in December. In fact, there is nothing new. Nothing has changed," he said.

The Belfast North MP also hit out at the PM’s “scaremongering” by warning that a no-deal outcome could bring about “changes to everyday life in Northern Ireland that would put the future of our Union at risk”.

“The Prime Minister must explain this comment,” he said. 

“What exactly would the Government be changing? If this is nothing more than scaremongering, then the Prime Minister should cease from such foolish talk.

“Indeed, the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said that the Republic of Ireland is not making preparations for a hard border even in the event of no deal being agreed.”

Nicholas Mairs

Theresa May humiliated after being forced to drop Welsh Assembly claim from Brexit speech

2 days 2 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May making a speech during a visit to the Portmeirion pottery factory in Stoke-on-Trent

Theresa May was forced to axe part of her last-ditch Brexit plea after it was found that her voting record undermined a comparison she was due to make with the Welsh Assembly referendum.

The Prime Minister had to row back on her claim that “both sides” accepted the 1997 vote in favour of devolution - after it was revealed that she voted the move down when it came to Parliament the following year.

In a further embarrassment for the PM, she was reminded that the Conservatives' 2005 general election manifesto pledged a new vote which would include the option to scrap the assembly entirely.

The speech, at a pottery factory in Stoke-on-Trent, came just a day before the crucial Commons meaningful vote on her deal agreed with the EU.

In an extract of her address released last night Mrs May was due to say: “When the people of Wales voted by a margin of 0.3%, on a turnout of just over 50%, to endorse the creation of the Welsh Assembly, that result was accepted by both sides and the popular legitimacy of that institution has never seriously been questioned."

But after the blunder was widely reported, the PM ditched the latter section to say only that “the result was accepted by Parliament.”

“Indeed we’ve never had a referendum in the United Kingdom that we’ve not honoured the result of,” she added.


A handful of Tory MPs have swung behind Mrs May's Brexit agreement in recent days, despite having previously vowed to vote it down.

However, it still widely expected to fail to pass in tomorrow's vote, with a host of Conservative backbenchers, the DUP and opposition parties all against it.

Mrs May’s set-piece speech also came minutes after a letter from EU chiefs Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk sought to give assurances to MPs that the Irish backstop cannot be permanent.

But the PM admitted that their pledges, which include assurances that the measure will be “temporary” did not, “go as far as some MPs would like”, given it could not promise an end date or that UK could leave it unilaterally.

"The letters published today have legal force and must be used to interpret the meaning of the withdrawal agreement including in any future arbitration. They make absolutely clear that the backstop is not a threat or a trap,” she said.

She later added: "I fully understand that the new legal and political assurances which are contained in the letters from Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker do not go as far as some MPs would like, but I’m convinced that MPs have the clearest assurances that this is the best deal possible and that it is worthy of their support."

Nicholas Mairs

Theresa May admits EU chiefs' letter will disappoint Tory MPs as DUP brands her deal 'dead'

2 days 3 hours ago
Theresa May
MPs will vote on Theresa May's deal on Tuesday.

A letter from EU chiefs to Theresa May giving assurances the Irish backstop cannot be permanent does not go far enough to win over Tory rebels, Theresa May has admitted.

Speaking in Stoke ahead of tomorrow's crucial House of Commons vote on her deal, the Prime Minister said the measures outlined in the five-page document from Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk "do not go as far as some MPs would like".

The letter insisted that neither the UK or EU want to enter the backstop, and that if they did it would only be "temporary".

However, it stopped short of putting an end date on it or allowing the UK to leave it unilaterally, as had been demanded by eurosceptic Tories.

Insisting she had won some concessions from Brussels since postponing the meaningful vote a month ago, Mrs May said: "The legal standing of the significant conclusion of the December Council has been confirmed. If the backstop were ever triggered it would only be temporary and both sides would do all they could to bring it to an end as quickly as possible.

"The letters published today have legal force and must be used to interpret the meaning of the withdrawal agreement including in any future arbitration. They make absolutely clear that the backstop is not a threat or a trap."

She added: "I fully understand that the new legal and political assurances which are contained in the letters from Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker do not go as far as some MPs would like, but I’m convinced that MPs have the clearest assurances that this is the best deal possible and that it is worthy of their support."

In the letter, the two EU leaders made clear that they were "not in a position to agree to anything that changes or is inconsistent with" the deal negotiated by Mrs May last year.

But they set out a raft of "clarifications" designed to ensure that the Northern Ireland backstop will only be temporary.

"The Commission can confirm that, just like the United Kingdom, the European Union does not wish to see the backstop enter into force," the Brussels chiefs write.

"Were it to do so, it would represent a suboptimal trading arrangement for both sides. The Commission can also confirm the European Union’s determination to replace the backstop solution on Northern Ireland by a subsequent agreement that would ensure the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing."

The pair also said the EU stood ready to extend the Brexit transition period - currently due to expire in December 2020 - if the two sides "need more time to negotiate" an agreement on Britain's future relationship with the EU.


But Sammy Wilson - the DUP's Brexit spokesperson - quickly rubbished the letter, saying: "As far as we are concerned, the deal is dead because it is quite clear that the EU are not willing to grant any of the changes."

Under the terms of Mrs May's deal with the EU, the backstop is due to kick in only if the two sides cannot agree on a future trading relationship that avoids a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic by the end of that transition period.

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker - a key figure in the European Research Group of Brexiteer Tory MPs - meanwhile said the letters did not "change the legally binding surrender" of Mrs May's deal.

He added: "A letter or codicil from the EU Commission and Council cannot replace the commitment in international law that the draft Withdrawal Agreement represents.

"Without changes to the text of the draft agreement, the United Kingdom can still be trapped in the backstop for decades without any means of escape.

"The letter cannot change the status of the draft Withdrawal Agreement from that of a legally binding international treaty obligation.

"Without changing the text of the draft agreement, passing the Withdrawal Agreement would still leave the UK trapped under the EU’s thumb in the backstop indefinitely with no way to leave."

And Labour's Sir Keir Starmer said Mrs May had "once again failed to deliver".

The Shadow Brexit Secretary added: "This is a long way from the significant and legally effective commitment the Prime Minister promised last month.

"It is a reiteration of the EU’s existing position. Once again, nothing has changed."

Matt Foster

READ IN FULL: Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker's letter to Theresa May saying backstop would be 'temporary'

2 days 3 hours ago
Juncker and Tusk
Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Council President Donald Tusk have written to Theresa May ahead of tomorrow's crunch Commons vote on her Brexit deal. Read the full letter here.

Thank you for your letter of 14 January 2019.

As you are well aware, we regret but respect the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. We also consider that Brexit is a source of uncertainty and disruption. In these challenging times, we therefore share with you the determination to create as much certainty and clarity as possible for citizens and companies in a situation where a Member State leaves the European Union after more than four decades of closest economic and political integration. That is why the Withdrawal Agreement that you and the Leaders of the 27 EU Member States agreed after long negotiations is so important. It represents a fair compromise and aims to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, thereby limiting the negative consequences of Brexit. That is also why we wish to establish as close as possible a relationship with the United Kingdom in the future, building on the Political Declaration, which the Leaders of the 27 EU Member States agreed with you. It is also why we want negotiations to this effect to start as soon as possible after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

As you know, we are not in a position to agree to anything that changes or is inconsistent with the Withdrawal Agreement, but against this background, and in order to facilitate the next steps of the process, we are happy to confirm, on behalf of the two EU Institutions we represent, our understanding of the following points within our respective fields of responsibility.

A. As regards the President of the European Council:

On the 13 December, the European Council (Article 50) decided on a number of additional assurances, in particular as regards its firm commitment to work speedily on a subsequent agreement that establishes by 31 December 2020 alternative arrangements, so that the backstop will not need to be triggered.

The European Council also said that, if the backstop were nevertheless to be triggered, it would only apply temporarily, unless and until it is superseded by a subsequent agreement that ensures that a hard border is avoided, and that the European Union, in such a case, would use its best endeavours to negotiate and conclude expeditiously a subsequent agreement that would replace the backstop, and would expect the same of the United Kingdom, so that the backstop would only be in place for as long as strictly necessary.

In this context, it can be stated that European Council conclusions have a legal value in the Union commensurate to the authority of the European Council under the Treaties to define directions and priorities for the European Union at the highest level and, in the specific context of withdrawal, to establish, in the form of guidelines, its framework. They may commit the European Union in the most solemn manner. European Council conclusions therefore constitute part of the context in which an international agreement, such as the Withdrawal Agreement, will be interpreted.

As for the link between the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration, to which you make reference in your letter, it can be made clear that these two documents, while being of a different nature, are part of the same negotiated package. In order to underline the close relationship between the two texts, they can be published side by side in the Official Journal in a manner reflecting the link between the two as provided for in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU).

B. As regards the President of the European Commission:
The Political Declaration agreed at the November Special European Council (Article 50) describes a future relationship of unprecedented depth and breadth, reflecting the continuing strength of our shared values and interests. The Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration represent a fair balance of European Union and United Kingdom interests. They will ensure a smooth withdrawal and a strong future relationship in the interests of all our citizens.

As the European Council has already stated, it will embark on preparations for a future partnership with the United Kingdom immediately after signature of the Withdrawal Agreement. As regards the European Commission, we will set up the negotiating structure for these negotiations directly after signature to ensure that formal negotiations can start as soon as possible after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, having in mind the shared ambition of the European Union and the United Kingdom to have the future relationship in place by the end of the transition. Should national ratifications be pending at that moment, the Commission is ready to propose provisional application of relevant parts of the future relationship, in line with the legal frameworks that apply and existing practice. The Commission is also ready to engage with you on a work programme as soon as the United Kingdom Parliament has signalled its agreement in principle to the Withdrawal Agreement and the European Parliament has approved it.

There is an important link between the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration, reflecting Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. As stated in Article 184 of the Withdrawal Agreement and reflected also in Paragraph 138 of the Political Declaration, the European Union and the United Kingdom have committed to use best endeavours, in good faith and in full respect of their respective legal orders, to take necessary steps to negotiate expeditiously the agreements governing their future relationship referred to in the Political Declaration.

In light of your letter, the European Commission would like to make the following clarifications with regard to the backstop:
The Withdrawal Agreement including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland embodies the shared commitment by the European Union and the United Kingdom to address the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland as part of ensuring the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. The Commission can confirm that, just like the United Kingdom, the European Union does not wish to see the backstop enter into force. Were it to do so, it would represent a suboptimal trading arrangement for both sides. The Commission can also confirm the European Union’s determination to replace the backstop solution on Northern Ireland by a subsequent agreement that would ensure the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.

The European Commission can also confirm our shared understanding that the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland:

  • Do not affect or supersede the provisions of the Good Friday or Belfast Agreement of 10 April 1998 in any way whatsoever; they do not alter in any way the arrangements under Strand II of the 1998 Agreement in particular, whereby areas of North-South cooperation in areas within their respective competences are matters for the Northern Ireland Executive and Government of Ireland to determine;
  • Do not extend regulatory alignment with European Union law in Northern Ireland beyond what is strictly necessary to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and protect the 1998 Agreement; the Withdrawal Agreement is also clear that any new act that the European Union proposes should be added to the Protocol will require the agreement of the United Kingdom in the Joint Committee;
  • Do not prevent the United Kingdom from facilitating, as part of its delegation, the participation of Northern Ireland Executive representatives in the Joint Committee, the Committee on issues related to the implementation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, or the joint consultative working group, in matters pertaining directly to Northern Ireland.

The European Commission also shares your intentions for the future relationship to be in place as quickly as possible. Given our joint commitment to using best endeavours to conclude before the end of 2020 a subsequent agreement, which supersedes the Protocol in whole or in part, the Commission is determined to give priority in our work programme to the discussion of proposals that might replace the backstop with alternative arrangements. In this context, facilitative arrangements and technologies will be considered. Any arrangements which supersede the Protocol are not required to replicate its provisions in any respect, provided that the underlying objectives continue to be met.

Should the parties need more time to negotiate the subsequent agreement, they could decide to extend the transition period, as foreseen in the Withdrawal Agreement. In that case, the Commission is committed to redouble its efforts and expects the same redoubled efforts from your negotiators, with the aim of concluding a subsequent agreement very rapidly. Were the backstop to enter into force in whole or in part, it is intended to apply only temporarily, unless and until it is superseded by a subsequent agreement. The Commission is committed to providing the necessary political impetus and resources to help achieving the objective of making this period as short as possible. To this end, following the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, and until a subsequent agreement is concluded, the Commission will support making best use of the high level conference foreseen in the Political Declaration to meet at least every six months to take stock of progress and agree the appropriate actions to move forward.

Finally, in response to your concern about the timetable, we would like to make it clear that both of us will be prepared to sign the Withdrawal Agreement as soon as the meaningful vote has passed in the United Kingdom Parliament. This will allow preparations for the future partnership with the United Kingdom immediately thereafter to ensure that negotiations can start as soon as possible after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

Matt Foster

MPs unveil plan to seize control of Brexit process from Theresa May if her deal is defeated

2 days 5 hours ago
Nick Boles

Theresa May will have just three weeks to get a Brexit deal through the House of Commons or lose control of the process under plans being drawn up by senior Tory MPs.

Conservative Nick Boles confirmed that he had teamed up with senior colleagues Nicky Morgan and Sir Oliver Letwin to try and force ministers to put all Government business "to one side" and let a powerful group of MPs come up with an alternative plan.

But he denied that the proposals to let the 36-strong Liaison Committee take over amounted to a parliamentary "coup" against the embattled Prime Minister.

Meanwhile the chair of the Liaison Committee revealed she had not been consulted about the plan and warned that MPs "cannot take over conducting a complex international negotiation".

The proposal - which will be unveiled in full at 3pm today, just minutes before Theresa May addresses the Commons - would see the Prime Minister effectively sidelined if MPs reject her deal tomorrow and she cannot come up with an alternative in three weeks.

Explaining the proposals on the Today programme, Mr Boles said: "We are going to lay an amendment that would do two things: it would allocate a day quite soon in which the business of the Government would be put to one side and Parliament would be presented with a very short bill...

"This bill would do the following - it would give the Government three more weeks to get a compromise deal - a Plan B - through parliament so that we're leaving the EU on time on the 29th March with a deal.

"If that failed, it would then ask the Liaison Committee... to try and come up with its own compromise deal, which would have to go back to the house for a vote.

"And if the House passed that compromise deal then the Government would be legally required to implement whatever it was that they had."


All three of the MPs behind the plan have vowed to support Mrs May's deal in the crunch Commons vote tomorrow.

But the Prime Minister is expected to suffer a heavy defeat, and Mr Boles said it was vital for MPs to seize the reins if the Government cannot get parliament behind its Brexit plan.

"We would be doing so only in the context where they had failed and failed and failed again - that they fail tomorrow and that they fail for the whole of the next three weeks," he said.

"There are plenty of compromises out there, I've been promoting one of them - the Common Market 2.0 idea - there are other compromises out there which could secure a parliamentary majority.

"And what we want is the Prime Minister to be the person who secures that.

"But what MPs need to understand is that if she fails - then we are not going to allow a no-deal Brexit to happen. And that is what this bill secures."

But Commons leader Andrea Leadsom warned that the bid could undermine "centuries of convention and the rulebook" used by Parliament.

She told the Daily Mail: "The reason why our Parliament is looked up to around the world is because we have the right balance between the executive, the Government who proposes legislation and the timetable, and then a very strong tradition of scrutiny.

"I am incredibly concerned about it. I am a huge supporter of Parliament and the rights of Parliament, but to overturn the way we run our democracy is an incredibly dangerous prospect."

Security Minister Ben Wallace meanwhile accused Mr Boles of trying to "usurp the democratically elected Government".



And, in a blow for Mr Boles, Liaison Committee chair Sarah Wollaston said she had not been consulted on the plans.





Hitting back at criticism of his proposals this morning, however, Mr Boles said: "It's a funny kind of coup which requires a majority vote of democratically-elected MPs before the tanks start rolling. So no - really it isn't a coup, it's an expression of parliamentary will."

Matt Foster

Former ministers join forces to urge Tory MPs to have 'confidence' and back a no-deal Brexit

2 days 8 hours ago
Boris Johnson
The former foreign secretary Boris Johnson is among those singing the joint letter to all Tory MPs.

A string of Conservative ex-ministers have urged Tory MPs to vote against Theresa May's Brexit deal in favour of leaving the European Union without an agreement.

The group - which includes former Cabinet members David Davis, Boris Johnson and Esther McVey - say the Prime Minister must "have the confidence to leave on WTO (World Trade Organisation) terms" if Parliament rejects her deal tomorrow.

Mrs May is on course for a major defeat and will today warn that if her deal is rejected, the most likely alternative scenario is no Brexit at all.

Both the Treasury and the Bank of England have warned that a no-deal Brexit could have severe consequences for the British economy-

But, in a joint letter to all Tory MPs seen by The Sun and The Telegraph, the team of senior Conservatives say: “We must have the confidence to be ready to leave on WTO terms.

"A managed WTO Brexit may give rise to some short-term inconvenience and disruption, but the much greater risks arise from being locked into a very bad deal."

The letter is also signed by former Cabinet ministers Dominic Raab, Priti Patel, Iain Duncan Smith, Owen Paterson and John Whittingdale, as well as ex-ministers Steve Baker, Shailesh Vara and Suella Braverman.

Senior Brexiteer MP Mark Francois has also put his name to the plea.

Ahead of tomorrow's crucial vote, the MPs say both the UK and EU governments are "accelerating plans for a managed no deal exit", minimising the risk of disruption at the UK's ports.

"Colleagues should be reassured by the example over the preparedness of the Calais Ports Authority," they say.

"The President of the Port of Calais and Boulogne has stated: 'We have been preparing for No Deal for one year. Additional customs declarations will in no way slow down traffic'.

"We welcome all these efforts to avoid disruption at ports, to phase in only the most necessary customs and other checks over a sensible period, to ensure flights continue uninterrupted and medicines and foodstuffs arrive unimpeded, and to underpin the rights of citizens living abroad."

They urge MPs to vote down the "flawed" agreement in a bid to "encourage the EU to renegotiate" and remove the controversial Northern Ireland backstop element which has become the central focus for critics the deal.

"In the event that the EU is unwilling to commit to this, then we can and must fulfil the democratic wishes of the people of the UK," they warn.

"That is why, if it is the only way forward, we must have the confidence to be ready to leave on WTO terms."


The group meanwhile insists that the political consequences for the Conservative party will be more severe if MPs back Mrs May's deal than if they allow a no-deal Brexit.

"It is right to vote down this bad deal and that in doing so we will unlock a better future for our party, our country and its people," they say.

"It will not lead to no Brexit or to an early General Election. Indeed, it would be by agreeing to this punative [sic] and highly one-sided deal that we would do most damage to the Conservative Party’s prospects at the next election."

The joint letter comes amid reports that the European Union stands ready to extend Article 50 and delay Brexit if MPs reject Mrs May's agreement in the Commons tomorrow.

The Prime Minister will meanwhile today warn parliamentarians that they could do "catastrophic" damage to the public's faith in democracy if they fail to back her Brexit deal.

Matt Foster

European Union 'ready to delay Article 50 and postpone Brexit'

2 days 8 hours ago
EU flag
Britain is currently due to leave the EU on March 29.

The European Union is braced for a request from Theresa May to delay Brexit until at least July, according to reports.

Ahead of a crucial vote on the Prime Minister's withdrawal agreement tomorrow, both The Guardian and The Times cite Brussels diplomatic sources who say they are ready for Britain to extend the Article 50 process, which is due to run out on 29 March.

MPs will vote on the Brexit deal on Tuesday night, with the Prime Minister expected to suffer a heavy defeat.

According to The Guardian, European Council president Donald Tusk is poised to convene a special EU summit to delay Britain's Brexit date - with a "technical" extension until July likely to allow the Prime Minister to test the mood in the House of Commons again and then revise the withdrawal agreement.

An EU official told the paper: "Should the Prime Minister survive and inform us that she needs more time to win round Parliament to a deal, a technical extension up to July will be offered."

However, such a move could mean the UK having to take part in the European Parliament elections due in May.

Another official said: "The first session of the (European) Parliament is in July. You would need UK MEPs there if the country is still a member state. But things are not black and white in the European Union."

Meanwhile The Times reports that EU officials believe the Government now does not have the time it needs left to pass crucial legislation required to make Brexit happen by the current exit day.

"The British government will not admit it or ask for an extension yet but its own legislative timetable is at least a month behind based on what we have been told," a senior EU diplomat told the paper.

"We are ready for another political drama over extension at least on the same scale as parliamentary turbulence over the Irish backstop in the withdrawal agreement."

According to The Times, which cites "multiple" Brussels sources, the EU could be willing to give further legal assurances on the Northern Ireland backstop and even reopen talks on the wider agreement if a clear parliamentary consensus on Brexit emerges after tomorrow's vote.

But one EU official predicts that extending Article 50 will prompt a "political sh*t storm" in Britain given a tumultuous few months in the House of Commons.

The reports came as Mrs May prepared to warn MPs that voting against her deal would be "catastrophic" for democracy.

In a speech in Stoke - where 69% of voters backed Leave in 2016 - the Prime Minister will say today: "I ask MPs to consider the consequences of their actions on the faith of the British people in our democracy.

"Imagine if an anti-devolution House of Commons had said to the people of Scotland or Wales that despite voting in favour of a devolved legislature, Parliament knew better and would over-rule them. Or else force them to vote again.

"What if we found ourselves in a situation where Parliament tried to take the UK out of the EU in opposition to a Remain vote? People’s faith in the democratic process and their politicians would suffer catastrophic harm.

"We all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum."

Matt Foster

Tory MP made Privy Counsellor says he will support Brexit deal after all

2 days 8 hours ago
Sir  Edward Leigh
Sir Edward Leigh is now backing the Brexit deal.

A veteran Tory MP who was appointed a Privy Counsellor by Theresa May has announced he has changed his mind and will now support her Brexit deal.

Sir Edward Leigh had previously said he could not support the withdrawal agreement reached between the Prime Ministers and EU officials.

But after being appointed to the Privy Council, a group of senior MPs who act as advisers to the Queen and are given the title "Right Honourable", the Gainsborough MP revealed he had decided to back the deal when it is voted on in the Commons on Tuesday night.

Sir Edward said his decision had been partly driven by the behaviour of Speaker John Bercow last week, when he overturned centuries of Parliamentary precedent to allow an amendment to a government business motion, piling more pressure on Mrs May on brexit.

He said: "I will support the Government on Tuesday in the meaningful vote. I think it is now inconceivable that this Parliament, and this Speaker, will allow the UK to leave on WTO (World Trade Organisation) terms on 29 March.

“Therefore my message to my fellow Brexit-supporting MPs is you are playing with fire if you vote down this deal in the hope of something better, and the only way to deliver Brexit is to vote for the deal this week.”

Although the Prime Minister is still thought to be heading for an overwhelming defeat in Tuesday's vote, a total of four Tories who had previously said they would oppose her deal have now said they will back it.

The latest is Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, who told the BBC's Westminster Hour last night that he still believed it is a "thoroughly bad deal", but that he feared Brexit may not happen if it is voted down.

He said: "I don’t like the backstop provisions in relation to Northern Ireland. I don’t like the provisions on not being able to leave on our own unilateral terms. I don’t like the defence provisions.  But in view of what happened in the House last week with the Speaker I just think that the possibility of no Brexit must be seriously considered.

"I’m a Brexiteer and I do want to see us leave on the 29 March. I’m fearful that a coalition in the House of Commons will somehow find a way of either extending Article 50 or, worse still, preventing us leaving altogether."

Kevin Schofield
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47