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Emmanuel Macron says UK will quit EU with no deal if MPs reject Theresa May plan next week

1 hour 28 minutes ago
Emmanuel Macron
French president Emmanuel Macron arriving at the European Council summit in Brussels

Britain will crash out of the EU without a deal next week if MPs reject the Brexit deal secured by Theresa May a third time, Emmanuel Macron has warned.

The French president said if there is a "negative vote" when the Prime Minister brings her blueprint back to Parliament, "we will be going to a no-deal”.

He made the comments as he arrived at the European Council summit in Brussels, where EU leaders will decide whether to offer the UK a conditional Brexit delay.

The Prime Minister has requested a pause to the end of June - but European Council chief Donald Tusk said an offer up to 23 May would be likely as long as MPs approve the deal on the table.

Mrs May is expected to bring her deal back to the Commons for a third time next week, after MPs rejected it by 240 votes in January and 149 earlier this month.

Mr Macron said he was open to a short technical extension to the 29 March exit date “in the case of a positive vote”.

“In the case of a negative vote in the British parliament, we will be going to a no-deal. We all know that,” he added.

“It is absolutely essential to be clear in these days and these moments, because it is a matter of the good functioning of the EU.

“We cannot have what I would call an excessive extension which would harm our capacity to [make a] decision and to act.”

And he insisted: “The exit process has taken two years of negotiation. It cannot be renegotiated.”

Meanwhile, Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg, said: “If next week we are not able to find agreement in the House of Commons we are going in the direction of no deal.”

And Latvian prime minister Krisjanis Karins said the UK would have to quit with no deal or cancel Brexit altogether if MPs reject the agreement again next week.

Arriving at the summit herself today, Mrs May told reporters: “As I said yesterday, this delay is a matter of personal regret to me.

“But a short extension would give parliament the time to make a final choice that delivers on the result of the referendum.”

emilio.casalicchio

Top business and trade union groups unite in call for Theresa May to change course on Brexit

2 hours 14 minutes ago
Carolyn Fairbairn and Frances O'Grady
Carolyn Fairbairn and Frances O'Grady

The heads of Britain’s top business and trade union groups have issued a joint call for Theresa May to change course on Brexit and avoid crashing out of the EU with no deal.

Carolyn Fairbairn from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Frances O’Grady from the Trade Union Congress (TUC) wrote to the Prime Minister demanding a meeting to discuss the "national emergency" facing the country.

The duo said the tens of thousands of businesses and several million union members they represent “are not ready” for the prospect of the UK crashing out of the bloc.

They made the plea as French president Emmanuel Macron warned the UK would be on course for a no-deal Brexit if MPs reject the PM's deal a third time next week.

Britain is due to leave the European Union on 29 March, with or without an agreement, unless Mrs May can persuade the EU to grant an extension to Article 50 at the two-day European Council summit, which begins today.

In their letter to the PM, the CBI and TUC leaders said: “Our country is facing a national emergency. Decisions of recent days have caused the risk of no deal to soar.

“Firms and communities across the UK are not ready for this outcome. The shock to our economy would be felt by generations to come.”

“We ask you to take three steps to protect the jobs, rights and livelihoods of ordinary working people.”

The leaders said Mrs May had to acknowledge the need to avoid a “reckless” no-deal exit was “paramount” and urged her to secure an Article 50 extension as well as changes to her deal to break the parliamentary deadlock.

The latter, they said, must be a solution that protects workers and the economy, maintains an open Irish border and is “negotiable with the EU”.

“A new approach is needed to secure this – whether through indicative votes or another mechanism for compromise,” they added.

And they said: “We cannot overstate the gravity of this crisis for firms and working people. We request an urgent meeting with you to discuss our concerns and hear your response.”

'GOING TO A NO DEAL'

The PM pledged yesterday to push for a “short extension” until 30 June, although European Council chief Donald Tusk has indicated a deadline of 23 May will be offered.

But Mr Tusk said the extension would only be granted if MPs back the Brexit deal they rejected by 149 votes earlier this month.

Arriving at the Council summit, French president Mr Macron warned: "In the case of a negative vote in the British parliament, we will be going to a no-deal. We all know that."

Nicholas Mairs

WATCH: John Bercow says MPs are 'not traitors' after Theresa May sparks Brexit delay row

3 hours 47 minutes ago
John Bercow
John Bercow said that the "duty of every Member of Parliament is to do what he or she thinks is right"

John Bercow today leapt to the defence of MPs as Theresa May faced a backlash after blaming them for the expected Brexit delay.

The Prime Minister was roundly criticised last night when she used a speech in Downing Street to accuse Parliament of doing "everything possible to avoid making a choice" on the UK's departure from the EU.

Directly addressing the public, she declared: "You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with. I agree. I am on your side."

Earlier in the day she said MPs had "indulged themselves on Europe for too long" as she pleaded for members to get behind her withdrawal agreement.

But Speaker John Bercow intervened in the Commons this morning to declare that all members are “doing their best” and that the duty of MPs is to “do what he or she thinks is right”.

The intervention followed a question from Labour’s Diana Johnson to leader of the House Andrea Leadom, in which she accused the Prime Minister of having “pitched” MPs against the public.

The Hull North MP cited a Facebook post calling her a “traitor” and saying her and two colleagues from neighbouring constituencies should be “shot and hanged”.

Mr Bercow responded: “None of you is a traitor, all of you are doing your best… the sole duty of every Member of Parliament is to do what he or she thinks is right."

“This should not be and I’m sure will not prove to be a matter of any controversy whatsoever. From the chair, let me say that I believe passionately in the institution of parliament in the rights of members of this House and in their commitment to their duty and I use the word duty in the singular advisedly.

“The sole duty of every Member of Parliament is to do what he or she thinks is right. There is nothing in my judgement to be added."

Watch the Speaker's comments below:

Elsewhere, former Tory minister Dominic Grieve told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme that he had received a death threat only yesterday, as he too criticised the PM.

“I do get death threats,” he said. “One came in yesterday. [Mrs May] knows this, and earlier at Prime Minister’s Questions, she condemned the atmosphere of violence that seems to be creeping into some peoples discourse,

“And yet ultimately she used extremely aggressive language and as I say, she’s just wrong.”

The ex-Attorney General’s latest criticism came after he said Mrs May’s comments at the despatch box had left him “ashamed” of being a member of the Tory party.

A Downing Street spokesperson denied Mrs May’s comments were putting MPs at risk, however, adding: “I reject the suggestion there’s any connection or any link to that. The PM was setting out to the public the details of the extension and her own personal regrets on that front.”

They added that the PM "flatly rejects" any suggestion of a link between her words and threats aimed at MPs.

Nicholas Mairs

Theresa May compared to Donald Trump after blaming MPs for Brexit delay

10 hours 37 minutes ago
Theress May
The Prime Minister told voters: "I'm on your side."

Theresa May has been accused of acting like a Donald Trump "wannabe" after she sought to blame MPs for her request to delay Brexit.

The Prime Minister - who will head to Brussels on Thursday to press EU leaders for a three-month extension of Article 50 - used a late night Downing Street address to accuse Parliament of doing "everything possible to avoid making a choice" on Brexit.

Directly addressing the public, she declared: "You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with. I agree. I am on your side."

But the move triggered a furious backlash from MPs, with Labour's Lisa Nandy accusing the Prime Minister of seeking to cling to her job by deflecting blame.

"It was disgraceful, frankly, and the problem that we've got ourselves into now is that we've got her trying to bully and threaten Members of Parliament into voting for her deal by threatening us with no deal," the Wigan MP told ITV's Peston.

"We know that the European Union is likely to offer a long extension if we don't vote for the deal. Really what this is about is whether Theresa May can survive as Prime Minister."

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry likened the Prime Minister to President Trump, telling the same show: "It is like she is some sort of Trump wannabe. It is not the way we do things... There is another way, and this is disgraceful."

Another Labour MP told PoliticsHome: "I thought her speech was a disgrace and a licence for every right-wing scumbag in the country to go after MPs. Unlike me, she’s never had to say to a bloke installing a panic button in the house 'needs to be a bit higher mate so the kids can’t reach it'."

Mrs May meanwhile faced fresh anger from both wings of her own party over the address, with Brexiteers and Remainers laying into the Prime Minister over her comments.

"Not leaving the EU next Friday is a political choice - and one entirely within the Prime Minister's gift," the former Conservative vice-chair for youth, Tom Pursglove MP said.

"We can leave on the March - on time, as planned, as promised. There is absolutely no need to delay. The ball is in her court."

Fellow Brexiteer Andrea Jenkyns said: "As usual another statement saying very little."

Former minister Philip Lee, who quit the Government last year and is now pushing for a second Brexit referendum, blasted the Prime Minister's statement as "dreadful".

"I think we've had enemy of the people with judges, now we’re moving on to MPs, the Bank of England - I mean this is the fabric of our society."

'CONSENSUS'

The bitter row came as the Prime Minister prepared to travel to Brussels for a summit of EU leaders, where she will plead for an extension to Article 50.

European Council President Donald Tusk on Wednesday made clear that the UK would only be granted a Brexit delay if the House of Commons votes to back her deal.

With just eight days left before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU without a deal, Mrs May will chair a meeting of her fractious Cabinet before heading to the crunch European Council gathering.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will meanwhile hold his own Brussels talks with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, EU Commission boss Martin Selmayr and a string of other European leaders.

Ahead of the trip, the Labour leader - who walked out of cross-party talks on Wednesday night over the inclusion of Independent Group spokesperson Chuka Umunna - renewed his call for a "consensus".

He said: "Theresa May's botched deal has been overwhelming rejected twice by parliament. It should not be brought back for a third time of asking.

"Her government is in chaos, and she is arrogantly trying to bully Parliament to vote for the same bad deal.

"After serious talks with senior MPs from across parliament, I believe it should be possible to agree a deal with the EU that secures a close economic relationship before the European parliament elections.

"I look forward to discussing this with European leaders today."

Matt Foster

EXCL Cross-party pressure on Sajid Javid to end call charges for EU citizens' post-Brexit rights hotline

18 hours 31 minutes ago
Sajid Javid
Home Secretary Sajid Javid

MPs from across the political divide have piled pressure on Sajid Javid to remove call charges from a hotline for EU citizens who want to stay in the UK after Brexit, PoliticsHome can reveal.

In a letter to the Home Secretary, Labour MPs and MEPs urged him to make the helpline for Settled Status applicants free to “ensure EU nationals are not at risk of being left in limbo”.

And Tory MP Alberto Costa said he would ask the Cabinet minister to scrap the charges.

PoliticsHome revealed earlier this week that more than 1 million EU citizens are set to be hit by the call charges when they seek help from the Settlement Resolution Centre

The Government has already been forced to end a £65 fee for the scheme, which will allow EU citizens who have been living in the UK for five years or more retain the same rights after Brexit.

Calls to the Home Office helpline are made to an 0300 number, which costs up to 10p a minute from landlines and between 3p to 40p a minute from mobiles.

During the second rollout phase of the Settled Status application scheme, more than a third of the 30,000 applicants called the number for help.

It means some 1.3 million EU nationals could be expected to call the hotline when the scheme is made available after 30 March for the full 3.7 million who are living in the UK.

In the letter to Mr Javid, which was also sent to Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, Labour MEP Julie Ward said: “I am asking that the Settled Status Scheme Hotline immediately be made a freephone number for all callers.

“EU citizens had no vote in the 2016 referendum and they are now being charged to call a government helpline to ascertain if they are able to reside in the United Kingdom post Brexit.”

She added: “This is an issue of fairness and I implore that you make the hotline free to ensure that EU nationals are not at risk of being left in limbo due to a technicality or insufficient funds.

“This is a matter of urgency and I would request that you reply and rectify the issue with the immediacy that this issue deserves, given the timeframe of the application process.”

The letter was signed by eight MEPs - including Richard Corbett, the leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party. It was also signed by MPs Seema Malhotra, Stephen Doughty and Lloyd Russel-Moyle.

Meanwhile, Mr Costa told PoliticsHome: “It has only recently been brought to my attention that there may be excessive charges for people to call a necessary helpline

“I will raise it immediately with the Home Secretary and request that these charges are removed.”

The Lib Dems have also backed calls to make the hotline free, as has the pro-EU People’s Vote campaign and the 3 Million group, which represents the millions of EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit.

'LOW COST'

A Home Office spokesperson said this week: "The EU Settlement Scheme makes it easy for EU citizens to get the UK immigration status they need.

"The online process is designed to be as straightforward as possible but anyone can call the 03 number for help. These low cost numbers are often part of inclusive minutes in mobile phone packages.

"There is also £9m of funding available to voluntary and community sector organisations to help us reach more vulnerable or at-risk EU citizens and their family members directly so no one gets left behind."

emilio.casalicchio

Theresa May tells voters 'I am on your side' as she begs MPs to back her Brexit deal

19 hours 5 minutes ago
Theresa May
Theresa May has insisted her Brexit deal is the only one on offer.

Theresa May has told voters she is "on their side" as she made a last-ditch bid to persuade MPs to back her Brexit deal.

The Prime Minister said her decision to seek a three-month delay to the UK's exit from the EU was "a matter of great personal regret" and insisted the withdrawal agreement she reached with Brussels was the best one on offer.

Addressing the country from Downing Street, she said the public has "had enough" of the political in-fighting which has left her Brexit strategy in tatters and the UK barely a week away fron leaving the bloc without a deal.

And rejecting calls from opposition parties for a second referendum, Mrs May said she remained "determined" to win Parliamentary backing for her deal in a third meaningful vote expected next week.

Her plea to voters came at the end of yet another punishing day for the Prime Minister, in which she was forced to back on her numerous pledges that the UK would leave the EU on 29 March as planned.

Instead, she has written to EU Council president Donald Tusk requesting an extension of the Article 50 process until 30 June. However, he has said a delay will only be possible if the Commons has backed her deal.

Mrs May said: "In March 2017 I triggered the Article 50 process for the UK to exit the EU and Parliament supported it overwhelmingly. Two years on, MPs have been unable to agree a way to implement the UK's withdrawal. As a result, we will now not leave on time with a deal on 29 March."

'SOAP OPERA'

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said a second referendum, as demanded by his party, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens, was now the only way to break the impasse.

He said: "The Prime Minister says the public is tired of Brexit. If she wants to end the soap opera she has one clear way to do so: concede a People’s Vote.

"A short extension on the pretence her deal is acceptable to Parliament will achieve nothing. Liberal Democrats and the Remain movement will not be blackmailed into supporting the deal today, tomorrow or in June.

"Opposition parties stand ready to make a public vote happen and to ensure the people have the final say on her deal versus Remain."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "The Prime Minister has shown tonight she is in complete denial about the scale of the crisis we are facing and unable to offer the leadership the country needs.

"To continue to bring back her damaging and twice rejected deal without significant changes, while threatening a no deal outcome ruled out by MPs, is unacceptable and reckless."

Kevin Schofield

WATCH: Dominic Grieve says he 'has never been more ashamed to be a Tory' in furious blast at Theresa May

22 hours 42 minutes ago
Dominic Grieve
Dominic Grieve speaking in the Commons.

Dominic Grieve has said he has “never been more ashamed” to be a Conservative after Theresa May claimed that MPs are to blame for the Brexit stalemate.

In a scathing attack, the former Attorney General said watching Mrs May's barbs at the backbenches during Prime Minister's Questions was his "worst moment".

His comments, in an emergency Brexit debate, came after the Prime Minister confirmed that she had asked EU Council president Donald Tusk for an extension to Article 50 until 30 June.

Mrs May slammed MPs as having "indulged themselves on Europe for too long" as she called on MPs to finally back her withdrawal agreement.

She added that it was “time for this House to determine that it will deliver on Brexit for the British people”.

But Mr Grieve later told the Commons that he "could have wept" at his colleague "castigating the House".

"When the Prine Minister came to despatch box today at Prime Minister's Questions I confessed I think it was the worst moment I have experienced since I came into the House of Commons," he said.

"I have never felt more ashamed to be a member of the Conservative Party or to be asked to lent her support.

"She spent most of her time castigating the House for its misconduct and at no stage did she pause to consider whether it is in fact the way she is leading this Government which might be contributing to this situation."

Mr Grieve added that he had "great sympathy" for the PM in her position but added: "I have to say I could have wept. Wept to see her reduced to these straits and to the extent she was zig zagging all over the place rather than standing up for what the national interest must be."

Watch Mr Grieve's response to the Prime Minister below:

 

Nicholas Mairs

Donald Tusk has thrown Theresa May a lifeline

23 hours 29 minutes ago
Donald Tusk
Donald Tusk said an extension to Article 50 was conditional on MPs backing the Withdrawal Agreement

MV3 will be the clear choice between her deal and no deal the Prime Minister always needed the meaningful vote to be, writes Sebastian Whale

In its original incarnation, the meaningful vote was supposed to be a major one-off decision. It was set to be a judgment that would follow MPs around for the rest of their careers; a reference point for future consideration.

But several errors by Downing St, which began after the Withdrawal Agreement was ratified, watered down the potency of the vote. The second it emerged that MPs would be given more goes nuked any chance of it passing at the first attempt. MPs had cover in numbers to reject the agreement, safe in the knowledge it would not precipitate a no deal Brexit in the process. A record Commons defeat for a Prime Minister followed.

No10 tried to counteract this mistake by putting off the second meaningful vote with a view to securing changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, namely to the backstop mechanism that seeks to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland. Sure enough, the PM returned from Strasbourg claiming she’d got cast iron, legally binding assurances from the EU that would be enough to assuage Brexiteers on her own side seeking a way to vote for her deal. Geoffrey Cox QC, the Attorney General, had other plans in mind.

With further speculation of MV3 on the cards, May suffered the fourth biggest defeat suffered by a PM, with a 149-vote loss.

But Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, has thrown the PM an unlikely lifeline. He said that an extension to Article 50 would be conditional on MPs passing the Withdrawal Agreement. Though he said there would be an emergency summit in the result of another government defeat, he has rendered the vote back to its original purpose: her deal or no deal.

“Although Brexit fatigue is increasingly visible and justified, we cannot give up seeking until the very last moment a positive solution - of course, without opening up the withdrawal agreement,” he said.

“We have reacted with patience and goodwill to numerous turns of events and I am confident that also now we will not lack the same patience and goodwill at this most critical point in this process.”

Labour MPs amenable to voting with the Government have had no reason to break cover and rebel against their party while May’s deal continues to take a battering. But there is a healthy number, I’m told in double figures though not larger than 20, of MPs from leave-voting constituencies who would back the Withdrawal Agreement if they felt it would pass. A larger number is likely to want to prevent no deal altogether; analysis of leaving on WTO terms has suggested that Labour heartlands areas in the north and the midlands could be heavily affected.

At the same time, the mettle of Brexiteers who have downplayed the risks of leaving with no deal will be tested in the division lobbies. While there are undoubted hardliners who would relish doing so, Leavers including Jacob Rees-Mogg have said they would prefer to leave with something in hand.

Tusk’s intervention has certainly raised the stakes. With just days until the UK is legally due to leave the European Union, the debate has been reduced to a binary choice. While it is not certain that a vote against would lead to no deal (could revocation be in play, for example), that is the default option. As things stand, the UK will leave the EU on 29 March.

MPs across the House might decry this as reckless in the highest order. But in voting to trigger Article 50, this was a potential consequence the Commons itself vicariously decided to support.

Sebastian Whale

EXCL MPs advised to share taxis home amid fears of Brexit-related attacks

23 hours 34 minutes ago
Brexit protest
Increasing numbers of protesters have gathered outside Parliament in recent weeks.

MPs have been advised to share taxis when they leave Parliament over fears they could be attacked by angry voters over their handling of Brexit.

Deputy Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said the Serjeant at Arms - who is in charge of security at Parliament - had arranged for black cabs to be on hand to collect them from the Commons.

He also revealed that police around the country had been put on alert over the threat MPs now face.

Mr Hoyle issued the grim warning in an email to all MPs just hours after Theresa May revealed she was seeking a three-month Brexit delay.

The Prime Minister said a longer Brexit delay would risk "endless hours and days of this House carrying on contemplating its navel on Europe and failing to address the issues that matter to our constituents".

Challenging MPs to back her Brexit deal, she said: "That’s what the British people deserve. They deserve better than this House has given them so far. "

In his email, Mr Hoyle said MPs were now "the focal point of public attention in a manner that we have rarely seen before".
 
"The public is looking to us to resolve the current impasse and it is clear that tensions and emotions are running at an all-time high," he said. "This is to be expected and it is entirely proper that our constituents can express their views and even frustration - but it is essential that it is done within the law.
 
"Personally, I have never felt this level of tension during my time in the House and I am aware that other colleagues feel the same. Many colleagues have already been subject to widely publicised abuse and intimidation.

"I want to reassure you that measures are in place to allow Members - and our staff - to do our jobs safely."

He added: "Regional police forces have been contacted to ensure that they are not only aware of level of tension felt here at Westminster but in all our constituencies.

"The Metropolitan Police has been left in no doubt that it is incumbent upon the force to take a lead on ensuring Members of Parliament can vote in Parliament without fear.

"We can also take simple steps to improve our personal safety by travelling home from the House by taxi or with colleagues in the coming days. The Serjeant at Arms has made provision for black cabs to collect from within the estate.

"I remain committed to working with all colleagues to meet any security challenges as they may arise."

One MP told PoliticsHome: "Brexit has completely split the country and it seems if you don’t support Brexit you are under threat.

"This can’t be the way our country should operate and MPs should be able to feel safe leaving work and not have to take taxis to get home safely. What has this government done to our county?"

Kevin Schofield

Donald Tusk says Brexit delay only 'possible' if MPs back Theresa May's deal

23 hours 37 minutes ago
Donald Tusk
European Council president Donald Tusk

Theresa May will only be granted a Brexit delay by the European Union if the Commons votes to back her deal, Donald Tusk has said.

In a move that heaps pressure on MPs to get behind the Prime Minister's agreement, the European Council chief said Mrs May's demand for a short extension to Article 50 was "possible" - but on the condition that the withdrawal agreement was finally backed at a third attempt.

He added that her demand for a 30 June deadline "had its merits", but said that the date "creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature".

It comes after a European Commission document obtained by Reuters suggested Brussels would only consider postponing Brexit until 23 May - or a longer delay that would force the UK to take part in EU Parliament elections.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Mr Tusk said: "I believe that a short extension would be possible, but it would be conditional on a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons.

"The question remains open as to the duration of such an extension. Prime Minister May’s proposal of 30 June has its merits but creates a series of questions of a legal and political nature."

He added that leaders of the EU27 will discuss the proposal tomorrow when the EU Council convenes.

The Prime Minister suggested earlier that she was ready to stand down unless MPs backed her deal by the end of June. Her agreement was subjected to a 230-vote defeat at the first meaningful vote in January and a 149-vote loss on her second attempt last week.

Mr Tusk also confirmed that he did not expect an extraordinary European Council next week ahead of the currently scheduled 29 March exit date, if EU leaders and MPs approve his recommendations.

He concluded by saying: "If in the hope for final success may seem frail, even illusory and all the Brexit fatigue is increasingly visible and justified we cannot give up seeking until the very last moment a positive solution of course without opening up the withdrawal agreement. 

"We have reacted with patience and goodwill to numerous turns of events and I am confident that also now we will not lack the same patience and goodwill at this most critical point in this process."

Nicholas Mairs

Theresa May suggests she will quit as Prime Minister if her deal is not passed by end of June

1 day 2 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May leaves Downing Street.

Theresa May has hinted that she will resign unless MPs approve her Brexit deal by 30 June.

The Tory leader twice told the Commons that "as Prime Minister" she would not allow the Article 50 process to be extended beyond that date.

Downing Street officials then refused on four separate occasions to deny that Mrs May intended to quit if the deal has still not been passed by then.

A spokesman said: "It's important that the Prime Minister sends a very clear signal about her view of the right way forward and that is precisely what she has done. She doesn't believe a long extension is the right thing to do."

Asked directly if it was correct to infer that she could leave Downing Street within weeks, the spokesman said: "What you should infer is her determination to get this over the line.

"You should infer from those words the strength of the Prime Minister's resolve and the extent of her determination to deliver this."

Mrs May had earlier written to EU Council president Donald Tusk setting out her formal request to extend Article 50 beyond 29 March in order to give her more time to win Parliamentary approval for her deal.

At Prime Minister's Questions, she told MPs: "On Thursday the House voted in favour of a short extension if the House had supported a meaningful vote before this week’s European Council.

"The motion also made it clear that a longer extension would oblige the United Kingdom to hold elections to the European Parliament. Mr Speaker, I do not believe such elections would be in anyone’s interests.

"The idea… that three years after voting to leave the EU the people of this country should be asked to elect a new set of MEPs is, I believe, unacceptable."

However, Downing Street would not confirm that Mrs May's Cabinet backed the three-month extension.

Senior Brexiteers in the Prime Minister's top team of ministers told her on Tuesday that they would resign if she asked for a longer extension.

Kevin Schofield

EU 'set to reject' Theresa May’s bid to delay Brexit to 30 June

1 day 2 hours ago
Brexit
PA

The European Union is set to reject Theresa May’s attempt to delay Brexit until 30 June, a leaked document has revealed.

A European Commission note on the Brexit process obtained by Reuters says the UK should be faced with a “binary” choice of either approving a short Brexit delay to 23 May - the date of the European elections - or a longer delay until the end of 2019.

The leak came just minutes after Mrs May wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk asking for a three-month delay, and arguing that any longer extension would represent a “failure” and could risk Britain being pulled into fresh European Parliament elections.

But, in a major blow for the Prime Minister’s latest strategy, the document reportedly says Britain should be forced to take part in the EU-wide vote or risk undermining the bloc’s institutions.

“Any extension offered to the United Kingdom should either last until 23 May 2019 or should be significantly longer and require European elections,” it says. “This is the only way of protecting the functioning of the EU institutions and their ability to take decisions.”

It comes after Mrs May - whose Brexit deal has twice been heavily rejected by MPs - hit out at Parliament and said a longer Brexit delay would risk "endless hours and days of this House carrying on contemplating its navel on Europe and failing to address the issues that matter to our constituents".

The Prime Minister wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk ahead of Thursday's European Council meeting tomorrow, seeking agreement to extend Article 50 to 30 June. Mrs May said the "short extension" would allow ministers to bring forward a third meaningful vote on her deal.

She said: "On Thursday the House voted in favour of a short extension if the House had supported a meaningful vote before this week’s European Council.

"The motion also made it clear that a longer extension would oblige the United Kingdom to hold elections to the European Parliament. Mr Speaker, I do not believe such elections would be in anyone’s interests.

"The idea… that three years after voting to leave the EU the people of this country should be asked to elect a new set of MEPs is, I believe, unacceptable."

The push for a delay came after Commons Speaker John Bercow effectively blocked the Government from putting its Brexit deal before the Commons for a third vote.

Matt Foster

Theresa May blames 'indulgent' MPs as she asks European Union for three-month Brexit delay

1 day 3 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May at Prime Minister's Questions

Theresa May has formally asked the European Union for a three-month delay to Brexit - and insisted that a longer extension would represent a "failure" by MPs.

The Prime Minister wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk, ahead of Thursday's European Council meeting tomorrow, seeking agreement to extend Article 50 to 30 June.

Mrs May said the "short extension" would allow ministers to bring forward a third meaningful vote on her deal.

But she strongly ruled out pushing Britain's exit back further, given it would likely force the UK into taking part in May's European Parliament elections.

In a fiery session, the PM also slammed MPs as having "indulged themselves on Europe for too long" and said it was “time for this House to determine that it will deliver on Brexit for the British people”.

"On Thursday the House voted in favour of a short extension if the House had supported a meaningful vote before this week’s European Council," she said during Prime Minister's Questions. 

"The motion also made it clear that a longer extension would oblige the United Kingdom to hold elections to the European Parliament. Mr Speaker, I do not believe such elections would be in anyone’s interests.

"The idea… that three years after voting to leave the EU the people of this country should be asked to elect a new set of MEPs is, I believe, unacceptable."

"It would be a failure to deliver on the referendum decision that this House said it would honour."

The Prime Minister said a longer Brexit delay would risk "endless hours and days of this House carrying on contemplating its navel on Europe and failing to address the issues that matter to our constituents".

And she challenged MPs to back her ill-fated deal, saying: "That’s what the British people deserve. They deserve better than this House has given them so far. "

Mrs May's vow to bring forward a third meaningful vote comes despite Speaker John Bercow's move on Monday to cite Commons procedure that said the same motion could not be presented to the House more than once.

She said if another vote was not brought in "the House will have to decide how to proceed", adding: "But as Prime Minister I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than the 30th June."

The PM’s move was later shouted down by Tory Brexiteer Peter Bone as “betraying the British people”.

It follows a reportedly angry backlash at Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, with Brexiteer ministers warning they would not stand for a lengthy delay to the UK's departure from the EU.

'INTRANSIGENCE'

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the country was "in the midst of a full-scale national crisis" as he called on Mrs May to meet with him to find a way forward. 

"Incompetence, failure and intransigence from the prime minister and her government have brought us to this point," he said.

"Parliament has rejected her deal. It’s rejected no-deal. The Prime Minister now has no plan. In an effort to break the deadlock I’ve held meetings with members all across the House.

"'m having further meetings today to find a compromise that supports jobs and living standards. Tomorrow I’m meeting EU Prime Ministers and officials in Brussels.

"This… is a national crisis. Will the Prime Minister meet me today to discuss our proposals as a way forward to get out of this crisis?"

Read the full text of the Prime Minister's letter to Donald Tusk below:

 

 

Nicholas Mairs

Cabinet splits burst into the open over length of Brexit delay

1 day 6 hours ago
Leadsom and Hinds
Andrea Leadsom and Damian Hinds are on opposing sides of the Brexit debate

Cabinet splits burst into the open today over exactly how long a Brexit delay could be.

Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom said it was “absolutely essential” that the UK quits the EU before the European Parliament elections at the end of May.

But Education Secretary Damian Hinds refused to rule out further delays to the Article 50 process that would end up seeing Britain stay in the bloc for much longer.

Theresa May will write to European Council president Donald Tusk today requesting a short extension to Brexit amid deadlock in Parliament over the deal she struck with Brussels.

After a major Cabinet row yesterday, as well as outrage from Conservative backbenchers, the Prime Minister dumped the threat of a much longer delay to renegotiate her agreement.

It is unclear at the moment exactly what Mrs May will ask the EU for - leaving warring ministers from across the Brexit divide to battle over their preferred options.

Asked how long the delay should be this morning, Ms Leadsom said the end of June - which would allow the UK to avoid taking part in the Parliament elections.

“We are certainly not intending to be fielding candidates,” she told an LBC Radio phone-in. “It’s absolutely essential that we are out of the EU before the European elections.

“It would be extraordinary for the people who voted to leave the EU to find us fielding candidates for these next elections.”

But Mr Hinds, speaking almost at the same time on TalkRadio, refused to answer when pressed repeatedly about the possibility of further Brexit delays.

“Right now I can’t guarantee you exactly what is going to happen because it hasn’t been negotiated yet,” he said.

“If you had asked me three months ago what I would rule out and what I thought I could rule out the world looked a different place.”

At a tense 90-minute Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Mrs May gave every member the opportunity to set out their views on what she should do - although she refused to reveal what her own preference was.

Pro-Brexit figures are said to have pushed back against a long delay, while pro-Remain minister argued more time could help see the agreed deal through Parliament.

emilio.casalicchio

Theresa May to ask EU for 'short' Brexit delay following Cabinet backlash

1 day 10 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May will write to the EU today seeking an extension to Article 50.

Theresa May is to ask the EU for a Brexit delay of up to three months after Cabinet members warned her any longer could lead to the end of the Tory Party.

The Prime Minister will write to Brussels on Wednesday to formally ask for an extension to the Article 50 process.

Mrs May faced an angry backlash at Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, with Brexiteer ministers warning they would not stand for a lengthy delay to the UK's departure from the EU.

It is thought the Tory leader will ask Brussels for a delay which could run until 30 June at the latest.

That would rule out the possibility of the UK taking part in May's European elections. One Number 10 source told PoliticsHome: "She thinks that would do huge harm to public trust in politicians."

At a tense 90-minute Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Mrs May gave every member the opportunity to set out their views on what she should do - although she refused to reveal what her own preference was.

According to The Telegraph, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox warned Mrs May that she risked "the end of the Conservative Party" if a long delay led to Brexit being shelved altogether.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss is said to have warned that a two-year delay would "divide the party", adding: "Britain will be a barren land ruled by Jeremy Corbyn with all of us here in the gulag".

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, a leading Brexiteer, is also said to have hit out at colleagues and said she now sat in a "Remain cabinet".

But key Remain-supporting ministers in the Cabinet are said to have backed keeping open the option of a longer delay - with Home Secretary Amber Rudd saying fear of a lengthy postponement could "help get the deal through".

One Cabinet minister told The Times that Mrs May had "sat there like a nodding dog" throughout the meeting, adding: "She just absorbed everything and sent us on our way."

Another minister told PoliticsHome there was "a lot of leadership positioning going on" and added: "It's almost as if all those who want to be the next party leader come along with the soundbites they want to say and then make sure they are briefed to the media."

One source said: "We all got our say on what should happen, but as usual the Prime Minister just sat their listening without telling us what she thought herself, so we left none the wiser about what will actually happen."

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier last night warned Mrs May against asking for a short extension while seeking a longer one as a backup.

Speaking at a press conference, the top EU official said any extension must be "linked to something new, a new political event, a new political process".

He added: "If not, what would the purpose and outcome be for an extension."

"And how can we ensure at the end of a possible extension we are not back in same situation?"

MPs last week rejected Mrs May's withdrawal agreement for the second time, and voted in favour of extending the Brexit process.

The Prime Minister had been hoping to put the agreement to a third vote this week, before Commons Speaker John Bercow intervened to say the Government could not repeatedly bring the same deal back to the Commons.

Matt Foster

Brexit splits between opposition parties erupt as Jeremy Corbyn urges support for Labour deal

1 day 22 hours ago
Opposition leaders
Caroline Lucas, Vince Cable, Ian Blackford and Liz Saville-Roberts at a previous meeting.

Splits between the opposition parties over Brexit have erupted after Jeremy Corbyn urged them to back Labour's plans for leaving the EU.

The Labour boss met with the Westminster leaders of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Lib Dems and Greens for the first time.

But it soon became clear that the meetingn had broken up without any agreement being reached.

In a statement issued following the talks, a Labour spokesperson said: "Should there not be a majority in parliament for May's deal or a public vote, Corbyn called on the other parties to engage constructively to find a parliamentary majority for a close economic relationship with the EU that can work for the whole country. 

But in their own statement, the other parties said: "In the meeting our message was clear, Labour must move to back a public vote, which includes the option to remain, before the window of opportunity closes.

"There is no such thing as a good Brexit – whether it is a Labour or Conservative version of it – jobs, public services and the environment will suffer. Remaining in the EU is the best deal on offer and, with time running out, Labour must now deliver on their promises so that we can avoid a catastrophic Brexit.

SNP leader Ian Blackford said: "If there is to be a hope of giving the people a choice over their future, Labour must stop prevaricating, start fulfilling their duty as the official opposition and prioritise a second EU referendum, with the option to Remain, before it is too late."

Kevin Schofield

Michel Barnier warns Theresa May EU will not extend Article 50 without new Brexit plan

1 day 23 hours ago
Michel Barnier
Michel Barnier warned there would be 'costs' attached to a Brexit delay.

Theresa May has been warned by Michel Barnier that the UK must come up with a clear "plan" if it wants to delay Brexit.

The EU's chief negotiator spoke out as the Prime Minister prepares to send a letter to Brussels formally requesting an extension to the Article 50 process.

Mr Barnier suggested that a second referendum or a general election could be two reasons to authorise a delay.

He also ruled out the possibility of Mrs May asking for a short extension while seeking a longer one as a backup.

Speaking at a press conference, the top EU official said any extension must be "linked to something new, a new political event, a new political process".

He added: "If not, what would the purpose and outcome be for an extension. And how can we ensure at the end of a possible extension we are not back in same situation?"

"In any case the European Council will need to assess what is in best interests of the EU, extending uncertainty without a clear plan would add to economic cost for our businesses but also incur a political cost for the EU. 

"If we have a long extension we are concerned about the major challenges Europe has to face. I can't jump the gun on what [EU leaders] answer to Mrs May will be. But they will ask Mrs May why she wants an extension and for how long."

Asked how the EU might respond if Mrs May requested a short and long extension, Mr Barnier said: "Both short and long? It is either one or the other, isn’t it?"

Meanwhile, John Bercow - who yesterday sparked fury by blocking a third vote on Mrs May's deal unless "substantial" changes to it are made - confirmed MPs will get the final say on any attempt to extend Brexit beyond 29 March.

He told MPs: "A successful application would not only require the agreement of the Union but in the first instance… it would require the agreement of the House and we will have to see whether in due course that will be sought.

"But certainly the agreement of the House is a prerequisite. I am pretty sure about that and the agreement of the Union would also be required."

Downing Street admitted for the first time on Tuesday that it is now impossible for the UK to leave the EU with a deal on 29 March.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "She is absolutely determined to find a way to deliver on the verdict of the British people as quickly as possible. She wanted to leave on March 29. That has not proved possible."

Kevin Schofield

EXPLAINED What the Brexit bombshell dropped by John Bercow means for Theresa May

2 days 6 hours ago
John Bercow
Speaker John Bercow may have scuppered the Brexit timetable

Everything you need to know about the Brexit bombshell John Bercow dropped on Parliament. 

What did John Bercow do?

The Speaker threw a grenade into the Brexit process yesterday when he announced Theresa May would not be allowed to hold a third Commons vote on her deal unless she brings it back with "substantial" changes. The deal was rejected by MPs for a second time last week by a massive 149 votes, and the Prime Minister was hoping to have a fresh shot at getting it through before she heads to the EU Council in Brussels on Thursday.

In a surprise announcement to the House, Mr Bercow declared: “If the Government wishes to bring forward a new proposition that is neither the same nor substantially the same that disposed of by the House on 12 March, this would be entirely in order. What the Government cannot legitimately do is to resubmit to the House the same proposition or substantially the same proposition as that of last week."

What does the rulebook say?

Bercow said he was referring to Commons convention dating back to 1604 that a defeated motion cannot be brought back in the same form during a parliamentary session. The rule is set out in parliamentary rulebook Erskine May.

Here is the relevant passage for all the true geeks out there: “It is a rule, in both houses, not to permit any question or bill to be offered, which is substantially the same as one on which their judgment has already been expressed, in the current session.

"This is necessary to avoid contradictory decisions, to prevent surprises, and to afford proper opportunities for determining the several questions as they arise.

"If the same question could be proposed again and again, a session would have no end, or only one question could be determined; and it would be resolved at first in the affirmative, and then in the negative, according to the accidents to which all voting is liable.”

What does it mean for Theresa May’s Brexit plans?

The upshot of the Bercow ruling is somewhat up in the air. One thing is for sure: It throws up a fresh hurdle for the Prime Minister she could well do without. Theresa May is still scrambling to win Tory and DUP MPs over to back her deal and the constitutional crisis sparked by the Speaker is yet another spanner in the works.

Observers argue there is no way the Government will bring the deal back to the Commons this week - but will instead wait until after the European Council summit on Thursday at which the PM will ask EU leaders to agree a Brexit delay in principle. According to the Sun, the PM is penning a letter to EU Council president Donald Tusk for a delay of up to a year with a clause allowing the UK to depart as soon as it is ready.

What options does the Government have?

This is where the interpretation of the rules comes into play. The convention does not allow the same motion to be voted on twice in the same session. That means changing either the motion or the session.

How much would the motion have to change? 

Amid the uproar in the Commons yesterday, Bercow said a new motion would  have to be “fundamentally different” and that a simple update to the legal advice about the Northern Irish backstop by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox would not suffice. It suggests an actual change to the deal would be required - which will be tough now that the EU has insisted negotiations are closed.

Could the addition of the Brexit extension constitute a fundamental change to the deal MPs will be voting on? Could new arrangements for Northern Ireland to protect it against the backstop be enough? These are all questions the Government is asking itself today.

Could the session be changed?

Changing the parliamentary session might actually be easier - if not a tad more dramatic. It would mean ending - or “proroguing” the current session and losing any legislation that is not far enough through the process. Constitutional experts argue the Queen would have to come to re-open parliament but might not require a full speech from Her Maj. It has been done before, back in 1948.

Secret option three? 

The third and most likely option would be for MPs to vote on a motion saying they want another crack at the deal itself. The Government would have to table a ‘paving’ motion that would demand a fresh vote on the deal on a specific date - which if backed by MPs would effectively overrule the Speaker.

Who is laughing and who is crying?

The constitutional crisis is good news for anybody who wants to avoid another vote on the PM’s deal. That means campaigners who want a second EU referendum and Brexiteers who want to leave the bloc without a deal. It was notable that amid the furore in the Commons yesterday, MPs from both those groups were praising Bercow.

On the face of it the news is bad for the Government. But it should be noted that Theresa May might not have won a vote on her deal this week, so any excuse to kick it further down the road is a help, and the increased threat of a long Brexit extension might win more MPs over to her deal.

So who is left crying? Just journalists and the country at large, it appears.

emilio.casalicchio

Opposition party leaders tell Jeremy Corbyn second referendum is 'best way forward'

2 days 10 hours ago
Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn will meet with other opposition leaders to discuss Brexit.

Leaders of the smaller opposition parties are to pile pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to explicitly support a second referendum with the option of staying in the EU on the ballot paper.

The Labour boss will hold talks with the leaders of the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party for the first time in an attempt to present a united front against Theresa May's Brexit deal.

Mr Corbyn has said Labour will support a second public vote as a way of preventing "a Tory Brexit" but has not confirmed whether there would be the option of remaining an EU member.

And speaking at the weekend, the Labour leader refused to say whether he would vote Remain if that was the choice next time around.

He told Sky News: "If we’ve got a good deal in which we can have a dynamic relationship with Europe then that might be a good way forward that unites the country."

But in their statement ahead of Tuesday's talks, the other opposition leaders insisted there was "no such thing as a good Brexit".

They said: "The UK faces an unprecedented crisis with Brexit, and Westminster remains deeply divided. The best and most democratic way forward is to put the decision back to the people in a new vote - with the option to Remain on the ballot paper.

"We are in agreement that there is no such thing as a good Brexit. We are clear that retaining our EU membership is the only way to protect jobs, living standards, our public services, the environment and the economy.  And it is important that we will retain all of our rights as EU citizens.

"We welcome Labour's recent decision to support a public vote, and we look forward to discussing how we can make it happen and give the people the final say on our EU membership - that must be the priority now."

Kevin Schofield

Ministers accuse John Bercow of trying to 'sabotage' Theresa May's Brexit deal

2 days 10 hours ago
John Bercow
A Government source accused the Commons Speaker of "antics" that would make Brexit "far harder".

Ministers have accused John Bercow of trying to "sabotage" Theresa May's Brexit deal after he moved to stop the Government from holding a third vote on it.

The Speaker stunned Westminster on Monday when he cited parliamentary convention to say he would not allow a third meaningful vote on “substantially the same” motion as MPs rejected last week.

The move - which significantly raises the prospect of a long delay to Brexit - has caused fury inside Number 10 and led to accusations from ministers that the Speaker has triggered a "major constitutional crisis".

A Government source told PoliticsHome: "It was our intention to hold the vote this week - on Wednesday if not Tuesday. He’s pretty much sunk that now with his antics.

"The uncertainty over when the vote will take place also makes it far harder to get MPs over the line.

"It’s a simple fact that - where deals get done - it’s usually at the last minute."

Solicitor general Robert Buckland meanwhile said: "We're in a major constitutional crisis here, a political crisis we want to solve for the country."

The Cabinet minister even raised the prospect of ending the currently parliamentary session in a bid to swerve the ruling, saying: "There are ways around [the ruling] - a prorogation of Parliament and a new session."

Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi meanwhile warned that the Speaker had now made it far more likely that Mrs May will have to request a lengthy delay to Brexit when she heads to Brussels for a summit on Thursday.

"What's material is now, what speaker Bercow has done, has made it much more likely that we don't deliver Brexit," he told the BBC's Newsnight.

"And that really does worry me because obviously the favourite option now is a much longer extension."

And Justice Minister Rory Stewart appeared to compare the Speaker to Humpty Dumpty as he accused Mr Bercow of making "the most complicated issue in our national life more complicated".

'VOTE STRIKES'

In a sign that a lengthy delay could cause major trouble for the Government, Conservative eurosceptics told The Sun that a long pause will "finish" the Prime Minister - and raised the prospect of trying to grind down the Government by refusing to take part in key votes.

One Conservative MP said: "If she tried to go ahead with a long extension, there will be vote strikes on all Government legislation.

"She will lose us, and lose us permanently if she goes ahead with this, and that has been made crystal clear to her."

But the Speaker's surprise intervention won the backing of leading Conservative Remain-supporter Dominic Grieve, who said Mr Bercow's decision had been "completely unassailable".

The former Attorney General told Newsnight: "It is a very long established convention.

"He's spelled out its age and antiquity and its repeated reiteration, right up to the 1920s and he suggested that after the 1920s the fact it hadn't been reiterated is that nobody had attempted to do this. I suspect he's right.

"So this is something on which I think his position is, in fact, completely unassailable. It is a proper interpretation of the convention."

'REJECTED'

Making a surprise statement to the Commons, Mr Bercow had warned the Government it could not "resubmit" the same motion that was defeated by 149 votes last week.

"It has been strongly rumoured that third and even fourth meaningful vote motions will be attempted, hence this statement which is designed to signal what would be orderly and what would not," he said.

"This is my conclusion: If the Government wishes to bring forward a new proposition that is neither the same nor substantially the same that disposed of by the House on 12 March, this would be entirely in order.

"What the Government cannot legitimately do is to resubmit to the House the same proposition or substantially the same proposition as that of last week which was rejected by 149 votes."

Matt Foster
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47