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Ministers criticised as MPs given three days to debate landmark Brexit bill

6 hours 55 minutes ago
EU and UK flags
MPs have been given three days to debate the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

MPs have reacted angrily after being told they will have just three days to scrutinise the landmark legislation delivering Brexit.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said the Withdrawal Agreement Bill would have its second reading on Tuesday - teeing up another crunch vote on Boris Johnson's plans.

The draft law will begin its committee stage - when MPs will try to amend it - on the same day, before completing its passage through Parliament on Thursday.

It will then proceed to the House of Lords, where peers are expected to sit at the weekend in order to have it on the statute book in time for the Brexit deadline of 31 October.

However, opposition parties are expected to attempt to alter the legislation in order to push for a second referendum, a general election or for the UK to remain inside the EU's customs union.

A programme motion tabled by the Government showed that the second reading vote will take place at 7pm on Tuesday.

That will then be followed by a vote on the timetable for the bill, which could be defeated, throwing Mr Johnson's plans into more chaos.

Mr Rees-Mogg insisted that the Government was setting aside enough time for the bill - which runs to 110 pages and was published on Monday evening - to be scrutinised and passed by MPs.

He said: "We do have a deadline of 31 October, a deadline set in law, for dealing with our departure from the European Union, and we need to have the legislation in place by then or the alternative is that we leave without a deal."

But Shadow Commons Leader Valerie Vaz said: "At every stage the Government has been running scared of this House and democracy, and it is now attempting to force through a flawed Brexit deal which sells out people’s jobs, rights and our communities."

The SNP's Pete Wishart said the proposed timetable was "totally unacceptable".

He said: "Three days to consider a bill. Somebody suggested it’s 100 pages. How on earth are we going to have a chance to assess that properly?"

Tory grandee Ken Clarke said he would vote for the bill, but added that MPs must have more time to consider it properly.

"If the Government is for some reason insistent on dashing for this completely silly and irrelevant date that it keeps staking its fate on, then give some proper time for debate," he said. "Two and a bit days is plainly quite insufficient."

The row came after Commons Speaker John Bercow blocked the Prime Minister's latest attempt to force a vote on the deal he struck last week with Brussels.

Mr Johnson had planned to hold a meaningful vote on Saturday, but that was scuppered when MPs passed an amendment in the name of Sir Oliver Letwin forcing the PM to seek a Brexit extension long enough for all the necessary legislation to be passed by Parliament.

Mr Bercow said he would not allow another vote on Monday becuse the matter had been dealt with 48 hours previously.

He said: "Today's circumstances are in substance the same as Saturday's circumstances. My ruling is therefore that the motion will not be debated today, as it would be repetitive and disorderly to do so."

Kevin Schofield

Northern Ireland firms will have to complete export forms when sending goods to Britain, Stephen Barclay admits

10 hours 28 minutes ago
Stephen Barclay
Stephen Barclay made the admission while giving evidence to peers.

Firms in Northern Ireland will have to fill out export declaration forms when sending goods to Great Britain under Boris Johnson's Brexit deal, Stephen Barclay has confirmed.

The Brexit Secretary was forced to make the admission after initially denying it was the case.

Giving evidence to the House of Lords European Union committee, Mr Barclay had said he did not believe exit forms would be necessary for trade between Northern Ireland and the British mainland.

But he later conceded: "The exit summary declarations will be required in terms of NI to GB."

The minister's admission came after questions from Labour peer Lord Wood, who later tweeted: "This revelation confirms two things. 1) The GB-NI border inside the UK will, from a commercial point of view, feel like a real border. The Govt is trying to push through a vote on the deal before the text of the Withdrawal Bill is seen for a reason: the contents are alarming."

Under Mr Johnson's proposals, Northern Ireland would be part of the UK's customs territory, while also following the EU's customs rules as a way of avoiding checks on the border with Ireland.

However, the Government has been reluctant to admit that it would effectively mean a border in the Irish Sea - something Mr Johnson has previously ruled out.

Mr Barclay's comments were leapt upon by Sammy Wilson of the DUP, which has said it cannot support the PM's Brexit deal.

He tweeted: "Clear breach of UK Government commitment in Joint Report of 2017 to allow unfettered access to GB market for NI businesses. How can any Conservative & Unionist MP argue this does not represent a border in the Irish Sea?!"

Labour MP Ian Murray, of the People's Vote campaign, said: "This is a shocking admission by the Brexit Secretary. He has revealed that Boris Johnson’s Brexit proposals will mean a hard customs border in the Irish Sea, with Northern Ireland firms required to fill in export declaration forms when selling into Great Britain. This proves beyond all doubt that no-one can trust a single word Boris Johnson says.

"Boris Johnson went to the DUP conference last year and promised them that no British Conservative Prime Minister would ever sign up to a border down the Irish Sea. But that’s exactly what his Brexit proposals would mean.

"This would mean extra costs and bureaucracy for businesses in Northern Ireland, which will cost jobs. The DUP are just the latest people to learn that Boris Johnson’s relationship with the truth is extremely flexible, to say the least."

Kevin Schofield

Blow for Boris Johnson as Speaker John Bercow rules against Commons vote on Brexit deal

12 hours 23 minutes ago
John Bercow
John Bercow scuppered Boris Johnson's efforts to hold a meaningful vote on the PM's deal

John Bercow has blocked Boris Johnson’s bid to stage a fresh meaningful vote on his Brexit deal.

In a blow for the Prime Minister, the Speaker said it was against Commons rules to bring back effectively the same mption for a second time.

Mr Johnson had planned to hold a meaningful vote on Saturday on the withdrawal agreement he struck with Brussels last week.

But that was scuppered when MPs voted in favour of an amendment in the name of Sir Oliver Letwin forcing the PM to seek a Brexit extension long enough for all the necessary legislation to be passed by Parliament.

According to convention, the Government cannot ask MPs the same question again unless there is a substantive change – a precedent previously used by Mr Bercow in thwarting Theresa May’s efforts for a third meaningful vote in March.

Announcing his decision in the Commons, Mr Bercow said MPs had raised "disquiet and consternation" over the Government's move - which he said would be "repetitive and disorderly".

He added: "It is clear that the motions are, in substance, the same. However, this matter was decided fewer than 49 hours ago. After more than three hours of debate, the House voted by 322 to 306 for Sir Oliver Letwin's amendment which stated that, and I quote: 'This House has considered the matter but witholds approval unless and until implementing legislation is passed."

And he added: "Today's circumstances are in substance the same as Saturday's circumstances. My ruling is therefore that the motion will not be debated today, as it would be repetitive and disorderly to do so."

The Speaker cited the so-called 'same question' convention, which dates back to 1604, and said: "It is a necessary rule to ensure the sensible use of the House's time and proper respect for the decisions that it takes."

He was later criticised by Tory backbencher Sir Bernard Jenkin, who said it was “becoming remarkable how often you please one lot and not the other lot”.

He added: “Because this motion was never voted on, it ceased to exist when it was amended and I confess Mr Speaker surprise that the reason for [Sir Oliver Letwin’s] amendment being tabled failed to enter your head, because the reason was there was an anxiety that the law was not going to be complied with and the letter would not be sent, so the circumstances have changed.”

And the PM's official spokesman said: "We are disappointed that the Speaker has yet again denied us the chance to deliver on the will of the British people."

He said the Government will now introduce the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to the Commons on Monday in an attempt to push through legislation on Brexit before the Halloween deadline, with a crunch vote on its Second Reading due on Tuesday evening.

He added: “The public want Brexit done, the Government is determined to pass the PM’s new deal and get us out of the EU on October 31.”

Anahita Hossein-Pour

DUP 'cannot and will not support' Labour's bid to torpedo Boris Johnson's Brexit deal, MP says

16 hours 51 minutes ago
DUP MP Jim Shannon
He said the party "cannot and will not support" a customs union arrangement

The DUP's Jim Shannon has downplayed speculation that his party could back Labour's bid to force a customs union on Boris Johnson's Brexit deal.

The Strangford MP - part of the pro-Brexit Leave Means Leave campaign - said the DUP “cannot and will not support” such an amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

The move appeared to dash hopes that the unionist party could work with Labour to thwart Boris Johnson’s revised deal when the Prime Minister brings it before the Commons this week.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said on Sunday Labour would be willing to team up with the DUP in its efforts to attach a customs union and a second referendum to the Prime Minister’s deal - a move that could force the Government to pull the crucial legislation.

In a message to the Tories' confidence-and-supply partners he said: “I say to any MP, but particularly the DUP, if you want to work with us to make this situation better, our door is open.”

But speaking to Sky News, Mr Shannon quashed hopes of a collaboration.

"We are clear where we stand on the customs union as something we cannot support and will not support and I believe that will be the stance we have later on," he said.

While he described reports the DUP could row behind the plan as "speculation", Mr Shannon also dismissed any suggestion his party could back a fresh public vote on the PM's deal.

"We do not support another referendum we want to honour the result of the referendum of 2016 and we want to make sure we do leave the EU on 31st October," he said.

"Those are the goals we are trying to achieve and to stick fast to."

The comments come after a senior DUP source told the Daily Telegraph a customs union amendment “would be one way we could look at addressing our concerns”.

And another told the paper there were "multiple scenarios with multiple options for us to resist Johnson’s anti-UK deal", adding: “It will be parliamentary guerrilla warfare.”

The DUP has vowed to oppose Mr Johnson’s amended deal over fears it will damage Northern Ireland’s economy and “undermine the integrity of the Union".

The group of 10 MPs also rejected the plans for a customs border in the Irish Sea and planned arrangements to ensure democratic consent over the deal at the Stormont Assembly, arguing the PM's plans "abandoned” the principles of the Good Friday peace agreement.

"These arrangements will become the settled position in these areas for Northern Ireland," they said last week.

"This drives a coach and horses through the professed sanctity of the Belfast Agreement.

"For all of these reasons it is our view that these arrangements would not be in Northern Ireland’s long-term interests.”

Anahita Hossein-Pour

DUP 'could team up with Labour' in Commons bid to kill off Boris Johnson's Brexit deal

20 hours 21 minutes ago
 DUP MPs Nigel Dodds, Gregory Campbell, and Sammy Wilson
DUP MPs Nigel Dodds, Gregory Campbell, and Sammy Wilson listen as Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a statement in the House of Commons.

The DUP could unite with Labour to back a customs union amendment that would effectively scupper Boris Johnson's Brexit plans, it has been reported.

Senior DUP figures told The Telegraph that the party was mulling "guerrilla warfare" in a bid to kill off the Prime Minister's deal when it comes back before the House of Commons.

Ahead of a fresh attempt by Mr Johnson to hold a vote on his EU agreement, Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer on Sunday confirmed that Labour would push for amendments that could force the Prime Minister to shelve the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

Labour has confirmed it will try to attach a customs union and a second referendum to Mr Johnson's agreement - teeing up a major Commons battle over the pact.

And Sir Keir made clear that his party would be willing to work with the DUP, who this weekend voted against the Government on a bid to force him to seek a further Brexit delay, to achieve that.

"I say to any MP, but particularly the DUP, if you want to work with us to make this situation better, our door is open," the Labour frontbencher said.

A senior DUP figure told the Telegraph there were "multiple scenarios with multiple options for us to resist Johnson’s anti-UK deal".

And they added: "It will be parliamentary guerilla warfare." 

Another DUP source meanwhile refused to rule out backing a customs union amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

"Clearly that would be one way we could look at addressing our concerns," they told the paper.

"There will be some very grown up conversations over the next 48 hours and we will be looking at all the options we have available."

The DUP's Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson on Sunday reiterated his anger at the Prime Minister over his EU deal.

The unionist party - formerly allied with the Government in the Commons - fears the agreement will impose major regulatory differences between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Although he made clear the DUP "does not seek a second referendum", Mr Wilson warned: "The people of the United Kingdom were asked whether the UK should leave the EU, not whether Great Britain should leave Northern Ireland behind."

And he added: "We want to leave as one nation. That remains our goal. If the Prime Minister remains willing to achieve that outcome he will find DUP MPs as willing partners in that project."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Boris Johnson facing fresh legal showdown over Brexit delay letters

20 hours 55 minutes ago
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson requested a Brexit extension on Saturday night.

Scotland's highest court will consider whether Boris Johnson has fully complied with a law ordering him to ask the European Union for a Brexit delay.

In a fresh legal challenge to the Prime Minister, Scotland's most senior judge, Lord Carloway, will on Monday hear claims that Number 10 has failed to keep its pledge not to try and scupper the Article 50 extension request by sending multiple letters.

The Prime Minister dispatched an unsigned letter to Brussels on Saturday night asking for an extension.

But he sent the request alongside a separate signed document arguing that any fresh delay would be a mistake, urging the EU to reject the "deeply corrosive" plans.

The move came after MPs beefed up an existing law which said Mr Johnson had to request a three-month Brexit delay if he had not managed to get a deal through the House of Commons by 19 October.

However, campaigners including the SNP's Joanna Cherry, who led a successful legal battle against Mr Johnson's earlier decision to prorogue Parliament, have argued that the PM's request falls short of Downing Street's own previous promises to the Scottish court.

Government lawyers told a hearing on the Benn Act earlier his month that Mr Johnson "cannot frustrate its purpose or the purpose of its provisions" and said there was "no question but that he will comply with the requirements of the law".

Ms Cherry said: "Despite his childish trick of not signing the letter and sending a contradictory covering letter, the EU, who are the grown-ups in the room, have accepted the request and are considering it.

"I am quite convinced that Boris Johnson would not have sought the extension had he not been forced by the court action to promise the highest court in Scotland that he would."

And she added: "Our legal team are also instructed to remind the court that, as well as promising to comply with the letter of the Benn Act, the PM also promised not to seek to frustrate the purpose of the legislation.

"It will be for the court to decide whether his actions in failing to sign the letter of request and sending a letter setting out his contrary intentions are in breach of the undertakings he gave them or a contempt of court."

'PROFOUNDLY UNHAPPY'

Barrister Jolyon Maugham, who is joining the legal action alongside businessman Dale Vince, meanwhile said: "If the court takes the view that the Prime Minister had given undertakings not to send two letters and broken that undertaking, then he might be in contempt of court."

And he told the Telegraph: "I am not particularly interested in punishing anybody. I am more interested in ensuring that the law is complied with. If you give undertakings to the court and you breach those undertakings, the court will be profoundly unhappy and you will be in contempt of court."

But Lord Pannick, the QC who represented those challenging Mr Johnson's decision to shut down Parliament at the Supreme Court, said the PM had "just about" obeyed the law with his extension request.

"The act does not say, as it could have done, that the prime minister must use his best endeavours (language often seen in statutes) to achieve an extension," the crossbench peer wrote in The Times.

"In the absence of any such requirement, a court is not going to conclude that the act compels Mr Johnson to abandon his political objectives."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Boris Johnson set for clash with John Bercow as he tries to bring back vote on Brexit deal

1 day 5 hours ago
EU and UK flags
Downing Street wants a meaningful vote on the new Brexit deal to take place on Monday.

Boris Johnson will try to give MPs another chance to pass their verdict on his Brexit deal on Monday - teeing up a fresh Commons clash with John Bercow.

The Government wants to hold a meaningful vote on the Withdrawal Agreement the Prime Minister struck with Brussels last week.

But the Speaker could block the request after MPs on Saturday passed the Letwin amendment, meaning Brexit cannot happen until all of the necessary legislation is passed.

Meanwhile, ministers will also introduce the Withdrawal Agreement Bill as it continues its attempts to take the UK out of the EU by 31 October.

Whitehall officials said there will be "long hours" in the Commons and potentially weekend sitting for the House of Lords in order to get the legislation passed in time.

Mr Johnson met the terms of the Benn Act blocking no deal on Saturday night by sending a letter to the European Union requesting a three-month extension to the Brexit deadline.

It included a cover note from Sir Tim Barrow, the UK's representative in Brussels, explaining the request had been made only to comply with an order from Parliament.

The PM also sent a second letter urging EU leaders to dismiss the request, saying it would "damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners".

A Number10 source said: "We cannot allow Parliament’s letter to lead to Parliament’s delay - we must leave on 31 October and finally get Brexit done. The best way of doing this is for MPs to vote for Boris’s new deal."

A government source added: "The public will expect us to move at pace to get the Withdrawal Agreement passed so we can leave on 31 October. There will be time for Parliament to consider the legislation and any amendments.

"The Government gave notice of presentation of the bill on Saturday and today it will be published and receive its first reading."

Kevin Schofield

Dominic Raab says ministers ‘have the numbers’ in Parliament to pass Brexit deal

1 day 15 hours ago
Dominic Raab
Dominic Raab said he believed ministers had enough support to pass Boris Johnson's Brexit deal

The Government believes it has the support of enough MPs to pass its Brexit deal in the Commons, Dominic Raab has said.

The Foreign Secretary said from “taking people at their word”, a meaningful vote on the agreement could pass the threshold of 320 MPs needed to begin implementing it.

It comes a day after MPs backed Sir Oliver Letwin’s amendment to Boris Johnson’s new Brexit plans, which called for a delay until January 2020 to be requested before any vote on the deal.

The Prime Minister later sent, but refused to sign, a letter calling for the extension, under the terms of the Benn Act, all but scuppering his plans to take Britain out of the EU by 31 October.

Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said the Government planned to hold another vote tomorrow, although it is the decision of Speaker John Bercow whether it is held.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Raab said: “We’ve actually secured a deal, with the EU, a lot of people said the Prime Minister couldn’t do that, he’s got that, we seem to have the numbers in the House of Commons, why hasn’t Parliament pushed this through, that’s what we’re going to do next week.”

He said that Mr Johnson had “confounded the doubters” by striking a different deal with Brussels to that agreed with Theresa May, adding: “We seem to have the numbers in the House of Commons, we don’t know that but from what people have said, and I take people at their word, and I think a lot of people say, get this done and move on.”

Mr Raab also said ministers would continue to try and win over the support of the DUP, despite the party’s major objections regarding rules on Northern Ireland assembly consent on the province’s future customs policy.

“We believe we’ve got the numbers and we’ll keep talking to the DUP and see if there are further reassurances that can be provided,” he added.

“But we’ve got a good deal for every quarter of the United Kingdom and I think ultimately whether you voted Leave or Remain, and the polling backs this up, the people just think get on with it, let’s get this done and move on.”

Meanwhile Michael Gove told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday that he was “confident” that the Government could pass its deal and take Britain out of the EU by the 31 October deadline.

"I am confident that with the support of good people, with whom we may have disagreed in the past, but who respect democracy, we will get this deal done," he said.

The Cabinet Office minister also took a swipe at the so-called Letwin amendment, which he said had “increased” the chances of no-deal, since there was no guarantee that the EU would accept the request.

“The risk of leaving without a deal has actually increased, because we cannot guarantee that the European Council will grant an extension, and that is why I will later today be chairing a cabinet committee meeting, extraordinarily on a Sunday in order to ensure that the next stage of our exit preparations and our preparedness for no deal is accelerated.”

Nicholas Mairs

'Spoilt brat' Boris Johnson could be in contempt of Parliament over EU letters, says John McDonnell

1 day 17 hours ago
John McDonnell
John McDonnell said Boris Johnson was acting like a "spoiled brat"

Boris Johnson deliberately attempted to undermine Parliament by sending two contradictory letters to EU leaders, John McDonnell has suggested.

The Prime Minister was forced to send a letter to EU leaders requesting a three month extension to the Brexit deadline after losing a crunch Commons vote on Saturday, pushing any vote on his new deal into next week.

Mr Johnson, who previously pledged not to negotiate any delay, sent one unsigned letter from Parliament with the request alongside a second letter outlining his personal objections to the plans.

But speaking to Sky's Sophie Ridge, John McDonnell said the contradictory messages could see him facing challenges from both Parliament and the courts.

"He may well be in contempt of Parliament or the courts themselves because he's clearly trying to undermine the first letter and not signing the letter," he said.

"He's behaving a bit like a spoilt brat. Parliament made a decision, he should abide by it and this idea that you send another letter contradicting the first, I think it flies in the face of what both Parliament and the courts have decided."

His comments come after SNP Joanna Cherry branded the Prime Minister's move "pathetic" as she vowed to put the decision before the courts.

Ms Cherry, who spearheaded the successful High Court challenge against prorogation, added: "Boris Johnson promised Scottish court he would comply with Benn Act & not seek to frustrate it.

"Looks like he's breaking both promises. Fortunately no need to raise new proceedings, our existing case is back in court on Monday."

Meanwhile, Mr McDonnell said Mr Johnson was treating MPs with an "arrogant sense of entitlement".

"Johnson is a Prime Minister who is now treating Parliament and the Courts with contempt," he tweeted.

"His juvenile refusal to even sign the letter confirms what we always suspected that Johnson with his arrogant sense of entitlement considers he is above the law and above accountability.

"Message to Johnson. Nobody, no matter how high, is above the law and has the right to tear up our parliamentary constitution."

John Johnston

Leo Varadkar says Boris Johnson's Northern Ireland to Scotland bridge plan should be ‘examined’

1 day 18 hours ago
Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson
Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson earlier this month

Leo Varadkar has said that Boris Johnson’s plan for a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland should be “examined” rather than “dismissed out of hand”.

The Taoiseach said Ireland would look at the proposal, which it was revealed last month is already being worked on by civil servants at the Department for Transport.

Mr Johnson said in September that building a 20-mile link between Larne and Stranraer would be “very good” and “would only cost about £15 billion”.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, Mr Varadkar said of the plan: “Prime Minister Johnson is genuinely interested in taking a serious look at this idea of building a bridge between Antrim and Scotland.”

“I know people dismiss it, but I don’t. It needs to be looked at. It needs to be at least examined.

“I’ve seen what the Chinese have got… 100km-long bridges. I don’t know if it is viable but I also don’t think it should be dismissed out of hand and I know he is particularly excited about that one.”

The longest bridge in the world is the 102-mile Danyang-Kunshan bridge, in China, which cost £6.5bn to build.

Mr Johnson reportedly wanted to find out how the project, which is backed by the DUP, could be funded, as well as a look at risks which could include "World War Two munitions in the Irish Sea".

The Taoiseach’s latest intervention came after he suggested that Ireland and the UK could provide a joint post-Brexit funding package for Northern Ireland to boost infrastructure in the province.

He also told the paper that he would work with his UK counterpart on boosting Northern Ireland’s underdeveloped private sector.

He said: “One of the sad things about partition and the Troubles is that the part of Ireland that used to be an industrial powerhouse . . . as old industries declined they weren’t really replaced by new industries.”

Nicholas Mairs

WATCH: Andrea Leadsom condemns ‘frightening abuse’ from protesters after police escort MPs from Commons

1 day 19 hours ago
Andrea Leadsom
Andrea Leadsom alongside police officers outside the Commons

Andrea Leadsom has condemned “frightening” and “intimidating” Brexit protesters after police were forced to escort high profile parliamentarians from the Commons.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, walking alongside his young son, faced chants of “shame on you” as he left the Westminster estate following the extraordinary Saturday sitting.

Fellow Cabinet ministers Andrea Leadsom and Michael Gove were also accompanied by a heavy police presence, with the former describing the situation as “frightening”.

On Saturday evening she tweeted: “Thank goodness for our superb police.

“Just walked home safely from [House of Commons] with their protection - why do the so called ‘People’s Vote’ protesters think it’s ok to abuse, intimidate and scream in the face of someone they don’t agree with?

“So frightening, and so grateful to the police.”

The Business Secretary also condemned the treatment of Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, who was confronted after speaking at a coinciding People’s Vote rally.

“It is despicable to treat any MP of any party the way colleagues were treated today @HackneyAbbott should be given respect - she is doing her job,” she said.

Labour frontbencher Dawn Butler later responded to Ms Leadsom, adding: “Hi Andrea, Glad you and Michael got back home safely.

“I also felt intimidated by the Brexit supporting crowds shouting. The police thankfully cornered them off.

“I think it’s important that we encourage all side to disagree respectfully. And MPs watch our language and tone.” 

Meanwhile Mr Gove added: “I’d like to say thank you to our wonderful police for their kindness today #BestofBritain.

The incidents came after MPs voted by 322 to 306 to withhold approval of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, forcing him to request an extension from the EU until 31 January.

 

 

 

 

Nicholas Mairs

Boris Johnson sends 'photocopied' and 'unsigned' letter to EU leaders with separate plea to reject extension

1 day 19 hours ago
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has requested an extension from EU leaders

Boris Johnson has sent an unsigned photocopy of a letter requesting a fresh Brexit delay while simultaneously requesting that EU leaders reject the plans.

 

The Prime Minister sent, but refused to sign, a letter calling for a new Brexit delay, instead telling EU leaders the request had come from parliament as he urged them to reject the "deeply corrosive" plans.

Mr Johnson was legally bound to send the appeal after MPs backed an amendment to his new Brexit plans calling for a delay until January 2020 to be requested before any vote on the deal.

But in a move that has infuriated opposition MPs, the Prime Minister sent a "photocopied" draft of the letter with a cover note from Sir Tim Barrow, the UK's representative in Brussels, explaining the request had been made only to comply with an order from Parliament.

Meanwhile, a separate note signed by the Prime Minister urged EU leaders to dismiss the request, saying it would "damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners”.

"While it is open to the European Council to accede to the request mandated by Parliament or to offer an alternative extension period, I have made clear since becoming Prime Minister... that a further extension would damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners, and the relationship between us," he wrote.

"We must bring this process to a conclusion so that we can move to the next phase and build our new relationship on the foundations of our long history as neighbours and friends in this continent our people's share."

EU ambassadors are set to meet on Sunday to discuss the letter, but it is widely believe that the bloc will hold off on responding in order to allow Parliament to press ahead with another vote on the deal.

And in a statement, French President Emmanuel Macron hit out at Parliament for failing to take a decisive vote on the deal during its so-called 'Super Saturday' sitting.

"A further delay is not in anyone's interest," the statement said. "A deal has been approved and it is now up to the British parliament to say if it approves or rejects it. There should be a vote on the substance on it."

"BLUSTER"

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hit back at Mr Johnson's letter gambit, saying it was "petulant posturing and bluster" after his "damaging deal" had been defeated by MPs.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister reached out to MPs and Peers saying he planned to push ahead with a fresh vote on his new-look deal early next week as he vowed not to negotiate any new delay with the bloc.

"I have made clear that I do not want more delay," he wrote. "European leaders have made clear they do not want more delay. It is to my great regret that today the House has voted for more delay.

"I will not negotiate a delay with the European Union. I will tell the EU what I have told the British public for my 88 days as Prime Minister: further delay is not a solution.

"That is why next week this Government will introduce the legislation needed for us to leave the European Union with our great new deal on 31 October."

He added: "It is quite possible that our friends in the European Union will reject Parliament's request for further delay (or not take a decision quickly). 

"In these circumstances, I hope colleagues on all sides of the House will - faced with a choice of our new deal or no deal - support this new deal."

John Johnston

Defiant Boris Johnson says he will not seek Brexit extension after MPs scupper vote on deal

2 days 12 hours ago
Boris Johnson in the House of Commons
Boris Johnson will now be forced to seek an extension from EU leaders

Boris Johnson has insisted that he will not seek a fresh Brexit extension from the European Union despite MPs scuppering plans for a full vote on his deal.

The Prime Minister told the House of Commons he would press ahead with his plans to leave the EU on 31 October after MPs threw their weight behind a bid to beef up a law aimed at averting a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Johnson had hoped to have a decisive Saturday vote on the new-look Brexit deal agreed with Brussels.

But the plans were effectively gutted after an amendment strengthening the Benn Act - which orders him to seek a extension by 11pm on Saturday if the Commons has not backed an agreement - was backed 322 to 306 by MPs.

Responding to the vote, Mr Johnson said: "Alas, the opportunity to have a meaningful vote has effectively been passed up because the meaningful vote has been voided of meaning.

"But I wish the House to know that I am not daunted or dismayed by this particular result."

He added: "I continue in the very strong belief that the best thing for the UK and for the whole of Europe is for us to leave with this new deal on October 31st.

"And to anticipate the questions that are coming from the benches opposite, I will not negotiate a delay with the EU and neither does the law compel me to do so.

"I will tell our friends and colleagues in the EU exactly what I have told everyone in the last 88 days that I have served as PM that further delay would be bad for this country, bad for the European Union and bad for democracy."

Mr Johnson is now planning to bring in the legislation needed to make his deal happen next week, with Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg suggesting a fresh vote could take place as soon as Monday.

The Prime Minister told MPs: "I hope they will change their minds and support this deal in overwhelming numbers. "Since I became Prime Minister I have said we must get on and get Brexit done on October 31 so this country can move on.

"That policy remains unchanged. No delays and I will continue to do all I can to get Brexit done on October 31 and I continue to commend this excellent to the House."

The so-called Letwin amendment - described by its supporters as an "insurance policy" means Parliament has withheld its legal backing for any deal, instead ordering an extension until all the laws needed to make a Brexit deal have passed.

It was designed to close what some MPs saw as a loophole that could have still allowed the Government to leave the EU without a deal even if MPs backed an agreement.

Mr Letwin, who had the Conservative whip removed in September, said the move would give MPs supporting the deal a safety net against a no-deal Brexit if something "went wrong" during future Commons votes on Mr Johnson's EU deal. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the result.

"It is an emphatic decision for this House which has declined to back the Prime Minister's deal today and clearly voted to stop a no deal crash out from the European Union," he said.

"The Prime Minister must now comply with the law. He can no longer use the threat of a no deal crash out to blackmail members to support his sell out deal."

John Johnston

Major boost for Boris Johnson as Tory 'Spartans' pledge support for Brexit deal

2 days 16 hours ago
Brexit Spartans
The group of Brexiteers have vowed to back Boris Johnson's Brexit deal

Boris Johnson has been given a major boost by so-called Brexit 'Spartans' after the Eurosceptic group vowed to vote for his EU deal.

A raft of senior Conservative eurosceptics have vowed to begrudingly support Boris Johnsons's deal in a bid to deliver Brexit.

Members of the European Research Group, said they had "real problems" with the plans - but warned people were "dog tired" of the Brexit debate.

There was speculation that the loss of support from the the Government's confidence-and-supply partners, the DUP, would harden the resolve of the so-called Brexit 'Spartans', but at an emergency meeting on Saturday morning, ERG chair Steve Baker advised the group to back the deal. 

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Baker said he had given the advice to the group after Friday night talks with Mr Johnson.

"The advice of the ERG steering group and the officers is to vote for the deal," he told journalists after the session.

Meanwhile, deputy chair Mark Francois added: "No colleague in the meeting said they would vote against the deal."

And former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, said the public were "begging" the group to back the deal.

"We have got real problems with this deal, I accept that," he said.

"But people are dog tired of this debate. They are begging us: 'make progress'. We have to back this deal."

The last minute pledge of support from the 28-strong group will boost Mr Johnson's chances of passing his deal through the Commons, but will still require him to win support from a number of rebel Labour MPs.

Fellow senior Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin added: "This deal is hundreds of miles from perfect. It has terrible elements, but we are where we are. At least [Boris Johnson] has substantially improved it and it now points in a far more positive direction for our country."

John Johnston

Boris Johnson warns MPs fresh Brexit delay would be 'corrosive of public trust' as he faces bid to force extension

2 days 17 hours ago
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson addresses the House of Commons.

Boris Johnson has warned MPs that a fresh delay to Brexit would be "corrosive of public trust" as he faced a fresh effort to force him to ask for an extension.

The Prime Minister said there can "no longer be any argument for further delay" as Commons Speaker John Bercow confirmed that MPs will get the chance to vote on a bid to compel him to ask the EU for one.

The amendment tabled by former Tory minister Sir Oliver Letwin seeks to bolster the Benn Act, which urges the Prime Minister to ask the EU for an extension if he has not managed to get his deal through Parliament by 11pm on Saturday.

If passed, it would force the Prime Minister to ask Brussels for an extension to the 31 October deadline until every piece of legislation needed to make Brexit happen has passed through the Commons.

But it would also mean that MPs were withholding formal approval of Mr Johnson's deal, inserting fresh confusion into the process.

Addressing the Commons as the debate on his deal got underway, Mr Johnson said his agreement could "heal the rift in British politics" and "unite the warring instincts in us all" as he urged MPs to back it.

But he warned: "I must tell the House in all candour that there is very little appetite among our friends in the EU for this business to be protracted by one extra day.

"They have had three-and-a-half years of this debate. It has distracted them from their own projects and their own ambitions. And if there is one feeling that unites the British public with a growing number of officials in the EU - it is a burning desire to get Brexit done."

The Prime Minister added: "I must tell the House, again in all candour, that whatever letters they may seek to force the Government to write it cannot change my judgement that further delay is pointless expensive and deeply corrosive of public trust.

"People simply won't understand how politicians can say with one breath that they want delay to avoid no deal - and then with the next breath that they still want to delay when a great deal is there to be done."

Arguing that politicins had spent years "consumed by a single issue that has at times felt incapable of resolution", Mr Johnson urged MPs to "finally achieve that resolution".

"Now is the time for this great House of Commons to come together and bring the country together - today, as I believe, people at home are hoping and expecting, with a new way forward and a new and better deal both for Britain and for our friends in the EU," he said.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warned his own MPs - who could be crucial in getting an agreement over the line - not to support the agreement, saying Mr Johnson "cannot be trusted and these benches will not be duped".

"Labour is not prepared to sell-out the communities we represent," he said. 

"We are not prepared to sell out their future.  And we will not back this sell-out deal.

"This is about our communities now and our future generations."

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Boris Johnson tries to woo Labour MPs with pledge on workers and environment

3 days 3 hours ago
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (front) attends the debate of the Queen's Speech
Boris Johnson is trying to persuade Labour MPs to back his deal.

Boris Johnson has launched a last-ditch bid to persuade Labour MPs to back his Brexit deal by pledging to bolster workers' rights and environmental standards after the UK quite the EU.

Downing Street said it was determined to ensure that the "hard won" protections are not weakened by Brexit.

The move comes ahead of a crucial Commons vote on the Prime Minister's new Brexit deal on Saturday.

Mr Johnson knows that he cannot get the agreement through Parliament without the support of Labour MPs and is targeting those representing seats which voted Leave in the 2016 referendum.

Jeremy Corbyn has announced that his MPs will be on a three-line whip to oppose the deal, with Momentum boss Jon Lansman warning that any who defy the leader will deselected as candidates at the next election.

But in a dramatic attempt to woo as many as possible, Number 10 have announced a series of measures aimed at reassuring Labour MPs that workers' rights and environmental standards will not be iluted after Brexit.

Under the proposals, ministers will be forced to come to Parliament whenever the EU changes its rules on workers' rights and explain how the Government plans to respond, with MPs being given a vote on it.

The Government said it will also introduce a "world leading" Environmental Bill to enhance current standards.

Under a "parliamentary lock", a minister has to make a statement on government objectives for the negotiations on the future partnership with the eEU, with that also being subject to a vote. 

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "The UK has a long and proud tradition of leading the way in workers’ rights and environmental protections where we have always set a high standard. We recognise that MPs want to see these hard won rights protected, not weakened by our departure from the EU and we are happy to ensure this is the case. 

"Both the public and parliamentarians should be in no doubt that as we leave the EU we will maintain and increase these protections both via the Withdrawal Agreement and future legislation. The public want Brexit done so we can focus on focus on the priorities of the British people, including the NHS and making sure that our children get the best possible education."

But Laura Pidcock, the shadow minister for employment rights, said: "This empty gesture is not worth the paper it’s written on. If Boris Johnson was committed to workers' rights and environmental rights he wouldn't have spent the last few weeks removing legally-binding commitments from the Withdrawal Agreement.

"The reality is that when MPs vote they will still be voting on a sell-out Tory deal that provides no guarantees on these fundamental rights and would lead to a race-to-the-bottom on conditions for workers across the country and would worsen the climate crisis."

Kevin Schofield

John Major and Tony Blair in new Brexit warning as second referendum campaigners take to the streets

3 days 4 hours ago
Brexit
Campaigners for a second Brexit referendum will march on Parliament as MPs debate Boris Johnson's Brexit deal.

Former political rivals Sir John Major and Tony Blair have warned that Boris Johnson's Brexit proposals could "break apart the United Kingdom" ahead of a major London march for a second referendum.

The former Prime Ministers issued a joint video to be broadcast during Saturday's 'People's Vote Together for the Final Say' rally in Westminster, which organisers predicted would see "hundreds of thousands" turn out to demand a fresh public vote.

The ex-Tory and ex-Labour leaders previously teamed up during the 2016 referendum campaign to warn about the potential impact of a Brexit on Northern Ireland.

In the video, Sir John said leaving the EU would "raise strains we know of and strains we haven't yet thought of".

And he said: "That may well end up with dividing a United Kingdom that has been together for a very long time. It is a thoroughly bad idea.

"I find it very difficult to understand as a former leader of the Conservative Party, why it is the Conservative and Unionist Party is taking action that may in the future break apart the United Kingdom. That seems to be an extraordinary thing, and I cannot imagine any previous generation of Conservatives putting at risk the Union in the way that has now happened."

Meanwhile Mr Blair, one of the original signatories of the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement, said the "careful, painstaking" work of communities in Northern Ireland risked being undermined if Britain leaves the EU.

"It was a framework for peace, for prosperity, for partnership between the communities of Northern Ireland and between the UK and the Republic," he said of the accord.

“Now either there is a hard border between Northern Ireland and Britain or a hard border between the north and south of Ireland. 

"And it is a shame and an outrage that peace in Northern Ireland is now treated as some disposable inconvenience to be bartered away in exchange for satisfying the obsession of the Brexiteers with wrenching our country out of Europe."

Both party grandees leaders will reiterate their calls for a second referendum, with Sir John arguing that it would make sure any agreement had "the support of the people in Northern Ireland".

"[Another] powerful reason for looking at the question of a confirmatory referendum, not out of any spite or disinterest or disregard for the first result, [is] because there are two million people who voted in that referendum who sadly are no longer with us," he said.

“And two and a half million young people who are now on the register who may have very different views about our future in Europe and also a complete generation in Northern Ireland who will have known of their past, who will not wish that past to return again in any form… Now they are old enough wish to express their views in a referendum as to the future of their country and their prospects and their life."

Mr Blair added: "These Brexiteers talk about the will of the people.  But in 2016 our knowledge was necessarily limited. Now, three years on, three years of mess, misery and mayhem, when our knowledge is vastly expanded by experience, how can it be undemocratic to ask the British people their final opinion?"

COMMONS REFERENDUM BID

The intervention from the former leaders comes as second referendum supporters prepare to march through Westminster while MPs vote on the Prime Minister's Brexit agreement.

Those calling for a second referendum will depart from Park Lane to Parliament Square mid-day on Saturday, with a string of MPs joining members of the public as the protest makes it way through central London.

Senior politicians confirmed as attending the march include Labour's Sadiq Khan, Tom Watson, Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry; Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson; Conservative grandee Lord Heseltine; and the SNP's Joanna Cherry and Ian Blackford.

MPs will also launch a fresh bid to secure a second referendum on Saturday if the Commons ends up rejecting Mr Johnson's agreement, it has emerged.

An amendment has been tabled for the Government's own motion calling for no-deal Brexit - which could be moved if MPs kill off the Prime Minister's deal - which says the House "rejects leaving the European Union without a deal" and believes "any final decisions" on Brexit "should be subject to a confirmatory referendum before exit day".

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

MPs set for historic vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal as PM faces fresh attempt to force extension

3 days 8 hours ago
Boris Johnson Commons
MPs will cast their verdict on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

MPs will cast their verdict on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal on Saturday - as the Prime Minister faces a fresh attempt to force him to delay the UK's exit from the EU.

An extraordinary weekend sitting of both Houses of Parliament will see MPs asked to vote on the agreement Mr Johnson struck with Brussels.

But the PM is facing a renewed attempt to force him to ask for a delay if MPs throw their weight behind an amendment from former Conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin.

Speaking ahead of the knife-edge vote, the Prime Minister said there was a "very clear case for all of us to get this done".

And he told ITV News: "I think the sigh of relief that would go up, not just around Britain, but around the world, would be very, very large [and] passionate. 

"But also think it is a moment of great optimism.

"Because this is a chance for us to show that we believe in ourselves, show that we trust our democracy, show that we trust the people - they made a judgement, we are going to respect it, we are going to get it done.

"And then we are going to work with our European friends to build a new partnership that is full of promise and excitement."

Under the terms of the Benn Act passed last month, Mr Johnson must ask the EU for an extension if he has not managed to get his deal through Parliament by 11pm on Saturday.

But MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit are concerned that a loophole in that law could still allow a no-deal exit to go ahead even if the Commons backs the agreement.

That is because the Government would only have until the end of the month to enact the legislation needed to get the UK out with a deal.

Sir Oliver - who lost the Conservative whip after backing the Benn Act - has tabled an amendment that he hopes will act as an "insurance policy" to avoid a no-deal departure.

If passed, it would force the Prime Minister to ask Brussels for an extension to the 31 October deadline until every piece of legislation needed to make Brexit happen has passed through the Commons.

But it would also mean that MPs were withholding formal approval of Mr Johnson's deal, inserting fresh confusion into the process.

Sir Oliver said: "In short, my aim is to ensure that Boris’s deal succeeds, but that we have an insurance policy which prevents the UK from crashing out on 31 October by mistake if something goes wrong during the passage of the implementing legislation."

A source close to the former minister said: "There is no good reason for not seeking an extension at this point: for those who believe that the 'threat' of no-deal was necessary to reach a deal with the EU, then surely now that the deal has been negotiated with the EU, that threat is no longer needed."

And they added that the extension - which could be terminated once a deal is fully ratified by MPs - could act as a "safeguard" against a no-deal.

The dramatic Commons day - the first weekend sitting of Parliament since the Falklands war - will begin at 9:30am, with Speaker John Bercow expected to reveal which amendments have been chosen for debate before the PM urges MPs to get behind his agreement.

A debate on the pact will then kick off and the vote on the deal - as well as a possible string of amendments - is not expected expected before 2:30pm. 

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Fresh pressure on MPs to back Boris Johnson as Emmanuel Macron vows to veto Brexit extension

3 days 10 hours ago
Boris Johnson Emmanuel Macron
The French President said the 31 October deadline should be "respected"

MPs are facing extra pressure to back Boris Johnson's new Brexit deal after French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to block any new Brexit extension.

The French President said it was "time to put an end" to Brexit negotiations as he suggested EU leaders would veto any further delay ahead of a crunch Saturday vote on Boris Johnson's new plan.

The comments are likely to boost the Prime Minister's argument that voting against his new-look deal could result in a no-deal exit on 31 October.

The Prime Minister has been scrambling to find sufficient support for his plans after his confidence-and-supply partners, the DUP, vowed to vote against the deal over concerns about the impact on Northern Ireland.

But the internvention from the French leader will heap further pressure on Labour MPs to back the deal, despite threats they could be deselected by party bosses if they vote with the government.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, the French leader said: “I do not think we shall grant any further delay.

“I believe it is now time to put an end to these negotiations and work on the future relationship and put an end to what is currently ongoing.” He added: “Like I said, there shall be no delay unless there are some major changes.”

His remarks could also derail plans by Tory MP Oliver Letwin to put an amendment before MPs during tomorrow's 'super Saturday' sitting which could force Mr Johnson to seek an extension to the 31 October deadline in order to ensure Parliament has time to pass all the necessary legislation to leave with a deal.

But in further comments, Mr Macron said he thought the Hallowe'en deadline should "be respected".

He added: "I don't think that new deadlines should be given. We need to end these negotiations and get on negotiating the future relationship."

The warning from Mr Macron follows similar comments from Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who said MPs should not make the "assumption" the bloc would allow a further delay.

"Plan B is no deal, and we’re all preparing for that, and we’ve all been preparing for that since the referendum, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen,” he said.

"I don’t think MPs voting tomorrow should make the assumption there would be unanimity for an extension.

"Our point of view has always been that we would be open to it, but it would be a mistake to assume that it’s a guarantee, given that it requires unanimity by all 27 member states."

John Johnston

Tory Brexiteers warn Boris Johnson they won't back him unless he keeps no-deal on the table

3 days 12 hours ago
European Research Group
Members of the European Research Group have yet to say whether they will back Boris Johnson's deal

Tory Brexiteers are warning Boris Johnson they will not back his Brexit deal unless he keeps no-deal on the table.

But a number of rebel ex-Conservative MPs, who the Prime Minister will need to get on side to win Saturday’s vote, say they will not back the deal unless he rules that out.

Mr Johnson’s dilemma emerged as he undertook a last-minute scramble to get the numbers for a majority in the crunch Commons showdown.

With just 287 MPs taking his party’s whip he needs to get all of them on side if he is to have any chance of reaching the magic figure of 320 votes.

But hard-line Eurosceptic members of the ERG have not yet confirmed if they would back the revised proposals.

A total of 28 of them, known as the Brexit ‘Spartans’, failed to back Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement all three times she brought it forward.

One of those, veteran backbencher John Baron, told BBC News he was planning to vote for Mr Johnson’s version though - as it allowed for the possibility of no-deal at the end of December 2020, when the transition person finishes.

He said: “The reason I am inclined to vote for this one is very simple; Theresa May’s backstop could have had us locked into that arrangement indefinitely. 

“Boris Johnson has torn up that backstop, which means that if the trade talks are not successful after we hopefully agree the deal tomorrow here, then we could leave on no-deal terms.

“And the reason that’s important is that, by leaving no deal on the table, it makes a good trade deal in those negotiations up to December 2020 more likely to succeed.”

It is understood that the ERG will finalise its position until legally they have it confirmed that no-deal is a possibility at the end of the transition phase.

Its chair Steve baker said they would not reveal how they will vote until Saturday, tweeting: “Sorry - no news from us before the morning.”

And his deputy Mark Francois told reporters on Friday lunchtime: “I still have some concerns about some of the specifics of the deal.”

Speaking on his way into Number 10 he added: “So I’m going to go and discuss them personally with the Prime Minister.

“He very kindly granted me a meeting. I’ll decide what to do when I’ve had a chance to put some questions to the Prime Minister.”

Even with all the ‘Spartans’ on board the PM will need a sizable number of independent and Labour MPs to back his deal to see it passed.

He is hoping to win the votes of as many of the 21 ex-Tories who lost the whip when they backed the Benn Act last month.

Several of them, including Richard Benyon and Stephen Hammond, have said they will walk through the lobbies with the PM on Saturday.

But sources close to the group said a number of MPs will not do so if the threat of a no-deal Brexit after December 2020 remains.

This means Mr Johnson would need to win over even more Labour members than previously thought, however they now face the threat of being removed as candidates for the party at the next election.

Alain Tolhurst
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47