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

8 hours 47 minutes 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'

12 hours 41 minutes 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

12 hours 42 minutes 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

John Bercow says he will block third meaningful vote without 'substantial' changes to Brexit deal

1 day 2 hours ago
John Bercow
John Bercow cited Commons rules dating back centuries

John Bercow has warned Theresa May that he will block a third vote on her Brexit deal unless it is "substantially" different from the one defeated by MPs last week.

In a blow for the Prime Minister, the Commons Speaker cited rules dating back to 1604 which prevent the same proposition from being tabled more than once in the same parliamentary session.

Ministers had initially been expected to attempt another so-called "meaningful vote" on the agreement this week ahead of Theresa May's visit to the European Council on Thursday.

However, time is running out for the Prime Minister to win over the DUP and Tory rebels before that deadline.

Making a surprise statement to the Commons, Mr Bercow 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 in a statement to the House.

"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.

"This ruling should not be regarded as my last word on the subject, it is simply meant to indicate the test which the Government must meet in order for me to rule that a third meaningful vote can legitimately be held in this Parliamentary session."

The Speaker added that the conditions for a fresh vote would “in all likelihood” only be met where there was a “demonstrable change to the proposition” - suggesting that merely a change in the legal advice offered by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox would not be enough.

“For example simply a change in an opinion about something wouldn’t itself constitute a change I the offer,” he continued.

Mr Bercow later added: "Part of the role of Speaker is to speak truth to power - and no matter what I always will. I have never been pushed around and I'm not going to start now."

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "The Speaker did not forewarn us of the content of his statement or the fact that he was making one."

Nicholas Mairs

Theresa May warns MPs they have until Tuesday evening to back her deal or face lengthy Brexit delay

1 day 6 hours ago
Theresa May
Downing Street said failure to pass the deal would see the Prime Minister ask for 'a longer extension' to Britain's EU membership.

MPs have until just Tuesday night to get behind Theresa May’s deal or risk a long delay, Downing Street has warned.

Speculation is rife in Westminster that Mrs May - whose EU agreement was roundly rejected for a second time last week - could call a fresh vote this week ahead of a crunch Brussels summit on Thursday.

The Prime Minister is currently seeking to persuade the DUP to drop their longstanding objections to her deal, a move which could prompt a chunk of Tory Brexiteers to come onside.

But Mrs May's official spokesperson on Monday made clear that no vote will take place until ministers are confident of victory - and warned MPs that unless a new vote is tabled by Tuesday night, the Prime Minister will have to head to Brussels to press for a long Brexit delay.

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: "There were two Secretaries of State who were giving media interviews yesterday in which they both said that before any further vote was to take place we would want to believe we had a realistic prospect of being successful in that vote...

"If we are able to pass a meaningful vote by Wednesday then the PM will be able to ask for a short, technical extension and we can get on with delivering what the British people voted for.

“Alternatively if we are unable to win a meaningful vote this week then the Prime Minister will have to seek a longer extension, which would involve taking part in the European parliamentary elections."

They added: "If there is going to be a vote on Wednesday, the deadline for tabling that motion would be Tuesday evening."

ROBBINS TO 'GO AS SOON AS THE DEAL IS THROUGH'

The comments came as Downing Street pushed back at a report Mrs May could sack her chief Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins in a last-ditch bid to get Brexiteers behind her deal.

The Prime Minister has been holding phone conversations with Tory rebels in an effort to get them onside, and the Evening Standard reported that Number 10 had raised the prospect of Mrs May's top civil service negotiator - a frequent target of attacks by Eurosceptics - being removed from post to try and assuage Brexiteers.

The paper reported that one MP was told that Mrs May would “update her negotiating team” before the next stage of Brexit talks, while another was told that Mr Robbins would “go as soon as the deal is through”.

But, asked whether Mr Robbins would be travelling to Brussels with Mrs May this week, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said: "I would never comment on that sort of story, but I would imagine yes."

Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said on Monday that he was “waiting to see what the DUP will do” before deciding whether or not to vote for Mrs May’s deal.

The longstanding critic of the Prime Minister’s agreement said: “The question people like me will ultimately have to answer is can we get to no deal instead…

“No deal is better than a bad deal but a bad deal is better than remaining in the European Union in the hierarchy of deals.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt meanwhile insisted there were "cautious signs of encouragement" that MPs could still be convinced to get behind the Prime Minister.

“There is a lot more work to do and I think the risk of no-deal, at least as far as the UK Parliament's concerned has receded somewhat,” he said.

“But the risk of Brexit paralysis has not and that is not what people at home want, they want this deal to be sorted they want us to get on and leave the EU in accordance with the referendum result. And that’s why we’ll be redoubling our efforts this week.”

Matt Foster

Jeremy Corbyn launches bid to get cross-party support for Labour's soft Brexit plan

1 day 11 hours ago
EU and UK flags
Jeremy Corbyn is seeking cross-party tals on Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn is seeking talks with cross-party MPs in a bid to secure backing for Labour's plans for a soft Brexit.

The Labour boss has written to the leaders of other opposition parties, as well as Tory supporters of the Norway-style "Common Market 2.0" proposal, in a bid to come up with an alternative to Theresa May's deal.

In the invite, Mr Corbyn said the starting point for discussions should be "Labour’s credible options" of a permanent customs union plus close ties to the EU's single market.

The move comes as Theresa May desperately tries to secure enough backing for her own deal, which has already been comprehensively rejected twice by the Commons.

Mr Corbyn said: "She cannot keep bringing back an unchanged deal. It is ridiculous. She has got to recognise that we’ve got to do something different.

"That’s why I’ve written to colleagues across parliament and invited them to meet me, Keir Starmer and Shadow Cabinet colleagues to discuss our credible proposals of a customs union, market access and guaranteeing rights and environmental and consumer protections.

"I look forward to those and more meetings this week so that we can do what the Government should have started two years ago – namely reach out, engage and listen to different views and find a consensus on Brexit which helps bring our country back together."

The Labour leader said his party was also open to "a public vote to prevent damaging Brexit proposals being forced on the country".

But appearing on Sky News on Sunday, he was reluctant to say whether he would vote to stay in the EU if another referendum were to take place.

He said: “It depends what the choice is in front of us.

“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.

And asked if he was enthusiastic about the prospect of a second referendum he would only say: “I’m enthusiastic about getting a deal with Europe."

Kevin Schofield

Boost for Theresa May as backstop critic Lord Trimble says she has won 'substantive' changes

1 day 12 hours ago
David Trimble, Tony Blair and John Hume
David Trimble, Tony Blair and John Hume at the time of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Theresa May's beleaguered Brexit deal has received a rare boost as an arch-critic of the Northern Ireland backstop said she had secured "substantive changes" to the plan.

Northern Ireland's former first minister Lord Trimble last month launched legal proceedings against the Government over the plan to avoid a return to a hard Irish border in the event Brexit talks break down.

But the Conservative peer - who used to lead the Ulster Unionist Party and was a key architect of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement - said Mrs May had now "succeeded in securing substantive changes that will affect and limit the impact of the Irish backstop" if it is ever triggered.

In a joint Policy Exchange paper with Lord Bew, who also worked on the historic peace deal, Lord Trimble said Mrs May had now "improved" her chances of getting her Brexit deal through the Commons.

And he said the Prime Minister had "opened up the possibility of a deal with the DUP", whose support for the agreement will be crucial in swinging hardline Conservative Brexiteers and many Labour MPs behind the agreement in a third Commons vote.

'SERIOUS'

The pair list three "notable" sets of changes to the backstop, saying the Government had now begun to "seriously" consider technological fixes to the border question long demanded by Eurosceptics.

"The UK is at last committing serious material and political resources to this project," they said.

Meanwhile, they said ministers had given more "full-blooded" assurances that there would continue to be "unfettered trade between the UK and Northern Ireland" after Brexit - with the Northern Ireland Assembly placed "at the centre of future developments on this".

And the peers said the UK had "stepped away" from a position in which it "passively accepted" the European Union and the Irish Government's view of the Good Friday Agreement - making support from the DUP more likely.

"It has returned to the rather more obvious and correct view that the Agreement – the clue is in the word ‘agreement’ – is the possession of both communities in Northern Ireland: Unionist as well as Nationalist," they said.

"This has opened up the possibility of a deal with the DUP."

The boost for the Prime Minister comes after MPs overwhelmingly rejected her Brexit deal for a second time last week.

The move followed bombshell legal advice from Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who said the legal risk of Britain being held in the backstop indefinitely "remains unchanged" despite a "substantive and binding reinforcement" of the UK's legal rights.

Former Cabinet minister Boris Johnson, a longstanding critic of Mrs May's deal, said on Monday that the Prime Minister should postpone a third vote on her pact unless she had agreed "real" change to the border plan.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis, who last week switched position to vote for it, said he too could pull his newfound support without further backstop assurances.

"If they have not answered the Northern Ireland question properly I might not vote for it this time," he told The Times.

But Lord Trimble and Lord Bew said a "widespread war weariness on all sides" meant MPs could now shift to back the battered agreement.

"The chances of the Prime Minister getting the deal through Parliament have improved," they predicted.

Matt Foster

Boris Johnson urges Brexiteers to vote against Theresa May’s deal for third time without ‘real’ backstop changes

1 day 12 hours ago
Boris Johnson
The ex-Foreign Secretary urged the Prime Minister to use this week's EU summit to press for more changes to the Northern Ireland backstop.

MPs should reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal for a third time unless she secures “real change” to the Northern Ireland backstop, Boris Johnson has declared.

The leading Brexiteer said backing the agreement would open the door to a "greater humiliation" in the second phase of talks on Britain's EU departure.

And he revealed that members of his own constituency association have, with "near unanimity", urged him to "stick to my guns" and continue his longstanding opposition to the deal.

The Prime Minister will today hold last-minute talks with the Democratic Unionist Party in a bid to convince them to swing behind the agreement, which was rejected for a second time in the House of Commons last week.

It is thought that any shift by the DUP could prompt Tory Brexiteers who voted against the deal to get behind it in a third vote pencilled in for either Tuesday or Wednesday this week.

But Mr Johnson urged the Prime Minister to delay any vote until after the EU Council summit that kicks off on Thursday.

And he called on Mrs May to use the gathering to once again demand changes to the Northern Ireland backstop, which Brexiteers fear would keep Britain indefinitely tied to EU customs rules as a way of avoiding a return to a hard Irish border.

Writing in The Telegraph, the former Foreign Secretary said: "If we agree this deal – and unless we have a radical change in our approach to the negotiations – we face an even greater humiliation in the second phase.

"We have not found a convincing unilateral way out of the backstop.

"Unless we discover some willingness to resist, the diet of capitulation seems set to continue for at least two years.

"Unless we have some change – and at present, in the immortal phrase, nothing has changed – it is hard to ask anyone who believes in Brexit to change their mind."

DAVIS: I MIGHT NOT VOTE FOR IT THIS TIME

Chancellor Philip Hammond this weekend said ministers would not press for a third vote on Mrs May's deal unless they were sure of winning.

"We will only bring the deal back if we are confident that enough of our colleagues and the DUP are prepared to support it so that we can get it through Parliament," he told the BBC.

In a sign of the major challenge facing the Government, former Brexit Secretary David Davis, a longstanding critic of the deal who last week switched to vote for it, said he could pull his support.

"If they have not answered the Northern Ireland question properly I might not vote for it this time," he told The Times.

"I took them on trust last week. If they do not solve the Northern Ireland issue then they have got no chance anyway.

"If the DUP don’t back it then some of us who did could change our votes."

BREXITEERS: DEAL STILL 'UNACCEPTABLE'

The warning came as 20 Conservative Brexiteers, including former ministers Owen Paterson and Sheryll Murray, used an open letter to The Telegraph to make clear they are still planning to reject Mrs May's agreement.

"We believe that, if Britain leaves the European Union as planned on March 29, 'no deal' will prove to be the precursor to a very good deal indeed," the group writes.

The MPs reject the argument that they face either backing Mrs May's deal or "the indefinite postponement of any Brexit" and warn: "it is not our fault that we are confronted by two unacceptable choices, but it will be our fault if we cast a positive vote in favour of either for fear of the other."

Meanwhile former minister Tim Loughton told the BBC's Westminster Hour on Sunday night that Mrs May should immediately step down once Britain leaves the EU.

"If she can get this deal through in the next week or so, I think she can then with her head held high say, look, I got us through this really difficult period, now I’m going to hand over the baton," he said.

Mr Loughton added: "If we get the deal through we come out, and we have a new phase of having to negotiate on the technical detail of what Brexit actually looks like…and I think somebody new needs to come forward and take leadership there."

Matt Foster

Jeremy Corbyn says he could vote to leave EU in second Brexit referendum

2 days 7 hours ago
Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn appearing on Sophy Ridge on Sky News

Jeremy Corbyn has said he could vote to leave the European Union in a second Brexit referendum if a “good deal” was on the table.

The Labour leader said an agreement with Brussels that would allow for a “dynamic relationship” with the bloc could pose a way to unite the country.

Meanwhile, he said Labour will demand a no-confidence vote in the Government if Theresa May loses a crucial vote on her Brexit deal next week.

Labour has set out its own plan which seeks to create a Customs Union with the European Union, allow single market access and guarantee consumer and environmental protections.

Mr Corbyn said a deal along those lines could offer a "credible choice" to put to the public in a referendum.

Asked how he could vote in a fresh public poll on Brexit, Mr Corbyn told the Sophy Ridge programme on Sky News: “It depends what the choice is in front of us.

“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.

And asked if he was enthusiastic about the prospect of a second referendum he would only say: “I’m enthusiastic about getting a deal with Europe.”

His comments are likely to anger campaigners for a fresh vote - many of whom are Labour members. 

However Mr Corbyn did suggest Labour would whip to support a backbench amendment this week that will demand a final say on the deal.

It is understood the amendment would demand any Brexit deal passed by MPs to be put to the public in a referendum, but Mr Corbyn said a final decision would depend on “the wording of it”.

NO CONFIDENCE

Elsewhere, Mr Corbyn said Labour will trigger a no confidence vote if the Government’s Brexit deal is rejected by MPs for a third time next week.

“At that point the confidence motion would be appropriate,” he argued. “I think at that point we should say there has to be a general election.”

Mr Corbyn refused to put a precise time on tabling the bid, but he said “quite obviously” the party and Parliament do not have confidence in the Government.

He added: “We don’t have confidence in this government’s ability and indeed Parliament doesn’t because this Government has got the record for the biggest defeat ever by a sitting Government in Parliament.”

Anahita.Hossein-Pour_159579

Esther McVey backs Theresa May's 'bad' Brexit deal in boost for PM

2 days 8 hours ago
Esther McVey
Ex-Cabinet minister Esther McVey

Esther McVey has said she will vote for the Brexit deal Theresa May brought back from Brussels in a big boost for the Prime Minister.

The former Work and Pensions Secretary - who quit the Government last year in protest at the blueprint - said she and other pro-Brexit MPs would “hold our nose” and back the “bad” agreement with Brussels.

She also said she would be willing to stand for the Conservative leadership when Mrs May steps down “if there were enough people who supported me”.

Ms McVey stormed out of the Cabinet in November over the backstop plan that could see the UK tied to EU rules indefinitely to ensure the Northern Irish border remains open after a no-deal Brexit.

She said at the time: “The British people have always been ahead of politicians on this issue, and it will be no good trying to pretend to them that this deal honours the result of the referendum when it is obvious to everyone it doesn’t.

“We have gone from no deal is better than a bad deal, to any deal is better than no deal.

“I cannot defend this, and I cannot vote for this deal. I could not look my constituents in the eye were I to do that. I therefore have no alternative but to resign from the Government.”

She also slammed fellow Cabinet ministers who she suggested had no integrity after they “crumbled” when presented with the deal.

But appearing on the Sophy Ridge show on Sky News today, Ms McVey said she will be backing the deal when it comes before the Commons again this week because “the rules have all changed”.

She argued that since a no-deal Brexit was taken off the table in a Commons vote this week, the Government would be unable to negotiate a better deal even if it secured a long delay from Brussels.

“I still believe Theresa May’s deal is a bad deal but after the votes in the House last week that isn’t the option facing us any more," she said.

“No deal has been removed, Article 50 has been extended, the date was removed - so the choice is this deal or no Brexit whatsoever.”

Elsewhere, Ms McVey was asked about her ambitions to lead the Conservative party after she previously said she would take a shot at the top job if asked.

She said: “If people felt I would and they wanted to back me I could, and… if they don’t I wouldn’t.”

emilio.casalicchio

Boost for Theresa May as Esther McVey hints she will now back Brexit deal

4 days 4 hours ago
Esther McVey
The former DWP Secretary agreed she could feel forced to support the divisive plan

Former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has suggested that she will U-turn and back Theresa May’s Brexit deal when it returns to the Commons for a third time next week.

In a major boost for the PM, the former Cabinet minister - who quit in November over the agreement - said MPs would need to back it to see Brexit through.

Speaking to BBC’s Nick Robinson’s Political Thinking podcast, the staunch Brexiteer heavily hinted that she will vote in favour of the deal, which she criticised on leaving her post as failing to honour the 2016 referendum result.

She added that more Tory MPs are likely to “hold up their noses and vote”.

“Yes they will, I don’t know what the number is, but they will have to do that if they therefore now want Brexit, because of what has happened," she said.

“What happened in the House yesterday and the day before shows that without doubt we don’t have a Prime Minister who believed no-deal was better than a bad deal.

“We’ve got a Prime Minister who’s saying a deal at any cost and that could be chucking Brexit under a bus.”

Conservative colleague James Gray also told the BBC he will now endorse the Prime Minister’s “obnoxious” deal after a “great deal of soul-searching”.

It is not yet confirmed on which day the third meaningful vote will be held next week.

Elsewhere Ms McVey said frontbenchers who defied the Government's three-line whip to effectively support a no-deal Brexit earlier in the week “can’t stay”.

Amber Rudd and David Gauke were among 13 members of the Government who abstained, but who were then reportedly told by an aide to the PM that they would keep their jobs.

The former minister added: “I think where you saw people not adhering to collective responsibility they can’t remain in cabinet, you can’t rip up the rulebook.

“Destroying democracy, destroying trust with the public, we cannot do.”

The intervention comes as Theresa May ramps up efforts to bring at least 75 MPs onside to back her deal ahead of next week’s crunch-time ballot.

MPs passed a motion calling for an extension to Article 50 on Thursday night, which will seek to move the UK’s exit from the European Union up to 30 June - if Mrs May’s deal gains a majority in the next attempt in Parliament.

If her third bid fails however the Prime Minister has warned the delay could be as long as two years and result in the UK having to take part in May's EU Parliament elections.

Anahita.Hossein-Pour_159579

EXCL Nigel Dodds warns Theresa May: We will never waver on our Brexit red lines

4 days 4 hours ago
Nigel Dodds is the deputy leader of the DUP
Nigel Dodds is the deputy leader of the DUP

Nigel Dodds has warned Theresa May the DUP will never “waver” on the party’s Brexit red lines as she battles to persuade them to back her deal.

In an interview with The House magazine, the deputy DUP leader said protecting the United Kingdom’s constitutional integrity “remains sacrosanct and above everything else”.

While Mr Dodds said the DUP are in the business of “wanting to get a deal done”, he warned that the party is well versed in negotiations and would not succumb to pressure from outside forces.

He also savaged the Prime Minister's negotiating strategy, branding the decision to trigger Article 50 before having a clear strategy in place a “major mistake”.

And he accused Karen Bradley of “glaring failures” as Northern Ireland Secretary and called for a change of leadership in the “dysfunctional” department.

The DUP once again voted against the Withdrawal Agreement this week after Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, admitted the deal could still see the UK kept in the Irish backstop indefinitely against its will.

Mrs May now faces a race against time to persuade the party, which props up her minority government, to finally back it before a third meaningful vote next week.

Mr Dodds said his party would consider “very, very carefully” any updates to Mr Cox’s legal advice, but insisted the party would stick to its objective of ensuring Northern Ireland is treated the same as the rest of the UK post-Brexit.

“Our message is that we have set out very clear objectives, we haven’t changed in those objectives and we won’t be changing them because of any kind of deadline. The Government is well aware of that,” he told The House.

“Our primary objective is to ensure that there is – and we’ve said it before, it’s our one red line – that Northern Ireland is not separated off and treated differently in fundamental areas like customs and the single market with the rest of the United Kingdom.

“We have never wavered in that and we will not waver in that red line… that issue of the United Kingdom’s constitutional integrity is of such importance to us that it remains sacrosanct and above everything else.

"We have been talking to the Government about that and we wait to see what happens.”

When asked if he felt pressure to come to a view on Brexit, he replied: “Yes, I’m very conscious of the pressure. Of course, within the Westminster bubble, you feel that pressure very intensely.

“The DUP MPs have long experience of that kind of pressure and are very connected to their constituents and their constituencies back home. So, we have learnt over many years of experiences of how to balance that.

“But we are conscious of our wider responsibilities to the nation. But we believe that that is complementary to our responsibilities to Northern Ireland.

“So, we are in the business of wanting to get a deal done. We were very much behind Geoffrey Cox’s efforts – and the Prime Minister’s efforts – to get the necessary changes.

“We were disappointed and sorry that we weren’t able to support the Government. But Geoffrey’s advice was the clincher for a lot of our MPs when he made it clear that in terms of the backstop that nothing had changed in terms of the legal risk.”

‘CATASTROPHIC’ NEGOTIATIONS

Commenting on the Brexit negotiations, Mr Dodds lamented Mrs May’s decision to accept the EU’s sequencing on talks, branding the decision “catastrophic”.

“The other problem was triggering Article 50 before the Government had actually got its ducks in a row. That was another major mistake,” he continued.

“We did warn the Prime Minister. Of course, the most catastrophic error of all was the decision to accept the Irish protocol back in December [2017] in a political document.”

Mr Dodds called on ministers to revisit paragraph 50 of the Irish protocol, which would ensure that Stormont had a say over any new regulatory barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

“That’s something that they should address now. That’s a pretty important area that they must look at,” he said.

KAREN BRADLEY

Mr Dodds was also critical of the performance of Ms Bradley, who has faced calls in recent weeks to resign after she said killings during the Troubles at the hands of the security forces were not crimes.

In an interview with The House in September, she revealed she was not aware before she became NI Secretary that elections in Northern Ireland are fought along constitutional lines, as “people who are nationalists don’t vote for unionist parties and vice versa”.

“Karen obviously has had her problems and difficulties, there’s no doubt about that. The NIO [Northern Ireland Office] has been, in our view, a dysfunctional department for quite a time. It needs strong leadership,” Mr Dodds said.

“I think that Karen has, perhaps, not been as out there in terms of getting across the people in Northern Ireland, talking to them, meeting with groups and all the rest of it, as some of her predecessors.

“I know that, however, Brexit and the votes here has meant that maybe she hasn’t had as much time. But her basic policy approach has been flawed in the sense that she has decided that Northern Ireland could just stand still, leave it to the civil servants. For that, that’s a glaring failure on her part. She has not taken a grip and shown the leadership that she should have.”

When asked if there should there be a change of leadership in the Northern Ireland Office, he replied: “I think the Government needs to have a change of leadership in a number of departments, yes, across the board.”

Sebastian Whale

Nigel Dodds: “We will not waver on our Brexit red line"

4 days 5 hours ago
Nigel Dodds is the deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party
Nigel Dodds is the deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

As the leader of the DUP at Westminster, Nigel Dodds could hold the key to unlocking the Brexit impasse. If Theresa May can secure the support of his party for her deal, it could be enough to pass this week. With the public at large growing tired of the fractious debate, is he feeling the pressure to act? He talks to Sebastian Whale

Central Lobby is abuzz after another dramatic night’s voting in Parliament. Broadcasters, desperate to make sense of events for the public at home, are collaring weary MPs for interviews as they leave the Chamber. Members of the public attending evening galas are congregated in the centre of the octagonal meeting place, where corridors from the Lords, Commons and Westminster Hall converge. The atmosphere, aided by the grand chandelier above, is electric. 

A member of Nigel Dodds’ team takes me from the heart of Parliament to his office a few floors up. The DUP’s Westminster leader is heading back from the lobbies after MPs vote to seek an extension to Article 50. His spacious workspace is improved immeasurably by the two copies of The House magazine laid out on a coffee table.

Dodds arrives looking understandably tired from consecutive late nights, but with his politeness firmly intact. “This has been one of the most incredible weeks in my experience in politics… it’s obviously a very febrile atmosphere, things are very tense, unpredictable,” he says.  “MPs from across the parties are finding it quite mentally and emotionally draining. These are very big decisions. For all the criticisms of MPs, these decisions are weighing on them very heavily.”

On Thursday evening, the Government narrowly defeated Hilary Benn’s amendment that would have seen the Commons wrest power from the executive. After MPs voted to rule out no deal in all circumstances on Wednesday, and Theresa May suffered a 149-vote loss on her Brexit deal the night before, Dodds sees some semblance of optimism.

“The Government and people who want to see Brexit delivered have a bit of a spring back in their step after the events of previous days, especially yesterday when no deal was taken off the table,” he argues.

For a fleeting moment, it seemed the end was nigh. The Prime Minister returned from Strasbourg on Monday night with fresh assurances on her deal. That was until Geoffrey Cox QC, the Attorney General, said the legal risk of being tied to the EU after Brexit “remains unchanged”. Though the Cabinet minister said the possibility of the UK being trapped in the backstop had been reduced, the damage had been done. The DUP said they could not vote for the Withdrawal Agreement.

“Geoffrey Cox did his very best; he’s been very honest, open and courageous in my view. He has acted with the utmost integrity, much to the annoyance of some Cabinet ministers,” Dodds says. “What he comes back with – if he can – on any future legal advice is going to be watched very, very carefully, given that he has an enormous amount of credibility.”

The Attorney General is reportedly considering updating his legal advice to refer to Article 62 of the Vienna Convention, which says if there is a material breach or fundamental change of circumstances, a treaty can no longer apply. Legal experts have questioned whether the Article, which applies to states and not international organisations, can be used in this context. Others have raised concerns over the viability of pulling out of a treaty altogether, with consequences for other aspects of the agreement such as EU citizens’ rights.

Dodds, who has a first-class law degree from Cambridge and is a member of the ERG and DUP’s Star Chamber of lawyers, will study the detail carefully. “The one thing about Geoffrey Cox is that he will not gild the lily. He will not try to bluff anyone. He will not try to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes, he will be brutally honest, and we appreciate that very much.”

He adds: “There’s no doubt that he is somebody who is highly regarded and there’s no doubt that his advice on Tuesday about the legal risk of being trapped permanently not having diminished, that was pretty pivotal to a lot of Members of Parliament.”

Among politicians, journalists and the public at large, there is a palpable yearning for the Brexit impasse to draw to a close. The DUP, by virtue of the 2017 election, are key power brokers. Brexiteers, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, look to the unionist party for direction on the Withdrawal Agreement; if they move towards backing the deal, others will follow.

Is Dodds feeling the pressure to act? “Yes, I’m very conscious of the pressure. Of course, within the Westminster bubble, you feel that pressure very intensely. The DUP MPs have long experience of that kind of pressure and are very connected to their constituents and their constituencies back home. So, we have learnt over many years of experiences of how to balance that. But we are conscious of our wider responsibilities to the nation. But we believe that that is complementary to our responsibilities to Northern Ireland,” he says.

No amount of pressure will prevent the DUP from being scrupulous with the details, however. “We have always taken the view that before we would sign up to anything, we need to see text, we need to see legal text,” he says. “The days of just relying on the words of ministers – however well-intentioned and of the utmost integrity and acting in good faith – it is what is in statute and binding treaties that matter.”

Has the Brexit process entrenched that view? “Yes, very much so. The lesson out of all of this is that you must pay attention to the detail of legislation and treaties,” Dodds replies.

He adds: “That’s partly why the Government is in a little difficulty because constructive ambiguity doesn’t work when it comes to legal text and international treaties.”

The DUP’s longstanding red line is to ensure that Northern Ireland is not treated differently from the rest of the United Kingdom. The backstop – the mechanism by which a hard border is avoided in Northern Ireland if UK-EU trade talks collapse – they believe would impose an effective regulatory border in the Irish sea.

Unless and until the DUP feel the UK is treated as one in the Withdrawal Agreement, they shall not budge. “We have set out very clear objectives, we haven’t changed in those objectives and we won’t be changing them because of any kind of deadline. The Government is well aware of that,” he says. “We have never wavered in that and we will not waver in that red line.”

A tangible demand, and a longstanding DUP bugbear, is for the Brexit deal to better reflect paragraph 50 of the December 2017 joint report that first floated the idea of the backstop. Paragraph 50 gives an effective Stormont lock to new regulatory barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. Dodds argues the Government have “ignored” the guarantee. “That’s a pretty important area that they must look at,” he says. Immediately, I ask? “Yes.”

---

Dodds, who is the deputy leader of the DUP, has been MP for Belfast North since 2001. During his career, he has served two one-year terms as Lord Mayor of Belfast and has sat in the Northern Ireland Assembly. In June 2017, the DUP’s 10 MPs rose to prominence after signing a confidence and supply arrangement with the Conservatives, who formed a minority government following a bruising election campaign.

The arrangement, which saw an extra £1bn allocated to Northern Ireland, has been heavily impacted by Brexit, with the DUP withdrawing support for the Government at key votes in protest at the Irish backstop protocol. Despite this tumultuous period, in which Dodds’ frustration with the PM on the matter played out frequently in the Commons, the 60-year-old insists there is enough goodwill for the arrangement to continue going forward.

“I’m very confident that the goodwill is there. The Conservative party and ourselves have agreed this confidence and supply agreement. We have been pretty strong in our support for the Government. We have obviously taken a difference on some of this Brexit stuff but then so have many of her own party,” he explains.

Given the DUP’s experience at negotiations, wouldn’t it have been better to go into coalition to ensure the party had ministers in government? “There have been so many ministers who have now resigned from the Government over this, I’m not sure whether had we gone we would have still been in government by this stage. But, anyway. No, we took the right approach. It’s the best approach for Northern Ireland, the best approach for the Government,” he replies.

The DUP has been at hand to offer advice about the negotiations, Dodds tells me. The party thought it was “catastrophic” for the UK to have signed up to the EU’s sequencing of talks, he adds, and says another “major mistake” came by triggering Article 50 before the Government “had actually got its ducks in a row”. The most “catastrophic error of all”, he continues, was to sign up to the Irish protocol in December 2017.

The Brexit process has exposed ignorance of Northern Irish politics on the mainland. Dodds says it is “galling” to see MPs refer to the province to advance their own version of Brexit, but not attend crucial debates in the Commons on the Northern Ireland budget. “It is very frustrating, but it never ceases to surprise me the people who pop up and talk about Northern Ireland as if they are so concerned about the people of Northern Ireland but show no interest in anything else about Northern Ireland except Brexit.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has come under fire for her performance. In an interview with The House in September, the Cabinet Minister revealed she did not know before taking on the role that elections in Northern Ireland are fought along constitutional lines, as “people who are nationalists don’t vote for unionist parties and vice versa”. She also faced calls to resign in March after she said that killings during the Troubles at the hands of the security forces were not crimes.

“Karen obviously has had her problems and difficulties, there’s no doubt about that. The NIO [Northern Ireland Office] has been, in our view, a dysfunctional department for quite a time. It needs strong leadership,” Dodds says.

“I think that Karen has, perhaps, not been as out there in terms of getting across the people in Northern Ireland, talking to them, meeting with groups and all the rest of it, as some of her predecessors. I know that, however, Brexit and the votes here has meant that maybe she hasn’t had as much time. But her basic policy approach has been flawed in the sense that she has decided that Northern Ireland could just stand still, leave it to the civil servants. For that, that’s a glaring failure on her part. She has not taken a grip and shown the leadership that she should have.”

Should there be a change of leadership in the Northern Ireland Office? “I think the Government needs to have a change of leadership in a number of departments, yes, across the board,” Dodds replies.

The power-sharing deal between the DUP and Sinn Féin collapsed in January 2017. Dodds concedes that Brexit has been a “major contributory factor” to the continuing deadlock at Stormont. But he is “very, very confident” that devolution can be restored in the “short to medium term”. “I don’t think the concept of power-sharing is dead because everybody in Northern Ireland is brought into it, they accept it, that’s the default position. People want devolved government. They don’t want to go back to violence. So, all the ingredients are there.”

Dodds, whose wife Diane is an MEP, has experienced a lot during his political and personal career. In 1996, one of his police guards was wounded by an IRA gun attack that took place when he was visiting his son, Andrew, at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children. In 2003, an improvised explosive device left outside his constituency office by the Continuity IRA had to be defused.

As the most extraordinary week in his political career peters out, does he ever regret his decision to choose politics over law? “I do sometimes think that. My mother often says to me, especially when you’re on the TV and there’s a bit of controversy, ‘why didn’t you just become a solicitor and have a quiet life?’,” he replies.

“Look, politics is in your blood or it’s not. If it’s in your blood, then it’s inevitable that you get caught up in all of that. I’ve been very fortunate to be involved in the Northern Ireland Assembly, to have been Lord Mayor of Belfast, and also now to be in parliament at this absolutely critical time with the balance of power that we hold. It’s just amazing. It vindicates my decision.”  

Sebastian Whale

Geoffrey Cox's bid to break Brexit deal deadlock rejected by eurosceptic lawyers

4 days 13 hours ago
Geoffrey Cox
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox.

Theresa May's hopes of securing Commons backing for her Brexit deal have been dealt a blow after a team of eurosceptic lawyers rejected Geoffrey Cox's latest attempt to end the impasse.

Legal advice prepared by the Attorney General states that the UK could use the Vienna Convention to unilaterally exit the Irish backstop.

Mr Cox said that if it was shown that the backstop - an insurance policy to avoid a hard border in Ireland - was having a "socially destabilising effect on Northern Ireland", then Article 62 of the convention could apply, allowing the UK to leave it.

His legal advice, seen by the Daily Telegraph, says: "It is in my view clear and undoubted in those exceptional circumstances that international law provides the [UK] with the right to terminate the Withdrawal Agreement."

But a "star chamber" of Brexiteer lawyers, including DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds and veteran Tory eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash, said the Attorney General's advice was "badly misconceived".

They pointed out that the Vienna Convention can only be used "in extreme circumstances", and that even the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 did not provide enough reason to trigger it.

Star chamber member Martin Howe QC told the Evening Standard: "The leading case in the International Court of Justice shows this requires radical change of circumstances. 

"The fall of the Soviet Union, disappearance of the Warsaw Pact, and dissolution of Czechoslovakia, were not sufficient to satisfy this ground.

"The other issue is, under Article 62, the change of circumstances has to be unforeseeable. As we are talking about this ‘change of circumstances’ now, it cannot be unforeseeable."

The row once again leaves the Prime Minister facing a major challenge in her attempts to get her Brexit deal approved by MPs.

She will bring it back to the Commons next week, but without being able to provide assurances to the DUP and Tory Brexiteers that the UK will not be trapped in the backstop indefinitely, it has little chance of passing.

Talks between the Government and DUP, who the Prime Minister relies on to prop up her government, will continue over the weekend as Downing Street searches for a breakthrough.

Tory MP Conor Burns, an opponent of Mrs May's deal, said that DUP support for it would be key in persuading him and many of his colleagues to vote for it next week.

Kevin Schofield

Five Labour frontbenchers quit after defying Jeremy Corbyn over second EU referendum

4 days 13 hours ago
Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn campaigning during the EU referendum.

Five of Labour's frontbench team have quit their posts after defying Jeremy Corbyn over a second EU referendum.

The Labour leader had ordered his MPs to abstain in a vote on an amedment calling for Brexit to be delayed so there can be a so-called "people's vote".

But the five rebels - Ruth Smeeth, Justin Madders, Yvonne Fovargue, Stephanie Peacock and Emma Lewell-Buck - broke the party whip to either vote for or against another poll.

Ms Smeeth, who was parliamentary aide to deputy leader Tom Watson, was the first to announce her departure.

The Stoke-on-Trent North and Kidsgrove MP said: "I've resigned from Labour's front bench this evening in order to vote against a second referendum. This was a difficult decision but I have a duty to support the will of my constituents."

Mr Watson said: "Ruth is as good a colleague and friend as I could wish for. She is a leading young light in our party and has served on the front bench with distinction. I wish her well and respect her decision."

Amy Jackson, Mr Corbyn's political secretary, texted the other four rebels asking them to resign, which they did.

Barnsley East MP Ms Peacock, who voted against a second referendum, said she had done so "because I believe we should respect the result of the 2016 vote to leave the European Union".

Jeremy Corbyn said: "I would like to thank Yvonne, Emma, Ruth, Justin and Stephanie for their service while on the Labour frontbench.

"I understand the difficulties MPs have felt representing the views of their constituents during this process. 

"All of us across the House now have the opportunity to work together to find a solution to the crisis the Government has plunged us into. Labour's alternative plan can unite people, however they voted in 2016.
 
"I look forward to continuing to work with them to secure a Labour government, end austerity and give real hope to the whole country."

Kevin Schofield

Labour frontbencher quits after defying party whip to vote against second referendum

5 days ago
Ruth Smeeth
Ruth Smeeth has quit the Labour frontbench.

A Labour frontbencher has quit her post after voting against calls for a second EU referendum.

Ruth Smeeth, who was a parliamentary aide to Tom Watson, said she had "a duty to support the will of my constituents".

Four other shadow ministers - Justin Madders, Stephanie Peacock, Emma Lewell-Buck and Yvonne Fovargue - also ignored the Labour leadership's orders to abstain on an amendment calling for Brexit to be delayed to allow a so-called "people's vote" to take place.

It was unclear whether party bosses will take any disciplinary action against them for breaking the rule on collective responsibility.

They were among a total of 41 Labour MPs who broke the whip to either vote for or against the second referendum amendment.

In a statement, Stoke-on-Trent North and Kidsgrove MP Ms Smeeth said: "I've resigned from Labour's front bench this evening in order to vote against a second referendum.

"This was a difficult decision but I have a duty to support the will of my constituents. We need to leave, and leave with a deal that works for the Potteries."

Deputy leader Mr Watson said: "Ruth is as good a colleague and friend as I could wish for. She is a leading young light in our party and has served on the front bench with distinction. I wish her well and respect her decision."

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn’s amendment to block the Prime Minister’s deal coming back for a third try in the House and look for another approach, was also defeated by six votes.

Hilary Benn’s bid to allow MPs to take control of the Commons and host a series of indicative votes was also struck down by two votes.

For the first time this week the Government claimed a win with its unchanged motion to extend Article 50 until 30 June if its deal is not passed by the end of March, got the greenlight by 412 to 202 votes.

Anahita.Hossein-Pour_159579

Cabinet splits erupt as MPs vote to delay Brexit by at least three months

5 days ago
EU and UK flags
MPs hess.ad the chance to seize control of the Brexit process.

Cabinet splits over Europe erupted once again as eight Cabinet ministers defied Theresa May to vote against delaying Brexit.

Stephen Barclay, Penny Mordaunt,  Andrea Leadsom, Liz Truss, Alun Cairns, Gavin Williamson, Chris Grayling and Liam Fox all voted against a motion in the Prime Minister's name seeking an Article 50 extension until 30 June if her deal is passed by MPs by next Wednesday.

A host of junior ministers also voted against the extension, while chief whip Julian Smith was among those who abstained. In all, 188 Tory MPs opposed Mrs May's motion.

But because it was a free vote, none of them will be disciplined by Tory whips. The motion still passed easily, by 412 votes to 202.

A spokesman for Mrs May - who voted in favour of the extension - said: "At the start of the day the Prime Minister said it would be a free vote and a natural consequence of that is that she understands that people will be able to express their view on a contentious matter. She authorised a free vote and that is where it begins and ends."

Asked if the three Cabinet ministers would be expected to back the Government's policy in future, the spokesman said: "That’s how collective responsibility works."

In a separate boost for the Prime Minister, MPs voted 314-312 against an amendment in the name of Labour MP Hilary Benn which would have seen the Commons seize control of the Brexit process.

It would have led to a series of so-called "indicative votes" by MPs on different Brexit options to try to find out if any of them could command a majority.

But after six Brexit-backing Labour MPs defied the party whip to vote against the amendment, Mrs May won with a wafer-thin majority.

The results mean the Prime Minister can now focus on bringing her Brexit deal - which has already been heavily defeated twice in the Commons - back next week in another attempt to get it passed.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on Theresa May to admit that her Brexit deal and leaving the EU without a deal "are simply no longer viable options".

He said: "I reiterate our conviction that a deal can be agreed based on our alternative plan that can command support across the House, and I also reiterate our support for a public vote, not as political point-scoring, but as a realistic option to break the deadlock.

"The whole purpose, Mr Speaker, ought to be to protect communities that are stressed and worried. Those people are worried about the future of their jobs and their industries, our job is to try and meet the concerns of the people who sent us here in the first place."

Business leaders gave the Article 50 extension a cautious welcome.

Josh Hardie, deputy director general of the CBI, said: "After an exasperating few days, Parliament’s rejection of no deal and desire for an extension shows there is still some common sense in Westminster.

“But without a radically new approach, business fears this is simply a stay of execution."

Kevin Schofield

Donald Trump says Theresa May struggling on Brexit because she ‘didn’t listen’ to him

5 days 2 hours ago
Donald Trump and Theresa May
Donald Trump and Theresa May when he visited the UK in July

Donald Trump has said Theresa May’s failure to strike a deal with the European Union that could be supported by MPs was down to her failing to heed his advice.

In a scathing assessment, the US President said the Brexit process “should have gone smoothly” and that he hates to see Britain being “ripped part”, as attempts by MPs to break the impasse ahead of the 29 March exit date continue.

“I’m surprised at how badly it’s all gone from the standpoint of a negotiation, but I gave the Prime Minister my ideas on how to negotiate it and I think you would have been successful,” he told reporters during a White House press conference.

“[Theresa May] didn’t listen to that and that’s fine, I mean she’s got to do what she’s got to do, but I think it could have been negotiated in a different manner frankly.”

President Trump added that he did not believe a second referendum on whether to leave or remain in the EU was “possible” and that it would leave those who voted for Brexit in 2016 aggrieved.

“I hate to see everything being ripped apart right now,” he added.

“I don’t think another vote would be possible because it would be very unfair to the people that won. They’d say ‘what do you mean you're going to take another vote?’, so that would be tough.

“But I thought [Brexit] would happen, it did happen and both sides are very, very cemented in so it’s a tough situation, it’s a shame, frankly it’s a shame.

“There was no reason for that to happen, they could have had the vote and it should have gone smoothly, unfortunately it didn’t."

The commander-in-chief went on to suggest that an extension to Article 50 was likely, adding: "Well I think they’re going to have to do something.

“Because right now they are in the midst of a very short period of time, the end of the month and they’re not going to be able to do that".

His comments came as he sat beside Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who was on an official visit to Washington.

The President added that the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop was “one of the most complex points” of the process.

The intervention comes hours after he tweeted that there was "unlimited" potential for a free trade deal between the US and UK once Britain left the bloc.

 

 

 

 

Nicholas Mairs

Campaigners for second EU referendum refuse to back Commons push for second EU referendum

5 days 4 hours ago
Campaigners for a second EU referendum
Protesters at a rally calling for a People's Vote outside Parliament in January

Campaigners for a second EU referendum have refused to back an attempt by MPs to show Commons support for one today.

The cross-party People’s Vote campaign said it was “not the right time” for the plan to be put to a vote and urged MPs to instead push for Brexit day to be delayed beyond 29 March.

Separately, Best for Britain said the Commons bid - in an amendment to a government motion - "will not truly test the will of the House" when it is voted on later this evening.

The amendment, which was tabled by Independent Group MP Sarah Wollaston, calls on Theresa May to extend Article 50 to allow time for a referendum on the Government deal or staying in the EU.

Ms Wollaston hopes to amend a government motion which asks MPs to back a short Brexit delay if the Commons approves the PM's deal or a longer one if not. 

A short delay would be to ensure the relevant legislation is passed before Brexit, while a longer delay would allow time to negotiate an entirely new deal with the EU.

A spokesperson for the People’s Vote campaign said it was clear that MPs who support a second referendum are split on whether to press for a Commons vote.  

“But we do not think today is the right time to test the will of the House on the case for a new public vote,” the spokesperson added.

“Instead, this is the time for Parliament to declare it wants an extension of Article 50 so that, after two-and-a-half years of vexed negotiations, our political leaders can finally decide on what Brexit means.

“That is because a People’s Vote is not just another option in this Brexit crisis – it is a solution to this crisis.

“When the real costs of Brexit are measured up against the broken promises made for it in 2016, we believe Parliament will have better opportunities to decide it is only fair and reasonable to give the public a real say on this crucial decision for our country.”

A spokesperson for Best for Britain added: “Best for Britain, like a majority of the country, believe that giving the people the final say is the only credible solution to the Brexit mess we’ve been left in after three years of government failure and parliamentary gridlock. 

"We believe bringing this issue before Parliament today will not truly test the will of the House for a public vote. The debate today must focus on the pressing need for an extension to Article 50 to confirm Parliament’s rejection of a no deal cliff-edge on March 29 and protect the country from a damaging disorderly exit.

"We will continue to build on the strong support throughout the country for Parliament to give the people the final say."

Nicholas Mairs

Tory Brexiteers round on John Bercow after he snubs Commons bid to kill second referendum

5 days 5 hours ago
John Bercow
John Bercow ignored the effort by Brexit-backing MPs to put ruling out a second referendum to a vote

John Bercow has come under fire after he snubbed an attempt by Brexiteers to torpedo the chances of a second referendum.

The Commons Speaker did not include it among the amendments he chose to be voted on by MPs on Thursday evening.

More than 100 Tory, Labour and DUP MPs had signed the amendment, which called for the Government to rule out calling a so-called "people's vote".

Mr Bercow's decision not to choose it drew a furious response from pro-Brexit MPs.

Mark Francois, vice-chair of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers, said: “It had far more signatures than any other amendment on the order paper, and had three different parties supporting it."

Senior Tory backbencher Sir Bernard Jenkin questioned if Mr Bercow’s personal views on Brexit had coloured his decision.

"There might be some concern, Mr Speaker, that the selection of amendments do not reflect the will of the House,” he said

"Because the will of the House cannot be expressed on an amendment… until there has been a vote on that amendment. Therefore, given that Amendment B expresses different matters that you’ve chosen not to select, what are we to conclude from your views on these matters."

But the Speaker fired back, saying his views had no influence on the selection of amendments, adding: “It is not uncommon for a member of this House to be mightily pleased when his amendment is selected, and notably displeased when it is not. Members do have to take the rough with the smooth.

"I've given a ruling on it which I believe to be extremely reasonable."

Meanwhile, Brexit-backing Labour MP Caroline Flint welcomed Mr Bercow's decision to select an amendment calling for a second referendum.

"I am really delighted you have selected an amendment which will allow this House for the first time to vote on whether they support a second referendum or not.," she said. "So, I thank you Mr Speaker for that. And in this House nobody should be under any illusion that this vote today… is about saying do we or do we not support a second referendum and I urge the House to oppose a second referendum."

john.johnston_25922
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47