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Theresa May confirms meaningful vote will take place on the week beginning 14 January

49 minutes 3 seconds ago
Theresa May
Theresa May make a statements in the House of Commons, London, following last week's EU summit.

MPs will finally vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal on the week beginning 14 January, it has been confirmed.

The Prime Minister delayed putting the vote to MPs last week after realising she was heading for a humiliating defeat, despite MPs being three days into a five-day debate scheduled to precede it.

In a statement to the Commons this afternoon on last week's EU Council meeting, Mrs May confirmed that the debates would re-start on 7 January, with the vote to go ahead the following week.

“I confirm today that we intend to return to the meaningful vote debate in the week commencing 7 January and hold the vote the following week," she said.

“When we have the vote, members will need to reflect carefully on what is in the best interests of our country.

“I know that there are a range of very strongly held personal views on this issue across the House and I respect all of them.

"But expressing our personal views is not what we are here to do. We asked the British people to take this decision. 472 current members of this House voted for the referendum in June 2015, with just 32 voting against and the British people responded by instructing us to leave the European Union."

The intervention comes hours after Downing Street said there are "no plans" to hold a series of non-binding "indicative" votes on potential ways forward if MPs reject Mrs May's Brexit deal.

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn pulled out of announcing a planned vote of confidence in the Prime Minister if she had refused to name a date for the meaningful vote.

The Labour leader had been due to say: "If the Prime Minister does not announce the date for the final vote immediately, and with the vote taken promptly, I will table a motion 'that this House has no confidence in the Prime Minister due to her failure to allow the House of Commons to have a meaningful vote straight away on the withdrawal agreement and framework for the future relationship between the UK and the EU."

Following the PM's announcement, a Labour spokesperson said: "The Prime Minister has been forced to bring her botched deal back to Parliament under threat of a motion of no confidence in her. We will not let her cynically run down the clock to create the false choice between her botched deal and no deal."

Nicholas Mairs

Downing Street say 'no plans' for votes on Brexit alternatives despite Cabinet revolt

4 hours 28 minutes ago
Theresa May
Mrs May's spokesperson insisted there were 'no plans' for indicative votes on a Brexit way forward.

Downing Street has insisted there are "no plans" to hold a series of special Commons votes on Brexit, despite Cabinet ministers publicly calling for them.

A string of top ministers have now openly suggested that the Government call a succession of non-binding "indicative" votes on potential ways forward if MPs reject Theresa May's Brexit deal.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd and Business Secretary Greg Clark this morning became the latest senior figures to back such a move.

But the Prime Minister's spokesperson said: "What you've seen from all Cabinet ministers is a commitment to getting the deal which the Prime Minister agreed with Brussels through the House of Commons and doing that by continuing to work for further assurances from the EU.

"In relation to an indicative vote, there are no plans to hold one."

The brush-off from Number 10 came as Ms Rudd and Mr Clark openly advocated for MPs to have a say on alternatives should Mrs May's deal fail to get through the Commons.

Ms Rudd told Sky News she wanted the Prime Minister's deal to pass.

But the Work and Pensions Secretary added: "After that, we need to find out where the will of parliament is, where the majority of MPs will vote in Parliament

"And nothing should be off the table, we should consider all options."

The top Cabinet minister said: "My main point is, let’s try to get this through, but let’s think about how we test the will of Parliament to find out where the majority is. That, after all, is what people expect us to do."

Meanwhile Mr Clark urged Parliament to move from being "critics of the agreement" to playing a more proactive role.

"It’s important once the prime minister has finished her negotiations with other European leaders, and they reach a conclusion, that parliament votes on that," the Business Secretary hold the Today programme.

"If that were not to be successful, we do need to have an agreement. 

"We can’t just have continuing uncertainty. I think Parliament should be invited to say what it would agree with. 

"That’s something I think businesses up and down the country would expect elected responsibility for, rather than just being critics.

The pair join International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Education Secretary Damian Hinds in calling for Parliament to be allowed to allowed to hold indicative votes to try and gauge support for alternatives.

It has been reported that Chancellor Philip Hammond, Justice Secretary David Gauke, Scotland Secretary David Mundell and Mrs May's de-facto deputy, David Lidington are also backing the plan.

'BREAKING FAITH'

Mrs May will this afternoon update MPs on her efforts to secure changes to the controversial Northern Ireland backstop element of her deal after a bruising European Council summit.

Downing Street was last week forced to pull scheduled vote on the PM's deal in the face of certain defeat in the House of Commons.

She will warn MPs today that those pushing for a second referendum on Brexit risk breaking "faith with the British people by trying to stage" a fresh vote.

But a spokesperson for the European Commission made clear that Brussels is not willing to "reopen" talks on her deal.

"The EU Council has given the clarifications that were possible at this stage so no further meetings with the UK are foreseen," they added.

Matt Foster

‘Get the deal out the way’ – Dominic Grieve calls for the PM to stop delaying the inevitable

6 hours 14 minutes ago
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve in Whitehall
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve in Whitehall

The former attorney general says it is "unsatisfactory" for the Government to have pushed back the meaningful vote into the new year.

“My view remains that the sooner we get the deal out of the way, the better,” Dominic Grieve told The House as part of a feature on the past fortnight in British politics. “It’s only once that’s happened that you’re going to start to clear the logjam and people will start really focussing on alternatives.”

A steady number of Conservative MPs have voiced their displeasure at the decision to push back the meaningful vote. Remainers such as Sam Gyimah and Grieve have accused No10 of misguidedly running down the clock by delaying the likely parliamentary defeat that will greet Theresa May’s Brexit deal when it touches the Commons air. Cabinet ministers, too, have called for a series of indicative votes to sound out the mood of MPs in that eventuality – but No10 so far has refused to budge.

“I’m regretful if the Government decides it’s trying to avoid having this until the new year. It’s unsatisfactory,” said Grieve. However, he is doubtful that Parliament could bounce ministers into holding the vote before the Christmas recess. “I’m not sure that Parliament is in a good position to force the Government to do it earlier.”

Earlier this month, MPs backed Grieve's amendment by 321 to 229 to grant the Commons a say in what happens next if the PM’s deal is defeated. Under the terms of the EU Withdrawal Act, the Government would have 21 days to come back to the Commons and make a statement setting out how ministers propose to proceed in the event of a defeat. That motion will now have to be amendable and will thus grant MPs an opportunity to put their own proposals to a vote in the Commons.

The amendment “remains significant” even though the Government decided to push back the 11 December vote into the new year, Grieve said. “Sometimes people exaggerate its importance, oddly enough. To my mind, it’s the perfectly logical way for Parliament to express its opinion.”

The amendment itself does not prohibit a no deal Brexit. The only means through which MPs could prevent the UK exiting the EU on WTO terms, according to Grieve, is if the Government “responds positively” to a parliamentary resolution, or “parliament is going to have to take action to enforce the Government or a government to do what it wants”. “That’s constitutionally more complicated, obviously,” he added.

Theresa May pushed back the vote in recognition of the mood of the Commons. Liam Fox said yesterday the deal was unlikely to pass through Parliament unless the vexed issue of the backstop was overcome to the satisfaction of MPs. And given the obdurateness on display at the EU summit in Brussels last week, it seems unlikely at this juncture that the PM can secure anything tangible to win over the waverers.   

Some Cabinet ministers have been bullish in seeking to transfer responsibility for overcoming the impasse to Parliament. Business Secretary Greg Clark told the Today programme: “One way or another, parliament has got to move from essentially being critics of the agreement… It is obviously easy to find things you don’t like. But I think every MP now needs to regard themselves as responsible participants.” For her part, the Prime Minister will today warn a second referendum would “break faith with the British people”.

But for people like Grieve, himself a proponent of another public vote, Parliament has long presented a route out of the Brexit quagmire. “In my view, the Government has been mistaken in not trying to extend a more conciliatory role towards Parliament because that’s the only way in which they’re going to find a way out of this crisis. But, of course, it may be a way out of a crisis that they themselves would have preferred not to have.”

He concluded: “The problem is inherent in Brexit – it’s not in the leadership that we’re getting for the country. It could be led by the Archangel Gabriel, frankly. We wouldn’t be doing better.”

The House magazine feature, ‘12 days of Mayhem’, will be out later this week.

Sebastian Whale

Theresa May warns MPs second Brexit referendum would 'break faith with British people'

10 hours 2 minutes ago
Prime Minister Theresa May
Theresa May's Brexit deal is unlikely to be voted on before the new year.

A second Brexit referendum would “break faith with the British people", Theresa May will warn MPs today.

The Prime Minister will say that politicians should instead "be working to unite" the country as it prepares to leave the European Union.

Mrs May will make a statement to the Commons on last week's European Council - where her pleas for EU concessions were rebuffed - amid growing calls for a new referendum.

Downing Street chief of staff Gavin Barwell yesterday failed to deny reports that he is among those war-gaming the idea as a way of breaking the ongoing Brexit deadlock.

At the weekend, Mrs May traded blows with Tony Blair over a second referendum, accusing the former prime minister of launching an "insult to the office he once held" by pushing for a fresh vote.

Hitting back, the ex-Labour leader said Mrs May was trying to "steamroller" MPs into accepting a bad Brexit deal.

But addressing the Commons, the Prime Minister will say: "Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum.

"Another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver.

"Another vote which would likely leave us no further forward than the last.

"And another vote which would further divide our country at the very moment we should be working to unite it."

In a fresh sign of the turmoil engulfing the Tories over Brexit, former universities minister Sam Gyimah this morning launched a furious attack on the Prime Minister.

He tweeted: "Downing St has stopped selling the PMs flawed deal. Instead we have displacement activity designed to distract from last weeks failed renegotiation. And a concerted attempt to discredit every plausible alternative as they run down the clock. This is not in the national interest."

Labour MP Ian Murray of the Best for Britain campaign meanwhile said: "It would be a democratic outrage not to go to the people for a final say on Brexit.

"Nobody voted for the Prime Minister's bad deal that will make people and the country poorer. She can't just railroad it through against the wishes of the majority of the country.

"The only democratic solution to this crisis is a people's vote with the option of remaining in the EU."

COMMONS VOTE CALL

Mrs May's Commons statement comes as she faces growing calls to allow MPs to take control of the Brexit process through a series of indicative votes.

Two Cabinet ministers this weekend openly suggested that staging votes on a series of Brexit options - including a second referendum and a no-deal exit from the EU - could help to plot a way forward.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC: "Personally I wouldn't have a huge problem with Parliament as a whole having a say on what the options were.

“Because it wasn’t the Government that was given an instruction by the referendum, it was Parliament."

Education Secretary Damian Hinds also refused to rule out such a move, arguing that going through alternatives would win MPs over to the PM’s deal.

According to the Times, six other Cabinet ministers are behind the plan to give MPs as say on all possible options.

They include Chancellor Philip Hammond, Work and Pensions secretary Amber Rudd, Justice Secretary David Gauke, Business Secretary Greg Clark, Scotland Secretary David Mundell and Mrs May's de-facto deputy, David Lidington.

Pressed on the option last night, Solicitor General Robert Buckland hinted that he too could back a series of free votes.

He told the BBC's Westminster Hour: "I think if all the parties agreed to it then it’s something that might well work, but I think it would be imbalanced if one party did it and the other did not."

Meanwhile 26 Conservative MPs, led by former justice minister Jonathan Djanogly, are urging Mrs May to let MPs vote on her Brexit deal this week rather than making them wait until after the Christmas recess.

Downing Street - which pulled the vote due last week in the face of near-certain defeat - has previously ruled out such a move, with January 14 now pencilled in as the date for the Commons showdown.

Matt Foster

Tony Blair hits back at Theresa May in war of words over second Brexit referendum

1 day 4 hours ago
Tony Blair
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair made a speech on Brexit this week at the British Academy in London

Tony Blair has hit back at Theresa May in a dramatic war of words between political heavyweights after she criticised his calls for a second EU referendum.

The former prime minister lashed out after his successor said his campaign to give the public a final say on her Brexit deal was an “insult to the office he once held”.

He argued her attempts to "steamroller" her controversial Brexit deal through parliament was "irresponsible" and insisted a fresh referendum was the "sensible" way forward. 

Mr Blair has argued going back to the people is the logical conclusion of the Brexit chaos, amid deadlock in Parliament and with the EU.

The Prime Minister was last week forced to pull a crunch Commons vote on her deal in the face of certain defeat, while Brussels has been unwilling to reopen talks to hammer out a plan MPs can agree on.

In an unexpected blast last night, Mrs May turned on Mr Blair and said his campaign was “undermining” Britain’s position in negotiations.

But a defiant Mr Blair insisted he would not be silenced as he argued her criticism of his calls to seek direction from the public was "strange".

He added: “What is irresponsible... is to try to steamroller MPs into accepting a deal they genuinely think is a bad one with the threat that if they do not fall into line, the Government will have the country crash out without a deal.

“My call is for Europe as well as our own Parliament to prepare for the possibility now gathering momentum that we may go back to the people in a further referendum. Again this is surely sensible given the impasse we have reached."

And he said: "I do not disrespect [Theresa May] at all. I understand her frustration. But I profoundly believe that the course she is pursuing will not work and is emphatically not in the national interest. And that’s the reason I am speaking out and shall continue to do so.”

The Prime Minister said yesterday: “For Tony Blair to go to Brussels and seek to undermine our negotiations by advocating for a second referendum is an insult to the office he once held and the people he once served."

“We cannot, as he would, abdicate responsibility for this decision. Parliament has a democratic duty to deliver what the British people voted for.”

She fumed that there were “too many people who want to subvert the process for their own political interests”.

Nicholas Mairs

Brexit having 'serious detrimental effect' on other policy areas, senior MPs warn Theresa May

1 day 8 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May has been urged to focus on policy areas beyond Brexit

Dragging out the Brexit process is having a “detrimental effect” on wider domestic policy, a cross-party group of senior MPs has warned Theresa May.

Six powerful committee chairs told the Prime Minister that the chaos in parliament over her Brexit deal risked causing “serious damage” to the country and was “sucking the life” out of the Government.

The warning came in a letter signed by three Tories: the Education Select Committee chair Robert Halfon, the Treasury Select Committee chair Nicky Morgan and the Culture Select Committee chair Damian Collins.

The other signatories were Labour Work and Pensions Select Committee chair Frank Field, Labour Environmental Audit Committee chair Mary Creagh, and Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem boss of the Science and Technology Select Committee.

“Long-drawn-out arguments over Brexit and delays in reaching an agreement on our future relationship with the EU are having a serious detrimental effect on the conduct of wider domestic policy,” they said in the letter seen by The Observer.

“MPs of all parties and ministers should be addressing the most urgent challenges facing our country: safeguarding our NHS, improving social care for the elderly; stepping up the fight against crime and knife crime; sorting out our benefits system; improving our public transport and safeguarding the environment for future generations."

They added that Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union had prevented Mrs May from tackling the “burning injustices” in society, as she promised to do as she entered Downing Street in 2016.

“Instead, Brexit is sucking the life out of government at a time when our towns, cities and citizens face serious spending restraints," they fumed.

“Rather than continuing to drag out the Brexit process for months more, we must bring it to a close if we are to prevent serious damage to our country.”

Elsewhere, Greg Beales of the charity Shelter said the housing crisis was being neglected because “Brexit crowds out everything else”, while Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the Government needed to "get a grip and deliver for people on low incomes".

Nicholas Mairs

Sajid Javid 'plans to slash EU immigration by 80%' after Brexit

1 day 9 hours ago
Sajid Javid
Sajid Javid will set out new migration rules in the coming weeks, it has been reported

Sajid Javid will outline plans to slash immigration from the European Union by up to 80% once Britain leaves the bloc, it has been reported.

The Home Secretary hopes to cut immigration from the continent to as little as 10,000 a year through stricter conditions for entry once free movement ends, according to the Sunday Times.

The paper says Mr Javid wants to start a “new conversation” on immigration, months after the Government came under fire for the impact of its “hostile environment” approach.

It says the Government’s long-awaited immigration white paper, which is expected before the end of the year, will outline plans to allow in between 10,000 and 25,000 long-term migrants from the EU each year by 2025.

Recent figures show net migration from the EU has been falling since the vote for Brexit but still stood at 74,000 in the year to June.

Under the plans to be outlined by Mr Javid, the numbers of highly-skilled EU migrants coming to Britain is expected to drop from 15,000 last year to about 11,000 a year.

Meanwhile, the number of medium-skilled workers entering the country will plummet from 18,500 to around 4,500, while most of those with low skills are expected not to come at all on a long-term basis.

The changes will also include no cap on highly-skilled migrants moving to the UK from anywhere in the world, the Sunday Times says.

Those deemed medium-skilled will need to earn at least £30,000 a year – unless they are moving for a role in particularly high demand with a lower salary.

Low-skilled workers will be granted short-term visas for up to a year, provided they are from a country associated with a “low risk of immigration abuse”.

Elsewhere, students will be granted six months of study leave and will be free to apply for a skilled worker visa in the three months before the end of their studies.

A source told the paper: “We are going to take full control over who can come to the UK, prioritising those with the skills the UK needs rather than on the basis of which country they come from.”

Nicholas Mairs

Jeremy Hunt: Britain would ‘flourish and prosper’ after no-deal Brexit

1 day 9 hours ago
Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt said Britain could 'flourish' after leaving the EU without a deal

Britain will “flourish and prosper” after Brexit even if the country quits the European Union without a deal, Jeremy Hunt has said.

The Foreign Secretary accepted that while there would be “disruption” as a result of walking away from an agreement, the UK had faced “much bigger challenges” in the past.

Mr Hunt also said he would like to "have a crack" at being Prime Minister, after Theresa May announced she would quit before the 2022 election.

His intervention came as the PM fought to win concessions on her Brexit deal from Brussels, in a desperate bid to clinch an agreement her MPs will support in the Commons.

EU leaders have said negotiations could not be re-opened, sparking fresh fears about a possible no-deal departure.

But Mr Hunt said, in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph: “I’ve always thought that even in a no-deal situation this is a great country, we’ll find a way to flourish and prosper

"We’ve faced much bigger challenges in our history.” 

He added: “But we shouldn’t pretend that there wouldn’t be disruption, there wouldn’t be risk, and there wouldn’t be impact and that’s why as a responsible government we have to make all the preparations necessary.”

But anti-Brexit MP Virendra Sharma, speaking on behalf of the Best for Britain campaign, blasted Mr Hunt. 

"This is a desperate attempt by Jeremy Hunt to try and win favour with the Brexiteer wing of his party. It just won't work, everyone remembers how in 2016 he argued for a second Brexit vote," he said.

"He might think these words make him sound strong - but he just looks two faced. No deal Brexit as an idea is dead. He just stop trying to resuscitate it for his own political career."

The comments by Mr Hunt also put him at odds with Cabinet colleague Amber Rudd, who this week said a no-deal Brexit must not "be allowed to happen".

'HAVE A CRACK' AT BEING PM

Elsewhere, Mr Hunt joined the Tory leadership jostling after Mrs May confirmed she would step down before the planned 2022 general election - a move which may have clinched her victory in a no-confidence vote last week. 

He said every MP would like to try their hand at the job, but insisted Mrs May was the right person to lead the country through the “challenging next few months”.

Asked whether he was interested in moving into Number 10, he said: “I think every MP has a corner of their heart that says they would like to have a crack at the top job. I’m no different.

“But I think the first thing is to get us through this challenging next few months and I passionately believe Theresa May is the right person to do that.”

Nicholas Mairs

Majority of Cabinet 'believes Theresa May's Brexit deal is dead'

2 days 7 hours ago
Theresa May
Cabinet ministers are split on what the next Brexit steps are.

The majority of the Cabinet has reportedly declared Theresa May’s Brexit deal dead - but top ministers are divided on how to move forward.

According to The Times, most of the Cabinet have conceded that the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal has almost no chance of making it through Parliament.

Ministers are also said to believe that a parliamentary vote on the Mrs May's Brexit withdrawal agreement should happen as soon as possible.

Labour has demanded it takes place next week, but Number 10 has said it will not happen until the new year.

But The Times says Cabinet minister remain divided on what the next steps should be when Mrs May's deal is rejected by MPs. 

One group of Cabinet ministers - consisting of Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, Chancellor Phillip Hammond, de-facto Deputy Prime Minister David Lidington, Justice Secretary David Gauke, and Business Secretary Greg Clark - is said to be consdering a push for a second referendum.

Ms Rudd today used a column in the Daily Mail to warn against the "siren voice" pushing for a that a no-deal Brexit, and saying an exit without a deal “mustn’t be allowed to happen when we have the power to prevent it.”

Another Cabinet faction comprised of Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Home Secretary Sajid Javid is reportedly strongly opposed to a second public vote.

House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss, and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt are meanwhile thought to be more open to the prospect of leaving the EU without a deal and are continuing to press for changes to - or a scrapping of - the deal's proposed Northern Irish backstop.

EU leaders yesterday rejected Mrs May's attempts to secure "legally binding" on how to end the back-up plan, which seeks to avoid fresh checks at the Northern Ireland border.

Speaking on the Today programme this morning, Mr Hunt reiterated concerns that the UK could be stuck indefinitely in a customs union with the EU via the backstop, but noted that “the EU themselves have said this backstop must be temporary"

And he said the "only way" to honour the Brexit referendum result was for the Commons to pass "a version” of Mrs May’s deal. 

The Foreign Secretary added: “A no-deal scenario would be very damaging for the EU as it would present challenges for us.” 

Scottish Secretary David Mundell has meanwhile become the first Cabinet minister to back an extension to Article 50, according to the Times.

A source close to Mr Mundell is quoted as saying that it would be an “enormous waste of money and time to prepare to leave on March 29” because Mrs May is "not going to get a deal over the line in time".

Reports on the Cabinet division came as two senior Tories urged the Prime Minister to work with the opposition to overcome the Brexit deadlock.

Treasury Select Committee Chair Nicky Morgan told the Independent that “cross-party support and proper discussions” were the way forward. Former minister Nick Boles told the same outlet that Mrs May “must open cross-party discussions” on an alternative plan.

Matt Foster

Nigel Farage tells Brexiteers to prepare for second referendum

2 days 7 hours ago
Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage encouraged Brexiteers to prepare for a second referendum.

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has told Brexiteers that they need to prepare for a second referendum.
 

Speaking at rally in London last night, Mr Farage said: "My message folks tonight is, as much as I don’t want a second referendum, it would be wrong of us on a Leave Means Leave platform not to get ready, not to be prepared for a worst-case scenario."

Mr Farage, who recently quit Ukip over the hiring of former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson as an advisor, told fellow eurosceptics to “to move into a different gear” and “start forming branches and active groups all over this country" to try and secure Brexit, urging campaiginers to re-engage with those millions of people who never voted in their lives before.”

His comments come amid mounting calls for a second referendum.

According to Bloomberg, a number of ministers have privately raised the possibility of going back to the people amid the ongoing parliamentary deadlock.

Last night’s pro-Brexit rally came just hours after former Prime Minister Tony Blair revealed he had been speaking to Labour MPs about a second referendum.

He told a People’s Vote campaign event: “I have had many meeting with Labour MPs over these past weeks."

Former Transport Minister Jo Johnson - who resigned with a call for a second referendum - meanwhile told the Times he had "had serious conversations" with Cabinet ministers and some in Downing Street about a fresh vote.

"There is increasing interest around No 10 and the Cabinet Office about a second referendum, putting the prime minister’s deal to the public,” he said.

Mr Johnson also today the BBC'sToday programme that he fears Number 10 is “running down the clock” on Brexit in an attempt to force Mrs May's proposal through.

Matt Foster

Amber Rudd calls for MPs of all parties to 'forge consensus' to avoid no-deal Brexit

2 days 7 hours ago
Amber Rudd
Amber Rudd recently returned to Cabinet and has made significant interventions on Brexit.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has warned MPs to ignore the “siren voices calling us to the rocks” of a no-deal Brexit and urged politicians to “forge a consensus” instead.

Writing in the Daily Mail, the senior Cabinet minister - who supported Remain in the 2016 referendum - said Brexit was "in danger of getting stuck”, as she hit out at those who accuse Theresa May of "treachery".

Urging politicians to work together to find a solution to the current deadlock, Ms Rudd said: "These may not be words to make the heart beat faster, or fill the soul with excitement – but they are what’s needed in a country that has seen everything from families to political parties split down the middle and that now needs some Brexit certainty.

"It also requires everyone to abandon outrage and accusations. It’s not weak to create a safe environment for Parliament to find a solution – it’s strong.

"There may be lost votes along the way as we edge towards a solution, but so be it. Each one will help us get to something that is workable and possible.

"There will be those outside Parliament that say this approach is naïve. Others may call it treachery. My colleagues across the House of Commons should ignore such siren voices calling us to the rocks of no deal."

Ms Rudd meanwhile raised the prospect of major disruption to businesses, saying car manufacturers “would face short term disruption and long term uncertainty about their ability to compete”.

"Our airlines and freight hauliers and retailers would all find it difficult to guess what would become of their businesses,” the Work and Pensions Secretary added.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, speaking on the Today programme this morning, said he agreed with Ms Rudd’s calls for MPs to work together.

But he argued that ministers were unlikely to get much support from the Labour party in building a consensus around Brexit.

Matt Foster

ANALYSIS: Theresa May denies reality by insisting something has changed

3 days 2 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May insists the EU Council was a success.

When the most interesting thing about a summit is the context in which someone used the word "nebulous", you know it hasn't been a classic.

This was supposed to be The One Where Theresa May Got The Assurances She Wanted.

But despite her rather ironic claims to the contrary, the reality is that after spending a day and a half in Brussels, nothing has changed for the Prime Minister.

She will return to London, if not quite empty-handed, then certainly not laden down with the promises she needs to assauge her rebellious MPs.

And yet it could all have been so different. According to The Times' legendary Brussels reporter Bruno Waterfield, British negotiators had agreed a deal with their European counterparts that the EU Council protocol would provide "political comfort" for May, who desperately needs some concessions on the Irish backstop to stand any chance of getting her Brexit deal through the Commons.

The reality, however, was very different. In a humiliating rebuff, the other 27 EU leaders decided to rip up that deal and, if anything, harden their stance. There would be no "legal and political assurances" for the PM to chalk up as a win. 

The Prime Minister's spat with Jean-Claude Juncker was a useful distraction as we waited for May's press conference to eventually start. How would she react to the EU's dismissal of her concerns, we wondered. The answer was to pretend it never happened.

"I note that there has been reporting that the EU is not willing to consider any further clarification," Mrs May said. "The EU is clear as I am that if we are going to leave with a deal this is it.

"But my discussions with colleagues today have shown that further clarification and discussion following the council’s conclusions is in fact possible."

That may well be the case, but with barely a month to go (including a two-week shutdown for Christmas and New Year) until she finally puts her deal to the Commons, the Prime Minister needs much more than warm words to sell it to her troops. 

Theresa May may wish to argue that her plan is coming together, but after her latest jaunt to Brussels, it does appear as though nothing has changed.

Kevin Schofield

WATCH: Theresa May hits back at Jean-Claude Juncker in 'nebulous' row

3 days 4 hours ago
Theresa May
Jean-Claude Juncker clashes with Theresa May.

Theresa May has clashed with Jean-Claude Juncker after he accused her of failing to make clear precisely what she wants from the Brexit negotiations.

The European Commission president said the Prime Minister had been "nebulous" when she addressed EU leaders at a Brussels summit last night.

Speaking at a press conference afterwards, Mr Juncker said: "Our UK friends need to say what they want, instead of asking us to say what we want.

"So we would like within a few weeks our UK friends to set out their expectations for us because this debate is sometimes nebulous and imprecise and I would like clarifications."

As the EU Council summit reconvened this morning, an angry Mrs May appeared to confront Mr Juncker over the comments.

According to lip-readers, the Prime Minister said: "What did you call me? You called me nebulous. Yes you did."

Mr Juncker then replied: "No I didn't, I didn't."

Asked about the clash at a lunchtime press conference, Mrs May said: "I had a robust discussion with Jean-Claude Juncker I think that is the sort of discussion you are able to have when you have developed a working relationship and you work well together.

"What came out of that was his clarity was that he had been talking - when he used that particular phrase - he had been talking about a general level of debate."

In a later press conference, Mr Juncker also addressed the exchange, saying: “I think at the very first moment ... she thought that I did criticise her by saying yesterday night that the British position was nebulous.

“I didn’t know that this word exists in English ... I did not refer to her, but to the overall state of the debate in Britain.

“As I told you earlier I was following the debate in the House and I can’t see where the British parliament is heading at, and that’s why I was saying that this was nebulous, foggy, in England.

“I was not addressing her, and in the course of the morning after checking what I’d said yesterday night, she was kissing me.”

European Council President Donald Tusk added: “We have treated Prime Minster May with the greatest respect. All of us.

“And we really appreciate the effort by the Prime Minister to ratify our common agreement. My impression is that we have treated prime minister May with much greater empathy and respect than some British MPs, for sure.”

Meanwhile, in a fresh blow to relations between London and Brussels, the Times reported that EU leaders had gone back on an agreement to provide Mrs May with some "political comfort" that she could get some concessions from them on the Irish backstop.

The deal had been struck between negotiators earlier this week, but at a dinner which the Prime Minister did not attend last night, the agreement was scrapped.

Instead, in what appeared to be an attempt to put pressure on MPs to back the Brexit deal, the rest of the EU rejected the UK's demands for "legally-binding" assurances that the backstop will be time-limited.

Kevin Schofield

Sarah Wollaston: Labour frontbenchers must deliver their party’s own promise and back a People’s Vote

3 days 5 hours ago
Chuka Umunna (front left), Caroline Lucas (3rd right) and Justine Greening (2nd right) handing in Final Say and People's Vote petitions
Chuka Umunna (front left), Caroline Lucas (3rd right) and Justine Greening (2nd right) handing in Final Say and People's Vote petitions

It is vanishingly unlikely that the Prime Minister can get her deal through the Commons. Parliament has reached an impasse. What’s needed is a blinding flash of the obvious – we need to go back to the people, writes Sarah Wollaston

The last thing we needed in the midst of a constitutional crisis was a leadership election and I’m glad that the ERG, led by Mr Rees-Mogg, failed in its bid to oust the Prime Minister. It did at least demonstrate that there is no majority for their vision of a hard Brexit, even within the Conservative party at Westminster, let alone the wider House of Commons.

Having to return for a leadership election won’t have helped, but no one expects the PM to be able to negotiate further changes to the previously agreed legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement, making it vanishingly unlikely that this and the accompanying Future Framework will be approved when they return for a meaningful vote.

What’s needed is a blinding flash of the obvious, that Parliament has reached an impasse, and that none of the possible versions of Brexit will command a majority, including ‘Norway’, with or without a customs union.

As a result, we face an increasing risk of falling over the cliff into No Deal with no transition period, a situation for which we are woefully unprepared. No responsible government could knowingly allow us to inflict the costs and consequences on individuals, families, communities, businesses and our wider economy.

The Prime Minister needs to acknowledge the deadlock and start working on plan B. She could and should take her deal direct to the people with the simple question, is this the Brexit you voted for or would you rather remain with the deal we already have? The WA and FF are Brexit reality, warts and all, and a long way from the wild promises of the referendum campaign.

There are those, including Theresa May, who fear that a referendum on the final deal would undermine faith in democracy. She has spoken repeatedly of people who voted for the first time in the referendum, but that group includes young people and they voted overwhelmingly to remain. Eighteen and nineteen-year-olds did not get to vote at all but are being dragged into Brexit without ever having had a say. The maths on public support for the deal do not stack up. Forty-eight per cent voted to remain and so did not want any version of Brexit, for those who did, many feel the same as the most vocal Brexiteer parliamentarians and Leave campaigners, that the deal does not deliver their vision of leaving the EU.

In my view, you do not undermine democracy by checking that you have obtained informed consent from the public. This is not about the EU demanding that we ask again, the People’s Vote campaign is a grassroots movement desperately seeking the opportunity to have a final say on Brexit reality as opposed to Brexit fantasy.

It is over two years since the result of a referendum won by a narrow margin and where there are now serious questions over the practices and funding sources of one of the campaign groups. The original referendum unleashed division on a scale unseen for generations as a result of xenophobic targeted campaigning and wildly misleading claims.

These are not reasons to shrink from a further referendum but to make sure that future campaigns are conducted with decency. Those divisions will only be made worse if we carry on regardless, imposing a Brexit without valid consent and deliver nothing but a weakened economy and a government paralysed by Brexit process that then fails to focus the underlying drivers for the result of the original referendum and other important areas of policy.

As chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee and as the MP for Totnes, I want to be examining the Ten Year Plan for the NHS and the Social Care Green Paper, not finding these kicked into the long grass by Brexit or worse still, their funding choked off by a stalled post Brexit economy.

We can get there but only if the Labour front bench delivers on its own promise to back a People’s Vote. They need to do so and quickly.

A cross-party group of MPs stands ready with an informed consent amendment to the approval motion demanding a People’s Vote on the final deal.

Sarah Wollaston is Conservative MP for Totnes and chair of the Health and Social Care committee.

Sebastian Whale

Tony Blair: EU should prepare for 'probability' of second Brexit referendum

3 days 10 hours ago
Tony Blair
Tony Blair backs a new EU referendum.

Europe should begin preparations for the "near probability" of another Brexit referendum, Tony Blair will claim today.

The fomer Prime Minister will say that Article 50 will have to be extended to help pave the way for a so-called 'People's Vote'.

Speaking in central London, Mr Blair will say that Theresa May's goverment "has lost the initiative" and it was now up to Parliament to decide what should happen next.

The ex-Labour leader will say his preference is for another referendum, but insisted EU leaders must also respond to the concerns of those who voted to Leave in the orginal vote in 2016.

Mr Blair will say: "We are now entering a new phase of Brexit. Government has lost the initiative. Parliament has taken it. We know the options for Brexit. Parliament will have to decide on one of them. If Parliament can't then it should decide to go back to the people.

"Now should be the time of preparation – Parliament to make sure it can canvas the options in sensible manner, one by one, to reach agreement on an option or a referendum; Europe to ensure that if Britain is ready to think again, Europe is ready also to think again.

"All that is necessary is for leadership: in Parliament if not in government, and in Europe where despite all the myriad of challenges European leaders have, they should understand that changing Brexit would be the greatest boost to Europe’s economy and politics and that therefore, they need to focus on the part they can play and play it.”

He will add: "Whatever is the proper interpretation of the mandate of June 2016, it cannot seriously be said to be ‘no deal’. And Parliament has rightly set its face against such an outcome.

"Therefore, to insist that we crash out with all the disastrous implications of such a thing, rather than put the matter back to the people, would be an extraordinary dereliction of duty. I don't see it happening for that reason; which is why it is completely perverse to spend time – Europe and the UK Government - in preparation for ‘no deal’ rather than a new vote."

Kevin Schofield

Labour frontbencher Angela Rayner warns second Brexit referendum would ‘undermine democracy’

3 days 10 hours ago
Angela Rayner and Jeremy Corbyn
The Shadow Education Secretary is a key ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

A second Brexit referendum could undermine "democracy in itself", Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner has said, despite Labour refusing to rule one out.

The party's official position is to first try and oust Theresa May at a general election if MPs vote down her Brexit deal, but to keep the option of another referendum "on the table" if that is unsuccessful.

But Ms Rayner last night warned: "Saying that we'll just have a second referendum and everything will be fine, I think, is a very serious position and it undermines democracy in itself."

She told the BBC's Question Time: "People made the decision and you can't keep going back saying: Would you like to answer it a different way?"

Campaigners for a second vote want Labour to table a motion of no confidence in the Government and then switch to a fight for a second referendum.

A cross-party group this week lined up to urge Jeremy Corbyn to get behind their plan.

But senior figures in the party are split over whether to throw their weight behind demands for a so-called 'People's Vote'.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer went off-script at the party's annual conference earlier this year, saying that Labour was not ruling out a push for Remain "as an option" on a second referendum ballot paper.

But Len McCluskey, general secretary of the powerful Unite trade union, was reported to have told Labour MPs a second vote would be seen as a "betrayal" of those who voted to Leave in 2016.

That prompted pushback from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who said: "I think if we get to a situation where we’d tried everything… we need a general election. Because we can then change the team that will then do the negotiations.

"If we can’t do that, well, I think people will recognise we have no other option but to consider another public vote and people will respect us for doing our best to implement the spirit of the referendum."

Former Labour leader Tony Blair will today claim another referendum is a "near probability" and urge EU leaders to start preparing for one.

Matt Foster

Philip Hammond forced into Brexit 'extremist' climbdown after backlash by Tory MPs

3 days 10 hours ago
Philip Hammond
Philip Hammond had called Tory Brexiteers 'extremists'.

Philip Hammond has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown after sparking a row by calling Tory Brexiteers "extremists".

The Chancellor told The Sun he had "not intended to cause any offence" when he made the remarks.

Mr Hammond had claimed that the no-confidence vote in Theresa May earlier this week would "flush out the extremists".

But his comment angered many of his Tory colleagues, who had demanded he apologise or quit.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: "I have one simple message for the Chancellor: when you start turning on your own party and making accusations about them, that’s the beginning of the end for your party."

Another rebel, Simon Clarke, said: "The obvious disdain with which the Chancellor views a large number of us is pretty offensive and unsustainable."

Conservative vice-chairman James Cleverly said: "Some colleagues, perhaps out of frustration, are saying foolish things about other Conservatives. Now would be a good time to stop."

In response, Mr Hammond told The Sun: "My comments yesterday were not intended to cause any offence to the vast majority of colleagues whether originally Remain or Leave supporters, who, like me, are trying to ensure Brexit is delivered, while protecting our jobs and our economy.

“We all need to compromise and come together to find a way forward – because divided countries are not successful countries."

The row is the latest evidence of the deep ideological split within the Tory Party which has erupted again as the Prime Minister struggles to win backing for her Brexit deal.

Kevin Schofield

Julie Ward MEP: Women must take back control of their futures from the Brexit 'Boy's Club' and demand a People's Vote

3 days 10 hours ago
women

Even with a female PM Brexit has become an extended Boy's Club. If the government won’t change its tune then women across the UK must demand that their voices are heard.

As Harriet Harman said, Theresa May is “no sister” with regard to women’s rights, and neither has she been a champion for women in the Brexit process.

When Theresa May became Prime Minister she signed off a team of eleven main Brexit negotiators and only one of them was a woman. This gender imbalance has continued ever since and women´s rights were only mentioned four times in the 600 page Withdrawal Agreement and not once in the Political Declaration with the EU.

90% of all contributions in the House of Commons on Brexit have come from male MPs, and in the run up to the referendum 85% of the coverage was also dominated by men. Our voices have not been heard throughout the process.

Even this week, Theresa May, to save her own skin in a vote of no confidence, restored the whip to Andrew Griffiths MP who was suspended for sexual harassment. In the era of the #MeToo movement this does not send out a signal of solidarity or support to her sex.

But the Conservatives have never been on women´s side. Since taking office in 2010, the austerity agenda has imposed a staggering 87% of cuts on women. Leaving the European Union will only make the economy weaker; the government`s own figures show that any deal, except remaining in the EU, will make the UK poorer and households will be £1,100 worse off. Women will likely bear the brunt of additional austerity measures, and that means children will suffer too. Equality between women and men is one of the EU’s founding values – the principle of equal pay is included in the 1957 Treaty of Rome. We have no equivalent in the UK. By leaving the EU we are trusting the UK government to maintain its commitment to equality. It must therefore be noted that the extent of this commitment is in turn dependent on the government of the day and the degree to which this is a priority for them.

Also, currently, European Protection Orders guarantee that ‘crime victims who are granted protection from their aggressors in one EU member state will be able to get similar protection if they move to another’, are applicable across EU borders, and recognised throughout the EU. What will their status be in the UK after exit day? If a woman is experiencing domestic violence in one EU country and then comes to the UK, followed by her partner, will she still be protected? As Home Secretary Theresa May knew full well that we must have an EU-wide approach to crime.

The Brexit risks for women also abound in the workplace. In an independent legal opinion commissioned by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), Michael Ford QC stated that, “all the social rights in employment currently required by EU law would be potentially vulnerable” if Britain were outside the EU, with women’s rights being particularly at risk. Ford continued by saying, “It is difficult to overstate the significance of EU law in protecting against sex discrimination. A history could be written based on the theme of progressive decisions of the ECJ correcting unprogressive tendencies of the domestic courts.”

This covers hugely important legislation, such as equal pay for work of equal value, the right to protection from discrimination on grounds of pregnancy, equal pensions and increased sanctions and compensation for workplace discrimination.

Ford's statement highlights that equality is therefore vulnerable to the political climate, and with the Conservatives in power in charge of Brexit, these rights are under threat at home, in the work-place and across borders.

 As some people have said regarding Theresa May´s premiership, what's the point of changing the singer if you don't change the song? Well, if the government won’t change its tune then women across the UK must demand that their voices are heard.

We must protect women and also the girls who will grow up to become the mothers, carers and workers in the future. We must protect them at home and in the work place, securing those valuable rights that the Labour movement has always fought for and won. Brexit cannot and should not become just another job for the boys. Women must take back control of their futures and demand a People`s Vote. 

 

Julie Ward is a Labour Member of the European Parliament for the North-West.

Anonymous

Theresa May humiliated in Brussels as EU leaders reject her Brexit demands

3 days 11 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May talks to Angela Merkel at the EU Council summit.

Theresa May was left humiliated by EU leaders once again after they rejected her calls for fresh concessions to help get her Brexit deal through the House of Commons.

In a devastating blow, an attempted compromise on the Northern Ireland backstop was ditched after the Prime Minister was accused of failing to clearly set out what she wanted.

Mrs May had flown to Brussels seeking "legally-binding" assurances that the backstop, which would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU as a way of avoiding a hard border in Ireland, would be a time-limited arrangement.

That followed her decision to ditch a Commons vote on the Brexit deal after being warned she faced a devastating defeat.

But after pleading her case to the other 27 leaders at a European Council summit, the Prime Minister's demands were rejected as the EU hardened its stance.

A draft proposal which would have provided "political and legal assurances" that the backstop would not be indefinite was scrapped

Meanwhile, a separate pledge that the backstop "does not represent a desirable outcome" for the EU was also ditched.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said: "Our UK friends need to say what they want, instead of asking us to say what we want. So we would like within a few weeks our UK friends to set out their expectations for us because this debate is sometimes nebulous and imprecise and I would like clarifications."

And in comments which will infuriate Tory Brexiteers who wanted Mrs May to wring fresh concessions out of the EU, he added: "We don’t want the UK to think there can be any form of renegotiation, that is crystal clear.We can add clarifications but no real changes.

"There will be no legally binding obligations imposed on the withdrawal treaty."

The EU response means Mrs May will return from Brussels empty-handed, despite telling her MPs that she would get "legal assurances" to satisfy their concerns on the backstop.

She made those comments to a meeting of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee just before MPs voted 200-117 to support her in a no-confidence ballot.

Downing Street confirmed yesterday that the meaningful vote will not take place before Christmas. Cabinet sources told The Sun it has now been pencilled in for 14 January.

However, the Prime Minister's chances of getting it through the Commons seem as bleak as ever following her latest Brussels rebuff.

Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: "The Prime Minister should have saved her train fare to Brussels. It's another grim night for her, in a week she will want to forget. But it seems like Theresa May has underperformed against a bar so low it was resting on the floor.

"She was never going to get a major overhaul of her deal, let alone a brand spanking new one. She must concede defeat and accept that a people's vote provides the only way out of this Brexit nightmare."

Kevin Schofield

Downing Street confirms vote on Brexit deal will not happen until 2019

4 days ago
Theresa May
Theresa May arriving at the EU Council in Brussels.

MPs will not get a chance to vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal until after Christmas, Downing Street has confirmed.

Confirming that Theresa May's negotiations with fellow EU leaders remain deadlocked, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said the meaningful vote will not take place until the Commons returns from the Christmas break on 7 January but before 21 January.

The announcement will infuriate Labour and the Lib Dems, both of whom have demanded that MPs be given the chance to finally vote on the deal next week, before Parliament rises on 20 December.

Mrs May had initially planned to hold the vote on 11 December, but announced a delay after being warned that she faced a humiliating defeat.

The Prime Minister has since begun a frantic round of talks with EU leaders in an attempt to win "legally-binding" assurances on the Northern Irish backstop, which has angered Tory Brexiteers and the DUP.

At the European Council meeting going on in Brussels, European heads of government have insisted that the legally-binding withdrawal agreement will not be re-opened.

Mrs May will make a personal plea to them later this evening, but has scrapped plans to attend a dinner with all EU leaders tonight.

Her spokeswoman said: "I can confirm the meaningful vote will not take place before Christmas, but it will happen as soon as possible when the House returns and obviously before 21 January."

Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake had earlier called for Parliament's Christmas recess to be cancelled if the vote did not take place before then.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had demanded an end to the "dither and delay" and for the vote to take place next week.

He said: "People and businesses need certainty. The Prime Minister should put her deal before Parliament next week in our country’s interest.

“She has admitted her deal is likely to be defeated by a significant margin. There is no time to waste, and parliament must take back control.”

Labour MP Alex Sobel, of the pro-EU campaign group Best for Britain, said: "The Government hope that they can play for more time and that will solve everything. Sadly this bad deal is bad now and it will be a bad deal in January.

"Brexit has not cancelled Christmas. The Government can kick this can as much as they want but soon, we are going to run out of road.

"The Government aren't stuck between a rock and a hard place but between the backstop and the DUP."

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