- Government publishes Brexit legal advice in full
- DUP tells Tory Brexiteers ‘reject the deal and we will not bring down the Government’
- Nick Timothy: This was the week that Brexit died
- Lord Norton: MPs have gained the upper hand over Government
- Theresa May reeling after three humiliating defeats
- If Parliament defeats the PM’s deal, what could happen next?
- Sign up to the Telegraph’s Brexit WhatsApp group for updates and analysis
The EU is prepared to discuss extending Article 50 if Theresa May’s Brexit deal is rejected next week, after her proposal was badly undermined by the Government’s own legal advice.
The Prime Minister will travel to Brussels on December 13, two days after the Parliamentary vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, when EU leaders are ready to discuss postponing Brexit.
Mrs May insists Britain will leave the EU on March 29 next year, but EU sources have said her fellow leaders would be open to the idea of extending the Article 50 process if it meant avoiding a no-deal Brexit.
Mrs May’s chances of winning next Tuesday’s vote were dealt a fresh blow on Wednesday when the Government published its legal advice on the deal, which warned that Britain could be yoked to the EU forever if the Irish backstop came into force.
The legal advice, prepared by Geoffrey Cox QC, the Attorney General, also makes it clear that Northern Ireland and mainland Britain would be subject to different customs regimes under the backstop, creating a regulatory border in the Irish Sea.
The legal advice – which the Government was forced to publish after being found in contempt of Parliament for not doing so – flew in the face of assurances from Mrs May and other ministers that the backstop would only be temporary and that Northern Ireland would be treated in exactly the same way as the rest of the UK.
Last night Mrs May was trying to salvage her deal by discussing a way of giving MPs a veto over the backstop –the mechanism designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland if no trade deal can be agreed. Two alternative plans were being discussed with backbenchers, one of which would force Mrs May to seek a unilateral exit mechanism from the backstop, while the other would give MPs the right to choose between the backstop or a no-deal Brexit if trade talks fail.
EU leaders are prepared to offer her a lifeline by offering to extend the Article 50 process – and postponing Brexit beyond March – if she asks them to at the two-day summit next week.
A succession of Tory MPs, including Sir Michael Fallon and Mark Harper, on Wednesday urged Mrs May to return to Brussels and seek a revised deal.
However, Mrs May will be hugely reluctant to postpone Brexit as it would mean breaking her promise that Britain will leave the EU on March 29, which could in turn force her to resign and give a new Conservative prime minister the opportunity to renegotiate the deal. Last night the DUP, on whose votes Mrs May relies for her working majority, encouraged Brexiteers to vote against the deal by saying its MPs would support the Government in a confidence vote if the deal was rejected.
However, the party said its confidence and supply deal with the Conservative Party would be over if the deal is voted through, effectively giving Mrs May a choice between her deal or her premiership.
On the second day of the five-day debate over the deal, it emerged that Mrs May will leave it to Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, to make the closing speech next Tuesday.
By allowing Mr Gove, who was co-leader of the Leave campaign, to speak last, Mrs May is gambling on him being able to win round any wavering Brexiteers, but the gamble will be seen to have backfired if she loses the vote.
Cabinet ministers are already jostling for position in any leadership contest that might result from a heavy defeat for Mrs May, with Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, emerging as a potential “unity candidate” who could bring together Remainers and Brexiteers. Meanwhile friends of Mr Cox said they feared he might be on the brink of resigning after his turbulent week, and a former minister suggested at least two other ministers were close to quitting.
As Mrs May spent Wednesday in meetings with backbench MPs opposed to her deal, Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, warned that Remainers will “steal Brexit” if the deal is rejected. He said it would “entirely be possible” for MPs to table amendments to forthcoming legislation to “achieve that effect” by voting for a second referendum or no Brexit.
During Wednesday’s debate Zac Goldsmith, a Eurosceptic Tory MP, told the Commons: “I believe the Government is going to lose this vote next week, I hope – I’m afraid to say – the Government loses the vote next week.
“And then either this Prime Minister or, if she will not do it, another prime minister must take it back to the EU and change it.”
Theresa May should go back to Brussels to renegotiate or be replaced, Tory MP says
Theresa May will have to be replaced if her Brexit deal is defeated and she refuses to go back to renegotiate, Zac Goldsmith, the former candidate for London Mayor, has said.
Mr Goldsmith said he hoped the Government’s deal is defeated next week by MPs, warning that if she did not go back to Brussels, then her replacement would.
His remarks came as Tory former minister Mark Harper said approving the Withdrawal Agreement would see his party’s relationship with the DUP completely break down and leave them “unable to govern”.
Speaking during day two of the Withdrawal Agreement debate, Mr Goldsmith said: ”I believe the Government is going to lose this vote next week, I hope – I’m afraid to say – the Government loses the vote next week.
“And then either this Prime Minister or, if she will not do it, another prime minister must take it back to the EU and change it.”
The MP for Richmond Park also warned that a second referendum would be “madness”, adding that a “failure to honour the referendum would surely cause an irreparable breakdown in the relationship between people and the authorities.
“It would usher in a new era of extreme politics.”
Earlier in the debate, Mr Harper raised concerns over the Irish border backstop plan – which he said should never be signed off.
“If this deal were voted through next week, it is my belief having listened carefully to what they’ve said, that the relationship between our DUP allies and the Prime Minister would be fractured beyond repair,” he told MPs.
“I think we would be in office but unable to govern our country effectively.”
Sir Michael Fallon, the former defence secretary, said Mrs May’s deal is “a risk too far” and will not have his support without improvement, adding: “If we are to surrender our vote, our voice and our veto then we need to have a deal that’s worth all the risks of not knowing how it’s going to work out, and we do not have that at the moment.
“This so-called deal is a gamble – we put all our cards and all our money on the table and then wait for another two years for the EU to set the rules of the game and that is a risk too far.”
He was joined by Lord Howard, the former Conservative leader, who likened the deal to a treaty of surrender.
“I cannot think of any other country, except perhaps in the immediate aftermath of a defeat in war or perhaps in the face of an imminent defeat of that kind, which has been prepared to give away so much control over such a wide area of its future affairs to a panel of arbitrators,” he added.
“The Government should recognise that this deal is dead.”
However, others warned that in light of Dominic Grieve’s amendment being passed on Tuesday, failure to vote through Mrs May’s deal could result in no Brexit at all.
They included Sir Desmond Swayne, a former minister, who claimed that the “game is up” and urged Brexiteers to realise there was now a “majority of MPs against leaving the EU”.
Echoing his comments, Stephen Crabb, the former Welsh Secretary, took aim at Brexiteers for failing to live up to the hard realities of leaving the European Union.
Urging MPs to back the deal, Mr Crabb said that whilst it was “less than perfect”, it was always going to be a compromise and a far cry from the “beautiful, optimistic simplicity of some of the leave campaign slogans”.
“I say to my colleagues…the deal on the table is not the Prime Minister’s deal, it is our deal. It has already got all of our names attached to it, because the deal has been shaped fundamentally, not by the Prime Minister, not by civil servants, it’s been shaped by decisions that we all took as a governing party.
“We stood on a manifesto that put forward those red lines, we are as responsible for how this deal was shaped. So we will share responsibility for what follows next.”
Nigel Dodds warns PM: If deal goes through how will you govern?
In a further indication that the DUP is preparing to collapse its confidence and supply agreement keeping the Government afloat, the party’s Westminster leader has warned the Prime Minister there will be “implications” if her deal goes through next week.
Speaking to ITV’s Robert Peston, Mr Dodds said that the draft withdrawal agreement “is not one that honours the spirit of the confidence and supply agreement and certainly not one we can support.”
He added: ”But even before we get to the point of calling a general election, what I would say to the Government and any Conservative MPs who may be thinking of voting for this – even if this vote squeaks through, how do they get the Withdrawal Bill through after that?
“How do they get all the other legislation that needs to get through the House of Commons? You don’t actually have to call a general election without realising how difficult this would put the Government’s position in.”
Without the DUP’s support, the Government’s majority would vanish and Mrs May would be unable to pass legislation without the support of opposition MPs.
DUP could vote with Labour in vote of no confidence
Jacob Rees-Mogg told a gathering of the European Research Group (ERG) of Brexit-backing Tories that the DUP’s support for Theresa May could be conditional on the Brexit deal being defeated.
His comments followed an earlier meeting between DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds, ERG chairman Mr Rees-Mogg and deputy chairman Steve Baker.
Mr Rees-Mogg told the meeting: “The DUP will support the Government in a confidence motion if the Withdrawal Agreement is voted down.
“But the risk of losing them and having an election is if the Withdrawal Agreement goes through.”
In the latest indication of efforts to avoid a defeat on December 11, Chief Whip Julian Smith attended the meeting of the Eurosceptic group.
It comes a week after Arlene Foster, the DUP’s leader, said in a newspaper interview that a Jeremy Corbyn government was better than accepting the Brexit deal in its current form.
Zac Goldsmith: May’s deal is the first thing I and Vince Cable have agreed on for years
The former candidate for London Mayor has told MPs that it is not possible to point to the primary factor behind the Leave vote, but what can be said with certainty is that “very few” of them would back the deal negotiated by Mrs May.
He says that the backstop cannot be voted through because it binds the UK to EU and removes Parliament’s sovereign right to diverge from its rules.
The idea that the backstop will be made redundant during the transition, via a free trade agreement, is also “incredibly unlikely”, he says.
He adds that it would only take one member state to utilise its veto to prevent the UK from leaving the backstop, as well as pouring could water on the idea that a future government could exit the arrangement by proving in court that the EU had acted in bad faith.
Referring to a recent meeting where he was joined by neighbouring MP Sir Vince Cable, he said that the need to reject Mrs May’s deal next week was the first thing the pair had agreed on in years.
However, he warned MPs that they must push for a better deal rather than legislating for a second referendum or stopping Brexit altogether.
“Failure to honour the referendum would surely cause an irreparable breakdown in the relationship between people and the authorities. It would usher in a new era of extreme politics,” he added.
DUP’s Sammy Wilson accuses Government of ‘bad faith’
Mr Wilson, the DUP’s Brexit spokesman, reiterated that his party’s 10 MPs would vote down the deal, warning that it “will damage the economy and damage the Union”.
Taking aim at ministers, he added that the DUP had entered into the confidence and supply agreement which enabled Mrs May to govern on assurances on Brexit that have now been broken.
He added: “I’ve got to say in this House today – and I say it to the front bench – we had an arrangement to keep the government in power now and keep the Government working until the end of this fixed term parliament.
“Promises were made, promises in December when we sat with the Prime Minister in Downing Street where she said I will make sure that NI has a final say in this because the Assembly will be the final arbiter as to whether these arrangements are put in place.
“They were taken out of the agreement. There has been bad faith. The agreement and understanding we had has been broken. That has caused tensions and going down this road will create further tensions. We want to see the agreement honoured because we want to see the United Kingdom preserved.”
Separately, the party’s leader, Arlene Foster, called on MPs to read the Attorney General’s legal advice and reject the deal.
Former chief whip says May’s deal breaks promise to electorate
Mark Harper, who has not voted against the Government for 13 years, said he will not back the deal because of the Irish backstop.
“The problem I have is the backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement. The Prime Minister was clear that a backstop that treated Northern Ireland differently and put a border in the Irish Sea was unacceptable and not something any British prime minister could sign off and I’m afraid to say she has done exactly that.”
He cited the legal advice, adding: “I think the Prime Minister was right when she said no UK prime minister should sign off such a deal, I still stick to that which is why I won’t be able to support the Withdrawal Agreement as it’s currently set out.
“That’s the first time in my 13 years in this House I will not be able to support my party and I regret that and I regret being put in a position where in order to hold to the promises that we made in our General Election manifesto last year to the people of our country, I’m forced to vote against a proposition put before this House by my Prime Minister. But I think it’s important in politics that we keep our promises because that is how we maintain the trust of the British people and I think breaking our promises is not something we should do.”
Treasury would be forced to turn on spending taps in event of no deal
Leaving the EU without a deal would be “terrible” and would require the Treasury to pump money into the economy to keep it on a stable footing, Philip Hammond has said.
The Chancellor has told the Commons Treasury committee a no-deal Brexit would see inflation soar, the pound plunge, and the interest rate increases of the past two years reversed.
In yet another gloomy forecast, Mr Hammond warned MPs that rejecting the deal next week create serious uncertainty and they should consider the full consequences brought about by their actions.
He pointed to Whitehall analysis suggesting UK GDP could take a 9.3 percent hit over 15 years in “a needless loss of consumption in the economy”.
Mr Hammond also warned that a Brexit outcome which left the UK trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms would require “very significant” infrastructure work in ports such as Dover which would take a number of years to complete.
Sir Desmond Swayne: the game is up for the Brexiteers
John Redwood, a prominent Eurosceptic, has just given way during his speech in the Commons to Sir Desmond Swayne, who takes him to task over the suggestion that voting down the deal could bring about a better Brexit.
Sir Desmond said:
“Does he not consider that the majority for [the Grieve amendment] yesterday shows that the game is up, and that there is now a majority in this House against leaving the European Union? And the game for us must be to find some orderly way round that, irrespective of the majority now against us.”
Sir Desmond’s intervention comes after MPs voted to adopt an amendment put forward by Dominic Grieve last night, which effectively enables MPs to prevent a no deal Brexit if they wish it if the deal is rejected next week.
A number of MPs have suggested that the amendment significantly strengthens Mrs May’s hand because it will focus the minds of Brexiteers, who now face the real prospect of no Brexit at all if they vote down the deal.
Stephen Crabb: we must share responsibility for this less than perfect deal
The former Welsh minister has let rip at his backbench colleagues, who he claims are as much at fault for the current chaos over the Brexit deal as Mrs May and her negotiators.
Addressing MPs, Mr Crabb took aim at the Tory Brexiteers, adding that they had failed to accept the reality that the sheer complexity of delivering Brexit “jarred” with the “perfect theory and almost beautiful, optimistic simplicity of some of the leave campaign slogans”.
As the increasing realisation has set in that Brexit is a more challenging and more difficult process than many would have loved to believe at the start, so the blame game sets in and we hear people lashing out so easily against the Prime Minister. “This is all her fault, it’s her personality, she’s not tough enough, she should have been a real believer.”
Or we hear accusations against Olly Robbins and the senior civil servants: “If only we didn’t have senior civil servants that weren’t part of the metropolitan elite and more reflected the views of the British public then we would have a better Brexit option on the table infront of us.”
The truth is that we have a less than perfect Brexit deal in front of us, because that always going to be the case. I say to my colleagues…the deal on the table is not the Prime Minister’s deal, it is our deal. It has already got all of our names attached to it, because the deal has been shaped fundamentally, not by the Prime Minister, not by civil servants.
It’s being shaped by decisions that we all took as a governing party. The timetable of article 50 with its hard deadline, we agreed to that. We signed up to it. The red lines in the manifesto that we all stood on last year, the contradictory red lines that perpetuated the same fiction that you could have all the same benefits of the membership of the single market and the customs union, but none of the obligations that come with being part of them.
We stood on a manifesto that put forward those red lines, we are as responsible for how this deal was shaped. So we will share responsibility for what follows next. If this deal gets voted down next week, we will know and it’s been clear from the first day of debate that no one is sure what will happen next.
There is a further period of political uncertainty and turmoil, and that cannot be in this country’s interests.
Sir Michael Fallon: No deal would be highly irresponsible
Sir Michael, the former defence secretary, says that he welcomes the amendment put forward – and won – by Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, last night, which enables Parliament to set how the Government should proceed if Mrs May’s deal is rejected.
However, he warns MPs against “overreaching”, adding that he is not convinced by the arguments for a second referendum because he struggles to see how it could be “decisive” or deliver a “sufficient consensus to put this issue to bed for a decent period of time. “
But he is in favour of cutting off the route to a no deal, which he says would be “highly irresponsible”.
“No agreement on trade and no agreement on security would be harmful to our business interests and in my view we must have a deal in place before we leave,” he told MPs.
“We should be very clear what is not acceptable, and it is my view that no deal is not acceptable. It is my view that no deal would be highly irresponsible.”
He adds that he cannot support the deal because of the backstop, the “huge sum of £39bn” which will be handed to Brussels in the divorce deal, and the “completely vacuous political declaration” which fails to provide certainty on key areas such as trade and security.
Yvette Cooper: May’s deal will make UK less safe
The Labour MP, who chairs the Commons home affairs committee, claims that the deal does not guarantee access to key EU databases available to member states and would therefore leave the UK less safe.
Mrs Cooper, whose committee has been grilling the Home Office on security arrangements in recent weeks, warns that the UK is likely to lose access to SIS II (border security) and ECRIS (criminal records).
She claims that the UK had pushed to remain part of the former but failed to secure access, adding that unlike the protections in the deal for Northern Ireland, there is “no security backstop”.
Sam Gyimah: We will end up in a second transition period
The former universities minister, who resigned over the weekend in protest over Theresa May’s Brexit deal, has just given his first speech from the backbenches in six years.
Mr Gyimah, who believes there should be a second referendum, told MPs that it was highly likely that the UK would be forced to extend the transition position and hand over a “significant amount of money” to Brussels in order to do so.
His comments mirror the concerns of many Brexiteers, who have warned that the transition period would needed to be extended for several years in order to secure a free trade deal with the EU.
Mr Gyimah pointed out that the chances of securing an FTA quickly were slim, as the EU would be preoccupied with the appointment of a new commission and the election of new MEPs.
That would eat into negotiating time, giving the UK around 12 months before the transition period elapses.
“And what that means is that we will then go into the second [transition] with a general election on the horizon, a Northern Ireland backstop that no one in this House wants, and yes, whatever assurances we are given, it is in all likelihood that we will pay any price the EU asks of us in order to get out of that backstop,” he added.
Mr Gyimah, who voted to remain, said that “even as a remainer” it had become “quite clear to me that this deal is not politically or practically deliverable, that it will make us poorer and also risk the union.”
He also took issue with the political declaration, the non-binding framework for future EU-UK relations, which he said had failed to provide certainty on key areas such as security, home affairs, agriculture and fishing.
“All the big issues – whether on security, home affairs, on agriculture, on fishing, our independent trading policy, on friction-less trade – have been kicked into the long grass.
“So while the public is being told this is almost like the end of the process, we’re actually just finishing one process and about to begin on another long and arduous process – but we’ll be doing that at a time when we have given up our vote, our veto and our voice and would have no leverage whatsoever.”
Philip Hammond: ‘Divided countries are not successful countries’
The Chancellor is giving evidence to the Treasury Select Committee this afternoon.
He told MPs that modelling conducted by the Treasury and other Whitehall departments showed that the UK would be worse-off economically under any Brexit scenario.
But Mr Hammond insisted that it was worth taking what would be a “very small” economic hit under the Government’s preferred Brexit in order to avoid the political and societal harm from cancelling EU withdrawal.
The Chancellor told the Commons Treasury Committee: “The analysis clearly shows that leaving the EU under any scenario that we are modelling has a cost – an economic cost.”
But he added: “My own judgment is that we need a way forward which heals our country. We are a deeply fractured country, with opinion heavily polarised and trust in the political system correspondingly damaged. I would suggest… that divided countries are not successful countries.
“I have thought long and hard about this, and I have come to the conclusion that the future success of our country depends on us executing the instructions of the British people in the referendum, leaving the EU, but doing so in a way that minimises the impact on our economy and maximises the opportunity that we have in the future, so that we can come together as a nation and work together to exploit those opportunities in the future.
“Any solution which left the country divided, left a large segment of the population feeling betrayed, in my view, would have a negative political and societal impact that would far outweigh the very small economic impact that the White Paper scenario is showing.”
Sajid Javid warns of no-deal security ‘consequences’
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Javid said “no matter how effectively” the Government prepares for a no-deal Brexit, there will be “consequences” for the UK’s security.
The Home Secretary said the UK would have to stop using EU data tools and security platforms from March next year, adding: “There would be unhelpful implications for our law enforcement agencies and border guards.
“There would be disruption and they would have less information available to do their jobs.”
He added: ”They would have fewer options for pursuing criminals across borders, as we would lose our efforts through Europol and Eurojust, and it would take longer to track, arrest and bring to justice those who commit crimes internationally.”
Mr Javid said he chairs a weekly meeting in the Home Office to plan for this eventuality, but warned MPs: “But no matter how effectively we prepare for a no-deal, setting aside the capabilities we have developed with our EU partners will have consequences.”
Sajid Javid: PM’s deal will deliver smooth Brexit
The Home Secretary opened the second day of the Brexit deal debate and said: “It is my belief that the deal on the table is the best option available in ensuring a smooth exit from the European Union.
“It will ensure we leave the EU as planned on March 29 next year, that we take back control of our borders, end the jurisdiction of the ECJ (European Court of Justice) in the UK, and we stop sending vast sums of money to Brussels.”
Nigel Dodds: Full statement
The DUP’s deputy leader said: “It is clear from the Attorney General’s advice on the legal effect of the protocol on Northern Ireland to the Prime Minister and her Cabinet colleagues that we were right to advocate its full publication and we have been vindicated in our opposition to the backstop arrangements contained within the Withdrawal Agreement.
“This advice concisely sets out the stark reality of the operation of the backstop. Its publication demonstrates how the Prime Minister has failed to abide by the commitments she gave in that the United Kingdom as a whole would leave the European Union and that she would ensure there would be no customs or regulatory divergence within the United Kingdom.
“This backstop is totally unacceptable to unionists throughout the United Kingdom and it must be defeated and arrangements renegotiated that uphold the commitments which the Prime Minister and her Government has made in the House of Commons.”
Theresa May: EU does not see backstop as ‘attractive’
Given the negative reception to the Brexit legal advice, it is worth remembering the PM’s argument as to why MPs should not be overly worried about it.
She told the House of Commons during PMQs the EU would not want Britain to be in a backstop for “longer than is necessary”.
She said: “I recognise there are concerns about the backstop but it is indeed the case that it is not attractive for the European Union to have the United Kingdom in the backstop for a number of reasons.
“First of all because in that backstop we will be making no financial obligation to the European Union; we will not be accepting free movement; and there will be very light-touch level playing field requirements.
“These are matters which mean that the European Union does not see this as an attractive place for them to put the UK: they think that’s an attractive place for the UK to be in and they won’t want us to be in it for longer than is necessary.”
DUP’s Nigel Dodds delivers damning verdict on Brexit legal advice
Devastating from AG ….The legal advice just published proves NI would be in full EU Customs Union while GB is not. Goods passing from GB to NI will be subject to a declaration process. “GB is essentially treated as a third country by NI for goods passing from GB into NI”
— Nigel Dodds (@NigelDoddsDUP) December 5, 2018
The deputy leader of the DUP said it was “no wonder they tried to hide the legal advice”.
Liberal Democrats: Brexit legal advice shows ‘many years of uncertainty’ await
Tom Brake, the party’s Brexit spokesman, said: “These legal papers confirm that the deal will mean years of uncertainty and never-ending negotiations, highlighting the awful mess the Conservative Government has made out of Brexit.
“Nobody voted for Britain to be trapped in a Brexit hamster wheel, constantly haggling with close partners on trade as the country gets poorer.
“The case is becoming clearer day by day that the best way to secure our future is through a People’s Vote, with an option to remain in the EU.”
Chris Grayling: Nobody could ever get everything wanted
Asked by reporters if the Prime Minister’s deal is a “second-best Brexit”, Mr Grayling said: “I think it’s a pragmatic Brexit.
“It is about actually reflecting the fact that nobody could ever get everything they wanted out of the negotiation, that nobody can expect the purity of what they might aspire to.
“We had a 52-48 vote.
“What we need, I think, is a deal that reflects that; that is sensible, retains a good relationship with our partners in the European Union, but also delivers Brexit and those key principles about taking back control of laws, money and borders.”
He added: “It’s just about delivering a pragmatic, sensible agreement that allows us to move on into the post-Brexit world.”
Geoffrey Cox: Release of Brexit legal advice ‘does not set a precedent’
The Attorney General has published a written statement after the Government published his Brexit legal advice in full.
Mr Cox said publishing the advice ”does not set a precedent for any future release of law officers’ advice”.
He said: “It remains a fundamental constitutional convention that neither the fact, nor the content, of law officers’ advice is disclosed outside Government without the law officers’ consent.
“That convention provides the fullest guarantee that the business of governments is conducted at all times in the light of thorough and candid legal advice, which may also enter into matters of acute sensitivity to the public interest.”
Mr Cox said that use of the arcane parliamentary procedure of a humble address to the Queen to force the release of the document created “constitutional tensions” which “are not themselves conducive to the proper conduct of public affairs”.
He said: “It is necessary that the public has confidence in the ability of Government and Parliament to work together at a time of national decision-making of the most profound significance.
“The standing of the House of Commons is also of prime importance. For these reasons, having tested the will of the House twice, the Government will respect its decision and, in these exceptional circumstances and to resolve for the present those constitutional tensions, it has decided, with my consent, to publish this advice.”
Chris Grayling: Rejecting PM’s deal puts Brexit in ‘danger’
The Transport Secretary has warned fellow Eurosceptics they could put Brexit at risk if they vote against Theresa May’s deal.
In remarks following a speech to transport and business leaders in Birmingham on Wednesday, he said: “You’re not going to draw me on forecasting the future.
“What I know is that politics is moving very fast at the moment.
“What people on the Brexit side of the argument particularly need to ask themselves is are we prepared to put in danger leaving the European Union, after votes in the House of Commons which clearly try and put greater shackles on the Government when it comes to Brexit.”
Mr Grayling, speaking at Birmingham Airport, said: “It is better to get on and deliver this, get out and move on from the European Union.
“Nobody is going to get the perfect deal, nobody should ever really expect to get the perfect deal.
“What we do need to do is to leave.”
Labour Remain-backing MP: Legal advice kills off PM’s deal
David Lammy, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign group, said: “This legal advice is a disaster for the government as it lays bare the unvarnished truth about how bad her Brexit deal is.
“Northern Ireland could be carved off and we could end up in a Brexit ground hog day of talks and more talks. “This legal advice is the final nail in the coffin. Her deal is now dead.”
Theresa May: Under Labour there is no money left
Jeremy Corbyn asks the Prime Minister about stagnant wage growth in the UK.
But Mrs May again says the Labour leader has got it wrong with ”wages growing faster than they have for nearly a decade” and “we see employment at record levels”.
Mr Corbyn then accuses Mrs May of laughing at his questions on poverty and shouts: “It’s the reality of people’s lives.”
John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, is forced to intervene amid lots of shouting from the backbenches as he tells MPs to calm down.
Mr Corbyn then raises the treatment of disabled people and suggests the Government is not doing enough to help them into work.
Mrs May insists the Government takes the issue seriously before pivoting to an attack on Labour’s record of managing the public finances.
She says that her Government has had to take “difficult choices” because of the Opposition’s “mismanagement of the economy”.
“Under Labour there is no money left,” Mrs May says.
Mr Corbyn asks ”when will the Prime Minister turn her warm words into action” and help the poorest in society.
Mrs May says the poorest in society “lose out when a Labour government comes in”.
Jeremy Corbyn grills Theresa May on poverty and Universal Credit
PMQs is now underway in the House of Commons.
The Labour leader uses his questions to ask the Prime Minister about a recent report published by a UN Special Rapporteur on poverty in the UK.
Mr Corbyn claims that Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has taken a lesson from Mrs May by introducing a ”hostile environment for those claiming benefits”.
He then raises concerns about Universal Credit but Mrs May says the flagship welfare reform represents a “simpler system for those people who need to use it”.
Mr Corbyn said “people risk being left with no money at Christmas” as he calls for a five week waiting limit for Universal Credit payments to be made to be abolished.
Mrs May says the Labour leader does not understand Universal Credit and insists: “No one has to wait for money if they need it.”
Legal advice published
Caroline Lucas has seen the Attorney General’s legal advice – which does not appear to have been published by the Government yet.
It is broadly similar to the legal arguments set out by the Attorney General earlier this week. The key point is that he believes it will be difficult for the UK to exit the backstop, but not impossible.
‘The end of hard Brexit’: How rebel Tories won right to force ‘Plan B’
Tory Remainers plotting to wrestle control of Brexit from Theresa May won a significant victory by ensuring MPs could force a “plan B” on her if her EU deal was rejected by Parliament, writes Gordon Rayner.
The Prime Minister saw 25 of her own MPs, including several former loyalists, join forces with Labour to pass a crucial amendment to her deal by 321 votes to 299, a majority of 22.
Lord Dubs: Brexit has made us meaner
Lord Dubs, the Labour peer, has claimed Brexit that has poisoned the atmosphere and made the UK “meaner and nastier,” Bethany Papworth writes.
“I knocked on a lot of doors during the referendum campaign and immigration was what they talked about,” he told the Big Issue.
“I pointed out that I had been in hospital and everybody who looked after me was an immigrant. People responded, ‘it’s not the ones that are here, it’s the ones that are going to come.”
He added: “It’s complete nonsense that Boris Johnson and the Leave campaign created a fear factor where 80 million turks prepared to enter Britain. Brexit did poison the atmosphere”.
In 2016, Dubs was awarded the ‘Humanist of the Year’ by the British Humanist Association.
‘Have I got a better chance of winning Bake Off than May winning this vote?’
Brexiteer Tory Nigel Evans has attacked Mrs May’s deal, telling Liam Fox: “At the moment we can leave the European Union unilaterally. Once we sign the Withdrawal Agreement we can’t.”
“So you understand that I have got more chance of winning (TV cookery programme) Bake Off than the Prime Minister has of winning this vote on Tuesday with the colleagues I have spoken to?”
Liam Fox admits backstop has serious flaws
Liam Fox says he has found the EU’s “dislike for the backstop is stronger than I had anticipated”
— Asa Bennett (@asabenn) December 5, 2018
Liam Fox says UK would “not implement” trade deals that are “not UK-wide” – in bid to reassure DUP over backstop
— Asa Bennett (@asabenn) December 5, 2018
No pain, no gain?
Another interesting poll raised by Matthew Goodwin here – showing that 67 per cent of Brexiteers are happy to endure some economic turmoil in return for a clean Brexit, according to ComRes.
What can we expect in the Brexit legal advice?
This is the million dollar question this morning, writes Jack Maidment.
Opposition MPs are convinced the reason why the Government has been so reluctant to publish the advice is that it is utterly damning of Theresa May’s deal.
It has been reported that the advice, set out in a six page document given to Cabinet, says the UK will be trapped “indefinitely” in a customs union with Brussels in the event the Irish border backstop protocol has to be used.
It also apparently makes clear that the only way out of the backstop is for a trade deal to be signed with the EU – something which critics believe could take years, keeping the UK tied to Brussels rules and regulations long into the future. Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, admitted in the House of Commons on Monday that the UK could not unilaterally decide to exit the backstop, prompting fury among Brexiteers.
The question now is whether there is anything else lurking in the legal advice which will draw the ire of MPs. Luckily we only have to wait until 11.30am to find out.
Raab: We have to keep our promises to voters
Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, says that if the deal is voted down “what will matter most of all…is the will and resolve in No 10 Downing Street and I hope in that scenario the Prime Minister will go back to Brussels.”
He hopes a counter-offer will then emerge that makes material changes to the backstop. The “number one” changes he wants to see is the UK being allowed to unilaterally end the backstop.
Asked whether MPs can prevent no deal by voting for a motion against it, Mr Raab says this would be an “inconceivable” violation of the referendum result.
“It fails the basic cardinal principal of UK politics, which is you keep your promises.”
Andrea Leadsom: No deal is not impossible
Here’s the latest news in Westminster from our political correspondent Jack Maidment:
Andrea Leadsom, the Commons Leader, was just on the Today programme and she said three things of note.
- That the Government will publish the full Brexit legal advice today “at about 11.30am”. However, she is not happy about it. She said: “The vote yesterday of the House to require this specific legal advice to Cabinet we will comply with but not without some regret.” Asked if she was annoyed, she said: “It’s not so much annoyed as just recognising that this is a very important breach that has taken place here. “Law officers when they advise Cabinet they have always done so on the understanding that Cabinet ministers are their client so there is confidentiality about whether advice has been given as well as what that advice is. “Going forward not only will government ministers be very careful about what they ask law officers to give advice on but law officers themselves will be very reluctant to give any advice to government that they might then see published on the front pages of the newspapers. “So it is the principle of the thing. Frankly, I think any parliamentarian who wants at some point in the future to be in Government is going to live to regret their vote last night.”
- That she does not believe the Dominic Grieve amendment will enable MPs to block a no-deal Brexit. She said: “It doesn’t make no-deal an impossibility… because after the Withdrawal Act that was passed that got Royal Assent in June we will be leaving the European Union on March 29, 2019.” Told that MPs believed they now have to power to stop no-deal, she said: “I can’t see that they do and I think the issue is that the default position is no-deal.”
- She would not say whether she believed Theresa May should stay on as PM if her deal is rejected next week. Ms Leadsom said Mrs May “certainly is at the moment” the right person to lead the country. She said: “I have never and will not start predicting the future. The Prime Minister is determined to deliver on this deal.” Pushed again to predict whether the PM will still be PM, she said: “I don’t do predictions. Ever. So I am not going to do predictions.”
Leadsom: Tory rebels will ‘live to regret’ voting against MP
Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, is fighting hard for the Brexit deal on Radio 4.
“We will be able to write free trade deals, there has been an awful lot of misinformation about what is in this deal,” she says.
She also warns that MPs who voted for the Government to be held in contempt of Parliament will live to regret it.
Crumbs. Andrea Leadsom says any MP who has ambitions of being in government at some point in the future will “live to regret” the contempt vote which forced the Government to publish its full Brexit legal advice.
— Jack Maidment (@jrmaidment) December 5, 2018
Labour wants more cake
Shami Chakrabarti, a Labour peer, says the party could renegotiate the Brexit deal so that the UK effectively left the EU single market but retained all of its benefits.
She says the Labour party would also ensure the deal protects workers’ rights.
And she rules out a Norway-style deal as this would give UK “no say over its destiny.”
Former Whip: May needs to renegotiate
Mark Harper told Radio 4 that Mrs May needed to go back to Brussels before the Commons vote is held and insist that the backstop clause is removed.
Mr Harper revealed in the Telegraph last night that he could not support Mrs May’s deal. Read his article here.
This is an article I never wanted to write, having been loyal to my Party and its leadership for my entire 13 years in the House of Commons.
However, in order to remain true to the manifesto promises on which I was elected as a Conservative and Unionist MP last year as well as my commitment to the integrity of our United Kingdom, I am unable to support the Cabinet’s EU Withdrawal Agreement.
Former minister: More resignations to come
A former Government minister has claimed that more resignations will follow “within the next few days.”
Shailesh Vara, who quit the Government over the Irish backstop clause in the Brexit deal, said:
It is fair to say that the morale and the mood in the Conservative Party at the moment is not at its best. “I have been a member of parliament for over 13 and a half years and this is probably the lowest time in the Conservative Party.”
He added: “Since I resigned I have spoken with some ministers and a lot more backbenchers and there is uncertainty with some of them and at least two ministers that I know of are thinking of resigning within the next few days if there isn’t some sort of settlement.
Justine Greening: We need a second referendum
The Tories’ Justine Greening says parliament needs to accept it is “gridlocked” and calls for a second referendum.
“This has been a cross-party push for a second referendum, it’s why we have been able to make a case to put Britain first and recognise that if parliament can’t reach a consensus we have to do it for ourselves.”
“The public senses that we could be debating this for the next five years.”
She adds that if the second referendum returned another Brexit vote she would accept it.
Letwin: Norway should be Plan B
Tory grandee Sir Oliver Letwin has been speaking on the BBC’s Today programme.
He supported an amendment last night that could give MPs enormous leverage over the Brexit deal.
“All I’m trying to do is get to a point where common sense can break out. I will support the PM’s deal but well know there’s a serious risk it will fail,” he says, adding that the Norway option would be a “plausible” Plan B.
I accept there is a very high chance the deal will fail, if it fails we have to make sure we can gather a majority for some sensible proposition.
I do believe the EU would accept a Norway solution and I do believe there is a majority [for this] in the House of Commons.”
On Northern Ireland, if we have Norway Plus…as soon as we’re into the Efta pillar and in a customs union the whole issue of the backstop falls away.
‘Significant’ long terms benefits of no deal – Tory MP
A Tory MP has claimed that leaving the EU with no deal would be a better outcome for the UK in the long term.
“No deal will be a challenge, no deal will definitely present some practical issues, and obviously a deal is preferable, but it will by no means be the catastrophe that some people are portraying,” Suella Braverman, a former minister, told the Press Association this morning.
“In many ways there are some significant medium to long-term economic benefits from no deal, by opening our markets to global producers from outside of the EU we will increase competition, we will increase choice.”
She accused the Bank of England of “scaremongering” over its warnings that no deal could be disastrous for the economy.
All reliable economic forecasts show that ‘no deal’ would be severely disruptive to the British economy in the short term, but the long term impact is less clear.
Public don’t want second referendum, polls suggest
Matthew Goodwin, an expert in politics and populism, points out this morning that polls do not show much support for a second referendum.
Whether MPs would support a second public vote remains unclear – it was once an unthinkable suggestions for all but the most ardent of Remainers in the Commons.
But last night’s catastrophic events for Mrs May will have emboldened many who quietly resent Brexit.
UK papers’ reaction to day May lost control
The Guardian says Mrs May “staggers on” following the defeats, but The Sun claims the PM “cannot tough this out”.
“Her defeats yesterday were body blows for the Government and possibly Brexit”, says The Sun’s leader.
But the paper does praise Mrs May for her “calm determination”.
The Daily Mail says Brexit is “on a knife edge” following the Commons defeats, and explains that her administration became the first in modern history to be found in contempt of Parliament.
The paper’s leader warns that Parliament, rather than the Government, could end up having “total supremacy in shaping Brexit” – and means Brexit may not happen at all.
“Just consider how that would shatter the integrity of our democracy and erode what’s left of public trust in our political class,” it says.
“It should now be clearer than ever that the only hope of salvation is Mrs May’s deal,” it adds.
The Daily Express also continues to back the PM and warns that Britain’s democratic vote had been “thrown into jeopardy”.
“Sabotage Brexit at your peril!”, its headline reads.
In its opinion piece, it adds: “It is clear that the deal struck by our courageous and indefatigable Prime Minister is now the only sure way that Brexit is delivered.”
The Daily Mirror describes the triple blow as “63 minutes of mayhem” and warns that Mrs May looks to be losing control of her Brexit strategy.
In its leader, the paper says the “crushing” defeats have left Parliament in chaos.
Brexit deal will keep Britain moving, says Transport Secretary
The Prime Minister’s Brexit deal will “keep Britain moving” and has the support of transport industry leaders, according to Chris Grayling.
The Transport Secretary will say in a speech on Wednesday that the current deal “protects jobs, security and the union”, describing it is a good deal “for business, for trade and for transport”.
Mr Grayling’s support for the agreement is echoed by key figures from within the transport sector, the Department for Transport said.
During a speech at Birmingham Airport, Mr Grayling will say: “Most of us want a mutually beneficial deal with the EU, and a smooth transition. That’s what the current agreement will deliver.
“It protects jobs, security and the union of the United Kingdom, while ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK.
“But crucially, it provides a free trade area with the EU, while also allowing us to pursue trade deals with other countries around the world.”
Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said: “For UK aviation a Withdrawal Agreement is clearly in the interests of both the UK and Europe and so this agreement represents a path which can provide certainty and confidence for airlines, passengers and businesses alike.”
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