Tory backbench leader Sir Graham Brady has been spotted going into 10 Downing Street amid rumours that Theresa May could announce a departure date tomorrow in exchange for rebel MPs’ backing for her Brexit deal.
Downing Street declined to comment after Sir Graham, the chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee, was seen heading in at lunchtime following a climbdown from hardline Eurosceptics including Jacob Rees-Mogg.
The Prime Minister is now expected to address her MPs on Wednesday night, and speculation is high that she could offer to step down to get her deal over the line in a vote on Thursday or Friday.
Sir Graham speaks for the party’s rank-and-file MPs and would be heavily involved in any coordinated departure of Mrs May following a summit with top Brexiteers at Chequers on Sunday.
Boris Johnson has already indicated that he could back the deal if she agrees to go, and today at least four MPs who previously voted against the Prime Minister today said they would now back her.
They include Jacob Rees-Mogg who said: ‘The choice seems to be Mrs May’s deal or no Brexit. The Prime Minister will not deliver a No Deal Brexit.
‘I have always thought that No Deal is better than Mrs May’s deal, but Mrs May’s deal is better than not leaving at all’.
The Prime Minister must pass her deal by the end of the week for Britain to leave the EU on May 22. If it doesn’t the country will leave on 12 April, but rebel MPs are trying to force through a longer delay and softer Brexit in votes that begin tomorrow.
Signs that MPs will seize control of Brexit appear to be adding momentum to the rebel Brexiteer climbdown – despite confusion this afternoon when the DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson wrote an op-ed in the Telegraph saying the party would rather accept a one year delay to leaving the EU than ever vote for the PM’s deal.
His fiery words seemingly torpedoed the PM’s chances of passing her deal by Friday. Yet an hour later the party distanced itself from their own Brexit spokesman saying their position on Brexit remained unchanged. They are still opposed to the deal but Mrs May is fighting to win them over.
Sir Graham Brady and Theresa May met at Downing Street this lunchtime amid rumours that Tory rebel MPs will only back her deal if she publicly agrees to quit afterwards. Sir Graham, left, is pictured on his way to No 10 this afternoon, and the PM is pictured leaving this afternoon
The U-turns from Tories Mr Rees-Mogg, Michael Fabricant and James Gray may prove too late, with some of their hardcore Brexiteer colleagues including Mark Francois and the DUP still refusing to vote for the deal before Friday.
That could mean Brexit will slowly slip away, with MPs set to hold a series of indicative votes on Wednesday to choose their preferred option for Brexit and then try to force the result on May next week.
As things stand, Britain will leave the EU on May 22 if the Prime Minister’s deal passes before Friday and April 12 if it does not.
A KEY WEEK FOR BREXIT
TUESDAY MARCH 26: REBEL MPs FINALIZE PLAN FOR INDICATIVE VOTES – WHILE MAY CONTINUES FIGHT TO WIN SUPPORT FOR HER BREXIT DEAL:
Remainer rebels are now trying work out how they will hold the indicative votes on Wednesday while Theresa May scrambles for support for her deal. It is most likely to involve two ’rounds’ of votes, with a favoured option eventually selected on Monday.
WEDNESDAY MARCH 27: MPs HOLD INDICATIVE VOTES ROUND ONE:
MPs are set to hold the ‘first round’ vote choosing their preferred Brexit from options including Norway, a Customs Union, May’s Deal and No Deal. They will most likely be able to choose more than one option at this stage, and will write their preferences on pink slips of paper rather than walking through lobbies in the traditional Commons voting method. The top options would then be put forward to another ’round two’ vote.
COULD STILL HAPPEN THURSDAY MARCH 28: MAY HOLDS A THIRD MEANINGFUL VOTE ON HER BREXIT DEAL:
May is likely to try and pass her Brexit deal a third time, after the EU offered a Brexit date of 22 May if she does so this week. The Prime Minister will use threats that MPs will take control and force a softer Brexit in an attempt to force Brexiteer rebels and the DUP to finally back her. She may also offer them a date when she will quit in return for their support. Thursday is the most likely day for her vote, but there is a chance she won’t hold it if she still does not believe she’ll win.
FRIDAY MARCH 29: MPs TAKE CONTROL?
If the PM loses a third vote on her deal, or does not hold one, by Friday the Brexit date is reset until April. MPs and Remainer Cabinet ministers will try and force her towards a softer Brexit. Brexiteer MPs and Cabinet minister will conversely try and push her towards a No Deal exit from the EU. Minister have also claimed that they could call an election if MPs try to force them into a soft Brexit.
MONDAY APRIL 1: INDICATIVE VOTES ROUND TWO:
MPs are expected to rank their preferences for Brexit. When one option is knocked out, MPs second preferences will be counted. For example if a second referendum is knocked out, its supporters can switch to backing a soft Brexit. Parliament would agree to support the final option.
WEDNESDAY APRIL 3: MPs COULD FORCE MAY’S HAND:
If Theresa May refuses to accept MPs preferred Brexit option, they could try to pass new legislation compelling her to do so.
The alternatives for May look bleak as rebel MPs next week plan to force her to adopt a softer Brexit – such as the so-called Norway option – by taking control of the Commons in a historic power grab.
As the Government’s Brexit strategy went into meltdown yesterday, senior ministers ‘war-gamed’ scenarios that could see a general election called three years ahead of schedule because a soft Brexit would shred the Tory manifesto.
An election would cause fresh public uproar, with only 12 per cent of the public wanting one, according to the most recent polling.
The campaign would also likely tear apart the already split Tory and Labour parties because their MPs are bitterly divided over whether to leave the EU, compromise on a soft Brexit or to try to reverse the 2016 referendum and remain.
Arch-Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg today revealed he is ready to swing behind the Prime Minister’s EU divorce and said: ‘The choice seems to be Mrs May’s deal or no Brexit. The Prime Minister will not deliver a No Deal Brexit.
‘I have always thought that No Deal is better than Mrs May’s deal, but Mrs May’s deal is better than not leaving at all’.
Asked if that meant the options were now ‘deal or potentially no Brexit’, he told ConHome: ‘That, I think, becomes the choice eventually. Is this deal worse than not leaving? No, definitely not.
‘If we take this deal we are legally out of the EU. Being legally out is of great importance. It restores our independence’.
The ERG chairman’s U-turn will give the PM a glimmer of hope that she could get her EU divorce over the line but she also needs to announce her own exit date if Boris Johnson and other Brexiteers will be convinced.
Mr Rees-Mogg’s change of heart has already convinced others to change their minds with Michael Fabricant saying today: ‘This is the dreadful conclusion I came to too’ while James Gray, who has twice voted against Mrs May’s deal saying: ‘It’s a horrible deal but I’ll hold my nose and support it’.
Rebel Ben Bradley, who only a week ago said he would never back the deal, said today: ‘I’ll back the deal because I honestly don’t see another way forward now that’s not a nightmare’.
There are now around 70 Tory MPs Mrs May still needs to convince before she can get her deal through – but yesterday she was forced to admit to the Commons she does not have ‘the support’ to try again and could even call a general election in a bid to break the deadlock.
Tory MP John Baron said today a snap election was ‘becoming more likely’.
He said: ‘It may be that an election is necessary to redress the balance in favour of MPs willing to implement the referendum result, for history suggests it is unwise for any Parliament to distance itself from the people.
‘The events of the next few weeks will be critical.’
What does Theresa May need to win?
As Theresa May decides whether to risk a third vote on her deal, what she needs to win has not changed.
Just as on January 15 and March 12 the Prime Minister needs to win over a coalition of Brexiteer rebels, the DUP and enough Labour MPs to cover the most hardline Tories who will never vote for it.
She lost the first vote by 230 and the second by 149 – meaning she needs to find 75 votes to win this week.
Her mission looks very difficult: there are probably 25 to 35 Tory Brexiteers who will never vote for the deal, plus another half a dozen pro-EU Tories who want a second referendum.
If the 10 DUP refuse to come on board, she probably fails to win even that many Tory Brexiteers.
The chance of 40-plus Labour MPs rebelling is small: so far the most who have done so is three.
With Theresa May desperately trying to gather support for her deal, it emerged today:
- Tomorrow night Theresa May will address the Tory party’s 1922 committee of backbenchers – raising expectations she will announce her departure;
- Brexiteers are finally swinging behind the PM’s EU divorce – but she still needs to convince at least 70 more Tories on both sides of the Brexit debate to change their minds;
- The DUP is refusing to budge and say the PM can have their support if the Irish backstop is ‘changed or deleted’;
- MPs will vote on the other Brexit options tomorrow night and have pledged to change the law to force the Government’s hand if she tries to ignore their conclusions;
The PM also needs the DUP on side today but MP Jim Shannon said that while some ERG members are ‘melting away’ – ‘nothing has changed’ for his party.
He said: ‘Some of them see Brexit as a greater priority than the union. We see the union as more important’.
Mrs May will only hold another meaningful vote on her Brexit deal if she believes she can win it, and the decision by MPs to take control of Wednesday’s Commons business meant it was ‘extremely unlikely’ the deal would return tomorrow.
Boris Johnson waves to protesters as he drives into Parliament today as rumours grew that Mrs May could be willing to announce her departure in return for his support
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt (left today) warned last night that there would be ‘gilet jaune’ protests if the Governmnet failed to deliver Brexit while Liz Truss (right today) has previously insisted that No Deal should be remain an option
Michael Gove was called back to Downing Street after a cabinet meeting with Theresa May this morning. It is not known why he returned
After a lengthy Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman added: ‘They had a long discussion both in relation to the votes which took place last night and on the work which is ongoing to build support for the Government’s deal to allow us to leave the EU in an orderly way as soon as possible.’
Theresa May is ‘devoid of basic human skills’, senior MEP claims
An MEP claimed that during her appearance in Brussels on Thursday, Mrs May even managed to upset the Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel, who he described as ‘Mr Nice Guy by definition’. May and Bettel are pictured at the summit
Theresa May lacks the ‘basic human skills’ needed to be an effective political leader today, a senior Eurocrat jibed today.
Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts, a member of the European Parliament’s Brexit steering committee, said the Prime Minister had been unable to establish ‘bonds of trust’ with other European leaders.
Mrs May spoke to EU leaders for 90 minutes at last week’s crunch summit as she made her request for a delay to Brexit.
Mr Lamberts said during her appearance Mrs May even managed to upset the Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel, who he described as ‘Mr Nice Guy by definition’.
He said: ‘If even Xavier Bettel is upset by Theresa May, she must be devoid of the basic human skills to be a political leader and that is scary.’
Speaking at a briefing in Brussels, he warned that she could adopt a ‘scorched earth policy’ if Parliament voted for an alternative to her Brexit plan which she did not support.
‘It is for the British Government to make up its mind what the alternative strategy is knowing full well that the strategy of running down the clock and scaring people into voting for the Withdrawal Agreement has failed,’ he said.
‘Theresa May might be tempted to play (a) scorched earth policy and say, ‘Well, whatever the Parliament does… I won’t do it.
‘There is a danger there because if there is one lesson we have learned from Theresa May’s attitude is her inability to factor in what others think, her inability to forge bonds of trust within her Cabinet, between her Cabinet and the House of Commons, but also in the European Council.’
The spokesman added: ‘If we are able to hold and win a vote this week we would then be able to leave the EU in less than two months’ time with a deal, which the Prime Minister firmly believes is what the public wants.’
The decision by the leader of the hardline European Research Group (ERG) would be a huge boost for the Prime Minister if the DUP come onside.
But that remains highly uncertain after the party’s leader Arlene Foster yesterday effectively vetoed plans for another meaningful vote on the deal and the DUP rounded on Mrs May in the Commons.
Mr Rees-Mogg last night confirmed he had made the conditional pledge on backing the PM’s deal at an ERG meeting in Westminster.
Asked after the meeting whether he believed the DUP would come onboard, Mr Rees-Mogg said: ‘The DUP want guarantees. It doesn’t look like they’ve got them at the moment.
Asked again whether they might get them this week, he replied: ‘Who knows.’
Should Mr Rees-Mogg come onboard, he is likely to take a number of other MPs with him.
Brexiteer Bob Seely tweeted: ‘Am hearing from colleagues that this is – potentially – significant, that’s how it’s being portrayed.
‘Maybe start of something – I hope so – but DUP still need to move.
‘If they do, the Deal is back in business. Hope not a red herring.’
But the positive tone was not echoed by many of the others in the room, some of whom said the group was split 50-50.
A group of Leave-backing Conservative MPs has written to Prime Minister Theresa May questioning her right to delay the UK’s withdrawal from the EU beyond March 29.
The MPs said there were ‘serious legal objections’ to Mrs May’s agreement at last week’s EU summit in Brussels to extend the UK’s membership until April 12 – or May 22 if she succeeds in passing her Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament.
In their letter, they said the Government’s attempt to win Parliament’s approval of the extension after the event has ‘called into question the lawfulness of its actions and has (at minimum) created serious legal doubts about the legal situation surrounding the extension’.
A statutory instrument designed to remove the March 29 date from Brexit legislation is due to be debated by the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Signatories to the MPs’ letter are Sir Bill Cash, Michael Tomlinson, Suella Braverman and David Jones.
How the election that no one wants COULD happen: Government’s threat of new poll could lead to anarchy by tearing Tories and Labour apart in bitter campaign
Cabinet ministers have warned there may have to another snap election to end the Brexit impasse – despite the Tories being split by Europe and Labour riven by internal division.
The warning from Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay came despite a poll in January which found just 12 per cent of voters want a general election to sort out the mess.
Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are plumbing record-breaking new depths in their personal polling – while polls show the Brexit crisis is causing rising alarm among voters who think Britain’s political ‘system is broken’.
Both main parties have lost members to the biggest split in politics in more than 30 years as 11 MPs defected to the new Independent Group.
And the Prime Minister herself has admitted she will not lead her party into the next scheduled election – and yet is still facing demands to call an immediate poll.
Whatever happens, a fresh election is sure to unleash more anarchy after two years of Brexit chaos.
Why is the government threatening to call an election?
The question of whether to call an election finally reached the Cabinet this week.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay warned the rejection of Mrs May’s deal would set in train a series of events that will lead to a softer Brexit – meaning an election because so many MPs will have to break manifesto promises.
Last night’s Commons vote to seize control of Brexit from ministers will only fuel the demands.
Labour has been calling for a new vote for months, insisting the Government has failed to deliver Brexit.
Mr Corbyn called a vote of no confidence in the Government in January insisting the failure of the first meaningful vote showed Mrs May’s administration was doomed. He lost but the calls did not go away.
Brexiteers have joined the demands in recent days as Parliament wrestles with Brexit and amid fears among hardliners promises made by both main parties at the last election will be broken – specifically on leaving the Customs Union and Single Market.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen wants Mrs May replaced with a Brexiteer. He believes it would push Remain Tories out of the party and then allow a snap election with more Eurosceptic candidates wearing blue rosettes.
What might happen?
Both main parties will have to write a manifesto – including a position on Brexit. Both parties are deeply split – in many cases between individual MPs and their local activists.
Under Mrs May, the Tories presumably try to start with the deal. But it is loathed by dozens of current Tory MPs who want a harder Brexit and hated even more by grassroots Tory members.
Shifting Tory policy on Brexit to the right would alienate the majority of current MPs who voted to Remain.
Labour has similar splits. Many of Labour’s MPs and activists want Mr Corbyn to commit to putting Brexit to a second referendum – most with a view to cancelling it.
Mr Corbyn is a veteran Eurosceptic and millions of people who voted Leave in 2016 backed Labour in 2017.
The splits set the stage for a bitter and chaotic election. The outcome is highly unpredictable – the Tories start in front but are probably more divided on the main question facing the country.
Labour is behind but knows it made dramatic gains in the polls in the last election with its promises of vastly higher public spending.
Neither side can forecast what impact new political forces might wield over the election or how any public anger over the Brexit stalemate could play out.
It could swing the result in favour of one of the main parties or a new force.
Or an election campaign that takes months, costs millions of pounds could still end up in a hung Parliament and continued stalemate.
How is an election called? When would it be?
Because of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act passed by the coalition, the Prime Minister can no longer simply ask the Queen to dissolve the Commons and call an election. There are two procedures instead.
First – and this is what happened in 2017 – the Government can table a motion in the Commons calling for an early election. Crucially, this can only pass with a two-thirds majority of MPs – meaning either of the main parties can block it.
Second an election is called if the Government loses a vote of no confidence and no new administration can be built within 14 days.
In practice, this is can only happen if Tory rebels vote with Mr Corbyn – a move that would end the career of any Conservative MP who took the step.
An election takes a bare minimum of five weeks from start to finish and it would take a week or two to get to the shut down of Parliament, known as dissolution – putting the earliest possible polling day around mid to late May.
If the Tories hold a leadership election first it probably pushes any election out to late June at the earliest.
What about a Brexit Party?
There is a new Brexit Party set up by former Ukip officials and endorsed by Nigel Farage. It is administratively more advanced than TIG – it already registered with the Electoral Commission.
But its first leader has already resigned over racist tweets and it has no serving MPs to start with.
It faces all the same problems as TIG on top of having fewer experienced politicians in charge.
Could the Independent Group get involved?
Not right now because they are not yet a political party – so it depends exactly when an election is called. If they register with the Electoral Commission, the TIG could in theory stand candidates across the country and try to gain a foothold.
Polls in the aftermath of the group’s sensational launch suggested support of around 14 per cent – more than the Liberal Democrats.
The challenge will come in how the vote is spread around the country. TIG can only win seats if it piles up votes in constituencies – meaning it could win millions of votes but few seats.
Frustrated Remain supporters could flock to a new party if there was a national offer – but cutting through TV broadcast rules past the main parties has historically been very difficult in British elections.
The Tories start in front – with recent polling putting the Tories on 35 per cent ahead of Labour on 31 per cent – but both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are plumbing new depths of unpopularity
Speaking at the Bruges Group today – an organisation for the most hardline Brexiteers – ex-Brexit Minister Mrs Braverman said she could never countenance voting for deal even if crushing it meant staying in the EU.
She said: ‘Perhaps we may have failed to deliver Brexit this time. If we have to keep fighting, so we must do.’
She said the ‘real choice’ should be for the UK to leave the EU on April 12 on World Trade Organisation terms.
‘I am still of the opinion that we are being given a false choice of a deal which is not Brexit – it is Remain in all but name – or an extension,’ she told the meeting.
‘I am not buying into that choice.’
Mr Wilson also set out in ‘clear terms’ last night to the ERG why he would yet not support the PM’s deal, according to one of those present.
It came as a row broke out after the group of Brexiteers who visited Chequers yesterday were said to have nicknamed themselves the ‘Grand Wizards’.
The reference quickly turned into a row as it is the name of some of the high-ranking members of the racist group the Ku Klux Klan.
However the group quickly denied that they had given themselves the nickname. Mr Rees-Mogg said: ‘We are not in the habit of giving ourselves names.’
The ERG met last night to discuss what approach to take on the deal, but there was little consensus as they left.
One said: ‘Some of us were trying to make the rest see sense that if they don’t vote for [the deal] now we will lose Brexit.’
But another said he was ‘appalled and disgusted’ by the process, adding: ‘The British people won’t forgive us [if they vote for the deal].
‘If we give in we’ll never know whether we could have achieved it. It’s not worth capitulating now
I don’t think the mood of country would be good.
‘Sammy Wilson just spoke. He explained in really clear terms why he won’t support it.
‘He said it was unacceptable.’
Commons leader Andrea Leadsom suggested today the Easter recess for MPs could be cancelled to give more time to find a solution.
It is scheduled to take place from when the Commons rises on April 4 until April 23.
She said: ‘I have announced the dates for Easter recess but as is always the case recess dates are announced subject to the progress of business.
‘We will need time in the House either to find a way forward or to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and I think the country will rightly expect Parliament to be working flat out in either scenario, so further announcements on future recess dates will be announced in due course in the usual way.’
Some MPs on the opposition benches could be heard saying ‘recess is cancelled’.
Commons Speaker John Bercow said Tory former minister Sir Oliver Letwin will table a motion linked to the indicative votes procedure at approximately 4pm on Tuesday.
He told the Commons: ‘I understand that (Sir Oliver) will be tabling a business of the House motion at approximately 4pm.
‘Members have until the rise of the House this evening to table motions to be considered tomorrow under the indicative votes procedure.
‘The indicative votes procedure itself, I must advise the House, will be set out in the amendable motion which the House will debate tomorrow.’
Veteran Conservative Eurosceptic Sir Christopher Chope accused Mrs May of ‘chicanery’ over her Brexit deal and said some Tory MPs could be prepared to vote for a Labour motion of no confidence in her.
Sir Christopher said while Conservative MPs were unlikely to support a Labour no-confidence motion in the Government – which could trigger a general election under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act – they may do so if it was aimed at the Prime Minister personally.
‘That might be a way in which the leader of the opposition could try and entice some members of the Conservative Party to come across and express a parliamentary lack of confidence in the Prime Minister without it being a lack of confidence in the Government,’ he said.
‘If that was to happen it would be for the leader of the opposition to initiate it. A motion of no confidence just in the Prime Minister would not have an impact under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.’
There had been hope yesterday that the Brexiteers would be won over to back Mrs May’s deal following their visit to Chequers on Sunday.
Iain Duncan Smith, Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Steve Baker, Dominic Raab and other key Brexiteers met yesterday morning to discuss their next moves, but did not reach a consensus.
Yesterday, Mrs May faced attacks from the DUP’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds yesterday in the Commons after she said more time was needed to prepare Northern Ireland for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Dodds said the Government was ‘entirely responsible’ for what he described as a ‘fundamental lack of preparation.’
Rebel MPs voted to seize control of Brexit from the embattled Prime Minister last night, despite warnings from the Government that continued chaos will force it to call another general election.
Three pro-EU ministers quit the Government to back a Commons amendment enabling MPs to take control of Commons business to stage a series of ‘indicative votes’ on alternatives to the Prime Minister’s deal tomorrow.
However, Mrs May has warned the government is not bound to honour the result of the indicative votes as they ‘could lead to an outcome that is unnegotiable with the EU’.
Asked if the indicative vote should be a free vote for MPs, Minister for Children Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC today: ‘I suspect it must be because if the will of Parliament is to have free votes, indicative votes, then that will be it.
‘But, I wait to see what the details are and how we vote on the different options.’
He added: ‘I want to vote for the Prime Minister’s deal because I think all other options are recipes for chaos.’
As the Government’s Brexit strategy went into meltdown, senior ministers ‘war-gamed’ scenarios that could see a national poll called three years ahead of schedule because a soft Brexit would shred the Tory manifesto.
But the most recent poll on the issue was carried out by Opinium two months ago found that only 12 per cent of Britons would welcome another general election.
The campaign would also likely tear apart the already split Tory and Labour parties because their MPs are already bitterly divided over whether to leave the EU or to reverse the 2016 referendum and remain.
Business minister Richard Harrington, who resigned along with Middle East minister Alistair Burt and health minister Steve Brine, said the Government was ‘playing roulette’ with peoples’ lives and livelihoods in its handling of Brexit.
Mr Brine told the BBC: ‘I will still, as I said in my letter to the Prime Minister. I will still support her deal.
Arch-Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg today revealed he is ready to swing behind the Prime Minister’s EU divorce and said: ‘The choice seems to be Mrs May’s deal or no Brexit’. Brexiteer Michael Fabricant also admitted today that he has come to the ‘dreadful conclusion’ that he must also back the PM’s deal
‘I still think it is the best of the options. Maybe what last night will do is focus some minds… those on my side who don’t like the deal, maybe they will realise that the House of Commons is prepared to act.
‘And, anything from here, as far as they are concerned, gets softer in terms of Brexit.’
Mr Brine said: ‘If the House of Commons just simply cannot come up with anything to move us out of this then everything is on the table.
‘You have to accept that a second referendum or revoking Article 50 are on the table because they will probably be some options.’
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay arrives in Downing Street after a humbling defeat for the Government in the Commons last night
Brexiteer Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss arrives for the crunch cabinet meeting where Theresa May will need to set out what she needs to do to get her deal through
The cabinet is split over Brexit with Business Secretary Greg Clark Minister of State for Immigration Caroline Nokes pushing for the remain side
Mr Brine told the BBC: ‘You also have to remember that the manifesto of 2017 did not win a majority in the House of Commons.
‘I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning with a broad grin on my face’: Gloating Remainer rebel MP Nick Boles celebrates taking control of Brexit
Remainer Nick Boles has hailed a ‘momentous’ victory over his Prime Minister and said he would ‘wake up smiling’ today
Remainers are cock-a-hoop today after MPs wrestled control of Brexit from Theresa May last night with buoyant rebels hailing a ‘momentous’ victory and pledging to change the law if she tries to ignore them.
Theresa May warned the Commons yesterday they would be betraying those who voted to leave the EU before they voted to hold a series of votes that could determine how – if at all – the UK leaves the European Union.
Last night Tory Nick Boles called the result ‘very exciting’ and said: ‘Do you know what? I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning with a broad grin on my face. I’m going to think — I finally live in a parliamentary democracy, where parliament is sovereign.’
Earlier in a statement to MPs, the Prime Minister warned she would not feel bound by the results of any indicative votes – which could include a softer, Norway-style deal, a second referendum or revoking the Article 50 withdrawal process altogether.
But Mr Boles warned that MPs would force Mrs May’s hand with new legislation if she refused to do their bidding.
He told the BBC’s Newsnight show: ‘If the government refuses to listen to what Parliament has voted for we will bring forward a bill that will require it to reflect Parliament’s wishes.’
Pro-Europe Tory MP Mr Boles, who backed the indicative votes amendment, added: ‘It is a much better victory than any of us had dared hope.’
The Commons voted by 329 votes to 302 – a majority of 27 – to approve an amendment brought by Tory ex-minister Sir Oliver Letwin allowing it to take control of business tomorrow from the Government.
This will allow MPs to select their favorite Brexit option in so-called ‘indicative votes’, which are likely to include soft Brexit options and the possibility of remaining in the European Union.
Three ministers were among 30 Tory rebels who defied the Prime Minister and backed the amendment or abstained.
‘And this is the crux of the whole matter, that the House of Commons and executive-led Government works when you have got a majority in the House of Commons.
‘We don’t have a majority in the House. And, possibly, that would be one of my criticisms of my Government is that we haven’t reached across the aisle enough.’
Richard Harrington, the former business minister who resigned last night after voting against the Government on a motion to hold indicative votes on Brexit in Parliament on Wednesday, said: ‘All we can do is what’s in our power, and what’s in our power is to get a clear direction from Parliament as to what is acceptable rather than what’s not acceptable.
‘I don’t regard it as undemocratic for Parliament to decide in the absence of Government, be able to provide a clear direction from this policy of ‘my deal or no deal’.’
He said he expected the Prime Minister to follow the will of Parliament if a majority is formed for one pathway for Brexit on Wednesday, unless the choice of Parliament was ‘so off the wall and so outrageous she couldn’t do it’.
‘A responsible Prime Minister, which I believe she is, will say, ‘I would rather have my deal, Parliament’s wish is clearly Norway or customs union or whatever it is.
‘I therefore will go to Brussels with that, but I’m perfectly prepared to put my deal to Parliament against that’.’
Asked why he had not resigned sooner, he said: ‘I can’t answer that question… I’d hoped with the undertakings that David Lidington and others had given, that we wouldn’t have reached this position. It was really a timing issue.’
The result means MPs can potentially dictate business of the Commons – normally controlled by the Government – for days to come, potentially paving the way for a ‘softer’ deal that keeps Britain closer to the EU.
Ministers will consider their response at the weekly meeting of the Cabinet in Downing Street today.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock called on MPs to back Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘If anything, yesterday in the House of Commons demonstrated that the option of no deal simply won’t be allowed by the Commons.
‘And the best way through this impasse is the one deal that has been negotiated with the EU that can be delivered quickly now.’
Mr Hancock said: ‘Clearly, it’s incumbent on the Government to listen to what the Commons says.
‘But we can’t pre-commit to following whatever they vote for, because they might vote for something that is completely impractical.’
80% of Britons say the PM bungled Brexit talks – but there is no appetite for a second referendum on EU membership, new poll says
Over four in five voters believe that the UK government is handling Britain’s exit from the EU badly
More than 80% of the country think the Government has handled the Brexit negotiations badly – but they do not want a second referendum that asks if the UK should remain in the EU, a new poll suggests.
A survey by NatCen Social Research found that just 7% of Britons thought ministers had done a good job in the talks, while 81% said they were handling them badly.
The researchers asked more than 2,600 adults last month about their views on Brexit – and compared them with data from 2017.
It suggested that public faith in the negotiations has dramatically fallen.
In 2017, 41% said the talks were being handled badly by the Government, and 29% thought ministers were doing well.
The research also found both Leavers and Remainers were as likely to think the Prime Minister’s deal is bad – 66% and 64% respectively – up from 20% and 56% in 2017.
And the figures suggested a rise in the number of people who think Brexit will negatively impact the economy – up from 46% in 2017 to 58% in 2019.
John Curtice, senior research fellow at NatCen Social Research, said: ‘Given the polarisation of attitudes, there was always a risk that the Brexit negotiations would result in an outcome that would fail to satisfy most voters.
‘But what perhaps is particularly remarkable is that Leave voters have become just as critical as Remain supporters of both the process and the outcome.
‘That is not an outcome that would necessarily have been anticipated, and certainly does not help the Prime Minister in her efforts to secure parliamentary approval of the deal.’
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox told a meeting of the Cabinet that failure to pass Mrs May’s plan in the coming weeks would almost inevitably lead to an election.
Writing in the Daily Mail, he today makes a last-ditch appeal to hardline Leavers to get behind Mrs May – or face losing Brexit altogether.
Two weeks ago his legal advice led many Tory MPs to reject the withdrawal agreement because of fears the UK could remain in the Irish border backstop.
But today he argues the plan’s disadvantages have been ‘exaggerated and demonised’ by opponents of Brexit.
If MPs do not vote for the agreement in the coming days, he says the Commons will ‘exert itself’ and try to force either a second referendum, or a plan that keeps the UK inside the customs union and single market.
He warns ‘powerful and unreconciled forces’ who opposed Brexit were still trying to stop it and says his biggest fear is the UK will never regain its ‘independence’.
He says: ‘We must grasp our freedom now and heed the beckoning call of the future, for if we do not, history will marvel that we spurned this fleeting moment of opportunity.’
The DUP appeared to be digging in. Deputy leader Nigel Dodds rounded angrily on Mrs May in the Commons yesterday after she said more time was needed to prepare Northern Ireland for the possibility of No Deal.
Mr Dodds said the Government was ‘entirely responsible’ for what he described as a ‘fundamental lack of preparation’.
Plans for the Government to put forward its own proposals for indicative votes were dropped ahead of yesterday’s meeting.
Many ministers, including Dr Fox, Chris Grayling, Gavin Williamson and Mrs Leadsom, are opposed to the process.
But Mr Lidington tried to head off a defeat last night by pledging that the Government would provide Commons time for MPs to try to reach an agreement on an alternative Brexit.
Sir Oliver told MPs his plan, which has been rejected by MPs twice since the start of the year, would allow Parliament to vote tomorrow on a string of Brexit options.
These might include a customs union, a single market, a second referendum and even revocation of Article 50. Mrs May said she was sceptical that the process would find a solution, adding: ‘No government could give a blank cheque to commit to an outcome without knowing what it is.’
Asked whether she would be prepared for a customs union if Parliament backed it, she replied: ‘No one would want to support an option which contradicted the manifesto on which they stood.’
Labour backed Sir Oliver’s plan. But its Brexit spokesman, Sir Keir Starmer, also refused to guarantee to back any resulting proposal.
MPs take back control: Now Rebels have seized control of the Commons what happens now and will they be able to force through a soft Brexit?
Rebel MPs seized control of the Commons from ministers last night, adding a new element of chaos to the Brexit endgame.
A cross party group coordinated by Tory Oliver Letwin and Labour’s Yvette Cooper won a vote that will mean MPs dictate what the Commons debates and votes on tomorrow.
The exact rules of the process will be hammered out today but it appears there will be a first round tomorrow to set out the options and then actual votes on Monday night to find MPs’ favourite.
MPs are set to use ‘pink slips’ to vote via ballot box on the various options. It will streamline the process – meaning MPs will not have to repeatedly march through the lobbies – and allow all options to be voted on at once.
It is a dramatic change for how MPs normally vote, which is to say yes or no to a question, not to compare options.
The move is constitutionally unprecedented. MPs will set out their own options after resisting Government plans to set up its votes on seven options – the existing deal, cancelling Brexit altogether, a new referendum, a Norway-style soft Brexit, a Canada-style hard Brexit, a UK-EU customs union or No Deal.
The moves leave wide open the kind of Brexit Britain might try to navigate.
But Mrs May has already warned she may not be able to deliver on what MPs want. She said the plan should be compatible with party manifestos at the last election and must be negotiable with the EU.
It all comes against a backdrop of furious rumours Mrs May is on the brink of being ousted by her Cabinet. The risks appear to have receded this morning after weekend claims ministers were poised – but despite there being no procedural way to remove her a public withdrawal of political support would finish her.
This is your guide to what happens next:
What happened last night?
MPs have finally done what they have threatened to do for months: Seized control of the Commons agenda so they can stage their own debates and votes on Brexit. It is constitutionally unprecedented.
What does it mean?
This will only become clear in the coming hours but in the first instance it means rebel-controlled debates on Wednesday about indicative votes on a possible Brexit solution.
It will mean the Commons directly voting on a range of options more expansive than Mrs May’s deal or No Deal for the first time. The conclusions will not be legally binding but be politically significant.
The exact rules of the process will be hammered out today but it appears likely there will be a first round tomorrow to set out the options and then actual votes on Monday night to find MPs’ favourite.
MPs are set to use ‘pink slips’ to vote via ballot box on the various options. It will streamline the process – meaning MPs will not have to repeatedly march through the lobbies – and allow all options to be voted on at once.
Has it ever been done before?
No. A similar process was attempted in 2003 to assess options for Lords reform. MPs used their normal voting procedure to say yes or no to seven options and rejected all seven.
What kind of Brexit will MPs vote for?
Nobody knows for sure. The assumption of most people in Westminster is Parliament would vote for a much softer Brexit than that on offer by Mrs May. This would likely mean staying in the EU Customs Union and Single Market.
Brussels has said it would accept this in the right circumstances but it would break most of Mrs May’s red lines – the ability to strike trade deals, to escape the European Court and almost certainly free movement of people.
Will May be forced out by her Cabinet?
The immediate risk appears to have receded since rumours of a Cabinet coup spread like wildfire over the weekend. There is no procedural way to remove her – but a public withdrawal of political support would finish the PM.
What was agreed at the EU summit last week?
EU leaders have approved a two-part delay to Brexit following late night talks.
Brexit is set to be delayed until April 12 whatever happens next week, giving the UK an extra two weeks.
If MPs pass the Brexit deal before then, the extension will run until May 22.
What does it mean?
The immediate risk of the UK leaving without a deal on Friday, March 29, is effectively over – subject to a change in UK law but this should be a formality.
Brexiteers will still believe they can secure a No Deal exit on April 12 while Remainers will see it as an opportunity to lock in a much longer delay.
Will there be a third vote on the deal and when will it be?
Mrs May says she will only have one if she can win this time – but is still working on it. Most currently expect it to be held tomorrow night but this is not fixed. Thursday is also under consideration.
Can she win?
It looks unlikely. The prospect of No Deal on April 12 will encourage Brexiteers they should vote down the deal a third time.
There is currently little sign the DUP are being won over by a political offensive behind the scenes.
Mrs May also alienated Labour MPs with her angry speech on Wednesday night.
It seems possible she could end up losing the third vote by a bigger margin than the 149 votes she lost the second one.
What if she does win?
If the PM manages a great escape, then Britain will be on track to leave on May 22. The Government will move quickly to get the necessary laws in place.
What if she loses?
The EU has made clear that if the deal goes down a third time, Britain must come back with a plan in time for the new deadline of April 12.
Most urgently, a decision will have to be made on whether the UK takes part in European Parliament elections on May 23. If it does not, there will be No Deal – and Mrs May says electing MEPs would be the wrong thing to do.
However, there is still a majority of MPs in Parliament against No Deal so the choice could be taken away from the PM.
If elections are agreed in the UK there will probably be a new EU summit around April 10 to approve a much longer extension – perhaps to the end of 2019 or even longer.
The UK will have to have a new plan for what to do with the time as Brussels has made clear it cannot keep going over the same deal.
Will MPs vote on other options?
Probably. Tonight’s vote could setup a full-blown ‘indicative vote’ that would set all the options against each other. A defeated Government could stage the same procedure.
There are claims the Government would put up seven options: Mrs May’s Deal, No Deal, Revoking Article 50, a Second Referendum, a Customs Union soft Brexit deal, an even softer Customs Union and Single Market deal, and a Canada-style Free Trade Agreement deal.
The idea would be to find what kind of Brexit might be supported by Parliament or if there is none, see if there is support for a new public vote.
Will May resign?
Nobody knows. No Prime Minister has ever soaked up so much humiliation and carried on and yet Mrs May is still in Downing Street.
She suggested last week she would not accept a long delay beyond June 30, seen by many as a hint she would resign if it had to happen.
A third defeat for the deal this week would also provoke huge calls for her to resign.
A move to No Deal could also see some Tory MPs join with Labour to force the Government out with a vote of no confidence.
What happens to Brexit if May goes or the Government collapses?
It is hard to know. Even with a tweak to the law to change the date, Brexit will still happen with No Deal on April 12 if other choices keep being rejected.
But we also know there is a majority of MPs against a No Deal Brexit. It is possible there are enough Tory MPs prepared to remove the Government to stop No Deal by installing a Corbyn government ahead of a snap election.
Only the Government can bring forward the necessary change in the law to change the Brexit date.
What is Labour’s position?
Labour says no deal must be stopped – but also says it will not vote for Mrs May’s deal.
It wanted a three month delay to renegotiate the political declaration on the final UK-EU relationship but this would require it form a Government more or less immediately.
Were it to do so, it would try pass the divorce deal attached to a new political declaration that said the final relationship would be based on a permanent customs union.
It has passed no comment on the actual proposed delay.
Will there have to be a new election or a referendum?
This falls into the anything is possible category. Parliament is deadlocked and has been for months – which suggests an election is necessary.
And yet the governing Tory party clearly has little idea what it would put to the country or who would lead it into an election. An election can be forced without the consent of the Tories but it is very difficult.
Similarly, it is far from clear there are the votes for a referendum in the Commons. The idea was crushed last week because Labour did not vote for it.
Will Brexit ever happen?
Almost three years after the referendum, this depends entirely on your view of events. The law says it will but there are enough MPs to at least change the date if given the chance to do so.
It could now happen on April 12 or May 22. Or it could be delayed much further.