Theresa May was today accused of ‘declaring open war’ on her own Eurosceptic MPs by promising a free vote on a second referendum or revoking Article 50 if her Brexit deal is killed off next week.
Downing Street will ask MPs from all parties to help find her a Plan B as Tory rebels said their ‘isolated’ leader should ‘name a date’ for her resignation after failing to deliver Brexit for March 29.
Mrs May is expected to hold a vote to gauge support among MPs for the seven main paths for Brexit: The PM’s deal, No Deal, a second referendum, Labour’s preferred customs union deal, a Norway-plus EEA deal, a Canada-plus free trade deal or revoking Article 50 and staying in the EU.
Brexiteers are furious because it would give control to Parliament, where the majority of MPs are remainers who want the softest possible Brexit or no Brexit at all.
Tory MP Steve Baker, the ERG’s deputy chairman, said today: ‘National humiliation is imminent through these indicative votes. The wrong Conservatives have the levers of power’. Michael Fabricant tweeted: ‘If this is true, has Theresa May now decided to declare open war on ALL her backbenchers’. Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh said: ‘This is the most ludicrous, childish and unrealistic idea I have ever seen. Utterly unfit’.
Treasury minister Liz Truss also said she would oppose the move as Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were seen outside Downing Street today.
Confirming the PM’s Plan B Business Secretary Greg Clark, one of the ‘gang of four’ senior remainers in the cabinet, said: ‘If doesn’t get passed then the Government will facilitate the ability for Parliament to express a majority of what it would approve. I think that is the right step’.
The row came as the DUP appeared to shred any hopes Mrs May had of getting her deal through as Westminster leader Nigel Dodds blasted the PM’s ‘inexcusable’ TV address on Wednesday and said she was ‘far too willing to capitulate’ during negotiations with the EU.
He said: ‘The prime minister missed an opportunity at the EU Council to put forward proposals which could have improved the prospects of an acceptable withdrawal agreement and help unite the country. She has now agreed with the EU to kick the can down the road for another two weeks and humiliatingly revoke her oft-stated pledge that the UK would leave the EU on March 29’.
On her decision to point the finger at MPs for the Brexit stalemate he added: ‘Lectures by the Prime Minister putting the blame on others cannot disguise the responsibility her government bears for the current debacle’.
Earlier the Prime Minister summoned cabinet ministers including Liam Fox, Philip Hammond and Stephen Barclay to No 10 for crisis talks. Tonight she will head to Chequers and is expected to focus on wooing Tory remainers and Labour rebels after Conservative Brexiteers and the DUP appeared to desert her.
Theresa May is back in Downing Street today (pictured) after the EU gave her three weeks to get her deal through Parliament and it emerged she would offer MPs a free vote on where Brexit goes next if she fails
Brexiteer Tory leadership candidates Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were outside the Cabinet Office today as Mrs May announced her Plan B
Relaxed EU leaders including Emmanuel Macron (front left) and Donald Tusk (front right) posed for a ‘family photo’ at the European Council summit in Brussels this morning – but Mrs May left early
European Council President Donald Tusk holds the hand of French President Emmanuel Macron as the EU hailed a ‘successful’ for the bloc
EU Council President Donald Tusk (left leaving the talks last night) confirmed plans for a two-stage delay plan. If Mrs May passes her deal at a third attempt next week, Britain will be allowed to stay in the EU until May 22
On another dramatic day in Westminster, it emerged:
- Brexiteers are furious and remainers are celebrating after Theresa May offers a free vote on the seven Brexit destinations if her deal is voted down;
- Choices will be: The PM’s deal, No Deal, a second referendum, Labour’s preferred customs union deal, a Norway-plus EEA deal, a Canada-plus free trade deal or revoking Article 50 and staying in the EU;
- Jeremy Corbyn said he would meet with PM to stop No deal and refused to rule out Labour supporting a bid to revoke Article 50 – effectively cancelling Brexit;
- The DUP appeared to kill off support for Mrs May’s deal by blasting her over EU negotiations and her decision to attack MPs;
- Former Tory minister Sir Oliver Letwin confirmed a cross-party group of MPs will try to seize control of the parliamentary agenda next week to force through a soft Brexit.
Mrs May is holed-up in Downing Street today plotting how to save her Brexit deal as it was revealed she will only call a third vote if it has a ‘realistic prospect of success’ after EU leaders humiliated her in Brussels last night.
Has the DUP finally killed off Mrs May’s deal: Westminster leader delivers excoriating verdict on PM’s ‘EU capitulation’
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has said Theresa May failed to secure changes to her Brexit deal – including the Northern Ireland backstop – at the summit in Brussels.
‘The Prime Minister missed an opportunity at the EU Council to put forward proposals which could have improved the prospects of an acceptable Withdrawal Agreement and help unite the country,’ he said.
‘That failure is all the more disappointing and inexcusable given the clear divisions and arguments which became evident amongst EU member states when faced with outcomes they don’t like.’
He added: ‘Nothing has changed as far as the Withdrawal Agreement is concerned. We will not accept any deal which poses a long-term risk to the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.’
But her official spokesman said the EU Council was clear that the extension to May 22 was contingent on winning a vote ‘next week’, likely to be on Tuesday.
This morning the Prime Minister dodged the second day of an EU summit in Brussels and flew back ‘to work on getting the withdrawal deal passed’ after European leaders ignored her plea for three-month Brexit delay and gave her a two-week ‘flextension’ until April 12 if MPs reject her deal.
Mrs May was ejected from the Brussels summit dinner and forced to eat alone as the talks continued to overcome the split and EU leaders then rejected her June 30 extension after calling her make-or-break summit display ‘evasive’ and ‘confused’.
One senior EU official said after the PM left the room French President Emmanuel Macron said loudly that he believed Mrs May’s deal had a 10 per cent chance of getting through the Commons but added: ‘After listening to her, I now think five per cent’ before Donald Tusk grimaced and chipped in that this ‘sounded too optimistic’.
Belgian PM Charles Michel is equally sceptical and said: ‘If there is a miracle… I believe in miracles, but they are not frequent.’
Britain will not leave the EU until at least next month after a late-night deal in Brussels where European leaders rejected Mrs May’s appeal for an extension until June 30 after her plea for a three-month delay fell flat.
Instead they offered to extend Article 50 until May 22 – only if the Prime Minister gets her deal through Parliament next week. If her deal fail she must make a decision by April 12 – just three weeks’ time – to either plump for No Deal, ask for a longer extension or revoke Article 50.
As support for her appeared to drain away backbencher Michael Fabricant compared his party leader to Neville Chamberlain, who signed a disastrous appeasement deal with Hitler, and said: ‘At this difficult time we need a Churchill, not a Chamberlain’.
Dozens of MPs are now said to be demanding she ‘names a date’ for her resignation after failing to deliver Brexit for March 29.
Insiders said EU leaders were visibly bemused during last night’s Brexit debate described as ’90 minutes of nothing’ where Mrs May appeared ‘evasive, had no plan and even seemed confused’ when asked what she will do if her deal is voted down again.
One prime minister told aides afterwards: ‘The only thing that came through with clarity was her lack of a plan’ and one EU aide said afterwards: ‘She didn’t have a plan, so they needed to come up with one for her’.
Mrs May will head back to Britain this morning to make a final attempt to convince the DUP, Tory Brexiteers and Labour rebels to back her deal.
But today it emerged that her most senior backbencher, Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, has told her personally that dozens of her MPs say she must quit after he was ‘bombarded with texts’.
Last night the EU grabbed control of Brexit and piled pressure on MPs to back her deal.
If she loses Mrs May will have to decide whether to leave with No Deal or seek a longer delay, probably until at least the end of the year, which will require the UK to take part in the European Parliament elections on May 23.
It came after ministers said she was prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a deal if her agreement is not passed in the Commons next week.
The PM last night appeared to express regret for her controversial remarks earlier this week which blamed MPs for failing to agree on a deal. In a late-night press conference in Brussels, she said Britain was now at a ‘moment of decision’, but added: ‘I know MPs on all sides of the debate have passionate views and I respect those different positions.
‘[On Wednesday night] I expressed my frustrations and I know that MPs are frustrated too – they have difficult jobs to do. I hope we can all agree that we are now at the moment of decision and I will make every effort to make sure we can leave with a deal and move our country forward.’
French president Emmanuel Macron rounded on MPs for plunging Britain into crisis by refusing to pass the deal agreed with 27 EU countries.
He acknowledged that, with the threat of a disruptive No Deal still hanging in the air, ‘the EU today doesn’t have all the cards in our hands’. He added: ‘Everything depends on the British vote. The EU in a very clear manner has today responded to a British political crisis. The British politicians are incapable of putting in place what their people have demanded.
‘Their people voted for Brexit. Today we have a situation where the Parliament has voted against the agreement negotiated over two years and has voted against No Deal. It’s a true crisis, democratic and political, but it’s a British crisis.’
Last night’s announcement removed the prospect of a No Deal Brexit a week today.
It came after three senior ministers said they believe that if Mrs May’s deal is rejected by MPs again, she would rather sanction a No Deal Brexit than plunge the country into the limbo of a lengthy delay.
One said: ‘If the deal is not going to be deliverable because Labour won’t support it – and that is where we are right now – then the new reality is going to be making No Deal work.’
Theresa May has landed back in London after leaving Brussels early ‘to work on getting the withdrawal deal passed’ – but EU leaders believe she has a 5% chance of success
Prime Minister Theresa May leaves the British Residence in Brussels to return to the UK after the EU tore up her proposed new Brexit date and gave a her two weeks to solve the crisis
Theresa May was humiliated last night after EU leaders took control of Brexit and gave her a fortnight to get MPs to vote for her deal or come up with a Plan B
In a press conference held after midnight in Brussels, Mrs May said she would return to Britain in the morning to resume work on building support for the deal. Most in Westminster believe she is doomed to fail a third time
So… what now? As the EU agrees to put off Brexit until at least April 12 MPs MUST choose whether to accept the deal, crash out or hold European elections to buy time for a new plan
What was agreed at the summit last night?
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 next Friday, on 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.
What is the first step now?
Mrs May is returning to Downing Street this morning and vowed last night to keep working to build support for her deal.
She is likely to continue talks with her DUP allies in the hope getting them on board will bring back some more Tory rebels. There will also be efforts to win over Labour MPs in Leave seats.
Commons votes on Brexit will resume next week.
When will MPs next have a say?
Monday night. There is currently due to be another debate on Brexit ‘next steps’ on Monday that will mean a series of votes from 10pm. The debate has to be held by law because of the second defeat of the deal last week.
This is not the third vote on the deal but a repeat of the debates held on January 29, February 14 and February 28 after the deal was crushed the first time.
There will likely be votes on several proposals including a second referendum, revoking Article 50 and a soft Brexit. There will be another attempt by some MPs to seize control of the Commons agenda to try and change the law to shape Brexit.
Will there be a third vote on the deal and when will it be?
Mrs May says yes and says it will be next week. Most currently expect it to be held on Tuesday night but this is not fixed.
Can she win?
It looks unlikely. The prospect of No Deal on April 12 will encourage Brexiteers they should vote down the deal a second 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. Monday night’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.
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 this 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 next 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.
Another senior minister said Mrs May had been driven to a No Deal position in part by the actions of Cabinet Remainers like Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Gauke who provoked uproar in the party when they tried to force her to take the option off the table.
Minister admits he doesn’t know if or when Theresa May will bring her deal back to Parliament – but reveals MPs will get a free vote if the PM fails again
A Brexit minister has failed to detail the Government’s plans for a third meaningful vote following talks in Brussels to extend the process.
Labour used an urgent question to challenge Kwasi Kwarteng to confirm that MPs will have another vote on Theresa May’s deal next week, what day it will take place and how the motion will be ‘substantially different’.
Mr Kwarteng replied: ‘In respect to his question about the meaningful vote, it is the Government’s full intention, I think, to bring this meaningful vote to the House.
‘We have to have a decision and the House has to decide whether it will vote for a deal and commit to an orderly exit out of the EU, or whether it seeks to maintain a stance of indecision and continue the uncertainty.’
Conservative former minister Sir Edward Leigh pushed Mr Kwarteng to answer the question on how the motion will be substantially different, before saying: ‘Will he make absolutely clear today on behalf of the whole Government, not just the Prime Minister, but three years after the referendum it’d be utterly intolerable if we were still in the EU during the European elections.
‘I want him to give an absolute commitment today that the Government would rather resign than be privy to such an appalling betrayal of the people’s trust.’
Mr Kwarteng replied: ‘I cannot make a comment at this despatch box as to what the Government will or will not do in the event of a European parliamentary election.’
Tory Mark Francois, whip of the European Research Group, said: ‘Can I remind the minister of Denis Healey’s first rule of politics: When you are in a hole, stop digging.
‘Whenever the meaningful vote is tabled, if you, Mr Speaker, allow it, I believe this house will vote it down, not least because of the rather hubristic speech the Prime Minister made when she effectively attacked members of this house for having the temerity to vote with their consciences. So, I think it won’t go through.’
Mr Kwarteng said: ‘The Government’s focus at the moment is to make sure we can potentially get a meaningful vote and actually secure the deal on the table, that is what I have always maintained.
‘If the meaningful vote doesn’t get through, we will have to look at alternatives.’
Mr Kwarteng said he expects a statutory instrument (SI) linked to changing the Brexit date to be introduced to the Commons ‘in the early part’ of next week.
Mr Francois later shouted ‘this is a shambles’ as Mr Kwarteng failed to provide further details on when exactly the SI will be tabled.
Tory MP Philip Davies (Shipley) said: ‘There are millions of people outside this House who are absolutely seething and they’re largely seething with people who stood on a promise to deliver the result of the referendum and then see, once elected, that they try and frustrate, or in some cases even overturn, the result that they promised to honour when they stood for election at the general election.
‘If those people don’t think there’s going to be a backlash they are in cloud cuckoo land.
‘The Government could and should leave on March 29, as it promised all the way along’.
‘If the meaningful vote is defeated again then it will be No Deal,’ the minister said. One Remainer minister told the Mail: ‘I am concerned that the PM has boxed herself in, and worried that we are running towards No Deal.’
It was also claimed 18 Remainer ministers are threatening to quit in a plot to snatch control of Brexit and avoid No Deal. They want votes on alternatives to Mrs May’s deal, including a longer delay, or even reversing the exit process.
Meanwhile, extraordinary details also began to emerge of the Government’s plan to ramp up No Deal preparations. The military yesterday installed a team in a nuclear bunker under the Ministry of Defence to co-ordinate the Army’s response if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
Mrs May insisted that despite the delay – and the prospect of more down the track – Brexit would be delivered, saying: ‘Yes, we will be leaving the EU.’ But she added that last night’s plan outlined the ‘importance of the House of Commons passing the Brexit deal next week so we can put an end to the uncertainty’.
European Council president Donald Tusk said the response to Britain’s request for an extension to the Article 50 withdrawal process was agreed ‘unanimously’ by EU leaders. He said that ‘all options remain open’ now until April 12.
Setting out the terms of the Brexit extension, Mr Tusk said: ‘April 12 is a key date in terms of the UK wondering whether to hold European Parliament elections.
‘If it is not decided do so by then, the option of a long extension will immediately become impossible.’
And he added: ‘What this means in practice is that until that date all options remain open.’
Asked how long the ‘long extension’ eventually on offer to the UK could be, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker replied: ‘Until the very end.’
Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters: ‘It is not a deal, it is a step in the process. We are constructive and patient.’
Mrs May ruled out cancelling Brexit by revoking Article 50. She also said it would be ‘wrong’ to hold elections to a European Parliament the public had voted to leave in 2016 – but did not explicitly rule it out.
Labour MP Hilary Benn, Commons Brexit committee chairman, told the Today programme the Prime Minister must open her mind to alternatives to her Brexit deal.
Setting out his plans to bring forward an amendment for indicative votes on alternatives on Wednesday, Mr Benn (Leeds Central) said: ‘This won’t work if the Prime Minister is not prepared to move an inch.
‘I’m afraid that’s the story of the last 2 and 3/4 years because about a month ago she said ‘my door is open, come and talk to me’ but it was very evident that her mind was closed.
‘We need to open up this process because we have rejected her deal, we’ve rejected no-deal, the EU has decided to give us a little more time and we’ve really got to get on with it.’
United States Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said he hoped the UK and the EU would not do anything to ‘preclude a free trade agreement’ with the US during Brexit negotiations.
Speaking to the BBC Today programme, he said: ‘This is a very, very challenging process for both sides.
‘It’s our desire to see both sides come to an amicable conclusion so that the US can enter into free trade agreements and that neither do anything that would preclude a robust free trade agreement with the US.
‘In terms of the minutiae of the scheduling negotiations and the question of a crash out versus no crash out, it’s a very, very delicate situation that needs to proceed on its own and I don’t think I would be helpful in contributing anything at this point.’
Theresa May (pictured at the EU summit yesterday) made a 104-minute plea for more time from EU leaders today as draft conclusions from the EU summit suggest she will only get a Brexit delay until May 22
Donald Tusk outlined the EU’s plan for avoiding No Deal next week on Twitter following hours of talks on what to do about Brexit
A smiling Theresa May says hello to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Belgium’s Prime Minister Charles Michel as she asks the EU to delay Brexit until June
Mrs May was kissed by President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, who demanded the May 22 Brexit rather than a June 30
Mr Sondland stressed he wanted the UK to be left without its ‘hands tied’ by any Brexit agreement and suggested EU standards would have to come closer to US standards to prevent this.
He said: ‘I don’t have a concern per se, I’m saying that when the UK departs under whatever circumstances we don’t want the UK in any free trade negotiation with the US to have to say ‘we want to do X, Y, Z, with you but our agreement with the EU precludes that’.
‘We want them to have free hands to do a complete and robust free trade agreement with the US…
‘A great example would be if they entered into an arrangement with the EU where the standards of that arrangement were completely in contravention with US standards and there was no prospect of any arrangement, and that would tie their hands.’
French President Emmanuel Macron struck the toughest note yet as EU leaders prepare to receive Britain’s request for a three month delay to Brexit today saying if she loses in the Commons ‘it’s No Deal for sure’
European Union leaders attend the round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels. British Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to persuade European Union leaders to delay Brexit by up to three months, just eight days before Britain is scheduled to leave
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, and Keir Starmer, Labour Shadow Brexit secretary, leave EU headquarters prior to an EU summit in Brussels
Theresa May last night ruled out cancelling the Brexit countdown despite a public petition soaring past two million signatures.
The Prime Minister said she did not believe in halting the deadline after the EU offered a delay plan, adding: ‘I do not believe that we should be revoking Article 50.’
With the highest sign-up rate on record, more 2,000,000 people had pledged their support by the time she fielded questions from reporters in Brussels on Thursday.
Asked by the Press Association whether she thought the public’s view had shifted towards revoking Article 50, Mrs May said: ‘If you look back to what happened in the referendum, we saw the biggest democratic exercise in our history.
‘And there was a clear result that we should leave the European Union.
‘We said here’s the vote, what is your decision, and we will deliver on it.
‘And I believe it’s our duty as a Government and as a Parliament to deliver on that vote.’
The petition on the Parliament website quickly gained support in the wake of the Prime Minister’s speech on Wednesday night and Revoke Article 50 started to trend on Twitter.
As of 6am on Friday, nearly 2.3 million people had pledged their support to the cause.
Data from the petitions website shows support for the petition concentrated in London and constituencies around Cambridge, Brighton, Bristol, Oxford and Edinburgh.
In the 2016 referendum, these six cities were also in favour of Remain.
Where have EU gone? Smiling European leaders point to empty space on podium after Theresa May flies home following night of humiliation
As the exhausted Prime Minister slunk back to London they patted themselves on the back in Brussels this morning after dictating to Britain a timetable for the next few months.
Mrs May decided to forego the second and final day of the European Council meeting after EU leaders gave her a fortnight ‘flextension’ to get MPs to vote for her deal after calling her make-or-break summit display ‘evasive’ and ‘confused’.
She had gone to Brussels looking to get a Brexit delay until June 30 but they blew that out of the water after a catastrophic grilling of the PM that lasted more than 90 minutes.
German chancellor Angela Merkel said that leaders had ‘an intensive, but successful evening’ as they reduced Mrs May’s request for a Brexit delay until June 30 to one of as little as two weeks.
They warned that it was up to Mrs May and Westminster politicians to get their act together over Brexit.
Relaxed EU leaders including Emmanuel Macron (front left) and Donald Tusk (front right) posed for a ‘family photo’ at the European Council summit in Brussels this morning
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was in a jovial mood this morning as he greeted EU leaders in Brussels
A Union Jack was among flags laid out to mark the spots where European leaders stood for the family photo, despite Theresa May having already left Brussels
An animated Mr Tusk greets German chancellor Angela Merkel as she arrives for th egroup photograph, as Mr Macron and Mr Juncker look on
Mr Macron warmly greeted Mr Juncker in Brussels this morning. The French president had warned his country was ready for a no-deal Brexit
The politicians put on a touchy-feely display in the council chamber ahead of the second day of discussions in Brussels
Mr Juncker leads EU leaders towards the spot where they posed for their joint photo this morning – with Theresa May noticeably absent having returned to London already
An upbeat Irish premier Leo Varadkar joked with Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, right, and Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas following Theresa May’s embarrassing evening
A smiling Mr Juncker patted Mrs Merkel on the back as they chatted with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez
French president Emmanuel Macron took to Twitter to warn that his nation was prepared for the fallout from a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Macron said: ‘We responded with a clear deadline to Prime Minister Theresa May.
‘It is up to the British to remove the ambiguities.
‘If the British went out without agreement, we have already made every effort to protect ourselves.’
Instead of June 30 EU leaders offered to extend Article 50 until May 22 – only if the Prime Minister gets her deal through Parliament next week.
One senior EU official told Politico last night that after the PM left the room Mr Macron said loudly that he believed Mrs May’s deal had a 10 per cent chance of getting through the Commons but added: ‘After listening to her, I now think five per cent’ before Donald Tusk grimaced and chipped in that this ‘sounded too optimistic’.
Tory chief whip Julian Smith, who has the difficult task of winning over Tory backbenchers to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal, is seen entering Downing Street this morning after Mrs May arrived back from Brussels
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, who has spoken out against a long Brexit delay, followed Mr Smith into Number 10 to see the Prime Minister
But they warned her that if the deal was not passed she must make a decision by April 12 – just three weeks’ time – on what to do next.
Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Friday he hoped the withdrawal agreement negotiated between Britain and the remaining European Union states would now pass the British parliament after EU leaders granted Britain extra time.
Arriving for the second day of a summit dominated by the race to agree a delay to Brexit, Kurz said a disorderly Brexit would become more likely if the British House of Commons rejected the withdrawal agreement for a third time.
‘If there isn’t a majority then a hard Brexit will once again move a step closer,’ he told reporters.
Emmanuel Macron has a clear message for Theresa May and MPs this morning as he took to Twitter
He suggested that the UK would be allowed to crash out of the EU without a deal if a deal could not be agreed
Leaders agreed that a longer delay would be possible if Britain participated in May’s European Parliament elections, but Mr Kurz expressed doubts over this.
‘If a country is leaving the EU, then it would be more than just strange if they still took part in the European elections,’ he said.
Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel put the chances of Parliament passing the withdrawal deal at 50-50.
‘The best possible outcome would be a new referendum and to stay,’ Bettel told reporters on Friday.
Belgium’s prime minister said he hoped for a rational decision to back the withdrawal treaty.
Charles Michel said preparations for no-deal were still underway, however.
He added: ‘This is perhaps the last chance for Britain to say what it wants for the future.
‘More than ever, this is in the hands of the British parliament.’
Corbyn to meet May on Monday in bid to force her to agree to softer Brexit – as he says if May’s plan is defeated next week MPs will block No Deal
36 hours after he stormed out of crunch talks because Chuka Umunna was invited the Labour leader said he is now willing to sit down with the PM.
Mr Corbyn says he will meet Mrs May on Monday – before she is due to put her ailing deal before MPs for a third time – and his main aim is to force her to abandon No Deal.
And he said that Labour would get behind her if she agreed to pursue a softer Brexit that includes Britain staying in a customs union with the EU.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, and Keir Starmer, Labour Shadow Brexit secretary, leave EU headquarters prior to an EU summit in Brussels where he said he would now sit down with the PM
He told The Mirror: ‘We’re the responsible party here. We’re not running down the clock, we’re looking for solutions.
‘If she could say she’s prepared to understand what we’re saying, the points we’re making about the future – customs union, dynamic relationship with Europe – then we will be able to talk to her about that. She’s got to move forward on how things can change’.
Earlier the Labour leader was twice asked if he might formally ask the Government to halt the process of leaving the EU if Britain was heading for No Deal.
He refused to rule it out both times, adding that a second referendum was also possible.
Mr Corbyn was in Brussels to meet the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Martin Selmayr, the EU’s top civil servant, hours before yesterday’s EU summit began.
During ‘very constructive discussions’, he laid out his plan for a ‘softer’ Brexit which would lock us into a permanent customs union with the EU.
Before last night’s Brussels talks delivered two new possible dates for Brexit – April 12 or May 22 – Mr Corbyn was asked if Labour would ‘contemplate’ a longer Brexit delay if Mrs May’s deal is rejected again next week, or if it would support revoking Article 50.
He replied: ‘These are hypotheticals. So far as we’re concerned, we think there’s an urgency in constructing a majority for an agreeable solution and that’s what we’re concentrating on at the moment.’
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Stammer (left) and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrive in Brussels ahead of a meeting with Michel Barnier
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured leaving Downing Street last night) walked out on a crucial Brexit briefing with party leaders because former Labour MP Chuka Umunna (right) was invited
She wrote on Twitter: ‘Corbyn on Hamas (the terrorists): I wanted Hamas to be part of the debate. Corbyn on Chuka Umunna (the anti-racism ex-Labour MP): Tell him I’m not talking to him’
The Labour leader again dodged the question when asked directly if he would ‘rule out’ cancelling Brexit.
He said: ‘We think what we’re proposing can be achieved in Parliament, we do believe we can construct a majority that will prevent all the chaos that will come from crashing out.’
Mr Corbyn also hinted that he could back a bid for a second referendum.
He added: ‘Our determination is to prevent a No Deal exit from the EU.’
It comes following reports that cross-party talks for a softer Brexit with Remainer MPs are gaining ground.
Talks between Labour and Conservative MP Nick Boles for a Norway-style ‘Common Market 2.0’ – possibly with single market involvement or a permanent customs union – are nearing a deal, the BBC said.
Mr Corbyn also defended his behaviour after walking out of a crucial Brexit meeting with Mrs May on Wednesday because Labour defector Chuka Umunna was present.
A slew of critics accused of him ‘extraordinary, juvenile’ behaviour and pointed out that in the past he has been willing to sit with members of the terror group Hamas, as well as inviting IRA members to the Commons just days after the 1984 Brighton bombing.
But yesterday the Labour leader claimed there had been ‘confusion’ over the meeting.
He said: ‘I had a separate and very extensive discussion with the Prime Minister later on and also arranged to meet the Prime Minister again on a one-to-one basis.
‘We have done a great deal to listen carefully and try to construct a majority that can bring about a resolution.’
TWO MILLION sign petition to cancel Brexit: Celeb Remainers Hugh Grant, Annie Lennox and Professor Brian Cox back campaign to avoid No Deal (but other names look like they’ve been added from North Korea and Afghanistan)
Celebrity Remainers including Hugh Grant and Annie Lennox are among more than two million people who have signed a petition today to cancel Brexit to avoid No Deal.
Grant claimed every ‘sane’ person in the country was signing the plea, which was also backed by Professor Brian Cox and Jennifer Saunders.
Rising rapidly every minute it passed the seven-figure milestone shortly before 3pm after Theresa May made a speech blaming Parliament for a delay to Brexit last night.
The petition passed 10,000 names on Monday soon after it was created. Parliament’s petition site crashed repeatedly today as the number of signatures rose.
Despite verification checks including a signatory’s post code and email addresses, the data from the petition appeared to suggest some names may have been added from overseas. The rule of Parliament’s petition site say only UK citizens can sign.
As people flocked to the campaign today, Mrs May was back in front of the cameras on arrival at the EU summit in Brussel – refusing to rule out No Deal and insisting Brexit had to be delivered.
The petition crashed past 1,000,000 signatures shortly before 3pm today after backing from a host of celebrities
A map showing where people have signed shows concentrations of support in cities such as London, Oxford and Edinburgh
The petition states: ‘The government repeatedly claims exiting the EU is ”the will of the people”.
‘We need to put a stop to this claim by proving the strength of public support now, for remaining in the EU. A People’s Vote may not happen – so vote now.’
The Government is obliged to offer a written response and it will be considered for a debate in Parliament – but it will not be staged before exit day on March 29.
A map showing where people have signed shows concentrations of support in cities such as London, Oxford and Edinburgh.
A raft of public figures have promoted the petition since Mrs May’s controversial speech in Downing Street last night.
Hugh Grant said: ‘I’ve signed. And it looks like every sane person in the country is signing too.
‘National emergency. Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU.’
Anne Lennox said the petition was ‘currently gaining 100,000 signatures an hour’.
Actor Eddie Marsan urged his followers to sign, tweeting: ‘In years to come, when future generations look back on Brexit and how this country was taken over by fanatical ideologues, to the left andto the right, they’ll ask ”where were you? What did you do?”.’
TV physicist Brian Cox said: ‘I’ve signed this petition to revoke A50 and deal with the consequences afterwards – referendum, election, whatever.
‘I have no idea whether these things do any good but after May’s astonishingly irresponsible speech this evening I’ll give anything a go.’
Margaret Anne Georgiadou, who started the petition, told the BBC: ‘I became like every other Remainer – very frustrated that we’ve been silenced and ignored for so long.
‘So I think now it’s almost like a dam bursting, because we’ve been held back in a sense – it’s almost like last chance saloon now.’
She said the petition ‘didn’t do very well for a week’.
The Petitions Committee said: ‘As many of you have guessed, the number of people using the site has caused problems this morning.
‘It’s a mix of people reloading the front page to watch the signature count go up and people trying to sign petitions.’
Theresa May’s deputy official spokesman said the Government had said ‘12,000 times’ it would not revoke Article 50, adding: ‘It is not something that she is prepared to do.’
Emergency ‘Cobra’ committee takes over No Deal preparations amid moves to activate ‘Operation Yellowhammer’ on Monday – putting 3,500 troops on standby, booking ferries for NHS drugs and getting ready for huge lorry jams
The Government’s emergency Cobra committee has taken over No Deal preparations today amid plans to activate ‘Operation Yellowhammer’ on Monday.
Yellowhammer is the civil contingencies wing of No Deal and involves putting 3,500 troops on standby, booking space on emergency ferries for NHS drugs and preparing for miles of lorry queues out of Dover.
The plans – dubbed a No Deal ‘doomsday’ scenario – also include Foreign Office teams preparing to help Britons who get stranded in Europe from a dedicated ‘nerve centre’.
Officials have been planning for No Deal for months and activated 320 other contingency plans before Christmas with 101 days to March 29. It included a public information campaign telling citizens to prepare their own families.
The new escalation comes with just eight days until exit is due to happen and with no deal agreed amid deadlock in Parliament.
Cabinet Ministers were told on Tuesday Operation Yellowhammer would be stood up, the Daily Telegraph revealed.
Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, told them in a letter: ‘Operation Yellowhammer command and control structures will be enacted fully on 25 March unless a new exit date has been agreed between the UK and the EU.’
He told departments to be ready to make ‘necessary changes’ to their contingency planning to account for an extension, and be ready to ‘re-programme’ certain measures so that they could instead be activated before the new exit date.
Yellowhammer is the civil contingencies wing of No Deal and involves putting 3,500 troops on standby, booking space on emergency ferries for NHS drugs and preparing for miles of lorry queues out of Dover
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told Cabinet on Tuesday that Operation Yellowhammer would be stood up on March 25
What does yellowhammer mean and how did civil servants come up with the name?
Yellowhammer is the code name for the work for planning a no deal Brexit carried out by the Civil Contingencies Secretariat (CCS).
It takes its name from a small yellow bird which lives across the UK.
They forage for seeds to eat, breed in May and enjoy singing.
Male yellowhammers learn their songs from their fathers, and over the course of time regional dialects have developed.
In ancient legend the birds were linked to the devil – the intricate patterns on their eggs were said to conceal an evil message.
The Yellowhammer operation works across all Whitehall departments to ensure the UK is able to weather the shock of crashing out of the Brussels bloc.
The word itself is randomly generated by a computer.
The CCS was established in 2011 and works on projects to ensure the UK can handle potentially disruptive change.
Projects similar to Yellowhammer have been carried out to prepare for the 2012 Olympics and the Champions League final.
A Department for Transport source told The Times: ‘Clearly if we are facing a no-deal Brexit on Friday there are going to be issues that require a substantial response and we need to ensure that the department is working in a way that allows us to do that ahead of time.
‘The unknowns are going to be the reaction of other European countries to issues like customs and driving licences. We need to be in a position to respond to issues quickly.’
A government spokesman said: ‘As a responsible government we have been planning and continue to prepare for all eventualities and that includes managing the impacts of a no deal Brexit as they arise.’
European Research Group deputy chairman Mark Francois said in the Commons yesterday Operation Yellowhammer shoudl be stood up immediately.
He said: ‘If that is so and there is no extension, why do we not just vote down the rancid withdrawal agreement and sprint for the line?’
Chris Heaton-Harris, a Brexit minister, told MPs: ‘We do have Operation Yellowhammer, which is working to deliver the biggest peacetime project in the history of the civil service.
‘Leaving the European Union with a deal remains the government’s top priority, but a responsible government must plan for every eventuality including a no-deal scenario, and these preparations are taking place alongside work to deliver on the government’s policy priorities.’
An official report published last month admitted 200,000 firms that trade with the EU are not ready for a no deal Brexit.
The study from the Brexit department also found citizens are ignoring no deal warnings and failing to make sure they are ready for a no deal.
It said no deal would cause delays at the border – potentially meaning shortages and prices rises for some food, particularly fresh produce not in season in Britain.
The report warns panic buying could fuel shortages in foods that are shipped across the Channel.
Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan revealed the No Deal ‘nerve centre’ that is ready to help stranded UK citizens this week
Labour MP and Best for Britain supporter Rosie Duffield said: ‘The only reason this money is being spent on disaster planning rather than our crumbling public services is because the Prime Minister is obsessed with keeping no deal on the table to force through her bad Brexit deal.
‘Stopping the coming crisis should be the government’s sole agenda, not facilitating it.
‘Messes like this explain why the mood in the country has shifted over the last three years.
‘No deal is not an acceptable outcome. People want a final say on Brexit, but also expect MPs to think about revoking A50 to stop this government walking us over a cliff-edge if we reach a point of national crisis next week.’
3,500 troops are on standby for no deal Brexit
Extra personnel could be needed at British ports, at the border or even to help police civil disobedience if a no deal Brexit leads to food shortages or other problems
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson told MPs last year that 3,500 troops will be ‘held at readiness’ to help with a no-deal Brexit.
The troops are a mix of regulars and reserves and will be held on bases to be deployed as needed as Britain leaves the EU.
Extra personnel could be needed at British ports, at the border or even to help police civil disobedience if a no deal Brexit leads to food shortages or other problems.
Downing Street insisted the use of soldiers is common – pointing to how troops helped out successfully in the running of the Olympics.
Speaking in the Commons when he made the announcement, Mr Williamson said: ‘We’ve as yet not had any formal request from any Government department but what we are doing is putting contingency plans in place, and what we will do is have 3,500 service personnel held at readiness – including regulars and reserves – in order to support any Government department on any contingencies they may need.’
Up to 10,000 lorries could be parked in Kent if no deal causes delays at the ports
Dover has room for 1,720, Manston Airport near Margate, which has been purchased by the Department for Transport, could fit 4,000 and 4,500 could be parked on the M20 – as happened when ‘Operation Stack’ was triggered in 2015
More than 10,000 lorries could be parked in Kent to cater for queues of trucks heading for France in event of a no-deal Brexit.
First lorries would be parked at Dover, then on Manston Airport and finally the M20.
Dover has room for 1,720 while Manston Airport near Margate, could fit 6,500 following a series of tests. If they run out of room, more lorries could be parked on the M20 – as happened when ‘Operation Stack’ was triggered in 2015.
Further contingency plans that emerged in November suggested the 10-mile long M26 could also be pressed into service for overflowing lorries.
Specialist drugs first in line for emergency ferry space
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had mooted the Government leasing entire roll-on, roll-off lorry ferries
Reserving space on ferries for critical supplies is among the contingency plans triggered by the Cabinet today.
Specialist drugs used by the NHS are first in line for space on the No Deal ferries, which were mired in controversy when Transport Secretary Chris Grayling handed one of the contracts to an untested firm with no ships. The deal was later cancelled.
The Department of Health is understood to have contacted pharmaceutical companies urging them to route their supplies using the new ferry services.