EU leaders agree Brexit ‘flextension’ to October 31 letting Britain out early if May’s deal passes

Theresa May has been handed a humiliating Halloween Brexit nightmare with EU leaders agreeing to a ‘flextension’ that delays the UK’s departure until October 31 at a crunch summit tonight.

But the Prime Minister was handed a slim lifeline with the 27 adding a break clause  saying the UK can leave earlier if she can convince MPs to pass a Brexit deal – but Brussels will not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement to make that easier. 

The six-month extension will be accompanied by a technical review in June, dashing the hopes of the Prime Minister, who had begged them to postpone our departure only until the end of that month. 

Mrs May tried to appear positive after the summit. She told reporters: ‘What we have agreed tonight means that we can actually leave the European Union before the 30th of June’.

But she added that she would she would seek more talks with Jeremy Corbyn and other political figures as she gave no indication that she planned to quit. 

The Prime Minister also indicated that she believed it was still possible to leave before May 23 and avoid taking part in European Elections.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar had earlier said the UK would have to leave without a deal on June 1 if it refused to take part in the May elections. 

The election takes place almost three years after the referendum vote to leave and taking part will infuriate already incandescent Tory Brexiteers.

Mrs May said: ‘I do not pretend the next few weeks will be easy or that there is a simple way to break the deadlock in Parliament. 

‘But we have a duty as politicians to find a way to fulfill the democratic decision of the Referendum, deliver Brexit and move our country forward. Nothing is more pressing or more vital.’

The Halloween date is seen as a compromise between the majority of the EU 27 leaders who wanted to delay Brexit until the end of the year or March 202, and France’s Emmanuel Macron, who emerged as a vocal opponent to a long extension.  

But European Council president Donald Tusk gave Theresa May a glimmer of hope that the UK could leave before October.  

He told an early-hours press conference that the ‘course of action is entirely in the UK’s hands’.

In a message to Britain he added: ‘This extension is as flexible as I expected and a little shorter than I expected. 

‘But it is still enough to find the best possible solution. Please don’t waste this time.’   

He said Britain still had all the options on Brexit available during the extension, from approving the stalled divorce deal, to changing its leave strategy to cancelling the departure altogether.  

Mr Leo Varadkar tweeted: ‘We’ll take stock of situation at our regular summit in June … UK to take part in (European Elections) or must leave on June 1st without a deal.’ 

The flextension also raises serious question about whether Mrs May will be in office to oversee Brexit, with mutinous MPs demanding she quit as soon as possible and senior figures already maneuvring to replace her. 

And Mr Tusk even hinted that if the Uk is not ready by October B 

Reuters had earlier quoted a diplomatic source who said Mr Macron wants to actually offer Mrs May roughly what she wants, telling his counterparts a delay past June 30 would undermine the EU. 

The source suggested the French were being ‘annoying, just posturing to show how important and powerful they are’.

They added: ‘He is in a bit of a schizophrenic situation – (his) domestic audience demands that he is tough on Britain for historic reasons.

On the other hand, France is among the most-hit in any no-deal Brexit. It will take hours before we pull him down from his tree.’

Sources suggested that as many as 17 of the 27 had wanted a much longer delay. But the October 31 date is a rough half-way compromise between the two.

The Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat confirm the dates on Twitter, saying: ‘A Brexit extension until 31 October is sensible since it gives time to UK to finally choose its way. The review in June will allow EU27 to take stock of the situation.’ 

The Prime Minister spent a little more than an hour this evening in a question and answer session at the emergency meeting before being kicked out while they decide the UK’s fate over a lavish seafood dinner. 

She addressed the European Council session in the Belgian capital after president Macron had warned her that he was ‘impatient’ and that a long Brexit delay was not guaranteed.

He appeared to wink today as he arrived in the EU’s core – after being urged not to ‘humiliate’ the Prime Minister. 

He was set to demand the UK is subjected to a number of punitive conditions with a Christmas deadline to finally quit the trade bloc, but also raised the spectre of a no-deal Brexit, possibly on Friday.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the start of the emergency meeting of national leaders he warned that ‘nothing is settled’, including a long delay, and he was ‘impatient’ to hear what Mrs May had to say.

‘We must understand today why this request, what is the political project which justifies it and what are the clear proposals?’ he said. 

‘It is 34 months since the British referendum, and the key for us is that we are able to pursue the European project in a coherent way.

‘I believe deeply that we are carrying out a European rebirth, and I don’t want the subject of Brexit to get in the way of that.’   

The Maltese prime minister confirmed the October 31 date, saying the June review would allow the EU to 'take stock of the situation'

The Maltese prime minister confirmed the October 31 date, saying the June review would allow the EU to 'take stock of the situation'

The Maltese prime minister confirmed the October 31 date, saying the June review would allow the EU to ‘take stock of the situation’

Donald Tusk tonight signalled that the EU27 had made a decision after deliberating for under five hours at the emergency summit in Brussels

Donald Tusk tonight signalled that the EU27 had made a decision after deliberating for under five hours at the emergency summit in Brussels

Donald Tusk tonight signalled that the EU27 had made a decision after deliberating for under five hours at the emergency summit in Brussels

Mrs May leaving last night's European Council meeting at the Europa Building in Brussels, after giving her seemingly doomed pitch for a short Brexit delay until June 30

Mrs May leaving last night's European Council meeting at the Europa Building in Brussels, after giving her seemingly doomed pitch for a short Brexit delay until June 30

Mrs May leaving last night’s European Council meeting at the Europa Building in Brussels, after giving her seemingly doomed pitch for a short Brexit delay until June 30

Mrs May shared a joke with  German chancellor Angela Merkel tonight, ahead of the PM's pitch to EU leaders in which she is asking for a delay to Brexit until June 30 at the latest

Mrs May shared a joke with  German chancellor Angela Merkel tonight, ahead of the PM's pitch to EU leaders in which she is asking for a delay to Brexit until June 30 at the latest

Mrs May shared a joke with  German chancellor Angela Merkel tonight, ahead of the PM’s pitch to EU leaders in which she is asking for a delay to Brexit until June 30 at the latest

The two national leaders, both dressed in cobalt blue, appeared captivated by something on Mrs Merkel's iPad at the start of the meeting in Brussels

The two national leaders, both dressed in cobalt blue, appeared captivated by something on Mrs Merkel's iPad at the start of the meeting in Brussels

The two national leaders, both dressed in cobalt blue, appeared captivated by something on Mrs Merkel’s iPad at the start of the meeting in Brussels

They then shared the joke with European Council president Donald Tusk, who saw the funny side. He has suggested that the UK face a Brexit delay of up to a year

They then shared the joke with European Council president Donald Tusk, who saw the funny side. He has suggested that the UK face a Brexit delay of up to a year

They then shared the joke with European Council president Donald Tusk, who saw the funny side. He has suggested that the UK face a Brexit delay of up to a year

Mrs May’s performance was shorter than the one she gave at the previous Brexit summit in March, where she spoke for more than 90 minutes before EU leaders dismissed her request – which was the same as the one she made tonight.

An EU official later told Reuters that the ‘sense is May is open to a longer extension as long as it can be terminated early’ and her address had been ‘more solid than usual, though not many specifics’ in it.

She used her own arrival in Brussels this afternoon to lash MPs for refusing to pass the Brexit deal, complaining ‘we should have left by now’, but dodged questions about her own future. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel – whose mother Herlind Kasner passed away aged 90 just days ago –  wanted a gentler, but longer extension, into 2020 – reflecting splits among the EU27. 

Arriving at the EU’s headquarters the PM refused to say if she would quit if Britain was forced to swallow a longer delay – but insisted her aim is still to leave the EU on May 22 if she can win over Jeremy Corbyn.

She said: ‘What is important is that any extension enables us to leave at the point at which we ratify our Withdrawal Agreement. I know many people will be frustrated that the summit is taking place at all. The UK should have left by now’. 

President Macron is also believed to have called for regular ‘behaviour reviews’ of the UK, a bonfire of its EU powers and posts and a ‘Boris-proof’ lock preventing a new Tory leader causing havoc within the EU if she stands down, despite warnings from Donald Tusk and Angela Merkel not to poison relations with Britain.  

Before taking off for Belgium a frustrated Theresa May blasted MPs for not voting through her EU divorce deal after Tory Eurosceptic Henry Smith accusing her of throwing away £1billion-a-month in payment to Brussels if she accepted a longer Article 50 extension tonight.

Mrs May hit back: ‘We could have been outside the EU by now if we’d managed to get the deal through Parliament and I’m continuing to work to deliver Brexit’.

France's President Emmanuel Macron appears to wink as he shakes hands with Belgium's Prime minister Charles Michel as he arrives for a mini summit ahead of a European Council meeting on Brexit

France's President Emmanuel Macron appears to wink as he shakes hands with Belgium's Prime minister Charles Michel as he arrives for a mini summit ahead of a European Council meeting on Brexit

France’s President Emmanuel Macron appears to wink as he shakes hands with Belgium’s Prime minister Charles Michel as he arrives for a mini summit ahead of a European Council meeting on Brexit

Theresa May spoke to the media as she arrived for the summit and expressed her frustration over the need for a Brexit delay because 'the UK should have left by now'

Theresa May spoke to the media as she arrived for the summit and expressed her frustration over the need for a Brexit delay because 'the UK should have left by now'

Theresa May spoke to the media as she arrived for the summit and expressed her frustration over the need for a Brexit delay because ‘the UK should have left by now’

EU leaders enjoyed a menu of scallops and cod, followed by a creamy nut dessert, as they discussed the UK's future -  while Mrs May waited outside

EU leaders enjoyed a menu of scallops and cod, followed by a creamy nut dessert, as they discussed the UK's future -  while Mrs May waited outside

EU leaders enjoyed a menu of scallops and cod, followed by a creamy nut dessert, as they discussed the UK’s future –  while Mrs May waited outside

Donald Tusk told an early morning press conference: 'This extension is as flexible as I expected and a little shorter than I expected. 'But it is still enough to find the best possible solution. Please don't waste this time.

Donald Tusk told an early morning press conference: 'This extension is as flexible as I expected and a little shorter than I expected. 'But it is still enough to find the best possible solution. Please don't waste this time.

Donald Tusk told an early morning press conference: ‘This extension is as flexible as I expected and a little shorter than I expected. ‘But it is still enough to find the best possible solution. Please don’t waste this time.

Theresa May will hope that this will be the last time she asks for another Brexit delay as she tries to do a new deal with Labour to get it through Parliament

Theresa May will hope that this will be the last time she asks for another Brexit delay as she tries to do a new deal with Labour to get it through Parliament

Theresa May will hope that this will be the last time she asks for another Brexit delay as she tries to do a new deal with Labour to get it through Parliament

New vote ‘within days’ if Labour agree a Brexit deal with Theresa May

Brexit legislation could be brought back to the Commons in days if the Government can reach a deal with Labour, ministers said last night.

Two Cabinet sources told the Mail discussions were under way about the possibility of asking MPs to vote this week on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the hope of still leaving the EU next month.

Ministers have also reserved the right to shorten the Easter break by asking MPs to sit on Monday and Tuesday next week if a deal looks close. Under one proposal, the Government would agree to allow free votes on key Labour demands, such as a customs union and a second referendum. If passed, these would then be incorporated into Theresa May’s deal.

But a Whitehall source last night said the ‘high-risk’ strategy would only be considered if ministers were certain that Labour were signed up to it.

‘The problem is that if you put the Withdrawal Bill in front of MPs and they vote it down then you have lost if for this session. You would have to prorogue Parliament to bring it back so it’s pretty high-risk.’

But with talks with Labour set to start again tomorrow, Mrs May and Jeremy Corbyn dodged the subject completely during Prime Minister’s Questions. 

Despite the  pressure Mrs May was able to share a joke with Mrs Merkel and Mr Tusk at the start of the Brussels meeting tonight, laughing at something on the chancellor’s iPad.

It later emerged that they were looking at a side-by-side image the German leader and Mrs May wearing jackets of exactly the same colour as they took questions in their respective Parliaments earlier in the day. 

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said today that Mrs May should not be allowed to ‘drift on’ if she accepts the EU’s longer delay and must quit before she faces another confidence vote. 

He said: ‘It’s almost certain she would lose, it would be humiliating’.

But Justice Secretary David Gauke suggested the PM could stay on for up to a year out of a sense of ‘duty’.   

And in more bad news for the PM, a new Kantar opinion poll found the Tories have plunged nine points in a month, which would put Jeremy Corbyn in No 10 if there was a general election.   

Mrs Merkel told Germany’s parliament today that EU leaders may well agree to a delay ‘longer than the British prime minister (Theresa May) has requested’.

She said she would meet French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of the summit with the aim of hashing out a common stance on the length of a further extension. 

European Council President Donald Tusk pictured today

European Council President Donald Tusk pictured today

Boris Johnson arrives at Parliament yesterday

Boris Johnson arrives at Parliament yesterday

Donald Tusk (left today) made a personal plea for Macron to drop his request for a ‘good behaviour’ review for Britain every three months – but strict rules including clauses to stop Brexiteers like Boris Johnson (right yesterday) tearing up Mrs May’s deal look likely

DUP and Tory Brexiteers to press EU for ‘sensible’ Brexit deal in Brussels meeting tomorrow

Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster has blasted Theresa May, revealing she will lead a quartet of hardline Brexiteers to Brussels tomorrow in search of a ‘sensible’ Brexit deal.

Ms Foster and the party’s MEP Diane Dodds will join former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and ex-Cabinet minister Owen Paterson in travelling to Belgium to meet EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

Their meeting will come the morning after the Prime Minister’s own visit to the heart of the EU machine to get a short Brexit extension.

Mrs Foster said they would use their meeting to press home ‘why we oppose the Withdrawal Agreement’.

She suggested they want the EU to reopen the WA, something they have refused to do on numerous occasions, which has been accepted by Mrs May.

Mrs Foster said she wanted the EU to make the ‘changes outlined by Parliament on 29 January’, a reference to the Brady Amendment passed by MPs – which they have previously refused to do.

The DUP leader lashed out at the Prime Minister over ‘the ham-fisted manner in which the negotiations have taken place’, saying: ‘Despite the Prime Minister being warned about the opposition to her Withdrawal Agreement, she has limped along and tried to force people into a cul-de-sac where they have no option but to support her deal.

‘That is a weak approach and demeans the strength of this great nation. It is also foolish as it traps the UK and burdens future generations with a bad deal.’

‘I think the extension should be as short as possible. But it should be long enough to create a certain calm so we don’t have to meet every two weeks to deal with the same subject.’ 

DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds branded the talks ‘humiliating and embarrassing’ for the UK, and claimed Britain was ‘effectively holding out a begging bowl to European leaders’. 

Tory MP Anne Main has said the UK was becoming a ‘laughing stock’ and called it ‘appalling that we may be seeking an extension with no real sense of purpose’.  

Brexiteer Labour MP Kate Hoey said: ‘It does seem really humiliating for this country to have our Prime Minister going over to the European Union to literally beg for an extension. What is this saying about our country?’

During Prime Minister’s Questions today Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said discussions were continuing in an attempt to find a compromise Brexit deal – but swiftly moved on. 

The Prime Minister faced a major Commons revolt last night, with 97 Tory MPs voting against any delay to the April 12 leaving date. Almost 80 more abstained, including a string of ministers.

Labour backed the Brexit day delay, helping it pass by 420 votes to 110. But just 131 Tory MPs supported the PM’s plan – 40 per cent of the parliamentary party.

Cabinet ministers Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox, who both abstained, both publicly questioned the PM’s tactics.

Mrs Leadsom urged her to ask German chancellor Angela Merkel to reopen the withdrawal agreement – despite the EU repeatedly ruling this out. Dr Fox hit out at suggestions Mrs May could agree to keep Britain in a customs union as part of a compromise with Labour.

Solicitor general Robert Buckland told MPs the UK would be legally required to take part in European Parliament elections if it was a member state on May 23.

But he suggested British MEPs might not have to take their seats if Westminster agreed an exit plan in the coming weeks. 

Tories plunge NINE points in a month amid Brexit chaos as more than half of voters say they now back a second referendum

The Tory party has plunged nine points in the polls a new survey suggests today.

Kantar’s latest research suggests the Brexit chaos is finally hitting support for Theresa May‘s party as the PM seeks a second delay to leaving the EU.

The firm found the Conservatives are backed by 32 per cent, down from 41 per cent in the same survey in March.

The dramatic poll means Labour takes the lead with Kantar after rising four points, from 31 per cent to 35 per cent.

The Liberal Democrats have also gained group, surged three to 11 per cent support in the new survey.

Kantar’s new poll also finds more than half of people now support putting the Brexit deal to a referendum.

Kantar's latest research suggests the Brexit chaos is finally hitting support for Theresa May's party as the PM seeks a second delay to leaving the EU

Kantar's latest research suggests the Brexit chaos is finally hitting support for Theresa May's party as the PM seeks a second delay to leaving the EU

Kantar’s latest research suggests the Brexit chaos is finally hitting support for Theresa May’s party as the PM seeks a second delay to leaving the EU

Across all voters, 51 per cent say it should have a public vote while just 32 per cent are opposed. Leave voters split 53 per cent to 35 per cent against, while Remain voters are heavily split 62 per cent to 22 per cent in favour.  

According to the poll if a new referendum were held, 41 per cent say they would Remain, with 35 per cent backing Leave – with just nine per cent saying they don’t know and the rest vowing not to take part at all.

Kantar's new poll also finds more than half of people now support putting the Brexit deal to a referendum. Across all voters, 51 per cent say it should have a public vote while just 32 per cent are opposed

Kantar's new poll also finds more than half of people now support putting the Brexit deal to a referendum. Across all voters, 51 per cent say it should have a public vote while just 32 per cent are opposed

Kantar’s new poll also finds more than half of people now support putting the Brexit deal to a referendum. Across all voters, 51 per cent say it should have a public vote while just 32 per cent are opposed

The Tories have been trending down in the polls in recent weeks as the Brexit chaos continues to grip the nation

The Tories have been trending down in the polls in recent weeks as the Brexit chaos continues to grip the nation

The Tories have been trending down in the polls in recent weeks as the Brexit chaos continues to grip the nation 

Fewer than one in four people say Britain should end the impasse by leaving the EY with No Deal, with one in three saying Brexit should be cancelled instead. 

The poll findings were published as EU leaders today urged Emmanuel Macron not to ‘humiliate’ Mrs May at tonight’s historic summit where they are expected to impose a lengthy delay to Brexit on the UK. 

Will Brexit ever happen? As the EU appears set to force May into a year-long extension this is what is likely to happen as Britain’s exit is put off AGAIN tonight  

Britain is set to be pushed into a year-long delay to Brexit tonight after Theresa May effectively axed the prospect of No Deal on Friday.

The Prime Minister’s hopes of a short extension that expires in June appear to be doomed as she prepares to fly to Brussels following PMQs today.

Views among EU leaders vary – but the expiry of Article 50 looks likely to be shifted to at least the end of this year.

Mrs May could get the option to break the extension early if her deal finally passes Parliament – but EU Council President Donald Tusk has gone public with warnings there is ‘little reason’ to believe it will ever happen.

French President Emmanuel Macron has taken the most hardline stance, insisting Britain must be tied into strict rules to stop it misbehaving during any new delay. He is highly unlikely to actually veto the delay, however.

When the summit starts at around 5pm this evening, Mrs May will first answer questions from EU leaders – building on a diplomatic blitz that included trips to Paris and Berlin yesterday.

She will then be kicked out of the summit so the other 27 EU leaders can decide what to do over dinner. Only once they have a unanimous agreement on delay will Mrs May be asked to say Yes or No.

At the last summit three weeks ago the EU leaders debated in private for almost six hours. A similar row this time would mean Britain’s fate being decided at around midnight tonight.

Whatever happens, the PM must return to the Commons tomorrow to explain to MPs when and if Brexit will ever happen. 

What has Mrs May asked for? 

In a letter to Donald Tusk she formally requested an extension to Article 50 that will delay the UK’s departure beyond April 12 to June 30 – but she also wants a ‘termination clause’.

This would allow the UK to leave on May 22 – the day before European elections – if a deal can be pushed through the UK Parliament.

However, this delay is a carbon copy of that sought by Mrs May before the last emergency summit in March – which was rejected.

What has the EU said?

Mr Tusk said that a 12-month ‘flextension’ to March 29 2020 is ‘the only reasonable way out’ of the crisis and has urged leaders of the EU’s 27 member states to back him at Wednesday’s summit. 

Ahead of the summit today, Mr Tusk urged the 27 leaders to consider a long delay because there was ‘little reason’ to believe the deal would be passed by MPs before the end of June.

He said Brexit should be put off by ‘no longer than one year’ with Britain allowed to leave if and when the deal does somehow get through Parliament.   

If confirmed tonight such an extension is likely to spark fury among Tory Brexiteer MPs, with Jacob Rees-Mogg suggesting if we were kept in we should be troublesome to the rest of the EU, politically.

And Mrs May has previously said she would not be able to accept such a delay – suggesting it could prompt her to resign. This could lead to a summer leadership battle in Tory ranks before a new, most likely Brexiteer leader, takes over.

How does the EU make its decision? 

When the summit starts at around 5pm this evening, Mrs May will first answer questions from EU leaders – building on a diplomatic blitz that included trips to Paris and Berlin yesterday.

She will then be kicked out of the summit so the other 27 EU leaders can decide what to do over dinner. Only once they have a unanimous agreement on delay will Mrs May be asked to say Yes or No.

At the last summit three weeks ago the EU leaders debated in private for almost six hours. A similar row this time would mean Britain’s fate being decided at around midnight tonight.

When will Brexit be? 

It is hard to say – but it is highly unlikely to be on Friday as the law currently says.  

The PM clearly still wants to get out of the EU before European Parliament elections have to be held on May 22 but this is ultimately up to Brussels. 

Were she to pass the deal in the next couple of weeks, it is probably possible to conclude exit by around late May.

If she fails again however, exit day will likely be pushed back by at least nine to 12 months – setting the stage for a change of PM in Downing Street and possibly either an election or a referendum, or even both.  

What is happening in the cross party talks? 

The Prime Minister has said the divorce deal could not be changed but announced last week she would seek a new consensus with Jeremy Corbyn on the political declaration about the final UK-EU agreement. It is her final roll of the dice to save the deal.

Talks broke down on Friday between ministers and officials from both parties, despite previous efforts being hailed as ‘constructive’. After technical discussions on Monday, they finally resumed yesterday – but have now been adjourned again until tomorrow. 

If the talks fail, Mrs May has promised to put options to Parliament and agreed to be bound by the result. Time is short to actually call this vote.

In a second round of indicative votes last week a customs union, Norway-style soft Brexit and second referendum were the leading options – but none got a majority of MPs.  

What does Mrs May’s shift mean?   

Mrs May has abandoned all hope of winning over remaining Tory Brexiteers and the DUP on the terms of her current deal.

Striking a cross-party deal with Labour on the future relationship will require Mrs May to abandon many of her red lines – including potentially on free movement and striking trade deals.

To get an agreement with Labour, Mrs May will need to agree the political declaration should spell out a much softer Brexit than her current plans do.

This might mean a permanent UK-EU customs union or even staying in the EU Single Market.

What if Mr Corbyn says No? 

Mrs May said if she cannot cut a deal with Corbyn, she would ask Parliament to come up with options – and promised to follow orders from MPs.

In a second round of indicative votes last week a customs union, Norway-style soft Brexit and second referendum were the leading options – but none got a majority of MPs.

They would probably pass if the Tories whipped for them – but it would almost certainly mean ministers quitting the Government.   

The Institute for Government has mapped out how a crucial week in the Brexit endgame might unfold ahead of a possible No Deal Brexit on Friday

The Institute for Government has mapped out how a crucial week in the Brexit endgame might unfold ahead of a possible No Deal Brexit on Friday

The Institute for Government has mapped out how a crucial week in the Brexit endgame might unfold ahead of a possible No Deal Brexit on Friday 

Will May resign? 

Nodbody knows for sure. Mrs May has announced she would go if and when her divorce deal passed so a new Tory leader could take charge of the trade talks phase.

In practice, it drained Mrs May of all remaining political capital. Most in Westminster think her Premiership is over within weeks at the latest. 

As her deal folded for a third time a fortnight ago, she faced immediate calls from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn so stand down with instant effect. 

What is clear is there is already a fight underway for the Tory leadership.  

Does is all mean there will be an election?

Probably, at some point though the immediate chances have fallen because of the latest events. The Commons is deadlocked and the Government has no functional majority. While the Fixed Term Parliaments Act means the Government can stumble on, it will become increasingly powerless.

Mrs May could try to call one herself or, assuming she stands down, her successor could do so.  

Would May lead the Tories into an early election? 

Unlikely. Having admitted to her party she would go if the deal passes, Mrs May’s political career is doomed.

While there is no procedural way to remove her, a withdrawal of political support from the Cabinet or Tory HQ would probably finish her even if she wanted to stay.    

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.  

Why do people say there has to be an election? 

The question of whether to call an election finally reached the Cabinet last 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. 

MPs voting to seize control of Brexit from ministers has only fuelled 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. This is the current forecast by polling expert Sir John Curtice. 

Where’s Angela? Awkward moment May walked up the red carpet alone after Merkel failed to greet her  

There was an awkward moment for Theresa May as she arrived at the German Chancellery for talks with Angela Merkel – who failed to greet her.

Mrs Merkel traditionally meets important guests on the red carpet, but the Prime Minister was forced to walk down alone before entering the building.

The two leaders then re-emerged to shake hands for the cameras before disappearing again inside. 

Mrs Merkel traditionally meets important guests on the red carpet, but the Prime Minister was forced to walk down alone before entering the building

Mrs Merkel traditionally meets important guests on the red carpet, but the Prime Minister was forced to walk down alone before entering the building

Mrs May after leaving her car

Mrs May after leaving her car

Mrs Merkel traditionally meets important guests on the red carpet, but the Prime Minister was forced to walk down alone before entering the building

A body language expert yesterday suggested that the two leaders were at odds over a Brexit extension.

Mrs May’s hand clasp resembled a ‘begging gesture’ while both women cut ‘grim’ expressions.

Judi James said: ‘It’s the huge spatial gap between these two women that gives the suggestion of further separation rather than unity.

‘Merkel in particular tends to keep both her allies and her enemies close but this pose suggests some desire to end the conversation.’

It was a different scene when Mrs May later headed to Paris to meet French President Emmanuel Macron, who greeted her with a hug and kisses on both cheeks. 

The two leaders talk together on the terrace of the Chancellery in Berlin today

The two leaders talk together on the terrace of the Chancellery in Berlin today

The two leaders talk together on the terrace of the Chancellery in Berlin today 

Tories’ open revolt over delay: Almost 100 of them vote against move to put EU departure off to June 30 

By John Stevens and Jack Doyle

Boris Johnson (pictured outside Parliament on April 8) was among Tories to vote against the motion to delay Brexit to June 30

Boris Johnson (pictured outside Parliament on April 8) was among Tories to vote against the motion to delay Brexit to June 30

Boris Johnson (pictured outside Parliament on April 8) was among Tories to vote against the motion to delay Brexit to June 30 

Theresa May faced a mass rebellion by Tory MPs last night on a motion to delay Brexit to June 30 amid claims the UK was being turned into a ‘laughing stock’.

Ninety-seven backbench Tories voted against the motion, including former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

And it came as the Prime Minister also faced open revolt in the Cabinet with ministers Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox publicly challenging her Brexit strategy.

In the Commons, and despite a three-line whip, almost 80 Tories were absent including several ministers, leaving just 131 to vote in favour of the motion.

No10 said there would be no disciplining of MPs who did not follow the party line. The Commons approved the motion on the extension request by 420 votes to 110, a majority of 310.

Former education minister Tim Loughton attacked ‘saboteurs’ on both sides for trying to ‘hamstring’ the Prime Minister.

He urged French president Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to veto an extension and ‘put us out of our misery now’. 

‘If the EU elections go ahead, it is highly likely the UK will elect an army of Nigel Farage mini-me’s, who I am afraid will wreak havoc with the European Parliament and wreck your calculations about the balance of power within the EU.’

New Brexit vote ‘within days’ if Labour agree deal  

Brexit legislation could be brought back to the Commons in days if the Government can reach a deal with Labour, ministers said last night.

Two Cabinet sources told the Mail discussions were under way about the possibility of asking MPs to vote this week on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the hope of still leaving the EU next month.

Ministers have also reserved the right to shorten the Easter break by asking MPs to sit on Monday and Tuesday next week if a deal looks close. Under one proposal, the Government would agree to allow free votes on key Labour demands, such as a customs union and a second referendum. If passed, these would then be incorporated into Theresa May’s deal.

But a Whitehall source last night said the ‘high-risk’ strategy would only be considered if ministers were certain that Labour were signed up to it.

‘The problem is that if you put the Withdrawal Bill in front of MPs and they vote it down then you have lost if for this session. You would have to prorogue Parliament to bring it back so it’s pretty high-risk.’

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell yesterday joined talks between the two parties in Whitehall, which also included Chancellor Philip Hammond and Environment Secretary Michael Gove. Mr McDonnell said Labour was seeking assurances that any agreement could not be overturned by a future Tory prime minister.

His comments reflect concern in Labour ranks that a Brexiteer such as Boris Johnson could simply tear up any agreement if they became PM after Mrs May steps down.

Mr McDonnell said: ‘Some of the discussion that will take place will be about how any deal is secure for the long term and how best to secure that either through domestic legislation or treaty.’ He expected the discussions would also cover alignment with the single market and environmental, consumer and workers’ rights. Asked whether the Government was indicating it would back a customs union, Mr McDonnell said: ‘Not yet – not even changes in language that I detect.’ Further talks are due to take place tomorrow.

Meanwhile, an aide to Mr Hammond yesterday said he faced the sack for attending a People’s Vote rally where he called for a second referendum. In defiance of the whips, Huw Merriman told the Westminster rally: ‘I am determined to play my part – if that means I use my voice and get fired for it then so be it.’ 

As Mrs May flew to Berlin for talks yesterday, Commons Leader Mrs Leadsom urged her to ask Mrs Merkel to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement forged last November.

Even though the Prime Minister has long given up attempts at changes as the EU has repeatedly ruled them out, Mrs Leadsom raised the prospect she should still be pushing for them.

Speaking outside her London home, she told ITV News: ‘The Prime Minister is off to see Angela Merkel today and it would be fantastic if Angela Merkel will try to support a proper UK Brexit by agreeing to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement.

‘There have been rumours over the weekend some senior members of the German government would be willing to do that in order to get Theresa May’s deal over the line.

‘As the person with the responsibility to get the legislation through, if we get the Prime Minister’s deal over the line because the EU has decided to support measures on the backstop, that would be the best possible outcome.’

But Mrs May’s official spokesman dismissed the idea, telling reporters: ‘Any plan going forward would be based on the current Withdrawal Agreement.’

There were also signs of resistance in the Cabinet to compromise with Labour, with International Trade Secretary Mr Fox warning that a customs union would leave the UK ‘stuck in the worst of both worlds’.

In a four-page letter to the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs, he explained how the scenario would see the UK ‘on the menu’ without any control. He said: ‘We would be stuck in the worst of both worlds, not only unable to set our own international trade policy, but subject, without representation, to the policy of an entity over which MPs would have no democratic control.’

He went on: ‘In such a scenario the UK would have a new role in the global trading system – we ourselves would be traded. As the famous saying in Brussels goes, if you are not at the table, you are on the menu.’

DUP party leader Arlene Foster and Westminster leader Nigel Dodds both accused Mrs May of ‘begging’ European leaders for help to break the impasse. 

‘The talks between the Prime Minister and the leaders of France and Germany is humiliating and embarrassing for the UK,’ Mr Dodds said last night.

 ‘The problems the Prime Minister is attempting to solve were not created by the decision to leave the EU, rather the ineffective negotiations by the Prime Minister to implement that decision.’

Earlier, Mrs Foster questioned Mrs May’s leadership qualities. ‘She needed to be strong, she needed to show leadership, and I’m sorry to say that hasn’t been evident in these past couple of months,’ she told the BBC.

The Conservative Party ‘will vanish’ if it doesn’t appeal to the young, say three senior MPs 

Three senior Tories in their 40s brandished their youth appeal yesterday as they pitched to be the ‘next generation’ leader to succeed Theresa May.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, 40, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, 46, and Foreign Affairs committee chairman Tom Tugendhat, 45, are all expected to run for PM when Theresa May steps down.

All three have endorsed a report which warned the Conservative Party faces an ‘existential’ crisis unless it appeals to the young.

Foreign Affairs committee chairman Tom Tugendhat, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Health Secretary Matt Hancock today urged the Tory Party to appeal to the young as they launched a think-tank report

Foreign Affairs committee chairman Tom Tugendhat, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Health Secretary Matt Hancock today urged the Tory Party to appeal to the young as they launched a think-tank report

Foreign Affairs committee chairman Tom Tugendhat, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Health Secretary Matt Hancock today urged the Tory Party to appeal to the young as they launched a think-tank report 

The report by think-tank Onward found the ‘tipping point’ at which voters are more likely to vote Conservative is now 51, up from 47 at the last election.

Speaking at the report’s launch in Westminster, Mr Hancock warned Tory voters are getting older and back the party ‘when they get their first Winter Fuel Allowance’ – not when they ‘get their first pay cheque’.

Mr Hancock, a former Bank of England economist, yesterday set out the case for ‘Caring Conservatism’, saying: ‘Enough about being just comfortable with modern Britain, we need to be champions of modern Britain.We need to champion a Britain that is positive and optimistic and gregarious and outward-facing and community-building and inclusive, and perhaps above all, caring.’

Previously seen as a rank outsider, Mr Hancock’s odds of winning have shortened markedly in recent weeks.

A former chief of staff to George Osborne, he won the West Suffolk seat in 2010 and has been a minister since 2013.

Mr Tugendhat, a former intelligence officer in the British Army, told the event the next leader should be someone under 50.

Calling for more focus on technical education and cheaper childcare, Mr Tugendhat said: ‘We need to look like the people who people want to associate with. And if we don’t get that right we will be in real trouble.’

Miss Mordaunt said Onward’s report was a ‘kick up the a***’ for the Tories. The MP for Portsmouth North worked in business and public relations before entering Parliament and rising up the ministerial ranks.

The ‘Generation Why’ report, based on polling by Hanbury Strategy, found 16 per cent of under-35s would vote Conservative. Just 17 per cent of Tory voters are under 45, and only 4 per cent under 25. 

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