Just 27 days ahead of Brexit day, eight lawyers, all members of the eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG), opened up to the possibility of backing an edited version of Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement to avoid a no-deal Brexit. While Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is negotiating changes to the Northern Ireland backstop, the ERG has let known which three aspects of the most sticking point of the Prime Minister’s deal they want to be changed.
During private talks held with Mr Cox and in a document delivered to the Government, the Brexiteers demanded a “clearly worded, legally binding, treaty-level clause” to escape the backstop.
They ERG lawyers also asked for a “clear and unconditional route out of the backstop if trade talks fail” during the transitional period, to assure the UK won’t be trapped inside the customs union indefinitely.
This “exit route” could be a “time limit or a unilateral exit mechanism”, the ERG lawyers suggested.
READ MORE: EU panics as Barnier REFUSES to put time limit on Brexit backstop ‘I’m very worried’
Jacob Rees-Mogg’s group ERG could back Theresa May’s deal
And they demanded the use of a language that “must go beyond simply re-emphasising/re-interpreting the temporary nature of the backstop, including a change to Mr Cox’s legal advice which said the backstop under the current terms would “endure indefinitely”.
The lawyers didn’t give any red lines on how Mr Cox should achieve these changes, giving enough leeway to the attorney general.
Michael Tomlinson, one of the eight lawyers who issued the terms, told the Sunday Times: “There is a spectrum and a range of options that the attorney general has.
“I’m not going to say protocol good, codicil bad, letter very bad, because that would be prejudging it.”
Geoffrey Cox is negotiating changes to the Northern Ireland backstop
But they demanded to see the amended text in “black and white” and in “good time” before the next meaningful vote, which could take place as soon as this week.
Mr Tomlinson added he expects to see the vast majority of members of the ERG, including its leaders Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker, to back the edited Withdrawal Agreement if Mr Cox succeeds in making these changes.
This unexpected opening comes as Michel Barnier, the EU Chief Negotiator, said on Friday there had been no progress between Brussels and London.
But he also said, in an interview to German newspaper Die Welt, the EU is “ready to give more guarantees, confirmation, clarification that the backstop is only temporary.”
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9pm update: DUP lays down terms over support for Brexit
The DUP wants to see legally binding and treaty-level changes to the Withdrawal Agreement regarding the backstop to support it.
The party’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour: “We need something which, whatever its legal form, has legal binding effect and which changes the current meaning of the Withdrawal Agreement.
“And which makes clear that it cannot be indefinite, and it cannot be a trap both for the United Kingdom generally and for Northern Ireland in particular.”
Asked if he would accept changes to the agreement in a codicil or appendix, Mr Dodds said: “It has to be treaty-level change.
“It has to be a change which isn’t some kind of subordinate document.
“It has to be treaty-level, legally binding, which makes it very, very clear that the current interpretation, the current meaning of the Withdrawal Agreement, is re-opened and changed.”
6:30pm update: Man arrested as Jeremy Corbyn hit by EGG thrown by ‘pro-Brexit campaigner’
Jeremy Corbyn was hit by an egg hurled by an allegedly pro-Brexit campaigner during a visit to a London mosque.
The Labour leader was struck while visiting Finsbury Park Mosque in north London on Sunday.
A 41-year-old man was arrested after Mr Corbyn was targeted with the egg just before 4pm.
Sky News have reported the man is thought to be a pro-Brexit demonstrator.
Mr Corbyn was unhurt during the incident which took place during the Visit My Mosque Day event.
A Met Police spokesman said: “A 41-year-old man was quickly detained by officers on scene and arrested on suspicion of assault.
“He is currently in custody at a north London police station.”
4.45pm update: Spain issues measures to protect British expats
The Spanish Government issued measures aiming at protecting British citizens living in the country.
With a royal decree approved on Friday, Madrid granted the access to healthcare until at least December 2020 to all British residents in Spain.
The decree also provides residency for an estimated 400,000 Britons and preserve freedom of movement across its border with Gibraltar.
Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said: “Its aim is to preserve the interests of citizens, Spaniards in the UK and Britons in Spain, who exercised their right to free movement before Brexit. We have to respect that.”
Jeremy Corbyn’s call for a second referendum faces the opposition of more than a dozen frontbenchers
4pm update: Labour wants to ‘avoid an economic catastrophe’
Referring to the possibility of a new Brexit referendum, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “We have got to leave all options on the table to avoid an economic catastrophe for Britain.
“We have got to look at that potential option of putting the Prime Minister’s deal, or a number of other Leave options, to the people.
We are not looking to overturn the result of the referendum.”
1.45pm update: More than A DOZEN Labour frontbenchers would rebel against second referendum
An audit of remarks by shadow ministers regarding a fresh vote on Brexit reveals up to 17 members of Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench have indicated they could rebel against an attempt to call a second referendum.
Some 13 Labour frontbenchers have made public comments in the last six months showing their opposition to another EU referendum, the Sunday Telegraph wrote.
Among them, David Drew, a shadow environment minister, told his constituents during a public meeting he would “never support a referendum on anything again”.
Julie Cooper, a shadow health minister, told her constituents last week: “I have no intention of voting for a second referendum.”
Justice Minister Rory Stewart
1.20pm update: Extending Article 50 would put the UK in a ‘zombie world’
Justice Minister Rory Stewart said an extension to Article 50 would create even more uncertainty.
He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Personally, I think we would have to be forced into an extension for Article 50.
“But, I think people need to understand that that is a worse option than the Prime Minister’s deal.
“It is not where we want to be. It’s not where I want to be.
“Extension to Article 50, which is going to be a vote which would effectively give, let’s say, a couple of months extension, would resolve nothing.
“It would put us in a world in which we were still in a zombie world, not knowing where we are going.”
Amber Rudd killed off her chances to become the next leader of the Tories with her Brexit’s stance
12.55pm update: Amber Rudd’s handling of Brexit has ‘blown her chances’ of becoming next Prime Minister
The Work and Pension Secretary has upset many Conservative MPs with by publicly defying Theresa May on Brexit and opposing to a no-deal scenario.
Even those who were thinking about supporting her leadership bid have been put down by her “treachery”, the Sun on Sunday wrote.
A Cabinet minister told the Sunday paper: “Amber has completely blown her chances.
“It’s not just the Brexiteers she has enraged but also the moderate core of our MPs.
“They are really upset at the way she broke ranks to undermine the Prime Minister last week.”
Her position on Brexit backfired so much she antagonised not only hardliners but also MPs with a moderate view on Brexit, the source said.
The minister continued: “I’ve no idea what possessed her to take this drastic course of action at such a delicate stage of Brexit talks.
“Perhaps she wanted to give a clearer definition of herself among Remainers. But all she has done is to define herself in the way Ken Clarke did.
“The level of disgust is so high in the Parliamentary party that she’d never get on the final ballot paper – and even if she did, the grassroots would never accept her.”
Former Home Secretary Ken Clarke failed three times to be elected leader of the Tory party.
12.10pm update: Labour frontbenchers expected to back push for a second Brexit vote, Shadow Chancellor suggests
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell suggested the frontbenchers of his party would be expected to back the possibility of a second referendum in any vote in the Commons.
Asked whether shadow minister defying the whip would be sacked, Mr McDonnell told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge: “Normally we will whip and that will be decided in the normal way by the chief whip and the shadow Cabinet and the party overall.
“I think on an issue as this we would see a whip but also you’ve got to respect people’s views and their constituency interests as well, and the whipping arrangement will be determined in discussion in due course.
“I just say this – and I think it’ll be for MPs right the way across the House in all parties now – that they’ve got to look to the long-term interests of the country, they’ve got to protect people’s jobs, they’ve got to protect the economy, otherwise we’ll never be forgiven in the future.”
Pressed on whether the entire Labour frontbench needs to support a second referendum, Mr McDonnell said: “Well, there’ll be discussions in shadow cabinet and in the normal way we’ll come to a conclusion on the exact wording of whatever amendment was put up and you’d expect the frontbench to support it.”
The shadow Chancellor also said it doesn’t matter if backing a second referendum will make the next election harder.
Saying the party wants to avoid both the “reckless” Brexit pushed by Mrs May’s deal and a no-deal, he explained: “It may well be but we’ve got to be honest with people – people have had enough of politicians who say one thing and actually do another.”
As many as 10m UK lambs could be slaughtered and burnt in case of a no-deal Brexit
12pm update: Brexit ‘likely’ to be delayed until June – Irish Prime Minister
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told his Cabinet a delayed Brexit is “very likely”, a miniser told Ireland’s Sunday Independent.
The source said: “The Taoiseach has privately said to us that it is very likely there will be an extension until June.”
11.50pm update: No-deal Brexit threatens cull of 10m lambs
As many as 10 million lambs may have to be slaughtered and buried or burnt rather than sold in case of a no-deal Brexit, farmers were told.
The Government warned the EU may decide to ban British lamb meat after March 29 under hygiene meat rules applied to non-EU countries.
And even if Brussels decided not to ban the lamb, farmers could still face difficulties even if exports are allowed to continue, as they may see tariffs slapped on their products as high as 45 percent.
Nick von Westenholz, Brexit director for the National Farmers’ Union, said the aim was to find a market for the meat and maintain farmers’ income, but it was not possible to exclude the possibility to cull millions of lambs.
He said: “It would be disastrous but it may happen.
“We have discussed these options with officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.”
11.35am update: Labour MP asks her colleagues to respect the outcome of the 2016 EU Referendum
Former minister Caroline Flint believes there are up to 70 Labour MPs against a second referendum on Brexit.
And she urged her colleagues to back an improved Brexit deal as her party pledged to respect the result of the 2016 EU Referendum.
She said: “My appeal to John McDonnell, to Jeremy Corbyn, to Keir Starmer, is allow MPs to have a free vote on an improved deal.
“So those MPs who want a second referendum can vote for that but those of us who want to keep our promises to our electorate can also keep faith with those people and vote for an improved deal.”
Ms Flint also said: “I think there is something like 60 or 70 Labour MPs who feel as strongly as I do against a second referendum, but also I think it’s important to recognise that many of those MPs also feel that we have to move on, we have to stop a no-deal and if there’s an improved offer on the table, then Labour should engage with that sincerely.”
Liam Fox said delaying Brexit would be ‘unfortunate’
11.25am update: Liam Fox brands a Brexit delay ‘UNFORTUNATE’
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said recurring to an extension of Article 50 would be “unfortunate”.
However, he conceded it may be necessary to deliver a smooth Brexit.
He told Andrew Marr: “It would be very unfortunate were that to happen.
“But, if we have no option, in order to deliver a smooth Brexit, then so be it.
“I think that to attempt to have a delay mechanism in order to thwart the process of Brexit itself is actually politically completely unacceptable.
“And, as I have said before, would provide a backlash, provoke a backlash, amongst voters.”
Mr Fox also spoke about possible future trade deals with the US and other countries outside of the single market.
Speaking about food standards, he said: “You take the chlorine-washed chicken, a lot of our food is already chlorine-washed, the salads that we get.
“The question is not about safety, the question is about the implications for animal welfare further down the track.
“There is a world beyond Europe and there will be a time beyond Brexit.”
Tony Blair urged Labour MPs to vote down the deal and delay Brexit
11.15am update: Tony Blair urges Labour MPs to VOTE DOWN Brexit deal
Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed Jeremy Corbyn’s MPs, telling them to seek an extension to Article 50 and then “come to a conclusion”.
He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “Vote against the deal, use an extension to come to a conclusion – hard versus soft or back to the people.
“I think you’ll get to another referendum when people understand that a hard Brexit is going to be deeply economically painful for the country and a soft Brexit means we just become a rule-taker.
“It’s in those circumstances that I think you mobilise a majority in Parliament to say the sensible thing in these circumstances is to put it back to the people, or pass her deal subject to a confirmatory referendum.
“I think it’s absolutely inevitable that if you put the choice before the country – hard Brexit Tory party, hard-left Labour Party – it doesn’t matter what I say, what I want to happen, what anyone else says, you leave that amount of fertile territory open, someone is going to cultivate it.”
And in a thinly-veiled attack to Mr Corbyn’s Brexit strategy, Mr Blair said he is “deeply concerned” about Labour’s direction and policy.
He said: “If you want to get back to winning ways, this is not the position to be in.”
George Eustice quit two days ago
11am update: George Eustice urges country to ‘walk away’ from negotiating table if deal is rejected
Former environment minister George Eustice told Sky News: “If Parliament cannot accept this deal we have to have the confidence and the courage as a country to walk away first and talk after.”
Mr Eustice, who resigned two days ago over Theresa May’s promise to let MPs vote on delaying Brexit if her deal is once again rejected, also noted leaving the EU without a deal in March doesn’t mean the UK won’t be able to ever strike an agreement with Brussels in the future.
He said: “The other thing about no deal is that it doesn’t mean no deal forever more.
“It’s a bit of a misnomer. No deal, probably, in effect means an informal transition period for nine months.”
Mr Barnier said Brexit will be delayed because both London and the EU needs time to ratify the deal
10.50am update: Michel Barnier says Brexit WILL be delayed
Michel Barnier, the EU Chief Negotiator, told Spanish newspaper El Mundo a “technical” extension will be needed to implement a Brexit deal.
When asked if it’s possible to approve and ratify the Withdrawal Agreement before March 29, Mr Barnier said “no no”.
He continued: “It would be called motivated, technical extension. If it takes two months for the procedure, it would be justified.
“An extension should serve to fix a problem, not to delay the solution, not to postpone the problem three or six months.
“We should not risk prolonging the general uncertainty in Europe beyond the May elections.”
A translated and summarised version of the interview was published on Twitter by El Mundo Correspondent Pablo Rodriguez.
His tweets were retweeted by Sabine Weyand, Mr Barnier’s deputy, signalling she is on the same page.
Sir Graham Brady, the powerful chairman of the 1922 Committee
10.30am update: Sir Graham Brady to back Withdrawal Agreement
Sir Graham Brady, the powerful chairman of the Tory’s 1922 Committee, said people in the UK are “tired” of the strenous back and forth with Brussels and want to see the end of the Brexit negotiations.
This has been interpreted by political commentators as a signal he will back the deal at the next meaninful vote.
He told the Mail On Sunday: “The whole country is tired of vacillation and delay.
“When the right compromise is offered, we should pull together behind the Prime Minister and help her to deliver our exit from the European Union on March 29.”
But, despite this opening to Theresa May, he didn’t spare his criticism towards the way the Government has handled the talks with the EU, branding it as “lions led by donkeys”.