With just 99 days until Britain is due to leave the EU, the minor change to advice issued by Government departments is likely to be seen as a major indication in a shift in Whitehall’s approach. In a series of documents covering how to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, the word “unlikely” has now been removed, Theresa May’s spokesman said. The change comes a day after senior ministers agreed to ramp up no deal planning as Mrs May continues in her uphill battle to secure the support of MPs for her unpopular plan.
Her spokesman said: “It’s a straightforward reflection of the decision that was taken by cabinet to move to a position where we’re implementing our no deal plans in full.
“It’s still our position that the most likely outcome is to leave the European Union with a deal.”
Meanwhile, Mrs May was today forced to defend her divisive deal as members of her inner circle touted alternative options for quitting the EU.
Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom touted the possibility of a “managed no-deal” to mitigate the negative impact of a hard Brexit.
Meanwhile, work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd suggested a second referendum could be a possibility if Mrs May fails to win the backing of MPs.
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Brexit news: Leo Varadkar said Ireland has no plans to impose a hard border in the event of no deal
7.30pm: Corbyn accuses Tories and media of concocting ‘phoney’ sexism row
Jeremy Corbyn has created a video in response to yesterday’s House of Commons sexism row and accused the Tories of “unbelievable stupidity”.
The Labour leader insisted he had muttered “stupid people” – not “stupid woman” – after Theresa May likened his failed attempt to force a confidence vote against her to a Christmas pantomime.
Footage from inside the Commons showed Mr Corbyn muttering two words under his breath.
The Labour leader returned to the chamber yesterday as furious Tory MPs demanded an apology for what they insisted was a sexist insult.
But Mr Corbyn denied saying “stupid woman” at Mrs May and claimed he had actually said “stupid people”, referring to Conservative MPs.
A caption to the clip posted on his Twitter account claimed the “Tories and much of the media created a phoney row about something I didn’t say”.
In the video message, he said: In a video message on Thursday, Mr Corbyn said: “I was accused of saying something I didn’t say.
“Did I say: ‘Stupid people?’ Yeah, I did, because I think they are.
“Because I think that turning Parliament into a pantomime is an act of unbelievable stupidity.”
He said the Tory party should instead be focussing on preventing a no-deal Brexit and addressing issues like poverty, Universal Credit and homelessness.
He concluded: “My anger will only subside when we’ve won an election to get a Labour government that will transform our society, that will make sure we’re a society that cares for all.”
6.45pm: Remainer Lord Adonis fails to convince peers to cut Christmas break short to address Brexit ‘crisis’
Calls by arch-Remainer Andrew Adonis to reopen debates on the Brexit “crisis” a week earlier than planned have fallen on deaf ears in the House of Lords.
Lord Adonis told fellow peers that it was their duty to return on work on January 2 instead of January 7.
But his call was rejected by both the Government and Opposition front benches and he decided not to put it to a vote.
He said: ”Short of being in a war situation, it is hard to conceive of a more alarming position in which the Government has placed the country.
“Our duty as Parliament is surely to see that this crisis is resolved as soon as possible.”
5.30pm: ‘Is that democracy?’ Putin speaks out against second Brexit referendum
Vladimir Putin has weighed in on the prospect of a second Brexit vote.
The Russian leader said Theresa May “must enact the will of the people, expressed during the referendum”.
Speaking at an annual news conference in Moscow, he said: “Someone disliked the result, so repeat it over and over? Is this democracy? What then would be the point of the referendum in the first place?”
David Miliband, a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign is pushing for the public to be allowed a say on the final Brexit deal, branded Mr Putin’s intervention “an insult”.
The former Labour MP said: “It is an insult to the United Kingdom that he should be lecturing us on our democratic process.
“Vladimir Putin’s contempt for, or fear of, a People’s Vote will not shock anybody.
“The overwhelming evidence of malign and multiple Russian interventions in western democratic processes, including the Brexit referendum, have been designed to destabilise democratic rule.”
Vladimir Putin described a second Brexit referendum as undemocratic
4.50pm: May defends floundering Brexit deals as ministers set out rival alternatives
The Prime Minister was forced to defend her unpopular Brexit plan as members of her inner circle said there could be alternatives to her deal.
Andrea Leadsom and Amber Rudd have both speculated over what could happen if MPs reject Mrs May’s deal as expected in January.
Commons Leader and Brexiteer Mrs Leadsom touted the possibility of a “managed no-deal” to mitigate the negative impact of a hard Brexit.
She said such an agreement would be a “minimalist approach” and involve continued collaboration with the European Union in some areas to avoid a “cliff edge” on March 29, 2019, but Brussels has already ruled it out.
Meanwhile work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd, a prominent Remain supporter in the 2016 referendum, again raised the possibility of a second referendum if Parliament cannot reach a deal.
She insisted she was not calling for a re-run of the 2016 vote but did want to see MPs reach some agreement to avoid no deal.
Defending her Brexit plan, Mrs May said: “Cabinet ministers and I have all been very clear that we are working and focusing on working on ensuring that we can get the deal that we’ve agreed with the European Union agreed and through Parliament in the meaningful vote.”
Cabinet ministers Andrea Leadsom and Amber Rudd have suggested alternatives to Mrs May’s Brexit deal
4.20pm: Downing Street viewing no-deal Brexit as MORE likely?
Official advice on how businesses and citizens can prepare for a no-deal Brexit has been revised to remove the word “unlikely”, Theresa Mays spokesman said.
The small change its likely to be seen as a clear signal that a no-deal Brexit is now viewed as a very real possibility.
It comes a day after senior ministers agreed to intensify no deal planning as Mrs May continues in her bid to secure the support of MPs for her divisive plan.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “It’s a straightforward reflection of the decision that was taken by cabinet to move to a position where we’re implementing our no deal plans in full.
“It’s still our position that the most likely outcome is to leave the European Union with a deal.”
3.15pm: Polish PM encourages Poles living in UK to return home
Speaking after talks with Theresa May this afternoon, Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki encouraged citizens to return home – despite Mrs May saying they can remain in Britain and are “welcome to stay”.
Referencing the growing Polish economy, he said: “We would like to encourage our citizens to return.”
He also expressed hope Mrs May’s Brexit deal would eventually be supported by MP, insisting it is the “best that could have been obtained”.
Mrs May today pledged to protect the residency rights for the nearly one million Poles living in the UK regardless of what happens to her Brexit deal.
Harvey Gavin taking over from Ciaran McGrath on live reporting.
Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki encouraged Poles in the UK to return to Poland
2.15pm update ‘Safeguarding Polish worker rights ‘my priority’, says May
Theresa May has said safeguarding the rights of workers from Poland and elsewhere is her “priority” in Brexit negotiations.
Speaking at a joint press conference at Downing Street, she said: “Almost one million Poles make their homes in the Uk, and a similar number of Brits visit Poland each year.
“Securing the rights of Polish and other EU citizens is my priority in the Brexit negotiations.
“The withdrawal agreement guarantees their rights to work, live and study in the UK after we leave the EU and earlier this month we set out our commitment to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK in the unlikely event of no deal.
“My message to Polish people is clear: you can stay, and we want you to stay.
“As we leave the EU the relationship with our closest partners, like Poland, reemains vital. I have reiterated to Prime Minister Morawiecki that Britain will continue to work with Poland and other member states to protect our people, shared interests and values.
“I am confident that this partnership will continue to flourish.”
Theresa May speaks earlier alongside Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki
1.57pm update: Gibraltar carved out of EU’s Brexit contingency plans
Gibraltar has been carved out of the European Union’s contingency plans that officials have triggered to avoid a chaotic no-deal Brexit.
The Rock will not be party to any of Brussels’ reciprocal offers to ensure citizens’ rights and businesses are protected if Britain leaves the bloc without a deal.
With just 100 days until Brexit, the European Commission started implementing its no-deal contingency plans. Covering 14 areas, Brussels powerful executive is covering itself if Britain leaves the bloc without a deal, which would cause “major disruption for citizens and businesses” in the remaining 27 countries.
But Gibraltar is being excluded from a number of offers to Britain that would see planes continue to fly between the UK and the Continent and ensure financial services aren’t faced with a potential cliff edge on March 29, 2019.
Len McCluskey has urged Labour to work with other parties
1.53pm update: Second referendum would be “national agony”, union boss tells Labour leader Corbyn
The boss of one of Britain’s most powerful unions has urged Labour to work with other parties to save Theresa May’s Brexit deal as he underlined his opposition to a second referendum.
Len McCluskey, who is general secretary of Unite, which provides Jeremy Corbyn’s party with massive financial backing, warned a second vote could cause significant damage to the party with its traditional supporters.
He also claimed some Labour “advocates” were trying to deny Mr Corbyn a general election victory by continuing the debate on the issue.
Writing in The New Statesman, Mr McCluskey said it was important for Labour to begin building a coalition with other parties on what he termed a modified Brexit deal.
Mr McCluskey suggested most MPs would back a “pragmatic resolution to what is fast becoming a national agony”.
1.30pm update: May underlines commitment to UK-based Polish workers after Brexit
Theresa May, speaking at the beginning of a working lunch between British and Polish ministers at Lancaster House, has said she was committed to ensuring the UK remains a welcoming country for Poles.
And she said she wanted the two countries to build on their shared work in cyber-security and countering the Russian threat.
The Prime Minister added: “I think we also want to do more to increase our shared prosperity and today we announced the establishment of a UK-Poland Tech Partnership which I think reflects our shared commitment to supporting small companies.
“Of course underpinning this cooperation are the links between our two people – our growing links – and the Polish community in the UK is, I think, a strong foundation on which to build our common future.
“I value the contribution the Polish community makes to society here in the United Kingdom and I’m committed to ensuring that the UK remains a welcoming place for Poles, and the Polish community in the UK are building connections between our countries in business, in culture, in science, and I want the IGC, the Inter-Governmental Consultations, to make use of these strong ties between our peoples as we develop our prosperity and security relationship.”
Mrs May and the Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who are meeting for the third annual UK-Poland Inter-Governmental Consultations, earlier watched a children’s choir sing Silent Night.
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and other Cabinet ministers with Polish PM Mateusz Marawiecki
1.11pm update: Government must pay £105,000 in legal fees over failed Article 50 challenge
Scotland’s Court of Session has ordered the UK Government to pay £105,000 in legal fees as a result of losing its case over whether Article 50 can be revoked.
It was the maximum amount available to the politicians and lawyers who pursued answers over whether the EU withdrawal process could be reversed.
Andrew Webster QC said the petitioners had crowdfunded around £200,000 for their legal fees so the court could “take some comfort” in that.
The awards are to be split £60,000 and £45,000 between two groups who were involved in the process.
The announcement came after judges at Scotland’s highest civil court rubber-stamped a European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision allowing the UK to unilaterally revoke its withdrawal from the EU.
12.43pm update: ‘Penelope Pitstop always wins,’ claims Mrs Leadsom
Ms Leadsom responded saying: “The business of the House will be subject to the House motion which will be put on January 9 and there will be the opportunity for the House to agree the business then.”
The Commons Leader, on the issue of whether MPs who had contributed in the first debate would speak again, said that it was a matter for the Speaker.
She later quipped: “I would just like to point out that Penelope Pitstop always wins through in the end, all the rotters and the cads around her get defeated and she always wins.”
Mrs Leadsom’s claims are not in fact accurate – Hanna Barbera made 102 episodes of the cartoon, with the glamourous Miss Pitstop only winning five of them – although she was in the top 3 11 times.
12.41pm Labour blasts Tories’ “Wacky Races” Brexit strategy
Shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz likened the Government’s Brexit strategy to Hanna Barbera cartoon Wacky Races as she pressed Ms Leadsom to confirm a vote would take place on the Prime Minister’s deal in the week beginning January 14.
She said: “The Prime Minister yesterday was like a pantomime dame, the Government is like Wacky Races, or the spin off, The Perils Of Penelope Pitstop, the Prime Minister as Penelope stopping off at the EU capitals being pursued by that Ant Hill Mob, the no-dealers, chasing unicorns.
“The Prime Minister has phoned all her friends, she’s taken away all the answers, right or wrong, pulling the vote and she’s failed to ask the audience.
“Can the leader give us a guarantee that there will be a vote in the week commencing January 14 just as the Prime Minister has stated in Parliament?”
12.34pm update: Brexit ‘putting the brakes on growth’, warns Bank of England
The Bank of England has held interest rates at 0.75% as it warned “intensified” Brexit uncertainties were putting the brakes on UK growth.
Policymakers on the Bank’s nine-strong Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted unanimously to keep rates unchanged in its last decision of 2018.
The Bank said no-deal Brexit fears had “intensified considerably” since its last meeting and these were hitting financial markets, bank funding costs and the pound, as well as the wider economy.
In minutes of the rates meeting, the Bank said: “The further intensification of Brexit uncertainties, coupled with the slowing global economy has also weighed on the outlook for UK growth.
“Business investment has fallen for each of the past three quarters and is likely to remain weak in the near term.”
12.29pm update Rudd and Leadsom slapped down after Brexit suggestions
Downing Street has slapped down both Amber Rudd and Andrea Leadsom in respect of their suggestions about what might happen if the Withdrawal Agreement cannot get through Parliament, and insisted there could be no withdrawal agreement without a backstop arrangement for Northern Ireland
Mrs Rudd has indicated a second vote as “plausible” if Parliament was unable to decide on the issue, while Mrs Leadsom had suggested a “managed no-deal” was possible.
However, pressed about whether a second referendum was on the cards if Parliament remains gridlocked, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “No.
“The Work and Pensions Secretary has been clear on three things: the priority is to get the vote through Parliament, she does not want a people’s vote or a referendum, and she has asked all colleagues to support the Government’s deal.
“As you know the Prime Minister has been very clear on the dangers of calling a second referendum. She is focused on winning the vote on the deal that has been agreed.”
Asked about Mrs Leadsom’s comments on a “managed no-deal Brexit”, he added: “The Leader of the House was clear this is not Government policy.
“This is not something that is available.
“The EU has been very clear that there is no withdrawal agreement available that does not include a backstop.”
Vladimir Putin said Mrs May needed to deliver “the will of the people”
12.15pm update Parliamentary Brexit date will resume on January 9, says Leadsom
Britain’s parliament will resume a debate on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with Brussels on January 9, the leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom confirmed today.
The debate was halted after three days earlier this month when May pulled a planned vote on the deal after admitting it was set to be rejected.
Leadsom said lawmakers would now debate the deal on January 9-10, and possibly also on January 11 if parliament agreed to sit on that day.
She did not give the date of the new vote on the deal, which May has said will take place in the week starting January 14. The vote needs to happen before January 21.
11.21am update “You have no choice”: Russian President Vladimir Putin urges Theresa May to implement “will of the people” over Brexit
Russian leader Vladimir Putin has waded into the Brexit debate by urging Theresa May to get on with the process of withdrawing from the EU.
Mr Putin – the subject of fierce criticism from Mrs May’s Government in the wake of the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal said Mrs May had “little choice” in the face of the 2016 referendum result.
Addressing the subject of deteriorating relations between the two countries, Mr Putin said: “It is in the interests of both countries, both governments to get out of this deadlock.”
“Are we interested in restoring full relations with Britain? Yes, we are interested. And we know that British companies work pretty actively here.”
“In terms of Brexit, if it is carried through to the end, I understand the prime minister’s Theresa May’s) position. There was a referendum after all. What can she do? She must enact the will of the people, expressed during the referendum.”
11.17am update No-deal preparations “yet to be finalised” says minister
A number of no-deal preparations have “yet to be finalised”, International Trade Minister George Hollingbery has told MPs.
Mr Hollingbery, speaking at trade questions in the Commons, said: “The situation past a hard Brexit, past a no-deal Brexit is a complex one.
“We’ll rely on a large number of factors, some of the policies of which are yet to be finalised.
“The pricing of goods in the UK market, particularly on food, are regarded as extremely sensitive as indeed are the incomes and livelihoods of farmers throughout the UK who rely on selling those products.”
11.11am update: 33 extra inspection bays for trucks coming off ships after Brexit
Work is ongoing at Dublin Port on creating 33 inspection bays for trucks coming off ships.
Office accommodation for an additional 144 staff will be required within the port area.
Parking for 270 trucks would ensure those awaiting inspection do not halt other port traffic, the report said.
It said the application of World Trade Organisation tariffs and regulatory divergence could affect supply chains and the cost and/or availability of imports from the UK.
“A further fall in the value of sterling would impact on the competitiveness of Irish businesses, while a deterioration in economic conditions in Britain could impact on exports.
“Whilst Brexit’s potential macro-economy impacts dominate headlines, Brexit has the potential to impact every element of economic functionality: trade flows, supply chains, economic and business operations, the labour market and consumer confidence and spending.”
11.06am update: Dublin prepares extra parking for UK trucks in anticipation of post-Brexit tailbacks
Dublin Port is creating extra parking for hundreds of trucks from the UK awaiting inspection after Brexit, the Irish Government said.
Dozens more bays to carry out checks will also be made in a bid to avoid halting other traffic, plans for a no-deal withdrawal by the UK revealed.
Holyhead in Wales is one of the main destinations served by Dublin port but the UK’s role as a so-called land-bridge between Ireland and Europe has been cast into doubt by fears of a hard Brexit.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the country was accelerating its planning for the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.
A Government report said: “For Ireland, a no-deal Brexit would potentially involve severe macroeconomic, trade and sectoral impacts.
“Grappling with the enormous range of impacts both in the immediate short term and in the longer term will involve difficult and significant choices of a practical, strategic and political nature.”
Justine Greening is also calling for a second vote
11.01am update: Greening calls for second referendum as she claims May’s deal would “tie UK up in knots for decades”.
Former minister Justine Greening has set out her proposals for a second referendum, claiming Theresa May’s Brexit plan would “tie us up in knots for decades”.
Writing for the Conservativehome.com website, Ms Greening – who was Education Secretary until being replaced by Damian Hinds at the start of this year – said: If Parliament cannot find a consensus for itself, we must trust the British people to do it and let them choose from the three options ahead for the future of our country.
“There are two ways to do that. Either through a referendum or risking a general election and a possible Corbyn government. That is not a risk we should take.
She proposed a choice between three options, with first and second preference votes to avoid splitting the Brexit vote.
She added: “Having three options on the ballot paper isn’t complicated, more than two options is what most voters have at every single election.
“As for first and second preference votes, it’s how we elect mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners up and down the country.
“I also propose the Government should not have a formal position on campaigning in the referendum, staying neutral to recognise that people across the Conservative Party have very genuinely held, but different, views on the best course forward.”
She added: “A second referendum might annoy people in the short term while we all find a solution.
“But it will be nothing compared to Parliament having stitched them up to vote through a deal that is clearly unpopular, doesn’t deliver for Remain or Leave voters, will tie us up in knots for decades, and will cost us £39 billion in the process.
Diane Abbott has said a second vote “may be the only option”
10.43am update: ‘Second referendum ‘may be the only option,’ says Abbott
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has claimed a second referendum may be “the only option available” to break the Parliamentary deadlock over Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement and see off a no-deal Brexit – and warned Labour would do “whatever is necessary”.
She reiterated Labour’s preference for a general election, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today that Labour “may be able to win one when we come back and the issue of her deal comes up once again with a meaningful vote”.
But she added that if they could not force an election “nothing is off the table, including a second referendum”.
She added: “It may be that that is the only option available. The leadership sticks by the policy and the policy is we have not taken a second referendum off the table.”
Pushed on the scale of Labour frontbench support for a new referendum, she added: “In the heart of the Labour Party is a very serious will to try and head off either Theresa May’s appalling deal or, even worse, no deal.
“We will do whatever is necessary.”
10.02am update: ‘Look on the bright side,’ minister Jenrick tells boss Philip Hammond
Junior treasury minister Robert Jenrick has borrowed from Monty Python’s classic comedy The Life of Brian – by urging his boss Philip Hammond to look on the bright side and accentuate the positive when it comes to Brexit.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph’s weekly Chopper Brexit Podcast, Mr Jenrick, who has been in his current post since January 9, said: “I do think you need to create a climate of optimism in a country.
“If you are too pessimistic then that can become a self-fulfilling philosophy and make success impossible so you need to be realistic and clear-eyed about the national interest.”
“We are going to have a bright future as a country.”
He added: “We do need our politicians and the media to be getting on board that message and talking the country up.”
Robert Jenrick with Chancellor Philip Hammond
8.45am update: Second referendum ‘unacceptable’ says Leadsom in rebuke to Rudd
Mrs Leadsom described the idea of a second referendum would be “unacceptable” – hours after former Home Secretary Amber Rudd appeared to float the idea.
The leader of the House of Commons stressed the Government’s priority was to get Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement passed by the house of commons – and hinted at a further “minimalist deal” if it was rejected.
However, she acknowledged a no-deal Brexit would “not be a good outcome” for the UK in the short term.
Speaking about a second vote, the Brexiteer former leadership contender told Today: “It’s not Government policy. I myself think it would undermine the biggest democratic exercise ever, where we had a clear majority to leave the European Union.
“To have a second referendum would unfortunately be going back to people and telling them they have got it wrong and they needed to try again.”
“‘No-deal’ implies that we leave in March and there are absolutely no agreements whatsoever.
“But what we already saw yesterday, in the EU’s preparations which they have very belatedly started to make for no deal, is that there are going to be agreements on things like aviation, on things like haulage, on things like tourist travellers and so on.”
She added: “A managed no-deal does not necessarily mean there is no Withdrawal Agreement at all.”
Mrs Leadsom is one of the so-called gang of five ministers who have voiced reservations about Mrs May’s withdrawal agreeement, especially relating to the backstop which they fear could result in the UK being stuck in a customs union with the EU.
Pressed further on Good Morning Britain about whether a second vote was a good idea, she added: “No, absolutely not. We had the biggest democratic exercise and the majority voted to leave the EU. It is our duty to make sure we do that.
“I would have to bring forward the legislation. It would take months and months, if not well over a year, simply to get the legislation through, by which time we would have left the EU.
“I don’t understand why anybody think it is either a good idea or a practical idea.”
Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom
8.38am update: Leadsom poised to publish crucial Brexit Parliamentary timetable
Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom is expected to publish the the parliamentary timetable for the first week back in January, which is likely to give a clearer indication of the schedule surrounding the crucial vote on Theresa May’s Brexit divorce deal.
The Politico website reports that while the vote itself has been pencilled in for the week beginning January 14, it was less clear how many days’ debate are scheduled prior to that, and whether a new program motion would be required.
It added “If indeed a new motion is to be tabled, one obvious question is whether the much-hyped Grieve amendment passed earlier this month — designed to strengthen parliament’s hand — will continue to apply.”
MPs must vote on the matter before January 21, a date set out in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
Theresa May meets with immigration officers yesterday
8.15am update: “We want you here,” May tells UK-based Poles
Theresa May will today use her a joint press conference with Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki to stress the importance of retaining Polish workers after Brexit, just 24 hours after unveiling plans to clamp down on migration.
The leaders will hold bilateral talks at Downing Street, and then stage a meeting with senior ministers from the two nations to discuss wider issues.
It will be mark Theresa May’s fifth press conference in the past five weeks.
In a statement issued last night, Mrs May said: “I value the contribution the Polish community makes to our economy and our society, and am committed to ensuring the U.K. remains a welcoming place for Poles to live, work and study,.
“Today is an opportunity to repeat my message to Polish people — you can stay, and we want you to stay.”
8.10update: ‘Door still open on second referendum,’ says French minister
Meanwhile France’s European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau told French television station CNews: “The door remains open, but it will be up to them to choose, not us”.
France was also taking measures to minimise any potential impact if Britain were to leave the EU without a Brexit deal, Ms Loiseau said, repeating previous statements to that effect.
In October, French Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin said France was hiring 700 additional customs officers and extra border control facilities in case Britain left the EU without a Brexit deal.
8am update: Amber Rudd hints at 2nd referendum which would be a HUGE BETRAYAL of Brexit
Home secretary Amber Rudd has contradicted Prime Minister Theresa May by saying a second referendum was “plausible” if MPs cannot agree a Brexit outcome in what Leavers would surely regard as a huge betrayal of those who voted to leave the bloc.
Speaking to ITV’s Political Editor Robert Peston, Mrs Rudd said: “I have said I don’t want a People’s Vote or referendum in general but if parliament absolutely failed to reach a consensus I could see there would be a plausible argument for it.”
Her words echo those of former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is one of those leading calls for a second Brexit referendum as Prime Minister Theresa May faces deadlock in parliament over her deal to leave the European Union.
Mrs May has consistently ruled out a second referendum as an option.
Yesterday it emerged experts had told the Government Britain would be legally obliged to field candidates in the European Parliamentary elections in May if it extended Article 50 and therefore send MEPs to Brussels.
As a result there would be a “high risk of a successful legal challenge” in the event that the UK refused to take part in the elections, because to do so would be seen as a breaching people’s rights as EU citizens.
Ministers believe July 2, which marks the beginning of the Parliament’s next five-year session, to be a “hard” deadline for extending Article 50.
Given it would take at least a year to prepare for a second vote, such an eventuality is effectively impossible.
Additional reporting by Ciaran McGrath.