Boris Johnson’s withdrawal agreement was voted through the House of Commons last week, largely thanks to the huge majority his Conservative Party secured in last month’s general election. But his Brexit deal could face strong opposition in the House of Lords this week, with peers plotting changes that could dramatically change it. The withdrawal agreement arrives in the upper house today for its second reading, with a lengthy debate planned to include speeches from Number 10 chief of staff Gavin Barwell and Article 50 author John Kerr.
Amendments will be put forward this week and opposition peers are confident there are two areas they may be able to be successful in – the provision for child refugees demanded by Labour peer Alf Dubs, and the role of parliament during the upcoming trade talks.
Mr Dubs is meeting Home Office ministers today and believes he has the backing from Tory peers in his fight for a commitment on family reunion for child migrants.
He told the Westminster Hour on BBC Radio 4: “I’ve had Conservative members of the Lords who’ve urged me to go on with it and said that behind the scenes they’re talking to the Government.
“I think there’s a chance we can win this in the Lords. I’m hoping that in the process the Government will think again.”
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Brexit news: Boris Johnson’s deal arrives in the House of Lords, but it could face major changes
12.23pm update: Brussels to threaten ‘blocking’ London access if UK refuses to bow to EU law
Brussels is set to use London’s access to European markets as a bargaining chip in trade deal talks with Boris Johnson.
The EU will be unashamedly “political” in Brexit talks Croatia’s prime minister, Andrej Plenković, whose country is taking over the presidency of the EU, has revealed.
Asked whether the EU would use its power to switch off London’s ability to access European clients, Mr Plenković said: “I wouldn’t go into the vocabulary of weapons but what I have learned in international and European negotiations is that all arguments and considerations are treated as political.”
11.32am update: Union Jack flags and bongs from Big Ben on Brexit day
Britain is set to celebrate Brexit on January 31 with a flurry of Union Jack flags and bongs from Big Ben.
Government ministers are preparing a series of announcements for the day, with money possibly being put aside from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to help put up flags.
Big Ben could also ring to celebrate the big day after House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said he would allow for it to happen if MPs voted for it.
10.27am update: Ireland sends Boris huge Brexit warning over trade deal with EU
Boris Johnson’s leadership will be deemed a “massive failure” if he is unable to secure a trade deal with the EU by the end of this year, the Irish deputy Prime Minister (Tánaiste) has warned.
The Prime Minister was successful in getting his Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed by the House of Commons by a majority of 99 last Thursday. The bill will now head to the House of Lords.
Simon Coveney, who is also Ireland’s Foreign Minister, has warned the road ahead may still be rocky as Mr Johnson may struggle to come to an agreement with the EU on their future relationship on trade any time soon.
He told the Irish Independent: “I think it’s going to be really difficult to get it all done in 11 months but that’s what we move into from the first of February.”
10.02am update: How Verhofstadt branded Britain without EU a ‘dwarf on world level’
Guy Verhofstadt claimed Britain would be a “dwarf” without the EU, in a throwback interview about Brexit.
The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator is expected to launch one last desperate attempt to wreck Brexit.
He will use a vote on the withdrawal agreement this week to encourage Brussels to push for “ambitious provisions concerning the movement of persons” in future talks.
In a draft resolution, seen by Express.co.uk, and due to be debated in Strasbourg in the plenary session, Mr Verhofstadt calls to ensure “those rights should be commensurate with the degree of future cooperation in other areas”.
So far, Mr Verhofstadt has secured the support of senior German MEP Manfred Weber and former EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani for the resolution, which “expresses its concern” with the Independent Monitoring Authority, a citizens’ rights watchdog.
Brexit news: Guy Verhofstadt claimed Britain would be a ‘dwarf’ without the EU
9.08am update: ‘Little spoilt children!’ Outrage as Remainers vow to disrupt Brexit day celebrations
Remainers have vowed to out-protest Brexiteers as the UK gears up to mark its official exit from the European Union at the end of the month.
Remain activists have refused to stay silent with just two weeks to go until Britain officially leaves the EU. A prominent Remainer has revealed that there will be a pro-EU rally near Parliament Square if Brexiteers try to hold celebrations there. This comes as Brexit supporters mull over how to celebrate Britain’s long-awaited departure from the bloc.
Pro-Brexit politicians like Nigel Farage are promoting a party in Parliament Square to mark the occasion.
The Government is also set to encourage councils and community groups to fly the Union flag to celebrate Brexit.
Jonathan Lis, deputy director of the thinktank British Influence, responded to plans for a Brexit celebration in Parliament Square on January 31st.
He told talkRADIO: “”We’re going to have a counter-demo to match it and we’re going to have bigger numbers.”
8.49am update: Government urged to include business in post-Brexit trade talks
The CBI wants businesses brought into the UK’s post-Brexit trade talks with the EU and US.
In a report published today, Britain’s largest employers group calls for the Government to ensure it works with businesses “closely, comprehensively and transparently throughout every stage of negotiations, from mandate setting through to implementation”.
It said: “As the UK looks afresh at its post-Brexit international relationships with the EU and the rest of the world, this is the moment for government and business to work in partnership.
The CBI added companies and not the Government trade the bulk of goods and services across the world.
The employers group added in the report: “They are experiencing the market access barriers that governments want to knock down and can advise on the most serious and the most solvable of these.”
8.39am update: Arlene Foster to discuss Brexit deal with Boris Johnson
DUP leader Arlene Foster said she will be discussing the withdrawal agreement when she meets Boris Johnson later today.
She told the BBC: “I was very concerned about that deal in October, and I make no apologies for that.
“But since then the Prime Minister has been saying very clearly that he will ensure that there is unfettered access.
“I want to hear from him today how he’s going to do that and how the regulations that are coming forward are going to make sure that there aren’t any barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, because the rest of the United Kingdom, Great Britain, is our biggest market, both in terms of what we send to them but also what they send to us.”
8.36am update: Senior MEP left speechless after BBC host explains how UK has ‘upper hand’ over Brussels
A key ally to anti-Brexit MEP Guy Verhofstadt came under pressure after BBC host Jon Pienaar pointed out why the UK is in a “strong position” when it comes to trade talks next month.
Dutch MEP Sophie in ’t Veld struggled to respond when Mr Pienaar pointed out that the EU needs British fishing waters in the trade talks.
She didn’t answer his question when the BBC political reporter pointed out that the Netherlands “has a huge stake” in the deal over fisheries.
The former deputy to Guy Verhofstadt, who is the head of the Brexit steering committee, had earlier warned that the trade deal talks had to be wrapped up by Autumn, instead of the end of the year.
Brexit news: Arlene Foster is set for talks with Boris Johnson over the withdrawal agreement
8.14am update: ‘EU will not be rushed’ over UK trade deal
Boris Johnson has been warned the EU won’t rush through a trade deal with the UK, despite his tight deadline.
Ireland’s deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said Brussels “will not be rushed”, and branded Mr Johnson’s timeframe “ambitious if not unrealistic”.
He said: “I know that Prime Minister Johnson has set a very ambitious timetable to get this done.
“He has even put it into British law, but just because a British parliament decides that British laws say something doesn’t mean that that law applies to the other 27 countries of the European Union and so the European Union will approach this on the basis of getting the best deal possible – a fair and balanced deal to ensure the EU and the UK can interact as friends in the future.
“But the EU will not be rushed on this just because Britain passes law.”
7.57am update: No deal Brexit ‘would be an unintended mistake and error by both sides’
A no deal Brexit at the end of the year “would be an unintended mistake and error by both sides”, the Tory Father of the House has warned.
Boris Johnson is aiming to take the UK out of the EU on January 31 and wants a trade deal agreed with Brussels within 12 months, when the transition period is set to end.
But senior EU figures, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier have warned completing a deal in that time-frame is unlikely, increasing fears of a no deal scenario.
Sir Peter Bottomley told the PA news agency: “I think the risk is much smaller, I think the EU27 like the UK have got so many interests in common and reasonably sensible people negotiating for them – and the biggest problem the EU27 face is not actually Britain leaving, it’s how they can get their system to work more effectively for the people who are inside.”
“To leave on no deal, in what’s called no deal, which is some sort of similarity to WTO, I think would be an unintended mistake and error by both sides.
“I’m convinced that if we can leave on reasonable terms, the difference to our economy may set us back three to 5five percent over a period of years, not each year.
“If we crash out, I suspect we’d have a hit to our economy of about 10 to 12 percent and then have to rescue ourselves from that.”