A hoarse-sounding Mrs May suffered a defeat of 242/391 with a majority of 149 at tonight’s meaningful vote on her deal. She had lost her voice after a late-night flight to Strasbourg to demand concessions on her deal with European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker last night. Though it was not enough to win over both hard-line Brexiteers and MPs that back a People’s Vote. MPs could now vote to delay Brexit following an amendment by Labour’s Yvette Cooper, tabled last month, allowing them to do so.
Mrs May also said that “voting against a deal does not solve the issues we face”.
European Commission president Mr Juncker had already warned that if MPs turned down the package agreed in Strasbourg on Monday, there would be “no third chance” to renegotiate.
MPs will vote tomrorow on whether they want to leave the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration – a no-deal Brexit.
Should MPs reject that, there will be another vote on whether Parliament wants to seek an extension to Article 50 – delaying the UK’s departure beyond the current March 29 deadline.
But Mrs May stressed that would not resolve the divisions in the Commons and could instead hand Brussels the power to set conditions on the kind of Brexit on offer “or even moving to a second referendum”.
See updates below…
Geoffrey Cox SAVAGES May’s deal – Read Geoffrey Cox letter IN FULL here
May lost in the House of Commons
8.20pm update: EU sources reveal UK not has three options – including REVOKING Brexit
Senior EU sources have revealed the UK now has three options following Theresa May’s defeat in the House of Commons.
BuzzFeed’s Europe editor Alberto Nardelli said: “Senior EU official tells me UK now has 3 options:
1) leave with no deal on March 29
2) ask for extension (dependant on reason, length & EU27 unanimity)
3) revoke article 50
‘There will be no further talks,’ the source says.”
The EU has done everything it can to help get the Withdrawal Agreement over the line. The impasse can only be solved in the #UK. Our “no-deal” preparations are now more important than ever before.
— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) March 12, 2019
8pm update: May issues statement on Commons defeat
Theresa May said of her Commons defeat: “I have personally struggled with this choice as I am sure many other honourable members will. I am passionate about delivering the result of the referendum.
“But I equally passionately believe that the best way to do that is to leave in an orderly way with a deal and I still believe there is a majority in the House for that course of action. And I am conscious also of my duties as prime minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of the potential damage to the Union that leaving without a deal could do when one part of our country is without devolved governance.”
7.32pm update: Donald Tusk spokesman issues statement…
“We regret the outcome of tonight’s vote and are disappointed that the UK government has been unable to ensure a majority for the Withdrawal Agreement agreed by both parties in November.
“On the EU side we have done all that is possible to reach an agreement. Given the additional assurances provided by the EU in December, January and yesterday, it is difficult to see what more we can do. If there is a solution to the current impasse it can only be found in London.
“The EU for its part continues to stand by the Withdrawal Agreement, including the backstop, which serves to prevent a hard border in Ireland and preserve the integrity of the single market unless and until alternative arrangements can be found.
“With only 17 days left to 29 March, today’s vote has significantly increased the likelihood of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. We will continue our no-deal preparations and ensure that we will be ready if such a scenario arises. Should there be a UK reasoned request for an extension, the EU27 will consider it and decide by unanimity. The EU27 will expect a credible justification for a possible extension and its duration. The smooth functioning of the EU institutions will need to be ensured.”
7.30pm update: Michel Barnier ‘no-deal prep more important than ever’
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier gloated on Twitter at the result in the House of Commons.
He said: “The EU has done everything it can to help get the Withdrawal Agreement over the line. The impasse can only be solved in the #UK. Our “no-deal” preparations are now more important than ever before.”
I can safely say the no lobby is absolutely rammed…. the PM is about to face another huge defeat. #Brexit #BrexitShambles pic.twitter.com/tRywgG4y1e
— Hannah Bardell ������������������������������������������������️������ (@HannahB4LiviMP) March 12, 2019
7.20pm update: MPs to vote on Wednesday on no-deal
Following Theresa May’s defeat in the House of Commons today, MPs will now vote tomorrow as to whether the UK will leave the EU without a deal.
The Prime Minister warned that a no-deal scenario would be “bleak”, with a “significant economic shock”, the loss of security co-operation with Europe and the prospect of the break-up of the UK as support for Scottish independence and a united Ireland could increase.
Should MPs reject that, there will be another vote on whether Parliament wants to seek an extension to Article 50 – delaying the UK’s departure beyond the current March 29 deadline.
But Mrs May stressed that would not resolve the divisions in the Commons and could instead hand Brussels the power to set conditions on the kind of Brexit on offer “or even moving to a second referendum”.
7pm update: Voting begins
The meaningful vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal with the EU is now underway.
6.55pm update: Tory MP calls mrs May’s deal a ‘polished turd’
Tory MP Steve Double said he was unsure how to vote on the Prime Minister’s deal, describing the deal as a “polished turd”.
He said: “The choices before us are two wrongs, they are two things I don’t want to happen, they are two impossible choices to make.
“I will make a decision and I will vote tonight.
“But it’s a choice I do not want to have to make between a turd of a deal which has been taken away and polished and is now a polished turd, but it might be the best turd we’ve got before us, or the alternative, which is those who want to stop Brexit altogether and the risk of that happening is very real.”
6.50pm update: Boris Johnson issues May ultimatum on vote
Boris Johnson has called on MPs to vote Theresa May’s Brexit deal down in the crucial vote faced by Parliament this evening, claiming the “only safe route” to take would be that of leaving without an agreement.
Addressing the Commons on Tuesday afternoon, the former Foreign Secretary warned the Prime Minister to “put her Brexit deal to bed” if MPs rejected her deal for a second time.
He said: “We must take what now seems to be the more difficult route but in the end the one that preserves our self-respect.
“It is to leave on March 29th as required by law and to become once again an independent country able to make our own choices.”
6.40pm update: EU will not approve Article 50 extension says Jacob Rees-Mogg
ERG chair Jacob Rees-Mogg said he is doubtful the EU will grant an extension to Brexit.
Mirror politics correspondent Mikey Smith said: “Jacob Rees-Mogg: “Majority of people in this room – and it was quite well attended – will be voting against it.”
Says he doesn’t think Brussels will approve an extension.
“Our expectation is that we’ll leave without a deal.”
The vote will take place in 20 minutes.
Listening to debate in @HouseofCommons : there seems to be a dangerous illusion that the UK can benefit from a transition in the absence of the WA.
Let me be clear: the only legal basis for a transition is the WA. No withdrawal agreement means no transition.
— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) March 12, 2019
7.05pm update: SNP tweets snap of ‘rammed’ lobby
SNP MP Hannah Bardell tweeted a picture of the lobby at the House of Commons.
In the blurry image, she added: “I can safely say the no lobby is absolutely rammed…. the PM is about to face another huge defeat. #Brexit #BrexitShambles.”
MPs are currently voting on Mrs May’s deal.
6.30pm update: Brexiteer Michael Fabricant to vote against deal
Brexiteer Michael Fabricant took to Twitter to announce he would vote against Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal – as he did during the last meaningful vote in January.
He said: “So, with the #DUP rejecting the Deal and the backstop, and with very little chance of it passing tonight in the House of Commons anyway, I shall vote with my heart and vote ‘No’ even though it might, just might, jeopardise #Brexit itself.”
He added: “The ‘Deal’ is far from ideal.”
6.25pm update: Barnier tweets warning to UK ‘dangerous illusion’
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has tweeted a warning to the UK as MPs gather to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
He said: “Listening to debate in @HouseofCommons : there seems to be a dangerous illusion that the UK can benefit from a transition in the absence of the WA.
“Let me be clear: the only legal basis for a transition is the WA. No withdrawal agreement means no transition.”
6.15pm update: David Davis reported to be backing Mrs May’s deal
Former Brexit secretary David Davis is reported to be backing Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
The Yorkshire Post’s Westminster Correspondent Liz Bates tweeted simply “DD is backing it”.
Mr Davis famously locked horns with Mrs May over her Chequers deal last summer and resigned over it.
Boris Johnson followed suit and Mr Davis’s successor, Dominic Raab, also threw in the towel just a few months into his role in protest of her deal.
6.05pm update: ERG to vote against deal
Tory MP Simon Clarke said a “majority” of the ERG would vote against Mrs May’s deal this evening.
This comes after chairman, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said the group were undecided and that some members had expressed interest in voting in favour of Mrs May’s deal.
A Sky news poll has said the Prime Minister is expected to lose this evening by 100 votes.
The punch ballot is to take place in 45 minutes.
Mrs May suffered another defeat in the House of Commons
The 20 switchers:
— Christopher Hope (@christopherhope) March 12, 2019
Theresa May was pictured leaving No10 an hour ago
6pm update: Up to 20 ‘switchers’ now voting for PM’s deal
Up to 20 “switchers” are now backing the PM’s deal after previously vowing to reject it.
The Daily Telegraph reports he following MPs will now back Theresa May for her meaningful vote this evening.
These are: Mike Penning, John Lamont, Mark Pritchard, James Gray, Robert Halfon, Ben Bradley, Nigel Evans, Martin Vickers, Greg Hands, Robert Syms, Scott Mann, Derek Thomas, Bob Blackman, Matthew Offord, Tim Loughton, Giles Watling, John Baron, Johnny Mercer, Graham Brady and Tracey Crouch.
5.46pm update: Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick to now vote against May’s deal
Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick is now voting against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Deputy political editor of The Independent Rob Merrick said: “Labour’s Jim Fitzpatrick now OPPOSING the deal reveals @BBCcarolynquinn. So much for Lab MPs bailing out the PM.”
This comes after he vowed to support it.
5.45pm update: Dominic Grieve said he will not back May’s deal at tonight’s crunch vote
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve said he would not be backing Theresa May’s deal, explaining that the backstop is a “red herring”.
The Tory MP for Beaconsfield said “there is no unanimity” on what kind of relationship the UK wants with the EU, saying “no-one was willing to think through what a vote to leave would actually mean”.
He said: “With reluctance and sadness, I cannot go through and allow this further ratchet in the destruction of our country to take place.”
Mr Grieve finished by saying: “I would be utterly, utterly going against my instincts and my judgement if I was to facilitate the process of further self-mutilation for our country, which is what I believe we are currently embarked on.”
Nestle are one of our biggest employers in Halifax. Read their letter to me about the implications of Brexit. Just one of the reasons I believe people need a final say. May’s deal is not good. I cannot in good faith sign it off. pic.twitter.com/7DfvgCRCWf
— Holly Lynch MP (@HollyLynch5) March 12, 2019
5.30pm update: Boris Johnson says no-deal ‘only safe route’ for Britain
Brexiteer and major Vote Leave player Boris Johnson has told the House of Commons the “only safe route” for the Uk to leave the EU is for a no-deal Brexit.
He told the House: “This deal has now reached the end of the road. If it is rejected tonight, I hope that it will be put to bed.”
He added there is no need for a hard border in Northern Ireland.
5.20pm update: ERG meeting now underway
The ERG meeting is now underway, reports CityAM.
Hardline Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg, David Davis and Dominic Raab all locked in talks over Theresa May’s deal.
Mr Rees-Mogg said the influential group has not decided how they will vote – despite a letter being sent to MPs urging them to reject the Prime Minister’s deal.
5.15pm update: Nestle issues warning over no-deal Brexit implications
Nestle has issued a warning over the implications of a no-deal Brexit. The lengthy letter reminds local MP Holly Lynch that the company is a major employer in the Halifax area before warning of the implications of the UK leaving without a deal.
Ms Lynch said: “Nestle are one of our biggest employers in Halifax. Read their letter to me about the implications of Brexit.
“Just one of the reasons I believe people need a final say. May’s deal is not good. I cannot in good faith sign it off.”
She also tweeted a picture of the letter.
5pm update: Up to 25 Tory MPs have now switched to offer PM support over deal
Up to 25 Tory MPs have now change their minds and have said they will vote against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Nicholas Watt, political editor for the BBC’s Newsnight, said: “Senior Brexit Tory tells me around 25 Tory MPs will switch to support PM + lots of abstentions. Not nearly enough for PM.”
Senior Brexit Tory tells me around 25 Tory MPs will switch to support PM + lots of abstentions. Not nearly enough for PM
— Nicholas Watt (@nicholaswatt) March 12, 2019
Geoffrey Cox came under attack in the Commons as he spoke about his published legal advice
4.28pm update: EU warns ‘fasten your seatbelt’ if Commons rejects May’s deal
The EU has warned Britons to ‘fasten your seatbelt’ if Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal is rejected during a meaningful vote tonight.
European Commission vice-president Jyrki Katainen said if the deal was rejected the prospect of a “hard Brexit” moved closer and his advice was “fasten your seatbelt”.
He told reporters in Strasbourg: “Depending on the vote in the Commons, we are either moving forward to orderly withdrawal or hard Brexit is closer again, more close than ever it has been.
“So, keep your hands on the wheel, look forward and fasten your seatbelt.”
4.12pm update: ERG have issues with laws – not backstop
The ERG does not just have a problem with the backstop, but that their concerns were around “control over laws”.
Veteran backbencher Sir Bill Cash, who chairs the Star Chamber, said he was “profoundly determined to vote against this withdrawal agreement for those reasons alone”.
But he added that during the proposed transition period “for a number of years we will be at the mercy of our competitors” in terms of writing new EU laws in various sectors which will affect the UK.
Sir Bill said that “we will not control our laws over the period of time”, saying he cannot back the Withdrawal Agreement, adding: “I do hope that many other members will do likewise.”
The EU has warned the UK to ‘fasten your seatbelt’
4.10pm update: Ireland – Successful Brexit delays ‘very likely’
DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said it was “very likely” that there will be “probably successful” attempts to delay Brexit if the Prime Minister’s deal is rejected.
He told Sky News: “It looks very likely that on Thursday if the vote doesn’t go through tonight, on Thursday there will be attempts in the House and probably successful attempts in the House to extend the time in which we stay within the EU.”
Mr Wilson said if an extension of Article 50 was voted through the Commons that “after the end of June we will have to leave the EU because we have not participated in the European elections”.
4.05pm update: Bookies say 7/4 odds May to RESIGN before Brexit over Commons uncertainty.
Bookies Betway harv 7/4 odds Prime Minister Theresa May will resign over Brexit should her deal not get through the House of Commons tonight.
The same bookies also put her deal at 1/14 odds of getting through Parliament tonight.
Betway’s Alan Alger said: “Despite last minute concessions seemingly granted by the EU last night, not much has changed for Theresa May ahead of Parliament’s big vote tonight. At 1/14 for the meaningful vote to not pass, we are expecting another chapter in this seemingly never-ending Brexit saga.
“Having failed to bring an acceptable deal to parliament on more than one occasion, May could have to call time on her premiership and is just 7/4 to stand down before the UK leaves the EU.”
4pm update: Pound slips as Geoffrey Cox refuses to change legal advice on deal
The pound has taken a nosedive this afternoon after Attorney General Geoffrey Cox refuse to change his legal advice on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Sterling slumped by more than one percent after Mr Cox said concessions Mrs May scooped from the EU were not enough to eliminate the risk that Brussels will attempt to trap the UK in their customs union indefinitely.
The pound peaked at €1.17, the Daily Mail reports.
His advice suggests the MPs who have publicly stated they will vote against the deal are not likely to change their minds and back her agreement
3.50pm update: Fourteen MPs ‘switch sides’ and give May’s deal the nod
Sky News reports that up to 14 MPs have “switched sides” and will now vote for Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal.
Beth Rigby said: My latest tally is 14 MPs have switched sides (some publicly, some privately). She needs 116 MPs to switch sides to prevail tonight.”
She it is a far cry from the number she needs tonight to be able to push her deal through Parliament.
3.47pm update: Jacob Rees-Mogg says ‘not sure’ how ERG will vote – meeting now at 5pm
ERG chair Jacob Rees-Mogg has told the BBC he is “not yet sure” how the highly influential group will vote.
When asked if rumours were correct that the ERG would reject the deal, he denied this and said: “We haven’t yet said that we’re meeting at 5pm when we’re making our decision.”
He also said some members of the ERG have said they will back the deal.
He also said his 6pm meeting is now happening with the rest of the group at 5pm.
3.46pm update: DUP says they will ‘100 percent’ vote against May’s deal
The Financial Times confirmed the DUP will vote against the Prime Minister’s deal and are not abstaining the ballot.
Laura Hughes tweeted: “The DUP confirm they are 100% voting against the PM’s deal and not abstaining.”
They added “sufficient progress had not been achieved” by Mrs May.
3.45pm update: Downing Street says ‘we are not preparing for general election’
After Tory MPs demanded Theresa May call a general election, No10 hit back and told the BBC they were not preparing for one – nor do they want one.
The BBC’s Chris Mason said: “Downing St: ‘we are not preparing for and we do not want a general election.’”
This was from a Downing Street spokesman.
Bill Cash says “we will vote against this withdrawal agreement” – the “we” are the ERG’s Brexiter MPs
— Robert Peston (@Peston) March 12, 2019
3.40pm update: ERG Star Chamber chair Bill Cash says pro-Brexit group voting against deal
Sir Bill Cash, who chairs Jacob-Rees Mogg’s ERG has said the group will vote against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
ITV’s Robert Peston tweeted: “Bill Cash says “we will vote against this withdrawal agreement” – the “we” are the ERG’s Brexiter MPs.”
Today’s meaningful vote is due to take place at 7pm this evening.
3.30pm update: Rees-Mogg’s ERG to hold meeting an hour before vote
Jacob Rees-Mogg will hold an ERG meeting an hour before the crunch meaningful vote this evening.
The Guardian’s Brexit correspondent Lisa O’Carroll tweeted: “ERG will meet at 6pm tonight where they will discuss how to vote.”
This comes after Mr Rees-Mogg instructed his peers to vote against Mrs May’s new deal.
3.20pm update: Ireland demands ‘serious’ alternatives to backstop
Simon Coveney told the Irish parliament that serious alternatives to the backstop will be considered.
He said: “There is now a timeline of a year for both sides to consider alternative arrangements, seriously, to see if they can replace backstop.
“If they stack up then well that will be agreed, if they don’t, alternative arrangements must be worked on.
“The test is still an actions-based test, unless and until that something can do the same job can replace it.
“It’s important to say it is very clear in the UK’s unilateral declaration that they talk about their obligations in the Good Friday Agreement, in all circumstances, and avoiding a hard border, so it’s important to recognise that because it is of huge importance to this house.”
ERG will meet at 6pm tonight where they will discuss how to vote.
— lisa o’carroll (@lisaocarroll) March 12, 2019
2:55pm update: Extension of Article 50 WOULD NOT solve UK’s problems – May
Theresa May has dismissed delaying Brexit, claiming it would not solve any of the current issues with leaving the EU.
The Prime Minister said the responsibility would lie with Parliament for a no deal Brexit or a possible extension of Article 50, not with the EU.
She added the UK’s choices would be bleak if Britain tumbles out of the bloc without a Brexit deal.
2:45pm update: Davis questions May on ‘mood’ of EU and Ireland
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis asks: “Can she tell the House whether she has detected any change in mood on the part of the EU and the Republic (of Ireland) with respect to a constructive outcome in dealing with the Northern Ireland border?”
Mrs May replied: “Yes, I think what has been obvious is a change in willingness from the EU to be actively working on those alternative arrangements.
“It was not possible to complete that work in time for the timetable we currently have re March 29.
“But the firm commitments have been given in the documents show that willingness on their side to be actively working with us to find those alternative arrangements and find them in a way that means the backstop can indeed be replaced.”
2:40pm update: SNP MP warns May ‘will LOSE tonight and BADLY’
Stephen Gethins added this evening’s result in the meaningful vote could “drag this place and jobs and businesses over the edge with that threat of a no-deal”.
He said: “Is the responsible thing to do now not to seek that extension so we can get some kind of way out of this calamity?”
2.35pm update: May reels off “core elements” delivered by her Brexit deal
The Prime Minister tells the Commons: “It sends a message to the whole world about the sort of country the UK will be in the years and decades ahead.
“To our friends and allies who have long looked up to us as a beacon of pragmatism and decency and a message to those who do not share our values and whose interests diverge from ours.
“It says this: the UK is a country that honours the democratic decisions taken by our people in referendums and in elections.”
“I believe that we should be delivering on the vote of the British people in 2016, but I also believe it is important that we give businesses the certainty for their future, and there is only one certainty if we do not pass this vote tonight, and that is that uncertainty will continue for our citizens and for our businesses.”
She adds: “We are a country where passionately-held views do not stop us from making compromises to achieve progress. We’re a country that values both our national sovereignty and the unbreakable bonds of a shared history.”
Theresa May addressed MPs in the Commons about the latest changes to her Brexit deal
2:20pm update: Tory MP attacks talk of second referendum
Referencing Mrs May’s croaky voice, Tory MP James Cartlidge said: “She may have slightly lost her voice, but is it not true that were we to have a second referendum, 17 and a half million people would have lost their voice?”
The Prime Minister replies: “I entirely agree with him. I believe it is absolutely imperative for this House that we meet the decision that was taken by the British people in June 2016 that we deliver on that referendum, and that we deliver Brexit for the British people.
“As I say, there is a danger that a failure to agree a deal that we could end up in a situation where we have no Brexit at all.”
2.10pm update: May warns ‘Brexit could be lost’ if her deal is rejected
Battling a croaky voice, the Prime Ministeer said in the Commons: “The danger for those of us who want to have faith in the British public and deliver on their vote for Brexit, is that if this vote is not passed tonight, if this deal is not passed, then Brexit could be lost.”
2pm update: Rees-Mogg warns five hours to consider Brexit deal isn’t long enough
The Tory MP and chairman of the ERG warned: “It also does not help the Government achieve what it wishes to achieve – and that is a majority in the vote at the end of today’s proceedings.
“Because if people feel that they have been bounced, that they have been hurried and they have been harried, the natural instinct is not necessarily to cave in, but it is in fact to stiffen their resolve and see how the cards fall.”
1:45pm update: ‘General election’ if May’s deal is voted down – Charles Walker
The vice chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “If it doesn’t go through tonight, as sure as night follows day, there will be a general election within a matter of days or weeks.
“It is not sustainable, the current situation in Parliament.”
1.40pm update: Baker attacks backstop proposals in Brexit deal
Brexiteer and ERG member Steve Baker said the political declaration “makes it clear that we would build and improve on the single customs territory provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement”.
He claimed the EU will mean that to be keeping the UK in the customs union, asking: “Isn’t it the case that if we negotiate under this agreement we will either find ourselves trapped indefinitely in the backstop because they are acting in good faith, or we will have to agree a customs union, contrary to our manifesto?”
But Mr Cox replied: “I really don’t believe so.”
1.30pm update: ERG lawyers not backing deal
ERG lawyers have advised that no substantial changes have been made and therefore have advised MPs not the back May’s deal.
The Brexiteer group said the verdict of its ‘Star Chamber’ of lawyers, set up to analyse any changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, was that there were not enough legally binding changes to the deal or the Irish backstop.
Bill Cash, of the ERG, said: “In the light of our own legal analysis and others we do not recommend accepting the Government’s motion today.”
The ERG follows the DUP which also said it would not vote for Theresa May’s deal tonight.
1.20pm update: May receives support from Conservative Eurosceptic backbencher – ‘It’s a step in the right direction’
Nigel Evans said: “It’s not ideal, it’s not the best deal that I would have loved, but I do fear that if we don’t get this through tonight, there is the risk that on Thursday Parliament will instruct her to get an extension to Article 50, and that is something I don’t want to see happen.
“What she’s got back from Strasbourg certainly reduces the risk of us being caught in the backstop, and if they try and trap us in then we now have a legal entity that allows us to get out.
“It is a step in the right direction.”
Theresa May said she has secured legally binding changes to her Brexit deal
1:10pm update: Seven paragraphs that ‘destroy Government’s strategy’ – Labour Shadow Solicitor General
In response to Mr Cox, Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “People would rightly ask, what has changed?”
He added: ”Paragraphs 15 to 17 constitute seven paragraphs that destroy the Government’s strategy of recent weeks, that sink the Government’s case that it had any chance of securing a right under international law to unilaterally exit the protocols arrangements.
“We’ve gone from having a ‘nothing has changed’ Prime Minister to having a ‘nothing has changed’ Attorney General and in fairness to him it isn’t just his view – it’s the view of a number of other respected lawyers…
“What the Attorney General was asked to do, and what the Prime Minister promised in this House on January 29, to change the text of the Withdrawal Agreement, simply is not possible. He is a lawyer, he is not a magician.”
1:07pm update: Backstop will be replaced with ‘alternative arrangements’ by December 2020 – Cox
He added: “In my view the provisions of the joint instrument extend further than mere interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement, and represent materially new legal obligations and commitments which enhances its existing terms.”
“The clarifications and amplified obligations contained in the joint statements and the unilateral declaration provide a substantive and binding reinforcement of the legal rights available to the United Kingdom in the event that the union were to fail in its duties of good faith and best endeavours.”
1:05pm update: Cox explains what Brexit deal changes “do achieve”
The Attorney General said: “As I set out in my opinion the joint instrument puts the commitments in the letter from Mr Tusk and Mr Juncker of the 14th of January 2019 into legally-binding form.
“And provides in addition useful clarifications, amplifications of existing obligations, and some new obligations.”
He added the legal advice “confirms that the European Union cannot pursue an objective of trying to trap the Unite Kingdom in the backstop indefinitely”.
Brexit news: The recommendations of the ERG lawyers
1pm update: May has ‘failed to deliver’ – Dame Margaret Beckett
The senior Labour MP said Theresa May has failed secure the changes required for her Brexit deal.
She said: ”The Prime Minister promised MPs that she would secure changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, but she has failed to deliver.
“Instead she offered Parliament several pieces of paper which she claims would secure a route out of the backstop and allow her Government to walk away if trade negotiations dragged on.
“The expert legal opinion – even from her own Attorney General – could hardly be clearer: she has not secured any substantial change in the material position.
“We have heard a lot from Brexiteer MPs about their demands and their principles. The question they will now have to answer is whether they meant what they have been saying?
“There is no real majority in the House of Commons or in the country for a Brexit deal that is a million miles away from what was promised in the last referendum. Now we know new facts about the real costs of Brexit, people deserve a new vote and a real say. It’s time to put it to the people.”
12:55pm update: Sir Vince Cable rages ‘three months have been completely wasted’
The Liberal Democrat leader said: “I think it will be voted down by people arguing from different points of view actually, but it will be voted down, and then we’re back to getting rid of no deal, extensions, and we will argue for hopefully getting this deal to a referendum.
“We have been going round and round in circles. At least three months have been completely wasted on this fruitless quest for something that doesn’t exist.”
12:50pm update: Geoffrey Cox makes statement on legal advice in the Commons
The Attorney General says: “They are not about a situation where despite the parties properly fulfilling the duties of good faith and best endeavours they cannot reach an agreement on a future relationship – such an event, in my opinion, is highly unlikely to occur and it is both in the interests of the UK and the EU to agree a future relationship as quickly as possible.
“Were such a situation to occur, however, let me make it clear – the legal risk, as I set it out in my letter of November 13, remains unchanged.
“The question for the House is whether in the light of these improvements, as a political judgment, the House should now enter into those arrangements.”
12:40pm update: Barclay admits Brexit may be DELAYED – even if deal is passed
The Brexit Secretary said: “If the deal passes tonight, will we seek to ratify by the 29th? Yes.”
But he added to the Brexit Select Committee: “There may be the need for a technical extension.”
12:25pm update: Javid attempts to rally support for May’s Brexit deal
The Home Secretary tweeted: “Now is the time to back the PM’s deal.
“We must fulfil our promise to the British people to leave the EU on time and do it smoothly.
“This deal does just that. And let’s get out there & seize new opportunities for our great nation.”
12:15pm update: ‘I think she’s going to WIN tonight’ – Rudd confident of May victory in meaningful vote
The Work and Pensions Secretary said: “Some people are not yet convinced but they’re clearly considering it.
“We have to think about this politically – what the consequences are for the country if we don’t get this through.
“I think she’s going to win tonight, I think we’re all going to win, otherwise instability will follow which would be so unwelcome.”
12pm update: Attorney General’s advice labelled ’pretty terminal’
Brexiteer and former Cabinet minister John Whittingdale has suggest Geoffrey Cox’s legal advice is “pretty terminal”.
He told Stephen Barclay at a Brexit Select Committee the advice “reads very much as if nothing, actually, has changed”.
But the Brexit Secretary replied: “I don’t accept that because one has got to look at this as a package, not in isolation.
“I accept the point that if both sides are negotiating in good faith, that is what the final paragraph (of the Attorney General’s advice) is referring to and therefore there will need to be an arrangement.”
Mr Barclay added: “It does not go as far as you would like, I accept that.
“But it does allow for this issue of bad faith and the UK being trapped, and that is the issue that politically kept coming up in the Chamber.”
11:50am update: ‘I’m positive – we’ve seen real progress’ – Brexit Minister
Robin Walker insisted there had been positive changes to Theresa May’s Brexit deal that Tory MPs would support.
As he entered a meeting with the Prime Minister, the Brexit Minister said: “I’m positive. We’ve seen real progress, more progress than many believed would be possible.
“I’m not making crystal ball predictions but what we have seen from the Attorney General is this reduces the risk of the UK being caught in the backstop.”
Jean-Claude Juncker warned: ‘It is this deal or Brexit might not happen at all’
11:40am update: Pound PLUMMETS after Geoffrey Cox after Geoffrey Cox publishes legal advice
THE pound plummeted against the dollar this morning after Attorney General Geoffrey Cox admitted Theresa May’s new agreement failed to reduce the legal risks associated with the Northern Ireland backstop.
Sterling had jumped nearly half a percentage point against the euro to €1.1748 and was up 0.6 percent against the US dollar at $ 1.3229 after Mrs May last night secured hard-fought concessions in a last-gasp effort to deliver a Brexit compromise acceptable to MPs ahead of the Commons showdown today.
But after the Attorney General released his latest assessment of the deal, the pound slumped against both major currencies at 11:30am.
It fell by more than a percentage point against the euro from this morning’s opening price to €1.1558, according to Bloomberg, and was down by almost a percentage point versus the US dollar at $ 1.3020.
11:30am update: Government’s strategy now in TATTERS – Sir Keir Starmer responds to legal advice
The shadow Brexit Secretary quickly responded to Attorney General’s legal advice in the Prime Minister’s new Brexit deal.
He tweeted a picture of the document with the last section highlighted in green, which states the “legal risk remains unchanged”.
Sir Keir wrote: “Attorney General confirms that there have been no significant changes to the Withdrawal Agreement despite the legal documents that were agreed last night.
“The Government’s strategy is now in tatters.”
Geoffrey Cox admitted the legal risk on the Irish backstop ‘remains unchanged’
11.15am update: Cox insists EU WON’T trap UK in backstop but admits ‘RISK REMAINS’ in deal
Theresa May’s Brexit deal has been dealt a blow by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox after he admitted the legal risk on the Irish backstop “remains unchanged”.
Mr Cox said the Prime Minister’s revised divorce deal with the EU had not given Britain legal means of exiting the so-called backstop arrangement unilaterally if “intractable differences” arose just hours before MPs vote in the House of Commons.
Mr Cox’s advice is crucial to winning over eurosceptic Tories and Mrs May had hoped that revisions over the Irish backstop would be enough to get her deal through parliament.
But the Attorney General said the “legal risk remains unchanged” and the “fundamental circumstances remained the same”.
He wrote: “However, the legal risk remains unchanged that if through no such demonstrable failure of either party, but simply because of intractable differences, that situation does arise, the United Kingdom would have, at least while the fundamental circumstances remained the same, no internationally lawful means of exiting the Protocol’s arrangements, save by agreement.”
Speaking to MPs this afternoon, the attorney general insisted the EU would not trap the UK in the backstop “indefinitely”.
He said he believes the Joint Instrument contains materially new provisions and described the changes as “reinforcement of binding legal rights”.
11:10am update: SNP will still vote against Brexit deal – Blackford
The party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford has repeated it will vote against Theresa May’s deal.
He said: “All the legal opinion we’ve seen says this doesn’t fundamentally change things. The backstop remains in place, and for very good reasons.
“We need to remember that the reason it is there is because of the peace treaty on the island of Ireland and we should respect that.
“The right-wing Brexiteers and the ERG are looking for a ladder to climb down and we’ll see what happens, but I want to make the point absolutely, fundamentally clear, that the people of Scotland voted to stay in the EU.
“We will be voting against this because it’s not in our economic interests. There’s no such thing as a good Brexit, and I would simply say to all parliamentarians, be very careful what you’re doing, because all the economic analysis shows that the best deal we have is staying in the EU.”
10:50am update: IDS calls on May to DELAY Brexit vote – ‘It’s better to know what we are voting on!’
Brexiteer Iain Duncan-Smith called on the Government to “push back” tonight’s Brexit vote to give the Commons the chance to question Attorney General Geoffrey Cox on his legal advice on the “legally binding” provisions agreed between the UK and the EU.
Addressing the Prime Minister’s de facto deputy David Lidington following his Brexit statement on the latest development to the negotiations, Mr Duncan Smith called on the Minister to urge Theresa May’s cabinet to delay the crucial decision MPs face.
“Mr Duncan Smith said: “What he has said this evening is of the greatest interest for many of us who want to know whether this is a genuine improvement to the problem that existed and I am one of those.
“And my vote will be based on what I interpret from this.
“But given all of that and the number of issues here on the joint legally binding instruments and also this interplay between the UK’s unilateral ability to revoke the backstop and then refer to an independent tribunal, my question really is: given all of that – the Attorney General giving a statement – would it not be better for the Attorney General to appear here in the House to explain his findings and to be questioned?
“And maybe, if that takes longer, for to push back the vote to the following date?
“It’s better to know what we are voting on than it is to rush that vote and then repent.”
Iain Duncan Smith has called on Theresa May to delay the meaningful vote on her Brexit deal
10:35am update: Pound surges to 22-MONTH HIGH after May’s Brexit breakthrough
The pound surged this morning after Theresa May secured a Brexit compromise on the controversial Irish backstop from top eurocrat Jean-Claude Juncker.
Sterling jumped as high as $ 1.3290 after Mrs May last night secured hard-fought concessions in a last-gasp effort to deliver a Brexit compromise acceptable to MPs ahead of the Commons showdown today.
Masafumi Yamamoto, chief currency strategist at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo, said: “The market was sensitive to positive news rather than negative news as it had already priced in very bad scenarios.”
After paring some of its earlier gains, sterling was last trading half a percent higher on the day at $ 1.3214.
Pound was still up 2.1 percent from a low of $ 1.2945 at one stage on Monday.
The euro slipped to its lowest on the pound since May 2017 at 84.71 pence, before recovering the losses. It was last quoted down one-third of a percent at 85.19 pence.
10:30am update: Leave Means Leave rages at ‘worst deal in history’
The organisation’s chairman Richard Tice said: “The new documents agreed by the Prime Minister and Mr Juncker should be ignored.
“The Prime Minister is conning us all. This agreement still means Northern Ireland would be treated differently to the rest of UK.
“This is still the worst deal in history, MPs should vote this terrible deal down, believe in Britain and let’s go WTO.”
10:15am update: Cox’s legal advice letter written and presented to Cabinet
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has written his legal advice letter on the new Brexit deal and presented it to the Cabinet, BBC’s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg has tweeted.
She added the hearing is likely to run for a further 45 minutes.
Mark Rutte warned ‘there is no alternative’ to Theresa May’s new Brexit deal
10:12am update: Rees-Mogg undecided on whether to vote for May’s deal
The Brexiteer and chairman of the European Research Group said: “I would never take the EU saying ‘there will be no change’ at face value, because they said there would be no second round, and there has been,” he said.
“Ultimately it has to be decided by the Council of Ministers. So I think this is closer to the deal, but if the Prime Minister was to ask for more, there must be a chance, yes.
“I don’t operate on gut feeling. We’ve got to decide legally whether this works or not.
“We’re (the ERG) a very collegiate body. We’re not like the government, where the Prime Minister decides and then the whips go out and tell people what to do.
“We’ll have a meeting at 6 o’clock and we will debate the issues surrounding this.
“I think on this issue, in reality, MPs will make up their own minds.”
10:10am update: Legal experts reject new backstop measures
In a legal opinion, Lord Anderson QC, Jason Coppel QC and Sean Aughey said: “It is crystal clear that the measures do not alter the fundamental legal effect of the backstop, as previously and correctly explained by the Attorney General.”
The advice, commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum, added: “The backstop will endure indefinitely, unless and until superseded by another agreement, save in the extreme and unlikely event that in future negotiations the EU acts in bad faith in rejecting the UK’s demands.”
Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve added: “I have had the chance to look at the document produced last night and I’m quite clear in my mind it does not allow the UK to terminate the backstop in the event of as breakdown in negotiation; it does not allow the UK to terminate the backstop at a time of its own choosing.
“The advice issued today from Lord Anderson, Jason Coppel and Sean Aughey reinforces my view.
“In Parliament today I will continue to argue that the agreement does not bear any relationship to what we were offered in the last referendum of 2016.
“It is significantly different and therefore it should go back to the people – they have a right to vote on this and decide whether to go ahead.”
Dominic Grieve has rejected the new Irish backstop measures
10:05am update: David Davis says Geoffrey Cox’s legal advice is ‘critical’
The former Brexit Secretary tweeted: “This all now depends on the Attorney General’s legal advice.
“It is critical that he confirms we can escape this backstop.”
10:02am update: Gove warns MPs its ‘make your mind up time’ on the ‘new, improved deal’
The Environment Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have an improvement on the Withdrawal Agreement that was presented to the House of Commons in January. That improvement ensures that we have additional legal weight behind our position.
“It also ensures that, as in any agreement or any contract, if it is the case that one side – in this case the EU – seeks to act in a way that is not in accordance with their commitments then we can go to court and we can win.
“We have also made a declaration as a nation that, should the EU behave in that way, that is exactly what we will do.”
Mr Gove also warned rejecting the deal could result in Brexit being “delayed or diluted”.
10am update: Germany and France SPLIT over Brexit – Article 50 extension calls would spark EU divide
MPs pushing for a delay to Article 50 have failed to grasp the fact that there are no guarantees other EU member states would agree to such a request, a policy analyst has said.
In an article published on the website of the Open Europe think tank, Anna Nadibaidze, a research and communications associate highlighted splits within the EU27 about the way forward.
She said Austria and Germany were vehemently opposed to any extension beyond the EU elections in May.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg and Malta are pushing for a second referendum, while Emmanuel Macron’s France is keen to extend Article 50 by up to 21 months.
Jeremy Hunt renewed calls for MPs to back Theresa May’s new Brexit deal
9:55am update: Lib Dems warn ‘rows won’t stop’ – even if May’s deal makes it through Parliament
The party’s Brexit spokesman Tom Brake tweeted: “Don’t be fooled, if Parliament votes for @theresa_may’s deal, the rows don’t stop.
“The bloodletting and backstabbing in the Tory party will become even more intense, as Brexiters and other factions within the party start the real war, over the UK’s future relationship with the EU.”
9.50am update: Hunt renews calls for MPs to back Brexit deal
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted: “These changes were hard fought for.
“They preserve the UK’s right to act unilaterally in our sovereign national interest.
“PM has listened to parliament’s concerns so time to back to deal and avoid risk of customs union or no Brexit.”
9:45am update: Latest deal is ‘huge improvement’ – Brexit Minister
Kwasi Kwarteng told BBC Breakfast: “I’m hoping that the DUP are looking at it.
“They haven’t rejected it out of hand, they’ve said that they’re going to consider what’s happened and I think once they consider it I’m very hopeful that they will actually support the deal.
“I think if they do support the deal many of my colleagues in the Conservative party, ERG members and others, will be able to support the deal.”
9.35am update: A’ bad, bindfold deal’ and ‘Commons should reject it’ – Sturgeon
Responding to Sir Keir’s earlier tweets, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Though the bigger problem with the Withdrawal Agreement, in my view, is that it takes Scotland out of the EU against both our will and our interests – and with no clarity on what comes next.
“A bad, blindfold deal. The Commons should reject it.”
The crunch meaningful vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal takes place in the Commons tonight
9:20am update: Sir Keir Starmer urges Geoffrey Cox to make Commons statement setting out his legal advice
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think, on the basis of the documents – and he will have analysed them last time in great detail, he will analyse them again – if he concludes that there isn’t significant change I really don’t see that there is a basis for him to change his advice.”
“He has said ‘I’m very happy to answer questions’, this is all happening at the eleventh hour, so we do need him in the House of Commons making a statement and then MPs across the House can ask him – whichever way he goes on his advice – why he has done it.”
In a statement posted on Twitter, Sir Kier added:
“Overnight I have looked carefully at what has been agreed by the Prime Minister with the European Union in relation to the backstop.
”Having studied the documents, I would be surprised if they are sufficient to enable the Attorney General to change the central plank of his December legal advice.
“In that advice, the Attorney General said that under international law the backstop ‘would endure indefinitely until a superseding agreement takes its place in whole or in part’.
“Under Article 178 of the Withdrawal Agreement, if either side is found to have acted in breach of the good faith/best endeavours obligation, the strongest remedy is ‘temporary suspension’ of parts of the Agreement to force the other side back to the negotiating table.
“However, the Withdrawal Agreement does not include a mechanism for unilateral exit from – or termination of – the backstop (or any other part of the Agreement) even where bad faith is made out.
“Turning the content of the 14 January letter from Donald Tusk and Jean Claude Juncker into a joint interpretative declaration does not change that. Nor in my view does anything else agreed last night.”
9:10am update: Varadkar attacks Brexiteers for ‘UNREAL’ backstop fears risking no deal
Leo Varadkar has launched a scathing attack against Brexiteers over the “unreal” backstop fears risking a no deal Brexit.
The Irish Prime Minister has given his full backing to the “legally binding” changes” Theresa May has secured to her Brexit deal, which ensures the Irish backstop cannot be made permanent.
He said: “The further agreement yesterday provided additional clarity, reassurance and guarantees sought by some to eliminate doubts or fears, however unreal, that the goal was to trap the UK indefinitely in the backstop.
“It is not – these doubts and fears can be put to bed.”
Mr Varadkar said the documents aimed to provide an additional layer of “interpretation, clarification and elaboration” to the UK ahead of the Westminster vote.
“In the context of tonight’s vote in Westminster, the outcome from yesterday’s meeting with Prime Minister May and President Juncker is positive.
“I hope and trust that the withdrawal agreement will now be endorsed by the House of Commons.”
9am update: Grieve still vows to vote against Brexit deal
Tory Brexiteer Dominic Grieve will vote against the agreement because it “bears no resemblance” to what was debated in the 2016 referendum.
He added the “proper thing” to do is to back a second people’s vote.
The former Attorney General told BBC Breakfast: “To drag the country out of the EU on these terms seems to me a very unsatisfactory and undemocratic thing to do.
“If the public want to leave on these terms, so be it.
“But for us to leave on these terms, which I have to say take us into a second-rate relationship for the future and one which I think will do this country economic harm, I am unwilling to do without the public confirming their view.”
Mr Grieve added: “I’m not prepared to see someone sign off something which in my view is going to be very damaging for our country’s future.”
Leo Varadkar has launched a scathing attack against Brexiteers
8:50am update: ‘Clearly a step in the right direction’ – Rees-Mogg
Jacob Rees-Mogg believes the “legally binding” changes secured by Theresa May for her Brexit deal is a positive move.
The chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) told the BBC: “It’s too early to tell definitively, but it’s clearly a step in the right direction.
“It’s important to see the details, but the DUP’s support would be a very important and significant factor.”
8:45am update: Varadkar will accept new Brexit deal details – Juncker
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar will accept the proposed new elements of the Brexit deal, Jean-Claude Juncker has said.
The European Commission indicated Ireland’s backing for the added documents as Cabinet ministers in Dublin held an emergency meeting.
Mr Varadkar spoke to Mr Juncker on the phone during a break from discussions in Government Buildings.
In Strasbourg, Mr Juncker said: “I have spoken to the Taoiseach this evening who would be prepared to accept this solution in the interest of securing an overall deal”.
8:40am update: DUP to scrutinise Brexit deal add-ons ‘line by line’ before vote
The DUP will carefully study the Brexit deal add-ons before tonight’s meaningful vote, refusing to say whether it would now back the Withdrawal Agreement.
Deputy leader Nigel Dodds told the Commons “all of this will need to be taken together and analysed very carefully”.
The DUP’s position could be crucial during the meaningful vote, not just because of the vote of its 10 MPs, but its stance on the Irish backstop could influence how some Tory Brexiteers approach the issue.
Jacob Rees-Mogg said the new Brexit deal is a ‘step in the right direction’
8:30am update: ‘Government’s Brexit fudge fools nobody!’ – Independent Group
Independent Group MP Chris Leslie has hit out at at the Government after Theresa May said she has secured legally binding changes to her Brexit deal around the Irish backstop.
He wrote on Twitter: “They can’t reconcile the irreconcilable objectives of ditching Single Market & Customs Union, while keeping Irish border open and frictionless.”
The 11 former Labour and Tory MPs have tabled an amendment to the motion to be debated, calling for an extension to Article 50 so Parliament can agree the terms of a People’s Vote.
8:25am update: ‘We’re very hopeful Brexit deal will go through’ – Ireland
Irish Transport Minister Shane Ross said: “I think everybody here is hoping that it goes through the House of Commons tomorrow,” he said.
“I think that’s what we’re hoping for.
“We’re very hopeful that it will go through.”
8:20am update: ‘We have done everything possible’ – European Parliament President
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said he hopes “common sense will prevail”.
Mr Tajani met with Theresa May in Strasbourg on Monday night.
He tweeted: “We have done everything possible to reassure the United Kingdom. We look forward to a positive vote in the Commons.”
Nigel Farage met Donald Trump to discuss why the US President should back a no-deal Brexit
8:10am update: Farage urged Trump to back no-deal Brexit in meeting – report
Nigel Farage met Donald Trump earlier this month to discuss why the US President should back a no-deal Brexit, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.
The conversation took place at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
Mr Farage told the newspaper: “I was talking to him about Vietnam, where he had said that a bad deal was on the table so sometimes you have to walk. That was the exact quote from Trump.
The former Ukip leader compared Brexit negotiations to Mr Trump’s recent denuclearisation summit with Kim Jong-un in North Korea.
He added: “I said in the case of Vietnam that no deal was better than a bad deal and I gave my opinion that the same principle applied to Brexit.
“I think if you read the comments from his ambassador in London, I don’t think it takes much reading between the lines.
“This American administration firmly believes in the nation state, not supranational structures and this administration are hugely keen on the defence, security and indeed business relationships that exist between our two countries.
“And I think it’s fair to say they see Brexit as a great opportunity.”