The President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, has hit out at the UK’s perceived indecision over Brexit in a bizarre tweet, posting a picture of a chocolate Christmas tree and alluding to the fact that the UK should make its mind up over the Brexit process. Mrs Grybauskaite tweeted: “Christmas wish: finally decide what you really want and Santa will deliver” after Mrs May said it would take time to win assurances from EU leaders – and confirmed that the Meaningful Vote in Parliament would take place after Christmas in January.
Christmas wish: finally decide what you really want and Santa will deliver
It prompted the Lib Dem Brexit spokesman to demand that Christmas “be cancelled for Tory MPs if the Britain had to wait until January for the Meaningful Vote to take place.
Meanwhile, Irish Taioseach Leo Varadkar, who held a lengthy one-to-one meeting with Mrs May ahead of the main summit in Brussels, said she had to honour her commitments on the backstop and intended to ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Mr Varadkar insisted there could be no “unilateral exit clause” as some MPs are demanding amid concerns that the UK could be tied to EU customs arrangements if the backstop is activated.
Various EU leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that they were not willing to reopen negotionations on the current Withdrawal Agreement, while Mrs May said she did not expect an “immediate breakthrough” on negotiations.
Earlier on Thursday, Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark said attacks on civil servants reflected the controversial nature of the withdrawal negotiations and added that staff were being as even-handed on the subject as any other.
Appearing before MPs at the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee he said: “However contested the issue, it is important that people remember the civil service is impartial and serves the Government of the day.”
Brexit news: The Lithuanian President directed a bizarre Christmas tweet at Mrs May
He described his action as “exceptional”, saying he would rather not have felt it necessary, adding: “There was essentially this anonymous sniping against individual civil servants, accusations that somehow or other they were not pursuing the agenda of the elected Government, which I felt had to be corrected.”
Sir Mark took the unusual step of writing to The Times in October, appealing to critics of Olly Robbins, the Prime Minister’s Europe adviser, to stop “sniping” at him.
The letter was in response to an article about Mr Robbins, entitled “PM’s ‘Rasputin’ has charmed EU and split Tories”.
Sir Mark acknowledged praise of civil service professionalism in the article, but criticised the anonymous attacks on individuals, saying those responsible “should be ashamed of themselves”.
He said: “This has to stop. Civil servants have always trusted that our fellow citizens, whatever their views, know that we are doing our duty to implement the decisions of the governments they elect.”
Additional reporting by Simon Osbourne
SCROLL DOWN FOR LIVE BREXIT UPDATES
Theresa May and Civil Service chief Sir Mark Sedwill
10.30pm: Prime Minister appeals to EU leaders to help change MPs “backstop perception” or run risk of “accidental no-deal”
On Thursday evening, Mrs May appealed to EU leaders to give her the assurances she needs to get the backing of MPs for her Brexit deal.
During the EU summit in Brussels, Mrs May insisted she could construct a Commons majority for the controversial Withdrawal Agreement.
However, in a meeting with the leaders of the remaining 27, she said she had to be able to convince MPs the UK would not find itself tied to the EU indefinitely through the Northern Ireland “backstop”.
In prepared remarks released by No 10. Mrs May said: “There is a majority in my Parliament who want to leave with a deal so with the right assurances this deal can be passed.
“Indeed it is the only deal capable of getting through my Parliament.”
She made clear a failure by EU leaders to offer concessions risked the collapse of the whole agreement with the UK leaving in March in a disorderly, no-deal Brexit, saying: ”We have to change the perception that the backstop could be a trap from which the UK could not escape. Until we do, the deal – our deal – is at risk.
“I am in no doubt that the best result for all of us is to get this deal delivered in an orderly way and to get it done now. It is in none of our interests to run the risk of accidental no-deal with all the disruption that would bring, or to allow this to drag on any further.”
She ended with a highly personal appeal to EU leaders to put their trust in her to deliver on her promises and to give her the political room for manoeuvre she needs.
“Over the last few years I hope I have shown you can trust me to do what is right, not always what is easy, however difficult that might be for me politically.”
She said: “We must get this right and hold nothing in reserve. Let’s work together intensively to get this deal over the line in the best interests of all our people.”
Brexit news: Mrs May appealed to EU leaders to help “change the perception of the backstop” to MPs
9.15pm update: Boris Johnson to be subject of new Brexit play in London
A new play about Brexit, which will be updated every night to reflect changes in the political landscape, will premiere in London next year.
The Last Temptation Of Boris Johnson by Jonathan Maitland will depict a dinner party when the former foreign secretary decided to vote Leave and then fast forward to a post-Brexit Britain in 2029 when is portrayed in the political wilderness.
The playwright, who has also penned An Audience With Jimmy Savile and Dead Sheep, said: “Writing a play about Boris during these tumultuous times is wonderfully challenging – it’s given me more sleepless nights than anything in my career – and that includes writing a play about Jimmy Savile, which one national newspaper tried to have banned.
“This play is the ultimate dramatic moving target – everything keeps changing. Since the first reading in June, two big plot changing events happened: Boris resigned as foreign secretary and his marriage ended.
“But after a few stressful days – and nights – I soon realised that these uncontrollable and unpredictable events were dramaturgical catnip and embraced them joyously. Anyway – unexpected political events should hold no huge fears for me, given my previous incarnation as a journalist – last-minute high-pressure rewrites were part of the job.
“This play will be a bit like that: we will be rewriting the show every night to keep it up to date. It’s a bit scary, sure – but let’s put it in context. The stress I’m feeling isn’t quite on a par with that being felt by a certain Mrs T May of SW1.”
The play will be directed by Lotte Wakeham and will have its world premiere at the Park Theatre from May 9 to June 8 2019, with press night on May 13.
Brexit news: Mr Johnson is the subject of a new Brexit play to be held in London next summer
8.15pm update: BREXIT REVEALED: Donald Tusk REJECTS Theresa May demand for ‘one-year backstop’
Mrs May faced an outright rejection after asking Donald Tusk if the backstop could be strictly limited to a one-year period during a meeting earlier this week, it has emerged.
The Prime Minister held a number of last-ditch negotiations with the European Union’s most senior officials in a bid to win a number of concessions for her controversial Brexit deal.
She promised to return to Brussels for further negotiations after deciding to pull the so-called ‘Meaningful Vote’ because her plans would have been defeated by a “significant margins” if they were put to MPs in the House of Commons.
Express.co.uk understands one of the concessions requested by the Prime Minister was to include an end date to the Irish backstop, the insurance policy to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.
MPs are concerned that Brussels can hold Britain hostage in a customs union by refusing to negotiate a deal that supersedes the backstop mechanism because it doesn’t include a unilateral exit clause.
Mrs May asked Mr Tusk, the European Council President, about including an “outright end date” to the backstop but faced a swift and stern rejection from the EU chief.
According to diplomatic sources, the Prime Minister didn’t make the same request to Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU Commission president, when they met shortly after.
Brexit news: Theresa May asked Donald Tusk to include a one-year limit on the backstop
8.00pm update: EU considers legal lifeline on backstop to help Mrs May sell Brexit deal
EU leaders are reportedly mulling over a declaration on the Irish backstop that could be legally enforceable – which would help Mrs May get Withdrawal Agreeemnt deal through parliament.
According to two EU Diplomat sources, a statement with an aspirational end date for the backstop is being considered by some EU countries while others show strong opposition to it.
Bloomberg news reported that if the declaration were legally binding, but did not change the material substance of the EU Withdrawal Agreement, then it could clear the way towards a Brexit deal.
7.40pm update: Mrs May pressenting proposals on brexit deal to EU leaders
Mrs May has begun presenting her latest proposals on the Brexit deal and the Irish backstop to other EU leaders. European Union leaders are split on how they can offer Theresa May a helping hand with her faltering Brexit deal during a crunch summit in Brussels.
The Prime Minister has travelled to the Belgian capital in a last-minute bid to secure a number of concessions to help win the approval of rebellious MPs who she said would vote down her plans by a “significant margin”.
Brexit news: Mrs May speaks to leaders at the start of day two of the EU Summit in Brussels
But EU bosses have yet to find a unified approach as they wrangle with a number of possibilities to give Mrs May assurances that the EU has no ambitions to hold Britain hostage in the customs union via the Irish backstop.
The Telegraph reports EU nation states Ireland and France are among the EU countries who are sceptical of the latest backstop plans being drawn up the EU.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was said to be deliberately wearing a green tie with his suit as a show of support from the bloc for Ireland over the backstop issue.
Tom Connolly, Europe Editor for Irish state broadcaster RTE and author of the book Brexit and Ireland, posted a picture on Twitter of Jean-Claude Juncker sharing a warm welcome with Theresa May. He captioned the image: “.@Juncker deliberately chose a green tie this morning, I’m told #euco.”
A European Commission spokeswoman said, “He has always expressed solidarity with Ireland”
Mr Juncker showed off what appeared to be a secret Brexit message at the EU Summit in Bruss
7:30pm update: Stick to football!’ Gary Lineker LASHES OUT at World Cup teammate over Jacob Rees-Mogg
Gary Lineker has hit out at his old England teammate Peter Shilton over his views on Jacob Rees-Mogg and Brexit.
The Match Of The Day host, who roomed with the legendary goalkeeper when they played together for England, was unhappy at Shilton’s tweet supporting arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees Mogg.
Shilton wrote last night: “Have been so impressed with @Jacob_Rees_Mogg @Conservatives @itvnews with interviews in the last few days.
“He really knows what he is talking about and puts it across in a calm and calculated manner.”
Lineker responded: “What’s that old saying? You should never see a tweet from your heroes?
Lineker also blasted another ex-teammate Chris Waddle and urged him to “stick to football” after he tweeted: “Well done Theresa May. Now let’s leave with no deal.”
Although Waddle has since deleted the tweet, Shilton declared that the Brexiteer footballers were now “back in the game” after a fan tweeted that they were “two-all now on the World Cup Brexit stakes @GaryLineker joined by @reid6peter against @chriswaddle93 and @Peter_Shilton.”
Brexit news: Gary Lineker has called Peter Shilton out on his Brexit views
7.15pm update: Ireland retain UNITY GOVERNMENT to avoid Brexit CHAOS – ‘Now is NOT the time for election’
LEO Varadkar is set to remain in power for at least another year after the opposition party that props up his minority government vowed to prevent the “political chaos” over Brexit spreading to Ireland.
The Irish Taoiseach is reliant on support from Fianna Fail but the confidence and supply agreement with his Fine Gael party is due to expire this month.
However Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said “circumstances have changed” and agreed Mr Varadkar should stay at the helm to tackle Brexit, adding an election now would not be in the national interest.
Addressing the Irish parliament yesterday, Mr Martin said the turmoil in the UK made a no-deal Brexit more likely.
He said: “We’re in a time of heightened danger for Ireland as the risk of a no-deal Brexit increases.
“Fianna Fail is determined that the political chaos we see in London will not be allowed to spread to Ireland.”
Mr Martin said his party would extend its support throughout 2019, meaning an election will not be called until early 2020.
Brexit news: Micheal Martin (R) will keep Leo Varadkar in power until next year to tackle Brexit
7.00pm update: BREXIT WARNING: Brussels ready to help Theresa May but AFTER Christmas, says Kurz
May could be offered an alteration to the blueprint for the future relationship with the European Union in order to help her squeeze her controversial Brexit deal through the House of Commons, according to Sebastian Kurz.
The Austrian chancellor, who holds the EU’s rotating presidency, insisted the political declaration on the future relationship could be changed to “define more specific points” on the Irish backstop after Mrs May promised to deliver a number of assurances of its temporary nature
Mrs May is hoping to deliver a number of legally binding assurances that both the UK and EU are committed to ensure the backstop is never triggered.
The Austrian leader has held bilateral discussions with the Prime Minister in the build up to the European Council summit in Brussels.
Brexit news: Sebastian Kurz says EU ready to help Theresa May after Christmas
6.35pm update: Scottish government’s emergency Brexit legislation breaches the law – UK Supreme Court
Scottish government’s emergency Brexit legislation breaches the law because ministers in Edinburgh cannot veto legislation introduced by the UK government.
Scotland’s devolved parliament partially overstepped its constitutional reach when it passed a Brexit bill designed to ensure it kept all its powers after Britain leaves the European Union, the British Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
Britain’s government asked the Supreme Court in April to rule on whether bills on regional powers after Brexit, passed by the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, were constitutionally sound. They argued the bills could cause legal confusion.
The Supreme Court ruled that the whole of the Scottish Bill was not outside the devolved parliament’s legislative competence – but some parts were. The case has highlighted the fragile state of relations between Britain’s government and Scotland which have been stretched further by tensions over Brexit.
Powers currently devolved to Scotland and Wales, in areas such as agriculture, fisheries and food standards and labelling – which are administered now by the EU – will come back to the national parliament once Britain leaves the bloc.
A majority of Scottish voters backed remaining in the EU and many are angry over Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans. Scotland’s constitutional relations minister, Michael Russell, accused London of “constitutional vandalism” by passing Brexit legislation without the consent of the Scottish parliament.
But Britain’s Scotland minister David Mundell said the ruling brought “much-needed legal clarity that the Continuity Bill goes beyond the powers of the Scottish parliament.”
Mr Mundell said: “It is now for the Scottish government to consider how to proceed, and we hope will take a pragmatic approach and work constructively with us as we leave the EU.”
6.15pm update: Tory Peer BLASTS cabinet conduct during Brexit turmoil
A Tory frontbencher has rebuked senior Conservative colleagues including Cabinet ministers for their conduct during the recent Brexit turmoil. Lord Young of Cookham argued MPs actions, such as the leaking of Cabinet exchanges during the Brexit chaos, “hinder good government”.
Responding for the Government, Lord Young told peers: “I regret the recent erosion of collective responsibility in government and indeed the selective briefing of exchanges in Cabinet, both of which I believe hinder good government.”
Turning to the role of political parties, he said: “Half of all voters think that British politics is broken. Only one in seven thinks the Tories and Labour represent the views of the public.
“As party membership either declines as has happened in my party and its centre of gravity shifts to the right or is swollen by supporters with a particular ideology as has happened to the Labour Party and shifts to the left, it may become more difficult for candidates in the centre of the political spectrum to get selected.
“Putting aside our age, how many of us who have spoken in this debate, predominantly Remainers or Blairites, would be selected today?”
Brexit news: A Tory peer has blasted MPs for their conduct during current Brexit chaos
Lord Young also defended the Government’s introduction of English votes for English laws, known as Evel, under which only English MPs can vote on purely English legislation at Westminster.
He said: “I think it has embedded fairness and balance into Parliament’s law-making process. I think it has strengthened England’s voice, just as devolution has strengthened the voices of Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland within our Union.
“It is right that elected members of the House of Commons who represent constituencies in England have the opportunity to give their consent on domestic legislation that effects only them, simply mirroring the position in Scotland.”
6.00pm update: EU leader wishes May would decide what Brexit she wants for Christmas
The President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, has hit out at the UK’s perceived indecision over Brexit in a tweet.
she posts a picture of a chocolate Christmas tree, alluding to the fact that the UK should make its mind up over the Brexit process.
Mrs Grybauskaite tweeted: “Christmas wish: finally decide what you really want and Santa will deliver.”
Brexit news: EU wishes May would decide what she wants for Christmas
5.45pm update: Varadkar: UK could remove threat of no-deal Brexit by “revoking or suspending article 50”
Speaking after his meeting with the Prime Minister, the Irish Taioseach said although options were avilable to the UK, he would prefer to ratify Mrs May’s Witdrawal Agreement in its current form.
Mr Varadkar said: “It was a very good meeting, it was an opportunity for all of us to put forward ideas that might work, things that might be considered. It really wouldn’t be helpful to go into that sort of detail.
“[The threat of a no-deal Brexit] can be withdrawn at any point by the UK should they choose to revoke article 50 or, if that’s a step too far, to extend it to allow us more time, and to allow Britain more time. That’s certainly an option, but my preferred option is to ratify the deal we have.
“I don’t think we could agree to anything that would change the content to the treaty, the content to the withdrawal agreement. What we can say is the backstop is not on the table.
“It needs to be there for a reason.”
5.15pm update: Former European Commission President urges EU to show “more flexibility” over backstop
Former EC President Jose Manuel Barroso, urged the EU to show “more flexibility” towards the EU on the backstop issue.
Taking to Twitter on Thursday afternoon, Mr Barroso said: “Now that #Brexit appears unavoidable it’s extremely important to get a deal that avoids the so called hard Brexit.
“The #EuropeanUnion , that until now as shown such remarkable coherence and intelligence on this issue ,should show some flexibility on the #backstop.
“I know it’s possible some flexibility of the #EU to get a deal acceptable by the #uk . If there’s political will the excellent lawyers of the #EU can find a creative solution for the #backstop issue. And wisdom should prevail btw the EU and U.K.
“In the future there will be no relation more important for the #uk than the one with the #EU . And for the #eu also there will be no third country more important than the #uk. It’s crucial to avoid resentment in the way the withdrawal is made. I hope the #eucouncil understands it.”
Mr Barroso joined Goldman Sachs in 2016, promoting a furious response from the council for bringing the EU “into disrepute”.
Brexit news: The former EC President has urged the EU to be more flexible on the backstop
5.00pm update: Stop Christmas for MPs if Brexit vote not taken before recess begins – Lib Dems
The Liberal Democrats have demanded Christmas be cancelled for Tory MPs unless the meaningful vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal takes place before the festive recess begins.
Parliament is due to rise currently on December 20 and return on January 7 – but Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said it was “an insult to the British people” to go on the three-week holiday leaving such an important decision unresolved.
Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom on Thursday revealed the order of business for the last week the Commons is due to sit before Christmas.
It did not include any provision for a vote, which Theresa May has said will take place before January 21, pending any last-minute addenda or concessions from Brussels.
Mr Brake said: “At a time of so much uncertainty caused by this Brexit mess, it is an insult to the British people that Theresa May is happy for MPs to go on holiday without voting on the biggest issue in generations.
“People deserve better, and the Liberal Democrats demand better.
“Liberal Democrats do not believe Parliament should rise for the Christmas recess until Theresa May does what the people expect and give MPs a vote on her deal. Now more than ever MPs should be working to help their constituents, not least by giving them a final say on Brexit with the option to remain in the EU.”
Brexit news: Lib Dem’s Brexit spokesman said Christmas “should be cancelled” to hold Meaningful Vote
4.45pm update: Corbyns says “clear” there will be no changes to agreement
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said that it is “Celar” the Prime Minister will not secure any changes to the Withdrawal Agreementn she unveiled in November.
Mr Corbyn said: “It is clear there will be no changes to the deal the Prime Minister brought back last month. Theresa May herself says she isn’t expecting a breakthrough.
“There must be no more dither and delay, or attempts to run down the clock in an attempt to deny Parliament alternative options.
“People and businesses need certainty. The Prime Minister should put her deal before Parliament next week in our country’s interest.
“She has admitted her deal is likely to be defeated by a significant margin. There is no time to waste, and parliament must take back control.”
Brexit news: Mr Corbyn said it is “clear” that Mrs May will not secure changes to current agreement
4.30pm update: MPs will not be deliver Meaningful Vote before the end of this year,
A Number 10 spokeswoman told reporters: “The ‘meaningful vote’ will not be brought to Parliament before Christmas.”
The spokeswoman said the vote – which was scheduled for Tuesday this week but postponed by the Prime Minister after she accepted she would lose heavily – will come “as soon as possible in January”.
The Government has committed to holding it before January 21.
4.15pm update: Varadkar says EU “will not reopen Wtihdrawal Agreement”
Irish premier Leo Varadkar, who held a lengthy one-to-one meeting with Theresa May ahead of the main summit, said that while the EU was keen to assist her, it could not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement.
Mr Varadkar said: “As the European Union we are very keen to offer explanations, assurances, clarifications, anything that may assist MPs to understand the agreement and hopefully to support it but the backstop is not on the table,” he said.
“If the backstop has an expiry date, if there is a unilateral exit clause then it is not a backstop. That would be to render it inoperable.
“That would mean reopening the substance of the Withdrawal Agreement and the European Union is unequivocal that is not an option.”
Brexit news: Mr Varadkar says EU won’t reopen negotiations despite the bloc wanting to help
4.00pm update: UK post-Brexit immigration policy to be unveiled next week
House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom announced Britain will outline its post-Brexit policy next week.
Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, Ms Leadsom confirmed the publication of a long-awaited paper.
Immigration was one of the Government’s central policies during campaigning ahead of the Brexit vote in July 2016.
heresa May had said the new system will prioritise high-skilled workers and treat EU citizens the same as those from elsewhere after Britain leaves the bloc on March 29, but these details have yet to be set out.
Speaking on December 10, Ms Leadsom said of the system: “It is absolutely vital that we have an immigration system going forward that is fair to those businesses who need to attract employees from overseas but at the same time fair to those people in the UK who voted for the UK parliament to be able to control our borders.
Brexit news: A key issue behind the UK’s vote to Leave the EU will be addressed next week
3.40pm update: Austrian Chancellor says there can be “no reopening of the Withdrawal Agreement”
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose country holds the rotating six-month presidency of the European Council, said: “I believe that Theresa May knows that there can be no reopening of the Withdrawal Agreement.”
But he said that it might be possible to “provide a little better explanation or definition or go into detail” on the provisions of the agreement.
Me Kurz continued: “Hopefully that will allow Theresa May to bring a vote in January and obtain a majority,” he said.
“If the British Prime Minister thinks one or another additional explanation can be helpful before she brings it to a vote, then we should do that.”
Asked what concessions might succeed in winning over Mrs May’s domestic critics, Mr Kurz said: “It is difficult to judge, because many of the sceptics do not argue in a way that is really rational.”
3.20pm update: Backstop needed to give reassurance on border – Simon Coveney
The Brexit backstop is not about the UK but is about ensuring no border infrastructure re-emerges on the island of Ireland under any circumstances, Ireland’s Foreign Minister has said.
Simon Coveney also said any reassurances being sought by British Prime Minister Theresa May could not be allowed to undermine the purpose of the backstop. Mr Coveney made the comments during Leaders’ Questions in the Irish parliament on Thursday.
Mr Coveney said: “What is being looked at now seriously is how a political declaration can be put together, that is real, that provides reassurance, for many in Westminster who need it, that the backstop represents no threat to them, no threat to the UK and instead actually is about providing reassurance on the island of Ireland.
“That we can reassure people that under no circumstances in the future as a result of will there be border infrastructure re-emerging between the two jurisdictions on this island.”
Brexit news: Irish Foreign Minister says Mrs May should not undermine the purpose of the backstop
He said contingency planning “for all eventualities” is continuing and preparations to date have included sectoral seminars on financial services, pharmaceuticals, on citizens and social security, intellectual property and air transportation.
“Let me reassure the public, this is part of a process of preparation that the Irish Government in partnership with other countries and the European Commission are undertaking as well as the preparation that we’re putting in place,” he said.
But Fianna Fail TD Dara Calleary described the Government’s preparedness as “pathetic”. He said: “That’s just pathetic. That’s the Andrex puppy response. It’s soft and fluffy but nothing to do with what you’re actually supposed to be doing here.
“Sectoral seminars, at the end of the day, will not bring it home to people the impact on their lives.
“Will you wake up and actually start engaging with people the way previous governments engaged with people around the euro changeover, around Y2K, that people had an understanding and had a capacity to get ready to their own daily lives and in their own businesses for the challenges ahead?”
2.38pm update: DUP disimisses talk of linking up with Labour
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said his party was not in talks with Labour over a potential no-confidence vote in the House of Commons.
Mr Wilson said: “We don’t need to be in talks with Labour.
“We have made it quite clear that if the Prime Minister continues to pursue the policy and gets the ability to implement that policy, then we will vote against the Government in a vote of no confidence.
“However she has got to get over the first hurdle, and that is to get this agreement accepted by Parliament. I don’t believe she is ever going to get over that hurdle.”
Mr Wilson said he did not expect progress on Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement before the end of the year.
He said: “I don’t think it’s likely at all, because I suspect she’s not even going to bring the deal back before Christmas, so she’ll not be able to progress on this deal.”
2.12pm update: Austria’s Kurz hopes for compromise
Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz said he hoped Britain and the EU could accommodate each other’s positions on the Irish backstop.
He said: “I think Theresa May knows there cannot be an opening of the exit agreement but of course we will try to move towards each other with an agreement.
“It is important for us that we will always keep an eye on Irish interests. It is understandable that GB is not interested in there being a constant non-equal treatment of Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain.
“On the other hand we are also asking for understanding from GB that there cannot be a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
“These are the positions and now there is still the hope that we will be able to accommodate each other to some degree and hopefully Mrs May will manage to make a vote in January happen and get a majority there.”
1.42pm update: Merkel welcomes May survival but warns Brexit deal can not change
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was “good news” that Theresa May had fought of a leadership challenge.
Ms Merkel said: “We have seen that the PM has survived the vote and can continue with her work, that is good news.
“And we will hear from her again about what her ideas are, however I would also like to say that I believe the exit agreement has been well negotiated and we will discuss among ourselves afterwards how we will proceed.
“But of course we also have our basic values and I do not see that we could change the agreement again.
“Of course we can talk about additional securing but here the EU27 will be very united and make their interests clear.
“Always in the spirit that we want very good relations to Great Britain even after the exit.”
Civil Service boss Sir Mark Sedwill
1.12pm update: Luxembourg leader accuses Leave campaigners of “lying”
Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has accused Leave activists of basing their Brexit campaign on “lies”.
Speaking at the European Council summit in Brussels Mr Bettel said: “You shouldn’t forget that the entire EU referendum was built on lies.
“There were people who claimed ‘X’ amount of money would be paid back by insurers in Brussels and the voters in Britain have maybe also been told things which weren’t true so that they will vote leave.
“I will definitely not be against it if Theresa May will tell us ‘better a second referendum than a no-deal’.
“Then a lot of time would have been wasted if the result was a different one. But, as I said, this general statement that leaving Europe can happen just like this with a click and that there would only be advantages, that it would be a win situation for the UK and a lose situation for the rest of the world – well today we can see that this is not the case.
“I hope that if the citizens do get the possibility in the UK to make their voice heard for a second time that it could also be a solution. But as I said that is a decision for Great Britain.”
Mr Bettel said he would not agree to pushing back the March 29 Brexit date,
He said: We can’t just keep renegotiating. I’m for any solution that is constructive but we also can’t say we will keep negotiating until something, everything works out.
“We have set ourselves regulations and we will have to work with them, which isn’t always easy.
“We should also support Mrs May so that she will get a majority in London.”
Theresa May arrives at the European Council summit
12.30pm update: May arrives at European Council summit
Theresa May has confirmed that she will not lead the Conservatives into the next general election, but declined to name a date for her departure.
Arriving at the European Council summit in Brussels, Mrs May said: “I have said that in my heart I would love to be able to lead the Conservative Party into the next general election.
“But I think it is right that the party feels that it would prefer to go into that election with a new leader.”
Asked whether she had a date in mind to stand down, Mrs May said: “No. People try to talk about dates. What I’m clear about is the next general election is in 2022 and I think it’s right that another party leader takes us into that general election.”
Mrs May arrived for the summit after face-to-face talks with Irish leader Leo Varadkar and European Council President Donald Tusk.
She told reporters: “Yesterday was a difficult day and I’m grateful for the significant support I’ve had from colleagues, but I’ve also heard loud and clear the concerns of those who didn’t feel able to support me.
“I know the concerns there are in the House of Commons about this issue of the backstop, and that they do not want it to be permanent.
“What I will be talking to European leaders about here today is about what I think we need to get this deal over the line.
“I’ve already met Leo Varadkar, I’m going to be addressing the European Council later, and I will be showing people the political assurances I believe we need to assuage the concerns that Members of Parliament have on this issue.
“I know the EU27 will also be discussing no-deal planning, and indeed the Government in the UK is discussing no-deal planning. But I think, as I’ve always said, the best arrangement for everybody – both the UK and the EU – is for us to agree a deal and get this deal over the line.”
Mrs May said she was not expecting a breakthrough on the backstop at the two-day summit.
She said: ”My focus now is on ensuring that I can get those assurances that we need to get this deal over the line, because I genuinely believe it’s in the best interests of both sides – the UK and the EU – to get the deal over the line, to agree a deal.
“But I recognise the strength of concern in the House of Commons and that’s what I will be pushing to colleagues today.
“I don’t expect an immediate breakthrough, but what I do hope is that we can start work as quickly as possible on the assurances that are necessary.”
Theresa May meets Leo Varadkar in Brussels
11.59am update: Peoples Vote campaigners park bus in Brussels
Anti-Brexit activists have driven their campaign bus to Brussels with a stark message for Theresa May.
Organisers of the Bo**ocks to Brexit tour said they hoped the Prime Minister would see their battle bus as she prepared to meet fellow EU leaders for last-ditch talks.
Campaign spokesman Charlie Grosvenor said: “We believe Brexit is not the democratic ‘will of the people’.
“Public opinion has shifted and most British people now want to reject Theresa May’s deal and stay in the European Union.
“It’s time for British citizens to be bold and proud, and say: bo**ocks to Brexit!”
11.42am update: Raab questions May leadership
Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said the scale of opposition to Theresa May’s Brexit deal means it is difficult to see how she can lead the Conservative Party forward.
Mr Raab said: “We will have to back her as best we can but the problem is that both in relation to Brexit and wider sustainability of the Government given likelihood of any changes to the deal, given the likely scale of opposition, it looks very difficult to see how this PM can lead us forward.”
11.30am: May arrives in Brussels
Theresa May has met Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Brussels and is now on her way to see EU summit chairman Donald Tusk.
The Prime Minister is seeking legal assurances the Irish “backstop” wills not remain in place indefinitely but her chances of success are thought to be extremely slim.
Anti-Brexit activists park their campaign bus in Brussels
10.47am update: German Foreign Minister unwilling to “unpick” Brexit agreements
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Theresa May’s victory in a confidence vote against her leadership meant “total chaos was averted”.
Mr Maas said: “If the British Government had been without a Prime Minister, no one would probably have known how to proceed.”
He said Mrs May political survival meant there was “another chance” to get a majority in the House of Commons for the finished Brexit agreement.
But he once again ruled out the possibility of changes to the Brexit agreement.
Mr Maas said: “There is no basis for rewriting this agreement. That will not change.”
He insisted the Irish backstop was not up for debate, saying EU members would listen to British considerations about clarifications but change the the substance of the agreement.
Mr Maas said neither side was interested in a no-deal Brexit but said Germany was prepared for a “worst case scenario”.
10.30am update: European press pours scorn on UK amid Brexit shambles
Europe’s newspapers have not reacted kindly to the chaos engulfing Britain’s attempts to cut ties with Brussels.
Belgium’s De Standard wrote: “Theresa May’s only job now is to get Brexit on track, but this remains an almost impossible mission.
“And while she may be able to breathe now, because an in-house vote of confidence is only possible once a year and the hard Brexiteers will have to shut up for a while, she is by no means strengthened by the vote of no confidence and, in addition, there is still no solution to her Brexit deal.”
Germany’s Münchner Merkur said: “The Kingdom is out of control. The Brexit slippery slope is heading for the abyss in ever wilder turns, and the Europeans are watching like sleepwalkers as one of their biggest countries stumbles into disaster.
“Now is the time to offer the British an irresistible offer for a second Brexit vote, to accommodate them on the migration issue and to keep Europe together.
The EU cannot afford arrogance, since Italy and France are now also on shaky ground. The Chancellor has been celebrated as Miss Europe for long enough.
“Now she has to give up her passivity and fight for our British friends. Otherwise, she could go down in history as the woman who shrugged off the collapse of Europe. “
Austria’s Die Presse wrote: “Given the chaos in Westminster, the EU has no choice but to be relentless and to make the deal waterproof legally-speaking to be prepared for all eventualities.
“The way of thinking in the UK goes like this: rules that I benefit from are reasonable and must be maintained. Rules that give me obligations are unreasonable and should be abolished as soon as possible.
“In its childish naivety, this attitude is downright touching. At the same time, it is a fire hazard: you can not demand the annulment of the annoying free movement of persons enshrined in the EU Treaties today to make it easier for the British to leave the EU and keep the trade routes open, and then reprimand the Italians the next day for breaking EU budget rules. “
Dutch newspaper Jyllands Posten said: “The Prime Minister has shown that she can not bring the party together, let alone the country.
“The support on Wednesday night was nice, but nothing special. She has announced that she will not run as head of government at the next election. But it is impressive that she will take on the burden until then.
“It will not get any easier in the coming months. She can expect nothing but symbolic concessions from the rest of the EU, maybe she’ll get some friendly words in a supplemental exit agreement document, nothing more.
“None of the actors could possibly want a so-called hard Brexit but the immediate catastrophe has been averted, and those who like Great Britain should welcome that.”
Moscow’s Kommersant wrote: “All those who are in favour of a rapid disintegration of the European Union are premature.
“More precisely, they confuse desire and reality, because despite all the problems and hardships, the EU remains a successful institution, it has good economic growth and expands its role in global politics.
“One of the most significant examples of the stability of the ‘common European house’ is the situation in the UK. The insoluble problem with the Irish border shows that London can not leave the EU without committing suicide at the same time.”
Theresa May leaves Downing Street to head for a showdown with EU leaders in Brussels
9.55am update: Former Brexit minister calls for early vote on May deal
Former Brexit minister and deputy European Research Group chairman Steve Baker has urged Theresa May to call the vote on the Brexit deal soon.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I’d like the Prime Minister to bring this deal forwards, let us vote it down, so it can go back to the European Union and we can say this clearly won’t go through parliament, we need to change the backstop.
“It’s an awful deal, the country doesn’t want it. Parliament would overwhelmingly reject it. This isn’t personal, this is about the policy being wrong for the country long-term.”
Labour is also pushing for an early vote although the Government has indicated it is likely to be delayed until January.
9.16am update: Rees-Mogg said May could still go
Jacob Rees-Mogg, said it is “not impossible” that Mrs May might change her mind and resign despite taking a defiant stance and fighting off a leadership challenge.
The chairman of the European Research Group, one of the 48 Tory rebels who called for a vote of confidence in Mrs May’s leadership, told BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “You may remember that Margaret Thatcher said ‘We fight on, we fight to win’.
“Nobody was tougher than Mrs Thatcher, and the next day she resigned. So it’s not impossible.
“I think Theresa May should consider what she said last night. I agree with her that we do want somebody who can unite the country and the Conservative Party and she has to ask herself is she realistically that person?”
Mr Rees-Mogg rejected suggestions the ERG’s headquarters for last night’s vote was nicknamed “the kill zone”, saying: “It wasn’t referred to as that by me, I think it was only referred to as that by our opponents.
“I think it’s a deeply disagreeable term invented by people who wanted to support the Prime Minister.
“I never heard anybody refer to it as that, I would not have dreamt of referring to it as that. I think it’s deeply silly to have done so, and I don’t think it came from us, it came from others.”
Asked about Chancellor Philip Hammond’s comments that Tory party ”extremists” would be flushed out, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “I wouldn’t worry too much about Treasury forecasts. They’ve got a record of being hopelessly inaccurate and politically biased, and that was another example of that.
“Don’t take the Chancellor too seriously when he gets a little bit over-excited – an unusual state for him, it has to be said.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg believes it is still possible Theresa May might stand down
9.33am update: Tusk confirms last-minute talks with Theresa May
European Council President Donald Tusk said he would meet Theresa May before he chairs an EU summit starting at 2pm in Brussels that will be dominated by Brexit.
He tweeted: “Ahead of the summit, I will meet PM Theresa May for last-minute talks.”
Mrs May is in Brussels seeking fresh concessions for her Brexit deal after emerging from a confidence vote by Tory MPs bloodied and bruised but victorious.
She will also hold one-on-one talks with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar before the summit opens, after cancelling a planned trip to Dublin yesterday in order to fight for her leadership.
8.59am update: Germans warn May there is no way to improve deal
German interior minister Stephan Mayer said Brussels would do what it could to help Theresa May get her unpopular Brexit deal through Parliament but warned the Withdrawal Agreement would not be amended.
He said: “There is no room for changing the Agreement itself, but I am deeply convinced that the EU27 should be open to push forward clarifications, especially with regard to the backstop.
“I don’t see any room for amendments on the legal Agreement, but I think beneath that we should consider if it’s possible to make clarifications in the Political Declaration or elsewhere to avoid a hard Brexit.
“I think this must be the main objective for both sides.
“The treaty which lays on the table isn’t too bad – and isn’t too bad for both sides.
“I’m deeply convinced it’s not possible to achieve any better deal than that which is now laying on the table.”
8.33am update: McDonnell calls for proper Brexit debate
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has responded to Theresa May’s call for politicians from all sides to “come together” and deliver Brexit by calling for a proper debate.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The easiest thing for any opposition to do in these circumstances is to warm your hands as the Conservatives self-immolate.
“But you can’t do that, not when the issues are so big for the future of the country. You can’t play party politics with this, you’ve got to try to do your best to get a deal which will protect jobs and the economy.
“That’s got to be a two-way process, and it hasn’t been until now.”
Mr McDonnell urged Mrs May to hold votes in Parliament in order to establish what MPs were willing to accept.
He said: ”I think there’s an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons against no deal.
“Let’s establish that once and for all and use parliamentary mechanisms to narrow that option away. Then let’s get a proper debate going.
“That’s why it would have been better to have the vote this week as she promised. That would have tested the will of Parliament, that would have set parameters, and it would have been a clear message to our EU partners as well.”
Former minister Nicky Morgan fears a split in the Tory party
8.23am update: Nicky Morgan predicts exodus of hard Brexiteers
Former minister Nicky Morgan suggested that a split in the Conservatives may be looming, with hardline Eurosceptics leaving the party.
She told the BBC: “I think there’s an inevitability that some of these people – the hardest Brexiteers – are going to walk.
“There may be some sort of reconfiguration of parties on the right of the UK political spectrum and that may be something we are going to have to accept in order to get a Brexit deal through the House of Commons.”
8.19am update: Former May aide warns of more defeats for Prime Minister
Mrs May’s former policy adviser George Freeman warned that the PM faces further struggles to get her Brexit plan through Parliament.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think there will be at least one if not two or three defeats before opposition MPs and Conservative MPs start to realise that they’ve done their signalling and now it’s real.
“One of the reasons I think it’s important that the Prime Minister stayed is that whoever leads through this, I think, will be finished by it.”
Theresa May makes a statement after surviving a vote of confidence in her leadership
8.15am update: Duncan Smith tells May to withhold Brexit divorce payment
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith has called on Theresa May to “engage” with her hard Brexit critics and “resolve” their concerns over the backstop by threatening to withhold the UK’s £39 billion divorce payment to the EU.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We cannot go on just with the idea that a fiddle here and a fiddle there is what the problem is.
“A compromise is there but it’s the backstop which has to be resolved.”
He urged the Prime Minister to “say to the EU now ‘your £39 billion is fully at risk. We are not committed to the £39 billion unless we get some resolution’.
“They know that this backstop can be completely replaced by an open borders policy. Push them to the point where they recognise they have to do that and it resolves everything.”
Iain Duncan Smith wants Theresa May to threaten to withhold Brexit cash
8.02am update: Austria’s Kurz welcomes May’s survival
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz said he was pleased Theresa May survived the confidence vote brought by rebel Tories.
He said: “Glad about the outcome of the vote in the UK. Looking forward to seeing Theresa May at the European Council in Brussels.
“Our shared goal is to avoid a no-deal scenario.”
7.30am update: EU’s Verhofstadt calls for cross-party unity in UK
EU Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt has urged Westminster’s warring factions to start co-operating with each other in a bid to solve the Brexit conundrum.
He said: “While the Brexit deal is far from certain, one thing is clear: even in the Tory party, there is no majority for no deal or hard Brexit.
“Time for cross party cooperation (like in the EU) to end the uncertainty at both sides of the Channel.”