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BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Theresa May has suffered a crushing parliamentary defeat tonight in a historic vote over the Brexit deal. 

May’s bid to get the Withdrawal Agreement through the House of Commons was defeated by a margin of 202 to 432, a majority of 230.

Read our full report here and we’ll have reaction below throughout the evening. 

Source: UK Parliament/YouTube

Good afternoon! Sinéad O’Carroll here to bring you through some of the afternoon.

Our Brexit reporter Gráinne Ní Aodha is in London to bring us all the latest from Westminster so we’ll be bringing you live updates as we move closer to the key 8pm vote. 

The D-Day label makes it seem like – either way – we’ll be more clear tomorrow on what is happening but of course, this is Brexit, so that’s not the case. 

Gráinne has taken a look at the various possible scenarios with the experts so that’s probably a good place to start …. read it here.

Gráinne has described London as a ‘carnival’ today and it would be hard to refute that. 

Brexit Source: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Brexit Anti-Brexit protester Steve Bray outside the Houses of Parliament Source: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Brexit Source: Yui Mok/PA Wire

So here’s a rundown of what’s going to happen later. 

The main vote on the deal will be held at 8pm.

Before that, MPs will vote on these four amendments to the deal: 

Amendment a – Official Labour Opposition:

This would reject the deal on the basis of Labour’s six tests. But it also rejects the prospect of a ‘no deal’. It commits the House to pursuing every option that prevents the UK from crashing out.

So basically, it says the House can’t allow the UK to leave the EU without a deal, but it also can’t allow it to leave under this deal. 

It doesn’t give an alternative, other than to pursue other alternatives. 

Right. Moving onto the next one.

Amendment k: Scottish National Party

This would essentially refuse the deal on the table, stating it would be damaging for Scotland and Wales, as well as the rest of the UK. It asks for the government to request an extension of the Article 50 negotiating period (which ends on 29 March, in case you haven’t been listening). 

The next one is from a Conservative Party MP… 

Amendment b: Sir Edward Leigh

He wants to make sure the Northern Ireland backstop is not – and never will be – a permanent arrangement. This amendment, if passed, would see the government terminate the Withdrawal Agreement if the EU “will not agree to remove the NOrthern Ireland backstop”. 

Similar theme for the next one…  unsurprisingly from another Conservative MP. 

Amendment f: John Baron

It would give consent to the deal provided the Withdrawal Agreement is amended so that the UK can terminate the Northern Ireland protocol unilaterally.

Latest in ‘Brexit texts’:

I now watch Home and Away, Neighbours and half an hour of the House of Commons in the evenings…all the soaps.

Debates are continuing today in the House of Commons so you can fit them in before your evening telly if you want.

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster has just ended his speech by saying that Scotland would vote for independence soon.

Watch it all live here: 

Source: UK Parliament/YouTube

The folk in Leinster House had their back-to-school limelight stolen a little today but Leo Varadkar did take his first Leaders’ Questions of the term. 

Here’s our political reporter Christina Finn’s report: 

“The Taoiseach reiterated the point he made yesterday that he believes a no-deal Brexit is still unlikely.

Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin said tonight’s vote in Westminster is the “latest instalment in a lengthening saga in which no coherent, concrete view on Brexit commanding a majority of British parliamentarians is emerging”.

The withdrawal treaty looks set to be defeated – although we do not know that for certain – plunging all of us into greater uncertainty and speculation in the days ahead. We cannot influence tonight’s vote, if we are honest, but we can influence how prepared we are for any eventuality that may emerge including, of course, a no-deal Brexit, by the end of March.

“It is my view that the government has treated the Dáil and the public shabbily and badly when it comes to sharing its plans in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The government should treat the Oireachtas and the public with greater respect in this regard.
Under pressure, the government published a contingency plan on 19 December, the day on which the Dáil went into recess prior to Christmas,” he said.

He criticised the contingency plan document published before Christmas stating that it is “light, lacking in detail and needs considerable fleshing out”.

“The contingency plan published in late December deals rather sketchily with a number of important areas such as medicine supplies, aviation, the land bridge, ports and airports, staffing, Revenue and agriculture,” he said.

Varadkar said preparations at ports are already underway. He said further contingency plans in relation to medicines, transport and the common travel area were discussed by Cabinet today and opposition leaders will be briefed ahead of the media today.

He said stockpiling of medicines has not been recommended by the working group, but added that 24 medicines are on a watch list.

Afternoon, Daragh Brophy taking over liveblog duties here for the afternoon… A ‘meaningful’ Tuesday to you all. 

European Commission President Juncker is travelling back to Brussels at the moment to deal with emergency Brexit-related business, according to Brussels-based journalists.

Theresa May might be paying a visit there as early as tomorrow.

Theresa May might be heading back to Brussels as early as tomorrow. 

Labour MP John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, was on BBC radio earlier outlining how the main opposition party might proceed after tonight’s vote.

He said: 

“We will consider all options that come in front of us but our priority is a permanent customs union, that close collaborative relationship with the single market. If you don’t get that you won’t get the frictionless trade that the government promised and hasn’t delivered.” 

Protection of employment and consumer rights was also a priority for Labour, he said. 

McDonnell said that if politicians run into an impasse as the process continues “we do have to consider the option of a people’s vote”. 

John McDonnell speech Source: PA Wire/PA Images

“What are you playing at? What are you doing? You are not children in a playground.” 

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox ramped up the pressure in the House of Commons earlier as he warned of the danger of leaving the EU without a deal. 

The debate is continuing throughout the afternoon (you’ll find a livestream here, or embedded earlier in this liveblog) and we’re still expecting the main vote tonight at around 8pm

Source: Daily Mail/YouTube

Here, the government has issued an update on ‘contingency & preparedness’.

Four memos were brought to cabinet today on legislation required in a no deal scenario, a statement said.

“While all eyes are on the House of Commons tonight, it is important the Government’s planning continues for all outcomes, including no deal. Today’s discussion at Cabinet took this work forward in the important areas of transport connectivity and medicines, with Memos brought to Government by Minister Ross and Minister Harris respectively. We also agreed an approach to no deal Brexit legislation. Finally, I updated the Cabinet on developments with our Common Travel Area, which will continue in all circumstances,” Tánaiste Simon Coveney said in a press release comment.

“A no deal Brexit will have a significant impact on Ireland – these measures being taken by the Government are designed to limit the damage. It remains our view that the only way to secure an orderly withdrawal is to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement.”

The government has also given more detail on the Brexit “Omnibus Bill” set go before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

It will have 17 pieces of legislation and statutory instruments relating to changes in the laws that will need to be in place post-Brexit.

It is anticipated the Bill will be published at the end of February, and a debate will follow. It is envisaged the Bill will be passed in the middle of March ahead of the Withdrawal Agreement deadline of 29 March.

Today a full list was announced of the *deep breath* “Proposed Miscellaneous Provisions (Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union on 29 March 2019) Bill Omnibus Bill with 17 parts focused on the broad theme of protecting the citizen, and supporting the economy, enterprise and jobs”.

list Source: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Our reporter Gráinne Ní Aodha is in London, and has been speaking to protesters outside the Houses of Parliament. 

DUP LEADER ARLENE Foster has been expanding on her earlier comments that there was never a hard border on the island of Ireland during the Troubles. 

Speaking at an event in London earlier, Foster reiterated that her party believed there was no need for a backstop provision to form part of the UK’s deal to exit the EU. 

“As someone who lived through the Troubles we never had a hard border there were 20,000 soldiers in Northern Ireland and they couldn’t hermetically seal the border in Northern Ireland so it is a bit of a nonsense, frankly, to talk about a hard border,” Foster said. 

BBC Northern Ireland’s political editor Mark Devenport, speaking to her afterwards, put it to the DUP leader that many people would remember having a much harder border during the period of the conflict. 

“Yes but it was for completely different reasons,” Foster said. 

I think you’ll accept it was for reasons of security and even then terrorists were able to come and go at their pleasure across the border so even in those circumstances we weren’t able to stop … of course at that time it was to stop Semtex and terrorism now we’re talking about powdered milk and matters like that.

As you might imagine, her comments have come in for more than a little criticism. Read our full article here

Tonight’s meeting of Eurosceptic Tories was a well-attended one, reports Christopher Hope of the Daily Telegraph. 

PastedImage-83448 Source: http://parliamentlive.tv

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says his party will be voting against the deal, saying it will put the UK “over a barrel” after the transition period.  

At that point we would be over a barrel, we would have left the EU, have left the UK rebate and be forced to pay whatever was demanded. Alternatively, the backstop would come into force, an arrangement with which there is no time limit or endpoint, it locks Britain into a deal from which it cannot leave without the agreement of the EU.

Turning to address the issue of Northern Ireland, May said that whatever happens, they will “honour the Belfast Agreement”. 

“No one wants to see the return of the hard border,” May says. 

“It’s not as simple as some would like it to be,” May says, adding that it’s her duty to provide a solution that works for the people in Northern Ireland. 

“A vote against this deal is a vote for nothing more than uncertainty, division and the very real risk of no deal,” May tells the House.

 

It was expected that four amendments would be moved ahead of the big vote tonight – but three of them have now been dropped. 

This amendment is now being voted upon. 

“Amendment f: John Baron

“Gives consent to the deal provided the Withdrawal Agreement is amended so that the UK can terminate the Northern Ireland Protocol unilaterally.”

MPs had been expected to vote on amendments by Labour, Conservative MP Edward Leigh and on a joint one by the SNP and Plaid Cymru. 

The analysis from Sky’s Adam Boulton is that her opponents likely dropped their amendments in order to increase the focus on the main vote tonight, and the scale of the defeat May will face. 

The upshot of it all is that we’re likely to have the big vote earlier than expected, before 8pm. 

Gráinne Ní Aodha, our reporter in London tonight, has been scurrying around Westminster throughout the day talking to politicians, protesters and tourists. 

People are watching proceedings on screens set up in the main hall. 

Yes: 24

No: 600 

That’s the result of the vote on the amendment. 

“The Nos have it,” speaker John Bercow observes. 

MPs are now voting on the government’s main Brexit motion. 

MPs are essentially voting on this (quite long) sentence. 

“That this House approves for the purposes of section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title ‘Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community’ and the framework for the future relationship laid before the House on Monday 26 November 2018 with the title ‘Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom’.”

The result is in. 

Yes: 202 

No: 432 

Theresa May is back on her feet after that thumping defeat. 

She tells the house that MPs have established what they are against, but not what they are for. 

If the official opposition tables a motion of no confidence tonight, we will make time tomorrow to debate it, May says. 

The government, should it receive the backing of the house, will then engage on a round of talks with other parties. 

The government will explore any ideas that emerge with the European Union, she says. 

We do not intend to run down the clock, she adds. 

We will make a statement about the way forward by Monday, says May. 

“I ask members on all sides of the house to listen to the British people who want this matter settled,” she implores. 

Corbyn is on his feet now. 

At every turn May has closed the door on dialogue, Corbyn says. 

“She cannot seriously believe that after two years of failure she’s capable of debating a good deal for this country.” 

He’s tabling a motion of no confidence, he says. 

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, has some reaction. 

Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, has confirmed to MPs that Corbyn’s motion of no confidence will be debated tomorrow.

The whole day will be given over to the debate. 

The DUP will back the government in tomorrow’s confidence vote, according to the BBC’s political editor. 

From the AFP news wire: 

The British parliament’s rejection of a negotiated Brexit deal increases the risk that Britain will crash out of the European Union without an agreement, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker warned Tuesday.

“I urge the United Kingdom to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up,” Juncker, the head of the EU’s executive arm, said in a statement immediately after the vote in London.

Eurosceptic Tories will also back May tomorrow, so she’s all but guaranteed to survive.

 

The ERG is the group led by Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg. 

TheJournal.ie’s email inbox is rapidly filling up with reaction statements from various lobby groups and politicians. 

Here’s a taste of what’s coming in (in the order we received the mails). 

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association president Patrick Kent said that the defeat of Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the House of Commons had raised the level of risk for the Irish beef sector to status orange.

The key issue is to find a temporary home for beef exports normally destined for the UK market, in the event of a no deal Brexit. While we must remain hopeful that common sense will prevail, we must prepare for the worst.

A special package to buy displaced Irish beef into emergency storage or intervention is the minimum required. This is not just in Ireland’s interest; it is also essential to avoid catastrophic disruption of the entire EU beef market.

John McGrane of The British Irish Chamber of Commerce said: 

The British Irish Chamber regrets the outcome in Westminster this evening. The Chamber believes the passing of the Withdrawal Agreement is the only option currently available that will ensure Brexit happens in an orderly way.

Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin said: 

The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and our partners at a European level need to stand firm and not move away from or attempt to dilute the backstop.

We need to say clearly to the British that if they wish to Brexit then that’s a matter for themselves but any Brexit agreement needs to recognise, understand and protect the people, the economy and the peace process on this island.

 Simon McKeever of the Irish Exporters Association: 

This evening’s vote confirms what we have known since the Prime Minister pulled the meaningful vote in December 2018: the UK Parliament is unable to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration; ‘The Deal’ and the House of Commons continues to be fundamentally divided on the UK’s future relationship with the European Union.

With only 74 days left until the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union at 29 March 11pm (IST), Irish businesses trading with or transiting goods through the United Kingdom, whether exporters or importers, must now, as a matter of urgency, implement their no-deal Brexit contingency plans. The Irish business community simply cannot afford to continue its ‘wait-and-see’ approach and trust on the UK political establishment to prevent a no-deal Brexit. 

Boris Johnson is live on Sky News at the moment. 

He says Theresa May now has a massive mandate to go back to the EU and re-start negotiations. 

There’s no need to extend Article 50 though, he insists. 

“What would be absolutely fatal would be to do any more parliamentary pottery or jiggery-pokery.”

boris Source: Sky News

We have a statement from DUP leader Arlene Foster

“By rejecting the Withdrawal Agreement, Parliament has acted in the best interests of the entire United Kingdom.

“The House of Commons has sent an unmistakable message to the Prime Minister and the European Union that this deal is rejected.

“Mrs May will now be able to demonstrate to the Brussels’ negotiators that changes are required if any deal is to command the support of Parliament.

“We will work with the Government constructively to achieve a better deal. That is our focus. Whilst some may wish to use this defeat to boost their political ambitions, we will give the Government the space to set out a plan to secure a better deal.

“Reassurances whether in the form of letters or warm words, will not be enough. The Prime Minister must now go back to the European Union and seek fundamental change to the Withdrawal Agreement.

“We want an orderly exit from the European Union with a sensible deal which works for Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”

Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s Brexit spokesman, agrees his party will back May tomorrow. “We need to get the government back on track.”

wilson Source: Sky News

Vice President of the European Parliament and Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness is doing the media rounds this evening. 

In the wake of calls for Theresa May to re-start talks on the backstop agreement she has told Sky News: “The focus on the backstop is completely misplaced.”

“I think the idea of taking this result as a demand to reopen the withdrawal agreement is not how I would take it.” 

Acknowledging that, at first it may sound like an odd thing to say McGuinness observed, “at least today we have certainty around the uncertainty, that’s a first step”.

She said she wasn’t sure Brexit was achievable by 29 March, but that this may still have been the case even if tonight’s vote passed. 

“The people I represent want a good deal and we want the principle of the backstop honoured, but we want it never to be used.”

An Irish Government statement on tonight’s Brexit vote has just landed… 

“The Government regrets the outcome of the vote in Westminster this evening on the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between the UK Government and the European Union.

“This outcome will add to uncertainty about the nature of the UK withdrawal from the EU. The Government urges the UK to set out how it proposes to move forward. We will then consider what next steps to take in consultation with our EU partners.

“The Withdrawal Agreement was concluded, following lengthy and detailed negotiations, as a fair and balanced compromise to a very complicated situation. The Irish Government continues to believe that ratification of this Agreement is the best way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the UK, which avoids a hard border and respects the single market and Customs Union, while also delivering on the UK’s objectives for withdrawal.

“The Irish Government recalls the clear position of the European Council at its meeting of 13 December when it stated that the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation. This was restated in the joint letter from Presidents Tusk and Juncker to Prime Minister May yesterday.

“Regrettably, the outcome of tonight’s vote increases the risk of a disorderly Brexit. Consequently, the Government will continue to intensify preparations for such an outcome. Earlier today, Cabinet discussed preparation for a ‘no deal’ Brexit in detail. Cabinet took a number of significant decisions, including the preparation of essential legislative measures as part of this ongoing work. This work which will intensify over the next few weeks.

The Irish Government recognises, however, that a disorderly Brexit is a bad outcome for everyone, not least in Northern Ireland. It is not too late to avoid this outcome and we call on the UK to set out how it proposes to resolve this impasse as a matter of urgency.

The company that operates the Channel Tunnel is urging British and European Union leaders to move quickly to work out rules that will allow traffic to continue smoothly after Brexit.

Eurotunnel said it “duly notes” the British Parliament’s rejection of a divorce deal between the EU and Britain’s government, which was meant to prevent an abrupt severing of economic ties and soften the 29 March exit.

The company said in a statement that 26% of EU-Britain trade passes through the tunnel.

It asked for clarity to be provided soon on post-Brexit border and customs rules “to preserve the vital human, social and cultural exchanges that benefit both the U.K. and the EU”.

( – via Associated Press ) 

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