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THERESA MAY HAS said that she still plans to put the twice-rejected Withdrawal Agreement before the House of Commons this week, as she continues efforts to persuade Tory, DUP and at least a few Labour MPs to switch sides. 

In a much-anticipated statement, May said:

  • That she’s “skeptical” of indicative votes, and won’t be promoting that route
  • That no deal won’t happen unless the House of Commons votes for it
  • That the Withdrawal Agreement won’t be renegotiated.

Meanwhile, MPs will vote today on allowing parliament to take control of Commons business for a series of indicative votes on Wednesday. 

It all comes as the clock continues to tick down to the revised cliff-edge deadline of 12 April (or 22 May, if the Prime Minister manages to get her deal passed this week). 

Another day, another Commons debate. 

Welcome to another afternoon of live Brexit coverage. 

We’re expecting to hear an update from the British Prime Minister in the Commons at around 3.30pm. 

Later on, MPs will start debating the government’s motion on the Withdrawal Agreement as well as seven amendments that have been tabled, including one that could see a series of indicative votes on how to move Brexit forward. 

It could be a late one – votes are scheduled for 10pm tonight, including that one on clearing business for the indicative votes on Wednesday.

Earlier the European Commission said it had completed preparations for a no-deal Brexit, noting “it is increasingly likely that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union without a deal on 12 April”.

Political Correspondent Christina Finn here with you this afternoon. So another day, and yet more unpredictable Brexit happenings. 

While May had a Cabinet meeting today, the European Commission said it has completed preparations for a no-deal Brexit, noting “it is increasingly likely that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union without a deal on 12 April”.

The Commission warned that such a scenario could lead to delays at borders, ports and airports. 

You can catch up with all that here.

While May was battling for her own future as prime minister last night, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was hanging out with RTÉ’s Strictly Come Dancing crew for the show’s finale. 

No doubt May would have preferred to be spending her evening enjoying some dancing, instead she was scrambling to keep her own ministers on side.

The Sunday Times yesterday reported she was “at the mercy of a full-blown cabinet coup”, with plans afoot for her de facto deputy David Lidington to take over in a caretaker capacity.

The newspaper said it had spoken to 11 senior ministers who “confirmed that they wanted the prime minister to make way for someone else” and planned to confront her at today’s Cabinet meeting.

May worsened relations with many MPs last week after she hit out at them in a speech. 

Sky News is reporting that a spokesperson for the DUP states that the party’s stance on the draft Brexit deal remains unchanged after a phone call took place between Theresa May and Arlene Foster. 

DUP 305_90567192 Source: Sam Boal

That’s not surprising. as DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the same thing at the Fine Gael National Conference over the weekend. 

Donaldson said on Saturday that he does not expect his view on the Brexit deal to change.

“I’m not here to change anyone’s view and don’t expect my view to change either.”

During his address to the Fine Gael National Conference, he also said:

“I would say to my friends in Fine Gael, let’s try to work this out.”

He acknowledged there is a difference of opinions, stating: “We are on different sides on Brexit, that’s for sure”. 

More on that here

Hello, Gráinne Ní Aodha here taking over the Liveblog just ahead of Theresa May’s statement to the House of Commons at 3.30pm.

She’s just met with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – the BBC’s Iain Watson says that she’s still not sure whether she’ll hold a Meaningful Vote 3… which was retweeted by Brexiteer Steve Baker.

Here’s what’s on the schedule for this afternoon, and if you want to watch proceedings you can do so on Sky News Live or on the House of Commons parliament player.

A number of debates and votes are due to take place after the Prime Minister’s statement, so from about 4.30pm until 10pm tonight.

The Prime Minister has put forward the following “neutral” motion, to allow MPs to debate and vote on their own amendments about what direction to take Brexit:

That this House, in accordance with the provisions of section 13(6)(a) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, has considered the Written Statement titled “Statement under Section 13(4) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018” and made on Friday 15 March 2019.

Theresa May

Theresa May is speaking in the House of Commons. She says she will work towards bringing forward a Meaningful Vote 3 this week.

She also said: “I explained [to the EU] that some members of parliament want to make changes to the Withdrawal Agreement”.

“Whatever is decided this week, changing the Withdrawal Agreement is simply not an option,” she said.

If the House does not approve the Withdrawal Agreement, there will either me a no-deal Brexit or another extension, and if there’s an extension then the UK will have to take part in the European elections.

May says she is “skeptical” about the process of indicative votes as in the past:

“…it has led to contradictory outcomes or no outcomes at all.”

She says that it could also lead to an outcome that the EU flatly refuses, and leaves them exactly where they stood before the indicative votes.

“People of all sides of the debate holds passionate views,” May says, speaking about her controversial plea to the British people last week where she blamed MPs for the political impasse over Brexit.

“I hope we can all agree we are at a moment of decision,” May said, trying to placate her parliament. She continued:

…No Brexit must not happen… and a slow Brexit beyond the 22 May is not a Brexit which will bring the British people together. I know the deal is a compromise… but if the House can back it we will be out of the European Union in 2 months.

This is a sharp observation – May said that unless the House of Commons agrees to it, there will not be a no-deal Brexit.

In the last series of votes, the House of Commons rejected leaving the European Union without a deal by a majority of 43.

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn both saying the same thing in the House of Commons, as they urge MPs to take responsibility for the Brexit process… they’re fighting on everything else, though.

Interesting that Jeremy Corbyn praised those who marched for a second referendum at the weekend and who signed a petition to reverse Brexit. (He’s been famously lukewarm on whether the UK should leave the EU or not.)

May criticises the Labour leader for not attending that same march.

Theresa May Brexit statement Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons today. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

So, highlights from that speech from May:

  • She will bring her Brexit deal before the House of Commons this week
  • But, she won’t bring it before the House tomorrow
  • She’s “skeptical” of indicative votes, and won’t be promoting that route
  • She says that the Withdrawal Agreement won’t be renegotiated.

Significant lines:

“Unless this House agrees to it, no deal will not happen.” 

“A slow Brexit beyond the 22 May is not a Brexit which will bring the British people together.”

As things stand, there isn’t support for a Meaningful Vote but she is continuing to speak to her colleagues, May says.

When asked special arrangements that will need to be put in place to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, as stated by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, May dodges the question and said (paraphrased):

“Further work is required, a release by the European Commission today said that their rules will need to be enforced.”

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds asks Theresa May why May agreed to the “bedeviled” backstop in the first place.

Dodds also says that Leo Varadkar and the EU have said that there will be no border in Northern Ireland, so there’s no need for the backstop. May answers:

A number of statements have been made from individuals about the border in Northern Ireland. When you look at the detail of what the EU have said, they have made it clear that EU law would need to be adhered to in a no-deal.

The UK government has agreed that there would be “minimal checks with exceptions” for a temporary period, “but the legal position is a different one”.

“The EU has been clear that EU law would need to be applied in all these circumstances.”

Theresa May has said that Westminster will take control of Northern Ireland in the case of a no-deal Brexit for “direct decision-making” on some affairs. 

“If there is no Stormont government, if powers are needed, and ministerial direction is needed which is not available to civil servants, it would require some direct application of powers here in Westminster.” 

Theresa May’s statement is in.

Key parts:

But it is with great regret that I have had to conclude that as things stand, there is still not sufficient support in the House to bring back the deal for a third Meaningful Vote. I continue to have discussions with colleagues across the House to build support, so that we can bring the vote forward this week, and guarantee Brexit.

 I must confess that I am sceptical about such a process of indicative votes.

The default outcome continues to be to leave with No Deal.

BUT:

Unless this House agrees to it, No Deal will not happen. No Brexit must not happen.

And a slow Brexit which extends Article 50 beyond 22nd May, forces the British people to take part in European Elections and gives up control of any of our borders, laws, money or trade is not a Brexit that will bring the British people together.

Here’s UKIP’s take on what’s just happened.

Not happy, but then again, no one seems to be.

When asked whether she can guarantee that they will leave the Eu without a deal if her deal is voted down, Theresa May dodged the question. 

So whatever happens, the 12 April is now the new leave date for the UK. So nothing will happen on 29 March.

There’s work underway to change the legislation that’s already been drafted, but because the new leave date depends on whether May’s deal is passed (12 April if it isn’t passed, 22 May if it is), that bit has yet to be filled in.

And here’s what Nigel Farage thinks of that.

Today, Kate Hoey said in the House of Commons that a no-deal Brexit isn’t no deal, but “a different type of deal”, echoing what Boris Johnson said in the Telegraph today:

I also assumed that this disruption would be minimal or non-existent, because both sides would show common sense, and that there would be no immediate tariffs or quotas or barriers to trade, and that we would come out with an agreement to protract the existing arrangements until we could finalise a new Free Trade Deal. 

 I assumed that we would leave not exactly with “no deal” – but not with this deal.

Meanwhile, the EU is in “intense discussions” with the Irish government about the Irish border in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

EU officials said that these talks would intensify over the coming days. Officials said that the EU “doesn’t want physical infrastructure on the border”, and described the issue as “complex” and “important”.

EU officials said that they are in discussions to ensure there is as little disruption to cross-border trade as possible, but added that it is “of course different from the Withdrawal Agreement”, adding that “it’s certainly high-time” that all EU member states are prepared.

While we’re on Europe matters, here’s a slight segway – Ireland’s ratio of social protection expenditure to its GDP was the lowest in the EU.

Meanwhile, a House of Cards-esque leadership challenge is coming to a boil…

Enjoyable shade about one of May’s most loyal ministers, who is among those tipped for the leadership.

House Speaker John Bercow has just selected amendments (d), (a) and (f) for a vote tonight, scheduled for 10pm.

Here’s Amendment (d), by the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn:

“Line 1, leave out from “House” to end and add “notes the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement and Framework for the Future Relationship have been defeated for a second time; further notes the alternative proposals being proposed across this House including Her Majesty’s Opposition’s plan, Common Market 2.0, for a customs union, and for a public vote; and calls on the Government to provide sufficient parliamentary time this week for this House to find a majority for a different approach.”

Here’s Amendment (a), tabled by Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin, and known as the Letwin amendment. In short, it calls for a series of indicative votes to take place on Wednesday.

It doesn’t specify what options will be voted on, or how the votes will take place. It should be added that Theresa May wouldn’t be bound by the result of any of these votes, but if she were to go against the majority in the House of Commons, it could spark the DUP to collapse her government.

This is the start of the lengthy amendment:

At end, add “and, given the need for the House to debate and vote on alternative ways forward, with a view to the Government putting forward a plan for the House to debate and vote on, orders that –

(a) Standing Order No. 14(1) (which provides that government business shall have precedence at every sitting save as provided in that order) shall not apply on Wednesday 27 March;

And finally, Amendment (f). This has been tabled by Margaret Beckett, and is supported by Anna Soubry:

At end, add “and orders that, in the event that the UK comes within seven calendar days of leaving the European Union without a deal, the Government must make arrangements within two sitting days, or if this House has been adjourned for more than four days to arrange for the House to be recalled under Standing Order No. 13 (Earlier meeting of the House in certain circumstances) for this purpose, for a Minister of the Crown to move a motion on whether this House approves the UK leaving the EU without a deal and on whether the UK Government should be required to request an extension of the period in Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit and to give time for Parliament to determine a different approach.”

 

Anti-Brexit demonstrators who are constantly camped outside Westminster are chanting to the tune of Westminster Abbey’s bells. Fun.

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