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Watch PM May address Commons on roller-coaster day as Brexit vote 'deferred'

Theresa May will speak in the House of Commons at 3.30pm - scroll down for livestream coverage

Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Prime Minister Theresa May is set to postpone Tuesday's vote on her draft Brexit withdrawal agreement, according to reports.

Government sources have said that the deal will be postponed and Mrs May will make a statement in the House of Commons at 3.30pm. Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leasdom and Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay are also set to make statements.

The Prime Minister held a conference call with her cabinet on Monday ahead of the statement.

Earlier on Monday a spokesperson for Mrs May said that that the vote "is going ahead as planned" and said that the PM is "confident of winning it".

The vote had been scheduled to take place in the House of Commons at 7pm on Tuesday, following a statement from Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

DUP’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the vote was pulled because it would be "overwhelmingly defeated".

"Deferring the vote is only of any use if the Government is prepared to go to Brussels and insist on necessary changes to the Withdrawal Agreement," the North Belfast MP said.

"Few people accepted this was the best deal available and the Prime Minister’s actions today prove that.”

The leaders of Northern Ireland's four Remain parties (Sinn Fein, SDLP, Green Party and Alliance Party) have issued a statement saying that the backstop must be retained.

"We maintain that there is a pressing need for the backstop as set out in the Withdrawal Agreement to be banked," the statement read.

“By contrast, we believe that a no deal situation would be catastrophic for our economy and society.”

Irish premier Leo Varadkar ruled out reopening negotiations around the Irish backstop.

The Taoiseach said it was not possible to reopen any aspect of the Withdrawal Agreement without reopening all aspects of it.

He added that the backstop is part of the current agreement because of the red lines laid down by the British Government.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the decision to postpone the vote was a sign of weak leadership from Mrs May.

"The Government has decided Theresa May's Brexit deal is so disastrous that it has taken the desperate step of delaying its own vote at the 11th hour," he said.

"We have known for at least two weeks that Theresa May's worst-of-all-worlds deal was going to be rejected by Parliament because it is damaging for Britain. Instead, she ploughed ahead when she should have gone back to Brussels to renegotiate or called an election so the public could elect a new government that could do so.

"We don't have a functioning government. While Theresa May continues to botch Brexit, our public services are at breaking point and our communities suffer from dire under-investment.

"Labour's alternative plan for a jobs-first deal must take centre stage in any future talks with Brussels."

On Twitter, Nicola Sturgeon challenged Mr Corbyn to work with the SNP to "give people the chance to stop Brexit".

Scotland's First Minister tweeted: "So @jeremycorbyn - if Labour, as official opposition, lodges motion of no confidence in this incompetent government tomorrow, @theSNP will support & we can then work together to give people the chance to stop Brexit in another vote. This shambles can't go on - so how about it?"

On Monday the European Court of Justice (ECJ) had ruled that the UK can decide to cancel Brexit and remain members of the European Union (EU).

The court ruled that the UK would not need the permission of other EU members to remain.

European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said the EU would not renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement.

"We take note of the Court of Justice judgment today on the irrevocability of Article 50," she said.

"We have an agreement on the table which was endorsed by the European Council in its Article 50 format on the 25th November.

"As President Juncker said, this deal is the best and only deal possible. We will not renegotiate - our position has therefore not changed and as far as we are concerned the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union on the 29th March 2019."

Mrs May's deal had faced heavy criticism with opposition from the DUP, the Labour Party and a section of MPs within Mrs May's own Conservative Party.

The DUP is unhappy that the deal will see Northern Ireland aligned with EU rules and remain part of the single market with checks on some goods coming in from the UK to Northern Ireland, if the Brexit backstop is implemented.

The Prime Minister has previously said her deal was the only deal on offer.

The deal had been scheduled to be debated in the House of Commons on Monday with particular attention being paid to the potential impact of the deal on relations within the UK.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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