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Brexit live: MPs tell Theresa May to try to renegotiate her Brexit deal

MPs have issued order to Theresa May to prevent a no-deal Brexit and to seek to replace the Northern Ireland backstop with “alternative arrangements”.

Prime Minister Theresa May during the debate in the House of Commons in London on January 29, 2019.
Prime Minister Theresa May during the debate in the House of Commons in London on January 29, 2019.
Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street for the House of Commons (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

MPs have authorised Theresa May to go back to Brussels and try to renegotiate her Brexit deal.

But one of the Prime Minister’s most important negotiating weapons was ripped from her hands, as the House of Commons also voted to block a no-deal Brexit.

The result of a series of votes on amendments to Mrs May’s Brexit Plan B has left the Prime Minister with a massive headache as the clock ticks towards the scheduled date of EU withdrawal on March 29.

Here’s the latest from Westminster:


Conservative MP Nick Boles has tweeted out a statement he said comes from himself and Labour MP Yvette Cooper on Tuesday evening’s votes.

He tweeted: “Tonight MPs have voted to stop no-deal Brexit. We did not get enough support to ensure there could be a binding vote to avert No Deal or require an extension of Article 50 if needed.

“We remain deeply concerned that there is no safeguard in place to prevent a cliff edge in March 2019 if the Prime Minister does not get a deal agreed in time.

“The Prime Minister promised a new meaningful vote on 13 Feb and a new amendable motion in the event that this motion is defeated or the government does not secure a new deal. But we are running out of time.

“She will need to reflect the Commons opposition to No Deal. We will consider what amendments will be needed if at that point no progress has been made.

“We remain committed to ensuring that we don’t reach the cliff edge on 29 March without a deal.”

Meanwhile, former foreign secretary Boris Johnson told Sky that Mrs May had received a mandate from Parliament with a “clear, unambiguous” message that the backstop had to be removed from the Withdrawal Agreement.

He said: “I hope that our friends in Brussels will listen and that they will make that change.

“It is no skin off their nose to do it, there is no reason at all why at this advanced stage in the negotiations they shouldn’t give the UK the changes that we need.”


President of the European Council Donald Tusk said the Withdrawal Agreement is “not open for re-negotiation”.

In a statement, a spokesman said: “We welcome and share the UK Parliament’s ambition to avoid a no-deal scenario.

“We continue to urge the UK government to clarify its intentions with respect to its next steps as soon as possible.

“The Withdrawal Agreement is and remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

“The backstop is part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for re-negotiation.”


The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford claimed that by passing the Brady amendment the Government had “ripped up the Good Friday Agreement”.

To jeers from Tory MPs he said in his point of order that: “We were told the backstop was there to protect the peace process but tonight the Conservative Party has effectively ripped apart the Good Friday Agreement. This House should be ashamed of itself.”

He said Scotland had been “silenced, sidelined and shafted by the Tories”.

DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds, raising a point of order earlier, told the Commons: “This is a significant night because for the first time the House by majority has expressed what sort of deal will get through and will have a majority, and we will work with the Prime Minister to deliver the right deal for the United Kingdom.”


Mrs May said it was also clear there was a majority against a no deal Brexit and invited opposition MPs to meet her to discuss how to reach consensus.

“As well as making clear it needs to approve the Withdrawal Agreement, the House has also reconfirmed its view it does not want to leave the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement future framework.

“I agree we should not leave without a deal, however simply opposing no deal is not enough to stop it.

“The Government will now redouble its efforts to get a deal this House can support.”


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Tonight Parliament has voted to remove the immediate threat of crashing out without a deal on 29 March. After months of refusing to take the chaos of no deal off the table, the Prime Minister must now face the reality that no deal is not an option.

“I will meet the Prime Minister and others from across Parliament to find a sensible Brexit solution that works for the whole country.

“That solution should be based around Labour’s alternative plan of a customs union with a UK say, a strong single market relationship and a cast iron guarantee on workers’ rights, consumer standards and environmental protections.”


Prime Minister Theresa May has told MPs there is a “substantial and sustainable” majority in the Commons for leaving the European Union with a deal but admitted renegotiation “will not be easy”.


MPs have approved Conservative MP Sir Graham Brady’s Brexit amendment, which aims to replace the Northern Ireland backstop with “alternative arrangements”, by 317 votes to 301 – majority 16.


MPs issued an order to Theresa May to prevent a no deal Brexit as they passed an amendment which rejects the UK leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement.

The cross-party plan, headed by Tory Dame Caroline Spelman and Labour’s Jack Dromey, won by 318 votes to 310, majority 8.

It “rejects the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship”.


Two Labour MPs rebelled to vote against the Labour Brexit amendment, according to the division list.

They were Sir Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) and Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse).


MPs defeated the Brexit amendment from Labour MP Rachel Reeves by 322 votes to 290, majority 32.

The proposal sought an extension of Article 50 if there was no Brexit deal approved by the Commons.


Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who has regularly campaigned for a second referendum, called the defeat of the Cooper and Grieve amendments “a bad day for Parliament”.

Writing on Twitter, he said: “There is no point claiming you are opposed to a ‘no deal’ Brexit if you are not prepared to will the legal means to stop it happening.

“Non-binding motions are not the same as legally binding laws. The Cooper and Grieve amendments addressed this. A bad day for Parliament.”


MPs have defeated Labour MP Yvette Cooper’s Brexit amendment, which ultimately aimed to extend the Article 50 process, by 321 votes to 298 – majority 23.


Following the Grieve vote, Exeter Labour MP Ben Bradshaw wrote on Twitter: “So disappointing that vital cross-party amendment led by Dominic Grieve was defeated because more than ten Labour colleagues voted with the Tories. We fight on to prevent no-deal #BrexitShambles”


MPs defeated Tory former minister Dominic Grieve’s Brexit amendment by 321 votes to 301, majority 20.

Mr Grieve’s proposal had bid to prevent a no-deal Brexit and allow MPs to effectively wrest control of Commons business from the Government for six individual days in the run-up to the UK’s scheduled withdrawal date of March 29.

(PA Graphics)


In the second vote, the SNP Brexit amendment which sought to extend the Article 50 process, rule out a no-deal Brexit and prevent Scots being taken out of the EU “against their will” was defeated by 327 votes to 39, majority 288.


The first vote has been held and MPs have defeated Labour’s Brexit amendment by 327 votes to 296, majority 31.

The proposal aimed to allow MPs to vote on options to stop a no-deal exit, including a customs union and the possibility of a second referendum.

(PA Graphics)


Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister had indicated support for an amendment “which cuts across the very deal that she negotiated”.

He said: “So the danger is obvious that the Prime Minister today may build a temporary sense of unity on her own benches, but in reality she’s raising expectations that she can never fulfil.”

Labour he said “will support the amendments which seek to prevent no deal whether by an extension of Article 50 or otherwise”, adding no deal would be catastrophic for jobs and living standards.”

He went on: “We should be in no doubt that this is one of the greatest national crises our country has faced in a generation.”

Sir Keir said he recognised there were concerns, including on his own side, about voting for the amendments tonight, adding: “Delay of Article 50 is now inevitable, it’s irresponsible to pretend otherwise.”


In a blow to Theresa May’s hopes of seeking a revised deal from Brussels, French President Emmanuel Macron declared that the Withdrawal Agreement secured in November is “not renegotiable”.

Speaking at the Southern EU Countries Summit in Cyprus just moments before MPs were due to vote, Mr Macron said: “As the European Council in December clearly indicated, the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between the UK and EU is the best agreement possible. It is not renegotiable.

“After the vote which is taking place now in the House of Commons in London, I hope that the British Government will rapidly present to our negotiator Michel Barnier the next steps which will allow the avoidance of a withdrawal without a deal, which no-one wants, but which we must all – despite everything  – prepare for.”



Conservative former minister Nick Boles said his amendment with Ms Cooper “rules out no-deal Brexit on the 29th of March – it does not rule out no-deal Brexit forever”.

Explaining why he had taken action, which he said his colleagues think “rash”, he said he was “seriously committed to making a success of Brexit” but that no deal would “not be a success – it will be a disaster”.

His Tory colleague Sir Edward Leigh, a Brexiteer, said he was backing the Brady amendment because “we can’t get a deal for ourselves that gets us 100% of what we want, so we have to settle for a deal that gets us most of what we want”.

Calling himself “not a hard Brexiteer, not a soft Brexiteer, I’m a measured Brexiteer”, he encouraged his fellow MPs to support Mrs May “and push this deal over the line”.


ERG member Andrew Rosindell said that he would back the Graham Brady amendment, but warned Theresa May that it did not automatically mean supporting a new Withdrawal Agreement.

He said he was “reluctantly” backing the amendment, telling reporters: “On balance this gives the Prime Minister two more weeks to go away and get tough with the EU and hopefully come back with something that is more acceptable.

“If it is not then we will vote the Withdrawal Agreement down again.”

He added that not necessarily all members of the ERG would back the amendment but “huge numbers of people have turned around” in favour of it since Monday.

Asked if he though the Brady amendment would pass the Romford MP said: “It’s 50-50. But I think there is a chance.”


Former cabinet minister Oliver Letwin told the Commons he has “had enough of Brexit”.


DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said his party had had “very good discussions with the Government over recent days”, adding the right approach was to support the Brady amendment “in order to give the Prime Minister that necessary support which will indicate to the EU that there is a way through which can command support in this House”.

He said: “I believe that there is a way through the current difficulties in terms of the deadlock, but some of the options that are being put forward tonight through other amendments simply don’t command a majority in my view and I think we have to be realistic about that.”

The DUP, he said, did not want a no-deal outcome, but added: “The idea of taking no deal off the table is more likely to lead to a no-deal outcome than anything else.”

He said: “We in our party are absolutely committed to no hard border on the island of Ireland, but not at the expense of creating borders down the Irish Sea with our biggest market and affecting the integrity of the UK.”

Senior Tory Graham Brady, whose amendment has been backed by the Government, said he tabled it because after he saw Mrs May’s Chequers deal was losing support it became “very obvious that it was going to be necessary to compromise”, but said the Northern Irish backstop was a “compromise too far”.

The chair of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers said after the Withdrawal Agreement was defeated there was a “fashionable idea that there was simply nothing that the House could agree on”.

Mr Brady told MPs: “I don’t believe that is true, and what I hope to demonstrate with my amendment today is that there is an agreement which can win majority support in the House of Commons. And by voting for amendment, we can send the Prime Minister back to Brussels to negotiate having strengthened her hand.”


Tory former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said: “I want to, for my part, strengthen the hand of this Prime Minister and this Government in returning to Brussels and I believe that there are a range of changes that would render the Withdrawal Agreement and in particular the backstop acceptable to myself, but also more generally across this House.

“That could be in the form of a sunset mechanism or an exit mechanism over which we exercise control but with assurances to our friends and partners in Dublin around its exercise.”

Mr Raab expressed concerns over Ms Cooper’s amendment adding it would lead to “understandable fears that actually it is a ruse to reverse or frustrate Brexit”.


Ahead of tonight’s session in the Commons, protesters from both sides of the debate are gathering outside the Houses of Parliament.

(Stefan Rousseau/PA)
(Stefan Rousseau/PA)


Moving her amendment, Labour’s Yvette Cooper said she did not think the Prime Minister was “instilling confidence” or that she had a plan, adding: “I am really worried that the delay and the drift and the chasing of unicorns mean we could now end up with no deal by accident.”

She added: “Now I’ve always believed that the Prime Minister would not let this happen, I always believed that she would flinch when it came to the crunch, that she is not the sort of person who would want to make other people suffer because of her delays and mistakes.

“But my worry is that when I look into her eyes now, I am worried that that has changed because she is trapped. Because every time the Prime Minister has had the chance to pull back and to reach out, she’s done the opposite.

“Every time she’s had the chance to think about the country she instead has turned to the party and every time when she has had the chance to build bridges, she’s turned instead to the hardliners who simply want to set those bridges on fire.”


The Irish economy could be around 4% smaller in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Irish Finance Minister has said.

Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, Paschal Donohoe said although the Irish government are hopeful of a deal, plans must be in place for a “disorderly” Brexit.

All forms of UK exit will have a detrimental impact on the Irish economy, with the most adverse impacts likely to be felt in agri-food and manufacturing sectors, the Department of Finance research has shown.


Responding to Mrs May’s willingness to engage with the MPs behind the “Malthouse compromise”, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: “It is beyond ludicrous that the Prime Minister is willing to consider staking the country’s future on technology that does not even exist.

“This is not even the most irresponsible part. The idea of entering into a transition deal when the Government cannot even agree where we will end up is nothing short of dangerous.

“This so-called compromise is nothing other than kicking the can down the road in an attempt to paper over the cracks in the Conservative Party. If the Conservatives are convinced that the can of worms that the referendum opened within their party can somehow be solved by delaying decisions, they are deluded.

“The only compromise that will get the UK out of this mess is to give the public a People’s Vote, with the option to remain in the EU.”


Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said he had voted against the Prime Minister’s deal, but would now support the Brady amendment.

He said: “I do believe it is necessary for us now to send the Prime Minister back with a fair wind and a sense that this House has agreed that they want her to go and renegotiate (in Brussels).

“I wish her well and I therefore am voting tonight to support that amendment because I think it will be for me the greatest expression of my goodwill for a Prime Minister, that, not withstanding sometimes our disagreements, I have the greatest respect for.”


In Dublin, Irish leader Leo Varadkar said he would speak to Mrs May to see “what the next steps are” after tonight’s votes in the Commons.

During Leaders Questions in the Irish parliament he was quizzed about a nursing strike scheduled for Wednesday and demands for pay increases. He cited uncertainties posed by Brexit and the need to be fair to Irish taxpayers.

“We could find ourselves in 10 or 12 weeks’ time needing to find a lot of money to save people’s jobs.”


Tory Father of the House Ken Clarke described Brexit as an almost “unique political crisis” with MPs facing a constitutional crisis about the credibility of Government and Parliament in its ability to resolve such matters.

He said: “I think we ought to be aware that the public at the moment are looking upon our political system with something rather near to contempt.”

He added: “I did take some encouragement from the Prime Minister who did seem to be accepting that the Government should give opportunities for the House to debate matters which it regards as key matters of policy and the Government has got to pay regard under our constitution to the views actually expressed by this House.”


Here are highlights from Mrs May in the Commons earlier:


(PA Graphics)


Concluding, Mr Corbyn said: “This is a Government in denial, split from top to bottom and incapable of united themselves, let alone the country. They are in denial about the majority view of this House that I believe exists to rule out no deal and to get a workable deal that includes a customs union.

“That’s why Labour will tonight back amendments that give this House the opportunity to recognise the reality that this Government has so far failed to do.

“This Government’s shambolic handling of Brexit negotiations is fast becoming a crisis. It’s worrying to businesses, it’s worrying to people in work about their own future and everyone who’s worried is worried because they have no leadership on this process from their Government.

“They spent most of the last two years arguing amongst themselves, rather than negotiating with the EU and still they are arguing among themselves and failing to come up with a workable solution. Tonight I hope this House does its job and leads where this Government has failed.”

A man holds a ‘Stop Brexit’ sign aboard a campaign bus (Stefan Rousseau/PA)


Mr Corbyn’s speech was dogged by a row over his failure to take interventions from MPs, including from his Labour colleague Angela Smith.

Eventually he relented and allowed Michael Gove to interrupt him and speak from the despatch box, who then asked why the Labour leader was “scared” to allow Ms Smith, who represents Penistone and Stockbridge, to come in on what he was saying.

Mr Corbyn ignored the question, instead mockingly thanking the Environment Secretary for his “brief statement of his leadership intentions”.

Commons Speaker John Bercow was forced to intervene several times, accusing the Conservative benches of an “orchestrated attempt” to try and “shout down the Leader of the Opposition”.

It led to veteran MP Frank Field to suggest that the debate was “damaging to our standing with the nation”, and that it should be shut down and MPs moved straight on to the voting, an idea Mr Bercow rejected.


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn opened his response by telling MPs: “It’s quite clear to me that the first duty we have is to block a disastrous no deal and I hope amendments to that effect will indeed be carried by the House later this evening.

“Labour’s amendment… starts by calling for sufficient time for Parliament to vote on options that prevent leaving with no-deal.

“But whatever happens in the votes that follow, it has now become inevitable that the Government will have to extend Article 50 in any scenario.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn making his response (PA)

“If amendments intended to rule out no deal are defeated and if this Government is serious about keeping the threat of no deal on the table, then it’s not even close to being prepared and the exit date would have to be extended.

“Even if the Prime Minister’s deal was to somehow achieve a majority in this House next month, there is no chance that the necessary legislation – primary legislation and an extensive category of second legislation, I believe there are over 600 statutory instruments – could clear this place between now and March 29.”


Mrs May concluded by saying: “What matters today is that Parliament makes it clear to the EU that this issue of the backstop is the one that needs to be dealt with. This is Parliament’s opportunity to respond to the EU, who have said that they want us to tell (them) what we want and this is our opportunity to tell them.

“This is not the second meaningful vote. As I’ve said, and repeated, we will bring a revised deal back to this House for just such a vote as soon as possible. But a vote for this amendment is a vote to tell Brussels that the current nature of the backstop is the key reason the House cannot support this deal.”

She added: “A vote against this amendment does the opposite, it tells the EU that despite what people may have said in speeches, Tweets and newspaper columns, the backstop is not the problem and it risks sending a message that we are not serious about delivering a Brexit that works for Britain.”


Meanwhile in Dublin, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland would go from running a budget surplus to a deficit if there is a no-deal Brexit.

He added: “A no-deal Brexit will cause the economy to slow down sharply but not producing a return to recession.”

He told the Irish parliament the country was in a good position to meet the challenge posed by the Britain’s withdrawal and would be able to afford to borrow if necessary.

The Taoiseach reiterated there were no plans for infrastructure on the Irish border.

He said officials were working on an agreement surrounding the Common Travel Area (CTA) with their British counterparts.



From Belfast Telegraph