Theresa May insisted she understood Britain’s demand to get Brexit done today as she croaked through PMQs with a blast at Jeremy Corbyn for refusing to help pass her deal.
Hours after she was humiliated by a second drubbing at the hands of MPs, Mrs May returned to the Despatch Box to insist: ‘I want to leave the EU with a good deal – I believe we have a good deal.’
The Prime Minister is fighting for her political life after being humiliated by a crushing Commons defeat last night which saw her on the ‘last chance’ Brexit deal voted down by 391 to 242.
As she confronted MPs for the first time since the fresh humiliation she made light of her own inability to speak blasted at Mr Corbyn: ‘I may not have my own voice but I understand the voice of the country.’
Mrs May repeateldy told MPs that the only way to take no deal off the table for good was to either cancel Brexit altogether or ultimately back her deal.
But after she handed control to Parliament Tory MPs are scrambling to back an alternative plan – backed by 15 rebellious ministers.
Brexiteers have joined forces with Remain Tories to say Mrs May should offer to ‘buy’ a transition period after March 29 in return for the divorce bill as an alternative to No Deal. The plan is known as the ‘Malthouse Compromise’.
Mrs May has promised a free vote tonight on her motion that says there should not be a no deal Brexit on March 29 – but that the option must stay on the table. The PM herself will vote against a No Deal tonight.
She is ordering MPs to vote against most amendments but relented today over the Malthouse effort to unite the warring Tory party.
EU negotiator Michel Barnier already dismissed the plan this morning in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg – prompting Remain MPs to say it is a defacto vote for crashing out on March 29.
The other main amendment in tonight’s votes is to rule out no deal Brext in all circumstances – something Remain ministers may want to back.
Theresa May insisted she understood Britain’s demand to get Brexit done today as she croaked through PMQs (pictured) with a blast at Jeremy Corbyn for refusing to help pass her deal
Brexiteers (including Steve Baker left) have joined forces with Remain Tories (from second left Nicky Morgan, Damian Green and Simon Hart) to say Mrs May should offer to ‘buy’ a transition period after March 29 in return for the divorce bill as an alternative to No Deal
EU negotiator Michel Barnier already dismissed the plan this morning in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg (pictured)
What is the ‘Malthouse Compromise’
How did the plan come about?
Housing minister Kit Malthouse brought Remain and Leave-supporting Tories together in a bid to break the Brexit impasse – concocting the plan which now bears his name.
What does the ‘Malthouse Compromise’ propose?
The plan contains two choices to be offered to the EU: one for how the UK will leave with a deal, and one for how it will leave without.
Plan A is similar to the current Withdrawal Agreement, but with changes to the Irish backstop and the implementation period.
Plan B assumes that agreement on the Withdrawal Agreement is not possible and creates a ‘transitional standstill period’.
How is plan A different to the current deal on offer?
The bare bones of the Withdrawal Agreement remain the same, but the implementation period would be extended until no later than December 2021. The aim of this is to provide a longer period to agree the future relationship, but it could also involve paying more money to the EU. The second major difference is to the controversial backstop, which would be changed to become a ‘basic free trade agreement’. It would not require new technology and relies on existing administrative processes.
Is plan B different to a no-deal Brexit?
Yes – as Britain would remain in a transition period even if a Withdrawal Agreement had not been signed. The UK would become a third country, in practice, but would offer to pay the EU in exchange for retaining the implementation period until no later than December 2021. Plan A would remain on offer as long as the EU was willing to consider it.
How much would the UK have to pay?
Under plan B, Britain would offer around £10 billion per year in exchange for the implementation period to continue.
When would Britain leave the EU under the plan?
Brexit would still occur on March 29 under both plans, but the major difference is that the UK could stay in a transition period until December 2021 under both.
Despite Mr Barnier’s stance Eurosceptic ministers have demanded the right to vote for the plan anyway in the hope of uniting the Tories and forcing concessions from Brussels.
One minister told the
‘We’ve been loyal and look where it’s got us.’
The delegation of 15 ministers is meeting Mrs May at 4.30pm and one warned: ‘We will all go. It would be the end of her.’
Senior Brexiteer Steve Baker, a key figure in the hardline European Research Group, said the new version of the Malthouse Compromise would ‘throw three safety nets’ around leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement on March 29.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that plan A remained putting ‘alternative arrangements’ in place to replace the backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement that was defeated last night.
The second element was to ‘buy’ an implementation period ‘so they get about £10 billion a year and we all get a transition arrangement’.
The third was offering ‘standstill’ arrangements with the EU to provide a third way to have a smooth exit.
The EU’s Michel Barnier has repeatedly stressed that a transition arrangement could only be offered if there was a formal Withdrawal Agreement, but Mr Baker said ‘negotiability is a dynamic concept’.
He repeated today there will be no further offer from Brussels apart from the deal already on the table, and it is now ‘the responsibility of the UK’ to suggest a way forward.
He told the European Parliament: ‘What will their choice be, what will be the line they will take? That is the question we need a clear answer to now.
‘That is the question that has to be answered before a decision on a possible further extension
‘Why would we extend these discussions? The discussion on Article 50 is done and dusted. We have the Withdrawal Agreement. It is there.
‘That is the question asked and we are waiting for an answer to that.
Mr Barnier added: ‘The risk of no-deal has never been higher. That is the risk of an exit – even by accident – by the UK from the EU in a disorderly fashion.’
Brexiteer ringleader Jacob Rees-Mogg has also backed the so-called Malthouse amendment ahead of tonight’s no deal votes
In other developments today, Brexiteers today insisted that a No Deal Brexit would be ‘good news’ for Britain despite ministers revealing alarming new tariffs that would be charged on products imported from the EU.
The ‘sledgehammer’ tariffs threatened on EU products if there is a No Deal Brexit
Proposed tariff rates on a range of food products were announced as a proportion of the so-called ‘most favoured nation’ (MFN) currently imposed by the EU on imports from countries which do not have a free trade agreement.
Lamb/mutton: 100% of MFN
Beef 53% of MFN
Poultry 60% of MFN
Pork 13% of MFN
Butter 32% of MFN
Cheddar-like cheese 13% of MFN
Protected fish and seafood products 100% of MFN
Milled and semi-milled products (83%).
Finished buses: 12.6%
Finished cars and trucks: 10.6%
Transport equipment: 2.9%
Textiles and textile products: 0.9%
Stone and cement: 0.3%
Leather and hides: 0.2%
Mineral products: 0.2%
Chemical products: 0.1%
Plastics and rubber: 0.1%
The new import taxes will be imposed on items from the continent including cars, meat and cheese if the UK crashes out of the bloc on March 29 – but will not apply in Northern Ireland.
But excited members of the Tory ERG group led by Jacob Rees-Mogg were quick to point out that the arrangements would ensure nine out of ten global imports would land in Britain completely tax-free without an EU deal.
Tory Brexiteer and ERG chairman Steve Baker said today: ‘No Deal is nothing to be scared of – it’s just Brexit with many mini-deals’ while ERG spokesman Sir Bill Cash, who is also Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, said these tariffs will help the British public ‘enormously’ making ‘imports much cheaper’ from non-EU countries.
At the moment products from EU countries such as Germany and France can be imported into Britain without any charges under the single market, but if Britain leaves without a deal the Government will have to introduce new import taxes.
However in a seemingly confusing loophole in No Deal plan, Northern Ireland’s border would remain open at least ‘temporarily’ and goods entering from the Republic would not face tariffs to preserve the Good Friday agreement.
The situation will raise fears that the Northern Irish border could become a smuggling route for EU products.
Under the No Deal plan revealed this morning, 87 per cent of products would be subject to zero tariffs in an effort to stop price spikes and kick-start trade with Britain from across the world. The current figure is 80 per cent.
Critics have said that a No Deal would be a ‘disaster’ for Britain who would be ‘blocked’ from trading with its closest trading partner – the EU.
CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said today: ‘This tells us everything that is wrong with a no-deal.
‘What we are hearing is the biggest change in terms of trade this country has faced since the mid-19th century being imposed on this country with no consultation with business, no time to prepare.
‘This is a sledgehammer for our economy.’
Labour’s opposition – and the deal’s rejection by 75 Brexiteer Tory rebels alongside the DUP – sunk Mrs May’s motion last night with Boris Johnson saying Mrs May should put her deal to bed
The new tariff regime would be applied temporarily in an attempt to minimise disruption to the economy and stop price hikes.
But ministers said products from the EU including beef, pork, chicken, butter, cheese and fish would also be subject to import taxes expected to push up prices in the supermarkets from March 29 if there is no agreement.
Cars from the EU would be subject to a a 10.6 per tax on the cost of all ‘fully finished’ vehicles – making the prices of an average vehicle surge by £1,500.
After the decisive defeat of Theresa May’s Brexit deal last night, she has given MPs a free vote at 7pm tonight on whether they want to leave the EU without a deal. She has indicated that she will vote against leaving without a deal.
Among the 13 per cent of imports – most from the EU – which will be subject to tariffs, will be:
- Beef, lamb, pork and poultry and some dairy products including butter and cheese – in order to protect UK farmers and producers from cheap imports;
- A number of tariffs on finished new cars, vans, lorries and buses imported from the EU – but charges will not apply to vehicle parts imported from the EU to prevent disruption to supply chains;
- Ceramics, fertiliser and fuel, where tariffs protect UK producers against unfair practices like dumping and state subsidies;
- Goods including bananas, raw cane sugar and certain kinds of fish, where tariffs are used to permit preferential access to the UK market for developing countries.
On the new tariff regime, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told Today it was a ‘modest liberalisation’ of trade, adding: ‘This is for a short term while we engage with business and see what the real-term consequences are’.
But British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson hit back: ‘Even as the Brexit clock approaches midnight, MPs continue to squabble.
‘Yet it is the public who will feel the impact of a No Deal Brexit – tariffs, non-tariff barriers and currency depreciation will all push up costs and reduce the choice on the shelves we currently enjoy.
‘Businesses are exasperated by the lack of clarity over their future trading arrangements’.
Which amendments have been tabled to tonight’s No Deal vote
The Prime Minister has promised a free vote tonight on her motion that says there should not be a no deal Brexit on March 29 – but that the option must stay on the table.
She wants to whip Tory MPs to oppose any amendments to the plan, of which there are currently two main options among a raft of options:
– No no-deal ever
Tabled by Midlands MPs Caroline Spelman and Jack Dromey and backed by senior figures from all sides of the Commons including Sir Oliver Letwin, Hilary Benn, Nick Boles and Yvette Cooper, as well as all 11 members of the new Independent Group, this amendment simply rejects a no-deal Brexit at any time and under any circumstances.
– Malthouse Compromise offers the transition period in return for the divorce bill
Tabled by a group of Conservative MPs drawn from both Leave and Remain wings of the party, this amendment calls for a delay to Brexit day from March 29 to May 22 to give time for preparations to leave without a deal. It says the Government should then offer a ‘standstill’ agreement with the EU and its member states, lasting up to the end of 2021 at the latest, during which the UK would pay into EU budgets and observe legal obligations while a permanent relationship is negotiated.
– Revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit
Tabled by the Scottish National Party’s Angus MacNeil and backed by europhile MPs including Tory grandee Kenneth Clarke, Labour’s Keith Vaz and Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts, this amendment calls on the Government to halt Brexit by revoking its notice of intention to leave under Article 50 of the EU treaties.
– Plaid Cymru extend Article 50 to 2021 and have a second referendum
Tabled by the Welsh nationalist party’s four MPs, this would require the Government to extend Article 50 negotiations to 2021 and hold a referendum at the end of that period on leaving with a deal or remaining in the EU.
– Independent Group rule out no deal and hold a second referendum
Backed by all 11 former Labour and Tory MPs who defected to form The Independent Group, this would rule out no-deal under any circumstances and state the the Commons has the power to instruct the Prime Minister to request an extension of negotiations, revoke Article 50 or hold a second referendum. A second Independent Group amendment simply rules out leaving without a Withdrawal Agreement or future relationship framework.