Brexiteer fury as Corbyn reveals his shopping list for soft Brexit deal with May

Jeremy Corbyn demanded ‘a customs union with the European Union’ in his face-to-face Brexit showdown with Theresa May today, he said after a meeting that has threatened to tear apart the Conservative Party.

The hard Left Labour leader emerged from his first meeting with the Prime Minister to pronounce it ‘useful but inconclusive’, and complained that there ‘hasn’t been as much change as I expected’.

The opposition leader confirmed that he raised the idea of a second referendum and that technical talks on finding an end to the Brexit impasse would continue on Thursday morning.

As well as a customs union he said they had discussed ‘dynamic regulatory alignment’ with the trade block that would see Britain retain minimum standards on ‘the environment as well as consumer and employment rights’. 

It came late on a day which saw two two Tory ministers resign in disgust, with MPs demanding a new secret ballot on Theresa May’s leadership today after she chose to hatch a Brexit deal with Jeremy Corbyn rather than leave the EU with No Deal on April 12.

The Prime Minister has enraged her party by abandoning hopes of persuading hardline Brexiteers and the DUP to back her deal and instead offering talks with the Labour leader on delivering a softer Brexit.

Mrs May and Mr Corbyn were locked in talks for around two hours this afternoon amid fevered speculation they could agree on a customs union plan that would end hopes of post-Brexit trade deals. Mr Corbyn left saying the talks went ‘well’ and Labour said there was an agreement to hold more talks.

Downing Street said the meeting was ‘constructive’. Aides will meet further later before intensive negotiations tomorrow.

Since the meeting was called dozens of irate grassroots Tory members have been cutting up their memberships in protest and posting pictures of their destroyed cards on social media.

Today Mrs May was bombarded with hostile questions from her own side at Prime Minister’s Questions and as she met with the Labour leader this afternoon junior Brexit minister Chris Heaton-Harris, who was tasked with planning for No Deal, resigned.

The Daventry MP said: ‘You don’t want to quit the EU without a deal, and that makes my job irrelevant’.

Tonight Mrs May said he had done ‘crucial work’ to prepare the country for No Deal and thanked Mr Heaton-Harris for his service. 

This morning Nigel Adams, the junior Wales Office minister, became the first to quit over the concessions to Mr Corbyn and told Mrs May: ‘It now seems that you have decided a deal – cooked up by a Marxist who has never put British interests first – is better than No Deal’.

Ahead of a meeting of the 1922 Committee at 5pm, Tory MPs are understood to be bombarding chairman Sir Graham Brady with demands for a new secret ballot on her leadership despite party rules protecting her from an official challenge until December. 

Theresa May suffered attack-after-attack in the Commons today for choosing to reach out to Jeremy Corbyn to help deliver Brexit

Theresa May suffered attack-after-attack in the Commons today for choosing to reach out to Jeremy Corbyn to help deliver Brexit

Theresa May suffered attack-after-attack in the Commons today for choosing to reach out to Jeremy Corbyn to help deliver Brexit

Sir Graham called a formal vote of no confidence in Mrs May’s leadership in December, which Mrs May won – a victory which should have protected her for 12 months.

But there are fast moving demands for new action this afternoon, MailOnline has been told by a source close to the committee. Despite party rules, the committee could act if demands from MPs continue to mount.

How can Tory MPs oust Theresa May?

Westminster is rife with rumours Tory MPs are so angry with Theresa May’s Brexit pivot they want a new vote to remove her.

The Prime Minister fought and won a vote of no confidence in her party leadership in December – meaning she cannot be forced out by party rules.

But demands are mounting this afternoon for the party’s backbench 1922 Committee to call another vote anyway.

The theory is a new secret ballot would allow ministers to join a revolt and produce a landslide vote against Mrs May’s leadership. 

Success would be yet another political humiliation piled onto the ailing Prime Minister.

But she has already suffered more indignities than any leader in living memory and carried on regardless – so the plotters cannot be sure it would work.  

A senior MP said Tories could also go on a ‘vote strike’ if Mrs May refuses to stand aside immediately – making it impossible for the Government to pass any business in the Commons.

One member of the Government told MailOnline anger across the party was ‘unfocused’ and many MPs were waiting for senior members of the party to intervene.

Mrs May met Mr Corbyn in her Parliament office at 2.30pm, followed by SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at 4.15pm and Labour’s Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford at 5pm.

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘Today’s talks were constructive, with both sides showing flexibility and a commitment to bring the current Brexit uncertainty to a close.

‘We have agreed a programme of work to ensure we deliver for the British people, protecting jobs and security.’

A Labour spokeswoman: ‘We have had constructive exploratory discussions about how to break the Brexit deadlock.

‘We have agreed a programme of work between our teams to explore the scope for agreement.’

Her official spokesman said the ‘objective is to try and work towards a resolution we can jointly bring to the House for approval’ while Mr Corbyn’s spokesman said: ‘A few insults here and there are not going to dim Jeremy’s commitment to find a way forward on Brexit’.

Before the talks, Mrs May came face-to-face with the Labour leader in the Commons this afternoon – but both swerved the subject during their cordial exchange at Prime Minister’s Questions ahead of their 2.30pm talks.

But Tory-after-Tory then hammered the Prime Minister in a series of stinging attacks with Brexiteer Caroline Johnson asking her party leader how the risk to Britain of No Deal compared to the risk of a ‘Marxist, anti-Semite-led government’.

Conservative Julian Lewis demanded to know why a PM who repeatedly said No Deal was better than a bad deal would rather speak to Labour than leave on April 12. 

And Eurosceptic backbencher Lee Rowley told Mrs May that just a week ago she said Mr Corbyn was the biggest threat to the UK and asked her: ‘What qualifies him to be involved in Brexit?’.

Each time the PM insisted she had a good deal and said she and Mr Corbyn both want to deliver on Brexit.  

Earlier Iain Duncan Smith, who urged MPs to back her deal, said: ‘I’m absolutely appalled.

‘I would simply counsel my government and party and Prime Minister to stop. Think very carefully what you are doing if you give legitimacy to a man who, I think, is genuinely not fit to run Brtain and will do it damage.’

This morning Mrs May hit back at critics with a letter to all Tory MPs saying ‘this impasse cannot go on’, and declaring: ‘With some colleagues unwilling to support the Government, this is the only way to deliver the smooth, orderly Brexit that we promised.’

She pointed the finger at Tory Brexiteers, remainer rebels and the DUP saying her deal will not pass without Labour support because ‘having tried three times, it is clear that is is unlikely to happen’.   

Her olive branch to Jeremy Corbyn has led to its first ministerial resignation and a Tory civil war with irate Brexiteers including Jacob Rees-Mogg accusing her of making the Labour leader deputy Prime Minister. 

Theresa May has written to Tory MPs and said they left her with no option but to negotiate with Jeremy Corbyn after they voted her deal down three times

Theresa May has written to Tory MPs and said they left her with no option but to negotiate with Jeremy Corbyn after they voted her deal down three times

Hours later junior Brexit minister Chris Heaton-Harris, who was tasked with planning for No Deal, resigned saying her decision to rule it out made his job 'irrelevant'

Hours later junior Brexit minister Chris Heaton-Harris, who was tasked with planning for No Deal, resigned saying her decision to rule it out made his job 'irrelevant'

Theresa May has written to Tory MPs and said they left her with no option but to negotiate with Jeremy Corbyn after they voted her deal down three times. Hours later junior Brexit minister Chris Heaton-Harris, who was tasked with planning for No Deal, resigned saying her decision to rule it out made his job ‘irrelevant’

Members of the Conservative Eurosceptic ERG group have openly admitted they are plotting to throw Mrs May out of No 10 because she has asked Mr Corbyn to help rescue her EU divorce.  

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT WITH BREXIT?

TODAY: MPS TRY TO STOP NO DEAL AND TALKS WITH CORBYN 

MPs will try to stop No Deal by passing a law compelling May to ask for a delay to Brexit.  The MPs led by Oliver Letwin and Yvetter Cooper will try to ram the legislation through the Commons tomorrow – with the help of Speaker John Bercow. Bercow has already been accused of being a Remain sympathiser who is helpful to Remain causes but less so to Brexiteers.

Meanwhile, Theresa May is holding talks with Jeremy Corbyn about the possibility of a new cross-party consensus on Brexit.

She will also meet with SNP Leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon 

THURSDAY: CROSS PARTY TALKS CONTINUE?  

Mrs May needs to know what shape her new Brexit plan might look like. Talks with Labour and other parties must conclude.

There will probably be a need to agree some kind of motion to put to MPs on Friday so Mrs May can show the EU she finally has an agreement at home.

FRIDAY: DECISION TIME

Time is running desperately short for May to decide an alternative before the EU summit on 10 April. The government must brief EU governments on what to expect so preparations for the summit can be made.

WEDNESDAY APRIL 10: EU SUMMIT

Another summit with EU leaders – where May will ask for a new delay beyond April 12. 

May’s new plan is to strike a cross-party consensus in London and persuade EU leaders it means the deal can be delivered in time for Brexit on May 22.

She may have to accept a longer extension that means holding EU elections, as Brussels has made clear this is a red line – and will take a decision on delay without Britain and it must be unanimous. 

EU officials including Michel Barnier have warned that the risk of an accidental No Deal is increasing if May arrives with no plan.

FRIDAY APRIL 12: BREXIT DAY

Britain is due to leave the EU without a deal on this date if no delay is agreed. 

 

This morning junior Welsh minister Nigel Adams quit in disgust saying the PM had made a ‘grave error’ by ‘legitimising and turning to’ Jeremy Corbyn, telling her in his resignation letter: ‘It now seems that you have decided a deal – cooked up by a Marxist who has never put British interests first – is better than No Deal’. 

At PMQs Mrs May said she was ‘sorry’ Mr Adams had resigned. 

The Prime Minister will meet the Labour leader today and reportedly plans to hammer out a deal by Friday night to avoid a long Brexit delay and dodge European elections. She will take the plan to an EU summit next Wednesday and try to get the bloc’s 27 leaders to agree. 

At Prime Minister’s Questions today Mr Corbyn welcomed Mrs May’s ‘willingness to compromise to resolve the Brexit deadlock’ but chose to grill her on benefits cuts and the TV Licence rather than leaving the EU.

His shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has suggested that Labour’s price for backing the PM’s deal will be a customs union with the EU not a second referendum.

But Mr Corbyn will demand anything they agree will be put into law to avoid the Tories wriggling out of it when Mrs May quits, according to the Evening Standard. 

At PMQs Tory MP Caroline Johnson asked Mrs May: ‘If it comes to the point when we have to balance the risk of a no-deal Brexit versus the risk of letting down the country and ushering in a Marxist, anti-Semite led government, what does she think, at that point, is the lowest risk?’

Mrs May responded: ‘What I want to see is that we are able to deliver for her constituents and others across the country, and that we deliver Brexit and do it as soon as possible. In delivering Brexit, we need to make sure we are delivering on the result of the referendum.’ 

But Mrs May’s truce with Mr Corbyn briefly ended when Former Brexit minister David Jones asked: ‘Does it remain the position of the Prime Minister that the leader of the opposition is not fit to govern?’

The PM said: ‘I do not think the Labour Party should be in Government. It is the Conservatives that are delivering for people, and the leader of the opposition and I have different opinions on a number of issues.’

She pointed to the Salisbury terror attack, saying that ‘this Government stood up against the perpetrators of that attack’ while Mr Corbyn ‘said he preferred to believe Vladimir Putin than our own security agencies’.

Earlier Jacob Rees-Mogg accused Mrs May of planning to collaborate with ‘a known Marxist’  – but ruled out toppling her saying: ‘I have more confidence in Theresa May than in Jeremy Corbyn, though that’s not necessarily a very high bar, and Mr Corbyn – even as deputy – is still not the prime minister’.

He added: ‘Both Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May backed Remain. And the views of the 52 per cent who voted to leave the European Union are not being represented in this attempt at a coalition’.

Jeremy Corbyn WON’T ask May for a second referendum

Jeremy Corbyn will not demand a second referendum and will agree to end freedom of movement from the EU in Brexit talks with the Prime Minister, his official spokesman revealed today.

The Labour leader is expected to ask for a customs union with the EU as his price to support the PM’s deal.

Mr Corbyn is under huge pressure to demand second referendum to support Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement after she begged him for help to get it through the Commons.

But ahead of their first meeting today the party said he will not demand a new public vote on leaving the EU.

His official spokesman said Mr Corbyn only backs a referendum ‘to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit or a No Deal outcome’ – which will be out of the picture if he agrees to a cross-party Brexit deal.

And confirming that he will not demand a major change to Mrs May’s immigration police the spokesman added: ‘Freedom of movement ends when we leave the EU and we will replace it with fair management of migration’. 

Before meeting the PM he met with SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon who said afterwards she would be ‘surprised and very disappointed if Labour sold out’ for the ‘bad deal’ likely to be available from Theresa May.

It came as his Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, who is attended the May/Corbyn summit, also ruled out a second referendum. 

She said: ‘If we get exactly what we want – a good strong deal, then I would struggle to find a reason to put that to a public vote.’

Fellow Brexiteer Priti Patel tweeted: ‘A man who sides with terrorists and socialist dictators, would surrender our nuclear deterrent, has let anti-Semitism run rife in his Party and would bankrupt Britain has now been given the keys to Brexit’ while fellow rebel Andrew Bridgen said: ‘For the good of our country, our democracy, and the Conservative Party, she needs to go now’.

Mrs May sparked rebellion in her party after she used a humbling TV address following a seven-hour cabinet meeting to ask Mr Corbyn to help her ‘break the logjam’, offering him the chance of a customs union or a second referendum.

But Labour MPs have already warned him it is a ‘trap’ to leave him with ‘blood on his hands’ if Britain now leaves the EU with a softer deal or not at all. Labour’s price for backing Theresa May‘s deal will be a customs union with the not a second referendum, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey suggested today.

Tory infighting increased today Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said Mrs May’s offer of talks with Mr Corbyn was based on ‘remorseless logic’ because the ERG and other Tory MPs had abandoned her.

He said: ‘The Prime Minister’s deal won’t go through and No Deal in law is taken off the table, then the consequence of that is either a soft Brexit or no Brexit at all.  The alternative is to have to seek votes from the opposition benches because 35 of my own colleagues would not support the Prime Minister’s deal’.

Tory Brexiteer MP Andrea Jenkyns, who has voted against the PM’s deal three times, said she is pondering whether she would back the Prime Minister if a confidence vote is called by Labour if Brexit talks collapse.

She said: ‘Would I vote against her in a no confidence, that takes a lot of thinking about’ and added: ‘I know that if the Withdrawal Agreement comes back I will still vote against it’.   

Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured today) is deeply unhappy with Mrs May’s compromise and said Jeremy Corbyn is now deputy Prime Minister

Geoffrey Cox accused of ‘mansplaining’ Brexit – the Brexiteer Spartans were denounced as ‘nutters’: How May’s warring Cabinet split 

A minister called hardline Tory Brexiteers ‘nutters’ and ‘right-wing extremists’ while Attorney General Geoffrey Cox was slapped down for ‘mansplaining’ leaving the EU to a female colleague in Theresa May’s extraordinary seven-hour crisis cabinet meeting.

At the Cabinet summit, up to 14 ministers – Gavin Williamson, Liam Fox, Liz Truss, Sajid Javid, Chris Grayling, Jeremy Wright, Andrea Leadsom, Jeremy Hunt, James Brokenshire, Baroness Evans, Stephen Barclay, Alun Cairns and Brandon Lewis – spoke out against a long delay.  

Nine ministers – David Gauke, Philip Hammond, Greg Clark, David Lidington, Damian Hinds, Claire Perry, Michael Gove, Amber Rudd and Geoffrey Cox – backed a further delay.  Matt Hancock argued against No Deal but called for a short extension.   

Several sources described a clash between energy minister Claire Perry and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox after she ‘went on a rant about Right-wing extremists’ and ‘nutters’ in the Conservative Party.

A source said: ‘Geoffrey Cox boomed ‘enough of the language, that is not the way to speak’. The Prime Minister had to step in and say ‘enough’.’ Mr Cox told Ms Perry to ‘tone it down’ but was accused of ‘mansplaining’.  

Who was on which side of the Cabinet divide? 

Against a long extension (14):

  • Gavin Williamson
  • Penny Mordaunt 
  • Liam Fox
  • Liz Truss
  • Sajid Javid
  • Chris Grayling
  • Jeremy Wright
  • Andrea Leadsom
  • Jeremy Hunt 
  • James Brokenshire
  • Baroness Evans
  • Stephen Barclay
  • Alun Cairns 
  • Brandon Lewis

Against No Deal, but for short extension (one)

  • Matt Hancock 

For a long extension (9):

  • David Gauke
  • Philip Hammond
  • Greg Clark
  • David Lidington
  • Damian Hinds
  • Claire Perry
  • Michael Gove
  • Amber Rudd
  • Geoffrey Cox  

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said while the Labour leader posed a ‘threat’ to the UK he could work with him on Brexit.

Surrender your sausages! The EU will force British holidaymakers to hand over home comforts like pasties, cheese and ham if they try to take them to Europe after a No Deal Brexit 

Cornish pasties could be among foods holidaymakers could be barred from taking to the continent under disease control rules if there is a No Deal Brexit

Cornish pasties could be among foods holidaymakers could be barred from taking to the continent under disease control rules if there is a No Deal Brexit

Cornish pasties could be among foods holidaymakers could be barred from taking to the continent under disease control rules if there is a No Deal Brexit

British holidaymakers could be forced to become smugglers if there is a No Deal Brexit because EU rules will block them from travelling with home comforts like Cornish pasties and pork pies.

Ham, sausages and cheese are among products that could be barred from being taken to the continent if the UK leaves without a deal under hardcore disease control rules.

It came as a senior European Commissioner warned that luggage checks would come into force at all EU borders points immediately if the UK left without a deal at any time.

If the rules were heavily policed it could mean travellers either leaving their beloved comfort snacks behind or find a way of smuggling them past border guards.

‘You will have to pick and choose what you are bringing from the UK. Any animal based product you will not want to put into your luggage. No import of any ham, sausage or other delicacies. That’s the end of that,’ a Brussels official told the Telegraph.

‘The reason for this is you can bring serious diseases into the EU by bringing these products in.’

Currently free movement rules mean that British tourists can travel with whatever food and drink they want.

But under a no-deal departure it would immediately become what is known as a ‘third country’ subject to completely different rules.

Any animal products including meat, gelatine, milk and honey would be subject to stringent rules designed to halt the spread of diseases across the EU.

He admitted that a customs union and a second referendum were on the table but said the talks are not a ‘blank cheque. 

He said: ‘I still think Jeremy Corbyn is a threat to our economy, I think he is someone who poses a serious risk in terms of his economic policy.

‘But his manifesto on Brexit said he wanted to respect the votes of many of his own voters in Labour leave constituencies who voted to leave.

‘So we need to test that because the numbers of the House of Commons dictate that that’s the only way at present we can find a way forward.’

Mr Barclay added that Mr Corbyn had initially refused to meet the Prime Minister and also refused to attend a meeting because former Labour MP Chuka Umunna was there.

Speaking outside her home this morning, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: ‘The only way to leave is with the Withdrawal Agreement. The Prime Minister is trying to get it through on Conservative votes and has not been able to, she’s now trying to do it with Labour votes.

‘I would say to colleagues who want a truer Brexit, I still hope we can do this with Conservative and DUP votes.

‘But above all else, the public are fed-up of the limbo and business needs certainty.’  

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he backed the talks with Labour because he wants to leave the EU.

He told BBC Two’s Newsnight: ‘One of my concerns has been that there are people within the House of Commons who want to frustrate that referendum mandate – there are people who want to do everything possible to prevent us leaving – and I wanted to ensure that minds are concentrated so that we do leave.’

Today MPs will start the process of changing the law to prevent No Deal on April 12, with a bill set to be put to the Commons this afternoon and the House of Lords tonight.

Remainer ringleader Sir Oliver Letwin welcomed Mrs May’s offer of talks with Jeremy Corbyn and said the Labour leader is ‘somebody we can do business with’ 

But showing the rift in the party Brexiteer Tory Marcus Fysh: ‘Oliver Letwin shows he does not have the first understanding that a customs union with the EU would not be frictionless, and that such would give EU complete control of our trading conditions. Not fit to be an MP, let alone one destroying our constitution’,

Theresa May appears to have ignored up to 14 cabinet ministers who backed No Deal if her deal dies and pivoted towards a soft Brexit.

More than a dozen senior Tories including Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox spoke out against a long delay to Brexit in a seven-hour ministerial marathon at Downing Street and are now on resignation watch.

The Prime Minister went with the minority – a group of 10 ministers including Amber Rudd and Michael Gove who backed a further delay – in a move which enraged Brexiteers and could trigger a Cabinet walkout as critics said she is ‘tearing the Tory party apart’. 

In an extraordinary intervention of the those remainers, Energy Minister Claire Perry, blasted a cabinet colleague ‘behaving reprehensibly’ for leaking the figures.

She tweeted: ‘There were only FOUR cabinet members who spoke explicitly in favour of no extension and No Deal’.

In a bombshell speech to the nation, Mrs May vowed to ‘break the logjam’ in Westminster by offering talks with Mr Corbyn – who favours a customs union – in a last-ditch bid to find a compromise, saying she would ask Brussels for more time to reach a deal. 

She faced a furious backlash from Brexiteers as Jacob Rees-Mogg declared she was working with a ‘known Marxist’ and said: ‘People did not vote for a Corbyn-May coalition government’. Boris Johnson accused her of betraying voters and the DUP said she was ‘sub-contracting the future of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn’. 

Mr Corbyn accepted the offer of talks but some Labour MPs voiced suspicions that the PM was trying to ‘dip Mr Corbyn’s hands in the mess’ of Brexit. 

Mrs May’s dramatic move reduces the chance of a No Deal exit on April 12, but leaves little time for a deal if Britain is to leave before May 22 and avoid voting in European Parliament elections. 

At the Cabinet summit, 14 ministers – Gavin Williamson, Liam Fox, Liz Truss, Sajid Javid, Chris Grayling, Jeremy Wright, Andrea Leadsom, Jeremy Hunt, James Brokenshire, Baroness Evans, Stephen Barclay, Alun Cairns and Brandon Lewis – spoke out against a long delay. 

But one source told the BBC that it was actually only four. 

Amid tense exchanges in Downing Street, Mr Williamson called it ‘completely ridiculous’ to seek help from a Labour leader he said was ‘unfit to govern’. 

On the other side, nine ministers – David Gauke, Philip Hammond, Greg Clark, David Lidington, Damian Hinds, Claire Perry, Michael Gove, Amber Rudd and Geoffrey Cox – backed a further delay. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock appears to have argued against No Deal but called for a short extension

Junior Welsh minister Nigel Adams quit saying in his resignation letter (pictured) the PM had made a 'grave error' by 'legitimising and turning to' Jeremy Corbyn

Junior Welsh minister Nigel Adams quit saying in his resignation letter (pictured) the PM had made a 'grave error' by 'legitimising and turning to' Jeremy Corbyn

Junior Welsh minister Nigel Adams quit saying in his resignation letter (pictured) the PM had made a 'grave error' by 'legitimising and turning to' Jeremy Corbyn

Junior Welsh minister Nigel Adams quit saying in his resignation letter (pictured) the PM had made a 'grave error' by 'legitimising and turning to' Jeremy Corbyn

Junior Welsh minister Nigel Adams quit saying in his resignation letter (pictured) the PM had made a ‘grave error’ by ‘legitimising and turning to’ Jeremy Corbyn

A general election was ‘discussed’ by the Cabinet yesterday morning but there was little enthusiasm and ministers ruled it out. 

Juncker throws May a lifeline as he says Britain CAN leave on May 22 and avoid EU elections if she passes the deal by April 12

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured today in Brussels) will spell out the bloc's position in a speech this afternoon amid rising frustration with Britain's political deadlock

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured today in Brussels) will spell out the bloc's position in a speech this afternoon amid rising frustration with Britain's political deadlock

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (pictured today in Brussels) will spell out the bloc’s position in a speech this afternoon amid rising frustration with Britain’s political deadlock

Jean-Claude Juncker threw Theresa May a lifeline today as he said Britain could still leave the EU on May 22 without holding EU elections if she passes the deal next week.

The EU Commission President said Mrs May’s new strategy would work if her decision to accept cross party talks and pivot to soft Brexit pays off.

The PM is meeting Jeremy Corbyn this afternoon in a desperate final scramble to get her battered divorce deal over the line.

If the two can agree a basis to renegotiate the political declaration on the final UK-EU relationship, Mrs May hopes to use it to pass her deal at the 11th hour. 

Mrs May is in a race against time to set out her demands for an extension at next week’s emergency EU summit. Whatever Mrs May asks for, EU leaders must agree unanimously on the terms – and she will not be in the room as they decide.

Mr Juncker’s intervention stands in contrast to a hardline response from EU leaders led by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Juncker told the Commission today: ‘If the UK is in a position of approving the Withdrawal deal with a viable majority by the 12th April then the… European Union would also accept an extension until the 22nd May.

‘The 12th April is the final date for possible approval. If the House of Commons does not adopt a stance before that date no short-term extension will be possible.’

But Mr Juncker also warned a no-deal Brexit on April 12 was becoming ‘more and more likely’.

‘The European Council has given all necessary time and space to the UK to take its decision. I believe a no-deal on the 12th April at midnight has become a scenario which looks more and more likely.

‘It’s not what I want but we have made sure that the EU is ready to face up to that situation. We’ve been preparing since December 2017. We’ve always known that the logic of Article 50 makes no-deal a default option’.

Ministers had their phones taken away to avoid leaks, were only allowed a sandwich and a stroll around the garden in a short break and were then locked inside Downing Street sipping Chilean red wine while Mrs May prepared her speech.  

In her statement the PM said it was a ‘decisive moment in the story of these islands’ and called for ‘national unity to deliver the national interest’ as she appealed to Mr Corbyn for a compromise. 

Mrs May said the current divorce deal with Brussels could not be changed but promised to renegotiate a new political deal on what Britain’s future relations with the EU might look like.  

She said: ‘Today I’m taking action to break the logjam. I’m offering to sit down with the leader of the opposition and try to agree a plan that we would both stick to to ensure we leave the EU and we do so with a deal.

‘Any plan would have to agree the current Withdrawal Agreement – it has already been negotiated with the 27 other members and the EU has repeatedly said it cannot and will not be re-opened.’

Mrs May said if she and Mr Corbyn could not agree a way forward she would present ‘a number of options for the future relationship that we could put to the house in a series of votes to determine which course to pursue’.

‘Crucially, the Government stands ready to abide by the decision of the House. But to make this process work the opposition would need to agree to this too,’ she added.  

Mrs May went on: ‘This debate, this division, cannot drag on much longer.

‘It is putting Members of Parliament and everyone else under immense pressure – and it is doing damage to our politics.

‘Despite the best efforts of MPs, the process that the House of Commons has tried to lead has not come up with an answer.’  

However Mrs May has promised to step down before the next phase of negotiations, which could complicate her attempts to reach a deal with Labour. 

The Tories have promised to leave the Single Market and Customs Union so they can end free movement of people and strike new trade deals after Brexit but Labour’s policy is to keep a customs union.  

Mrs May made clear she wanted to save the prospect of leaving on May 22 – despite the EU making clear the deal had to be agreed last week to lock in this date.

Failure to persuade the EU to agree that schedule would mean taking part in European Parliament elections next month, which the PM has repeatedly said she does not want.   

Donald Tusk hinted that the EU could approve a further Brexit delay after Theresa May once again asked for more time. 

The president of the European Council called for ‘patience’ as Mrs May seeks to agree a Brexit plan with Labour which can win Parliament’s backing.

Tusk said that ‘we don’t know what the end result will be’, with Britain’s future still uncertain just 10 days before a possible cliff-edge exit.  

The foreign ministers of Germany and France called for more clarity from London on Tuesday.

‘I’m tempted to say let us know if something changes,’ said France’s Jean-Yves Le Drian at a joint press conference the two held in New York. 

‘Three years after their decision, the British must come up with a clear line because otherwise, sadly, it’ll be a hard Brexit in coming days.’

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has today backed Mrs May's plan to concede to delay Brexit again and talk to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in order to try and break the deadlock

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has today backed Mrs May's plan to concede to delay Brexit again and talk to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in order to try and break the deadlock

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has today backed Mrs May’s plan to concede to delay Brexit again and talk to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in order to try and break the deadlock

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas declined to comment on the request for an extension but urged London to move swiftly: ‘That we’re long past five after midnight – they must know that in London, too. 

Finishing her statement, Mrs May said:  ‘This is a difficult time for everyone. Passions are running high on all sides of the argument.

‘But we can and must find the compromises that will deliver what the British people voted for. This is a decisive moment in the story of these islands. And it requires national unity to deliver the national interest.’

In response, Mr Corbyn said: ‘We will meet the Prime Minister. We recognise that she has made a move, I recognise my responsibility to represent the people that supported Labour in the last election and the people who didn’t support Labour but nevertheless want certainty and security for their own future and that’s the basis on which we will meet her and we will have those discussions.’ 

In a furious backlash Boris Johnson said the decision to hand control to Mr Corbyn meant the Cabinet had concluded ‘any deal is better than No Deal’.  

He said: ‘It is very disappointing that the cabinet has decided to entrust the final handling of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.

‘It now seems all too likely that British trade policy and key law making powers will be handed over to Brussels – with no say for the UK.    

‘As it is, we now face the ridiculous possibility of being forced to contest the European elections more than three years after leaving the EU and having to agree to exit terms that in no way resemble what the people were promised when they voted to leave.

‘The PM and cabinet have concluded that any deal is better than no deal, and this is truly a very bad deal indeed – one that leaves us being run by the EU. I can under no circumstances vote for a deal involving a customs union as I believe that does not deliver on the referendum.’ 

The PM’s DUP allies in Northern Ireland said: ‘The Prime Minister’s lamentable handling of the negotiations with the EU means she has failed to deliver a sensible Brexit deal that works for all parts of the United Kingdom. That is why she has not been able to get it through Parliament.

‘Her announcement therefore comes as little surprise. Though it remains to be seen if sub-contracting out the future of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn, someone whom the Conservatives have demonised for four years, will end happily.

‘We want the result of the referendum respected, and just as we joined the Common Market as one country we must leave the EU as one country.

‘We will continue to use our position within Parliament and with the Government to argue strongly the case for Northern Ireland and the integrity of the United Kingdom.

‘We remain consistent in judging all Brexit outcomes against our clear unionist principles.’ 

The Commons had failed to find a majority for any alternative Brexit plan in a series of indicative votes on Monday night.  

MPs rejected staying in the customs union or the single market, as well as holding a second referendum or cancelling Brexit altogether. 

Brexiteers blast ‘reprehensible’ plan to push laws to block No Deal through the Commons in a single day as John Bercow rules it IS allowed 

John Bercow (pictured yesterday in the Commons) ruled rebel MPs can try to push through laws to block No Deal in a single day despite Brexiteer fury at the 'reprehensible' plot

John Bercow (pictured yesterday in the Commons) ruled rebel MPs can try to push through laws to block No Deal in a single day despite Brexiteer fury at the 'reprehensible' plot

John Bercow (pictured yesterday in the Commons) ruled rebel MPs can try to push through laws to block No Deal in a single day despite Brexiteer fury at the ‘reprehensible’ plot

John Bercow ruled rebel MPs can try to push through laws to block No Deal in a single day despite Brexiteer fury at the ‘reprehensible’ plot.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper has published draft laws that would oblige the Government to seek a long deal to Brexit next week if there is not a deal by April 10. 

She wants to use Commons time grabbed by Tory rebel Oliver Letwin tomorrow to ram the law through the Commons in a matter of hours.

Veteran Brexiteer Sir Bill Cash complained the idea was ‘unconstitutional’ and urged the Commons Speaker to block it.

But Mr Bercow told him pushing through laws in a single day was ‘not particularly unusual’ in itself, pointing out the Government does so in an emergency.

The Speaker has repeatedly been accused of helping Remainers to frustrate Brexit and has threatened to block any further votes on Mrs May’s Brexit deal.

The procedure has been used in recent months to pass laws relating to Northern Ireland, which does not currently have functioning devolution.

The rebels will only be able to push through their draft law in a day if they have a majority of MPs on their side. The House of Lords can still block the law even if they pass it in the Commons. 

After Ms Cooper published her two-clause Bill, Sir Bill, chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, said he had ‘grave concerns’ about the idea of a bill ‘effectively being rammed through in one day’.

Sir Bill said: ‘This is a reprehensible procedure in the context of this vitally important issue of our leaving the European Union. It is unconstitutional.

‘It is inconceivable that we should be presented with a bill which could be rammed through in one day.’

Tory MP Nick Boles, who had put forward plans for a soft Brexit compromise, dramatically quit the Tories in the Commons chamber moments after the votes.  

The possible breakthrough yesterday came as rebel MPs led by Conservative Sir Oliver Letwin and Labour’s Yvette Cooper plotted to seize control of Parliament again today. 

The MPs will try to change the law today to force the PM to stick to her plan to ask Brussels for another Brexit delay.  

Letwin and Cooper will launch their plot to stop No Deal by passing a law compelling Theresa May to ask for a long delay to Brexit.  

If it passes the Remainers intend to force their bill to delay Brexit through the Commons and the Lords on Thursday.

Sir Oliver said: ‘This is a last-ditch attempt to prevent our country being exposed to the risks inherent in a No Deal exit’.

Ms Cooper added: ‘We are now in a really dangerous situation with a serious and growing risk of No Deal in 10 days’ time. The UK needs an extension beyond April 12′.  

Emmanuel Macron had earlier also lashed out at the crisis in Westminster warning that the EU could not ‘be held hostage’ to the Brexit crisis and suggested that the UK might not get an Article 50 extension – unless they soften Brexit.

Speaking as Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visited Paris, the French president warned that Brussels would be ‘open’ to a further extension to Article 50 only if it was accompanied by firm plans for its use.

He said credible justifications for an Article 50 extension could include an election, second referendum or alternative proposals for the future relationship, such as a customs union.      

But he warned: ‘A long extension involving the participation of the UK in European elections and European institutions is far from evident and certainly not (to be taken) for granted.

‘Our priority shall be the good functioning of the EU and the single market. The EU cannot sustainably be the hostage to the solution to a political crisis in the UK.’

He added: ‘We cannot spend the coming months sorting out yet again the terms of our divorce and dealing with the past.’

The Mail yesterday saw leaked extracts of a bombshell letter from Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill warning ministers how disastrous No Deal could be. 

It warned the Cabinet that No Deal would make Britain ‘less safe’, lead to a recession, a hike in food prices and even risk the break-up of the kingdom. 

But former Brexit Secretary David Davis said it was simply a ‘nonsense Whitehall scare story’. 

Mr Davis warned the Tories are now in a ‘much worse’ state than before Tony Blair’s 1997 Labour landslide and it risks becoming ‘a ruin’ if Mrs May demands a snap poll.  

What does May have to do to get her new Brexit delay? The PM will meet Corbyn TODAY as she starts race against time to strike a cross-party deal ahead of showdown EU summit next week 

Theresa May will sit down for Brexit talks with Jeremy Corbyn today after she enraged her party by offering to find a consensus with the Labour leader.

Mr Corbyn and his senior aides will sit down with the Prime Minister in her Commons office this afternoon and see if they can finally find a compromise that allows the divorce deal to pass.

Mrs May appears to have thrown out the political declaration she agreed with the EU on what the final UK-EU trade deal might look like – signalling she will accept a softer Brexit in the end to get Britain out of the bloc within weeks.

Mr Corbyn has agreed to the talks ‘without limits’ but few in Westminster see how the Tory and Labour positions can be successfully brought together.  

The Tories have promised to leave the Single Market and Customs Union so they can end free movement of people and strike new trade deals after Brexit but Labour’s policy is to keep a customs union.

If the talks fail, Mrs May has promised to put options to Parliament and agreed to be bound by the result. In a second round of indicative votes on Monday night a customs union, Norway-style soft Brexit and second referendum were the leading options – but none got a majority of MPs.

The Prime Minister is in a race against time after deciding to avoid No Deal next Friday, April 12.

A new extension must be agreed with the EU at an emergency summit on Wednesday – with Britain’s demands needing to be set out in a letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk early next week.

Mrs May’s speech suggest she will ask for a new extension running at least for several months – but with a break clause if the deal can be passed in the next couple of weeks so Britain could avoid holding EU elections in May.

EU leaders must agree the terms of any extension unanimously and Mrs May will get no say in what is actually decided after she has made her request. 

 

What did Mrs May announce last night? 

The Prime Minister said the divorce deal could not be changed but announced she would seek a new consensus with Jeremy Corbyn on the political declaration about the final UK-EU agreement.

She has effectively thrown out the second document and wants a new basis to renegotiate it with the EU. To make progress with Labour, it is inevitable this will for a softer Brexit than her current plan. 

What is the first step? 

Mrs May is due to meet Mr Corbyn later today in her Commons office. There is a race against time to see if there can be a new cross party agreement in time for an EU summit next week.  

What does Mrs May’s shift mean?  

It suggests Mrs May has abandoned all hope of winning over remaining Tory Brexiteers and the DUP on the terms of her current deal.

Striking a cross-party deal on the future relationship will require Mrs May to abandon many of her red lines – including potentially on free movement and striking trade deals.

To get an agreement with Labour, Mrs May will need to agree the political declaration should spell out a much softer Brexit than her current plans do. This might mean a permanent UK-EU customs union or even staying in the EU Single Market.

What if Mr Corbyn says No? 

Mrs May said if she cannot cut a deal with Corbyn, she would ask Parliament to come up with options – and promised to follow orders from MPs.

In a second round of indicative votes on Monday night a customs union, Norway-style soft Brexit and second referendum were the leading options – but none got a majority of MPs.

They would probably pass if the Tories whipped for them – but it would almost certainly mean ministers quitting the Government. 

When will Brexit be? 

It is hard to say – but it is unlikely to be next week on April 12. Mrs May said she would ask the EU for a new extension to Article 50 that is as ‘short as possible’ and ends when a deal is passed.

The PM clearly still wants to get out of the EU before European Parliament elections have to be held on May 22 but this is ultimately up to Brussels.

Will the EU agree to this? 

It is hard to say. The EU has said it is open to further extension if there is a clear purpose and plan. Open ended talks on the future framework are unlikely to qualify.

A clear, negotiable goal for the future framework probably would do. The EU has always said it is open to Britain staying in the Single Market and Customs Union.

When does it need to be sorted out? 

Mrs May must have a new plan in her pocket by the time she sees EU leaders next Wednesday. In practice, talks with Mr Corbyn must have concluded today or tomorrow to give time for MPs to have their say if she is to make demand to the EU ahead of next week’s summit. 

What are rebel MPs doing today?  

Oliver Letwin secured control of the Commons agenda today, a third day after he staged indicative votes on Brexit yesterday and last Wednesday.

Today the MPs have a different plan – to pass a draft law requiring the Government to seek a delay to Brexit if there is No Deal.

How do they do it?

Before they can use the time in the Commons they have secured, the MPs must win a vote on the rules known as a Business of the House motion.

Today’s motions says the principle of the new law would be debated until 7pm. After this there is until 10pm to debate any proposed amendments to the law before another vote to finalise it at 10pm.

Is it allowed? 

Yes, in principle and if a majority of MPs vote for the Business of the House motion. Laws have been passed by the Government in a single day before though it remains unorthodox for backbench MPs to have control of the Commons at all.

Can it be stopped? 

Yes, if opponents of the idea can win votes on the issue and block the Business of the House motion. This seems unlikely as Sir Oliver has won his previous votes with a majority of around 40.

What will the Lords do?

Unclear. Forcing the Bill through would require the cooperation of the Lords as there are no timetabling rules in the Upper House. Brexiteers would have a better chance of blocking it in the Lords.

In practice, Labour signalled in January the Lords would be unlikely to outright block a draft law passed by MPs in the Commons.  

Will May resign? 

Nodbody knows for sure. Last week, Mrs May announced she would go if and when her divorce deal passed so a new Tory leader could take charge of the trade talks phase.

In practice, it drained Mrs May of all remaining political capital. Most in Westminster think her Premiership is over within weeks at the latest. 

As her deal folded for a third time on Friday, she faced immediate calls from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn so stand down with instant effect. 

What is clear is there is already a fight underway for the Tory leadership.  

Does is all mean there will be an election?

Probably, at some point though the immediate chances probably fell slightly tonight. The Commons is deadlocked and the Government has no functional majority. While the Fixed Term Parliaments Act means the Government can stumble on, it will become increasingly powerless.

Mrs May could try to call one herself or, assuming she stands down, her successor could do so.  

Would May lead the Tories into an early election? 

Unlikely. Having admitted to her party she would go if the deal passes, Mrs May’s political career is doomed.

While there is no procedural way to remove her, a withdrawal of political support from the Cabinet or Tory HQ would probably finish her even if she wanted to stay.    

How is an election called? When would it be? 

Because of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act passed by the coalition, the Prime Minister can no longer simply ask the Queen to dissolve the Commons and call an election. There are two procedures instead.

First – and this is what happened in 2017 – the Government can table a motion in the Commons calling for an early election. Crucially, this can only pass with a two-thirds majority of MPs – meaning either of the main parties can block it.

Second an election is called if the Government loses a vote of no confidence and no new administration can be built within 14 days.

In practice, this is can only happen if Tory rebels vote with Mr Corbyn – a move that would end the career of any Conservative MP who took the step. 

An election takes a bare minimum of five weeks from start to finish and it would take a week or two to get to the shut down of Parliament, known as dissolution – putting the earliest possible polling day around mid to late May. 

If the Tories hold a leadership election first it probably pushes any election out to late June at the earliest.  

Why do people say there has to be an election? 

The question of whether to call an election finally reached the Cabinet last week.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay warned the rejection of Mrs May’s deal would set in train a series of events that will lead to a softer Brexit – meaning an election because so many MPs will have to break manifesto promises. 

MPs voting to seize control of Brexit from ministers has only fuelldd the demands.   

Labour has been calling for a new vote for months, insisting the Government has failed to deliver Brexit.

Mr Corbyn called a vote of no confidence in the Government in January insisting the failure of the first meaningful vote showed Mrs May’s administration was doomed. He lost but the calls did not go away. 

Brexiteers have joined the demands in recent days as Parliament wrestles with Brexit and amid fears among hardliners promises made by both main parties at the last election will be broken – specifically on leaving the Customs Union and Single Market. 

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen wants Mrs May replaced with a Brexiteer. He believes it would push Remain Tories out of the party and then allow a snap election with more Eurosceptic candidates wearing blue rosettes.

What might happen? 

Both main parties will have to write a manifesto – including a position on Brexit. Both parties are deeply split – in many cases between individual MPs and their local activists.

Under Mrs May, the Tories presumably try to start with the deal. But it is loathed by dozens of current Tory MPs who want a harder Brexit and hated even more by grassroots Tory members. 

Shifting Tory policy on Brexit to the right would alienate the majority of current MPs who voted to Remain.

Labour has similar splits. Many of Labour’s MPs and activists want Mr Corbyn to commit to putting Brexit to a second referendum – most with a view to cancelling it. 

Mr Corbyn is a veteran Eurosceptic and millions of people who voted Leave in 2016 backed Labour in 2017. 

The splits set the stage for a bitter and chaotic election. The outcome is highly unpredictable – the Tories start in front but are probably more divided on the main question facing the country.

Labour is behind but knows it made dramatic gains in the polls in the last election with its promises of vastly higher public spending. 

Neither side can forecast what impact new political forces might wield over the election or how any public anger over the Brexit stalemate could play out.

It could swing the result in favour of one of the main parties or a new force. 

Or an election campaign that takes months, costs millions of pounds could still end up in a hung Parliament and continued stalemate. This is the current forecast by polling expert Sir John Curtice. 

Geoffrey Cox was furiously accused of ‘mansplaining’ Brexit, the Brexiteer Spartans were denounced as ‘nutters’ and Philip Hammond berated Liz Truss: How May’s warring Cabinet split in mammoth SEVEN-HOUR meeting

A minister called hardline Tory Brexiteers ‘nutters’ and ‘right-wing extremists’ while Attorney General Geoffrey Cox was slapped down for ‘mansplaining’ leaving the EU to a female colleague in Theresa May’s extraordinary seven-hour crisis cabinet meeting, it was revealed today.

Mrs May lurched towards a softer Brexit after her summit yesterday which saw 14 ministers oppose a Brexit delay while 10 spoke up in favour. 

Remainer ministers including Amber Rudd and Philip Hammond joined Brexiteer colleague Michael Gove in speaking up for a long extension. 

But they were outnumbered by ministers including Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt and Liam Fox who preferred a short delay or none at all.  

Michael Gove made the critical intervention yesterday in the marathon Cabinet meeting that led to the Prime Minister’s dramatic offer to Jeremy Corbyn last night.

Energy Minister Claire Perry 'went on a rant about Right-wing extremists' and 'nutters' in the Conservative Party.

Energy Minister Claire Perry 'went on a rant about Right-wing extremists' and 'nutters' in the Conservative Party.

Mr Cox told Ms Perry to 'tone it down' but was in turn accused of 'mansplaining'.

Mr Cox told Ms Perry to 'tone it down' but was in turn accused of 'mansplaining'.

Energy Minister Claire Perry reportedly ‘went on a rant about Right-wing extremists’ and ‘nutters’ in the Conservative Party. Geoffrey Cox told Ms Perry to ‘tone it down’ but was in turn accused of ‘mansplaining’

Despite several Cabinet ministers pushing hard for Theresa May to sanction a No Deal departure, the Environment Secretary was one of the key voices to call for a compromise approach.

‘We have to change the way we do this,’ he told her. ‘We have to deal with the facts as we find them, not as we wish them to be.’ 

At the Cabinet summit, up to 14 ministers – Gavin Williamson, Liam Fox, Liz Truss, Sajid Javid, Chris Grayling, Jeremy Wright, Andrea Leadsom, Jeremy Hunt, James Brokenshire, Baroness Evans, Stephen Barclay, Alun Cairns and Brandon Lewis – spoke out against a long delay. 

Amid tense exchanges in Downing Street, Mr Williamson called it ‘completely ridiculous’ to seek help from a Labour leader he said was ‘unfit to govern’. 

On the other side, nine ministers – David Gauke, Philip Hammond, Greg Clark, David Lidington, Damian Hinds, Claire Perry, Michael Gove, Amber Rudd and Geoffrey Cox – backed a further delay. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock appears to have argued against No Deal but called for a short extension.

A general election was ‘discussed’ by the Cabinet yesterday morning but there was little enthusiasm and ministers ruled it out.  

There were also two significant flash points. Several sources described a clash between energy minister Claire Perry and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox after she ‘went on a rant about Right-wing extremists’ and ‘nutters’ in the Conservative Party.

A source said: ‘Geoffrey Cox boomed from the other end of the Cabinet table ‘enough of the language, that is not the way to speak’. The Prime Minister had to step in and say ‘enough’.’ 

According to The Times, Mr Cox told Ms Perry to ‘tone it down’ but was in turn accused of ‘mansplaining’.  

Ms Perry – who was among those supporting a long delay – also voiced support for a national unity government involving Labour. 

However Gavin Williamson, who was among the 14 to reject a long extension, said Labour could not be trusted because they were too ‘tribal’. 

In a second clash, Treasury chief secretary Liz Truss asked for an economic and societal impact assessment of not leaving the EU. Her boss, Chancellor Philip Hammond, snapped ‘we know all the economic facts’.

Matt Hancock and Liam Fox leave Downing Street

Matt Hancock and Liam Fox leave Downing Street

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss and Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire leaving Downing Street

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss and Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary James Brokenshire leaving Downing Street

Leaving Downing Street, from left Liz Truss, James Brokenshire, Matt Hancock and Liam Fox

Sajid Javid walks down Downing Street

Sajid Javid walks down Downing Street

Caroline Nokes and Jeremy Wright leave No10

Caroline Nokes and Jeremy Wright leave No10

Sajid Javid, left, and Jeremy Wright and Caroline Nokes, right, leave No 10 after the meeting

Despite the meeting starting at 9.30am yesterday, it didn’t break up until after 5pm after an extraordinary showdown on Britain’s Brexit strategy.

And although there were no immediate resignations after the PM’s statement last night, Mrs May’s decision to reach out to the Labour leader was met with fierce resistance from many. One source claimed the proposal ‘didn’t go down well’ and accused the PM of ‘not listening’. The source said: ‘There weren’t the numbers to support what the PM said. MPs are not happy.’

One minister predicted resignations within days. ‘It’s hard to tell the calculations that ministers will make, but there’s a lot of anger.’

Mrs May opened yesterday’s meeting with a clear statement of intent. The first stage was the political Cabinet, at which no officials were present. She firmly ruled out No Deal, warning it would lead to a border poll in Northern Ireland, and possibly a Scottish independence referendum.

‘I do not want to be the last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,’ she told ministers.

Just before the meeting began, ministers were handed a nine-page document written by Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, which set out the painful steps the UK would have to take to pursue No Deal, including imposing direct rule in Northern Ireland.

No-one was left in any doubt about Mrs May’s determination to avoid the No Deal cliff edge.

Then ministers listened to a lengthy presentation from Tory Party chairman Brandon Lewis and Sir Mick Davis, the chief executive of the Conservative Party, on General Election planning.

Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt leaves cabinet via the Cabinet office in London

Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt leaves cabinet via the Cabinet office in London

Claire Perry and Amber Rudd

Claire Perry and Amber Rudd

Penny Mourdant, left, and Claire Perry and Amber Rudd, right, leaving Downing Street 

They listed a series of ‘scary’ facts about the party’s position in the country, including polling, focus groups, details of target seats, and party fundraising. Ministers, one source said, have ‘never appeared more united as they were against the prospect of a General Election’. Having ruled out an election, they turned to discussing the Brexit alternatives.

Despite Mrs May’s clear intention to avoid No Deal, Brexiteers combined with the ‘born again’ Brexiteers – Remainers who have converted to Brexit – to urge the PM to push ahead with the idea in an attempt to make the Commons choose between it and her original agreement.

But Chief Whip Julian Smith argued that the Commons would not allow it, and Parliament would – one way or another – ensure there was always a Remain option, whether to Revoke Article 50 or ensure a second referendum. In the afternoon, after a lunch of sandwiches, discussion turned to whether to seek another extension of Article 50, meaning Brexit would be delayed and, most toxically, whether to speak to Jeremy Corbyn to try to attract Labour votes. This met with fierce opposition.

Sajid Javid

Sajid Javid

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt

Advocates for a long extensionwere outnumbered by ministers including Sajid Javid (left), Jeremy Hunt (right) and Liam Fox who preferred a short delay or none at all

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson spoke out forcefully. He said: ‘Our whole strategy is that Corbyn is completely unfit to govern. But when we’re dealing with the biggest issue facing the country we’re now asking him to help. It’s completely ridiculous.’

The argument of the hard line Brexiteers was that Mrs May should push ahead with No Deal next week and see if the EU cracked. Trade Secretary Liam Fox, whose job could become redundant if the UK ends up in a Customs Union, told the meeting that if Parliament took control of the process it would lead to a long Brexit delay, extending further the distance between the referendum and Brexit happening.

Sources described two critical interventions from leading Brexiteers, Mr Cox and Mr Gove.

Mr Cox told the meeting: ‘I want to leave. I’m passionate about leaving. I campaigned to leave. But Prime Minister, we have to do this differently.’ He was backed by Mr Gove.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock also opposed No Deal, saying: ‘Whether we like it or not Parliament is going to block it. This is the only way to deliver Brexit.’

Damian Hinds is said to have attempted a compromise by suggesting a single transferable vote system for Brexit alternatives but was told it would end in ‘chaos’, the Telegraph reported.  

There was no formal vote, but one source claimed 14 ministers spoke out against extending Article 50, with ten in favour. These numbers were disputed.

The meeting wound up shortly after 5pm, but ministers were kept in No10 while Mrs May prepared her statement, and to stop them from briefing the media. Officials served Chilean red wine as Mrs May walked to the podium to announce her last roll of the dice.  

A Cabinet source said: ‘This is a pragmatic way forward. PM clear that we won’t leave with no deal in April.’

Sources close to Chancellor Philip Hammond rejected claims that he suggested a general election or second referendum could be required to break the Brexit deadlock.

A Number 10 source confirmed the option of a general election was discussed at the meeting but ‘there was not a great deal of enthusiasm’ and ‘it was agreed it wouldn’t be the right thing to do’.   

Proposals discussed during the political session were then formalised in the full Cabinet on the basis of collective agreement. The source said there was no vote or show of hands on the plan. 

Rebel MPs will try to decide on a soft Brexit AGAIN on Wednesday – setting up a fourth vote on May’s deal before the end of the week – but what happens after that?

Brexit rebels are set to make a third fresh attempt to wrestle control away from the Government tomorrow despite Monday night’s disaster in the Commons.

MPs failed for a second time to make their minds up on a way out of the EU impasse as the bitterly divided political parties could not find a majority for any of four options they had themselves come up with.

The results were a severe blow for de-facto backbench leader Sir Oliver Letwin, who led the charge to circumvent the Prime Minister and hold the so-called indicative votes.

What power there is in a bitterly divided Westminster seems to be moving back towards the Prime Minister and her Government.

But former Cabinet minister Sir Oliver will tomorrow make a third attempt to discover if the seemingly entrenched MPs on all sides of Brexit are prepared to go over the top in search of a compromise.

What actually happens will depend on what is likely to be a fraught day of horse trading by MPs as they attempt to build consensus.

Expectations that a third round of indicative votes will come up with any viable plan, so divided are MPs. 

What is decided – if anything – could determine whether the Prime Minister brings back her meaningful vote for a fourth attempt this week. 

It is thought she could seek a straight vote on her deal if MPs remain deadlocked, or seek to run it off against any rival plan – like a customs union – if the Commons manages to present a united front.

What happens next:  

Wednesday: Sir Oliver Letwin has control of the Commons agenda for a third day. After Monday’s inconclusive results, the rebels are trying to pass a Bill to block No Deal instead. If their plans are approved, there will be a second reading vote on the principle of the draft law at 7pm followed by more debate on the detail and a vote to approve it at 10pm.

Thursday: Allies of the PM have the day pencilled in for a possible fourth attempt to get her deal through the Commons. They believe that, with the majority against her coming down from 230 to 149 then to 58 last week, they have momentum on their side. Ministers are considering an unprecedented parliamentary ‘run off’ pitting Mrs May’s deal against the soft Brexit option chosen by MPs in the hope of focusing the minds of Tory eurosceptics.

What happens next? 

What are the rebel MPs doing tomorrow? 

Oliver Letwin secured control of the Commons agenda tomorrow, a third day after he staged indicative votes on Brexit yesterday and last Wednesday.

Tomorrow, the MPs have a different plan – to pass a draft law requiring the Government to seek a delay to Brexit if there is No Deal.

How do they do it?

Before they can use the time in the Commons they have secured, the MPs must win a vote on the rules known as a Business of the House motion.

Tomorrow’s motions says the principle of the new law would be debated until 7pm. After this there is until 10pm to debate any proposed amendments to the law before another vote to finalise it at 10pm.

Is it allowed? 

Yes, in principle and if a majority of MPs vote for the Business of the House motion. Laws have been passed by the Government in a single day before though it remains unorthodox for backbench MPs to have control of the Commons at all.

Can it be stopped? 

Yes, if opponents of the idea can win votes on the issue and block the Business of the House motion. This seems unlikely as Sir Oliver has won his previous votes with a majority of around 40.

What will the Lords do?

Unclear. Forcing the Bill through would require the cooperation of the Lords as there are no timetabling rules in the Upper House. Brexiteers would have a better chance of blocking it in the Lords.

In practice, Labour signalled in January the Lords would be unlikely to outright block a draft law passed by MPs in the Commons. 

What will the EU do next?  

An emergency summit will be held on April 10. Britain can use this to ask for a longer delay to Brexit – perhaps to the end of the year or even longer.

Mrs May has told MPs a long delay will mean holding European Parliament elections on May 22.  

What is No 10’s plan? 

Mrs May is ploughing on for now. Downing Street is insistent the deal remains the best way of securing an orderly Brexit and appears set on another vote at some point.  

No 10 may now consider whether to call a snap general election if MPs try to pass laws to force May to pursue their option next week. 

Will May go for a long extension or No Deal? 

Nobody knows for certain. The Prime Minister has publicly ruled out personally going for a long extension but also admitted Parliament will rule out No Deal.

Will May resign now her deal has failed again? 

Again, nobody knows for sure. Her announcement on Wednesday night that she would stand down was contingent on the deal passing.

In practice, it drained Mrs May of all remaining political capital. Most in Westminster think her Premiership is over within weeks at the latest. 

As her deal folded for a third time on Friday, she faced immediate calls from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn so stand down with instant effect. 

What is clear is there is already a fight underway for the Tory leadership.  

Does is all mean there will be an election?

Probably, at some point. The Commons is deadlocked and the Government has no functional majority. While the Fixed Term Parliaments Act means the Government can stumble on, it will become increasingly powerless.

Mrs May could try to call one herself or, assuming she stands down, her successor could do so.  

Would May lead the Tories into an early election? 

Unlikely. Having admitted to her party she would go if the deal passes, Mrs May’s political career is doomed.

While there is no procedural way to remove her, a withdrawal of political support from the Cabinet or Tory HQ would probably finish her even if she wanted to stay.    

How is an election called? When would it be? 

Because of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act passed by the coalition, the Prime Minister can no longer simply ask the Queen to dissolve the Commons and call an election. There are two procedures instead.

First – and this is what happened in 2017 – the Government can table a motion in the Commons calling for an early election. Crucially, this can only pass with a two-thirds majority of MPs – meaning either of the main parties can block it.

Second an election is called if the Government loses a vote of no confidence and no new administration can be built within 14 days.

In practice, this is can only happen if Tory rebels vote with Mr Corbyn – a move that would end the career of any Conservative MP who took the step. 

An election takes a bare minimum of five weeks from start to finish and it would take a week or two to get to the shut down of Parliament, known as dissolution – putting the earliest possible polling day around mid to late May. 

If the Tories hold a leadership election first it probably pushes any election out to late June at the earliest.  

Why do people say there has to be an election? 

The question of whether to call an election finally reached the Cabinet last week.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay warned the rejection of Mrs May’s deal would set in train a series of events that will lead to a softer Brexit – meaning an election because so many MPs will have to break manifesto promises. 

MPs voting to seize control of Brexit from ministers has only fuelldd the demands.   

Labour has been calling for a new vote for months, insisting the Government has failed to deliver Brexit.

Mr Corbyn called a vote of no confidence in the Government in January insisting the failure of the first meaningful vote showed Mrs May’s administration was doomed. He lost but the calls did not go away. 

Brexiteers have joined the demands in recent days as Parliament wrestles with Brexit and amid fears among hardliners promises made by both main parties at the last election will be broken – specifically on leaving the Customs Union and Single Market. 

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen wants Mrs May replaced with a Brexiteer. He believes it would push Remain Tories out of the party and then allow a snap election with more Eurosceptic candidates wearing blue rosettes.

What might happen? 

Both main parties will have to write a manifesto – including a position on Brexit. Both parties are deeply split – in many cases between individual MPs and their local activists.

Under Mrs May, the Tories presumably try to start with the deal. But it is loathed by dozens of current Tory MPs who want a harder Brexit and hated even more by grassroots Tory members. 

Shifting Tory policy on Brexit to the right would alienate the majority of current MPs who voted to Remain.

Labour has similar splits. Many of Labour’s MPs and activists want Mr Corbyn to commit to putting Brexit to a second referendum – most with a view to cancelling it. 

Mr Corbyn is a veteran Eurosceptic and millions of people who voted Leave in 2016 backed Labour in 2017. 

The splits set the stage for a bitter and chaotic election. The outcome is highly unpredictable – the Tories start in front but are probably more divided on the main question facing the country.

Labour is behind but knows it made dramatic gains in the polls in the last election with its promises of vastly higher public spending. 

Neither side can forecast what impact new political forces might wield over the election or how any public anger over the Brexit stalemate could play out.

It could swing the result in favour of one of the main parties or a new force. 

Or an election campaign that takes months, costs millions of pounds could still end up in a hung Parliament and continued stalemate. This is the current forecast by polling expert Sir John Curtice. 

 

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