Theresa May reached out to Jeremy Corbyn in the Commons today to ‘compromise’ on Brexit and do a deal
A defiant Theresa May again blamed MPs for forcing her to delay Brexit until Halloween and urged Jeremy Corbyn to ‘compromise’ and agree a deal so Britain can leave the EU.
The Prime Minister gave a statement to the Commons after EU leaders humiliated her at a crunch Brussels summit that ended at 2am today and insisted: ‘I continue to believe we need to leave the EU with a deal as soon as possible’.
She added: ‘The discussions at the council were difficult and our EU partners unsurprisingly share our frustration at the impasse’.
Mrs May said, if agreement on a deal could not be reached, the Government will put alternatives such as a customs union and a second referendum to MPs in a series of binding votes.
She said: ‘I hope that we can reach an agreement on a single unified approach that we can put to the House for approval.
‘But if we cannot do so soon, then we will seek to agree a small number of options for the future relationship that we will put to the House in a series of votes to determine which course to pursue.
‘And as I have made clear before, 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.’
Tory MPs are openly plotting to force her out and install a new leader within weeks after she accepted a flexible Brexit delay until October 31.
Britain will be able to leave the EU before Halloween if May passes her deal – but no renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement including the Irish backstop will be possible during that period.
She also agreed to take part the European elections next month, which will cost the taxpayer up to £108million unless she gets a deal through Parliament by May 22.
ERG Chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg said today: ‘I thought that Mrs May said she wouldn’t agree to another delay and now we are getting quite a long one. People expected to leave on March 29 and now we are heading towards Halloween – there is symbolism in that’.
While fellow Brexiteer Michael Fabricant said: ‘Having sunk to humiliating herself and our nation by begging for more time in Brussels, the Prime Minister should not expect to be buoyed by her party’s support’.
European Council president Donald Tusk gave Mrs May a glimmer of hope that the UK could leave before October, saying the ‘course of action is entirely in the UK’s hands’ – but urged them: ‘Don’t waste this time’.
Mrs May had begged them to postpone Britain’s departure until June 30 while she talks to Jeremy Corbyn – but this was rejected, leaving the PM in a precarious position having repeatedly said she could not ‘countenance’ Britain staying in the EU after that date.
Tory MPs are plotting to oust her will now try to change party rules that mean she cannot be fired within 12 months of winning a no confidence vote, which was last held in December. But they may try to gather the 10,000 signatures required from Tory members to change party rules and oust her.
Speaking in Brussels at 2am Mrs May insisted the Halloween extension leaves the door open to the UK leaving as early as next month if she is able to get her deal through Parliament at the fourth time of asking.
She said: ‘What we have agreed means that we can actually leave the European Union before June 30.
‘I know that there is huge frustration from many people that I had to request this extension. The choices we now face are stark, and the timetable is clear. So we must now press on at pace with our efforts to reach consensus on a deal which is in the national interest.’
Asked if she owed the country an apology for not securing Brexit by now, Mrs May replied: ‘Over the last three months I have voted three times to leave the European Union.
‘If sufficient members of Parliament had voted with me in January we would already be out of the European Union’.
But she added that she would she would seek more talks with Jeremy Corbyn today – but would not be drawn on when she planned to quit as former leader Iain Duncan Smith said she must stick to her promise to resign next month while veteran Brexiteer MP Sir Bill Cash said Mrs May must go immediately.
This morning Sir Tim Barrow wrote to Donald Tusk confirming that Britain would be accepting the extension offered last night
Macron beaten down by EU leaders as he tried to ‘humiliate’ Britain
Macron leaves after punitive rules he wanted to impose on the UK failed
Emmanuel Macron was slapped down by his EU colleagues last night after calling for harsh exit terms to be imposed on the UK.
He was forced to back down after six hours of talks with EU leaders in which he fought against giving the UK the long extension to Brexit favoured by a majority of member states.
He had initially insisted on a delay until the end of May, with the possibility of No Deal if Britain had not resolved the Brexit impasse by then.
But after being rounded on by leaders at the Brussels summit, a compromise end date of October 31 was agreed.
The French president backed down only after fellow leaders agreed to insert a ‘review clause’ triggered on June 30 to consider whether Britain is keeping to its pledge not to wreck EU decision-making from within.
Macron had argued that the UK be stripped of its privileges – but early this morning Donald Tusk said: ‘The UK will continue its sincere cooperation as a full member state, with all its rights, and as a close friend and trusted ally in the future.’
The summit fudge struck a compromise between member states which wanted a longer extension until the end of the year or early next year, and those who favoured a shorter delay.
One diplomat said: ‘Macron was the only one holding out for a short extension. Everybody else was flexible. He was on his own and left isolated.
‘He was holding out for June 30 for a long time. The June review clause was a face-saver for Macron.’
The Government could potentially compromise on the UK staying in the customs union after Brexit in a bid to secure Labour support for a deal, a member of Theresa May’s Cabinet has said.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell said his party was ‘certainly willing’ to discuss that in talks with Jeremy Corbyn’s party – contrary to the Prime Minister’s previous stance that leaving the European Union would mean Britain coming out of both the customs unions and the single market.
The Prime Minister was handed a slim lifeline with the 27 states adding a ‘flextension’ ensuring the UK can leave earlier if she can convince MPs to pass a Brexit deal – but Brussels will not reopen the Withdrawal Agreement and change the Irish backstop to make that easier.
The six-month extension will be accompanied by a technical review in June – described as a ‘sop’ for French President Emmanuel Macron who was slapped down by his colleagues after calling for punishing conditions and a short extension to be imposed on the UK.
Mrs May insisted she believed it was still possible to leave before May 23 and avoid taking part in European Elections that would cost the taxpayer up to £108million. Irish premier Leo Varadkar revealed that the UK would be automatically ejected without a deal on June 1 if it refused to elect MEPs.
The election takes place almost three years after the referendum vote to leave and taking part will infuriate already incandescent Tory Brexiteers.
Mrs May said: ‘I do not pretend the next few weeks will be easy or that there is a simple way to break the deadlock in Parliament.
‘But we have a duty as politicians to find a way to fulfill the democratic decision of the Referendum, deliver Brexit and move our country forward. Nothing is more pressing or more vital.’
The Halloween date is seen as a compromise between the majority of the EU 27 leaders who wanted to delay Brexit until the end of the year or March 2020, and France’s Emmanuel Macron, who emerged as a vocal opponent to a long extension.
But European Council president Donald Tusk gave Theresa May a glimmer of hope that the UK could leave before October.
He told an early-hours press conference that the ‘course of action is entirely in the UK’s hands’.
In a message to Britain he added: ‘This extension is as flexible as I expected and a little shorter than I expected.
‘But it is still enough to find the best possible solution. Please don’t waste this time.’
He said Britain still had all the options on Brexit available during the extension, from approving the stalled divorce deal, to changing its leave strategy to cancelling the departure altogether.
When asked about the delay to the Brexit date, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned ag said: ‘What Theresa May wants to do is deliver Brexit for the British people as quickly as we possibly can.
‘We don’t have a majority in Parliament, this news gives us the time necessary to find a way to get a majority in Parliament to deliver Brexit.
‘What people and businesses up and down the country want is for this issue to be resolved. It’s been going on for much too long. So I hope this will give us a chance to get the Brexit deal over the line.’
Theresa May arrives back at Downing Street this morning ahead of her 1pm date with MPs where she must explain why she has accepted another Brexit delay
Theresa May leave Brussels for London where she will give a statement to the Commons after accepting a Halloween delay to Brexit
Theresa May leaves the European Council meeting after being given a Halloween Brexit extension and MPs at home are plotting to force her out of the door
Donald Tusk reveals his ‘dream’ is that Britain now stays in the EU
European Council President Donald Tusk said: ‘This extension is as flexible as I expected, and a little bit shorter than I expected, but it’s still enough to find the best possible solution.’
European Council President Donald Tusk today revealed that he hopes Britain tears up Brexit.
Speaking after last night’s summit he said: ‘Maybe we can avoid the UK leaving the EU. This is obviously not my role — but it’s my personal, quiet dream’;
‘Please don’t waste this time,’ Tusk told a news conference after eight hours of discussions.
Meanwhile Juncker lamented how the public thought the EU only talked ‘Brexit, Brexit, Brexit’ and insisted the time had come to refocus on other EU business, such as a deal the bloc signed with China last week that went under-reported, to his frustration.
Tusk said Britain still had all the options on Brexit available during the extension, from approving the stalled divorce deal, to changing its leave strategy to cancelling the departure altogether.
Tusk said: ‘Tonight the European Council decided to grant the United Kingdom a flexible extension of the Article 50 period until October 31.
‘This means an additional six months for the UK. During this time, the course of action will be entirely in the UK’s hands.
‘It can still ratify the withdrawal agreement, in which case the extension will be terminated.
‘It can also reconsider the whole Brexit strategy. That might lead to changes in the political declaration, but not in the withdrawal agreement.
‘Until the end of this period, the UK will also have the possibility to revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit altogether.’
Former Brexit secretary David Davis said pressure on Theresa May to quit as Prime Minister will increase, telling the BBC: ‘I think what is likely to happen is the pressure for her to go will go up.
‘The pressure on her to go will increase dramatically, I suspect, now.
‘Whether it will come to anything – who knows?’
Asked if Mrs May could still be PM at the time of the Tory conference in the autumn, Mr Davis said: ‘I think it is going to be difficult because by that time we will have had a European election which will become a plebiscite, really, on Brexit.
‘And I suspect you will see a very successful rise of a, sort of, Brexit movement, the Nigel Farage thing, and so on.
‘So, that will be quite difficult. I think it will be very difficult for her. So, the pressure on her will grow.’
Conservative grandee Ken Clarke says he does not believe Mrs May will be able to convince the party to back her Brexit withdrawal deal.
The former Chancellor told the BBC that Brexiteers would continue blocking her deal while trying to replace her.
May plans to press Parliament to pass her withdrawal plan in time to avoid European Parliament elections in late May. It has been defeated three times.
Clarke says the only way forward is for May’s government to compromise with the Labour Party to produce a consensus.
He says a solution would be one that takes Britain out of the European Union’s political institutions but keeps close economic ties.
‘This is a perfectly sensible compromise and I think she would get it through Parliament,’ he said.
Speaking outside her flat in Westminster, Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom played down speculation that the latest delay could mean the end of Brexit.
She said: ‘We have to use this time to make sure that we deliver the Brexit we are all looking for, that we work closely with the EU and that they are genuinely helping to make sure we do deliver on the referendum – there won’t be any changing our minds about that. We are absolutely determined to deliver on that referendum.’
Brexit Minister Kwasi Kwarteng told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘It is not a secret that we have had a difficult time in trying to get the deal through the House of Commons.
‘Parliament is in gridlock at the moment and I think that we have got the time, hopefully, to get the deal through. But, it’s been challenging. I think that the extension is long enough to get a deal through.’
The flextension also raises serious question about whether Mrs May will be in office to oversee Brexit, with mutinous MPs demanding she quit as soon as possible and senior figures already swarming to replace her.
Reuters had earlier quoted a diplomatic source who said Mr Macron wants to actually offer Mrs May roughly what she wants, telling his counterparts a delay past June 30 would undermine the EU.
The source suggested the French were being ‘annoying, just posturing to show how important and powerful they are’.
They added: ‘He is in a bit of a schizophrenic situation – (his) domestic audience demands that he is tough on Britain for historic reasons.
On the other hand, France is among the most-hit in any no-deal Brexit. It will take hours before we pull him down from his tree.’
Sources suggested that as many as 17 of the 27 had wanted a much longer delay. But the October 31 date is a rough half-way compromise between the two.
The Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat confirm the dates on Twitter, saying: ‘A Brexit extension until October 31 is sensible since it gives time to UK to finally choose its way. The review in June will allow EU27 to take stock of the situation.’
The Prime Minister spent a little more than an hour this evening in a question and answer session at the emergency meeting before being kicked out while they decide the UK’s fate over a lavish seafood dinner.
She addressed the European Council session in the Belgian capital after president Macron had warned her that he was ‘impatient’ and that a long Brexit delay was not guaranteed.
He appeared to wink today as he arrived in the EU’s core – after being urged not to ‘humiliate’ the Prime Minister.
He was set to demand the UK is subjected to a number of punitive conditions with a Christmas deadline to finally quit the trade bloc, but also raised the spectre of a no-deal Brexit, possibly on Friday.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the start of the emergency meeting of national leaders he warned that ‘nothing is settled’, including a long delay, and he was ‘impatient’ to hear what Mrs May had to say.
‘We must understand today why this request, what is the political project which justifies it and what are the clear proposals?’ he said.
‘It is 34 months since the British referendum, and the key for us is that we are able to pursue the European project in a coherent way.
‘I believe deeply that we are carrying out a European rebirth, and I don’t want the subject of Brexit to get in the way of that.’
Mrs May’s performance was shorter than the one she gave at the previous Brexit summit in March, where she spoke for more than 90 minutes before EU leaders dismissed her request.
An EU official later told Reuters that the ‘sense is May is open to a longer extension as long as it can be terminated early’ and her address had been ‘more solid than usual, though not many specifics’ in it.
She used her own arrival in Brussels this afternoon to lash MPs for refusing to pass the Brexit deal, complaining ‘we should have left by now’, but dodged questions about her own future.
Mrs May shared a joke with German chancellor Angela Merkel last night, ahead of the PM’s pitch to EU leaders in which she is asking for a delay to Brexit until June 30 at the latest
The two national leaders, both dressed in cobalt blue, appeared captivated by something on Mrs Merkel’s iPad at the start of the meeting in Brussels
German Chancellor Angela Merkel – whose mother Herlind Kasner passed away aged 90 just days ago – wanted a gentler, but longer extension, into 2020 – reflecting splits among the EU27.
Tory support free falls as new poll shows a TEN point plunge
Tory support appears to be in free fall amid the Brexit chaos today as a new poll showed the party down 10 per cent in a month
Tory support appears to be in free fall amid the Brexit chaos today as a new poll showed the party down 10 per cent in a month.
Today’s BMG poll comes just a day after a Kantar survey showed a nine per cent plunge in support.
Both polls put Theresa May’s party in second place behind Labour amid mounting public anger at the shambolic handling of Brexit.
Two successive polls showing dramatic falls in support will deeply alarm Tory HQ ahead of local elections on May 2 and likely European elections on May 23.
A drubbing at the ballot box would add further pressure to Mrs May’s ailing position as she fights off attempts by Tory Brexiteers to oust her.
Labour has also lost ground, according to the BMG poll, down three to 32 per cent.
The Liberal Democrats, Ukip, Independent Group and Brexit Party are all closely matched at just below 10 per cent.
The blow to Mrs May comes as she prepares to face furious MPs today to explain why Brexit has been postponed for a second time to October 31.
The Halloween exit was confirmed in the early hours of this morning after EU leaders finally reached an agreement on how long to let Britain stay in the club.
Amid the chaos triggered by MPs three-time rejection of the deal, yesterday’s polling found more than half of people now support putting the Brexit deal to a referendum.
Across all voters, 51 per cent say it should have a public vote while just 32 per cent are opposed. Leave voters split 53 per cent to 35 per cent against, while Remain voters are heavily split 62 per cent to 22 per cent in favour.
According to the poll if a new referendum were held, 41 per cent say they would Remain, with 35 per cent backing Leave – with just nine per cent saying they don’t know and the rest vowing not to take part at all.
Fewer than one in four people say Britain should end the impasse by leaving the EY with No Deal, with one in three saying Brexit should be cancelled instead.
Arriving at the EU’s headquarters the PM refused to say if she would quit if Britain was forced to swallow a longer delay – but insisted her aim is still to leave the EU on May 22 if she can win over Jeremy Corbyn.
She said: ‘What is important is that any extension enables us to leave at the point at which we ratify our Withdrawal Agreement. I know many people will be frustrated that the summit is taking place at all. The UK should have left by now’.
President Macron is also believed to have called for regular ‘behaviour reviews’ of the UK, a bonfire of its EU powers and posts and a ‘Boris-proof’ lock preventing a new Tory leader causing havoc within the EU if she stands down, despite warnings from Donald Tusk and Angela Merkel not to poison relations with Britain.
Before taking off for Belgium a frustrated Theresa May blasted MPs for not voting through her EU divorce deal after Tory Eurosceptic Henry Smith accusing her of throwing away £1billion-a-month in payment to Brussels if she accepted a longer Article 50 extension.
Mrs May hit back: ‘We could have been outside the EU by now if we’d managed to get the deal through Parliament and I’m continuing to work to deliver Brexit’.
But with talks with Labour set to start again tomorrow, Mrs May and Jeremy Corbyn dodged the subject completely during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Despite the pressure Mrs May was able to share a joke with Mrs Merkel and Mr Tusk at the start of the Brussels meeting, laughing at pictures on the chancellor’s iPad.
It later emerged that they were looking at a side-by-side image the German leader and Mrs May wearing jackets of exactly the same colour as they took questions in their respective Parliaments earlier in the day.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said today that Mrs May should not be allowed to ‘drift on’ if she accepts the EU’s longer delay and must quit before she faces another confidence vote.
He said: ‘It’s almost certain she would lose, it would be humiliating’.
But Justice Secretary David Gauke suggested the PM could stay on for up to a year out of a sense of ‘duty’.
And in more bad news for the PM, a new Kantar opinion poll found the Tories have plunged nine points in a month, which would put Jeremy Corbyn in No 10 if there was a general election.
Mrs Merkel told Germany’s parliament today that EU leaders may well agree to a delay ‘longer than the British prime minister (Theresa May) has requested’.
She said she would meet French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of the summit with the aim of hashing out a common stance on the length of a further extension.
‘I think the extension should be as short as possible. But it should be long enough to create a certain calm so we don’t have to meet every two weeks to deal with the same subject.’
DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds branded the talks ‘humiliating and embarrassing’ for the UK, and claimed Britain was ‘effectively holding out a begging bowl to European leaders’.
Tory MP Anne Main has said the UK was becoming a ‘laughing stock’ and called it ‘appalling that we may be seeking an extension with no real sense of purpose’.
Brexiteer Labour MP Kate Hoey said: ‘It does seem really humiliating for this country to have our Prime Minister going over to the European Union to literally beg for an extension. What is this saying about our country?’
During Prime Minister’s Questions today Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said discussions were continuing in an attempt to find a compromise Brexit deal – but swiftly moved on.
The Prime Minister faced a major Commons revolt last night, with 97 Tory MPs voting against any delay to the April 12 leaving date. Almost 80 more abstained, including a string of ministers.
Labour backed the Brexit day delay, helping it pass by 420 votes to 110. But just 131 Tory MPs supported the PM’s plan – 40 per cent of the parliamentary party.
Cabinet ministers Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox, who both abstained, both publicly questioned the PM’s tactics.
Mrs Leadsom urged her to ask German chancellor Angela Merkel to reopen the withdrawal agreement – despite the EU repeatedly ruling this out. Dr Fox hit out at suggestions Mrs May could agree to keep Britain in a customs union as part of a compromise with Labour.
Solicitor general Robert Buckland told MPs the UK would be legally required to take part in European Parliament elections if it was a member state on May 23.
But he suggested British MEPs might not have to take their seats if Westminster agreed an exit plan in the coming weeks.
Will May resign over delaying Brexit to Halloween? As the PM prepares to face furious Tory MPs in the Commons what was agreed by the EU and will Britain ever leave the EU?
Theresa May is flying back to London to explain the new Brexit delay today after the EU ruled Britain could stay in until Halloween rather than crash out with No Deal tomorrow.
The Prime Minster has broken her promise of just three weeks ago not to countenance delay beyond June 30 – and yet looks likely to fight on with a new attempt to pass her deal.
New vote ‘within days’ if Labour agree a Brexit deal with Theresa May
Brexit legislation could be brought back to the Commons in days if the Government can reach a deal with Labour, ministers said last night.
Two Cabinet sources told the Mail discussions were under way about the possibility of asking MPs to vote this week on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the hope of still leaving the EU next month.
Ministers have also reserved the right to shorten the Easter break by asking MPs to sit on Monday and Tuesday next week if a deal looks close. Under one proposal, the Government would agree to allow free votes on key Labour demands, such as a customs union and a second referendum. If passed, these would then be incorporated into Theresa May’s deal.
But a Whitehall source last night said the ‘high-risk’ strategy would only be considered if ministers were certain that Labour were signed up to it.
‘The problem is that if you put the Withdrawal Bill in front of MPs and they vote it down then you have lost if for this session. You would have to prorogue Parliament to bring it back so it’s pretty high-risk.’
Mrs May will be in the Commons this afternoon to explain what has happened before MPs get a long-delayed recess to return to their constituencies. After the PM’s statement, the Commons will rise at 5.30pm and not return until after Easter.
In the meantime, talks between the Government and Labour on a soft-Brexit compromise are likely to continue as Mrs May makes a final effort to get her deal through Parliament.
If she fails – and almost everyone thinks she will – Britain will have to elect new MEPs at the European elections on May 23. Ministers triggered the countdown to the polls, which will cost £100million, earlier this week.
Mrs May faces a treacherous path to cling to her job in the coming days and new demands for her to resign mount.
But the delay to Brexit and Parliament taking next week off will ease pressure – if the PM can survive until the end of the day.
Assuming the deal is defeated a fourth time, the extra six months do open a raft of possibilities. They include Mrs May being replaced, a general election and conceivably even a referendum, the timetable for this is almost impossibly tight.
What happened last night?
After the Prime Minister asked for a short Brexit delay to the end of June, she was kicked out of the summit so EU leaders could decide Britain’s fate.
A marathon debate ran into the early hours and ended with a new Brexit deadline of October 31.
France led demands for the shortest possible extension and won a check on the UK’s behaviour in June.
Has the Brexit date now changed and when to?
Officially, exit date is Halloween – and as a matter of international law this is now fixed, even though it is not what UK law says.
Brexit can be brought forward if the deal negotiated by Mrs May is ever agreed by Parliament and fully ratified.
UK law will have to be changed to bring it into line with the new date. MPs have no power to change what has been agreed.
What does it mean for May?
She has broken her promise of just three weeks ago not to oversee a delay beyond June 30. She will face MPs at around lunchtime to explain what has happened. Last night, she blamed MPs for not passing the deal.
In the coming hours, Mrs May will face renewed demands for her to resign – but she is likely to press on with another attempt to pass her deal.
What do Brexiteers say?
They are furious at a further delay and are certain to call for Mrs May’s resignation. The group of so-called ‘Spartans’ – the Tory Brexiteer rebels who voted against the deal three times – still refuse to back the deal.
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said the pressure on Mrs May will increase ‘dramatically’ while Jacob Rees-Mogg said there was a grim symbolism to Brexit date being pushed to Halloween. He said ‘we should have left the European Union already’ when questioned this morning.
Will she resign?
It is unlikely in the short term but most in Westminster believe Mrs May’s time in No 10 is coming to a new close.
She has promised to go if her deal is ever ratified by MPs and has a series of new challenges looming on the horizon as the Tories face a drubbing in the local elections on May 2.
There remains no procedural way for Tory MPs to oust her until December – but political pressure is continuing to mount.
Will the UK now have to take part in EU elections?
Yes, unless Mrs May can find a way to pass the deal before May 22. The Government started the process for the elections – which will cost more than £100million – this week and the Tories are recruiting candidates.
Can the elections be stopped?
Yes, they can technically called off until the day before polls open on May 23. It would waste a huge amount of money and be deeply controversial.
What would happen if Britain refused?
Irish PM Leo Varadkar has suggested Britain would be forced out of the EU on June 1 if the EU elections do not take place and the divorce deal has not been ratified.
All the EU institutions have insisted if Britain stays in through the summer, it must have MEPs.
Does is all mean there will be a general election?
Probably, at some point though the immediate chances have fallen because of the latest events. 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. She said last December she would not lead them into a new election and 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 late May to early June.
If the Tories hold a leadership election first it probably pushes any election out to late June at the earliest.
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.
What exactly did Mrs May ask for last night?
In a letter to Donald Tusk she formally requested an extension to Article 50 that will delay the UK’s departure beyond April 12 to June 30 – but she also wanted a ‘termination clause’.
This would allow the UK to leave on May 22 – the day before European elections – if a deal can be pushed through the UK Parliament.
However, this delay was a carbon copy of that sought by Mrs May before the last emergency summit in March – which was rejected.
What did the EU say?
Non, nein, nee and nem – that’s no in a variety of EU languages. Despite French president Emmanuel Macron threatening to veto a delay and demanding if there was one it be short, the EU27 agreed to push Brexit to the end of October.
But importantly they did include the termination clause, meaning we can still leave earlier if the Government – or MPs – can cobble together a deal that can win a majority of the Commons.
Donald Tusk had said before the meeting that a 12-month ‘flextension’ to March 29 2020 is ‘the only reasonable way out’ of the crisis and had urged leaders of the EU’s 27 member states to back him at Wednesday’s summit.
Ahead of the summit on Wednesday night, Mr Tusk urged the 27 leaders to consider a long delay because there was ‘little reason’ to believe the deal would be passed by MPs before the end of June.
How did the EU make its decision?
When the summit started at around 5pm on Wednesday, Mrs May first answered questions from EU leaders – building on a diplomatic blitz that included trips to Paris and Berlin on Tuesday .
After a session lasting little over an hour she was kicked out of the summit so the other 27 EU leaders could decide what to do over dinner. Once they had a unanimous agreement on a delay Mrs May was asked to say Yes or No.
At the last summit three weeks ago the EU leaders debated in private for almost six hours.
What is happening in the cross party talks?
The Prime Minister has said the divorce deal could not be changed but announced last week she would seek a new consensus with Jeremy Corbyn on the political declaration about the final UK-EU agreement. It is her final roll of the dice to save the deal.
Talks broke down last Friday between ministers and officials from both parties, despite previous efforts being hailed as ‘constructive’. After technical discussions on Monday, they finally resumed on Tuesday – but have now been adjourned again until Thursday.
If the talks fail, Mrs May has promised to put options to Parliament and agreed to be bound by the result. She now has more time to call this vote.
In a second round of indicative vote a customs union, Norway-style soft Brexit and second referendum were the leading options – but none got a majority of MPs.
Why is she talking to Labour?
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 with Labour 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 last week 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.