Theresa May calls on rebel MPs to back her vision for Brexit in the vote on her deal tonight: Brexit News for Tuesday 15 January

Theresa May calls on rebel MPs to back her vision for Brexit in the vote on her deal tonight: Brexit News for Tuesday 15 January
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Theresa May calls on rebel MPs to back her vision for Brexit in the vote on her deal tonight…

Theresa May has warned Tory rebels they risk a Jeremy Corbyn government and the break-up of the UK if they reject her Brexit deal in tonight’s crunch vote. Allies of the Prime Minister acknowledged her plans could be rejected by a majority approaching 200 votes – eclipsing record government defeats of modern times. They believe Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will then try to exploit Tory divisions by forcing a formal vote of no confidence in the Government tonight, which could usher in a general election. Allies of Mrs May last night indicated she would tell MPs that she will continue to pursue her deal even if it is heavily defeated. She acknowledged that the plan was not perfect, but added: ‘When the history books are written, people will look at the decision of this House tomorrow and ask: Did we deliver on the country’s vote to leave the European Union?’ – Daily Mail

  • May urges MPs to reconsider her Brexit deal ahead of vote – FT (£)

> Yesterday on BrexitCentral: Theresa May’s Stoke speech – “We all have a duty to implement the result of the referendum”

> Christopher Howarth on BrexitCentral today: Tonight’s “meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal – what to look out for

…as some suggest she ‘will have to stand down’ if she suffers a heavy defeat…

Theresa May will be expected to stand down if she loses Tuesday night’s crucial vote on her Brexit deal as heavily as predicted, Cabinet sources have said. More than 100 Tory MPs have insisted they will oppose the deal, putting Mrs May on course to break a series of unwelcome Parliamentary records. She launched a last-ditch attempt to win over the rebels on Monday, producing a letter from Brussels promising that the Northern Ireland backstop would be temporary and “not a threat or a trap”. On Tuesday night Mrs May will make one final bid to change MPs’ minds when she closes the five-day debate on the Brexit deal, having already warned the Commons that “when the history books are written” MPs would be judged on whether they had “let the British people down”. If Mrs May loses the vote – expected between 7.30pm-9.30pm depending on how many amendments are chosen by the Speaker – she is expected to make an immediate statement on her next move. – Telegraph (£)

  • Theresa May braced for historic defeat on Brexit D-Day – The Times (£)

> Last week on BrexitCentral:

…while others report she will force a second vote on her deal…

Theresa May will try to force a second vote on her Brexit deal despite facing a catastrophic defeat on it, allies have revealed. It has emerged that the PM has been given fresh hope of eventual success from a last minute offer of help from Angela Merkel. She will tell her divided Cabinet when it meets for a fiery discussion on Plan B this morning that the German leader suggested the EU could grant extra concessions once the troubled agreement is shot down. And that could include persuading Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to agree to an end date to the hated Irish backstop – which the DUP and dozens of Tory MPs have demanded as their price. A senior Government figure said the PM and Mrs Merkel agreed there needs to be “a blood-letting moment” first. Dubbing the pair’s phone call on Sunday morning as “very positive”, the source added: “Merkel believes there is more the EU can do once the vote is over as no deal would be a disaster for everyone, and they agreed to talk after it”. – The Sun

…after Juncker and Tusk send letter of reassurance to May but admit nothing about the deal can be changed

The EU has written to Theresa May to assure her MPs about the Brexit deal ahead of a crunch vote in the House of Commons – but warned that nothing about it can be changed. Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, the presidents of the Commission and Council, said the EU wanted to do a trade deal by 2020 to make sure the agreement’s controversial backstop clause would never have to come into force. But they said they were “not in a position to agree anything that changes or is inconsistent with the withdrawal agreement”. In his section of the letter Mr Tusk said earlier reassurances on the deal drawn up by the European Council in December had “legal value”, but stopped short of formally committing the EU to signing a deal by a certain date. Mr Juncker also repeated in writing a pledge he made in December to start preparing for negotiations on a future relationship “immediately after the signature of the withdrawal agreement” in order to maximise the chance of doing a deal quickly. – Independent

  • Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker’s letter to Theresa May saying backstop would be ‘temporary’ – PoliticsHome

> Andrew Lewer MP on BrexitCentral today: Juncker and Tusk’s letter to Theresa May changes nothing – we must vote down the draft Withdrawal Agreement

Philip Hammond argues that a no-deal Brexit would be a ‘betrayal’…

Philip Hammond has argued that leaving the European Union without a deal would be a “betrayal” of the 2016 Brexit vote. The Chancellor told MPs the Leave vote was fought on the “promise of greater prosperity” and said a no-deal Brexit would not deliver that. Mr Hammond, wrapping up the seventh day of debate on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, also warned extending Article 50 could risk “fuelling populism” in the UK. He said: “The deal that the Prime Minister has presented to Parliament very clearly is a compromise between the views of people on both sides of this argument, it will not deliver 100% of what anybody wants and the Prime Minister herself has recognised that. I believe that the architecture of the Prime Minister’s deal is capable of accommodating such concerns if that is what we as a nation want to do.” – Telegraph (£)

…as Labour MP Hilary Benn withdraws amendment seeking to kill both May’s deal and No Deal

Theresa May is on course for a crushing Commons defeat on her Brexit deal today after a Labour MP withdrew an amendment that could have spared her the humiliation. Hilary Benn, Labour chairman of the Brexit select committee, has withdrawn his proposal that would have killed both the Prime Minister’s deal and prevented a no-deal Brexit. It was believed that the amendment was favoured by Government whips because it would have potentially spared Mrs May from a major defeat on Tuesday and was seen by some as an “escape route”. In a series of tweets on Tuesday morning, Mr Benn confirmed he had withdrawn the amendment but said he would pursue a vote to veto a no-deal Brexit at the “earliest opportunity.” He said: “I have decided to withdraw my amendment to the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement motion today which would have rejected both the PM’s deal and leaving with no deal. It’s vital that we now get the clearest expression of view from the House on the Government’s deal – like many others I will vote against it – but I intend to pursue a ‘no to no deal’ vote at the earliest opportunity. – Evening Standard

Jeremy Corbyn to table motion of no confidence moments after May’s expected defeat…

Jeremy Corbyn is poised to table a vote of no confidence in the Government straight after the meaningful vote on Tuesday if Theresa May’s Brexit deal is rejected. Labour whips have told MPs to be ready for a vote on Wednesday, with Mr Corbyn preparing to raise a point of order within minutes of the result being confirmed on Tuesday. The censure motion would take place after Prime Minister’s Questions and could be limited to just 90 minutes of debate before MPs are asked to vote, according to a senior Labour source. Should the censure motion secure the backing of a simple majority of MPs, it would almost certainly force Mrs May to resign and would give the Conservative Party just two weeks to form a new administration capable of winning the confidence of the Commons. On Thursday, Mr Corbyn will then travel to Hastings, Amber Rudd’s constituency, where he will speak at an event that will seen by many as a potential springboard from which to launch an election campaign. – Telegraph (£)

…while Labour MEPs ask him to back a second referendum

A group of Labour MEPs has written to Jeremy Corbyn to ask him to back a second EU referendum – warning that giving the public a final say on Brexit is “the only way through the deadlock” in Westminster. In a letter seen by The Independent, the seven MEPs, Julie Ward, Seb Dance, Jude Kirton-Darling, Catherine Stihler, Mary Honeyball, Wajid Khan and David Martin say they applaud Mr Corbyn’s criticisms of Theresa May’s Brexit deal but that the party needs to go further. “We now face the challenge of what to do in light of its near certain defeat if we don’t manage to secure a rapid general election,” the MEPs say. “The cowardly postponement of the vote by the PM means that time is running out and we need to bring forward decisions that will garner the support of the majority of our members and supporters.” The MEPs, who represent a spread of areas across the North West, North East, London and Scotland, point to polling evidence that suggests that “in recent months, many Leave voting areas have changed their minds” and want to remain in the EU. – Independent

Theresa May brands John Bercow’s behaviour ‘appalling’ and a ‘constitutional outrage’ after siding with pro-EU MPs

Theresa May has accused John Bercow of “making it up as he’s going along” as a row over his alleged Brexit bias deepened. Tory MPs fought another Commons confrontation with the Speaker after he sided with pro-EU MPs last week to help Parliament seize control of Brexit. The PM revealed the depth of her private rage with him by delivering a withering outburst about him to allies. The Sun has learned Mrs May dubbed Mr Bercow’s behaviour as “appalling” and “a constitutional outrage” during it. She also accused him of having “torn up the rule book” with his ruling to allow a vote, overruling his senior officials’ advice, adding: “He is making it up as he’s going along”. During the new clash with MPs ahead of the landmark meaningful vote, the Speaker furiously accused the Government of trying to bully him. In an extraordinary outburst in the Commons chamber, he also attacked ministers for spreading fake news about him and dismissed claims that is secretly helping Remainers thwart Brexit as “staggeringly absurd”. – The Sun

Boris Johnson delivers crucial reason why exit can’t be halted

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson delivered a passionate speech in the House of Commons warning against Brexit being delayed. The Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip was ruling out alternative Brexit visions when he insisted Article 50 could not be extended. Mr Johnson warned the British people would believe there had been a “deep state plot” to “kill Brexit” if the UK did not leave the Brussels bloc on March 29 of this year. He said: “I don’t think we can seriously contemplate delaying Article 50, because, after two-and-a-half years of procrastination, the public would accuse us in this place of deliberately setting out to frustrate their wishes. They would conclude that there was some plot by the deep state to kill Brexit. That is what many people would conclude. If and when this deal is voted down let us not continue to flog this dead horse.” – Express

> WATCH: Further highlights from yesterday’s debate

Door to staying in the EU clearly open, says Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland is more likely to remain in the EU than at any point since the 2016 referendum, Nicola Sturgeon has predicted. Alternatives to Theresa May’s Brexit proposals are already being debated before what is expected to be a bruising defeat tonight, with three Scottish Conservative MPs poised to rebel against the prime minister. Ms Sturgeon said yesterday that the situation had left the door to staying in the EU “clearly open” as she urged MPs not to shut out any opportunity to reverse the referendum decision. “The prime minister herself says ‘no Brexit at all’ is now a real possibility,” the first minister said. “With crunch votes coming up the chances of remaining are at their highest since the EU referendum. MPs must therefore come together to vote down this bad deal, rule out no deal, extend the Article 50 process and call another referendum. This opportunity must be grasped.” Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, has warned that Scotland “cannot and will not be in the passenger seat” if the government drives the UK “off the Brexit cliff edge”. He said the “only option” was to extend the deadline for Article 50 talks beyond March 29 and have a second referendum. – The Times (£)

Spain and UK strike reciprocal Brexit deal on voting rights

Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said Monday that Madrid and London have agreed to grant electoral rights in local elections after Brexit to British residents in Spain and Spanish residents in the U.K. The reciprocal agreement will be signed January 21 and will grant British residents in Spain and Spanish residents in the U.K. the right to vote and stand as candidates in municipal elections after Britain leaves the EU. “Bilateral agreements between Spain and the U.K. will guarantee that Spaniards who’re living there and Britons here will maintain all of their rights, even the right to vote in municipal elections,” Borrell told reporters. The pact will be formally announced this week by a senior Spanish official and the British ambassador in Spain, Simon Manley. “Spain and the U.K. are finalizing the negotiation of an agreement on the reciprocal recognition of the active and passive right of suffrage,” reads a Spanish government website, which was published on Monday. – Politico

Article 50 can’t be revoked temporarily

Contrary to statements by Sir John Major, the former Conservative prime minister, and others the Article 50 Brexit procedure cannot be temporarily revoked to allow reflection on withdrawal from the European Union. A recent judgment by the European Court of Justice gave hope to Remainers because it ruled that Britain could unilaterally cancel or revoke Brexit without any costs. However, the possibility of a temporary revocation of Article 50 was foreseen and ruled out. “Such a revocation, decided in accordance with its own national constitutional requirements, would have the effect that the UK remains in the EU under terms that are unchanged as regards its status as a member state,” the judges ruled on December 10. “The revocation . . . must be unequivocal and unconditional, that is to say that the purpose of that revocation is to confirm the EU membership of the member state.” “The EU is not stupid,” a senior official said. “If Britain wants to revoke then the European council will want a clear commitment, in good faith, that it is going to remain in the EU.” – The Times (£)

Esther McVey: MPs need to trust the voters and have confidence in Britain’s ability to thrive after Brexit

As we approach the Meaningful Vote, there are two words which should guide us: trust and confidence. These two words cut to the heart of the Brexit process. In politics, trust is our most precious commodity. Once it is lost, it is almost impossible to get back and the bigger the betrayal, the bigger the challenge we face. In holding the Referendum, politicians decided to put their trust in the people. In response, people voted for change. They voted to get out of the EU as a means to a better, independent future. They voted to take back control of our money, our borders, our fishing, our laws and our trade policy. People who voted ‘out’ did so because they are paying the price of being ‘in’ and they know that if you keep doing the same, you keep getting the same. – Esther McVey MP for the Telegraph (£)

Kate Hoey: It would be madness to consign ourselves to EU leaders’ mercies

I tried hard to be open-minded about the deal that the Prime Minister brought back from the EU after two years of negotiations. I had hoped that I could support it, especially as I know that I am one of a very small number of Labour MPs who genuinely want to leave the EU and a somewhat larger group who genuinely want to honour the referendum result. I am absolutely aware that too many Labour MPs, despite representing constituencies that voted Leave, will do anything they can to stop Brexit. I am conscious that we have a Remain Parliament full of MPs who were just shocked that the country ignored their dire warnings about the dangers of a Leave vote. – Kate Hoey MP for the Telegraph (£)

Suella Braverman: I cannot vote for a deal that squanders Brexit and betrays the British people

Tomorrow, MPs face the most important vote of their lives. The ideals of trust, honesty and respect for democracy are all riding on Brexit – as well as belief in Britain’s potential. My parents emigrated to the UK from Kenya and Mauritius in the 1960s. They were born during the British Empire and admired the United Kingdom. The country that inspired them was confident in the world, pioneering in statecraft and fearless in the face of adversity. A Britain that led the way for others and contributed so much good to the world. That is the vision of Britain which I have inherited and in which I have profound faith. And that is ultimately why I am unable to support the Withdrawal Agreement – even after the exchange of letters and the sincere efforts of the PM to secure concessions. – Suella Braverman MP for the Telegraph (£)

Martin Howe: The letters from Tusk and Juncker have done nothing to improve Mrs May’s deal

The Prime Minister’s hunt for “legal assurances” on the nature of key elements of her Brexit deal has now produced pages of new verbiage in the form of letters from EU Council President Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. At the heart of Mrs May’s problem is the question of what happens if there is deadlock in negotiations. The Attorney General’s advice to the Cabinet explained with great clarity why the UK could find itself locked in to the Northern Ireland “backstop” Protocol with no legal escape route, and that in such circumstances this situation would “endure indefinitely”. Mrs May’s claim that this Protocol is just an “insurance policy” that will never come into effect is based on Article 184 of the Withdrawal Agreement. This says that both the EU and the UK should use their “best endeavours in good faith” to negotiate a future relationship based on the Political Declaration in time to prevent the backstop Protocol coming into effect. – Martin Howe QC for the Telegraph (£)

Radomir Tylecote: Mrs May’s Brexit deal risks giving the EU power to ruin the UK’s ability to compete

Most discussion of the Withdrawal Agreement has focused on its impacts on the UK’s capacity to make our own laws and rules generally, and how it prevents independent trade policy. It will, after all, keep the UK in a customs union and Northern Ireland in the single market, until such time as the EU sees fit to let us out. In another vital area however, the agreement will place our country in a position of even less power than we had as an EU member. The field of state aid is usually left to technocrats – partly the result of a broad consensus on preventing the state picking winners – which may be why the Withdrawal Agreement’s provisions have attracted almost no attention. But recent analysis has shown that the state aid provisions the EU has inserted into the agreement present another danger to our economic sovereignty, with the apparent long-term aim of extending control over UK domestic taxation itself. The EU has insisted that the state aid issue is essential to any free trade agreement as part of “level playing field” provisions. – Radomir Tylecote for the Telegraph (£)

Brendan O’Neil: Many MPs will defy democracy today and send 17.4m Brexit voters a very disturbing message – ‘know your place, plebs’

Something deeply ­disturbing will happen in Parliament today. Theresa May will put forward her Brexit deal that flat-out fails to deliver Brexit. More than 17million of us voted to take back control from Brussels — yet May’s deal cedes control to Brussels. It would keep us entangled in some of the very EU institutions we voted to escape. Even worse, it would deny us the right to walk away from these new arrangements without the EU’s say-so. May’s dodgy deal would reduce the UK to a vassal state, a bossed-about colonial outpost of the Brussels ­oligarchy. The people voted for Leave, yet May offers us Remain by another name, a deal that sells out Brexit. For the PM to so wilfully ignore the cry of her people is a sucker-punch to the most basic principles of democracy. But it gets worse. The MPs who plan to revolt against May’s deal in the ­Commons today will not do so to protect Brexit. They are not taking a stand against May’s deal to defend what 17.4million of us — the largest bloc in British ­electoral history — voted for in June 2016: A clean exit from the EU. No. They see taking down May’s deal as the first step to taking down Brexit itself. Whether it’s Europhile Tories or Labour, SNP and Lib Dem MPs who have long loathed the idea of Brexit, an army of parliamentarians plan to knock down May’s deal so they can set about knocking down Brexit. – Brendan O’Neil for The Sun

Brian Monteith: Reject the Gilets Jaunes approach and leave the EU peacefully

Let us be under no illusions, no denial of reality. The next two weeks could be the most important for the future of our country in the 21st Century. Yes, that is a big claim, and it is only the beginning of 2019, but the vote on Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement and the response she gives a week today, as she must, is likely to determine the continued existence of the UK, the laws it operates under and how we behave as a society. If the Prime Minister plays it badly, and in particular makes gets her response wrong the traditional acceptance of evolutionary social and economic change may perish in bonfires, demonstrations and mutual mistrust in all politicians and the democracy we cherish. This may seem alarmist, but let me be plain – such are the forces manoeuvring to usurp our democracy that faith in our institutions may simply evaporate and be replaced with a far less pleasant belief that direct action is what will bring results. – Brian Monteith for The Scotsman

Yorkshire Post: Blocking Brexit is not an option – MPs risk ‘subversion of democracy’

Today’s landmark vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal – and the constitutional crisis that will ensue if, as expected, it is voted down by MPs – is without precedent in modern British politics. The closest comparisons are the Commons manoeuvrings which saw Neville Chamberlain replaced by Winston Churchill in 1940 and the convulsion when Margaret Thatcher resigned in 1990. Mrs Thatcher announced her decision just hours before having to defend her Government in a no confidence debate triggered by Neil Kinnock, the then Opposition leader. And there is, in some respects, a certain familiarity between past and present clashes after Mr Kinnock suggested that “there is not much of a Government in which to have no confidence” before Mrs Thatcher argued that Labour offered “no alternative policies – just a lot of disjointed, opaque words”. Much the same can be said today. – Yorkshire Post editorial

The Sun: The PM needs more than a promise from EU, maybe it will come after her defeat

If the EU hadn’t repeatedly boasted that it now had us over a barrel, yesterday’s last-gasp letter from Juncker and Tusk might have carried some weight with MPs. Why would we trust Brussels now? Its earnest promises that the Irish backstop would only be temporary are not legally binding — and Theresa May will still lose heavily tonight. This destruction of good faith is the EU’s fault. Immediately after the PM made her deal, President Macron bragged that Brussels would now blackmail us over fishing rights. EU chief Martin Selmayr reportedly said “losing Northern Ireland was the price the UK would pay for Brexit”. Brussels has told EU members the deal would shackle us to its laws for years. Their motivation all along was to punish Britain — and they’re lining up more for the future trade talks. – The Sun says

Brexit in Brief

  • The political classes are manoeuvring to block Brexit. Voters’ faith in our democracy may never recover – Tom Harris for the Telegraph (£)
  • Does Parliament want to deny the people their voice, vote and freedom? – John Redwood’s Diary
  • This deal is a compromise, but it honours the referendum result – and it must pass – Jeremy Hunt MP for ConservativeHome
  • It’s time for the Leave machine to roar back into life – Tim Stanley for the Telegraph (£)
  • Labour MP Tulip Siddiq delays Caesarean for historic Brexit vote – ITV News
  • Labour’s Brexit ambiguity is costing them in the polls – City A.M.