Theresa May forced to offer MPs vote on preventing No Deal and delaying Brexit: Brexit News for Wednesday 27 February

Theresa May forced to offer MPs vote on preventing No Deal and delaying Brexit: Brexit News for Wednesday 27 February
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Theresa May forced to offer MPs a vote on preventing No Deal and delaying Brexit…

Theresa May has promised MPs a vote on delaying the UK’s departure from the EU or ruling out a no-deal Brexit, if they reject her deal next month. Mrs May made a statement to MPs about Brexit on Tuesday, amid the threat of a revolt by Remain-supporting ministers. The prime minister promised MPs a meaningful vote on her Brexit deal by 12 March. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the prime minister of another “grotesquely reckless” Brexit delay. The prime minister said she will put her withdrawal agreement – including any changes she has agreed with the EU – to a meaningful vote by 12 March. Theresa May’s big concession – and it was a significant tactical retreat – was about buying herself more time. So now, under the threat of maybe 15 to 20 ministers rebelling, the prime minister’s promised MPs an opportunity next month to rule out a no-deal Brexit, and force a “limited” delay in leaving the EU. Without that promise, there’s every chance those unhappy ministers would have joined other MPs in voting to rule out no-deal and delay Brexit anyway. – BBC News

  • Theresa May promises MPs a vote on delaying Brexit if her deal is rejected – ITV News
  • Theresa May gives MPs chance to delay Brexit – The Times (£)
  • Theresa May clears the way for Brexit delay – Politico

> WATCH: Theresa May makes a statement to the House of Commons on leaving the EU

…as she calls on Parliament to ‘do its duty’ and support her deal

Theresa May has issued a plea to MPs to back a Brexit deal, telling Parliament to “do its duty” ahead of another series of votes on the Government’s negotiating strategy. The Prime Minister said she had found a “real determination” in Brussels to find a way through the deadlock to allow the UK to leave with a deal, and claimed engagement with the European Union had “already begun to bear fruit”. Mrs May accepted for the first time on Tuesday that the UK may not leave the EU on March 29, offering MPs a chance to vote to delay Brexit if her deal is rejected again next month. Writing in the Daily Mail, Mrs May said Parliament’s “absolute focus should be on working to get a deal and leaving on March 29” – and reiterated her opposition to delaying Britain’s departure. She said: “By committing Labour to holding a second referendum, despite promising to implement Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn has shown once again that he cannot be trusted to keep his promises. His cynical political games would take us back to square one. “Instead, Parliament should do its duty so that our country can move forward. We want to leave the EU with a deal that gives us the best of both worlds: a close relationship with our nearest neighbours and the chance to make the most of our talents and resources by building new relationships with growing economies around the world.” – Telegraph (£)

  • May tells MPs ‘do your duty’ ahead of fresh votes – BBC News
  • Theresa May calls on MPs to ‘do your duty’ and vote through her deal to end Brexit deadlock – The Sun

Remainers accused of ‘appalling disloyalty’ during testy Cabinet meeting…

Andrea Leadsom could barely conceal her anger. Turning to Remain ministers around the Cabinet table who had campaigned publicly for a Brexit delay, she said their behaviour was “appalling and disloyal”. The Leader of the Commons appeared close to tears as she accused Amber Rudd, David Gauke and Greg Clark of breaching collective responsibility, damaging the reputation of Cabinet and the Conservative Party in doing so. It came after the Prime Minister was forced to bow to pressure over Article 50 after the trio of ministers threatened to resign over the issue along with as many as 15 other Remain ministers. In a microcosm of the clashes in Cabinet that resulted, Ms Leadsom was seated next to Claire Perry, the Energy minister and a prominent Remain minister. That very morning Ms Perry had penned a joint article in which she had threatened to quit the Cabinet unless the Prime Minister committed to extending Article 50. The rifts erupted around the Cabinet table. Liz Truss, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, hit out at the “kamikaze” activities of Remainers in undermining the Prime Minister by attempting to rule out a no-deal Brexit. She said that their behaviour was not helpful to Brexit negotiations or the “credibility” of the nation as a whole. Another source said Mr Hammond appeared to take exception to Ms Leadsom’s suggestion that Remain ministers had been “disloyal. The Prime Minister made clear to her Cabinet that she did not want to extend Article 50, and believed that doing so would only create more problems. – Telegraph (£)

  • Cabinet war as Theresa May gives MPs chance to delay Brexit – The Times (£)

…while Ministers tell May to use any Brexit delay to forge a consensus

Cabinet ministers have told Theresa May she must use any delay to Brexit to face down the Eurosceptic wing of the party and forge a consensus in parliament, as the prime minister finally conceded to offer a vote on extending article 50. May reluctantly promised MPs they would have the chance to reject a no-deal Brexit next month and also offered a vote to extend article 50 in an attempt to stave off the threat of dozens of resignations from her frontbench. The comments, which are likely to further irritate Tory Eurosceptics, strongly suggest an extension is most likely to result in the softening of May’s proposed deal in order to bring Labour MPs on board. After a meeting of the Brexit hardliner European Research Group, MPs said they still held out hope that the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, could deliver a suitable compromise on the Irish border backstop to allow MPs to back May’s deal. The group’s chair, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said the vote “doesn’t change anything enormously … it remains the position that we hope that the prime minister will be able to secure changes we will be able to accept”. He said the group recognised that there was unlikely to be the parliamentary numbers to leave with no deal. “There is no enthusiasm for backing the deal as it is,” he said. “If the Irish backstop could be removed or fundamentally altered, then that would be a different kettle of fish.” – Guardian

  • Theresa May in middle as Brexiteers and cabinet ‘kamikazes’ go to war – The Times (£)

Poll finds the public would back a Brexit extension — but only if it’s short

Voters support a delay to Brexit, but only if it lasts no longer than three months, according to an exclusive Politico-Hanbury poll published ahead of a crucial showdown in the British parliament over the next steps in the Brexit process. While voters remain skeptical about the intention behind any delay, overall they support pushing back Brexit day (with 47 percent in favor to 26 percent opposed) if it is needed to continue the exit negotiations or to ratify the deal. But support for an extension lasting any longer than three months drops dramatically, according to the survey of 2,006 adults. – Politico

Delaying Brexit risks a surge in far-right extremism, warns Jacob Rees-Mogg…

Jacob Rees-Mogg has warned that delaying Brexit beyond the European elections risks a surge in right-wing extremism. Addressing a 2,500 strong audience at the London Palladium, the leading Brexiteer said denying the public the biggest democratic mandate in British history would open the door to right-wing firebrand Tommy Robinson. Speaking at the sellout Spectator event, the MP for North East Somerset said: “If we try to stay and we stay beyond the European elections, there will only be one winner from that, and that would be Tommy Robinson. “I think this country has been very fortunate in not having extremism – throughout our history we’ve avoided the very far left and the very far right and I think that has been good for us as a nation but I think that if you decide that 17.4 m people voting is insignificant and should be overridden by MPs, then you create the atmosphere for extremism.” – Telegraph (£)

  • Jacob Rees-Mogg ‘softens’ position on Theresa May’s Brexit deal – FT(£)

…as Tory Brexiteers reportedly consider backing May’s deal if she commits to quitting by the summer

Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs are considering offering to vote for Theresa May’s divorce deal if she commits to stepping down as prime minister by this summer in time for a new leader to take charge of the future relationship negotiations with the EU. Following a tumultuous eight days in Westminster, which saw the formation of a new anti-Brexit group in Parliament, Labour shift its position towards a second referendum, and May offer MPs a vote to delay Brexit, Tory Brexiteers are divided on how to proceed. Leading members of the European Research Group of Eurosceptic MPs insisted on Tuesday that the PM’s Commons statement, which paved the way for an extension to Article 50 if her deal is voted down on March 12, does not take a no-deal Brexit off the table. “Nothing has changed,” one told BuzzFeed News, as the ERG sought to convey a mood of calm among its ranks. “If anything, the route to no-deal is now clearer,” said an ERG MP who would prefer that outcome to May’s deal. But in developments that will bolster Downing Street’s hopes of ultimately securing a deal, several “softer” members of the European Research Group told BuzzFeed News that the changing political scenery means they are thinking about voting for the PM’s plan. A former cabinet minister said they could vote for a deal even if May fails to meet their demands for a time limit or break clause to the Irish backstop. They said the price would be the PM committing to leaving office in the summer. – BuzzFeed News

Sir Keir Starmer says any second EU referendum should include the option of Remain but not No Deal…

Labour have announced their support for a fresh public vote on Brexit to prevent a “damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country”. Sir Keir, the party’s shadow Brexit secretary, explained how Labour would set out their “alternative plan” for a Brexit deal to the House of Commons on Wednesday, which includes a permanent customs union with the EU. However, if that fails to attract the support of a majority of MPs, Labour will then support or put forward their own proposal in favour of a referendum in order “to prevent a Brexit on the prime minister’s red lines” or the possibility of a no-deal departure. Setting out what options Labour believe a second EU referendum should include, Sir Keir told Sky News: “The basic choice needs to be between a credible Leave option and Remain. “So that means if the prime minister gets a deal through, that should be subject to the lock of a public vote.” – Sky News

> WATCH: Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer’s Interview on BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire

…as he slaps down Jeremy Corbyn’s aides over the potential question…

Keir Starmer slapped down Jeremy Corbyn’s aides as he vowed Labour would back moves to give voters the chance to reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal in a fresh referendum. The Labour leader’s advisers are accused of watering down the party’s surprise commitment to a referendum – suggesting it would not cover putting the prime minister’s agreement on the ballot paper. But Sir Keir, the shadow Brexit secretary, insisted “elected politicians” had decided the policy, with Mr Corbyn’s agreement, saying: “If Theresa May’s deal goes through, it is subject to the lock of a public vote.” The cracks emerged within hours of the announcement, which has been hailed as potentially “a defining moment” in the campaign for a Final Say referendum on the Brexit outcome. Mr Corbyn – desperate to head off further defections to the breakaway Independent Group – said he would back another public vote if, as expected, his own softer withdrawal plan is defeated this week. – Independent

…while a Labour civil war erupts over the issue

A row has erupted in Labour over the party’s handling of its announcement of another Brexit referendum. Tom Watson, the deputy leader, accused anonymous internal sources of undermining members of the shadow cabinet. Jeremy Corbyn attempted to stem the exodus of MPs from Labour last night by unveiling support for a second referendum if he cannot get the Brexit deal he wants. Within hours Labour sources said the party would not ask the public to choose between the prime minister’s deal and remaining in the European Union. The announcement appeared to contradict Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, who toured television studios to sell the new policy. She later hit out saying: “I’ve seen some nonsense that I ‘misspoke’ earlier on a public vote. “Pretty hard to misspeak identically in ten interviews, but for clarity: if Theresa May won’t accept our deal, then the public must decide: do we accept whatever deal she gets through, or do we Remain? Got it?” Mr Watson said: “Whoever briefed that my colleague ‘misspoke’ undermines the sovereignty of the current shadow cabinet.” – The Times (£)

  • Corbyn faces backlash over second referendum – Belfast Telegraph
  • Labour backing second referendum will be ‘catastrophic’ to party, MP warns – Metro
  • European Parliament socialist group leader welcomes Labour’s backing for second referendum – Independent

Tory backbencher win cross-party support for bid to guarantee EU citizens’ rights in the event of No Deal

Theresa May is facing a fresh Brexit showdown after Jeremy Corbyn said Labour would support an amendment to secure EU citizens’ rights that already has the backing of 130 MPs, including 60 Conservative backbenchers, some of whom are Eurosceptics. The amendment tabled on Tuesday morning by the Tory backbencher Alberto Costa seeks to ringfence the rights of all British nationals settled in the EU as well as EU citizens in the UK, regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. It has been signed by the Eurosceptics Jacob Rees-Mogg, Sir Edward Leigh, Steve Baker and Sir Graham Brady, but also by staunch pro-EU backbenchers including Sir Oliver Letwin and Dominic Grieve. The Labour leader confirmed he would be backing the amendment minutes after May moved to head off the rebellion in her statement to the House of Commons, committing to votes on a no-deal Brexit or a delay. May urged the remaining 27 EU member states to match the UK’s “guarantee” it had made to EU citizens. “The EU does not have the legal authority to do a separate deal on the EU citizens’ rights without a mandate … If it’s not within that withdrawal agreement then it is a matter for individual states, and we have already taken that up with individual states,” she said. – Guardian

> WATCH: Jeremy Corbyn responds to Theresa May’s statement on future votes and Article 50 extension

Northern Ireland proves that extending deadlines won’t help to clinch a deal, claims DUP leader Arlene Foster

Arlene Foster has warned that the experience of Northern Ireland proves extending deadlines does nothing to encourage a deal, after the Prime Minister promised MPs a vote on delaying Brexit. The DUP leader yesterday held Brexit talks in London with Mrs May, who earlier accepted for the first time that the UK may not leave the EU on March 29. In a statement to the House of Commons the Prime Minister offered MPs a chance to vote to delay Brexit if her deal is rejected again next month. But Mrs May stressed that she didn’t want a delay and still hopes to obtain assurances from Brussels which will lead to Parliament approving her withdrawal agreement. Mrs Foster said: “Experience in Northern Ireland has shown that extending deadlines does nothing to encourage a deal. A no-deal outcome can be avoided and it can be agreed long before the 29th March. “The EU have it in their hands to avoid such an outcome. They know exactly what is required to achieve a deal which Parliament can support. It’s time for Dublin and Brussels to be in a deal-making mode.” Mrs Foster said the Prime Minister must deliver on her previous commitment to Parliament to seek legally binding changes to the withdrawal agreement. – Belfast Telegraph

German Europe minister says UK must propose something new to justify any Brexit delay

Britain could delay its withdrawal from the European Union once, for a short time but must put something substantially new on the table to make the case for a postponement, Germany’s European Affairs Minister Michael Roth said on Wednesday. “You can delay once, a single time, we are talking about a few weeks or few months, otherwise Britain would have to participate in the European elections,” Roth told German ZDF television. “For us it is important that something substantially new would be put on the table to justify a delay. Then we would all have to vote on it … No one wants to punish the Britons, if we can achieve something with a delay, we would be the last ones to stand in the way,” he added. – Reuters

Leave Means Leave plan to sue and ensure UK participation in European elections if Brexit is delayed

Leave Means Leave, the cross party campaign group for Brexit, says it will mount legal action against the government to ensure European Elections are held in the UK on 23 May, if Article 50 is extended. The organisation has appointed the city law firm Wedlake Bell as well as counsel from Field Court Chambers to prepare this claim. Speaking in Parliament today, Theresa May said MPs will get a vote on 14 March on extending Article 50 if the Commons has not passed a deal by then and if MPs vote on 13 March to reject no deal. The Prime Minister added it would be ‘extremely difficult’ to extend article 50 beyond the end of June, because that would require the UK to take part in the European elections. However, Leave Means Leave are convinced of the likelihood of further delays and have written confirmation from the Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission that it is preparing and will be ready for the European Parliament election on 23 May. – Metro

Theresa May: Yes, Britain will leave the EU with a deal that avoids an indefinite backstop – if MPs hold their nerve

Despite the political controversy of the past few weeks at Westminster, I believe the United Kingdom remains firmly on course to leave the European Union with a deal – if MPs hold their nerve. On January 29, the House of Commons expressed its support for that outcome, provided there were legal changes to the Northern Ireland backstop to prevent it operating indefinitely. When the Government set out to secure those changes, I did not know what the response in Europe would be. But in the discussions I have had with the leadership of the European Union and the leaders of every EU member state, I have found a real determination to find a way through which allows the UK to leave with a deal. That engagement has already begun to bear fruit.Our absolute focus should be on working to get a deal and leaving on March 29. Doing so would give businesses and citizens the certainty they deserve. By committing Labour to holding a second referendum, despite promising to implement Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn has shown once again that he cannot be trusted to keep his promises. His cynical political games would take us back to square one. Instead, Parliament should do its duty so that our country can move forward. We want to leave the EU with a deal that gives us the best of both worlds: a close relationship with our nearest neighbours and the chance to make the most of our talents and resources by building new relationships with growing economies around the world. – Prime Minister Theresa May for the Daily Mail

Priti Patel and Grant Shapps: Extending Article 50 is just another route to overturning the Brexit that people voted for

It is time to come together to deliver Brexit – however you voted in the 2016 referendum. People want their politicians to stop bickering and to reach a mature compromise so that we can move on, deliver Brexit and focus on the other important issues facing our country. 17.4 million people tasked us with changing the course of our future in the biggest act of democracy in our country’s history. And almost 85 per cent of voters backed Brexit-supporting parties in the 2017 General Election. And yet the result has caused an unprecedented period of political turmoil. So it is our duty to stop playing parliamentary games and start providing some certainty, confidence and security for the citizens and businesses of both the UK and Europe.  As the Prime Minister said yesterday, that means we must reject extending Article 50, we must not rule out a “no deal”, and we must back an amended deal with the EU. Extending Article 50 would weaken the UK’s negotiating position and create yet more misery and uncertainty for British businesses. It would make a deal less not more likely, give leverage to those who want to give Britain a bad deal and would send a damaging signal to the EU that the UK will cave in as long as Brussels stands firm. In simple terms, voting to extend Article 50 is a vote for a second referendum. Make no mistake, we do not want to leave the EU without a deal. But as the Northern Ireland minister, John Penrose, said at the weekend,“There’s only one option which Parliament has ever supported; the Prime Minister’s deal with a change to the Irish backstop. Nothing else works.” He is right. Let’s back the re-negotiating efforts, secure the legally binding changes we need, come together as a nation, honour our democracy and move on past Brexit to talk about the other important issues that affect our constituents’ lives. – Priti Patel MP and Grant Shapps MP for the Telegraph (£)

Kate Hoey: Labour’s second referendum won’t go ahead, but it will destroy the credibility of my party

Ever since the British public voted decisively to leave the European Union in June 2016, the pro-EU establishment in this country has sought to undermine the referendum result. They have undercut the Government’s negotiating strategy at every turn, spread unwarranted fear about our ability to prosper outside the EU, and encouraged the Brussels bureaucracy not to compromise in a deal. And now they have convinced the Labour leadership to support another referendum to try to overturn the mandate of the people. When Jeremy Corbyn and I first stood for Parliament in 1983, we fought on a Labour manifesto which pledged to take the UK out of the then-EEC – without a referendum. I have been proud to maintain this traditional Labour policy since then, and joined Jeremy in voting against every European Treaty since I was elected in 1989. I was equally proud to stand on Labour’s manifesto in 2017, in which the first words of the Negotiating Brexit chapter were “Labour accepts the referendum result”. Of course this was never accepted by some Remain zealots, including large numbers of Labour MPs who were quite happy to increase their vote as a result of the strong campaigning by Jeremy Corbyn. Millions of former Labour supporters who had deserted the Party for UKIP came back on the understanding that the referendum would be honoured. But once re-elected, these MPs have spent their time pressuring Jeremy and the leadership to abandon this principled position. They may think they have won with the announcement that if Labour Brexit policy is defeated then the party will support a public vote. But Labour will be punished for such a blatant about-turn. – Kate Hoey MP for the Telegraph (£)

Nick Herbert: The EU must budge on the backstop if it wants to avoid no deal

The European Union does not want ‘no-deal’. Neither do the majority of people or politicians in the UK. Most of us recognise that to leave without a deal would be potentially damaging to both the UK and the EU, a risk to be avoided. But unless Brexit is stopped altogether the only way to prevent ‘no deal’ is to agree a deal. The date of the UK’s departure may now be delayed, but even a short delay would be controversial enough. And delay will only postpone the choice which, sooner or later, must be made. In one sense a deal is tantalisingly close to being agreed. Despite initially rejecting the Withdrawal Agreement by a substantial majority, the House of Commons has now voted to accept the deal provided that its concern about the Northern Ireland backstop is addressed. The EU is understandably irritated that, after the deal was agreed, Theresa May now seeks to revisit the backstop issue. But as a new Open Europe briefing note which is published today shows, there is persuasive precedent for such a course of action. The EU has been willing to clarify treaties for Member States which were unable to ratify them – and one of those countries was Ireland. Until now the EU might have been banking on Brexit being stopped. But despite Jeremy Corbyn’s move towards a second referendum, there is no apparent majority for this in the House of Commons. The UK is still set to leave the EU, whether on 29 March or later. The question is whether our departure will be orderly or chaotic. Time is increasingly tight, but the prize of securing a deal, and avoiding no deal, is still within reach. – Nick Herbert MP for The Spectator

Kate McCann: Theresa May buys herself yet more time on Brexit with promise to MPs

The prime minister is getting good at making statements she does not want to make on issues she does not necessarily agree with. After all, Theresa May is the leader who will take the UK out of the European Union after campaigning for exactly the opposite. And it seems the practice has paid off, at least for the moment, as once again she looks to have avoided ministerial resignations and given herself yet more time to find a way through the Brexit talks. Announcing her decision to put the next steps into the hands of Parliament, a packed House of Commons listened intently to her plan. If a vote on her new deal fails in March, MPs will be forced to decide whether to leave the union without a deal or extend Article 50 and prolong the process. “It must have been a very difficult statement for the prime minister to make”, Nicky Morgan offered afterwards. Mrs May just about avoided rolling her eyes. For a leader so focused on delivering Brexit – she refers to it in private as a sacred duty – handing over control to MPs was the one thing she really wanted to avoid.- Kate McCann for Sky News

Daniel Capurro: Is Jeremy Corbyn’s referendum plan deliberately designed to fail?

The long-expected/hoped for/dreaded (delete as preferred) moment that shifts the whole Brexit debate has arrived. Jeremy Corbyn has backed a second referendum. Or perhaps not. Because, as always with Corbyn and Co, there appears to be plenty of calculations and hedging going on. The Leader of the Opposition has come to this point reluctantly. John McDonnell reportedly spoke to Mr Corbyn before last night’s meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party and brought him round to it by warning that the nine defections to the Independent Group were just the beginning. McDonnell himself has been warned that at least 12 shadow ministers and as many as 60 backbenchers could resign the whips. Yet this is all far from clear cut. All that’s known for certain is that Labour will table an amendment to Wednesday’s motion setting out its own version of the Brexit deal, customs union and all. This is expected to be rejected and only later, perhaps in a few weeks, will the party make clear exactly what its referendum plan is. As such, any plan for a new vote can only succeed with substantial backing from Tory MPs. That was the point of the Kyle-Wilson plan. But if the plan for a second referendum is so nakedly party political it will do well to win over even the most ardent of Tory People’s Voters. Of course, Jeremy Corbyn has good reason not to want to have to campaign for or in a second referendum. As James Forsyth at The Spectator points out, 16 of Labour’s 20 most vulnerable seats in England and Wales backed Brexit, while 35 of the 45 it needs to win in England and Wales to get a majority also supported Leave. – Daniel Capurro for the Telegraph (£)

John Rentoul: Theresa May won’t say it, but there’s no chance of a no-deal Brexit now

The prime minister has yielded to the inevitable. It has been apparent for weeks that the majority of the House of Commons does not want to leave the EU without a deal and was prepared to assert its control to make sure that it does not happen. Yvette Cooper, the alternative prime minister, was going to win the vote on her plan to rule out a no-deal Brexit tomorrow, so the nominal prime minister simply surrendered. Theresa May is a politician of assertion rather than argument, so she simply asserted that the Commons would be allowed to vote to seek a “short, limited extension” to the Brexit deadline, if it refused to approve her revised Brexit deal, as if this had always been the case. In fact it is the opposite of the government’s previous policy. It changes the choice faced by MPs: they will now have to choose between the prime minister’s deal, as revised by the attorney general Geoffrey Cox, and delaying Brexit with an uncertain outcome. What May would not say is that a no-deal Brexit has now been taken off the table. She continued to say: “I believe, if we have to, we will ultimately make a success of no-deal.” But it is not going to happen, and those Conservative MPs who want to leave without a deal are beginning to realise it. – John Rentoul for the Independent

Brendan O’Neill: Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit betrayal is complete

Let us consider the gravity of Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement that Labour will push for a second referendum. In siding with the so-called People’s Vote lobby, Corbyn has betrayed Labour’s traditional working-class base, who tend to favour leaving the EU. He has betrayed his party’s own manifesto in the 2017 general election, which promised to respect the outcome of the referendum. He has betrayed his old Labour mentors, most notably his hero Tony Benn, who was the left’s most articulate critic of the EU. And he has betrayed himself. He has betrayed his own longstanding and correct belief that the EU is an illiberal, undemocratic, anti-worker outrage of an institution. Has any politician ever betrayed so many people in such a short space of time?  Labour has confirmed that if it fails to win the approval of the Commons for its own version of Brexit — which it almost certainly will — then it will push for a public vote. For a vote in which people will have a choice between some kind of Brexit and Remain. So: a second referendum. A reboot. A do-over. A cajoling of the ignorant masses to rethink the apparently imbecilic, racist decision we made in 2016 and to give the ‘right’ answer this time. – Brendan O’Neill for The Spectator

Joshua Mackenzie-Lawrie: A WTO Brexit is Britain’s best bet

his last week has seen a big boost to the future of Britain’s trading relationships. We have seen agreements made and signed with several countries including the United States and Israel which state, in the case of a WTO ‘No Deal’ Brexit, that the UK would continue to trade with countries as we do at the moment, with no cliff edge and no uncertainty for business. These are real world events which once again suggest a WTO ‘No Deal’ approach to Brexit is the best way to go. However, the only way we can provide this certainty to business and our trading partners is actually to move forward with a WTO Brexit. The Withdrawal Agreement and the odious Malthouse Compromise only increase uncertainty as a result of vague language about how free the UK will be to make trade deals in the future and they both, as a result of long transition periods, delay the start of a truly global Britain. While things are not going exactly to schedule with only 6 new trade agreements completed and ready to begin in the event of No Deal on the 29th March, Dr Liam Fox MP, the Secretary of State for International Trade, is confident other agreements are proceeding and will be done in time, even if they come down to the wire. It is important to clarify, only 11% of the UK’s trade is dependent on EU agreements with foreign countries. This will only fall as we separate ourselves from EU agreements and sign our own ambitious trade deals. This is something which would be accelerated by leaving on WTO Terms, allowing the UK to be free of EU legislation. – Joshua Mackenzie-Lawrie of Get Britain Out for The Commentator

Allison Pearson: Jeremy Corbyn is committed to a second referendum he must pray will never happen

The Archbishop of Canterbury is so concerned about the state of the nation after March 29th that he is planning five days of prayer. Is he quite sure five days is enough? A sample of headlines just from the past 48 hours: Brexit may be delayed by two months! Article 50 extended! A second referendum (for crying out loud…)! Please can they make it stop? Seriously, apart from the headbangers on both sides, everyone has had enough. Not a week more. Not a minute longer than is absolutely necessary. If we can get out on March 29th with the shirt on our backs, a few quid for the bus and a Thorntons voucher from Donald Tusk, let’s just do it. End of. Done. Had it. Fini. No more. Brexit is no longer about what the people want. (Was it ever?) It’s party management now. Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong opponent of the European Union, tries to stem the tide of Labour defections with the promise (fingers crossed behind his back) of a second referendum. Music to the ears of Labour’s Remainer metropolitans, but complete anathema to millions of constituents in the North and the Midlands. Labour’s unexpectedly strong performance in the 2017 general election came on the back of a manifesto promise to honour the first referendum result. Corbyn is committed to a second referendum he must pray will never happen. – Allison Pearson for the Telegraph (£)

Philip Johnston: A delay to Article 50 could mean Britain never breaks free from the EU – and the Brexit dream dies

How many times has Theresa May said we will be leaving the EU on March 29 whatever happens? The Prime Minister has been asked in the Commons, at news conferences, in TV and radio studios by MPs, interviewers and voters to restate this one basic ambition and has emphatically and consistently repeated that there will be no delay to the Article 50 timetable. Only now there probably will be. The Prime Minister will put her deal plus changes to the Irish backstop – assuming they have been conceded by then – back to the Commons on March 12. If it falls, MPs will vote the next day to take no deal off the table; and if that succeeds, another vote will be held on March 14 to extend Article 50. There is no escaping the fact that she was forced to make these commitments to forestall the threat of mass resignations and the prospect of a vote on Wednesday in favour of a cross-party Bill which would take control over Brexit away from the Government. She may have averted defeat on that; but the day of reckoning is coming. Mrs May’s tactics all along have been to run down the clock to the point where the choices are stark: agree to my deal or face staying in the EU. If you are a Leave-supporting MP of whatever political stripe, this is the dilemma: do you continue opposing her deal and risk losing Brexit or hold your nose, vote for it and regroup afterwards to press for an arms-length, Canada-style relationship with the EU? Mrs May is trapped unless she can pull off the most unlikely political Houdini act in the next 14 days. Perhaps she will. Maybe she can exact concessions from the EU sufficient to persuade her most recalcitrant opponents to support the deal. But the timing is against her. If it all goes wrong the Prime Minister can say that she tried her best to leave, secured an agreement with the EU in order to do so, was intent on meeting the March 29 deadline only to be beaten back by parliament; so don’t blame me. History might not be so kind. – Philip Johnston for the Telegraph (£)

Asa Bennett: Theresa May is trying to back Tory Brexiteers into a corner with her no-deal ploy

When Tory Brexiteers joined MPs in rejecting Theresa May’s deal last month, Michael Gove warned them that they had effectively voted for a “softer Brexit”. The Prime Minister has since proved him right by offering up legal guarantees on following EU employment law to wt also means Tory ministers are no longer threatening to risk their jobs tomorrow to make a stand against a no-deal Brexit. That shows that Boles-Letwin and Remain ministers posed a sufficiently credible threat to force Mrs May’s hand.oo Labour MPs, as well as a vote to shadow it more closely. The biggest overture Mrs May has made to Remainers is her concession today that if Parliament rejects her deal again, she will not let the United Kingdom leave on March 29th without a deal unless Parliament gives “explicit consent” for it in a vote. Given that supporters of a no-deal Brexit are vastly outnumbered in the House of Commons, that makes such a vote nigh-on impossible to win, with its rejection paving the way for MPs to then vote to delay Brexit. Her statement to the Commons gave Remainers such as Nick Boles and Oliver Letwin what they wanted, as they declared there is “no need now” for them to push their amendment tomorrow demanding a bill that would have legally obliged ministers to seek a delay for as long as Parliament sees fit. By doing so, the Prime Minister has blunted the strongest weapon Brexiteers had in their campaigning for a no-deal: its legally automatic nature. It has now become a cliché to point out that you cannot just “take no deal off the table… as it is the table”. Indeed. It has not been made impossible, but merely much harder to achieve. If Tory MPs can’t secure their “clean break” Brexit next month, why would it get more likely in a few months’ time? The only way they would have to stop either outcome is, as Mrs May put it meerkatishly, “vote for a deal – simples”. The key question is what will Tory Brexiteers decide once they compare the market of prospective Brexit options? – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)

The Times: Theresa May’s Brexit deal and extending Article 50: Lost Leverage

After Jeremy Corbyn’s surrender to Labour’s pro-Europeans on Monday, it was Theresa May’s turn yesterday to beat an undignified retreat. Faced with the threatened rebellion of up to 25 ministers, she agreed to allow parliament a vote on whether to delay Brexit if no deal has been agreed by March 12. Had she refused, parliament would almost certainly have voted to take control of the timetable, stripping the government of control of the Brexit process. By bowing to the inevitable, she has bought herself another two weeks to try to win backing for her deal, still nominally the leader of a united government. In reality this U-turn has further damaged what is left of her crumbling authority, with both wings of her party in revolt against her strategy. Mrs May’s reluctance to concede a delay was understandable. Her strategy has been based on a high-stakes game of brinkmanship on three fronts. There is little doubt that removing the risk of Britain crashing out of the European Union with no deal on March 29 weakens her hand with two of the groups with whom she has been negotiating: the EU, from whom she is seeking concessions on the Irish backstop; and the opposition MPs she had hoped to spook into supporting her deal by confronting them with an eleventh-hour choice between her deal and no deal. Without the threat of no deal, the EU has no incentive to make concessions and opposition MPs need not worry about rejecting her deal because they know they can vote two days later to delay Brexit. – The Times (£) editorial

Quentin Letts: We ought to be ashamed of slippery, spineless, arrogant, shifty MPs trying to derail Brexit despite democratic vote

Seeing Big Ben used to give me a tremendous jolt of patriotism. That mighty tower with its clock-face and booming bell was an embodiment of Britishness. Hearing its chimes made me tingle with pride. This was Parliament Square in London, capital of a settled kingdom dutifully governed in the name of a sovereign people. Other countries had goose- stepping military parades or flag-waving national days. We British had soggy sandwiches, the Queen with her corgis, and good old Big Ben. But no longer. In recent months Big Ben has stood silent. Officially, it has been muted for repairs but you could not be blamed for wondering if there was a different reason. Has this most resonant symbol of parliamentary democracy been gagged — had its clacker nicked — while our appalling, promise-shredding, treasonous politicians plot to overturn the 2016 referendum’s whacking vote to leave the European Union? Almost three years ago the voters gave MPs a clear instruction: Get us out of the EU. Unbelievably, the MPs are refusing to obey. Whatever tricksy waffle they spout, be in no doubt about this. The parliamentary class is telling voters to get stuffed. The last 36 hours have seen British politics sink to a new, squalid, guttering low. In clear daylight the express will of the people is being violated. Democratic honesty is being casually abandoned by a knot of pro-Brussels obsessives who think they can do whatever they like. And they suppose we won’t notice! – Quentin Letts for The Sun

The Sun: Tory backbenchers must wake up before sleepwalking into no Brexit and the collapse of our political system

The Sun has seen eye to eye with Tory backbenchers all along over Brexit. But it is time they engaged with grim reality. Many spend too long fantasising about where the project might now be, had it been negotiated as they wanted, instead of where it is. If in a fortnight they again reject  Theresa May’s deal, Parliament will vote against No Deal and to delay Brexit. Brexiteers might think that simply means a potential No Deal exit on June 29 instead. But who really believes that? MPs will prevent that too, maybe by backing the second referendum Labour now supports. A delay may well be fatal. We are outraged at the Cabinet Remainers and no-mark ministers who held the PM to ransom to secure a vote over halting No Deal. A clearout of this sorry bunch cannot come too soon. But it is plain that they are calling the shots now, not the ERG’s Brexiteers — despite the  claims of Anna Soubry. All Tory MPs must remember this: Their party can avoid complete destruction — and indeed can capitalise on Corbyn’s poll collapse — only by delivering Brexit. Yes, even Mrs May’s version . . . with an improved backstop. No Brexit leads to No Tories — and the collapse of our political system. – The Sun says

Brian Monteith: May’s great Brexit betrayal is a denial of democracy

The deed has been done. Despite telling us on 108 occasions that the UK will be leaving the European Union on March 29, yesterday the Prime Minister announced she was giving the House of Commons the opportunity to request a short delay to that departure date. It is the first move towards the great Brexit betrayal that many of us who voted to “leave” have been readying ourselves for over the last six months. If parliament votes for the delay –as it is highly likely to do given that it has an inbuilt majority against ever leaving at all, and the EU can be expected to grant the extension – then it will be a failure of democracy unparalleled in British history. In 1975 we had a people’s vote that agreed to endorse the terms of EEC membership renegotiated by the Labour government. This outcome was accepted as binding and we got on with our lives. Those who had voted to leave the EEC were disappointed but moved on. There was no campaign for a second referendum. Extending the negotiating period without having leverage means there will be no better offer – just further chaos and uncertainty. MPs must keep the time limit. To do otherwise disarms the prime minister, betrays Brexit and betrays democracy. – Brian Monteith for the Edinburgh News

Brexit in Brief

  • A WTO Brexit: Lower tariffs mean greater prosperity – Joel Casement of Get Britain Out for CommentCentral
  • The 19 times Jeremy Corbyn’s top team have spoken out against a second Brexit referendum – before suddenly backing one – Natasha Clark for The Sun
  • Jeremy Corbyn’s referendum pledge is a fragile fix for a splintering Labour party – Denis MacShane for the Independent
  • Lawyers: look at the solutions, not the obstacles – Barnabas Reynolds for the Telegraph (£)
  • Nigel Farage threatens to boycott second Brexit referendum after Corbyn backs new poll – Independent
  • Tory Brexiteer warns Theresa May is up against a ‘Remain Parliament in a Leave country’ – Express