MPs give Theresa May a mandate to return to Brussels and demand that the EU dump the Northern Irish backstop: Brexit News for Wednesday 30 January

MPs give Theresa May a mandate to return to Brussels and demand that the EU dump the Northern Irish backstop: Brexit News for Wednesday 30 January
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MPs give Theresa May a mandate to return to Brussels and demand that the EU dump the Northern Irish backstop…

Theresa May won a titanic fight with Parliament to keep her Brexit deal alive. MPs backed a plan that gives her a mandate to return to Brussels and demand the Irish backstop is replaced with an alternative. Pulling a massive U-turn, the PM agreed to rip up the unpopular Irish backstop – that could keep the UK in a customs union indefinitely. Instead, she pledged to either win an escape route from it or replace it altogether with a new insurance plan devised by plotting junior ministers to keep the border open. That won her the backing of hardline Tory Brexiteers as well as the DUP, who delivered her a Commons majority for the first time. In a knife-edge vote at 8.30pm, MPs backed Tory grandee Sir Graham Brady’s unity plan to ditch the backstop by 317 v 301. The PM immediately pledged to go back to Brussels and try to reopen talks. Jubilant Mrs May said after the vote: “It is now clear that there is a route that can secure a substantial and sustainable majority in this House for leaving the EU with a deal”. But within seconds, Brussels shot down Mrs May’s new plan. In a statement coordinated with EU capitals in advance, EU Council boss Donald Tusk said: “The Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation”. In a mammoth series of seven tense votes over two hours, the Government also saw off two dramatic attempts by the Commons to seize control of Brexit. – The Sun

  • MPs back May’s bid to change deal – BBC News
  • Theresa May wins backing from MPs to renegotiate backstop as Brussels insist they won’t re-open Brexit deal – Telegraph (£)
  • May rolls the dice with move to reopen Brexit deal – FT(£)

> WATCH: Highlights from the EU Withdrawal Agreement Debate

> On BrexitCentral: How MPs voted on the Brexit Amendments

…as she confirms she will ask the EU to reopen the Brexit deal…

The PM said she would go back to Brussels to get a “significant and legally binding change” to the controversial proposal, which aims to stop the return of border checks. The EU has said it will not change the legal text agreed with the UK PM. Mrs May said she knew there was a “limited appetite” in the EU, but she believed she could “secure” it. She is expected to have phone calls with key EU leaders throughout the day ahead of a series of Commons votes over the future direction of Brexit, and has already spoken to the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar. Mrs May said the vote later would be a chance to “send a clear message” to EU on the backstop. Ahead of the votes the pound rose to around its highest level against the euro since May 2017. – BBC News

  • Theresa May to plead for change on Irish backstop – The Times (£)
  • Theresa May will seek to reopen Brexit Withdrawal Agreement – Politico

> WATCH: Theresa May confirms she will seek “legally binding changes” to the deal  

…although EU leaders are indicating an unwillingness to renegotiate…

Theresa May is expected to continue talks with EU leaders in the coming days after MPs backed a proposal for her to renegotiate her Brexit deal. MPs voted 317 to 301 in favour of replacing the backstop – the insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland in the event of no deal. But the EU has said it will not change the legal text agreed with the UK PM. Mrs May is also set for talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after MPs backed an amendment rejecting no deal. The prime minister said that, after taking the votes into account and talking to the EU, her revised deal would be brought back to the Commons “as soon as possible” for a second “meaningful vote”. However, various EU leaders have suggested there will be no revisions to the deal, with European Council President Donald Tusk saying: “The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.” French President Emmanuel Macron also said the agreement was “not renegotiable”, while Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the backstop arrangement remained “necessary” despite the vote. – BBC News

  • May and Varadkar to hold talks – BBC News

…and Brussels seems unimpressed with the Malthouse Compromise

A plan from rival Conservative factions aimed at securing a breakthrough in the Brexit impasse has been greeted with immediate scepticism from EU officials, who said the proposals were not workable. Senior Tory Brexit supporters including Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker hatched the plan with leading remainers including Nicky Morgan and Stephen Hammond.The proposal involves paying the £39bn EU divorce bill, redrafting the backstop arrangements over the Irish border and extending the implementation period until December 2021. The extra time would be used to try to agree a free-trade deal, while citizens’ rights would be guaranteed. In that period, there would be no customs checks on the Irish border. The initiative has been called the “Malthouse compromise” after the housing minister Kit Malthouse, who entreated the two warring factions to attempt talks. – Guardian

  • EU leaders tell Theresa May Brexit deal will not be re-opened despite Commons vote – PoliticsHome

> On BrexitCentral yesterday: ‘Malthouse Compromise’ wins DUP backing and support from trade experts

Brexit deal will be vetoed by the European Parliament if British MPs try to amend it, says Guy Verhofstadt

Malthouse is a longtime ally of leading Brexit-backer Boris Johnson. There’s also Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker, the leading lights of the pro-Brexit European Research Group. On the other side of the table were former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, who is instinctively against leaving the European Union — though she accepts it has to be done — Health Minister Stephen Hammond, who last year was part of the small anti-Brexit rebellious wing of the Tory Party, and Solicitor General Robert Buckland. It’s therefore a compromise between different parts of the Conservative Party. But it doesn’t involve anyone from the small group who want to stop Brexit. – Bloomberg

Labour MPs rebel to help vote down Yvette Cooper’s No Deal amendment…

Fourteen Labour MPs voted with Theresa May’s government to prevent parliament from taking steps to prevent a no-deal Brexit by extending the article 50 negotiating period in order to agree an alternative deal with the EU. The former minister Caroline Flint and Laura Smith, the MP for Crewe and Nantwich, joined with the veteran Eurosceptics Kate Hoey, Graham Stringer and Dennis Skinner in voting down Yvette Cooper’s amendment by 321 votes to 298. Their votes helped cancel out those of 17 Conservative rebels who voted for Cooper’s amendment, which Labour’s frontbench had decided it would support earlier in the day to “reduce the threat of the chaos of a no deal”. A sizeable Labour rebellion had been expected for several days, despite the efforts of Cooper to calm concerned MPs in her party by telling the Commons it only gave parliament the right to vote on whether to extend article 50 if time ran out. But she failed to persuade the doubters who defied the party whip, and whose numbers were noticeably larger than the half dozen or so Labour MPs who previously voted with the government before on key Brexit votes. – Guardian

  • Yvette Cooper Brexit amendment fails as MPs reject delay – increasing No Deal risk – Mirror

…after Theresa May attacked MPs seeking to delay Brexit…

Attempts by MPs to grant the House of Commons power to delay Brexit are “deeply misguided,” Theresa May said ahead of key votes on Tuesday evening. The prime minister voiced “profound doubts” about the plans, put forward by Labour and Conservative MPs seeking to prevent the U.K. leaving the EU without a deal, and instead urged MPs to give her a “mandate” to renegotiate the controversial Irish backstop element of her Brexit deal. MPs will vote this evening on amendments to a government Brexit motion. The outcome could shape the next steps in the U.K.’s path out of the EU. Labour MP Yvette Cooper put forward an amendment allowing parliamentary time for backbench legislation, which could give MPs the opportunity to extend the Article 50 negotiating period if the government has not won support for its deal by the end of February. Another amendment, put forward by Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, creates additional parliamentary time for MPs to vote on Brexit even if the government is opposed to providing such opportunities. May said that both amendments would see parliament “usurp the proper role of the executive” by overturning the convention that the government controls the business of the House of Commons. – Politico

…and humiliated Jeremy Corbyn says he now will meet May to discuss Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn suffered a double humiliation last night as MPs roundly rejected his plans to delay Brexit – and he finally had to agree to talks with the Prime Minister. Fourteen of the Labour leader’s own MPs voted against a proposal – which he had backed just hours earlier – to keep Britain in the EU beyond March 29 if no deal is agreed by the end of the month. It was one of a string of defeats, with the only vote Mr Corbyn’s side winning being a non-binding expression of will that the UK should not leave without a deal. And just two weeks after rejecting Theresa May’s invitation to discuss the way forward for Brexit, he performed a U-turn and agreed to see her in Downing Street. Mr Corbyn told MPs: ‘Now that the House has voted emphatically to reject the No Deal option the Prime Minister was supporting could I say we are now prepared to meet her to put forward the points of view from the Labour Party of the kind of deal we want from the European Union. To protect jobs, to protect living standards and to protect rights and conditions in this country.’ Amid remarkable scenes, the Labour leader lost a series of amendments thanks to a string of rebellions by backbenchers, many of them in Leave seats. – Daily Mail

  • Jeremy Corbyn to meet Theresa May to break Brexit deadlock – Mirror
  • Jeremy Corbyn finally agrees to meet Theresa May to discuss Brexit – Metro

‘Time for the EU to stop ignoring the voice of Unionists’ says DUP’s Nigel Dodds

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has welcomed Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to return to Brussels in an attempt to renegotiate her Brexit withdrawal deal. On Tuesday, Mrs May called on the the House of Commons to back an amendment tabled by Conservative MP Sir Graham Brady which would require her to replace the backstop with “alternative arrangements” to avoid a hard border in Ireland. Despite what she acknowledged was a “limited appetite” in Europe for reopening talks, she insisted a compromise could be reached. “I believe with a mandate from this House, I can secure such a change in advance of our departure from the EU,” the PM said. Reacting to Mrs May’s comments, North Belfast MP Mr Dodds said that the move was a “sensible step forward”. From day one when the draft withdrawal agreement was published, we rejected the backstop and argued for legally binding change within the withdrawal agreement,” he said. However, Sinn Fein’s South Down MP Chris Hazzard rejected any proposed changes to the backstop, saying Parliament must realise that “it cannot push the people of Ireland around over Brexit”. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he would speak to Mrs May to see “what the next steps are” after votes in the Commons on Tuesday night. – Belfast Telegraph

> WATCH: Nigel Dodds MP’s speech at the EU Withdrawal Agreement Debate

Business minister Richard Harrington issues two-week ultimatum to Theresa May

Business Minister Richard Harrington warned the patience of Tories opposed to No Deal on March 29 was running out. In an incredible statement by a serving member of the government, he snapped: “We will give her two weeks. But that is it.” The public statement is highly unusual and shows the extent to which discipline has broken down in the Tory government over Brexit. Mr Harrington has made repeated threats before, warning No Deal could shut Jaguar and Mini, calling No Deal a “complete disaster” and effectively daring Theresa May to sack him.”Many of us have been to see the Prime Minister and have told her the absolute catastrophe and disaster for jobs and the economy that no-deal would be,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme today. Mr Harrington made the comments as Mrs May faces a string of votes in the Commons tonight on the way forward for Brexit.  – Mirror

Nicky Morgan and Steve Baker: Time for Remainers and Leavers to unite to deliver the Brexit deal the people voted for

This endless Brexit dialogue has got to end and the rhetoric has got to stop. It’s time to deliver. Our fellow citizens want confidence, certainty and security, as well as an end to the political turmoil. We do have an opportunity to flourish outside the EU but for this to happen we must have a plan to deliver us through this pivotal moment in our history. Of course people want us to honour the referendum result – we entrusted this decision to the people in what turned out to be the biggest act of democracy in our nation’s history. But they also want us to come together and forge a mature compromise that enables us to leave on time and to plan for our post-Brexit future. They need us to get on with Brexit so that we can focus on the other issues that desperately require our attention, like the future of schools and hospitals. And they want us to guarantee the rights of our friends and neighbours who are EU citizens but who have made our country their home. Earlier this month, the Government was sent a clear message by Parliament: the terms of its Withdrawal Agreement were unacceptable. This now gives us a chance to outline terms that can command cross-party support as well as the public’s approval. We each campaigned on different sides during the referendum and we have been playing our part in trying to ensure that we agree a Brexit deal that is in the best interests of our constituents. But we’ve decided to come together with our colleagues Jacob Rees-Mogg, Stephen Hammond and Robert Buckland – convened by Kit Malthouse – to publish a plan. It allows us to leave the EU at the end of March, end the stalemate, and restore government unity and direction. Nicky Morgan MP and Steve Baker MP for the Telegraph (£)

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Damian Green: Leavers and Remainers need to come together so UK flourishes outside of the EU post-Brexit

In 2016, 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU.  It was the biggest vote for anything in our history but it was a close result and Parliament is divided. We must move on. We all want certainty that we will be leaving the EU on 29th March.  That would enable us all to plan for life beyond Brexit and lead to a period of political calm. The Government’s deal has been rejected by Parliament. Therefore, leavers and remainers need to come together to develop a new plan so that we can deliver the referendum result and ensure that we flourish outside the EU. This is exactly what we have tried to do with the help of Kit Malthouse. Nicky Morgan, Robert Buckland and Stephen Hammond were on different sides to me and Steve Baker during the referendum.  But we have decided to put our differences aside and unite to publish a new proposal on how we should leave the EU. Leavers rejected the Government’s EU deal because the backstop would have stopped us from agreeing trade deals. So, we have suggested replacing the backstop with a new protocol that solves the concerns people have about the Irish border and which protects the Union of the United Kingdom. Remainers want a guaranteed Implementation Period – a period which allows us all to adjust to life beyond the EU.  Our plan offers a smooth transition with an additional year of the Implementation Period, making it last until no later than the end of December 2021. Parliament, our country and the 27 member states of the EU are united in wanting a deal and this proposal can pass through Parliament and restore Government unity, purpose and direction. – Jacob Rees-Mogg MP and Damian Green MP for The Sun

Tom Harris: Labour MPs are trying to destroy Brexit – and they don’t intend to give up any time soon

Labour policy on Brexit has been clear and fairly unambiguous ever since the 2016 referendum: its aim is to keep Britain inside the European Union. This is not, of course, the official policy of the Labour Party or its leader, Jeremy Corbyn. But it is the view of a sizeable chunk of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), led by long-time and consistent Corbyn detractors, Yvette Cooper and Chuka Umunna, which has left little doubt about its aim either to ignore the 2016 result or reverse it. And although these MPs don’t yet represent a majority of the PLP, their influence in Parliament as a whole, in the media and in the wider country, is considerable. Bear in mind that to many loyal Labour voters, the likes of Cooper, Rachel Reeves and Mike Gapes represent true Labour, the Labour Party of old, not the radical extremists who took over the party three and a half years ago and whom many voters still regard with suspicion. So their public utterances matter, especially when the moderates are pursuing what appears to be a much clearer and sensible strategy than that being pursued by their party’s front bench. Their campaign to derail Brexit – ostensibly for a time-limited period, but in reality for ever – will come to a head today when the House of Commons votes on a series of alternatives to the deal rejected by MPs two weeks ago. But the campaign by Labour’s Remain contingent has been in full vigour for some months. – Tom Harris for the Telegraph (£)

Paul Bew: The backstop isn’t the saviour of the Good Friday Agreement, it’s a threat to it

There is a contradiction in the Withdrawal Agreement of last November. On the one hand, it advertises itself as defending the Good Friday Agreement – affirming that it “should be protected in all its parts”. On the other hand, you have only to examine the details of the backstop – and what the Withdrawal Agreement says about agriculture and animal health, for instance – to find a totally different, top-down approach to dealing with key areas of North-South co-operation. This concerns me, because according to the Good Friday Agreement, any development in these areas requires the specific endorsement of the Northern Ireland Assembly. That consensual model, which was so vital to ending the ‘cold war’ on the island of Ireland, is threatened by the backstop very explicitly. For this reason, in a new paper for Policy Exchange, I argue that the backstop, by placing key areas of North-South co-operation under the operation of a new regime, without the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly, would turn the Good Friday Agreement on its head. It seems clear to me, as someone who voted Remain in the EU referendum, that the UK Government has allowed the Irish Government to weaponise the Good Friday Agreement in a way that prevents compromise on the backstop. And that this partial reading of the Good Friday Agreement risks generating further difficulties for the peace process in Northern Ireland.- Lord Bew of Donegore for the Telegraph (£)

Asa Bennett: Theresa May is trying to show Brexiteers she has learned the error of her ways

Theresa May has managed to persuade her Eurosceptic colleagues to give her a mandate from the House of Commons to take back to Brussels by backing Sir Graham Brady’s amendment demanding “alternative arrangements” to the backstop. This marks a rapprochement among Tory Brexiteers and their party leader, after they grew apart over her handling of the process. After she delighted them with her bold Brexit vision at Lancaster House, Mrs May increasingly disappointed them with the compromises she unveiled at Florence, Mansion House and then most infamously of all, Chequers. Brexiteers were deflated by what they saw as the Prime Minister giving up the fight for what she set out as her goals, and farming out the negotiations to her top civil servant advisor Olly Robbins. Their growing disquiet culminated in an attempt to oust her as leader last month, and then their rejection en masse of her deal this month. Backing Sir Graham Brady’s amendment does not mean Brexiteers will swallow whatever Mrs May presents as her  “alternative arrangements” to the backstop. As the staunch Brexiteer Peter Bone put it, “if she comes back and we don’t agree with it, we will still have the right to vote against it”. Brexiteers have given her two weeks to prove she can improve the Brexit deal. If she can manage it, then the vote on her new deal would spell Valentine’s Day harmony for the Tories. If she fails, the only thing that would save it from a Valentine’s Day Massacre is to stitch up the terms with other parties so they are so soft that even Labour can back it. – Asa Bennett for the Telegraph (£)

Alex Massie: Theresa May’s Brexit deal has come back from the dead

At long last, something changed in the House of Commons tonight; at long last Theresa May had something that could, with only a little squinting or wishful thinking, be considered something close to a good day. Her deal, the withdrawal agreement backed by her Government and agreed with the EU, that seemed moribund less than two weeks ago, has new life. It may not be entirely healthy but it has, remarkably, enjoyed some kind of resurrection. The choices available to parliament, and by extension the country, are becoming clearer. Now that MPs have rejected the Cooper-Boles amendment that would have placed some obstacles in the path of the default No Deal scenario, we are left with what was always most likely all along: the deal or no deal at all. That may not be an appetising prospect but at least some delusions may be put to bed at last. The idea there will be a second referendum always seemed a programme of hope more than something that was plausible. You can put that away now. It will not be needed. It is not happening. That clears one option out the way. Taking No Deal off the table was also always improbable unless, that is, parliament asked to extend the Article 50 process (or, still less probably, chose to revoke it altogether). That option too seems to have fallen by the wayside. – Alex Massie for The Spectator

Tom McTague, Charlie Cooper and Annabelle Dickson: May wins chance for last throw of Brexit dice

Welcome to the Brexit hall of mirrors. In the House of Commons Tuesday, MPs voted for a symbolic motion signaling their opposition to a no-deal Brexit, but against taking on powers to actually stop it. Theresa May won a majority to renegotiate her divorce deal, which the EU has said repeatedly it is not prepared to do. The result: Britain is as confused about what will happen next as ever, with less than two months until it is supposed to leave the European Union. But a series of House of Commons votes Tuesday night leaves May with something to hold on to, at least. She defeated the Labour Party and the rebels on her own side — and has forced Jeremy Corbyn into finally accepting conciliatory talks on a way forward.  Having rolled the dice on a seemingly suicidal strategy to find a majority for something — anything — she won. Pyrrhic or not, with the stakes as high as they are, any win will do. – Tom McTague, Charlie Cooper and Annabelle Dickson for Politico

Telegraph: Theresa May now needs to win concrete concessions from the EU

There has been a succession of crunch days on Brexit. Yesterday was supposed to be another, one that would produce clarity amid the fog of confusion. Yet it shed little light other than to confirm that a majority of MPs do not want to leave the EU without a deal. In the Commons, Mrs May said the way of avoiding no deal was to agree to her deal which was heavily defeated earlier this month. To that end, she reversed her previous resistance to reopening talks with Brussels and set the scene for a full-blown confrontation with the 27 in a bid to wrest some concessions on the Northern Ireland backstop. The obstacle to Mrs May’s plan is that the EU is not prepared to rewrite the text. Mrs May is now committed to the task and must be wished well. Even if we have sometimes criticised her tactics, we have never doubted that she seeks to honour the referendum vote to leave the EU in March, unlike Labour which now officially supports delaying the process. She said MPs could not keep saying what they did not want and had to commit to something. Whatever that something is, it must involve Brexit. – Telegraph (£) editorial

Henry Newman and Guglielmo Verdirame: It’s unlikely the backstop will be scrapped. But supplementing it can win what we want

Last week, the EU managed to undermine its own position by arguing first that there would be a hard border in the event of No Deal and then that there would not be one – thus calling into question why the backstop is required in the first place. Recent comments by European figures, including Jacek Czaputowicz, Poland’s Foreign Minister, suggested a growing realisation that it would be ironic if a deal couldn’t be reached between the UK and EU, risking a harder border with Ireland, precisely because of a policy intended to avoid the need for such a hard border. Yet rather than sending the Prime Minister back to Brussels with a clear mandate to seek changes to the backstop, MPs risk giving a confused message in this evening’s votes. Yesterday, ERG supporters denounced an amendment put forward by the 1922 Committee Chairman, Graham Brady, which would require the backstop to be replaced. There are now reports that agreement has been reached between backbenchers on possible alternative arrangements (‘the Malthouse Plan’), but it’s unclear why the EU would support these. Replacing the entire backstop is something the EU is unlikely to ever accept. What can realistically be achieved? Although the backstop has various problems, the biggest is the weakness of its exit mechanism. The Government must improve this. – Henry Newman for ConservativeHome

The Sun: Theresa May must know precisely what she is demanding from the EU following her Commons victory

What an amazing night for Theresa May. After a crushing defeat a fortnight ago, she has won a vote sending her back to Brussels with a firm mandate to demand more from the Brexit deal. The EU can stonewall all it likes. But every binding Remainer motion to impede or delay Brexit was defeated. And there is no point Brussels bleating about the Withdrawal Agreement being set in stone. We know it isn’t. Some EU figures have admitted it isn’t. They could tweak the text, time-limit the backstop or find another solution. They choose not to. And they will stick to that as long as they believe Parliament’s Remainers will ultimately strip the Government of its only negotiating leverage, the threat to just walk away. Remainers, some in Cabinet, may well yet do that. Nonetheless last night should sow doubt in Brussels’ minds. The victorious Brady amendment demands a vital, legally binding change to the Irish backstop before the PM’s deal can pass, just as The Sun called for. Even a dejected Corbyn has conceded he now needs to talk to Mrs May. The PM needs to know precisely what she’s demanding from Brussels — and we’re far from confident the EU will see reason. It is still more likely Brexit will be delayed, softened to a point that could tear the Tories apart or halted. But, after last night’s staggering turnaround, who knows? – The Sun says

Katy Balls: The Cooper amendment’s failure dashed the hopes of those calling for a softer Brexit

It’s been a disappointing night for the Remain and soft Brexit factions of parliament. Ahead of the votes on amendments to Theresa May’s Brexit plan, there had been a hope among some that the votes would serve as an opportunity to soften the government’s Brexit position. After the Prime Minister’s deal was voted down by 230 votes last month, a number of MPs – as well as officials in Brussels – read it as a sign that the only way to get a Brexit deal through parliament was for May to pivot to a softer Brexit. Tonight those hopes were dashed. Graham Brady’s government supported amendment calling for an alternative arrangement to the backstop won a majority of Commons support Meanwhile, Yvette Cooper’s much hyped amendment to stop a no-deal Brexit by forcing the government to extend Article 50 if it looked likely, fell short. Dominic Grieve’s amendment calling for days to debate the other Brexit options also failed. The only other Brexit amendment that did pass was that put forward by Caroline Spelman and Jack Dromey. That amendment simply asserted that the House was against no deal. It carries only political weight so doesn’t force the government to do anything to stop it. A number of Remain-leaning ministers say they held off rebelling this time in order to give May time but will rebel if no deal starts to look more likely. That said, it’s clear that tonight the Remainers were on the losing side. – Katy Balls for The Spectator

Christian May: MPs send Brexit ball back into EU’s court… but will they play?

While there was no legislative victory to be had, there was a real risk that MPs would seize control of the Brexit process and render her deal defunct. In the event, MPs voted against extending the Article 50 withdrawal deadline (currently set as 29 March) and against measures that could have allowed parliament to dictate the government’s next steps. As for the notion of a second referendum, the game appears to be up. There simply isn’t enough support for it. After months of making it clear what they were against, MPs finally produced a majority in favour of something. The message to May was clear: renegotiate the terms of the Irish border backstop and your deal could get through parliament. While she may have returned to Downing St last night in moderately high spirits, the hard work (some would say the impossible task) starts now. The European Commission fired off a statement as soon as last night’s votes in parliament were concluded, reiterating its position that the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation. The leaders of France and Ireland also echoed the line. But – as plenty of MPs noted last night – they would say that, wouldn’t they? A negotiation they considered to be closed is now, as far as one side is concerned, very much open. It’s likely that the EU’s most senior officials had hoped that by now MPs would have forced May towards either a second referendum or membership of a permanent customs union. Instead, parliament revived itself last night and summoned up the energy for one more overture to Brussels. The EU would be wise to engage constructively. – Christian May for City A.M.

Katy Balls: The Brexit amendment votes have given Theresa May a boost in the short term

Theresa May has finally managed to unite her party around a Brexit position. The only problem is that it’s a deal that doesn’t currently exist. Ahead of the vote on the various Brexit amendments to the Prime Minister’s plan, a number of MPs had hoped it would serve as an opportunity to soften Brexit following the historic defeat on the government’s Brexit deal last month. Instead, it did close to the opposite and actually boosted the Brexiteer cause. The big ray of light for Theresa May, however, is that the amendment the government supported did pass. Sir Graham Brady’s amendment to replace the Irish backstop with an alternative arrangement won support from Conservative MPs from across the Brexit divide – and the DUP. However, before aides at Number 10 crack open the champagne, it’s worth remembering that there is one big flaw to this plan. As of yet, Brussels is yet to agree to it and all the signs so far suggest they won’t – at least in full. In order to get to this point, May had to say she would move to reopen the withdrawal agreement – something EU negotiators just this week insisted they would not do. She also promised to consider a Brexit plan dubbed the ‘Malthouse Compromise’. That plan has two parts to it but in plain terms it wants to replace the backstop with an alternative arrangement that involves technology – something Brussels has previously said no to. – Katy Balls for iNews

Brexit in Brief

  • Bitter Soubry heckles Nicky Morgan as she explains Rees-Mogg Brexit deal – Express
  • Pound crashes after MPs vote against delaying Brexit – Metro