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LONDON (Reuters) – The parliament will vote on Wednesday on whether to leave the European Union in 16 days without an agreement as the government said it would eliminate import tariffs on a wide range of goods in a no-deal Brexit scenario.
British lawmakers on Tuesday handed Prime Minister Theresa May a second humiliating defeat on the Brexit plan she had agreed with the EU, plunging the country deeper into political crisis.
The turmoil leaves the world’s fifth largest economy facing a range of scenarios – it could leave without a transition deal; delay the March 29 divorce date enshrined in law; May could hold a snap election or try a third time to get her deal passed; or Britain could hold another Brexit referendum.
On Wednesday, parliament is expected to reject a no-deal Brexit in a vote at 1900 GMT, although this will have no legal force. On Thursday, it will then vote on whether to ask the EU for a delay to Brexit, something to which all the bloc’s other 27 members must agree.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the bloc would need to know why Britain wanted to extend talks and it was up to London to find a way out of the deadlock.
“If the UK still wants to leave the EU in an orderly manner, this treaty is – and will remain – the only treaty possible,” Barnier told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
Last November, after two years of hard-fought negotiations, I agreed a Brexit deal with the EU that I passionately believe delivers on the decision taken by the British people to leave the European Union.
Over the last four months, I have made the case for that deal in Westminster and across the UK.
The end of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy for British farmers and fishermen.
An independent trade policy.
And the deal sets us on course for a good future relationship with our friends and allies in the EU.
A close economic partnership that is good for business.
Ongoing security co-operation to keep our peoples safe.
The deal honours the referendum result and is good for both the UK and the EU.
But there was a clear concern in Parliament over one issue in particular: the Northern Ireland backstop.
Having an insurance policy to guarantee that there will never be a hard border in Northern Ireland is absolutely right – it honours the UK’s solemn commitments in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.
But if we ever have to use that insurance policy, it cannot become a permanent arrangement and it is not the template for our future relationship.
The deal that MPs voted on in January was not strong enough in making that clear – and legally binding changes were needed to set that right.
Today we have agreed them.
First, a joint instrument with comparable legal weight to the Withdrawal Agreement will guarantee that the EU cannot act with the intent of applying the backstop indefinitely.
If they do, it can be challenged through arbitration and if they are found to be in breach the UK can suspend the backstop.
The joint instrument also gives a legal commitment that whatever replaces the backstop does not need to replicate it.
And it entrenches in legally-binding form the commitments made in the exchange of letters with Presidents Tusk and Juncker in January.
Second, the UK and the EU have made a joint statement in relation to the Political Declaration.
It sets out a number of commitments to enhance and expedite the process of negotiating and bringing into force the future relationship.
And it makes a legal commitment that the UK and the EU will begin work immediately to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements by the end of December 2020.
There will be a specific negotiating track on alternative arrangements from the very start of the next phase of negotiations.
It will consider facilitations and technologies – both those currently ready and emerging.
The UK’s position will be informed by the three domestic groups announced last week – for technical experts, MPs, and business and trade unions.
Third, alongside the joint instrument on the Withdrawal Agreement, the United Kingdom Government will make a Unilateral Declaration that if the backstop comes into use and discussions on our future relationship break down so that there is no prospect of subsequent agreement, it is the position of the United Kingdom that there would be nothing to prevent the UK instigating measures that would ultimately dis-apply the backstop.
Unilateral Declarations are commonly used by states alongside the ratification of treaties.
The Attorney General will set out in legal analysis the meaning of the joint instrument and unilateral declaration to Parliament.
Tomorrow the House of Commons will debate the improved deal that these legal changes have created.
I will speak in more detail about them when I open that debate.
MPs were clear that legal changes were needed to the backstop.
Today we have secured legal changes.
Now is the time to come together, to back this improved Brexit deal, and to deliver on the instruction of the British people.
Amber Rudd has inexplicably referred to Diane Abbott as a “coloured woman”.
The Work and Pensions secretary used the outdated and offensive term when discussing abuse suffered by politicians.
Speaking on the Jeremy Vine Show, Ms Rudd told the BBC that female politicians receive worse abuse and that it is particularly bad for those who are BAME.
It comes after the cabinet minister featured in a video reading out some of the abuse she receives on Twitter.
Asked if it is worse for women, she replied: “It is worse if you’re a woman and it’s worst of all if you’re a coloured woman – I know that Diane Abbott gets a huge amount of abuse and I think that’s something that we need to continue to call out.”
Diane Abbott replied on Twitter: “The term ‘coloured’, is an outdated, offensive and revealing choice of words.”
Labour MP Danielle Rowley tweeted: “Amber Rudd undermining an important point about online abuse by referring to Diane Abbott as a “coloured woman” on BBCRadio2.
“She clearly gets her language from the same bygone era as her abhorrent welfare policies.”
Within an hour of the remarks, Amber Rudd tweeted: “Mortified at my clumsy language and sorry to Diane Abbott.
“My point stands: that no one should suffer abuse because of their race or gender.”
But now he has thrown his weight behind the 8 Labour and 3 Tory MPs who quit their parties this week to form the so-called ‘TIG’.
He told The Observer “intimidation and bullying” has become “endemic” in the Labour Party “for all to see” – and he now feels “relief” at abandoning Labour.
I’m a Londoner, born and bred. It’s in my blood. I can’t imagine ever wanting to live anywhere else. And being a member of the Labour party is much the same. I was 15 when I first joined and it’s where I met many of my closest friends. Being Labour is a big part of who I am.
Luciana Berger speaking at the launch of the Independent Group on 18 February, where she resigned over antisemitism, Mirror
He added: “I have watched, with ever-growing concern, the deterioration, especially over the past year, of the extent and nature of the naked antisemitism which has increased throughout the Labour party and its supporters, since Jeremy Corbyn and his cabal of revolutionaries took control of the Labour party which I had so admired and supported with commitment and enthusiasm.”
Pimlico Plumbers founder Charlie Mullins, who previously donated to the Tories and then the Lib Dems, indicated to The Times on Saturday that he could also give TIG financial backing.
“I believe that any money I put in to the Independent Group will be money well spent because I think Theresa May is destroying the economy,” he said.
“This is about our children and grandchildren and the future of this country.”
Meanwhile Sadiq Khan warned there has been “a collapse in trust” between Labour and the Jewish community and said the last week had been “the most distressing and depressing of my 33 years in the party”.
Many Jewish people feel Labour is “unwilling” to tackle anti-Semitism, he wrote, and “Sadly, it’s now possible that the Jewish Labour Movement will never reach its 100-year anniversary.’
And the Mail on Sunday reports that Dame Louise Ellman could be the next MP to quit the Labour Party.
A friend of the Jewish MP told the newspaper: “Louise will not be in the party for much longer.”
Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson today declared there is a “crisis for the soul of the Labour Party”, branded the situation “perilous” and demanded Jeremy Corbyn take personal control of the anti-Semitism row.
He said he had sent a file of 50 Labour anti-Semitism cases to the Labour leader that he felt had been inadequately dealt with.
But Labour’s Shadow Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner insisted the number of cases was a “tiny” proportion of the Labour membership and said just 61 alleged anti-Semites had been expelled or left in anticipation they’d been booted out.
Earlier this week the new Independent Group of MPs claimed they had already had thousands of donations – and claimed they will declare them “in due course”.
Because the group is not a registered political party, it does not have to declare donations unless they come to its individual MPs.