LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s government is ready to leave the European Union without a divorce deal unless parliament votes for Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan, the government’s leader in the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, said.
“Essentially that is what will happen unless we don’t vote for a deal. The legal position is that we leave without a deal,” Leadsom told BBC radio on Friday.
“People say extend, oh well, extend Article 50, but I have had two public meetings in my constituency in the last few weeks and people, whether they voted remain or leave, the overwhelming view is they say just get on with it.”
May suffered a latest defeat on her Brexit strategy on Thursday, undermining her pledge to EU leaders to get her divorce deal approved if they grant her concessions.
Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by William Schomberg
They will be querying small matters such as, er, how the country will function after Brexit, with Rupa Huq asking about the volume of new legislation required in the event of ‘no deal’ and Diana Johnson reminding the government of that long-awaited white paper on immigration.
Next, it’s Business of the House Questions, when Speaker Bercow and Andrea Leadsom show everyone how much they dislike each other. Then it’s onto Day Three of the Brexit debate, which frankly is becoming dull already thanks to extremely lacklustre speeches that make you wonder whether Tory backbenchers are aware they are taking part in a historic debate. C’mon, give it some welly lads.
The most impressive Conservative contribution so far actually came from the other House, where Lord Heseltine warned his party: “When the election comes, it will have been a Tory that led the referendum campaign; it will have been a Tory government that perpetuated the frozen living standards; it will be a Tory government that is blamed for what we are talking about today. I will have no part of it.” Prime Minister Corbyn here we come? There may well be an election in 2019, but at the moment the DUP says it would support the government in a no-confidence vote (as long as the deal is voted down).
The real action is taking place behind closed doors as Theresa May tries to peel away some of her rebels. On Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, the Prime Minister admitted that the UK could not unilaterally withdraw from the ‘backstop’, and even tried to sell its benefits compared to extending the transition period – no extra payments to the EU, no free movement. Because there is no deal without it, she says. And yet there is no DUP backing with it.
There are rumours flying around Westminster that No10 is considering an amendment that would guarantee MPs a vote on whether to enter the backstop, but Steve Baker and the DUP are not convinced. It wouldn’t be binding, they point out. (“If voting made a difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.”) Ultimately, it’s clear that whatever tricks are tried, the deal won’t be passing on the first go. The question is whether a Tory Brexit deal can get MPs’ approval on the second attempt, and which Labour MPs would be willing to help push it through. Buzzfeed reportsthat Momentum has drawn up a list of 20 possibles, from Caroline Flint to Sarah Champion, who will presumably come under particular pressure from its campaign votedownthedeal.co.uk.
Finally, away from Brexit for a moment, today we can expect the announcement of a new Welsh Labour leader. Mark Drakeford, Vaughan Gething or Eluned Morgan will replace Carwyn Jones next week, after the incumbent emails the Queen with his resignation and she replies. (Not kidding.) The result is unlikely to come as a surprise to anyone who has been even vaguely following the race… but keep an eye on LabourList for the voting figures.
TIM SCULTHORPE, DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR FOR MAILONLINE|AIWA! NO!|Mrs Leadsom said ministers would follow the orders of Parliament but said it undermined ‘decades if not centuries of convention’.
Mrs Leadsom told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘It was incredibly disappointing that the House of Commons decided to vote in effect to overturn what has been decades, if not centuries, of conventions whereby the law officer’s advice to Cabinet and to ministers are not even acknowledged, let alone published.What new powers do MPs now have?
Tory rebels led by Dominic Grieve won a major new power for MPs last night.
If and when Theresa May’s deal is defeated next week, the Government is required by law to show a plan for what happens next to MPs and hold a vote within 21 days.
This was supposed to be unamendable and a simple statement of what the Prime Minister would do now.
But Mr Grieve and another 25 Tory MPs forced a change in last night’s vote.
The next steps motion can now be re-written, meaning a majority of MPs could call for a second referendum or even a total halt to Brexit.
MPs could also order ministers to pursue a Plan B Brexit based on Norway’s relationship with the EU – a deal much closer than Mrs May’s but which has cross party support.
‘The Attorney General had come to the House for two-and-a-half hours, which is also unprecedented in these many years, to answer questions to give his very best legal advice.
‘He published a 48-page document that outlined all of the legal impact of the Withdrawal Agreement, so the vote yesterday of the House to require the specific legal advice to Cabinet we will comply with, but not without some regret.’
Mrs Leadsom continued: ‘Going forward, not only will Government ministers be very careful about what they ask law officers to give advice on, but law officers themselves will be very reluctant to give any advice to Government that they might then see published on the front pages of the newspapers, so it’s the principle of the thing.
‘And frankly I think any parliamentarian who wants at some point in the future to be in Government is going to live to regret their vote last night.’
Mrs Leadsom said the impact of Mr Grieve’s amendment could make a no deal Brexit both more and less likely, depending on how MPs react.
She said MPs should vote for Mrs May’s deal because while it was not perfect was the ‘best combination we are going to get’.
Admitting she was unhappy with the Irish border backstop, she insisted it was also ‘not in the EU’s interest’ for Britain to be locked into it indefinitely.’
Mrs May’s ailing hopes of winning the vote on Tuesday took another blow today as former chief whip Mark Harper (file image) joined the ranks of Tory MPs pledged to vote No
Last night, Mrs May tried to keep her plan alive with a rousing speech to the Commons, in which she warned ‘Brexit could be stopped’ entirely if it is voted down on Tuesday.
She acknowledged criticism of her ‘compromise’ deal, but said: ‘We should not let the search for the perfect Brexit prevent a good Brexit that delivers for the British people.
‘And we should not contemplate a course that fails to respect the result of the referendum, because it would decimate the trust of millions of people in our politics for a generation.’
Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, led the rebellion which could effectively takes a no-deal exit off the table.
He claimed it could lead to a second referendum, adding: ‘MPs are tonight starting the process of taking back control.’
Downing Street must now hope that the threat of Parliament blocking a no-deal Brexit convinces some Eurosceptic opponents of her deal to change their minds before the meaningful vote.
However, a number of high profile, and previously loyal, Tory MPs rebelled during the series of defeats last night – including Michael Fallon and Damian Green.
And in a clear indication that the Prime Minister’s ‘confidence and supply’ deal with the DUP is fractured beyond repair, the Northern Irish party warned her it did not fear another election.
Downing Street had hoped the threat of a general election would bring the DUP to heel, because it could bring the pro-Nationalist Jeremy Corbyn to power.
But the party voted against the Government last night, with Nigel Dodds, the party’s Westminster leader, telling Mrs May his party was ready to spark another poll. He added: ‘I’m certain we will be returned in greater numbers.’
Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, has warned the Prime Minister that MPs would not support any deal that would keep Britain locked in a backstop arrangement with Brussels.
She told BBC Radio 5 Live the UK “cannot be held against its will” in a possible customs union with the EU, adding: “It cannot be a decision that can be overturned by the European Union, it must be capable for the United Kingdom to decide to leave that customs arrangement.”
EU negotiators rejected this and reportedly told their UK counterparts that the European Court of Justice would have to be involved in the arbitration of any potential mechanism.
Ahead of the meeting, Ms Loiseau rejected the possibility of an independent mechanism being included in the backstop to help the Prime Minister with her domestic negotiations.
The French Europe minister told reporters: “If we end any sort of temporary arrangement this is to be bilateral decision from the EU27 and from the UK at the same time and we have to know in that moment what sort of solution there is for the Irish border.”
Technical-level negotiations will continue between the British and EU teams as they move “closer and closer” to seal a Brexit deal, according to one EU diplomat.
A technical deal is once again within days of conclusion but Mrs May is struggling to win political backing from her Cabinet as further splits emerge in her Conservative Party.