Theresa May has admitted the country faces a political crisis as she prepares to ask the European Union to allow Britain to delay Brexit. She will deliver her plea for extra time ahead of a Brussels summit on Thursday at which EU leaders are expected to spell out their exasperation over the chaos surrounding Brexit. The turmoil has been triggered by two crushing Commons defeats for her withdrawal plans and her continuing failure to win over Tory Eurosceptics and DUP MPs to supporting her Brexit blueprint. Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/news/brexit/brexit-theresa-may-crisis-eu-withdrawal-agreement/

Theresa May admits Britain is ‘in crisis’ as she asks EU for extra time to negotiate a deal

Prime Minister Theresa May in the cabinet office signs the official letter to European Council President Donald Tusk invoking Article 50 and the United Kingdom’s intention to leave the EU on March 28, 2017 [Getty Images]

Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/news/brexit/brexit-theresa-may-crisis-eu-withdrawal-agreement/
Prime Minister Theresa May in the cabinet office signs the official letter to European Council President Donald Tusk invoking Article 50 and the United Kingdom’s intention to leave the EU on March 28, 2017 [Getty Images]

The turmoil has been triggered by two crushing Commons defeats for her withdrawal plans – Nigel Morris, i News

British Prime Minister Theresa May has admitted the country faces a political crisis as she prepares to ask the European Union to allow Britain to delay Brexit.

She will deliver her plea for extra time ahead of a Brussels summit on Thursday at which EU leaders are expected to spell out their exasperation over the chaos surrounding Brexit. The turmoil has been triggered by two crushing Commons defeats for her withdrawal plans and her continuing failure to win over Tory Eurosceptics and DUP MPs to supporting her Brexit blueprint.

It has been compounded by Speaker John Bercow’s warning that she cannot make a third attempt to win approval for her proposals unless they are substantially rewritten.

Crisis plea

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said she told MPs last week that “we would be in crisis” if they rejected her plans. EU Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says something new is needed if Article 50 is to be extended [Getty Images]

Read more: Cabinet at war as MPs threaten to resign posts over Article 50 extension

Referring to Mr Bercow’s surprise intervention, he added: “I think events yesterday tell you that that situation has come to pass.” Downing Street has admitted that time has run out for Britain to leave the EU on its scheduled departure date of 29 March and acknowledged the need for more time. Its preference is to hold a third “meaningful vote” next week – possibly on Thursday 28 March – followed by a short extension to pass the legislation required to pass the necessary legislation for Brexit.

Brexit postponed

Mrs May will make her case in a letter to Donald Tusk, the European Council president, to be sent on Wednesday. She is expected to call for postponement of Britain’s departure by at least three months, although reports have suggested that she could raise the prospect a far longer delay. However, Brussels warned that she will only be granted a lengthy delay if she produces a “concrete plan” for using the extra time.

The ultimatum was delivered by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator. In words that appeared to open the door to a soft Brexit, second referendum or even general election, Mr Barnier said extra time would be granted for a “new event or a new political process”.

Is an extension useful?

It came as Germany, France and Ireland signalled their frustration at the latest impasse in the Brexit process. But Mr Barnier told journalists: “It is our duty to ask whether this extension would be useful because an extension will be something which would extend uncertainty and uncertainty costs.” He warned that the UK would need to propose “something new” to justify a lengthy extension, he said. It has been suggested that Mrs May could ask for a lengthy extension to Article 50, with the option of an early break in May or June if she manages to get her Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament. But Mr Barnier said it was time for the government to spell out a clear preference, adding: “it’s either one or the other, isn’t it?”

Michael Roth, Germany’s Europe minister, said EU member states were “really exhausted” by the UK’s approach to talks, warning the situation was “not just a game”. His French counterpart Nathalie Loiseau said Ms May would have to present “something new” that did not just result in an extension of “the same deadlock”. Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, said Britain would need to provide a “very persuasive plan” to accompany its request for a delay to Brexit. He added: “It’s also been very clear that there is absolutely no appetite to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement or the detail of that.” 

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UK government ‘in crisis’ as Theresa May to ask EU for Brexit delay

Anti-Brexit protesters drive through Whitehall as Theresa May holds crisis talks (Image: AFP/Getty Images)
Anti-Brexit protesters drive through Whitehall as Theresa May holds crisis talks (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

The PM’s spokesman said that May would be writing to Donald Tusk ahead of Thursday’s EU summit in Brussels in relation to an extension of the Article 50 withdrawal process – AIWA! NO!

Theresa May has admitted the UK Government is “in crisis” as she prepares to write to European Council president Donald Tusk in relation to an extension of the Article 50 withdrawal process.

John Bercow provoked uproar at Westminster on Monday when he ruled that the Government could not bring the Prime Minister’s deal back for a third “meaningful vote” unless there were substantial changes.

May voiced her “absolute determination” that MPs should have another chance to vote on her Brexit deal, despite the bombshell intervention of the Commons Speaker.

May’s spokesman said the Prime Minister had made clear if her deal was voted down in the second “meaningful vote” – as happened last week – they would be “in crisis”.

He said events on Monday suggested “that situation has come to pass”.

The spokesman said that May would now be writing to European Council president Donald Tusk ahead of Thursday’s EU summit in Brussels in relation to an extension of the Article 50 withdrawal process.

Andrea Leadsom voiced fears that the Cabinet would not deliver Brexit (Image: REUTERS)
Andrea Leadsom voiced fears that the Cabinet would not deliver Brexit (Image: REUTERS)

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “What you can see from the Prime Minister and her colleagues is an absolute determination to find a way in which Parliament could vote for the UK to leave the European Union with a deal.

“The Prime Minister has been very clear throughout that she wants that to happen as soon as possible.”

Nevertheless, there was said to concern among some ministers that Brexit appeared to be slipping away.

The Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom is understood to have told the meeting: “This used to be the Cabinet that would deliver Brexit and now from what I’m hearing it’s not.”

In a further blow to May, the government’s talks with the DUP, which has 10 lawmakers in parliament, have reportedly stalled and a breakthrough is unlikely at the moment.

The Prime Minister previously said if the deal was defeated in last week’s vote there would have to be an extended delay to Brexit, with the UK staging elections to the European Parliament in May.

JOHN BERCOW: GOVERNMENT CANNOT HOLD ANOTHER MEANINGFUL VOTE UNLESS IT IS SUBSTANTIALLY DIFFERENT
JOHN BERCOW: GOVERNMENT CANNOT HOLD ANOTHER MEANINGFUL VOTE UNLESS IT IS SUBSTANTIALLY DIFFERENT

However the spokesman said: “She has said in the House of Commons that she does not want there to be a long delay and that she believes asking the British public to take part in European elections three years after they voted to leave the EU would represent a failure by politicians.”

Downing Street confirmed discussions were continuing with the Democratic Unionist Party – which props up the Government at Westminster – in an effort to build support for the deal after last week’s 149-vote defeat.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson – one of the most strident opponents of the Withdrawal Agreement – was also seen entering the Cabinet Office for talks.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “She is speaking with and having meetings with colleagues and a lot of those meetings have been focused on Brexit.”

Speaker John Bercow's ruling sparked uproar (Image: PA)
Speaker John Bercow’s ruling sparked uproar (Image: PA)

Earlier, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay acknowledged Bercow’s ruling made it “more unlikely” there would be an attempt to stage another vote before May heads to Brussels, as No 10 had hoped.

However, he insisted that May’s agreement remained “the only deal on the table”.

“What we need to do is secure the deal,” he told Sky News.

“This is the only deal on the table. The EU is clear it is the only deal on the table. Business needs the certainty of this deal and it is time that Parliament comes together and gets behind it.”

While Bercow cited previous rulings dating back to the 17th century in his Commons statement, Barclay said he had previously made clear the House should not necessarily be bound by precedent.

“What the Speaker has said in his ruling is there needs to be something that is different. You can have the same motion but where the circumstances have changed,” he said.

“So we need to look at the details of the ruling, we need to consider that in the terms of earlier rulings that don’t particularly align with yesterday’s.

“The fact a number of Members of Parliament have said that they will change their votes points to the fact that there are things that are different.”

With less than two weeks before Britain is still formally due to leave on March 29, there was exasperation among leaders of the remaining EU 27 over the continued deadlock in Westminster.

Arriving for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Germany’s Europe minister Michael Roth said they needed “clear and precise proposals” from the UK regarding any Article 50 extension.

“Dear friends in London, please deliver. The clock is ticking,” he said.

“It’s not just a game. It’s an extremely serious situation.”

Meanwhile, Irish premier Leo Varadkar has held talks in Dublin with Tusk ahead of the Brussels summit.

The Irish government has been adamant it will not accept changes to the Northern Ireland backstop – intended to ensure there is no return of a hard border – which remains the main stumbling block to an agreement for many MPs.

The former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) announced in an op-ed for The Telegraph that if Britain's exit from the EU was delayed, he would stand as candidate for the party in the European Parliament elections. "I have made it clear many times that I will not stand by and do nothing, so should this (European Parliament) election need to be contested, I will stand as a candidate for the Brexit Party and I will give it my all," he said, adding: "In defense of democracy, we stand ready for battle."

EU Six top Brussels bureaucrats standing in the way of Brexit?

Six EU leaders: Pro-EU Labour party stalwart and MP Harriet Harman failed to recognise the EU’s most powerful officials in an embarrassing TV moment during the referendum campaign/

Pro-EU Labour party stalwart and MP Harriet Harman failed to recognise the EU’s most powerful officials in an embarrassing TV moment during the referendum campaign/ 

BRITAIN’s relationship with the EU is a complicated one especially now we are leaving, but who are the top Brussels bureaucrats? – ALICE FOSTER, EXPRESS

Image result for Jean-Claude Juncker

President of the European Commission

Who is Jean-Claude Juncker?

The President of the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, has refused to resign in the wake of the Brexit vote and chaos in Europe. 

Mr Juncker served as prime minister of Luxembourg for nearly 20 years and took charge of the European Commission in 2014, despite UK opposition.

He failed to keep Britain in the EU and was one of the key players in working out a controversial deal for Britain earlier this year. 

Mr Juncker’s red lines in talks were the integrity of the single market and free movement, plus the possibility of bringing more of Europe into the Eurozone.

Concerns over the free movement of people and immigration defined the EU referendum campaign. 

Donald Tusk
Donald Tusk is President of the European Council [EPA]

2. Who is Donald Tusk? 

The President of the European Council – a summit of leaders of EU member states – helped to strike a draft deal aimed at keeping the UK in the EU in February 2016. 

The former Polish prime minister, a pragmatic centralist, played a key role in the “challenging negotiations” which finally secured approval for the deal at an EU summit. 

He served as the prime minister of Poland from 2007 to 2014 before taking on his current role as President of the European Council in late 2014. 

But before the EU referendum, Mr Tusk warned that the long-term consequences of Brexit were “dangerous” and “completely unpredictable”.

Frans Timmermans
Frans Timmermans is First Vice President of the European Commission [AFP/Getty]

3. Who is Frans Timmermans?

The First Vice President of the European Commission has been engaged in negotiations with British government officials for a long time.  

The former Dutch foreign minister actually supports the UK’s drive for greater competitiveness and has pledged to cut the EU’s red tape.

The commissioner has launched a ‘better regulation’ agenda, which aims to improve the EU law-making process. 

Mr Timmermans became Mr Juncker’s right-hand man in the European Commission in 2014 after having served in both the Dutch Parliament and civil service.

His portfolio includes better regulation, inter-institutional relations, the rule of law and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. 

Martin Schulz
Martin Schulz is President of the European Parliament [EPA]

4. Who is Martin Schulz

The President of the European Parliament is an outspoken politician and a fierce critic of Cameron’s efforts to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EU. 

The veteran German politician argued that the UK’s demands tested the patience of the EU and said Britain should be allowed to quit if it wants to. 

Mr Schulz said he was not shocked by the Brexit victory, but has urged the UK to leave the bloc as soon as possible in order to end uncertainty. 

The MEP was first elected as European Parliament President in 2012 after serving as leader of the group of Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

He is one of the leading federalists in the EU and has been an MEP since 1994.

Mario Draghi
Mario Draghi is President of the European Central Bank [EPA]

5. Who is Mario Draghihttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Draghi?

The President of the European Central Bank has been responsible for dealing with the fallout from the Eurozone’s debt crisis.   

Mr Draghi, who took on the role in 2011, previously worked at Goldman Sachs and the World Bank, as well as serving as governor of the Bank of Italy. 

The Italian economist and banker was ranked eighth on a list of the world’s most powerful people published by Forbes in 2014. 

During his time as general director of the Italian Treasury from 1991 to 2001, Mr Draghi played a role in reducing Italy’s public debt. 

He has earned the nickname “Super Mario”.

Federica Mogherini 
Federica Mogherini is the EU’s foreign affairs chief [EPA]

6. Who is Federica Mogherini?

The EU’s foreign affairs chief, known as the High Representative, works on issues such as the migration crisis, Iran’s nuclear policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The former Italian foreign minister is a centre-left politician and also serves as Vice President of the European Commission under Mr Juncker. 

Ms Mogherini spoke about the need to bring peace to war-torn Syria during the Syrian donor conference in London in February 2016. 

The politician, born in Rome, was elected as a member of the Italian Parliament in 2008 and served as Italian minister of foreign affairs in 2014. 

Theresa May, struggling to find a plan B, may delay Brexit until July – her toxic option

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Downing Street, London, Britain, January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Downing Street, London, Britain, January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

Deep divisions in the Cabinet are being exposed

i|AIWA! NO!|Theresa May’s plans to forge a Brexit Plan B that she can take to the Commons on Monday were dealt a serious blow after one of her closest European allies warned the existing deal could not be “tweaked”. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte cast serious doubts over whether Mrs May would be able to change the existing withdrawal agreement to present it to MPs next week.

Mrs May will spend the weekend trying to patch together a fresh deal to present to MPs on Monday. Such is her difficulty in finding a compromise that satisfies enough MPs to get a deal through Parliament, that Government sources have suggested she could announce an extension to Article 50 at least until July. It is an option she regards as toxic but may yet be forced to agree to.

Brexit date looming Elsewhere, speculation has been mounting within Whitehall and the Commons that the Government is preparing for a snap election as a means of breaking the deadlock.

Mrs May has been holding a series of talks with European leaders, including Mr Rutte who said: “I don’t see how the current deal can be tweaked. She is really expecting Brexit to go ahead on 29 March.”

International Development Penny Mordaunt warned no-deal must be kept on the table (Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

International Development Penny Mordaunt warned no-deal must be kept on the table (Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

Mrs May travelled to Chequers, her country residence in Buckinghamshire, on Friday after speaking to Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. Downing Street sources said she had no talks planned with other EU leaders over the weekend, but senior sources told i that an emergency Cabinet or conference call could be arranged for Monday. It follows conversations she held with more than half of her Cabinet team through a series of group and one-to-one meetings to spell out her next steps ahead of Monday’s statement.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt warned before heading into her own audience with the Prime Minister that a no deal Brexit must be kept on the table. “It’s only when no-deal is better than a bad deal is believed by the EU that we’ll maximise our chances of a deal,” she said on Twitter.

Chancellor Philip Hammond believed a no deal Brexit would be scrapped (Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

Deep divisions, little change Chancellor Philip Hammond (right) believed a no deal Brexit would be scrapped (Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

It exposes the deep divisions in the Cabinet, following comments by Chancellor Philip Hammond that he believed a no deal Brexit would be scrapped. Senior MPs from opposition parties met Mrs May and her de facto deputy David Lidington to discuss possible options to change her Brexit plans, such as delaying Article 50 and putting the deal to the public in a second referendum. But many were left deeply sceptical that any significant changes would be forthcoming. Green MP Caroline Lucas told i she left her meeting with the Prime Minister with a sense that very little would change. “I asked what areas she would be willing to give ground on, and she just said that wasn’t the purpose of the meetings,” Ms Lucas said.

“She is hoping that during these talks a dazzling light will be shone that will show her how to tweak her deal that will bring round MPs,” she added. “That approach might have worked if had been just a dozen MPs who had voted down her deal but not 230.” 

Theresa May Brexit Plan B: What Are Her Options If She Loses Vote?

A demonstrator calls for Theresa May to resign. Picture: PA

A demonstrator calls for Theresa May to resign. Picture: PA

|AIWA! NO!|What will Theresa May’s Plan B be if she loses next week’s meaningful vote as expected? LBC’s Political Editor Theo Usherwood assesses her options.

Yesterday’s defeat means that if the Prime Minister does lose, she must return to Parliament to set out her Plan B within three working days.

What will that Plan B look like? Here is what she might do next.

1) Kick the can down the road one last time

Theresa May will no doubt speak to Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s vote. If – as expected – she loses, her job will be to persuade them both that she could win second time round if they are forthcoming with more substantial concessions.

The offer would have to be much better than what we have seen over Christmas, but the EU has plenty of other things to worry about other than Brexit. The growing feeling in Brussels is that a deal needs to be done. That would give the PM one last chance to get something better, and bring the vote back to Parliament towards the end of January, or the beginning of February.

Likelihood rating: 4/5

2) A second referendum

Mrs May would need to immediately ask the EU for an extension to Article 50. She has of course repeatedly ruled out a second referendum. The argument from Number 10 is that the British people has already had its say and we voted to leave.

The obvious strategy would be to put three options on the ballot paper: Remain, May’s deal, No Deal. That risks enraging leavers as it splits their vote in two.

But a second poll doesn’t necessarily have to reverse the 2016 result. Mrs May could propose the question: My Deal or No Deal? That would put the onus on Jeremy Corbyn to order his MPs to vote for the inevitable amendment to add Remain to the ballot paper. A high risk strategy for a Prime Minister most do not think actually countenances leaving without a deal.

Likelihood rating: 2/5 (May deal v No Deal: 1/5)

Could Theresa May call a People's Vote
Could Theresa May call a People’s Vote. Picture: PA

3) Call a snap general election

Last month’s no confidence vote was politically costly because Mrs May had to promise she would not fight the next general election in 2022. The date is important: the Prime Minister leaving open the option that she could call a snap general election and fight it.

On the plus side, it is the only way to break the deadlock in the House of Commons. We are where we are because as things stand at the moment there isn’t a majority for anything.

On the downside, it is hard to imagine senior Tories within the party allowing Mrs May to fight a snap election, especially after what happened last time. Given the internal turmoil within the Conservative party at the moment, it is also hard to see how Mrs May could campaign with a coherent message to win over voters. Needless to say, this is the ideal route for Jeremy Corbyn. Just like the previous option, Mrs May would need to extend Article 50.

Likelihood rating: 2/5

4) Sit tight and wind the clock down

Similar to option one, this course of action relies on Downing Street buying, with the help of prevarication in Brussels, as much time as possible. A tough ask but Downing Street’s consistent argument to Remainers has been that they should vote for the PM’s deal or face a No Deal Brexit because that is the default option. The closer we get to Brexit D-Day – March 29 – the more powerful this argument becomes.

The only problem is the Government has to pass six pieces of Brexit legislation (excluding the Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill) by 29th March, on everything from immigration to fisheries. Given what happened with Yvette Cooper’s amendment on Tuesday to the Finance Bill, those pieces of legislation would be cut to shreds by Tory Remainers and Labour in an effort to grind the machinery of Whitehall to a halt.

The problem for the Prime Minister is that she will lose increasing amounts of control the closer she gets to  D-Day. And then there is the strong chance Remainers in the Government will knock on the door and tell her to go, or face mass resignations.    

Likelihood rating: 3/5 

5) Cancel Brexit

It is worth including but it is not going to happen, not least because it wouldn’t get through Parliament. Jeremy Corbyn wouldn’t support it and it would end in a bloodbath for the Conservatives at the next election.

Likelihood rating: 0/5 

6) Hold a series of indicative votes

The problem at the moment is that MPs cannot decide between themselves as to what to do. Mrs May could announce next week that she will hold a series of indicative votes in an effort to build a consensus.

There have already been discussions with Labour MPs in leave constituencies – the likes of John Mann and Caroline Flint – but given the splits within her own party, Mrs May will probably need Jeremy Corbyn to whip his MPs to support her next move.

A softer Brexit pushed through by Labour MPs will damage the Tory brand and cause uproar amongst leavers within her own party. And for a Labour leadership focused on a general election, it is not particularly desirable to let the PM off the hook. But then the Labour leader won’t exactly relish a second referendum and the implications for his unity within his own party. 

Likelihood rating: 3/5

A demonstrator calls for Theresa May to resign
A demonstrator calls for Theresa May to resign. Picture: PA

7) Resign

This is the last thing the Prime Minister is going to do. Theresa May had wanted the chance to implement her own domestic agenda to resolve the burning injustices she saw in society when she walked in to Number 10 in July 2016. That won’t happen now.

Brexit is her mission, and it is one she is determined to fulfil. But there has been speculation in recent days that her most senior aides are looking for a way out once the first stage of Brexit is over. If this happens, Mrs May would then have to revive her office with fresh staff and impetus to complete the lengthy and tortuous trade negotiations, not to mention deliver on her reforms to the social care system and education. A seemingly impossible ask.

Likelihood rating: 0/5 before Brexit, 4/5 after Brexit