Irish border backstop at centre of Brexit delay

Irish border backstop at centre of Brexit delay

Latest: Theresa May has confirmed that the vote on Brexit that was scheduled to take place tomorrow will not go ahead.

No date has been given for when the vote will take place.

Announcing the decision to delay the vote on the Brexit deal, Mrs May told the Commons that if it had gone ahead as planned, the Government would have been defeated by a significant margin.

"I have listened very carefully to what has been said in this chamber and out of it by Members from all sides," she said.

From listening to those views it is clear that while there is broad support for key aspects of the deal, on one issue, the Northern Ireland backstop, there remains widespread and deep concern.

"As a result, if we went ahead tomorrow it would be rejected by a significant margin."

Mrs May said she believed there was "a majority to be won" in the Commons on her deal, if she is able to "secure additional reassurance on the backstop".

The PM said the fundamental question for MPs to answer was: "Does this House want to deliver Brexit?"

If so, she said that they needed to ask themselves whether they were willing to make compromises.

Mrs May said it was an "inescapable fact" that the Northern Ireland/Ireland border would become the external EU border on March 30.

She told the Commons: "The challenge this poses must be met, not with rhetoric, but with real and workable solutions.

"Businesses operate across that border, people live their lives crossing and recrossing it every day.

"I have been there and spoken to some of those people, they do not want their every-day lives to change as a result of the decision we have taken. They do not want a return to a hard border.

If this House cares about preserving our Union it must listen to those people because our Union will only endure with their consent.

Mrs May said she would meet her EU counterparts in advance of the European Council this week.

She told MPs: "I am clear from what I have heard in this place and from my own conversations that these elements do not offer a sufficient number of colleagues the reassurance that they need.

I spoke to a number of EU leaders over the weekend and in advance of the European Council I will go to see my counterparts in other member states and the leadership of the Council and the Commission.

"I will discuss with them the clear concerns that this House has expressed."

She said the Government was also looking at "new ways of empowering the House of Commons" to ensure that any provision for a backstop has "democratic legitimacy and to enable the House to place its own obligations on the Government to ensure that the backstop cannot be in place indefinitely".

Referring to the Brexit deal, Mrs May said: "I believe in it as do many members of this House.

"And, I still believe there is a majority to be won in this House in support of it if I can secure additional reassurance on the question of the backstop.

"And that is what my focus will be in the days ahead."

Theresa May to hold emergency talks with EU leaders after pulling vote

3.30pm: Addressing Commons this afternoon, Theresa May has confirmed that the vote on Brexit that was scheduled to take place tomorrow will not go ahead.

Mrs May said that if the vote went ahead, it would have been lost by a large margin.

Mrs May told the House of Commons she would meet other European leaders and the leaders of the European Council and Commission ahead of Thursday's summit in Brussels.

She said that the Government was stepping up preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

News that the crucial "meaningful vote" was being postponed broke just moments after a Downing Street spokeswoman told Westminster reporters at a regular daily briefing that it would go ahead.

Mrs May was engaged in a conference call by telephone with her Cabinet ministers as the story broke.

There was no official confirmation from 10 Downing Street that the vote was being called off.

But a senior source said: "It's being pulled."

Mrs May later spoke by phone to Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, whose MPs prop up the minority Conservative administration but were threatening to vote against her deal.

Mrs Foster said: "My message was clear. The backstop must go. Too much time has been wasted. Need a better deal.

"Disappointed it has taken so long for Prime Minister to listen."

Irish border backstop at centre of Brexit delay

'Pathetic cowardice': Reaction to May's decision to pull Brexit vote

14.55pm: Politicians in both the UK and Ireland have been reacting to news that Theresa May is to pull the Brexit vote that had been scheduled for tomorrow.

Irish border backstop at centre of Brexit delay

The British Prime Minister is due to inform the House of Commons in an oral statement at 3.30pm.

UK government minister Nadhim Zahawi said the Prime Minister "has listened to colleagues and will head to Brussels to push back on the backstop."

But a spokeswoman for European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker poured cold water on hopes of a renegotiation.

In a press briefing in Brussels, Mina Andreeva said: "As President Juncker said, this deal is the best and only deal possible.

We will not renegotiate - our position has therefore not changed and as far as we are concerned the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union on March 29 2019.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar ruled out reopening negotiations around the backstop, which is designed to keep the Irish border open following Brexit.

Mr Varadkar said it was not possible to reopen any aspect of the Withdrawal Agreement without reopening all aspects of it.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused Mrs May of "pathetic cowardice" and urged Labour to table a vote of no confidence in Mrs May, which she said the SNP would support.

In a message directed at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Ms Sturgeon said: "If Labour, as official opposition, lodges a motion of no confidence in this incompetent Government tomorrow, the SNP will support and we can then work together to give people the chance to stop Brexit in another vote.

"This shambles can't go on - so how about it?"

Mr Corbyn said the UK no longer had a "functioning Government" and called on the PM to switch to his party's plans for a "jobs-first deal".

"We have known for at least two weeks that Theresa May's worst-of-all-worlds deal was going to be rejected by Parliament because it is damaging for Britain," said Mr Corbyn.

Instead, she ploughed ahead when she should have gone back to Brussels to renegotiate or called an election so the public could elect a new government that could do so.

Labour MP David Lammy, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign for a second referendum, said: "This is an unprecedented and historic humiliation for Theresa May. This is recognition of what has been clear for months: there is no majority for her miserable Brexit deal in Parliament.

"It is impossible to deliver on the 2016 referendum result because it was based on false promises and fantasy. No negotiations in Brussels will change this fact.

"Our politics is now well and truly stuck. The way to unblock it is to go back to the public with a people's vote, which will either offer a mandate for a specific form of Brexit, or to remain in the EU."

 

May to address MPs as historic Brexit vote is called off

12.55pm: Theresa May is calling off the vote on her Brexit deal in the face of what had been expected to be a significant defeat at the hands of rebel MPs.

A Government source confirmed that the vote was being pulled, with the British Prime Minister due to inform the House of Commons in an oral statement at 3.30pm.

Irish border backstop at centre of Brexit delay

News that the crucial "meaningful vote" was being postponed broke just moments after a Downing Street spokeswoman told Westminster reporters at a regular daily briefing that it would go ahead.

The pound fell sharply in response, shedding 0.5% versus the US dollar to stand at 1.26. Against the euro, the pound was 0.8% down at 1.10.

Mrs May was engaged in a conference call by telephone with her Cabinet ministers as the story broke.

There was no official confirmation from 10 Downing Street that the vote was being called off.

But a senior source said: "It's being pulled."

Mrs May's hastily-arranged oral statement is widely expected to confirm that she intends to seek further concessions from Brussels to try to win over rebellious backbenchers.

The statement will be followed by Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom announcing changes to parliamentary business for the days ahead, and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will then make a statement to MPs on the Article 50 process.

Source confirms May has called off Brexit vote

12.30pm: Theresa May has decided to call off the Commons vote on her Brexit deal scheduled for Tuesday, a source has confirmed.

More to follow.

Theresa May to give statement this afternoon amid rumours vote to be delayed

12.20pm: Theresa May is to give an oral statement to the House of Commons on the European Union at 3.30pm today, the Speaker's office has confirmed.

Unconfirmed reports have suggested that Theresa May has decided to call off the "meaningful vote" on her Brexit deal scheduled for Tuesday.

Only minutes after a Downing Street spokeswoman insisted that the vote would go ahead, the Bloomberg news agency reported that "a person familiar with the matter" had revealed it was off, while the BBC reported that two Cabinet sources had confirmed it has been pulled.

A senior Downing Street source poured cold water on the reports, telling the Press Association: "I would ignore that. They've no business reporting that."

The developments occurred as Mrs May took part in a conference call with her Cabinet ministers.

PA

Downing Steet claim Brexit vote is going ahead as planned

Update 12pm: Downing Street said that Theresa May intended to go ahead with the vote on the Brexit deal on Tuesday as planned.

"The vote is going ahead as planned," a No 10 spokeswoman said.

 

The spokeswoman said Mrs May was updating Cabinet ministers on her weekend calls with EU leaders, including Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker, Leo Varadkar and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte in a conference call.

Asked if the Prime Minister was confident of winning, the spokeswoman said: "Yes."

The Prime Minister has always said that this is the right deal and the best deal available and MPs should support it.

But rumours continued to swirl at Westminster that Mrs May could decide at the 11th hour to avoid a potentially heavy defeat if Tory whips cannot limit the revolt over her Brexit deal and the controversial Irish backstop arrangement.

British environment secretary Michael Gove has been repeatedly insisting it will go ahead.

Mr Gove warned that while Mrs May could win extra concessions from Brussels, reopening talks risks making it worse.

Mr Gove told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that if there was more that can be secured to provide MPs with "reassurance that this is the right deal" then there was "no-one better placed" than Mrs May to get additional concessions.

But he said he was concerned that renegotiating the Withdrawal Agreement could lead to other EU countries changing it "in a way that may not necessarily be to our advantage", adding: "By reopening it, there is a risk that we may not necessarily get everything that we wish for."

As several senior members of the Cabinet were reported to be manoeuvring to replace Mrs May should the vote fail, Mr Gove said it was "extremely unlikely" that he would stand as a future Conservative Party leader.

The Prime Minister's political future appears uncertain if she loses - but her credibility would also suffer a serious blow if she attempts to postpone the Commons vote.

PA & Digital Desk

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