Theresa May briefly locked in car as Angela Merkel awaits

Theresa May briefly locked in car as Angela Merkel awaits
Pic: AP Photo/Michael Sohn

Latest: As Theresa May arrived in Berlin for talks with Angela Merkel, she was briefly stuck in her limousine as the car door would not open.

TV cameras captured the moment as an official struggled for more than 10 seconds to open the door, before Mrs May emerged to shake hands with Mrs Merkel.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed by the British Prime Minister's spokesman that Theresa May will bring her Brexit deal back to the House of Commons "before January 21".

The spokesman said that Mrs May would observe the "spirit" of the EU Withdrawal Act, which requires the British Prime Minister to make a statement to the Commons "before the end of January 21" if no agreement in principle has been reached with Brussels.

There was confusion at Westminster yesterday over whether the January 21 deadline applied, as a withdrawal deal has been reached.

But Commons authorities suggested it did not, saying that in principle the ratification vote could take place as late as March 28 - the day before Brexit is scheduled to happen.

The delayed Cabinet meeting which was due to take place today will now happen on Wednesday following Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons.

Asked if Mrs May continued to have full confidence in chief whip Julian Smith, the spokesman replied: "Yes."

And asked whether she agreed with former minister Steve Baker's suggestion that it was now her "duty" to stand down, the spokesman said: "The Prime Minister believes it is her duty to deliver on the will of the British people and take us out of the EU."

Mr Baker told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "If we can't go forwards with her deal ... then I'm afraid the only way to change the policy is to change the Prime Minister, and I really think it's her duty to go."

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford insisted Jeremy Corbyn needed to table a no confidence motion in the British Prime Minister by the end the day, stating: "I think Jeremy has until the close of business today."

Mr Blackford said other opposition parties would have to act if Labour did not.

Protestors in Westminster, London, this morning. Pic: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Protestors in Westminster, London, this morning. Pic: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

'No renegotiation': Juncker deals May heavy blow on Brexit

Update 11.20am: Theresa May has been dealt a heavy blow in her bid to secure new reassurances from fellow EU leaders over her Brexit deal, as the European Commission president declared there was "no room whatsoever for renegotiation".

Jean-Claude Juncker said the Withdrawal Agreement on offer was the "best deal possible" and the "only deal possible" as the British Prime Minister embarked on emergency Brexit talks with her Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte in The Hague.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the start of a meeting in The Hague this morning. Pic: AP Photo/Peter Dejong, Pool
British Prime Minister Theresa May and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the start of a meeting in The Hague this morning. Pic: AP Photo/Peter Dejong, Pool

He offered a glimmer of hope to Mrs May by saying there was room to give "further clarifications and further interpretations without opening the Withdrawal Agreement".

Mrs May will also meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel today in her bid to gain reassurances on the exit deal from European leaders ahead of a crunch EU summit on Thursday, after leaving Westminster in turmoil.

She will then travel on to Brussels, where she is due to meet European Council president Donald Tusk at around 4pm and Mr Juncker at 6.15pm, Irish time.

Mrs May's move to abandon a crunch Commons vote, scheduled for today, on her Brexit deal drew howls of condemnation from the opposition as well as a number of Tories.

Mr Juncker won applause from MEPs as he said: "There is no room whatsoever for renegotiation, but of course there is room if used intelligently, there is room enough to give further clarifications and further interpretations without opening the Withdrawal Agreement.

This will not happen: everyone has to note that the Withdrawal Agreement will not be reopened.

He confirmed he would meet Mrs May on Tuesday evening but reiterated: "The deal we have achieved is the best deal possible - it is the only deal possible."

It came as Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom suggested Mrs May was seeking changes that would give UK Parliament an additional "democratic ability to decide".

"That might include an addendum to the Withdrawal Agreement that sets out that Parliament will vote prior to going into a backstop, should that prove necessary, and potentially that the EU parliament and UK parliament must vote every year thereafter to provide that legitimacy for the UK to stay in the backstop, should that prove necessary," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"So there are plenty of options for the PM to talk to the EU about that don't involve reopening the Withdrawal Agreement, but that would provide the legal text as a part of the Withdrawal Agreement, through perhaps an addendum."

Mrs May, who is facing repeated calls from leading Tory Brexiteers to be replaced as British Prime Minister, was forced to abandon the Commons vote as the scale of opposition to the Brexit deal, especially regarding proposed backstop arrangements for the Irish border, threatened a crushing rejection of her plans.

As anger at Westminster continued to fester over the PM's move to cancel the Brexit vote, MPs were poised for an emergency debate on the situation called by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on the day the "meaningful vote" was initially scheduled to take place.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said it would be difficult to get the Brexit deal through Parliament without reassurances the UK would not be "trapped" in backstop measures ensuring no return to hard border in Ireland.

The backstop would see the UK obey EU customs rules after a transition period if a wider trade deal has not been agreed with the EU by then.

Referring to Mrs May's lobbying mission in Europe, Dr Fox told BBC2's Newsnight: "My colleagues will want to see that their fears of being trapped in a backstop cannot be realised.

"Without the ability to genuinely reassure my colleagues that they could not legally be kept in the backstop against their will, it will be difficult to get this through the House of Commons."

With Jeremy Corbyn under pressure from a significant number of MPs and peers to force a confidence vote on the Government, Labour former Cabinet minister Lord Mandelson said the opposition had not laid a glove on the Government.

He told the BBC: "I think the Labour Party, the Labour leadership, is facing a bit of a dilemma.

"I mean, they want to straddle, and retain the support of the third of Labour voters who backed Leave in 2016, and the two-thirds of Labour voters who backed Remain.

"Well, what happens when you, you know, ride two horses like that, you end up doing the splits."

PA

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