Closed MPs overwhelmingly reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal — as it happened

blog_may_defeated

The British prime minister’s Brexit deal was heavily defeated on Tuesday, deepening the crisis in British politics ahead of the country’s scheduled departure from the EU on March 29.


Welcome to the FT’s live blog on another tumultuous day in Westminster, with Prime Minister Theresa May asking parliament to vote on the terms of her Brexit deal this evening in face of widespread opposition from MPs. Many expect the vote will result in a bruising defeat that could lead to Mrs May having to go back to Brussels in the hope of extracting further concessions, even as the opposition threatens a vote of no confidence in her government.


Parliamentary maths
The parliamentary maths are complicated for the vote tonight, which is due to start at 7pm but could be pushed back by a series of amendments being tabled by MPs. Prime Minister Theresa May is widely expected to be defeated in the vote, which means that many are now debating how big that loss will prove. A relatively modest setback — say, fewer than 100 votes — could give her the confidence to push Brussels for revised terms that she could put to a second vote that stands a better chance of success. But the historic defeat predicted by some pundits could spell the end for her government. The last time a government was defeated by more than 200 votes was almost a century ago, but many analyses — including the FT’s own — estimate that she could lose by as much as 225 votes.

For more on the permutations, click here:
https://www.ft.com…-9e64-d150b3105d21


Forecasting the votes

Financial Times journalists Martin Stabe and James Blitz have, using code written to trawl the Twitter and parliamentary APIs, analysed MP voting intentions to find that Mrs May could lose by a margin of more than 200 votes. This is if all the Conservative MPs who have indicated they will vote against her Brexit deal stick to their word. Read their article here


May hopes
The prime minister will have hopes raised after five Conservative Brexiter MPs backed her plans. She will hope that more will find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place — in this case, opposed equally to staying in the EU and facing the potential shock of a no-deal Brexit — and so end up supporting her plan.


What the papers say
Predictions of defeat for Mrs May feature heavily in UK newspapers this morning.

The FT reports that parliamentary chaos is likely after the prime minister’s last-ditch appeal for Eurosceptics to back her appeared doomed.

The Guardian expects Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to call for a vote of no confidence in the prime minster in the event of a heavy loss for her in the House of Commons.

“Out of allies, out of time” is the verdict of the Daily Telegraph, which reports that cabinet ministers are saying Mrs May will have to quit if she loses the vote by a “heavy margin”.


The Daily Mail, meanwhile, leads with its own commentary in support of Mrs May’s withdrawal deal, which it says “seizes back control of our borders, laws and money”. The Brexit-supporting tabloid also makes a “heartfelt call to MPs on this momentous day” to “put your country first”.


Gove: ‘Winter is coming’

Michael Gove, the environment secretary and a figurehead of the 2016 Leave campaign, quoted Game of Thrones character Jon Snow on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to warn that “if we don’t vote for the deal tonight…winter is coming”. He said the Brexit deal, while not perfect, was a “door” to leave the EU and the way to respect the result of the referendum.


What follows defeat?

The FT and many other publications are predicting a heavy defeat for Mrs May by a margin of about 200 votes.

That means politicians of all stripes are looking beyond the vote.

Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesman, told Today that Labour was preparing for a no-confidence vote in the government. He did not say exactly when, but divulged that it would be “soon”.

Conservative Nick Boles, who has teamed up with colleagues Nicky Morgan and Oliver Letwin to try and devise a new Brexit plan, has now presented a bill to “make provision in connection with the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union”.

Labour MP Hilary Benn has withdrawn his proposed amendment that would have sought a vote against no-deal. He said on Twitter that this was to allow the House of Commons to give its “clearest expression” on the government’s deal.

https://twitter.com/hilarybennmp/status/1085070432271847426

Andrew Murrison, chair of the Northern Ireland committee, has also tabled an amendment that would prevent the Irish “backstop” arrangement extending beyond the end of 2022.


What are they voting on? A recap:

The withdrawal deal Mrs May has agreed with Brussels ends freedom of movement and gives Britain the right to set its own future immigration rules.

If, as predicted, Mrs May loses, she has three days to come up with a plan B.

The proposed deal would see the UK staying in the EU’s single market and following its rules until December 2020 in a transition period set to begin after the official divorce on March 29. The transition period can be extended by both sides if they deem it necessary.

The most contentious issue is Northern Ireland, where the deal provides for a “backstop” to avoid border checks between the UK and EU member state Ireland. That means much of Northern Ireland’s economy would be policed as if Britain had never left the EU, a prospect that has outraged the Democratic Unionist party, which props up Mrs May’s government in Westminster, as well as Conservative Eurosceptics.

Other points of contention include reciprocal fishing rights and a bill for Britain that has been estimated at about £39bn.


DUP to vote against deal
Arlene Foster, leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party, said on Twitter that the party would “oppose the toxic backstop” — the policy to avoid a hard Irish border in the withdrawal agreement. The DUP’s 10 votes are needed for the Conservatives to achieve a majority in parliament.

https://twitter.com/DUPleader/status/1085112510544572416


Today’s timetable
9.30: Cabinet convened for regular Tuesday meeting
12.30: Parliament begins business for the day
12.50: Debate begins on Brexit withdrawal agreement, including the amendments to the existing text that will need to be first selected by Speaker John Bercow. So far, 12 amendments have been put forward that could change how MPs vote on the final deal
18.30: The debate is expected to conclude with an address from Theresa May.
19.00: Voting begins. MPs will first vote on the amendments, which will push the final vote on the deal later into the evening. Each division takes about 15 minutes. So if four amendments are selected by Mr Bercow, the vote on Mrs May’s motion will take place at some time after 20.00


Sterling calm

The pound is down 0.2 per cent on the day at $1.2842, writes Michael Hunter, leaving it trading at around some of its best levels since November. This comes amid an interpretation that the machinations in Westminster around the vote make a disorderly UK departure from the EU less likely.

Here is how sterling has traded since 2016, the year of the referendum:


Meanwhile, in Strasbourg

As the predictions of no-deal-doom build in Westminster, the EU has something to celebrate. European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi is presiding over a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the euro. Here are some of the cheery words from his speech in Strasbourg:

European commissioner for competition Margrethe Vestager also tweets on the euro: “So much has been achieved, yet more work to be done!”

https://twitter.com/vestager/status/1085133391635406851


MP instructions
The FT’s Jim Pickard has been leaked a copy of Number 10’s guidance to loyalist MPs today on what to say to broadcasters. It includes advice on how to spin yesterday’s letters between the prime minister and her Brussels counterparts. Many of these messages will be familiar from interviews with MPs over the past week.


Corbyn: we need an election

He has said it before and he will say it again…

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has tweeted that if Mrs May’s deal is defeated today, there should be a general election.

He writes, alongside this video:

If Theresa May’s botched deal is defeated today she’ll only have herself to blame after two wasted years negotiating with her cabinet and her bickering backbenchers instead of the EU.

We need an election to have the chance to vote for a government that can bring people together.

https://twitter.com/jeremycorbyn/status/1085138768762490882


Raab calls for MPs to reject deal

Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, said MPs need to vote down the deal and send a message to Brussels that it has to be changed, reports Laura Hughes.

Speaking at a campaign event for a “Better Deal” for Brexit alongside Democratic Unionist party leader Arlene Foster, Mr Raab said he was sympathetic towards an amendment tabled by Tory MP Andrew Murrison — which aims to put a time limit on the backstop — but believes it is inconsistent with the Withdrawal Act.

Also speaking at the event, Peter Lilley, the former trade secretary, said the UK will not be “crashing out” in the event of a no-deal Brexit. He says the UK will be “cashing in” because the government will no longer be required to pay the £39bn exit bill.


Ireland to ‘hold its nerve’

Ireland is determined to “hold its nerve” in defence of the disputed border “backstop” that is the focus of opposition in Westminster to Theresa May’s Brexit treaty, writes Arthur Beesley in Dublin.

Simon Coveney said the Irish government was stepping up contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit. Dublin has long insisted there is no scope to dilute the backstop, even though the likely rejection of the treaty presents big risks to Ireland if it leads the UK to crash from the EU without an agreement.

Mr Coveney said:

I think this is a week for Ireland to hold its nerve to wait and see how things develop in the parliament in Westminster, but to be sure that we are planning for for all eventualities because of the uncertainty that is clearly there.

Ireland has excluded the prospect of having to reinstate border checks from its contingency planning. Its focus is on ensuring the continuity of supplies of medicines from the UK if there is no deal, and on keeping sea ports open for vessels travelling to and from Britain.


Juncker calls for MPs to behave responsibly

EU leaders are keeping their powder dry ahead of tonight’s vote, writes Mehreen Khan in Strasbourg, who says that politicians are mindful of not saying anything that is seen to be interfering in the UK’s domestic affairs.

Jean-Claude Juncker, who addressed MEPs in parliament this morning, had little to say about the vote but told the BBC that he wished UK parliamentarians to “behave in a responsible way” tonight.


The EU’s reaction to the vote will be evident at 7.30am UK time on Wednesday when MEPs, including Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt, will be holding a debate on the UK’s exit from the EU


London mayor opposes Brexit deal

London mayor Sadiq Khan has called for MPs to reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal, writes Leslie Hook.

In an interview at a primary school in south London, Mr Khan said “the vote taking place in parliament today is the most important vote parliament has had since the Iraq war”.

This deal is a bad deal, and I’m asking MPs to reject Theresa May’s bad deal. This is a false choice Prime Minister May has given us, between a bad Brexit deal or no deal whatsoever. The prime minister can stop the clock running down by withdrawing Article 50, that would mean we would have time to decide what to do


Amendments coming up

Before MPs get to vote on the Brexit withdrawal deal, some are putting forward proposed amendments to it.

Not all will be considered. Speaker John Bercow will shortly announce in the House of Commons which amendments have been selected to be voted on.

They include a Labour frontbench amendment that rejects leaving the EU without a deal and an amendment to that amendment by Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable that calls for a public vote as one of the ways to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Conservative MP Andrew Murrison wants a time limit on the Northern Irish backstop, while a group led by the Scottish National party’s Ian Blackford is calling for the UK’s departure from the EU to be delayed until an alternative withdrawal is agreed.

Here is the list of proposed amendments as they currently stand.


Brexit debate starts

Other business for the Commons is now over. Speaker John Bercow has begun the debate for Mrs May’s Brexit agreement.


Amendments selected

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has selected which amendments to Mrs May’s Brexit deal to put to MPs to vote on this evening — crucial in determining the final shape of the agreement.

But there has been a surprise selection from the Speaker, according to the FT’s Henry Mance, who has not chosen a key amendment for a vote tonight as expected.

Tory MP Andrew Murrison’s amendment called for the Irish backstop — the most controversial part of Theresa May’s deal — to expire at the end of 2021. It could have won Eurosceptic support for the deal, but would have required the agreement of EU leaders.

Mr Bercow announced that four other amendments will be voted on:

One by Jeremy Corbyn, calling for a permanent EU-UK customs union and a “strong single market deal”.

One by the Scottish National party’s Ian Blackford, calling for an extension to Article 50 in order to organise a second referendum and/or negotiate membership of the single market and customs union.

One by Edward Leigh, a Conservative Brexiter, which also calls for the UK to leave the Irish backstop on January 1 2022.

One by John Baron, a Conservative Brexiter, which calls for the UK to have the unilateral right to terminate the Irish backstop.

Another amendment to miss out is from John Mann, a Labour Brexiter, which would have restated the government’s commitment to upholding workers’ rights. Downing Street had indicated it would support that amendment.

The selected amendments will be voted on at around 7pm.


Theresa May to fight to save Brexit deal: Downing St

Mrs May’s spokesman said the compromise Brexit deal — expected to be defeated by a large margin in an historic vote this evening — remained “the best way to deliver the will of the British people”, reports the FT’s George Parker.

The spokesman insisted the prime minister would not quit, even if the government’s flagship policy was rejected by MPs: “She is determined that she is going to deliver on the will of the British people by taking the country out of the EU.”

George has learnt that Mrs May struck a defiant tone at a cabinet meeting dominated by Brexit, at which she told ministers: “The government is the servant of the people.”

But allies still admit that she is heading for a heavy defeat in a vote expected at around 8pm.

In an acknowledgement of the looming humiliation, the prime minister told cabinet members that she would “respond quickly to the result”. She is expected to make a statement on her proposed next steps immediately after the vote on the deal.


Attorney-general opens debate

Geoffrey Cox has opened the final day of Theresa May’s Brexit debate. He starts by saying that he had listened “to the House’s views” and would be accommodating to the “very strong views” in parliament.

But he said he would support Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement as a “necessary means to secure orderly departure and unlock our future outside the European Union”.

He calls for MPs to fall behind the deal, or risk chaos.

What are you playing at? You are not children in the playground, you are legislators. We are playing with people’s lives … 45 years of legal integration has brought out two legal systems into a situation where they are organically linked


DUP still unhappy
Nigel Dodds of the DUP complains that, five weeks after Theresa May agreed her deal with Brussels, there are still no “changes” that would “eliminate” the Irish backstop. This is a concession that the DUP, which supports Mrs May’s government in parliament and does not want Northern Ireland to remain economically attached to Europe, has long been demanding.


Geoffrey Cox turns up the volume
The attorney-general has been defending the EU withdrawal deal MPs will vote on tonight with full linguistic force.

During his speech, he has compared the withdrawal deal to a “key” that will be used to “unlock our future relationship” with the EU. It also provides the “first chamber, the airlock”, he says, where Britain and the EU can then decide how to proceed.

He says:

If you are moving from one pressurised atmosphere or environment to another, it is necessary to have an airlock. This legal agreement is a key that will unlock the airlock.

The second key will be the permanent treaty.


Cox calls for calm over Irish backstop

Geoffrey Cox has attempted to quell rebellion over the proposed Northern Irish backstop, saying that the EU sees it only as a “temporary arrangement” that would be penalising for Europe to maintain.

Responding to the amendment tabled by Edward Leigh for the UK to leave the Irish backstop on January 1 2022, the attorney-general said that this would not be compatible with international law obligations.

He said that should the deal be rejected then the “withdrawal agreement would have to return with much the same form and much the same content”.


This deal ‘satisfies no one’

Anna Soubry, a Conservative MP who is anti-Brexit, argues that the withdrawal treaty cannot be a good one because it has failed to satisfy so many parliamentarians.

“This agreement does not settle anything and it does not satisfy the vast majority in this house,” she tells attorney-general Geoffrey Cox. In fact, she argues, “it satisfies no one, probably, in this house”.


‘History will judge us harshly’

Geoffrey Cox concludes with an impassioned rallying cry for Mrs May’s deal, calling on MPs to see the UK’s “exciting future” outside the EU but warning that should they vote the agreement down then “history will judge us harshly”.


Protests outside Westminster

Our social policy correspondent Robert Wright reports that in the area outside parliament, pro and anti-Brexit demonstrators are competing with each other to make the biggest visual and sound impacts.

Much of the sound is coming from a large “liberty bell” stall staffed by pro-Brexit campaigners, who also have a bass drum.

Leave supporters are appealing to passing drivers to honk if they had voted to leave the EU, an invitation that is being taken up by a significant proportion of the passing taxi drivers.

Pro-EU campaigners, meanwhile, seem to be winning the visual battle, having brought long poles to wave the EU’s 12-starred flag in the line of sight of the TV cameras mounted in makeshift studios on College Green, opposite the Palace of Westminster.


Tea for unity outside parliament

And here’s an alternative approach. A group of volunteers are trying to bring Leavers and Remainers together in Parliament Square with that most British of traditions, a nice (we hope) cuppa.

https://twitter.com/unitedbytea_/status/1085117429099966464


Kenneth Clarke backs Brexit deal

The Tory MP, who confesses to being a “hardline remainer”, says MPs need to be pragmatic to achieve some kind of consensus and to minimise the damage from Brexit.

He argues that the UK needs to keep a free trade agreement with the EU and retain open borders through a customs union, an arrangement that would resemble the existing single market. US president Donald Trump would be unlikely to agree the sort of trade deals envisaged by some, he adds.

Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement should be seen as “a natural preliminary to the proper negotiations which we haven’t started”, he says. But Clarke concludes by saying that Article 50 should be delayed, and the deal brought back to parliament when there is consensus.


Government seeks to mollify Labour MPs

Picking up on some of the comments at the start of the debate by Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general, the FT’s Jim Pickard points out that Mr Cox tried to mollify unhappy Labour MPs on the issue of employment and environmental rights in light of the Speaker not allowing the amendment by John Mann, a Labour Brexiter. The amendment would have restated the government’s commitment to upholding workers’ rights and in recent weeks Downing Street had indicated it would support it. Mr Cox said that would be an issue for the “next stage of negotiations” with Brussels.


Has Germany’s foreign minister undermined May?

Reuters earlier cited Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, pictured below, as saying that the EU would be prepared to reopen talks with Britain if Theresa May’s deal is voted down, and the FT’s political editor George Parker says those comments will be viewed dimly in Downing Street. Mrs May needs to keep up the pressure on Brexiters to vote for the deal; leaving open the suggestion that more EU reassurances on the backstop might be forthcoming will only embolden them to vote down the deal tonight. Owen Paterson, the pro-Brexit former minister, responded on Twitter: “Very significant statement from Germany’s foreign minister that the EU would be prepared to reopen talks if and when the withdrawal agreement is defeated in the Commons.”


Markets choppy ahead of vote

Stocks exposed to the UK’s domestic economy fell ahead of parliament’s Brexit vote, but companies earning revenue abroad provided some support, reports Michael Hunter.

That left the FTSE 100, home to a range of multinationals, up 0.1 per cent and outperforming the FTSE 250, which features a larger number of constituents earning revenue at home. The mid-cap index fell 0.2 per cent overall.

The pound was down 0.2 per cent at $1.2844,around some of its highest levels since November, as currencies traders continued to bet that the machinations in Westminster would make a no-deal Brexit less likely, even if Mrs May loses the vote.


Brexit before babies

One backbench Labour MP has delayed the date of her caesarean section by two days in order to vote against the deal, writes the FT’s Laura Hughes.

Tulip Siddiq has been advised by doctors at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead to deliver her child on either Monday or Tuesday, after developing gestational diabetes.

However, she has put the date back to Thursday so she can be wheeled through the voting lobby by her husband on Tuesday evening.

Speaking on the BBC’s Politics Live, Tory MP Kemi Badenoch suggested Ms Siddiq “wants to make a point”.

Ms Badenoch said the Labour MP “wants to show she did everything she could to stop Brexit. That one vote is not really going to make a difference.”


SNP tells Labour to ‘get off the fence’

Ian Blackford, leader of the Scottish National party at Westminster, has called on the Labour party to “get off the fence”, face up to its responsibilities as the main opposition and support a second referendum. The SNP’s policy is to remain in the EU — Scotland backed Remain by 62 per cent in the 2016 referendum.

Because the young people that voted for Labour in England in 2017 will never forgive the leader of the opposition and his colleagues unless they recognise that this is the opportunity to unite, to unite this House to vote the government’s deal, support the people’s vote . . . will you do it?

He reminds Labour that it sits in third place in Scotland because it is “out of step” with the people.

He issues a more general plea to all MPs to “think about the people who have already lost their jobs” ahead of Brexit.


Either the prime minister loses badly, or loses very badly

Sebastian Payne, the FT’s political leader writer, has assessed current thinking about the chances for Mrs May’s Brexit deal.

He says:

Tonight there are two likely outcomes from the vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Either the prime minister loses badly, or loses very badly. No one in Westminster is contemplating a victory for the government, so we are now in a game of spinning expectations. In normal times, any defeat on such a critical piece of legislation would spell the end for both the government and its leader. But these are anything but; the old laws of political gravity no longer seem to apply.

Scenario one: Mrs May loses badly, i.e. anything from a defeat of 10 up to 100. In that case, the prime minister will adopt her typical “nothing has changed” approach and likely announce that she is heading off to Brussels for yet more negotiations. Eurosceptic MPs will be fuming that the deal is still alive but there is nothing they can do – given their failure to remove her in a confidence vote last year. The prime minister might wheedle some extra concessions, as some reports have suggested is possible, but hopes of achieving anything significant are scant.

The government will then bring the deal back to the Commons for another vote in the next few weeks, hoping that some cosmetic changes will provide a ladder for recalcitrant MPs to climb down. Combined with the increasing fears of a no-deal Brexit, Downing Street will hope the deal will pass on a second attempt. If not Mrs May can try, try and try again. And all the while, the clock continues to ominously tick down towards exit day.

The second scenario is that Mrs May loses very badly, i.e. anything above 100 and particularly above 166, which would mark the greatest ever government defeat (under Ramsay Macdonald back in 1924). The Brexit deal would appear dead without major reworking – particularly on the blighted Irish border backstop. The EU has made clear this is not possible, so Mrs May will be in a incredibly difficult position. It is seems unlikely she will swing behind a much softer Norway-style Brexit or a harder Canada-style approach.

Instead, the prime minister will still likely plough on and possibly announce that Article 50 will need be delayed for more substantive talks; something Whitehall has been preparing for and Brussels is expecting. Or she might try to open talks with the opposition Labour party and forge a cross-party consensus for a permanent customs union with the EU (one of the few alternatives that could command a majority in the Commons). The latter is advocated by Remainers in the Cabinet, such as work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd and justice secretary David Gauke, but loathed by the Tory Brexiters.

If Mrs May does not take decisive action after a defeat, there is a real chance MPs will take Brexit out of her hands in the next few days. Thanks to an amendment placed and won by former attorney general Dominic Grieve last week, the Commons is eager and ready to take control of the whole process. If authority shifts from the executive to the legislature over this matter, all bets off about what happens next.


Raab says May deal is ‘demeaning’

Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, who resigned from government to oppose the deal, calls it “demeaning” and insists it should be rejected. Instead the government should make a final offer to Brussels on the final deal that will allow the UK to exit the Northern Ireland backstop and “transit to a best in class free trade agreement” while also preparing for a hard Brexit on WTO terms. He says he wants his two children to know that “we fearlessly chose the right path for their future”. He says the biggest thing he fears from the deal is the “drain on our economy” that he says will result from the “managed decline” of the UK economy that will follow.


Confused? Try our Brexit explainer

Here’s a one-stop shop for you if you’re looking for answers to the big questions about what is being voted on on this historic day and what happens next.


Gazebo watch

Our columnist Sebastian Payne has counted 30 gazebos on College Green — the small patch of ground just outside Parliament that is a popular location for domestic and international media to conduct interviews and live broadcasts. This is a record, he believes:

https://twitter.com/SebastianEPayne/status/1085197333623644160

For those without access to Twitter, it says:

“Political crisis update: We have a record 30 media gazebos on College Green. This is a moment like no other, the end of days has finally arrived. #gazebowatch”


Speaker clears way for vote on May’s deal

Nikki da Costa, a former director of legislative affairs at Downing Street, explains on Twitter that John Bercow, the speaker of the House, was very deliberate in his choice of amendments to Theresa May’s deal that he would allow, with a view to trying to ensure MPs would get a “clean” vote on it.

Bercow, on his own has delivered what others were said to be trying to do, deliver a straightforward vote on the deal, by removing the most likely amdts that could pass.

https://twitter.com/nmdacosta/status/1085166729142112257


Brexit and the UK’s finances

Although the UK’s debt markets have remained superficially calm over the last couple of years as the nation has edged towards leaving the EU, a look beneath the surface suggests that there are reasons to worry.

Here is an analysis of capital flows which suggests that domestic investors are liquidating their overseas holdings and repatriating them, helping to prop up asset prices as foreign investors depart.

And here is a look at the inflation-linked gilts market, which points to growing fears among investors of a fresh sterling sell-off, which would fuel inflation.


“Sense of gloom”

Our chief political correspondent Jim Pickard reports from the Commons debate:

Quote of the day is from Dominic Grieve, former attorney-general, on the speech given earlier today by his successor Geoffrey Cox: “Entertaining as it was … it filled me with a slight sense of gloom to see that the government had got to such a pass that it had to rely on the skills of a criminal defence advocate to get it out of its difficulties.”


Grieve ‘determined’ to break deadlock

Having had a dig at his successor, Europhile former attorney-general Dominic Grieve says he is “determined” to resolve the impasse in Parliament over Brexit as he plans to reject the government’s deal. He says given the timescale it is “probably the only deal on offer realistically” and that he might be tempted to support it if it had the support of the public. He adds that he “will not budge” on his support for a second referendum. Mr Grieve forced the government’s hand last week when the Commons voted 308 to 297 in favour of his amendment that forces Theresa May to present an alternative Brexit plan within three sitting days — January 21, if she loses the vote. The amendment was designed to prevent Downing Street trying to run down the clock ahead of March 29 in a bid to give MPs little choice other than to back her deal at a second attempt closer to the deadline or face a no-deal Brexit.


Dublin steps up no-deal planning

Dublin has stepped up contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit, reports the FT’s Arthur Beesley, vowing to “hold its nerve” on the border backstop as Theresa May faces defeat over her EU withdrawal treaty.

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s premier, has long insisted there is no scope to reopen the deal. The backstop, opposed by Conservative Brexiters and Northern Irish Democratic Unionists who nominally support Mrs May, is an agreement to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland if there is no EU-UK trade deal.

Mr Varadkar, taking questions in parliament on Tuesday, said that Mrs May’s deal was “the only agreement on the table” and that it had the support of 28 governments including the UK. “We will review the position tomorrow in consultation with EU colleagues,” he said.

Although the Taoiseach still believes no-deal is “unlikely”, the Irish government moved on Tuesday to sign off on no-deal emergency measures to maintain the supply of medicines from the UK and keep open ports and airports. Dublin has ruled out reinstating checks on the Northern Ireland border from its contingency plans, insisting it cannot accept anything that would undermine the 1998 Good Friday peace pact.


Tory gloom

Sebastian Payne reports that the mood among Conservative MPs is sour. He writes:

The mood on the Conservative backbenches is pretty dark. I’ve spoken to several MPs this afternoon about what will happen in tonight’s vote. Most are speculating a massive 200 or so defeat for Theresa May’s deal, some closer to 100. But no-one believes it is going to pass. There is also much despair about what comes next and how the prime minister will respond. Not least because Mrs May has kept her cards close and hasn’t let slip a word about her Plan B.


Few vocal backers of May’s deal

At the last count, among the 10 MPs called by the Speaker to address the Commons, we have found just one saying they would support the prime minister’s Brexit deal: Caroline Spelman, a former Conservative environment secretary, says she will support it because it is “good enough”, citing the pleas from business for certainty.


Sterling dipping

Our head of FastFT Adam Samson reports:

Sterling hit its low for the day with the Brexit vote just hours away. The UK currency was recently down 0.61 per cent against the US dollar at $1.2785. It had traded as high as $1.2915 during the Asian trading day.

Part of the fall was attributable to dollar strength, however, with the buck rising against many of its peers. The pound was recently down just 0.1 per cent against the euro, buying 1.12 units of the common currency.

Traders are braced for a potential jolt of volatility this evening. A measure of expected overnight volatility shot higher on Tuesday, reaching levels not seen since the 2017 general election.

Implied pound volatility, a metric based on activity in the options market, climbed as high as 27.6 points, up from 12 at the close on Monday, Bloomberg data show. It has not reached such an elevated level since June 8, 2017.


The Northern Ireland backstop

Sir Edward Leigh is speaking about his amendment, which will be voted on tonight. It seeks to time-limit the Northern Ireland backstop. The amendment tries to achieve a compromise. He has done his “level best” to try to help the government but he is dismayed that the attorney-general is not prepared to support it. So he will vote against Mrs May’s deal.


‘I’ve changed my mind’

Frank Field, a Brexiter and independent MP who resigned the Labour whip last year, tells MPs he has changed his mind and has decided to back the deal. He says he does not wish to “aid and abet those whose real aim is to destroy Brexit”. He says the deal fulfils the promise to control our borders and will end payments to the European Union as well as “giving us British laws for British people”. He says he accepts the PM’s assurances it will allow frictionless trade with the EU and will also allow the UK to secure its own trade deals.


‘I’ve changed my mind’

Frank Field, a Brexiter and independent MP who resigned the Labour whip last year, tells MPs he has changed his mind and has decided to back the deal. He says he does not wish to “aid and abet those whose real aim is to destroy Brexit”. He says the deal fulfils the promise to “control our borders” and will end payments to the European Union as well as “giving us British laws for British people”. He says he accepts the PMs assurances it will allow frictionless trade with the EU and will also allow the UK to secure its own trade deals.


Top reads

While the final hours of the debate tick away, let’s have a recap of some of the FT’s recent coverage.

Here is our timeline of the key events in the coming weeks as the UK edges towards the EU exit.

And here is our political correspondent Henry Mance’s take on the best speeches during the past five days of debate.

Our columnist Robert Shrimsley argues that the best way for Mrs May to cling on in the face of defeat would be to become a “willing servant of the Commons”, holding a series of indicative votes to identify support for the various future options.

Catherine Haddon from the Institute for Government says that Parliament is slowly taking control of the Brexit process, but it must decide what it wants.

According to Wolfgang Munchau, the EU should make it clear that the Article 50 deadline for the UK to leave on 29 March cannot be extended.

And the FT has interviewed eight current and former UK foreign secretaries, about the country’s future course once it has left the EU.


The Boles plan and Labour’s position

Our chief political correspondent Jim Pickard reports:

Yesterday Nick Boles, a former minister, put forward a plan designed to wrest control of the Brexit process from the government and hand it to backbenchers – through the auspices of the “liaison” committee of select committee chairs. The aim would be to try to find out what option parliament could back, perhaps through indicative votes in the Commons: crucially it would involve delaying Article 50.

The plan, backed by fellow Tory MPs Nicky Morgan and Sir Oliver Letwin, received short shrift from Downing St. It also annoyed hard-line Europhiles who want a second referendum. Meanwhile Sarah Wollaston, chair of the liaison committee, poured cold water over the idea by saying she hadn’t been asked about it and added: “MPs cannot take over conducting a complex international negotiation.” I’m told though that Wollaston has since sounded more positive about the idea in private.

And Mr Boles still aims to put forward the amendment next week when Theresa May is forced to return to the Commons with her “Plan B”.

Interestingly, I’m told that the Tories behind the plan have put out feelers to Jeremy Corbyn’s office and have not been rebuffed. Ditto, Corbyn’s aides aren’t killing the idea that Labour could swing behind the Boles plan. From the Corbyn perspective, it could be a way of avoiding a second referendum. The Labour leader does not want a rerun of 2016 but is under pressure from his party membership — and shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer — to shift position into backing a “People’s Vote”.

One senior Labour figure points out that the Boles idea is not at odds with comments from John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, yesterday. Mr McDonnell said that Labour still wanted a general election: “Then all options are on the table. All of those options include what can be debated in parliament across the back benches, with the front benches, all that debate going on.”

In other words: watch this space.


Try your luck

Think you could do better than Mrs May? Take a look at this interactive website, which sets out the UK’s various options.


Attempts to woo Eurosceptics

Our political correspondent Laura Hughes reports:

Eurosceptic MPs said they were being bombarded by messages from whips and ministers trying to convince them to back the deal.

“MPs are getting requests for meetings and multiple text messages from Leave-supporting cabinet ministers,” said one. “The shrillness, constant texts, hardball tactics are being counterproductive. The mood is good, it’s moving away from the government.”

Another added: “I don’t think there’s been much movement today, the mood is good. Doesn’t seem too tense, with a few exceptions. It’s the ultra-Remainers who seem to be angry.”


Low-level letter boxes before a no-confidence vote

Esther Webber of the Times has taken to Twitter to reveal that, should Labour call a no-confidence vote in the government this evening, and it is given parliamentary time for a vote tomorrow, it will follow Prime Minister’s Questions (which starts at midday) once the Commons has heard a private members’ bill aimed at banning low-level letter boxes.

https://twitter.com/estwebber/status/1085218412597600258


Government to reassure business after vote

The FT’s Jim Pickard has learned that senior government figures will be holding a conference call with top business leaders tonight within minutes of the result. The conference call, which will include Philip Hammond, Stephen Barclay and Greg Clark, is expected at around 9pm although the timing could change.

Jim says that ministers will be seeking to offer reassurances to executives, although adds that these may be a little threadbare in practice.

There are big concerns in the business world about the deadlock in Westminster, not only in the UK but around the world. Number 10 was pleased when it received broadly positive backing for its withdrawal agreement last autumn from business groups and many executives, whose priority is finding an end to the uncertainty. If the government is thumped tonight there is likely to be a sense of dread in some boardrooms about the chances of no-deal.


The backstop amendment

John Baron, a Tory MP, has been speaking in the Commons about his amendment, which will be voted on later. He argues that time-limiting the backstop is desirable. He says that he does not like the transition period but any negotiations have to include an element of compromise. But the backstop is a real problem. The government needs to address its indefinite nature. What certainty is there that the EU wouldn’t drag out the negotiations and we could still be having this discussion in five years? The amendment would encourage both parties to negotiate constructively. The EU is more likely to constructively negotiate a deal if it knew it could not trap us in the backstop, he says. The amendment would go a long way towards uniting the Conservative party. Without the amendment, Mr Baron says that he will be forced to vote against the PM’s deal.


‘Glib’ talk of WTO terms in case of no-deal Brexit

Jonathan Faull, a former senior British bureaucrat in Brussels, has a word of warning for hardcore Eurosceptics, arguing there is nothing wrong with the UK trading on World Trade Organization terms in case of a no-deal Brexit. In a Twitter post, he explains:

To all the people who talk glibly about “WTO terms” without explaining what they are and naming countries trading with their neighbours solely on that basis, here’s a helpful analogy: unilateral disarmament would be ok because we’re in the UN

https://twitter.com/FaullJonathan/status/1085160350935326720


Public views on Brexit

What do the general public make of the goings-on in parliament? Polling by YouGov suggests that people’s expectations of a second referendum are waning, while the likelihood of no-deal has increased.


Hammond tells May to stay

Chancellor Philip Hammond told Theresa May at this morning’s cabinet meeting that she must not quit as prime minister, the FT’s George Parker has learned. It follows reports in the Daily Telegraph that she might be forced to resign if there is a heavy Brexit defeat tonight.

“He told the prime minister she must not resign,” one person briefed on the meeting told George.

“Philip said that he’d read reports that she might consider quitting. He said that the country needed her to steer us through this. After he intervened, lots of other ministers came in behind him.”

Downing Street has said that Mrs May won’t quit and is “determined she is going to deliver on the will of the British public by taking the country out of the EU”.


The voting numbers

Our data team have been counting the votes, and they think the number of MPs opposed to Mrs May’s deal is growing. Our interactive editor Martin Stabe says:

Our “Against” tally has been creeping slightly upwards today. On the highest level of confidence, we have 247 against and 132 for the deal. The total ignoring our confidence ratings is 424-199.


Crowds gather outside parliament

Hundreds of protesters have gathered outside parliament as politicians prepare to vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday, with supporters for the so-called People’s Vote — backing another Brexit referendum — waving EU flags alongside the union jacks of pro-Leave campaigners in the early evening.


Deutsche Bank warning

Our Frankfurt correspondent Olaf Storbeck reports:

Deutsche Bank chief executive Christian Sewing warned on Tuesday evening that a “disorderly Brexit” would have “dramatic consequences” for the British economy. “The UK would fall into a recession for at least two years,” Mr Sewing told policymakers and clients at the bank’s new year reception in Berlin, pointing to the predictions of Deutsche Bank economists. Mr Sewing added that the EU would also lose 0.5 percentage points in economic growth in such a scenario because of significant disruptions in trade, financing conditions and investor confidence.


Mrs May’s future

The prime minister could be facing her final days in office, as she stares at the likelihood of defeat in tonight’s vote. Here is a profile of Theresa May that was written when she took office in mid-2016. There are a couple of key points to note: she uses the vacuum as a political weapon — by standing back, she lets rivals trip themselves up; she also lets factions play off against each other. Are these skills in evidence at this stage of the Brexit process — or has she simply lost control?

Mrs May has vowed to fight on if she loses tonight’s vote. She is expected to respond quickly to the result of the vote, with a statement this evening in which she will lay out her proposed next steps. In the event of a defeat the government will have three working days to set out its plans.


Public statisfaction

Although Mrs May is increasingly beleaguered in Parliament, she is doing pretty well in the eyes of the public. A long-running poll on satisfaction with the prime minister’s performance shows that, at this stage in her premiership, she is doing better than any prime minister in the last four decades other than Tony Blair.

Whereas, compared to previous leaders of the Opposition, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is underperforming.


Voting intentions

That satisfaction with Mrs May is reflected in the Conservatives’ polling numbers – despite the Westminster wrangling, they are holding up.


Mr May is in the House

The FT’s Laura Hughes has spotted Philip May in the Chamber to watch the prime minister wrap up the Brexit debate. Sadiq Khan, the Remainer Mayor of London, who earlier today urged MPs to reject the deal, is also here to watch.


Pound weakening

Traders appear to be getting cold feet ahead of the Commons vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, says the FT’s Adam Samson. Sterling is down 1.1 per cent against the US dollar, at the day’s low of $1.2715.

Selling is also picking up against the euro, he reports, suggesting that a broad rise in the US dollar is not the only reason to blame for the fall in the pound. Just after 6pm in London, the pound was off 0.44% on the common currency, at €1.1165.

Political analysts broadly expect Mrs May to lose tonight – but the “primary concern” among traders is the “margin of loss,” said Stephen Gallo, European head of FX strategy at BMO Capital Markets.

Mr Gallo also pointed to “market illiquidity” making it challenging to make a judgement on which way sterling will trade.


Drama outside Parliament

The FT’s Robert Wright is outside Parliament, where competing demonstrators have gathered. He reports:

By evening the crowd swelled to several thousand, many watching a giant screen erected by the campaign for a second referendum as they waited for the result. The rival camps debated noisily, with Pro-Brexit protesters furious about Mrs May’s deal, which they saw a betrayal of the referendum. Many pro-EU protesters appeared optimistic. “We’re winning! Ha ha! We’re winning!” sang a woman carrying an EU flag as she walked past a group of pro-Brexit protesters outside parliament’s Carriage Gates.

Protesters’ views were entrenched and based on personal experience, gut conviction or half-remembered facts. One referred to material her son-in-law received from HMRC after filing his tax return. Another used figures from a half-remembered claim by Vote Leave during the referendum campaign that the UK spent £350m a week on EU membership.

Amid the waving Union Jacks and EU flags, fringe issues featured prominently. Leave supporters insisted that EU membership was harming animal welfare, and many blamed the bloc for the continued export of live animals for slaughter in mainland Europe. Remain supporters’ brandished posters expressing concern for the fate of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the EU.

One passer-by remarked how Anabaptist and other extreme Protestant preachers used to hold forth on the same spot in Tudor times. “It seems like the history’s coming back,” he said.


Awaiting the prime minister

Theresa May is due to wrap up the debate and is scheduled to get to her feet at 6:30pm although with so many MPs wanting to speak there could be a bit of a delay. Before she makes a last-ditch attempt to reduce the scale of her expected defeat Simon Hoare and Sir Peter Bottomley, two of her backbenchers, urge their colleagues to support her deal. They are followed by the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn.


Corbyn calls for general election

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, will call for a general election if Theresa May’s deal is rejected by parliament. He attacked Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement as “a reckless leap in the dark” and said that the UK should reopen negotiations with the EU should the vote fail.

“A general election is the best outcome for the country if this deal is rejected tonight,” he told MPs, calling for them to vote down the agreement.

The prime minister, he said, has “run down the clock in a cynical attempt to strong arm our members into backing her deal”, and treated Brexit “as a matter for the Conservative party rather than the good of the country”. Her deal risks businesses taking jobs and investment abroad, he added.

This deal fails to provide any certainty about future trade. Fails to guarantee our participation in European agencies. Labour will vote against this deal tonight… its a bad deal for this country. Members of all parties… will join us in rejecting this botched and damaging deal… If parliament votes down the deal, reopening the negotiations should not and cannot be ruled out.


Theresa May closes the debate

And here’s the Prime Minister. “We have seen this House at its most passionate and vigourous,” she says, adding: “this is a debate about our livelihood and security.” She reminds MPs about the Tory promise to hold a referendum and the fact that 417 “current” MPs voted for the public vote. She said the result of the referendum may not have been “overwhelming but it was decisive.” Her deal, she says, will set the country on course “for a brighter future.”


May spells out implications of no deal

Mrs May tells a packed House of Commons that no deal means no implementation period. The deal protects the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU; no deal would remove that protection. She also mentions security cooperation – no deal means no security partnership. And the deal lays the groundwork for an economic relationship with the EU; no deal would make new trade deals at the expense of the relationship with the EU, not in addition to it.

In response to Mr Corbyn’s call for a general election, Mrs May says that today’s vote is about what is best for the country. Whatever the result of an election, the choices would not have changed – it would still be no Brexit, Brexit with no deal or Brexit with a deal.

In 2017 both parties stood on Brexit pledges and got over 80% of the vote, she says. People who wanted a referendum had the opportunity to vote for the Lib Dems. It is the job of Parliament to deliver on the promises made at the election, she says.


No alternative deal exists

The prime minister says that the relationship can be shaped in the next phase of talks but we cannot begin those talks until we agree the withdrawal deal. and this is the only one the EU will agree. So this deal is the only option.

As prime minister I would not recommend a course of action I did not believe was in the interests of this country, she says. The government will work with Parliament as we move onto the next phase of negotiations.

Sir Edward Leigh, a Tory backbencher, intervenes to ask about the Northern Ireland backstop. He has tabled an amendment limiting the time it is in operation. What does the PM think of it, he asks.

Mrs May says the government cannot accept the amendment. But she says the government is happy to look at creative solutions.


Northern Ireland backstop

Mrs May says that the key point is that this is a commitment to the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland, not to the EU. It ensures that whatever happens when the UK leaves the EU, it will honour the Belfast Agreement. The seamless land border is essential to the economy. No-one wants to see the return of a hard border, she says.

As prime minister of the whole UK, it is my job to secure a solution that works for the people of Northern Ireland, she says.

The DUP Westminster leader intervenes to say that the peace of Northern Ireland should not be used as an argument to support this deal.

Mrs May responds that everybody across the House is committed to ensuring the Good Friday Agreement remains in place. The benefits of the peace process should not be affected in any sense. But also, whatever relationship is negotiated in future, that insurance policy is essential. Any model such as Norway still requires the backstop. She does not want to see anyone exploit no-deal to cast doubt on the future of the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.


On Mr Corbyn’s remarks

Mrs May says Mr Corbyn is long on criticism and short on coherence. His claims about being able to renegotiate the deal come despite the EU saying it would not be possible. She says he is inconsistent in his demands.

He has failed in his responsibility to provide a credible alternative to the government of the day, Mrs May says. He has forfeited the right to claim the loyalty of his MPs who take a more pragmatic view.

That sounds as though Mrs May is making overtures to Labour centrists.


Concluding remarks

This is the most significant vote that any of us will ever be part of in our political careers, Mrs May says. After all the debate, disagreement, division, the time has come for all of us in this House to make a decision. A decision that will define our country for decades to come, that will determine the future for our constituents, their children and grandchildren. That each of us will have to justify for many years to come.

A vote against this deal is a vote for nothing more than uncertainty, division and the real risk of no deal, Mrs May says.


Responsibility to serve

Mrs May takes an intervention from the SNP. The alternative is to extend Article 50 and have a new referendum, says Ian Blackford.

Mrs May responds that Parliament gave the British people a choice. All campaign groups were clear that decision would be respected by government and Parliament. We have a duty to deliver on that referendum vote. A vote against this deal is a vote for uncertainty, division and the real resk of no deal or no Brexit at all.

Tonight we can choose certainty over uncertainty, unity over division, to deliver on our promise, not break that promise and endanger trust in politics for a generation. We have a responsibility to serve not ourselves or our parties but the people we were elected to represent.


Historic duty

It is the people of this country who entrusted us with the sacred right to build for their children and grandchildren the brighter future they deserve. If we back this deal tomorrow we can start to build that future, a country that works for everyone. We can show people their voices have been heard, their trust has not been misplaced, that politicians can rise above our differences and deliver what the people have chosen.

We each have a responsibility to deliver Brexit and take this country forward, Mrs May says.


May ends last ditch plea

Mrs May has finished her final appeal to MPs to support her Brexit deal – only the voting now remains.

She has offered to look at “creative solutions” to the Irish backstop problem. She repeatedly raised the threat of no-deal Brexit, or no Brexit at all.

But will her speech be enough to win over the wavering votes?


Just one amendment to be voted on

John Baron’s amendment is the only that has been moved which would mandate the government to unilaterally renounce the controversial Northern Irish backstop without the agreement of the EU. Something that the EU27 is unlikely to support. MPs are now flooding out of the chamber of the Commons to vote.


Final estimates for the main vote

Our data team has confirmed votes of 255 against and 134 in favour, on its highest confidence rating, with a best guess of 426-202 for the final tally. There are 10 they can’t account for.

The dropping of three tabled amendments has considerably speeded up this evening’s proceedings, with the main vote now expected after 7.30.


Result on amendment vote expected shortly

The chamber is filling back up again and MPs are taking their seats. We should have a result shortly. The whole process normally takes 15 to 20 minutes to tally the results.


Amendment overwhelmingly rejected

The Baron amendment on the backstop has been rejected by 600 votes to 24, clearing the way for a clear vote on May’s Brexit deal


Vote on May’s deal now underway

MPs are heading back out of the chamber again to vote on the Brexit deal. Just another reminder that the FT’s best estimate is that May will lose by 224 votes, which would be by far the biggest defeat by a government in modern times.


Gripping viewing

Some British pub-goers are gripped to the TV, watching the proceedings as they enjoy a pint:


Result due any moment

Most MPs are back in the chamber, awaiting the tellers.


Emoticon

May suffers crushing defeat
Theresa May’s Brexit deal has been overwhelmingly rejected by MPs by 432 votes to 202, a majority against of 230.


Heaviest government defeat in modern history

The government’s defeat by a majority of 230 is the heaviest defeat in modern British history, according to figures from the Press Association. The next-worst was when Ramsey MacDonald was prime minister in 1924, when he lost a vote by 140.


Emoticon

May offers no-confidence vote

The PM says she will consider any request by Labour for a vote of no confidence in her government


Seeking an agreement

If the government wins a confidence vote, it will then hold meetings with parties across the House to find measures that can command support, Mrs May says.

She also says the government is not trying to run down the clock towards 29 March. The government wants to achieve a withdrawal deal, she says.


May promises an amendable motion by Monday

The PM says she has always believed in an orderly Brexit and says if her government wins the no confidence vote she will make statement on the way forward and table an amendable motion by Monday.


Corbyn says May has reached ‘the end of the line’

This is the greatest defeat since the 1920s, a catastrophic defeat, Mr Corbyn says. Mrs May is trying to keep her failed deal alive after it has been rejected by Parliament.

Labour’s priorities are to take no deal off the table, a permanent customs union should be secured and people’s rights should be guaranteed, he says.

Business has begged Mrs May to negotiate a customs union, as have trade union leaders, he adds. Her governing principle of delay and denial has reached the end of the line.

Mr Corbyn has tabled a motion of no confidence in the government.


Emoticon No-confidence vote will take place tomorrow

Mr Corbyn says that the vote of confidence in Mrs May’s government will be held tomorrow.


Europe calls for clarity

A spokesperson for Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said the EU “regrets the outcome of the vote, and urge the UK Government to clarify its intentions with respect to its next steps as soon as possible”.

The EU27 will remain united and responsible as we have been throughout the entire process and will seek to reduce the damage caused by Brexit.

We will continue our preparations for all outcomes, including a no-deal scenario. The risk of a disorderly exit has increased with this vote and, while we do not want this to happen, we will be prepared for it.

We will continue the EU´s process of ratification of the agreement reached with the UK Government. This agreement is and remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

https://twitter.com/eucopresident/status/1085260488903090176


SNP backs no-confidence vote

Ian Blackford, SNP’s Westminster leader, says that his party will back Labour’s motion of no confidence in the government.


No-confidence motion

The Labour whips have Tweeted out the text of tomorrow’s no-confidence motion:

https://twitter.com/labourwhips/status/1085262188464558081

For those without access to Twitter, it says:

. @jeremycorbyn has tabled a no confidence motion in the Government after their historic defeat on Theresa May’s deal. The Government have confirmed that this will be debated and voted upon tomorrow.

The motion reads: “That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.”
It is signed by Jeremy Corbyn, Ian Blackford, Sir Vince Cable, Liz Saville Roberts, Caroline Lucas and Nicholas Brown.

That is the leaders of Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cyrmu and the Green Party.


Parliamentary arithmetic

Although the leaders of most political parties in the House of Commons have signed Labour’s no-confidence motion, that does not include the DUP. Their votes are likely to be vital for Theresa May’s political survival. If the DUP votes with the government – and in recent days they have indicated their continued support for Mrs May – then she has a good chance of survival. It would then come down to her own party to decide whether to continue to back her.


Brexit deal vote breakdown

The FT’s Henry Mance says that 196 Tory MPs voted with Mrs May – but 118 voted against. Only 3 Labour MPs voted for the deal – and 248 voted against. As expected, the Scottish National party (35 MPs), the Democratic Unionist party (10), the Liberal Democrats (11) all voted against. Overwhelming.


What to expect tomorrow

Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House, confirms the no-confidence debate will take place tomorrow. After a query, she confirms that it will be scheduled for a full day of debate, not a shortened debate. She says the debate will be scheduled for a full day until 7pm tomorrow.


Europe prepares for no-deal

EU member states will step up no-deal planning in the wake of the vote, says the FT’s Jim Brunsden. Belgian prime minister Charles Michel has already tweeted that his government would speed up preparations.

“We need to guarantee the rights of our citizens and businesses,” he said. “In coordination with the EU, the government will take concrete measures”.

https://twitter.com/CharlesMichel/status/1085261619318452226


Key questions to be discussed in days ahead, says speaker

MPs have also questioned John Bercow, the speaker of the Commons, for guidance on whether parliament can vote on an extension of Article 50 and authorisation for a second referendum. Mr Bercow responded by assuring MPs that issues such as these can be debated and voted on, “should MPs so wish to in the “coming days.”


Business responds

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, said:

“Every business will feel no deal is hurtling closer. A new plan is needed immediately. This is now a time for our politicians to make history as leaders. All MPs need to reflect on the need for compromise and to act at speed.”


Juncker says time almost up

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said: “I urge the United Kingdom to clarify its intentions as soon as possible. Time is almost up.”

I take note with regret of the outcome of the vote in the House of Commons this evening. On the EU side, the process of ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement continues.

The Withdrawal Agreement is a fair compromise and the best possible deal. It reduces the damage caused by Brexit for citizens and businesses across Europe. It is the only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

The European Commission, and notably our Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, has invested enormous time and effort to negotiate the Withdrawal Agreement. We have shown creativity and flexibility throughout. I, together with President Tusk, have demonstrated goodwill again by offering additional clarifications and reassurances in an exchange of letters with Prime Minister May earlier this week.

The risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom has increased with this evening’s vote. While we do not want this to happen, the European Commission will continue its contingency work to help ensure the EU is fully prepared.


Business of the House moves on . . . .

. . . to a debate problems at Chester-Le-Street railway station, MPs leave in droves. And just like that a high day of drama in the Commons has come to an end.


Sterling rebounds

FastFT’s Adam Samson reports:

Britain’s currency dropped and then rebounded sharply in volatile trade following Theresa May’s heavy defeat in a House of Commons vote on her Brexit deal.

Sterling fell as low as $1.2672, down 1.5 per cent on the day, immediately after the results were read in parliament. However, it cut its losses sharply almost immediately afterwards, leaving it down only 0.25 per cent. It had been off 1.2 per cent just before the reading of the results.

“This historic defeat was largely priced into the pound in the run-up to this evening’s vote, attention is already focused on Remainer efforts to fend off a ‘no deal’ scenario and extend Article 50,” said Derek Halpenny, European head of global markets research at MUFG.

The Brexit package Mrs May agreed with the EU was voted down in the Commons by 230 votes. It prompted Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, to move for a vote of no confidence in the Tory government.

“The only thing that would really make the pound plummet now is a successful vote of no confidence,” added Mr Halpenny.

Stephen Gallo, strategist at BMO Capital Markets, pointed out as well that “market illiquidity” would make it difficult for traders to make bets on the currency.


Resounding defeat

Here’s a chart from our interactive desk’s John Burn-Murdoch, showing the magnitude of Mrs May’s defeat this evening:


There’s a pattern here

Our political correspondent Henry Mance notes that the Tory vote against Mrs May this evening (196 to 118) almost exactly mirrors the result of the confidence ballot back in December (200 to 117)


Deal opponents span political spectrum

The FT’s John Burn-Murdoch has crunched the data to show that MPs voted against Mrs May’s deal, whether they voted Leave or Remain.


May gains DUP support in no confidence vote

The DUP has confirmed that the party is not seeking a change of government. A spokesman said the party “will support the government in confidence vote”, reports Laura Hughes.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said:

The House of Commons has sent an unmistakable message to the Prime Minister and the European Union that this deal is rejected.

Mrs May will now be able to demonstrate to the Brussels’ negotiators that changes are required if any deal is to command the support of Parliament. Reassurances whether in the form of letters or warm words, will not be enough. The Prime Minister must now go back to the European Union and seek fundamental change to the Withdrawal Agreement.


Business groups voice alarm

Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, said “it is the collective failure of our political leaders that, with only a few weeks to go, we are staring down the barrel of no deal”.

As things stand, UK law says we will leave on 29th March, with or without a withdrawal agreement, and yet MPs are behaving as though they have all the time in the world – how are businesses meant to prepare in this fog of confusion?

The clock is still ticking, and whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s no confidence vote, the reality is that MPs will still need to find a way to put aside their differences and come to an agreement.

We are nearly two months out from leaving the EU, and firms still do not know basic information such as the processes they would need to comply with for day one of no deal. This alone makes letting the uncertainty carry on simply unacceptable.”

Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said “there are no more words to describe the frustration, impatience, and growing anger amongst business after two and a half years on a high-stakes political rollercoaster ride that shows no sign of stopping”.

Basic questions on real-world operational issues remain unanswered, and firms now find themselves facing the unwelcome prospect of a messy and disorderly exit from the EU on March 29th.

The overriding priority for both government and Parliament must now be to avoid the clear danger that a ‘no deal’ exit on the 29th of March would pose to businesses and communities across the UK. Every second that ticks by sees more businesses spending money on unwanted changes, activating contingency plans or battening down the hatches and halting investment, as they try to anticipate a future that is no clearer now than it was at the time of the referendum result.


US business lobby group urges extension of Article 50

Our trade editor James Politi reports from Washington:

In a statement just out, Marjorie Chorlins, executive director of the US Chamber of Commerce’s US-UK Business Council, said:

“While the outcome of Parliament’s vote is not a surprise, the urgent task of avoiding a no-deal Brexit remains, so we urge the British government to find a solution that the Parliament can support. The US business community has a huge stake in the outcome of these negotiations; US companies employ 1.2 million Britons and have invested $600 billion in the UK. The best possible Brexit outcome will bring clarity and certainty about the road ahead, but time is running short, so we encourage the UK and the EU to consider an extension of Article 50, if necessary.”


ERG backs May

The pro-Brexit European Research Group has pledged support for Theresa May in the vote of no confidence on Wednesday, reports the FT’s Laura Hughes.

An ERG official said: “ERG MPs will of course be voting for the government in the no-confidence motion tomorrow.”


Austria’s chancellor: our goal is to avoid a hard Brexit

Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian chancellor, has tweeted his regret at the rejection of May’s deal but said his country’s aim is to avoid a hard Brexit and “to continue to cooperate as closely as possible with the UK in the future”. But he also repeats the position of other EU27 leaders that the withdrawal agreement is cannot be renegotiated.

https://twitter.com/sebastiankurz/status/1085261674389663744

https://twitter.com/sebastiankurz/status/1085261674389663744


No-confidence votes explained

Here is a useful explainer from the Institute for Government about how votes of confidence work.

The IfG says:

If the prime minister set up and then lost a ‘matter of confidence’ vote, they could not call an election unilaterally. They now have four options:

1) Ignore what has happened and carry on governing (technically possible because of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act perhaps, but a risk to constitutional propriety and parliamentary credibility).

2) Put forward a motion for a new election requiring a two-thirds majority under the act

3) They or the Opposition puts forward a motion of confidence under the act. If the government loses, this would trigger a 14-day period after which there would be a second vote of confidence won or an election called. No-one has yet tried this mechanism so it is possible that it could also lead back to option one or option four below.

4) Either the prime minister or the government simply resigns outright. If it is the former, they would need to be replaced by their party; if is the latter, the Queen would be advised to call on the Opposition to form a government.


Febrile atmosphere outside Parliament

The FT’s Robert Wright reports from the streets of Westminster:

Mrs May’s heavy defeat was greeted as a victory by both the pro-Remain and pro-Brexit demonstrators who had gathered outside Parliament all day. People’s Vote campaigners cheered and waved EU flags when news of the result appeared on two huge screens erected in the centre of Parliament Square. They then jeered Theresa May as she started to address MPs immediately afterwards.

“You’ve done this!” Ayesha Hazarika, the comedian and Labour activist, assured the crowd.

However, the atmosphere turned more tense on Abington St, on one side of the Palace of Westminster, when a group of the yellow-jacketed Leave supporters who have been blamed for some of the recent ugly scenes in the area confronted a far larger group of Remain supporters.

Engaging in football-style chanting, the Leave supporters shouted, “Bye, bye, EU!” to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. Gathering round one Remain supporter they pointed and shouted, “Loser! Loser!” The Remain supporters responded by shouting, “Bollocks to Brexit!” and police officers, who had been present in large numbers all day, moved to separate the two groups and avoid a wider confrontation.


No confidence vote favours May

With support guaranteed from the European Research Group and the DUP, Theresa May will go into tomorrow’s no confidence vote knowing she will likely have a majority in parliament.

The DUP have 10 votes and the ERG have at least 40, while the Tory Remainers are also not expected to vote against her, says the FT’s Henry Mance. This will take the potential votes behind Mrs May to around 327, against opposition parties excluding the DUP and Sinn Fein at 315

Here’s the breakdown of the parties in the House of Commons


Motor manufacturers’ warning

Our motoring correspondent Peter Campbell reports from Detroit that Mike Hawes, chief executive of the motor industry’s trade body the SMMT, has said:

“The vote against the Brexit deal on the table brings us closer to the ‘no deal’ cliff edge that would be catastrophic for the automotive industry. All sides in parliament must work together to find a way forward and put the necessary mechanisms in place to prevent this happening and explore alternatives that protect our future.

“Leaving the EU, our biggest and most important trading partner, without a deal and without a transition period to cushion the blow would put this sector and jobs at immediate risk. ‘No deal’ must be avoided at all costs. Business needs certainty so we now need politicians to do everything to prevent irreversible damage to this vital sector.”


May’s Brexit defeat a ‘Pyrrhic victory’ for EU

The FT’s Brussels bureau chief, Alex Barker, says the EU27 may insist that nothing will change in their approach to Brexit but in reality May’s resounding defeat is a “moment of reckoning” for the EU’s strategy.

Read his analysis here


How every MP voted on Theresa May’s Brexit deal

The FT’s data team has created an interactive means of finding which way each MP voted. If living in the UK, enter your postcode or MP’s name to see their votes.

How MPs voted


Calls for second referendum

With Theresa May’s Brexit plans in disarray, calls to go back to the British public to vote again on a European exit are expected to grow.

Dominic Grieve, one of the main Tory supporters for a second referendum, said after the vote:

Tonight’s vote is significant. It’s clear there is no appetite for the government’s deal, and indeed there is no majority for any other version of Brexit either.

Parliament now needs to come together for the sake of the country. Crucially we must bring the people back into this discussion, by legislating for a final say, giving the British public the option to stay and lead with our European partners.


Bentley chief executive on hard Brexit plans

Peter Campbell, our motoring correspondent, has been listening to Bentley chief executive Adrian Hallmark, who has been speaking at a trade conference:

Bentley has been war-gaming a Hard Brexit for the last eight months, the luxury British brand’s chief executive Adrian Hallmark said.

The carmaker, owned by Volkswagen, imports around 60 per cent of the parts for its cars from continental Europe, and has been importing components into different ports in the East of England, rather than through Dover, he told the Automotive News Congress in Detroit.

The brand also plans to cease production for either one week, or for one day a week for five weeks, following the Brexit date in order to minimise supply chain disruption, he added.

“I may eat these words, but we are prepared,” he said.


Reaction from Strasbourg

Our Brussels correspondent Mehreen Khan reports:

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit chief, was one of the first EU leaders to speak to the press after the Brexit vote. He is in Strasbourg tonight ahead of a meeting with Michel Barnier. The former Belgian prime minister said he would welcome any move from MPs to back a new deal for a “deepened relationship with the European Union”.

“We are ready to do this”, said Mr Verhofstadt. “What we don’t want is that the mess in British politics is imported into European politics. Let us try and find a solution before the European elections. There is a need for cross party cooperation so that there is a national interest of Britain.”

Mr Barnier, the EU commission’s Brexit negotiator, is meeting with MEPs this evening to discuss the fallout from the vote in Strasbourg. Euro parliamentarians will hold a Brexit debate at 8.30am UK time tomorrow.

https://twitter.com/MehreenKhn/status/1085275715581423621


Brexiters react

Laura Hughes, our political correspondent, has been speaking to some Brexit-supporting MPs:

Ben Bradley, a Eurosceptic Tory, said: “It’s a massive defeat, but PM has done the right thing by seeking to consult on what would be acceptable. My view is there is a majority in the House of Commons for a Canada-style free trade agreement with 95 per cent of Tories, DUP and Labour Leavers.”

One Brexiter MP said: “It’s positive in the sense that it seems she intends to seek a new plan not just tweak around the edges of this one. But it’s hard though isn’t it, lots of friends have found the decision really tough, so there’s a solemn mood.

“She needs to talk to everyone and stack up the numbers so she can go back to Brussels with a plan that will work; a Canada-style FTA with a mechanism to end the backstop.”


Hammond on Article 50 extension

The FT’s Jim Pickard reports that business leaders asked Philip Hammond on tonight’s conference call if Article 50 could be extended. The chancellor replied that the EU wouldn’t consider an extension unless and until the government has a clear plan. “We have to reach out to MPs in the Commons first”, he said and only then can the government ask the EU to agree to an extension.


Thank you for joining us on this historic day in the UK parliament. We’re going to wrap up this live blog now, but please join us again tomorrow. We will be live from 10am as the House of Commons prepares for what is likely to be a highly unusual Prime Minister’s Questions at 12pm. After that, Theresa May will face a no-confidence debate, with the vote scheduled for 7pm. We will be here throughout to chronicle the events.