Closed Theresa May faces MPs over possible Brexit extension – as it happened

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Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn appear to have sharply shifted their stances on Brexit, with the prime minister preparing to offer MPs the chance to take no-deal off the table while the opposition leader is now backing the idea of a second referendum.


Good afternoon and welcome to our live coverage of the latest Brexit developments in Westminster.


Monday morning round-up

Brexit discussions in parliament can seem never-ending, but it has truly been a momentous 12 hours in Westminster with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition having their hands forced after a number of MPs quit both parties last week, in part at least, over the way Brexit was being handled.

Since last night, Theresa May, who insisted for months that Britain would leave the EU on March 29 without a deal if none could be agreed, has moved towards offering MPs the chance to take a no-deal Brexit off the table.

The FT’s political editor George Parker reported earlier today that Mrs May has put a plan before cabinet for MPs to get a “meaningful vote” on a revised exit deal by March 12. If the House of Commons rejects the renegotiated deal, Mrs May will give MPs another vote on whether to press ahead with a no-deal Brexit on March 29 or to opt for “a short extension” to the Article 50 divorce process.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, who had been capitalising on the public’s distaste towards parliamentary chaos by pushing for a general election, also did an about-turn and announced the Labour party would now back a new referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU.


Statement to MPs at 12:30

Theresa May is expected to make a statement to parliament at 12:30 and then take questions from MPs. There are suggestions from the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg that Cabinet has broken up so there could be some fireworks from unhappy Brexiter ministers.


Sterling rallies while the FTSE falls

The UK pound has been cheering the prospect of a delay to Brexit, write Alice Woodhouse and Michael Hunter.

This morning, sterling hit a February high against the dollar and reached its strongest level against the euro in 21 months. The pound rose 0.7 per cent to $1.3187 It was also 0.7 per cent stronger against the euro, with a unit of the shared currency costing £0.8610, a level not seen since May 2017.

But the FTSE 100 index, which comprises companies that benefit from a weaker pound because they make their revenues abroad and report them in sterling, fell 1.1 per cent. Of the big UK exporters within the FTSE, engine maker Rolls Royce fell more than 1 per cent and fashion brand Burberry lost 2.4 per cent. The decline on the main London equities index was more brisk that that of its continental peers. Overall, the Europe-wide Stoxx 600 slipped 0.1 per cent.


May presents her “new” plan to Cabinet

The FT’s Jim Pickard tells us that the well-connected Steven Swinford at the Daily Telegraph is reporting on Twitter that Theresa May has presented the cabinet with her plan: which is (if the withdrawal agreement is rejected) to offer MPs a vote on either no-deal Brexit or an extension to Article 50. It’s confirmation of the FT story from last night.

https://twitter.com/Steven_Swinford/status/1100358188514402304

For those that can’t access Twitter, the tweet reads:

Here’s what I’m hearing from Cabinet, which is still ongoing:

The PM has said there will be a three line whip on an amendable motion tomorrow that will commit to TWO votes on March 12th in the event that her deal fails

One will be on no deal, the other will on extending A50


DUP not happy

Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist party, is not keen about the idea of a delay, she tells Bloomberg. The DUP props up Theresa May’s minority Conservative government through a loose alliance, known as a confidence and supply deal.

https://twitter.com/kitty_donaldson/status/1100352272075239429

For those that can’t access Twitter, the tweet reads:

Exc: DUP leader Arlene Foster warns @theresa_may against any extension of Article 50 ahead of a meeting with the PM this afternoon.


What happens next?

An FT team has compiled a list of key upcoming dates in the Brexit process as we head towards the March 29 Article 50 deadline. Tomorrow is also set to be a big day.
Read it here


A look at the numbers

Last week’s defection of a group of Labour and Tory MPs to sit as independents has changed the parliamentary arithmetic somewhat.

There are now 20 independent MPs. The Conservatives now have 314 MPs; Labour has 246 MPs, the SNP has 35 and the Liberal Democrats have 11. The DUP has 10 MPs, while Sinn Fein’s 7 MPs do not take their seats. There are also 4 Plaid Cymru MPs, 1 Green MP, the Speaker (who is a Conservative but does not vote) and 1 empty seat due to the recent death of Labour MP Paul Flynn.


Elections to European Parliament not a stumbling block

Sam Coates, the deputy political editor of the Times, reports that the Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel has said the UK could nominate MEPs “for a very short period”. This suggestion would remove a possible stumbling block to the extension of Article 50, which would keep Britain in the EU beyond May when elections to the European Parliament are set to be held.

https://twitter.com/SamCoatesTimes/status/1100364971144368129

For those that can’t access Twitter, the tweet reads:

Luxembourg PM has just say that Britian could nominate MEPs “for a very short period” and the elections in May don’t need to be a stumbling block


And we’re off

Theresa May is now standing up to address the House of Commons, in what is expected to be a statement outlining further commitments on the Brexit process. Will she give the Commons the chance to slam the brakes on leaving by March 29?


Theresa May: ‘making progress’

The prime minister says she is making progress in her discussions with the EU. They have discussed what changes can be made to the political declaration. She has spoken to the leaders of every member state.

The UK and EU have agreed to consider a joint workstream to look at an alternative to a hard border in Northern Ireland, to ensure the backstop is not needed. This will be an important strand of the next phase.

The government will set up domestic processes to seek advice from experts on issues such as trade and customs.

The EU knows what this House needs, she says.

She reiterates her commitment to preserve workers’ rights and environmental standards, whatever form of Brexit is the result.

Giving up control would mean accepting new EU laws automatically, she says. Instead we are prepared to giving Parliament a vote on whether it wishes to follow suit when new EU laws are introduced.


Sterling remains at 5 month high

As the PM updates the Commons, sterling remains around its highest level against the dollar since October, up 0.9 per cent for the day at $1.3216, having been as high as $1.3237 in morning trade, reports the FT’s Michael Hunter.


Theresa May: no deal will only happen if there is explicit consent for it

If necessary we can make a success of no-deal, Mrs May says, but the government will shortly publish a paper setting out the consequences.

The government will today table an amendable motion for debate tomorrow. She acknowledges that MPs are worried time is running out and the effect of the uncertainty on business.

She makes three further commitments -

A second meaningful vote;
If the government has not won a meaningful vote, it will table a motion asking the House if it supports no-deal;
If the House then rejects leaving without a withdrawal agreement, the government will bring a motion on whether to seek a short limited extension to Article 50 and legislate to change the exit date.

I will stick by these commitments as I have done previous commitments, Mrs May says.


Reaction to those new commitments

The sometimes unruly House of Commons was in listening mode as Mrs May outlined her new commitments and floated the idea of a limited delay to Article 50 and an amended exit date. But Mrs May’s pledge to stick by her commitments is met by jeers from MPs.


Theresa May: An extension cannot take no-deal off the table

I do not want to see Article 50 extended, the prime minsiter says. Our absolute focus should be on getting a deal and leaving on 29 March.

Extending Article 50 would mean participating in the European Parliament elections, and what message would that send to voters, she asks.

The only way to take no-deal off the table is to agree a deal or revoke Article 50, which I shall not do, Mrs May says.


Theresa May: implement the decision of the British people

The government is determined to deliver the vote of the British people and the House should assist it in that, Mrs May says. Tying the government’s hands via the order paper would have far reaching implications for the way the UK is governed – here she is referring to the Cooper amendment. It would not aid the government in finding a solution, she says. The choices we would face would be unchanged.

Tomorrow the House needs to come together and send a clear message that there is a stable majority in favour of leaving the EU with a deal, Mrs May says.

She reiterates that EU citizens’ rights will be protected in the event of no-deal. But the rights of UK citizens living abroad will depend on individual EU states, she says. She urges all EU countries to guarantee their right to stay.


March 13 could be busy

The PM has just said in the Commons that if her Brexit deal is rejected, MPs will get another vote on March 13, during which they will be able to reject no-deal.

March 13 is the day that chancellor Philip Hammond is set to make his spring budget statement.


Theresa May: responsibility to deliver

Taking the UK out of the EU is the culmination of a long fought campaign for some MPs, the prime minister says. Other MPs have fought against it for just as long. But Parliament told the people that it would honour their decision and that remains the resolve of this side of the House.

Jeremy Corbyn has gone back on his promise to respect the referendum result and wants to hold a divisive referendum that would take this country back to square 1, she says.

This House has a responsibility to deliver on the result of the referendum – the credibility of our democracy is at stake.

She is reviewing the UK’s recent economic performance, which is upbeat, she says. If we can leave with a deal we can do so much more to deliver real economic progress.

She hopes that MPs will tomorrow send a clear message that they are going to deliver Brexit, she says. And she sits down to a round of cheers from her backbenches.


Corbyn reacts

The Labour party leader is scathing about Mrs May’s “grotesquely reckless” approach, which he describes as a “deliberate strategy to run down the clock” because her new commitments are not achievable. He claims there is no attempt to get an agreement on the Irish backstop and reminds the Commons that meaningful votes on the Brexit process have been delayed by the PM several times.


Jeremy Corbyn: ‘kicking the can down the road’
Mr Corbyn says he pays tribute to MPs who are working on alternatives to Mrs May’s Brexit plans as he also accuses the PM of kicking the can down the road until March 12. He questions whether the new process Mrs May has outlined means that, come next month, “we will be voting again on the same documents”. He also points to “factories relocating abroad” as people are “hearing rumours and fearing for the worst”.


May’s new pledges

Here is the first take of today’s news story, by our chief political correspondent Jim Pickard:

Theresa May has told the House of Commons that if her Brexit deal is rejected on March 12 she will then present MPs with further votes on a no-deal Brexit or on extending Article 50.

Speaking in the House of Commons at 12.40 on Tuesday, the British prime minister said that MPs and business were worried that “time is running out” and parliament needed to have its voice heard on the way forward.

Mrs May said the “meaningful vote” on the withdrawal agreement would take place on March 12.

If that vote is lost again then there will be a fresh vote on March 13 to discuss no-deal Brexit. “The UK will only leave without a deal if…there is specific consent from this House,” she said.

If that proposal is rejected there will be a further vote on March 14 to discuss a “short limited extension to Article 50”, she said.

The initiative is the first time that Britain’s prime minister has openly accepted that the government could delay Brexit, having insisted for months that Britain would leave the EU on March 29 without a deal if necessary.

Only a minority of MPs in the Commons would back no-deal Brexit while there is thought to be a majority for extending Article 50 if necessary.

The move is aimed at heading off resignations by about a dozen pro-EU ministers who are determined to prevent the economic harm of a chaotic departure from the EU.

But it risks a split with the hardline European Research Group of Tory MPs as well as the Democratic Unionist party, the government’s minority partners. Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, told Bloomberg: “I don’t think an extension is going to solve any of the issues that are already there. Often in negotiations you need that compression of time to come to a deal.”

Mrs May said the extension would not last beyond the end of June, would “almost certainly be a one-off”, because the UK would not have taken part in European parliament elections in late May, and would create “a much sharper cliff edge in a few months’ time”.

Mrs May said Jeremy Corbyn had gone back on his promise to respect the Brexit result and would hold a “divisive” referendum that would “take our country back to square one”.

Anyone who had voted for Labour expecting it to back Brexit would be “appalled”, she said.

“The very credibility of our democracy is at stake. By leaving the EU with a deal we can move our country forward,” she told MPs.


Corbyn: ‘Labour has a credible plan’

According to Jeremy Corbyn, Labour has a plan to bring the country together and safeguard jobs and industry. It involves staying in the customs union and keeping pace with EU best practice on workers’ rights and the environment. He says Mrs May’s deal does not go far enough in promising not to “rip up those vital protections”. Mr Corbyn adds that his own meetings with EU officials and leaders left him “with no doubt whatsoever that our proposals are workable and could be negotiated”.

Tomorrow, Mr Corbyn says, Labour will ask parliament to vote on the opposition party’s proposals.


Jeremy Corbyn: what is the extension for?

“She promises a short extension, but for what?” the opposition leader asks. He says it would be much better if the “whole House” backs Labour’s version of Brexit.


May: don’t betray the British public

Theresa May is responding to Jeremy Corbyn.

She says that the government is in discussions with the EU about changes to the backstop, and any changes would be put before the House before the meaningful vote.

On the question of citizens’ rights, the EU does not have the legal authority to do a deal itself without a new mandate. The withdrawal agreement contains a guarantee on rights; if not addressed by the withdrawal agreement then it will be up to individual member states to offer those guarantees, she says.

On the subject of workers’ rights, the prime minister says that decisions should be taken in the UK, in this House. One reason for that is that governments of different colours have consistently given workers greater rights than the EU has negotiated.

On the question of Labour’s approach to a deal, they want a customs union and single market and having a say on trade deals. If he wants those benefits of a customs union, they are in the political declaration in the deal negotiated by this government, she says. The declaration also gives us the right to strike our own trade deals and not rely on Brussels, she adds.

My sole focus has been about getting a deal that enables us to leave on March 29, she says. It is Mr Corbyn who has kept no deal on the table by refusing to agree to a deal. He could have voted to end uncertainty on jobs by backing the government’s deal, she says.

Labour’s backing for a second referendum breaks the promise to respect the referendum result, and would betray the trust of the British public, she says.


Kenneth Clarke: a new cliff edge?

Father of the house and veteran Tory MP Kenneth Clarke says that while he congratulates Mrs May for recognising “we are not remotely ready for the chaos of a no-deal departure on March 29″, it appears she is “giving us a date for a new cliff edge at the end of June”.

That risks parliament continuing the “present pantomime performance” and “similar chaos”. He suggests that MPs contemplate a much calmer delay, hold some indicative votes, see where parliamentary consensus on Brexit lies and begin new talks with Brussels on this basis.


Blackford: prepare for European elections

The Scottish National party’s Ian Blackford says the SNP is already organising candidates for the European Parliament elections and he suggests the Tories do the same.

By March 12, we will have lost sitting nine days in the House in which this situation could be resolved, he says.

The strategy of running down the clock is disastrous, he says. The EU has repeatedly made it clear the withdrawal agreement is non-negotiable. It is the height of irresponsibility for any government to threaten its citizens with such consequences. The PM is not fit for office, he says.

Will you accept the overwhelming advice of business and rule out no-deal? he asks. Parliament should impose a timeline so that the PM can’t dodge this.


May: vote for a deal

We are taking this time to negotiate the changes required by the House, Mrs May says, without ruling out no-deal. The PM reiterates how MPs should vote for a deal if they do not want no-deal, calling this “simples”, in a fit of teenage talk that is met in the Commons with, er, some LOLs.


IDS: make alternative arrangements legally binding

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith says the PM is right that we would prefer to have a deal.

She mentioned alternative arrangements, which appear to be based on the Malthouse compromise, he says. It is clear that both UK and EU recognise that the backstop is unworkable. So when the PM sits down with the EU can she now say the alternative arrangements must be legally binding so they cannot renege on them after we leave?


Not the victory for soft Brexiters and Remainers it would seem

The FT’s Jim Pickard notes that on the face of it, the new three-day run of votes in March looks like a victory for the Soft Brexiters/Remainers. Why? Because the assumption is that the Commons would not back no-deal Brexit (March 13) and would delay Article 50 (March 14). In reality it’s more complicated however. The problem (which is alarming senior mandarins in Whitehall) is that any delay would only be for a few months, meaning that the default position would still be sliding out of the EU without a deal.


Benn: what’s the extra time for?

Hilary Benn, chair of the Brexit select committee, says that there will continue to be no consensus on a deal whenever a vote is held. So if we extend Article 50, what does she intend to use the time for?


May: Backstop alternatives are difficult

EU officials have said, Mrs May tells the Commons, that any alternative to the Northern Irish backstop would involve derogations from EU laws that could be unworkable.


May: face up to the facts

Mrs May says that MPs must face up to the fact that if they don’t want to leave with no deal they must either revoke Brexit and go against the decision of the British people, or they should vote for her deal.


Nicky Morgan: please vote for the deal

The Conservative remainer says the uncertainty affecting business and individuals is now “crushing” and urges MPs to vote for the deal put forward by the PM.


Cooper: how can we trust the government?

Labour MP Yvette Cooper says that the government has pulled scheduled votes and ignored motions voted for by the House. If there is no legislation in place (such as the amendment she has proposed), what assurances do we have that votes that the PM has promised today will definitely be put and the government will abide by any votes, she asks.


Cash: delay would cost many billions

William Cash, a veteran Eurosceptic, says that Ms Cooper’s amendment – which attempts to force the government to commit to delaying Article 50 – would cost taxpayers “many billions” of pounds.


Cable: rule out no-deal

Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, says that delaying for a short period would achieve nothing. Will the PM not listen to her own ministers and admit that a no-deal Brexit would be so damaging that it must be ruled out, he asks.

Mrs May reiterates her insistence that taking no-deal off the table means either voting for her deal or calling Brexit off, which would be politically unacceptable.


Ben Bradshaw: can we trust the new commitments?

Mr Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, says the PM has “caved in” to the Brexiter wing of her party too many times, so “how can we trust what she is saying?”


DUP deputy leader: kill the NI backstop or lose our support

Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist party, which props up Mrs May’s minority government in Westminster, is urging the prime minister to commit to abolishing the Northern Irish backstop. This is an agreement between the UK and Brussels that maintains an open border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland if Britain leaves the bloc without a deal.

Mr Dodds says: “Without a legally watertight way out of the backstop we could not support any withdrawal agreement brought to this house.”


Soubry: a shameful moment

This is a shameful moment, nothing has changed, says former Tory MP Anna Soubry, except that some of us who used to sit over there are now sitting over here.

All we see is can-kicking while fudge is being created, she says.

Her speech is interrupted by Tory MP Crispin Blunt who is roundly told off by the Speaker.

Tory MPs made it clear they would vote to take no deal off the table, Mrs Soubry says. Can the prime minister confirm that nothing has changed and no-deal remains firmly on the table, she asks.


Corbyn caveats second referendum proposal

Something that people might not have noticed yet is that Jeremy Corbyn hinted Labour would only offer a second referendum if the Commons passes a deal – rather than supporting a deal on the condition of a second referendum, writes the FT’s Jim Pickard. “If it [a deal] somehow does pass in some form at a later stage, we believe there must be a confirmatory public vote to see if people feel it is what they voted for.”

That is not in the spirit of yesterday’s announcement. It makes a second referendum even less likely, given it’s almost inconceivable that Theresa May – if she gets a deal through the Commons – would then put it to a public vote.

All the guidance yesterday from Labour was that the party would back some form of amendment linking the party’s support for a deal with a second referendum. Now Mr Corbyn seems to be moving the goalposts.


In praise of Mrs May’s stoicism

Patrick McLoughlin, Conservative MP for Derbyshire, says he and most of his constituents are “in awe of the stoic way the PM has acted over the last two years”. This causes an uproar of laughter across the House.


May: conflicting views

Theresa May illustrates her position in parliament with a touch of humour, saying she is getting “conflicting views” from MPs on her new Brexit commitments. Some are telling her “nothing has changed”, the prime minister says with a smile, while others accuse her of doing “a U-turn”.


Lucas: will EU agree?

The EU has been clear that it will only agree to delaying Article 50 if it is for a clear purpose, says Green MP Caroline Lucas. Just delaying by a few months is not going to change anything. So will the prime minister agree to hold a fresh referendum in order to justify delaying Brexit?


Latest Brexit odds shortening on second referendum

Irrespective of the fact that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appears to have muddied the waters around the scenario his party would back a second referendum, Ladbrokes’ latest odds suggests this is the most likely out come.

The bookmaker reckons the rejection of a second “meaningful vote” on whatever revised deal Theresa May can secure from Brussels is odds on at 2/9, while offering 3/1 that it will be approved.

However, it is only offering 2/1 on a second EU referendum this year and if punters think that were to happen they can get 9/2 on a Remain vote.

Finally, the bookies is offering odds of 5/1 that the UK leaves with no deal on March 29.


No deal exit could still happen

Our political commentator Sebastian Payne points out that Mrs May has refused to take a no deal Brexit off the table.

He says:

The PM explicitly told MPs she won’t revoke Article 50. So the three possible Brexit outcomes are:

- Leave with deal on March 29
- Leave with deal by end of June
- Leave with no deal end of June.

He adds the hardcore parts of the European Research Group, the right-wing, Eurosceptic part of the Tory party, are facing difficult choices now. But they might hope to run down the clock down until the end of June and still push the UK out with no deal if the UK does get an extension to Articile 50.


May: March 29 exit is within our grasp

Answering a question on when the exit may happen, Theresa May says she remains optimistic that all can be sorted out by the existing deadline of March 29. This, says the prime minister, remains “within our grasp”.


Creasy: how will the PM vote?

The prime minister has faced questions from several MPs about whether she will vote against no-deal on March 13. Stella Creasy, a Labour MP, is the latest. But Mrs May keeps dodging the question.


A ‘People’s Vote’ devoid of cheating?

Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrat, is arguing for a second referendum “devoid of [the] cheating” that the Leave camp was accused of in the run-up to the 2016 Brexit vote.

Mrs May reiterates that she is against a second referendum.


Evans: a Leave country with a Remain parliament

Nigel Evans, the Tory Brexiter, has told the BBC that “the numbers are not there” for the prime minister in the House of Commons. She is “up against it”, he said, and blamed that on the fact that “we have a Leave country with a Remain parliament”.

He blames the current situation on “shenanigans” by the EU “and the Irish”. A delay in Brexit would merely “give more time for Anna Soubry and her friends to ….. [confound] the wishes of the people”, Mr Evans said.


Rees-Mogg warns PM on Brexit extension

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Eurosceptic European Research Group in the Tory party, has said it would be a “grievous error” if Theresa May’s offer to delay Brexit leads to Britain ultimately scrapping its departure from the EU.

“If it’s being delayed, which is my suspicion, as a plot to stop Brexit altogether then I think that would be the most grievous error that politicians could commit,” he told Sky News.

“It would be overthrowing the referendum result, two general elections – one to call for the referendum and one to endorse the referendum – and would undermine our democracy.”


Spring statement to go ahead on March 13, says PM

We pointed out earlier that March 13 could be busy after Theresa May said that MPs would get a vote on whether to leave the EU with no deal on that day should her Brexit deal be rejected on March 12. The 13th is the day that Philip Hammond is set to make his spring Budget statement and when that was pointed out to the PM just now, she insisted the chancellor would stick to that date.


The view from Downing Street

Our political editor George Parker has some further information about Theresa May’s intentions:

The third vote on extending Article 50 will be amendable. It is not clear if the government motion will specify a date. So obviously could be more than the “short” one-off extension proposed by Mrs May.

When asked by Michael Gove in cabinet about whipping on the no-deal vote, Mrs May refused to answer. She also refused to do so when asked in the Commons.

Will the meaningful vote be next week? One minister thinks it could be. Mrs May’s aides say: “It’s not impossible, but there feels like a lot more work to be done.”

Downing Street is pretty confident that ministers will not resign to back the Cooper-Letwin amendment. The PM’s statement won “broad cabinet agreement”.

In cabinet earlier, Mrs May expressed disapproval at ministerial op-ed writing.

The no-deal impact assessments are set to be published later this afternoon.

Number 10 suggests that Mrs May could still back no-deal. “You wouldn’t give parliament a vote on something if you weren’t prepared to do it,” said Mrs May’s spokesman.

She changed her mind on the Article 50 extension because she was so worried about the constitutional implications of the Cooper-Letwin amendment, according to Downing Street.


Grieve: more humiliating negotiations cannot be the answer

Tory MP and second referendum campaigner Dominic Grieve has put out a statement in which he accuses the government of “playing games”.

He says:

The prime minister has now accepted that, after two-and-a-half years of negotiations that have not produced a deal that can command a majority in Parliament, she is likely to have request an extension of the Brexit deadline. But a temporary extension does not rule out a no deal Brexit , it merely moves the cliff-edge back a few weeks

Another cycle of humiliating negotiations and still more deadlock cannot be the answer when there is no form of Brexit that meets the promises of 2016, is as good as the deal we’ve got inside the EU, or can provide clarity for the future.

Instead, Parliament needs the time and space to consider proposals now supported by MPs from all parties for a new public vote because it would be wrong to force Brexit on the British people without giving them the final say.

Playing games over the length of such an extension to stop a People’s Vote or tie the hands of MPs will, rightly, be seen as further evidence of a rigid approach to Brexit that has resulted in this spiralling crisis. The prime minister should not seek to use the European Parliamentary elections as an excuse for not allowing a public vote. It is entirely democratic to have such a vote and it is becoming more and more important that one should take place.


PM not answering detailed questions

Theresa May is resorting to type and refusing to address any detailed questions on key issues, such as the fact that the EU27 must agree to an extension of Article 50 but they have previously said they would only do so if it was obvious the UK parliament was coalescing around a deal or it served a purpose such as making time to hold a general election or a second referendum. Mrs May refuses to talk about any “hypothetical” scenarios and insists she is still focused on taking the UK out of the EU on March 29.


Boles: can we trust the PM?

Nick Boles, a Tory MP who originally worked with Yvette Cooper on her amendment, has tweeted his reaction to Mrs May’s statement:

https://twitter.com/NickBoles/status/1100388888936415233

For those who don’t have access to Twitter, it says:

The Prime Minister has made a significant concession. The detailed commitments that she made at the despatch box mirror the provisions of the Cooper-Letwin bill precisely. The question for all of us is this: can MPs trust her to do what she has promised?


Brexit Q&A has ended

And that’s the end of the Q&A session with Theresa May. Parliamentary business now moves on to a 10 minute rule bill that seeks to ban faxes and pagers in the NHS . . . . . .


‘PM has done enough’

Our political commentator Sebastian Payne reckons that today went OK for Mrs May -

https://twitter.com/SebastianEPayne/status/1100407477231747075

For those who can’t access Twitter, it says:

First goes the BDG [Brexit Delivery Group] amendment, then Cooper-Letwin next? PM has done enough to survive another fortnight. Remarkable for someone is supposedly a bad political operator.

Hardline Brexiters, meanwhile, face a dilemma, he adds:

https://twitter.com/SebastianEPayne/status/1100381298877702144

The hardcore parts of the ERG are facing difficult choices now. But they might hope to run down the clock down until the end of June and still push the UK out with no deal.


What will happen with planned Brexit vote tomorrow?

The FT’s Henry Mance has been speaking to MPs about what will now happen to the votes tomorrow in parliament. The prime minister is set to table a neutral motion, which MPs would then seek to amend in the Commons on Wednesday. The key question is whether Theresa May’s announcement today will take the wind out of the sails of those MPs seeking to seize control of the Brexit process from the government.

The general view is that the Cooper-Letwin amendment, which would have given MPs the power to request an extension of Article 50, will not pass, and may be dropped because Mrs May has adopted some of its substance. Also, the Independent Group of anti-Brexit MPs – the eight Labour MPs and three Tories who left their respective parties last week – is planning to put down an amendment paving the way for a second referendum, probably in alliance with the Liberal Democrats.

As Seb Payne pointed out below, the Brexit Delivery Group of moderate Tory MPs have also dropped their amendment, calling for extension of Article 50 to May 23, because Mrs May has definitely adopted its substance.


IoD: ‘An extension may be a necessity’

The Institute of Directors has reacted to today’s developments. Its interim director-general Edwin Morgan said:

The prime minister is right to put her cards on the table for what happens if she fails to get approval for a withdrawal deal by 12 March. Parliament must feel and accept the weight of responsibility that is on their shoulders. The message from our members is clear, nearly 80% would choose to avoid a no-deal outcome. Too much information about that scenario is still missing – including from our own government – for firms to be ready in a few short weeks.

Seeing the impasse continue may not be comfortable for businesses, but a disorderly exit could bring unbearable disruption for firms in sectors from farming to finance, manufacturing to business services, across the UK. It is a long time since we have been in a world of easy choices, and while an extension is not an end in itself, it may become a necessity to achieve an orderly exit.


FSB: ‘For many businesses it is already too late to plan’

The Federation of Small Businesses has said that today saw “real movement” towards ruling out a “chaotic and damaging no-deal”.

Its national chairman Mike Cherry said:

If the prime minister can stay true to her word, a no deal Brexit on 29th March will only happen if Parliament chooses it. If MPs are presented with this choice, I ask them to recognise the damage a no deal Brexit on 29th March would cause the UK small business community.

For many, it is already too late to prepare for this. Half of small firms that said they would be impacted by a no deal Brexit, told us they needed at least two months to prepare. A further third won’t be in a position to be ready whatever happens.

Outside the Westminster bubble, our small firms want an end to the Brexit stalemate. Small businesses are trying to get on with the jobs, they now need all politicians to come together and do the same.


Leave campaigners: we will launch legal action if Article 50 is extended

Pro-Brexit campaign group Leave Means Leave is threatening to launch legal action if Article 50 is postponed beyond March 29.

The group wants to ensure that the UK will hold elections to the European Parliament if the UK does not leave according to the original timetable.

In a statement published on the group’s website, it said it had appointed City law firm Wedlake Bell and barristers from Field Court Chambers to prepare the case.

“Concern is mounting amongst many Leave supporters that senior politicians are looking for ways to avoid holding such elections, for fear of the result,” the group said in its statement. It further said:

There have been suggestions that a limited extension to Article 50, ending before the new EU European Parliament sits in early July, would negate the need for the UK to participate in EU elections. Leave Means Leave does not accept this argument. Such timing is clearly a tactic to avoid UK participation and cannot be trusted.

Moreover there is nothing to suggest that a very short extension would change anything, especially since there will be no EU decision making capability while the Commission is in transition pending the May 23 polls. There is every likelihood of a further delay, leaving the UK a member of the EU without representation. This is unacceptable.

Leave Means Leave’s legal action is designed to ensure that if the UK is still a member of the EU on the 23rd May, European elections must be held on that day.


Bank of England reveals some Brexit plans

Our finance blog FT Alphaville has had a look at the Bank of England’s plans to ease market strains during the next few weeks.

Here is a look at the way in which it does that – crucially, a lot comes down to the quality of collateral it is prepared to accept, according to our head of Alphaville Izabella Kaminska.

And the BoE would be more likely than not to cut rates in a no-deal Brexit scenario, our economics team report.

BoE governor Mark Carney had previously repeatedly said that rates could move in either direction in the event of a chaotic Brexit. But in evidence to the Commons Treasury select committee today, he confirmed the shift in his stance.

However he warned that the bank’s scope for action was likely to be limited.


Wrapping up

Proceedings have moved on to other subjects in the House of Commons, and we are going to wrap up this liveblog now. Thanks for joining us to witness the latest eventful day in UK politics. You can read all of our Brexit coverage here.