Closed MPs inflict third defeat on Theresa May’s Brexit deal – as it happened

Splitters_neutral

PM asks Commons to back the withdrawal treaty but not political declaration


Today’s political agenda

- From 0930, parliament will kick off a five hour debate on the first part of Theresa May’s Brexit deal, which is her withdrawal agreement. This comes after the PM split her Brexit deal – the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration that will govern our future relationship with the EU – in two.

- The deal has been cut in half because the EU only requires the WA to be agreed before it will allow the Brexit date to be extended to May 22. Another reason for today’s format is that Speaker of the House John Bercow would not permit a third vote on Mrs May’s deal if the proposal put to MPs was the same as the deal that they have voted against twice already.


What the papers are saying

A rather bleak line up from today’s papers. The front page headline from the Daily Express reads: “Darkest hour for democracy” with the houses of parliament looking almost like they are up in flames. The Guardian decided to focus on the mounting pressure placed on Theresa May to step down as Tory party leader — something she has promised in order to gain more support for her deal from Euroskeptic MPs.


What does the EU make of all this?

According to this story by our Brussels bureau chief Alex Barker EU leaders are as divided as British lawmakers and the public over what kind of Brexit would be best.

Some in the bloc favour Britain’s early departure, while others hope for a second referendum.

The EU is also “genuinely torn”, Alex writes, on the question of whether to give more time to reverse Brexit. The ideal outcome for European Council president Donald Tusk is to have no Brexit at all. Yet the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has stressed to leaders that he is expecting the UK to leave with no-deal.


Investors hold tight

On the day the UK could have left the EU, the pound remained above the $1.30 level that analysts say depends on an orderly Brexit, says the FT’s Markets reports Michael Hunter . The UK currency dropped just 0.2 per cent this morning — to $1.3018 — leaving it down 1.5 per cent from the start of the week in reaction to more Brexit confusion.


German businesses prepare to leave Britain

Our main Berlin Tobias Buck is reporting warnings from the British Chambers of Commerce in Germany of “massive harm” to the economic relationship between the two countries in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

A large majority of members of the BCCG, which represents German businesses active in Britain as well as UK companies’ operations in Germany, believe Brexit will have an impact on their business, Tobias writes. He adds:

A survey of 101 of the chamber’s member companies found that 13 per cent were planning to move all or some of their business from the UK to Germany in case of a so-called hard Brexit. A further 10 per cent said they were planning to move business from the UK to another EU member state. Not one respondent was planning to move more business to the UK under a hard Brexit scenario. 


The DUP holds firm

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which has propped up Theresa May’s government since she became prime minister without a majority in the 2017 election, has been widely expected to vote against her Withdrawal Agreement this afternoon, or to abstain from voting.

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson (pictured, second from right) has just appeared on Talk Radio to state that his party will definitely not be voting in support of Mrs May.

At issue is the so-called Northern Irish backstop – a Brussels requirement that Brexit will not lead to a hard border on the island of Ireland. The DUP believes this will cut Northern Ireland off from a post-EU Great Britiain by forcing it to continue following some EU rules.

“There are better ways of securing the exit from the EU than a deal which ties our hands the way this one does,” Mr Wilson said.

It is not only the DUP that has declined to offer the prime minister its support. The opposition Labour Party and Conservative party Eurosceptics are also not expected to sign off on the withdrawal agreement this afternoon.

The last time Mrs May held a meaningful vote on her Brexit deal she lost by a margin of 149 votes.

Today’s vote could be closer, as Mrs May has promised to resign if her deal is approved.


What’s likely to happen today?

If you’re confused about where the UK currently stands on its withdrawal from the EU (don’t worry, so are we!), our reporters have made a clear summary of the current state-of-play.

Here’s what you need to know:
- Theresa May has decided to hold a vote today on the 585-page Brexit withdrawal treaty, and not the accompanying 26-page political declaration that sets out the future of UK-EU relations. The decision to split votes on the two documents is a way to get around Commons Speaker John Bercow’s recent ruling that the same motion cannot be presented to MPs twice
- Labour has already declared that it will vote against the treaty, calling the decision to split the vote “constitutional trickery”. The DUP will also not back the deal.
- Mrs May’s offer to step down as Tory leader may give her an extra few votes from Euroskeptics within her party, but she will will need a clean sweep from the Tories to get her deal through parliament.


Prepare for defeat and protests

Our political editor George Parker writes:

Theresa May will on Friday attempt to pass half of her Brexit deal through parliament amid signs that she is heading for another significant defeat and against an expected backdrop of “Brexit Day” protests at Westminster.

Trade secretary Liam Fox claiming that Britain’s “political structures are at risk” if MPs continued to block Brexit, which was scheduled to have taken effect at 11pm tonight.

The prime minister hopes that holding a vote on Brexit Day will put pressure on Tory Eurosceptics and Labour MPs representing Leave areas to support her withdrawal deal, opening the way to Britain leaving the EU on a revised date of May 22.

MPs will be asked to approve the 585-page EU divorce treaty – covering citizen’s rights, the £39bn divorce bill and the Irish border – but not the 26-page non-binding declaration on future relations.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said his party would not support a “blindfold Brexit” where MPs were asked to vote for an exit deal with no idea of what the future would look like.

Watch the FT homepage for more from George and his colleagues in Westminster throughout what promises to be a dramatic, if indecisive, day.


The debate begins

Attorney general Geoffrey Cox stands to open the debate. He reminds the House that “it was today…which this House voted some years ago..should have been the day on which we left the European Union.”

He then tells the House this is the “last opportunity” to take advantage of the “legal right” to ask for an extension to the Brexit date.

He is basically leaning on the argument that if MPs do not back Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement Brexit cannot be extended until May 22, but will happen on April 12.

Mr Cox says:

The minimum necessary in order to secure this right that is ours is a matter of law is that the withdrawal agreement is approved.”

All negotiated exits that any member of this House conjecture or dream of will require this withdrawal agreement.”

The House…can either approve this withdrawal agreement…or decline to do so and know in doing so that by next week there will be no right to an extension.

He adds that will give the House the opportunity to reconsider the kind of Brexit the country wants.


Met police plan for Brexit protests

London’s Metropolitan Police Service is aware of a number of demonstrations and protests planned for Friday 29 March, reports the FT’s Security and Defence Editor, David Bond. They are reassuring the public that appropriate policing plans are in place.


Grieve: May 22 extension is merely technical

Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, who is one of Mr Cox’s predecessors as Attorney General, points out in the Commons debate that an extension beyond May 22 would not be granted by Europe unless parliament has agreed the political declaration element of Mrs May’s deal as well as the withdrawal agreement that is being voted on today.

Mr Grieve says it may be better to ask the EU for more time now.


Chris Bryant: today’s vote risks more uncertainty.

In parliament, the Labour MP has said that a vote for Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement today will not provide the public or businesses with any certainty over Brexit.

He argues:

If today’s motion is carried there will be no certainty. The government will not be able to ratify the treaty. There will still have to be the proper motion brought forward to this house. There will still have to be a bill that will be contentiously debated. Today throws more uncertainly into the process.


Boris maintains he is still backing May’s deal

Boris Johnson has reiterated that he will back Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement in Friday’s Commons vote, following the arch-Brexiter’s surprising about turn on this issue earlier this week.

He writes on Twitter: “It is very painful to vote for this deal. But I hope we can now work together to remedy its defects, avoid the backstop trap and strive to deliver the Brexit people voted for.”

https://twitter.com/BorisJohnson/status/1111564131071676416


Cox: backing the prime minister brings certainty

In the Commons, attorney general Geoffrey Cox is arguing that backing Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement today does bring certainty to the public, and that an extension until May 22 will allow the Commons enough time to deal with the second half of the Brexit deal, which is the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement.

The Attorney General says:

“I urge all members of this House to embrace this opportunity now when this withdrawal agreement in its substance is in no way objectionable to any members of this House willing to move forward with it”

He says there is no disadvantage to voting against it.


Labour Party: no point voting on half a deal

Now speaking in the parliamentary debate is Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow solicitor general.

He says that the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration have always been considered by Theresa May and the EU as being part of the same package.

Mrs May has said this several times in the past, while the EU has been clear on the same point, Mr Thomas-Symonds adds.

He goes on to say:

This House secured a proper meaningful vote for a purpose – so it could make an informed judgement on future of this country.

The point was not to know only the terms of withdrawal but what the future relationship will look like.

To consider those two thing together is vital.


Barnier urges UK MPs to back May’s deal

The European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier reminds UK MPs of the importance of today’s Commons vote — suggesting that this is the last chance for Britain to secure an extension to the country’s withdrawal from the EU.

https://twitter.com/MichelBarnier/status/1111565825109123073


‘Dressing up political shenanigans as legal certainty’

This comment comes from the Scottish National Party’s Joanna Cherry, who says in parliament that the only reason the deal is being voted on today is so the Conservative Party can get on with choosing its next leader.

Mrs May earlier this week promised to resign if her deal was backed.

Dressing up today’s vote as providing “legal certainty,” Ms Cherry says, is really a ploy to “usher in” a right-wing and unelected Tory leader, such as Brexiter Boris Johnson.


Opposition from Eurosceptics and the DUP

In the Commons debate, Sir Bill Cash, a Tory Eurosceptic, is one of the first members of Mrs May’s party to speak against the withdrawal agreement.

“It does not represent Brexit,” he says, while “the constitutional status of Northern Ireland is at stake.”

He adds that the backstop “drives a coach and horses” through “our precious union” by potentially binding Northern Ireland to the rest of Europe.

The DUP’s Ian Paisley Junior stands up to say that he agrees.


Brexit protesters circle Westminster

The FT’s Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne is out speaking to protesters today. He tells us that scores of police are currently around Parliament Square. The prospect of impromptu protests seem very likely.

Some protesters are choosing to vent their frustrations at the passing traffic:

https://twitter.com/SebastianEPayne/status/1111572666778075137

This is what’s scheduled for the day:

12pm: The Fishing for Leave campaign are bringing a 30ft fishing trawler down the Strand, escorted by a pipe band. Their slogan is “yellow wellies, not yellow vests”.

4pm: The March to Leave, which set off from Sunderland a couple of weeks ago, is set to arrive in Westminster. Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit party, is planning to address the crowd (despite not participating in the whole march).

4:30pm: Ukip will be holding a protest on Whitehall, with far right activist Tommy Robinson calling to “make Brexit happen”.


Could Labour offer a route through… next week?

No amendments were selected by speaker John Bercow ahead of today’s vote. But one of them is still notable.

Gareth Snell and Lisa Nandy, both Labour MPs, tabled an amendment they had been talking about since last week. It would give the Commons a greater say over the future relationship between the EU and the UK, in return for support for the existing withdrawal agreement. Here’s the wording:

Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, said that the government would have accepted the amendment, had they been given the chance.

So what? Well, it could offer a potential route to unlocking some Labour MPs who are quietly keen to back some form of Brexit, but don’t want to hand total control of the process to Theresa May’s successor.

If the government does decide to bring the deal back for (yet) another vote next week, adding on the Snell/Nandy amendment might just get them over the line now that the Eurosceptic opposition has been squeezed down.


Bill Cash: I wish I could back the PM but I can’t

The senior Tory Eurosceptic concludes his debate speech by saying that while he wishes he could back Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement today, it is a “matter of principle” that he cannot, because of his strong views on the Irish backstop and other elements of the WA that do not, to him, seem as pure a version of Brexit as he wants.

How many other Tory Brexiters does he speak for? Time will tell.


SNP voice concern over May’s replacement

Scottish National Party Westminster Leader Ian Blackford is pushing tactical reasons for not backing Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement.

Mrs May has promised to resign if it goes through.

In the Commons debate, Mr Blackford appeals to opposition MPs to vote against it for that reason, arguing that Mrs May’s departure could usher in a very right wing and Eurosceptic leader who then takes control of Brexit.

“Don’t be duped by voting for the Conservatives today,” he says in a plea to the Labour party. “Have some backbone.”

This prompts a round of shouts across the house, with John Bercow then ordering a stop to the “sustained barracking and finger pointing.”


Former Tory chief whip backs May

Former Tory party chief whip, and Remainer, Mark Harper has taken to Twitter to declare he will, “despite its faults”, back Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement — even after voting against her deal twice previously.

https://twitter.com/Mark_J_Harper/status/1111545015686316033

In an article written for ConservativeHome he informs us that he is willing to put aside his concerns over the Northern Ireland backstop, the risk of being trapped indefinitely in a customs union and being left in a weak negotiating position with the EU — to ensure that the UK actually leaves the European Union:

I am prepared to compromise to ensure that we deliver Brexit.


Complaints about sitting on a Friday

British MPs are usually in their constituencies, talking to members of the public who need their help, on Fridays.

So the timing of today’s debate is upsetting some of them.

Labour MP for Barking Margaret Hodge says on Twitter:

Had to completely clear my diary. Would prefer to be working in Barking rather than this Westminster echo chamber. Nothing has changed. For the third (and I hope last) time I will vote AGAINST May’s Brexit deal today.


Iain Duncan Smith: this deal is the best way to get Brexit

Former Conservative leader Ian Duncan Smith says in the Commons that while he has criticised the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement in the past, it remains the best way to deliver Brexit.

The “balance of risk” he believes, is that if the deal does not go through there could be endless debates and requests for extensions stretching far into the future.

He says: “I think nothing has hugely changed in the nature of the bill… but I do think what has changed is the balance of risk.”


Damian Collins will back the deal today

Another Tory MP who has twice voted Mrs May’s deal down has said he’ll back it today.

Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, says that the risks from it not passing are now “far greater” than the problems presented if it does.

He has previously opposed the deal because of concerns about the so-called backstop, which he fears would trap the UK in a customs union. He also backed Oliver Letwin’s move to allow indicative votes earlier this week.


Tory switchers are continuing

Time is running out. And MPs are feeling the pressure. More Tory members are now choosing to back the Brexit deal they previously voted against. Here’s the latest from our Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne:

Former chief whip Mark Harper is backing the prime minister’s deal, as is chair of the culture select committee Damian Collins. Both pro-EU Conservative MPs and Eurosceptics are reluctantly concluding that they have little choice but to rally behind the prime minister if they want to ensure a smooth exit. Simon Clarke, a vocal member of the ERG, has also announced he is backing the deal.

All eyes in Westminster are on one big beast left: Dominic Raab. The former Brexit secretary has held out against supporting the prime minister’s deal, yet Westminster is aflutter with speculation that he is about to follow in the steps of Boris Johnson and change his mind.

Although Mr Raab would likely argue he is doing so to ensure Brexit happens and can be fixed later, he also has an eye on the upcoming Tory leadership contest. As one party insider said: “I can’t see how a candidate can win over the MPs or the wider electorate if they don’t back the deal now.”


‘Money for nothing’

Sir John Redwood, Conservative MP for Wokingham and a long-standing Eurosceptic, says there is no possibility of him voting for the withdrawal agreement because it involves paying the EU £39bn “for no obvious good reason”.

He compares the divorce bill the UK will have to pay the EU before leaving to going to a shop, handing over £39 to the shopkeeper, and then spending the next 21 months negotiating on what you would get for that money.


Withdrawal treaty-only vote still counts

The European Commission has cleared any confusion over whether a vote on just part of the withdrawal agreement — the 585-page treaty which excludes a political declaration on the future of UK-EU relations — still counts. If MPs today support the treaty, it will bide the UK a few more week, until May 22, before having to leave the European Union.

FT Brussels reporter Jim Brunsden shares some comments from a European Commission spokesman:

The withdrawal agreement negotiated between both parties is indeed both necessary and sufficient to ensure the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom. The withdrawal agreement of course has to be ratified by both parties to enter into force. The withdrawal agreement in various parts does take into account orientations agreed on by the UK and EU on the future relationship”


Breakaway MPs to form political party

The Independent Group of breakaway MPs will stand candidates in any surprise European elections, having applied to be a political party called “Change UK,”
our chief political correspondent Jim Pickard writes.

The mostly Europhile, centrist group announced at a press conference on Friday that it had also appointed Heidi Allen, a former Tory who is MP for South-east Cambridgeshire, as its interim leader.

A new permanent leader will be elected at the party’s inaugural conference in September, when it will formally launch itself.

The so-called “TIG” stunned Westminster in February when eight Labour MPs and three Tory MPs left their parties to form a new grouping in the House of Commons.

The move marked the biggest break in Britain’s political system since the formation of the SDP by moderate former Labour MPs in the early 1980s.
Its most prominent figures include Chuka Umunna, a former Labour front-bencher, and Anna Soubry, a one-time Tory minister.

In its announcement on Friday, the MPs said they had applied to become a political party having taken advice from the authorities that they needed to register “urgently” if they wanted to put candidates forward for European elections.
Although Theresa May, the prime minister, is resisting a long delay to Brexit it is possible that she could be forced into a longer extension of “Article 50” – the trigger mechanism for exit – if she cannot get her withdrawal agreement through the Commons. In those circumstances the UK would be expected to hold elections for new MEPs in late May.
“Today marks a huge step forward on The Independent Group’s journey to becoming a fully-fledged political party, so I am delighted to have been chosen as our interim leader,” said Ms Allen.
“We in Change UK, as we hope to be known, don’t just dream about a fairer and better future for our country, we are determined to unleash it through hard work, passion and shared endeavour.”

Mr Umunna claimed the group would “shake up the two-party system” having seen “tens of thousands of people” signing up as supporters.


Pound picks up as Brexit deal gains more support

The pound is moving higher. Markets reporter Michael Hunter highlights how momentum is building for the UK’s currency as the number of MPs pledging support for Theresa May’s deal has grown. Yet, he points out, its value still remains toward the bottom of its established trading range.


Raab set to back deal?

As the FT’s Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne pointed out earlier all eyes in Westminster are on the one big Tory beast left who has so far opposed the PM’s deal: Dominic Raab. Speculation has been mounting all morning he is going to follow follow in the steps of Boris Johnson and change his mind. We now have the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg on Twitter saying her sources have confirmed he will back the deal “but will reserve judgement on the next bit of the process”, ie the Political Declaration, which under UK law must also be approved for an orderly Brexit to take place (under EU law the UK only needs to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement that MPs are set to vote on today).

https://twitter.com/bbclaurak/status/1111600922105446400


The fractured state of the House of Commons

After the series of indicative votes earlier this week in which MPs were invited to express a preference for which Brexit outcomes they would favour, the Institute for Government came up with this graphic showing how the parties divided. It is a good illustration of the fractured nature of the House of Commons.


Dominic Raab says he will back deal

The former Brexit secretary is on his feet and told MPs he will vote for the deal. He has reminded MPs he resigned from the cabinet in protest at the deal last year. But he says he has to put aside his concerns about issues including the Northern Ireland backstop. “I’m afraid we need to proceed with some realism,” he says, adding there is “a significant risk of losing Brexit altogether.”

He was at one point interrupted by John Baron, a Tory Brexiter and member of the European Research Group, pleading with him to reconsider.


Raab: May’s deal ‘worse than staying in EU’

The FT’s chief political correspondent Jim Pickard reminds us not to forget that Mr Raab, as recently as November – just after resigning – claimed that Mrs May’s deal was worse than staying in the EU. This is a remarkable moment, whether or not it is decisive.


Chope: beware government’s “siren song”

Brexiter Sir Christopher Chope warns his Tory colleagues that they are falling for the “siren song” of the government. If the agreement is passed today, they will be powerless to prevent the legislation from being amended to soften Brexit, he says. We are being held to ransom by people in this House who do not wish to honour either the Labour or the Conservative manifestos, he says. Leaving on WTO terms will bring certainty, Sir Christopher says. There is very little support for the prime minister’s deal across the country and growing support for the WTO outcome, he says – we should be listening to those people. If we vote against this agreement this evening we will be leaving on 12 April as we could have been leaving today if the prime minister had not unilaterally acted against the will of the people.

Our European colleagues have been misled into thinking that the prime minister’s references to the withdrawal agreement included the political declaration, Sir Christopher says. There seems to be a clear indication that the front bench is minded to change the contents of the political declaration.


Labour anger at Raab

Labour MP Liz Kendall got to her feet after Dominic Raab declared his support, to express her “growing disgust” as “certain members of the Tory party who for months have opposed the withdrawal agreement are now flipping to support it – not out of any principle but purely for their own personal political gain. We cannot allow the future of this country to be held to ransom by the never ending internal Tory psycho drama.”

Raab is considered to be among the front-runners to become PM after Mrs May said she would resign if her deal was passed.


Soubry: “shameful shenanigans” of Brexit

The former Conservative minister and now independent MP Anna Soubry says that she will be in the same lobby as Sir Christopher tonight. At least he has been consistent in what he says about this deal, she says. It is quite bizarre that MPs think it proper that they should be allowed to change their minds but they deny the British people exactly the same right.

Referring to “the shameful shenanigans” of Brexit, Ms Soubry says that backing the deal now is perverse. To say that voting for the deal because it will stop the UK from participating in the European Parliament elections or on the basis that the prime minister will stand down is not acting with honour and principle. She pays tribute to the Democratic Unionist party, raising groans from some MPs. At least they have been consistent and on this I absolutely agree with them, says Ms Soubry. This withdrawal agreement is a genuine threat to the union of the United Kingdom, a threat to Northern Ireland, the same is true in Scotland; Brexit will increase the desire of the Scottish people to break away from the union, she warns.

This motion will make the certainty British businesses are crying out for even less achievable, says Ms Soubry. What sort of country have we become, she asks – better, happier, more united? Or are we not just as divided as we were in June 2016 but even more divided. Change has to come because British politics is broken, she says. We will see the break-up of the two main political parties. The group I have joined has today formed a new political party that will change the face and direction of British politics, she says. The British people are crying out for leadership and integrity.


Another hardline Brexiter to oppose deal

Owen Paterson, a member of the ERG and a hardline Tory Brexiter, says he will continue to oppose the deal. In a passionate speech he explains why he believes the Irish backstop betrays the trust of the unionist community in Northern Ireland and more widely those who voted for Brexit because it “does not deliver on the referendum.”

It is extraordinary that the fifth largest economy in the world is proposing to have laws imposed on it by 27 other countries, many of whom are competitors, and have no incentive to pass laws in our interest,” he says, referring to fears of many MPs that the Irish backstop will trap the UK inside the EU as a vassal state.

He says he has voted against the deal twice and will not bow to pressure from the government today. “I will retain my integrity and reputation . . . we may lose this particular battle but ultimately we will get back the sovereignty of this country so people can make their own decisions.”


Baron: negotiators saw Brexit as problem not opportunity

Veteran Brexiter John Baron says that the reason we are in this position is because the negotiators saw Brexit as a problem, not as an opportunity. It is a disastrous deal and he will vote against it. The deal will put a border within the UK, in Northern Ireland, he says. Recent positive economic performance is due to the fact that businesses are expecting no-deal, he says. I do not like the transition arrangement but I can hold my nose because it is similar to being in the EU, but I find the nature of the backstop hard to swallow. We could be locked in indefinitely – that is not delivering on the referendum result, he warns.


Jones: 40 more days of frustration?

Another Brexiter David Jones says that voting for the government tonight would mean 40 more days of frustrating, leaving the British people wondering why the church bells are not pealing tonight to celebrate the UK’s departure from the EU. He will vote against the deal, he says.


Leave march arrives outside Parliament

The FT’s Sebastian Payne is outside the Houses of Parliament where the Leave Means Leave March has arrived. At a rough estimate he believes there are a “couple of thousand” people on the march. Here are a couple of his snaps.


Brock: “a pile of manure”


Scottish National party MP Deidre Brock is giving a passionate speech in which she calls the prime minister’s deal a “pile of manure”. Mrs May has run out or road and that is no basis on which to determine the future of the country, she says, calling for a second referendum. She presents a heartfelt defence of the benefits of immigration and says her constituency in Edinburgh benefits from its array of immigrants from around the world, including from England.


One more hour till the vote

Just a reminder that the debate, which started four hours ago, is due to run until about 2:30pm after which we will have the vote. It will be a straight vote on the motion (see below) as the Speaker of the House did not allow any amendments.


Brine: the deal moves us forward

Steve Brine, who resigned from the government earlier this week in order to vote against Mrs May, is speaking. He says that voting for the withdrawal agreement is the right thing to do – it moves us forward, out of the constitutional arrangement with the EU and into a treaty arrangement, he says. It is about the financial settlement and citizens’ rights and the implementation period that business needs.


Bryant: don’t separate divorce from custody arrangements

Chris Bryant, the former shadow leader of the House, accuses the government of “a ludicrous attempt at a body-swerve”. The House has already decided the approach for proceeding, he says. What the government intends to do is to use the withdrawal agreement implementation deal to change existing arrangements, he says, so the vote today would result in more uncertainty, not less. The prime minister’s manifesto explicitly says the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration should be taken together, and she has always said that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. We should not be sorting out the divorce agreement before we’ve arranged the custody of the children, Mr Bryant says. This is a constitutional crisis, he says – we need a settlement that will last for generations. We need to stitch the nation back together and we can only do that if we stop subjugating the national interest to private ambition.


Main: beware softer Brexit

Tory MP Anne Main says she is changing her vote today, to back the deal. She accuses parliament of being “Remainers” and says this deal is the “best of the ugliest of sisters”. She fears that voting against this deal will mitigate in favour of a softer Brexit.


Gilets jaunes for sale in Westminster

Our Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne has met this chap outside Parliament who is selling yellow vests to the crowds of protesters in Westminster. According to Seb, he is charging £5 for one or three for £10.


Prospects for the government

Our political correspondent Laura Hughes reports:

It still doesn’t look as though the government can pass the withdrawal agreement today without the support of the DUP.

Sammy Wilson, the party’s Brexit spokesman, told the Commons this morning: “We as a party cannot put our hand to an agreement which would have Northern Ireland treated differently.”

Discussions between the DUP and the government are still focused on the offer of a “Stormont lock”, which would guarantee that Northern Ireland would remain in regulatory lockstep with the rest of the UK under the so-called backstop.

So far the government has offered the DUP such a guarantee, but only in domestic law.

The DUP has argued that the withdrawal agreement, which is an international treaty, would “trump” any domestic legislation. They fear a new government could come in and repeal legislation relating to Northern Ireland.

The party is also concerned a new hardline Brexiter could become the next prime minister.

DUP officials said many had failed to understand the union would always be the party’s first priority.


Tory “holdouts”

Alex Wickham, a political correspondent for BuzzFeedUK, has been diligently tracking the number of Conservative rebels who have so far declared they will back the deal today on his Twitter feed. At the last count he estimates there are still 43 holdouts so it looks like Theresa May still has some way to go to get the dealt through the Commons.

https://twitter.com/alexwickham/status/1111625837948948480


Brexiter MP addresses Westminster protesters

In a curious turn of events, European Research Group committee member and hard Brexiter Nigel Evans has left the debate chamber to address a group of pro-Leave protesters and agree with their calls of betrayal, Sebastian Payne writes from Westminster.

As shown on footage sent in by Seb, as he stands at the centre of the group, the Conservative MP for Ribble Valley tells the increasingly excited crowd:

You voted totally to leave the European Union.

All they [unclear who is referring to here] ever say..is that you are either racist, or that you were too thick you didn’t know what you were voting for.

Well we all knew what we were voting for. I knew what I was voting for. I just want to leave a totally remote, arrogant, corrupt, expensive European Union. I just simply don’t want them governing us anymore.

Call me old fashioned but I got elected to that building over my shoulder in order to enact the laws for my country. And you’ve got a bunch of people in there [the Commons] who want to keep all the decision making, the major decision making, in Brussels. And then they say ‘oh, but we want to have a sovereign parliament now’. All of a sudden they’ve discovered parliament should be sovereign.

You guys made the decision, its our duty to carry that decision out. Never ever in the history of mankind have people let the politicians down…but politicians are saying ‘oh, we’ve been let down by the people’.

Politicians, politicians, are letting the people down. That’s exactly what it is. We have let you down, simply by not delivering what you said. And we’ve just got to get on with it.

The crowd surrounding Mr Evans then starts up a loud chant of “MPs out! MPs out!”, interspersed with cries of “traitors” and “cheats”.

https://twitter.com/sebastianepayne/status/1111623387217047553?s=21


Corbyn: nothing has changed

The leader of the opposition is speaking. Nothing has changed since December when the prime minister pulled the meaningful vote, Jeremy Corbyn says. Today’s vote is an affront to democracy and an affront to the country. He criticises the prime minister’s decision to separate the withdrawal agreement from the political declaration. The PM is asking us to take a punt today, says Mr Corbyn.

The political declaration is so vague and with such a range of outcomes that it makes it more likely the UK will fall into the backstop, he says. Labour will not vote for a blindfold Brexit.

Northern Ireland unionist MP Lady Hermon intervenes to say that Mr Corbyn should be proud of Labour’s achievement in the Good Friday Agreement and so she is upset that Labour will vote today against the PM’s deal which protects the GFA.

Mr Corbyn says Labour is proud of the GFA and the peace that resulted from it. Nobody wants to undermine that.


Corbyn: no attempt to build consensus

The prime minister has made no attempt to build consensus, says Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Businesses are tearing their hair out at the incompetence of this government. This House has given a clear No to both no-deal and this deal repeatedly, he says. The government has tried begging, bullying and bribery and has still been defeated. The PM said we should leave on 29 March and then she herself voted against it. The government’s negotiations have been a litany of failure. This is a half-baked Brexit. When she became PM two and a half years ago she said it was her mission to deliver Brexit – she has failed. She promised to address burning injustices but she has failed at every hurdle, says Mr Corbyn.

A botched Brexit deal would compound the government’s failure, Mr Corbyn says. Labour’s plan provides the best compromise for a deeply divided country and a deeply divided House. It is backed by major businesses and trade unions. It is based on the certainty of a permanent customs union, he says.We recognise that we have to compromise to get this resolved.

Mr Corbyn says that he hopes on Monday the House of Commons re-takes control, and MPs enter into the spirit of trying to find an acceptable compromise. I am convinced a better deal can be negotiated, he says. If we cannot do that, I see no alternative to a general election. Mr Corbyn urges MPs to act in the interests of their constituents by voting against the deal. Many people fear for their jobs and their industries and that is causing immense stress to many people, he says. However they voted in 2016 they are united in their concern about their future, he says. This deal is bad for our democracy, our economy and our country, he concludes.


Brexit marchers: “betrayal of democracy”

Our correspondent Barney Thompson has been walking with some of the Brexit marchers in south-west London as they came into the capital. He reports:

The core members of the March To Leave, clad in bright red hi-vis jackets, were joined by hundreds of Brexit supporters, chanting and cheering, as they gathered in Fulham, south-west London. They walked in the bright sunshine along the Thames towards Parliament Square, flanked by dozens of police and private security.

Richard Tice, founder of Leave Means Leave, which organised the march, said: “No one has done this for over 80 years, since the Jarrow March [of miners in 1936] – walking the length of the country, representing 17 million Brexiteers who are in the process of being betrayed.”

If Brexit doesn’t happen, Mr Tice said, “then you are looking at the biggest betrayal of democracy that this country will ever have seen, and the consequences and anger [will be] … beyond all imagination. The support we’ve had … the length of the country has been massive. The anger is growing.”

Belinda de Lucy, 42, who has walked the whole march, called it a “very British protest, a bit eccentric… full of heart and soul”.

She said she was “very concerned and anxious about the crossroads the UK is now at. It is bigger than Brexit – we voted in good faith, faith in our MPs. But if anything, maybe Brexit has exposed … a rot in parliament.”


May: I remain committed

Theresa May is closing the debate and explains she has brought the vote today because it is “the last opportunity to guarantee Brexit”.

If parliament does not back her deal she warns MPs that all the people who voted to leave are going to ask them: “why didn’t you vote for Brexit?”

Without the deal approved, government would have to seek another extension, she argues, otherwise the UK would crash out on April 12. If it is approved, the extension would last until May 22, which would give parliament enough time to prepare to leave in an orderly fashion.

Any further extension would “almost certainly be a long one and would include European elections”, she warns, adding: “It avoids a long extension that could delay and possibly destroy Brexit.”

She says she believes there is an “overwhelming” majority in the Commons for her withdrawal agreement.

She refutes Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s claim that backing her deal would amount to a “blind Brexit”, arguing that it is about a “guaranteed Brexit”

I have said I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended to secure the right outcome for the country. When the division bell rings in a few moments time every one of us will have to look into our hearts and decide what is best for our constituents and our country


The mood among Conservative MPs

Our chief political correspondent Jim Pickard reports:

I’ve been speaking to some senior Tory politicians and they are increasingly optimistic that they’ve whittled down the number of rebels to some extent. But one told me: “It’s like everyone is standing around the edge of the pool, waiting for the others to dive in, that’s an analogy I’ve heard three times today.”

MPs are acutely aware of the gathering protests in Parliament Square and many are planning an early exit after the debate: “I won’t be hanging around afterwards,” said one.


Voting begins

MPs have started voting. The Speaker did not allow any amendments so it is a straight vote on Mrs May’s deal. We should get the result in about 10-15 minutes.

Here they are, off to the Aye and No Lobbies.


Rees-Mogg votes for withdrawal agreement

ITV political correspondent Carl Dinnen reports that Jacob Rees-Mogg has voted for the prime minister’s deal, as has former foreign secretary Boris Johnson. He tweeted:

https://twitter.com/carldinnen/status/1111636378209734656

For those with no access to Twitter, it says: “BREAKING Jacob Rees-Mogg walks into the Aye lobby with Boris Johnson.”


EmoticonMPs reject May’s deal

MPs have voted yet again to reject the withdrawal agreement. The result was:
Ayes 286
Noes 344

A majority for No of 58.


May: a matter of profound regret

Mrs May says that is should be a matter of profound regret to all members of parliament that they have been unable to agree. There is not enough time to agree a deal by April 12, she says. Therefore an alternative must be sought. On Monday the House will continue the process of seeking support for an alternative. All options for leaving the EU will require the withdrawal agreement. We are reaching the limits of this House, she says, it has rejected everything offered so far. The government will continue to press the case for an orderly Brexit.


Corbyn: time for an election?

Mr Corbyn asks whether the prime minister now accepts that the House does not support the deal. The House is responsible for finding a better deal. There has to be an alternative approach and if the PM cannot accept that she should go now so we can decide the future through a general election, he says.


Blackford: Look at revocation

SNP MP Ian Blackford says we should all be aware of the seriousness of the situation we are in. We have to find a way out of the crisis we are in, he says. We must give ourselves time. We now must look seriously at revocation. We need to apply a handbrake to this process. The PM does not have the confidence of the House, she should now go and we should be having a general election, he says.


ERG: May should resign

ERG deputy chairman Steve Baker MP, commenting on the government’s defeat, said:

“This must be the final defeat for Theresa May’s deal. It’s finished. And we must move on. It has not passed. It will not pass. I regret to say it is time for Theresa May to follow through on her words and make way so that a new leader can deliver a withdrawal agreement which will be passed by Parliament.

“This has been a tragic waste of time and energy for the country. We can waste no more.”


Tusk calls EU summit for April 10

“In view of the rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement by the House of Commons, I have decided to call a European Council on 10 April,” Donald Tusk writes on Twitter.


Dodds: sort out the backstop

DUP MP Nigel Dodds has called on the prime minister to address the problem of the backstop. He said she should “use the time constructively” to address the issue.


House adjourned

The Speaker has adjourned the House of Commons until Monday. MPs can now head back to their constituencies for the weekend.


Commission: no-deal is now likely

Our Brussels correspondent Jim Brunsden has a statement from a European Commission spokesperson:

“The Commission regrets the negative vote in the House of Commons today. As per the European Council (Article 50) decision on 22 March, the period provided for in Article 50(3) is extended to 12 April. It will be for the UK to indicate the way forward before that date, for consideration by the European Council. A “no-deal” scenario on 12 April is now a likely scenario. The EU has been preparing for this since December 2017 and is now fully prepared for a “no-deal” scenario at midnight on 12 April. The EU will remain united. The benefits of the Withdrawal Agreement, including a transition period, will in no circumstances be replicated in a “no-deal” scenario. Sectoral mini-deals are not an option.”


Sterling dips after vote

Our head of Fast FT Adam Samson reports:

Britain’s currency slipped below $1.30 for the first time in two weeks after MPs defeated Theresa May’s Brexit plans for a third time. Sterling was off 0.35 per cent to just a whisker under $1.30 after the House of Common’s rejected the prime minister’s bid to push her plan through in a two-part vote.


EU Council member: UK should indicate the way forward

Jim Brunsden has been speaking to an EU Council official, who said:

“Following the negative vote in the HoC today, Art. 50 will now be extended until 12 April as decided by EUCO last week. Tusk has called a European Council (Art. 50) on 10 April to consider the way forward. We expect the UK to indicate a way forward before then, well in time for the EUCO to consider. The exact timing and modalities of the EUCO are still to be decided but like last week the UK PM can be expected to participate in the beginning of the meeting.”


Those who changed their minds

Our head of interactive Martin Stabe has been crunching the numbers on the vote, and identified the MPs who changed their minds. Two Labour MPs backed Mrs May’s deal for the first time today – Rosie Cooper and Jim Fitzpatrick – and so did 41 Tory MPs.

Here is a full list of the prime minister’s new Conservative supporters:

John Whittingdale
Crispin Blunt
Iain Duncan Smith
James Gray
Boris Johnson
Grant Shapps
Conor Burns
Charlie Elphicke
Dominic Raab
Jonathan Lord
Jacob Rees-Mogg
Sheryll Murray
Chris Green
Ross Thomson
Simon Clarke
Andrew Lewer
Shailesh Vara
Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Bob Stewart
Henry Smith
Esther McVey
Gareth Johnson
Tom Pursglove
Michael Tomlinson
Pauline Latham
Royston Smith
Ian Liddell-Grainger
Daniel Kawczynski
Richard Bacon
Mark Harper
Michael Fabricant
Richard Drax
Rehman Chishti
Anne Main
Gordon Henderson
Robert Courts
Craig Tracey
Damian Collins
Eddie Hughes
Michael Fallon
Lucy Allan

Martin also notes that some people switched to abstain for the first time – Labour’s Dennis Skinner and Ronnie Campbell and independent Kelvin Hopkins.


Business dismay

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“On the day that we were supposed to be leaving the European Union, all we have is yet another political failure to chalk up. Responsibility for this deepening political crisis lies squarely at the feet of politicians who have clearly stopped listening to the business community. Our small businesses have been crying out about the significant damage that uncertainty is causing them. These cries have been drowned out by those seeking to play political games.

“Planning has stalled, investment is handcuffed and growth has flatlined. The only question now is what happens next? Small businesses message is simple, stop playing politics, come together and get on with delivering a pro-business deal that secures a transition period, guarantees as frictionless trade as possible and most importantly, avoids a disastrous no deal Brexit.

“Our small firms are sick and tired of politicians debating and dithering over Brexit. They are trying to get on with their jobs and it’s time that politicians get on and do the same.”


Interactive: how your MP voted

Our interactive desk has created this useful tool that shows how each MP voted.


Denmark: prepare for no-deal

The Danish prime minister has sent this tweet: “House of Commons did not seize their third chance to secure an orderly #Brexit. Very discouraging. UK must now show a way to avoid a #NoDeal. Almost out of options and time. We will intensify our no deal preparations.”

https://twitter.com/larsloekke/status/1111640036943056896


More European reaction

Martin Selmayr, Brussels’ top civil servant, has ramped up pressure on the UK with a pithy tweet: “April 12th is the new March 29.”

https://twitter.com/MartinSelmayr/status/1111647600451686400?s=19


34 Conservative rebels

Martin Stabe from our interactive desk says that 34 Conservative MPs voted against the prime minister today. They were:

Bernard Jenkin
Laurence Robertson
Owen Paterson
Mark Francois
Andrew Rosindell
David Jones
Adam Holloway
James Duddridge
Steve Baker
Priti Patel
Andrew Bridgen
Marcus Fysh
Suella Braverman
Andrea Jenkyns
Ranil Jayawardena
Craig Mackinlay
Julia Lopez
Lee Rowley
Julian Lewis
Theresa Villiers
Adam Afriyie
Philip Hollobone
Peter Bone
Jo Johnson
Justine Greening
Sam Gyimah
Guto Bebb
Phillip Lee
Dominic Grieve
John Redwood
Christopher Chope
William Cash
John Baron
Anne Marie Morris


CBI: UK’s reputation at stake

Josh Hardie, deputy director-general at the CBI, said:

“All eyes are now on Monday to discover what Parliament is for. The UK’s reputation, people’s jobs and livelihoods are at stake. No deal is two weeks away. This winner takes all approach means everyone loses. Indicative votes must deliver. Only MPs can end this nightmare for businesses.”

And Edwin Morgan of the Institute of Directors adds:

“The Brexit merry-go-round continues to spin, but the fun stopped a long time ago. We are running out of words to express how sick business leaders are of being stuck in this spirit-sapping limbo.”


Just 5 Labour MPs back deal

The FT’s Sebastian Payne says 5 Labour MPs voted for the deal:

- Kevin Barron
- Rosie Cooper
- Jim Fitzpatrick
- Caroline Flint
- John Mann

Plus two independents:

- Ian Austin
- Frank Field


What happens on Monday?

The House of Commons is scheduled to sit from 2.30pm on Monday, according to the Parliament website. The House usually only starts in the afternoon on Mondays, to give MPs time to travel back to London from their constituencies. Home Office questions are listed to take place first and those will probably take about an hour, so the Brexit debate will not start until around 3.30pm. It is listed as “motions relating to the UK’s withdrawal from and future relationship with the EU”. This is the next step in Conservative MP Oliver Letwin’s plan to let the House of Commons take control of the Brexit process.

Meanwhile in Westminster Hall MPs will debate three petitions about Brexit, including the record-breaking revoke petition which now has just under 6 million signatures.


The Letwin process

You can read more about how Oliver Letwin’s indicative votes process functions here. The aim is to winnow down the options on which MPs voted earlier this week in a bid to coalesce MPs’ opinions around a clear plan, and so avoid a no-deal Brexit.


German reaction

Our Europe editor Ben Hall has the following reaction from Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament:

Mr Röttgen said he supported the idea of a second referendum given the impasse in the House of Commons and the divisions within political parties.

“I consider it natural to give it back to the people,” he said on a visit to London where he met David Lidington, de facto deputy prime minister. A second referendum “could contribute to the reconciliation of an obviously divided country”, Mr Röttgen added.

Mr Röttgen, a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, added to the accommodating signals coming out of Berlin in the event that Britain requests a much longer extension of Article 50. Beyond the “clear and convincing” obligation on the UK to take part in European parliament elections, London would only need to state how much more time it wanted and for what purpose. This would not necessarily mean an explicit commitment to a general election or a referendum.

Mr Röttgen also dismissed the idea that EU capitals could accept a parliamentary vote in favour of a permanent customs union if Theresa May’s government disagreed.

“My view is the EU cannot interfere in the British domestic process of decision-making. We have to do this through the normal division of labour for international affairs.”


Colourful protests

Our Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne is outside the Houses of Parliament with the pro-Brexit protesters. He reports:

The pro-Brexit protest that has been circling Westminster today – complete with its own marching band – has been joined by a 30ft fishing boat on a flatbed truck. They are protesting at perceived unfairness of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.

Policing is very heavy and they’ve formed a ring around the Palace of Westminster. So far the mood remains peaceful. There are around 50 supporters of Tommy Robinson however who are more threatening.


Verhofstadt: find a cross-party way forward

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Bexit chief, has said: “The only way to avoid a no deal now is for MPs to finally act next week & define a cross-party way forward. If they do, we are ready to change the Political Declaration.”

https://twitter.com/guyverhofstadt/status/1111658561682227200?s=19


Macron: France is best-prepared for no-deal

Our Paris bureau chief Victor Mallet reports:

French president Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that a hard Brexit appeared to be on the way and negotiations had already begun with the British about fishing rights.

Speaking in northern France shortly before the deal agreed between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU was rejected for the third time by the British parliament, Mr Macron said: “If the British haven’t agreed by April 12, we’re heading towards no-deal and a hard Brexit with all its consequences.”

Mr Macron originally wanted the UK to stay in the EU but has taken a harder line than some of his fellow Europeans on the last-minute negotiations, for the time being accepting only a short extension.

France is spending €50m on hiring new customs and veterinary officers and expanding facilities at Channel ports such as Calais, and Mr Macron said France was “without any doubt the best prepared of the countries directly concerned”.

Leo Varadkar, Irish prime minister, will meet Mr Macron in Paris on Tuesday, two days before receiving German chancellor Angela Merkel in Dublin.


Dublin asks UK: how will you avoid no deal?

Leo Varadkar has called on Britain to indicate how it will avoid a no-deal Brexit, saying Europe must be open to a “long extension” if the UK changes approach, reports Arthur Beeslely from Dublin.

After the third House of Commons rejection of Theresa May’s Brexit treaty, Ireland’s prime minister said in a statement that a no-deal crash-out was a “growing possibility.” With EU leaders called to an emergency Brussels summit on April 10, Mr Varadkar said it was “incumbent on the UK to chart a realistic way forward for consideration” at that meeting.

“I believe we must be open to a long extension should the UK decide to fundamentally reconsider its approach to Brexit and put back on the table options previously ruled out. I believe that will result in a generous and understanding response from the 27 [remaining member states].”

Mr Varadkar, who is coming under pressure in Europe to set out how the future of the Irish border will be settled in a no-deal Brexit, meets in Paris next week with Emmanuel Macron before talks in Dublin with Angela Merkel.

Ireland has been preparing intensively for a no-deal scenario, he said. “But no one should under-estimate the difficulties that a no-deal will present, for all of us, including the UK. It is not clear that the UK has fully understood that no-deal is not off the agenda.”

Although the Democratic Unionists remain opposed to the treaty because of the backstop to avoid checks on the Irish border, Mr Varadkar said EU leaders have agreed unanimously that Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement will not be re-opened.


Markets: regulators agree to co-operate

UK and US markets regulators have finalised two agreements to co-operate oversight of markets and the fund management industry if Britain leaves the EU without an agreement next month, our Trading Room editor Philip Stafford reports.

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the biggest US markets regulator, will share information and work together to monitor derivatives reporting, credit rating agencies and fund managers, the two authorities announced on Friday. The agreements are the latest the FCA has agreed with counterparts around the world to cover for a no-deal Brexit.


Brexit protest crowds swell

Our Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne is with the pro-Brexit protesters outside Parliament. He reports:

The Leave Means Leave rally has begun on Parliament Square. Thousands are present and the centre of Westminster is closed to traffic. John Longworth, former head of the British Chambers of Commerce and Leave campaigner, said: “It’s no longer about Brexit, it’s about the democracy. Only a handful of MPs still have their principles.”‬


Election odds rising

Mike Smithson, the political betting expert, highlights the fact that odds on an election this year are rising rapidly. There is now a 54 per cent chance that there will be a general election this year, according to betting website Betfair.


The mood of the public

Polling by YouGov carried out before today’s vote found that the most popular option among members of the public was to reject Mrs May’s deal. Labour and the Conservative rebels could argue therefore that they have acted in line with public sentiment – although the main message from the YouGov poll is that opinion is sharply divided.


We missed the best chance for Brexit

James Cleverly, a Tory MP and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, has responded to a Tweet from Buzzfeed’s Alex Wickham that lists the 34 Tory rebels as follows:

A number of my @Conservatives colleagues voted against the Withdrawal Agreement today. Some because they want a “better” Brexit, some because they want no Brexit at all.

They can’t all get their way.

I’m now not sure what will happen, but we have missed the best chance to deliver on the 2016 referendum result and so in an orderly way.

https://twitter.com/JamesCleverly/status/1111661451054333953


Has the UK left the EU yet?

Here’s a cheeky webpage which our audience engagement team set up in the aftermath of the EU referendum in 2016. They were expecting to shut it down pretty soon but – it’s still going for now …


Next developments

Ministers are reportedly meeting in Downing Street now to discuss the next steps.
Faisam Islam, Sky political editor, says: “Minister tells me of a meeting of ministers with the PM in Downing St now following the third defeat of her Withdrawal Agreement… not about standing down but significant, nonetheless.”

According to islam, the delegation of ministers is going to urge “the PM to say no to a softer Brexit and to go for No Deal Brexit”

https://twitter.com/faisalislam/status/1111671225275817985

Meanwhile Paul Waugh of HuffPost reports that there could be a run-off between whichever option wins in Oliver Letwin’s series of votes on Monday against Mrs May’s deal. He writes: “Govt sources suggesting we could next week get some kind of run-off between the Letwin winner (customs union/PV) versus May’s deal (3rd time). No one sure how that would work. May be govt wait instead for Letwin to run its course then do MV3.”

https://twitter.com/paulwaugh/status/1111660440885620738


IfG: Brexit is a divisive issue like no other

Gemma Tetlow of the Institute for Government has been Tweeting about the institute’s new report on Brexit. It finds that Brexit has divided Parliament like no other issue, challenging the two-party system.

“MPs swung behind the Article 50 notification 2y ago, but have struggled to agree on much else…,” she writes.

https://twitter.com/gemmatetlow/status/1111668457358217216

You can read the full report here. It looks at the Brexit Effect on government, Parliament and politics since the 2016 referendum.


Dodds: stay in EU if it keeps NI in UK

Political correspondents are reporting that the DUP’s Nigel Dodds has signalled that he could back the UK remaining in the EU if it is the only way to keep Northern Ireland in the union. Newsnight’s Nicholas Watt Tweeted:

Nigel Dodds tells me the UK should stay in the EU if that was only way to preserve NI’s place in UK. ‘I would stay in the European Union and remain rather than risk Northern Ireland’s position. That’s how strongly I feel about the union.’

https://twitter.com/nicholaswatt/status/1111672627414872064

But Mr Watt said that Nigel Dodds added: “We want to see Brexit delivered, we believe the referendum result should be respected and delivered on but it can’t be at the risk of separating Northern Ireland out from the rest of the United Kingdom.”

https://twitter.com/nicholaswatt/status/1111673324160106501


DUP-ERG ‘agreement’ falling apart?

Patrick Maguire, political correspondent at the New Statesman, points out on Twitter that the decision my some members of the European Research Group, the hard Brexiters in the Tory Party, to support Theresa May’s deal, has fractured the “tacit” agreement between the ERG and the DUP.

The tacit understanding that underpinned the DUP-ERG relationship – in spite of obvious divergence in their strategic interests – was that the former wouldn’t rat on a hard Brexit if the latter didn’t rat on the Union. Everything they do now is a response to that betrayal.

https://twitter.com/patrickkmaguire/status/1111677163823075329


What might happen next week

There is growing speculation that there will be some kind of run off next week between the PMs deal and whatever proposal gets the strongest support from MPs on Monday when they seize control of parliamentary business following the inconclusive indicative votes earlier this week.

The most popular options on Wednesday were a second Brexit referendum (268 votes in favour, 295 against) and a customs union between the UK and the EU (265 votes in favour, 271 against).

The FT’s political correspondent Henry Mance reports that Oliver Letwin, the former Conservative minister behind the motion that allowed MPs to take the unprecedented step of taking control of the agenda in the House of Commons, is hoping parliamentarians will forge a consensus on an alternative.

Speaking before today’s defeat for the PM, Sir Oliver said many Tory MPs who had previously only supported the government’s exit package “may come round” and support a different way forward.

You can read Henry’s piece here.


Paris: we need a plausible plan in days

French officials have told the FT’s Victor Mallet in Paris that following Theresa May’s latest defeat that the UK would have to produce a plausible plan within days – whether for elections, a second referendum or some new proposal such as entry into a customs union – if it wants to avoid a no-deal Brexit, which they insist remained the most likely outcome. “We have to look to the future and protect the European project,” said one.


Canada updates UK travel advisory

The Canadian government has updated its travel advisory warning its citizens about possible “civil unrest” in light of the Brexit demonstrations in London. Full text below:

Demonstrations are expected to take place in London on March 29, 2019. Demonstrators will march in the Parliament’s vicinity, near the main government buildings on Whitehall and near Westminster Abbey.

Heightened security measures may be in place.

Avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place. Exercise vigilance and caution on public transit nearby.

Demonstrations occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. They can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation.

Full advisory can be found here


Another extension?

Here’s the take on today’s events from Investec Economics:

We consider Mrs May’s statement to be significant. The term ‘orderly Brexit’ suggests strongly that the government will not countenance a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU. The PM will therefore likely head back to Brussels next week to argue for an extension to the UK’s EU membership beyond 12 April.

If and when the UK requests a further extension, the EU will impose conditions. The first will be that the UK participates in the EU elections in late-May. A second will probably be that Britain presents a clear roadmap on how it will gain approval for the way ahead. A majority in the Commons via the indicative votes might be do the trick. But if parliament still cannot come to a decision, there may be no alternative to a second referendum.


Labour MP complains of intimidation

Lisa Nandy, the Labour MP for Wigan, has taken to Twitter to complain that her and some colleagues had verbal abuse hurled at them as they tried to get into the Houses of Parliament to vote.

She tweeted:

Today outside Parliament I and others were accosted by people shouting f****** traitor as we tried to get in to vote. Our staff were advised to leave the building for their own safety. There were armed police everywhere. This is not normal

https://twitter.com/lisanandy/status/1111686933825179649


Capital Economics: Chances of another delay are rising

Here’s the view of Capital Economics on the outlook for the coming weeks:

As the dust of this week settles, the four possible outcomes haven’t changed – deal, no deal, no Brexit or a lengthy delay – although the balance has arguably shifted further towards the latter.

After all, Mrs May’s pledge to resign if her deal is ratified did not do the trick. Nor did her decision to ask MPs to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement (rather than both this agreement and the “political declaration”, which sets out the future relationship).

Of course, the deal was rejected by a smaller margin (58 votes, 149 the second time, 230 the first), so it is not inconceivable that May might bring the deal back for another vote next week.


Sterling markets have done well

Chris Iggo from Axa Investment Managers has a musical take on today’s events:

To paraphrase Oasis, “today was gonna be the day that the UK left the EU, by now you should’ve realised that this Brexit is not going through”.

With the Brexit path still highly uncertain it continues to be very difficult to construct investment strategies around that theme. There is no identifiable Brexit premium in the UK credit market. The performance of the UK gilt market has been similar to that of other core government bonds and its future evolution will depend a lot on what the Bank of England does in response to the economic consequences of whatever kind of Brexit we eventually get. The first quarter has been great. The gilt market index has generated a total return of 3.2%, with the inflation-linked index posting a massive 6.7%. There are particular UK technicals at work – the indices are much longer in duration than in the Euro or US government bond markets and there continues to be very strong demand for the long-end of the market

It is probably highly unlikely but a “no-deal” exit continues to be the tail-risk scenario that could really disrupt the UK economy and markets in the short-run. The potential impact on trade and movement of people is obvious and the knock-on effects for growth and corporate earnings could generate some divestment from the UK by foreign investors. Banks are well capitalised in the UK and have plenty of liquidity, but one could imagine some funding squeeze if there was a deposit flight under an extreme Brexit scenario.


Brexiter regrets?

Richard Drax, a Brexit-supporting Tory MP who backed Mrs May’s deal today, seems to be regretting having done so. He told the BBC’s south of England political editor Peter Henley:

“Arch Brexiteer MP Richard Drax says he feels “utterly ashamed of myself” after supporting the PM today, and losing”

https://twitter.com/BBCPeterH/status/1111681898181468161


That’s it for today

We are going to wrap up our live coverage of yet another dismal day for Theresa May. The UK prime minister has now suffered three defeats over her Brexit deal.

The latest set back came after she changed the format so that parliament was only asked to vote on the 585-page withdrawal agreement, and not the accompanying 26-page political declaration on future relations with the EU. Victory for the government would have secured Brexit under EU law and won an extension of the departure date until 22 May.

So what next? May is expected to call a cabinet meeting over the weekend, while MPs are set to take control of parliament on Monday to try to forge a consensus on an alternative to May’s Brexit deal. If that happens, the PM could potentially put her deal and the alternative to a vote later next week.

As it stands the UK is currently set to leave the EU on 12 April.

Thanks for joining us. If you want to keep up to date with the latest Brexit developments please go to FT.com