Closed Brexit blog: How Tories turned against Boris Johnson


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A big day in Westminster

Rebel MPs are poised later today to attempt to seize control of the parliamentary agenda in a bid to force an extension to Brexit if Boris Johnson is unable to negotiate a deal by mid-October. Mr Johnson has threatened to call a snap election if that legislation passes.

Sterling is already under pressure as investors scrutinise the steady stream of political developments expected throughout the day.

Labour’s Chakrabarti says ‘of course’ to general election

Shami Chakrabarti, shadow attorney general, says on Radio 4′s Today programme, referring to backing a dissolution motion: “Of course we want a general election…we are geared up for it, we want it as soon as possible.”

UK pound falls to lowest level since 2016 flash crash

The pound has fallen to its weakest level against the US dollar since 2016 as investors brace themselves for a crucial day in parliament.

Sterling dropped as much as 0.62 per cent in early London dealings to $1.197, the weakest level since a flash crash in October 2016, Refinitiv data show. It also weakened by 0.5 per cent against the euro to €1.0949.

Rebel MPs are expected later on Tuesday to attempt to seize control of the parliamentary agenda in an effort to force Boris Johnson to seek a Brexit extension in mid-October if he is unable to strike a deal with Brussels. The prime minister has in turn threatened to call a snap election if that legislation succeeds.

There are “innumerable” potential scenarios that can results from Tuesday’s vote and a potential election follow, said Antje Praefcke, analyst at Commerzbank. “As a result uncertainty is high and volatility continues to rocket.”

She said that the pound could “ease sustainably” below the $1.20 level, with further losses also expected in the pound-euro cross.

Read the full story here.

Former chancellor Hammond plans to back rebels

Philip Hammond on Radio 4′s Today programme confirms he’s going to support the rebels’ bill, adding he “thinks” they have the numbers, Sebastian Payne reports.

The former chancellor, on track to be kicked out of the Conservative party, is threatening legal action if he loses the party whip. Mr Hammond says he’s been a Tory member for 45 years and has no intention of going anywhere.

We’re in Brexit stalemate, he says: “There is no progress. There are no substantive negotiations going on.”

Mr Hammond, in his Radio 4 interview, calls Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s special adviser, an “entryist” who is not even a member of the Conservative party, reports Jim Pickard.

UK bonds rally sharply

The yield on UK 10-year gilts drops to a historic low amid the tension in Westminster. The benchmark yield shed 7bp to 0.35 per cent in early London trading.

London’s FTSE 100 down despite sterling fall

The UK’s benchmark stock barometer is down today despite a fall in the pound, breaking a pattern that has largely held for the past few months.

The FTSE 100 is down 0.2 per cent in early London dealings, even as the pound is down more than 0.6 per cent. Recently, the FTSE has tended to rise when the pound is falling since it is home to big multi-national companies that tend to benefit from a weaker pound.

The fall in UK stocks, and the rally in gilts (see the post below) probably points to heightened jitters among investors given the deteriorating political situation.

How would a Labour government affect the economy?

This is a question that’s being pondered more seriously in the City of London with a potential snap election looming.

Capital Economics has just put out new research saying the “likely result would be a moderately weaker economy than otherwise, modestly higher interest rates and bond yields, and a weaker pound and lower equity prices.”

If you’re curious about this subject, the FT has launched an in-depth series called The Corbyn Revolution. Check it out here.

New work in UK construction shrinks at fastest pace since March 2009

New orders for work in Britain’s construction industry are falling at the quickest pace in over 10 years in a sign of the uncertainty sweeping across the economy.

The data from IHS Markit, based on a survey of industry executives, highlights how darkening sentiment has significantly affected investment.

Tim Moore, economics associated at IHS Markit, said:

Domestic political uncertainty continued to hold back the UK construction sector in August, with survey respondents indicating that delays to spending decisions had contributed to the sharpest fall in new work for over 10 years.

Construction companies noted that rising risk aversion and tighter budget setting by clients in response to Brexit uncertainty had held back activity, particularly in the commercial sub-sector.

Commercial construction activity fell at a steep and accelerated pace during August, which more than offset the softer rates of decline in house building and civil engineering work.

A Tory ‘Leave’ election campaign would add 18 seats in northern England, research shows

The Conservatives should gain around 18 seats in the North of England by appealing to Leave voters in a snap general election, according to new research, writes Andy Bounds, our northern England correspondent.

Boris Johnson has made a pitch to traditional working class Labour voters with his tough talk on the EU and public spending pledges.

Bradshaw Advisory, a lobby firm co-founded by Tom Lees, who once worked for Michael Gove, has run a model to predict the result of an election dominated by Brexit.

The Conservatives are predicted to gain 18 seats, the Liberal Democrats to win three, and Labour to lose 15.

Those who want to check Bradshaw’s homework can find the full modelling method at

It takes into account the ageing population in many Northern constituencies – older people tend to vote Tory – how often the seat switches hands and the referendum result.

It finds Penistone and Stocksbridge and Bishop Auckland are likely to turn blue – though the Tories targeted them unsuccessfully in 2017.

Report UK not taking backstop negotiations seriously rankle Number 10

Downing Street is particularly angry this morning about reports that negotiations with the EU to scrap the Irish border backstop are not being taken seriously, reports the FT’s Sebastian Payne.

In an in-depth article about the state of Brexit, with plenty of behind-the-scenes detail, The Telegraph reports that Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, described the process of trying to strike a new deal as a “sham”, something Number 10 sources describe as a “lie”.

In response to the reports, a Downing Street spokesperson said:

Dom has not said this. He does not believe this to be the case. Such anonymous and unsubstantiated claims should not be printed. We note that these claims were not put to us in advance by the author, denying us the opportunity to make clear these allegations are untrue.

The Telegraph reported that the talks are not being taken seriously because the UK has yet to table a viable replacement to the backstop. One way to show it is keen on a new Brexit deal would, of course, be to set out its alternative plans.

Scottish court hears challenge to suspension of parliament

Scotland’s Court of Session is today hearing arguments in a challenge by more than 70 UK politicians against prime minister Boris Johnson’s plans to suspend parliament ahead of Brexit, writes Mure Dickie, our Scottish correspondent.

Judge Lord Doherty is expected to issue a decision on the parliamentarians’ petition on Wednesday, with the almost inevitable appeal to be heard by Court of Session’s higher Inner House later this week.

The Scottish government said on Monday that its top law officer had lodged an application to join the petition against Mr Johnson’s plan to prorogue parliament.

James Wolffe, lord advocate, has also applied to join a judicial review of the planned suspension in England that will be heard on Thursday

The parliamentarians argue that proroguing parliament in order to make it more difficult to block a no-deal Brexit would be both illegal and unconstitutional.

The prime minister insists that prorogation will still leave parliament ample time to debate the terms of Brexit before the UK leaves the EU on October 31. A final decision on the legal challenges is likely to be made by the UK Supreme Court.

Tory MP Keith Simpson will not stand for re-election

Another moderate Tory MP has announced he is standing down. Keith Simpson, who has served as a Norfolk MP for 22 years, has tweeted he will not run again at the next election, reports Sebastian Payne. Justine Greening, the former education secretary, also announced this morning that she won’t be standing again.

If the UK does head to a general election in the next few days, more Tories are likely to make the same decision – especially those who aren’t keen on standing on a no-deal Brexit platform. Friends of Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill, have told the FT he is unlikely to stand again.

Curious to know how Johnson might trigger an election?

Here’s a Q&A from Sebastian Payne and Edwin Esosa:

Will the prime minister call a general election?

Boris Johnson on Monday said he still wanted to secure a new exit deal, but insisted that Britain’s chances of getting one hinged on convincing EU leaders that it was serious about leaving without one, “no ifs or buts”.

The prime minister and his closest advisers do not want to let parliament — or those MPs against a no-deal Brexit, who include former Conservative ministers such as David Gauke and ex-chancellor Philip Hammond — undermine their strategy.

While there is no inclination for an election, insiders think it may be preferable to losing control of events.

How might an election be triggered?

Government officials have said that, if MPs seize control of Brexit, Mr Johnson would immediately seek to dissolve parliament through the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which governs elections in the UK.

Such a move would require a “supermajority” of two-thirds of MPs to automatically trigger an election.

It is far from a given that Mr Johnson can win this majority in light of opposition scepticism over his motives.

This would put the onus on Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour party, to support an election, as well as the Liberal Democrats, Scottish and Welsh nationalists.

The Tory party would be split, with MPs opposed to a no-deal exit torn between an election campaign they might lose and avoiding crashing out of the bloc.

In the event of such a motion, the government would be likely to whip Tory MPs to support a dissolution.

International trade secretary refuses to appear before select committee

Liz Truss has refused to appear before the international trade select committee while parliament is sitting this week, reports Sebastian Payne.

Angus MacNeil, chair of the committee, has urged the international trade secretary to reconsider her decision:

Since her appointment as Secretary of State, Liz Truss has found the time to cross the Atlantic to meet with Trump administration officials, but has been unable to cross Whitehall and appear before the select committee responsible for monitoring the work of her department. It seems the desire to evade parliamentary scrutiny is not unique to her prime minister, but is in fact an explicit policy of this government.

With just 58 days until Brexit, the trade bill is set to become a victim of Boris Johnson’s proroguing of parliament, and warnings about the dire consequences of a no-deal departure being sounded by businesses and citizens alike, the Secretary of State’s decision to refuse my committee’s invitation is simply unacceptable. I can only hope that she does not take a similarly cavalier approach to the complex, painstaking task of formulating future trade policy.

We’re waiting to see what Ms Truss has to say in response.

Sterling traders haunted by ‘seismic event risk’

Market participants who own or trade sterling are facing a slew of new risks with a potential general election only sharpening concerns over Brexit.

Neil Jones, head of European hedge fund sales at Mizuho, said in a note to clients, “the market is running short but the seismic nature of the event risk far exceeds the relatively light short position.”

Short positions suggest traders are betting for a drop in the pound.

“The classic principle of political uncertainty weighing on a currency is in play,” he said. “Many moving parts with a host of unknown outcomes [is pushing] volatility higher and generating a sterling sell off.”

Mr Jones said there is “further room” for sterling, which earlier today struck the lowest level since a flash crash in 2016, to fall. He said initially it may drop from around $1.197 today to $1.18, and by late October move toward $1.10.

Brits need to look back more than three decades to find a time when sterling has traded at such depressed levels against the US dollar.

TUC boss urges MPs to stop no-deal Brexit

Union leader Frances O’Grady has called upon MPs to do “everything in their power” to prevent the UK from leaving the EU without an agreement.

“A no-deal Brexit would be a disaster for working families,” Ms O’Grady, the head of the Trades Union Congress, wrote in a letter to MPs today. The annual TUC conference begins on Sunday.

Jobs would be lost, our rights at work would be undermined, wages would fall and prices would rise. We would face shortages of food and medicine, chaos at our ports, and a hard border in Northern Ireland. There would be a serious risk of civil unrest.

The impact on our economy, workplaces and public services would be felt for generations.

This prime minister has no mandate to force a catastrophic no-deal Brexit on the country.

The TUC general secretary, referring to the Johnson government’s tactics and parliamentary efforts to block a departure from the EU without a deal, said the decision to prorogue parliament and shut down debate on the “most important issue facing the country” is “reckless and divisive” and that denying parliament a say isn’t clever but “cowardly”.

No responsible government would even contemplate no deal. Using tactics like these to force it through should be unthinkable.

For working people, this isn’t a game. Jobs, rights, and livelihoods are on the line.

The TUC supports all democratic efforts to stop a disastrous no-deal Brexit.

This week you have the chance to stand up for your constituents and ensure that the voice of working people is heard. The stakes couldn’t be higher.”

List of Tory rebels

Fourteen Conservative MPs have declared they will support rebel efforts to stop a no-deal Brexit later today, reports Sebastian Payne. These include several senior cabinet ministers who served under Theresa May and David Cameron:

- Guto Bebb*, former defence minister
- Alistair Burt, former Foreign Office minister
- David Gauke, former justice secretary
- Dominic Grieve, former attorney general
- Justine Greening*, former education secretary
- Sam Gyimah, former university minister
- Philip Hammond, former chancellor
- Richard Harrington, former business minister
- Margot James, former culture minister
- Oliver Letwin*, former cabinet office minister
- Caroline Noakes, former immigration minister
- Antoinette Sandbach, MP for Eddisbury
- Nicholas Soames*, former armed forces minister
- Rory Stewart, former international development secretary

All these MPs are set to be kicked out of the Conservative party tonight and will be barred from standing at the next election.

*indicates they have announced they won’t be standing at the next election anyway.

Brussels ‘making progress’ on Brexit talks even as it prepares for no-deal

A European Commission spokeswoman has said that Brexit talks “are ongoing” with the UK. “We are progressively making progress in pursuing the talks, she said.

Nonetheless, Brussels tomorrow will adopt proposals to help prepare for a no-deal outcome, writes Jim Brunsden. The EU commission’s ruling college will also be briefed tomorrow by president Jean-Claude Juncker and chief negotiator Michel Barnier on the state of talks.

“We have [made] progress on the process because as you see there are talks now,” the commission spokeswoman said. “Now we do have an intensified way of channelling and exchanging information. Whether there is progress on substance, I will not be able to judge that now and here”.

Rebel alliance to meet this morning in Jeremy Corbyn’s office

Here’s a despatch from the FT’s Jim Pickard:

I’m told that the rebel alliance is meeting at 11.40am today in Jeremy Corbyn’s office, with senior figures from Labour, SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and Green Party in attendance.

It is striking that no Tory MPs are attending, although I’m told not to read too much into that. While Labour wants a general election, senior figures are aware of the dangers of voting to collapse this parliament – forcing an election – and then having Boris Johnson shift the date until after October 31, meaning that the UK leaves without a deal.

Shami Chakrabarti, shadow attorney-general, said the opposition parties are working on the “sequencing” to ensure that parliament blocks no-deal and then seeks an election.

“We’ve got to get a locked-in guarantee that Britain would not crash out of the EU in an election campaign period,” Ms Chakrabarti told BBC radio. “We’ve also got to try as best as possible to ensure that it wouldn’t be possible for the sitting prime minister in this period to set a general election and then change the date. The priority this morning is preventing this no-deal crash out.”

Northern Ireland’s top judge says time limits make it hard to hold two hearings

Northern Ireland’s top judge has ruled against holding a separate hearing on Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament as part of a case seeking to block a no-deal Brexit, Arthur Beesley, our Ireland correspondent reports from Dublin.

Mr Justice Bernard McCloskey said time constraints would make it impractical to hold a hearing on prorogation before a full hearing of a case against no-deal taken by Raymond McCord, a campaigner for victims of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

The Press Association reports that the judge will sit again on Wednesday to consider when the full case should be heard. The case is listed for September 16 but is likely to be brought forward.

Mr McCord has taken the judicial review proceedings against the British government on the grounds that leaving the EU without a deal would breach the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement that ended decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.

Sterling bounces off lows of the day, trades above $1.20

The pound has rebounded modestly after earlier on Tuesday striking its lowest level since a flash crash in October 2016.

Sterling was recently down 0.3 per cent at $1.2029. It had slumped to $1.1959 in earlier dealings, according to Refinitiv data.

The pound has only rarely traded consistently below $1.20 (most recently in the mid-1980s).

Spending review to go ahead as planned, says No 10

Downing St is insisting that Sajid Javid’s spending review will go ahead, as planned, on Wednesday – even if opposition MPs grab control of the Commons order paper tonight, reports George Parker.

“The spending review is going ahead,” Boris Johnson’s spokesman said.

However, it might not be that simple if opposition parties squeeze the amount of time available for government business on Wednesday.

If there isn’t time for the chancellor to make a full oral statement to MPs there are contingency plans for him to issue his statement in the form of a written ministerial statement.

It would be amazing for a chancellor to set government spending plans for 2020/21 in the form of a written statement – and no questions from MPs – but these are pretty extraordinary times.

Election would take place before mid-October European Council meeting, No 10 insists

Boris Johnson’s spokesman has been at great pains at the 11am lobby briefing to insist that the prime minister will – in all circumstances – hold a general election before the European Council on October 17/18, if he is forced down the route of going for an early poll, reports George Parker.

“If an election takes place it would take place before the European Council on October 17/18,” Mr Johnson’s spokesman said. The prime minister’s aides said on Monday that October 14 had been identified for the election. “It is wrong to say that the polling day could or would be changed,” the prime minister’s spokesman said.

Labour will, of course, want more than verbal undertakings to be sure that Mr Johnson will not use some constitutional trickery to push back the election date, if MPs approve a motion under the Fixed Term Parliaments act for an early election. The fear in Labour circles – and elsewhere – is the PM could use powers of “proclamation” to hold an election after Brexit day on October 31, after parliament had voted to dissolve itself to hold the early election.

Downing St not denying Cox said removal of backstop ‘a complete fantasy’

Downing St has refused to deny claims in the Daily Telegraph that attorney-general Geoffrey Cox told Mr Johnson it was “a complete fantasy” to think the EU would drop the backstop from the withdrawal agreement, reports George Parker.

However senior Tory sources have denied outright the paper’s claim that Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s top adviser, had called the so-called EU negotiations “a complete sham”.

But Number 10 has declined to say when it will publish its proposed alternative to the backstop, suggesting negotiations in Brussels may not be progressing quite as well as Mr Johnson claims. EU diplomats point out there is nothing to negotiate about.

Key vote scheduled for 9pm tonight

The crucial vote in the Commons on whether MPs will take control of the Commons order paper (to facilitate emergency no-deal legislation) is now expected at about 9pm tonight, reports George Parker.

Boris Johnson is meeting Tory rebels during the day to try to avert the defeat which could prompt an early election.

Scottish nationalists hint at support for general election

The Scottish nationalists have released a statement following the cross-party meeting of MPs adverse to a no deal Brexit, Sebastian Payne writes.

Ian Blackford, the Scottish Nationalist Party’s leader in Westminster, has left the door open to supporting a general election.

The statement says:

The SNP’s priority is to stop a catastrophic no-deal and that is why we have co-sponsored the cross-party Bill designed to take that outcome off the table – an outcome Parliament has already previously rejected.

We will explore every avenue and Parliamentary process open to us to stop that, however, while the SNP are ready and eager for a general election, Boris Johnson must not be allowed to use an election to force through no-deal.

Tory rebels: where we stand

Sebastian Payne is keeping tabs of the list of Tory MPs who plan to support rebel efforts to stop a no-deal Brexit later today. These include several senior cabinet ministers who served under Theresa May and David Cameron:

- Guto Bebb*, former defence minister
- Alistair Burt, former Foreign Office minister
- David Gauke, former justice secretary
- Dominic Grieve, former attorney general
- Justine Greening*, former education secretary
- Sam Gyimah, former university minister
- Philip Hammond, former chancellor
- Richard Harrington, former business minister
- Margot James, former culture minister
- Oliver Letwin*, former cabinet office minister
- Phillip Lee, former justice minister
- Caroline Nokes, former immigration minister
- Antoinette Sandbach, MP for Eddisbury
- Nicholas Soames*, former armed forces minister, longtime MP and grandson of Winston Churchill.
- Rory Stewart, former international development secretary

All these MPs are set to be kicked out of the Conservative party tonight and will be barred from standing at the next election.

*Indicates MP has announced she/he won’t be standing at the next election anyway.

Prime minister holds last-minute talks with Tory rebels

Boris Johnson has held eleventh hour talks with Conservative rebels to avoid a historic House of Commons defeat for his Brexit strategy tonight, reports George Parker.

The prime minister told the rebels, led by former chancellor Philip Hammond, that they were attempting to take control of Brexit from him and to hand it to “a junta led by Jeremy Corbyn”, opposition leader.

The meeting in Downing St lasted for 90 minutes and saw angry exchanges between Mr Johnson and Mr Hammond, who said the rebels were simply seeking to hand control over Brexit to parliament.

Some 15 Conservative MPs met Mr Johnson for what one attendee called “professional talks” intended to establish whether the prime minister was serious about avoiding a no-deal exit.

Mr Johnson insisted that “progress” was being made in talks in Brussels, but could not say why the government had yet to publish any detailed proposals for a replacement to the controversial backstop.

Tory MPs were also sceptical about Mr Johnson’s assurances that there would be time for parliament to pass a revised deal in the short period of time between the October 17-18 EU Council meeting in Brussels and the scheduled Brexit day of October 31.

Mr Johnson’s allies said some of the MPs at the meeting “wanted to be convinced” that the prime minister was serious about securing a deal but that others were “irreconcilable”.

Those at the meeting included former cabinet ministers David Gauke and Greg Clark.

“The prime minister listened to them and tried to reassure them,” said one Downing St aide.

But Mr Johnson also told MPs he could not accept their attempt to take control of the Commons agenda to pass emergency legislation to block a no-deal exit. He said it would hand power over Britain’s exit timetable to the EU and put the UK in “a permanent purgatory” on Brexit.

The question facing the prime minister now is whether he can find any way to reassure wavering rebels before the crucial vote, expected at 9pm, when MPs decide whether to take control of the Commons timetable.

A good day to bury bad news…?

Away from the Brexit drama, the government has chosen today to concede the extent of the cost and time overrun on the planned High Speed 2 railway line from London to northern England.

HS2 will be delayed by up to seven years with the cost of the project now £22bn more than anticipated, the government has admitted.

Grant Shapps, transport secretary, said in a statement that the current scheme could not be delivered for its original budget of £55.7bn. Instead, the chairman of HS2, Allan Cook, had calculated that the project now needs £72-78bn (in 2015 prices), the minister announced.

The new cost in current 2019 prices is now £81-88bn against a budget equivalent to £62.4bn, Mr Shapps revealed.

Read the full story from Gill Plimmer and Jim Pickard here.

Johnson accused in Scottish court of seeking ‘autocracy’

In Edinburgh’s Court of Session, Aiden O’Neill QC has been arguing this morning for a petition against prorogation of parliament by accusing prime minister Boris Johnson of exceeding the government’s power and seeking to exercise “autocracy” and “one-man rule”, writes Mure Dickie in Edinburgh.

The petition by more than 70 UK parliamentarians, which is backed by the Good Law Project set up by anti-Brexit barrister Jo Maugham, is asking the court to bar Mr Johnson from suspending parliament in order to make it impossible to block a no-deal Brexit.

Mr O’Neill said:

We have a prime minister who is seeking to hold office without accountability…the better to use power without responsibility. That is not a situation that this court can permit

The prime minister insists that prorogation will still leave parliament ample time to debate the terms of Brexit before the UK is due to leave the EU on October 31.

Lawyers for the UK government say that prorogation is an act of the queen that is not subject to judicial review.

The UK government has said that prorogation is routine ahead of a Queen’s Speech which is needed to set out its legislative plans.

Mr O’Neill said there was no justification for such a long suspension and the court was entitled to draw inferences from Mr Johnson’s decision not to submit an affadivit under oath explaining his intentions.

The prime minister had a record of “incontinent mendacity”, he said.

Mr O’Neill also complained of being “ambushed” by the submission of new UK government documents in the case late on Monday night, well after a deadline set by the court.

The documents included memos submitted to Mr Johnson and his response to them while the government was planning the prorogation of parliament in August.

“It’s all part of a general disregard, as if they are above the law and above the rules,” Mr O’Neill said of the late submission.

Acting for the UK government, David Johnston QC apologised for the late submission, which he suggested was caused by the “fast moving” political situation. Mr Johnston said the documents would be used in a separate application for judicial review of the prorogation order that will be heard at the High Court in London on Thursday.

Judge Lord Doherty accepted the submission of the documents saying it would be “highly artificial” for the Court of Session to proceed on a different basis from the High Court.

The court has broken for lunch. Lord Doherty is expected to issue a decision on the parliamentarians’ petition on Wednesday, with the almost inevitable appeal to be heard by Court of Session’s higher Inner House to be heard later this week. A final decision on the legal challenges is likely to be made by the UK Supreme Court.

Glee inside No 10 over punchy Hammond on air

Inside No 10, there seems to be some delight at Philip Hammond’s manoeuvres today, reports Sebastian Payne. One insider describes “laughter at his hysterical meltdown” this morning, a reference to his punchy interview on Radio 4.

Another government insider accused Mr Hammond of promoting the “conspiracy theory” that Downing Street could switch the date of an election after the dissolution of parliament, accusing him of not understanding “legal basics”.

In response, a source close to the group of Tory MPs campaigning to stop a no-deal Brexit said: “Shutting down Parliament was once dismissed as a conspiracy theory – including by No 10 – days before they did it.”

Ominous prediction from Labour heartland

An ominous prediction today for the Labour Party in its North East England heartland from Steve Turner, constituency support manager for Simon Clarke, the pro-Brexit MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and – since Boris Johnson became PM – a Treasury minister, writes the FT’s Chris Tighe.

Mr Turner is convinced a snap general election in the coming weeks would bring a Conservative majority, with Labour losing vital seats in North East England. He told the FT today: “Not only will the Conservatives win extra seats” – Stockton South, Bishop Auckland and Darlington are his predicted Labour losses to the Tories in the region – “I also think Labour will lose Hartlepool to the Brexit Party and maybe even Redcar”.

Mr Clarke’s constituents voted two to one in the 2016 Referendum for Leave. Mr Turner is convinced the majority of the MPs’ constituents back Mr Clarke’s position that, while a deal would be preferable, the UK must leave on October 31.

Defiant veteran Tory resolute on voting against government

Alistair Burt, a veteran Conservative MP, said after his meeting with Boris Johnson that he was still determined to risk deselection to vote against the government tonight, reports George Parker.

He told BBC Radio Foyle that the prime minister had insisted he was seeking a deal, but Mr Burt said there was little external evidence to support that claim. He said a bill to stop a no-deal exit was needed “as a safety net”.

Brexit drama set to reverberate in Warsaw

Sterling is not the only currency coming under pressure from the latest twists and turns of the Westminster drama.

While the pound may be the main victim of the ongoing uncertainty, the prospects of another political crisis could also have negative effects for central and eastern European currencies – not least the Polish zloty – according to analysts.

“The pound has the potential to set the tone for the CEE currencies in the coming weeks,” writes Piotr Matys at Rabobank.

Prevailing uncertainty caused by Brexit has already taken its toll on the UK economy, which is one of the most important trading partners for Poland and other countries from the CEE region.

Since Poland joined the EU in 2004, its exports to the UK have increased from 14.7bn zlotys to 58.2bn zlotys last year.

Over recent years, as sterling has gone down, the Polish zloty has also come under pressure, meaning that further falls in the UK currency could weigh on the zloty, said Mr Matys.

Duo of Labour MPs join legal challenge to suspension of parliament

Two more Labour MPs have issued legal proceedings to intervene in the judicial review challenge being brought by Gina Miller and former prime minister John Major which will be heard in the High Court on Thursday and may end up being determined by the Supreme Court, Jane Croft reports.

MPs Jess Phillips and Alex Sobel are being represented by law firm Edwin Coe. David Greene, senior partner at Edwin Coe, also represented hairdresser Deir Dos Santos in 2016 after he brought the successful Article 50 challenge in the High Court along with Ms Miller.

Ms Miller is also using Mishcon De Reya and top barrister David Pannick QC – the same legal team that won the case three years ago.

The Edwin Coe application claims that the prime minister’s decision to prorogue parliament in the period leading up to the UK leaving the EU is an abuse of power and a breach of the MPs’ right to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act.

Mr Greene said in a statement: “The issues are of supreme constitutional importance. It is vital that those issues are fully developed in court.”

Mr Sobel added in the statement: “It is absolutely clear that the proroguing of parliament is a device to shut down the opposition to ‘no deal’. The intent of the prime minister to rob parliament of its constitutional rights is unlawful.”

Federation of global businesses ‘gravely concerned’ over Brexit

An industry group representing some 4m businesses worldwide has warned it is “gravely concerned” over the prospect of a no-deal Brexit as it urged the UK to strike a deal with Brussels.

The federation, which includes the US, Canadian and Australian business lobbies, said, “a decision to leave the EU without a deal would create substantial uncertainty and disruption for businesses, workers, farmers, and regulators alike.”

“Such disruptions are bound to affect jobs, consumer choices, and the cost of goods and services. The UK walking away abruptly from treaty obligations with its largest trading partner also sends concerning signals to others considering bilateral agreements in the future,” the group said.

The warning represents just the latest sign of the economic implications of the uncertainty caused by Brexit negotiations.

Uncertainty up, pound down

The fall in the pound correlates directly with “spiralling” levels of uncertainty, Professor Costas Milas at Liverpool University’s School of Management points out.

The economic policy uncertainty index – which is compiled by the folks at, and tracks coverage of policy uncertainty across 650 UK newspapers – illustrates how a lack of clarity around policy has knocked the currency historically.

“UK policy is spiralling out of control again. This, in turn, is putting huge downward pressure on the pound,” said Mr Milas.

“This will surely translate into higher inflation (through higher import prices) and will undermine the Bank of England’s efforts to counteract a possible no-deal Brexit through interest rate cuts.”

Karen Ward, chief market strategist for EMEA at JPMorgan, reckons that the current unclear state of play means the direction sterling takes from here is anyone’s guess.

“With the pound acting as the clearest market barometer of no-deal risks, we expect elevated volatility in FX markets over the coming weeks,” said Ms Ward.

“Bank of England estimates suggest that the pound could fall towards $1.10 vs the US dollar in a disruptive Brexit scenario, yet if the prime minister does succeed in securing a deal and political uncertainty lifts, we see fair value for the currency closer to $1.40 vs. the dollar.”

Anti-Brexit rebels unite in opposition to no-deal, says Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Labour party leader, commenting after a meeting of cross-party MPs, said:

Following a productive meeting of cross-party MPs this morning, we are united in our opposition to Boris Johnson’s plans for a no-deal.

We are confident that the legislative route we have adopted has every chance of being successful, and we are working on ways in which we can prevent Boris Johnson manipulating an election to force a no-deal Brexit.

Labour wants to prevent a no-deal Brexit, and to have a general election, so we can end austerity and invest in our communities. I am confident we can have both, and we’ve been in discussions about a way to achieve this. We will continue to work across parliament towards this goal and will have further meetings to this end in coming days.

Alas the statement does not clarify how Labour will handle its tactics in the coming days – amid rumours that the party could potentially abstain tomorrow if Johnson tried to dissolve Parliament to seek an election, reports Jim Pickard.

When the Remainers come marching in…

Sebastian Payne reports from outside parliament that the Remainers from Yorkshire are marching, complete with a brass band. Don’t miss the video here.

And find a couple photos below:

Government’s logic behind its Brussels negotiating style

I’ve spoken to one of the former ministers at the rebel meeting with Boris Johnson this morning, Jim Pickard writes, and he says that David Frost, the UK’s lead Brexit negotiator, was also at the meeting.

Apparently Mr Frost admitted that the reason the UK hasn’t yet set out its negotiating demands for a new deal is because they would be rejected on the spot. He went on to say that – if the no-deal rebellion is quashed – the EU could come back with a more positive attitude.

But the former minister said: “We have our own back channels to Brussels and the member states and we aren’t hearing that kind of optimism.”

Sterling on the fast track to $1.15?

The pound dropped earlier today below $1.20 for the first time since 2017 … but it may have far more room to fall.

Morgan Stanley foreign currency analyst Hans Redeker noted that “the move below $1.20 in sterling-dollar suggests room to $1.15”.

“The pound is likely staying under selling pressure with reports of PM [Boris] Johnson aiming for a October 14 election should the parliament support legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit today,” Mr Redeker added.

Earlier today, Neil Jones of Mizuho warned that investors face “seismic” event risk due to the uncertain politics.


Greg Clark to join Tory rebellion

Greg Clark will vote against the government tonight, reports Sebastian Payne.

The former business secretary has told friends he expects to support legislative efforts to avert a no-deal Brexit.

That means 16 Conservative MPs have declared they will back rebel attempts to stop a no-deal Brexit. These include several senior cabinet ministers who served under Theresa May and David Cameron.

Here is a running list:

- Greg Clark, former business secretary
- Guto Bebb*, former defence minister
- Alistair Burt*, former Foreign Office minister
- David Gauke, former justice secretary
- Dominic Grieve, former attorney-general
- Justine Greening*, former education secretary
- Sam Gyimah, former university minister
- Philip Hammond, former chancellor
- Richard Harrington, former business minister
- Margot James, former culture minister
- Oliver Letwin*, former Cabinet Office minister
- Phillip Lee, former justice minister
- Caroline Nokes, former immigration minister
- Antoinette Sandbach, MP for Eddisbury
- Nicholas Soames*, former armed forces minister, longtime MP and grandson of Winston Churchill
- Rory Stewart, former international development secretary

All these MPs are set to be kicked out of the Conservative party tonight and will be barred from standing at the next election.

*Indicates MP has announced she/he won’t be standing at the next election anyway.

Brussels prepares to release disaster funds to cope with no deal

The EU is preparing to give member countries access to the bloc’s disaster fund to help businesses cope with the fallout from a no-deal Brexit, reports Jim Brunsden in Brussels.

On Wednesday the European Commission will warn that “the short time remaining and the political situation in the UK have increased the risk” that Britain will crash out of the EU without a deal on October 31. 

With UK prime minister Boris Johnson refusing to countenance any further delay to Britain’s departure, Brussels will assert that the EU is ready for a no-deal outcome, while at the same time urging citizens and businesses to make sure they have completed their preparations. 

According to people familiar with the plans, Brussels will propose to siphon off money from the EU’s Solidarity Fund for natural disasters and its Globalisation Adjustment Fund for supporting laid-off workers to help countries deal with the economic consequences of a hard Brexit. 

The solidarity fund has doled out more than €5bn in aid in the past two decades to help recovery efforts covering a range of emergencies including floods in Lithuania and an earthquake on the Greek island of Kos. The commission will argue that it is a readily available source of money. 

Read the full story: EU prepares to release disaster funds to cope with no-deal Brexit

Early election would be high risk for Johnson and Tories, FT says

The showdown between parliament and government over attempts to block a no-deal Brexit has come to a head, the FT’s editorial board writes. Boris Johnson’s statement on the steps of Downing Street leaves little doubt that a general election may be looming. His goal was to stop rebel Conservative MPs from joining moves to pass legislation forcing the prime minister to delay the October 31 Brexit date. Despite his implicit threat to take the issue to the people, MPs should not shrink from preventing the UK from crashing out of the EU without a deal. 

Read the full story: MPs face last chance to block a no-deal Brexit

Pence urges EU and Ireland to negotiate with UK ‘in good faith’

Mike Pence, US vice-president, called on Ireland and the EU to negotiate “in good faith” with Boris Johnson as the Brexit row deepens in Westminster, writes Arthur Beesley in Dublin.

At talks in Dublin with Irish premier Leo Varadkar, Mr Pence said the US supported the UK’s decision to leave the bloc but also recognised the “unique challenge” that presented for the border with Northern Ireland. “I can assure you we will continue to encourage the UK and Ireland to ensure any Brexit deal respects the Good Friday agreement,” Mr Pence said as he stood alongside Mr Varadkar.

“But as the deadline for Brexit approaches, we urge Ireland and the European Union as well to negotiate in good faith with prime minister Johnson and work to reach an agreement that respects the United Kingdom’s sovereignty and minimises disruption to commerce.”

But Mr Varadkar insisted that Ireland won’t accept any changes to the “backstop” to guarantee an open border and he urged Mr Pence to bring that message to Washington.

The vice-president’s talks with the Irish leader come three months after Donald Trump suggested on a visit to Ireland that Brexit posed no threat to the border.

Mr Varadkar said Brexit was not a problem of Ireland’s making and that the return of a hard border was a “very real risk” as the threat of a no-deal rises. “I know that you understand the impact a hard border will have on us on this island: barriers to the free movement of people and frictionless trade; barriers to north/south co-operation; the risk that the Good Friday agreement and peace will be undermined,” he told Mr Pence.

“That is why we must stand our ground on the withdrawal agreement, an agreement which was carefully negotiated to overcome all these risks … I ask that you bring that message back to Washington with you.”


Former justice minister Lee defects from Conservative party

Phillip Lee, the former justice minister, has just crossed the floor of the House of Commons to leave the Conservative party to join the Liberal Democrats, writes Sebastian Payne.

Defecting while Boris Johnson was addressing the chamber on the G7 summit, Dr Lee has long been expected to defect.

With his departure, the Tories are now a minority government and Mr Johnson is highly likely to lose a confidence vote.

In a statement, Dr Lee said:

Over 27 years ago I joined the Conservative & Unionist Party led by Sir John Major. Since 2010 I have had the privilege of representing the Bracknell Constituency. The Party I joined in 1992 is not the Party I am leaving today.

This Conservative Government is aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways. It is putting lives and livelihoods at risk unnecessarily and it is wantonly endangering the integrity of the United Kingdom. More widely, it is undermining our country’s economy, democracy and role in the world. It is using political manipulation, bullying and lies. And it is doing these things in a deliberate and considered way.

That is why today I am joining Jo Swinson and the Liberal Democrats. I believe the Liberal Democrats are best placed to build the unifying and inspiring political force needed to heal our divisions, unleash our talents, equip us to take the opportunities and overcome the challenges that we face as a society – and leave our country and our world in a better place for the next generations.”

Supreme Court sets aside September 17 for appeals

The Supreme Court has set aside the date of September 17 to hear any appeals arising out of the proroguing legal cases which could all be heard together, writes Jane Croft.

Johnson dismisses rebels’ ‘surrender bill’

The prime minister has dismissed the rebels’ bill that seeks to extend the Article 50 process as “surrender”, insisting it would hand control of any future negotiations to Brussels.

Boris Johnson told parliament that the legislation that has been proposed would “destroy any chance of negotiation for a new deal”.

“There is only one way to describe this deal. It is Jeremy Corbyn’s surrender bill,” he said. “It would enable our friends in Brussels to negotiate the terms of the new deal.

“It means running up the white flag and I want to make it clear to everyone in this house that there are no circumstances in which I will accept anything like it.”

“I will never surrender control of our negotiations in the way the leader of the opposition is demanding.”

The prime minister remained adamant that the UK would leave the EU on October 31 “in all circumstances”.

Jeremy Corbyn hit out at the prime minister’s language, and the use of the term “surrender”.

“I condemn the rhetoric the prime minister used when he talked about a surrender bill,” the Labour leader said. “I hope he will reflect on his use of language.”

“We are not surrendering because we are at war with Europe. They are surely our partners.

“If anything it is a no-deal exit that would mean surrendering our industry, our jobs, surrendering our standards and protections in a trade deal with Donald Trump and the United States.”

Sterling turns higher after government surrenders majority

The pound has wiped out earlier losses and briefly traded at $1.21 against the dollar after the government lost its majority following the defection of Tory MP Phillip Lee, who switched to the Liberal Democrats this afternoon, reports the FT’s
Eva Szalay

Sterling’s choppy session saw the currency’s exchange rate whipsaw 1.2 per cent today, first touching a three-year low against the dollar before turning positive on the day when US manufacturing activity disappointed expectations. Sterling then extended gains after Dr Lee abandoned the Tory party.

Expectations for wild price swings have been rising in recent days, with options markets indicating that traders expect a pick-up in volatility as the October 31 deadline approaches.

Phillip Lee bemoans transformation of Tory party into ‘narrow faction’

In his letter to the prime minister outlining his reasons for resigning from the Conservative party, Phillip Lee said the Brexit process had “helped to transform this once great party in to something more akin to a narrow faction, where an individual’s ‘conservatism’ is measured by how recklessly one wishes to leave the European Union”.

“Perhaps most disappointingly, it has increasingly become infected with the twin diseases of populism and English nationalism.”

The former justice minister said he felt the Lib Dems were “best placed to build the unifying and inspiring political force needed to heal our divisions”.

Boris Johnson would ‘obey’ law forcing Brexit extension

Significant moment in the Commons via Sebastian Payne: when asked by Labour MP Angela Eagle about whether the government would ignore a bill that forced him to extend Article 50, Boris Johnson responded the government would “obey the law”.

Sir Graham reinstated as 1922 Committee chair

Sebastian Payne writes:

In other news, Conservative grandee Graham Brady has been reinsitated as chair of the 1922 Committee – the trade union for backbench Tory MPs. Sir Graham stood aside to briefly run for the party’s leadership in the summer, but is now back in his old perch.

Johnson and Varadkar set to hold Brexit talks next week

Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s premier, are set for Brexit talks in Dublin next Monday in what will be their first face-to-face encounter since the UK prime minister took office in July.

Confirmation of the meeting by Mr Varadkar’s office comes amid turmoil in Westminster. Mr Johnson lost his House of Commons majority on Tuesday when a former minister quit the ruling Conservative party to join the opposition Liberal Democrats, reports Arthur Beesley.

Mr Varadkar’s spokesman said: “[Mr Johnson’s] office has accepted the taoiseach’s invitation to visit Dublin on Monday for their first formal bilateral meeting. That follows on from two phone calls they have had.”

The two leaders are deeply divided over Brexit. Mr Johnson wants to scrap the “backstop” to guarantee open borders in Ireland but Mr Varadkar insists there is no scope to reopen the UK’s Brexit treaty.

Johnson hints he may be open to a cross-border agri-food regime in Ireland

Boris Johnson has made a significant statement on Brexit just now in the Commons that is worth examining, writes Sebastian Payne. The prime minister even urged MPs to listen up to this part of his statement on the G7 summit, where he discusses alternative arrangements for replacing the backstop – an insurance policy to ensure there is never a hard border on the island of Ireland:

“I believe there are indeed solutions but they don’t want to hear about solutions, Mr Speaker. There are practical arrangements that we can find which avoid anyone putting infrastructure on the Irish border.

These have been well worked out and involve measures such as trusted trader schemes, transit provisions, frontier zones, reduced bureaucracy for small and local traders, and many others.”

Mr Johnson has said all that before. But note this in bold:

“In particular, we recognise – and I advise the Members opposite to pay attention to what is being said – we recognise that for reasons of geography and economics, agri-food is increasingly managed on a common basis across the island of Ireland.

We are ready to find ways forward that recognise this reality, provided it clearly enjoys the consent of all parties and institutions with an interest.”

The prime minister appears to acknowledging that the UK government is open to a combined agriculture regime on the island of Ireland. This was part of the backstop, but something that Brexiters have been unhappy about, as it means the EU would have a say in the rulebook governing parts of the UK.

There has been chatter among some EU diplomats that the backstop could eventually be pared down to an agri-food only arrangement. If that happened to be true, Mr Johnson has just laid the groundwork for such an outcome.

Phillip Lee sees more Tory defections on horizon

The FT’s Edwin Esosa writes:

Phillip Lee tells Sky News that he expects more Conservatives will defect from the party, saying: “I don’t expect to be the last person to make this decision”. He adds: “I do know that a number of colleagues have been searching their souls and have been doing so for a number of months.”

How significant is the government’s loss of its working majority?

With Phillip Lee’s defection to the Liberal Democrats, the Conservative party has lost its working majority in the House of Commons. Even with the support of the Democratic Unionist party from Northern Ireland, the prime minister is now essentially running a minority administration. What does this mean?

Sebastian Payne explains:

A working majority matters for three important votes: a Queen’s Speech, a budget or a confidence vote. If a government loses any of those, then it no longer has the confidence of the Commons. But there is no prospect of the former two anytime soon, so Dr Lee’s departure matters primarily if MPs try to bring down Boris Johnson’s government.

If such a vote is held before parliament is prorogued next week, Mr Johnson would be theoretically susceptible to losing. If you band together the Labour party’s 247 MPs, plus 35 Scottish nationalists, 15 Liberal Democrats, 20 independents, 4 Welsh nationalists and one Green MP, then there is a fine majority of one which could bring down his government.

But not all independent MPs would vote to kick Mr Johnson out of office. Charlie Elphicke, the MP for Dover and Deal, has been suspended from the Tory party after being charged with two counts of sexual assault. In a confidence vote, he would be likely to support the Tories.

The same is true for five independent MPs in the pro-Remain Change UK group, who may also be unwilling to bring down the government unless they can avoid a no deal Brexit. There are also several former Labour MPs who loathe Jeremy Corbyn, such as John Woodcock and Ian Austin. They would not vote to put him in Downing Street. In a no confidence vote, they might abstain and keep the Tories in power.

So Dr Lee’s departure is important, and an embarrassing moment for Mr Johnson. But until a confidence vote is brought forward, it is hard to say just how significant it is.

Big night ahead in UK parliament

Much political wrangling is expected to take place this evening in Westminster. Of particular focus will be a bid by rebel MPs to take control of the parliamentary agenda — the first step in launching legislation to block a no-deal Brexit.

Boris Johnson, whose Tory party lost its majority in parliament this evening, has vowed to call a snap election if the maneuver to block no-deal Brexit succeeds.

FT reporters in London, Brussels and elsewhere will be covering the story throughout the evening and will bring you developments straight to this blog.

In the meantime, do share your thoughts in the discussion section.

John Bercow approves application for emergency debate

Sebastian Payne writes:

Speaker John Bercow has given the thumbs up to an emergency debate on leaving the EU without a deal, as expected.

The debate will last for three hours, kicking off at around 7pm London time with a vote expected at 10pm.

If the vote is won, MPs opposed to leaving the EU without a deal will seize control of the House of Commons tomorrow. They will use the opportunity to introduce legislation to force another Brexit extension on Boris Johnson’s government.

Corbyn urges MPs to act to before it is ‘too late’

Jeremy Corbyn has urged MPs to come together to pass tonight’s motion to take control of the parliamentary agenda before it is “too late”.

If tonight’s vote is successful, rebel MPs will tomorrow look to bring forward legislation that would seek to extend the Article 50 process and avoid a no-deal exit from the EU.

Speaking at the opening of tonight’s debate, the leader of the opposition said:

“We must listen to what every sector of society is telling us regarding the damage of a no-deal Brexit and what it will do to our society and our economy.”

“If we as a parliament don’t make this stand today there may not be an opportunity. It may simply be too late.”

“It’s our chance to seize this last oportunity to stand up to a bullying government that has shown itself ready to dodge scrutiny and silence debate. If we do not act today we may not get another chance.”

“Whether people voted leave or remain they did not vote to shut down democracy.”

“I urge all MPs today to do what they believe to be right for their constituents, their jobs, their living standards and their communities, and support this proposal today that we may debate the bill tomorrow and avert a no-deal Brexit with all the damage it would do.”

‘An election is coming’: Downing St not optimistic ahead of vote

Downing Street is not hopeful about its chances in tonight’s vote, writes Sebastian Payne.

One senior official predicted that the government will lose “both” the vote on MPs taking control of the order paper, and the impending dissolution motion Boris Johnson is expected to bring forward tomorrow.

“An election coming”, the individual said.

Jacob Rees-Mogg criticises ‘constitutionally irregular’ motion

The leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has described tonight’s motion as “constitutionally irregular” and a “subversion of parliament’s proper role”.

“What is proposed today is constitutionally irregular,” Mr Rees-Mogg said. “This motion risks parliament’s proper role in scrutinising and the executive in initiating.”

“Mr Speaker, you particularly have a grave responsibility, of which I know you are well aware, to uphold the norms and conventions which underpin our constitution.

“But we all have a role to play, and it does considerable damage when some of us choose to subvert rather than reinforce, to hinder rather than to polish our constitution.”

Richard Benyon joins rebel ranks

Former fisheries minister Richard Benyon will vote against the government tonight, Sebastian Payne reports.

This brings to 17 the number of Conservative MPs who intend to break ranks with the government, despite the threat of having the party whip removed.

Here is the updated list:
- Richard Benyon, former fisheries minister
- Greg Clark, former business secretary
- Guto Bebb*, former defence minister
- Alistair Burt*, former Foreign Office minister
- David Gauke, former justice secretary
- Dominic Grieve, former attorney-general
- Justine Greening*, former education secretary
- Sam Gyimah, former university minister
- Philip Hammond, former chancellor
- Richard Harrington, former business minister
- Margot James, former culture minister
- Oliver Letwin*, former Cabinet Office minister
- Phillip Lee, former justice minister
- Caroline Nokes, former immigration minister
- Antoinette Sandbach, MP for Eddisbury
- Nicholas Soames*, former armed forces minister, longtime MP and grandson of Winston Churchill
- Rory Stewart, former international development secretary

All these MPs are set to be kicked out of the Conservative party tonight and will be barred from standing at the next election.

*Indicates MP has announced she/he won’t be standing at the next election anyway.

Rees-Mogg warns of ‘concatenation of circumstances’ leading to chaos

In characteristically verbose language the Leader of the House has urged MPs to “consider the chaos this concatenation of circumstances could create” as he again lambasted tonight’s proceedings as “unconstitutional”.

“Usurping the executive’s right is unconstitutional,” Jacob Rees-Mogg told parliament. “The use of emergency debates is unconstitutional. And the bill itself is yet more unconstitutional.”

“The approach taken today is the most unconstitutional use of this house since the days of Charles Stewart Parnell when he tried to bung up parliament,” he added, in a reference to the late-nineteenth century Irish nationalist politician renowned for his skilled use of parliamentary procedure.

“If parliament tries to challenge the people this stretches the elastic of our constitution near to breaking point. We should recognise that the people are our masters and show us to be their lieges and servants, not to place ourselves in the position of their overlords. “

“As we come to vote today I hope all members Mr Speaker will contemplate the current constitutional confusion and consider the chaos this concatenation of circumstances could create.”

SNP’s Ian Blackford: Unite and stop the prime minister in his tracks

The leader of the Scottish nationalists at Westminster, Ian Blackford has called on MPs to come together and “rob” the prime minister of his power.

“The denial of parliament having its say denies people in Scotland and across the UK their say in a no-deal Brexit,” Mr Blackford told parliament. “I urge members: unite to stop a no deal Brexit.”

“Tonight Mr Speaker it is our turn to take back control. Tonight, the prime minister is going to be stopped in his tracks.”

“The prime minister has tried to rob the people of their power. Now it’s our time to rob him of his.”

Ken Clarke: Most English people have ‘no idea’ what the backstop is

Ken Clarke, the former Conservative chancellor, said the vast majority of the English public have “no idea” what the Irish backstop is.

The Tory grandee, and longest standing MP (or ‘Father of the House’) said he did not want to listen to “conspiracy theories” about the Irish backstop – the clause in Theresa May’s deal designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland that has become a sticking point in the Brexit debate.

“I don’t think any of the English public – sadly – take any interest in Irish political affairs,” Mr Clarke told parliament. “Nine out of ten have no idea what the Irish backstop is.”

He said that while he was “strongly in favour” of the backstop, the argument around it had become “an entirely closed little debate”.

Liam Fox: Do not open up ‘chasm of distrust’ between parliament and people

Liam Fox, who served as International Trade secretary under Theresa May, said that passing tonight’s motion would “play into the hands of the political fringes”.

The Conservative MP said that a senior French politician had told him that “the problems of political fragmentation in France began when we did not honour the result of the referendum on the European constitution” in 2005.

“It was the beginning of the end of the major parties and the beginning of the rise of the political fringe.”

“Mr Speaker I fear that if we go down the path that is being suggested tonight we will be opening up a chasm of distrust between parliament and the British people.”

“It is something that will only play into the hands of the political fringes and is something we will all come to regret.”

Rees-Mogg settling in for the long haul

As the debate rattles on, the Leader of the House appears to have reclined into a slightly more … relaxed … position.

We can empathise…

Caroline Lucas lashes out at ‘contemptuous’ Rees-Mogg

A chorus of calls for Jacob Rees Mogg to “sit up straight” echoed around the chamber after Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas hit out at the Leader of the House for his “contemptuous” body language.

Mr Rees Mogg has spent much of the debate reclining on the government benches, prompting a flurry of commentary on social media.

“The Leader of the House who I have to say with his body language has been so contemptuous of this House and of the people,” said Ms Lucas.

“For the benefit of the Hansard, the Leader of the House has been spread across around three seats, lying out as if that was something very boring for him to listen to tonight.”

“Can I just say to him that while he has been lecturing us about democracy, we will have none of it, because this government has no mandate for the vicious form of Brexit it has been pursuing. It was never on the ballot paper.”

John Baron hits out at ‘whiff of arrogance’ in tonight’s motion

Outspoken pro-Brexit MP John Baron bemoaned the “arrogance” of the rebels seeking to seize control of the parliamentary agenda and said people were fed up with the delays to the UK’s exit from the EU.

“There is more than a whiff of arrogance in this motion,” the Conservative politician told the chamber. “Too many remain MPs in this place will use any device to try to block Brexit.”

“The decision was delegated by this place to the people to make their decision and they made their decision very clearly.”

“We’ve been kicking this can down the road for three years and to many outside this place enough is enough. People outside this place are getting frustrated with many colleagues here tonight.”

“The guaranteed way of getting a bad deal is to take no deal off the table. For the business people in this house and for many who have negotiated deals, they will understand that.”

Voting begins

MPs have begun to vote on tonight’s motion, which would allow a cross-party alliance of opposition MPs and Tory rebels to take control of the agenda of the House of Commons.

If they are successful, the will look to table a bill tomorrow which would force the prime minister to seek a further Brexit delay.

Dominic Grieve: ‘I think we will have a majority’

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve is confident tonight’s motion will pass.

He told Sky News:

“I hope very much we will win this evening and I think we probably will, unless I have misjudged the number of Labour MPs that will vote with the government.”

“Subject to that, I think we will have a majority. Although nothing in life is certain.”

Motion passes

The motion has passed by 328 votes to 301 in a blow to Boris Johnson’s government.

PM will go to polls if tomorrow’s bill passes

Boris Johnson will call an election if tomorrow’s rebel bill to delay Brexit goes through, he has said.

Responding to tonight’s defeat, which hands control of the parliamentary agenda to MPs, he said “there can be no doubt … about the consequences of this vote”.

“It means parliament is on the brinking of wrecking any deal that we might be able to strike with Brussels.”

“Tomorrow’s bill would hand control of the negotiations to the EU. That would mean more dither, more delay and more confusion. And it would mean the EU themselves would be able to decide how long to keep this country in the EU.”

“And since I refuse to go along with that plan we are going to have to make a choice Mr Speaker.”

“If the House votes for this bill tomorrow the public will have to choose who goes to Brussels on October 17 to sort this out and take this country forward.”

“If MPs vote tomorrow to stop negotiations and compel another pointless delay to Brexit potentially for years then that would be the only way to resolve this and I can confirm that we are tonight tabling a motion under the Fixed Term Parliament Act.”

21 Tories rebelled against Boris Johnson

The group of Tories who waged a rebellion against their own prime minister was larger than initially thought, according to data compiled by the FT’s Martin Stabe.

There were 21 Conservative MPs who backed the measure to take control of parliament, compared with estimates of around 16 leading up to the vote.

Here is the full list:

Guto Bebb
Richard Benyon
Steve Brine
Alistair Burt
Greg Clark
Kenneth Clarke
David Gauke
Justine Greening
Dominic Grieve
Sam Gyimah
Philip Hammond
Stephen Hammond
Richard Harrington
Margot James
Oliver Letwin
Anne Milton
Caroline Nokes
Antoinette Sandbach
Nicholas Soames
Rory Stewart
Edward Vaizey

Leadsom: ‘Tomorrow is a critical day’

Business secretary Andrea Leadsom says tomorrow is now a “critical day” as MPs take control of the Commons agenda .

In an interview with Sky News Ms Leadsom said it is “just impossible to negotiate if you remove the possibility of leaving without a deal” and urged MPs not to vote for tomorrow’s bill, which would force the prime minister to further delay Brexit.

Tory rebels lose whip

The whip is being removed from the 21 Tory rebels, the FT’s Sebastian Payne reports.

“The Chief Whip is speaking to those Tory MPs who did not vote with the Govt this evening. They will have the Tory whip removed,” says a Downing Street spokesperson.

For the first time since 1970, Ken Clarke is not a Conservative MP.

Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, is no longer a Conservative MP for the first time since 1983.

The vote breakdown

That’s it for today

We’re closing the live blog after a momentous day in Westminster politics. Make sure to stop by tomorrow for what is expected to be another dramatic day.

Until then, make sure to read our full write-up: Conservative Rebels defeat Boris Johnson Brexit policy