- Theresa May warns Jeremy Corbyn that it’s ‘impossible’ to rule out no-deal
- Jeremy Corbyn refuses to meet PM unless no-deal ruled out
- Tony Blair: ‘Of course’ Corbyn should meet the PM
- Corbyn labels offer of talks ‘phoney’ and a ‘stunt’
- Andrea Leadsom: Votes on Brexit Plan B on January 29
- Philip Hammond tells business chiefs MPs will block no-deal
- ‘Rogue’ Chancellor facing Cabinet backlash over comments
- Nick Timothy: May’s Brexit deal is dead, but so too is no-deal
- Sign up: Brexit Whatsapp updates and all-new Brexit Bulletin
Theresa May has warned Jeremy Corbyn that it is “impossible” for her to satisfy his demand that she rules out a no deal Brexit before they can meet to discuss how to shape a Brexit deal that can pass the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister delivered this message in a letter, replying to one he sent earlier today informing her that Labour is “open to meaningful discussions” provided she chose to “rule out” leaving the European Union without an agreement in place.
“There are two ways to avoid no deal: either to vote for a no deal, in particular a Withdrawal Agreement, that has been agreed with the EU, or to revoke Article 50 and overturn the referendum result,” she wrote.
“I believe it would be wrong to overturn the referendum result. So the purpose of the discussions I have been having with other party leaders and MPs is to understand and explore the issues that are standing in the way of Parliament being able to reach a consensus in support of an agreement with the EU, which would avoid a no deal outcome.”
Mrs May added that she doubted the EU would “agree to extend our membership simply to allow further debate on Brexit”.
This comes as the Labour leader has come under fire for refusing to take part in talks to break the Brexit impasse, dismissing Mrs May’s offer as a “stunt”.
Tony Blair suggested Mr Corbyn was wrong to refuse to enter negotiations and said “of course” the Labour leader should agree to meet with the Prime Minister “in a moment of national crisis”.
“If in a moment of national crisis the Prime Minister asks the Leader of the Opposition to come and talk, of course you go and talk,” he said.
But Mr Corbyn used a speech in Hastings today to reiterate that he will only speak to the Prime Minister if she rules out a no-deal divorce.
He hit back against his critics and claimed Mrs May was only interested in “phoney talks” designed to “run down the clock” and force MPs to back her “botched deal”.
He also warned Labour could table another vote of no confidence in a bid to force a general election to “break the deadlock”.
Meanwhile, Andrea Leadsom, the Commons Leader, announced that MPs will vote on the Government’s Brexit Plan B on Tuesday January 29.
She also confirmed MPs will be able to table amendments to the Government’s plan which paves the way for so-called “indicative votes” on Brexit options which many in the Commons have called for.
Downing Street has long maintained that no deal remains the default Brexit option and Ms Leadsom said “it is not possible to remove no deal from the table” because doing so would be an “incompetent thing to do”.
It comes after Mrs May won a confidence vote by 325 votes to 306 on Wednesday evening and a leaked recording of a call between Philip Hammond and business leaders fueled suspicions that the Chancellor has been orchestrating attempts to soften Brexit.
Labour MPs pile pressure on May to rule out no deal
Hilary Benn and Yvette Cooper either did not see, or chose not to obey, Jeremy Corbyn’s advice to avoid meeting ministers until no deal is “taken off the table”. The pair, who chair the Brexit and home affairs select committees respectively, had cross-party talks with David Lidington, but have echoed Mr Corbyn’s demand.
The Brexit Select Committee chair said:
The government has to rule out no deal. That’s the first step. Secondly, the prime minister needs to change her red lines.
How long does it take to hold a second referendum?
The Government believes it would take about a year to hold another referendum, but my colleague Christopher Hope reveals that he has been told by Vince Cable that the Lib Dem leader believes it could take half that timespan.
His rationale will be revealed in an interview on Chopper’s Brexit Podcast, out soon. Dr Cable might not be off-beam, given that the FT’s Henry Mance points out estimates from boffins at groups like the Institute for Government that it could take around 20 weeks to sort it.
Senior Labour MPs tell PM to ditch no deal
Hilary Benn and Yvette Cooper have demanded the Prime Minister remove the option of no deal from Brexit negotiations.
Speaking outside the Cabinet Office following a meeting with David Lidington, Mr Benn said: “The Government has to rule out no deal. That’s the first step.
“Secondly, the Prime Minister needs to change her red lines.”
Ms Cooper said: “The most important thing now is that the Government actually listens and it doesn’t just think that a defeat that was that huge can simply be dismissed.”
The pair said they had attended the meeting in their capacity as chairpersons of cross parliamentary committees after Jeremy Corbyn barred Labour MPs from engaging with the government while no deal is still an option.
Michel Barnier: EU willing to shift on Brexit if Theresa May drops red lines
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator is in Portugal and he has reiterated what he told the European parliament on Wednesday.
He said the bloc would ”move immediately” if Mrs May dropped her negotiating red lines.
“The red lines are Britain’s red lines not ours and with these red lines they shut the doors and if these red lines move, as I said in the parliament yesterday, we will also move immediately,” he said.
Meanwhile, Simon Coveney, the Irish Foreign Affairs minister said a no-deal Brexit would have to become “an exercise in damage limitation”.
Speaking in the Irish parliament, Simon Coveney said: “It would be impossible in a no-deal scenario to maintain the current seamless arrangements between the EU and UK across a full range of sectors, which is currently facilitated by our common EU membership.”
Mr Coveney said the EU would continue to seek to be as helpful as possible but that the Withdrawal Agreement was not open for renegotiation.
“The backstop is an essential part of the Withdrawal Agreement,” he told the Dail.
“It acts as an insurance policy, to ensure that there is no hard border on this island following Brexit. It is essential.”
Senior Tory Eurosceptic positive after talks with Theresa May
Camilla Tominey, The Telegraph’s associate editor, reports:
Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the European Research Group of Tory Eurosceptic MPs, has just told me the meeting this morning at Downing Street was “genuinely a two-way dialogue” and “encouraging”.
He added: “Both sides listened to what the other had to say and the Prime Minister seemed invested in trying to find solutions”.
Jeremy Corbyn ‘tells Labour MPs not to speak to the Government’ about Brexit
The Labour leader has reportedly sent an email to all of his MPs telling them not to engage in Brexit talks with ministers unless and until the Government gives in to his demand that Theresa May rules out a no-deal divorce from the European Union.
In the email he said: “I urge colleagues to respect that condition and refrain from engagement with the Government until ‘no deal’ is taken off the table.
“I thank you for your support.”
Senior Labour MPs meet with Theresa May
Labour MPs Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn have entered the Cabinet Office for talks with the Prime Minister.
Mr Benn remarked: “The really important question is, there’s an open door, is there an open mind to a change?”
Ms Cooper said: “We want to see if the government is actually prepared to make some changes.
“They’ve lost the vote by 230. That’s obviously a very substantial loss.”
Eurosceptic MP Peter Bone said he was “hopeful we can get a deal” as he also went to meet the PM.
He added that he might be persuaded to vote for the PM’s amended deal “as long as we deliver the Brexit people voted for”.
Poll boost for Theresa May
YouGov has published its latest Westminster voting intention poll data and it provides the Prime Minister with a boost.
Some 36 per cent of voters believe Mrs May is the best choice to be PM with just 20 per cent choosing Jeremy Corbyn.
However, the most popular choice in the poll was “don’t know” which was picked by 41 per cent of voters.
The fieldwork for the poll was done on January 13/14.
It also gives the Tories a five point lead over Labour, with 39 per cent of voters saying they would vote for the Conservatives if there was an election tomorrow compared to 34 per cent for Mr Corbyn’s party.
Theresa May ally attacks ‘unnecessarily partisan’ Jeremy Corbyn
Conservative MP Damian Green has criticised the Labour leader over his unwillingness to meet with the Prime Minister.
Speaking outside the Cabinet Office with fellow Tory MP Andrew Mitchell, Mr Green said the Labour leader was “not looking at the national interest” and that his refusal was “absurd”.
The close ally of Mrs May said: “What we’ve seen over the last 24 hours is the Labour Party, Labour Party leadership specifically, being as unhelpful, and frankly not looking at the national interest, as it’s possible to be.
“Jeremy Corbyn has agreed to in the past to talk to all sorts of completely unsavoury people, claiming piously that it’s the way forward.
“I think he’s behaving in a way that’s unnecessarily partisan at a point where many people in all parties are looking much more hardly at the national interests than their own parties.
“I want there to be a deal, I voted for a deal, but Jeremy Corbyn should have a conversation with the Prime Minister.
“It’s completely absurd at a time like this for the leader of the opposition to say ‘I’m not going to talk to the Prime Minister’.”
Government confirms Reserves being put on stand by for no-deal Brexit
Mark Lancaster, the Defence Minister, has published a written parliamentary statement confirming that Army Reservists are being put on standby just in case of a no-deal Brexit.
The statement said: “A new order has been made under section 56(1B) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable Reservists to be called into permanent service in support of the HMG contingency planning for a no deal EU exit scenario.
“Defence is committed to assisting the Cabinet Office coordinated work programme to ensure that there are effective and proportionate contingency plans in place to mitigate the potential immediate impacts leaving the EU, under a ‘No Deal’ scenario, might have on the welfare, health and security of UK citizens and economic stability of the UK.
“Reserve Forces will be on standby to deliver a range of Defence outputs such as: reinforcement of Regular sub-units, liaison officer roles and the provision of specialist skills.”
The order will take effect from February 10 for one year.
Ian Murray, a Labour MP and supporter of the Best for Britain campaign, said the decision showed “just how serious the threat of a ‘no deal’ Brexit is”.
“It is staggering that soldiers are being put on standby because of the risk of a constitutional crisis of the government’s own making,” he said.
“A ‘no deal’ scenario should be ruled out immediately by the Prime Minister, to avoid this chaos.”
Plaid Cymru push Theresa May for second Brexit referendum
Speaking after meeting Mrs May, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said: “We focused on what we believe is the surest way of breaking the Parliamentary gridlock, which is to go for a people’s vote.
“We had a fairly lengthy discussion about that and we set out some of the criteria which could be adopted.
“We are available to continue those discussions.”
He added: “Taking no deal off the table is essential in the short term we believe, but also we have to end no progress, so it’s good to talk.”
Number 10 on talks: ‘Clearly there are some areas we aren’t going to agree on’
Downing Street said meetings would be held with MPs representing the “whole range” of opinion across the House, including some backbench Labour MPs.
Some MPs were meeting with the Prime Minister and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay while others were seeing Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington and Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
“We expect people to come with their own views and ideas. These are going to be discussed,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
“Clearly there are some areas we aren’t going to agree on. But the very purpose of the meetings is to find areas where there is some consensus to find a way forward.”
Jeremy Corbyn writes to Theresa May setting out Brexit talks conditions
The Labour leader has written to the Prime Minister. Here is his letter full:
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to follow up on my statement in the Commons last night on a point of order.
I wish to reiterate the points I raised at Prime Minister’s Questions and to formally set out the position of the Labour Party.
We are firmly of the opinion that the starting point for any talks about how to break the Brexit deadlock must be that the threat of a disastrous ‘no deal’ outcome is ruled out.
That is the position that Labour set out in our 2017 manifesto, at our 2018 party conference – and that we have consistently adhered to throughout.
I note that it is a position shared by all the opposition parties, including the DUP, and is the expressed will of Parliament. If you are serious about reaching a deal, then ‘no deal’ must be ruled out.
After the unprecedented and unnecessary delay to the meaningful vote last month, entering into talks while the clock continues to run down, and the threat of a chaotic ‘no deal’ increases, would be a reckless leap in the dark.
The Chancellor and the Business Secretary were both open to ruling out ‘no deal’ in the recent conference call with business leaders.
Therefore, on behalf of the Labour Party, I ask you to rule out ‘no deal’ and to immediately end the waste of hundreds of millions of pounds of public money preparing for a ‘no deal’ outcome. The £4.2 billion currently allocated to ‘no deal’ planning could significantly improve many of cash-starved public services on which people rely and could transform the lives of those struggling on Universal Credit.
Labour is open to meaningful discussions. But following the decisive rejection of the government’s deal by MPs on Tuesday, those cannot be on the basis of your existing red lines. It is clear that no tweaks or further assurances are going to win support for the government’s Brexit deal in Parliament.
We have set out an alternative framework for a better deal: based upon a new comprehensive UK-EU customs union; a strong Single Market deal; and guarantees that there can be no race to the bottom on rights and standards. That is the consistent position that Labour has outlined over the past year.
I am disappointed that there have already been several briefings in which you continue to rule out a customs union. A new customs union is part of a solution favoured by most businesses and trade unions, and one that I believe could command a majority of the House of Commons.
I look forward to receiving your reply.
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Leader of the Opposition
Sir Vince Cable accuses Jeremy Corbyn of ‘playing politics’
The Lib Dem leader has responded to Mr Corbyn’s speech in Hastings by telling the Labour leader he cannot count on their support in any future vote of no confidence.
He said: “Since he appears to be determined to play party political games rather than acting on the wishes of his own members and MPs, he will no longer be able to rely on our support for further no confidence motions.
“I believe other parties are taking the same view. It’s time Mr Corbyn got off the fence and made his position plain.”
DUP: Toxic backstop must be resolved
Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, and Nigel Dodds, her deputy, have just come out of Downing Street after talks with Theresa May.
Mrs Foster told reporters her part’s fundamental objection to the Brexit deal remained the same.
“I don’t think it is useful to give a running commentary on these issues,” she said.
“Everybody knows what our issue is in relation to the current withdrawal agreement and it is around the toxicity of the backstop that is currently there.
“We need to deal with that issue and we need to deal with it in a very clear way for the European Union.”
Mr Dodds said the Prime Minister is in “listening mode”.
He said: “Obviously given the events of the last few days that is absolutely vital.”
France confirms no-deal Brexit contingency spend
Brexit correspondent James Rothwell reports:
France has confirmed it will spend 50m euro (£44.3m) on contingency plans for a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario to prevent gridlock at ports, airports and the channel tunnel.
At least 20m euro will be spend on hiring hundreds of customs officials and veterinary inspectors to check paperwork, food and plants entering France via the Eurotunnel or the Port of Calais.
The rest will be spread around the port of Dunkirk and several French airports that may face delays due to red tape imposed by the EU.
The French government is also preparing five emergency laws designed to protect the livliehoods of fishermen in the event of ‘no deal, though the details are yet to be confirmed.
On the issue of citizens rights, Britons living in France will be granted a grace period of 12 months before they need to apply for permanent residence, visas or citizenship.
It comes after Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said Britain will be the “first to lose” if no agreement is reached with the EU by March 29.
Jeremy Corbyn attacks Theresa May’s ‘phoney talks’ offer
The Labour leader is speaking in Hastings and he reiterates that he will not enter into Brexit negotiations with the Prime Minister until she has ruled out a no-deal Brexit.
He said: “I say to the Prime Minister again I am quite happy to talk but the starting point for any talks about Brexit must be that the threat of a disastrous no deal outcome is ruled out, taken off the table and we can talk about the future of the plans that we will put forward and a future relationship with Europe.
“But take no deal off the table now, please Prime Minister.
“If she won’t accept the will of Parliament to take no deal off the table it will show that she simply isn’t serious about reaching a deal.
“With no deal on the table the PM would enter into phoney talks just to run down the clock and try to blackmail MPs to vote through her botched deal on a second attempt by threatening the country with the chaos that no deal would bring if they resist her entreaties to support her deal a second time.”
Mr Corbyn then tells activists that he still believes a general election is the best way to “break the deadlock” and that Labour will “come back on it again if necessary” and call another vote of no confidence in a bid to trigger one.
Tory MP accuses Philip Hammond of ‘treachery’ over no-deal comments
Sir Christopher Chope, a Tory MP, just raised the Chancellor’s comments to business in the House of Commons.
Addressing Andrea Leadsom, the Commons Leader, Sir Christopher said: ”Can I ask my Rt Hon Friend whether we can have an early debate on collective Cabinet responsibility and what it means in current circumstances and will my Rt Hon friend undertake to lead that debate so she can explain to the House the frustration we all feel on her behalf at having the 2017 Conservative manifesto undermined by treacherous comments from our own Cabinet colleagues.”
Andrea Leadsom: No deal cannot be taken off the table
The Commons leader, responding to a question from the SNP’s Pete Wishart, tells MPs that a no-deal Brexit must remain an option.
She said: “He asks if no deal can be taken off the table. He must surely appreciate that if you take no deal off the table and you stop preparing for no deal then for a sensible government that would be totally an incompetent thing to do.
“Government has to continue to prepare for all eventualities including no deal. It is not possible to remove no deal from the table and still abide by the will of the people as expressed at the referendum.”
Former Polish PM urges EU to refuse Article 50 extension
Brexit correspondent James Rothwell reports:
Leszek Miller, the former prime minister of Poland, has said the EU should refuse an extension of Article 50 and let the UK leave with no deal to teach the country a lesson.
In withering remarks on Twitter Mr Miller, who served as Poland’s leader from 2001 to 2004, said the “islanders” of the UK wanted a “true” Brexit and that Brussels should grant this wish for political gain.
“The content of the [Withdrawal] Agreement and the date of divorce should not be changed by Brussels,” he wrote. Everyone should see what happens to the country that leaves the EU. It’s an important lesson to teach.”
The Government says it will not need to delay the UK’s date of departure from the EU, via an extension of Article 50, as it believes MPs can still be persuaded to support the Withdrawal Agreement. But experts say this is doubtful.
Mr Miller’s comments strike a different tone from Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party which has been sympathetic to Theresa May and wants to avoid ‘no deal’ at all costs.
In an interview with the Telegraph in December, Mateusz Morawiecki, the current Polish leader, warned the EU’s “harsh” attitude to Mrs May risked derailing Brexit.
“Sadly, the Brexit case has brought to light rather unfortunate behaviour. Strong statements and harsh words of some politicians in Brussels do not help, but hinder our common goal in achieving the most desirable outcome for all,” he said.
Andrea Leadsom confirms vote on Brexit Plan B on January 29
The Commons Leader tells MPs that the Government will table a motion setting out its proposed next steps on Brexit on Monday next week.
The debate on that motion, and the following votes on Plan B options, will then take place on Tuesday January 29.
She also confirms the debate will not be limited to 90 minutes but will instead last all day and that the motion tabled by the Government will be ”amendable”.
That means MPs will be able to table amendments setting out what they want to happen next on Brexit with those amendments potentially then being put to a vote.
That paves the way for the so-called “indicative votes” which many MPs have called for.
Mrs Leadsom also reiterated that the “legal default” will be a no-deal Brexit if no agreement can be reached.
She said: “Having passed the EU Withdrawal Act it is the case that the legal default is that the UK will leave the European Union on the 29th March and if a deal has not been voted for then it will be with no deal unless other alternative arrangements are put in place.”
Confirmed: Michael Gove absent from Commons because of Brexit talks
David Rutley, the Environment Minister, told MPs at the start of Defra questions in the Commons: “I give apologies from the Secretary of State this morning that he won’t be attending this meeting because he is attending vital cross party meetings in Downing Street which I am sure members across the House will understand are vitally important at this stage.”
Caroline Lucas: PM refused to rule out no-deal Brexit
Not much of a surprise, but Theresa May apparently refused to budge on the key issue of taking no-deal off the table when she met with the Green Party’s only MP.
Ms Lucas met the PM this morning and said afterwards: “I repeatedly urged her again and again to take ‘no deal’ off the table because I think it completely skews the talks because you know that cliff edge is there.”
She also said Mrs May was resisting the option of extending Article 50.
French government: No deal Brexit becoming ‘less and less unlikely’
The French government has activated its plans for handling the effects of a no-deal Brexit, which has become “less and less unlikely”, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Thursday.
Speaking after a ministerial meeting called to discuss the British parliament’s rejection of the divorce deal negotiated with the EU, Philippe said: “I have taken the decision to activate the plan for a no-deal Brexit or hard Brexit as it is sometimes called.”
Senior Tory Eurosceptics arrive for talks with PM
Theresa May is meeting Tory Brexiteers this morning to discuss how she can win their support.
Former Brexit secretary David Davis just went into the Cabinet Office along with Iain Duncan Smith, Mark Francois, Owen Paterson and Steve Baker.
Conservative MP Nigel Evans is also meeting the PM and he said: ”The Prime Minister is listening to the 17.4 million people and the red line that’s most important is that we are leaving the EU. Some MPs need to accept that.
“We need to do trade deals throughout the world. We want to do them with the EU, but we should do them with the rest of the world as well.”
Amber Rudd pokes fun at Jeremy Corbyn ahead of Hastings visit
Much has been made of the fact that Mr Corbyn’s speech today is in Hastings – part of Amber Rudd’s constituency which she held onto in 2017 with a majority of just 346.
It is being viewed through the lens of a potential general election and Ms Rudd has responded with a video message welcoming the Labour leader to her seat.
“Thanks for dropping by in Hastings, Jeremy,” she said in the video posted on her Twitter account.
“While you’re there I hope you notice that since 2010 there are 8,000 more people in employment.
“More than 500 new businesses. A rise of 17 per cent. 7,000 more people employed in skilled jobs and 5,000 more people holding a bachelor degree or equivalent.
“The claimant count is down for adults and young people. Extra police funding helping to fight crime on our streets, while investment is improving our roads.
“School standards too are on the up. When John McDonnell visited our beautiful constituency, the local Conservative membership surged because people in Hastings and Rye know they cannot risk our recovery with a government by Jeremy Corbyn.”
Nicola Sturgeon sets out negotiating red lines, attacks PM
The Scottish First Minister and the leader of the SNP has accused Theresa May of seemingly being unwilling to compromise despite an offer of Brexit talks.
She said: “So everything is not on the table. PM’s offer of talks is a promise to listen, but only if we all agree with her.
“The SNP won’t be complicit in more time wasting. Rule out no deal, be prepared to extend Art 50 and agree to at least consider another referendum – then we’ll talk.”
Mrs May met with Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, last night.
Mr Blackford said afterwards that the cross-party talks “cannot be about cosmetic changes to her already rejected deal”.
“We must discuss real alternatives and a second referendum must be on the table,” he said.
Nine out of 10 Tory-held seats ‘back second Brexit referendum
Conservative supporters of a second EU referendum have launched a “Right to Vote” campaign, as new figures suggested that a majority of voters in Tory seats want the public to have the final say on Brexit.
Analysis of polls involving more than 6,700 voters suggested that majorities in nine out of 10 Conservative-held constituencies back a so-called People’s Vote.
Conservative MP Phillip Lee, who quit as a minister in Theresa May’s Government last year over Brexit, said that Tory support for a fresh poll was “underestimated” and was “growing fast” among the party’s MPs.
The analysis was conducted by market research company FocalData for the Best for Britain campaign for a second referendum and the anti-racism group Hope Not Hate, using a method called “multilevel regression and post-stratification”.
Its findings suggested that a majority in 290 of 317 Tory-held seats (91.5 per cent) back a public vote if Parliament is unable to break the deadlock on Brexit.
Michael Gove rumoured to be missing Defra questions
The Environment Secretary is due in the House of Commons this morning for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions.
But Mr Gove is apparently set to miss the session, which will start at 9.30am, because he has been asked to find a way forward on Brexit.
His absence will be the source of much intrigue. All eyes on the Commons first thing this morning.
Barry Gardiner: No talks planned between Labour frontbenchers and ministers today
David Lidington and Michael Gove are meeting senior MPs today to talk about Brexit but it doesn’t appear like that will include any Labour frontbenchers.
Mr Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, was asked if he was aware of any talks planned for today between ministers and shadow minister, and he replied: ”No.
“I have not had any approach myself from my counterpart in Government and to the best of my knowledge, none of my colleagues have.
“In the Labour Party as a shadow cabinet we operate as a team. We are quite clear that it is important that the Prime Minister shows good faith, she takes away the gun that she has been trying to hold to Parliament’s head by saying ‘it’s either my deal or no deal’.
“Even the Chancellor is saying that no deal should be off the table.”
Tony Blair: ‘Of course’ Jeremy Corbyn should meet with Theresa May on Brexit
The former prime minister has just been on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and unsurprisingly he had plenty to say about the current state of Brexit.
Here’s the best of it:
Mr Blair rejected the idea that voters should be angry with MPs because of the current Brexit chaos.
He said: “No, I think actually the public should be proud of their MPs because they are doing what MPs should do. They are studying the detail, they are trying to decide what they think is genuinely in the national interest and the reason why they rejected Theresa May’s deal in the end was because having looked at the detail they realised it did not resolve the essential problem of the negotiation and therefore they couldn’t support it.”
Mr Blair said holding votes in the Commons on Brexit options to find out which, if any, can command the support of a majority of MPs was the “obvious thing to do”.
He said: “Yes… the Prime Minister, this is what I found slightly bizarre about the statement on the steps of Downing Street yesterday. In the end she can either be an advocate for a position, well she was but her deal has gone down to a heavy defeat, or she can be an facilitator and arbiter.
“She can take a step back and say look, we haven’;t got an agreement in Parliament, here are the options, here’s the pros and cons of each option and yes, you run a series of indicative votes.
“It is the obvious thing to do.”
Article 50 extension inevitable
Mr Blair said if he was the prime minister he would already be talking to the EU about delaying Brexit.
He said: “I think that is inevitable now, virtually whatever you do. It depends really whether what you are doing is asking for an extension to Article 50 because you want to have a process that leads to a referendum at the end of it or whether you want simply to clarify that basic choice as to what Brexit you have.
“If I was the government now I would already be having discussions with Europe about the terms of an extension.”
Norway not the answer
Many MPs believe the UK should seek a so-called Norway Plus relationship with the EU after Brexit but Mr Blair said the option was flawed and would ultimately fail to command a majority.
He said: “The tide sort of ebbs and flows on a Norway type arrangement. You stay in the single market or you stay in the customs union.
“But when people analyse that, and this is where the Brexiteers have got a point, why on earth would you want to stay locked in the trading system of Europe and its rules without a say over them?”
He added: “I think every time people look at this kind of Norway option they are going to back off it in the end and the same with the customs union.”
Mr Blair said Mrs May’s approach to talks with Brussels had been flawed from the outset.
He said: “What she tried to do was negotiate the un-negotiable which is to have access to the market without abiding by the rules. By the way: If Britain was staying in the European Union and another country tried to do this, Britain would be the first out of the traps to say ‘you can’t do that’.”
Corbyn urged to talk
Mr Blair had some choice words about Jeremy Corbyn’s decision not to engage in Brexit talks with the Prime Minister.
He said: “If in a moment of national crisis the Prime Minister asks the Leader of the Opposition to come and talk, of course you go and talk. Of course he should.
“But to be absolutely blunt about it, whether he talks to her or he doesn’t talk to her, she can talk to as many people as she wants, in the end she is going to come back to the same choice and until you are prepared to make that choice… then frankly your consultation is not very real.”
Barry Gardiner: Theresa May must risk Tory split to break Brexit impasse
The shadow international trade secretary has been sent out on the morning broadcast round for Labour and he believes Mrs May will have to face the reality of a potential Conservative Party split if she is to break the Brexit parliamentary deadlock.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme: ”If she wants to negotiate with all parties in Parliament, and if she wants to do that in good faith, she has to say ‘ok, I’m not sticking to every single one of the red lines that I’ve established’.
“We are saying let’s do this in the best interests of the British people, in the way that every industry, every trade union, every manufacturing association – and even some people in her own Cabinet – are saying is the sensible way forward.
“Take no deal out of the equation and let’s get down to doing a solid deal.”
Sir Vince Cable targeting second Brexit referendum in May
The Liberal Democrat leader with with Theresa May last night to talk about Brexit options.
He just told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that his party want Article 50 to be extended to make time for a second Brexit referendum.
He said: “Correct, yes. I think that is common ground. We have set out a timetable actually at the beginning of the week and we are probably talking about a public vote at the end of May, June, something at that time.
“There are a lot of parameters around this.”
Sir Vince rejected the suggestion that planning for a second poll would take a year.
He said: “I think that is very unlikely actually. I think you can do it in a much more compressed and business-like timetable.
“I don’t think people want this issue hanging over them for a year or even many months.
“I think we want to draw a line under this issue. This is one way of doing it and I think a sensible way of doing it and I think it could be done within a few months.”
Green MP Caroline Lucas set to meet Theresa May at 9am
The Green Party’s only MP will meet the Prime Minister this morning in Downing Street for Brexit talks.
Ms Lucas will urge Mrs May to consider a second Brexit referendum.
“I want to use this opportunity to try to break open this gridlocked process and let different voices be heard,” she said.
“I’ll tell the Prime Minister loud and clear that she must urgently rule out the threat of a no-deal Brexit and I’ll make the case for the public to have a say on what happens next.
“I want to use this meeting to open up the debate about our shared future to the whole country – not restrict it to the corridors of Westminster – so I’ll also urge her to consider the role a Citizens’ Assembly might play as a complement to a People’s Vote.”
Brandon Lewis appears to rule out permanent post-Brexit customs union
The Conservative Party chairman was just on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and he said three things of interest.
The first: He appeared to agree with Philip Hammond’s assessment that MPs will be able to block a no-deal Brexit.
He said: ”If nothing else happens no-deal is where we end up. The reality is Parliament can rule out a no-deal and the way it does that is to agree a deal.”
Told that MPs could simply block a no-deal Brexit, Mr Lewis said: “As the Chancellor outlined, Parliament does of course have potentially the ability as we saw the rulings last week actually in the House of Commons to do a range of things.”
The second: The Government will not agree to a post-Brexit permanent customs union with the EU.
He said: “As a matter of principle that would prevent us from having an independent trade policy and that is something that I think people would feel is not delivering Brexit if we did that.
“As a matter of principle we have got to be able to do those international trade deals.
“But again, it comes down to technicalities of what people want to see.”
The third: He rejected suggestions Theresa May lacked the imagination to find a way forward on Brexit.
Asked of the Tories needed a new leader, he said: “No, not at all. I think you see time and again the public’s respect for the Prime Minister and support for the Prime Minister herself and they want us to get on with this.”
Exclusive: Hammond tells business chiefs MPs will stop no-deal Brexit
Philip Hammond told business leaders that the “threat” of a no-deal Brexit could be taken “off the table” within days and potentially lead to Article 50 “rescinded”, a leaked recording of a conference call reveals.
The Chancellor set out how a backbench Bill could effectively be used to stop any prospect of no deal. He suggested that ministers may even back the plan when asked for an “assurance” by the head of Tesco that the Government would not oppose the motion.
He claimed next week’s Bill, which could force the Government to extend Article 50, was likely to win support and act as the “ultimate backstop” against a no-deal Brexit, as a “large majority in the Commons is opposed to no deal under any circumstances”.
A recording of the call, passed to The Daily Telegraph, recounts how the Chancellor, Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, and Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, spent nearly an hour talking to the leaders of 330 leading firms.
Warning to motorists
Millions of UK motorists wanting to drive in the EU will need to arrange extra documentation in the event of a no-deal Brexit, insurers have warned.
Holidaymakers and businesses intending to use their vehicles on the continent, or anyone crossing the Irish border by road, have been advised they will need a “Green Card” if the UK crashes out of the EU on March 29.
Private motorists and companies have been recommended to contact their providers around a month before they plan to travel to get one – or risk breaking the law.
The same rules apply to European Economic Area (EEA) motorists travelling to the UK.
Huw Evans, director general of the Association of British Insurers (ABI), said: “As it looks increasingly possible that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit may happen, we want all insurance customers to know the facts about what this means for them.
“If you live in Northern Ireland and drive to the Republic of Ireland, or if you plan to drive your vehicle to mainland Europe after a no-deal Brexit, you will need a Green Card to prove you are insured.
“You should contact your insurer before you travel in order to get one. This advice applies to businesses as well as individuals.”
An agreement between UK and European insurance authorities was struck in May 2018 to waive the need for Green Cards in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
However the agreement has not yet been ratified by the European Commission.
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