Brexit latest: A furious Cabinet row erupted yesterday between Tory Remainers and Brexiters
Liz Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury, attacked her Conservative colleagues Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Gauke after the Brexit-rejecting trio penned a newspaper column demanding Theresa May rules out no-deal. Andrea Leadsom joined in the scolding, reportedly shouting in anger at the Remainers. Nothing seemed to be out of place when the Cabinet meeting began as usual at 9.30am with Theresa May explaining the statement she would later make to the House of Commons.
The furore began after she promised a vote on delaying Brexit if her deal fails to win MPs’ support at the next meaningful vote.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay then updated ministers on their talks with Brussels officials last week.
One source said: “That’s when the real fireworks began.”
Mrs Leadsom accused the Tory Remainer sect of breaking collective cabinet responsibility and undermining the Prime Minister’s negotiating hand with the EU.
But a source added the trio “stood their ground” as Chancellor Philip Hammond and work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd joined in calls for Mrs May to use any Article 50 delay to look at options for a soft-Brexit.
The near three-hour meeting ended with Mrs May urging unity in the Cabinet, explaining they must stick together to deliver Brexit and stop Jeremy Corbyn from becoming Prime Minister.
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9.07am update: Today’s Brexit amendments explained
MPs will pack the House of Commons for another round of Brexit amendment voting this evening.
Ahead of the vote, Speaker John Bercow will this morning select which amendments MPs can have a say on.
The amendments are not binding but carry significant weight meaning the Prime Minister will likely have to follow MPs’ decisions.
EU chiefs in Brussels will also be keenly watching this evening’s developments in Parliament, expected to begin about 7pm, as the votes give a clear indication of what MPs are likely to support to get the Withdrawal Agreement passed.
Mr Bercow will choose from a number of amendments including those proposed by Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s former minister Yvette Cooper, Tory backbencher Alberto Costa, Conservative and Labour allies Dame Caroline Spelman and Jack Dromey, a joint suggestion from the Independent Group’s Chris Leslie backed by the SNP, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru, and a separate amendment proposed by the SNP.
Yvette Cooper’s amendment seeks to pin the Prime Minister to commitments she made in the Commons yesterday to hold a vote to delay Brexit if her deal is rejected again.
Mr Costa’s amendment demands a treaty on citizens’ rights after Brext and calls for a separate agreement with the EU even in the event of no-deal.
The cross-party duo tabled a successful amendment last month opposing a no-deal Brexit.
Their follow-up amendment aims to “pave the way” for allowing MPs to extend Article 50.
Jeremy Corbyn’s amendment seeks support for his party’s Brexit demands.
Labour want any Brexit deal to include a customs union and access to the single market, alignment on rights and protections, commitments on participation in EU agencies and detailed future security arrangements with the EU.
This amendment demands a second Brexit referendum.
If passed, it would order the Prime Minister to table a motion for debate and a decision by March 8 on how another public vote could be held.
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford is asking the Prime Minister to immediately rule out no-deal Brexit “under any and all circumstances”.
8.52am update: ‘No-deal is not probable’ – more from Michel Barnier
Michel Barnier added he does not think no-deal Brexit is likely, saying it is only a “possibility not a probability”.
However the 68-year-old Frenchman conceded no-deal was a “risk that gets worse” as Brexit Day approaches.
Mr Barnier said: “It is not accurate to say that the no-deal is the most likely scenario.
“It’s a possibility. This is not yet a probability.
“And I do my best as the European negotiator with my teams and the support of 27 heads of state, parliament, presidents of institutions, Donald Tusk and Juncker.
“I am working to have a deal and that the agreement that I negotiated on behalf of the EU with Theresa May, not against her, but with her, is approved by the UK.
Mr Barnier staunchly added Europe will be ready for no-deal if it occurs, saying governments across the bloc have already taken many “concrete and precise measures to prepare”.
He cited France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium as particularly ready, adding: “Everyone is prepared for this scenario that no one wants, but we will be ready.
“There will be contingency measures, emergency measures that will be taken unilaterally by us, the EU, as the British will do.
“That’s their problem. There will not be an agreement between us.
“We will take measures, for example, for the visa issue.
“The UK will be put in the list of countries for which there’s no need for a visa to enter, only a passport, and it will be necessary for the British to take a reciprocal measure.”
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)
Michel Barnier has said Britain has ‘underestimated’ the consequences of Brexit
8.43am update: Brexit has ‘countless consequences’ which ‘British have underestimated’ – Barnier
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has slammed Britain’s approach to leaving the EU in an extraordinary outburst at the 17.4 million Leave voters.
Mr Barnier told French media: “Brexit has consequences and I have said it from the first day of my appointment.
“The consequences are countless. Human and social for citizens. Economic and financial. Technical and legal. They are countless.
“They have been underestimated, especially on the British side.
“It is precisely because there is a lot of uncertainty and problems that we have done this document that I have here.”
However Mr Barnier went on to offer a Brexit lifeline to Theresa May, adding he still believes the Withdrawal Agreement can be “saved”.
He said: “600 pages where for hundreds of subjects we propose legal answers where Brexit, like all divorces, creates uncertainties.
“I think we can save this deal and that the British will approve it.”
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)
8.18am update: Brexit delay vote ‘an option on sanity’
Theresa May’s pledge to allow MPs a vote on delaying Brexit has been described as “an option on sanity” by a leading business figure.
Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is a small step forward to have a mechanism for delay.
“It feels like an option on sanity, if you like.
“Because, here we are 30 days out from March 29, business is not ready, government is not ready.
“It would be a wrecking ball on our economy.
“So, that is a small step forward.”