Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg have signalled they will back the Prime Minister in a key Brexit vote today.
The Brexiteer leaders said that they would vote for an amendment that states the PM should go back to Brussels to renegotiate the Irish backstop – but only if she also renegotiates the withdrawal agreement
The Prime Minister will address the Commons today at 1.30pm and is expected to declare that she will indeed reopen the withdrawal agreement – despite saying for weeks that she would not do this.
Voting on the amendment by Sir Graham Brady, that the PM has ordered Tory MPs to vote for, will follow – but only if speaker John Bercow picks it. Other amendments will also be voted on.
Her spokesman has said about reopening the withdrawal agreement: ‘That’s something we’re prepared to do.’
Today Boris tweeted: ‘If the Prime Minister indicates in the debate that she will be pressing Brussels to reopen the WA to make changes to the backstop, I will gladly support the Brady amendment.’
‘But what we need is to achieve something legally binding. We need to go back into the text of the treaty and solve the problem. That is the way to unite remainers and leavers in the Conservative party and across the country’.
Mr Rees-Mogg last night said he would not vote for the amendment.
But today he said: ‘Let’s see what the Prime Minister says. If the Brady amendment is a Government amendment, effectively, that means that the Withdrawal Agreement will be re-opened that’s very different to a worthy backbench motion’.
However, it is thought that after backing the amendment the hard Brexiteers will then try to force their own Plan C through – and not May’s deal to leave the EU.
The Plan C has been engineered by Brexiteers including Mr Rees-Mogg and Remainers such as Nicky Morgan.
Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured today) has signalled an extraordinary u-turn and could now back the Prime Minister’s deal if she tells Brussels that Britain must renegotiate her Brexit deal
Theresa May (pictured arriving at Parliament last night) used a private meeting of her MPs tonight to plead with them to back Sir Graham’s plan – just minutes after Mr Rees-Mogg moved to kill it off
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, one of several cabinet members expected to quit if the PM edges towards No Deal, arrives in Downing Street this morning
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Home Secretary Sajid Javid (both pictured today) have both said that Mrs May’s deal is the only one on the table
Their ‘Plan C’ – known as the ‘Malthouse Compromise’ because it was brokered by moderate Tory MP Kit Malthouse – would see the UK honour its £39billion divorce payment in return for an extended Brexit transition lasting until the end of 2021.
This would allow time to thrash out a free trade deal and work out an ‘acceptable’ solution to the Irish border issue that would avoid ‘hard’ checks.
Mrs May is also battling Remainers in her cabinet including Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd and Justice Secretary David Gauke, who say she has a fortnight to get her deal done or they will quit to prevent the no deal Brexit.
MPs’ bid to block No Deal ‘on a knife-edge’
An attempt by MPs to block a No Deal Brexit is ‘on a knife-edge’, supporters say.
MPs will vote tonight on an amendment to Theresa May’s deal that would allow Parliament to order the delay Article 50 until the end of the year.
The move, led by Labour’s Yvette Cooper, has the public backing of ten Tories. Reports last week said up to 40 ministers could also quit to support it.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has hinted that she could quit unless she is given a free vote. But last night friends said she would vote against the plan if ordered to do so. Labour will announce whether Jeremy Corbyn will order his MPs to back the plan.
However, a number of Labour MPs have indicated they will vote against it regardless.
A supporter of the Cooper bid said last night: ‘It’s on a knife-edge. We’re two or three votes ahead right now, but it could just as easily swing back.’
Miss Cooper risked accusations of hypocrisy yesterday when her 2017 election campaign leaflet emerged in which she boasted that she had backed triggering Article 50.
In a message on a Tory WhatsApp group, Boris Johnson described the proposed peace deal as ‘a breakthrough’, adding: ‘I really hope the government adopt this as soon as possible.’
It is understood Mrs May believes the EU will not resist renegotiating so much of the deal agreed last year and has a better chance of changing a single element.
ERG sources confirmed Rees-Mogg and former Brexit minister Steve Baker had agreed a deal with Remainers Nicky Morgan and Stephen Hammond were behind involved in ‘Plan C’.
But iMrs May slapped down Boris Johnson last night after he tried to derail attempts to save her Brexit deal.
In a message to Tory MPs last night, Mrs Morgan said: ‘This plan provides for exit from the EU on time with a new backstop, which would be acceptable indefinitely, but which incentivises us all to reach a new future relationship. It ensures there is no need for a hard border with Ireland.’
The Prime Minister slapped down Boris Johnson last night after he tried to derail attempts to save her Brexit deal.
In a dramatic clash, the Prime Minister rounded on her leadership rival when he openly questioned her strategy during a tense meeting of Tory MPs in the Commons.
With Labour threatening to back bids to delay or even block Brexit, Mrs May appealed to her MPs for unity after months of damaging infighting – prompting Mr Johnson to openly challenge her authority.
As astonished MPs looked on, the former foreign secretary questioned her decision to back a Commons amendment by Tory grandee Sir Graham Brady, which would demand that Brussels find ‘alternative arrangements’ to the hated Irish backstop.
According to witnesses, Mr Johnson directly challenged the PM, asking her: ‘What DO you want, Prime Minister? What will this amendment achieve?’
In a withering response, Mrs May hit back, saying: ‘We won’t know unless you support us Boris.’
As loyalist MPs cheered her on, she added: ‘I am happy to battle away Boris – get behind me and we’ll do it together.’
One MP said: ‘She gave Boris some straight advice – and, frankly, he deserved it.’
After the clash, Tory chairman Brandon Lewis told reporters: ‘Boris asked a question and got a very clear answer from the PM.’
The clash came after Mrs May confirmed Tory MPs would be ordered to back Sir Graham’s amendment tonight, despite opposition from hardline Brexiteers in the European Research Group.
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes arrives in Downing Street for a crunch cabinet meeting followed by Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Stephen Barclay
Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright followed Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom through the door of No 10
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who will back the PM’s Plan B when she faces the Commons later
Justice Secretary David Gauke walks into No 10 with the help of a stick while Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns, strides in
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley smiles at photographers shortly after International Trade Secretary Liam Fox arrives at cabinet
Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry, walked into Downing Street this morning
Minutes earlier, ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg had told journalists his members would not support Sir Graham’s plan.
A Cabinet minister accused the ERG of trying to wreck Brexit, telling the Mail: ‘The PM is bending over backwards to accommodate them but they are still saying no. It is becoming clearer by the day that some of them will say no to everything – they want No Deal.’
It is unclear if the entire ERG will fall into line behind Mogg and the group will meet again today to confirm its tactics.
The DUP will also meet this morning to decide if its ten MPs will back the amendment.
Earlier, moderate MPs had warned that Brexit ‘ultras’ were in danger of derailing hopes of an orderly Brexit and splitting the Conservative Party.
George Freeman said: ‘Public patience with all this is wearing dangerously thin.’
Former minister Nick Boles, who is campaigning to stop a no deal Brexit, said Sir Graham had already been shot down by ‘hardliners’ who are ‘hellbent on a no-deal Brexit. Nothing else will do’.
Pro-EU campaigners gather outside Parliament today for Super Tuesday
Boris Johnson (pictured in Westminster yesterday) has hinted he could back Mrs May’s Brexit deal if she gets a re-write of the Irish border backstop – but insisted any change must be in the main treaty
Barnier’s deputy warns of ‘high risk’ of no deal Brexit as she insists the negotiations are over
The EU’s deputy Brexit negotiator insisted the Brexit negotiations were over and a no deal was now a ‘high risk’.
Sabine Weyand said the British government needed to change position if there was to be a deal in time for exit day on March 29.
The German diplomat, who has been the deputy to Michel Barnier during the Brexit negotiations, said Brussels had a ‘margin’ for movement on the political declaration about the future trade deal.
But speaking at a conference in Brussels yesterday she said the divorce deal was locked and there would be ‘no more negotiations’ – ruling out a time limit on the backstop demanded by Tory Brexiteer MPs.
She told the European Policy Centre think-tank: ‘It is quite a challenge to see how you can construct from a diversity of the opposition a positive majority for the deal.’
She said there appeared to be a lack of ‘ownership’ in Britain of the agreement struck between the two sides in November, and that there was insufficient transparency in the prime minister’s moves.
And Ms Weyand warned: ‘There will be no more negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement.’
Mrs May’s decision to face down both Mr Johnson and the ERG is a high-risk gamble. If it succeeds, she will return to Brussels this week and claim a mandate for tearing up the Irish backstop.
Sir Graham said victory would give Mrs May ‘enormous firepower’ to demand major changes from the EU to the backstop.
He appealed to Mr Johnson and other Eurosceptics to rally behind the PM and deliver Brexit.
Mrs May’s chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, was later heard trying to persuade Mr Johnson to fall into line, assuring him the PM is seeking ‘actual change’ to the Withdrawal Agreement.
The clash between Mrs May and her biggest leadership rival came as the Lords voted by 283 to 131 for a Labour motion calling on ministers to take ‘all appropriate steps’ to avoid No Deal.
Sir Graham’s amendment is designed to heal the Brexit rift on the Tory benches by making it clear to Brussels Mrs May’s deal could pass if the EU gives ground on the issue of the Irish backstop. The backstop, which is at the heart of Tory and DUP opposition to the deal, is designed to prevent the creation of a ‘hard border’ on the island of Ireland if trade talks falter. Critics fear it could leave the UK locked into a customs union against its will for years.
Sir Graham’s amendment ‘requires the Northern Ireland backstop to be replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border’. It commits those backing it to supporting a deal with the EU, and ‘therefore support the Withdrawal Agreement subject to this change’.
Some Brexiteers warned the proposal was ‘a trap’ that could oblige them to back Mrs May’s deal in return for only cosmetic changes.
Mr Rees-Mogg said: ‘The Graham Brady amendment gives conditional approval, so that is an issue. It doesn’t say what it would be replaced with. And Graham has said he could live with a protocol rather than changes to the (Withdrawal Agreement) text, whereas from our point of view there needs to be changes to the text.’
Sir Graham Brady’s plan is already struggling for support even if the Government backs it (pictured) and if Tory Brexiteers decide to vote no it will be doomed to fail
MPs are set to vote on a range of different plans for the way forward on Brexit – with proposals to frustrate a no deal or delay Brexit altogether most likely to pass
What is the Plan B vote the PM is ‘betting her house on’ today and what will it mean if it passes?
What is happening?
Because Theresa May’s Brexit deal was defeated, the law says she must tell Parliament what her Plan B is.
This has to be done in a motion to the Commons, which will be voted on by MPs on Tuesday night.
That motion can be re-written by MPs if they table amendments and win a vote in favour of them.
Some amendments have already been tabled and MPs can keep producing them until Monday night.
What does May’s plan say?
It promises more cross-party working, renews commitments to protecting workers’ rights after Brexit and says the PM will ask Brussels for more concessions on the backstop.
It it based on the current deal that was crushed by 230 votes last week.
What do the main amendments say?
Jeremy Corbyn’s amendment says Parliament should vote on ‘options’ including a renegotiation of the deal to get a permanent customs union and for a second referendum.
A cross party amendment from Yvette Cooper and Nicky Morgan seeks to block no deal by giving time to a draft law that would require the Government to delay Brexit if a deal has not been agreed by February 26. It upturns normal convention by putting a backbench MP’s Bill ahead of Government plans.
An amendment from Tory rebel Dominic Grieve seeks to set up weekly debates that would mean regular votes on what to do in the absence a deal. His amendments sets aside six named days for the debates – including as late as March 26.
The Government also appears to be encouraging MPs to back amendment from two senior Tory MPs.
One from Andrew Murrison would effectively set a time limit on the backstop of December 31, 2021.
Another amendments tabled by Sir Graham Brady, chair of the powerful 1922 committee, would effectively eradicate the backstop and demand the EU and UK find other solutions.
Some ministers hope that if these amendment receive strong support it will pile pressure on the EU to make concessions on the backstop – which Brexiteers fear the UK will be stuck in forever, and the DUP believes risks splitting the union.
What would the vote do?
Legally nothing – but if the Commons votes in favour of a clear way forward by a majority it will be a major political signal of what might happen.
Is it a new ‘meaningful vote’ that can approve May’s deal?
No. At some point, the PM will have to stage a repeat of last week’s vote to get explicit approval from MPs to go ahead with her deal if she wants it to survive.
Last night it remained unclear whether Speaker John Bercow would even allow a debate and vote on Sir Graham’s bid.
Downing Street yesterday said the PM was willing to demand changes to the Brexit treaty signed with the EU last year – something she has previously warned is impossible.
There are fears that Speaker John Bercow (pictured in Westminster station yesterday) will kill off the plan by refusing to call it for a vote unless significant numbers of MPs signal support
Earlier, Sir Graham said his plan would give ‘enormous firepower’ to Mrs May in talks with the EU, but insisted any concessions must be ‘legally binding’.
‘I don’t think anybody is going to accept something which is just warm words,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Mr Jenkin was among the first to go public against the plan.
He told ITV News: ‘It’s deliberately vague because it is meant to mean different things to different people.
‘If people vote for that in expectation that some things are going to happen that do not happen, it will lead to more misunderstanding and disappointment.
‘It won’t help at all.’
However, there are fears that Mr Bercow – who has so far shown little inclination to help the government – will kill off the plan by refusing to call it for a vote unless significant numbers of MPs signal support.
So far just eight politicians have formally added their names – and although more have indicated they will sign, other Brexiteers voiced suspicion that the amendment will just kick the can further down the road.
Sir Graham said his amendment was drawn up after meetings with ministers including Mrs May, and he believed the DUP would support it.
Asked if it had Government backing he said: ‘I hope so… I don’t know so. The amendment was born out of a number of conversations I had with colleagues including members of the Government, including the Prime Minister.
‘I had also spoken to people in the DUP too and I’m hoping that the way in which the amendment is crafted can attract that very broad support and if we can win the vote on my amendment then I think it gives the Prime Minister enormous firepower.’
Mr Johnson said a time limit or unilateral exit could ‘defuse the booby trap’. But he also warned that meant rewriting the text of the Withdrawal Agreement – something the EU has so far been adamant cannot happen.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson called on the PM publicly to confirm a ‘change of heart’ on the withdrawal deal.
He said: ‘That backstop is dead, rejected by the biggest ever parliamentary majority; and that is why I hope and pray that I am right about the intentions of Number 10’.
The amendments and likely outcomes
Commons is expected to vote tomorrow on amendments including Yvette Cooper’s. The Labour MP is pictured on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday
YVETTE COOPER’S PLAN TO DELAY BREXIT IF THERE IS NOT A DEAL
WHAT IT DOES: Forces ministers to extend Article 50 beyond March 29 to stop No Deal.
WHOSE PLAN? Labour’s Yvette Cooper, former Tory ministers Nick Boles and Sir Oliver Letwin.
HOW IT WORKS: Ministers lose the power to decide what is debated on February 5, which passes to backbench MPs. Miss Cooper proposes a law forcing Mrs May to ask for a delay on Brexit if No Deal is agreed by February 26.
COULD IT SUCCEED? Labour will back it and with enough votes from Tory rebels, yes.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT? Mrs May would lose control of Brexit with No Deal off the table
DOMINIC GRIEVE’S PLAN TO HAND POWER TO MPS
WHAT IT DOES: Give control over Parliamentary business to MPs.
WHOSE PLAN? Dominic Grieve QC, former attorney general and ardent Remainer, and MPs who want a second referendum.
HOW IT WORKS: Government loses power over the Commons every Tuesday from February 12 to March 26 so backbench MPs could vote on Brexit. Could delay Article 50 or change the deal to include a customs union or second referendum.
COULD IT SUCCEED? Could pass with the support of pro-Remain Tories, Labour backing.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT? A second referendum would be the most likely outcome
SIR GRAHAM BRADY’S PLAN TO FIX THE BACKSTOP BY DEMANDING CHANGES FROM BRUSSELS
WHAT IT DOES: Proposes replacing the Northern Ireland backstop with ‘alternative arrangements’ to avoid a hard border. Also supports leaving with a deal.
WHOSE PLAN? Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee.
HOW IT WORKS: Allows Mrs May to go to Brussels and say the EU must make concessions on the backstop or get rid of it.
COULD IT SUCCEED? Only if selected by Speaker Bercow – who could ignore it.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT? Mrs May would go to Brussels and say changing the backstop would save her deal
DAME CAROLINE SPELMAN’S PLAN TO RULE OUT NO DEAL
WHAT IT DOES: Stops the UK leaving without a deal.
WHOSE PLAN: Former Tory Cabinet minister Caroline Spelman and Labour MP Jack Dromey.
HOW IT WORKS?
Rejects No Deal.
COULD IT SUCCEED? Yes, if enough Tory rebels vote in favour.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT? Mrs May’s main bargaining chip would be gone – likely second referendum
JEREMY CORBYN’S PLAN TO FUDGE THE VOTE BY DEMANDING CHANGE BUT HINTING AT A REFERENDUM
WHAT IT DOES: Demands changes to the deal and hints at a second referendum.
WHOSE PLAN? Corbyn, Labour frontbench.
HOW IT WORKS: Ministers must let Parliament discuss No Deal, and proposes staying in a permanent customs union. If that fails, it suggests a second referendum.
COULD IT SUCCEED? Highly unlikely, because it won’t win support from Tory rebels.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NEXT? A second referendum would become the most likely outcome of Brexit