Jeremy Corbyn renews calls for a general election

Jeremy Corbyn renewed his calls for another general election and demanded that a no-deal Brexit be ‘taken off the table’ after Theresa May’s plan suffered another crushing defeat in the House of Commons. 

The Labour leader said the PM’s withdrawal agreement was ‘dead’ and vowed to oppose a cliff-edge Brexit, which MPs will vote on tomorrow night. 

He also called for a vote on Labour’s Brexit plan, but declined to back a second referendum despite ongoing calls from many of his party’s supporters.   

Raising a point of order after MPs voted by 391 votes to 242 against the deal, he said: ‘The Government has been defeated again by an enormous majority.

‘They must now accept their deal is clearly dead and does not have the support of this House.

Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) renewed his calls for another general election after Theresa May’s deal suffered another crushing defeat in the House of Commons

‘Quite clearly, no-deal must be taken off the table.’

Mr Corbyn said the Commons has to come together with a proposal that could be negotiated, adding Labour will put forward its plans again. 

‘The Prime Minister has run down the clock and the clock has been run out on her. Maybe it’s time instead for a general election,’ he said.  

Mr Corbyn earlier said the PM’s negotiations had ‘failed’ and suggested they were nowhere near what she had originally promised Parliament.  

He tweeted: ‘The Prime Minister’s negotiations have failed. Last night’s agreement with the European Commission does not contain anything approaching the changes Theresa May promised Parliament, and whipped her MPs to vote for.’

The Prime Minister had last night announced ‘legally binding changes’ to the controversial Irish border backstop after a dramatic dash to Strasbourg and last-minute talks with Jean-Claude Juncker.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer today

Geoffrey Cox today

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer (left) has warned the changes Mrs May has secured to the backstop may not be enough for Attorney General Geoffrey Cox to alter his legal advice, which this morning turned out to be the case. Both men are pictured in Westminster today 

She had been hoping some Labour rebels would take her deal to secure Britain’s exit from the EU over the line tonight. 

But those hopes came to nothing as the deal was rejected by a majority of 149, lower than the previous vote but still a huge margin by historical standards. 

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox had damaged May’s hopes by announcing that his legal advice that Britain could be trapped in the backstop remained ‘unchanged’.

In a second tweet, Mr Corbyn repeated his familiar refrain that Mrs May had been ‘running down the clock’ to March 29. 

‘Since her Brexit deal was so overwhelmingly rejected, the Prime Minister has recklessly run down the clock, failed to effectively negotiate with the EU and refused to find common ground for a deal Parliament could support. That’s why MPs must reject this deal.’  

Mr Corbyn blasted Mrs May's deal in tweets sent this morning and accused her of 'running down the clock'

Mr Corbyn blasted Mrs May’s deal in tweets sent this morning and accused her of ‘running down the clock’ 

The PM’s plans received a major blow this morning after Attorney General Geoffrey Cox announced he was still of the opinion that Britain risked being stuck in the backstop ‘indefinitely’. 

This outcome had previously been predicted by shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer. 

He tweeted after the announcement: ‘Attorney General confirms that there have been no significant changes to the Withdrawal Agreement despite the legal documents that were agreed last night. The Government’s strategy is now in tatters.’

Mr Cox said the new provisions ‘reduce the risk’ of the UK being ‘indefinitely and involuntarily’ held in the backstop, but said that ‘the legal risk remains unchanged’ that the UK would have no legal means of exiting without EU agreement.

However, he said his ‘political judgement’ was still to back Mrs May’s deal because it was ‘highly unlikely’ an arrangement to leave the backstop would not be included.      

Earlier, Mr Cox dismissed as ‘bollocks’ a suggestion that he had been pressured into finding a way to change his legal advice. 

Mrs May secured the changes after a last-ditch meeting with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Strasbourg last night

Mrs May secured the changes after a last-ditch meeting with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Strasbourg last night

Owen Smith, the Labour MP for Pontypridd, claimed the government had altered the pagination of the altered withdrawal agreement to make it look different

Owen Smith, the Labour MP for Pontypridd, claimed the government had altered the pagination of the altered withdrawal agreement to make it look different 

Labour MP Owen Smith tweeted an image of the latest printed version of the Withdrawal Agreement alongside the one rejected by MPs in January.

He wrote: ‘The ‘new Withdrawal Agreement’ is half the size of the ‘old’ one! Not a single word in it has changed… but they’ve pathetically altered the pagination to make it look different.

‘The perfect symbol of Theresa May’s con trick Brexit,’ he added.

Mr Smith said he would vote against Brexit because it was ‘voted for by a small majority of the people, but it will make all our people poorer’. Labour should have opposed Brexit ‘from the start’, he said.    

However, the effort to convert Labour MPs to save the deal looks to have mostly failed. 

Just three backed it last time and a package of money for struggling towns and workers’ rights has convinced few. 

What is the new Brexit deal announced by Mrs May?

What are the changes to the deal?

There are three new documents that are now part of the divorce package – on top of the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the Future Relationship.

None of the new documents change either of the two main ones agreed in November and which were defeated by 230 votes on January 15.

The new documents are:

What do the changes mean?

May’s deputy David Lidington said they ‘strengthen and improve’ the deal and amount to ‘legally binding changes’.

The Attorney General is due to produce new legal advice today. This will be published so MPs can see if there is any change.

Much will depend on whether he reverses his advice the backstop could last forever in the absence of a UK-EU trade deal that keeps open the Irish border.

Do the changes actually change the divorce deal?

They do not change either document agreed by Theresa May in November and voted on by MPs in January. Both the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration stand unamended.

May says the new documents have the same ‘legal weight’ as the original deal and effectively improve it from the outside.

Will they persuade Tory rebels?

It is too soon to tell. Tory hardliners will pass the documents to a group of their own lawyers and they will make a decision today.

The so-called ‘Cash Council’ includes eight lawyers, seven of whom are current MPs and leading Eurosceptic. The group includes DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds.

The DUP itself issued a measured response tonight, vowing to study the new documents closely.

What is the vote today?

May is holding a new vote on whether or not to approve her deal today. Passing it is an essential part of making the deal law.

Technically the vote has to happen at some point because of the law in Section 13 of the EU Withdrawal Action 2018.

It is a repeat of the vote she held and lost by a record-breaking 230 votes on January 13.

What will MPs vote on?

The Government has tabled a motion that broadly says MPs ‘approve’ the deal.

The motion refer to five documents that now make up the deal – including the three new documents about the backstop.

Both the motion and the documents had to be tabled in Parliament yesterday, before the Commons finished for the night.

Can it be amended?

Yes. MPs can re-write the motion to say they ‘approve’ the deal subject to conditions, or to say they ‘decline to approve’ it for whatever reason.

Can May amend it?

Yes, potentially. May could table an amendment to her own motion or endorse an amendment tabled by a friendly backbench MP if the new agreements look set to fail.

Why would she do that?

An amendment could be used to send a political signal to Brussels on what is needed to pass the motion unamended.

It would probably mean a third vote was needed – but this is legally ambiguous and appears to have been ruled out as an option by Juncker anyway.