Theresa May will ask for a Brexit extension of no more than three months and then use it to try to force through her deal because Britain is ‘fed up’ of waiting to leave the EU, it emerged today.
Mrs May abandoned her plan to ask the EU for a nine-month Brexit delay or longer after furious Brexiteer cabinet ministers threatened to quit and told her the Tory party would only accept a wait until June.
Britain is due to leave the EU next Friday, March 29, but after failing to get her deal through parliament last week the Prime Minister will tomorrow ask the EU to extend the deadline. If they do not, Britain leaves with No Deal.
A No 10 insider said today: ‘The PM won’t be asking for a long extension. There is a case for giving Parliament a bit more time to agree a way forward. But people in this country have been waiting nearly three years, they are fed up with Parliament’s failure to take decision and the PM shares that frustration’.
The Prime Minister is expected to write to the EU today asking for a shorter extension.
Downing Street admitted last night that Brexit is in crisis after Speaker John Bercow sabotaged her plans to bring back her deal for another vote this week, this time with the added threat that Britain would face a long delay to leaving the EU if her plan did not pass.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds admitted today that the third meaningful vote on the PM’s deal may not even take place next week because it is not certain she will win.
Prime Minister Theresa May sat behind her security guard as she is driven to the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday, the PM will head to Brussels tomorrow as she seeks to agree an extension to Article 50 with the European Union
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said this morning the EU would not automatically say yes to a short extension and is unlikely to reach any decision on Brexit at tomorrow’s summit in Brussels.
Pointing to the political turmoil in London over Britain’s plans to leave the EU, Juncker told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that the remaining 27 members states’ hands were tied until that was resolved.
‘As long as we don’t know what Britain could say yes to, no decision can be taken on our side either,’ he said.
The new Brexit date Mrs May will ask for has not yet been revealed but Tory MP Damian Green, a former cabinet minister and close friend of Mrs May, predicted that the PM’s letter to Donald Tusk will request a delay until May 22 ‘so the PM can have another go at getting the deal through.’
With nine days until Brexit, the EU is understood to be willing to agree a delay either at a summit in Brussels tomorrow or an emergency meeting of its 27 leaders next week – but sources have claimed that their price for a much longer extension to Article 50 could be a General Election or second referendum.
Andrea Leadsom ‘tore into’ Cabinet Remainers for thwarting Brexit yesterday as she hit out at plans for a lengthy delay – and hinted she could quit.
During a fiery meeting of the Cabinet, the Commons leader rounded on colleagues for losing their nerve and allowing the UK to be dragged into asking for a humiliating delay.
She said: ‘This used to be the Cabinet that would deliver Brexit and now, from what I’m hearing, it’s not.’
Education Secretary Damian Hinds has said a shorter rather than longer extension to Article 50 is the right option for the Prime Minister to request.
Speaking on the BBC Today programme, he said: ‘I don’t see how a long delay gives certainty, actually, we’ve had a long time already.
‘Unless and until a deal is finalised there remains the prospect, the risk, of no deal.
‘In terms of timing there has already been two-plus years to do this and I think people are a bit tired of waiting for Parliament to get our act together and get the deal passed.’
Mrs May was forced into a humiliating retreat after being put under severe pressure by senior ministers at a cabinet meeting last night and is now expected to write to Donald Tusk for a three month extension, rather than ask for a lengthier departure date.
The sudden change of direction left some ministers reeling, one told The Sun: ‘Nobody knows what the f*** is going on, or even who in No10 is actually gripping it. Maybe nobody is.
‘The whole thing is a national humiliation on a scale we have not seen in many, many decades – if ever before.’
Andrea Leadsom accused Cabinet Remainers of frustrating Brexit, and hinted she could quit (pictured leaving the meeting on Tuesday)
Speaker John Bercow refused to answer questions over his invocation of 17th century precedent, during a stormy session of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister rounded on Mr Bercow and said he was making a laughing stock of Parliament.
At the 90-minute cabinet meeting ministers were at loggerheads on just how long a potential extension would be.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and International Trade chief Liam Fox were thought to be against a lengthy delay, as was Commons leader Andrea Leadsom.
She said: ‘This used to be the cabinet that would deliver Brexit and now from what I’m hearing it’s not.’
It comes a thousand days on from the 2016 referendum – and just ten days before the UK is due to leave the Brussels club.
She told ministers that parliamentary opposition to No Deal, the rejection of her plan by MPs and John Bercow’s decision to block a third vote this week meant she had been forced to try to put off the March 29 departure date.
Tomorrow she will travel to Brussels to establish the terms of an extension to Article 50 before putting it to the Commons next week.
During a stormy session of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister rounded on Mr Bercow for dredging up a 17th century convention in order to block a third vote on her plan. She said the Speaker was making a laughing stock of Parliament.
In the wake of his ruling, which came as a surprise to No 10, Mrs May told ministers: ‘The Speaker has framed this debate as Parliament versus the Government. But what it actually is now is Parliament versus the people.’
A Cabinet source said: ‘The only thing agreed this morning was that everyone hates Bercow.’ The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mrs May had predicted a crisis if MPs rejected her deal for a second time, adding: ‘That situation has come to pass.’
In other developments:
- Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, warned the EU would attach strict conditions to any delay;
- Boris Johnson used face-to-face talks with Mrs May to warn her that he remains opposed to her deal;
- Andrea Leadsom accused Cabinet Remainers of frustrating Brexit, and hinted she could quit;
- Unconfirmed reports suggested the PM could make a final bid to get her deal through the Commons next Thursday – the day before Britain is due to leave;
- Mrs May warned the Cabinet that if a long delay is agreed, the UK would have to hold elections to the European Parliament in May;
- Downing Street said there were no circumstances in which Mrs May would revoke Article 50;
- Jeremy Corbyn and more than 100 MPs took time out from the Brexit crisis to attend the boozy British kebab awards in Westminster;
- Mrs May’s efforts to win DUP backing for her withdrawal plan have stalled.
- Angela Merkel took a swipe at Mr Bercow, saying: ‘I’ll concede that I wasn’t actively aware of the British Parliament’s rules of procedure from the 17th century.’
An historic edition of the Daily Mail published with a sense of optimism for the road ahead
Mrs May told the Cabinet she would ask for an extension with a break clause that could allow the UK to leave the EU by June 30 if her withdrawal agreement is passed.
But she acknowledged that, with no deal agreed, and the UK due to leave next week, she would also have to seek a longer extension.
Ministers were not given the proposed end date of the longer extension, with allies of the PM apparently fearing a leak to the media.
Downing Street denied reports that Mrs May was ready to ask for a delay lasting up to two years.
Her deputy David Lidington is said to have told his EU counterparts that she would seek a delay of nine to 12 months unless she can get her deal through in the coming weeks. No 10 dismissed the report yesterday.
But a Cabinet source said it was already clear that nine months would not be long enough because the new European Commission will not be in place until the autumn. ‘A nine-month extension is a joke,’ the source said. ‘There will be no one to talk to in Brussels until October – the idea we can get a new deal agreed in three months is ridiculous.
‘All it means is we’ll have to go through this humiliating exercise again at Christmas. What is the point?’
Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said the UK would need to provide a ‘very persuasive plan’ to support any request for a long extension to the Article 50 negotiation process.
Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson leaves the Cabinet Office on Tuesday, he had face-to-face talks with Mrs May to tell her he continued to oppose her deal
Former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said both Parliament and the Government had to get a grip to prevent a slide into political chaos.
Mrs Morgan said: ‘It is jaw-dropping. The country is watching horror-struck at the lack of decisions from Westminster.
‘At a time when the country needs stable government, people are still indulging in what they would like rather than what can be achieved.’
Sir Vince Cable: ‘Anyone who thought Labour has signed up to the People’s Vote has been misled’
Jeremy Corbyn’s heart isn’t in a second referendum, Sir Vince Cable said yesterday.
The Lib Dem leader and other opposition parties met the Labour leader to discuss another vote for the first time.
Sir Vince told the Mail: ‘Anyone who thought Labour has signed up to the People’s Vote has been misled. Their heart isn’t in it. They’re just trying to keep the party together.’ He said Mr Corbyn’s team made it clear they would not support Mrs May’s deal being on the ballot paper in another vote.
Sir Vince said an amendment by Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson had been discussed, but the leadership was ‘quite hostile’ to it. If the Kyle-Wilson amendment to the deal passes, MPs would vote for Mrs May’s deal, but it would be subject to a confirmatory referendum.
Labour sources said they were discussing the final version of the Kyle-Wilson text.
Some ministers argued that the prospect of a long delay would pile pressure on the pro-Brexit Tory MPs of the European Research Group to back the PM. But Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson suggested the move would backfire, telling her: ‘Trust your instincts that a long extension would create division in the party.’
Mrs May’s plan was defeated by 230 votes in January and again by 149 votes last week.
She had planned to put it to a vote again yesterday, but was blocked by Mr Bercow’s ruling that MPs should not be asked to vote again on the same proposition.
Allies of the Prime Minister still believe it is possible that MPs could finally knuckle under next week.
Her official spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister is absolutely determined to find a way in which Parliament can vote to leave the EU with a deal.
‘The PM wants that to happen as soon as possible.
‘She does not want a long delay and believes that asking the British public to take part in European parliament elections three years after they have voted to leave would represent a failure by British politicians.’
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said there was a growing risk of no Brexit unless MPs agreed to back Mrs May’s deal in the coming days.
Jeremy Corbyn indicated that he sees Monday as the point for Labour to mount a challenge to the Government’s approach.
Speaking after talks with other opposition parties and Labour backbenchers on the way forward, Mr Corbyn said: ‘If the Government can’t get a majority for its way on Monday, then I think that’s the time to challenge this Government.
‘The reality is that this Government has lost its authority, doesn’t enjoy the confidence of the House, can’t get anything through.
‘Surely that is the time to step aside and let the people decide in a people’s vote that’s called a general election.’
He added: ‘I hope that on Monday the House will come together and support some sensible alternatives that can be negotiated during an extension period with the EU.’
Is that a bathing SUIT, Boris? Ex-Foreign Secretary is pictured on a sunshine break in Italy with his new partner – before heading back to Downing Street to rebuff May ‘s Brexit peace offer
Boris Johnson appeared slightly overdressed when strolling along an Italian beach with his ex-Tory aide girlfriend Carrie Symonds on Saturday – before being called back to the UK to meet Theresa May.
The former foreign secretary was yesterday called to Downing Street by the Prime Minister for last-ditch talks urging him to get behind her plan.
In a face-to-face meeting of around 40 minutes, Mrs May cautioned that failure to back her deal would result in a delayed departure from the EU.
Yet Mr Johnson, who had been enjoying a walk along the Fornillo beach, in Positano, this weekend, told the Prime Minister that he will still not vote for her deal despite her warning.
Boris Johnson appeared slightly overdressed when strolling along an Italian beach with his ex-Tory aide girlfriend Carrie Symonds on Saturday
Mr Johnson, who had been enjoying a walk along the Fornillo beach, in Positano, this weekend, was called back to Downing Street to meet Theresa May
Mr May also expressed concerns that MPs could seize control of the process, meaning Brexit could be watered down or might not happen at all.
But Mr Johnson told her he would not back down unless she successfully renegotiated the Irish backstop.
‘His position remains the same,’ said a friend. ‘Unless there is some sort of movement on the backstop, he will not vote for the deal.’
In the meeting, Mrs May (pictured right arriving at church in Sonning, Berkshire, on Sunday) warned that if Mr Johnson did not back her deal it would result in a delayed departure from the EU
The source declined to comment on whether the pair discussed in their meeting the suggestion of some Brexiteers that Mrs May should set out a timetable for her own departure in return for Tory MPs passing her deal.
Critics of Mr Johnson have accused him of posturing ahead of a future Tory leadership contest. But his supporters argue he has been consistent in his opposition to Mrs May’s plan.
In a newspaper column earlier this week, Mr Johnson argued it was not possible for ‘anybody who believes in Brexit’ to vote for the withdrawal agreement.
He told how he had sought advice from his local constituency association on whether to ‘stick to my guns or fold’.
Mr Johnson (pictured leaving the Cabinet Office today) was hauled in for the 40-minute meeting with Mrs May today
He wrote: ‘I could continue to oppose a deal that I believe is detrimental to the interests of this country, in the sense that we risk becoming a kind of economic colony of Brussels.
‘Or else I could compromise, and vote it through, on the grounds that there was now a real risk that Brexit would not happen at all – and in the hope that the many defects in the deal could be fixed later.
‘My constituents were strongly of the view that I should not compromise. They assured me that they would support whatever decision I took – but they believed I should continue to vote against the deal.’
Mr Johnson argued that Mrs May’s agreement would leave the UK ‘in a position of almost unbearable weakness’ for subsequent talks on trade.
‘Unless we have some change – and at present, in the immortal phrase, nothing has changed – it is hard to ask anyone who believes in Brexit to change their mind,’ he said. ‘There is an EU summit this week. It is not too late to get real change to the backstop. It would be absurd to hold the vote before that has even been attempted.’
Since quitting as foreign secretary last July, Mr Johnson has repeatedly used newspaper columns to attack Mrs May’s Brexit strategy.
In his most controversial intervention, he claimed in September that her plans had strapped a ‘suicide vest’ around the UK constitution and handed the detonator to Brussels.
Mrs May needs 75 MPs who voted against her Brexit deal last week, when she lost by a majority of 149, to switch sides if it is to pass. She is hoping to win over the DUP’s ten MPs.