Ministers ramped up tensions with the EU today in the wake of Theresa May’s historic Commons victory – warning that the £39billion divorce bill could be axed if it does not compromise.
Brexit minister Kwasi Kwarteng insisted Brussels would not get a ‘penny pinch’ from the UK unless there was ‘some give’ on the hated Irish border backstop.
The threat came as the PM braces for ‘trench warfare’ with the EU after leaders flatly dismissed calls to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement. She is due to speak by telephone to EU council president Donald Tusk later.
Mrs May hailed her new ‘mandate’ from MPs last night after dramatically seeing off a Remainer bid to delay the Brexit date and getting her own plan passed in a series of high-stakes votes.
The House endorsed an amendment supported by the PM to replace the backstop with ‘alternative arrangements’ to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
Mrs May was only able to win through by bringing Brexiteers including Boris Johnson and the DUP back onside with promises that there will be fundamental changes.
But the new push was immediately rebuffed by the EU, with Mr Tusk insisting there will be no changes to the core text.
French president Emmanuel Macron said the package was ‘non-renegotiable’.
And it is still not clear exactly what concessions the PM will be seeking – with competing calls for the backstop to be ditched altogether, loosened, expire after certain period, or the UK to have unilateral exit clause.
The PM (pictured today) is bracing for ‘trench warfare’ with the EU after leaders flatly dismissed calls to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement
A diagram showing how Graham Brady’s amendment – calling on Theresa May to renegotiate the Irish backstop – won the support of the House of Commons
Brexit minister Kwasi Kwarteng insisted Brussels would not get a ‘penny pinch’ from the UK unless there was ‘some give’ on the hated Irish border backstop
Mrs May is not expected to head for Brussels today – although she is likely to go soon – and will instead carry out an intensive round of calls with EU leaders.
A spokesman for Mr Tusk said they would be speaking this evening.
After PMQs she is also due to hold talks on Brexit with Jeremy Corbyn this afternoon. He had snubbed an invite to join cross-party discussions, but caved in last night after suffering a series of humiliating defeats in the Commons.
Aides told MailOnline the EU had already ‘fired the starting gun’ on the ‘trench warfare’ over rehashing the deal.
Amid crisis talks in Brussels, the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt warned that there was no chance of the backstop being ditched.
‘The Irish backstop is an insurance element of Theresa May’s Brexit deal which must remain,’ he said.
Meanwhile, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said: ‘The position of the European Union is very clear.
‘The EU institutions remain united, and we stand by the agreement that we have negotiated with the UK never against the UK’.
Mr Kwarteng increased the temperature by suggesting the divorce bill was back on the table.
‘The final deal will have to have some give on the backstop from the EU,’ he told the BBC.
‘We have to look at new arrangements, technology to try and sort out those differences.’
What happens next after MPs backed Plan B?
Later this week: Theresa May is expected to return to Brussels to ask for changes to the Irish backstop, after MPs backed an amendment calling for ‘alternative arrangements’. Her office has not yet confirmed when she will travel to meet EU leaders, who have already said they will not renegotiate the deal.
February 13: If no new deal has been reached, Mrs May will address MPs again on this date and her Government will put a further motion before the House of Commons. MPs would then be able to vote on further amendments, potentially on February 14.
March 29: Brexit day. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act of 2018 fixed 11pm on March 29 as the time and date when Britain will leave the EU. If no agreement has been reached by then, the UK – in spite of the Commons vote against a cliff-edge Brexit last night – will leave without a deal.
‘They want a deal, we want a deal, both sides are going to have to compromise…
‘If there is a no deal they won’t get a penny pinch from us.’
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay flanneled this morning when asked what the PM would be seeking from the EU.
He said she would be ‘exploring in terms of the use of technology… looking at things like the time limit’ to deal with the backstop.
He added: ‘There are a number of options, there are issues in terms of having time limits, issues in terms of exit clauses, issues in terms of technology and this will be the nature of the negotiation with the European Union in the coming days.’
The DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said it was ‘perfectly possible’ that Mrs May would be able to negotiate a revised deal without a backstop. Mr Wilson told Sky News: ‘What she sold to us last night was that she is going to go back to the EU and ask for the Withdrawal Agreement to be reopened, she is going to have the backstop removed and she will come back with a legal guarantee that Northern Ireland won’t be separate from the rest of the UK.
‘I believe it is perfectly possible for her to deliver.’
The Commons voted by 317 to 301 in favour of the backstop changes – which Mrs May said showed there was a means of securing a ‘substantial and sustainable majority in this House for leaving the EU with a deal’ and vowed to seek a new agreement with Brussels.
But in a statement, Mr Tusk’s spokesman said: ‘The Withdrawal Agreement is and remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the European Union.
‘The backstop is part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and the Withdrawal Agreement is not open for re-negotiation.’
Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said the controversial backstop arrangement remained ‘necessary’ despite the vote, while the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, said there was ‘no majority to re-open or dilute’ the Withdrawal Agreement.
And French President Emmanuel Macron also said the agreement was ‘not renegotiable’, in comments just moments before MPs voted.
While Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Conservatives had shown they ‘can and will come together in the national interest’, signs of division in the party remained as Tory former minister Anna Soubry said she finds her ‘party drifting to the right’.
The Commons approved a cross-party amendment, tabled by Midlands MPs Caroline Spelman and Jack Dromey, rejecting a no-deal Brexit by 318 to 310.
After PMQs Mrs May is due to hold talks on Brexit with Jeremy Corbyn (pictured in the Commons last night)
This chart shows how MPs voted on the Cooper amendment to delay Article 50, with 14 Labour rebels defying their party’s whip to reject the plan
The vote is not legally binding on the Government but will impose massive political pressure on the Prime Minister to delay Brexit from its scheduled date of March 29 if she cannot secure a new deal from Brussels.
Mrs May told MPs: ‘I agree that we should not leave without a deal. However, simply opposing no-deal is not enough to stop it.
‘The Government will now redouble its efforts to get a deal that this House can support.’
There was uproar in the chamber as she said: ‘There is limited appetite for such a change in the EU and negotiating it will not be easy. But in contrast to a fortnight ago, this House has made it clear what it needs to approve a withdrawal agreement.’
Mrs May said she would seek ‘legally binding changes to the Withdrawal Agreement that deal with concerns on the backstop while guaranteeing no return to a hard border’.
Mrs May clashed with Jeremy Corbyn (pictured top centre) in the Commons yesterday as he called for Article 50 to be extended by three months
And she told MPs: ‘If this House can come together, we can deliver the decision the British people took in June 2016, restore faith in our democracy and get on with building a country that works for everyone.
‘As Prime Minister I will work with members across the House to do just that.’
Tuesday’s votes were triggered by the overwhelming defeat of Mrs May’s Brexit Plan A by 230 votes earlier this month.
Mr Corbyn, who boycotted cross-party talks after that vote, said that he was now ready to meet the Prime Minister to discuss a ‘sensible Brexit solution that works for the whole country’.
Mr Corbyn said: ‘Tonight Parliament has voted to remove the immediate threat of crashing out without a deal on 29 March. After months of refusing to take the chaos of no-deal off the table, the Prime Minister must now face the reality that no-deal is not an option.’
Scottish National Party leader Ian Blackford said the Conservatives had ‘effectively ripped apart the Good Friday Agreement’.
But the Democratic Unionist Party’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds, whose party backed the amendment tabled by Tory grandee Sir Graham Brady, said it was ‘utterly reckless to talk in those terms’.
Mr Dodds said: ‘This is a significant night because for the first time the House by majority has expressed what sort of deal will get through and will have a majority, and we will work with the Prime Minister to deliver the right deal for the United Kingdom.’
MPs also rejected two proposals to delay Brexit by extending the two-year Article 50 negotiation process if Mrs May was unable to secure an acceptable agreement by February 26.
And they voted down a plan by former attorney general Dominic Grieve for a sequence of ‘indicative votes’ to establish MPs’ preferred Brexit outcome.
The pound dipped sharply after the failure of the attempts to delay Brexit, losing around 0.7 per cent against both the US dollar and euro, though there were indications later that it may be rising.
Tuesday night’s seven amendments: What did MPs vote on and what were the results?
MPs faced a choice of seven Plan Bs for Brexit in the Commons on Tuesday night as the Government scrambles for a way forward on Brexit.
Sir Graham Brady’s amendment demanding changes to the backstop in the divorce deal won the support of the House of Commons after it was endorsed by Theresa May.
The hope is that securing a majority for the demand will demonstrate to Brussels that the deal can pass if the backstop is legally time limited.
Remain supporters backed a plan from Yvette Cooper to block no deal by delaying Brexit if there is not an agreement by February 26, but the amendment was rejected.
The House also backed an amendment from Caroline Spelman which rejected a no-deal Brexit but without a clear plan for avoiding one.
Other amendments from Tory Dominic Grieve Labour’s Rachel Reeves, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and SNP leader Ian Blackford were rejected.
SIR GRAHAM BRADY’S PLAN TO FIX THE BACKSTOP BY DEMANDING CHANGES FROM THE EU – BACKED BY MAY
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.
DID IT SUCCEED? Yes – MPs backed the plan by 317 votes to 301.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT? Mrs May will go to Brussels and say changing the backstop would save her deal.
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.
DID IT SUCCEED? No – MPs rejected the plan by 321 votes to 298.
WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED NEXT? Mrs May would have lost 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.
DID IT SUCCEED? No – MPs rejected the plan by 321 votes to 301.
WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED NEXT? A second referendum would have been the most likely outcome.
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.
DID IT SUCCEED? Yes – MPs backed the plan by 318 votes to 310.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT? Mrs May’s main bargaining chip is weakened but there is no means of enforcing the vote.
RACHEL REEVES’ PLAN TO DELAY BREXIT IF THERE IS NO DEAL
WHAT IT DOES: Just like the Cooper plan, this demands the Government ask for an extension to Article 50 if there is no deal by February 26 – but does so only in political terms without trying to change the law.
WHOSE PLAN: Labour MP Rachel Reeves
HOW IT WORKS: Makes a political statement to put pressure on the Government.
DID IT SUCCEED? No – MPs rejected the plan by 322 votes to 290.
WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED NEXT? Mrs May’s main bargaining chip would have been limited by a new deadline – hampering her hopes of changing the deal.
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.
DID IT SUCCEED? No – MPs rejected the plan by 327 votes to 296.
WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED NEXT? A second referendum would become the most likely outcome of Brexit.
IAN BLACKFORD’S PLAN TO MAKE A POINT ABOUT SCOTLAND
WHAT IT DOES: Notes that the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Commons all voted against the deal and Scotland voted Remain
WHOSE PLAN? SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford
HOW IT WORKS: Makes a political declaration about Scotland’s right to determine its own future.
DID IT SUCCEED? No – MPs rejected the plan by 327 votes to 39.
WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED NEXT? Nothing.