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Protesters gather in London for the Put it to the People March. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

One million join march against Brexit as Tories plan to oust May (The Guardian)

Organisers hail UK’s ‘biggest-ever demo’, while Tom Watson leads calls for fresh referendum

Toby Helm and Michael Savage
Sat 23 Mar 2019 23.26 GMT, The Guardian

In one of the biggest demonstrations in British history, a crowd estimated at over one million people yesterday marched peacefully through central London to demand that MPs grant them a fresh referendum on Brexit.

The Put it to the People march, which included protesters from all corners of the United Kingdom and many EU nationals living here, took place amid extraordinary political turmoil and growing calls on prime minister Theresa May to resign. Some cabinet ministers are considering her de facto deputy David Lidington as an interim replacement for her, although as pro-Remain he would be strongly opposed by Brexiters.

Organisers of the march said precise numbers had been difficult to gauge, but they believed the protest could have been even bigger than that against the Iraq war in February 2003.

The decision by so many to take part, waving EU flags and banners and carrying effigies of Theresa May, came just three days after the prime minister said in a televised statement to the nation that she believed the British people did not support another referendum, and blamed MPs for trying to block their will.

Senior politicians from all the main parties joined the march, including Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, former Tory deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the SNP leader and first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon.

Addressing the crowd in Parliament Square – as chants of “Where’s Jeremy Corbyn?” rang out – Watson said May could not ignore the march and had to give the people a second vote. “The prime minister claims she speaks for Britain. Well, have a look out of the window, prime minister,” he said.

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David Lidington with May: at least six ministers favour the cabinet office minister as caretaker in No 10

Cabinet coup to ditch Theresa May for emergency PM (The Times)

David Lidington with May: at least six ministers favour the cabinet office minister as caretaker in No 10

Tim Shipman, Political Editor
March 24 2019, 12:01am,
The Sunday Times

Theresa May was at the mercy of a full-blown cabinet coup last night as senior ministers moved to oust the prime minister and replace her with her deputy, David Lidington.

In a frantic series of private telephone calls, senior ministers agreed the prime minister must announce she is standing down, warning that she has become a toxic and “erratic” figure whose judgment has “gone haywire”.

As up to 1m people marched on the streets of London against Brexit yesterday, May’s fate was being decided elsewhere.

The Sunday Times spoke to 11 cabinet ministers who confirmed that they wanted the prime minister to make way for someone else.

The plotters plan to confront May at a cabinet meeting tomorrow and demand that she announces she is quitting. If she refuses, they will threaten mass resignations or publicly demand her head.

Last night, the conspirators were locked in talks to try to reach a consensus deal on a new prime minister so there does not have to be a protracted leadership contest.

At least six ministers are supportive of installing Lidington, the de facto deputy prime minister, as a caretaker in No 10 to deliver Brexit and then make way for a full leadership contest in the autumn.

Lidington’s supporters include cabinet remainers Greg Clark, Amber Rudd and David Gauke. The chancellor, Philip Hammond, also believes Lidington should take over if May refuses this week to seek a new consensus deal on Brexit.

Crucially, the home secretary, Sajid Javid, has agreed to put his own leadership ambitions on hold until the autumn to clear the way for Lidington — as long as his main rivals do the same.

Lidington is understood not to be pressing for the top job but is prepared to take over if that is the will of cabinet. He would agree not to stand in the contest to find a permanent leader.

A cabinet source said: “David’s job would be to secure an extension with the EU, find a consensus for a new Brexit policy and then arrange an orderly transition to a new leader.”

However, others called for Michael Gove or Jeremy Hunt to take charge instead. Hunt, the foreign secretary, does not support Lidington because he believes he would do a deal with Labour to take Britain into a permanent customs union with the EU, although he has lost confidence in May’s ability to take advice or deliver the deal.

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The Speaker, John Bercow, delivers his ruling to MPs today GETTY IMAGES

John Bercow’s ruling on third vote could scupper Theresa May’s Brexit deal (The Times)

The Speaker, John Bercow, delivers his ruling to MPs today

PM must ‘substantially’ alter agreement

Oliver Wright, Esther Webber
March 18 2019, 5:00pm, The Times

Theresa May’s hopes of forcing her Brexit deal through the Commons at the 11th hour were dealt a potentially fatal blow by the Speaker today.

In a ruling described by one government source as “unbelievable” John Bercow said that the prime minister could not bring her deal back to the Commons again unless it had been “substantially” altered.

His move, relying on a centuries-old parliamentary convention, drives a coach and horses through the government’s strategy of whittling down opposition to the withdrawal agreement through repeated votes.

Mrs May had been expected to put her deal to MPs again this week, before the European Council on Thursday, if she could win the last-minute backing of the Democratic Unionist Party. That now looks impossible and could potentially thwart an attempt to give MPs a final vote on the agreement ahead of Brexit day a week on Thursday.

Mr Bercow based his ruling on a parliamentary convention dating back to 1604 that states a question “may not be brought forward again during the same session” of parliament if it was “substantially” the same as a previous question.

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Brexit votes: what do the results mean and what happens next? (The Times)

Oliver Wright, Policy Editor, March 14 2019, The Times

What happened in the Commons today?

By just two votes the government succeeded in defeating an amendment put forward by the chairman of the Brexit select committee, Hilary Benn, that would have handed parliament control of the Brexit process and allow MPs to vote on different Brexit options next week.

What does the result mean?

In the short term at least it strengthens Theresa May’s hand and, to a small extent, increases the chances that the prime minister will eventually get her deal passed by the Commons before March 29.

It means that, for now, the government retains control of the parliamentary timetable and can stop MPs trying to coalesce around an alternative to Mrs May’s deal.

However, the prime minister still faces an uphill struggle: she needs to win over the Democratic Unionist Party and the vast majority of her own Brexiteers if she is to stand any chance of getting her deal passed next week. Even then she would probably need around 20 Labour MPs to switch sides and back the deal.

What else did MPs vote on today?

MPs passed the main government motion by 412 votes to 202 stating that if Mrs May’s deal is passed by next Wednesday night the prime minister will go to Brussels and seek an extension of Article 50 until June 30 to pass the legislation needed to ratify the withdrawal agreement.

The motion “notes” that if no-deal is in place the EU is “likely to require a clear purpose for any extension not least to determine its length”.

It adds that any extension beyond June 30, 2019, would require the UK to hold European parliament elections in May 2019.

The Cabinet Office minister David Lidington told MPs that if there were an extension the government would stage two weeks of debate after the EU summit from March 21-22 for the Commons to try to establish a majority around a different plan.

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UK MPs have voted by 412 to 202 for Prime Minister Theresa May to ask the EU for a delay to Brexit.

Brexit: MPs vote by 412 to 202 to seek delay to EU departure (BBC)

UK MPs have voted by 412 to 202 for Prime Minister Theresa May to ask the EU for a delay to Brexit.

It means the UK may not now leave on 29 March as previously planned.
Mrs May says Brexit could be delayed by three months, to 30 June, if MPs back her withdrawal deal in a vote next week.
If they reject her deal again then she says she will seek a longer extension – but any delay has to be agreed by the 27 other EU member states.
MPs earlier rejected an attempt to secure another Brexit referendum by 334 votes to 85.

And they also rejected a plan to allow MPs to take control of the Brexit process to hold a series of votes on the next steps by the narrow margin of two votes.
Following the votes, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reiterated his support for a further referendum after earlier ordering his MPs not to vote for one.
He said: “Today I reiterate my conviction that a deal can be agreed based on our alternative plan that can command support across the House.
“I also reiterate our support for a People’s Vote – not as a political point-scoring exercise but as a realistic option to break the deadlock.”




Where do we stand now? (The Times)

Brexit vote: MPs poised to reject no deal

What is happening today?
MPs are debating the government’s motion on a no-deal Brexit. It is not quite a clean rejection of leaving without a deal. The motion tabled by Theresa May states its opposition to a no-deal Brexit on March 29 but also recognises that this is what will happen at the end of the month unless the UK and the EU both ratify a deal.

It is on this precise formulation that the prime minister has offered her MPs a free vote.

How will MPs vote on the government’s no-deal motion?

The common consensus is that there is a majority against no-deal among MPs. That consensus exists for good reason: a majority backed a (non-binding) amendment tabled by Dame Caroline Spelman and Jack Dromey opposing no-deal this year.

The government’s motion is more complicated: it does not straightforwardly reject the possibility of a no-deal Brexit taking place.

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Senior Brexiteers are calling for Theresa May to resign by June

Theresa May told she must quit to save Brexit (The Sunday Times)

Senior Brexiteers are calling for Theresa May to resign by June

Tim Shipman and Caroline Wheeler
March 10 2019, 7:30am,
The Sunday Times

Theresa May is battling to save her premiership this weekend as cabinet ministers warned she may have to fall on her sword to save Brexit.

In a final throw of the dice, Philip Hammond will offer Tory MPs a £20bn Brexit “bribe” this week to finally “end austerity” if they support the prime minister’s deal.

The chancellor will use his spring statement on the public finances on Wednesday to pledge to pump money into the police, schools and even some tax cuts in a spending review this autumn — but only if parliament votes for a deal.

This weekend May’s team was warned by senior Brexiteers that she would get her deal passed only if she offered to resign by June so a new prime minister could lead the second phase of negotiations.

In a sign that senior colleagues are abandoning her, one cabinet minister said: “I don’t believe there is a single one of us who thinks it’s a good idea for her to stay beyond June.” Another, previously loyal, added: “She’s run out of road.”

Senior figures revealed that:

■ May’s aides are considering persuading her to offer to resign as soon as the deal is passed in order to get MPs back on board.

■ Senior cabinet ministers have held private talks about whether they will have to visit May to tell her to go as early as this week.

■ A ministerial aide predicted that if Labour tabled another vote of no confidence in the government, “Tories will vote for it” in order to “bring her down”.

■ Allies of the four main contenders to succeed her — Boris Johnson, Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Raab — said they were “ready to go” and that “things could move quickly”.

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Brexit deal may not be put to MPs until late March, officials say (The Guardian)

Daniel Boffey and Jennifer Rankin in Brussels
Thu 7 Feb 2019 19.42 GMT, The Guardian

May and Juncker hold strained talks as EU examines technical aspects of Irish border

The Brexit negotiations are being pushed to the brink by Theresa May and the EU, with any last-minute offer by Brussels on the Irish backstop expected to be put to MPs just days before the UK is due to leave.

In strained talks on Thursday, during which Donald Tusk suggested that Jeremy Corbyn’s plan could help resolve the Brexit crisis, Theresa May and the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, agreed to hold the next face-to-face talks by the end of February.

That move cuts deep into the remaining time, piling pressure on the British parliament to then accept what emerges or face a no-deal scenario.

It is understood that EU officials are looking at offering May a detailed plan of what a potential technological solution to the Irish border might look like, which could be included in the legally non-binding political declaration on the future trade deal.

The blueprint would pinpoint the problem areas and commit to breaching the technical gaps where possible to offer an alternative to the customs union envisaged in the withdrawal agreement’s Irish backstop.

But officials believe it is increasingly likely that any renegotiated deal will only be put to the Commons at the end of March, necessitating even then an extension of the article 50 negotiating period to get legislation through parliament.

On Thursday the German finance commissioner, Günther Hermann Oettinger, suggested the chance of a no-deal Brexit was now as high as 60%.

“If the British side asks for an extension of two or three months and there are reasons for that, I think there’s a good chance that the member states would accept that unanimously,” he said. “But in the eight or 12 weeks there needs to be the possibility of achieving progress and that there must be a withdrawal agreement at the end of that.”

The prime minister’s failure during her meetings in Brussels with EU leaders on Thursday to go beyond her previous suggestions of a time limit and unilateral exit mechanism on the Irish backstop has confirmed fears that the deal’s ratification will go to the wire.

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No renegotiation, says EU after MPs back plan to replace backstop (The Guardian)

Brussels reiterates position minutes after Commons backed plan to replace Irish backstop

Theresa May immediately hit a brick wall in Brussels after being backed by MPs to reopen the withdrawal agreement, as Donald Tusk, with the backing of Emmanuel Macron, said the EU would not renegotiate.

Within minutes of the Commons backing the prime minister’s plan to replace the Irish backstop, a spokesman for the European council’s president insisted Tusk would not permit any changes to the deal already agreed with Downing Street.

Tusk, the EU’s most senior official, instead urged the prime minister to explain her next steps, claiming the agreement negotiated over the last 20 months “remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union”.

The spokesman added: “The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for re-negotiation.”

In an apparent sign that the EU now fears that the impasse in the Brexit talks is unlikely to be broken within the coming weeks, Tusk’s spokesman said Brussels was open to a delay to Brexit beyond 29 March.

An amendment backed by the Labour MP Yvette Cooper ordering the government to ask for an extension was defeated on Tuesday evening but the Commons is set to vote again in mid-February.

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Theresa May in a tartan peace scarf before the Commons votes. She said afterwards there was a “stable” majority for a deal TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS

Brexit amendments: Theresa May unites Tories behind fresh talks with Brussels (The Times)

Theresa May in a tartan peace scarf before the Commons votes. She said afterwards there was a “stable” majority for a deal

Francis Elliott, Political Editor | Henry Zeffman, Political Correspondent | Sam Coates | Oliver Wright. January 30 2019, 12:00am, The Times.

MPs vote for backstop bargaining as Corbyn agrees to meet PM and the EU insists it will not reopen deal

Theresa May will return to Brussels to demand concessions on the Brexit divorce deal after uniting her warring party last night to secure a Commons victory.

The prime minister defeated efforts by MPs to delay Brexit and won a vote on an amendment put forward by Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, to replace the Irish backstop guarantee with “alternative arrangements”.

Mrs May won the reprieve two weeks after the Commons inflicted its historic defeat on her Brexit deal. She committed herself to seeking a time limit on the backstop, achieving a unilateral exit from it or persuading the European Union that technology could remove the need for a hard border.

“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,” she said. “As prime minister I will work with members across the house to do just that.”

The options were immediately and forcefully rejected by the EU as a chorus of national leaders and the bloc’s most senior officials said that there would be no renegotiation.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, said: “The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.” In a statement the Irish government also rejected re-opening the backstop, describing it as a “carefully negotiated compromise”.

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, said the backstop remained “necessary”, while Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, said there was “no majority to re-open or dilute” the withdrawal agreement.

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Police in Belfast, 2013. Photo: Joshua Hayes via a CC-BY-SA 2.0 licence

What no-deal really means for customs on the Northern Irish border (LSE Brexit)

Police in Belfast, 2013. Photo: Joshua Hayes via a CC-BY-SA 2.0 licence

January 22nd, 2019

We still have little idea what the customs arrangements on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland will be after 29 March. A border control expert explains why the border is so crucial and sets out the scale of the task customs and other regulatory bodies on both sides of the border will face.

If the United Kingdom leaves the EU as scheduled, the EU will treat it as a “third country” – with inevitable consequences for border controls between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The extent of these controls will be determined by the terms of the UK’s withdrawal. While the primary impact will be felt in the area of customs controls, a range of other regulatory controls, including agriculture, marine, health, environmental and plant health may come into play.

In the worst case scenario of a no-deal Brexit, the customs relationship between UK and Ireland could, in theory, be compared with that which exists between eastern EU states and their non-EU neighbours – for example, Hungary and Ukraine, or Bulgaria and Serbia.

The stated position of both British and Irish politicians, as well EU officials, is that there is no desire to see a return to the Irish land border controls which operated before both countries became members of the Single Market in 1993. It has been suggested that an “invisible” border without a physical infrastructure, but relying on technology such as Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), could operate.

Comparisons have been drawn with the existing Norway/Sweden relationship, which allows for certain simplified procedures for movement of people and trade between these states. However, a critical factor in the free movement of people in this region is that both countries are members of the Schengen area. Article 41of the Schengen Convention provides for cross-border pursuit by police forces. Neither the UK nor Ireland is a Schengen member. In terms of trade movements, Norway is a member of European Economic Area and European Free Trade Association and therefore enjoys certain Single Market trading conditions. Despite this both Norway and Sweden operate controls – including some cargo inspection – along their shared border, with a requirement that trade movements pass through one of the several border customs stations.

Technologies such as ANPR and CCTV are used at these border crossings, but as with a wide range of technologies available to customs, they are seen by practitioners as a means to enhance border controls rather than to replace them.

The presence of any fiscal or economic border provides opportunities for smuggling and other forms of criminal activity. The political situation in NI adds an extra dimension to a land border scenario. Serious organised crime groups continue to smuggle and deal in tobacco, alcohol and prescription medicines. Effective border controls and law enforcement measures will be required to prevent escalation of these activities. The PSNI has outlined plans to recruit and deploy an extra 300 officers to police the border, but the Irish government has said that it has no similar contingency plans to increase Garda numbers in the border area.

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Brexit amendments: how MPs might take back control (The Times)

Oliver Wright, Policy Editor – January 22 2019, 12:00pm, The Times

Next Tuesday MPs will, for the first time, get the chance to seize control of the Brexit process. Under the law the government must table what will be an amendable motion in the House of Commons on the way forward.

And MPs from across the political spectrum fully intend to take advantage of it — to try and amend it to dictate the terms of what happens next. Some of those amendments have already been tabled and more are expected in the coming days.

So what are the amendments so far; what would they do, and what are the potential problems?

The Grieve amendment

What is it?
It is one of two procedural amendments designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Under the law as it stands, Britain will leave the European Union with or without a deal on March 29.

The problem for MPs who oppose a no-deal Brexit is that under Britain’s constitutional convention, the government controls the parliamentary timetable.

In effect this means that a no-deal Brexit can only be stopped with government support.

But because Britain does not have a written constitution this potentially opens the door to novel parliamentary procedure (and tactics) to upend convention and force a change of approach on the government.

The Grieve amendment would suspend House of Commons standing orders that currently give the government the power to control the business of the Commons.

Who supports it?
Its lead author is Dominic Grieve, the former attorney-general, and it is backed by Tory former ministers including Justine Greening, Sam Gyimah and Philip Lee. It also has support from Labour backbenchers — mainly those who want a second referendum.

What effect would it have?
The Grieve plan is basically a mechanism to force so-called indicative votes on the government. This would allow MPs to vote either for or against a second referendum; a Norway-style soft Brexit; or indeed a no-deal Brexit. While the motion would not have the effect of changing the law, the idea is that it would force MPs to come up with a plan that could command majority support. Those behind the scheme argue that no government could reject the settled will of parliament even if it was technically non-binding. They also believe it will show that there are at least 300 MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit.

What are its problems?
The main one is that any motion could be disregarded by the government if it so chose. The prime minister could, for example, choose to call a general election, arguing that parliament was going against the will of the people and so she needed a fresh mandate.

It is also possible that the process could be indecisive. It is far from clear that there is a majority in the Commons in favour of any kind of option. If all options were voted down the whole process might not achieve very much at all.

The Cooper amendment

What is it?
It starts from the same premise of the Grieve amendment. It would also suspend House of Commons standing orders that give the government the power to control the business of the House of Commons.

But instead of a motion, the Cooper plan would involve MPs debating a bill that was tabled yesterday instructing the government to lay a motion extending Article 50 until the end of the year if agreement cannot be reached by a specified date.

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