Evaluation of UK’s international obligations
The Joint Committee on Human Rights has published a report discussing how the Government must ensure that human rights standards are upheld in all international agreements.
UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU
Despite retreating from supporting a parliamentary vote on a second referendum this week, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said Labour would back a delay to Brexit to help secure a better withdrawal deal. Meanwhile, Stephen Barclay has held detailed talks with Labour MPs who are championing plans for a second referendum – amid signs of mounting desperation inside Theresa May’s Government about what to do if the prime minister’s deal suffers another crushing defeat on Tuesday.
Downing Street has described the Brexit talks in Brussels as ‘deadlocked’ after negotiations over the weekend failed to find a breakthrough on the Irish backstop, and Theresa May has been warned that she faces an ‘inevitable’ defeat in the Commons without concessions from the EU on this as she enters last-ditch talks. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has launched an attack on Michel Barnier, accusing him of trying to ‘re-run old arguments’.
Michael Gove and Boris Johnson have clashed over Theresa May’s Brexit deal, with Mr Johnson calling on MPs to reject it whilst Mr Gove has warned that leaving the EU without a deal ‘wasn’t the message of the campaign [he] helped lead’. Meanwhile Cabinet ministers are reportedly preparing to force Theresa May to announce that she will stand down by the end of June in a bid to win MPs’ support on Brexit.
Public health minister Steve Brine has stated that he would be prepared to resign or be sacked if Theresa May does not let Tory MPs vote to stop a no-deal Brexit this week.
Theresa May made a statement from Strasbourg, talking up a string of ‘legally binding’ changes to her Brexit deal and stating that the Government had delivered on the demands of MPs. Meanwhile Jean-Claude Juncker has warned MPs they will get ‘no third chance’ to make Brexit happen after this batch of last-minute changes.
The Attorney General Geoffrey Cox published his Legal Opinion on Theresa May’s revised deal, which the FT assessed as being a choice of law over politics. It is widely expected on the back of this that May’s deal will be defeated in the Commons vote. Theresa May’s deal was defeated by 149 votes and Brussels took a hard line following this, stating that there was ‘no more’ the EU could do to rescue the Brexit deal. The bloc stated that, if it seeks an extension to art 50, Britain must have a ‘credible’ reason for the delay, with Buzzfeed reporting that the EU will advise leaders that delaying Brexit makes sense only in three scenarios: to give more time to prepare for no deal, to complete ratification of the withdrawal agreement or if the UK decides to hold an election or a referendum.
Theresa May stated that she will give Tory MPs a free vote on the Brexit no-deal vote in Parliament. The cross-party amendment to reject a no-deal Brexit in all circumstances was backed by 312 votes to 308. PoliticsHome has published a discussion of Wednesday’s votes and the position in which they leave the Government. Downing Street was on reportedly at war with its own whips after ministers were allowed to defy an order to effectively support a no-deal Brexit.
Theresa May has put forward a motion to be debated and voted on by MPs on Thursday, stating that unless her Brexit deal – which has already been rejected twice by the Commons – is passed by 20 March, ‘the Government will seek to agree with the EU a one-off extension of the period specified in Article 50 for a period ending on 30 June 2019’. She has issued an ultimatum, telling Eurosceptic MPs to back her divorce deal or face a Brexit delay which would force Britain to hold elections to the European Parliament. Despite this, Philip Hammond has called for a cross-party ‘consensus’ to get a soft Brexit deal passed by the Commons.
The Financial Times has discussed the rival proposals to Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Meanwhile Donald Tusk has stated that the EU should be ‘open to a long extension’ of UK membership if more time is needed for the UK to ‘rethink’ its approach to leaving the bloc.
John Bercow has selected a second referendum amendment from Sarah Wollaston for voting on Thursday night, stating that the UK’s exit from the EU should be delayed for the purpose of legislating for and conducting a public vote in which staying in the bloc is an option on the ballot paper. This was defeated by a majority of 249 votes.