Brexit: MPs’ second vote on PM’s deal to go ahead


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Media captionBig Brexit moment: Will MPs back or bin the PM’s deal?

A second Commons vote on the PM’s Brexit deal will go ahead on Tuesday, ministers have insisted, as Labour said the government was “in chaos”.

Ministers said talks were continuing with the EU and the legal advice on the Irish backstop would be updated before MPs start debating tomorrow.

Unconfirmed reports say Theresa May will travel to Strasbourg later.

The EU has said it is now up to MPs to decide the next steps for Brexit and it remains “committed” to agreeing a deal.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said there had “not been a single change” to the agreement since it was heavily defeated by MPs in January and it was still a “bad deal”.

Following speculation the vote could be postponed or downgraded, No 10 said the motion to be debated would be published later on Monday – although it gave no details of what it could contain.

Downing Street said the PM’s focus was “getting on with the work required to allow MPs to support the deal and to bring this stage of the process to an end”.

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg said the prime minister was “likely” to head to Strasbourg later – where the European Parliament is based.

This was reiterated by Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney, who told a press conference he “understands” Mrs May is travelling to the city later.

But neither No 10 or the European Commission have confirmed this, with a spokesperson for the latter saying: “We keep talking and working.”

The spokesperson did confirm, however, that the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Mrs May had spoken by phone on Monday.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March but MPs rejected the withdrawal deal on offer in January and demanded major changes.

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Media captionIs the UK actually in a crisis over leaving the EU?

BBC Brussels reporter Adam Fleming said the mood was “bleak” in Brussels after the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, briefed EU ambassadors on the state of play earlier.

Adam Fleming said the member states were told that the UK had rejected the EU’s proposed solutions on the backstop because “they wouldn’t get the support of the Cabinet”.

“There is a widely held view that the UK has not been negotiating in good faith over the last few days,” he said, adding that at least one diplomat had mentioned planning for a “post-Theresa May government”.

The government has been seeking changes to the Irish backstop, the safety net designed to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland, and only to be used as a last resort.

But the details of it were a sticking point for many MPs when they voted her deal down in January. They worry that – in its current form – the backstop may leave the UK tied to the EU indefinitely.

What is the EU saying?

In a statement, the Commission said it had put forward proposals to try to reassure MPs the backstop “if used will apply temporarily”.

A spokesman said the EU was willing to meet UK negotiators at any time.

He added: “We are committed to using our best endeavours to find a subsequent agreement that replaces the backstop… We are committed to ratifying this deal before 29 March.”

Earlier, Mr Barnier said that talks about the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc were now between the British government and MPs.

How have MPs reacted?

Brexit minister Robin Walker has been updating MPs in response to an urgent question from Labour.

He said the government “absolutely stood by” its commitment to hold Tuesday’s vote and, if the PM’s deal was defeated, subsequent votes by Thursday at the latest on a no-deal exit and extending talks.

Details of Tuesday’s “meaningful vote” motion will be published by the end of Commons business, expected to be about 22.00 GMT, while Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will be making a statement before that.

Labour MP Pat McFadden said any vote had to be on the Brexit deal, as currently constituted, and not a version of the deal ministers might hope to end up with after further talks with the EU.

And Tory Brexiteer Peter Bone urged the government to delay the vote until MPs had had enough time to scrutinise any changes to the deal.

What could happen this week?

  • Theresa May’s deal to face a “meaningful vote” in Parliament on Tuesday
  • If it’s rejected, a further vote has been promised for Wednesday on whether the UK should leave without a deal
  • If that no-deal option is rejected, MPs could get a vote on Thursday on whether to request a delay to Brexit from the EU.

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