Published On: Tue, Jan 8th, 2019

BREXIT LIVE: France ORDERS Britain to 'STICK TO IT' as row erupts over May’s DOOMED deal


French Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau insisted there is no chance of renegotiation and the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement is the best possible deal on offer. Arriving for an EU summit in Brussels, Ms Loiseau suggested British MPs should back the deal because the non-binding assurances the EU has offered on the contentious Irish border backstop show the bloc considers it a “last resort”. She said: “These are political assurances. But there is nothing more that we can do.

We might have to extend Article 50

Margot James, Digital Minister

“The Withdrawal Agreement is indeed a good agreement, both for the UK and for the European Union. We should stick to it.”

Meanwhile, Mrs May has reportedly asked Government officials to plan for a Brexit delay over fears her deal will be roundly rejected by MPs next week.

Three separate EU sources said UK officials have been exploring how to extend Article 50, a move which would see Brexit day would put back from March 29.

The diplomatic sources said their British counterparts had been “putting out feelers” and “testing the waters” with the intention of extending the negotiating period for the Prime Minister in a bid to secure a deal more likely to pass through Parliament.

Mrs May is desperately battling to drum up support for her deal which will be put to a Commons vote next Tuesday after five days of debates resume tomorrow.

The Government has insisted it is not seeking to delay Brexit despite the mountain of Commons opposition however one Government minister broke ranks to suggest the Prime Minister will have no other option if she loses the meaningful vote.

Digital minister Margot James admitted “we might have to extend Article 50” leading Leavers to fear Brexit is being steered off course.

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Brexit news: Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May

Brexit news: France has suggested Britain “stick with” Mrs May’s divorce deal (Image: GETTY)

Last week it emerged just 23 percent of Tories support the Prime Minister’s agreement with 57 percent of members preferring to crash out of the EU without a deal.

Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, was also at the Downing Street drinks party after warning the Prime Minister she faces a “disaster” if she does not rip up the current deal over the “toxic” backstop.

However the government was criticised yesterday as it launched its first live no-deal test with just 89 lorries turning up for a mock Dover exercise despite fears around 6,000 trucks would be stranded near Britain’s busiest cross-channel port if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Anna Soubry outside Parliament

Anna Soubry was verbally abused by a small group of protesters outside Parliament (Image: TWITTER/@FEMI_SORRY/OUR FUTURE OUR CHOICE/via REUTERS)

3.20pm: Police to STEP UP Westminster security ahead of Brexit vote

Scotland Yard has announced it plans to “enhance the police presence” around Parliament after MPs were subjected to intimidation and harassment just yards from the Commons.

The move comes after pro-Remain MP Anna Soubry was branded a Nazi by a small group of demonstrators during live TV interviews and then followed to the Palace of Westminster.

Politicians on both sides of the Brexit debate have condemned the actions, which were branded “toxic” by Commons Speaker John Bercow and “disgraceful” by Theresa May’s Cabinet.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said that police officers on duty outside Parliament had been given clear directions “that if they witness criminal behaviour then there is an expectation that an arrest will be made”.

He added: “We’ve reviewed our policing plan on the back of incidents yesterday. You will see a visible policing presence (near Parliament). We’ve had a policing presence there for a number of months with ongoing protest.

“We recognise the challenges there at the moment and certainly leading up to the vote next week we will be enhancing the policing presence and we will ensure that we have appropriate measures in place to attempt as far as possible to reassure people that they can go about their lives without fear of harassment or alarm.”

Harvey Gavin taking over from Tom Nellist on live reporting.

2.56pm update: History will judge Cabinet with a ‘dim view’ if Britain leaves with no-deal, Rudd warns

Amber Rudd gave fellow cabinet members a stark warning if they did not back the Prime Minister’s deal.

During the heated meeting earlier today, the Work and Pensions Secretary said: “History will take a dim view of a Cabinet that presses ahead with No Deal.

“We have to face world in which we find it, not as we wish it to be and we have to deal with the facts as we find them.”

Amber Rudd leaves Number 10 after giving a warning during today's Cabinet meeting

Amber Rudd leaves Number 10 after giving a warning during today’s Cabinet meeting (Image: EPA)

2.45pm update: France orders UK to “stick to it”

France has told British MPs the Withdrawal Agreement is the best possible deal and now it has been negotiated British MPs should “stick to it.”

French Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau slammed Brexiteer hopes the deal can still be renegotiated and added Britain should back the deal because the EU had given sufficient assurances that the backstop is a “last resort.”

Arriving for an EU summit in Brussels, Ms Loiseau said: “These are political assurances. But there is nothing more that we can do.

“The Withdrawal Agreement is indeed a good agreement, both for the UK and for the European Union. We should stick to it.”

Nathalie Loiseau meets Jean-Claude Juncker after telling British MPs they should

Nathalie Loiseau meets Jean-Claude Juncker after telling British MPs they should “stick to” the deal (Image: EPA)

2.34pm update: Brexiteers against the Prime Minister deal are like ‘swingers waiting for Scarlett Johansson on a unicorn’

Leading Brexiteer Michael Gove has used a bizarre analogy to urge his fellow Leavers to get behind the Prime Minister’s deal.

The Environment Secretary and one of the leading figures in the 2016 Leave campaign said Brexiters hoping for a better deal than Theresa May’s current Withdrawal Agreement are like “mid-50s swingers waiting for Scarlett Johansson to turn up.”

Mr Gove reportedly made the comment during today’s Cabinet meeting prompting outbursts of support from other ministers.

Justice Secretary David Gauke retorted: “They’re waiting Scarlett, on a unicorn.”

James Bond fan and Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd quipped: “Or Pierce Brosnan.”

Michael Gove used an unusual analogy to compare Brexiteers opposed to Theresa May's Brexit deal

Michael Gove used an unusual analogy to compare Brexiteers opposed to Theresa May’s Brexit deal (Image: GETTY)

2.16pm update: Pressure mounts on Corbyn to back People’s Vote

Grassroots Labour members are piling pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to back a second Brexit referendum.

The party is being warned it faces losing millions of votes unless it makes it official policy to back a People’s Vote.

The warning comes from campaign group Another Europe is Possible who also urged Labour to go a step further and overturn Brexit altogether.

Ana Oppenheim, an organiser for Another Europe is Possible, said: “As the sequence of events unfolds in Parliament, we need to look a the reality. Brexit is an attack on working class people, dripping with imperial nostalgia and migrant-bashing.

“If Labour fails to oppose it, we will lose millions of voters, and if it happens, any attempt to deliver a socialist programme will be hamstrung from day one.

“By the end of January, we reckon that a majority of constituency Labour parties could have debated a motion – and a big majority will pass it.”

Mr Corbyn joins Theresa May as another party leader who is facing stiff opposition from their grassroots members.

Just 23 percent of Conservative Party members support the Prime Minister and her Brexit deal while in a whopping 72 percent of Labour members are urging Jeremy Corbyn to back the People’s Vote campaign, cites PA.

Grassroots Labour members are losing faith in Jeremy Corbyn and his Brexit strategy

Grassroots Labour members are losing faith in Jeremy Corbyn and his Brexit strategy (Image: GETTY)

1.54pm update: Officers will intervene in Westminster protests if necessary, Metropolitan Police says

The Metropolitan Police is stepping up vigilance in the wake of the verbal abuse attack on Conservative MP Anna Soubry.

A senior Met Police leader has told officers he expects them to intervene if protestors repeat yesterday’s ugly scenes, in which the Remain-backing MP was labelled a “Nazi”, “fascist” and “liar.”

The incident prompted Commons speaker John Bercow to write a letter urging the police to do more to protect people outside Westminster.

Asked if the Met would take any action in response to Mr Bercow’s letter, deputy assistant commissioner Laurence Taylor said: “It’s one of the allegations that we are assessing at the moment to determine whether any criminal activity has taken place.

“We’ve given a very clear direction to our officers on the ground that if they witness criminal behaviour then there is an expectation that an arrest will be made.

“And also if they witness any behaviour that is intimidating, or to an extent that it is obstructing somebody going about their normal daily routines then we would expect an intervention to be made according to what’s happening at the time.”

House of Commons speaker John Bercow has asked police to intervene in Westminster protests

House of Commons speaker John Bercow has asked police to intervene in Westminster protests (Image: PA)

1.42pm update: Government defends handing Brexit contract to firm with director owing £600,000 to HMRC

The government has been roundly criticised for giving Seaborne Freight a deal to run post-Brexit ferry services because it has never run any cross-Channel services before.

It was also accused of copying its terms and conditions from a takeaway restaurant’s website.

Now it has emerged the firm is being run by three directors, one of whom owes £600,000 to HMRC reports PA.

However Business Secretary Greg Clark stuck by the decision to give the contract to Seaborne Freight.

He said: “Of course, it’s fair to observe that not a penny of Government money has been paid to this company and will only be paid, as I understand it, on receipt of services provided.”

Business Secretary Greg Clarke has defended the decision to give Seaborne Freight a post-Brexit deal

Business Secretary Greg Clarke has defended the decision to give Seaborne Freight a post-Brexit deal (Image: GETTY)

1.26pm update: Portsmouth adds voice to Dover’s no-deal Brexit fears

Fears Britain’s ports will not be able to cope with a no-deal Brexit are not confined to Dover.

Portsmouth ferry authorities are the latest to plead with the government to find a solution before the impending Brexit deadline.

With March 29 just 80 days away, Portsmouth’s port director Mike Sellers warned a 20-mile stretch of the M3 may have to be closed to deal with a massive back-log of lorries if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.

Mr Sellers reiterated the “worst-case scenario” which Dover also fears.

He said: “There is an awful lot of infrastructure that needs to be put in place, and the cost, and whether that will be in place by the end of March is another question, and who is going to pay for it.

“If the M275 motorway is blocked with lorries, this is the main route into the city, it does impact on people getting in and out of the city, this is a naval port as well, you have the Royal Navy, people getting into work, the hospitals, it would very quickly impact on the whole of the Portsmouth city area.”

Yesterday the government was criticised for its handling of the first live test as just 89 lorries turned up for a drill which business leaders fear could affect up to 6,000 trucks in reality.

READ MORE: Government pays £550 for truckers to sit in morning traffic jam

READ MORE: Brexit no-deal live testing begins as queuing lorries arrive at Dover

Mike Sellers, director of Portsmouth International Port, says there's a lot more to do before Brexit

Mike Sellers, director of Portsmouth International Port, says there’s a lot more to do before Brexit (Image: PA)

12.53pm update: Downing Street ‘confirms’ meaningful vote

Downing Street has confirmed the meaningful vote will go ahead next week.

After last month’s debacle, in which the vote was pulled at the eleventh hour sparking a flurry of letters to the Conservative’s governing 1922 Committee which prompted last month’s confidence vote in Theresa May, MPs will finally get to have their say on the Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday, January 15.

Downing Street confirmed Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will open five days of debate tomorrow.

Barring no further last minute jitters, the Prime Minister herself will close the debate on Tuesday evening with a rousing call for the House of Commons to back her deal.

MPs will then vote with the result expected late on Tuesday night.

Boris Johnson was at Number 10 last night for the Prime Minister’s Brexit party

Boris Johnson was at Number 10 last night for the Prime Minister’s Brexit party (Image: EPA)

12.19pm: Lib Dems back Parliamentary plot to block no-deal Brexit

The Liberal Democrats will be supporting a bill amendment aimed at blocking a no-deal Brexit.

Sir Vince Cable, the party’s leader, said he will support the cross-party amendment to the Finance Bill hitting Theresa May with yet another block.

The amendment seeks to change the government’s powers over tax law but can only come into effect if the UK leaves the EU with a deal or if there is a specific Common vote approving a no-deal Brexit.

Sir Vince said: “We had an amendment of our own which was somewhat more radical than the Yvette Cooper amendment but it hasn’t been put forward to the House.

“Hers is a perfectly sensible proposal and we will get behind it.”

Speaking on a visit to Portsmouth where he was learning more about the port’s no-deal Brexit plans, Sir Vince warned against the government’s “very amateurish Dad’s Army approach” to Brexit. 

He said: “The problem here is that Portsmouth will have to take considerably more lorries, they have to get through quickly, there will be customs checks, there is nowhere at the moment to store the lorries, the Government is taking no interest in demands that there is additional lorry space, there are plans to close the M3 to use it for storage, extreme solutions of that kind.”

Sir Vince Cable visiting a Portsmouth ferry terminal to hear their no-deal Brexit plans today

Sir Vince Cable visiting a Portsmouth ferry terminal to hear their no-deal Brexit plans today (Image: GETTY)

11.34am update: Leading businesses urge Theresa May to ‘stop the clock’ on ‘irresponsible’ no-deal by delaying Brexit

Talk about Brexit being delayed is the subject of the day and leading businesses are the latest to jump on the call to extend Article 50.

With the Prime Minister staring defeat in next week’s Commons vote on her Brexit deal, a business campaign group has ordered Theresa May to postpone the March 29 deadline if she loses.

London First, which counts more than 200 of the capital’s top employers among its members, said crashing out of the EU without a deal would bring “huge practical and logistical problems for UK companies.”

Jasmine Whitbread, the organisation’s chief executive, backed a second Brexit referendum if MPs reject the Prime Minister’s deal and she can’t negotiate a new one in time.

Ms Whitbread said: “The political reality is that the agreement now looks unable to secure Parliamentary support and the country is left teetering on a cliff edge.

“Time has run out and continuing to head towards a no deal is irresponsible, irrational and risks further damage to jobs and growth.

“If we don’t have a deal next week, it’s time to stop the clock and revoke Article 50, so the Government can stop spending billions on last-ditch efforts to manage a no deal and instead come up with a plan that works.

“If such a plan cannot be found, the decision must go back to the people.”

11.07am update: EU does not want to consider delaying Brexit despite the “negative effect” of no-deal in which “everybody loses” but Ireland would welcome a UK request

Now is not the time to be discussing an extension to Article 50, German foreign minister Heiko Maas added despite admitting no-deal would have a “negative effect on jobs” in his own country.

Mr Maas said: “I wouldn’t really want to think about the possibility of extending article 50 here and now.

“I don’t think this is what we ought to focus on today.”

However Ireland’s foreign minister said Dublin would welcome the UK seeking to delay Brexit.

He said: “Everyone loses in a no-deal Brexit scenario, we want to avoid that.

“If it is the case that at some point in the future that the British government seeks an extension of article 50, then that is something that will have to get consideration at an EU level.

“But certainly from an Irish perspective, if such an ask happens, we won’t be standing in the way on that.”

READ MORE: ‘EVERYONE LOSES’ Ireland issues Brexit warning and say exit CAN be delayed

Irish foreign minister (R) welcomes German counterpart Heiko Maas to Dublin today

Irish foreign minister (R) welcomes German counterpart Heiko Maas to Dublin today (Image: PA)

10.40am update: Brexit ‘shook EU foundations’ say German and Irish foreign ministers as pair discuss Brexit in Dublin

Avoiding no-deal is “wishful thinking”, Ireland’s foreign minister has warned the UK Parliament.

Welcoming his German counterpart to Dublin, Simon Coveney told British politicians to back Theresa May’s deal adding there is “no alternative agreement waiting to be dusted off” if they don’t.

Speaking at the Global Ireland 2025 Heads of Mission conference in the Irish capital, Mr Coveney said: “Surely now is the time in Westminster for everyone, in government and in opposition, to cast aside unrealistic options based on promises that simply cannot be delivered.

“If that doesn’t happen quickly, in the absence of that realism, it is the hardliners who think no price is too high to pay for their version of Brexit who will win out to everyone’s cost, including Ireland’s.”

German foreign minister Heiko Maas added Brexiters should take a leaf out of Europe’s book by being willing to compromise.

He said: “We must not take our rules-based international order for granted.

“For the Irish, nationalism does not mean taking back control, as Brexiteers claim.

“A willingness to compromise and a common set of rules lie at the heart of our European success story.”

“As Europeans we must be at the heart of the alliance for multilateralism.

“Brexit shook the foundations of the EU, we were even worried about other countries following the UK’s example.”

10.27am update: Brexit Secretary denies Article 50 extension talks with EU

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay has said he has not held any talks with the European Union about extending Article 50.

The denial comes after it was revealed three EU sources said UK officials are exploring the option of delaying Brexit after the March 29 deadline.

Mr Barclay told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s not a unilateral decision for the UK.

“That is not a decision the UK Government could take, it would require the consent of all 27 member states.

“It would also generate some very practical issues, for example EU parliamentary elections at the end of May.

“The real question for Members of Parliament who voted to give the public a say through the European referendum in 2016, who voted in large numbers to trigger Article 50, (is) the consequence of triggering Article 50 is you either have a deal and the EU have been clear that the only deal on the table is the PM’s deal.

“You either have a deal or you have no deal.”

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay has said he has not held talks with the EU about delaying Brexit

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay has said he has not held talks with the EU about delaying Brexit (Image: GETTY)

9.54am update: Protests planned over fears UK seafarers will be ignored for new cross-Channel ferries

Protestors are set to march outside the Department for Transport demanding British sailors crew ferry services that the UK government plans to introduce to ease pressure on ports after Brexit.

More than £100 million worth of contracts have been handed to three companies to provide extra cross-Channel services.

The government was criticised for giving one of the contracts to a company, Seaborne Freight, which has never run a Channel service before.

Now there are fears that UK seafarers will be ignored for staffing the ships.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “There has been a barrage of publicity around the Government’s Brexit ferry contracts and the union has written to both Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, who is in control of the arrangements, and the companies involved demanding basic assurances on UK ratings jobs, union recognition and full compliance with UK employment laws.

“RMT has no intention of allowing any backsliding, or any stitch-ups of UK seafarers, and that is why we are making our position public with the protest at the Department for Transport.

“We expect Chris Grayling and the companies he has contracted to meet our demands in full as a matter of urgency.”

RMT Union general secretary Mick Cash has warned the government against 'stiching up' UK seafarers

RMT Union general secretary Mick Cash has warned the government against ‘stiching up’ UK seafarers (Image: GETTY)

9.16am update: Calls for protestors who called Remain MP a ‘Nazi’ to be arrested

Outraged members of the public have called for the right-wing protestors who chanted “Nazi” at Anna Soubry and called her a “liar” to be arrested.

The Remain-backing Tory MP was subjected to the abusive attack during a live TV interview yesterday.

People have leapt to the Broxtowe MP’s defence on social media.

One user tweeted: “Whilst I am not a supporter of Conservatives this vile & threatening behaviour needs to be stopped.

“Heaven knows why this man has not been arrested.”

Another user wrote: “This type of behaviour must be stopped.

“The police stood by and let this happen they should have arrested these people and charged them.

“This must be stopped immediately.”

READ MORE: ‘My car was SMASHED up!’ Farage FURIOUS at Soubry demands for ‘SPECIAL treatment on abuse’

8.34am update: Rees-Mogg warns Prime Minister opposition to her deal has hardened

Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has warned Theresa May her plan to sure up support for her Brexit deal over the Christmas break has failed.

The Eurosceptic chair of the anti-EU European Research Group said the Prime Minister’s hope that the public would tell their MPs to back her deal during Parliament’s recess has “proved forlorn.”

Writing in his Daily Telegraph column, the North East Somerset MP said: “Mrs May’s deal was not going to pass through the House of Commons in December, and it is difficult to see why it would in January.

“The problems with the Agreement have not changed one iota. The potentially endless Customs Union, the separation between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and the risk of paying £39 billion for nothing are all still there.

“Over Christmas, the view of the country and especially Conservative Members seems to have hardened against the proposal.

“Likewise, the fear of reverting to World Trade Organisation rules has dissipated as no deal preparations speed up.

“The only real chance for the Government is, as it has always been, to say to the EU that if it wants our £39 billion it must in return give the UK a trade deal and a smooth transition.”

Eurosceptic MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has warned the Prime Minister opposition to her deal has hardened

Eurosceptic MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has warned the Prime Minister opposition to her deal has hardened (Image: GETTY)

8.02am update: Downing Street denies Brexit delay plot

Number 10 quickly moved to ease Brexiter fears that Brexit day would be put off later than March 29.

A source told the Daily Telegraph that Margot James was wrong to suggest Article 50 might have to be extended.

However that flies in the face of the EU sources who said UK officials were secretly working out a way to delay Brexit if the Prime Minister is defeated in the Commons next week.

A source told the newspaper: “Until now, this didn’t come up, but we’re hearing it more and more now.

“We presume this is based on some conversations in Westminster, even though we are clear the government is formally dead against it and doesn’t want to do it.”

With just 80 days to go until the UK is set to leave the European Union, another source admitted knowledge of informal approaches to extend Article 50 and said: “We hear talk of the government forcing through legislation without scrutiny, but honestly wonder how realistic that is.”

Additional reporting by Tom Nellist. 



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