Hardline Tory Brexiters split as MPs overwhelmingly back move to allow vote to extend article 50

The voting turned out to be more interesting than we expected. Of the four big Brexit debates held this year, that was the first that did not involve Theresa May losing a vote. Two things stand out about that final division.

  • Hardcore Tory Brexiters split this evening as only 20 of them supported a move to vote against the Yvette Cooper amendment. It is estimated that at least 50 Tory MPs (and up to 90, according to today’s Financial Times) support the European Research Group, which represents those Tories pushing for a harder Brexit. Sometimes they operate as a bloc. When May lost the vote two weeks ago, it was because 67 Tories – mostly ERG supporters – abstained. But tonight that bloc fractured. It seems that some of the maverick Brexiters pushed for a vote against the wishes of the more mainstream Brexiters in the ERG hierarchy (ie, Mark Francois, an ERG vice chair, according to Ben Bradshaw’s tweet - see 7.43pm.) Continuity ERG versus the Provisional ERG, if you like. It did not matter tonight, but it may be a harbinger of what will happen when May next brings her deal to the Commons.
  • Theresa May won the final vote handsomely - but only by co-opting the ideas promoted by Yvette Cooper. The two are rivals; Cooper shadowed May for a long time when May was home secretary. Originally Number 10 said the government would abstain on the Cooper amendment, but in the end the government voted for it. That meant government MPs were voting for a Cooper amendment that essentially restated a commitment given by May in the Commons yesterday in response to a long-running campaign led by Cooper. Truly, their careers are entwined.

Here is the list of the 20 Tory MPs who voted against Cooper. None of them are from the ERG leadership. These are the 20 Tories most likely to vote against May’s deal whatever concessions she achieves.

And here is our earlier story on the debate.

That’s all from me for tonight.

Thanks for the comments.


MPs pass Cooper amendment by majority of 482

The Cooper amendment has passed by 502 votes to 20 – a majority of 482.


This from the Press Association’s Ian Jones.

Stephen Hepburn, Labour MP for Jarrow, voted against his own party. Ken Clarke was the only Tory MP to vote in favour of Labour's amendment.

— Ian Jones (@ian_a_jones) February 27, 2019

And here is Yvette Cooper on the decision of some Brexiters to oppose her motion.

Commons is now voting on my amendment which simply notes & pins down what the PM said yesterday about holding votes in event of UK facing No Deal. The Government said they accept it. But some of ERG have decided to vote against!! How desperate are they to get No Deal? pic.twitter.com/LnAfAKJFZk

— Yvette Cooper (@YvetteCooperMP) February 27, 2019

This is from Labour’s Ben Bradshaw.

Chaos in Commons as ERG shout “no” to revised Cooper amendment which just repeats what May promised yesterday. ERG co-leader Francois mouths “what the f***k”. Most Tories voting for it. ERG it seems split. #BrexitShambles

— Ben Bradshaw (@BenPBradshaw) February 27, 2019

Text of Yvette Cooper amendment

Here is the text of the Yvette Cooper amendment that MPs are now voting on.

At end, add “; and further notes in particular the commitment of the prime minister made in this house to hold a second meaningful vote by 12 March and if the house, having rejected leaving with the deal negotiated with the EU, then rejects leaving on 29 March without a withdrawal agreement and future framework, the government will, on 14 March, bring forward a motion on whether parliament wants to seek a short limited extension to article 50, and if the house votes for an extension, seek to agree that extension approved by the house with the EU, and bring forward the necessary legislation to change the exit date commensurate with that extension.”


These are from the Telegraph’s Steven Swinford.

Heard rumours that ERG could mobilise *against* the Cooper amendment this evening

It's just that at this stage - have not been able to substantiate - but hearing Eurosceptics are pretty irritated at suggestions they are softening their position...

— Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) February 27, 2019

Have put this to five senior Eurosceptics in the last 30 mins or so. I'm getting radio silence.

Feels like something is afoot. Are the ERG about to fire another warning shot at the PM?

— Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) February 27, 2019


Bercow has just announced the tellers. The tellers for the noes are Peter Bone and Sir Christopher Chope – confirming that it is hardcore Brexiters who have forced the division.


Caroline Spelman formally withdraws her amendment.

Alberto Costa moves his, and it goes through on the nod.

And Yvette Cooper moves her amendment. John Bercow, the speaker, takes the vote by acclamation, but some MPs object. So he calls a division.

The government is not voting against this amendment, so it will go through easily. But presumably some Brexiters are voting against to make a point.


The SNP amendment has been defeated by 324 votes to 288 – a majority of 36.


This is from my colleague Peter Walker.

A Labour MP texts: "Chris Grayling currently in our [voting] lobby by mistake. I think he's just realised."

Paging @JohnJCrace

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) February 27, 2019

Text of SNP amendment

MPs are now voting on the SNP amendment.

This is what it says:

Line 1, leave out from “house” to end and add “is determined not to leave the European Union without a withdrawal agreement and future framework under any circumstances, and regardless of any exit date”.


Labour defeat pushes party towards backing second referendum

The defeat of the Labour amendment means that, in theory, the party is now committed to backing a second referendum. This is what Sir Keir Starmer said in the debate earlier:

I want to underline the commitment that we made on Monday, that if amendment (a) [Labour’s] is defeated and the prime minister still refuses to negotiate a close economic relationship, Labour will support or table an amendment in favour of a public vote. That public vote would include a credible leave option and remain. It could be attached to the prime minister’s deal – what I have called a lock against a damaging Tory Brexit - or it could be attached to any deal that managed to win a majority in the House of Commons.


Labour amendment defeated by majority of 83

The Labour amendment has been defeated by 323 votes to 240 – a majority of 83.


Chris Leslie, who left Labour last week to join the Independent Group, has criticised Labour for not supporting the second referendum amendment backed by his new grouping. (See 11.53am.) It was not called, and so won’t be put to a vote, but his point is that if Labour had supported it, it might have been. He said:

Labour’s failure to support the cross-party amendment tabled by the Independent Group – that would have helped pave the way for a public vote – ensured the opportunity was missed. Instead the Labour leadership are stuck repeating their already-rejected approach, sending confused signals about what their Brexit policy actually is.


Turning back to Chris Williamson, this is from HuffPost’s Arj Singh.

Jeremy Corbyn 'did all he could' to stop Chris Williamson suspension, claims Labour MP.

Two other MPs back claims while another source says Corbyn has final say on suspensions.

By @REWearmouth and myselfhttps://t.co/F2V6v7pIaT

— Arj Singh (@singharj) February 27, 2019

Text of Labour amendment

MPs are now voting on the Labour amendment.

This is what it says.

Line 1, leave out from “house” to end and add “instructs ministers (a) to negotiate with the EU for changes to the political declaration to secure:

i. a permanent and comprehensive customs union with the EU;

ii. close alignment with the single market underpinned by shared institutions and obligations;

iii. dynamic alignment on rights and protections;

iv. commitments on participation in EU agencies and funding programmes, including in areas such as the environment, education, and industrial regulation;

and v. unambiguous agreement on the detail of future security arrangements, including access to the European arrest warrant and vital shared databases;

and (b) to introduce primary legislation to give statutory effect to this negotiating mandate.”


Barclay says government will push harder to get EU to protect citizens' rights in event of no deal

In the Commons Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, is now winding up for the government.

Alberto Costa, the Conservative MP, says the government has accepted his amendment. Will the PM be writing to Donald Tusk to ask if the EU will agree to let the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement be “carved out”, so that if there is no deal, that part can stand?

Barclay says the government will write to the EU institutions to ask if they will agree to this.

  • Barclay says government will ask the EU to keep the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement if the whole of the agreement falls in the event of no deal.

Barclay also says the government will accept the Cooper amendment. (See 2.18pm.)

He says, if there is a Commons debate on extending article 50, the motion will be amendable.

And he restates the commitments given yesterday by Theresa May on MPs getting a vote on extending article 50, if May’s deal is not agreed.

Barclay says he hopes this gives Cooper the assurances she wants. (See 5.22pm.)

Yvette Cooper intervenes. She says she has seen reports on Twitter saying that Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, said the UK could leave the EU without a deal, even if the Commons voted otherwise.

Barclay says he is not aware of these comments. But he says he has set out the government’s position.


Turning back to Chris Williamson, these are from Channel 4 News’ Michael Crick.

Labour’s Parliamentary Committee - senior PLP members - met this afternoon & I’m told everyone present agreed with Tom Watson that Chris Williamson should be suspended - but Corbyn’s office were adamant they don’t want him suspended

— Michael Crick (@MichaelLCrick) February 27, 2019

All ten members of the committee spoke in favour of suspending Chris Williamson, I’m told - 5 Labour MPs; 3 peers, Tom Watson & PLP Chair John Cryer https://t.co/0EiYbCLP9V

— Michael Crick (@MichaelLCrick) February 27, 2019

The strange thing about Chris Williamson’s suspension is that this afternoon his critics seemed to have given up hope of getting him suspended. “What more can I do?“ one senior figure said to me.

— Michael Crick (@MichaelLCrick) February 27, 2019

In the Commons Matthew Pennycook, the shadow Brexit minister, is winding up for Labour. He says it has “long been obvious” to many Labour MPs that the UK will have to extend article 50. Yet, until yesterday, Theresa May refused to accept that, he says.

Despite the French president’s stern words today about extending article 50, MEPs who follow Brexit dealings closely argue that they ultimately won’t count for much because Berlin will have the final say.

“In the end the Germans will take the initiative to ensure a negotiated Brexit,” said the Greek MEP Giorgos Kyrtsos, who sits on the conservative European People’s party working group that is following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. He told the Guardian:

Germany is well aware that a hard exit will mean loss of exports and already it’s growth rate is falling ... like Brussels it doesn’t think it can afford a hard Brexit either economically or psychologically.


These are from the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg.

Keep hearing rumour today about govt maybe springing Meaningful Vote on MP s next week, inc a govt minister who is sure it's on... more on #brexitcast later on after votes tonight

— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) February 27, 2019

Downing Street pouring ice cold freezing water on it... but there is an awful lot of frantic chat about (what's new, you might quite fairly say)

— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) February 27, 2019

Turning back to Brexit, Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s lead Brexit spokesman, says if article 50 is extended, it should only be for a couple of months. The EU has had enough of Brexit, he suggests.

If the UK Parl rejects her deal, Theresa May would like to extend the negotiating period. In my firm opinion, if this happens, this can never be longer than a couple of months so that a cross-party majority can be found. But certainly not 21 months! More: https://t.co/5r2iYU859c

— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) February 27, 2019

Here is his Facebook post in full.

If the UK parliament rejects her deal, Theresa May would like to extend the negotiating period. In my firm opinion, if this happens, this can never be longer than a couple of months so that a cross-party majority can be found. But certainly not 21 months! The Union has been taken hostage by the Brexit already for too long. The UK has had almost two years to make up its mind, now it is time to decide: A deal, no deal or stay. For the Union it is high time that we can spend our energy on more positive projects and the in depth reforms Europe desperately needs.

This is from the Yorkshire Post’s Liz Bates, who broke the story about Chris Williamson telling a meeting that Labour had been “too apologetic” in response to complaints about antisemitism.

PLP appear to have taken their own action against Williamson... pic.twitter.com/NDNxn1Sb6Q

— Liz Bates (@wizbates) February 27, 2019

Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, also thinks the suspension of Chris Williamson is an indirect consequence of the Independent Group defections last week, or at least that of Luciana Berger.

In one move, Luciana Berger has changed the entire dynamics of Labour politics. Forced Watson to speak out, now forced Labour to act v Williamson lest others join her.
But there is so much further to go with this...

— Stephen Pollard (@stephenpollard) February 27, 2019


The New Statesman’s Stephen Bush has written a good blogpost on the suspension of Chris Williamson. Here is an extract.

The official line is that Williamson’s suspension is a decision taken in the light of a pattern of behaviour by the Derby North MP. But no one could, with a straight face, claim that Williamson’s behaviour is a recent discovery. The truth is that Williamson has been repeatedly indulged by the Labour leadership due to his political proximity to Corbyn, and it will have been a very difficult blow for Corbyn personally to remove the whip from him. What matters is that the scale of anger among Labour MPs and activists, coupled with the risk of further defections to the Independent Group, forced the leadership’s hand ...

It also is an indication of the scale of the change wrought on Labour politics by the emergence of TIG. Had seven MPs not left the Labour party on Monday last week to form a breakaway group, then Williamson would still be a Labour MP now.


Chris Williamson says he will clear his name because he has 'very strong case'

The BBC’s Carolyn Quinn says Chris Williamson has also said that he is going to clear his name because he has “a very strong case” and there is no evidence against him.

Suspended Labour MP Chris Williamson says “ “I am going to clear my name within the party procedures. I think I’ve got a very strong case. There is no evidence against me in reality”

— carolyn quinn (@BBCcarolynquinn) February 27, 2019

Sky’s Tom Rayner has just doorstepped Chris Williamson outside the Red Lion pub at Westminster. Williamson told Rayner that the complaint was now being handled within the party’s disciplinary process and that he would be “working to clear my name”.

When it was put to him that John Mann had called him an enabler of antisemitism within the Labour party, Williamson said:

I’ve made my comment. I don’t think there’s anything more I can say now.

Asked if he thought he would be readmitted to the party, or if he had been reassured by Jeremy Corbyn’s office that he would be allowed back in, Williamson terminated the interview by saying that he had to go back into the pub to return his glass.

BREAKING: Just found Chris Williamson... after labour confirmed his suspension he tells me there’s a process the party he has to go through and he’s determined to clear his name pic.twitter.com/AS6nQ9liZ2

— Tom Rayner (@RaynerSkyNews) February 27, 2019


My colleague Owen Jones, who, unlike some of the Labour MPs welcoming the decision to suspend Chris Williamson, is on the Corbynite wing of the party, is also saying the party has done the right thing.

Chris Williamson has just been suspended by Labour. That's the right decision, and should be part of a healing process with Britain's Jewish community - so many of whom want a society free of injustice, exploitation and oppression - showing we take their upset seriously.

— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) February 27, 2019

By the way, if you're angry with the decision to suspend Chris Williamson, then you're angry with the Labour leadership for taking this correct decision. And then maybe ask: How have I ended up in this weird political position?

— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) February 27, 2019

The vast majority of Labour members abhor anti-Semitism. They're angry, understandably, because the media smear the membership as infested with anti-Semitism. That doesn't mean we don't take the anti-Semitism of a small minority of members seriously. We can and we absolutely must

— Owen Jones🌹 (@OwenJones84) February 27, 2019


And Labour MPs are speaking out in favour of the move too. Here are tweets from three of them.

There is no place for anti-semitism in the Labour Party or in our society. Standing up to hate when peddled by our opponents is easy. Standing up to hate when it comes from people on your own side is harder and takes courage. Labour was right to suspend Chris Williamson today.

— Luke Pollard MP (@LukePollard) February 27, 2019

Glad that our Party leadership has finally done the right thing but I won’t be singing along to Kool & the Gang tonight. The damage done to our Party’s reputation & our relationship with the Jewish community is shameful.

— Lilian Greenwood (@LilianGreenwood) February 27, 2019

Strongly welcome the suspension of Chris Williamson. We got there eventually and I hope that this sends a message to other people in the Labour Party that dismissing or delegitimising concerns about antisemitism isn’t acceptable.

— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) February 27, 2019

Tim Roache, the general secretary of the GMB union, has also welcomed the decision to suspend Chris Williamson.

Correct decision from @JennieGenSec that Williamson suspended while investigation conducted. If pattern of behaviour identified, investigation should cover all of it. Deeply saddened & incredibly angry seeing the bile spewed on here today, solidarity to my Jewish Labour comrades.

— Tim Roache GMB (@Tim_Roache) February 27, 2019


The Labour MP Richard Burden has welcomed the party’s decision to suspend Chris Williamson for saying Labour had been “too apologetic,” about complaints of antisemitism.

The depth of offence Chris Williamson’s words and actions have caused is profound. Labour is right to suspend him pending investigation. Vital now that the investigation is both thorough and that it takes place expeditiously

— Richard Burden MP (@RichardBurdenMP) February 27, 2019

Cooper says cross-party pressure has forced May to drop no deal as default if her deal falls

Back in the Commons, Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP who has led efforts to ensure MPs get a vote on blocking a no-deal Brexit, has just finished her speech.

She started by saying her husband, the former shadow chancellor turned Strictly Come Dancing star, Ed Balls, is currently climbing Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief. She said that had prompted family jokes about whether that was harder than trying to reach agreement on Brexit.

As the Independent’s John Rentoul points out, she said her cross-party campaign had led to significant changes from the government; no deal was no longer the default option if Theresa May’s deal got voted down, Cooper said.

Victory lap by @YvetteCooperMP, responding to @DLidington ("DPM") in the Commons pic.twitter.com/yIDuhPqFsg

— John Rentoul (@JohnRentoul) February 27, 2019

But she said she would like Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, to confirm some of these assurances in his speech winding up. She said she would like him to confirm that, if the PM’s deal gets voted down, a no-deal Brexit is not the default option.

She said she wanted confirmation that, when MPs debated extending article 50, the motion would be amendable.

And she said she wanted confirmation that, if the EU changed the length of the proposed article 50 extension, MPs would get the chance to vote on the final proposal.

She said, if these assurances were given, the Spelman amendment would not be put to a vote. See 2.18pm. (Confusingly, the Spelman amendment is basically the old Cooper amendment.)

But Cooper said she would put her amendment (see 2.18pm) to a vote. Her amendment restates what May offered yesterday on MPs getting a vote on extending article 50, but Cooper said it was important to have this written down and added to the text of the motion.


A Labour party spokesperson said:

Chris Williamson is suspended from the party, and therefore the whip, pending investigation.

Williamson had been issued with a “notice of investigation for a pattern of behaviour”, but a decision was later taken by the party’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, to suspend him.


Labour suspends Chris Williamson

The Labour party has suspended Chris Williamson, my colleague Jessica Elgot reports.

New - Chris Williamson suspended from the Labour party

— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) February 27, 2019

Opening of the Brexit debate - summary

This is the fourth big Brexit debate the Commons has held this year. We have had the first meaningful vote debate (MV1), which led to MPs voting down the deal by a majority of 230; the first next steps vote (NS1), which saw MPs passing the Brady amendment, as well as an amendment ruling out a no-deal Brexit; and the second next steps vote (NS2), which saw MPs voting down the main government motion because the ERG refused to support May.

Today’s debate (NS3) is (so far) the least dramatic by some measure. Following the government’s decision to accept the Costa amendment, there does not seem to be much risk of Theresa May being defeated tonight. But in Brexitland the news never entirely runs dry, and it has not been without interest. Here are the main points.

  • David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister, announced that the government would back Alberto Costa’s amendment on citizens’ rights - even though Theresa May dismissed it yesterday. (See 3.16pm and 3.21pm.) Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said this made it hard to see why Costa was forced to quit his job as a parliamentary private secretary. Starmer said:

It’s a vignette on how Brexit has been going, but I think the question that the house is struggling with is why [Costa] has been forced to resign in the circumstances where the government is accepting his amendment.

  • Lidington described a no-deal Brexit as “chaotic”. He said:

I do not believe that the other governments of the European Union have either an economic interest or a strategic interest in seeing a chaotic departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

  • He confirmed that, if MPs were to vote for an article 50 extension for one period of time, but the EU were to insist on an alternative timescale, MPs would get the chance to vote on the final plan. (See 3.04pm.) He said:

The matter would come back to the house and there would be an opportunity for members to put forward amendments to urge particular courses of action ...

Frankly I just do not see any circumstance in which, if there were a period that had been agreed with the EU or had the potential to be agreed, the government would not bring this back to the house.

David Lidingon
David Lidingon. Photograph: HoC
  • Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said that if Labour’s motion is defeated tonight, it will back giving voters a choice between a “credible leave option” and remain in a referendum. (See 3.57pm.) HuffPost’s Paul Waugh says this might not be as straightforward as it sounds.

Interesting bit of Starmer is his line that Lab could 'attach' a PeoplesVote to May's deal. For that to work, it would have to be a motion/amendment which somehow failed to *endorse* May's deal but forced a referendum on it. Not quite sure how sequencing/language works on that.

— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) February 27, 2019
  • Starmer said he did not think May would achieve any real change to the withdrawal agreement between now and 12 March, by when she is due to hold the next meaningful vote. He said:

I’m afraid it seems an expectation that between now and 12 March, there’s going to be a change to the deal and I don’t think that’s going to happen. For all the talk of discussion here and in Brussels, the stark truth is this, not one word of the withdrawal agreement or the political declaration has changed since it was signed off on 25 November of last year, not one word, that’s 94 days, three months ago. The expectation that in the next 14 days all of that is going to change, seems to me extremely unlikely and not going to be fulfilled.

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer. Photograph: HoC
  • Sir Edward Leigh, a Conservative Brexiter, hinted that he was relaxing his opposition to May’s deal. Speaking in an intervention, he said it would not be necessary to “unpick the withdrawal agreement”. He went on:

We could, under international law, have a conditional interpretative declaration stating the backstop is not permanent. If we get that and if the attorney general changes his mind will he join me in urging all my Brexiteer colleagues to vote for this agreement. Because the choice is no longer perhaps between an imperfect deal and no deal – it is between an imperfect deal and no Brexit.


In the debate Stephen Gethins, the SNP’s Europe spokesman, says Theresa May refuses to sack cabinet ministers who disagree with her publicly. Yet the government has sacked Alberto Costa for tabling an amendment that it now support, he says. “That’s an extraordinary state of affairs,” he says.

Dame Caroline Spelman says she will not be pressing her amendment (see 2.18pm) to a vote tonight.

Downing Street has insisted that Alberto Costa was not been sacked as a parliamentary private secretary. “He resigned from the government,” the Number 10 spokesman said. The spokesman went on:

You will be aware that there is a longstanding convention that members of the government payroll, including PPSs, don’t table amendments to government bills. Clearly this is an issue that he feels very strongly about, and so he has chosen to resign.

The government will not oppose Yvette Cooper’s amendment confirming the commitment to hold a vote on extending article 50 if the deal has not been passed by mid-March, Theresa May’s spokesman has said – but only because they think it doesn’t add anything new.

Asked about Cooper’s amendment, the spokesman said:

We would consider that amendment not to be necessary because it simply confirms the words the PM delivered from the dispatch box yesterday. On that basis it’s unlikely we’d oppose something which simply confirmed the prime minister’s own words.


Dame Caroline Spelman, the Conservative former cabinet minister, is speaking now. She says she thinks the government and Labour frontbenches are “within touching distance” of an agreement.


The SNP’s Joanna Cherry asks Starmer if he agrees with Martin Wolf in the Financial Times today (paywall), when he said: “If democracy means anything, it is the right to change a country’s mind.”

Starmer says he does agree. And he points out that David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, used to say the same himself.

And that’s it. Starmer has finished.


Labour’s Gareth Snell (one of the most leave-sympathetic MPs in the party) asks what sort of deal Starmer would like to see on the ballot paper that would persuade him to vote for it, not remain. Or is Labour’s policy remain at any cost?

Starmer says Labour is pressing an amendment tonight that proposes a Brexit deal.

Starmer confirms Labour backs giving voters choice between 'credible leave option' and remain in referendum

Starmer says if Labour’s amendment is defeated, Labour will put forward an amendment for a public vote.

It will include an option for a “credible leave option”, and remain.

  • Starmer confirms Labour backs giving voters a choice between a “credible leave option” and remain in a referendum if Labour’s amendment is defeated tonight.

He says an MP suggested earlier that a second referendum would be a mistake because it would generate social unrest.

But this is about stopping no deal, and a no-deal Brexit could provoke disorder too, he says.

He also says he does not think MPs should talk up the risk of disorder, because that could encourage it.

And he also says that parliament should not be put off wanting to do the right thing by a threat.


Here is the Guardian story about Emmanuel Macron’s comment earlier, saying France will block a Brexit delay unless there is a “new choice” by Britain.


This is from Politico Europe’s Tom McTague.

Keir Starmer here picking apart the weakness of the political declaration. A fair few Tory MPs looking on in agreement.

— Tom McTague (@TomMcTague) February 27, 2019

Anti Brexit protesters shouting slogans outside Downing Street today.
Anti-Brexit protesters shouting slogans outside Downing Street today. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters


Corbyn writes to all MPs, including Tories, inviting them to back Labour's Brexit amendment

Jeremy Corbyn has written to all MPs in the Commons, including Tories, inviting them to back Labour’s Brexit amendment, and offering them a briefing on it from Labour’s team if they want one. This is from Sky’s Aubrey Allegretti.

NEW: Jeremy Corbyn has just sent a letter to all MPs - including Conservative ones - offering them the chance to talk to a member of his team to get them to back the Labour frontbench amendment.

One person who recieved it says: "Haven't seen him do that before." pic.twitter.com/v9seD2dvPh

— Aubrey Allegretti (@breeallegretti) February 27, 2019


Sir Oliver Letwin asks Starmer for an assurance that Labour is willing to be flexible.

Starmer says Labour is playing its part in the cross-party talks. But he says he is “cautious” about the likelihood of there being an agreement within the next 14 days.

Back in the Commons Ken Clarke, the Conservative former chancellor, intervenes and asks Starmer if he noticed that, when Lidington was going through Labour’s five Brexit demands, he did not seem to disagree with any of them. Clarke says this shows why the two main parties need to cooperate on Brexit.

Starmer says he will not comment on what has been said in private talks.


The campaign which represents EU nationals in the UK, the3million, says what Theresa May said about the Costa amendment in the Commons yesterday (see 3.21pm) was wrong.

Yesterday, in response to the #CostaAmendment, Theresa May claimed that the EU has not got the legal authority to separate the #citizensrights from the Brexit negotiations. We got our legal experts on it and the clear verdict is: INCORRECT pic.twitter.com/TFJyc4XSyu

— the3million (@the3million) February 27, 2019

Starmer says, in this job, he spends a lot of time looking at borders.

He says the border in Ireland is not just about goods crossing from one country to another. It is not just a technical exercise. It is something that has guaranteed peace, he says.

Dominic Grieve, the Tory pro-European, says the UK has obligations under an international treaty (the Good Friday agreement) relating to the Irish border.

Starmer welcomes what Grieve said.

Starmer says that when MPs vote again on the deal, it will be the same deal as the one they previously rejected.

Referring to Theresa May’s announcement about a work stream looking at alternative arrangements for the border in Ireland, he says this will not make people change their minds. Any country would want to streamline their customs arrangements, he says.

Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, is speaking now.

He starts by reading out, to laughter from MPs, what happened at the home affairs committee when Sajid Javid, the home secretary, revealed that he did not know what Theresa May had said about the Costa amendment. (See 11.19am.)

Starmer welcomes the government’s decision to back the amendment. But he demands to know why Alberto Costa was sacked for tabling it since it is now government policy.

What the Costa amendment says - and what May said about it yesterday

This is what Theresa May told MPs yesterday in response to Jeremy Corbyn asking her about the Costa amendment.

As I covered in my statement, the EU does not have the legal authority to do a separate deal on citizens’ rights without a new mandate. This is a matter, unless it is part of the withdrawal agreement – obviously, we have negotiated something within the withdrawal agreement; good rights for citizens within the withdrawal agreement – for individual member states. We have taken up the issue with individual member states. A number of them have already given good guarantees to UK citizens and we are encouraging those that have not to do so.

And this is what the Costa amendment says.

At end, add “; and requires the prime minister to seek at the earliest opportunity a joint UK-EU commitment to adopt part two of the withdrawal agreement on citizens’ rights and ensure its implementation prior to the UK’s exiting the European Union, whatever the outcome of negotiations on other aspects of the withdrawal agreement.”


Government U-turn as Lidington says ministers now backing Costa amendment on citizens' rights

Lidington now turns to the Costa amendment.

He says the government takes the need to protect citizens’ rights very seriously.

He says, if there is no deal, what happens to UK nationals on the continent will be a matter for individual countries. Some countries have offered satisfactory assurances, but others have not, he says. He says access to healthcare is a particular issue.

He says the EU has been clear that it will not allow just the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement to stand on its own.

He says the government will accept the amendment today, because its political objectives are the same as Costa’s.

It will take this up with the EU, and see if they can be persuaded to adopt the position that they have adopted up to now.

  • Lidington announces that the government is accepting the Costa amendment on citizens’ rights, even though Theresa May dismissed this yesterday.


ITV’s Robert Peston thinks Lidington’s answer to Liz Kendall (see 3.04pm) was significant.

.@DLidington just said something very interesting which I don't think is official government language. He described a no-deal Brexit as "chaotic" - when saying why he thinks EU governments would unanimously agree to postpone Brexit if asked to do so

— Robert Peston (@Peston) February 27, 2019

Nick Boles, a Conservative opposed to a no-deal Brexit, asks for an assurance that MPs will get to vote on the length of the article 50 extension, if the length agreed by the government with the EU is different from the length originally proposed in the motion passed by parliament.

Lidington says MPs will get the chance to have their say, because the next steps vote due to take place under the EU Withdrawal Act means they will get a further vote.

Sir Oliver Letwin intervenes to say he thinks Lidington’s answer was helpful, and he says he hopes that settles the matter.

Anne Main, a Conservative, says the EU would only grant an extension for a reason. What would the reason be, if MPs had again voted down the deal?

Lidington says he is being asked to go “deeper into the realms” of the hypothetical.

Lidington turns to the amendments.

Referring to the Cooper amendment, he summarises what Theresa May said yesterday.

It replicates, almost word for word, what the Cooper amendment says.

He says these are commitments made by the prime minister, “and the government will stick to them”.

Sir Oliver Letwin, the Tory MP who backed the original Cooper amendment, thanks Lidington for what he said – not that he doubted the word of the PM, he adds. He says he thinks there is no need for the Cooper amendment to be put to a vote now.

Yvette Cooper asks if the government would vote for any legislation to change the exit day brought forward as a result of the vote promised by the prime minister. And she asks about the length of an extension.

Lidington says the government would want a short extension, but that it would have to be negotiated with the EU. He says, if the government was bringing forward legislation following a vote in parliament, it would support that legislation.

Labour’s Liz Kendall asks what would happen if the EU only offered the UK a long extension.

Lidington says the default position is for the UK to leave.

He says he does not believes that the other governments of the EU have either an economic or strategic interest in seeing a chaotic Brexit.

He says the vote promised by the PM yesterday would be in addition to the next steps vote promised anyway under section 13 of the EU Withdrawal Act. So MPs would get the chance to urge particular courses of action, he says.


Anna Soubry, the former Tory MP who now sits as an Independent Group MP, says the no-deal document (pdf) published yesterday was an accurate summary of the information presented to cabinet about what would happen under no deal. She says she knows, because she saw the original papers.

Antoinette Sandbach, the Tory pro-European, says some small businesses may have been misled by claims from Brexiters that, if the UK were to leave the EU without a deal, it would be able to continue trading on tariff-free terms for up to 10 years, under article 24 of the WTO’s general agreement on tariffs and trade.

Lidington agrees. He says Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, has said those claims are wrong, and this point was repeated in the no-deal document published by the government yesterday.

This is what the document (pdf) said:

One argument that has been put forward in relation to our future economic relationship with the EU is that the UK can simply rely on the provisions under Article XXIV of the general agreement on tariffs and trade (Gatt) to have tariff-free trade with the EU for a 10-year period. This is a misunderstanding of what the rules are. As the secretary of state for international trade [Liam Fox] told the House of Commons on 14 January this year:

“Some have suggested that it would be possible under Article XXIV of the general agreement on tariffs and trade to maintain tariff-free trade as an alternative to the negotiated agreement in a no-deal scenario. There are two immediate problems facing that suggestion. The first is that it would require the agreement of the EU and be based on the expectation of a future trade agreement or customs union to be operable in WTO law. Although it might be argued, as I am sure many in the house would, that that would be in the economic interests of the EU27, we all know from experience that the politics of the EU can take precedence over economic pragmatism. In the political atmosphere of no deal, it would be difficult to cultivate the good will necessary for that to proceed. Secondly, that suggestion would not deal with all the regulatory issues – the non-tariff barriers – that are so important to many businesses.”

Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP who has led efforts to ensure MPs get a vote on ruling out no deal, asks for an assurance that the government will be bound by any vote of parliament.

Lidington says what May said about this yesterday had been agreed by cabinet.

He says he will say more on this shortly.

Ken Clarke, the Tory pro-European, says it is important to know if the government will vote in favour of extending article 50 if its deal gets defeated. Or will it vote for no deal? That must have been discussed at cabinet, he says.

Lidington says Clarke is asking him to comment on “a hypothetical whipping decision on a hypothetical vote”. He says he hopes that will not take place, because he hopes MPs vote for May’s deal.


Politico Europe’s Charlie Cooper, who has been listening to the debate, does not accept the argument that the ERG are softening their objections to the withdrawal agreement. (See 9.18am.)

I don't buy the idea that the ERG are giving meaningful ground the backstop. Owen Paterson just now calls for "definite and definitive date" in withdrawal treaty by which "alternative arrangements" could come into force instead of the backstop. EU v v unlikely to countenance that

— Charlie Cooper (@CharlieCooper8) February 27, 2019

Lidington says an abrupt departure from the EU would provide a shock to the economy.

The Green MP Caroline Lucas says President Macron said an article 50 extension would have to be for a purpose. The obvious purpose is for a referendum, she says.

Lidington says, in talks with the government, the EU has always said it would want to know the reasons for an article 50 extension. So there is nothing surprising in what Macron said, he says.

Labour’s Pat McFadden asks about President Macron’s comment about not accepting the request for an article 50 extension without a clear justification. (See 1.33pm.)

Lidington claims there is no difference between that and what Theresa May has said.

Back in the debate Lidington says it would be a mistake for MPs to think that EU leaders spend all their time thinking about Brexit. There are other issues they want to address, he says.

The DUP has put out a statement saying that it will back the Costa amendment. Nigel Dodds, the DUP leader at Westminster, said:

Part two of the draft withdrawal agreement on citizens’ rights is one of the elements which should be supported right across the House of Commons. It is right therefore that this aspect should be agreed with the European Union whatever the outcome of negotiations are.

It is the sensible thing to do and it is the right thing to do. The amendment has already received significant cross-party support from both leave and remain supporters alike. It is one that I would hope will be passed by the House of Commons and that the European Union would respond positively to this move and ensure that fears around citizens’ rights can be laid to rest once and for all at the earliest possible opportunity.

You can read the full text of the Costa amendment, and all other amendments, here, on the order paper (pdf).


This is from the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn.

The battle today is over C and F. Remainer rebels want HMG to back F, so the Commons can the promise for an A50 extension vote in concrete. If it doesn't, they are threatening to push C, to seize control of Brexit timetable. So significant risk still for HMG today.

— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) February 27, 2019

Amendment C is the Spelman one and amendment F is the Cooper one. (See 2.18pm.)

But the Cooper amendment is essentially just a summary of what Theresa May promised yesterday about MPs getting a possible vote on extending article 50, and so it is hard to see why ministers would not back it.

Pro Brexit protesters outside the Houses of Parliament today.
Pro Brexit protesters outside the Houses of Parliament today. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, has put out a statement condemning the treatment of Alberto Costa. She said:

The sacking of Alberto Costa for supporting citizens’ rights prolongs the anxiety and uncertainty that over 5 million people have faced for two-and-a-half years.

Alberto Costa’s amendment was a sensible measure trying to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK and our own British citizens in the EU.

These people are our friends and our neighbours and they don’t deserve to be treated as a political football kicked between the Home Office and No 10.


The SNP’s Tommy Sheppard asks what the government’s policy will be if there are votes on accepting a no-deal Brexit, or extending article 50.

Lidington says he is being asked to comment on a hypothetical situation. He is focused on getting a deal, he says.

Hilary Benn, the Labour chair of the Brexit committee, asks about the PM’s commitment to let MPs vote on extending article 50 if there is no deal by 14 March. Would MPs be able to table amendments changing the length of the article 50 extension?

Lidington says it is up to the Speaker to decide what amendments are called. But he says, if there were no deal, section 13 of the EU Withdrawal Act would still apply (the clause that says MPs should get a vote on what happens next, on an amendable motion).


David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister, is opening the debate for the government.

The Lib Dem MP Tom Brake asks Lidington to confirm that the government’s view of the Costa amendment is. The home secretary said he approved of it, Brake says, but Alberto Costa was sacked for tabling it.

Lidington says he will address this in due course.

Bercow says five amendments could be put to vote in Brexit debate

The Brexit debate is starting now.

John Bercow, the Speaker, announces that he is five calling amendments. Here they are, in the order in which they will be put to a vote.

1) The Labour amendment. This requires the government to negotiate changes to the political declaration in line with the five Brexit demands set out in Jeremy Corbyn’s recent letter to Theresa May. It does not mention a second referendum.

2) The SNP amendment. This says the UK should not leave the EU without a deal “under any circumstances”.

3) The Caroline Spelman amendment. Jointly tabled with Jack Dromey, this would create time for a Commons debate tomorrow on the Yvette Cooper bill allowing the Commons to legislate to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

4) The Alberto Costa amendment. This says the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement should be implemented even if there is no deal.

5) The Yvette Cooper amendment. This states the commitments Theresa May gave yesterday about MPs being able to vote to extend article 50 on 14 March if no deal has been agreed and MPs have voted to rule out no deal.

Voting will start at 7pm. If all amendments get put to a vote, and if there is a vote on the main motion, the voting will carry on until about 8.30pm.

But, in practice, the main motion will probably go through on the nod, and it is quite possible that some or all of the backbench amendments could get pulled (depending on what assurances are given from the dispatch box). It could all be over by about 7.30pm.


This is from Reuters.

The European Union is ready to respond to any UK request for an extension to the Brexit timetable, and problems such as the European parliament elections can be overcome if there is the political will, Romania’s minister for European affairs said. George Ciamba told Reuters on Wednesday that Romania, as the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, was still making plans for a disorderly Brexit but was more optimistic after Theresa May paved the way for a delay beyond the planned Brexit date of 29 March.

George Ciamba, Romanian minister for European Affairs,
George Ciamba, Romanian minister for European affairs. Photograph: Stéphanie Lecocq/EPA


These are from HuffPost’s Paul Waugh. He thinks Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman may have redefined the nature of the commitment given by Labour on Monday about backing a second referendum.

Has Labour just torn up the carefully worded Brexit policy shift announced on Monday? JC's spokesman post-PMQs says: "We will back a public vote in order to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit or a no-deal outcome...." but then adds a key caveat:

— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) February 27, 2019

"But of course we will continue to push for the other options as well, to prevent those outcomes including our alternative plan for a close economic partnership and of course also if possible a general election"

— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) February 27, 2019

But Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is saying she would agree to an article 50 extension, according to Deutsche Welle’s Maximilian Hofman.

BREAKING: Merkel confirms that she would not be opposed to giving UK “a little more time” if needed for orderly #Brexit.

Remarks made in Paris alongside French President Macron. pic.twitter.com/f0A1Th4Tck

— Maximilian Hofmann (@maxhofmann) February 27, 2019

EU should not agree to extend article 50 without 'clear objective', says Macron

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, says the EU should not agree to extend article 50 without a “clear objective”, Sky’s Faisal Islam reports.

Macron meeting Merkel: “We would agree to A50 extension only if it is justified by a new choice of the British”
“In no way accept an extension without a clear objective”.

- extension under A50.3 requires unanimity.

— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) February 27, 2019
German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris today.
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, welcomed by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, at the Élysée Palace in Paris today. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images


“Senior ministers believe that the European Union will insist on a Brexit delay of up to two years if Britain fails to agree a deal in the next few weeks”, Joe Murphy and Nicholas Cecil report in the Evening Standard. “Several sources have told the Standard they do not think the sort of “short, limited extension” of article 50 suggested by Theresa May in the Commons yesterday would be permitted by Brussels.”

The fate of a backbench amendment seeking to guarantee EU citizens’ rights is up in the air after the home secretary backed it and then the MP who tabled it was sacked from the government, Lisa O’Carroll reports. Sajid Javid said the government would support the amendment laid by the Tory MP Alberto Costa to ringfence EU citizens’ future rights under a no-deal Brexit, hours after Theresa May dismissed it as unworkable. But less than an hour after Javid made his comments, Costa was sacked from his post as parliamentary private secretary to the Scottish secretary, David Mundell.

Here is Lisa’s full story.

Labour to investigate Chris Williamson but not suspend him over his claim party 'too apologetic' over antisemitsm

This is from my colleague Heather Stewart.

New - and this will *not* go down well - Corbyn’s spokesman says Chris Williamson has been issued with a notice of investigation into a “pattern of behaviour”; but he won’t be suspended while it is carried out.

— Heather Stewart (@GuardianHeather) February 27, 2019


Tory MP Alberto Costa sacked as PPS over citizens' rights amendment

The Tory MP Alberto Costa has been sacked from his post as a parliamentary private secretary in the Scotland Office over his bid to get EU citizens’ rights ringfenced in the event of no deal. (See 11.19am and 11.53am.)

He was asked to resign after tabling an amendment calling on Theresa May to seek an urgent meeting with the EU to do a side deal securing the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British nationals settled in the EU.

“It seems ridiculous for the government to be sacking a parliamentary private secretary over an amendment that has cross party support and the support of upwards of 60 Tory backbenchers and Sajid Javid,” said a source.

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, devoted his two questions at PMQs to Brexit. He started by urging May to rule out a no-deal Brexit and he accused her of “blackmailing” the country with the prospect of what might happen if her deal is not agreed.

Theresa May said that there were only two ways to remove the threat of no deal. She would not revoke article 50, she said. So the only way to remove the threat of no deal was to vote for her deal, she said.

Blackford said there was another option; article 50 could be extended to allow for a second referendum, he said. He said May was fooling no one.

Parliament will not be bullied into a very bad choice of accepting her very bad deal or no deal at all.

May said another referendum would not solve the problem.

Tom Watson says Chris Williamson should have Labour whip removed

Tom Watson, the Labour deputy leader, says Chris Williamson’s apology (see 12.44pm) is insufficient.

Chris Williamson has produced a long-winded and heavily caveated apology. It is not good enough. If it was in my gift I would have removed the whip from him already. pic.twitter.com/IuEpDM1Ak2

— Tom Watson (@tom_watson) February 27, 2019

Peter Bone, the Tory Brexiter, says yet again the media had verbatim reports from cabinet yesterday. Wouldn’t it just be easier to televise these meetings?

May says Bone has talked about being promoted to cabinet. Perhaps the two issues are linked, and he wants to be on TV the whole time.

And that’s it. PMQs is over.

Earlier during PMQs May said Corbyn should suspend Chris Williamson over his comment about Labour being too apologetic about antisemitism allegations.,

Williamson himself has just issued this apology on Twitter.

A personal message and sincere apology from me regarding my recent remarks on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. pic.twitter.com/2qaNCOVqGk

— Chris Williamson MP #GTTO (@DerbyChrisW) February 27, 2019

DUP says extending article 50 would undermine May's prospects of getting changes to backstop

Nigel Dodds, the DUP leader at Westminster, says the prospects of May being able to get the changes she wants to the withdrawal agreement have been undermined by yesterday’s events. He says he does not know what an article 50 extension would achieve.

May says she is continue to press for legally binding changes to the withdrawal agreement.

She says the government does not want to extend article 50.

The SNP’s Angela Crawley asks why carers are being penalised under universal credit.

May says she will get the relevant minister to write to Crawley about this.

John Whittingdale, the Tory former cabinet minster, says it is five years since the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Will the government increase sanctions to force it to withdraw.

May says the government has condemned and continues to condemn the annexation of Crimea.

Labour’s Stephen Hepburn asks about the availability of a cystic fibrosis drug.

May says the NHS has to get value for money. It has made a generous offer to the drug company, Vertex. Talks are still underway with the company.

Justine Greening, the Tory former education secretary, asks May if she supports the restoration of maintenance grants for students.

May says this is being considered by the review of student funding currently underway.

Labour’s Bambos Charalambous asks about crime in his Enfield Southgate constituency. His constituents do not feel safe. Will May increase police funding?

May says Met funding is going up. She says Charalambous should take this up with the Labour mayor of London.

Quoting Bank of England forecasts, Jeremy Corbyn asks if PM blames her “shambolic handling of #Brexit, or her failed austerity policies" for slowest growth in over a decade

Theresa May: I am delivering "an economy fit for the future"#PMQs updates: https://t.co/u73lOSrz8k pic.twitter.com/vzK29Pbixq

— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) February 27, 2019

PMQs - Snap verdict

PMQs - Snap verdict: Is Jeremy Corbyn expecting an early election? It sounded a bit like it, because that would explain his decision to opt for a portmanteau PMQs strategy, lobbing attack lines at Theresa May on a very wide range of economic and welfare policies. It sounded a bit like a medley of Labour conference greatest hits. The problem with this approach is that it is hard to get anything to stick, and most of the exchanges felt like a high-scoring draw, with May firing back with her own CCHQ talking points. Corbyn’s point about increasing food bank use and welfare changes being to blame was powerful, but because his questions were wide-ranging, rather than focused, May got off rather lightly. (If you ask about universal credit, you are entitled to an answer. If you try to shoehorn UC, plus the two-child limit, plus the benefit cap, plus Sure Start centres into your questions, you shouldn’t be surprised if you just receive a broad-brush response.) That said, it was interesting that Corbyn felt confident enough to start with an attack on May’s record on economic growth (which is conventionally seen as more of a Tory issue than a Corbyn one). And Corbyn’s peroration (ie, his sixth question) was first-class. This is the one that his office clips for YouTube and other social media, and for that audience it is all that matters. As May pointed out in her response, not everything he said may have passed the factcheck test, but it was enough to make the outing a Corbyn success.

Corbyn asks about the food bank in Hastings. Demand there has gone up by 80%. A significant proportion of referrals relate to benefit changes. Last week the Resolution Foundation said child poverty was on course to reach record limits. Will May end the two-child limit and the benefit cap, and restore Sure Start centres.

May says welfare should be fair for claimants, but also for taxpayers. Absolute child poverty is at a record low. A child growing up in a home where parents work is less likely to be in poverty. Will May accept that work is the best route out of poverty.

Corbyn says it clearly is not working, because people doing two or three jobs have to access food banks. May used to talk about the just about managing. But they are not managing. Child poverty is up, pensioner poverty is up, homelessness is up, manufacturing is in recession, and austerity is not over. People in low income are getting poorer while the rich getting richer. And the government’s handling of Brexit is making things worse. Are any of these burning injustices a priority for the prime minister?

May says manufacturing is not in recession. And Corbyn is wrong about the lowest earners; they have seen the highest rise for 20 years because of the national living wage. Income tax has been cut, and fuel duty frozen. She says Labour voted against these tax cuts. It is working people who always pay the price of Labour.

Corbyn says the richest have seen their incomes grow, while the poorest are getting poorer. Will May commit to ending the benefit freeze?

May say the top 1% pay 28% of income tax. That is higher than under Labour. Income inequality is lower than under Labour. And the lowest earners have had their fastest pay rise for 20 years under the national minimum wage.

Corbyn says the Tories opposed the principle of the minimum wage. Will the PM intervene to make sure staff working in government departments get the London living wage. This month Amber Rudd admitted universal credit is driving people to food banks. Or does May think rising poverty is a price worth paying.

May says changes are being made to universal credit. For example, the taper rate has been cut. The seven-day wait has been cut. And there is an overlap for people on housing benefit. While the government was making those changes, Labour opposed them.

Jeremy Corbyn says he hopes the tensions over Kashmir can be eased, and that no lives will be lost.

The Bank of England says growth this year will be the lowest for a decade. Is that because of May’s policies?

May says a report say UK growth will be higher than Germany’s. Borrowing is down, she says.

Corbyn says May may not have had time to look at the Bank of England’s forecasts. It says there is a one in four chance of a recession. Manufacturers have cut jobs. Is May’s shambolic Brexit to blame, or her lack of an industrial strategy.

May says there has been consistent growth, quarter by quarter. Under Labour there would be capital flight and £1,000bn borrowing.

Julian Knight, a Conservative, asks May to agree that Birmingham council should sort out the bin strike. It shows what would happen under a hard-left government.

May says this is a matter for Labour-controlled Birmingham to sort out. It shows what a hard-left Labour government would be like.

Labour’s Virendra Sharma asks when May will “call time” on the Brexit “farce” and hold a referendum.

May says she answered 82 questions on Brexit in the Commons yesterday. She repeats the promises she made yesterday about a possible vote on extending article 50.

Theresa May starts by saying she is deeply concerned by the rising tensions between India and Pakistan. The government is monitoring developments closely, and hopes tensions can be deescalated.


PMQs is starting soon.

Here is the list of MPs down to ask a question.

PMQs Photograph: HoC

List of amendments to the Brexit motion

There are 12 main amendments to the Brexit motion being debated today (plus an amendment to an amendment). You can read them all on the Commons order paper here (pdf), starting on page 6.

Here is a summary of what they say.

1) The Labour amendment. This requires the government to negotiate changes to the political declaration in line with the five Brexit demands set out in Jeremy Corbyn’s recent letter to Theresa May. It does not mention a second referendum.

2) The Caroline Spelman amendment. Jointly tabled with Jack Dromey, this would create time for a Commons debate tomorrow on the Yvette Cooper bill allowing the Commons to legislate to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

3) The Caroline Lucas amendment. This rules out a no-deal Brexit and calls for greater environmental protections after Brexit.

4) The Angus Brendan MacNeill amendment. This calls for article 50 to be revoked.

5) The SNP amendment. This says the UK should not leave the EU without a deal “under any circumstances”.

6) The Plaid Cymru amendment. This says article 50 should be extended.

7) The Alberto Costa amendment. This says he citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement should be implemented even if there is no deal.

8) Another Caroline Spelman amendment. This says there should be a debate on Tuesday 19 March to allow MPs to choose between a range of Brexit options.

9) The Yvette Cooper amendment. This states the commitments Theresa May gave yesterday about MPs being able to vote to extend article 50 on 14 March if no deal has been agreed and MPs have voted to rule out no deal.

10) The Anna Soubry amendment. With backing from the Lib Dems, and from Independent Group MPs, this calls for a second referendum.

11) The Lib Dem amendment. This says the government should set up a £7.5bn Brexit support fund “to mitigate job losses causes by Brexit uncertainty”.

12) The John Baron amendment. This says extending article 50 does not take no deal off the table.

John Bercow, the speaker, will announce which amendments he has selected at the start of the debate, at around 1.45pm (after the urgent question). He will definitely call the Labour one, and there is a good chance he will call the SNP’s and Alberto Costa’s too, with possibly one or two others.

This is from my colleague Heather Stewart on the Costa amendment. (See 11.19am.)

Government sources say we can expect the PM to address the issue of the Costa amendment at PMQs - er, yes, I think she'll have to...

— Heather Stewart (@GuardianHeather) February 27, 2019

Sajid Javid, the home secretary, has been giving evidence to the Commons home affairs, and he came rather unstuck when he was asked if the government would be backing the Alberto Costa amendment today. Costa, a Conservative MP, has tabled an amendment saying the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement should be implemented even if there is no deal. PoliticsHome’s Nicholas Mairs has the clip

Among some confusion Sajid Javid confirms ministers will back the Costa amendment on guaranteeing EU citizens rights under no-deal pic.twitter.com/C2UnOnxf5J

— Nicholas Mairs (@Nicholas_Mairs) February 27, 2019

SM: "What’s wrong with the amendment?"
SJ: "Nothing”
SM "So is the Government supporting it then?"
SJ: “Yes, what do you mean now? When was the government not supporting it? Where did you hear that?”
SM: "Yesterday"
SJ: “From who?”
SM: "The Prime Minister"
SJ "Did you…"

— Nicholas Mairs (@Nicholas_Mairs) February 27, 2019

I will post a summary of the amendments that have been tabled shortly.

Labour says Chris Williamson should apologise for saying party 'too apologetic' about antisemitsm

Labour has said Chris Williamson should apologise for his comment about the party being “too apologetic” about antisemitism. (See 9.53am.) A party spokesman said:

These comments are deeply offensive and inappropriate, and fall below the standards we expect of MPs. Downplaying the problem of antisemitism makes it harder for us to tackle it. Chris Williamson should apologise immediately and withdraw his remarks.

Chris Williamson.
Chris Williamson. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Tories receive £7.4m in donations in final quarter of 2018

The Electoral Commission has released its latest figures for political donations. In the last three months of 2018 £10.4m was given to political parties - £1.9m more than in the previous quarter. Most of it, £7.4m went to the Conservatives, who received more than four time as much in donations as Labour (£1.6m). The increase is almost certainly linked to speculation about a possible early election.

There are more details on the Electoral Commission website here.

Amount receive by political parties in final quarter of 2018 in donations and public funds
Amount receive by political parties in final quarter of 2018 in donations and public funds Photograph: Electoral Commission

Chris Williamson should be suspended from Labour over antisemitism comment, says fellow MP

Yesterday the arch Corbynite MP Chris Williamson was reprimanded by Labour party officials after he helped to arrange a screening in parliament of a film defending Jackie Walker, the activist suspended from the party over comments about antisemitism. This morning Williamson is in the headlines again after the Yorkshire Post uncovered a video of him saying Labour had been “too apologetic” over antisemitism allegations.

On Sky’s All Out Politics the Labour MP Phil Wilson said Williamson should be suspended from the party for his comments. Wilson said:

I think it is just outrageous, really. And I think he should be suspended from the Labour party. I actually spoke to Tom Watson [the Labour deputy leader] about this this morning, and Tom is [of] the same view. Tom, I know, is writing to the general secretary of the Labour party to express his concerns about it. I just think it’s outrageous. There has got to be tough action taken on people like this in the Labour party. And when you have got a member of parliament expressing these views, I don’t think there is any place for them ultimately in the Labour party.

Last night the Labour MP Wes Streeting posted this response on Twitter.

Stomach-turning. No action will be taken. https://t.co/gWd1a8G3zK

— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) February 26, 2019

The Labour party, and Williamson himself, have not so far commented publicly on the video.

Phil Wilson
Phil Wilson Photograph: Sky News

SNP's Ian Blackford says article 50 should be extended at least into autumn to allow time for second referendum

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford wants to see article 50 extended into the autumn to allow proper preparation for a second referendum, because “people have to see that democracy is taking place”. Blackford told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland show:

One of the reasons the prime minister is [considering] delaying article 50 just for a short period is she wants to avoid elections to the European parliament. I’d say let’s prepare for that, let’s give us time, we should be extending article 50 for a reasonable period ... The defining characteristic of this is how long will it take for a people’s vote, which will probably take us into the autumn at the very least ...

On the basis of what we know now, on the basis of the lies that were told in the referendum campaign, people have to see that democracy is taking place. The right thing to do is to have that people’s vote and we need to extend article 50 for as long as we need for that process to take place.

Ian Blackford
Ian Blackford Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

ERG chair Jacob Rees-Mogg drops his calls for wholesale removal of backstop

Theresa May still claims she can persuade MPs to support her Brexit view. A common view at Westminster is that, given the unprecedented scale of her defeat by a majority of 230 in January, she is pushing optimism well beyond all reasonable bounds and that she is now mired in delusion. But there are some shreds of evidence to suggest that her strategy of running down the clock, pushing all sides to the point where they are so desperate for a deal that they will compromise, is working and we heard a very good example on the Today programme about half an hour ago. Jacob Rees-Mogg, who as chair of the European Research Group represents the 50-plus Tories who are most in favour of a hard Brexit, conceded that he is shifting. He admitted that he is not quite as hostile to the backstop as he used to be.

Until recently many hardline Brexiters were demanding the wholesale removal of the backstop from the withdrawal agreement. Indeed only last month, during a big speech in Westminster, Rees-Mogg himself said: “As long as the backstop is there, I will not vote for the deal.” That was the same day he suggested that May should suspend parliament rather than give in to demands to extend article 50. But now Rees-Mogg seems relatively relaxed about the possible extension of article 50 that could happen following May’s announcement yesterday and, in his Today interview, he admitted that he was softening his position on the backstop. You could tell he was engaged in a U-turn because he started talking in Latin to obscure what he was up to. He told the programme:

I can live with the de facto removal of the backstop, even if it isn’t de jure. What do I mean by that? I mean that if there is a clear date that says the backstop ends, and that that is in the text of the treaty, or equivalent to the text of the treaty - if it were to be an appendix to the treaty; bear in mind, the Irish backstop is in itself an appendix to the treaty. So if you had a further appendix that said, ‘This will not go beyond a particular date’, and a short date, not a long date, then that would remove the backstop in the lifetime of parliament. That would have a reasonable effect from my point of view ...

A changed deal is a changed deal. Of course, I would be open to considering that.

This does not mean May is anywhere close to getting her deal through parliament. But it is a shift, and it may turn out to be significant.

Here is the agenda for the day.

10am: Sajid Javid, the home secretary, gives evidence to the Commons home affairs committee.

10.30am: The Metropolitan police and the National Crime Agency give evidence to the Lords EU home affairs committee on security in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

12pm: Theresa May faces Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs.

Around 1pm: MPs begin the latest Brexit next steps debate. John Bercow, the speaker, will announce which amendments are being put to a vote.

2.45pm: Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, and Sir David Natzler, the former Commons clerk, give evidence to the Commons procedure committee about the power of the Commons to demand government papers.

7pm: MPs vote on the Brexit amendments.

As usual, I will also be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web, but I expect to be focusing mostly on Brexit and the debate.

You can read all the latest Guardian politics articles here. Here is the Politico Europe round-up of this morning’s political news. And here is the PoliticsHome list of today’s top 10 must-reads.

If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter, I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

I try to monitor the comments BTL but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply ATL, although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter.

Jacob Rees-Mogg speaking at the London Palladium for a Spectator event last night.
Jacob Rees-Mogg speaking at the London Palladium for a Spectator event last night. Photograph: The Spectator/PA



Andrew Sparrow

The GuardianTramp

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