- MPs set to vote on whether to rule out no-deal Brexit
- Theresa May confirms she will vote against crashing out with no agreement
- PM loses voice and is unable to address MPs
- Corbyn says Government is ‘in tatters’
- Government announces tariffs will be slashed in event of no deal
MPs are set to vote on the future course of Brexit as they decide whether to rule out leaving the EU without a deal.
Theresa May has confirmed she will vote to block a no-deal Brexit as the Commons prepares for another pivotal vote after MPs rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal for the second time yesterday.
The no-deal Brexit motion seeks to rule out leaving without a Withdrawal Agreement but also notes leaving without a deal remains the default position in UK and EU law.
Commons Speaker John Bercow has selected two amendments to Theresa May’s no-deal Brexit motion.
Amendment A, tabled by Conservative former minister Dame Caroline Spelman which rejects a no-deal Brexit at any time and under any circumstances.
Amendment F, in the name of Conservative former minister Damian Green, calls for a delay to Brexit day from March 29 to May 22 to give time for preparations to leave without a deal and the Government should then offer a “standstill” agreement with the EU and its member states.
Mrs May, who croaked her way through her statement following Tuesday night’s vote, was helped out by Michael Gove on Wednesday’s no deal Brexit debate, as he stood in for her, saying: “She may temporarily have lost her voice, but what she has not lost, and will never lose, is her focus in the national interest, and a full-hearted desire to do what is right for our country.”
The Environment Secretary said since Mrs May lost the first meaningful vote on her Withdrawal Agreement in January she has spent “more than 19 hours at the despatch box”, and: “Has shown fortitude, tenacity, thoughtfulness, diligence – and above all an unselfish and unstinting patriotism.”
Mr Gove said it was only appropriate that “on all sides of the House” MPs recognise the way in which the Prime Minister “always, always, always puts country first”.
During Prime Minister’s Questions Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pressed Mrs May to reveal how she will vote.
The PM – who has given her party a free vote on the motion – replied: “I will be voting for the motion in my name.”
Mr Corbyn said Mrs May’s Brexit strategy was “in tatters” and her deal is “dead”, before criticising her for having “refused to listen”.
But Mrs May retorted: “I may not have my own voice but I do understand the voice of the country.”
If MPs say no to no-deal – which looks highly likely since a majority of MPs have done so in the past – Parliament will vote tomorrow on whether they want to delay Brexit.
If the vote to delay Brexit is approved, Mrs May will request an extension to Article 50, the legal mechanism by which a country can quit the EU but the EU would have to agree to it.
Following Mrs May’s humiliating defeat over her Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday evening, the EU warned it would not allow the UK to extend Brexit without providing a credible reason for doing so.
Speaking in Strasbourg, EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the 27 member states will demand an explanation as to how a delay would help break the deadlock in the UK Parliament over Brexit.
“Why would we extend these discussions? The discussion on Article 50 is done and dusted,” he said. “We have the Withdrawal Agreement. It is there. That is the question asked and we are waiting for an answer to that.”
Barnier added that “the risk of no deal has never been higher”.
The European parliament’s lead Brexit spokesman Guy Verhofstadt cemented the position, warning against an extension without good reason.
He said: “And so I am against every extension, whether an extension of one day, one week, even 24 hours, if it is not based on a clear opinion of the House of Commons for something, that we know what they want.”
After Parliament rejected Mrs May’s Brexit deal last night, Mr Barnier said the EU was stepping up its preparations for no deal.
The Government announced its strategy for trade in the event of no-deal, revealing plans to slash tariffs on the majority of goods.
Ministers also published their plan for the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland if a deal cannot be reached, confirming no immediate border checks would be introduced.
Checks on some goods, including food, will take place to comply with international law, but these will happen away from the border.