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Brexit: Fox claims no deal 'survivable' as May launches last-minute bid to rescue her deal – Politics live

Any MP who has been in parliament for a while will have lived through the odd crisis or two, but there is no precedent in recent times for anything quite as momentous as this. It is not just that, if Theresa May loses the vote on the Brexit deal tomorrow by more than a 100 votes (a distinct possibility), that will amount to the biggest government defeat for almost 100 years. It is not just that this is an issue that has polarised the country, and split both main parties (although particularly the Conservatives). It is not just that parliamentary conventions are being upturned, and that one possible outcome could involve economic catastrophe (although some people say otherwise – see below). What makes this situation particularly remarkable is that no one is even pretending to be able to predict with confidence what will happen.

There is almost too much news. Here are the key developments overnight and early this morning.


I don’t regard no-deal as national suicide. This is not Dunkirk, this is leaving the European Union.

We need to find ways if there is no deal, of mitigating that. But the best way to do it is to accept the deal that the prime minister has negotiated. It gives us a way of leaving the European Union with minimum friction.

I think no-deal would damage our economy – I’ve been frank about that – but I think it’s survivable.

I think no Brexit, politically, is a disaster from which we might not recover.

But Grieve told the Today programme that Fox was wrong to dismiss his claim about a no-deal Brexit being “national suicide”. Grieve said:


It would be national suicide. It will lead to the break up of the UK for starters. That seems to me to be a pretty clear indication of a form of national suicide.

The economic damage which it will do to us will be immense, so that the most vulnerable in our society will be those who suffer most as a consequence.

If you are going to head to a position where you are going to have an 8% cut probably in your GDP – which is a major recession – it is those with least in our society who will suffer most. I’m not prepared to see that happening.

  • Fox said May had been offered “assurances” from the EU about the backstop. They are expected to be published later today, in the form of a letter to May. Fox said:


The prime minister will seek to make a statement in the House of Commons today outlining the assurances she had had from the European Union following discussions over the last few days and I hope my colleagues will listen to those and recognise the best way forward is to support the government’s agreement because it delivers on the referendum result and does so in a way that minimises the risks to our economy.

  • Three Conservative former ministers have revealed details of a bill to allow the Commons liaison committee to produce a Brexit plan if May cannot get hers through the Commons. Nick Boles explained on the Today programme how the scheme, also backed by Sir Oliver Letwin and Nicky Morgan, would work. They have produced a EU withdrawal number 2 bill, he said. He went on:


This bill would do the following: it would give the government three more weeks to get a compromise deal, a plan B, through parliament so that we are leaving the EU on time on March 29 with a deal. If that failed, it would then ask the liaison committee, which is the committee of all the chairs of select committees and other parliamentary committees, it would give the liaison committee the responsibility to try and come up with its own compromise deal, which would have to go back to the House for a vote. If the House passed that compromise deal, then the Government would be legally required to implement whatever it was that they had.

Asked if the plan represented a “coup” by MPs, Boles told Today:


It’s a funny kind of coup which requires a majority vote of democratically-elected MPs before the tanks start rolling. So, no, it isn’t a coup, it’s an expression of parliamentary will.

But this morning the plan has been criticised by Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP who chairs the liaison committee (even though Wollaston, like Boles, Letwin and Morgan, is strongly committed to avoiding a no-deal Brexit. She posted these on Twitter.

Sarah Wollaston MP
(@sarahwollaston)

The Boles’ plan appears to have been developed with just 2 other MPs and not discussed in advance with the Committee they propose to implement it. So hardly a ‘coup’. Would also point out that Liaison Ctee doesn’t draft legislation or conduct pre legislative scrutiny


January 14, 2019

Sarah Wollaston MP
(@sarahwollaston)

Under our constitution, Parliament can either change the government’s mind or change the government. It can propose legislation for government to take forward & it can amend or block it but back bench MPs cannot take over conducting a complex international negotiation


January 14, 2019

In the light of Wollaston’s comments, the Boles plan may already be doomed.

  • The Conservative MP Andrew Murrison is tabling an amendment to the motion that would approve the Brexit deal, “subject to a legal codicil being added to the withdrawal agreement treaty which specifies that the backstop solution shall expire on 31 December 2022,” BuzzFeed’s Alex Wickham reports. This is the sort of ploy that will appeal to some in government because, if it were passed by the Commons, it would amount to an ultimatum to the EU, which would then have to decide whether to produce this codicil to make the deal acceptable to parliament.
  • Twelve Conservative former ministers have written to Tory MPs urging them to vote against the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal. As the Sun reports, “the dozen, including Boris Johnson, demand in their plan B letter that the PM issue the EU with a final ultimatum for a better deal when hers is voted down on Tuesday – and then leave without one.”
  • John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, has suggested that Labour does not welcome the Hilary Benn amendment to the motion tomorrow night. Benn’s amendment rejects May’s deal and says the UK should not leave the EU without a deal. This is Labour policy but, if it gets pushed to a vote, it would mean there would be no yes/no vote on May’s deal on its own and although the Benn amendment would probably pass, the government defeat would look smaller than otherwise because there are some Tory Brexiters who would oppose May’s deal but who would not vote for the Benn amendment (because they would accept a no-deal Brexit). Hinting that Labour would like Benn to withdraw his amendment, McDonnell said it was “perfectly sound” but that he preferred a “straight vote” on May’s Brexit deal.
  • The Labour MP Sir Kevin Barron has declared he will back May’s Brexit deal. Writing in the Times (paywall), he said it was the only option that “truly enacts the promises that I made to my constituents and avoids the horror of a no-deal Brexit”.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Mid morning: Theresa May gives a speech on Brexit. As Peter Walker and Dan Sabbagh report, she will tell MPs that voting down her proposals on Tuesday would destroy faith in politics, and could mean that Brexit does not happen.

11.30am: Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, gives a speech to the Centre for Policy Studies on the UK after Brexit.

After 3.30pm: May gives a statement to MPs about Brexit.

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, although today I will be focusing almost entirely on Brexit. I plan to post a summary at lunchtime and another after May’s statement finishes, at around 6pm.

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.

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