John Bercow has plunged Britain into a “major constitutional crisis” after banning Theresa May from holding a third vote on her Brexit deal, the Solicitor General has said. The Speaker – a Remain voter who has faced repeated accusations of anti-Brexit bias – invoked a convention last used 99 years ago to stop the vote taking place. His unexpected announcement was greeted with fury in the Commons, as ministers accused him of being “interventionalist” and failing to “respect” MPs. With just 10 days to go until Brexit day, Mrs May is weighing her options to get round the Speaker’s ruling.
Britain faced a constitutional crisis last night as Downing Street accused John Bercow of sabotaging Theresa May’s efforts to rescue her Brexit deal. No 10 was stunned when the Commons Speaker told the prime minister not to bring back her plan for a third vote without substantial changes. The ambush wrecked Mrs May’s plans to confront MPs before an EU summit on Thursday with a choice between her agreement and a long Brexit delay.
Theresa May’s government has been plunged into constitutional chaos after the Speaker blocked the prime minister from asking MPs to vote on her Brexit deal for a third time unless it had fundamentally changed. With 11 days to go until Britain is due to leave the EU, May was forced to pull her plans for another meaningful vote because John Bercow said she could not ask MPs to pass the same deal, after they rejected it twice by huge margins.
John Bercow was accused of trying to sabotage Brexit last night after he blocked another vote on Theresa May’s deal. In a dramatic intervention, the Commons Speaker ruled that the EU withdrawal agreement could not be put to a vote again without substantial changes. He gave Downing Street no notice of his announcement, which came just 24 hours before the Prime Minister was expected to ask the Commons to decide on the issue for a third time following two crushing defeats.
HARDLINE Tory Brexiteers have threatened Theresa May they will go on strike if she carries out her vow to delay Brexit by a year. No10 on Monday set a deadline of late on Tuesday for MPs to agree the PM’s exit deal before Thursday’s European summit. But instead of buckling to the pressure, diehard Tory MP Leavers raised the stakes back on the PM with a pledge to withdraw their cooperation. As many as 20 members of the hardline European Research Group have told whips they will carry out “vote strikes” – a move that would push Mrs May’s minority government to the verge of collapse.
“Should MPs vote again on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, it would be anything but delivering on the Brexit vote from two years ago. How would I know? Because I work within the heart of government. As a civil servant I can tell you large parts of the Whitehall machine are systematically working against leaving the EU. I have met thousands of civil servants in the past few years: I can only recall five who voted for Brexit. At first, I thought they were perhaps just staying quiet given the political climate, but my worst fear was confirmed during the high-profile remainer Gina Miller’s successful court case to make sure Parliament has a say on the Brexit outcome.”
MPs seeking a hard Brexit have welcomed the Speaker’s decision to block another identical vote on Theresa May’s deal and said that they would rather face a long delay in leaving the European Union than endorse it. Members of the European Research Group (ERG) stiffened their resolve to oppose the prime minister’s deal despite her warning them that she would seek the “longest extension possible” to Article 50 when she meets EU leaders this week. Senior figures in the ERG believe they stand more chance of dictating the direction of Brexit if the exit day is pushed back by nine months or more.
FRESH hopes that a Brexit breakthrough was on the cards were raised today as a top DUP MP said the party wants a deal and Theresa May is listening to them. Nigel Dodds told reporters this afternoon about crunch meetings at No10 that his party wanted to get a deal signed and there was a “renewed focus” on getting them on board. The Chancellor was called into an emergency Brexit summit with the party earlier today – sparking rumours that more cash for the Northern Irish party could be on the cards. But he insisted he was “not discussing cash” today, and said: “it’s about Brexit”.
The Democratic Unionist party is unlikely to strike an agreement with Theresa May’s government to support the current withdrawal deal before Thursday’s crunch meeting with EU leaders, sources said on Monday. With 11 days before the UK is due to leave the EU, the prime minister has been trying to convince the pro-Brexit party’s 10 MPs, who prop up her minority government, to back the Brexit deal she has agreed with the European Union.
TWO thirds of Tory Brexit rebels have vowed to stay firm – in a major blow to Theresa May’s hopes of passing her beleaguered Brexit deal. In a Sun survey of all 75 rebels who voted against the deal last week, 46 responded. Of those who have made up their mind, 32 declared they would not back the PM’s deal if it was brought back to the Commons unchanged. A further five said their support was dependent on the Government winning the backing of the DUP. And another two Tory MPs said they would only back the deal if Mrs May announced her departure. That means that as things stand, 39 Tory rebels remain opposed to her deal.
Moves to topple Theresa May are gaining momentum with a string of Tories signalling her resignation could be the only way to “move the dial” and ensure her Brexit deal is passed. Several backbenchers openly said it was time for the prime minister to quit after recent votes exposed irreconcilable divisions in the Conservative Party from the cabinet down. Others reported that the PM’s lieutenants have engaged with the idea, sounding out MPs over whether they would vote for Ms May’s Brexit plan if she gave a clearer schedule for her departure. Downing Street made no comment.
MPS have admitted a General Election could be around the corner following John Bercow’s announcement on the EU deal. This comes as a customs expert who has been advising Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group has said the EU “wants to teach the British a lesson” – and warned Prime Minister Theresa May has “no knowledge” about Brexit policies. After a recent invitation invited to Downing Street for tea, Dutchman Hans Maessen, 61, said: “Theresa May has no knowledge, her ministers don’t, and her advisers don’t. It is very serious.
Brussels politicians and officials are angry and dismayed at the latest obstacle thrown in the way of the ratification of the Brexit withdrawal treaty. Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, sounded the general note of despair across the EU after John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, ruled out a third Commons vote yesterday. “Yet another problem,” he said. Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s lead negotiator, was angry that the vote had been cancelled before Thursday’s EU summit, at which leaders were expecting to debate a British request to delay Brexit.
The EU is set to offer Theresa May a helping hand after her plan for a new meaningful vote was derailed, by formally agreeing on a new delayed Brexit date at this week’s summit and keeping it on offer until shortly before midnight on 29 March. A change of the UK’s departure date in the draft withdrawal agreement – potentially from 29 March until three months later on 1 July – might convince the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, that the deal before parliament has changed, sources in Brussels suggested.
Theresa May’s Brexit headache has been made worse by a senior Brussels politician who suggested the EU should not consider agreeing to delay Brexit without a fresh vote by MPs. After John Bercow staged a major intervention in the UK’s attempts to withdraw from the EU Guy Verhofstadt suggested it was time for ‘cross-party talks’ to end the deadlock. The former prime minister of Belgium and current European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator said on Twitter: ‘Why should the EU27 even consider a #Brexit extension this week, if the UK Parliament vote on the deal is cancelled?
ARCH-EUROPHILE Guy Verhofstadt believes the generation of voters who will overturn Brexit “already exists” in the UK. Speaking in the European Parliament, the former Belgium Prime Minister predicted young Britons will grow up to realise Britain belongs inside the EU. Mr Verhofstadt, who has previously pleaded with the UK to rethink Brexit but last week warned Europe against extending Article 50 without a concrete plan from Theresa May, added he was “sure” the voters would “bring Britain back into the European family”.
Meanwhile, the EU’s other showdown with a democratic European state is going badly wrong. The Swiss are holding out against the hegemony of the European Court and an attempt to gut their national sovereignty. Switzerland is facing an excruciating squeeze. Its old bilateral accords with the EU are no longer deemed acceptable. Brussels wants to shut down the idiosyncratic “Swiss model” once and for all. The country has until the end of June to submit to the EU’s new framework agreement, or see its trading and financial access progressively cut off.
Furious Eurostar passengers have complained of seven-hour delays after strikes by French customs officials. The rail operator urged people to travel from Paris to London only if ‘absolutely necessary’ as the industrial action over pay and working conditions triggered delays to all its services. Four trains from Paris to London were cancelled on Sunday and another three were axed yesterday. And Eurostar warned the disruption will last until Wednesday, with two services cancelled today and another three tomorrow.
France’s Prime Minister has this afternoon announced an indefinite ban on some Yellow Vest protests if they include violent groups after eighteen successive weekends of protest which have wreaked havoc in the country’s major cities. Following a meeting on Monday afternoon with Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe declared a ban on Paris’ Champs-Elysees avenue in addition to further bans in Bordeaux and Toulouse. It is understood that Paris’ police chief has also been sacked.
France’s prime minister has announced a ban on yellow vest protests on Paris’ Champs-Elysees avenue and in two other French cities following riots on Saturday that left luxury stores ransacked and charred from arson fires. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the ban would apply for an unspecified period in the neighborhoods that have been “the most impacted” in the cities of Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse where repeated destruction has occurred since the yellow vest protest movement began in November.
The French government has banned Yellow Vest protests from Paris after the movement rioted and caused millions of pounds worth of damage. In a high-risk move that may backfire, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said he wanted to avoid the scenes of chaos that saw high-shops, restaurants and other businesses looted and put to the torch last Saturday. The Champs Elysee, the most famous avenue in France, was the worst hit, as police used tear gas, batons and water canon to try and restrain a crowd of around 10,000.
At least £67,000 of taxpayers’ money was used to pay two staff of a football club run by the Labour Party chairman, an audit has found. The money came from a Labour council’s regeneration wing, which had a “close relationship” with non-league Ashington, the auditors said. Ian Lavery, chairman of the Labour Party, was Ashington’s chairman until October. At one stage the club’s board included Mr Lavery’s parliamentary aide and election agent. The auditors looked into the running of Arch, a regeneration company owned by Northumberland county council.
Labour’s official Jewish affiliate will debate a motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn next month. The Jewish Labour Movement this month signalled its determination to fight antisemitism within the party rather than seceding. It has been formally tied to Labour since 1920. However, the final decision will be made at its annual meeting on April 7, when delegates will also debate the motion about Mr Corbyn. The motion notes “Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to adequately respond to the legitimate and reasonable demands from the JLM and the community’s representative bodies.
Jewish Labour members will debate a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn next month. The unprecedented motion, to be discussed at the Jewish Labour Movement’s annual meeting, claims the Labour leader has not been an ally against anti-Semitism. It says that Mr Corbyn’s leadership ‘combined with past actions and associations shows a complete disregard’ for British Jews. The motion goes on to say the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) believes ‘there is a culture of anti-Semitism from party members, an institutional culture enabling and sustaining it, and a culture of denial that such a problem even exists’.
The former international development secretary Priti Patel has joined calls for a radical shake-up of the aid budget rules, in a further sign that overseas funding could be a key issue in any post-Brexit Tory leadership race. She follows the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson in making calls for broadening the definition of British overseas aid. Patel, who resigned after she broke ministerial rules in her relations with the Israeli government, will on Monday back a pamphlet from the pressure group the TaxPayers’ Alliance calling for the international development budget to be reformed, and for the UK alone to decide what constitutes aid, rather than international organisations.
THE UK’s Trade Secretary boosted no deal Brexit plans by announcing a new trade agreement with the two nations as the Government fights to replicate around 40 current EU trade deals before Brexit day. The new agreement means the UK will be able to trade freely with the two nations if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Dr Liam Fox tweeted on Monday evening: “BREAKING: Our negotiators have just initialled a trade agreement with Iceland & Norway for the European Economic Area.
International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox has announced a trade agreement in principle has been initialled between Brexit Britain and both Iceland and Norway. Further progress is being made on trade, good to see. Responding to the news, Fox tweeted: “Our negotiators have just initialled a trade agreement with Iceland & Norway for the European Economic Area. “This is the 2nd biggest agreement we’re rolling over and trade with EEA is worth nearly £30bn. This is on top of the agreement we’ve signed with Liechtenstein.”
Britain’s roads look set to be flooded with a host of new electric vehicles as the Government today announces a radical review of transport laws dating back 180 years. Electric Scooters are just one of many battery-powered “micromobility” devices currently banned from roads, pavements and cycle lanes by legislation originally written in 1835 for the horse and carriage. Others include hoverboards, u-wheels and e-skateboards, some of which can reach 45mph. But pressure to reduce both car numbers and pollution on city streets has driven the Government to announce its biggest transport review for decades, which will also examine how cargo bikes and autonomous vehicles can reduce the burden of traffic in city centres.
Electric scooters could be allowed on roads for the first time in a major overhaul of transport laws. The Department for Transport is analysing what regulations need to be changed to keep up with the latest methods of getting around. The review will cover electric-powered scooters and cargo bicycles as well as self-driving cars and flexible bus services that alter their routes and stops in response to demand. Some of the laws under the microscope date back as far as the 19th century and the introduction of vehicles with internal combustion engines.
One of the UK’s major exam boards has denied that their IGCSEs are “easier” GCSEs, arguing that the majority of entries are from private schools where attainment is generally higher. Cambridge International said there is “no evidence” that IGCSEs are graded more leniently than GCSEs, as they dismiss such claims as mere “rumours”. The exam board said it is expected that a higher proportion of top grades are awarded to students who sit IGCSEs since the vast majority of entries are from private schools where “attainment tends to be higher”.
International donors are being urged to be more transparent about how corruption affects their aid programmes as a new report estimates that practices such as bribes, theft and embezzlement cost the world $500 billion a year. An analysis of the available data on corruption in health care, carried out by campaign group Transparency International, describes such practices as an “ignored pandemic”. The report focuses on corruption perpetrated by frontline health workers with practices including accepting bribes, stealing medicines to resell them and moonlighting in other jobs while being paid by public health services.
DRUG-RESISTANT TB could take hold of Europe, WHO has warned. WHO has described TB as a major public health challenge in Europe which will only get worse unless dramatic steps are taken. TB is the leading cause of death from a single infections agent, making it more deadly than HIV and AIDS. And of the 275,000 new cases of TB, around 77,000 people are suffering from the “super” strain of the virus, immune to multi-drug treatments. The highest number of cases of drug-resistant TB were also found in Europe, leading to fears it could be spread across the continent.
Breast cancer deaths are falling faster in Britain than in the rest of Europe as diagnosis and treatment improves, figures show. Death rates this year will be below the EU average after an 18 per cent drop in little more than half a decade, according to comparisons that suggest the NHS’s focus on better organisation, screening and care has paid dividends. A decline in the use of hormone replacement therapy, which studies more than ten years ago found increased the risk of breast cancer, could also be behind the improvements, scientists said.