Hello and welcome to City A.M.’s Brexit live blog for the second of potentially three huge votes on the UK’s departure from the EU.
Prime Minister Theresa May was defeated in the House of Commons in a second vote on her Brexit deal on Tuesday, losing by 391 votes to 242.
Last night, MPs voted narrowly to reject a no-deal Brexit by 321 votes to 278.
However, the UK will still leave the EU on 29 March unless parliament backs a delay to Article 50 in a vote tonight.
That could see a delay until 30 June if MPs agree to take May's deal by 20 March, or even longer if they refuse to support the flawed withdrawal agreement.
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6.25pm MPs vote to delay Brexit
The government motion to delay Brexit and extend Article 50 beyond 29 March by 412 votes to 202.
Parliament has decided it wants a Brexit delay but the EU's 27 other member states must also agree.
It means that the UK will ask for an extension to Article 50 until 30 June if Theresa May's deal is approved by 20 March.
If her deal is rejected for a third time and is not approved by Wednesday, the government will ask for a longer extension.
6.10pm Another rejection
Another amendment, another rejection.
An amendment put forward by the Labour leadership seeking an extension to Article 50 to allow time to find a "different approach" is the latest amendment to be rejected – this time by 318 votes to 302.
Parliament showing once again it's very good at indicating what it doesn't want.
Next up is the main government motion to extend Article 50 beyond 29 March.
5.53pm Benn amendment to give MPs control rejected
This time Hilary Benn's amendment to allow MPs to take control of parliamentary business next Wednesday is defeated by 314 votes to 312.
A rare win for the Prime Minister.
5.35pm MPs narrowly reject 30 June deadline
Much closer this time as MPs reject Lucy Powell's amendment calling for Article 50 to only be extended until 30 June, by 314 votes to 311.
The key Article 50 extension vote is still yet to come but next up is Hilary Benn's amendment to allow MPs to take control of the Brexit process on 20 March, which could include a series of indicative votes.
5.17pm Second referendum amendment rejected
MPs comprehensively vote against an amendment calling for a second referendum by 334 votes to 85.
The Labour party abstained and the People's Vote campaign said it was "not the right time" to test the will of parliament for a second public vote.
Sarah Wollaston's amendment had called for an extension to Article 50 in order for a second referendum vote to take place.
4.31pm: MPs face 'stark' choice between short Brexit delay and 'damaging' long extension
MPs face a “stark” choice tonight as they choose between a short delay to Brexit and a much longer one, a minister said.
Theresa May’s right hand man, David Lidington, warned MPs before their vote on whether or not to delay Brexit, with the UK scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March.
They will vote on whether Article 50 should be extended, but Lidington said that a short delay was only possible if MPs choose to vote for May’s deal, which was rejected earlier this week by a wide margin.
The Prime Minister is expected to bring it back to the House of Commons sometime next week for the third time.
If she is not successful then MPs will get two weeks to explore other paths forward, Lidington said.
May must ask the EU to grant an extension if MPs decide to support one tonight, but Lidington warned the bloic would prefer a much longer delay to Brexit if there is no deal on the table.
He claimed a longer delay would create “a sustained period of uncertainty… which I fear would do real damage to the public's faith in politics and faith in democracy”.
MPs will begin voting on a series of amendments around 5pm, with votes on May’s deal expected around an hour later.
1.50pm: People’s Vote campaign says ‘time not right’ for second referendum amendment
The People’s Vote campaign has come out against the second referendum amendment set to be put to a vote this evening.
The organisers said: “We do not think today is the right time to test the will of the House on the case for a new public vote.
“Instead, this is the time for parliament to declare it wants an extension of Article 50 so that, after two-and-a-half years of vexed negotiations, our political leaders can finally decide on what Brexit means.
“That is because a People’s Vote is not just another option in this Brexit crisis – it is a solution to this crisis. When the real costs of Brexit are measured up against the broken promises made for it in 2016, we believe parliament will have better opportunities to decide it is only fair and reasonable to give the public a real say on this crucial decision for our country.”
Labour has also committed not to vote for the amendment, with MP Helen Hayes saying: “Today main task is to secure an extension to Article 50 to enable next steps, including #PeoplesVote to be democratically worked through.”
1.25pm: Government signals it will allow MPs to lead way on Brexit
The government is set to hand MPs two weeks to decide on the path forward on Brexit next month, according to reports.
MPs will have a fortnight to hold indicative votes on the UK’s options if no Brexit deal is in place after the end of March’s EU Council, it is reported.
The BBC’s Vicki Young tweeted:
Government will give MPs 2 weeks to hold indicative votes after the EU Council if no deal has been agreed by then #Brexit
— Vicki Young (@BBCVickiYoung) March 14, 2019
Indicative votes are not binding, but suggest how popular particular options are by a show of hands.
They will allow MPs to decide which resolution to Brexit is most palatable to parliament.
12.25pm: May set to schedule third vote on her Brexit deal next Tuesday
The Prime Minister is set to schedule a third vote on her Brexit deal early next week, according to reports.
Expectation in Whitehall is that MV3 will be on Tuesday
— James Forsyth (@JGForsyth) March 14, 2019
Theresa May is reportedly set to try to get her withdrawal agreement through the Commons yet again, despite heavy defeats in December and earlier this week.
MPs have so far remained unconvinced that her deal can prevent the UK becoming stuck in an indefinitely long customs union arrangement with the EU.
May has warned MPs that a failure to pass her deal will lead to a lengthy delay to Brexit – potentially years-long – as the EU would prefer to give Britain time to rethink its strategy.
No date has yet been set for what would be the third meaningful vote, though May has called a meeting of her cabinet for 1.30pm.
12.15pm: MPs set to debate a second referendum on Brexit
Speaker John Bercow has called four amendments to tonight’s vote on delaying Article 50.
Tory defector Sarah Wollaston’s amendment to extend Article 50 in order to make time for a second referendum.
Labour MP Hilary Benn’s call for a debate next Wednesday to allow MPs to hold indicative votes on alternatives to Brexit.
Labour’s amendment suggesting the UK’s departure date should be lengthened to let MPs find a different way forward on Brexit.
Labour MP Chris Bryant’s amendment seeking to prevent Theresa May from returning to the Commons for yet another vote on her deal.
12.10pm: Ken Clarke backs Tusk’s call for long Brexit delay
Remainer MP Ken Clarke has told Sky News he wants a “good, long” extension to Article 50.
“I think we should suggest to the Europeans a good, long delay. Go back to square one and work out … over a proper time, the final relationship,” he said.
12pm: PM calls cabinet meeting for 1.30pm
Theresa May has called a cabinet meeting for 1.30pm, according to reports.
The meeting follows chaos last night in which Tories broke rank to vote in whether or not to leave the EU without a deal, which was narrowly rejected.
11.50am: Trump tweets about 'unlimited potential' of US-UK trade deal
President Donald Trump has tweeted his support of a US-UK trade deal after Brexit, saying: "The potential is unlimited!"
10.10am: Donald Tusk urges EU leaders to back long Article 50 extension
Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said today he will ask the leaders of the 27 EU member states to open a long extension to Article 50 – the mechanism that allows the UK to leave the EU – so it can "rethink" its Brexit strategy.
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) March 14, 2019
Preferences for an Article 50 extension vary from three months to nine months to years. The EU has said it will only grant an extension if there is a "credible justification" for doing so.
Extending Article 50 is problematic because it would keep the UK in the EU during the elections to the European parliament.
08.32am: Sterling slips from nine-month high as Brexit uncertainty reigns
Sterling slipped overnight as it failed to hold onto the gains it made yesterday after MPs made clear they do not want the UK to crash out of the EU without a Brexit deal.
The pound fell 0.6 per cent to $1.325 as European markets prepared to open this morning, before rising further to $1.331, but still off yesterday’s nine-month high of $1.334.
With Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement rejected for a second time on Tuesday, parliament last night narrowly voted to reject a no-deal Brexit by 321 to 278.
That included ministers who defied Downing Street to abstain on the vote, including Amber Rudd, David Gauke, David Mundell and Greg Clark.
Downing Street refused to confirm if they would be sacked for failing to uphold the principle of collective cabinet responsibility.
Health minister Stephen Hammond, another abstainer, said he has not been asked to step down.
However, while sterling surged in the aftermath of that decision, there is currently nothing stopping the UK from falling out of the EU on its scheduled departure date of 29 March.
A European Commission spokesperson said: “It is not enough to vote against no-deal — you have to agree to a deal.”
Today MPs will vote on whether to delay Article 50, with the Prime Minister countenancing a short delay to 30 June if MPs pass her deal by 20 March.
If not, she warned the EU may want a much longer delay.
Chancellor Philip Hammond said this morning that he was “confident that the House of Commons is going to vote tonight to seek an extension”.
But analysts expect more volatility within markets as the route ahead is unclear.
“As we said last night that from sterling's price perspective, it is comforting to know that a no-deal Brexit scenario is off the table, but at the same time there is no table,” said Naeem Aslam, of Think Markets.
“Unfortunately, there is no end to this chaos, this is because there is more disarray in the Prime minister’s team now. With the country in limbo and politicians in their own deadlock, there is less clarity as to where Brexit will head from here.”
“May has further complicated matters … in a naked, desperate attempt at generating support from intransigent Brexiters,” added Spreadex financial analyst Connor Campbell.
“At this point, however, it appears the pound is pretty happy at the prospect of that longer delay.”
Wednesday 13 March
3.40pm: Gove says no-deal Brexit option must remain on the table
Ardent Brexiter Michael Gove has committed to keeping the threat of a no-deal Brexit dangling over the EU in the hopes it will lead to an improved withdrawal agreement.
Tonight MPs vote on whether the UK should leave the EU without a deal on 29 March, its scheduled departure date, but whichever way the vote goes the UK is set to exit the bloc at the end of this month.
Tory MP Edward Leigh asked in parliament for Gove to confirm that the government will not completely remove the most drastic option from the negotiating table, adding: "Otherwise how will we get a better deal?"
Gove responded by saying that while he will vote against a no-deal, the only way to prevent such an outcome is by either reversing Article 50 or voting for a withdrawal agreement.
1.20pm: Spring Statement overshadowed by Brexit
Chancellor Philip Hammond has delivered his Spring Statement, but warned from the start that his predictions are overshadowed by ongoing Brexit uncertainty.
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has downgraded the UK's growth in 2019 from 1.6 per cent to 1.2 per cent.
“Leaving with no deal would mean significant disruption,” Hammond warned, “and a smaller and less prosperous economy in the long term than if we leave with a deal.”
The chancellor said the UK will benefit from a deal dividend if it leaves with a deal, from burgeoning business confidence and a financial boost to sterling, but that is looking increasingly unlikely with the scheduled 29 March departure date so close.
But KPMG said there is still a Brexit dividend – if the UK can salvage it from the wreckage of Theresa May's rejected withdrawal agreement.
James Stewart, head of Brexit at KPMG, said: “There is a deal dividend waiting to be released if political agreement can be achieved. Given the volatility of the next few weeks this may be more of a hope rather than an expectation.”
Paul Dales, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, added: “Overall, if parliament votes for a Brexit deal it will be rewarded with a ‘deal dividend’ that can be spent on public services.
“If there’s no deal, then there’s nothing to spend. Of course, promises on future spending are only good if Mr Hammond is around to honour them. Given the current political instability, he may not be.”
You can read our full story on the chancellor's last economic update before Brexit over here.
12.39pm: May vows to vote against a no-deal Brexit
Theresa May will vote against a no-deal Brexit in tonight's parliamentary vote, she has said.
The Prime Minister told MPs she plans to vote to reject the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on 29 March after parliament defeated her Brexit deal for a second time last night.
During Prime Minister's Questions, she said that "no deal is better than a bad deal", before backtracking under pressure from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Asked how she will vote this evening, May said: "I will be voting for the motion in my name. I want to leave the European Union with a good deal. I believe we have a good deal."
She added: "I may not have my own voice but I do understand the voice of the country."
The UK is set to leave the EU with or without a deal on 29 March whatever the outcome of tonight's vote, unless MPs choose to extend Brexit in a likely vote tomorrow.
If they choose to delay Article 50, May must seek agreement from the EU in order to secure an extension.
12.12pm: Sterling climbs amid hopes MPs will rule out no-deal Brexit
The pound rose by 0.7 per cent against the dollar this morning, hitting $1.316 by midday, as traders expect MPs to reject no deal and await today’s Spring Statement.
Sterling was up 0.5 per cent against the euro, reaching €1.165 at the same point.
Its climb represents a rebound from yesterday’s fall of 1.4 per cent brought on by MPs rejecting Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Traders predict that MP will reject no deal in tonight’s vote, which would increase the chance of an extension of article 50. This would be good news for sterling.
Chief UK economist at Capital Economics Paul Dales told City A.M: “If there's a delay, and that delay's for two or three months, but then there's a deal, we think the pound would again rise not quite as far [as if there were a deal], maybe to $1.35 the end of this year and $1.40 next year.”
11.21am: Ford urges government to avoid no-deal Brexit and leave tariffs unchanged
The car manufacturer says the government should not have released its car tariff plans without consulting the industry.
"These tariffs would deal a devastating blow to much of the complex and integrated automotive industry, and would damage the competitiveness of Ford's engine manufacturing in the UK," Ford said, according to the BBC.
"This is why it is imperative that a no-deal, hard Brexit is ruled out as soon as possible to avoid the imposition of such a draconian tariff regime on a large part of the UK auto industry.
"We sincerely hope that political differences will now be set aside, and that politicians will work together to avoid the country leaving the EU without a deal on March 29. Any deal must guarantee the principles of tariff free and frictionless trade."
9.41am: Risk of no-deal Brexit ‘never been higher’
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, warned today that the risk of a no-deal Brexit “has never been higher” following the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement’s second defeat.
Speaking at the European Parliament, Barnier warned the UK and EU are at a “critical point” as “the risk of no deal has never been higher”.
MPs are set to vote on whether to rule out such a scenario this evening, but whatever the outcome the UK is currently on course to leave the bloc on 29 March without an agreement.
Barnier added that the EU will continue to be “respectful” of the UK after parliament rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal last night, following a record defeat in December.
It comes as the government has outlined its plan for a no-deal Brexit, saying it will slash the majority of tariffs to zero in order to avert a £9bn hit to consumers and businesses.
The CBI has already hit out against the plan for its failure to consult with firms (read below), and now a car industry body has also slammed the proposals.
“Today's announcement does not resolve the devastating effect a no-deal Brexit would have on the automotive industry,” said Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
“No policy on tariffs can come close to compensating for the disruption, cost and job losses that would result from no deal. It’s staggering that we are in this position with only days until we are due to leave.”
He added: “Every day no deal remains a possibility is another day companies pay the price in expensive contingency measure. No deal must be taken off the table immediately and permanently.”
The government confirmed it will not make any checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Britain in a bid to reduce friction for trade.
Barnier also ruled out any further negotiations with the UK, dampening any hopes that May’s deal could secure passage through parliament on a third attempt.
“Why would we extend these discussions, because the discussion on Article 50 is done and dusted?” he said.
8.32am: Government to cut tariffs to zero in a no-deal Brexit
The CBI has slammed government plans to slash tariffs completely if the UK leaves the EU without a deal this month.
The government’s policy, set out this morning, comes ahead of tonight’s vote on whether MPs would back the UK crashing out of the bloc on its scheduled departure date of 29 March.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s own Brexit deal was rejected by MPs for a second time last night, by 149 votes.
Now the government has decided to slash tariffs on 87 per cent of imports in order to prevent a shock to consumers and businesses if a no-deal Brexit goes ahead.
While the government called the measure a “modest liberalisation” of tariffs, business lobby group the CBI castigated the proposals, saying firms have been left in the dark over them.
"This imposition of new terms of trade comes at the same time as business is blocked out of its closest trading partner," CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“These are being imposed on this country with no consultation with business, with no time to prepare. This is no way to run a country.”
She added that the impact of a no-deal Brexit could be a “sledgehammer to our economy”.
EU goods are currently tariff-free but in a no-deal Brexit the UK would default onto World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, in which taxes would apply.
Trade minister George Hollingbery said the measures would protect the poorest from price rises, adding: “If we leave without a deal, we will set the majority of our import tariffs to zero while maintaining tariffs for the most sensitive industries.”
The new tariffs would be in place for up to 12 months.
8pm: Little change to sterling
The pound climbed to $1.313 shortly after the Commons vote as Theresa May's post-defeat speech opened the door to a no-deal Brexit being taken off the table.
But it retreated back to pre-vote levels of $1.306 as the currency absorbed the impact of the heavy defeat.
Ranko Berich, head of market analysis at Monex Europe said the path ahead for the pound remained uncertain.
He said: "For now markets remain convinced that Parliament will act to rule out exiting with no deal – and tomorrow’s vote is likely to confirm this assumption.
"But what happens after article 50 is extended is anyone’s guess, and as uncertainty begins to increase again, pressure will build on the pound."
7.50pm Businesses being failed 'over and over again'
The British Chambers of Commerce are not happy either and joined the CBI in calling for a "messy and disorderly" Brexit to be avoided at all costs.
Director general Adam Marshall said: "Businesses have been failed over and over again by Westminster in recent months, but allowing a messy and disorderly exit on 29 March would take political negligence to new extremes.”
7.45pm The business world reacts
Businesses have been wrestling with the uncertainty of Brexit for months on end and tonight's vote ensures that uncertainty will continue.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has had enough.
Director general Carolyn Fairburn said: "Enough is enough. This must be the last day of failed politics.
“A new approach is needed by all parties. Jobs and livelihoods depend on it."
She called for an extension to Article 50 with a clear plan, and for the Conservatives to ditch their red lines and for Labour to commit to "genuine solutions."
She added: "It’s time for Parliament to stop this circus.”
7.35pm Corbyn calls for general election
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it was clear Theresa May's deal does not have the support of the house.
He said it was now time for a general election.
7.32pm May announces 'free vote' on no-deal
Theresa May has urged MPs to vote against a no-deal Brexit given the "potential damage" it would do the country.
Conservative MPs will be given a free vote on the matter, meaning there will not be a party policy on the issue.
May said if no-deal is defeated than the Commons will vote on an extension to Article 50, which will have to be approved by the EU.
7.30pm Theresa May's Brexit deal defeated
MPs have voted against Theresa May's Brexit deal by 391 votes to 242.
The Prime Minister confirmed that MPs will now vote on whether Britain should leave the EU without a deal tomorrow.
She maintained that her belief that leaving in an orderly fashion with her deal remained the "best outcome" for the country.
2.48pm: Has public opinion changed on Brexit since the referendum?
Green MP Caroline Lucas has called on the Prime Minister to hold a public vote on her deal, claiming people have changed their minds on Brexit.
May replied that there is no evidence for this.
A poll tracker, What UK Thinks, suggests that in fact voters have changed their minds – but only marginally.
While Leave won the EU referendum with 52 per cent of the vote, now only 46 per cent of voters would choose Brexit over remaining in the EU.
Meanwhile Poundland (!) data based on sales of its Brexit-inspired burgundy and blue passport covers suggests the two sides are neck and neck.
2.42pm: Tories try to whip up support from MPs
Buzzfeed’s Alex Wickham reports that the government has called a three-line whip to summon MPs back to the Commons to support May’s deal.
With big gaps on the Tory benches whips order MPs to come to the chamber to support the PM pic.twitter.com/HtTNP4UCXX
— Alex Wickham (@alexwickham) March 12, 2019
It’s not clear whether the ploy will work, however – our own political correspondent, Owen Bennett, says that the benches are looking very empty right now as MPs debate May’s deal.
2.35pm: 'Too little, too late': Anna Soubry slams Brexit deal changes
Tory defector Anna Soubry has damned May’s deal changes as “too little, too late”, blaming May for refusing to abandon her red lines.
May replies that she has stood by the results of the referendum.
2.01pm: May urged to call general election if she loses Brexit vote
Tory big-hitter Charles Walker has called on Theresa May to call a general election if she loses tonight’s meaningful vote on her Brexit deal.
The Sun's political editor Tom Newton Dunn reports that Walker has said: “She has to get a new mandate for the sake of the country. Needs must when the devil drives. We cannot go on trying to govern like this.”
Here we go. Tory grandee Charles Walker demands PM calls a general election if she loses Meaningful Vote tonight: “She has to get a new mandate for the sake of the country. Needs must when the devil drives. We cannot go on trying to govern like this” #WATO
— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) March 12, 2019
The Prime Minister looks to be heading towards a defeat in parliament when MPs vote on changes to her deal at 7pm.
Both Jacob Rees-Mogg’s ERG clan of hard Brexiters and Tory confidence-and-supply partners the DUP have vowed to vote down her withdrawal agreement, citing insubstantial changes.
Attorney general Geoffrey Cox has admitted the changes secured by May to her controversial backstop mean his legal advice is unchanged – meaning the UK could be left stuck indefinitely tied to EU customs union rules.
1.11pm: ERG rules out backing May's Brexit deal hours before vote
Hard Brexiters the European Research Group have come out against Theresa May’s deal hours before tonight’s vote.
The ERG has reportedly said: “In the light of our own legal analysis and others we do not recommend accepting the government's motion today.”
The group’s decision puts the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement in more doubt after attorney general Geoffrey Cox said changes to the deal fail to rule out the possibility that the UK will be stuck indefinitely in the so-called backstop.
ERG says no – 'In the light of our own legal analsyis and others we do not recommend accepting the Government's motion today' – Dodds up now in Commons, seems v unlikely they will come on board now
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) March 12, 2019
The backstop – designed to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – would tie the UK into a customs union with the EU that it cannot quit unilaterally.
However, Cox said the changes do make such a scenario much less likely.
May appears to have failed to win over the hardest Brexiters in her Tory party despite rushing to Strasbourg last night to win last-minute changes to the deal.
12.46pm: Cox tells MPs that Brexit deal changes enhance withdrawal agreement
The UK’s most senior legal adviser told parliament today that Theresa May’s Brexit deal changes enhance the original agreement between the UK and EU.
Attorney general Geoffrey Cox had earlier said that the changes won by the Prime Minister to her withdrawal agreement do not change the risk that the UK could be trapped in a customs union with the EU even after it has left the bloc.
However, he said that the provisions “extend beyond mere interpretation of the withdrawal agreement and represents materially new legal obligations and commitments".
"There is no doubt in my view that the clarifications in the joint statement and unilateral declaration make substantive and binding reinforcements of the legal rights available to the UK," he added.
“It confirms the EU cannot pursue an objective of trying to trap the UK in the backstop indefinitely,” he also said.
“This would constitute bad faith which would be the basis of a formal dispute before an arbitration tribuunal.”
Such a process could lead to the suspension of the backstop.
Cox told MPs that they face a “political judgement” about whether to adopt the deal or not at tonight’s vote, which is expected to take place at around 7pm.
11.38am: Former cabinet minister Owen Paterson says Cox's advice is 'brutally clear'
— Owen Paterson (@OwenPaterson) March 12, 2019
11.18am: Sterling plummets after Cox says legal risks of backstop remain unchanged
Sterling has fallen by 1.5 per cent from a morning peak of $1.325 against the dollar to $1.302 at the time of writing.
Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at TF Global Markets, said: Sterling took a nose dive on the back of the Cox statement. It was his opinion which matters the most, now that he has made it clear that the recent deal has no weight, the door is wide open for the sterling to move lower against the dollar.
Another historic defeat is strongly on the cards for Mrs May and all options are on the table with respect to another election or no Brexit at all
For us, we are looking at the support level of 1.2650 which the price can easily touch after the parliament’s vote.
11.07am: Geoffrey Cox publishes his legal advice
Cox has published his hotly anticipated legal advice. In a blow to the government, the attorney general concedes that the legal risk of the UK becoming trapped in the backstop indefinitely "remains unchanged" and the UK would have no "internationally lawful means of exiting the protocol’s arrangements, save by agreement".
Here is an extract of the attorney general's verdict:
I now consider that the legally binding provisions of the joint instrument and the content of the unilateral declaration reduce the risk that the United Kingdom could be indefinitely and involuntarily detained within the protocol’s provisions at least in so far as that situation had been brought about by the bad faith or want of best endeavours of the EU.
It may be thought that if both parties deploy a sincere desire to reach agreement and the necessary diligence, flexibility and goodwill implied by the amplified duties set out in the joint instrument, it is highly unlikely that a satisfactory subsequent agreement to replace the protocol will not be concluded. But as I have previously advised, that is a political judgment, which, given the mutual incentives of the parties and the available options and competing risks, I remain strongly of the view it is right to make.
However, the legal risk remains unchanged that if through no such demonstrable failure of either party, but simply because of intractable differences, that situation does arise, the United Kingdom would have, at least while the fundamental circumstances remained the same, no internationally lawful means of exiting the protocol’s arrangements, save by agreement.
10.32am: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says backstop fears can be 'put to bed'
This morning Varadkar said the furtehr agreement reaches yesterday between May and EU Commission head Jean-Claude Junker "provided additional clarity, reassurance and guarantees" sought by those who feared the UK could be trapped indefinitely in the Irish backstop, the policy designed to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland by keeping the UK in a temporary customs union.
He said the backstop was never a "goal to trap' the UK in the arrangement indefinitely.
"It is not, these doubts and fears can be put to bed," he said.
10.26am: Sporting Index says 363 MPs will spurn the Prime Minister's deal
Sport spread betting site Sport Index predicts 363 MPs will reject Theresa May's Brexit deal when it is put before the House of Commons in a meaningful vote today, less than the 432 MPs that rejected her deal when it was last put to MPs in January. Then, the margin of defeat was 230 votes and was widely considered one of the worst defeats in parliamentary history.
10.04am: Attorney General Geoffrey Cox rubbishes Jon Snow claim
Cox, the government's chief legal adviser, this morning described a claim by Channel 4 presenter Jon Snow that he had been “told to find a way” to ensure legal validation of Theresa May's newly negotiated Brexit deal as "bollocks".
— Geoffrey Cox QC MP (@Geoffrey_Cox) March 12, 2019
A number of MPs, including members of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and European Research Group (ERG) have said they will consult lawyers on whether the legal changes represent substantial changes to the withdrawal agreement that was negotiated in January and was decisively rejected by MPs.
Shadow Brexit secretary and former director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer said he had read the withdrawal agreement overnight and would be "surprised" if the accompanying legal documents "were sufficient to enable the attorney general to change the central plank of his December legal advice" – which warned that the Irish backstop "could endure indefinitely".
My statement in full 7/ pic.twitter.com/yhxWQPHDmy
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) March 12, 2019
8.50am: Brexiter MPs voice support for May's legal changes to Brexit deal
Politicians preparing to vote on Theresa May’s renewed Brexit deal this evening are waiting to hear whether or not the changes mean the UK will not be tied to EU rules indefinitely.
MPs rejected May’s deal in December by a record margin of 230 votes – a historic defeat for a sitting government.
Since then the Prime Minister has been pressing Brussels for legal changes to her deal, but EU leaders have ruled out any renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement.
However, May last night came to parliament to claim she has won legal changes to her deal in a bid to make it more palatable to MPs.
Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said this morning that there was nothing in May’s changes to give the UK a legal mechanism to quit the backstop early.
Having studied the documents, I would be surprised if they are sufficient to enable the Attorney General to change the central plank of his December legal advice. 2/
— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) March 12, 2019
He added: “Having studied the documents, I would be surprised if they are sufficient to enable the Attorney General to change the central plank of his December legal advice.”
Four Labour MPs said this morning that they will vote against May’s deal later today.
Meanwhile Channel 4’s Jon Snow reported that attorney general Geoffrey Cox said May’s deal fails to change his advice – but that he has been told to find a way to make it work.
Meanwhile key Brexit figures have come out in support of May’s deal.
Environment secretary Michael Gove claimed the changes secured by May show the EU has made “a legally binding commitment” to prevent the backstop from becoming permanent.
A defeat in parliament would leave Brexit at risk of being “delayed and diluted”, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, saying it is “make your mind up time” for MPs.
Former Brexit secretary David Davis, a longtime critic of May’s Brexit strategy, added that he may in fact vote for the deal.
“It all hinges on what Cox says,” Davis told Talk Radio. “If Cox says that this has legal force – the requirement on alternative arrangements, date, arbitration … all those together make this just about acceptable to me.”
If May’s deal is defeated in parliament tonight, it will trigger a second vote tomorrow where MPs will vote on whether to leave the EU without a deal on 29 March.
If they vote not to, the UK will stay on track to depart at the end of the month, but a third vote will occur on Thursday to decide on whether to delay Brexit.