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May sees off Benn’s latest bid to seize control of the negotiations…

“The prime minister narrowly survived an attempt by MPs to seize control of the Brexit process after an amendment that would have passed control of the legislative agenda to the Commons next Wednesday was rejected by 314 votes to 312. The amendment was tabled by Hilary Benn, the Labour chairman of the Brexit committee. It would in effect have allowed parliament to dictate what Mrs May should ask the 27 other EU countries for in terms of a Brexit delay. Instead the overwhelming majority of MPs backed the government’s motion to ask the EU for an extension to the Article 50 process, with 413 MPs in favour and 202 against. Labour MPs were whipped to vote with the government but the Tories had a free vote. The remaining Conservative opponents of Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement now face a weekend of intense demands to come into line.” – The Times

  • Hammond warns that Brussels may insist on long delay – FT
  • Ireland push for 21-month pause so UK can ‘reconsider’ – Daily Express
  • MPs could be given indicative votes if there’s a long delay – The Guardian
  • EU says no ‘extension in the dark’ – Daily Mail
  • How the voting split – The Times

More:

  • Speaker sparks fresh bias row over second referendum amendments – The Sun
  • Constitutional questions MPs are struggling to answer – FT

Comment:

  • Is Bercow seizing his moment to decisively kill off Brexit? – Nikki da Costa, Daily Telegraph

>Today:

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Lidington promises indicative votes if there’s a long extension

…as the Cabinet split over bid to extend Article 50

More than half of Theresa May’s own MPs voted against her plan to delay Brexit as seven Cabinet ministers also defied the Prime Minister. Mrs May’s proposal to seek an extension to Article 50 was backed by 413 votes to 202 but the overwhelming majority of those who opposed her came from her own benches. Some 188 Conservative MPs voted against Mrs May’s plan amid growing fears that delaying the UK’s departure from the European Union could ultimately lead to Britain remaining in the bloc. Ultimately, the Prime Minister was reliant on the votes of Labour MPs to emerge victorious as she was largely abandoned by Tory Eurosceptics. Mrs May suffered a Cabinet revolt for a second day in a row as seven of her top team voted against her.” – Daily Telegraph

  • EU will agree to extra time… if there’s a second referendum – The Times

>Today:

May tears into Secretaries of State who abstained on three-line whip (but doesn’t sack them)

“Theresa May tore into rebel members of her cabinet yesterday at a hastily called meeting in Downing Street. Tempers became frayed during the political cabinet, with a source saying that the prime minister “went batshit”. Mrs May rebuked Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, Greg Clark, the business secretary, David Gauke, the justice secretary, and David Mundell, the Scottish secretary. They had defied a government whip on Wednesday and abstained instead of voting against a motion on a no-deal Brexit. The quartet were among 17 rebel ministers. The cabinet source added that Mr Clark’s effort to justify his actions “ended badly” as Mrs May shut him down. Julian Smith, the chief whip, also lost his cool, according to The Spectator. He told the room that there could be no excuses for breaking collective responsibility. He praised Sarah Newton, a junior minister, for doing the “honourable” thing and resigning so that she could vote against the government. ” – The Times

  • Whips ‘told Justice Secretary to quit’ – The Sun
  • Rudd explains herself to her constituents – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Rudd, Clark, Gauke. After all their bluster about resigning, abstaining ministers took the cowardly way out

>Yesterday:

Prime Minister bringing back her deal for a third meaningful vote…

Theresa May will hold a third “meaningful vote” on Brexit after MPs authorised her to ask for a lengthy delay if no deal has been agreed by next Wednesday. Huge pressure is now being put on the DUP and Brexiteers to fall in behind the Prime Minister’s deal to avoid the risk of Article 50 having to be extended by up to two years… On Thursday night, MPs voted by 413 votes to 202 in favour of delaying Brexit by at least three months, but Mrs May had to rely on Labour votes for a mandate after more than half of Conservative MPs opposed a delay. In an extraordinary turn of events, 188 Tories voted against the Government motion to delay Brexit, including Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and six other Cabinet ministers. Only 112 Tories backed the motion.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Hardliners start threatening to topple the Government – Daily Mail
  • Eurosceptic Tories split in the face of May’s latest push – FT
  • Rebels warn May she’ll have to quit to win their support – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Chope – “I would seriously consider” voting for a Commons motion of No Confidence in the Prime Minister

…amidst signs the DUP may support it this time

“Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party signalled it was seeking a deal with the UK government on Thursday as local business pressure mounted on it to swing behind Theresa May’s Brexit accord. One senior business figure with direct involvement in Brexit preparations said business was “turning the screws” on the DUP “through every possible channel with all sorts of threats” to press the party to reverse its opposition to the exit accord. Alarm grew among companies in the province after the government published plans on Wednesday for a customs regime for Northern Ireland in a no-deal Brexit that business leaders said would put them at a competitive disadvantage. Arlene Foster, DUP leader, said her party was “working very hard” with the government. “Nobody wants to leave without a deal and we want to make sure we get there,” she added.” – FT

  • Foster hints her party is getting closer to agreeing… – The Sun
  • …but May warned that ‘tweaks won’t cut it’ – Daily Express
  • Party ‘will not sell its soul for deal that threatens Union’ – News Letter

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Hunt squares off with Sturgeon over prospect of second independence referendum

Cox attempts to win round rebels with fresh reassurances

Geoffrey Cox is attempting to win over Eurosceptic Tory MPs and the DUP with new legal advice stating that Britain will be able to break off from the Irish backstop under the terms of the Vienna Convention, The Telegraph can disclose. In the advice the Attorney General states that Britain will be able to end the backstop if it having a “socially destabilising effect on Northern Ireland”, which would be considered a “fundamental change” of circumstances under the terms of the treaty. However, the so-called ‘star chamber’ of Eurosceptic Tory lawyers, which includes the DUP’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds, has produced a five-page analysis of the advice and concluded that it is “erroneous” and “badly misconceived”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • ‘Star Chamber’ rejects new advice – The Times
  • Attorney General warned Vienna plan a ‘complete non-starter’ – Evening Standard

Comment:

  • Eurosceptic jurists over Brexiteers the excuse they need – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph
  • May finally has the Leavers where she wants them – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian
  • It’s politics, not economics, that’s failing on Brexit – Chris Giles, FT

Fraser Nelson: With no-deal off the table, May could yet triumph

“This is political anarchy. And the only way to end it might be to vote through Theresa May’s deal. Given that it has been defeated twice, by fairly epic margins, it ought to be dead. But these are not normal times. Last night, an attempt to stop her calling a third-time-lucky vote was abandoned, once it became clear that MPs would quite like that option. It had been voted down when Brexiteers still held out for a better deal – but this was only ever possible with the plausible threat of the UK leaving with no deal. This option has now gone, removed by a rebel vote on Wednesday. “That’s when our goose was cooked,” one ERG member told me. “Now, it has all changed.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Three steps to pass the Withdrawal Agreement – Matt Bevington and Alan Wager, Times Red Box
  • May is still fighting for her deal – Robert Shrimsley, FT
  • A delayed Brexit will be disastrous for the EU – Liam Halligan, Daily Telegraph
  • Lumping all leavers together does debate no favours – Ben Gartside, Times Red Box
  • The only option left is compromise – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian
  • Don’t knock the magnificent spectacle of our democracy – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph
  • At last, the Tories win some votes – Henry Deedes, Daily Mail

Editorial:

  • MPs have handed our fate to the EU – Daily Telegraph
  • Defeating the deal was an act of self-harm – The Sun
  • May’s position remains desperately weak – The Times

Labour splits again as second referendum amendment rejected

MPs comprehensively rejected an attempt to secure a second referendum on Brexit yesterday as fresh Labour divisions were exposed by the vote with the resignation of  five frontbenchers. The Commons voted by 334 to 85 votes, a majority of 249, to reject a cross-party motion calling for a second referendum which had been tabled by Independent MP Sarah Wollaston. Labour’s leadership ordered MPs to abstain, arguing now was a time focus on trying to find a compromise solution and extending article 50 rather than pushing for a second referendum. However, five frontbenchers were among 18 Labour MPs who voted against the referendum motion including Ruth Smeeth, who resigned as parliamentary private secretary to deputy leader Tom Watson.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Leader’s ally says re-run would be a ‘disaster’ – The Sun
  • Furious rebels defy Corbyn – The Times
  • Opposition branded ‘spineless’ – Daily Express
  • ‘People’s Vote’ off as Labour break promise – The Sun
  • Divisions exposed by Commons rebellion – The Guardian
  • Sturgeon tells Scottish Labour to ‘get on phone’ to Corbyn – The Scotsman
  • MP shares picture of ‘deserted’ voting lobby – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • A second referendum could break our democracy – Lisa Nandy MP, The Guardian
  • Labour MPs may yet hold the key to Brexit – Philip Collins, The Times

>Today:

>YesterdayWATCH: Starmer – Give me a second referendum…but not yet

Cable to stand down as Liberal Democrat leader

“Sir Vince Cable will resign as Liberal Democrat leader this year. The former business secretary took over from Tim Farron after the 2017 general election but has failed to propel the party to success in the polls. He plans to remain an MP. Party staffers were told yesterday that Sir Vince will call a leadership election in May after the local elections, assuming a general election is not called beforehand. “I set considerable store by having an orderly, business-like, succession unlike the power struggles in the other parties,” he said in a message to party members… Possible candidates to succeed him as leader include Jo Swinson, the deputy leader, who was a minister in the coalition government, Norman Lamb, a former health minister, and Layla Moran, who was first elected to the Commons in the 2017 election.” – The Times

One British soldier charged over Bloody Sunday

“One former British army soldier has been charged with murder by prosecutors in Northern Ireland over the killing of two people during Bloody Sunday – the incident in 1972 when UK soldiers opened fire on civilians in Londonderry – in a move that was met with disappointment from the victims’ families and the UK’s Ministry of Defence… But the PPS concluded that, in the cases of 16 other former British soldiers and two members of the Official IRA, the evidence was insufficient to bring charges in relation to the events.” – FT

  • Fury as veteran faces trial – The Sun

Comment:

  • Insult to put soldiers in the dock whilst IRA killers go free – Ruth Dudley-Edwards, Daily Telegraph

Almost 50 killed in apparent far-right terrorist attack in New Zealand

“Forty-nine people were killed and more than 20 seriously injured in shootings at two mosques, in what Prime Minister Jacinta Arden said was a terrorist attack. The massacre by at least one gunman during Friday prayers in the city of Christchurch is the country’s worst ever mass shooting. Video footage widely circulated on social media, apparently taken by a gunman and posted online live as the attack unfolded, showed him driving to one mosque, before entering it and shooting random people. Worshippers can be seen huddled on the floor of the mosque. Reuters has been unable to confirm the authenticity of the footage.” – Daily Express

News in Brief:

  • MPs must choose – Withdrawal Agreement or a general election – George Bridges, Reaction
  • We’re still on course for a clean Brexit on 29th March – Christopher Howarth, Brexit Central
  • Will the EU let Britain delay Brexit? – Kai Weiss, CapX
  • Extending Brexit could revive May’s deal – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • Where would the Left be without Brexit? – James Bloodworth, UnHerd

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