May’s deal suffers second crushing defeat

“Britain was last night plunged into chaos once again as MPs voted to kill off Theresa May’s Brexit deal by 391 votes to 242. Now 993 days after the referendum, and with just 17 days before Brexit, Brits are still in the dark about when or if we will ever leave the EU. Furious MPs blasted the uncertainty – saying the “wretched soap opera of Brexit continues” as the country heads “back to square one”. And Cabinet ministers were summoned for a crisis meeting at No10 to work out how to move forward. Parliament has repeatedly voted against Mrs May’s strategy for leaving the EU on March 29 – last night the Commons laughed and cheered after the the fresh chaos was confirmed.” – The Sun

  • One Tory in four votes against as escape bid fails – FT
  • Only 40 MPs won over by assurances – The Times
  • All ten Democratic Unionist MPs vote against – News Letter
  • Rees-Mogg accused of ‘losing Brexit’ – Daily Express
  • Eurocrat slams Labour’s ‘tactical’ behaviour – The Sun
  • What the papers said about May’s defeat – The Guardian


  • Why I took the tough decision to vote down the deal – Michael Fabricant MP, Daily Telegraph
  • The day MPs turned their backs on Brexit – Henry Deedes, Daily Mail
  • Deeply-flawed deal shows how we have caved to the EU from day one – Andrea Jenkyns MP, Daily Telegraph


  • Parliament of pygmies have sold Britain down the river – The Sun



Vote on no-deal exit will be held today. The motion is ambiguous and controversial…

“Now that Mrs May’s vote did not pass the vote, Brexit is less certain and another vote is impending. President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has warned that should MPs vote the deal down for a second time, “there will be no third chance” and Parliament will have to determine the next course of action. MPs have been promised an immediate vote on whether the UK should leave the EU with no deal – and this vote could take place as soon as Wednesday. Should MPs elect for a no deal, this means the UK will leave the bloc as planned on March 29 – but will automatically switch to World Trade Organisation trade rules. However, if a no deal Brexit is rejected, a third vote will follow – on whether a delay to Article 50 should be requested.” – Daily Express

  • Businesses urge MPs to vote against ‘crashing out’ – FT
  • Hammond warns that no-deal exit would mean revising spending plans – Daily Mail
  • Government would slash tariffs to zero to mitigate damage – The Guardian


  • A free vote on this means the Government is shrugging – Philip Cowley, Times Red Box

>Today: MPs Etc.: Free vote today on No Deal. If that falls, one on extension on Thursday. May’s statement.

…and the Prime Minister is expected to vote against No Deal

“The defeat – the fourth worst suffered by a British government – paves the way for a series of votes this week which are set to block a no-deal Brexit and delay Britain’s exit from the EU. The apparent decision by Mrs May to vote against no-deal follows her ­repeated insistence over the past two and a half years – and a manifesto pledge – that no deal was better than a bad deal. In Parliament after the defeat, she even appeared to refuse to accept her deal was dead, potentially setting the scene for a third meaningful vote before the end of March. The Prime Minister offered Tory MPs a free vote on the issue of whether to take no-deal off the table, to the fury of Brexiteers, and she is now braced to face growing calls to step aside.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Tusk says EU would need ‘credible reason’ to extend Article 50 – The Guardian
  • Frustrated Brussels talks up cliff-edge exit – The Times
  • Johnson says no-deal departure is only path which maintains ‘self-respect’ – Daily Express


>Today: ToryDiary: May loses Brexit vote by 242 to 391. The majority against her is 149.

Can ‘Malthouse II’ rescue the Government?

“A group of Tory MPs is also preparing to revive the so-called Malthouse plan for Britain to offer an extended transition followed by a no-deal Brexit. Figures such as Damian Green and Nicky Morgan from the Remain wing of the party and the Brexiteers Steve Baker and Jacob Rees-Mogg put down the amendment outlining the plan last night, with ministers understood to be indicating their support for it. It requires new negotiations with the EU because it does not involve passing the withdrawal agreement, something Brussels and No 10 are likely to resist. Mrs May, her voice failing, told MPs, who had rejected her deal by a margin of 149 votes, that they now faced a series of unenviable choices, including whether to cancel Brexit.” – The Times

  • Plan would ‘give businesses more time’ – The Sun
  • Now even the ERG want to delay Brexit – Daily Mail


  • Remainers launch plot to ‘seize control’ – Daily Express
  • Corbyn ‘fails to back’ a second referendum – The Times
  • SNP reveal wording of pro-independence amendment – The Scotsman


  • To fix the backstop, May must push on with Malthouse – Mark Harper MP, Daily Telegraph
  • For MPs, the real crisis starts now – Anand Menon, The Guardian
  • Unless the Government presents a clear plan fast, it could lose control – Nikki da Costa, Daily Telegraph
  • From Brexiteer ultras to conniving Remainers, what a pitiful shower – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Brexit is now in the hands of Remainers and the EU – Asa Bennett, Daily Telegraph


  • MPs must now take over – FT


Cabinet divided over whether to push for a third ‘meaningful vote’

“The Cabinet is also set for another major bust up over what to do now, when it meets at 8am today to be shown the Chancellor’s Spring Statement mini-Budget. Several Cabinet ministers, including Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, headed-up a bid yesterday to persuade the PM to hold a third meaningful vote on her deal later this week. Mr Grayling told a meeting of her Cabinet that a few more tweaks from Brussels could turn around the defeat. But pro-Remain Cabinet ministers will instead urge her to rip up her deal and forge a consensus with Labour for a softer Brexit deal instead, currently lead by rebel Tory grandee Sir Oliver Letwin.” – The Sun

  • EU says it can do nothing more to help – Daily Telegraph
  • Power slips from May’s damaged hands – FT


  • Even now, she still believes ‘one last heave’ could work – Robert Shrimsley, FT
  • DUP will put Brexit first depite risk of self-destruction – Ruth Dudley-Edwards, Daily Telegraph

Daniel Finkelstein: The Tories’ Brexit problems run even deeper than they appear

“The Conservative Party, so stuck tactically after last night’s crushing defeat, with little idea what to do next, is stuck even more tightly strategically. Just at the moment when the economic argument for deregulation will look strongest, and at the moment when the party is likely to choose a Brexiteer and deregulator as its next leader, the political ability to follow this path will look ever more difficult. Outside the EU Britain will have to work hard to encourage foreign companies to invest. We will have made it more difficult for them in a number of ways, so we will have to compensate. This means making the country’s tax, regulation and immigration regime more attractive to investors. Something that many Brexit leaders would have no problem with themselves. Indeed, for them, the opportunity of doing this is part of the point of leaving. However, the political problems quickly become obvious.” – The Times

  • May lost to the ultimate adversary: reality – Rafael Behr, The Guardian
  • Parties have split before, but you ain’t seen nothing yet – Steven Fielding, Times Red Box

Prime Minister is ‘not going anywhere’ after Commons rout

“Theresa May was tonight forced to deny she’ll quit as PM after her Brexit deal was all but killed off in the Commons. The Prime Minister hasn’t discussed resigning with her top team, her spokesperson has said. Earlier this week it was rumoured that Mrs May could be forced to go if she suffered another damning defeat. Ministers floated the idea of the PM naming the day she would step down as Tory leaders too to persuade the Brexiteers to get behind her. Nicky Morgan said last weekend: “Her position is going to be very difficult if the agreement goes down on Tuesday”. And an MP was overheard earlier saying they may back the deal, but only if the PM keeps 29th March as the exit date “or she must resign”. “It’s as simple as that”.” – The Sun

  • Apallingly weak, she has plumbed new depths of crisis – Allison Pearson, Daily Telegraph
  • May really has little option but to battle on to the end – Philip Collins, The Times
  • A heroic leader clings on for dear life, but for how much longer? – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail
  • Face facts, Prime Minister: it’s time to step aside – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph


  • The question is: does she have anything more to offer? – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Commons sketch: How much more of this agony can May take?

Corbyn leads calls for election

“Jeremy Corbyn has demanded a general election in response to Theresa May’s 149-vote Brexit deal defeat – but made no mention of a second referendum. The Labour leader also pledged that his party would vote against a no-deal Brexit outcome in Wednesday’s vote and signalled that he would continue to press for a customs union with the EU. “The prime minister has run down the clock and the clock has been run out on her,” he said in the House of Commons. “It’s time that we have a general election and the people can choose who their government should be.” But despite Corbyn’s call for another poll, the party is understood to not have immediate plans to call for a vote of no confidence that could precipitate what would be the third general election in four years.” – The Guardian

  • ‘Senior Tory’ raises prospect of going to the country – The Times

Cox’s legal advice ‘riles ministers’

“Geoffrey Cox came under fire from his cabinet colleagues yesterday as they realised his legal advice had scuppered any chance of Theresa May’s Brexit deal passing at the second attempt. The attorney-general ruled that the changes to the deal secured by the prime minister in Strasbourg had left the risk of the UK being stuck in the backstop unchanged. Mr Cox, 58, a practising QC until his appointment last July, presented his advice at a cabinet meeting yesterday morning, telling his colleagues he had been “up all night” writing it. Mrs May and her team only received the advice shortly before the meeting began. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, explicitly criticised Mr Cox for undermining the prime minister. “He said Cox could and should have been more helpful,” a cabinet source said.” – The Times

  • Attorney General’s words lead Brexiteers to kill deal – FT
  • ‘Cox has completely f***** us’ – Daily Mail
  • From the backbenches to the eye of the storm – The Times


  • Cox chooses law over politics – David Allen Green, FT
  • Rumpole of the Commons sank the deal with five deadly words – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
  • Blunt verdict was final nail in the coffin – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph


Spring Statement: Hammond to fund fresh blitz against knife crime

“Philip Hammond will today announce a £100 million funding package to tackle Britain’s knife crime epidemic, The Sun can reveal. The cash will go towards violent crime units in the seven worst affected UK cities. It is a major victory for Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who demanded the cash after the surge in knife killings this year. Chancellor Philip Hammond had offered a new package of £50 million but Mr Javid held out for more… Officials in the two departments were locked in talks until late last night over the final amount. They finally struck a deal just hours before Mr Hammond’s Spring Statement today. Some £80 million of the funding will be new money from the Treasury.” – The Sun

  • Chancellor to launch consultation on infrastructure spending – FT
  • NAO boss attacks money wasted on ministers’ vanity projects – The Sun


  • What to look for from the Chancellor’s statement – Thomas Pope, Times Red Box

News in Brief:

  • Day of disaster for May topped by another epic defeat – Finn McRedmond, Reaction
  • Brexit can’t go on like this. And yet it will – Alex Massie, CapX
  • We’re now heading for a no-deal Brexit – but not just yet – Robert Peston, The Spectator
  • How Hammond should prepare the country for a no-deal Brexit – James Heywood, Brexit Central
  • The EU is flunking its Brexit opportunity – Helen Thompson, UnHerd