Theresa May is scrambling to resuscitate her Brexit deal ahead of a third “meaningful vote” next week after a dramatic night in the Commons when MPs ordered her to seek a delay to the UK’s departure from the EU

Europe’s leaders are considering whether to accept calls for Brexit to be delayed beyond March 29, with European Council president Donald Tusk due to meet Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte in The Hague on Friday before talks with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron on Monday.

But Ms May’s hopes of persuading Eurosceptics and the DUP were dealt a hammer blow after the so-called star chamber of Brexiteer lawyers rejected attorney general Geoffrey Cox’s latest assessment.

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Led by veteran Tory Sir Bill Cash, the group said his idea that the UK could use the Vienna Convention – the international agreement that lays down the rules about treaties – to unilaterally pull out of the backstop was “badly misconceived”.


Former cabinet minister – and staunch Brexiteer – Esther McVey has hinted to the BBC that she might support Theresa May’s deal. 

 


The Indy’s Andrew Grice think EU leaders would no longer trust May to deliver a letter, let alone a promise. But they are unwittingly helping her deliver her own strategy

 

Read his column here:


Downing Street has demanded UK news and media companies remove from their websites terrifying footage of the far-right terror rampage against Muslims in New Zealand.

Number 10 intervened after the film made by the main gunman was posted on social media, with a number of major news organisations then choosing to carry it on their websites.

More here: 


 

A Downing Street spokeswoman said Prime Minister Theresa May has sent a direct message to the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. 


MPs have gathered in the House of Commons for a minute’s silence in memory of those killed in the New Zealand terror attack.

Speaker John Bercow led tributes to the victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings, telling the chamber the pause in proceedings at 11am was in “solidarity” with the people of New Zealand and Muslims around the world.

He said: “This barbarity, this evil, this depravity will not prevail.

“We will stand up to it and it will be defeated.”

Security minister Ben Wallace confirmed the UK was offering whatever assistance New Zealand required in the wake of the “repugnant” attack, adding both he and Home Secretary Sajid Javid were meeting police and security services to look at ways to protect British mosques.

He also said: “The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with New Zealand against terrorism and we will not falter in our commitment to uphold the values of tolerance, religious freedom and democracy that we both hold so dear.”


Theresa May’s deputy has played down talk of a cabinet split, despite seven of the prime minister’s top team voting against her in a key Brexit vote.

David Lidington insisted the “entire cabinet” had accepted that Britain would seek to delay Brexit, despite seven cabinet ministers voting against the proposal last night.

More here: 


A flotilla of fishing boats has set off to protest against the Prime Minister’s Brexit plans.

The demonstration on the River Tyne comes the day before former Ukip leader Nigel Farage starts out on his March to Leave, from Sunderland to London.

The fishermen’s organisation, Fishing For Leave, set off from North Shields, North Tyneside, up the river and headed for Newcastle’s Quayside.

The flotilla made its way through the choppy waters of the Tyne, while a battered trawler was driven on the back of a lorry by road, heading for the meeting point in the city centre.

A spokesman said: “The terms of the Withdrawal Agreement are an existential threat to fishing and a total betrayal of Brexit and Britain.

“It means a second surrender of our industry and coastal communities and places a constitutional bomb under democracy.”

 


EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has said the UK’s no-deal tariff plans – proposals that would see no import duties levied on goods entering Northern Ireland across the border – likely breach World Trade Organisation rules.

Mr Hogan, who is commissioner for agriculture and rural development, claimed the plans unveiled by Whitehall this week were “political” and designed to “change in the news cycle from the political chaos on London”.

“I think they are incompatible with WTO rules,” he said of the plans, after arriving at an agriculture conference in Dublin.

Mr Hogan added: “I think the timing of it was unfortunate and it was a deliberate attempt to put Ireland more on the agenda, as if it wasn’t on the agenda already.”

Here’s our story from when the tariff schedules were published:

 


Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel does not seem very enthusiastic about the prospect of a Brexit delay. Remember – all EU27 states must approve any extension to article 50.

Dutch PM Mark Rutte – who has been an ally to May – reiterates that May’s deal is the only one on the table.

 


Sir Vince Cable has announced plans to stand down as leader of the Liberal Democrats, following the UK’s local elections.

“I indicated last year that once the Brexit story had moved on, and we had fought this year’s crucial local elections in 9,000 seats across England, it would be time for me to make way for a new generation,” the politician said in a statement.

“I set considerable store by having an orderly, business-like, succession unlike the power struggles in the other parties.”

More here:


The Commons will hold a minute’s silence in memory of those killed in the mosque shootings in Christchurch.

 


On the Labour side, there were also a number of rebels. Four Labour MPs have resigned from the party’s frontbench after defying
 Jeremy Corbyn’s orders and voting against a fresh Brexit referendum.

The Labour leader had whipped his MPs to abstain on the vote but dozens broke ranks, with 24 voting for a fresh public vote and 17 voting against.


Back to Brexit, and 
David Lidington has denied that the government was falling apart after seven cabinet ministers – including Brexit secretary Steve Barclay -voted against the PM’s motion on delaying exit day.

Mr Lidington, who is Ms May’s de-facto deputy, told the Today programme: “It was a free vote in that division yesterday. Now, what happens this morning is that the entire cabinet has accepted the position that Parliament voted for last night.

“I’ve been working very constructively with Steve Barclay since his appointment a couple of months ago despite the fact that he and I were vigorously on opposite sides of the debate during the referendum, and we are continuing to work very constructively together today and in the days to come.”

Mr Lidington said he believed that Leave-backing ministers had used the free vote as “an opportunity to register how unhappy they were with being in the position where we don’t really have an option as a country except to seek an extension of our time in the European Union”.

Mr Lidington said that leaving on March 29 with no deal remains the “legal default position” but the likelihood of it happening had “diminished” after this week’s votes.

He said he was still hoping that the UK will “leave as soon as possible in an orderly fashion” by MPs backing Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement next week.

Asked if defeat for the PM’s deal might mean an extension of a year or more, Mr Lidington said: “Those are the indications which the Brussels institutions of the EU – the Commission, the Council secretariat and certain member state governments – have been giving to us.”

He added: “I hope that MPs of all parties will be over this weekend just reflecting on the way forward.”


Theresa May has led the UK condemnation of the shootings in mosques in Christchurch that killed 49 people.

The prime minister expressed her “deepest condolences to the people of New Zealand after the horrifying terrorist attack in Christchurch” in the wake of the devastating attacks on Friday.

She added: “My thoughts are with all of those affected by this sickening act of violence.”

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Our hearts go out to the people of New Zealand following the news of this terrible act in Christchurch.

“NZ is one of the most peaceful, peace-loving and generous nations in the world. Your friends in the UK stand with you today in deepest sympathy.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Twitter: “My heart goes out to the victims of the horrific terror attack in New Zealand. We stand in solidarity with the Muslim community in Christchurch and around the world.

“We must defeat the bigotry which fuels such hatred and violence.”

We are running a separate liveblog on the events in Christchurch, which you can follow here:


It’s the morning after the night before in Westminster, after MPs voted to order Theresa May to delay Brexit in a dramatic series of Commons votes.

 

Last night’s action came on the heels of an explosive week, which saw the PM’s deal rejected for a second time on Tuesday. MPs then backed a bid to try to take a no-deal Brexit off the table – amid chaotic scenes where several senior minister rebelled against the government.

 

Our political editor Joe Watts has an essential write-through of last night’s events:


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