Theresa May vows to stand up to Brussels over Brexit backstop as seven amendments revealed

The Prime Minister addressed the House of Commons as it emerged MPs would be able to vote on seven different alternative plans.

One motion backed by anti-Brexit campaigners would see Britain STAY in the EU rather than quit without a deal.

Theresa May is desperately scrambling to see off the amendment, tabled by Labour's Yvette Cooper – but it could pass as Jeremy Corbyn has ordered all his MPs to support the plan.

As the PM faces a fresh moment of truth on Brexit:

  • Remainer ministers warned Mrs May she has two weeks to rule out No Deal
  • Top Brexiteers refused to say if they'll back a competing amendment designed to save the PM's deal
  • Mrs May clashed with Boris Johnson in front of stunned Tory MPs
  • The PM vowed to give the House of Commons another chance to have its say next month
  • A new plan was unveiled which could unite the Conservative party and avoid No Deal chaos

Today MPs are debating the way forward on Brexit in the wake of the PM's historic defeat earlier this month.

Commons Speaker John Bercow has selected seven amendments, each dictating a different course of action, to be voted on tonight.

Opening the debate, Mrs May confirmed she is backing an amendment from Tory backbench chief Sir Graham Brady.

That motion would declare that the Commons supports the PM's deal as long as the Irish backstop is removed.

The PM said: "This amendment will give me the mandate I need to negotiate with Brussels. What I'm talking about is a significant and legally binding change to the withdrawal agreement.

"It will involve reopening the withdrawal agreement, a move for which there is limited appetite among our European partners… but I believe I can secure such a change in advance of our departure from the EU."

Crunch Brexit vote explained

What happens in tonight’s vote?

The vote in Parliament this evening is a result of the defeat of Theresa May's deal earlier this month.

The law states that after the deal's defeat, the PM must make a statement in the Commons announcing her plans – which she did last Monday, saying she would press on with her current deal.

The Government must then table a so-called "neutral" motion to be voted on – stating simply that the House of Commons "has considered the statement" made by the PM.

Why does the vote matter?

Whether or not MPs vote in favour of the motion tabled by Mrs May is literally meaningless.

But crucially, the motion can be amended – giving the Commons the right to pass any resolution it wants and dictate to the Government what it should do next.

What are the amendments?

There are two main amendments – one from Labour's Yvette Cooper which rules out a No Deal Brexit, and another from top Tory Graham Brady which kills off the Irish backstop.

But another 13 amendments have also been tabled from across the political spectrum.

Commons Speaker John Bercow will this morning select roughly half a dozen which will go to a vote from around 7pm – after six hours of debate opened by Mrs May.

Most of the amendments aren't legally binding but would provide a clear political message to the Government.

But the Cooper amendment is legally binding – making it more worrying to ministers than the others.

So what next?

Tonight’s vote is not a rerun of the first "meaningful vote" on whether or not to approve the Brexit deal.

That is likely to come some time in February – whatever happens this evening.

Mrs May is fighting fiercely against Ms Cooper's amendment, which would give MPs the right to delay Brexit by up to nine months if a deal isn't secured by the end of February.

The motion is seen as very likely to pass after Mr Corbyn threw his support behind it.

Labour chiefs decided to back the amendment after a meeting this morning – although they want to limit the delay to no more than three months.

A party source said: "We're backing the Cooper amendment to reduce the threat of the chaos of a No Deal exit.

"The Cooper Bill could give MPs a temporary window to agree a deal that can bring the country together. We will aim to amend the Cooper Bill to shorten the possible Article 50 extension."

The People's Vote campaign for a second referendum has publicly supported the move as the first step towards cancelling Brexit altogether.

A number of Tory Remainers are expected to vote for the Cooper amendment rather than risk No Deal.

Five other amendments were also selected for a vote – including two more designed to rule out a No Deal Brexit.

Another, from ex-minister Dominic Grieve, would give MPs control of the Commons timetable in an unprecedented power grab from the Government.

Opening today's debate, the Prime Minister called on squabbling MPs to pull together behind one option instead of just ruling out everything on the table.

She said: "Today we need to send an emphatic message about what we do want.

"I believe that must include honouring the votes of our fellow citizens and completing the democratic process that began when this House voted overwhelmingly to hold the referendum, then voted to trigger Article 50, and which saw the vast majority of us elected on manifestos pledging to see Brexit through.

"We can honour the result of the referendum by showing tonight what it will take for this house to approve a withdrawal agreement."

Mrs May vowed to "bring a revised deal back to this house for a second meaningful vote as soon as we possibly can", adding that if the deal hasn't passed by February 14 MPs will have another chance to declare their favoured solution.

And she mocked Labour's shambolic Brexit policy, summarising it as, "Let's have a few more votes in the future, possibly, maybe, if we think it might be useful, at some stage."

Before today's debate, Business Minister Richard Harrington issued an extraordinary public warning to the PM not to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.

Guide to the key Brexit amendments

A TOTAL of 15 different amendments have been tabled to today’s Brexit motion.

Up to half a dozen will be pushed to a vote – but most aren't legally binding, and two of the amendments are seen as key.

COOPER AMENDMENT – RULE OUT NO DEAL

Labour's Yvette Cooper has teamed up with Tory ex-minister Nick Boles to try to take No Deal off the table.

The cross-party amendment would force the Government to introduce a bill giving unprecedented powers to MPs.

The House of Commons would be able to vote to delay Brexit by up to nine months if Britain is heading towards a No Deal outcome.

The bill states that if there is no deal in place by February 26, MPs could then instruct the Government to seek an extension of Article, 50, the legal mechanism taking us out of the EU.

Jeremy Corbyn backed the amendment today – giving it a good chance of success thanks to support from Tory rebels.

BRADY AMENDMENT – DROP THE BACKSTOP

Sir Graham Brady is one of a group of senior Brexiteers who've tabled an amendment to kill off the Irish backstop.

The amendment states that the Commons is prepared to back Theresa May's deal, but only on condition the backstop is " replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border".

Although it wouldn't be binding, Sir Graham says that if it passes it would allow the PM to return to Brussels and secure changes to the withdrawal agreement.

The Government is supporting the amendment and will tell Tory MPs they must vote for it.

But it's up to Speaker John Bercow to pick which amendments are voted on – so he could scupper Mrs May's hopes by refusing to select the Brady one.

He told the BBC: "Many of us have been to see the Prime Minister and have told her the absolute catastrophe and disaster for jobs and the economy that No Deal would be.

"What she has asked us is that we give her another two weeks."

Mr Harrington said he would quit as a minister if the PM refused to give MPs another chance to rule out No Deal within a fortnight.






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