Brexit: May, Corbyn clash in parliament before talks

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister Theresa May spar over Brexit in PMQs session.

Pro-Brexit demonstration

Editor’s note: This blog has now been archived. Click here for all the latest updates on Brexit.

The United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union at 23:00 GMT on March 29, 2019, but many Britons are questioning Prime Minister Theresa May‘s handling of the upcoming divorce from the EU.

Brexit, or Britain’s exit from the union of 28 states, was officially initiated last March after nearly 52 percent of Britons – more than 17 million people – voted to leave the EU.

Turnout at the poll was more than 72 percent.

Here are all the latest updates since January 1:

Wednesday, January 30

May and Corbyn clash ahead of meeting

Theresa May has clashed with the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn in parliament, hours before the two were scheduled to meet to discuss the way forward on Brexit.

During Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions session, Corbyn called for May to rule out a no-deal Brexit, criticised the “red lines” in May’s negotiating strategy with the EU and implored the PM to outline potential alternatives to the so-called backstop.

May said that Corbyn has “no plan for Brexit” and urged him to provide clarity on what kind of deal the Labour party could support. The leaders are due to meet again at 15:00 GMT.

Tuesday, January 29

EU: Brexit divorce deal not up for renegotiation

European leaders moved quickly to reject an attempt by May to re-open negotiations on Britain’s divorce deal with the European Union, after British members of parliament voted to demand changes.

EU Council President Donald Tusk called round the other 27 EU capitals to coordinate a response and issued a firm statement ruling out renegotiation.


“The Withdrawal Agreement is and remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union,” Tusk’s spokesman said.

“We continue to urge the UK government to clarify its intentions with respect to the next steps as soon as possible.”

Tusk’s response mirrored that of France’s President Emmanuel Macron, who had earlier warned May not to expect Europe to bend to British demands.

During a regional summit in Cyprus, Macron declared that the existing Brexit deal is the “best agreement possible and is not renegotiable”.

Macron urged London to “promptly” lay out to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier “the next steps that will prevent an exit without an agreement, which nobody wants but for which we must all prepare ourselves”.

UK MPs back Brady amendment, sending May back to Brussels to renegotiate

British MPs have back the Brady amendment in Tuesday’s crucial vote, meaning they expect Prime Minister Theresa May to go back to Brussels to renegotiate the Brexit deal currently on the table.

The amendment was introduced by Sir Graham Brady, the influential head of the Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee.

He wants to overcome the main hurdle to May’s deal by replacing the “Irish backstop”, which he claims would give May “enormous firepower” to demand concessions from Brussels and could simply be appended to her withdrawal agreement.

The Brady amendment rests on Conservative hopes that a clear statement of intent by MPs will prompt the EU to compromise, but there is no sign it will.

Earlier on Tuesday, May called with several European leaders in an attempt to reopen Brexit negotiations since she still does not have support of parliament to go ahead with the Brexit deal as it was signed by both May’s government and European leaders.

Those leaders, however, had already told May they would not reopen negotiations for Britain’s departure from the EU.

Parliament back amendment rejecting a no-deal Brexit

British MPs have backed an advisory amendment rejecting a no-deal Brexit by 318 votes to 310.

This so-called Cooper amendment, put forward by the Labour chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Yvette Cooper, sought to prevent a “no-deal” Brexit, something economists warn would be disastrous, by directing the government to extend the deadline if there is no agreement by February 26.

MPs reject plan to delay Brexit, increasing chances of no-deal Brexit

Members of UK Parliament have rejected a plan to delay Brexit on Tuesday evening.

The delay was a plan to prevent a possibly disastrous no-deal Brexit, which could

If the amendment, which was defeated 321 to 298, had passed, parliamentarians would have secured time to vote on a draft bill which would grant parliament power to request a Brexit extension if Prime Minister Theresa May did not receive support for the deal by 26 February. 

The vote came on the same day Prime Minister Theresa May said she would try to get European leaders to agree to reopen negotiations on the deal.

However, European leaders had already said they would not renegotiate the deal.

May wants to reopen negotiations with EU ahead of series of votes

Theresa May has said she wants to reopen negotiations with the EU in an attempt to solve the issue of the Irish backstop.

Despite the EU saying it does not want to renegotiate the Brexit deal, May said she will talk to several European leaders on Tuesday in an attempt to sway them into reopening talks.

Her comments come shortly ahead of a debate and a series of votes in the House of Commons in which she will ask for support of her deal.

MPs who support Brexit have said they would possibly support May if she gets legal assurances regarding the Irish backstop.

The vote, expected later tonight, is another important moment for May and Brexit.

Monday, January 28

McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose warn of price hikes, shortages

Food retailers in Britain are warning of higher prices for food as well as shortages in a starkly worded letter to the MPs urging them to avoid leaving the EU without a deal.

McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose were among those saying Monday they were “extremely concerned” about disruptions in the food supply chain, given that nearly one-third of the food Britons eat comes from the EU, the AP news agency reported.

The industry says that “this complex, ‘just in time’ supply chain will be significantly disrupted in the event of no deal,” and that there will be pressure on food prices from higher transport costs, currency devaluation and tariffs.

Britain unlikely to withdraw Article 50: EU diplomat

Britain is unlikely to withdraw Article 50 and Prime Minister May will probably stick to the March 29 divorce date from the bloc, an EU diplomat has said.

Regarding a possible extension of the Brexit date, the EU diplomat also indicated that if Britain’s withdrawal was delayed until after elections for the European Parliament in May, it would have to take part in the vote as it would still be a member of the bloc.

Sunday, January 27

Ireland says ‘no change’ to Brexit backstop

Ireland has dealt a blow to PM May’s attempts to break the deadlock over Brexit by saying it would not accept any changes to an agreement aimed at preventing a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said on Sunday the backstop was already a compromise drawn up to meet May’s negotiating red lines, and the EU and Ireland were united in the view it “was not going to change”.

“There is no magic solution here for this problem,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.

“That is why Ireland will insist on the United Kingdom keeping its word, both to Ireland and to the EU and to people in Northern Ireland in terms of protecting a fragile but hugely valuable peace process,” he added, referring to a peace that has broadly held for two decades following years of conflict between pro-British and pro-Irish elements in Northern Ireland.

“The European Parliament will not ratify a withdrawal agreement that doesn’t have a backstop in it, it’s as simple as that,” he said.

Saturday, January 26

Brexit delay ‘worth considering’: French minister

Any request by Britain to delay its departure from the EU would be “worth considering”, France’s European Affairs minister has said.

But Nathalie Loiseau also told reporters that the Brexit deal agreed between London and Brussels, which has been rejected by the British parliament, could not be renegotiated.

“If a British government, backed by a majority in parliament – which would constitute real progress – came up with new ideas about the future of UK-EU relations … and asked us for a delay, that would be worth considering,” she said.

“A delay is no solution, it is a means towards a solution,” said Loiseau who, as junior minister, reports to Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

“There has to be a new and credible political objective,” she told a news conference during a youth rally for President Emmanuel Macron.

“That means a British government has to propose a solution that does not reopen the withdrawal agreement,” she said. “We agreed on this withdrawal agreement and it cannot be renegotiated.”

The House of Commons last week rejected the EU withdrawal deal struck by Prime Minister Theresa May with Brussels, leaving Britain without a plan and Brexit day looming on March 29.

Brexit date could be pushed back by a ‘couple of extra weeks’: Leadsom

The date Britain leaves the EU could be pushed back by a couple of weeks to give time for legislation to be approved by legislators, the leader of Britain’s lower house of parliament said, the most senior figure to make such a suggestion.

“We can get the legislation through and I think we do, in spite of everything, have a very strong relationship with our EU friends and neighbours and I am absolutely certain that if we needed a couple of extra weeks or something then that would be feasible,” Andrea Leadsom told the BBC.

Queen urges UK to find common ground as Brexit crisis deepens


Friday, January 25

Novartis urges Britain to secure drug supplies before Brexit

One of the world’s biggest drugmakers has called on Britain to urgently guarantee the movement of drugs in the event of a chaotic Brexit and said it was stockpiling to maintain the delivery of the 120 million packs it exports to Britain from Europe each year.

Swiss company Novartis said the risk of Britain leaving the European Union, its biggest trading partner, without a deal had risen after Prime Minister Theresa May failed to get her deal through parliament last week.

“Given the complex nature of the supply chain, government needs to implement a comprehensive continuity plan rapidly,” Novartis said in a statement.

“It is vital that government makes minimising disruption to the medicines supply the highest priority as it prepares for a potential hard or disorderly Brexit and ensures cooperation over medicines regulation in this event,” Novartis said.

Britain has called for drugmakers to produce an additional six weeks of medicines to cope with potential supply disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit – a target the industry has said would be challenging.

Queen calls for ‘common ground’ as Brexit divides Britain

Queen Elizabeth II has emphasised the need for Britons to come together to “seek out the common ground”, in what is being viewed as an appeal to overcome bitter divisions over Brexit.

Government ministers quickly interpreted the comments – a rare foray for the 92-year-old monarch into the political sphere – as broadly supportive of their desperate search for a compromise over Brexit.

“Every generation faces fresh challenges and opportunities,” she said.

“As we look for new answers in the modern age, I for one prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view, coming together to seek out the common ground, and never losing sight of the bigger picture.”

L’Oreal hoards cosmetics in Britain as Brexit looms

L’Oreal, whose beauty brands range from Lancome creams to Maybelline make-up, is stocking up cosmetics in Britain as part of its preparations for Britain leaving the European Union, its chief executive said.

“We’re preparing for all scenarios,” Agon told Reuters on the sidelines of a media event late on Thursday.

He said that a no-deal Brexit would not have a major impact on the group, however, with Britain accounting for roughly 3 percent of sales, though it was also bulking up stocks in the United Kingdom, where it no longer has a manufacturing base.

The company is processing the paperwork needed to smooth truck deliveries of its products between France and Britain in the event the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a negotiated deal, boss Jean-Paul Agon added.

Irish PM says army might be needed at border after chaotic Brexit – Bloomberg

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said soldiers might have to return to the border with Northern Ireland if Brexit went wrong, Bloomberg reported.

In a worst-case scenario, a hard border could “involve people in uniform and it may involve the need, for example, for cameras, physical infrastructure, possibly a police presence, or an army presence to back it up,” Varadkar told Bloomberg.

“The problem with that in the context of Irish politics and history is those things become targets,” he said.


Thursday, January 24

Airbus CEO warns it could move in event of no-deal Brexit

The chief executive of Airbus has warned that the aviation giant could move its UK operations out of Britain if the country leaves the European Union without a deal on trade relations, in one of the starkest assessments yet of the economic impact of a “no-deal” Brexit.


CEO Tom Enders said Brexit threatened to destroy a century of development in Britain’s world-leading aviation industry.

“Aerospace is a long-term business and we could be forced to re-direct future investments in the event of a no-deal Brexit,” Enders said.

“And make no mistake there are plenty of countries out there who would love to build the wings for Airbus aircraft.”

Trade unions urge May to delay Brexit

The leaders of Britain’s two largest trade unions have called on Prime Minister Theresa May to delay Brexit to prevent a no-deal exit from the EU.

In separate meetings with May, Len McCluskey of Unite and Dave Prentis of Unison discussed the severity of leaving the EU without a deal and the need for an extension of Article 50, the section of the EU treaty under which the UK is leaving.

“I have also made it clear that, in my opinion, if she is serious about negotiating and seeing if there’s a deal that has support in parliament, then there has to be an extension of Article 50,” McCluskey said after the meeting.

“I can’t conceive any British prime minister taking us out of Europe with a no deal. It would be catastrophic. She’s been told that from all parts,” he added.

Monday, January 21

May: EU unlikely to extend Article 50 without a plan

Theresa May has said the European Union is “very unlikely to extend Article 50 without a plan for a deal,” as she rejected calls to delay Britain’s departure from the EU.


“There is widespread concern about possibility of the UK leaving without a deal. There are those on both sides that want the government to rule this out,” said May.

“But we need to be honest with the British people about what that means. The right way to rule out a no-deal Brexit is for this house to approve a deal with the EU. That is what this government is seeking to achieve.

“The only other guaranteed way to avoid a no-deal Brexit is to revoke Article 50, which would mean staying in the EU. This is not ruling out no-deal but simply deferring the point of decision. And the EU are very unlikely to extend Article 50 without a plan for how we are going to approve a deal.”

Wednesday, January 16

Theresa May survives no-confidence vote

Embattled PM Theresa May survived a no-confidence vote on Wednesday, a day after MPs dealt a crushing blow to the Brexit plan she negotiated with the European Union.

Parliament members voted 325 to 306 against the motion called by Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, who had earlier urged May to resign.

“I am pleased that this House has expressed its confidence in this government tonight,” May said, welcoming the result and vowing to continue to “deliver on the result of the [Brexit] referendum”.

“My government will continue its work to increase our prosperity, guarantee our security and to strengthen our union.”

Tuesday, January 15

UK parliament rejects Theresa May’s Brexit deal

British politicians have overwhelmingly rejected PM Theresa May’s Brexit agreement, complicating the UK’s departure from the European Union on March 29.

Members of parliament on Tuesday voted 432 to 202 to rebuff the deal, giving May a crushing defeat with a margin of 230.

“The House has spoken, and the government will listen,” May said following the vote, even as she predicted “more uncertainty, more bitterness and more rancour.”

Monday, January 14

Theresa May tells MPs: It’s my deal, no deal, or no Brexit

Theresa May has warned MPs that if they reject her deal to leave the EU, they risk either leaving without a deal or not leaving at all.

Speaking at a factory in the northern city of Stoke-on-Trent on Monday, May said she was looking to “close the debate” on Brexit.

“What is important is that we deliver on the result of the referendum,” the prime minister said, arguing any attempt to stay in the bloc would be a betrayal of the British electorate.

Sunday, January 13

British PM May cautions of ‘catastrophe’ if Brexit plan rejected

Theresa May has warned legislators ready to reject her EU divorce deal that failing to deliver Brexit would be “catastrophic” for the country’s democracy.

Writing in the UK’s Sunday Express newspaper, May urged MPs not to let down the Britons who voted in favour of exiting the European Union in a June 2016 referendum.

“Doing so would be a catastrophic and unforgivable breach of trust in our democracy,” she wrote.

“So my message to Parliament this weekend is simple: it is time to forget the games and do what is right for our country.”

Tuesday, January 8

British legislators create new obstacle to ‘no-deal’ Brexit

Britain’s parliament has dealt Theresa May’s government a narrow defeat by passing an amendment designed to put roadblocks in place to make a “no-deal” Brexit more difficult.

Legislators on Tuesday backed an amendment to the Finance Bill that would prohibit the government from spending on preparations to leave the EU without a deal unless authorised by parliament.

The 303 to 296 defeat highlights May’s weak position as leader of a minority government, a divided party and a critical parliament just days before she is due to hold a pivotal vote on whether to approve the Brexit deal she has negotiated with the EU.

Leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, described the result as an “important step” towards preventing a no-deal Brexit.

Sunday, January 6

British PM warns of ‘uncharted territory’ if Brexit deal rejected

British PM Theresa May has reiterated that a delayed parliamentary vote on her widely maligned Brexit deal will go ahead later this month and warned that the UK would enter “uncharted territory” should it be rejected by MPs.

In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, May pledged to set out new measures to address the contentious Northern Irish “backstop” clause in her withdrawal plans in a bid to win over sceptical legislators.

She also promised a greater role for the British Parliament in negotiations over future trade relations with the European Union.

“If the deal is not voted on at this vote that’s coming up then we are going to be in uncharted territory and I don’t think anybody can say exactly what will happen in terms of the reaction we will see in parliament,” May told the BBC.

Thursday, January 3

It’s May’s plan or ‘no deal’, Brexit minister warns

Britain is more likely to end up leaving the European Union without a deal if parliament rejects the agreement Theresa May has negotiated with Brussels, according to Brexit minister Stephen Barclay.

In an article published on Thursday in the UK’s Daily Express newspaper, Barclay, who has been tasked to oversee Britain’s departure from the EU bloc, urged MPs to unite behind May’s plans ahead of a crucial parliamentary vote.

“No deal will be far more likely if MPs reject the government’s Brexit deal later this month,” Barclay wrote.

British politicians have been unable to agree on any alternative Brexit course, deepening concerns the UK will, as May has warned, drop out of the world’s biggest trading bloc without a deal.

For more on Brexit, click here.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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