Live: UK Parliament debates Theresa May’s latest Brexit plan

Live: UK Parliament debates Theresa May's latest Brexit plan

The embattled prime minister’s latest proposal would require parliament to vote on whether to hold a new public referendum over Brexit. #FoxNewsLive #FoxNews

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Brexit talks take positive turn towards possible compromise

Keir Starmer and John McDonnell leave the Cabinet Office

Cross-party talks on Brexit between the government and Labour have moved on to the “nuts and bolts” of a possible compromise, Labour’s Sue Hayman has said, with sources on both sides suggesting discussions were taking a more positive tone.

Talks with senior shadow ministers and officials are likely to continue this week, including on key areas of previous disagreement that had previously been swerved, including a customs union, single market alignment and dynamic alignment of workers’ rights and environmental protections.

It is understood no new offer from the government has been put on the table but participants emerged with a new optimism about a change in tone and a feeling that there were grounds to continue discussions, a marked contrast to last week’s talks.

Theresa May’s de-facto deputy, David Lidington, who has been leading talks for the government, said he was encouraged by the “need to inject greater urgency”.

Hayman, the shadow environment secretary, said it was “a really constructive discussion” that had been “getting much more into the nuts and bolts of the detail.” She said she now believed the government was “open to moving forward in our direction”.

The government has all but abandoned plans to try to force through the Brexit deal using the withdrawal agreement bill and will instead try to devise a way to forge a compromise through new indicative votes if talks with Labour break down.

May’s spokesman said cross-party talks would continue as long as there was “still a prospect of reaching a single position to put to parliament”, but added that the prime minister would then look to bring forward “a small number of votes to try and find a way through parliament”.

Asked whether that would be votes on new options for a Brexit deal or on legislation, the spokesman said: “I’m referring to options.”

There is an acknowledgement that something new must be attempted by the government before…

‘This is not about Brexit’: Labour faces credibility test in Stoke

Councillor Mohammed Pervez (left) from the Labour party in Stoke

In next week’s local election Stoke-on-Trent faces a curious paradox: it is being closely watched as a bellwether for national trends, but at the same time no one directly involved in the battle seems able to predict what could happen, or what lessons might be learned.

In the most simple terms, whether or not Labour can regain control of the Staffordshire city would seem a fairly basic test of the party’s electability under Jeremy Corbyn, and failure to do so would be a blow.

Stoke is traditionally a Labour stronghold. Until Jack Brereton took Stoke South for the Conservatives in 2017, all three of its parliamentary seats had been Labour since their creation in 1950.

However, the council has switched in recent years between Labour and no overall control, and is run by a coalition of Conservatives and the City Independents, which despite its name is a party and includes among its councillors longtime independents as well as defectors from parties as varied as Labour, Ukip and the British National party.

Mohammed Pervez, the energetic leader of the Labour group, which remains the council’s biggest, is fighting an avowedly local campaign, focused on traditional areas such as litter, parking, potholes and schools. Asked for predictions, he will only say the party is “campaigning hard”.

During a canvass of comfortably sized postwar terraced houses in his own ward north of the city centre, Pervez delivers a well-drilled message about “four years of chaos” covering everything from children’s services to road maintenance.

National issues do come up, he says, chatting during a pause from the intermittent rain and hail. “Brexit is a big issue on the doorstep. Our challenge is to make people understand that this election is not about Brexit, but about local services. There isn’t much we can do about Brexit, other than share people’s frustrations.”

Brownfield land in Stoke-on-Trent
Brownfield land in Stoke. The council coalition says it is building homes on formerly derelict land. Photograph: Richard Holmes/Alamy

A few miles to the south in the civic…

Farage: Brexit party will use EU poll to oust ‘remain parliament’

Nigel Farage during a walkabout in Clacton

Nigel Farage has returned to the seaside town where Ukip had its first MP elected five years ago, promising at a rally in Clacton-on-Sea that his new Brexit party will use the momentum of European elections to oust a “remain parliament”.

Railing against a “political class” who he said had betrayed the people of Britain, Farage claimed to more than a thousand supporters on Clacton pier that what was at stake was not just Brexit, but whether or not Britain was a democratic country.

“Can you imagine in an African country if an election was overturned? There would be uproar and they would be calling for the UN to be sent in … and yet it’s happening in our own country,” said Farage, who was introduced as “the godfather, the ‘guvnor’ of Brexit”.

On his latest visit to the Essex town, which has neighbourhoods with some of the highest levels of deprivation in Britain, Farage described it as the most patriotic and Eurosceptic place in the country.

“So what would Brexit do for Clacton? It would make us proud of who we are again and you can’t put a price on that,” he said.

Back in 2014, Farage had tucked into a McDonald’s McFlurry as he and a beaming Douglas Carswell strolled through the streets of the town after the latter had become the first Tory MP to defect to Ukip, then a rising force in British politics.

It was a relationship that was to sour, however, as splits within the party came bubbling to the surface even before the men joined different leave campaigns during the Brexit referendum.

Sturgeon outlines new Scottish independence referendum plans

Nicola Sturgeon speaks in the Scottish parliament

Nicola Sturgeon is to introduce new legislation to stage a second Scottish independence referendum, claiming that one must be held by May 2021.

The first minister said Brexit would have such a catastrophic impact on Scotland’s economy and Westminster’s approach to it had been so chaotic that Scottish voters must have the option to choose independence.

In a long-awaited statement to the Scottish parliament on her plans, Sturgeon said the proposed legislation would set out how a new referendum would be held if Holyrood was granted the powers to stage one.

On Tuesday, No 10 made clear that Theresa May would never authorise such a vote as prime minister. May said “now is not the time” when Sturgeon first called for such powers in March 2017.

Sturgeon first announced she wanted new legislation for a second referendum in June 2016, immediately after the UK voted to leave the EU.

She said Westminster’s decision to press on with Brexit, despite an overwhelming remain vote in Scotland, was proof the current system of devolution was broken.

Sturgeon stopped short of declaring a referendum would definitely be held, naming a date for one or repeating her call for the powers to hold one – evasions which will infuriate hardline independence campaigners.

“Brexit has exposed a deep democratic deficit at the heart of how Scotland is governed. And, whatever our different views on independence, it should persuade all of us that we need a more solid foundation on which to build our future as a country,” she told MSPs.

“With all of our assets and talents, Scotland should be a thriving and driving force…

Labour says Theresa May unwilling to offer key Brexit concessions

Labour shadow cabinet members leave the Cabinet Office after meeting with government officials over Brexit.

Labour has accused Theresa May of failing to offer any substantive changes to her Brexit deal in cross-party talks, as Downing Street’s hopes of a breakthrough in time to avoid taking part in European parliamentary elections waned.

Brexit talks resumed on Tuesday between a team of ministers and shadow ministers. But Labour sources said the government team again appeared unwilling to countenance changes to the political declaration, which sets out the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

Instead, ministers offered alternative ways of giving reassurance about the issues Labour has raised, such as on environmental standards and workers’ rights, including through redrafting the withdrawal act implementation bill (WAB) and tweaking separate planned government bills.

Downing Street continues to insist that it hopes to secure parliamentary ratification of a Brexit deal in time to avoid the UK having to participate in next month’s European parliament elections.

The government has been considering tabling the WAB as a way of breaking the Brexit deadlock, but Labour has rejected the idea. “There’s a sequence; you have got to start with a different deal,” said a source.

After the talks, which involved the cabinet ministers David Lidington and Steve Barclay and their Labour shadows, Jeremy Corbyn blamed the government’s refusal to compromise on central issues such as membership of a customs union for the failure to make significant progress.

“We’ll continue putting our case but quite honestly there’s got to be change in the government’s approach. They cannot keep on just regurgitating what has already been emphatically rejected three times by parliament, there’s got to be a change,” Corbyn said. “We have a window of opportunity to bring about that change so I hope the government recognises that.”

However, Downing Street sought to blame a lack of urgency on Labour’s side for the impasse. May’s spokesman said she had told her cabinet on Tuesday morning that talks with Labour had been “serious but had also been difficult in some areas such as in relation to the timetable of the negotiations”.

A No 10 source said the root of the tension was a feeling that Labour was prepared to drag…

Brexit adds to Northern Ireland’s broken politics

Floral tributes for journalist Lyra McKee, whose death the New IRA claimed responsibility for. | Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images

The main achievement of the Good Friday Agreement — the creation of power-sharing institutions — is not just unwell, but perhaps terminally ill.

Like few places on earth, Northern Ireland lives its history.

It is everywhere — on street signs, radio phone-ins, murals and marches. Like poisonous gas, it is inescapable: directing daily life. It determines whom you vote for, what sport you play, which part of the city you live in.

Stay at the multimillion pound Radisson Blu hotel in downtown Belfast and an Irish tricolor can be seen, stuck in a window of a flat in the “Markets” area — an Irish Catholic ghetto surrounded by Britishness and a derelict patch of grass. On the other side of the hotel, five minutes from the Markets, a giant Union flag mural welcomes (warns) visitors that they are entering the loyalist Donegall Pass area of town.

It is a society like no other in Western Europe. Different rules apply. Politically, it is more Balkan than British or Irish.

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement recognized this reality and sought a political system that could be all things to all people. Power was shared, with vetoes for both communities. The union with Great Britain maintained — even strengthened politically — but all-Ireland institutions created and nationalist rights guaranteed.

It created a land where you could be Irish or British — or both. You could shop on one side of the border and use the free NHS on the other.

It did not, however, change the fundamentals.

“Politics here are…

Former communist standing as MEP for Farage’s Brexit party

Brexit party candidate Claire Fox

Nigel Farage’s Brexit party has unveiled a former revolutionary communist who once supported Irish republicanism and opposed the Good Friday peace deal as one of five new candidates for the European elections.

Claire Fox, who now styles herself as a libertarian and is a panellist on BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze programme, told the launch event she most likely only agreed with Farage on one issue – Brexit.

“I’ve spent my whole life fighting for leftwing causes, so I can tell you, no one is more surprised than me to be standing as candidate for Nigel Farage’s Brexit party,” said Fox, a former member of the Revolutionary Communist party who is still involved in some of its successor organisations, such as the Academy of Ideas, which she heads.

“To be honest, Nigel and I are unlikely to agree on a range of issues – workers, women’s rights, immigration, public services,” Fox told the launch event in Westminster.

Earlier, Farage had promised his organisation would be about more than Brexit, saying it was “about changing politics for good, changing the…

Cross-party unity could be the key to Brexit deal

Nigel Farage

As you report (Beckett warns of Farage win if Labour hedges its bets, 18 April), the latest YouGov poll gives the hardline leave parties (Brexit and Ukip) 34%. The remain parties (Lib Dem, Green, Change UK, SNP/Plaid) have 29%, while sit-on-the-fence Labour has 22%. On these numbers, the anti-Brexit parties in England and Wales will find it hard to win more than half a dozen seats between them, and the media will report a massive Brexit triumph.

It appears to be too late to get a joint name on the ballot paper, even just a combination of three registered names, which seems ridiculous. But desperate times require desperate measures.

I suggest that the three plainly anti-Brexit parties divide up the English regions between themselves and just one party stands in each – with full public and campaigning support from the others. Of course, the Labour party may finally come to its senses, but the rest of us should do what is required in the real world.
Tony Greaves
Liberal Democrats, House of Lords

• Margaret Beckett urges Labour to back remain to prevent Nigel Farage’s Brexit party from triumphing at the European elections. Her call is understandable, but it only triangulates one section of a complex moral and political dilemma. Any failed, partial or zero Brexit will bring the Brexit party to power in some way, but the real threat is a massive upset to the British political applecart at the first general election after some version of a failed Brexit. That the far right could hold power in cabinet has been obvious for months, but this possibility is now a fair deduction from the YouGov polling.

The alternative to Beckett’s suggestion is for remainers to support Brexit to keep the far right from power, which could be a disastrous smash and grab of our liberal democracy and take years to recover from. The hope, in such a scenario, would be that support for the Rejoin EU party would grow in line with popular frustration at not belonging to the EU. The scenario could be less traumatic than the virtual civil war that could ensue if Brexit is overturned or fudged in some way. I prefer Beckett’s suggestion, but I fear its likely consequence.
Nigel Pollitt
London

• As your editorial (Britain’s parties must get together if they want to help Europe stay together, 19 April) persuasively argued, it is high time for Labour to take a bolder stance on Brexit. But, depressingly, you also reported on…

Theresa May could put off Queen’s speech amid Brexit turmoil

The Queen

Theresa May could put off the Queen’s speech until later this year, with government sources saying there were no immediate plans to bring one forward while parliament had not yet approved a Brexit deal.

May had been widely expected to schedule a Queen’s speech setting out the government’s legislative agenda within weeks, because she announced a two-year parliamentary session in mid-June 2017.

However, some within the government believe May is prepared to ignore demands for a programme of new laws, even though parliament has run out of business to discuss apart from Brexit legislation, which is currently stalled.

A Downing Street source said it would not be fair to say the Queen’s Speech was being delayed, because no official date had been set for one. “There’s no obligation to have one at a fixed point and there’s no immediate plans to bring forward a Queen’s speech,” the source said.

There is usually one Queen’s speech each year, and it has taken place in May or June in recent years, but Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, announced a two-year session after the last election in order to “build the broadest possible consensus for our Brexit plans”.

There are several reasons why May might shy away from a Queen’s speech, but the most pressing is that she may not have the votes to get it through parliament given the opposition to her Brexit deal among hardline Tory Eurosceptics,…