Theresa May is entering her week from hell over Brexit – and the result could shape the nation for generations to come.
The Prime Minister was supposed to trigger the process this afternoon for the second “meaningful vote” on her 585-page Brexit deal with the EU.
But with talks in open deadlock, she’s been urged to delay or change the vote – which was due at 7pm tomorrow night.
If her deal is voted down, she then moves to a vote on No Deal Brexit on Wednesday – then a vote on delaying Brexit on Thursday.
If Brexit is delayed, the Prime Minister has warned, then anything could happen. A softer Brexit, a purgatory period or no Brexit at all.
Here’s everything you need to know this Monday morning.
1. Talks with the EU are utterly deadlocked
Hopes that the Prime Minister would hop on her dawn jet to Brussels have been dashed as Downing Street officials admitted talks are “deadlocked”.
“Technical” talks between officials took place in Brussels over the weekend over the Irish backstop – a clause in the 585-page Brexit deal that could trap the UK under EU customs rules.
And Mrs May spoke to European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker last night.
But the BBC reports there are no plans to fly out to Brussels today – leaving her facing almost certain defeat in the House of Commons tomorrow night.
It means the Tory government has been forced to resort to pleas and threats to bend MPs’ ears.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove – one of the leaders of the official Leave campaign in the referendum – spoke out today after he was criticised for being quieter than a nervous mouse.
In an article for the Daily Mail, he said: “I hope that everyone who believes in our democracy – in the importance of delivering Brexit, but also in the critical need to unite our country – will come behind the Prime Minister’s deal this week.”
2. She could DELAY the vote – again
There was uproar back in December when the PM delayed a Tuesday vote at Monday lunchtime. Will today be a Groundhog Day?
Some senior Conservatives said last night that the PM should postpone the “meaningful vote” rather than risk another damaging reverse.
Instead she’s being urged to table a “conditional” motion – getting MPs to vote on what they do want, and then taking that back to Brussels.
Despite that plan failing previously Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the pro-Brexit Tory European Research Group, told the Times that it “would not be a foolish way to proceed”.
He added: “I think a meaningful vote with an addendum saying this House will support a deal if such and such is done might be a way of uniting the party or limiting the scale of the defeat.”
Former chief whip Andrew Mitchell told the paper: “Anything that avoids what looks like a massive defeat on Tuesday is worth considering.”
Such a move would break her promise to MPs and the public – but would allow her to push things right up to an EU summit on March 21-22. That could mean a vote in Parliament just three days before Brexit.
She has extra reason to delay, as there’s a separate row brewing over Wednesday’s vote on whether to accept a No Deal Brexit.
Public Health Minister Steve Brine warned he will resign unless Tory MPs are given a free vote.
3. The mutiny against Theresa May is mounting
We’ve heard it all before, but talk is once again mounting that the PM must go by this summer.
A Cabinet source told the Telegraph: “I would say there are only two ministers in the Cabinet who still support her.
“Everyone else has lost faith in her ability to lead.”
Another Tory told the paper: “She has the chance to name the date of her departure and maybe use the next party conference in October as her swansong.
“If she refuses to go she faces the ignominy of being kicked out by her own MPs, and all for the sake of a few extra months clinging on to power.”
Former minister Nicky Morgan has already called publicly last week for the PM to head towards the door. Others tell the Guardian she wants simply to outlast Gordon Brown by passing May 28.
Another Tory told the Guardian: “Give it a few months and the only negotiations Theresa will be doing are how much she can get for an appearance on Celebrity Bake Off.”
4. Doctors fear the US will snatch up our healthcare
More than 10,000 NHS staff and patients are demanding the health service is protected in a post-Brexit US-UK trade deal.
A document published last week suggests Donald Trump’s administration wants to remove rules that limit what American drug companies can charge the NHS.
The US Trade Representative’s wishlist includes a demand that the UK does not “discriminate” agains US pharmaceuticals and “provide full market access for US products”.
Opponents say this will allow big health corporations bid for, and control, large parts of the health service.
Dr Saleyha Ahsan, A&E Doctor in Bangor in Wales, said: “Brexit poses a huge risk to the NHS, as it opens the UK up to trade deals with other countries who may want to get their hands on our healthcare – particularly America.”
5. Labour won’t be backing a second referendum this week
Labour will NOT force a Commons vote this week on holding a second Brexit referendum, top MPs in the party have said.
Brexit chief Sir Keir Starmer dumped cold water on claims the party would row in behind an amendment calling for a ‘People’s Vote’ in just two days’ time.
Focus was building around a plan by the MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson that it had been thought was to be put before MPs tomorrow night.
But Sir Keir argued tomorrow – which is when MPs will vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal – was the wrong time to decide on a public vote.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said a public vote was an “option” that’s “still there” in future, but confirmed: “Everything we do this week has got to prevent a no deal and a bad deal”.
Now Peter Kyle appears to have pulled his amendment for now. He told the Westminster Hour: “We’ll table the amendment when the Commons is ready for a compromise — and I think the Commons is being fundamentally uncompromising right now.”