Brexit CHAOS triggers reluctant backing for Theresa May's deal – 'Only game in town'

Talks are continuing with the DUP, which said there were “still issues to be discussed” with ministers about the deal and the contentious Irish backstop measures. Though Mrs May’s hopes of getting a Brexit divorce deal through parliament were given a boost on Saturday after a report that the Northern Irish party propping up her government might move towards backing her deal. The DUP is close to changing its position for the first time after receiving a promise that the government would put into law a requirement that there be no divergence between Northern Ireland and Britain, the Spectator magazine said.

There are also signs that Eurosceptic Conservative Party resistance is softening, with backbencher Daniel Kawczynski the latest rebel MP to say they will now back the Prime Minister’s plan.

But so far the number of Tories publicly switching positions has amounted to a trickle rather than the flood the Prime Minister needs to overturn the 149-vote defeat for the deal she suffered on Tuesday.

Shrewsbury and Atcham MP Mr Kawczynski acknowledged that the Prime Minister’s deal was now the “only game in town”.

He said after talks with local Tories, farmers and businesses: “Do we continue to obstruct and risk no Brexit? I doubt I can take that risk.

His comments came after former cabinet minister Esther McVey, who resigned over the Brexit deal, suggested she and other MPs could now back it, even though it was “rubbish”.

And North Wiltshire MP James Gray appealed to fellow members of the Brexiteer European Research Group (ERG) to get the “obnoxious” deal over the line because it was “the only way we can achieve anything which even vaguely resembles the Brexit that 17.4 million people voted for”.

But other ERG figures played down the prospect of large numbers swinging behind the deal when it is brought back for a vote.

Meanwhile, talks continued with the DUP, but the party stressed that the presence of Chancellor Philip Hammond at a meeting on Friday did not mean that money was an issue.

A spokesman said: “We are in discussions with the Government to ensure Northern Ireland is not separated out from the rest of the United Kingdom as we leave the European Union.

“Contrary to some reports we are not discussing cash. 

“There are still issues to be addressed in our discussions.”

Labour’s John McDonnell indicated that MPs would “move heaven and Earth” to block a no-deal Brexit and continued to suggest the party could back a call to put a Brexit deal to a public vote.

He said: “We are working with Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, they have their amendment, which was about going back to the people with whatever was agreed in Parliament, so we’ve said we would support that if it comes back, and it may well be this week but it will be down to the tactics they want to pursue, because they will only push that when they think they’ve got a realistic prospect of winning.”

The prospect of the UK leaving the European Union on March 29 has receded after MPs authorised Theresa May to seek an extension to the Article 50 Brexit process.

Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics suggested a delay of up to two years could be required if MPs continue to reject the Brexit deal. 

He told the BBC: “Number one priority would be the deal that is reached is passed.

“If it is not the case what we need is clear vision from the UK Government how much time the UK needs to come up with new proposals, new ideas how we proceed. In that case it’s not a couple of months, I believe then we are talking about maybe one or two years.”

European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans indicated that any extension to Article 50 could be a two-stage process, initially limited to a few weeks unless Mrs May could set out what she wanted to achieve with the extra time.

He told Germany’s Funke newspaper “as long as this isn’t clear, Brexit can only be delayed for a few weeks, solely to avoid a chaotic withdrawal” on March 29.

Documents circulating among EU ambassadors make clear the bloc would terminate the UK’s membership on July 1 if it has not taken part in European Parliament elections.

The draft paper obtained by the Financial Times said Britain has to take part in the May 23-26 votes if it wants an extension of more than three months.

Activists angry at the prospect of a delay to Brexit joined a march with Nigel Farage which left Sunderland in chaotic scenes as they were met by a counter-protest.

Mr Farage said: “If politicians think they can walk all over us, then we’re going to march back and tell them they can’t. Simple as that.”

The March to Leave set off from the North East city on Saturday morning, and will make its way over to London over a 14-day period, arriving in the capital on March 29, where a mass rally will take place on Parliament Square – although Mr Farage will not be completing the full distance.


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