Brexit today – as it happened: Theresa May questioned on the latest EU negotiating position in the Commons

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Welcome to The Independent’s politics live blog. Theresa May has met her most senior ministers in Cabinet to discuss – for the first time – what kind of trade deal the UK should pursue with the EU after Brexit. 

The Prime Minister also addressed the House of Commons, telling MPs she will attempt to finalise free trade deals with countries outside the bloc “where possible” – setting her on collision course with Brussels. 

But she was urged by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to “face down” Cabinet ministers who want to scrap EU regulations which limit the working week.

He asked the Prime Minister to “categorically” offer assurances over her intent to maintain the standards of the Working Time Directive during any transition period and beyond. Ms May, replying after updating MPs, reiterated the Government intends to “enhance” workers’ rights.

It comes after Stefaan De Rynck, an adviser to the EU’s top Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, told an audience in London that the post-withdrawal transition period is “not a given” as he highlighted tensions between London and Brussels. 

Mr De Rynck said the EU’s goal was to have a fully-written withdrawal treaty ready for ratification by October next year, but stressed many issues needed to be worked out in the tight timeframe and that Britain would not be allowed to pick and choose a “buffet” option.

This liveblog is now closed but you can see all of Monday’s developments below. 

Live Updates

17 mins ago

On intimidation of MPs in the Commons,  May said: “We are dealing with questions of great significance to our country’s future so it’s natural there are many strongly-held views on all sides of the chamber.

“And it is right and proper that we should debate them and do so with all the passion and conviction that makes our democracy what it is.

“But there can never be a place for the threats of violence and intimidation against some members that we have seen in recent days.

“Our politics must be better than that.”

Mr Corbyn then accused the Daily Mail of “whipping up hatred” against rebel Tory MPs, adding: “Threats and intimidation have no place in our politics.

“And the truth of it is, it’s division and infighting in her own Cabinet and their reliance on the DUP that makes them weak.”

Mrs May replied: “May I welcome the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has said that threats of intimidation should not form part of our political life.

“I agree with him but it will come as a bit rich to those of my colleagues who were candidates in the general election who suffered from the Labour Party.”

25 mins ago

Theresa May insists she will try to sign new trade deals before Brexit transition is over

The IndependentTheresa May will insist on Monday that she will try to sign new free trade deals during the UK’s Brexit transition period, setting herself on a collision course with Brussels. Ms May will tell the House of Commons she will attempt to finalise the deals “where possible”, despite the EU signalling it would not be feasible under terms for the transition they are proposing.

30 mins ago

41 mins ago

On May’s statement in the Commons – and the Working Time Directive – the Press Association have more: 

Jeremy Corbyn has urged Theresa May to “face down” Cabinet ministers who want to scrap EU regulations which limit the working week.

The Labour leader asked the Prime Minister to “categorically” offer assurances over her intent to maintain the standards of the Working Time Directive during any transition period and beyond.

Mrs May, replying after updating MPs about the latest European Council summit, reiterated the Government intends to “enhance” workers’ rights.

Reports emerged over the weekend which suggested Brexit-backing ministers could demand an end to the regulations which limit the working week to 48 hours.

Mr Corbyn described the reports as “worrying”, adding: “These demands were reported to include that Britain should leave the Working Time Directive.”

Labour MPs could be heard shouting “Shame”, with Mr Corbyn adding: “Can the Prime Minister state now, categorically, that she will face down this push with some in her Cabinet and that Britain will maintain the standards of the Working Time Directive both during a transition period and beyond?

“Will she also guarantee this Government will not seek to use Brexit to water down any other working or social rights in this country?”

Mrs May, in her reply, said she had confirmed on several occasions the UK Government’s intention to “not only maintain but also enhance workers’ rights”.

She said: “If he is so worried about workers’ rights, why did the Labour Party vote against the very Bill that brings workers’ rights from the EU into UK law?”

51 mins ago

May is asked how likely it is that the Article 50 negotiations will be extended. The PM says we have a “very speedy need” to get the negotiations ongoing, adding we will be leaving the EU on 29 March, 2019.
 
She also asked a third time on the Working Time Directive and whether the UK will continue to honour it after Brexit. May, again, says the Withdrawal Bill means EU law will be transferred onto the UK statue book after Brexit.

55 mins ago

This is an interesting spot from The Independent’s Political Commentator John Rentoul on May’s choice of words regarding the implementation period.

1 hour ago

The DUP’s leader in Westminster, Nigel Dodds, highlights conflicting statements in the Labour party on a second EU referendum. May says in the space of one day the Shadow Home Secretary rejected a second referendum and the deputy leader said it was still on the table. 

“It would be betraying the British people,” she says. 

More on that Labour story here: 
 

Senior Labour figures give mixed messages over whether there should be a second referendum on Brexit

The IndependentSenior Labour figures have given mixed messages over whether there should be a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. The party’s official policy is that it will honour the result of the vote that took place in June 2016, but interviews on Sunday suggested views vary between members of the Shadow Cabinet.

1 hour ago

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable asks her to explain to who will be providing arbitration in international disputes after Brexit. May says its part of the negotiations. 
 
Yvette Cooper addresses the Government defeat in the Commons last week, in which MPs voted for a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal.  May says there will be a meaningful vote, and that “was always clear”. 

Chukka Umunna asks the PM again about the Working Time Directive. He asks whether none of them will be “done away with” after Brexit.
 
May says she will maintain workers’ right and enhance them.
 
Jacob Rees-Mogg urges the PM to adopt a Margaret Thatcher-like steal and reject the “hostile” demands from Brussels negotiators. 
 
 
 

1 hour ago

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader in Westminster, says its imperative that the devolved administrations are consulted on the Brexit negotiations. 
 
He says Erasmus is a vital programme for UK students and asks the PM to say whether Britain will continue to participate in the programme after Brexit.
 
May has already said the UK will remain within the programme until the end of this Budget period. She says this is the exactly the sort of programme the Government will be addressing in the negotiations. 
 
Anna Soubry, one of the rebels who voted against the Government last week, said Jeremy Corbyn should remember the transition period was first proposed by the Government and not the Labour party. 
 

1 hour ago

Theresa May says she welcomes the fact that Corbyn condemns threats of intimidation and violence against MPs in the Commons… but says his own candidates intimidated Tory candidates at the general election. 
 
May says she set out in her Lancaster House speech that this Government will not only maintain but enhance workers’ rights… and asks why he voted against the EU Withdrawal Bill which transfers EU law onto the UK statue book. 

1 hour ago

Jeremy Corbyn is now responding to May’s statement. He echoes her views on Jerusalem. 
 
He says the negotiations are vital for people’s job’s and economic security but says last week’s deal “came two months late”.
 
Corbyn says the Government must change track. He says the PM must sought out the contradictions. He says the Daily Mail is whipping up hatred against backbench rebel MPs. 

“Threats and intimidation have no place in our politics,” he says. 
 
He says will the PM welcome the Commons “taking back control”… Corbyn adds its not very reassuring this is the end product of eight months’ worth of negotiations with Brussels. 
 
“I’m glad the PM now seems determined to follow Labour’s calls for a transition period to create stability as we leave the EU. It is necessary that we remain in the single market and customs union for a limited period,” he adds, asking the PM will we remain subject to the rules of the single market during the transition period. 
 
Corbyn says there were worrying reports over the weekend of ministers wanting to leave the Working Time Directive. He asks her to face down the push from some inside her Cabinet… “It’s becoming clear that many on the Government benches want to use Brexit to rip up workers’ rights,” he says. 
 
 
 
 

1 hour ago

Turning to Brexit, the PM says the European Council formally agreed on Friday to move the Brexit negotiations onto phase two – discussions about the future relationship and trade talks. 
 
She says EU citizens living in the UK will have their rights protected – “providing vital assurances to EU citizens and their families in the run up to Christmas”. 
 
She says the financial settlement is around £35-£39bn. May says this is “far removed” from some of the figures reported in recent months and is equivalent to four years’ worth of EU budget contributions. 
 
The PM says the guidelines published on Friday allow the UK and EU to work on the transition period. She says during this period – which she refers to as “implementation” – that Britain will leave the single market and customs union. 
 
She also insists that she will attempt to pursue trade deals outside the EU during this period. She says she “will not be derailed from delivering the democratic will” of the people of Britain. 
 
“We will now move on to building a bold economic relationship,” she says. “We will bring our country together… once in control back in control of our money, border and laws. 
 
May says there can never be a place for the threats and violence aimed at some politicians in recent days. 

1 hour ago

Theresa May is now updating the Commons on the progress of the Brexit negotations. 
 
But first she is addressing Russia and events in Jerusalem. She says the peace process in Ukraine has stalled… she said the EU council agreed further sanctions on Russia for six months. 

The PM also reiterated her Government’s opposition to the US position of recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – something that is also opposed by the European Union. 

1 hour ago

Senior Labour figures give mixed messages over whether there should be a second referendum on Brexit

The IndependentSenior Labour figures have given mixed messages over whether there should be a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. The party’s official policy is that it will honour the result of the vote that took place in June 2016, but interviews on Sunday suggested views vary between members of the Shadow Cabinet.

1 hour ago

Liam Fox is under fire over £1m-plus plans to appoint new “trade commissioners” around the world, on gold-plated packages normally handed to the UK’s ambassadors.

The roles offer £120,000 salaries – akin to the pay for the most glittering ambassador jobs in France, Russia, Japan and at the United Nations – as well as lucrative home travel costs and private education for any children.

 

Liam Fox has a £1m plan to appoint new trade commissioners

 

2 hours ago

Ahead of May’s address to the Commons late (3.30pm), it’s worth looking at some quotes from the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier

In an interview with Prospect magazine, he made clear Britain will not be able to “cherry-pick” advantages of different trading models with the EU.

He said: “They have to realise there won’t be any cherry picking.

“We won’t mix up the various scenarios to create a specific one and accommodate their wishes, mixing, for instance, the advantages of the Norwegian model, member of the single market, with the simple requirements of the Canadian one.

“No way. They have to face the consequences of their own decision.”

“They have to face the consequences of their own decision”: Michel Barnier speaks exclusively on the UK’s Brexit position

 

 

 

2 hours ago

2 hours ago

Nicky Morgan says something is ‘going badly wrong in our democracy’ after a year of abuse and threats

The IndependentAn ex-Conservative cabinet minister has warned that “something is going badly wrong in our democracy” following a year in which violent threats and abuse flooded political debate. Senior backbencher Nicky Morgan pointed the finger at politicians, newspapers and commentators who do not take responsibility for inciting anger. Ms Morgan, who chairs the influential Treasury Select Committee, said those who turn a blind eye to abuse are “playing with a fire which will eventually consume them as well”.

2 hours ago

Theresa May insists she will try to sign new trade deals before Brexit transition is over

Theresa May will insist on Monday that she will try to sign new free trade deals during the UK’s Brexit transition period, setting herself on a collision course with Brussels. Ms May will tell the House of Commons she will attempt to finalise the deals “where possible”, despite the EU signalling it would not be feasible under terms for the transition they are proposing.

2 hours ago

 
Here are some more key bits from Stefaan De Rynck’s speech in London. The adviser to Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, was speaking at Chatham House.
 
 
 
 
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