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Boris Johnson says Brexit will happen on 31 October 'deal or no deal' if he becomes PM

1 day 10 hours ago
Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has announced his candidacy for the Tory leadership

Boris Johnson has vowed to take the UK out of the EU “deal or no deal” at the end of October if he becomes Prime Minister.

The frontrunner to succeed Theresa May said the only way to secure a solid agreement with Brussels was to “prepare for no-deal”.

The comments could spark alarm among Tory MPs who have voiced concern at ushering in a new Prime Minister who might take the country out of the bloc without an agreement with the EU in place.

Business leaders have also spoken out about the need to avoid a no-deal exit and the damage it could do to the British economy.

Mr Johnson's remarks came just hours after Mrs May announced she would quit as Tory leader on 7 June, with a successor set to take over in Downing Street towards the end of July.

Speaking at an economics conference in Switzerland, the former Foreign Secretary said: “A new leader will have the opportunity to do things differently and have the momentum of a new administration..

“We will leave the EU on 31 October, deal or no deal. The way to get a good deal is to prepare for a no deal.”

Just last week more than 30 Tory MPs said they would fight against any leadership candidate who is prepared to take the UK out of the EU with no no withdrawal agreement in place.

It means Mr Johnson might have trouble courting those MPs in the crucial parliamentary stages of the Conservative leadership race.

He announced last week that he would be throwing his hat into the ring for the top job, saying: "Of course I'm going to go for it."

Britain was originally meant to leave the EU on 29 March but Mrs May begged Brussels for an extension when Parliament refused to back her deal.

She made the humiliating move despite previously vowing that "no deal is better than a bad deal".


ANALYSIS: The Tory leadership hopefuls should be very careful what they wish for

1 day 12 hours ago
Number 10
The race is on to be the new resident at Number 10.

No sooner had Theresa May announced her intention to leave Downing Street than shares in political humbug began to climb.

Boris Johnson, who has schemed and connived to replace the Prime Minister, solemnly praised her "stoical service to our country and the Conservative party".

He was swiftly joined by Dominic Raab, another who found serving in May's Cabinet incompatible with his Brexiteer beliefs, who described his old boss as "a dedicated public servant, patriot and loyal Conservative".

A whole host of leadership rivals dutifully paid tribute to the outgoing PM as they crunched the numbers and got their teams assembled for the campaign to come.

The number who could end up chucking their hat into the ring is truly remarkable, as my top colleague Emilio Casalicchio explains. And there could yet be more.

But the obvious question is: Why on earth would anyone want to do the job at this particular time.

I get the obvious appeal of getting to run the country. Why else get into politics, after all. But why now? Because if you think that Theresa May had it tough, just wait till you see how it works out for her replacement.

The next Prime Minister, no matter how much they love Brexit, and no matter how enthusiastic they are, is going to run into the same obstacles that May did: an obdurate European Commission and a deadlocked Parliament.

There's nothing they can do about the former, but they could have a go at reshaping the latter. But only if they're really brave. A quick look at the opinion polls - and the looming European election results - will tell any Tory leader that the party isn't exactly riding a wave of popularity at the moment. Even the inevitable bounce that comes with any change in leadership will be short-lived, as voters soon realise that their new Prime Minister is no more likely to deliver Brexit than the last one.

Of course, there is always the nuclear option of a no-deal Brexit, which might make the new PM a hero to the European Research Group, but a hate figure to anyone whose life is affected by the economic disruption which follows. Chuck in the fact it would cleave the Tories in two and you can see why the new incumbent of Number 10 might think twice, regardless of the gung-ho rhetoric they may have employed in order to secure the crown.

So good luck to whoever wants to be the next Tory leader as the UK faces its greatest ever peacetime crisis. They are certainly going to need it.

Kevin Schofield

Jeremy Hunt urges Theresa May to scrap Brexit bill as her leadership hangs in balance

2 days 8 hours ago
Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt said it was unfair to force Tory MPs to vote for the Brexit bill

Jeremy Hunt has called on Theresa May to scrap her flagship Brexit bill rather than force Tory MPs in Leave-backing seats to support it.

The Foreign Secretary set out his concerns to the Prime Minister in a Downing Street meeting as pressure grew on her to announce when she is resigning.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid also called on Mrs May to ditch her plan to give MPs a vote on whether to hold a second EU referendum during "frank" talks in Number 10.

The PM will hold crunch talks with Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, on Friday morning, during which he will urge her to set a date for her departure.

If she decides to fight on, he will then open an envelope to reveal whether members of the committee's executive have voted to change Conservative Party rules to make it possible to oust her within weeks.

In a major U-turn, Theresa May was forced to ditch plans to publish the Withdrawal Agreement Bill - the legislation needed to ratify Brexit - on Friday following a Cabinet revolt over its contents.

It is understood that in his meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr Hunt told her to pull the bill completely, arguing that it had no chance of being approved by MPs.

The Foreign Secretary said it was unfair to expect Tory MPs representing Brexit-backing areas to use up their political capital supporting a bill which was doomed to failure.

Meanwhile, in his meeting with the Prime Minister afterwards, Mr Javid told her to remove the part of the WAB which could lay the ground for another referendum.

A source said: "They had a frank discussion and he was very clear with her that the Government should not be paving the way for a second referendum. He was pleased that she has delayed the WAB and that she's gone away to think about it again."

A Downing Street spokesman refused to confirm that Mrs May would still be Prime Minister when the bill is finally voted on by MPs.

He would only say: "There was a vote to leave the EU, there is a clear desire in Parliament to leave with a deal. In order to leave with a deal, we have to find a way to get the WAB over the line. It is clear there is a job of work to do that.

"She remains focused on delivering the Brexit that the country voted for."

Kevin Schofield

Former Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson backs Boris Johnson to be next Tory leader

2 days 9 hours ago
Gavin Williamson and Boris Johnson
Gavin Williamson and Boris Johnson while both were serving as Cabinet ministers

Ex-Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has revealed he is backing Boris Johnson to be the next Tory leader and Prime Minister.

Mr Williamson was sacked earlier this month after a Whitehall probe found him guilty of leaking details from a National Security Council meeting.

The former frontbencher later said he had been “tried by a kangaroo court” as he denied giving out the information, relating to Theresa May’s decision to give Huawei a role in developing the UK's 5G network.

His latest intervention comes as Theresa May faces being ousted as Prime Minister within days.

Speaking to the Express and Star, Mr Williamson branded the former Foreign Secretary “the one who can deliver change for both the Conservative Party and the country”.

“I will be enthusiastically backing him and very much hope I can play a small role in making sure that his name is the one that the party chooses as leader,” he added.

“The bottom line is that the only person who can deliver Brexit and defeat Labour is Boris Johnson.”

Mr Johnson, who served as London mayor from 2008 to 2016, last night received the backing of Tory rising star Johnny Mercer, as the ex-soldier ruled himself out of the race.

Mr Mercer instead vowed to team up with his colleague to try to "inspire the party" to chart a "one-nation" course.

“It's very clear to me that there is one individual that we can go forward and sort of try and govern from the centre/centre-right as a one nation Tory," he told ITV’s Peston programme.

“And that is Boris Johnson... I've had many conversations with him. We're going to try and do it together.”

The Prime Minister is set to meet Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, tomorrow, who will reportedly urge her to resign.

It is understood that if she refuses, the committee will bring forward internal rule changes that will force a no-confidence vote and subsequently her exit within weeks.

Nicholas Mairs

Labour slams Government for European elections ‘chaos’ as EU citizens turned away from polling stations

2 days 10 hours ago
Polling station
Complaints have been flooding in from EU citizens unable to vote

Labour has blamed the government for causing “chaos” after EU citizens complained that they were being turned away from polling stations.

Hundreds of European nationals living in the UK have taken to Twitter to say they have been denied the opportunity to vote in today’s European Parliament elections due to administrative errors.

Those living away from their home nation are required to sign additional forms indicating their intention to cast their votes in the UK, but swathes of voters said they did not receive the papers.

Others claimed they were blocked from voting despite filling out the forms ahead of the deadline and even though they had apparently confirmed with their councils that they were correctly registered.

Labour slammed the government for the blunder, accusing them of causing "havoc" for EU citizens.

Filmmaker Birgit Muller, who has been living in the UK since 1997, told PoliticsHome she was turned away from the polling station despite having previously voted in EU elections while living in the UK.

“I was aware that there was a form that I had to fill in in order to decide whether to vote in the UK or in Germany,” she said.

“I had voted previously in the European elections in the UK, so when I received another form this time, I thought I had to register again, which I did online before the 7th May deadline.

“I received an email on the 8th May telling me that I am already registered, and I didn't have to do anything else.”

She added: “Today I was told I should have received and filled out a UC1 form, which I wasn’t aware of, and to my knowledge I never received.

“I rang the electoral register from the polling station and was told it is likely the form got lost in the post.”


Labour’s Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement Cat Smith said: “We repeatedly warned the Government that European citizens living in the UK would be denied their right to vote because of its incompetent approach to Brexit."

“From day one, the Tories have buried their heads in the sand about these elections, even at the eleventh hour when it was clear that the government’s botched Brexit deal would not pass. This has caused havoc for electoral administrators tasked with delivering a national poll with extremely short notice.”

She added: “The government is solely to blame for this chaos.”

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said they were aware of reports but added the Government was not responsible for "administration of the polls".

"I do recognise that there is frustration," they said. "I am sure the Electoral Commission will take any reports seriously."

Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission said proposals they had made to simplify the process had been rejected by the Government.

“This legal process could be made easier for citizens, and the Commission made the case for doing do following the last EU elections in 2014,” a spokesperson said.

“However, improvements to the process are reliant on changes to electoral law, which can only be taken forward by Government and Parliament.”


Immigration barrister Agata Patyna, who has been a UK resident since 2005, said she was also turned away from her local polling station despite registering before the deadline.

“Turned away from polling station this morning,” she tweeted. “Told I should vote in my EU member state. Called local council yesterday, they confirmed I could vote. Called again today.

“Apparently, council had no time to send out forms to all EU residents.”

Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse added: “It looks like the Government knew this was going to happen and didn’t act.

“This is an affront to democracy, EU citizens’ rights, and is a complete and utter disgrace.”


Tony Grew: To stand against Farage’s new politics, the Commons must first deliver Brexit

2 days 13 hours ago
Farage and the Brexit Party

A chamber chasing its tail, too sluggish to fill the days, plays into the Faragist fantasy of parliament against the people. MPs need to take a hard look at themselves, writes Tony Grew 

The Commons hasn't been at its best since its return from the Easter recess. Early finishes, multiple backbench, opposition and general debates and a notable lack of legislation have summed the past few weeks. It looks likely to remain the same until after the Whitsun recess.

The first week in June should see the Commons shaken out of its stupor. That is when the withdrawal agreement bill will have its second reading. It's a curious title for the bill, given that MPs can't even agree that we should withdraw. Even among those committed to leaving, there is a frustrating array of opinions on when and how we should do so.

Given that it is close to three years since the UK voted to leave, that can only be seen as a failure of politics, the Commons, the official opposition and the government. It is no surprise that the simplistic message of the Brexit party is resonating with many frustrated voters. Without wishing to pre-judge the outcome of the European elections, a victory for Mr Farage's manifesto-free candidates seems all but certain.

The lack of manifesto offered by the Brexit party is a worrying sign of what the future of our politics could look like if this Westminster farce continues much longer. The prime minister has wasted weeks negotiating with the Labour party to no effect. Why would Labour accept her assurances when she can't even control her own MPs? The objective of the cross-party talks has never been clear. We are told that they are constructive, yet nothing is being constructed. Keir Starmer has made clear that Labour will vote against the WAB at second reading unless there is a deal with Labour. Unless there is an unexpected breakthrough, the bill will fail to get Commons approval.

The plan B is a series of binding votes. If the bill fails at second reading and there is no definitive way forward from those binding votes, then we are back at square one. Even the most committed Westminster watcher is fatigued by this continued impotence.

'Even the most committed Westminster watcher is fatigued by this continued impotence'

The appearance once again of the Farage wolf at the door, sweeping all before him in the Euro elections, may be enough to convince a few Tory MPs back into the fold, but the DUP and their bedfellows in the ERG are characteristically unmoved. There may be a handful of Labour MPs prepared to vote for the WAB, but it will only be a handful. Those members convinced that a second referendum is the only way out aren't going to change their minds while impasse continues in the Commons.

MPs will block no deal, won't vote for the PM's deal and can't come to a consensus on the way forward. Whatever happens in the Conservative leadership beauty contest, the most likely scenario is the prime minister asking the EU for a further delay beyond October.

This is why Mr Farage's latest outfit is so dangerous for the two-party system that Westminster has held as an article of faith for centuries. The message is simple: betrayal. “The problem is this – the country very clearly wants us to stand up and be who we are," he recently told Andrew Marr. "Our political class do not believe in Britain. They simply don’t think we’re good enough to run our own affairs."

This is obviously nonsense, but to a frustrated electorate it makes sense. Those Westminster types aren't "real" like Mr Farage. There is no point arguing that he is a career politician, a member of the elite he rails against, a public-school boy who has never had a "real" job in his entire life. Politics has shifted. The 'new' politics is based on emotion in defiance of facts or objective reality.

The Trumpian nature of the new Farage plan is as plain as day. Who needs a manifesto? They are lies. In truth he has a point – no ordinary voter would bother to read a party manifesto anyway. Our timid old-style political institutions are exposed. The BBC can be dismissed as the enemy, the mainstream media's motives traduced, the old parties presented as a cartel, passing power between themselves.

The House of Commons has a chance to stand against this new politics, but first it must deliver Brexit. A chamber chasing its tail, too sluggish to fill the days, plays into the Faragist fantasy of parliament against the people. MPs need to take a hard look at themselves. They have created this crisis, whether through adherence to principles above pragmatism, or through a dishonest fantasy that a second referendum will produce a different outcome. MPs holding out for a hard Brexit or a people's vote may rue the day when the Farage wolf comes for their seats.


The new Hansard website is a wonder. It allows the user access to all sessions of Parliament since 1800 – catnip to parliamentary geeks. It also provides some surprising results. Anneliese Dodds recently used the word 'bricolage' – the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available –to describe the performance of HMRC. She used it again when talking about national insurance contributions. It turns out that she is in fact the only MP to use the word in the past 219 years. Finally, a new word that hasn't been introduced by the SNP contingent.


Andrew Stephenson described it as "the end of an era". Last week he had his last audience with the Queen as vice chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household. The wand of office has been presented to his successor Craig Whittaker. It's a curious job, the most eye-catching aspect of which is to write to the Queen about each day's proceedings in the House of Commons. The Vice Chamberlain is also held as a hostage in Buckingham Palace when the Queen comes to Westminster to open parliament – a reminder of the times when relations with the monarch weren't as friendly as they are today.

Tony Grew

Tories and Labour set for EU elections disaster as Brexit Party and Lib Dems top poll

2 days 13 hours ago
Nigel Farage and Vince Cable
The Brexit Party leader, Nigel Farage, and Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable

The Conservatives and Labour will finish behind the Brexit Party and Liberal Democrats at the EU elections, according to an opinion poll carried out hours before voting began.

Ipsos MORI has predicted that Nigel Farage’s new outfit will storm ahead to pick up 35% of the vote today, while Vince Cable's pro-Remain party will take 20%.

Labour is to finish third on 15%, while the Tories languish in fifth, a point behind the Greens, on just 9%.

Mr Farage's former party Ukip is set to take just 3% of the vote - the same share as the Lib Dems' pro-EU rivals, Change UK.

The study, carried out for the Evening Standard between 20-22 May, found that more than half (54%) of Conservative voters from the 2017 general election plan to ditch them for the Brexit Party.

In a further blow to Theresa May, who could be ousted as leader by Tory MPs in days, just 20% of voters said they would stick to her team, while 13% will switch to backing the Lib Dems.

Jeremy Corbyn's party is expected to lose nearly one in four supporters (22%) from the 2017 snap vote to the Lib Dems, with 15% heading to the Brexit Party and another 15% to the Greens.

The study found however that just two-thirds of the voting public have "definitely decided" who they will opt for, while the rest said that they may change their mind. 

At the last snap general election, in which Theresa May lost her majority against expectations, some 80% had definitely decided who they were going to vote for.

This compares to 87% at the 2016 EU referendum and 78% at the 2015 general election.

Elsewhere just six in ten (61%) said that it is important to them who wins the European elections, compared to 86% in the EU referendum and the last two general elections.

Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos MORI, said the vote was” particularly difficult to predict” given the occasion traditionally records a low turnout and with the emergence of new parties.

“Both Labour and the Conservatives are suffering in this election, while the Brexit Party looks set to be the winner,” he said.

“We’ve seen how Conservative party voters in particular dislike their party’s approach to Brexit, and prefer Nigel Farage’s party’s line, while Labour supporters are confused over exactly what Labour would do about Brexit if it were in power…"


Nicholas Mairs

Theresa May breaks promise to publish Brexit bill following Cabinet revolt

2 days 14 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May told MPs the Withdrawal Agreement Bill would be published on Friday.

Theresa May has been forced to ditch plans to finally let MPs see her Brexit bill after a revolt by her Cabinet.

The Prime Minister had told the Commons that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill would be published on Friday "so the House has the maximum possible time to study its detail".

But its pledge to give MPs a vote on whether to hold a second EU referendum sparked a furious backlash from a number of Cabinet ministers, and led to the resignation of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom.

In a major climbdown, Number 10 announced the publication of the WAB has been delayed to allow Mrs May to "listen to her colleagues' concerns" about the legislation.

It has also emerged that the chances of MPs ever getting the chance to vote on the bill are receding.

Government whip Mark Spencer - an emergency stand-in for Ms Leadsom at Business Questions on Thursday morning - said ministers had hoped for the crunch vote to take place on Friday, 7 June, but that they had failed to reach agreement with Labour for the Commons to sit that day.

A Labour source hit back: "This is just a smokescreen because the Government can't get agreement among themselves to bring forward the bill. It's the Government that schedules House business, not us."

Meanwhile, Downing Street insisted the Prime Minister remained determined to pass her Brexit bill, despite mounting calls for her to resign as soon as tomorrow.

He spokesman said: "The Prime Minister, as she has been throughout, is focused on delivering Brexit for the British people."

Kevin Schofield

READ IN FULL: Andrea Leadsom's resignation letter and Theresa May's reply

2 days 21 hours ago
Andrea Leadsom
Andrea Leadsom resigned with a blast at Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

Read the full exchange of letters between Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May as the Commons Leader resigned from the Cabinet over Brexit.


Dear Prime Minister

I am proud to have served in your Government since 2016, first as your Environment Secretary and for the last two years as Leader of the House of Commons, and pay tribute to the excellent work of my civil servants in both roles.

More recently, setting up the new complaints procedure, putting in train the restoration of the Palace of Westminster, introducing Proxy Voting for MPs, proposing a new strategy to support early years, and ensuring the timely delivery of our legislative programme, my role as Leader of the Commons has been highly rewarding, and I am grateful to have had these opportunities.

I stayed in Cabinet to shape and fight for Brexit.

There have been some uncomfortable compromises along the way, but you have had my determined support and loyalty in your efforts to deliver Brexit as our shared goal.

I no longer believe that our approach will deliver on the referendum result, for the following reasons:

1. I do not believe that we will be a truly sovereign United Kingdom through the deal that is now proposed;

2. I have always maintained that a second referendum would be dangerously divisive, and I do not support the Government willingly facilitating such a concession. It would also risk undermining our Union which is something I passionately want to see strengthened;

3. There has been such a breakdown of government processes that recent Brexit-related legislative proposals have not been properly scrutinised or approved by Cabinet members;

4. The tolerance to those in Cabinet who have advocated policies contrary to the Government's position has led to a complete breakdown of collective responsibility.

I know there are important elections tomorrow, and many Conservatives have worked hard to support our excellent candidates.

I considered carefully the timing of this decision, but I cannot fulfil my duty as Leader of the House tomorrow, to announce a Bill with new elements that I fundamentally oppose.

I fully respect the integrity, resolution and determination that you have shown during your time as Prime Minister. No one has wanted you to succeed more than

I have, but I do now urge you to make the right decisions in the interests of the country, this Government and our Party.

It is therefore with great regret and with a heavy heart that I resign from the Government.

Best, Andrea


Dear Andrea,

Thank you for your letter this evening resigning as Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons. I was sorry to receive it.

I am grateful to you for your work since I became Prime Minister — first as Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and then as Leader of the House of Commons. You rightly highlight the important reforms you have championed in this latter role — not only beginning the process of restoring the fabric of the Palace of Westminster but also making sure that Parliament meets the high standards rightly expected of it, whether through the introduction of the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme to stamp out bullying and harassment, or the pilot proxy voting scheme for MPs on parental leave.

I am also grateful for the support you have given over the last three years as the Government works to honour the result of the referendum and deliver our departure from the European Union. I am afraid I must disagree with the assessment you now give about our approach.

I do not agree with you that the deal which we have negotiated with the European Union means that the United Kingdom will not become a sovereign country. If the deal is passed, the UK will leave the European Union. We will leave its Common Agricultural Policy and its Common Fisheries Policy. We will end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and make our own laws in Westminster and our devolved parliaments. We will stop sending vast annual sums of taxpayers' money to the EU, and spend it on our priorities instead — such  as our National Health Service and our children's schools.

I agree with you that a second referendum would be divisive. The Government is not proposing one. Indeed, I made clear again in the House today that I am against another referendum. I believe that we should be implementing the result of the first referendum, not asking the British people to vote in a second one. And I asked MPs what it would say about our democracy if the biggest vote in our history were to be rerun because the House of Commons did not like the outcome.

Having served as Leader of the House, however, you will know very well that any Bill to deliver our withdrawal from the European Union is amendable and likely to attract an amendment seeking to try and bring about a second referendum. That is why at Cabinet yesterday we agreed to bring the Bill forward and allow those MPs who want another referendum to put their case and test the opinion of the House on this matter again. I continue to believe that the arguments against a second referendum are strong and compelling, and will continue to oppose one.

I do not recognise what you say about decision-making in Government. Indeed, through your own work chairing the Parliamentary Business and Legislation committee of Cabinet, you have been an important part of ensuring that Brexit-related legislative proposals are properly scrutinised, and the whole Cabinet have listened to the assessments you have given at Cabinet meetings.

I have valued the frank and productive discussions we have had over the last three years. As you say, there are important elections tomorrow, and many Conservatives are working in a challenging environment to support our excellent candidates. I am sorry to lose someone of your passion, drive and sincerity from HM Government in this way.

Yours ever,


Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Andrea Leadsom quits Cabinet over Brexit as Theresa May's time as Prime Minister nears the end

3 days 6 hours ago
Andrea Leadsom
Andrea Leadsom told Theresa May she no longer backed her on Brexit.

Andrea Leadsom has quit the Cabinet in protest at Theresa May's latest attempt to win MPs' backing for her Brexit plans.

In yet another devastating blow for the Prime Minister, the Commons Leader said she no longer believed the Government's approach "will deliver on the referendum result".

Her announcement - on the eve of the European elections - came as Mrs May's time in office entered its final days, with Tory MPs warning she must resign in 48 hours or face a leadership challenge.

The dramatic developments came just a day after the PM revealed what would be contained in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, the legislation needed to take the UK out of the EU.

Most controversially, it will give MPs a vote on whether or not there should be a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

In a hard-hitting resignation letter, Ms Leadsom said: "I stayed in Cabinet to shape and fight for Brexit. There have been some uncomfortable compromises along the way, but you have had my determined support and loyalty in your efforts to deliver Brexit as our shared goal.

"I no longer believe that our approach will deliver on the referendum result."

Ms Leadsom said that she did not believe that Mrs May's Brexit deal would lead to "a truly sovereign United Kingdom".

She added: "I have always maintained that a second referendum dangerously divisive, and I do not support the Government willingly facilitating such a concession.

"It would also risk undermining our Union, which is something I passionately want to see strengthened."

Elsewhere in the letter, the leading eurosceptic said some Brexit policies had been announced by the Government without being "properly scrutinised or approved by Cabinet ministers".

And she claimed there had been "a complete breakdown of collective responsibility" after Number 10 turned a blind eye to Remain-backing ministers not voting with the Government on some Brexit legislation.

Ms Leadsom added: "I know there are important elections tomorrow and many Conservatives have worked hard to support our excellent candidates.

"I considered carefully the timing of this decision, but I cannot fulfil my duty as leader of the House tomorrow to announce a Bill with new elements that I fundamentally oppose."

And calling on the Prime Minister to consider quitting, she said: "No one has wanted you to succeed more than I have, bu I do now urge you to make the right decisions in the interests of the country, this government and our party."

Three other Cabinet ministers - David Mundell, Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt - were all snubbed by the PM on Wednesday after demanding to see her to make clear their unhappiness over the WAB's promise on a referendum vote.

Sources close to Scottish Secretary Mr Mundell said the move was already being "exploited" by the SNP to push the case for another independence referendum, which the UK government opposes.

PoliticsHome understands that Downing Street cancelled a meeting with one of the three ministers with just 10 minutes notice.

Ms Leadsom, who made it to the final two candidates in the last Tory leadership race before pulling out in the wake of a disastrous interview with The Times, is expected to throw her hat into the ring again when Mrs May resigns.

One Cabinet minister told PoliticsHome her resignation was a "leadership klaxon".

A Downing Street spokesman said: "Andrea Leadsom has served with distinction and great ability as a member of the government, and the Prime Minister is grateful for all of her work. We are disappointed that she has chosen to resign, and the Prime Minister remains focused on delivering the Brexit people voted for."

Labour chairman Ian Lavery said: "The Prime Minister’s authority is shot and her time is up.

"While the Tories are ripping themselves apart, our country is in crisis. The government has made a catastrophic mess of the Brexit negotiations, our steel industry is under threat and universal credit is pushing people into poverty. 

"For the sake of the country, Theresa May needs to go, and we need an immediate general election."

Kevin Schofield

Heidi Allen threatened to quit as Change UK leader amid row over backing Lib Dems

3 days 7 hours ago
Heidi Allen
Heidi Allen speaks at a Change UK rally last month at Church House in Westminster, London.

Change UK leader Heidi Allen has revealed that she offered to resign over a row about whether the party should back the Liberal Democrats in some regions at the European elections.

The former Tory MP clashed with Anna Soubry – who also left the Conservatives to join the new group – and others over whether to support their pro-Remain rivals outside London and the south-east of England.

Asked by Channel 4 News if she had threatened to quit as the party's interim leader, she said: "Yes. I did. I am very, very troubled by this. This is a massive decision for a party to take.

"Had it been left to me, I would have absolutely advised tactical voting, but I have a responsibility – hence your question, are you asking me as Heidi, or as Change leader.

"I respect the views of my fellow group members and the majority was that they didn’t want to go that way, but it is something that still troubles me. I have no doubt that the British public will look at the tactical voting websites out there and make their own decisions."

Change UK - which is also made up of former Labour MPs - is languishing in the polls, well behind fellow pro-Remain parties the Lib Dems and Greens.

On why she offered to quit, Ms Allen said: "We all left out parties in February because we could see that the main old parties were failing spectacularly to look after the national interest, and sometimes that’s the only tool that you’ve got left: your integrity and how strongly you feel about something.

"And I would have been prepared to go that far if that’s what I thought would conclude in the right direction. But ultimately though, it is a democracy, we are a group, and I took their views on board particularly, as I say, safeguarding our candidates.

However, she denied the fledgling party was in "complete disarray" and was instead trying to work out the best way to deal with the European election's proportional voting system.

She said: "This is a really, really difficult time. It is not a precise science."

Details of the bust-up emerged just days after Ms Allen signalled that Change UK could morph into something else in the "brand new world" of the next parliamentary race, in a push for it to become “more successful”.

Nicholas Mairs

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about the European Parliament elections

3 days 9 hours ago
Ballot box
Polls will open at 7am on 23 May and will close at 10pm the same day.

It was the election nobody wanted. But voters are heading to the polls today to elect Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). How long might they have to stay there? Who knows. But here is everything you need to know.

Why are we even having this election?

Britain was supposed to leave the EU on 29 March but failed to strike a Brexit deal with the bloc. Instead of crashing out without a deal, Theresa May begged the other member states to give her more time to try to get her agreement through. They said she could have until 31 October, but that if the UK manages to sort itself out it could leave earlier.

But - surprise, surprise - the UK has not managed to sort itself out. The PM had originally hoped Britain would be able to swerve the elections, but with no end in sight to the deadlock in Westminster, MEPs will be sent to Brussels and will have to take their seats for at least a short while.


What is the result likely to be?

All signs suggest the new Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage will romp home at these elections. The last YouGov poll for the Times had the Brexit Party - which has a single policy to take the UK out of the EU without a deal - on a stonking 37%. The Lib Dems were in second place with 19%, with Labour on 13% and the Tories on 7% - behind the Green Party.

The numbers appear to confirm the narrative of the whole campaign: that the election is an effective second referendum on EU membership, with the hard Brexit or anti-Brexit parties coming out on top. The country is set to give the two main parties a royal kicking for getting the UK into such a quandry.

The last European Parliament vote was held in 2014, when Ukip stormed it. So it looks like another good night for Farage.


How the election works

Some 73 MEPs will be elected to sit in the European Parliament across 12 regions of the UK. Polls will open at 7am on 23 May and will close at 10pm the same day.

The voting system to elect multiple MEPs in each region is somewhat complicated. Voters just vote for a party - not individual candidates. Each party has a list of its candidates, with those at the top the first in line for election. The party that wins the most votes in each region gets the first seat, which will go to the person at the top of their list.

Then the total vote count for that party is divided by two, and the party with the most votes after that division gets the second seat. If a party gets two seats its vote is then divided by three for the following round, and if it wins a third seat its vote will then be divided by four and so on. The process is repeated until all the seats are taken.


When will we know the results?

Almost all of the UK results will be declared between 10pm on Sunday 26 May and 2.30pm on Monday 27 May. It comes a long time after the vote because some EU nations go to the polls on later days, and the results do not come out until voting has closed in all countries.

There is no exit poll like in a general election, but the first national estimates should begin doing the rounds in the early evening on the Sunday.


Key regions to watch out for

London, where Ukip leader Gerard Batten will be fighting to keep his seat; the North West, where far right activist Tommy Robinson is standing; the South East, where Nigel Farage is standing and where the Conservatives have their safest seat, currently held by Daniel Hannan; the South West, where ex-Tory grandee Ann Widdecombe is standing for the Brexit Party, rape row activist Carl Benjamin is standing for Ukip and anti-Brexit peer Lord Adonis is standing for Labour; Yorkshire and the Humber, where Labour EU leader Richard Corbett is hoping to keep his seat.


PMQs AS IT HAPPENED: Tory MPs gang up on Theresa May over Troubles probes for veterans

3 days 15 hours ago
Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn

Theresa May faced MPs in the Commons for a gruelling session of PMQs. She was taken to task by Tory MPs angry about the ongoing investigations into Troubles veterans.



Liam Fox: MPs who reject Brexit bill are 'breaking their contract with voters'

4 days 8 hours ago
Liam Fox
Liam Fox has called on MPs to back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

MPs who vote against the Withdrawal Agreement Bill will be breaking their "contract" with voters to deliver Brexit, according to Liam Fox.

In a boost for Theresa May, the leading eurosceptic said opponents of the flagship legislation would be "voting against the delivery of Brexit itself" and would pay the price at the ballot box.

The International Trade Secretary insisted that opponents of the Prime Minister's strategy should still vote for the WAB because they could then try to amend it later in the parliamentary process.

Speaking in London, Mrs May urged MPs to back her "new deal" with Brussels when the WAB is voted on at second reading in the Commons next month.

In a bid to woo some Labour MPs, the PM said the Commons will be given a vote on whether to hold a second referendum.

She also vowed that the UK would match EU standards on workers' rights and the environment, and that the Government would be under a legal obligation to find "alternative arrangements" to the Irish backstop before the end of 2020.

But with Labour, the DUP and Brexiteer Tories already vowing to oppose it, she is facing the prospect of yet another humiliating defeat.

In a speech in Enfield, Dr Fox said he was backing the bill - and warned that Brexit itself was at risk of the WAB failed.

He said: "We are now reaching the crunch point over Brexit.  At the 2017 General Election 80% of MPs – Labour and Conservative – were elected on a promise to honour the result of the referendum.  It is time to deliver.”

"The second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill will allow MPs to determine the type of Brexit they want by amending the bill during its passage through Parliament.

"Those voting against the Bill will be voting against the delivery of Brexit itself.  Voters will see clearly whether their MPs have kept their promise or not.

"This is the moment of truth – honour your contract with the voters or break it – they will be watching and they will remember.”

“For many voters it is no longer just about Brexit – it is about democracy.”

Kevin Schofield

Tory MPs lead widespread criticism of Theresa May's 'new deal' on Brexit

4 days 9 hours ago
Conservative Brexiteer MPs
Conservative MPs Ian Duncan Smith, Steve Baker and Anne-Marie Trevelyan

Theresa May's hopes of finally winning backing for her Brexit deal have been dealt a savage blow as Tory MPs lined up to criticise it.

The Prime Minister outlined plans aimed at trying to win support from both Labour MPs and Tory eurosceptics for the "new deal" contained in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

In a major concession, Mrs May said it will include a pledge to give the Commons a vote on whether to hold a second EU referendum.

It also contained guarantees to match EU standards on workers' rights and the environment, as well as a vow to put the Government under a legal obligation to find "alternative arrangements" to the controversial Irish backstop before the end of 2020.

And on trade links with the EU - the main bone of contention between Labour and the Government - the PM said Parliament would get to decide on the best way to break the impasse.

Mrs May said those who refused to back the deal would be “voting to stop Brexit”.

But within minutes of Mrs May setting out her plans in a speech in central London, former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith announced that he would not be backing it.

He said: "I can’t see that we’ve taken back control over anything.  he backstop is still there, it’s a customs union in all but name and it puts Brussels firmly in control of our destiny.  

“There’s nothing new or bold about this bad buffet of non Brexit options. At a time when people are deserting the main parties this is the PM’s response, to do all she can to defy the result of the referendum.

"Today the Government has moved from take back control to give back control.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the hardline Brexiteer European Research Group, said the compromise was "unquestionably worse" than that offered at the third so-called meaningful vote in March.

"The PM, having negotiated with herself, has given in to her left-wing Brussels self rather than her Conservative self," he said.

ERG vice-chairman Steve Baker said he would vote against the “muddled implementation of a failed deal".

“The Prime Minister made a speech riddled with inconsistencies as she pledged to muddle the legislation implementing this failed deal by adding more opportunities for uncertainty," he said.

“Our party stands on the brink. I know the Prime Minister will not want to lead us over it. It’s time we were led away from the precipice and towards the only path of safety for this country.”


Meanwhile Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said the proposals were "even more of a dog’s breakfast than the last deal" as he ruled out backing the agreement at the fourth time of asking.

“The backstop customs union is still at the heart of the deal, preventing us from agreeing trade deals with the fasting growing economies in the world," he said.

“I supported the Prime Minister in March as I thought it was our last chance to leave the EU. That’s no longer the case and I’m afraid that this proposal will reinforce the public’s view that the establishment is hellbent on thwarting the referendum result.”

His colleague, Anne-Marie Trevelyan said there was "nothing new or bold about this deal" and that the people of Northern Ireland could still be "sold out" by the backstop.

She added: "Now the government is trying to ram its botched deal through on Labour votes by keeping us in the Customs Union, allowing Brussels to dictate our future trade policy and breaching our Conservative manifesto.

“I’ll read the deal cover to cover before deciding but I’m very unlikely to vote for this. I look forward to a bright future where we actually deliver the Brexit 17.4 million people voted for."

Nigel Dodds, Westminster leader of the DUP, who Mrs May relies on to prop up her minority government, also dropped a strong hint that his party would oppose the WAB when it is voted on at second reading next month.

He said: "We will examine the legislation closely when the bill is finally published but the fundamental flaws of the draft Withdrawal Agreement treaty itself remain unchanged.

"Many of the proposals on the backstop serve as an attempt through domestic law to mitigate a bad deal whereas the focus should be on getting a better deal."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was equally sceptical, describing Mrs May's latest proposal as "largely a rehash of the Government's position in the cross-party talks that failed to reach a compromise last week".

He said: "On key elements - customs, market alignment and environmental protections - what the Prime Minister calls her new Brexit deal is effectively a repackaging of the same old bad deal, rejected three times by Parliament.

"We will of course look seriously at the details of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill when it is published. But we won't back a repackaged version of the same old deal - and it’s clear that this weak and disintegrating government is unable deliver on its own commitments."

The SNP, Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru also confirmed that they will vote against the legislation, virtually guaranteeing that it will not pass.

Nicholas Mairs

Theresa May offers MPs vote on second referendum in last-ditch bid to pass Brexit deal

4 days 9 hours ago
Theresa May
Theresa May delivers her speech in Charing Cross, central London

Theresa May has offered to give MPs a vote on whether to hold a second EU referendum as she launched a last-ditch bid to win backing for her Brexit deal.

In a dramatic move, the Prime Minister said the Withdrawal Agreement Bill will include a requirement for the Commons to vote on calls for a so-called "People's Vote".

If it was to pass, she vowed that the Government would make time available for the necessary legislation to be passed setting up another referendum.

But she warned supporters of another vote that in order to make their dream a reality, they would first need to vote for the WAB.

Mrs May also unveiled a package of measures she repeatedly called a "new deal" aimed at trying to woo both Labour MPs and Tory eurosceptics to finally back her deal when it is voted on at second reading in the Commons next month.

They included guarantees to match EU standards on workers' rights and the environment, as well as a vow to put the Government under a legal obligation to find "alternative arrangements" to the controversial Irish backstop before the end of 2020.

And on customs - the main bone of contention during the fruitless six weeks of talks between the Government and Labour - the PM said Parliament would get to decide on the best way to break the impasse.

But it was her pledge on a second referendum which could prove to be the most controversial element of the WAB.

Speaking in central London, Mrs May said she recognised "the genuine and sincere strength of feeling across the House on this important issue".

 "The Government will therefore include in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at introduction a requirement to vote on whether to hold a second referendum," she said.

"This must take place before the withdrawal agreement can be ratified. And if the House of Commons were to vote for a referendum, it would be requiring the Government to make provisions for such a referendum – including legislation if it wanted to ratify the withdrawal agreement.

"So to those MPs who want a second referendum to confirm the deal: you need a deal and therefore a Withdrawal Agreement Bill to make it happen. So let it have its second reading and then make your case to Parliament."


Mrs May warned that if MPs rejetced her attempts to find "common ground" between the rival Brexit factions, the UK could end up staying in the EU.

"There will opportunities throughout the Bill for MPs on all sides to have their say," she said. "But I say with conviction to every MP of every party – I have compromised. Now I ask you to compromise too.

" We have been given a clear instruction by the people we are supposed to represent. So help me find a way to honour that instruction, move our country and our politics forward, and build the better future that all of us want to see."

Kevin Schofield

Blow for Theresa May as Andrea Leadsom refuses to confirm backing for revised Brexit deal

4 days 16 hours ago
andrea leadsom
Ms Leadsom previously said she was “seriously considering” running for the Tory leadership.

Andrea Leadsom has dealt a blow to Theresa May as she refused to confirm she will vote for the Withdrawal Agreement next month.

The Cabinet minister backed the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal in its previous three bids, but speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she said she would only support it "so long as it continues to be leaving the European Union".

Ms Leadsom, who previously said she was “seriously considering” running for the Tory leadership, also said leaving the bloc was the “most important thing” - even meant a no-deal exit.

The comments come as Cabinet is due to meet this morning to discuss Mrs May’s “bold new offer” of a revised Withdrawal Agreement Bill that could accept some of Labour’s Brexit demands on workers' rights and a customs union.

Asked whether she would back the flagship Brexit law, Ms Leadsom said: "Absolutely key for me is that it does deliver Brexit. I will back something that remains Brexit."

And the Commons leader added: "I continue to support the Prime Minister to get her Withdrawal Agreement Bill through. It is leaving the EU and so long as it continues to be leaving the European Union I continue to support it.

"What I do think is for any negotiation to succeed you have to be prepared to walk away, and in addition the legal default position is that on 31 October the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a deal.

"I would like us to have a deal I think it’s very important that we do, but if we get to the end of October and it's not possible to get a deal, leaving the EU is the most important thing of all."

MPs are expected to vote on the withdrawal agreement deal in early June, and Mrs May has agreed to set out plans to stand down within weeks regardless of whether the Commons approves her Brexit deal or not.


Philip Hammond blasts Boris Johnson as he warns no-deal Brexit would 'hijack' referendum result

4 days 20 hours ago
Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond
The Chancellor accused those pushing for no-deal of wanting to 'hijack the result of the referendum' in 2016.

Boris Johnson and his fellow Tory leadership contenders have no mandate to pursue a no-deal Brexit if they become Prime Minister, according to Philip Hammond.

In a major intervention in the Conservative leadership race, the Chancellor will argue that leaving the European Union without an agreement would represent a "hijacking" of the 2016 referendum result that would "knowingly" put the economy at risk.

And he will tell MPs they now face the "real risk" of a new Prime Minister "abandoning" efforts to leave the bloc with a deal.

The intervention will be seen as a clear warning to Tory leadership hopefuls including Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Esther McVey who have in the past pushed for a no-deal exit from the bloc.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Liz Truss - another who is pondering a leadership bid - have also said the UK should be prepared to leave without a deal if necessary.

In a speech to the CBI business group on Tuesday evening, the Chancellor will warn: "On the populist Right, there are those who claim the only outcome that counts as a truly legitimate Brexit is to leave with no deal.

"Let me remind them – the 2016 Leave campaign was clear that we would leave with a deal.

"So to advocate for no deal is to hijack the result of the referendum, and in doing so, knowingly to inflict damage on our economy and living standards, because all the preparation in the world will not avoid the consequences of no deal."

Mr Hammond will meanwhile urge MPs to get behind Theresa May's Brexit deal in next month's fresh Commons vote, warning that a failure to do so risks handing the Brexit process over to a leader actively pushing a no-deal outcome - and putting the future of the UK at risk.

"If we do not resolve this issue in the next few weeks, there is a real risk of a new Prime Minister abandoning the search for a deal, and shifting towards seeking a damaging no-deal exit as a matter of policy... in order to protect an ideological position which ignores the reality of Britain’s economic interests and the value of our Union," he will say.

His stark intervention comes after Conservative MPs determined to avoid a no-deal declared war on the "intolerant" hardcore Brexiteer wing of their party.

The newly-formed ‘One Nation Conservatives’ group said they would fight against any candidate who might usher in a no-deal departure from the EU.

Digital minister Margot James told a gathering in Parliament: "There are candidates who will go out of their way to make sure the country doesn’t leave without a deal and that is what we need to ensure we get out of this leadership contest."


The warnings came as Theresa May prepared to ask her Cabinet to accept some of Labour's Brexit demands following weeks of ill-fated talks aimed at trying to strike a deal with the Opposition.

The Prime Minster has promised a "bold new offer" when MPs vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in early June, despite talks between the Government and Labour breaking down.

The Times reports that Mrs May will warn the Cabinet they could have to accept a temporary customs union with the EU and grant concessions on workers' rights in order to secure enough votes to pass the deal.

But the move risks angering avowed Brexiteers in the Cabinet including Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom, with one source telling the paper that the Government was on standby for resignations.

The Cabinet will also discuss stepping stepping the Government's work on "frictionless" trade at the Northern Ireland border, a move designed to win over Eurosceptics who have long opposed the deal over its Irish backstop provision.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster

Lord Heseltine suspended by Conservatives after declaring he will vote Lib Dem

5 days 6 hours ago
Michael Heseltine
Lord Heseltine addresses a People's Vote rally.

Lord Heseltine has been suspended by the Conservatives for revealing he will vote Lib Dem in this week's European election.

The former deputy Prime Minister was told he was having the Tory whip removed in the House of Lords as a result of his remarks.

Writing in The Sunday Times, the Conservative grandee - a vocal advocate for a ssecond EU referendum - said his party had become "infected with the virus of extremism".

He added: "The reason for my experiment with the Lib Dems is, of course, the Government's position on Brexit.

"I cannot, with a clear conscience, vote for my party when it is myopically focused on forcing through the biggest act of economic self-harm ever undertaken by a democratic government."

But he refused to countenance quitting the Conservatives, adding: "I have no intention of being forced out - or resigning from - a party that has been such an important part of my life.

"I will remain a member of my local association and, unless told otherwise, will continue to take the Conservative whip in the Lords."

A Conservative spokesman said Lord Heseltine's comments were "not compatible with taking the Tory whip".

He said: "As a result, the Chief Whip in the House of Lords has informed Lord Heseltine that he will have the Conservative whip suspended. This will be reviewed if he is willing to support Conservative candidates at future elections."

Pro-Brexit Tory MPs had called for the former Cabinet minister to be suspended for his remarks.

Andrew Bridgen told the BBC: "There really is no place for someone with his views in the Conservative Party."

But veteran Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames said the suspension was "a really stupid, bovine thing to do".

Kevin Schofield

Esther McVey says next Tory leader must 'believe in Brexit'

5 days 12 hours ago
Esther McVey
Esther McVey launches her 'Blue Collar Conservatism' group.

Theresa May's successor as Prime Minister must "believe in Brexit" and be prepared to take the UK out of the EU without a deal, according to Esther McVey.

The former Cabinet minister appeared to take a swipe at leadership rivals who backed Remain in the referendum as she launched her 'Blue Collar Conservatism' group.

Ms McVey was the first Tory MP to officially throw her hat into the ring to succeed Mrs May, who has vowed to stand down regardless of whether or not the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is backed by MPs next month.

The Tatton MP, who campaigned for Leave in 2016, said there can be no more "backsliding" on Brexit and insisted the UK must leave on the 31 October deadline with or without a deal.

Asked whether Mrs May's successor must back Brexit, she said: "It has to be a Brexiteer I believe, because it has to be someone who believes in Brexit and delivers on our manifesto."

Pressed on whether the likes of Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid - who both voted Remain but now say they back Brexit - would be good enough, she replied: "It has to be a Brexiteer who believes in Brexit. However they voted they can tell you, but it has to be somebody who believes and has the passion to drive it forward."

The former Work and Pensions Secretary, who resigned last year in protest at the Prime Minister's Brexit deal, added: "We know that people want Brexit delivered and that's essential and what is also key is that on 31 October, we will be out.

"No more backsliding - even if it means we're out without a deal, we will be out."

Ms McVey also ruled out an electoral pact with Nigel Farage's Brexit Party, which is currently well ahead of the Tories in the polls.

She said: "We are the Conservative Party. We will be aiming to get a Conservative majority. If we deliver Brexit, then there won't need to be a Brexit Party."

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith was among a number of the party's MPs who attended the Blue Collar Conservatism launch.

Treasury minister John Glen, former frontbencher Rob Halfon, and backbenchers Eddie Hughes, Ben Bradley and Scott Mann were also there as Ms McVey said the Tories should be "the party of working people".

She said: "A majority of those voters voted to leave the EU and on this we have broken their trust. To win that trust back we must not only deliver what was promised, but be prepared to have a radical Conservative agenda to show we are on their side."

Ms McVey said a Tory government should slash taxes and boost apprenticeships while also investing in public services in the same way the last Labour government did.

Kevin Schofield
Submitted by itops on Tue, 11/14/2017 - 11:47