Brexit deal: fallout from draft UK-EU agreement

Follow developments amid turmoil over the UK-EU draft Brexit deal

Colin Gleeson Thu, Nov 15
LIVE: Brexit deal: fallout from draft UK-EU agreement

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  • 10:22

    Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the Brexit deal fallout. If you're just catching up, Britain's Brexit secretary Dominic Raab announced his resignation from prime minister Theresa May's government this morning. Later, work and pensions secretary Esther McVey announced her resignation.

    The departures put prime minister Theresa May’s government into turmoil after she secured a Brexit deal that was criticised by opponents, allies and mutinous members of her party. Ms May is due to make a statement at 10.30am

  • 10:23
  • 10:26
    Another resignation; this time it's Suella Braverman MP. She tweeted on Thursday morning: "It is with deep regret and after reflection that I have had to tender my resignation today as a Brexit Minister. Thank you for the opportunity. I look forward to working to support Brexit from the Backbenches. This has not been an easy decision."
  • 10:26
  • 10:33

    UK prime minster Theresa May is now delivering a statement to the House of Commons.

    She says Jean Claude Juncker has written to EU member states to say “decisive” progress has been made in talks.

    A special summit will now be held on 25th November.

    The deal, she says, allows for the “smooth and ordinary” exit of the UK from the bloc, to laughter from the House of Commons.

  • 10:34

    On the Border, she says the agreement sets out an insurance agreement.

    She will won’t pretend it has been a comfortable process or that she or the EU are happy with everything.

  • 10:38

    She says a customs border in the Irish Sea would have created a border in the Irish Sea and that the UK-wide temporary customs arrangement protects the integrity of the union.

    If at the end of 2020 the future relationship with the EU has not been agreed, the deal allows the UK to choose between the UK-wide backstop or a short extension of the implementation period.

    She tells MPs there is a mechanism for the backstop to be terminated.

    The Brexit deal is about “acting in the national interest”.

    This about taking the “right choices, not the easy ones”.

  • 10:40

    May is now telling MPs about some of the freedoms the UK will have after Brexit.

    It will be free to strike trade deals around the world, she says.

    The UK will become an independent coastal state again.

  • 10:41

    She says many said Brexit could not be done, but that she never believed that.

    She says withdrawing from the EU allows the UK to establish “a wholly new relationship”.

    Voting against the deal, she says, will take everything back to square one.

    “If we get behind a deal, we can bring the UK back together.”

  • 10:42

    May is being heckled as she speaks.

    She is calling on the house to back the deal.

    She says the deal delivers the Brexit that people voted for.

  • 10:44
    Theresa May has told MPs: “We can choose to leave with no deal, risk no Brexit at all or choose to unite and support the best deal that could be negotiated”.
  • 10:45

    Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is speaking now.

    He says the government is in chaos and that the deal leaves the UK in “an indefinite halfway house without a real say” in its affairs.

    There is no mention of the implementation period he says.

    “No wonder,” he says, “as there is precious little new to implement”.

  • 10:46

    Corbyn says there is no time limit on the backstop.

    He says it locks Britain into a deal that it cannot leave without agreement from the EU.

  • 10:48

    Corbyn says that in 2021 the UK will still be contributing to the EU’s budget and following the rules of the European Court of Justice.

    Uncertainty continues for businesses, he says.

  • 10:51

    He says there is no clarity on any future immigration system between the UK and the EU.

    This is not the deal the country was promised.

    He says people will not accept “a false choice between this bad deal and a no deal”.

    People around the country will be feeling anxious about the jobs they hold.

    Corbyn then calls on the government to “withdraw this half-baked deal which does not have the backing of the house, the cabinet, or the country as a whole”.

  • 10:54

    May says Corbyn is wrong.

    He is wrong in saying the deal doesn’t deal with the border down the Irish Sea.

    She says she is “really not sure” what document Corbyn read.

    He said there was nothing about Europol, but there it is expressly mentioned.

    There is a choice before members, she says.

  • 11:00

    European shares have reversed early gains, falling into negative territory in a broad rout as May's government is plunged into fresh crisis.

  • 11:03

    The leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party is telling MPs Scotland was not considered in the deal.

    It was below Gibraltar and the Isle of Man in the pecking order, he says.

  • 11:04

    As May responds, the speaker of the House calls for quite as she is again heckled.

    “The Prime Minister must be heard,” says the speaker. “Everyone will get their chance.”

  • 11:06

    Sterling has slid the most in more than 17 months.

    "Brexit worries are sending shock waves through the currency markets," said Credit Agricole SA head of Group-of-10 currency strategy Valentin Marinov.

    The pound is lower but "it seems that uncertainty could push it lower still."

    Sterling dropped as much as 1.9 per cent, the most since June 2017, to $1.2780 against the dollar.

    It weakened 1.3 per cent to 88.26 pence per euro.

  • 11:08
  • 11:10

    In response to more heckling, the speaker tells the house it is being “extremely discourteous”.

    I was watching Darkest Hour last night and the goings on in the House of Commons sound exactly the same as that.

  • 11:13

    May says the UK is making no plans for no Brexit.

    The mechanism to exit the backstop allows for alternative arrangements to supersede it.

  • 11:14

    Ladbrokes has slashed the odds on Theresa May being replaced at PM this year following a rush of bets this morning.

    She is now just 4/5 to leave Number 10 before the end of 2018.

    Some punters are even backing her to leave before the day is out, which is 5/1 with the bookies. Jeremy Corbyn is the firm’s favourite to be next prime minister at 5/1.

  • 11:15

    Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Theresa May spoke by phone this morning, Varadkar’s spokesman has said.

    Varadkar offered May his support and both committed to working on the future EU-UK relationship to ensure the backstop is never invoked.

  • 11:16
  • 11:20

    May tells MPs it is the “duty of members” to “ensure we deliver on the Brexit vote”.

    She tells them it will preserve the integrity of the United Kingdom.

  • 11:22

    On the DUP, which is propping up her government, she says she hopes she will “continue to have many discussions” with the party.

    However, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds says the “choice is clear”.

    “We stand up for the whole of the United Kingdom or we vote for a vassal state and break up the UK,” he declares, borrowing a phrase from Boris Johnson earlier in the week.

  • 11:23

    We have a report up now on May’s statement in the House of Commons.

    You can read it here.

  • 11:25

    Dodds also says May “clearly doesn’t listen”.

  • 11:26

    Away from London, Romania’s government has said the deal the UK has struck to leave the European Union will provide security for hundreds of thousands of Romanians living in the country.

    Bucharest’s foreign ministry welcomed the deal which “guarantees the protection of the rights”, of Romanians in Britain who will be able to keep on working, living and studying there after December 2020 when Britain is set to leave the European single market that guarantees the free movement of anyone in the EU.

    In a statement, the ministry said the deal “limits the negative consequences” of Brexit for business and foreigners living in Britain.

    Romanian officials estimate about half a million Romanians live in Britain, although just 190,000 are officially registered there.

  • 11:28

    The Democratic Unionist Party’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds has torn into May over Northern Ireland.

    “I could today stand here and take the prime minister through the list of promises and pledges she made to this house and to us, privately, about the future of Northern Ireland in the future relationship with the EU,” he said.

    “But I fear it would be a waste of time since she clearly doesn’t listen.”

    Dodds went on to praise the five ministers who quit.

  • 11:30
    Troubling times ahead for London, according to our political editor Pat Leahy.
  • 11:33

    French prime minister Edouard Philippe has said the ongoing political uncertainty in Britain over Brexit has raised concerns about whether the agreement struck with Brussels to leave the European Union would end up being ratified.

    "We need to prepare ourselves for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit," Philippe said during a visit to Dunkirk, a port city in northern France where locals are concerned about the impact of Brexit on business and trade.

    "It will escape no one that the current political situation in Britain could fuel uncertainty... over the ratification of the accord," he said.

    Philippe said the withdrawal agreement was a "step forward", but must be ratified by Britain's parliament as well as the parliaments of the European Union and the 27 other EU member states.

  • 11:34

    This just in from Cliff Taylor:

    “No surprise that Dominic Raab’s resignations and the political turmoil in London has send sterling sliding. The UK currency has risen and fallen as the Brexit talks ebbed and flowed, rising earlier this week as a withdrawal agreement came into view.

    “The fall back towards 88.5p sterling means it is getting back into danger territory for Irish exporters. But the real worry here will be a further drop as the turmoil and uncertainty builds. As stand sterling is down around 1.6 per cent on the day at 88.42p against the euro.”

  • 11:34
  • 11:41

    Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said there are “no easy choices”.

    “The early sections of the protocol make it clear there is nothing in the agreement that looks to infringe the territorial integrity of the UK or undermine the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.

  • 11:42

    Theresa May said has said she shares the concerns of those who believe a Brexit backstop to avoid a border on the island of Ireland impinges on British sovereignty, but that it was an improvement on previous proposals.

    "The references to the backstop do raise some difficult issues," she has told parliament.

    "I fully accept that across the house, there are concerns in relation to the backstop. Indeed, I share some of those concerns.”

  • 11:46
    It gets worse for UK premier Theresa May as Jacob Rees-Mogg has indirectly called for a vote of no confidence in her.
  • 11:47
  • 11:52

    May is still battling away in the Commons.

    She denies the UK will be more isolated after Brexit.

    There is “no sense” of that, she reiterates.

  • 11:55

    Former minister Mark Francois has urged May to “accept the political reality of the situation” as he noted more than 80 Tory MPs opposed her deal.

    “Prime Minister, the whole house accepts that you have done your best. But the Labour Party has made plain today that they will vote against this deal, the SNP will vote against it, the Liberals will vote against it, the DUP will vote against it — our key ally in this place will vote against it, over 80 Tory backbenchers — well, it’s 84 now and it’s going up by the hour — will vote against it.

    “It is therefore mathematically impossible to get this deal through the House of Commons.”

    Francois added the deal was “dead on arrival” before the PM made her speech, adding: “I plead with you to accept the political reality of the situation you now face.”

    Tory former minister Sir Nicholas Soames could be heard saying “sit down” as Francois spoke.

  • 12:04
  • 12:07

    If you’re confused about what’s going on, you’re not the only one.

    Fortunately, Simon Carswell has pulled together this explainer on all things Brexit so you can impress all your friends.

  • 12:09

    Britain is facing chaos if politicians pull down the “only deal on the table” for its withdrawal from the European Union, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

    Northern Ireland is being offered the “best of both worlds” with unfettered access to both Britain and the EU under the draft deal, he said.

    There will be “minimal checks” on goods coming into the North from Britain to ensure no border controls are needed on the island of Ireland, but these would not impact “significantly” on trade.

    “It is important to say there are already checks between Britain and Northern Ireland,” Mr Coveney told RTÉ Radio One.

  • 12:12

    A group of Northern Ireland politicians are meeting the Taoiseach in Dublin to discuss the draft Brexit deal.

    Sinn Féin’s leader for Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill, SDLP leader Colm Eastwood, The Alliance Party’s Stephen Farry and Green Party leader Steven Agnew are attending a joint meeting with Leo Varadkar from 10am.

    O’Neill said that the group in Dublin represented the majority of Northern Ireland on a cross-community basis.

    “It’s a very fluid situation, and I think it’ll be a very interesting day.

    “For us, we want to remain in the customs union and the single market and we want protections for the Good Friday Agreement, our message is as consistent today as it was yesterday.”

    The Taoiseach added that he had not spoken to DUP leader Arlene Foster on Wednesday but said: “The door is always open and the phone is always on.”

    More here.

  • 12:15

    Influential magazine the Economist is saying the case for another vote on Brexit is “gaining strength”.

    “Support for one is no longer confined to a motley group of die-hards, no-hopers and eccentrics,” it says.

  • 12:17
  • 12:20

    Apart from unionist parties, there seems to be broad welcome for the agreement in Northern Ireland.

    Following talks with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin, Steven Agnew of the Northern Ireland Green Party has said:

    “We came here to try and achieve the best possible deal for Northern Ireland, and with the backstop proposals I think we’ve done that.

    “We’ve alleviated the worst fears of what could result for our people from Brexit. We need people in Westminster to put away their political differences, to come together, to ensure this backstop and ensure there will be no hard border.”

  • 12:29

    George Osborne, the former Tory politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer under prime minister David Cameron from 2010 to 2016, is now editor of the Evening Standard newspaper.

    He has just tweeted an editorial from the paper declaring the “deal is dead”.

    “Theresa May was right when she told the nation last night: ‘When you strip away the detail, the choice before us is clear: this deal, or leave with no deal, or no Brexit at all’.

    “This morning one of those options disappeared. The deal she has struck with the EU is dead.

    “The resignation this morning of Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Welfare Secretary Esther McVey and two junior ministers essentially kills it off. Others may follow.”

  • 12:31

    Osborne says that while Downing Street will claim the deal is still alive, the agreement “lives only in the way that a headless chicken still has a few steps forward left in it”.

    He says the departures of Raab and McVey make it now impossible for the deal to pass through the House of Commons in its current form.

    “It also makes a leadership challenge to Theresa May much more probable - and any candidate to replace her could not win on a platform which supported her current deal.”

  • 12:36

    Some of the UK media is now reporting that Michael Gove, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, has been offered the Brexit secretary job.

    There was talk of him resigning from government about a half an hour ago.

    Suggestion seems to be that he’s been offered the job as a sweetener to keep him onside.

    Gove was a onetime challenger to Theresa May when he ran against her for the prime minister’s job after Cameron resigned on the back of losing the Brexit referendum.

  • 12:41
  • 12:43
    Theresa May has dismissed suggestions she should step aside after Labour’s Mike Gapes asked: “Isn’t it time she recognised reality and after all the prodigious efforts stood aside for someone else who could take this country forward in a united way?”
  • 12:46

    It just keeps getting better for Theresa May.

    Scottish Nationalist Party leader Nicola Sturgeon says Brexit has strengthened the case for Scottish independence.

    She says she has “no doubt” what Scots will choose “when the time comes”.

  • 12:48

    Dominic Raab has been explaining his resignation to the BBC.

    He said he believed Theresa May should stay on as Prime Minister but change course over Brexit.

    “I have been fighting for a good Brexit deal but the terms proposed to the Cabinet yesterday had two major and fatal flaws,” he said.

    “The first is that the terms being offered by the EU threaten the integrity of the UK. The second is that they would lead to an indefinite, if not permanent, situation where we are locked into a regime with no say over the rules and the laws being applied, with no exit mechanism.

    “I think that will be damaging for the economy but devastating for public trust in our democracy.”

    He said he still respected the prime minister and held her in “high esteem” adding: “I think she should continue but I do think we need to change course on Brexit.”

  • 12:50

    Dominic Raab is a black belt in karate, in case you’re interested.

    I’m sure there’s some pun to be made there, but I can’t think of one.

    If you’d like to contribute to the debate by the way, you can tweet me @ColinGleesonIT

  • 12:51
  • 13:03

    Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said the deal involved “compromise and flexibility on both sides”.

    “What we have is a deal and text that follows through on the commitments that have been made and does so in a way that protects Ireland’s core interests now and into the future in way we can all stand over, I hope.”

    Coveney said that “of course there are challenges” in selling any package in the United Kingdom and Westminster.

    “Many people would say there isn’t a majority for any way forward in the House of Commons and so the British Prime Minister said last night that she faces difficult days ahead, and I’m sure she does.”

  • 13:04

    Coveney rejected the suggestion that ministers were talking too much about the deal, arguing the Government had a duty to reassure people about what it contained.

    “Because there are many people out there who are very sceptical that it was possible to get this deal done and it is the role of government to explain to people in appropriate language why this deal is no threat to nationalism or unionism in Northern Ireland,” he said.

    “Why it is no threat to the sovereign integrity of the United Kingdom but instead this is practical compromise on all sides to allow for a managed, sensible Brexit to move forward in a way that protects core Irish interests and ensure we are not collateral damage from an unmanaged Brexit deal that doesn’t take into account the interests of Britain’s neighbours, as well as Britain itself.”

  • 13:09

    Brexit-backing Tories in Jacob Rees-Mogg ‘s European Research Group have gathered for a meeting in Parliament.

    We’re hearing that a loud banging of tables could be heard from outside as the meeting of the group began.

    Rees-Mogg’s spokesman has confirmed he will submit a letter of no confidence in Theresa May today.

    A challenge is triggered if 48 Conservatives write such letters. May could be toppled if 158 of her 315 lawmakers vote against her.

  • 13:12

    Theresa May’s official spokesman has said she expects to remain in power and will fight any leadership challenge.

    He confirmed she had spoken to Dominic Raab, whom some have suggested may be plotting a heave against her, by phone before he announced his resignation.

    “We’re having to confront some very difficult issues and she doesn’t shy away from that,” he said.

    “Obviously given the difficulties of the issues, she respects the integrity of her colleagues and thanks those who have resigned for their service.

    “At the same time, whatever their criticisms, the PM is absolutely clear that the withdrawal agreement delivers what the people of this country voted for in 2016.”

  • 13:14
  • 13:17
    The DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson has said the deal was a case of “Northern Ireland being put on a platter as an object to surrender to the EU”.
  • 13:20

    During Dáil exchanges in Dublin, Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty has criticised the DUP for using “incendiary, rash and ostentatious rhetoric” in regard to the deal.

    He has claimed the unionist party represent a minority “narrow” view in Northern Ireland, where 56 per cent of people voted to remain.

    Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said he does not want the debate north of the border to break down to majorities versus minorities.

    “I hope it’s not going to be about a majority versus a minority in Northern Ireland trying to win the argument against each other in the weeks ahead,” he said.

    “We need to ensure that majorities as well as minorities in Northern Ireland are reassured that any wording of a legal treaty relating to Brexit is not a threat to them and we can try to protect, where possible, the status quo on this island.”

  • 13:22

    Back in London, Alistair Burt, a junior minister in Britain's Foreign Office, has urged his Conservative colleagues not to submit letters of no confidence in Theresa May.

    Burt was speaking outside that meeting of influential eurosceptic Conservative lawmakers, including Jacob Rees-Mogg.

    Asked what he would say to those considering putting letters in, Burt said: "Please don't. We have a leader, she's worked incredibly hard on the most difficult deal."

  • 13:26

    Apparently there are differences of opinion (imagine) within Rees Mogg’s European Research Group on the issue of trying to unseat Theresa May.

    The British media is reporting that a minister walked past where the group is meeting and was less than impressed with that was going on inside.

    “We are working our socks off and they are doing everything they can to detonate it,” he said.

    Another, leaving the meeting, said: “If this coup d’etat succeeds, what happens then? The best way to defeat this deal is to defeat it in parliament, in my view.”

  • 13:28
  • 13:32
    Boris Johnson has left the meeting without responding to questions about whether he would call for a no-confidence vote in Theresa May.
  • 13:32

    MP Simon Clarke has submitted a letter calling for a vote of no confidence in May.

    Leaving the meeting of eurosceptics, he said Jacob Rees-Mogg “simply said what you would expect him to say: that this is a very difficult decision, that there is no question this weighs heavily on all of us, it is not where we want to be but in light of where the Government’s position now is”.

    “That is the stance he takes”.

  • 13:37

    Remember, a challenge is triggered if 48 Conservatives write such letters. May could be toppled if 158 of her 315 lawmakers vote against her.

    We have the full text of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s letter.

    It says May’s Brexit deal “has turned out to be worse than anticipated and fails to meet the promises given to the nation by the prime minister”.

  • 13:38
    He writes:  

    “A few weeks ago, in a conversation with the chief whip I expressed my concern that the prime minister, Mrs Theresa May, was losing the confidence of Conservative members of parliament and that it would be in the interest of the party and the country if she were to stand aside.

    “I have wanted to avoid the disagreeable nature of a formal vote of no confidence with all the ill will that this risks engendering.

    “Regrettably, the draft Withdrawal Agreement presented to parliament today has turned out to be worse than anticipated and fails to meet the promises given to the nation by the prime minister, either on her own account or on behalf of us all in the Conservative Party manifesto.”

  • 13:39

    He continues:

    “That the Conservative and Unionist Party is proposing a protocol which would create a different regulatory environment for an integral part of our country stands in contradistinction to our long-held principles.

    “It is in opposition to the prime minister’s clear statements that this was something that no prime minister would ever do and raises questions in relation to Scotland that are open to exploitation by the Scottish National Party.

    “The 2017 election manifesto said that the United Kingdom would leave the customs union.

    “It did not qualify this statement by saying that we could stay in it via a backstop while Annex 2, Article 3 explicitly says that we would have no authority to set our own tariffs.

    “It is also harder to leave this backstop than it is to leave the EU, there is no provision equivalent to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.”

  • 13:41

    Rees-Mogg concludes his letter with a call to withhold the money the UK owes the EU.

    “The Prime Minister also promised an implementation period which was the reason for paying £39 billion.

    “As was made clear by a House of Lords report in March 2017 there is no legal obligation to pay anything. This has now become an extended period of negotiation which is a different matter.

    “The situation as regards the European Court of Justice appears to have wandered from the clear statement that we are taking back control of our laws. Article 174 makes this clear as does Article 89 in conjunction with Article 4.

    “It is of considerable importance that politicians stick to their commitments or do not make such commitments in the first place.

    “Regrettably, this is not the situation. Therefore, in accordance with the relevant rules and procedures of the Conservative Party and the 1922 Committee this is a formal letter of no confidence in the leader of the party, the Rt Hon Theresa May.”

  • 13:42
    George Osborne's Evening Standard reporting that Michael Gove has turned down the plum Brexit secretary job.
  • 13:47

    Jacob Rees-Mogg is talking to reporters now after leaving the meeting of the European Research Group.

    “This is nothing to do with personal ambition,” he says.

    Asked would he hypothetically be offering himself as leader, he says: “No.”

  • 13:50

    It looks like Rees Mogg is being heckled by passers-by as he speaks.

    There are cries of “No Brexit!”

  • 13:51

    He helpfully points out that the UK is a democracy.

    “That’s why these splendid people can shout away,” he says.

  • 13:52
  • 13:56

    Rees Mogg said the number of letters calling for a vote of no confidence was growing, and that “unexpected people” were submitting calls for the vote.

    He said he thinks they will get the 48 Conservative letters needed to trigger the vote, but admits it will be bad for him if they don’t.

  • 13:59

    Prominent eurosceptic Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns, who previously threatened to trigger a leadership contest over May’s Brexit plans, has tweeted:

    “From what MPs are telling me, more letters have gone in. I have even had current ministers tell me that in a vote of no confidence they would vote Theresa May out. She can fight it. But I am confident she will not win it. Time to save Brexit and our party with a new leader.”

  • 14:01

    Rees Mogg said a change in leadership could happen in weeks rather than months.

    He declined to name his preferred candidate for leader but listed Boris Johnson, David Davis, Dominic Raab, Esther McVey and Penny Mordaunt as potential candidates to succeed May.

  • 14:05

    Analysts from US bank Citi have said the UK is now more likely to either stay in the European Union or leave without a deal rather than accept the terms presented by Theresa May.

    "In terms of outcomes, we see either 'Never Brexit' or a no deal Brexit - the two best and worst outcomes for the UK economy and markets - respectively, as considerably more likely than a successful vote on the current deal," Citi analysts Tina Fordham and Christian Schulz wrote.

  • 14:06
    Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House of Commons, has said she will not be resigning over Theresa May’s deal.
  • 14:08
    Events in London and Brussels made headlines all over the world this morning.
  • 14:12

    Events in London have reinforce=d uncertainties over the future of the UK’s advertising market, the co-chief executive of outdoor advertising company JCDecaux has said.

    "The situation is obviously very serious," Jean-Charles Decaux said. "Today's events reinforce the uncertainties in this market."

    JCDecaux, the world's leading outdoor advertising company, manages the bus shelter advertising concession by Transport for London (TfL). Britain is its third biggest market and represents 10 percent of its total revenues.

  • 14:19
  • 14:26
    Another letter calling for a vote of no confidence in Theresa May.
  • 14:32

    Resigners and Remainers

    Andrea Leadsom, the Commons Leader, who attends Cabinet as part of her role, hit back after her SNP counterpart Pete Wishart joked she had upset his “Brexit resignation bingo coupon”, adding: “I had her definitely down as a resigner.”

    Leadsom replied: “Normally I’m very happy to entertain (Mr Wishart’s) banter but I think all he’s done today is to demonstrate he’s not very good at bingo.”

    She added: “I am staying in Government because there is more work to be done to get the Brexit that the prime minister wants to deliver to the people, and therefore I am determined to support her to do that.

    “Now, him bantering about it and mocking it is all very well, but he doesn’t suggest anything else and his party has form for ignoring the will of a referendum in Scotland that voted to stay in the United Kingdom.”

  • 14:35
  • 14:37

    Irish stocks have slumped the most in western Europe today amid all this turmoil and the concern that the UK could be set to crash out of the EU without a deal.

    The benchmark ISEQ fell 2.2 per cent at 12.15pm in Dublin, with Ryanair and Bank of Ireland were each down about 5 per cent.

    “The challenge of getting the deal passed through Cabinet was one thing, but getting a majority vote in Parliament is a different beast, as the numbers seemingly don’t add up to have the deal voted through,” Alexander Wilson, an analyst at Goodbody Stockbrokers in Dublin, wrote in a note to investors.

  • 14:40
    In other news, Where's Wally has been found.
  • 14:43

    Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan has said Rees-Mogg’s intervention was “deeply destructive” for the government and for the Conservative Party.

    “If this government is undermined further, we could destroy the government, we could significantly damage and even destroy the Conservative Party,” he said. “This could lead us to being almost ungovernable for a bit.”

  • 14:51
  • 14:59

    So, to recap.

    Britain’s plans to exit the European Union are in turmoil amid a series of senior resignations and the threat of a challenge to the leadership of British prime minister Theresa May.

    In the wake of the publication of a draft withdrawal agreement, Brexit-backing Tories in the European Research Group gathered for a meeting in the British parliament.

    A loud banging of tables could be heard from outside as the meeting of the group, chaired by staunch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg.

    Rees-Mogg was to submit a letter of no confidence in May on Thursday, a spokesman for the group said.

    A challenge to her leadership is triggered if 48 Tories write such letters. May could be toppled if 158 of her Conservative MPs vote against her in any motion of no-confidence.

    A number of backbench MPs said they were writing to the chairman of the 1922 Committee seeking a vote of no confidence in the prime minister.

    You can read our main story here.

  • 15:11
    Another one down...
  • 15:14

    The Daily Telegraph is reporting that Michael Gove is still mulling whether to quit Theresa May’s cabinet.

    It is also saying that he will only become May’s new Brexit secretary if he can renegotiate her deal and the November 25th summit is shelved.

  • 15:16
    This is from ITV's political editor.
  • 15:25

    The Scottish Parliament will vote on Britain's Brexit deal before it goes to the House of Commons in London, according to the pro-independence government in Edinburgh.

    The blueprint for leaving the European Union must first be approved at a summit in Brussels on November 25th before going to the UK legislature.

    Scottish lawmakers don't have the power to stop it, though could add to the chorus of disapproval.

  • 15:27
  • 15:33

    Prisons Minister Rory Stewart earlier had to perform what may be one of the fastest U-turns in British politics.

    Stewart, a Theresa May loyalist, was pulled up by BBC Radio 5’s Emma Barnett when he claimed in an interview that “80 per cent of the British public support this deal”.

    Asked to back up this claim, he first asked for a chance to “get the language right”, before saying he had been “producing a number to try to illustrate what I believe” because “the people who are rejecting this are 10% on either fringe”.

    He then had to admit he did not know how many of the public backed Mrs May’s deal, the text of which had only been in the public domain a matter of hours.

    Ms Barnett said: “OK, well we went from 80 per cent of people supporting it, to us not knowing yet.

    “I think it’s a dangerous game when politicians pretend that they know exactly how the people are feeling.”

  • 15:38
  • 15:48
    We understand there is a press conference with Theresa May scheduled for 5pm.
  • 15:50

    A pottery firm from Yorkshire has gone viral after one of its potters made a Brexit-themed mug — complete with holes in its sides.

    Lee Cartledge of Bentham Pottery in Ingleton created the mug featuring the word “Brexit” in lettering which sabotages its ability to carry liquid.

    “You always associate cups of tea with the British public and it was quite an inoffensive way to explain how I felt about the whole Brexit scenario,” Mr Cartledge has said. “It looks brilliant but when you actually use it it’s not so good.”

  • 15:52
    Here's a picture of it.
  • 15:59

    European Council president Donald Tusk has appeared to express the hope that Brexit could still be averted.

    “The EU is prepared for a final deal with the United Kingdom in November,” he told a news conference in Brussels.

    “We are also prepared for a no-deal scenario but of course we are best prepared for a no-Brexit scenario.”

  • 16:00
  • 16:03
    German chancellor Angela Merkel earlier said she was "very happy that, after lengthy and not always easy negotiations, a proposal could be reached".
  • 16:27
  • 16:33

    Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has urged political colleagues to “get behind the Prime Minister”.

    Bradley, a firm Theresa May ally, met with senior business figures in Belfast in a bid to convince them of the merits of the deal.

    “It’s very clear from the conversations that I have just had that actually what businesses and people in Northern Ireland want is politicians to come together and do the right thing, think about the national interest and support the deal so we can leave the European Union on March 29th next year in a measured, organised, co-ordinated way that is right for the United Kingdom and the people of Northern Ireland,” she said.

  • 16:34

    In a press conference, Bradley was asked if the events at Westminster resembled a “car crash”.

    “I wouldn’t describe it that way at all,” she replied. “I would describe it as a very difficult decision and Government takes difficult decisions and this is probably one of the most difficult decisions that Government faces.

    “It’s not easy, nobody ever said this would be easy, but the cabinet has decided and those people who served very, very well as secretaries of state and ministers who have decided they can’t support the deal, well quite rightly collective responsibility requires them to support the deal and therefore they have to leave government.

    “But the majority of the cabinet is behind it, the remaining members of the cabinet are absolutely behind this deal and what we need to do now is get behind the prime minister and get that deal sorted in the November (European) Council.”

  • 16:38

    Wall Street is reportedly finding it harder to trade sterling as the drama surrounding Brexit hammers the British currency.

    "The news flow is far from over, the market is still short and any good news sees violent pops, which is met by selling from a very sceptical investor base," Jefferies foreign-exchange head Brad Bechtel wrote in a note.

    The British currency "remains relatively untradeable at the moment, but I think the preference in the market is to hammer rallies still".

  • 16:43
  • 16:45

    UK premier is due to speak to the media in about 15 minutes.

    We’ll bring you her comments when we get them.

  • 16:50

    British financial regulators were in contact with major banks today asking for feedback on market conditions after the pound and financial stocks sank, sources said.

    One source who declined to be identified said the call was a direct request from Bank of England governor Mark Carney.

    A different source close to the Bank of England said the central bank had not held any conference call with major banks, though normal contacts between its regulators and banks had continued as usual.

  • 16:56
    Some interesting polls coming in from Sky.
  • 16:57
  • 16:57
  • 17:05
    The scene is set for May's press conference.
  • 17:10
    Confusion abound in London, just for a change.
  • 17:13

    Meanwhile, EU officials have warned those calling for Theresa May to go back to Brussels that the negotiators have "exhausted the margin of manoeuvre" in the talks and the draft deal is "the best we can do".

    "[As] negotiators, we are happy to stand over the agreement, and we think it is the best we can do collectively with the constraints that we have on both sides," the official said.

    Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, was said by the head of the Greens in the European parliament, Philippe Lambert, to have told all the party leaders in Strasbourg on Thursday that the deal was the best available given the UK's demands and Brussels' red-lines.

    Earlier in the day, the European parliament's Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt had told the BBC: "There is not a lot of room for manoeuvre to say, 'OK, let's start again'."

  • 17:17

    On Thursday morning, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said he would gather leaders for a Brexit meeting "unless something extraordinary happens".

    When asked about the resignations in London, Tusk said: "It is not for me to comment on the latest developments in London ... the EU is prepared for a final deal with the United Kingdom. We are also prepared for a no-deal scenario - but of course we are best prepared for a no-Brexit scenario."

  • 17:20

    Still no sign of Theresa May at the press conference, and still no clarity on whether it will go ahead.

  • 17:25
    May has arrived at the podium and is addressing the media now.
  • 17:26

    Safety and security is at stake she says.

    She says she is acting in the national interest, not a partisan interest and certainly not in her personal interest.

    She is sorry for those who have left office today and says she is sure the course she has plotted is the right one for the UK.

  • 17:28

    She says free movement is ended, vast annual payments stopped, the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice gone too.

    The agreement protects the integrity of the UK and peace in Northern Ireland.

  • 17:29

    Difficult and uncomfrtable decisions had to be taken, but the deal delivers what people voted for and is in the national interest, she argues in slow and measured tones.

    If the UK doesn’t move forward with the agreement, nobody knows what will happen.

    It would be to take a path of deep uncertainty, which is “not what the British people want”.

  • 17:31

    May is taking questions now.

    The BBC has asked her is it not the case that she is in office but not in power.

    May says she is going to do her job to get the best vote for the British people.

    She says the parliament will now have to do its job in terms of passing the deal.

    She says MPs will be “held to account” by their constituents.

  • 17:31
    “Am I going to see this through?” May asks rhetorically. “Yes.”
  • 17:33

    “Nobody has produced any alternative which delivers Brexit and ensures there is no hard border on the island of Ireland,” she says.

    “All the other approaches would require a backstop,” she continues. “Repudiating on that would not only renege on a promise to Ireland but it would collapse the talks with the EU.”

  • 17:36

    A Bloomberg reporter has asked May: “Isn’t it time to say what you really thing? Which is that the Brexit campaign offered things that were never there?”

    May replies that everyone knew it would not be easy to unravel decades of cooperation. People knew it was complex, but expect the government to deliver on a deal to protect their interests.

  • 17:38

    Another reporter asks: “You say the deal is in the national interest, yet your party is divided. Are you prepared to risk the break-up of your party?”

    May says she has committed to bringing the best deal back, and that she will be doing that. “The deal will protect jobs, security and the integrity of the UK.”

  • 17:40

    A Telegraph reporter is asking about the offer of the Brexit secretary job to Michael Gove and the suggestion he wouldn’t take it unless he can renegotiate the deal.

    “I’ve had a rather busy day as you might have seen,” she says. “Three hours in the House of Commons. Michael has been doing an excellent job.”

    Asked what she’ll do if there’s a vote of no confidence in her, she says she is going to “see it through”.

  • 17:41
    “The deal we have is the right one to proceed with,” she says. It means the talks can move on to the next stage.
  • 17:43

    Another reporter is asking about the potential for “no Brexit”.

    She says the parliament voted overwhelmingly to give the people a vote on Brexit, who in turn voted to leave.

    “It is our duty as a government and our duty as MPs to deliver it,” she says. “And we will be leaving on March 29th.”

  • 17:44

    May has called a reporter by the wrong name, which brings some much needed comic relief.

    She puts her hand to her forehead and laughs.


  • 17:47

    There will not be a second referendum, she says (again).

    “If you look across the House of Commons, yes there have been some voices for a second referendum, but I believe when people actually look at the final deal we bring back from the European Council, they will see we have delivered on the will of the people and protected the interests of their constituents.”

  • 17:49

    Another reporter asks May whether she regrets calling the general election last year which stripped the Tories of their overall majority and left them depending on the support of the DUP to govern.

    May laughs a little, and says: “No I don’t regret calling a general election last year.”

    At least she managed to keep a straight face as she got the answer out.

    The final question was cricket-themed (apparently she’s a fan), but I couldn’t make head nor tail of it.

  • 17:52

    Some more quotes now from May’s press conference:

    "My approach throughout has been to put the national interest first - not a partisan interest and certainly not my own political interest. I do not judge harshly those of my colleagues who seek to do the same but who reach a different conclusion.

    “They must do what they believe to be right, just as I do. I'm sorry that they've chosen to leave the government and I thank them for their service. But I believe with every fibre of my being that the course I've set out is right for our country and all our people."

  • 17:55
  • 17:55

    More from May a little while ago:

    “Serving in high office is an honour and privilege. It is also a heavy responsibility - that is true at any time but especially when the stakes are so high.

    “And negotiating the UK's withdrawal from the EU after 40 years and building from the ground up a new and enduring relationship for the good of our children and grandchildren is a matter of the highest consequence.

    “It touches almost every area of our national life - our whole economy and virtually every job, the livelihoods of our fellow citizens, our integrity as a United Kingdom of four nations, our safety and security - all of these are at stake.”

  • 17:58

    More from May. These bits are from her prepared statement before she started taking questions from reporters.

    “From the very beginning, I have known what I wanted to deliver for the British people to honour their vote in the referendum.

    “Full control of our borders, by bringing an end to the free movement of people - once and for all.

    “Full control of our money, so we decide ourselves how to spend it on priorities like our NHS.

    “Full control of our laws, by ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the United Kingdom.

    “Getting us out of the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy for good.

    “That is exactly what this agreement will deliver.”

  • 17:59

    “This is a Brexit that delivers on the priorities of the British people.

    “In achieving these objectives, I am also determined to protect the things that are important to us.

    “Protect the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs that put food on the tables of working families right across the UK.

    “Those jobs rely on cross-border trade in goods, with parts flowing easily in and out of the UK allowing for integrated supply chains.

    “This agreement protects that.”

  • 18:00
    The deputy political editor of the Times believes there may be more drama to come tonight.
  • 18:08
    That’s it from me, but don’t go anywhere. My colleague Dan Griffin will be bringing you reaction to May’s conference and any more updates right here for the next while.
  • 18:39
    On the Six One News, Simon Coveney says the job of the Government now is to defend and explain the Brexit agreement. He says that hardlin Brexiters are being confronted with the reality of Brexit, which is not nearly as simple as they sold it to be.
  • 18:46

    Coveney said it appeared that UK politicians dismissed the draft agreement without reading it and that the concerns held by Brexiteers were simply a reflection of the realities of the process.

    “I would encourage people to actually read the deal. People were out rejecting it before it was even published,” he told RTE News.

    He stressed again that the contentious backstop requirement was a “last resort” insurance policy that would ideally never be used.

    “What is happening in Westminster right now is that hard-line Brexiteers in particular are now being confronted with the reality of Brexit which is nothing as simple as they sold it to be,” he said.  

  • 18:57
    Theresa May has vowed to see the  Brexit  deal through and warned a political failure to support it would bring about unpredictable consequences, writes Mark Hilliard.
  • 19:20
    That's where we'll leave it today. Thanks for following our Brexit coverage.