A “not” got left out of an earlier post, which I have now corrected. The Tory MP Johnny Mercer told MPs he would not back the Brexit deal. (See 5.15pm.)
And here are some highlights from the Lords Brexit debate.
Lord Trimble, the former Ulster Unionist leader and an architect of the Good Friday agreement who is now a Conservative peer, said Theresa May’s deal had “perverse” implications for Northern Ireland and had to go. He said:
It’s not the desire to leave the EU that’s causing the damage, it’s what the EU is doing by way of reprisal …
If we don’t kill the backstop and this agreement now, it’s going to haunt us for years, decades, maybe even for generations as well.
Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, the former cabinet secretary, signalled his support for a second referendum. He said:
I do not think that it is undemocratic to believe that the British people are entitled to be given the opportunity of changing their minds if they wish to do so in the light of all that has happened and all that has become known since June 2016. I also suspect that most of the British public are bored stone cold with Brexit and would like to see it go away altogether.
Here are some highlights from the Commons Brexit debate this afternoon.
The Conservative MP Johnny Mercer said he would not back Theresa May’s deal. He said:
I say to the prime minister ‘we must try again’, I don’t want no deal, and I’m afraid I believe that a second referendum would open up divisions in this country that frankly me and a lot of others in this country are sick of.
This is a seminal moment, and we must be extremely careful to get this right.
But Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chairman of the foreign affairs committee, said he would reluctantly back the deal. He said he could not support a second referendum or a no-deal Brexit. He went on:
I’m left really with only one choice.
Now I don’t say this with any joy but it is not our role to shirk responsibility, it’s not our role to avoid decisions but it’s our role to take them.
When I have excluded the impossible I’m left with only one and that, I have to say, with a very heavy heart.
There was a flurry of excitement in the office a moment ago when Sky News went live to Downing Street, where the PM was about to appear. But there no resignation statement; she was just turning on the Christmas tree lights.
Still, it’s got the Twitter commentariat going …
Sky’s Beth Rigby has more on Theresa May’s meeting with cabinet ministers early.
Tory 1922 Committee chair Graham Brady says May should delay vote unless she can provide more clarity on backstop
Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, has told BBC’s Newsnight that, unless Theresa May can provide more clarity on how the UK can leave the backstop, the Brexit vote should be postponed.
Staying in EU more popular than May’s deal or no deal Brexit, YouGov survey suggests
A few minutes ago in the Commons Sir Christopher Chope, a Tory Brexiter, confirmed that he would vote against Theresa May’s deal. Ironically his speech came only a few hours after YouGov released some new polling suggesting that Chope’s constituency, Christchurch, is one of only two in the Great Britain where voters favour May’s deal over no deal, or staying in the EU.
There have been a lot of Brexit opinion polls, but this one is probably more interesting than most because a) it has a huge sample size (more than 20,000 Britons were polled) and b) it used MRP (multi-level regression and poststratification), a technique that involves using large amounts of demographic data to predict how voters will behave in particular constituencies. YouGov used MRP before the 2017 general election to predict a hung parliament when conventional polling had the Tories on course for a big victory.
Among other things, the YouGov research shows that, if there is going to be a second referendum with multiple options, there will be an almighty row about what election system should be used. People were asked if they wanted May’s deal, a no deal Brexit, or no Brexit at all. Staying in the EU had the support of 46% of respondents, and was the first preference option in 600 constituencies.
But, using the Condorcet method (a system that ranks multiple options by testing them all out against each other one-to-one), you get a very different result. This system tends to favour the least unacceptable option, and May’s deal wins in most constituencies.
The survey also finds that, in a straight contest between no deal and May’s deal, May’s deal would win comfortable. But remain versus no deal, and remain versus May’s deal, are both fairly evenly matched.
Michael Gove, Amber Rudd, Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox left Number 10 after their meeting with the PM (see 2.18pm) without answering reporters’ questions about the vote next week, the Press Association reports.
This is from the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn.
Channel 4 has announced that broadcast a Brexit debate on Sunday. It will feature “four high profile politicians” (as yet unnamed) “reflecting the main divisions in the House of Commons on this issue, Theresa May’s Deal, a softer Brexit, a harder Brexit and People’s Vote/Remain”.
In the Commons debate Antoinette Sandbach, a Conservative, has said that she will vote for Theresa May’s Brexit deal. A pro-European, she was one of the 12 Tories who defied the party whip on the “meaningful vote” issue in December last year, triggering May’s first Commons defeat on Brexit. But she said he would back the deal because it honoured the referendum result. “It may not be perfect, but it is a good deal,” she said.
Blair praises parliament for acting as ‘shadow government’ over Brexit
Tony Blair has been speaking at a press gallery lunch. As prime minister, he was notorious for being lukewarm about parliament as an institution. He said as much in his final PMQs. But, in his speech to journalists, he said that parliament was now operating “like a shadow government” over Brexit, and that he was “heartily thankful”.
For the first time in my political memory, parliament is operating like a shadow government. It has taken effective charge of the process surrounding Brexit through the Grieve amendment, ensuring that all options can be voted upon. It has asserted itself with a vigour and clarity of purpose frankly missing from the actual government. It is articulating the different outcomes with a blatant disregard for the government mantra that it is this deal or no deal.
I am heartily thankful that parliament is doing so. There is as much leadership on the back benches as on the front. At a moment of supreme importance for the nation, with so much at stake and such bitter divisions in the population, they’re doing what I always hoped they would do: behave like leaders, recognising that at this time, party whips can’t matter more than genuine appreciation of where the national interest lies.
He also included a self-deprecatory “third way” joke.
As I have discovered every time I address groups of people on Brexit, on one thing the nation is united: do Brexit; or don’t; but no half in and half out. This is a sentiment which unites many leavers and remainers. It is a belief that Britain should determine its path to the future with confidence one way or another, not remain lost in nervous indecision. There is no acceptable third way.
Mark Drakeford has been elected as the new Welsh Labour leader, replacing Carwyn Jones, ITV’s Adrian Masters reports.
Lib Dem MP Stephen Lloyd resigns party whip to back May’s Brexit deal
The Lib Dem MP Stephen Lloyd has resigned the party whip because he is backing Theresa May’s Brexit deal, the party has announced.
A party spokesman said:
We respect what we know was a difficult decision for Stephen ahead of next week’s vote and are sorry to see him go. Liberal Democrats are clear that we will be voting against Theresa May’s deal.
The Liberal Democrats have campaigned for an exit from Brexit and a People’s Vote where people can choose to remain in the European Union since the referendum was held.
We will continue to fight for this in parliament.
Ben Weisz from BBC Sussex has more.
The Eastbourne Herald has a full story here.
The Lib Dems only have, or had, 12 MPs. So Vince Cable has lost 8.3% of his party. That would be equivalent to Theresa May losing 26 MPs, or Jeremy Corbyn losing 21 of his.