As it happenedended1532020418

Tory chief whip facing calls to resign over claims he told Conservative MPs to ignore 'pairing' agreement - as it happened

Follow live updates from Westminster

Harriet Harman calls for an end to pairing in Parliament, Theresa May responds 'The breaking of the pair was an error'

Julian Smith, the Tory chief whip, faced calls to resign over suggestions he intentionally ordered Tory MPs to defy "pairing" arrangements.

Some Conservative backbenchers joined Labour in saying he should quit if it is proved that the events that led to Brandon Lewis, the Tory chairman, breaking an agreement not to vote were intentional.

Meanwhile Dominic Raab travelled to Brussels for his first day of negotiations with the EU.

The new Brexit secretary took over from David Davis last week and has faced a difficult week as he attempts to win support for the government Brexit strategy agreed at Chequers.

One of the key sticking points in talks with Brussels is how the Northern Irish border will be managed, and Theresa May crossed the Irish Sea on Thursday to speak to residents and businesses working across the border. She was joined by Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary.

As it happened...

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Welcome to The Independent's live coverage from Westminster.

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A committee of MPs has called on the government to remove

visa restrictions on scientists wanting to come to the UK.

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Here's today's Commons order paper

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Dominic Raab has just started answering MPs questions in the Commons.

He is asked by Labour's shadow Brexit minister, Matt Pennycook, what advice the government is giving to financial services in relation to the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

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There is laughter in the Commons as John Bercow, the Speaker, confuses Conservative MP Rachel Maclean with Labour's Rachel Maskell.

He apologises, saying it was a result of his confusion rather than "their lack of distinctiveness", but Maclean gets her own back by jokingly referring to him as "Mr Deputy Speaker".

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Labour's Virendra Sharma asks Dominic Raab to guarantee he will "not use Brexit as an excuse to slash protections for minorities", given he has previously said he does not believe in economic and social rights.

Suella Braverman, one of Raab's junior ministers, says the new Brexit secretary "has a proven track record not only as a justice minister but also as a lawyer, and any attempt to undermine his credentials and commitment to the rule of law, civil liberties and now delivering a successful Brexit is fundamentally misguided".

Labour frontbencher Paul Blomfeld follows a similar theme, asking why Raab previously called Brexit an opportunity to "ditch the most burdensome EU regulations", including those that protect agency workers by giving them the same rights as full-time staff.

Braverman says the government's commitment to employment protections is "unequivocal".

She adds:

"Rights don't emanate from the EU - we have our own rich and proud tradition of civil liberties."

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Dominic Raab tells MPs he hopes to "intensify" negotiations on the future relationship with the EU, following the publication of the government's Brexit White Paper.

Responding to Tory Brexiteer John Whittingdale, he also suggests the UK could withhold its Brexit bill payment unless the EU agrees to a deal.

He says:

"As the EU says, there's no deal until the whole deal is concluded...If one party does not meet its side of the bargain, it would inevitably have consequences for the deal as a whole."

He also says staying in the EU single market and customs union would be a "breach of the referendum" and also a breach of the Tory's manifesto pledge to leave both.

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Brexiteer Peter Bone asks about rumours the government is considering asking the EU to extend the Article 50 period.

Robin Walker, a Brexit minister, denies this, saying he is happy to reassure MPs that the UK will be leaving the EU next March, as outlined in the EU Withdrawal Bill and the government's White Paper.

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The SNP's Peter Grant asks about an HM Inspectorate of Constabulary report out today, which suggests police forces should prepare for Brexit leading to a rise in hate crime.

New Brexit minister Chris Heaton-Harris says he does not believe in the slightest that Brexit will result in more hate crime.

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Jo Swinson has responded to reports that the supposed "mix-up" that saw the Tories defy pairing arrangements and her pair, Brandon Lewis, vote on crucial Brexit legislation when she had been told he would not, was not that honest mistake the government claims it was....

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