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Brexit news - live updates: Theresa May holds unscheduled talks with European Commission president Juncker 'at her request'

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Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
,Benjamin Kentish
Friday 18 January 2019 15:15 GMT
Theresa May leaves Downing Street after Cabinet meetings

Theresa May has held talks with the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, amid the chaos over Brexit and as Whitehall chiefs have reportedly been ordered to draw up contingency plans for a snap general election.

It came as the brinkmanship over cross-party talks over Brexit continued in Westminster and claims the civil service chief, Sir Mark Sedwill, had told departmental heads to be prepared for an snap election.

Theresa May, however, has consistently said there will be no general election before 2022, and earlier this week said it would be the “worst thing we could do” and “bring chaos when we need certainty” as she urged the Commons to reject a no confidence motion brought by the Labour leader.

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Ashley Cowburn18 January 2019 08:27

Britain has been urged to stay in the EU by more than a dozen high-profile Germans, including the frontrunner to succeed Angela Merkel as the next chancellor. 

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Airbus chief Tom Enders and former Germany footballer Jens Lehmann are among the signatories of a letter to The Times that makes an impassioned plea for Britons to remain part of the bloc.

"From the bottom of our hearts, we want them to stay," the sentimental letter says, citing milky tea and post-work pints at the pub among the habits best-loved by German Anglophiles.

But it is the UK's role in post-war Europe that the signatories highlight as a foremost reason for wanting Britain to stay.

"Without your great nation, this Continent would not be what it is today: a community defined by freedom and prosperity," the letter says.

"After the horrors of the Second World War, Britain did not give up on us. It has welcomed Germany back as a sovereign nation and a European power.

"This we, as Germans, have not forgotten and we are grateful."

Ashley Cowburn18 January 2019 08:30

As the brinkmanship over cross-party talks over Brexit continued in Westminster, reports have emerged that the civil service chief, Sir Mark Sedwill, has told departmental heads to be prepared for an snap election, according to the Daily Mail. 

The newspaper said the civil service chief has met with senior officials this week, following the historic defeat of Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the Commons on Tuesday - forcing her her to open talks with other parties.

Asked about the report, a Cabinet office spokesperson told The Independent: “The Cabinet secretary frequently meets permanent secretaries to discuss a wide range of issues.”

Ms May, however, has consistently said there will be no general election before 2022, and earlier this week said it would be the “worst thing we could do” and  “bring chaos when we need certainty” as she urged the Commons to reject a no confidence motion.

It comes as Mr Corbyn has in recent days set Labour on an election war-footing, with a rally on Thursday in Hastings - the seat of the work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, who held the constituency by a wafer thin majority at the 2017 snap election. 

Ashley Cowburn18 January 2019 09:04
Ashley Cowburn18 January 2019 09:11

In an attempt to grab Jeremy Corbyn’s attention, young campaigners have placed an advert in one of the local newspapers - The Islington Tribune -  delivered in his constituency. 

The wrap-around reads: “Dear Jeremy, there’s no form of Brexit we can afford. Please don’t enable a Tory Brexit. Our party’s future needs a public vote”. 

It comes after the Labour leader’s apparent reluctance to back such a move in recent days, despite a vote of no confidence failing to gain a majority of MPs’ support earlier this week. 

Instead, Mr Corbyn has threatened further votes of no confidence in the government to go after the general election he craves, and has set out the red line to Theresa May over Brexit talks of taking the no-deal scenario off the table. 

Setting up a petition page, the young activists and supporters from “Our Future, Our Choice” tell Mr Corbyn: 

Today, your young activists, supporters and members have published an open letter to you in your local newspaper, the Islington Tribune (a photo of which is above). 

They are begging you not to back a second rate Tory Brexit deal that will give our generation a second rate future. They want a People's Vote. 

We agree with them that the entire Brexit project has epitomised this Conservative government’s neglect of young people. We agree it's a disgrace Theresa May cares far more about what Jacob Rees Mogg thinks than what our entire generation thinks. We agree you are the way out. 

We don't want a Brexit deal forced on our future. It's bound to limit our opportunities, and rights, and prevent us from tackling the real issues - like climate change, tackling tax evasion, and the refugee crisis.

Our generation has backed you in the past. We sang your name at Glastonbury. You told us then you wanted to build "bridges not walls." So, please, don't enable Brexit - after all, it's basically a massive wall proposed by the far right of the Tory party. 

Please back a public vote.

Ashley Cowburn18 January 2019 09:20
Ashley Cowburn18 January 2019 09:28

Reports have also emerged this morning that ministers - increasingly frustrated with the Commons speaker - are attempting to block John Bercow from getting a peerage - he would be the first speaker in decades not to do so. 

“Precedents of speakers getting peerages don’t last for ever,” one senior Conservative told The Times newspaper. 

A cabinet source said: “It’s a good job that peerage nominations are in our gift — I’m sure we’ll be thinking carefully about which individuals we would choose to elevate to the House of Lords. I can’t imagine we would look favourably on those who’ve cheated centuries of procedure.”

That said, it is also quite a confident move from Downing Street - assuming the government will still be standing when it comes to approving the peerage at a future date. 

A spokesperson for the speaker declined to comment on the report when approached by The Independent.

Ashley Cowburn18 January 2019 09:43

UKIP has posted some awkward questions for the party’s former leader, who led them into the referendum in June 2016. It comes as Nigel Farage urged Leave campaigners to prepare for a fresh vote as the stalemate over Brexit continues. 

Ashley Cowburn18 January 2019 09:55

Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt has responded to an audience of BBC's Question Time, who last night cheered the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

Ashley Cowburn18 January 2019 10:17
Ashley Cowburn18 January 2019 10:38

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