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Brexit news - live: Theresa May to fly to Brussels tomorrow for crucial talks with EU, as Juncker says breakthrough 'in God's hands'

Follow all the latest updates from Westminster

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
,Jon Sharman
Tuesday 19 February 2019 19:34
Countdown to Brexit: How many days left until Britain leaves the EU?

Theresa May is to travel to Brussels on Wednesday for crunch talks with the European Commission, as Jean-Claude Juncker said a breakthrough is in “God’s hands’.

It came after the prime minister met with her cabinet amid reports ministers told Ms May to stop using a no-deal scenario as a threat in the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

And it followed the decision by seven MPs to quit Labour on Monday – the biggest schism in the party since the formation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 1980s.

On Tuesday members of the European Research Group (ERG) also met with the PM to discuss the future of the so-called Malthouse compromise arrangement amid speculation it had been killed off.

The plan, named for MP Kit Malthouse, would see the backstop dropped and the transition period extended in exchange for the UK paying some of the financial settlement it owes Brussels.

Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker, of the ERG, said in a joint statement that the compromise was “alive and kicking”. They added: “We look forward to further developments.”

Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay had previously briefed the cabinet on his talks with Michel Barnier in Brussels on Monday, at which the EU chief negotiator voiced concerns about the viability of the Malthouse plan.

Mr Barclay is also expected to make another visit to Brussels later in the week as Britain seeks the bloc’s approval for changes to the backstop – the insurance arrangement designed to avoid a hard Irish border after Brexit by keeping the UK in a customs union until a wider trade deal is agreed.

Late on Tuesday, Mr Barnier tweeted that there was a “clear and strong unity of EU27 to preserve the withdrawal agreement in all its dimensions, including on Ireland”.

See below how we reported the events live


Welcome to The Independent's live coverage of today's events in Westminster. 

Ashley Cowburn19 February 2019 08:24
Ashley Cowburn19 February 2019 08:35
Ashley Cowburn19 February 2019 08:41

According to reports in the Guardian, senior ministers have told the prime minister she must stop using the threat of a no-deal Brexit as a negotiating position in the Brexit talks as the prime minister prepares to meet her cabinet on Tuesday morning. 

During today's session the Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay is to brief the cabinet on his latest talks with Brussels amid continuing deadlock over the Northern Ireland backstop.

Mr Barclay was said to have had a "productive" discussion with the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier in the Belgian capital on Monday.

However, it appeared that they were no closer to resolving the fraught issue of the backstop - intended to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland - which remains the main stumbling block to an agreement.

Ashley Cowburn19 February 2019 08:45
Ashley Cowburn19 February 2019 09:09

One of the MPs who quit Labour, Chuka Umunna, told ITV's Good Morning Britain on Tuesday: "We are not the SDP. This is a different century."

Asked when the group of MPs could evolve into a new centre party with a name and more members, Mr Umunna said: "I would like to see us move as quickly as possible and certainly by the end of the year, but that's my personal view."

He added: "There needs to be an alternative, so that's perfectly possible. But I don't get to determine this."

Ashley Cowburn19 February 2019 09:16
Ashley Cowburn19 February 2019 09:27

John McDonnell - the shadow chancellor and close ally of Jeremy Corbyn - has told Sky News: "We need a mammoth, massive listening exercise and (to) address some of those criticisms that have been made."

But he played down suggestions that as many as 36 Labour MPs had been considering a split.

"I don't think there is that scale, but the key issue for us - and it was made clear at the Parliamentary Labour Party, Tom Watson said it and others - the Labour leadership, and I'm part of that, we need to keep listening, bring people in, talk to them," he said.

Ashley Cowburn19 February 2019 09:32
Ashley Cowburn19 February 2019 09:54

Leaving his home in North London, Jeremy Corbyn declined to answer questions from reporters on whether more resignations from MPs are coming after seven jumped ship on Monday, creating a new grouping in the House of Commons - The Independent Group.

Ashley Cowburn19 February 2019 10:21

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