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Government hits back at EU claims it has no fresh plan, saying proposals for Irish border 'clear as day'

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Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
@BenKentish
Thursday 07 March 2019 16:34
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Jeremy Corbyn 'reaches out' to Tory MPs over Brexit

The government has hit back at EU claims that it has not put forward a fresh Brexit plan, with just days left to secure changes to the Irish backstop ahead of crunch votes next week.

Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, insisted the UK had put forward proposals that were “clear as day”.

It came after French foreign minister Nathalie Loiseau and Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar both claimed the UK was yet to put forward a new proposal.

MPs will vote again on Theresa May's Brexit deal next week, with new concessions on the backstop seen as crucial to securing Tory MPs’ backing for the plan.

As it happened...

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Welcome to today's live coverage from Westminster.

Benjamin Kentish7 March 2019 08:53
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Jeremy Corbyn met with Tory MPs Sir Oliver Letwin and Nick Boles yesterday in a bid to forge a cross-party consensus on a softer Brexit deal that could win a majority in the Commons.

Writing in today's Daily Mirror, the Labour leader said he was "more certain than ever that we can find a way to work across parliament to force the government to back a sensible Brexit plan that protects jobs".

He said:

"I will continue to reach out to get a decent Brexit deal so our country can spend more time talking about our children's future than a customs union.

"Labour respects the result of the referendum and a close economic relationship is the best Brexit compromise for both 17 million Leave voters and 16 million Remain voters.

"But we can't accept a damaging Tory Brexit or a no deal outcome, so we also support preparing for a public vote in case parliament is not able to achieve a sensible Brexit.

"We will do whatever we can to find a solution that can unite the country so, together, we can face down the real challenges and seize the opportunities in this moment of great change."

Benjamin Kentish7 March 2019 09:10
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Benjamin Kentish7 March 2019 09:20
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  ↵EU negotiators have given the UK just 48 hours to come up with a new proposal on the Irish backstop, with time fast running out for an agreement to be reached

Benjamin Kentish7 March 2019 09:32
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There are reports swirling around this morning that the equalities watchdog could be on the verge of launching an inquiry into antisemitism in Labour.

Jewish groups have previously handed files of complaints to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and are awaiting a formal response. 

We'll of course keep an eye on this and bring you the latest as soon as it happens.

Benjamin Kentish7 March 2019 09:43
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  ↵ BREAKING: The Equalities and Human Rights Commission says is believes Labour "may have unlawfully discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs""

Benjamin Kentish7 March 2019 10:00
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A spokesperson for the Equalities and Human Rights Commission said: 

“We believe Labour may have unlawfully discriminated against people because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs. Our concerns are sufficient for us to consider using our statutory enforcement powers. As set out in our enforcement policy, we are now engaging with the Labour Party to give them an opportunity to respond.”

Benjamin Kentish7 March 2019 10:11
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Answering questions from MPs in the Commons, Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, says he has had "focused, detailed, and careful discussions" with the EU and adds: "We continue to seek legally-binding changes to the backstop which ensure that it cannot be indefinite."

Negotiations with Brussels "will be resumed shortly", he said. 

Benjamin Kentish7 March 2019 10:28
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Speaking in the Commons, Geoffrey Cox hits back at EU suggestions that the government has not put forward a clear proposal for changes to the Irish backstop.

He tells MPs:

"We are discussing detailed, coherent, careful proposals. We are discussing texts with the European Union. I am surprised to hear the comments that have emerged over the last 48 hours that the proposals are not clear. They are as clear as day and we are continuing to discuss them."

Benjamin Kentish7 March 2019 10:35
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Labour has responded to the EHRC's announcement that it is looking into whether the party discriminated against people based on their ethnicity and religious beliefs. 

A Labour spokesperson said:

“We completely reject any suggestion the party has acted unlawfully and will be cooperating fully with the EHRC.

Labour is fully committed to the support, defence and celebration of the Jewish community and its organisations."

Antisemitism complaints received since April 2018 relate to about 0.1 per cent of our membership, but one antisemite in our party is one too many. We are determined to tackle antisemitism and root it out of our party."

Benjamin Kentish7 March 2019 10:46

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