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PMQs today: Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn clash over Brexit as Tory MPs issue demands over EU deal - as it happened

All the latest updates from Westminster, as they happened

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 21 February 2018 09:41
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Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn clashed over Brexit at the first Prime Minister’s Questions since the parliamentary recess.

The Labour leader mocked David Davis' assurances that Brexit will not result in a "Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction", and asked the Prime Minister if the Government could set the bar "just a little bit higher".

Ms May reiterated her desire for a "bespoke economic partnership" with the EU amid renewed pressure from her own party as more than 60 Tory MPs signalled they could remove their support if Ms May tried to pursue a softer Brexit.

The powerful European Research Group - led by arch eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg - intervened ahead of crunch Cabinet talks on Thursday where the Prime Minister will strive to unite warring factions over the future relationship with the EU.

It comes as the Government asked the EU to consider granting the UK a longer Brexit transition period than the one proposed by Brussels.

See below for live updates

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Welcome to The Independent's politics liveblog, where we will be bringing you all the latest updates throughout the day.

Lizzy Buchan21 February 2018 08:30
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Lizzy Buchan21 February 2018 08:45
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Jeremy Corbyn has issued a stark warning to “billionaire tax exile” owners of newspapers that published claims he was a Czech informant during the Cold War, telling them they are “right” to fear the prospect of a Labour government.

The Labour leader called the allegations “ridiculous smears” and said Labour would take action to “open up” the media. He hit out at newspaper bosses following days of allegations about his meetings with Jan Sarkocy, a Czech agent, in the 1980s.

​More here:

Lizzy Buchan21 February 2018 08:58
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Shadow Cabinet minister Barry Gardiner has insisted that MPs regularly meet diplomats who they are assume are spies, as he defended Jeremy Corbyn's attack on the press over a series of stories about his Cold War past.

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said the claims, which originally appeared in The Sun, that the Labour leader passed information to an agent of the Czech StB intelligence agency during the 1980s were "incredibly stupid".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "All politicians are meeting diplomats every day of the week and some of us assume that half the people that we meet from foreign embassies are spies, we just assume that.

"So of course you know that if people are coming from the embassy that there is a possibility that they are spies, it doesn't mean that you're not a patriot, it doesn't mean that you don't do your job as a politician and stand up for this country, but equally of course you meet diplomats from every country around the world."

Mr Gardiner also accused the press of attempting to "discredit" Mr Corbyn because they are "trying to get their revenge in" ahead of the second phase of the public press ethics inquiry.

He accused newspapers of running the stories because they are worried about the second phase of the Leveson Inquiry being triggered either by a Lords amendment to the Data Protection Bill or a Labour government.

Lizzy Buchan21 February 2018 09:24
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Theresa May has shelved plans to slash numbers in the House of Lords, claiming they need more “careful thought” despite decades of debate about reform.

Instead, the Prime Minister announced she will push a new group of Tories into the overcrowded chamber, while simultaneously claiming she is showing “restraint” with new appointments.

More here:

Lizzy Buchan21 February 2018 09:30
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Diane Abbott is giving a speech this morning on overhauling immigration rules that break up families.

Parents or carers of child refugees living in Britain will be given the right to move to the UK, the shadow home secretary will say.

In a speech in central London, she will set out plans to end the practice of deporting children without entitlement to be in the UK once they turn 18, even when their parents have the right to stay.

Ms Abbott will say the proposals show Labour's immigration policy is based on "fair and reasonable" management of migration.

"It is not fair or reasonable to break up families," she will say.

The Government has repeatedly failed to meet its target of reducing net migration to under 100,000.

Ms Abbott will say the Conservatives' approach to immigration is causing a "hostile environment" that is leading to a "scandalous situation" where the UK is turning away much-needed doctors.

A Conservative Party spokesman said: "Labour's policy would risk breaking up families by creating a dangerous incentive for children to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean and onto the UK on their own.

"Our immigration policy will always support those in genuine need and those who need our help the most.

"That's why we are resettling 23,000 vulnerable refugees, including children with their families, from the camps around the Middle East and North Africa."

Lizzy Buchan21 February 2018 09:47
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UK unemployment rates rose unexpectedly in the three months to December, in the first increase in almost two years. The jobless rate ticked up to 4.4 per cent, up from a 42-year low of 4.3 per cent previously.

City of London analysts had expected no change in the rate. The numbers of people classed as out of work rose from 1.425m to 1.47m, an increase of 46,000 on the quarter. Average wages were up by 2.5 per cent over the three months, unchanged from the previous rate of growth.

Full story here:

Lizzy Buchan21 February 2018 09:51
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Lizzy Buchan21 February 2018 10:09
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Theresa May will meet the leaders of the DUP and Sinn Fein at Westminster later in a bid to kickstart progress on restoring powersharing.

It has been 13 months since the devolved institutions at Stormont collapsed in a row over a botched green energy scheme which quickly expanded to include differences over identity and the Irish language.

Months of inter-party negotiations since then have failed to produce a breakthrough, although the British Government has said progress has been made.

Hopes of a deal last week foundered over the issue of an Irish language act giving official protection to the tongue.

Yesterday, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said she would provide "clarity" on a public services budget for next year as soon as possible and did not rule out the prospect of fresh Assembly elections.

Lizzy Buchan21 February 2018 10:19
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A committee of MPs has voiced strong opposition to the Government’s proposed candidate for chair of the Charity Commission, in a move that will come as a blow to Matt Hancock, the Culture Secretary.

Last month Mr Hancock nominated Baroness Stowell, a Tory peer, to lead the Commission, which regulates the work of UK charities.

However, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has now raised concerns about Baroness Stowell’s suitability for the role and said it “cannot support” her appointment.

Story here:

Lizzy Buchan21 February 2018 10:54

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