Brexit deal debate continues in House of Commons

Theresa May

Theresa May

The EU's top judges will deliver their ruling on whether the United Kingdom can unilaterally revoke Article 50 on the eve of the "meaningful vote" over the Brexit deal in the Commons, it has been revealed.

Sir Graham told BBC Two's Newsnight: "I think the most important thing is to have clarity about how we might remove ourselves from a backstop ... if we were to enter into one in the future".

The Times newspaper reported that senior ministers were urging May to delay the vote for fear of a rout and several lawmakers said they suspected the government may try something to postpone what would be a game-changing defeat.

As investors and allies tried to work out the ultimate destination for the world's fifth largest economy, the Northern Irish party, which props up May's government said legal advice about the deal was "devastating".

"The idea of renegotiating at the 11th hour is simply a delusion", Hammond told Parliament.

It then opens up the field to a no-deal chaotic Brexit without any exit arrangements in place, a scenario which also has few takers in the UK Parliament and is expected to further dent May's already tenuous hold on leadership. "Either will leave us a fractured society and divided nation".

A Tory backbench amendment - understood to have No 10's backing - offers MPs more of a say over the contentious issue of the Northern Ireland backstop.

The backstop is an arrangement created to ensure there is no return to a "hard border" between Ireland, which will remain part of the European Union after Brexit, and Northern Ireland when the United Kingdom leaves the bloc next March.

That is because Northern Ireland and Great Britain would be in such a customs union on different legal terms.

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Ms Lucas said it was "weird" that the Cabinet was not provided with formal legal advice on the backstop until the very day that the Commons voted for it to be released.

European Union supporters say Britain would become little more than a rule-taker, offering the worst of all worlds.

Led by Hugo Swire, the alternative plan would give MPs the chance to vote to extend the transition period at the end of 2022 - rather than falling into the backstop.

Former foreign minister and leading Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson said May was wrong to say parliament might be able to choose whether to trigger the backstop or extend a transition period, under which more European Union membership terms would apply.

Chief whip Julian Smith acknowledged he faces an "uphill challenge" to persuade MPs to back Mrs May's deal, but insisted "it's all to play for".

Britain's pro-Brexit Trade Minister Liam Fox said it was now possible that Brexit would not happen.

She said: "I was hugely disappointed when the national result was revealed to be in favour of leaving, and locally the results were in favour of leave too".

"Despite statements in the Protocol that it is not meant to be permanent and the clear intention of the parties that it should be replaced by alternative, permanent arrangements, in global law the Protocol would endure indefinitely until a superseding agreement took its place", the advice said.

"The people made their decision and I back them by supporting a deal which delivers on the outcome of the referendum".

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