North Macedonia deal: Greek PM Tsipras in ‘historic’ visit

For the first time since Greece’s northern neighbour became independent in 1991, a Greek leader has visited the newly renamed North Macedonia.

PM Alexis Tsipras completed a deal in January to end their three-decade name row, and the two countries are now seeking to boost their relations.

Counterpart Zoran Zaev greeted him with a selfie outside government buildings.

“The first prime minister of Greece to visit North Macedonia. Truly historic day,” he wrote on Twitter.

The Greek prime minister was accompanied by 10 ministers and more than 100 business leaders.

Tweeting the selfie, Mr Zaev referred to “happy moments for an even happier future for the peoples of our friendly countries”.

The two men signed a series of agreements before holding a joint news conference, in which Mr Zaev spoke of his opposite number as a “close, personal friend”.

Greece had always objected to its neighbour’s use of “Macedonia”, because of the northern Greek province of the same name.

Under last summer’s Prespa accord, the two countries agreed that the Balkan state would become the Republic of North Macedonia, in return for Greece backing its long-stalled bids to join Nato and the European Union.

The deal came into force in February, after ratification by both parliaments, and North Macedonia hopes to join the Western military alliance soon.

North Macedonia map

What the two leaders said

Arriving in Skopje, Mr Tsipras said the “historic visit” began by crossing the Friendship motorway, whose name was changed from Alexander of Macedonia motorway in February 2018 as part of efforts to improve relations.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (L) and North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev hug as they attend a news conference in Skopje, North Macedonia April 2, 2019
The two leaders hugged during a news conference in Skopje

Greeks long accused their neighbours of trying to appropriate the ancient heritage of Alexander and of having territorial ambitions.

Mr Zaev said there would be big economic benefits from the deal with Greece.

The two leaders convened the first co-operation council between the neighbours and they agreed to open a second border crossing. Under the deal, a joint committee of experts has been formed to assess possible bias in school textbooks, and Mr Tsipras said their consultations had ended in a positive manner.

Ahead of his arrival, Mr Tsipras gave an interview with North Macedonian media in which he acknowledged that “a significant portion of the Greek people was and still is seriously concerned about this issue”.

An opinion poll late last month suggested 73% of Greeks “probably disagreed” with the Prespa agreement.

North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (L) welcomes his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras in Skopje on April 2, 2019
Mr Tsipras (R) joined the North Macedonian prime minister for a photo-call outside government buildings in Skopje

He said he and Mr Zaev had a responsibility to show how both countries could build mutual trust and benefit from the new deal.

Both leaders have endured difficult political opposition at home.

Mr Tsipras faces elections later this year, with conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis backing Greeks in the Macedonia region who he said felt humiliated by the agreement.

Mr Zaev has himself been bitterly criticised by President Gjorge Ivanov.

French link duck salad to five deaths at care home

A contaminated salad containing duck meat is suspected of having killed five residents of a care home for the elderly in southern France.

Four women and a man, aged from 76 to 95, died after eating the salad on Sunday night. In all, 20 people at the home near Toulouse suffered vomiting and other symptoms of food poisoning.

Twelve of those taken ill are in hospital, but not in grave danger.

The salad ingredients, including duck foie gras (pâté), are being examined.

Prosecutors have put the suspicious ingredients under lock and key, as they prepare possible manslaughter charges against the management.

French media report that the privately-run home – La Chêneraie, in rural Lherm – passed a hygiene inspection in February.

A granddaughter of one victim told the local daily La Dépêche du Midi: “I’ve still got the menu in my bag and I know that last night they ate Périgord salad. So what does that mean? Maybe it was the foie gras?”

The cause of death is not yet official, as the results of post mortems are awaited.

One of the victims, 93-year-old Antoinette, had Alzheimer’s.

Care quality under scrutiny

The home has 82 residents and was opened in 2006. Korian group, which manages it, says meals are prepared in the home’s kitchen – not delivered from outside.

But Alain Lepeyre, whose mother was among the five who died, said the meals had been brought in. He said a doctor at the home had told him that.

A woman called Chantal, whose parents are at the home but did not fall ill, said special meals were prepared for certain residents – and that was apparently the case in Sunday’s fatal incident.

The tragedy in Lherm has fuelled a French debate about the state of retirement homes – there have been many complaints of understaffing and poor quality of care.

The government is reviewing provision for the elderly, including care home jobs, and aims to create 80,000 extra posts in care homes – that is, 25% more – by 2024.

Turkey election: Erdogan disputes results in major cities

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party is contesting the slim opposition victory in the country’s biggest city, Istanbul.

Sunday’s municipal elections also delivered opposition CHP wins in the capital, Ankara, and in Izmir.

The AKP alleges irregularities, and is challenging the results in every Istanbul district. Officially the CHP is ahead by 25,000 votes in the city.

Giant AKP victory posters have gone up in Istanbul.

The secularist CHP (Republican People’s Party) condemned that move, accusing the Islamist-rooted AKP of trying to steal the result.

The AKP is also contesting the CHP victory in Ankara.

Parts of the largely government-controlled media are reporting allegations that stolen ballots hindered the party’s performance.

In the past, Turkish opposition parties have failed to mount a successful challenge to election results.

Erdogan: “We will appeal wherever needed”

Is it a big setback for Erdogan?

Nationwide, an AKP-led alliance won 51.6% of the vote.

But Istanbul has been in the hands of parties linked to Mr Erdogan since 1994, when he was elected the city’s mayor.

The BBC’s Mark Lowen in Istanbul says losing major cities is a significant blow to Mr Erdogan, breaking his image of invincibility.

The elections, considered a verdict on Mr Erdogan’s 16-year rule, were held during an economic downturn.

The Turkish lira has been losing value recently and the economy went into recession in the last three months of 2018. Inflation jumped to 20% last year and unemployment has risen too.

Our correspondent says Mr Erdogan turned this poll into, in effect, a referendum on himself. But now an opposition long seen as hopelessly divided has got a new lease of life.

Swathes of Turkey still adore Mr Erdogan, but the half of the country that detests its polarising president are starting to believe he is beatable, Mark Lowen says.

CHP celebration in Ankara, 31 Mar 19
CHP supporters celebrated in Ankara on Sunday night

What are the results?

More than 57 million people in the country were registered to vote for mayors and councillors. Turnout was high at just under 85%.

The results, reported by the state-run Anadolu news agency, show:

  • Istanbul – 48.8% CHP, 48.5% AKP
  • Ankara – 50.9% CHP, 47% AKP
  • Izmir – 58% CHP, 38.6% AKP
Ekrem Imamoglu
The CHP’s mayoral candidate for Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, claimed a narrow victory

The AKP had been saying its Istanbul candidate, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, was ahead by 4,000 votes. He later conceded his opponent had a narrow lead, only for the AKP to again claim victory.

What happened during the campaign?

This was the first municipal vote since Mr Erdogan assumed sweeping executive powers through last year’s presidential election.

The AKP launched a sweeping purge after a failed military coup in 2016. The government has detained more than 77,000 people and suspended or sacked about 150,000 civil servants and military personnel.

The AKP has won every election since coming to power in 2002.

Mr Erdogan, whose two-month campaign included 100 rallies, said the poll was about the “survival” of Turkey and his party.

With most media either pro-government or controlled by Mr Erdogan’s supporters, critics believe opposition parties campaigned at a disadvantage. Mr Erdogan’s rallies dominated TV coverage.

The opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said the elections were unfair and refused to put forward candidates in several cities.

Some of its leaders have been jailed on terrorism charges, accusations they reject.

Brexit: MPs push to prevent no-deal in law

Yvette Cooper: “We’re in a very dangerous situation”

A cross-party group of MPs has put forward a bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit in 10 days’ time.

If passed into law, the bill would require the PM to ask for an extension of Article 50 – which mandates the UK’s exit from the EU – beyond the current 12 April deadline.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper presented the bill – which supporters hope they can pass through the Commons in one day.

The prime minister is expected to make a statement shortly.

It comes after the cabinet, which remains split over Brexit, met for eight hours in No 10.

The BBC’s Emmanuel, said Theresa May’s ministers considered plans to “ramp up” no-deal Brexit preparations and a snap general election was also discussed.

Ms Cooper’s bill would make it UK law for the PM to ask for an extension to prevent a no-deal, but it would be up to the EU to grant it – or not.

In March, MPs voted against leaving the EU without a deal, but it was not legally binding.

Meanwhile, the EU’s chief negotiator has said a no-deal Brexit is now more likely but can still be avoided.

Michel Barnier said a long extension to the UK’s 12 April exit date had “significant risks for the EU” and a “strong justification would be needed”.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar are meeting in Paris to discuss the impact of Brexit.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the EU should be open to any "credible proposals" the UK put forward
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the EU should be open to any “credible proposals” the UK put forward

President Macron told reporters that the EU “cannot be hostage to the political crisis in the UK”, and the government must come forward with “credible” reasons for an extension.

He said these could include an election, second referendum, or alternative proposals for the future relationship, such as a customs union.

Mr Varadkar said the UK was “consumed by Brexit”, but the EU should not be.

He said the EU “needs to be open” about any proposals the UK brings, including a longer extension, and they will do what they can to “assist”.

But he added: “We gave the UK some time, some space and some opportunity to come up with a way forward… [but] as things stand, they will leave on 12 April without a deal.”

Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin, who supports Ms Cooper’s bill, said: “This is a last-ditch attempt to prevent our country being exposed to the risks inherent in a no-deal exit.

“We realise this is difficult. But it is definitely worth trying.”

Ms Cooper said the UK was “in a very dangerous situation” and MPs “have a responsibility to make sure we don’t end up with a catastrophic no deal”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s World At One, she added: “We have been attempting to squeeze into just a couple of days a process that really should have been happening for the last two years – a process of trying to build a consensus around the best way forward.

“It is what the prime minister should be doing. It is the prime minister’s responsibility to ensure we don’t leave the country less safe.”

Why is this bill unusual?

Normally the government chooses which bills to present to Parliament in order for them to become law.

But – much to the government’s disapproval – MPs voted to allow backbenchers to take charge of business in the Commons on Wednesday.

This gives backbenchers the opportunity to table their own bills, such as this one from Yvette Cooper.

A copy of the bill shows that they want to push it through the commons in one day.

As the backbenchers will be in charge, they will also be able to vote to set aside more time on another day, if they need to complete the process or hold further indicative votes.

However, the bill would also have to be agreed by the House of Lords and receive Royal Assent before it became law – which if the Commons agrees it on Wednesday, could happen as soon as Thursday.

Brexiteer Tory Sir Bill Cash said trying to go through these stages in one day made it a “reprehensible procedure”.

But Speaker John Bercow said that, while it was “an unusual state of affairs”, it was “not as unprecedented as he supposes” – citing recent bills on Northern Ireland that have been passed at the same speed.

In the latest round of indicative votes on Monday, MPs voted on four alternatives to the PM’s withdrawal deal, but none gained a majority.

MPs rejected a customs union with the EU by three votes. A motion for another referendum got the most votes in favour, but still lost.

The votes were not legally binding, but they had been billed as the moment when Parliament might finally compromise.

The Independent MP Chris Leslie tweeted that MPs would be seeking more time for indicative votes to take place on Monday.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb said he is considering resigning the whip after his party refused to back proposals for a customs union and Common Market 2.0 on Monday.

He told BBC: “If you are seen to be unreasonable, not engaging to find solutions, I don’t think it is very attractive to the people.”

Earlier, Mr Barnier said: “No deal was never our desire or intended scenario but the EU 27 is now prepared. It becomes day after day more likely.”

Barnier: “No-deal Brexit has become more likely”

Mrs May’s plan for the UK’s departure has been rejected by MPs three times.

Last week, Parliament took control of the process away from the government in order to hold a series of votes designed to find an alternative way forward.

Eight options were put to MPs, but none was able to command a majority, and on Monday night, a whittled-down four were rejected too.

What next?

  • Tuesday 2 April: A five-hour cabinet meeting
  • Wednesday 3 April: Potentially another round of indicative votes, and Yvette Cooper’s bill to be debated
  • Thursday 4 April: Theresa May could bring her withdrawal deal back to Parliament for a fourth vote, while MPs could also vote on Ms Cooper’s bill
  • Wednesday 10 April: Emergency summit of EU leaders to consider any UK request for further extension
  • Friday 12 April: Brexit day, if UK does not seek / EU does not grant further delay
  • 23-26 May: European Parliamentary elections
Presentational grey line

Macron: EU ‘will not be hostage to Brexit crisis’

The European Union will not be hostage to a “political crisis” in the UK, France’s president has said.

Emmanuel Macron was speaking in Paris during talks with Irish PM Leo Varadkar.

“We will never abandon Ireland or the Irish people no matter what happens, because this solidarity is the very purpose of the European project,” said Mr Macron.

Mr Varadkar said any Brexit extension needed “a clear purpose, clear plan”.

Their meeting came after MPs twice rejected Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal deal, with the government now ramping up plans for a no-deal scenario.

Mr Varadkar said he would also discuss the Republic of Ireland’s no-deal plans with Mr Macron.

The taoiseach (Irish prime minister) emphasised that the EU should be open to any “credible proposals” the UK put forward about in the Brexit process.

Mr Macron told reporters that France and Ireland would be the countries most affected by a no-deal outcome.

They both said the integrity of the single market would need to be protected, but that the EU would uphold commitments made to ensure the protection of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Varadkar’s visit to France comes ahead of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s trip to Dublin on Thursday.

Chancellor Merkel at CDU congress, 7 Dec 18
German Chancellor Angel Merkel is due to visit Dublin on Thursday

He said the EU would need to seriously consider how to respond to any request from the UK for a longer extension, in order to avoid leaving with no deal on 12 April.

Mr Varadkar said that it would come with conditions, requiring the UK to take part in European elections on 23 May.

Mairead McGuinness, vice-president of the European Parliament and Fine Gael MEP, said that a no deal does not solve problems for those who would advocate for a hard Brexit.

“There’s a view that a no deal would be a forever state of play from those that would argue for it, but frankly it’s not,” she said.

“Immediately afterwards I believe the UK would need to come to the EU and ask to speak and negotiate.”

Mr Varadkar is expected to return from Paris on Tuesday evening and hold a meeting of his cabinet.

The DUP and the backstop

Earlier on Tuesday, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said a no-deal Brexit is now more likely but can still be avoided.

DUP MPs in the House of Commons
The DUP still want changes made to the backstop

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) voted against all four options tabled on Monday.

The party’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds said if the Irish border backstop was addressed, the DUP could “do business” with the government.

Speaking after the indicative votes, Mr Dodds said the only proposition that MPs had ever supported was an amendment – known as the Brady amendment – calling on the government to negotiate changes to the backstop.

The backstop is the insurance policy to maintain an open border on the island of Ireland, unless and until another solution is found.

The DUP and some Brexiteer MPs oppose it because if it took effect, it would keep Northern Ireland only tied to some EU regulatory rules, and would keep the whole of the UK in a customs union with the EU.

On Monday night, independent unionist MP for North Down, Lady Hermon, backed two of the options.

She voted for another referendum and to revoke article 50, but against a customs union or single market arrangement.

‘Extraordinary EU summit’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Dublin on Thursday, as pressure mounts over Parliament’s failure to ratify the withdrawal agreement.

The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 12 April, if it cannot propose a way forward to the EU.

An extraordinary EU summit is due to take place on 10 April.

Mr Varadkar said he would discuss with his French and German counterparts how the European Council should respond to a request for another extension from the UK, to seek a delay to the Brexit process.

US to investigate car firms Hyundai and Kia over vehicle fires

US safety authorities will investigate nearly three million Hyundai and Kia vehicles over fires, in a move which could prompt mass recalls.

The inquiry by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) follows thousands of complaints about the “non-crash fires”.

Incidents involving fires are linked to one death and more than 100 injuries.

It raises fresh safety concerns with the South Korean automakers, which have already been subject to US scrutiny.

The NHTSA said fire issues and engine problems have affected around six million Hyundai and Kia vehicles since 2015. So far, only about 2.4 million have been recalled for repair.

The latest investigation relates to Hyundai Sonatas and Hyundai Santa Fes, as well as Kia Optimas, Kia Sorentos and Kia Souls.

The US safety regulator said that while previous recalls of Kia and Hyundai vehicles primarily related to engine fires, the fresh investigation “is not limited to engine components and may cover additional vehicle systems or components.”

Both automakers said they were co-operating with the investigation.

It was launched by the NHTSA after a petition from consumer advocacy group the Centre for Auto Safety.

Jason Levine, executive director of the group, said in a statement it was “long past time” for answers on “why so many thousands of Kia and Hyundai vehicles have been involved in non-crash fires.”

“Hopefully, this step will quickly lead to a recall being issued as soon as possible.

“The reality is that extended investigations do not protect Kia and Hyundai owners – that requires recalls which result in effective repairs.”

South Korean prosecutors are conducting separate investigations into the carmakers over the recalls.

Nasa: India’s satellite destruction could endanger ISS

Nasa has called India’s destruction of a satellite a “terrible thing” that could threaten the International Space Station (ISS).

The space agency’s chief, Jim Bridenstine, said that the risk of debris colliding with the ISS had risen by 44% over 10 days due to the test.

However he said: “The international space station is still safe. If we need to manoeuvre it we will.”

India is the fourth country to have carried out such a test.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the test – Mission Shakti – with great fanfare on 27 March, saying it had established India as a “space power”.

In an address to employees, Mr Bridenstine sharply criticised the testing of such anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons.

He said that Nasa had identified 400 pieces of orbital debris and was tracking 60 pieces larger than 10cm in diameter. Twenty-four of those pieces pose a potential risk to the ISS, he said.

“That is a terrible, terrible thing to create an event that sends debris in an apogee that goes above the International Space Station. And that kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight that we need to see have happen.”

A day after India successfully carried out its ASAT test, acting US defence secretary Patrick Shanahan warned that the event could create a “mess” in space but said Washington was still studying the impact.

Delhi has insisted it carried out the test in low-earth orbit, at an altitude of 300km (186 miles), to not leave space debris that could collide with the ISS or satellites.

Nasa: India's satellite destruction could endanger ISS
Is India’s prime minister right when he calls his country a space superpower?

“That’s why we did it at lower altitude, it will vanish in no time,” G Satheesh Reddy, the chief of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, told Reuters in an interview last week.

Mr Bridenstine said that it was true that this would eventually happen. “The good thing is, it’s low enough in Earth orbit that over time this will all dissipate,” he said.

China provoked international alarm with a similar test in 2007. The Nasa chief said “a lot” of the debris created by that test remained in orbit. The US military is in total tracking about 10,000 pieces of space debris, nearly a third of which is said to have been created by the Chinese test.

Arms control advocates have expressed concern about the increasing militarisation of space. ASAT technology would allow India to take out the satellites of enemy powers in any conflict, and the test is likely to fuel the growing regional rivalry between India and China.

The announcement also angered opposition parties in India, who have accused Mr Modi of using the test as a political stunt ahead of a general election. Indians will begin voting in national elections on 11 April.

Nipsey Hussle murder suspect named as vigil stampede hurts 19

Police have named a suspect in the murder of Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle, hours after a stampede at a vigil injured at least 19 people.

Authorities say Eric Holder is the man wanted in connection with the shooting on Sunday, which was ruled a homicide.

Most people suffered “trample injuries” at Monday’s vigil, a fire official said, as crowds tried to rush away.

Two are critically hurt and two seriously, with the rest suffering “non-life threatening injuries”.

One of those critically injured suffered “penetrating, traumatic injury with cause unknown”.

Footage from the scene shows mourners suddenly breaking and running from the scene. It is unclear what triggered the incident.

Police earlier asked for people to “disperse from the immediate area” and moved in to restore order, reportedly using riot gear and forming containment lines.

Reports of shots fired at the vigil “do not appear to be accurate”, the police tweeted.

Nipsey Hussle was shot dead outside his clothing shop on Sunday. Two other people were wounded.

Tributes have poured in for the 33-year-old, whose debut album Victory Lap was nominated for best rap album at this year’s Grammy Awards.

Hussle, real name Ermias Davidson Asghedom, grew up in south Los Angeles and was a member of the Rollin’ 60s street gang as a teenager.

He later became a community organiser, and was involved with the Destination Crenshaw arts project.

“I grew up in gang culture,” he told the Los Angeles Times in a 2018 interview. “We dealt with death, with murder. It was like living in a war zone, where people die on these blocks and everybody is a little bit immune to it.”

Earlier on Sunday, he had tweeted: “Having strong enemies is a blessing.”

Brexit: No-deal more likely but can be avoided – Barnier

A no-deal Brexit is now more likely but can still be avoided, the EU’s chief negotiator has said.

On Monday night, MPs voted on four alternatives to the PM’s withdrawal deal, but none gained a majority.

Michel Barnier said a long extension to the UK’s current 12 April exit date carried “significant risks for the EU” and that a “strong justification would be needed” before the EU would agree.

Theresa May is set for five hours of cabinet talks to tackle the deadlock.

MPs rejected a customs union with the EU by three votes while a motion for another referendum got the most votes in favour, but still lost.

The so-called indicative votes were not legally binding, but they had been billed as the moment when Parliament might finally compromise.

That did not happen, however, and one Tory MP – Nick Boles, who was behind one of the proposals – resigned the whip in frustration.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told MPs that if they wanted to secure a further delay from the EU, the government must be able to put forward a “credible proposition” as to what it would do.

One suggestion has been the possibility of a general election – but former foreign secretary Boris Johnson told BBC political editor Emmanuel that would likely “infuriate” voters.

Instead, Mr Johnson said he believed a new leader and “change in negotiation tactic” could “retrofit” the PM’s “terrible” agreement with the EU.

Labour MP and chairman of the Brexit select committee Hilary Benn told BBC Radio 4’s Today that a confirmatory referendum was the best solution.

“A good leader would be taking that decision and put it back to the people,” he said.

“[The] fear is that the PM is not going to move an inch. That is why we are at a moment of crisis.”

Speaking on Tuesday morning, Mr Barnier said: “No deal was never our desire or intended scenario but the EU 27 is now prepared. It becomes day after day more likely.”

Mrs May’s plan for the UK’s departure has been rejected by MPs three times.

Last week, Parliament took control of the process away from the government in order to hold a series of votes designed to find an alternative way forward.

Eight options were put to MPs, but none was able to command a majority, and on Monday night, a whittled down four were rejected too. They were:

  • Motion C: Committing the government to negotiating “a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU” as part of any Brexit deal.
Graphic of customs union vote
  • Motion D: Referred to as Common Market 2.0, this option would mean joining the European Free Trade Association and European Economic Area.
Graphic of Common Market 2.0 vote
  • Motion E: Calling for a confirmatory referendum, giving the public a vote to approve any Brexit deal passed by Parliament before it can be implemented.
Graphic of confirmatory public vote
  • Motion G: Aiming to prevent the UK leaving without a deal, including a vote on whether to revoke Article 50 – stopping Brexit altogether – if the EU does not agree to an extension.
Graphic of parliamentary supremacy proposal

Those pushing for a customs union argued that their option was defeated by the narrowest margin – only three votes.

It would see the UK remain in the same system of tariffs – taxes – on goods as the rest of the EU – potentially simplifying the issue of the Northern Ireland border, but prevent the UK from striking independent trade deals with other countries.

Those in favour of another EU referendum pointed out that the motion calling for that option received the most votes in favour, totalling 280.

Nick Boles: “I have failed, chiefly, because my party refuses to compromise”

Mr Barclay said the “only option” left now was to find a way forward that allows the UK to leave the EU with a deal – and the only deal available was the prime minister’s.

If that could be done this week, he added, the UK could avoid having to take part in elections to the European Parliament in May.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock agreed it was time for Mrs May’s deal to be passed.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that while it was “disappointing” that none of the proposals secured a majority, he said he wanted to remind the Commons that Mrs May’s deal had been “overwhelmingly rejected”.

He urged MPs to hold a third round of indicative votes on Wednesday in the hope that a majority could yet be found for a way forward.

For months, Parliament has been saying “Let us have a say, let us find the way forward,” but in the end they couldn’t quite do it. Parliament doesn’t know what it wants and we still have lots of different tribes and factions who aren’t willing to make peace.

That means that by the day, two things are becoming more likely. One, leaving the EU without a deal. And two, a general election, because we’re at an impasse.

One person who doesn’t think that would be a good idea is former foreign secretary and Brexiteer Boris Johnson.

He told me going to the polls would “solve nothing” and would “just infuriate people”. He also said that only somebody who “really believes in Brexit” should be in charge once Theresa May steps down. I wonder who that could be…

Presentational grey line

Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb told BBC Look East he was “ashamed to be a member of this Parliament” and hit out at MPs in his own party – five of whom voted against a customs union and four of whom voted against Common Market 2.0.

What did Monday night’s Brexit vote mean?

BBC Europe editor Mr Ben Rory, said the mood in Brussels was one of disbelief – that the UK still does not seem to know what it wants.

She said EU leaders were also questioning the logic of arguing over things like a customs union or Common Market option at this stage, because right now, the UK has only three options as they see it – no deal, no Brexit or Theresa May’s deal – and anything else is a matter for future talks once the UK has actually left.

Presentational grey line

What next?

  • Tuesday 2 April: Five-hour cabinet meeting from 0900 BST
  • Wednesday 3 April: Potentially another round of indicative votes
  • Thursday 4 April: Theresa May could bring her withdrawal deal back before MPs for a fourth vote
  • Wednesday 10 April: Emergency summit of EU leaders to consider any UK request for further extension
  • Friday 12 April: Brexit day, if UK does not seek/EU does not grant further delay
  • 23-26 May: European Parliamentary elections
Presentational grey line

Brexit: What just happened?

Members of Parliament have again rejected all the options placed before them, as they tried to find a compromise that would help end the Brexit impasse.

The rejections came during a second round of votes in the House of Commons on alternative proposals to Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Mrs May’s deal has been rejected on three separate occasions so far. The Commons has been attempting to find a strategy that can gain majority support.

What did MPs reject?

The second series of votes on Brexit options – known as “indicative” votes, designed to see what MPs might support amid the deadlock – were held on Monday evening in the House of Commons, the main decision-making body of the UK Parliament, following hours of debate.

MPs rejected all four votes committing the government to:

  • negotiating “a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU” as part of any Brexit deal
  • joining the European Free Trade Association (Efta) and remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA)
  • giving the public a vote to approve any Brexit deal passed by Parliament before it could be implemented
  • a series of steps to prevent the UK leaving the EU without a deal, including a final vote on whether to scrap Brexit altogether

The option that came closest to being passed, which was defeated by just three votes, was remaining in a customs union with the EU – a key plank of the so-called “soft Brexit” option, under which the UK would leave the EU but retain very close trading links with the bloc.

Its supporters say it would mitigate the damage caused to the British economy by Brexit, particularly if combined with staying in the EU’s single market.

Detractors say such an option in effect means not really leaving at all, as the UK would be subject to EU rules and regulations it had no say over. A customs union would also limit the UK’s ability to strike its own trade deals with non-EU countries.

Nick Boles, the Conservative MP who proposed the Efta/EEA motion – the so-called “Common Market 2.0” option – resigned from the party immediately after the vote results were announced.

Mrs May and her government would not have been obliged to act on any of the MPs’ decisions – even if they were passed by a majority – as they do not have the force of law.

However, the prime minister is under pressure to chart a new course after failing to get the withdrawal agreement her government has negotiated with the EU passed by the Commons on three separate occasions.

She has gone so far as to say she will step down if her deal gets through the Commons.

Her Cabinet is scheduled to hold a mammoth five-hour meeting on Tuesday.

What happens next?

Mrs May is said to be considering bringing her withdrawal agreement for a fourth vote, as the result of the third was closer than the previous two. But MPs still rejected it by 344 to 286, a majority of 58.

Whether there will be another attempt to find a majority for one of the options – a move supported by Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn – to then allow a “run-off” vote between that option and Mrs May’s deal is unclear.

Theresa May
Theresa May has pledged to stand down as PM if her deal passes

If nothing is passed by the Commons, Britain is due to leave the EU without a deal on 12 April. Many MPs and business leaders fear a no-deal or “hard” Brexit could cause chaos, at least in the short term.

Although a no-deal exit has been regarded as unlikely, given the opposition of most MPs, by what method this can be avoided – and even who will be in charge of the process – is uncertain. Many in the EU now regard a “no deal” Brexit on 12 April as the most likely outcome.

If MPs pass Mrs May’s deal, Britain would have until 22 May to leave – after the EU granted an extension to the original exit date of 29 March.

Any later than that – for, say, a general election to create a new House of Commons that would possibly be able to break the deadlock – would require the EU to agree on a lengthy extension of the period before Britain is due to leave the bloc.

The EU says a further extension is only possible if the UK takes part in elections to the European Parliament on 23 May. Mrs May has previously said she does not wish the UK to take part in those elections.

The European Council – the main decision-making body of the EU, made up of the leaders of member states – is due to meet on 10 April, to decide – if necessary – whether the conditions for a longer delay have been met.

There is a third option: the UK could revoke the so-called Article 50 and cancel Brexit altogether – but this appears very unlikely.

How did we get here?

Monday’s votes were the second round of a process that got under way last week after Mrs May’s government was defeated in a vote that allowed MPs to seize control of business in the chamber from the government for two days.

Last Wednesday, eight Brexit alternatives were all rejected, but Monday’s second round was scheduled amid suggestions there could be majority support for at least one of them. Four of the eight new options proposed on Monday were selected by Commons Speaker John Bercow.

The third defeat of Mrs May’s agreement came last Friday.

Are we anywhere near the end of all this?

As with much else in this saga, that remains unclear.

Whether Mrs May will still be PM over the next few weeks is also up in the air. She pledged to stand down if her deal passed, but many now question whether she has the authority to stay if it doesn’t.

It is worth remembering that the debate now is focused on the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU. The conditions of the future relationship between the country and the bloc, assuming the UK leaves at all, still have to be negotiated.

Massive uncertainty for people and businesses in Britain and the wider EU remains.