Concern is growing of pupils being missing from registers. (Stock photo: Getty Images)

Nearly 50,000 children missing from classroom registers amid claims schools are ‘off-loading’ pupils with poor results

Nearly 50,000 children are disappearing from classroom registers without any explanation, a study has found following allegations hundreds of schools are gaming the system to boost their position in league tables.

One in 12 pupils (8.1 percent) from the cohort that finished year 11 in 2017 were removed from school rolls for reasons not accounted for by family decisions, according to the study by the Education Policy Institute.

Their report, sponsored by the National Education Union, says the missing names account for 55,300 school exits by 49,100 pupils. The figure has grown from previous years.

It comes after the schools regulator Ofsted last year identified 300 schools with high levels of soc-called “off-rolling” where pupils disappear from a school register just before GCSEs. Ofsted found that more than 19,000 year 10 pupils vanished from school in 2016.

Off-rolling has become an issue of growing concern for Ofsted amid allegations that some schools are playing the system by getting rid of poorly performing students to boost their performance in leage tables.

The institute has now found a small number of schools have particularly high rates of pupil exits, with just six percent of secondary schools in England (330 schools) accounting for almost a quarter (23 percent) of the total number of unexplained moves in 2017.

Jo Hutchinson, report author and director of social mobility and vulnerable learners at the EPI, said: “This research provides important evidence on unexplained pupil exits in the school system, following reports of children being removed by schools for reasons that are not in the pupil’s best interests.

For the first time, we begin to see the full scale of this problem, having stripped away cases where family decisions have led to school moves.

“Our estimate is that one in 12 children are being pushed around the system, and that this has risen in recent years.

”We will undertake further research on these trends this year, highlighting prevalence among local areas and groups of schools.“

The EPI says the schools with very high exit rates have removed the equivalent of an entire classroom of children from a single year group, as they have moved through secondary school, from 2012 to 2017.

According to the research, pupils with certain characteristics are disproportionately represented among those leaving school rolls.

One in three pupils in the social care system, one in seven disadvantaged pupils, and one in eight black pupils experience unexplained school moves, the report says.

The report also found the proportion of pupils who left school rolls with no explanation was the highest in the most recent cohort in our study – those expected to have finished year 11 in 2017.

For the 2014 cohort, 7.2 percent moved between schools or left the school system completely, and this was not explained by family reasons for moving.

In the 2011 year group, over the course of five years, 7.8 percent of pupils had moves that were unexplained by family reasons.

Education campaigners have long expressed concern at the notion of off-rolling – where problematic, badly behaved or academically poor pupils are unofficially removed from the school.

‘The size of unexplained pupil moves is disturbing’

This can include a ”managed move“, when a school looks for an alternative to expelling a pupil, such as asking another institution to admit the youngster to give them a new start.

Other examples, identified by local authorities, include suggesting the pupil is educated at home for an unspecified period, prompting concerns children could fall through the gaps and out of the education system.

Nearly 50,000 children missing from classroom registers amid claims schools are ‘off-loading’ pupils with poor results

Unlike formal exclusions, there is no requirement to record the reason why a pupil has been removed from a school roll.

David Laws, executive chairman of the EPI, said: ”The size of unexplained pupil moves is disturbing and will raise concerns about whether some schools are ‘off-rolling’ pupils.

“We need to look particularly closely at the six percent of schools which account for almost a quarter of unexplained moves.

”In a few months’ time we will publish figures showing the scale of this issue by school group, to allow for greater scrutiny over what is happening in our schools.“

Jeremy Corbyn told to commit to Brexit vote or let Farage snatch shock European elections victory

Senior Labour MP’s say Jeremy Corbyn must back a fresh Brexit referendum unequivocally within weeks or Nigel Farage will snatch a shock European elections victory.

Worried backbenchers piled pressure on the Labour leader to shift his stance before the 23 May poll, after the former Ukip Labour was revealed to be on course to triumph, at the head of his new Brexit Party.

A survey gave Mr Farage’s party a healthy five-point lead at 27 per cent of the vote, leaving both Labour (22 per cent) and the Conservatives  (15 per cent) trailing in his wake.

It came as the, Liberal Democrats accused other anti-Brexit parties of boosting their opponents by refusing pleas to fight on a joint ticket.

Labour supporters of a Final Say referendum seized on evidence that Mr Corbyn was heading for a further disastrous slump if his manifesto backed forcing through a Brexit deal in alliance with Theresa May.

A customs union deal – the aim of the current cross-party talks – would see Labour dip to just 15 per cent, according to the poll of 1,855 adults by YouGov, handing the Brexit Party a 10-point win.

But undiluted support for a further public vote would lift Labour to 23 per cent, with Mr Farage’s outfit only three points ahead.

Owen Smith, a former Labour leadership contender, told The Independent: “It’s very clear that Labour is losing support among our voters because the leadership has refused to give unambiguous support to a people’s vote on Brexit.

“We should never forget that the majority of Labour supporters voted Remain in 2016 and if we want to beat the Brexit parties we have to honour their views.”

Stephen Doughty , a former shadow minister, echoed the fear, saying: “We must put a public vote on Brexit at the core of our European manifesto.

“Pro-European voters who in all other respects support Labour need to see that message loud and clear. Otherwise we risk leeching support to other parties – which can only benefit Farage and his forces.”

Sir Vince Cable the Liberal Democrat leader, also said it “would be a game-changer” if Labour came out clearly to campaign to stay in the EU.

But he admitted: “I find it difficult to see they could do that given that Jeremy Corbyn has said repeatedly he is there to deliver Brexit, but it certainly would change the nature of the argument.”

Mr Farage’s surge follows the burst of publicity the Brexit Party received at its campaign launch last week, when Annunziata Rees-Mogg – the sister of the leading Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, was unveiled as a candidate.

It also heightened Tory fears that their party is heading for a crushing defeat, which would trigger fresh calls for the prime minister to quit.

Justine Greening the former Conservative education secretary, hinted she would quit if that resulted in her party adopting a harder Brexit position.

“It’s certainly a challenging time I think for me to be in the Conservative Party,” she said. “For me it was about three things: opportunity, a strong economy and well-managed public finances.

“And clearly I think if we become the Brexit party, that really goes against those three core tenets of what I think being a Conservative Party member is all about.”

Sir Vince lashed out at the Independent Group, for rejecting his pleas to stand joint candidates on 23 May, to boost the number of MEPs demanding a second referendum.

He revealed his party had proposed fighting together – a move that one election expert has predicted could deliver an extra six seats in Brussels.

Frustrated campaigners for a Final Say public vote also believe a unified campaign would have excited voters and delivered an even greater reward.

“It would be better, I think, from the point of view of the supporters of British membership of the EU if we were fighting together under the same banner,” Sir Vince said.

“Certainly that’s something we would like to have seen, but that wasn’t possible, we didn’t get a positive reaction to that, so we are going on our own.”

Change UK, the new party name for the Independent Group, has said it wants “no alliance and no pacts, but to be a new party standing on its own”, a stance echoed by the Green Party.

The YouGov poll put the Greens top among the pro-Remain parties on 10 per cent, ahead of the Liberal Democrats (9 per cent) and Change UK (6 per cent).

Activists vow disruption in capital will continue for weeks

Extinction Rebellion: Hundreds of arrests as protesters target London transport network and Jeremy Corbyn’s home

More than 300 environmental protesters have been arrested during ongoing climate change protests in London as demonstrators attempted to bring travel chaos to the capital by targeting the Tube and DLR network.

Activists have vowed the disruption in London will continue for weeks as activists glued themselves to a train and, Jeremy Corbyn ‘s garden fence.

The Labour leader’s home in north London became the latest target on the third day of demonstrations, which faced criticism for its focus on the public transport system.

Taliban talks: Draft framework for Afghanistan peace ‘agreed’

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, voiced his support for the demonstration but warned: “You don’t want to inadvertently cause problems with our public transport, which is what we are going to be encouraging people to use when we face a climate emergency.”

Others praised the positive impact the protests were having on major junctions and roads in the capital that are normally traffic-clogged.

“No cars, clean air, happy vibes. What a lovely protest. Should be like this every day,” wrote one on Twitter.

Extinction Rebellion: Climate change protests cause chaos in London

1/26Police officers detain a climate change activist at Waterloo BridgeReuters
2/26Climate change activists blockade Oxford Circus on the third day of an environmental protest by the Extinction Rebellion group
3/26Climate change activists stand atop a bus shelter as they take part in a blockade of Waterloo BridgeAFP/Getty Images
4/26Police is seen as climate change activists demonstrate during the Extinction Rebellion protest, at Canary Wharf DLR station in London

5/26Police speak to climate change activists blockading Waterloo bridgeAFP/Getty
Waterloo Bridge
6/26 Waterloo
7/26Climate change activists, one (right) with her hand glued to the underside of a truck parked across Waterloo BridgeAFP/Getty
8/26Environmental campaigners protest in the centre of Oxford Circus

Participants are demanding the government declare a climate emergency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025.

Two men and two women from the Extinction Rebellion (XR) group used glue and a bike lock in a bid to prevent police from removing them from outside the Labour leader’s house on Wednesday.

They said they all support Mr Corbyn but want the Labour Party to go further than declaring a “climate emergency”.

As they left, one protester, Tracee Williams, 55, said: “We just really felt we had to bring it to his front door.”

Demonstrations have so far taken place in locations including Waterloo Bridge, Oxford Circus and Marble Arch this week.

Roads around Parliament Square remain closed to cars and other vehicles. Environmental protesters were dancing to samba music in the street on Wednesday evening and reading “letters to the Earth” from a podium on the green in the middle of the square.

Scotland Yard could not confirm whether or not anyone had been charged with any criminal offences.

Campaigners said the cells in the capital are full and “operating on a one-in, one-out capacity”, while some of those being released from custody have rejoined the protests.

The Metropolitan Police said: “Our custody suites are not full and we are continuing to arrest those who are breaking the law.”

The force added those continuing to demonstrate in areas where a restriction is in place face prosecution.

Activists said they plan to continue their roadblocks, which have affected more than half a million people with road closures, traffic gridlock and disruption to transport and businesses since Monday, until at least next Friday.

Spokeswoman Jayne Forbes said: “We would obviously look to go on for two weeks and if we can go on longer then even better. It depends on the rebels.

“We have got quite a lot of people committed to do it for the whole two weeks.”

Robin Boardman-Pattison, 21, said activists are planning to step up action on the rail and London Underground network.

“We will be escalating our disruption throughout the week,” he said. “The impact to the Tube system will grow.”

The British Transport Police (BTP) arrested two men and a woman on suspicion of obstructing the railway after activists clambered aboard the carriage of a train at Canary Wharf station on Wednesday morning.

Police remove climate change protestors who had glued themselves to the roof of a DLR train at Canary wharf station (AFP/Getty Images)

A smartly dressed man and woman glued their hands to the roof before being removed and taken away in a police van.

XR, who are demanding a meeting with the Government, says direct action is needed to force authorities to act urgently on climate change and wildlife declines and halt a “sixth mass extinction”.

TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham joined protesters at Oxford Circus, saying: “I believe the world’s leaders are not acting urgently enough to avert a climate catastrophe.

“As long as it is peaceful and democratic then they can count on my support.”

A YouGov poll of 3,561 UK adults suggested public opinion has swung against the protests, while some Londoners hit out at the group’s “seriously flawed” methods.

Many voiced opposition to their targeting of the public transport system, which appeared to contradict a wider environmental message for people to switch from cars to Tubes and trains.

Music student Anouska Stahlmann, 20, said her ill mother and elderly grandparents had to walk part of their journey because of the risk of getting stuck in a tunnel while on the Tube.

“I have no issue with wanting to better the environment and we’re fairly conscious of it as a family,” she said.

“Their methods, however, are seriously flawed and are not inclusive of people who want to support the cause.

“I find it awful they’re disintegrating into a rent-a-mob mentality really.

“I’d expect better.”

#Labour will scrap Sats and let teachers teach, vows Jeremy Corbyn

Party leader says he will relieve pressure so schools can deliver rich and varied curriculum

Labour has announced plans to scrap compulsory national tests for primary school children in England, with a promise to relieve pressure on overstretched schools and free up teachers to deliver a “rich and varied curriculum”.

Jeremy Corbyn has announced plans to scrap compulsory national tests for primary school children in England, with a promise to relieve pressure on overstretched schools and free up teachers to deliver a “rich and varied curriculum”.

In a speech warmly received by NEU members, who voted on Monday in favour of a ballot to boycott Sats tests next year, the Labour leader said: “We need to prepare children for life, not just for exams.”

He denounced the high-stakes testing culture, complaining that children in England’s schools are among the most tested in the world, and pledged a Labour government would abolish sats for seven- and 11-year-olds, as well as controversial plans for baseline assessments for reception classes.

Corbyn told the 1,500-strong audience that Labour understood teachers were overworked and overstressed. “Teachers get into the profession because they want to inspire children, not pass them along an assembly line,” he said.

“We will raise standards by freeing up teachers to teach. Labour trusts teachers. You are professionals. You know your job. You know your students.”

Speaking weeks before the latest cohort of 10- and 11-year-olds take Sats, Corbyn highlighted the pressure the tests put on young children  “Sats and the regime of extreme pressure testing are giving young children nightmares and leaving them in floods of tears,” he said.

The government tests have not only been unpopular with teachers; parents have also been concerned about the damaging impact of high-stakes testing on young children and many have staged their own Sats boycott by keeping their children off school.

Welcoming Labour’s announcement, more Than a Score – a coalition of parents and teachers opposed to overtesting – said: “It doesn’t have to be this way. There are more supportive ways to assess children and fairer ways to measure schools, without the need to turn children into data points.”

Labour would consult parents and teachers and come up with a more flexible and practical system of assessment, which is tailored to individual pupils, Corbyn said.

“Our assessment will be based on clear principles. First, to understand the learning needs of each child, because every child is unique. And second, to encourage a broad curriculum aimed at a rounded education,” he said.

“When children have a rich and varied curriculum, when they’re encouraged to be creative, to develop their imagination, then there’s evidence that they do better at the core elements of literacy and numeracy too.”

The announcement was welcomed by the NEU. Its joint general secretary Mary Bousted said: “The NEU has long advocated an assessment system that has the trust of teachers and school communities – one that will support children’s learning and raise standards of attainment in our schools.

“We look forward to the return of a broad and balanced primary curriculum and to the rekindling of the spirit of creativity in our schools. We welcome Labour’s commitment to work with the profession in order to develop these groundbreaking policies further.”

Sats were introduced in 1990 to hold schools to account and help drive up standards. Six- and seven-year-olds sit the standardised national tests in English and maths at the end of key stage 1 and again at the end of key stage 2, in their final year of primary school.

In 2018, the government announced KS1 Sats would be replaced with a new baseline assessment in reception (ages four to five), beginning in 2020, with KS1 Sats becoming optional from 2023.

Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, also welcomed Labour’s approach. “In reality, Sats do not tell teachers or parents anything they didn’t already know about their child or school, but have the negative unintended consequences of distracting from teaching and learning and narrowing the focus of the curriculum,” he said.

Julie McCulloch, the director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Sats are a flawed way of measuring the performance of primary schools and a new approach is long overdue.

“These tests cannot possibly reflect the breadth and richness of the curriculum and learning which takes place in primary schools, and can lead to an overemphasis on English and maths to the detriment of other subjects.

“And while they are intended as a measure of school performance, rather than pupil performance, the reality is that it is very difficult to hold a week of tests without a proportion of children experiencing feelings of stress and anxiety.”

School Minister Nick Gibb condemned Labour’s plan to abolish school testing. He said: “These tests have been part of school life since the 90s. They have been pivotal in raising standards in our primary schools. That’s why Labour governments led by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown supported them.

“Abolishing these tests would be a terrible, retrograde step. It would enormously damage our education system, and undo decades of improvement in children’s reading and maths. Under Labour, the government would simply give up on ensuring all our children can read and write by the age of 11.”

Brexit live: Theresa May is facing defeat in the EU elections

Brexit: Mrs, May’s election CRISIS – Tories face OBLITERATION in EU vote as anger grows

THERESA May is facing a bruising EU Election with the Tories suffering a battering in the vote, according to the latest polls.

YouGov’s poll on April 10 to 11 – the first since Brexit was exteneded up until October 31 – shows Labour a clear leader with 24 percent of the public’s backing. The Conservatives are in second place at 16 percent, said the poll of 1,843 people. That is a steep drop from the 2017 general election.

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which was officially launched on Friday, is third with 15 percent backing, and UKIP is on 14 percent.

Another new party, Change UK, which includes Chuka Umunna among its number, are on seven percent. The Liberal Democrats are on eight percent, the same as the Greens, while the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru are both on six percent.

Talks between the Government and Labour are set to continue over the Easter parliamentary recess in the hope of finding a Brexit agreement that will be acceptable to MPs.

The EU has insisted the terms of the UK’s withdrawal, rejected three times by MPs, cannot be renegotiated – but there is scope to strengthen the political declaration, a document setting out the parameters of the UK’s future relations with the EU, ahead of the new Brexit deadline.

10.15am update: May’s leadership rivals try to DODGE Brexit demanding she SORTS crisis before quitting if she can’t get her Brexit deal through Parliament.

Supporters of Cabinet contenders for the Number 10 hot seat made clear in private they do not want a leadership challenge before the first stage of Brexit is resolved, even if cross-party talks with Labour fail to yield positive results, sources told The Times.

They fear a summer leadership challenge before Theresa May can get her Brexit deal thorough Parliament would provide Brexiteer rivals Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab with vital momentum, both of whom have pledged to re-open talks with Brussels.

The Prime Minister has come under huge pressure following her decision to accept a deadline of October 31 from Brussels to extend the Article 50 process and to begin talks with Jeremy Corbyn as she desperately looks for ways to build support for her Brexit deal.

Mrs May has vowed to quit once this first stage of negotiations is complete, but one source backing a Cabinet rival told The Times their candidate would be “perfectly happy” for her to remain in office until December when, under the Tory leadership rules, she can next face a confidence vote.

The source said: “We want a contest after the first stage of Brexit has been sorted so we can talk about other things. Most leading contenders do not want an early challenge, even if that means waiting and supporting the Prime Minister until December.”

Brexit: Theresa May has been urged to remain as Prime Minister until later this year

10.00am update: Eight out of ten finance leaders expect environment to be worse after Brexit

UK businesses are expecting the long-term environment to decline as a result of the UK exiting the EU.

Deloitte warned that worries over the long-term impact of Brexit are mounting, with more than half of finance bosses in the UK expecting to halt recruitment and spending.

The accountancy firm’s latest survey interviewed 89 chief financial officers (CFOs), including 48 representing FTSE 100 companies and smaller firms on the FTSE 250.

Only found 13 percent of those surveyed were optimistc about the future of ther company.

More than half – 53% – also expect to reduce hiring staff because of Brexit.

A timeline explaining what could happen next in Brexit.

9.30am update: UK house prices are rising as buyers “bored” waiting for Brexit re-ignite the market

House prices rised 1.1 percent – or £3,447 – in the month to April 6, meaning the average price is now £305,449. But despite the spring bounce in April the figure is still 0.1% lower than a year ago.

Rightmove said the uncertain political backdrop continues to hold back the market, with new seller asking prices, the number of properties coming to market and the number of sales agreed all below this time last year.

Rightmove director Miles Shipside said: “The rise in new seller asking prices reflects growing activity as the market builds momentum, egged on by the arrival of Easter.“

Some sectors of the market and some parts of the country have strong buyer demand and a lack of suitable supply.

“However, on average, properties are still coming to the market at slightly lower prices than a year ago.

“It’s one of the most price-sensitive markets that we’ve seen for years, with buyers understandably looking for value or for homes with extra quality and appeal that suit their needs.”

Brexit live: UK house prices will rise as buys and sellers are “bored by brexit” (Image: GETTY)

9.25am: Nigel Evans warns May’will plead for another Brexit EXTENSION’

The Brexiteer MP warned the Prime Minister will return to Brussels “cap in hand” in October to demand the European Union agree to yet another Brexit extension.

Theresa May last week sparked the fury across the country after she agreed to a new Brexit extension until October 31 despite pledging not to sign up the country to stay inside the European Union past June 30.

Tory MP Nigel Evans reacted furiously to the news, predicting the Prime Minister will ask for a further delay to Brexit before the new deadline is due to expire in the Autumn.

Speaking to LBC, Mr Evans said: “We’re still in the European Union and the can has been kicked down the road towards Halloween.

“I can see us on October 30, Theresa May going back to Brussels, cap in hand yet again, asking ‘can we stay until March 2020?’ The whole thing is absolutely preposterous.

“She went to Brussels, basically cap in hand but her hands tied behind her back at the same time. Brussels saw all of this, they saw the weakness of Theresa May.”

Brexit: Mrs May has extended Article 50 to October – to the fury of Brexiteer Tory MPs.

9.05am update: Rees-Mogg launches attack on ‘foolish’ Lammy after he compares Brexiteers to NAZIS

Jacob Rees-Mogg has lashed out at David Lammy after the Labour MP compared the Brexit-backing European Research Group to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party.

compared the Brexit-backing European Research Group to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party.

The prominent Brexiteer and chair of ERG said he felt sorry for the Labour MP following his controversial comments which made him “look foolish”.

In a blistering attack, Mr Rees-Mogg said Mr Lammy’s comments were “unbalanced” and would “damage his reputation”.

He tweeted: “I feel sorry for Mr Lammy, comparing a Parliamentary ginger group with an organisation and creed that killed six million Jewish people makes him look foolish and his comments unbalanced.

“It damages his reputation.”

Brexit: Mr Rees-Mogg said he felt “sorry” for David Lammy following his shock comments

8.53am update: Cross-party brexit talks are “more constructive” than people think

Jeremy hunt has said talks between Mrs May’s Government and the Labour Party to agree to a plan are more constructive than people think,

Mr Hunt told BBC Radio: “Talks we are having with Labour are detailed and I think more constructive than people have thought.

“They are more detailed and more constructive than people had been expecting on both sides. But we don’t know if they are going to work.”

Meetings between ministers and their opposite numbers from Labour are due to continue this week, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said on Sunday – but it has not been confirmed if the talks will resume today. 

8.30am update: Hammond mocked Tory peers for engaging in “suicide pact”

Philip Hammond mocked prominent Tory peers for engaging in a “suicide pact” during failed bids to beat Theresa May to the Tory leadership.

Brexit: Mr Hunt said that cross-party talks had been “constructive”

The Daily Telegraph reported Mr Hammond used a speech in the US on Friday to say Environment Secretary Michael Gove and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson had formed an “unintended suicide pact” in the 2016 leadership contest.

The Chancellor said that Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom had effectively “knifed herself” during the race to become Prime Minister, according to the newspaper.

Mrs May is facing calls to quit and trigger a new leadership contest, with ex-cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith saying she should stand down as early as next month.

Mr Johnson hit back at David Lammy after the Labour MP defended comparing some Tory peers to the Nazis.

The remarks came as Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, Mrs May’s defacto deputy, said talks with Labour on trying to end the deadlock would continue over the Easter parliamentary recess. But discussions are not expected to resume on Monday, according to Labour sources.

Referring to the leadership battle, the newspaper reported Mr Hammond as saying: “If you remember last time this happened in 2016, Gove and Johnson knifed each other in an unintended suicide pact.

Brexit: Mrs, May's election CRISIS - Tories face OBLITERATION in EU vote as anger grows
Brexit: Hammond mocked Tory peers for engaging in a “suicide pact” over failed leadership bids

“Which left just Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May. And then Andrea Leadsom knifed herself in a private suicide pact and Theresa May inherited the prime ministership without anybody casting a single vote.”

8.20am update: Hunt to tell Japan business leaders UK is focused on avoiding no deal

Jeremy Hunt is using a visit to Japan to tell business leaders that the UK is focused on avoiding a no-deal Brexit.

Following withdrawal from the EU being delayed until October 31, Mr Hunt will stress on Monday that Britain is seeking “tariff-free frictionless trade” with the bloc.

As well as meeting Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe, Mr Hunt is also visiting a Tokyo high school to help teach English.

The Foreign Secretary will “update them on EU exit developments, and reassure them that UK Government is focused on avoiding a no-deal Brexit and on agreeing a deal which that will ensure tariff-free frictionless trade between the EU and the UK”.

Mr Hunt, who has previously worked in Japan, intends to promote English as the “language of opportunity” on the trip.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr Hunt said: “I’m privileged to be able to visit Japan as Foreign Secretary and see how that shared culture is inspiring the next generation. The UK has always been an outward-looking global power. That cannot change after Brexit. I look forward to our relationship with Japan getting even closer in the years after we leave the EU.”

Jeremy Corbyn has privately expressed concern that evidence of anti-Semitism within Labour was "mislaid or ignored", leaked recordings suggest.

Anti-Semitism row: Jeremy Corbyn concerned evidence ‘ignored’

Jeremy Corbyn has privately expressed concern that evidence of anti-Semitism within Labour was “mislaid or ignored”, leaked recordings suggest.

The Sunday Times has released part of a conversation the party leader had with Dame Margaret Hodge, which she taped.

The Barking MP has been a fierce critic of Mr Corbyn’s stance on anti-Semitism.

A Labour spokesman said the tape showed Mr Corbyn’s desire for “robust and efficient” procedures and to “rebuild trust with the Jewish community”.

Throughout much of his leadership, Mr Corbyn has been dogged by criticism from within the party about his handling of anti-Semitism claims.

Last year he became embroiled in a row with Dame Margaret over the issue, which saw the party launch – and then drop – disciplinary action against the long-serving Jewish MP.

She secretly recorded a conversation between the pair in February, as Mr Corbyn talked over a plan to recruit former cabinet minister Lord Falconer to review the party’s complaints process.

“Just to reassure you, he’s not going to be running the system; he’s not entitled to do that,” the Labour leader says on the tape, which was given to the Sunday Times.

“He will look at the speed of dealing with cases, the administration of them and the collation of the evidence before it’s put before appropriate panels… because I was concerned that it was either being mislaid, ignored or not used, and there had to be some better system.”

Dame Margaret Hodge
Dame Margaret is among seven MPs to call for an independent body to deal with complaints

In March, Dame Margaret claimed Mr Corbyn had misled her  – or been misled by his staff – over assurances the leader’s office was not involved in disciplinary procedures.

Labour dismissed the suggestion as “categorically untrue”.

Last week, the Jewish Labour Movement voted to pass a motion of no confidence in the Labour leader.

Its national secretary Peter Mason said reports of delays, inaction and interference from the leader’s office showed the party’s processes were “incapable of dealing with anti-Jewish racism”.

‘Vile racism’

Dame Margaret is among seven Labour MPs to write to the Sunday Times this weekend, calling for a “fully independent body” to deal with complaints of racism, harassment and bullying.

They complain of “a growing backlog of unresolved cases of vile racism”.

“Despite telling us things are better, the party has clearly failed to get to grips with its anti-Semitism problem,” the letter says.

“The current complaints system is broken. There must be a real change at the top of the party.”

‘Fully investigated’

However, a Labour spokesman said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints of anti-Semitism extremely seriously and we are committed to challenging and campaigning against it in all its forms.

“All complaints about anti-Semitism are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”

A party source told the BBC that before Jennie Formby became general secretary a year ago, there had been concerns that Jewish activists not in breach of rules were targeted, while efforts to tackle clear cut cases of anti-Semitism were obstructed.

Julian Assange should not be extradited to US – Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the UK government should not extradite Julian Assange to the US, where he faces a computer hacking charge.

The Wikileaks co-founder was arrested for a separate charge at Ecuador’s London embassy on Thursday, where he had been granted asylum since 2012.

Mr Corbyn said Assange should not be extradited “for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan”.

Meanwhile, Ecuador’s leader expressed anger at how Assange had behaved.

Australian-born Assange, 47, sought refuge in the Knightsbridge embassy seven years ago, to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that has since been dropped. But Ecuador abruptly withdrew its asylum and invited the police to arrest Assange on Thursday.

After his dramatic arrest, he was taken to Westminster Magistrates’ Court and found guilty of a British charge of breaching bail. He spent Thursday night in custody and is facing up to 12 months in prison for that conviction.

The Swedish authorities are now considering whether to reopen an investigation into the allegations of sexual assault, which Assange denies.

The US government has also charged him with allegations of conspiracy to break into a computer, relating to a massive leak of classified US government documents. The UK will decide whether to extradite Assange, and if he was convicted, he could face up to five years in jail.

Assange battle ‘now political’

In a tweet, Mr Corbyn shared a video said to be of Pentagon footage – which had been released by Wikileaks – of a 2007 air strike which implicated US military in the killing of civilians and two journalists.

Earlier in the House of Commons, Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott questioned the US government’s motivation for charging Assange. She said: “Julian Assange is not being pursued to protect US national security. He is being pursued because he has exposed wrongdoing by US administrations.”

The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Emmanuel, said backing Assange is not without political risk and will not find universal favour among Labour MPs – but Mr Corbyn’s intervention “means the battle over Assange’s future will now be as much political as it is legal”.

Sketch of Julia Assange at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 11 April 2019
Australian-born Assange at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday

The editor of Wikileaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson, has expressed fears that the US could file more serious charges against Assange, and that if he was convicted he could be behind bars for “decades”.

Mr Hrafnsson added that Assange had been thrown “overboard” by Ecuador – and the country was “horrible” to treat him like that.

‘He was a problem’

Meanwhile in Ecuador, President Lenin Moreno criticised Assange, claiming that after spending seven years in the country’s embassy he had dismissed Ecuador by describing it as an insignificant country.

“We had treated him as a guest,” he said. “But not anymore.”

Ecuador’s ambassador to the UK, Jaime Marchan, also previously said Assange had been “continually a problem” while he was living in the embassy.

Meanwhile, a man who is alleged to have links with Assange has been arrested while trying to leave Ecuador, the country’s officials said.

The man – who has been identified by supporters as a Swedish software developer called Ola Bini – had been trying to board a flight to Japan.

He’s been in Ecuador’s embassy for seven years – but why was Julian Assange there in the first place?

Assange is due to face a hearing over his possible extradition to the US on 2 May.

During a briefing at the White House following Assange’s arrest, US President Donald Trump was asked by reporters if he stood by remarks that he made during his election campaign when he said he loved Wikileaks.

“I know nothing about Wikileaks,” said Mr Trump. “It’s not my thing.”

What Trump’s said about Wikileaks

He added: “I’ve been seeing what happened with Assange and that will be a determination, I would imagine, mostly by the attorney general, who’s doing an excellent job.”

Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said they would be fighting the extradition request. She said it set a “dangerous precedent” where any journalist could face US charges for “publishing truthful information about the United States”.

She said she had visited Assange in the police cells where he thanked supporters and said: “I told you so.”

Assange had predicted that he would face extradition to the US if he left the embassy.

Meanwhile, Australia said it had received a request for consular assistance after Assange was taken from the embassy.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Assange will not get “special treatment” and will have to “make his way through whatever comes his way in terms of the justice system”.

Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson and Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson
Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson and Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson say the arrest sets a dangerous precedent

The arrest was welcomed by the government on Thursday. Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons: “This goes to show that in the UK, no-one is above the law.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the arrest was the result of “years of careful diplomacy” and that it was “not acceptable” for someone to “escape facing justice”.

Assange set up Wikileaks in 2006 with the aim of obtaining and publishing confidential documents and images.

The organisation hit the headlines four years later when it released footage of US soldiers killing civilians from a helicopter in Iraq.

Former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was arrested in 2010 for disclosing more than 700,000 confidential documents, videos and diplomatic cables to the anti-secrecy website. She said she only did so to spark debates about foreign policy, but US officials said the leak put lives at risk.

She was found guilty by a court martial in 2013 of charges including espionage. However, her jail sentence was later commuted.

Manning was recently jailed for refusing to testify, before an investigation into Wikileaks’ role in revealing the secret files.

Prime Minister’s Questions: The key bits and the verdict

Just hours ahead of her solo pitch to 27 EU leaders for a short delay to Brexit, Theresa May faced Jeremy Corbyn at the dispatch box.

Here is what happened.

While talks continued between the Conservatives and Labour on breaking the parliamentary deadlock on the UK’s exit from the EU, the Labour leader avoided the issue of Brexit.

Mr Corbyn did mark the 21st anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland – as did Mrs May and the SNP’s Ian Blackford – and called for it to be maintained post-Brexit.

But he moved on to attack Mrs May over local council funding, claiming nine of the 10 most deprived council areas in the country had seen cuts almost three times the average of any other council.

“We shouldn’t forget communities across the country abandoned by this government,” he said.

The PM defended her record, saying councils have more money available this year; and she said her government “listened to councils”, for example by lifting the borrowing cap at their request to help funding to build new homes.

Mr Corbyn threw more statistics across the dispatch box, saying cuts in Swindon alone amounted to £235 per household and in Stoke-on-Trent it rose to £640, but the affluent county of Surrey was seeing an increase in its funding.

He also claimed 500,000 more children had gone into relative poverty and, in Stoke alone, 4,000 food bank parcels had been handed out to children.

The Labour leader asked: “Does she think areas with the highest levels of deprivation deserve facing the largest cuts in their budget?”

The PM said members across the House “should take action to make sure families are getting more money into their pockets”.

Mrs May listed measures taken by her government, from freezing fuel duty to introducing the Living Wage, adding: “He should be backing these measures instead of voting against them.”

She admitted that the government had asked local councils “to take difficult decisions to living with our means”, but only because of the deficit left by Labour.

In their last exchange, Mr Corbyn said it was a “political choice to impose austerity”, which was “vindictive and damaging”.

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May on council funding

He concluded: “Far from tackling burning injustices… [she has] pushed councils to the brink and left those ‘just about managing’ not being able to manage at all. That is her legacy.”

Mrs May said she was proud in what her government had achieved, including better schools, more jobs and lower borrowing.

She finished by saying a Labour government led by Mr Corbyn would be about “destroying our defences, abandoning our allies, [seeing] billions more in borrowing, fewer opportunities and higher taxes for everyone. That’s a Labour future and we will never let it happen.”

What else came up?

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, was not afraid to focus on Brexit.

He asked the prime minister outright whether the government had offered a further referendum to Labour during their talks – “yes or no?”

Ian Blackford and Theresa May on new EU referendum

Mrs May reiterated her opposition to another public vote and reminded him the Commons had voted on and rejected such an outcome twice.

But Mr Blackford stayed on topic, saying: “People can’t have faith in a backroom deal cooked up by two leaders who don’t possess the ingredients to hold their parties together, never mind hold these islands together.”

He then asked her whether she would accept a longer extension from the EU if offered at the summit later.

The PM said she had “made her position clear”, but took a jibe at the SNP MP, saying: “It is a little difficult for many of us in this House to hear him week after week stand up and say that the UK should stay within the European Union when Scottish independence would have meant taking Scotland out of the European Union.”

Mr Blackford wasn’t the only one highlighting Brexit either, as Conservative MP Henry Smith warned of the cost of a long extension to the UK.

PMQs: Henry Smith and Theresa May on Brexit extension costs

Police funding came up on both sides of the Commons.

Conservative Theresa Villiers brought up a case of a 15-year-old in her constituency chased by three men with a knife and criticised London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan for closing her local police station.

But Labour’s Wayne David showed the PM a graph on how her government’s choices on funding had affected the police in Wales.

PMQs: Theresa Villiers and Wayne David on police funding

Former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas called on the prime minister to speak to more young campaigners about threats to the environment.

Mrs May said it gave her an opportunity to praise the green credentials of a school in her constituency.

Caroline Lucas and Theresa May on Greta Thunberg
House of Commons

You wouldn’t guess from PMQs that the UK is on the eve of an emergency European Council which could see Brexit postponed for perhaps a year.

The elephant in the Chamber sat quietly at the back, emitting the occasional gentle belch, as the main protagonists argued about council spending in the run up to the local elections on 2 May – trading soundbites about Tory austerity and Labour’s record deficits.

The SNP’s Ian Blackford wasn’t playing and, on its 21st anniversary, he opened on the impact of Brexit on the Good Friday Agreement.

And he attacked the Conservatives and Labour as “Brexit parties”, as they continue their talks on a possible deal to get some agreed form of Brexit through the Commons.

It was noticeable that the PM did not answer Mr Blackford’s well-targeted question about whether a referendum was on the table in those talks – merely observing that some in the Commons might propose a referendum, but her position had not changed.

A few antennae quivered at that careful formulation.

The PM took some rather diffident Brexit fire from her own side, but not as much as might have been expected the morning after 97 Conservatives defied the party whip and voted against a further postponement.

It was mild rather than bitter. Craig Tracey said Britain had nothing to fear from a no-deal exit. Henry Smith complained about the cost of Brexit payments to the EU, and David Duguid offered an easy hit for the PM about leaving the Commons Fisheries Policy.

Any thought that the PM might be treated to a pre-summit monstering from Brexiteer backbenchers, to demonstrate that she might not be able to deliver whatever she promised EU leaders, was soon dispelled.

The troops were on best behaviour.

Former Labour minister Yvette Cooper's bill passed by 313 votes to 312

Brexit: MPs back delay bill by one vote

MPs have voted by a majority of one to force the prime minister to ask for an extension to the Brexit process, in a bid to avoid any no-deal scenario.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper led the move, which the Commons passed in one day.

The bill is due to be considered by the Lords later and will need its approval to become law, but it is the EU which decides whether to grant an extension.

It comes as talks between Conservative and Labour teams to end the Brexit deadlock are set to continue.

Discussions between the two leaders on Wednesday were described as “constructive” but were criticised by MPs in both parties.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Philip Hammond has suggested that he expects Brussels to insist on a lengthy delay to Brexit and described a public vote to approve any final deal as “a perfectly credible proposition”.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Radio 4 Today he was “very strongly against” a public vote and he would not want to see a long extension to the Brexit process.

‘Constitutional outrage’

Ms Cooper’s attempts to prevent a no-deal departure from the EU passed by 313 votes to 312.

The draft legislation by the former Labour minister would force the prime minister to ask the EU for an extension to the Article 50 process beyond 12 April and would give Parliament the power to decide the length of this delay.

Tory Brexiteers expressed frustration at the unusual process of a backbench bill clearing all stages in the Commons in a matter of hours, rather than months.

Mark Francois said: “It’s difficult to argue that you’ve had an extremely considered debate when you’ve rammed the bill through the House of Commons in barely four hours. That is not a considered debate, that is a constitutional outrage.”

Chart showing the results of the Commons Brexit delay vote

The government’s attempt to limit the bill’s powers resulted in a 180-vote defeat – the second biggest defeat for a government in modern times.

Responding to the Commons vote, the government said the bill would place a “severe constraint” on its ability to negotiate an extension to the Brexit deadline before 12 April, the date the UK is due to exit.

‘Useful but inconclusive’

It comes as talks between government negotiators and Labour are set to continue throughout Thursday after Mrs May and Mr Corbyn agreed a “programme of work”.

A No 10 spokesman said on Wednesday that both parties showed “flexibility” and “a commitment to bring the… uncertainty to a close”.

Mr Corbyn said the meeting was “useful, but inconclusive”, adding there had not been “as much change as [he] had expected” in the PM’s position.

The prime minister wants to agree a policy with the Labour leader for MPs to vote on before 10 April – when the EU will hold an emergency summit on Brexit.

But if they cannot reach a consensus, she has pledged to allow MPs to vote on a number of options, including the deal she has negotiated with the EU, which has already been rejected twice by MPs.

In either event, Mrs May said she would ask the EU for a further short extension to Brexit in the hope of getting an agreement passed by Parliament before 22 May, so that the UK does not have to take part in European elections.

Corbyn: May meeting “useful but inconclusive”

The cross-party talks have provoked strong criticism from MPs in both parties, with two ministers resigning on Wednesday.

Chris Heaton-Harris quit on Wednesday afternoon, claiming his job at the Department for Exiting the European Union had become “irrelevant” if the government is not prepared to leave without a deal.

Wales Minister Nigel Adams also resigned, saying the government was at risk of failing to deliver “the Brexit people voted for”.

Reports in papers including the Sun suggest as many as 15 more – including several cabinet ministers – could follow if Mrs May strayed too far from previous commitments.


Among her “red lines” was leaving the EU’s customs union, which allows goods to move between member states without undergoing checks or being subject to tariff payments.

Labour wants a new permanent customs union with the EU, while Northern Ireland’s  Democratic Unionist Party – which has propped up Mrs May’s government – indicated on Wednesday that it could support the idea.

In an interview on ITV’s Peston programme, Mr Hammond said that – while the Conservative manifesto had pledged to leave the EU customs union – “some kind of customs arrangement” was always going to be part of the future structure.

Asked about a public vote to confirm approval of the final Brexit deal, Mr Hammond said: “Many people will disagree with it. I’m not sure there’s a majority in Parliament for it, but it’s a perfectly credible proposition and it deserves to be tested in Parliament.”

Second referendum

Mr Corbyn is coming under pressure from senior colleagues in his party to make a further referendum a condition of signing up to any agreement.

Demanding the shadow cabinet hold a vote on the issue, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said not backing a confirmatory vote would be a “breach” of the policy agreed by party members at its last conference.

The party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, told Peston that Labour members would “find it unforgiveable” for “us to sign off on Theresa May’s deal without a concession that involves the people”.

However, party chairman Ian Lavery is reported to have warned against the idea, arguing that it could split the party.

European leaders will continue deciding how to respond to Brexit, with Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, hosting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dublin later.

The UK has until 12 April to propose a plan to the EU – which must be accepted by the bloc – or it will leave without a deal on that date.

Theresa May: "I'm offering to sit down with the leader of the opposition"

Brexit: May to meet Corbyn to tackle deadlock

Theresa May will meet Jeremy Corbyn later to see whether there is common ground to break the Brexit deadlock, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay says.

He said the “remorseless logic” of MP numbers in the House of Commons meant the UK was heading for an “undesirable” soft Brexit – closer links with the EU.

There were no preconditions for the talks, he said, but it was not a “blank cheque” either.

Mr Corbyn says he wants a customs union and workers’ rights to be priorities.

BBC political editor Emmanuel said there was not much difference between the government’s version of Brexit and Labour’s version, but there did not seem to be “an enormous amount of confidence” a political consensus could be reached from either party.

The PM’s move to hold talks has angered some Brexiteers, with Wales Minister Nigel Adams resigning his role.

Nigel Adams
Nigel Adams told the PM: “You and your cabinet have decided that a deal – cooked up with a Marxist who has never once in his political life put British interest first – is better than no deal.”

Mr Adams said the government was at risk of failing to deliver “the Brexit people voted for” and failing to prevent “the calamity of a Corbyn government”.

Prominent Brexiteer Boris Johnson has accused Mrs May of “entrusting the final handling of Brexit to Labour”.

And Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the Eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG) of Tory MPs, described the offer as “deeply unsatisfactory” and accused Mrs May of planning to collaborate with “a known Marxist”.

But Mr Barclay blamed hard Brexiteers in the ERG who refused to back the PM’s deal.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s regrettable that what we have been saying for several months now is coming to pass but that is the remorseless logic of not backing the prime minister’s deal.


“Because the alternative then is to have to seek votes from the opposition benches because 35 of my own colleagues would not support the prime minister’s deal.”

Mr Barclay said the consequence of MPs not passing the PM’s deal was either a “soft Brexit or no Brexit at all”.

“It [a soft Brexit] is undesirable but it’s the remorseless logic of the numbers of the House of Commons,” he said.

He said the EU has said the withdrawal agreement is the only deal available, but he said Labour had expressed more concern about the future relationship – which is contained within the separate political declaration.

The withdrawal agreement includes how much money the UK must pay to the EU as a settlement, details of the transition period, and citizens’ rights – as well as the controversial Irish backstop that aims to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The political declaration sets out proposals for how the UK’s long term future relationship with the EU will work after Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn: “I recognise that she has made a move… I recognise my responsibility”

Mrs May announced her plan to meet Mr Corbyn – as well as her intention to ask the EU for an extension to the Brexit deadline – after more than seven hours of talks with her cabinet on Tuesday.

Mr Corbyn said he was “very happy” to meet Mrs May and recognised his own “responsibility” to try to break the deadlock.

But the meeting is not expected to take place before this afternoon, at the earliest, says our political editor, who was told by Mr Corbyn’s team that he was not available on Wednesday morning for talks with the PM.

Later in Parliament

Meanwhile, a cross-party group of MPs will attempt to push through legislation to stop a no-deal Brexit.

If passed into law, the bill – presented by Labour MP Yvette Cooper – would require the PM to ask for an extension of Article 50 beyond that deadline.

House of Commons: Wednesday’s approx timings for cross-party bill

14:00 BST – Debate on a bill designed to ensure the government seeks a delay to Article 50 and stop no deal in law due to begin

19:00 – A second reading vote on the bill

22:00 – Committee stage starts (this stage usually starts within a couple of weeks of a bill’s second reading) and finally third reading vote

Thursday – Bill is expected to be considered by the House of Lords

The UK has until 12 April to propose a plan to the EU – which must be accepted by the bloc – or it will leave without a deal on that date.

Mrs May said she wanted to agree a new plan with Mr Corbyn and put it to a vote in the Commons before 10 April – when the EU will hold an emergency summit on Brexit.

She insisted her withdrawal agreement – which was voted down last week – would remain part of the deal.

If there is no agreement, Mrs May said a number of options would be put to MPs “to determine which course to pursue”.

In either event, Mrs May said she would ask the EU for a further short extension to hopefully get an agreement passed by Parliament before 22 May, so the UK does not have to take part in European elections.

European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt, who has previously said he thought a no-deal Brexit was “nearly inevitable”, welcomed Mrs May’s offer of talks with Mr Corbyn.

“Good that PM Theresa may is looking for a cross-party compromise. Better late than never,” he tweeted.

She was for budging. The prime minister has made her priority leaving the EU with a deal, rather than the happy contentment of the Brexiteers in the Tory party.

For so long, Theresa May has been derided by her rivals, inside and outside, for cleaving to the idea that she can get the country and her party through this process intact.

But after her deal was defeated at the hands of Eurosceptics, in the words of one cabinet minister in the room during Tuesday’s marathon session, she tried delivering Brexit with Tory votes – Tory Brexiteers said “No”.

Now she’s going to try to deliver Brexit with Labour votes. In a way, it is as simple as that.

Labour has previously said it has five tests for judging any final Brexit deal including protecting workers’ rights, establishing a permanent customs union with the EU and securing the same benefits of being in the single market the UK has currently.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey told the Today programme that Labour was approaching the conversations with “an open mind”.

Boris Johnson: Brexit process ‘disintegrating’

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party – which helps prop up Mrs May’s government but has repeatedly voted against her deal – said: “It remains to be seen if sub-contracting out the future of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn, someone whom the Conservatives have demonised for four years, will end happily.”

After Mrs May’s statement, the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, called for patience.

European leaders have been intensifying plans to cope with a possible no-deal, particularly surrounding the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Presentational grey line
Flowchart on next steps
  • Wednesday 3 April: Theresa May likely to begin talks with Jeremy Corbyn; cross-party group attempts to rule out no-deal in law
  • 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
Brexit: May to meet Corbyn to tackle deadlock
The votes on the four alternatives came after hours of debate

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.

Brexit: Theresa May ponders fourth bid to pass deal

Theresa May and her cabinet are looking for ways to bring her EU withdrawal agreement back to the Commons for a fourth attempt at winning MPs’ backing.

The PM said the UK would need “an alternative way forward” after her plan was defeated, by 58 votes on Friday.

MPs from all parties will test support for other options during a second round of “indicative votes” on Monday.

However, Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis said the government did not support any of those options.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn refused to say whether his party would offer an option to remain in the EU during these votes, but said the obvious choice was “a good economic relationship with Europe”.

The latest vote came on the day the UK was supposed to leave the European Union: 29 March. The date was postponed to allow Mrs May more time to find a Brexit solution.

Friday’s defeat was the third time MPs have rejected her withdrawal agreement – the first vote was lost by 230 votes, the second by 149.

The government has so far failed to win over 34 Conservative rebels, including both Remainers as well as Tory Brexiteers, who say the deal still leaves the UK too closely aligned to Europe.

Northern Ireland’s DUP – which has propped up Mrs May’s minority government – also continues to oppose the deal.

But a No 10 source indicated the prime minister would continue to seek support in the Commons and insisted efforts were “going in the right direction”.

Government position ‘clear’

MPs will hold another set of non-binding votes on various Brexit options in the Commons on Monday.

None of MPs’ eight proposed Brexit options secured a majority in the last round of “indicative votes” on 27 March, but the options which received the most votes were a customs union with the EU or a referendum on any deal.

The customs union allows businesses to move goods around the EU without checks or charges. Continued membership would bar the UK from striking independent trade deals after Brexit.

Pro-Brexit protestors in London
Pro-Brexit protestors wearing yellow vests blocked roads in central London

Brandon Lewis told Radio 4’s Today programme: “The government’s position is very clear – we do not support these options. The government’s position is we believe the best way to respect the referendum is to deliver the deal.”

He said staying in a customs union with the EU would go against the result of the referendum and the Conservatives’ election manifesto.

However, Mr Corbyn said Labour would propose a deal that did involve a customs union with the EU – to protect the issue of avoiding a hard border in Northern Ireland.

He said: “I’m convinced at that after spending a lot of time meeting with and talking to officials in Europe.”

Nicky Morgan, a former cabinet minister and Tory MP, said one way to end the Brexit deadlock could be a government of national unity – which is a cabinet made up of different parties.

She told Today: “There have been periods in our history when we have had national unity governments or a coalition for a very specific issue.”

There is every chance that the prime minister will again – with routes outside the normal boundaries – try to make a version of her Brexit deal the end result of all of this.

Despite a third defeat, despite the embarrassment of repeated losses, don’t imagine that she is ready to say a permanent farewell to the compromise deal she brokered with the EU or, straightaway, to her time in office.

There is still a belief in the heart of government that there could be a way round, perhaps to include the prime minister’s agreed treaty as one of the options that is subject to a series of votes that will be put in front of the Commons next week.

The aspiration, strange as it sounds, for some time now has been to prove to MPs that the deal is the least worst of all the options…

Earlier this month, EU leaders gave the PM until 12 April to come up with a Brexit solution; if her deal had made it through Parliament on Friday that date would have been pushed back to 22 May to allow time to pass the necessary legislation.

Since the deal was rejected, Mrs May now has until 12 April to seek a longer extension to avoid the UK leaving without a deal.

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said she remained “confident” the government could deliver Brexit, adding that “we have to keep trying”.

Tory Brexiteer Andrew Bridgen said leaving the EU without a deal was the best option on the table.

“No deal is the only way we’re going to get out, fulfilling our manifesto pledges and the commitment we made to the British people after the referendum,” he said.

Jeremy Corbyn: “This deal now has to change”

Mrs May said it was “almost certain” there would have to be an extended delay to Brexit to allow the UK to take part in the European elections at the end of May if her deal does not go through.

But Downing Street later said this was not an “inevitability”.

The withdrawal agreement is the part of the Brexit deal Mrs May struck with Brussels which sets out how much money the UK must pay to the EU as a settlement, details of the transition period, and the Irish backstop arrangements.

If Mrs May wants to hold another vote on the deal in Parliament, it has to comply with Commons Speaker John Bercow’s ruling, that it can only be brought back with “substantial” changes.

This is why the government separated the withdrawal agreement from the political declaration – on the future relationship with the EU – for Friday’s vote.

What happens next?

  • Monday, 1 April: MPs hold another set of votes on various Brexit options to see if they can agree on a way forward
  • Wednesday, 3 April: Potentially another round of so-called “indicative votes”
  • 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

Meanwhile, Leave voters registered their anger at the latest vote rejection with a protest at Westminster.

Thousands gathered outside Parliament to protest against the delay, bringing traffic to a standstill.

Meanwhile Conservative former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, who has campaigned for a further referendum on the deal, is facing deselection after losing a vote of no-confidence in his Beaconsfield constituency.

The prominent Remainer, who remains an MP for the time being, clashed with his local Conservative Party over Brexit.

Presentational grey line

Will European leaders accept a longer delay to Brexit?

Analysts, By Mr Ben Rory, Europe Editor.

Despite all the drama, the money and time spent by EU leaders on Brexit (summits, dedicated governmental departments, no-deal planning) and all the hard, hard graft put in by the EU and UK negotiating teams, Europe’s leaders are asking themselves what there is to show for it all.

Ongoing Brexit divisions in Parliament, in government and in Theresa May’s cabinet were on screaming technicolour display again last week.

EU leaders used to use the threat of a no-deal Brexit as a negotiating tactic (as did the UK). They now believe it to be a very real prospect.

That has led to a number of countries – notably France – questioning the logic of delaying Brexit for much longer.

They wonder if the UK will ever unite around a Brexit Way Forward – be it a softer Brexit, no deal or no Brexit.

Would a Brexit extension, allowing for a general election or a second referendum, really settle the issue, they ask?

Corbyn calls for compromise to avoid no-deal Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn says he is seeking a “constructive alternative” to the PM’s deal, in order to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

The Labour leader was speaking after meeting the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, for talks in Brussels.

It comes ahead of an EU summit where Theresa May will ask EU leaders to postpone Brexit for three months.

Mr Corbyn said he did not believe the PM’s deal “is a way forward”.

“We are therefore looking at alternatives, and building a majority in Parliament that can agree on a future constructive economic relationship with the European Union,” he told reporters after the meeting.

Mr Corbyn was joined by shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer for the talks, which also included European Commission Secretary-General Martin Selmayr.

He is also expected to meet seven European leaders at the two-day summit, which begins later.

Mr Corbyn has faced criticism after walking out of a Brexit meeting with the PM on Wednesday because Labour defectors, who are now members of the Independent Group, turned up.

Independent Group spokesman Chuka Umunna described the Labour leader’s behaviour as “juvenile” at a time of national crisis.

After the meeting, other opposition party leaders said they were unimpressed with what they heard from the prime minister.

Mr Corbyn said there had been “a confusion” over the meeting, and he had held separate discussions with Mrs May later on.

“I’m also arranging to meet the prime minister next week again on a one-to-one basis,” he added.

Labour has backed an extension of Brexit talks to find an alternative to the prime minister’s deal which will command a majority in the Commons.

On Wednesday, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said Labour’s plans were “not credible”, and the party was asking for “things that are simply not on offer”.

Brexit: Theresa May ‘hopes’ UK will leave EU with a deal

Theresa May has said she “sincerely hopes” the UK will leave the EU with a deal and she is still “working on” ensuring Parliament’s agreement.

Arriving in Brussels, she said that she had “personal regret” over her request to delay Brexit, but said it will allow time for MPs to make a “final choice”.

At the EU summit she will try to persuade the other 27 countries to delay the UK’s exit beyond 29 March.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn said his talks in Brussels were “very constructive”.

On Wednesday, Mrs May made a speech blaming the delay on MPs and telling the nation she was “on their side”.

The BBC’s Europe correspondent Kevin Connolly said the EU side “appears to hold all the aces” at the summit, with some countries including France “sceptical of the value of making an offer” of an extension.

Theresa May: “I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than 30 June”

How the day will unfold (timings are approximate):

  • 13:00 GMT – Theresa May arrives in Brussels
  • 14:30 GMT – Mrs May will make a short speech to the 27 EU leaders, making the case for a delay to Brexit
  • The PM will then leave the room while the EU leaders decide whether to grant the UK’s request and discuss other Brexit options
  • 18:00 GMT – Press conference by European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Mrs May is also expected to make a statement
  • 18:30 GMT – Working dinner

On her arrival in Brussels, Mrs May said: “A short extension gives us that opportunity to decide to leave the European Union, to deliver on that result of that referendum and I sincerely hope that will be with a negotiated deal.”

She added: “I’m still working on ensuring that Parliament can agree a deal so that we can leave in an orderly way.”

Earlier, speaking in the German Parliament, Angela Merkel said the EU could meet Mrs May’s request to delay Brexit if in the next week there was a “positive vote” on the withdrawal agreement in the UK Parliament.

The German Chancellor said European elections at the end of May would have to be considered during discussions on the suggested extension deadline of 30 June, adding: “But of course we can certainly talk about a short term extension.”

Taoiseach (Irish PM) Leo Varadkar said that he appreciated the situation in London was “somewhat chaotic” and for that reason “we need to cut the entire British establishment a little bit of slack on this”.

He said there was “openness to an extension” as “nobody wants no deal”.

The UK is set to leave the EU next Friday unless the law is changed. The current default position for leaving is without a withdrawal agreement.

Mrs May agreed a deal with the EU, but MPs have rejected it twice.

She has asked the EU for a short extension of the two-year Brexit process until 30 June, but any extension needs to be agreed to by all EU members.

European Council President Donald Tusk said he believed the EU would agree to a short extension, but this would only be if Mrs May’s deal is signed off by MPs next week. Another EU summit next week could be called in an emergency if needed, he said.

Mr Tusk said the “question remains open” as to how long a delay the other EU leaders would support.

Brexit: Theresa May 'hopes' UK will leave EU with a deal

Leaders want to avoid no-deal Brexit

Beware the reports of “huge” differences between EU leaders when it comes to a Brexit delay and the way forward in the coming days.

Take Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macon: There are big differences in their political styles.

And big differences in the message they want to send their own domestic audiences (tough for France; open for Germany) when talking about Brexit.

But like most EU leaders – irritation, frustration and Brexit fatigue aside – they would rather avoid a costly no-deal Brexit.

Chancellor Merkel, like European Council President Donald Tusk has announced she will work “until the last hours” to try to avoid it.

And while EU leaders have ruled out re-opening the Brexit withdrawal agreement and the “backstop” text, you can bet they’ll discuss a longer Brexit delay at their summit today.

They will also discuss the short delay requested by Theresa May, in case – as the EU fears – chaos and division continue next week in Westminster.

In her speech from Number 10 on Wednesday evening, Mrs May insisted she would not be willing to postpone Brexit any further than 30 June, despite appeals from some MPs.

She added: “Of this I am absolutely sure. You, the public, have had enough.

“You are tired of the infighting, tired of the political games and the arcane procedural rows, tired of MPs talking about nothing else but Brexit when you have real concerns about our children’s schools, our National Health Service, knife crime.

“You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with. I agree. I am on your side.”

She said it was now up to MPs to decide whether they wanted to leave with her deal, no deal or not to leave at all. But she warned that the latter option could cause “irreparable damage to public trust” in politicians.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK would be faced with three options if Mrs May’s deal was defeated again next week: revoke Article 50; leave without a deal; or a longer extension could be granted at an emergency EU summit, but with “onerous conditions”.

“The choice that we have now is one of resolving this issue or extreme unpredictability,” Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He also defended the prime minister’s statement, saying Mrs May was under “extraordinary pressure” and MPs have a “special responsibility” in a hung Parliament.

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn says consensus can be built around Labour’s plan

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said talks with EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and European Commission secretary general Martin Selmayr in Brussels were “very constructive”.

“Our determination is to prevent a no-deal exit from the European Union next Friday,” he said.

“We are therefore looking for alternatives and building a majority in Parliament that can agree on a future constructive economic relationship with the European Union.”

He said he had been “reaching out” to colleagues from all parties in Parliament on this.

Brexit: Theresa May at Brussels EU summit to urge short delay

In a speech on Wednesday, Mrs May told the nation she does not support a long delay to Brexit

Theresa May will make a direct plea to EU leaders later asking to postpone Brexit for three months, hours after telling the British public a delay was “a matter of great personal regret”.

At an EU summit in Brussels, she will try to persuade the other 27 countries to delay the UK’s exit beyond 29 March.

On Wednesday, the PM made a speech, blaming the delay on MPs and telling the nation she was “on their side”.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn is also due in Brussels for separate Brexit talks.

The Labour leader will meet the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and the leaders of seven European countries to discuss alternatives to Mrs May’s Brexit plan and to say that he believes a different deal can be struck.

The UK is set to leave the EU next Friday unless the law is changed. The current default position for leaving is without a withdrawal agreement, or divorce deal.

Mrs May agreed a deal with the EU, but MPs have rejected it twice.

She has asked the EU for a short extension of the two-year Brexit process – Article 50 – until 30 June, in the hope that it is enough time for MPs to back her deal. However, any extension needs to be agreed to by all EU members.

European Council President Donald Tusk said he believed the EU would agree to a short extension, but this would only be if Mrs May’s deal is signed off by MPs next week. Another EU summit next week could be called in an emergency if needed, he said.

Mr Tusk said the “question remains open” as to how long a delay the other EU leaders would support.

But, in her speech from Number 10 on Wednesday, Mrs May insisted she would not be willing to postpone Brexit any further than 30 June, despite appeals from some MPs for a longer extension to give time for a change in direction.

Theresa May: “I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than 30 June”

She added: “Of this I am absolutely sure. You, the public, have had enough.

“You are tired of the infighting, tired of the political games and the arcane procedural rows, tired of MPs talking about nothing else but Brexit when you have real concerns about our children’s schools, our National Health Service, knife crime.

“You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with. I agree. I am on your side.”

She said it was now up to MPs to decide whether they wanted to leave with her deal, no deal or not to leave at all. But she warned that the latter option could cause “irreparable damage to public trust” in politicians.

Presentational grey line

A risky pitch

By Laura Kuenssberg, BBC political editor


It’s not me – it’s them.

Theresa May has pitched herself tonight against Parliament and on the side of the people.

It’s true that No 10 believes strongly that swathes of the population have simply had enough of Brexit.

The way it drowns out other public concerns, the way its processes, contradictions and clamour have wrapped their way around the normal workings of Westminster – remote at the best of times and downright bizarre at the worst.

But, when it is MPs the prime minister needs to get on side if she is to have a real chance of finally getting her deal through next week – third time extremely lucky – the choice of message was not without risk.

Mrs May’s remarks provoked an angry response from MPs across the House of Commons, with some calling her comments “toxic” and “reckless”.

Mr Corbyn said she was “in complete denial about the scale of the crisis” facing the country and was “unable to offer the leadership the country needs”.

Labour’s Lisa Nandy described Mrs May’s statement as “disgraceful” for “pitting Parliament against the people”, while fellow Labour MP Wes Streeting added it was “incendiary and irresponsible” at a time when some MPs had received death threats.

Pro-EU Tory Sam Gyimah, who quit as a minister over her deal, described her remarks as “toxic” and said the “blame game” was “a low blow”.

Conservative MP and Remain supporter Dominic Grieve said her “attack on the integrity of MPs is very unfortunate”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is talking with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May
The PM talking with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU leaders at a summit in December

But the government’s Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said both the prime minister and the country feel “frustration” at not getting her deal through Parliament.

He told BBC Newsnight: “She has been straight with the public, saying we need to not play games, not see the different subterfuges that we have experienced over last number of weeks, to actually crystallise this, to write this down, and make it real.

“The fact is that we have a duty and a responsibility to give effect to that referendum and actually frame the choices and the consequences as well.”

EU ‘holds the aces’

EU leaders are expected to begin arriving at the two-day summit from 13:00 GMT on Thursday.

The BBC’s Europe correspondent Kevin Connolly said the EU side “appears to hold all the aces” at the summit. He said some countries such as France have been “sceptical of the value of making an offer” of an extension.

Before the summit begins, Mr Corbyn will meet Mr Barnier, Martin Selmayr, the secretary-general of the EU Commission, two EU commissioners and seven EU prime ministers.

Speaking ahead of the meetings, he said Mrs May’s “botched deal” should not be brought back to Parliament for a third vote.

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Party"s Shadow Secretary of State for Departing the European Union Keir Starmer leave a meeting with European Union Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier
Mr Corbyn met EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in February

He said: “After serious talks with senior MPs from across parliament, I believe it should be possible to agree a deal with the EU that secures a close economic relationship before the European Parliament elections. I look forward to discussing this with European leaders today.” 

“We believe that consensus can be based on our alternative plan, which would provide protection for manufacturing and jobs, guarantee our rights and end the chaos and uncertainty that the government is inflicting on our country.”

Mrs May met opposition leaders before her speech on Wednesday evening to discuss a Brexit delay, but sources told the BBC that Mr Corbyn walked out and other leaders remained unimpressed with what they heard.

Brexit: Theresa May will not ask EU for long extension

Theresa May will not be asking the EU for a long delay when she formally requests that Brexit is postponed.

Downing Street said the PM shared the public’s “frustration” at Parliament’s “failure to take a decision”.

BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said the delay would not be beyond the end of June.

A cabinet minister has told the BBC this would be the “wrong choice” and a “craven surrender to hardliners” within the Conservative Party.

Under current law, the UK will leave the EU – with or without a deal – in nine days.

The PM is due to send a letter requesting a delay to Brexit later, ahead of a EU summit on Thursday at which she will discuss the matter with fellow leaders.

Any delay will have to be agreed by all 27 EU member states and EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said the EU will not grant it without a “concrete plan” from the UK about what they would do with it.

Will the UK leave the EU on time?

Explaining that Mrs May “won’t be asking for a long extension” when she writes to the EU, Number 10 said: “There is a case for giving Parliament a bit more time to agree a way forward, but the people of this country have been waiting nearly three years now.

“They are fed up with Parliament’s failure to take a decision and the PM shares their frustration.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker indicated there could be an extra Brexit summit next week.

But a tweet from his spokeswoman said his patience was “wearing thin” and that the withdrawal agreement would not be negotiated.

When her letter to the EU actually emerges, the final wording will be key – will she rule out ever seeking a longer delay?

Will the text be clear that if Parliament fails to meet its second deadline then the PM will argue for leaving without a deal done? Ultimately, remember, the decision on the length and conditions attached is down to the EU, not the UK.

But as things stand, the prime minister seems to be ratcheting up the pressure for the next few weeks in the hope of pushing her deal through a reluctant Parliament, rather than accepting that the dilemma and level of disagreement is so profound, that a longer rethink might be what is required.

It comes after MPs rejected the withdrawal deal Mrs May has negotiated with the EU for a second time last week by 149 votes. They also voted in favour of ruling out leaving the EU without a deal, and in favour of extending the Brexit process.

The prime minister had hoped to have a third attempt at getting MPs to back her deal – but Speaker John Bercow effectively torpedoed that with his, surprise intervention.

He said a third “meaningful vote” could not happen in the coming days if it was “substantially the same” motion.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds told the BBC that MPs had to “get on with” approving a Brexit deal – although he said another vote would not take place until ministers had “some confidence” of victory.

“You can’t keep on kicking the ball further and further down the street,” he told Radio 4’s Today. “You have to pick up and run with it.”

But an unnamed cabinet colleague told the BBC that asking for such a short delay was “weak, weak, weak”.

“This substantially increases the risk of no deal,” they said. “Her most craven surrender to the hardliners yet. She knows this is the wrong choice for the country but she’s putting her short term interests first.”

Presentational grey line

What happens next?

  • The PM is writing to the EU to ask for Brexit to be postponed
  • Mrs May will travel to an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the delay options
  • All 27 EU members have to agree to any extension proposed
  • If an extension is agreed, Mrs May will probably try to get her deal – that was previously heavily defeated – through Parliament
  • MPs and peers will also get a vote on any delay
  • Talks have been continuing with the DUP and Tory Brexiteers who voted against the deal
  • The government could seek to hold a third “meaningful vote” on the withdrawal agreement next week
  • But the speaker has said he will not let MPs vote again if the question is exactly the same
  • The UK leaves the EU on 29 March with or without a deal, unless a delay is agreed
Presentational grey line

While Mrs May still wants to put her deal before MPs one more time, she has said that even if that goes ahead and they vote in favour of it, the UK would need a short extension to get the necessary legislation through Parliament.

Mrs May had warned Brexiteer Tories that a longer extension would be needed if her deal did not get through Parliament.

Norman Smith said that if the EU agrees to a three-month delay, it opens up the possibility that the third meaningful vote could take place after next week.

But he added that the risk of taking a long delay off the table is that “Brexiteers can now just sit on their hands until 30 June”.

What is the EU saying?

Michel Barnier

At a news conference in Brussels, Mr Barnier said it was up to the 27 EU leaders to decide whether to grant a delay, based on what was in the “best interest” of the bloc.

Mr Barnier also warned that UK MPs voting against “no deal” would not prevent it from happening, adding that “everyone should now finalise all preparations for a no-deal scenario”.

BBC Europe editor Katya Adler said the EU’s final decision on a delay might not be given this week, with talk of an emergency summit on 28 March.

Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel: I will fight to the last hour of the deadline

Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would struggle, until the last possible moment to achieve “an orderly Brexit”, saying the interests of Germany, Britain and the EU were at stake.

What about the opposition parties?

Jeremy Corbyn
The Labour leader has been holding talks with other opposition parties

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Speaker’s intervention showed Mr Bercow was “ensuring Parliament is taken seriously”.

He said he had spoken to Conservative and Labour MPs about a so-called Norway-Plus style of future relationship with the EU – a closer one than Mrs May’s deal would bring about – calling it an “interesting idea” which had not got his “complete support”.

Mr Corbyn also held “constructive” talks with the Westminster leaders of the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Green Party about the potential to unite around a closer future relationship with the EU, a Labour spokesperson said.

Theresa May asks MPs for ‘honourable compromise’ on Brexit

Theresa May has asked MPs to make an “honourable compromise” as she seeks to persuade them to back her Brexit deal at the third time of asking.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the prime minister said failure to support the deal would mean “we will not leave the EU for many months, if ever”.

Mrs May is expected to bring her withdrawal agreement back to the Commons next week for a third vote.

It comes after MPs this week rejected her deal and voted to delay Brexit.

The EU will decide the terms and conditions of any extension. Legally, the UK is still due to leave the EU on 29 March.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has written to MPs across the Commons inviting them for talks to find a cross-party compromise.

Mrs May says if Parliament votes for her withdrawal deal before an EU leaders’ summit on Thursday, the UK will seek a short delay to Brexit to pass the necessary legislation.

“That is not an ideal outcome – we could and should have been leaving the EU on March 29,” she said.

“But it is something the British people would accept if it led swiftly to delivering Brexit. The alternative if Parliament cannot agree the deal by that time is much worse.”

If a deal is not agreed before Thursday, EU leaders are contemplating a much longer delay.

Mrs May said it would be a “potent symbol of Parliament’s collective political failure” if a delay to Brexit meant the UK was forced to take part in May’s European elections – almost three years after voting to leave the EU.

Political Correspondent Jonathan Blake explains what's next for Brexit
Political Correspondent Jonathan Blake explains what’s next for Brexit

On Tuesday, MPs overwhelmingly rejected Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement for a second time, this time by 149 votes.

In her article, Mrs May said she has more to do to convince dozens of Tory MPs to back the deal – as well as getting the Democratic Unionist Party to drop their opposition.

She wrote: “I am convinced that the time to define ourselves by how we voted in 2016 must now end.

“We can only put those old labels aside if we stand together as democrats and patriots, pragmatically making the honourable compromises necessary to heal division and move forward.”

The DUP, which has twice voted against the agreement, said there were “still issues to be discussed” and it remained in talks with the government.

The 10 votes provided by the DUP, which props up the government, are thought to be key to the prime minister securing her deal.

Former Cabinet minister Esther McVey, who resigned over the Brexit agreement, has suggested fellow Brexiteers could back Mrs May’s “rubbish” deal next week to make sure the UK leaves the EU.

Mr Corbyn has offered talks with opposition leaders and backbench MPs in an effort to find a Brexit compromise which could replace Mrs May’s plan.

The Labour leader has invited Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, Plaid’s Liz Saville Roberts and Green MP Caroline Lucas.

In his letter, he called for urgent meetings to find a “solution that ends the needless uncertainty and worry” caused by Mrs May’s “failed” Brexit negotiations.

Theresa May asks MPs for 'honourable compromise' on Brexit
The DUP say Brexit talks have "enlarged and intensified" in the past week

Brexit: DUP in talks with ministers ahead of third vote

The DUP say Brexit talks have “enlarged and intensified” in the past week

Ministers have held talks with the Democratic Unionists to try to get them to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal ahead of a third Commons vote on the package.

The DUP are seeking further legal assurances about the deal, which has been decisively rejected by MPs twice.

The PM has received a boost after Esther McVey, who quit the cabinet over Brexit policy last year, signalled she could vote for the deal next week.

She said the prospect of a long Brexit delay called for “different thinking”.

MPs voted on Thursday to ask the EU to push the date of Brexit back from 29 March to 30 June if the Commons approves a deal by next Wednesday – allowing time for legislation to go through.

However, if a deal is not agreed by then, EU leaders are contemplating a much longer delay.

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay voted against the extension, despite saying in the Commons that voting for it would be in the “national interest”.

He told the BBC he would back a short extension to give time for legislation, but not a longer delay.

“If we don’t have a deal, then we should leave with no deal,” he said. “That’s always been my position. We shouldn’t be afraid to leave with no deal.”

Barclay: “I’m proud we stopped attempt to frustrate Brexit”

The result prompted a number of Tory MPs to say they will back the deal in the next vote, due to take place by 20 March.

And the DUP, which has opposed the deal up to now, are seeking further “clarifications” on the government’s legal advice about the backstop – the controversial arrangement to prevent physical checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – and how the UK could exit it.

What happened this week?

Votes in Parliament
MPs took part in a series of votes in the Commons

A series of Brexit votes have taken place in the Commons:

  • On Tuesday, MPs rejected Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement for a second time by 149 votes.
  • On Wednesday, MPs voted to, reject the idea of the UK leaving the EU without a deal under any circumstances.
  • Then, on Thursday, the Commons voted by 413 to 202 to seek an extension to Article 50, the legal mechanism by which the UK is due to leave the EU.

However, as things stand, the law has not been changed, as Wednesday and Thursday’s votes were not legally binding.

That means the UK is still set to leave on 29 March – with or without a deal.

What are the UK’s options?

Political Correspondent Jonathan Blake explains what’s next for Brexit

While legally, there does not have to be a delay, politically it might be hard for Mrs May to avoid.

Thursday’s motion saw Parliament agree to two options for a delay:

  • If MPs support Mrs May’s deal next week – before a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on 21 March – then she will ask the EU for an extension of no later than 30 June
  • But if they don’t support her deal for a third time, there could be a much longer delay and the UK may have to take part in elections for the European Parliament in May

Any delay will require the agreement of all other 27 EU members and talks about possible conditions could take place before the summit.

European Council President Donald Tusk said EU leaders could be open to a long extension  “if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy”.

What has the government said?

David Lidington
David Lidington calls on MPs to “reflect” on the deal over the weekend

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, who is regarded as Mrs May’s de facto deputy, told the BBC that, although the risk of the UK leaving without a deal had “diminished” as a result of this week’s votes, it could still happen unless an alternative solution was found.

He urged MPs to “reflect” over the weekend on the deal on the table, which he said had the “great virtue” of having the backing of all 27 other EU governments and, most likely, the European Parliament too.

“I think there is some real impatience among the British public, and frankly among other EU governments, with this inability to agree in Westminster on the way forward,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“The alternative, spelt out very clearly and accepted by the House of Commons, is that you don’t just have a short technical extension to our membership. You almost certainly need a significantly longer one.”

Will EU leaders agree to an extension?

EU politicians breathe deep, shuddering sighs at the thought of prolonging the cross-Channel agony of the Brexit process.

So will they or won’t they agree to an extension? What conditions could they demand and how long would Brexit be delayed by?

Like so many things to do with Brexit – the answer is: we’re not 100% certain.

Earlier this week, a number of EU leaders including France’s Emmanuel Macron, Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Spain’s Pedro Sanchez sounded pretty hard-line.

They wouldn’t agree to delay Brexit, they said, unless the prime minister came up with a very good reason.

EU leaders are frustrated, irritated and fatigued by the Brexit process but it’s also worth bearing in mind that they have two specific audiences in mind these days when they take to the cameras.

Will MPs change their minds about the deal?

House of Commons
There are a range of views across the Commons on Brexit

This remains unclear.

Mrs May brought back additions to her deal after late night talks in Strasbourg on Monday to try and allay fears about the Irish backstop – the insurance policy to stop a hard border returning to the island of Ireland – as this had been the main sticking point when her deal was voted down the first time.

Tuesday’s vote showed that some critics had been won over, but while the PM was not defeated by such an historic margin as she was in January – 230 votes – she still lost by a significant margin.

Now it is a case of persuading Brexiteer backbenchers in the European Research Group and the Democratic Unionist Party, as well as trying to win over members of the opposition.

Some MPs have suggested looking into whether the backstop could be solved by using Article 62 of the Vienna Convention which would allow the UK to withdraw from any treaty if there had been “a fundamental change of circumstances… which was not foreseen by the parties”.

In a letter to the Times, cross-bench peer and QC Lord Pannick said the UK would be “entitled to terminate the withdrawal agreement” under this clause – although he questioned whether it would be “wise politically”.

Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom said the government’s Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, had considered the matter and would comment further if he thought it was necessary.

Where do the parties stand?

Jeremy Corbyn: Public vote an “option to break deadlock”

The past week’s votes have exposed divisions in the main parties.

More than half of Tory MPs – including seven cabinet ministers – voted against Mrs May’s motion to put back the date when Britain leaves the EU.

Downing Street said this was a “natural consequence” of Mrs May’s decision to offer a free vote on an issue where there are “strong views on all sides of the debate”.

And in the Labour Party, 41 MPs rebelled against party orders on Thursday to abstain in a vote on a possible new referendum – with 24 supporting a referendum and 17 voting to oppose one.

Five of those MPs have  resigned from their roles in the party as a result.

Shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner said Thursday’s vote was about securing an extension to negotiations and was not the right time to vote for another referendum.

“If it’s the only way we can stop a no deal or a bad deal, then that is when it comes into play,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Gina Miller, who took the government to court to force them to consult Parliament on the Brexit process, also told the programme she did not believe Thursday was the right time to push for another referendum – but insisted the option was not off the table, despite being heavily defeated by MPs.

“You have to try and exhaust all the other options first and if parliament can’t resolve it, it’s at that point that it goes back to the people,” she said.

Theresa May offers MPs Brexit delay vote.

Theresa May: “An extension cannot take no deal off the table.”

Theresa May has promised MPs a vote on delaying the UK’s departure from the EU or ruling out a no-deal Brexit, if they reject her deal next month.

Mrs May is making a statement to MPs on Brexit, amid the threat of a revolt by Remain-supporting ministers.

The prime minister promised MPs a meaningful vote on her Brexit deal by 12 March.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the prime minister of trying to “string” the Brexit process out.

The prime minister said she will put her withdrawal agreement – including any changes she has agreed with the EU – to a meaningful vote on 12 March.

If that fails, MPs will be offered two separate votes:

  • One, on 13 March, on whether MPs support a no-deal Brexit – so the UK would “only leave without a deal on 29 March if there is explicit consent in the House for that outcome”
  • If that fails, then MPs will get a vote the following day on requesting an extension to the two-year Article 50 negotiation process to delay EU withdrawal beyond 29 March

“Let me be clear, I do not want to see Article 50 extended,” she told MPs.

“Our absolute focus should be on working to get a deal and leaving on 29 March.

“An extension beyond the end of June would mean the UK taking part in the European Parliament elections. What kind of message would that send to the more than 17 million people who voted to leave the EU nearly three years ago now?

“And the House should be clear that a short extension – not beyond the end of June – would almost certainly have to be a one-off.”

She said an extension “cannot take no deal off the table”, adding: “The only way to do that is to revoke Article 50, which I shall not do, or agree a deal.”

The sequence of votes will be proposed on Wednesday in an amendable motion for MPs to debate and vote on.

Mrs May told MPs: “They are commitments I am making as prime minister and I will stick by them, as I have previous commitments to make statements and table amendable motions by specific dates.”

The move is an attempt to avoid a defeat for the government on Wednesday, which could see MPs taking control of the Brexit process.

‘Honest assessment’ of no-deal readiness

Separately, Mrs May said the government was publishing a paper assessing its readiness for a no-deal Brexit and the “very serious challenges” it would pose.

“I believe that if we have to, we will ultimately make a success of a no-deal,” she said.

“But this paper provides an honest assessment of the very serious challenges it would bring in the short-term and further reinforces why the best way for this House to honour the referendum result is to leave with a deal.”

Media captionCorbyn: PM’s handling of Brexit negotiations “grotesquely reckless”

Jeremy Corbyn said he had “lost count” of the prime minister’s explanations for her “grotesquely reckless” Brexit delays.

“The prime minister continues to say it is her deal or no deal, but this House has decisively rejected her deal and has clearly rejected no deal,” he told MPs.

“It is the prime minister’s obstinacy that is blocking a resolution.”

Mr Corbyn says Labour will get behind another EU referendum if the party can’t get its own Brexit proposals through Parliament on Wednesday.

If Mrs May’s Brexit deal gets through Parliament next month, Labour wants it to be put to a public vote – with remaining in the EU as the other option.

MP Joan Ryan quits Labour for Independent Group

Ms Ryan was chair of the influential Labour Friends of Israel group

Joan Ryan has become the eighth Labour MP to quit the party in the past 48 hours, citing its tolerance of a “culture of anti-Jewish racism”.

The Enfield North MP said she was “horrified, appalled and angered” by Labour’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism, saying its leadership allowed “Jews to be abused with impunity”.

Ms Ryan said she did not believe Jeremy Corbyn was fit to lead the country.

Seven other MPs quit on Monday to form the Independent Group in Parliament.

There is mounting speculation that a number of Conservative MPs disillusioned with the government’s policy on Brexit could join forces with them.

BBC Newsnight’s political editor Nick Watt said Conservative whips were reporting three MPs – Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry – had gone “very, very silent”.

While the Independent Group are not confirming anything, he said he had been told by one member that Wednesday would be a “very busy day”.

Announcing her decision on Twitter,

Ms Ryan said she would continue to represent the north London seat in Parliament.

Ms Ryan, who served as a minister under Tony Blair, follows Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes, Luciana Berger, Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker and Chris Leslie in quitting the party.

Jeremy Corbyn: “I regret that seven MPs decided they would no longer remain part of the Labour Party”

In her resignation statement, she said Mr Corbyn and the “Stalinist clique which surrounds him” was not providing real opposition at a moment of crisis for the country.

Instead, she said the leadership was focused on “purging their perceived ideological enemies within and obsessing over issues of little interest to British people”.

Ms Ryan, chair of the Friends of Israel group, repeated Ms Berger’s claim that the party had become “institutionally anti-Semitic”, suggesting that under Mr Corbyn’s leadership Israel had been “singled out for demonisation and de-legitimisation”.

“The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has become infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism. The problem simply did not exist in the party before his election as leader.”

“No previous Labour leader would have allowed this huge shame to befall the party. I have been horrified, appalled and angered to see the Labour leader’s dereliction of duty in the face of this evil.”

Ms Ryan lost a non-binding confidence vote of her party members in September which she blamed on “Trots, Stalinists, Communists and the assorted hard left”.

‘Something powerful’

Members of the Independent Group, who have cited what they say is a culture of bullying in the party and Labour’s stance on Brexit for quitting, welcomed Ms Ryan’s decision to join them.

Mr Shuker, the MP for Luton South, tweeted that the group was “building something powerful together”.

The seven have said their grouping could be the basis for a new political party and have urged like-minded MPs from other parties to join them.

The Independent Group

The embryonic Independent Group of MPs has no leader but has set out its principles

Mr Corbyn has said he wants to “take MPs with him” but insisted that the direction he has taken the party in since 2015 is hugely popular within the country.

Chris Williamson, the MP for Derby North, said he was “not entirely surprised” by Ms Ryan’s exit.

“She was probably facing a de-selection in any event,” he told BBC’s Newsnight.

He said he had never known Labour to be “more united” than it was now and it was “regrettable that a minority of MPs” were out of step with the popular mood in the country.

Labour has suggested MPs who change political allegiance have a duty to seek a fresh mandate from their constituents.

The party is considering giving voters the power to force MPs who switch parties between general elections to face by-elections by strengthening the existing recall laws.

In a statement released before the news of Ms Ryan’s exit, Shadow Cabinet minister Jon Trickett said voters should not have to wait years to hold to account MPs who they believe are not “properly representing their interests”.