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Cabinet split over Plan B to ‘dead’ EU withdrawal deal

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Theresa May is facing rival cabinet calls for a second EU referendum or a no-deal Brexit after returning from Brussels empty-handed.

The prime minister was hoping to extract concessions on the Irish backstop – the mechanism to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves after a news conference following a European Union leaders summit in Brussels
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Theresa May is struggling to get her Brexit deal through the Commons

But EU leaders made it clear there would be no renegotiation of her withdrawal agreement, making it all but impossible for Mrs May to get it through the House of Commons.

The majority of the cabinet now believe her deal to be “dead”, it has been reported.

Five ministers, including Chancellor Philip Hammond and Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, are “leaning reluctantly” towards supporting a second referendum, The Times said.

But another group, including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Liz Truss, the chief secretary to the Treasury, and Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom, is said to be willing to leave without a deal.

And a third faction, including Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Home Secretary Sajid Javid, is said to back a soft Brexit, possibly based on the relationship Norway has with the EU.



Tony Blair




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Blair on May, Brexit and second referendum

Ms Rudd, writing in the Daily Mail, said that while Brexit was “in danger of getting stuck”, leaving without a deal was something “almost everybody agrees mustn’t happen”.

Theresa May’s agreement had to be put “on hold because it would have been defeated”, she added.

Ms Rudd’s solution is for politicians of different parties to work together to “forge a consensus”.

Mr Hunt said: “The reason I think, in the end, the EU will want to help us as far as they possibly can is because it is not in their interest to provoke a further political crisis in the UK.

“Because, although some people in the EU may say that Parliament would stop a no-deal scenario, they can’t be sure of that.”

Other senior Tories – including former chancellor Ken Clarke – have urged Mrs May to reach out to Labour backbenchers in a bid to find common ground to move forward.

Nigel Farage appeared at a Leave Means Leave rally alongside Jacob Rees-Mogg and Kate Hoey
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Nigel Farage says Brexit campaigners need to be ready for a second referendum

Meanwhile, just hours after former prime minister Tony Blair urged EU leaders and Mrs May to extend Article 50 to allow for a public vote to resolve the Brexit deadlock, Nigel Farage said he believed the UK could face a second referendum.

Speaking at a Leave Means Leave rally in London, the former UKIP leader said Brexit campaigners needed to “get ready for every situation”.

He said that while he did not want another referendum, it would be wrong of him and fellow Brexiteers “not to be prepared for a worse case scenario”.



The Northern Ireland backstop is fast becoming the most famous part of the Withdrawal Agreement - and for good reason.




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The backstop is one of the most contentious parts of Theresa May’s Brexit deal. But what is it?

Mrs May’s final day at an EU summit was dominated by a spat with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who she accused of calling her “nebulous”.

Mr Juncker said his use of the word during a midnight news conference related to the “overall state of the debate in Britain”, with Mrs May struggling to form enough of a consensus within her own party despite winning a confidence vote in her leadership earlier in the week.

The prime minister will address the House of Commons on Monday to give an update on the Brussels summit, which came after she cancelled a vote on her Brexit deal that had been scheduled for Tuesday.

It is likely that MPs will have to wait until mid-January to have their say, by which time Labour could already have forced a vote of no-confidence in her leadership.

The opposition has said it will only strike when it considers the government to be at its most vulnerable.

One shadow cabinet minister told The Guardian the timing was dependent on whether the party was confident the motion would be backed by the DUP.

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