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Theresa May edges closer to deal as Sunday's deadline looms

Theresa May is facing a race against time to make progress in Brexit talks amid a deadlock over the Irish border. The Prime Minister is hoping to make a new offer by Friday to satisfy both the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her government and scuppered a deal on divorce issues this week.

Theresa May is facing a race against time to make progress in Brexit talks amid a deadlock over the Irish border.

The Prime Minister is hoping to make a new offer by Friday to satisfy both the Republic of Ireland and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her government and scuppered a deal on divorce issues this week.

Pressure is mounting on Mrs May to get leaders at the 14 December European Council summit to declare sufficient progress has been made to pave the way for trade talks to begin, with business chiefs warning companies will activate contingency plans that will cost Britain jobs if there is further delay.

Live Updates

4 weeks ago

Good morning, and welcome to The Independent's Brexit live blog.

We'll be bringing you the latest updates as Theresa May scrambles to solve a dispute over the Irish border under growing pressue to move forward with EU negotiations.

4 weeks ago

Theresa May will make a fresh offer to settle the Irish border dispute within hours

The Prime Minister is to put forward a fresh proposal to solve the Irish border deadlock, as the EU’s Brexit negotiator said Friday was the deadline to rescue a deal.

4 weeks ago

Tory rebels to demand powers to extend EU talks

Conservative Party rebels are mounting a bid to give Parliament the power to delay Brexit if a suitable deal if not reached by March 2019

4 weeks ago

The documents handed over to Parliament by Brexit Secretary David Davis last month are "underwhelming" and do not amount to an assessment of the likely impact on the UK economy of withdrawal from the EU, a senior peer has said.

Lord Jay of Ewelme, the acting chair of the House of Lords EU Committee and former senior civil servant, said that he would have expected a "proper" impact assessment to be conducted to inform the Government of the likely effect of Brexit on different sectors of industry.

There were calls from opposition MPs for Mr Davis to be sacked after he admitted to the Commons Exiting the EU Committee on Wednesday that his department had carried out no formal impact assessments for the Government's Brexit plans.

But Mr Davis appeared to have dodged threats of an investigation for alleged contempt of Parliament, after the committee ruled that he had adequately fulfilled the terms of a Commons motion requiring him to hand over 58 sectoral impact assessments believed to have been drawn up by the Department for Exiting the EU.

4 weeks ago

Brexit loomed large as Michael Gove took questions in Commons this morning.

The Environment Secretary denied accusations it was a "disgrace" that no assessment has been made on the impact of Brexit on food and farming after being pressed by several MPs on what forecasts had been made.

Labour's Barry Sheerman, MP for Huddersfield, said the industry was "terrified about the impact of leaving the European Union".

Environment minister George Eustice said the impact would be "marginal", telling MPs: "The key drivers of food price changes are exchange rates, weather events and oil prices: these factors affect all countries in the world, whether they are members of the European Union or independent nation states."

4 weeks ago

Britain must stay in European Court of Human Rights if it wants a trade deal, Brussels to insist

Britain must agree to stay under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights if it wants a trade deal with the EU, according to a European Parliament motion leaked to The Independent.

4 weeks ago

Boris Johnson has been giving a speech at the Foreign Office. Taking questions, the Foreign Secretary declined to comment on the progress of Brexit negotiations but said it was time for the EU and Britain to "get going" with the second phase of talks.

Mr Johnson said he was "not going to give a running commentary" on the state of talks with the DUP and Irish Government.

But he added, breaking briefly into French: "We need to get going, franchement (frankly), with the second part of the talks. That's the exciting bit.

"That's the bit where we will achieve a new trading relationship with our friends and partners.

"We can get it done, we just need to get on with it, and I hope very much that the December European Council will mark that progress."

4 weeks ago

Fewer than 20 MPs and peers have read the government's Brexit analysis papers, according to Andrea Leadsom.

The Commons Leader bemoaned the Opposition for causing "enormous headlines and publicity" before adding "only 16 members across both Houses" have viewed them.

A reading room has been established to allow MPs and peers access to the 850-page dossier of information provided by Brexit Secretary David Davis.

Her comments came in Parliament after Shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz challenged Mrs Leadsom over the "invisible papers" and criticised the "secretive" viewing process.

Ms Vaz said: "Members have to make an appointment, have to arrive five minutes early, you then get escorted to look at the papers by a Government official, you can't take a mobile phone in, you have to take a notebook, and presumably we're given a stubby pencil or maybe a pen with invisible ink. That is completely bizarre."

Ms Leadsom replied: "The Opposition have absolutely caused enormous headlines and publicity over this issue.

"The House will be interested to know the sum total of 16 members of this House and the House of Lords have taken the trouble to see that analysis that has been made available."

4 weeks ago

'Rome is burning': CBI boss sounds Brexit alarm over stalled EU talks over trade

The president of the CBI business lobby has delivered a scorching warning to government ministers over Brexit, saying that for the corporate world "Rome is burning".

Paul Drechsler, who is also chair of the shipping company Bibby Line, said around 60 per cent of firms with Brexit contingency plans will activate them by Easter 2018 unless the UK gets the green light from the European Union to begin trade talks by the time the European Council meets on 14 December.

4 weeks ago

The Prime Minister's negotiating stance in the Brexit talks has been defended in the House of Lords after Monday's failure to agree a deal.

Responding to Opposition criticism, government spokeswoman Baroness Goldie said Ms May was negotiating with determination and rigour in the national interest.

But she refused to be drawn on the details of "sensitive and critical" talks, insisting: "You can lay me over that table and flail me with Dod's [Parliamentary] Companion - I'm not going to be drawn on detail."

Lady Goldie warned that a "continuing exposition of our negotiating position" would undermine the ambition of achieving a good deal for the UK.

4 weeks ago

Senior Northern Irish police officers have warned MPs that a hard post-Brexit border would be an obvious target area for attacks by dissident republican terrorists.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons Brexit Committee in Co Armagh, Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said any infrastructures along the border would give terror groups "a further rallying call to drive their recruitment."

He added: "They have a focus on this. They see it as an opportunity.

"Infrastructure on the border would be an obvious point for dissident groups to rally around and attack.

He said the threat from dissident republicans remained severe and that there were four attempts on the lives of police officers over the past year. There were also 58 shooting and over 32 bombing incidents.

Mr Harris told the committee it was regrettable that a lot of the current border conversations "take us back to the 80s."

4 weeks ago

Four MPs have now called for Brexit Secretary David Davis face a contempt investigation for misleading Parliament over the publication of economic impact assessments that do not exist.

Pro-Remain Labour MP Chuka Ummuna, who wrote to Speaker John Bercow yesterday, said party colleagues David Lammy and Helen Hayes and the SNP's Pete Wishart had also raised the issue.

Tory and DUP members of the influential Brexit committee members have already decided Mr Davis complied with Parliament's demand for information, casting the prospect of future contempt proceedings into doubt. 

But Mr Umunna said evidence the Brexit Secretary misled Parliament was "a separate issue".

4 weeks ago

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, one of the Cabinet's Brexiteers, has said that the UK will not need the same laws and regulations as the rest of the EU to avoid a hard border with Ireland after Brexit.

Full story here: 

The UK and EU do not need the same laws to avoid hard border with Ireland, says Chris Grayling

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said that the UK will not need the same laws and regulations as the rest of the EU to avoid a hard border with Ireland after Brexit. Negotiations with the EU are currently deadlocked, chiefly over the issue of the Irish border, with no agreement having been reached over how Northern Ireland can leave the EU’s single market and the customs union and keep a frictionless border with the Republic of Ireland.

4 weeks ago

The Independent's chief political commentator John Rentoul tweets about the battles behind the scenes on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, which is currently passing through the Commons.

Tory rebels are threatening to vote against the Government next week on an amendment to the flagship Brexit legislation. Former attorney general Dominic Grieve has tabled an amendment calling for Parliament to have a meaningful vote on the final deal.

Now it appears that influential Tories are seeking to head off a revolt by putting forward their own amendments offering greater scrutiny.

4 weeks ago

Ireland's deputy premier has insisted that Dublin will not back a Brexit deal that deviates from the core principles of the leaked draft agreement. 

Simon Coveney told the Irish Parliament:  "We are in a position where we still need to find a way forward but, let me be very clear, the core issues that Ireland got agreement on at the start of this week are not changing."

He said the Dublin Government would consider alternative proposals but it could not accept anything that weakened assurances against a hard border. 

Mr Coveney said: "We accept that the British government is trying to move this process forward in good faith.

"We want to work with them on that, and not against them.

"But Ireland has real concerns and they are important to this country and its future and they are important to this island and its future and we have an obligation to ensure we act accordingly."

4 weeks ago

Theresa May has been given 72 hours by the EU to come up with an acceptable offer on the Brexit divorce proceedings.

European Commission chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters in Brussels that discussions were continuing following May’s abortive trip on Monday, which was broken off due to objections from Northern Irish allies.

“So far, no white smoke,” he told Reuters.

“We stand ready to receive Prime Minister May at any moment in time when they’re ready,” he added.

“This will have to happen this week. In this building, we work for a full week, 24/7, and our week includes Sunday.”

4 weeks ago

Martin Schulz, the leader of Germany's main centre left party, says he wants to establish a 'United States of Europe' by 2025.

Brussels correspondent Jon Stone has more:

4 weeks ago

There's a big elephant in Theresa May's Cabinet room – and it's not the DUP

"There’s no need to work out all the fine details now,” Theresa May tells Brexiteer Cabinet ministers and Conservative MPs when they challenge her about the €64,000 question on Brexit: the long-term UK-EU relationship. It is the elephant in the Cabinet room. The Prime Minister knows her ministers are deeply divided, and so has prevented any real discussion of it during the 18 months since the referendum. But her strategy has been blown apart by this week’s row over the proposed deal on the Northern Ireland-Ireland border.

4 weeks ago

The Government is now facing legal action over the ongoing row on the Brexit impact assessments.

Green MEP Molly Scott Cato and QC Jolyon Maugham have today applied for judicial review in the High Court over the Government’s refusal to release detailed economic analysis on the impact of Brexit on various sectors.

For more on the Brexit papers row, see our latest story:

David Davis won't be investigated for contempt after he admits there are no Brexit impact studies

Brexit Secretary David Davis looks set to avoid an investigation for contempt of Parliament amid an embarrassing row about the publication of economic impact assessments that do not exist. The influential Brexit Committee voted that Mr Davis had honoured demands to hand over detailed economic analysis by the Government on the impact of Brexit on various sectors, which a Commons vote compelled him to release.

4 weeks ago

Hilary Benn has warned the wrangle over Ireland's post-Brexit borders could threaten the peace process if it is not resolved quickly.

The chairman of the House of Commons Brexit Committee said: "We simply can't afford to go back to the past.

"We have got a matter of days to find a way forward on this border question to enable us to move onto phase two of the talks.

"The clock is ticking.

The Labour MP was speaking on a visit with the committee to the village of Middletown, one of 275 land crossings between the Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

 "We need to find a solution," he added. "I really hope the peace process is not in jeopardy."

Load more

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte have made clear the EU will not compromise and allow the Irish border to be kicked down the road to phase two of the talks, even under threat of Britain crashing out with no deal.

After a phone call with Mrs May on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar said the PM was hoping to return with a new formal written offer "tonight and tomorrow", but warned if there was no agreement talks would be picked up in the New Year.

Mrs May also spoke with DUP leader Arlene Foster, whose rejection of plans for "regulatory alignment" between Northern Ireland and the Republic led to the collapse of a proposed deal on Monday.