this is bbc news, i'm christian fraser. the headlines at eight. i still believe there is a majority to be won in this house in support of it if i can secure additional reassurance on the question of the backstop, and that is what my focus will be in the days ahead. the government is in disarray. uncertainty is building for business, people are in despair at the state of these failed negotiations. the european council will hold an extra session later this week to try and help theresa may secure parliamentary approval, but eu leaders stand firm saying the deal itself can not be renegotiated. it took over a year and a half to negotiate and it is not possible to reopen any aspect of that agreement without reopening all aspects of it. political uncertainty saw the pound fall sharply, at one point hitting a twenty—month low against the dollar. turmoil in westminster — the prime minister delays
the crucial vote on her brexit deal at the 11th hour, saying strong objections to the northern ireland backstop deal would mean defeat. and coming up in half an hour here, a bbc news special. former bbc political editor, nick robinson, asks what next for the brexit deal and negotiations? good evening, we're live in westminster as the prime minister's plans for leaving the european union appear to hit their first major obstacle. today in the house of commons theresa may announced that the "meaningful" parliamentary vote on her draft brexit deal, which was due to take place tomorrow, has been delayed. these are the main developments so far. although it has been clear there is no majority among mps for the withdrawal agreement, today is the first time the prime minister openly admitted
the situation and explained this was one of the reasons for her delaying the vote. mrs may said she would now consult with fellow eu leaders over the next few days to seek further assurances on the so—called backstop. that is the insurance policy which guarantees there would be no checks on the border between northern ireland and the republic, if no trade agreement between the uk and the eu can be reached. the labour leaderjeremy corbyn said it was time for mrs may to make way for the opposition if she couldn't make the funadamental changes required to get the deal through parliament. this evening, the president of the european council, donald tusk, said eu leaders would meet again on thursday to discuss how to help mrs may get her brexit deal passed but will not renegotiate the deal or the backstop. the news comes as the european court ofjustice ruled that the uk could unilaterally revoke article 50 without the permission of the other 27 eu members. that would, effectively, cancel brexit if the uk chose to do so. our political editor
laura kuennsberg reports. the landmarks look the same, but these are extraordinary days this place will remember. on the prime minister's most important plan — the brexit compromise that's taken more than two years — theresa may simply didn't have the mps to back her so, instead, the prime minister backed down. if we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow, the deal would be rejected by a significant margin. we will therefore defer the vote scheduled for tomorrow and not proceed to divide the house at this time. in other words, she knew she would lose, so there'll be no vote tomorrow. instead, she's appealing to the rest of the eu to look again at the most controversial part of the agreement, the backstop. i spoke to a number of eu leaders over the weekend and, in advance of the european council, i will go to see my counterparts in other member states and the leadership of the council and the commission.
i will discuss with them the clear concerns that this house has expressed. we are also looking closely at new ways of empowering the house of commons to ensure that any provision for a backstop has democratic legitimacy. the cabinet can nod along, but was the commons really listening? is it realistic to reckon she'll ever get the support she really needs? i still believe there is a majority to be won in this house in support of it, if i can secure additional reassurance on the question of the backstop, and that is what my focus will be in the days ahead. but, mr speaker, if you take a step back, it is clear that this house faces a much more fundamental question — does this house want to deliver brexit? yes! no! that's the sound of the divide in here. dozens of mps wish none of this was happening,
dozens on the other side wish we'd left already. if the house does, does it want to do so through reaching an agreement with the eu? if the answer is yes — and i believe that is the answer of the majority of this house — then we all have to ask ourselves whether we're prepared to make a compromise. i am determined to do all i can to secure the reassurances this house requires to get this deal over the line and deliver for the british people, and i commend this statement to the house. but the government's efforts to compromise have led them to a crisis. the government has lost control of events and is in complete disarray. it's been evident for weeks that the prime minister's deal did not have the confidence of this house, yet she ploughed on regardless, reiterating — this is the only deal available. this is a bad deal for britain, a bad deal for our economy and a bad deal for our democracy.
our country deserves better than this. even the speaker furious that the government's dropping a major vote like this. halting the debate, after no fewer than 164 colleagues have taken the trouble to contribute, will be thought by many members of this house to be deeply discourteous. but that procedural palaver was nothing compared to the onslaught for the prime minister from all sides. does she not realise that every time she comes back here with her tail between her legs, she humiliates the british people? i put it to her that she's lost the trust and credibility of the house, lost the trust and credibility of the country and, most importantly, she's lost the trust and credibility of the european union. does she not realise how chaotic and ridiculous this makes our country look? with the fiasco today, the government has really lost all authority.
the prime minister has been forced to pull tomorrow's vote, in a stunning display of pathetic cowardice. we have found an impasse in this house. it's time now to take this back to the people and have a people's vote. mrs thatcher had a word for it. what she's done today — f—r—i—t. she's frit! far from being frit, i think this prime minister has great courage in coming back... hear, hear! this afternoon, all the more agonising for the prime minister because, this morning, cabinet ministers were making the case for cracking on. is the vote definitely, 100%, going to happen? yes. the prime minister has been clear the vote's going ahead, and i believe it should. should it go ahead? i certainly hope so. the prime minister's confirmed that. leaving ministers obviously angry, stuck for an explanation. it's all moving so quickly, so... it is all moving so quickly.
so, as far as we understand it, the vote has been delayed. yes. what do you think of that decision? erm, i can see the logic of it. obviously, we will all need to work out what that then leads to. but, you know, i keep on saying to my colleagues — and i don't think i can say it enough — beware of stepping into an abyss of chaos. it's the prime minister that's pushing things into chaos, though. she's the one who's delayed the vote, after saying again and again it was going to happen. even this morning, cabinet ministers were saying it was going ahead. every single time she's tried to negotiate something, the erg — the conservative group in parliament — have boxed her in this way, boxed her in that way, told her to flex her muscles, and narrowed down her negotiating options. so they are the ones, i think, who have laid the ground for the wrecking we're now seeing. but if the prime minister's banking on the eu making changes, it doesn't sound promising, not at all. the withdrawal agreement, including the irish backstop, is the only agreement on the table.
it took over a year and a half to negotiate, it has the support of 28 governments, and it's not possible to reopen any aspect of that agreement without reopening all aspects of it. for weeks, the chatter in this circus has been about winning the arguments but, tonight, theresa may's enemies might claim she's losing her nerve. laura kuenssberg, bbc news, westminster. some might say more kicking off the count down the road, bit you sent theresa may is running out of time. she is off tomorrow to the netherlands to see mark ritter, the dutch prime minister to see if she can getany dutch prime minister to see if she can get any movement there. towards the end of the week she is going to brussels to the end of the summit. we will speak to our europe correspondent gavin lee in brussels in a moment. but first from our westminster
studio is our political correspondent jonathan blake. jonathan, i have been watching in the corner of my either debate that has been going on tonight with the leader of the house, andrea leadsom, telling them that they will not get a vote to postpone the boat, what atmosphere has there been in the house of commons this evening? there has been everything from amusement to resignation to confusion. the decision came earlier on to cancel the vote that we were expecting to happen tomorrow on the prime minister's brexit deal and ever since then people have been scratching their heads to figure out what happens next. not for the first time in this whole process. some mps concede it was the only choice she had because if she was to go ahead with the vote tomorrow, the prime minister would save a heavy defeats and one which she would have found it very difficult to recover from. there would have been immediate
calls for her to go. it is the lesser of two evils. one mp put it to me she was like a rabbit in the headlights and this was all of her own making. another said it was starting to look pretty desperate. mps are toggling between themselves and trying to figure out what to do next. in a meeting of the brexiteers in parliament earlier on the european research group led by conservative mp jacob european research group led by conservative mpjacob rees mogg, there was a brief meeting between those mps and a call from him afterwards, a coded call, for mps to move against theresa may as leader of the conservative party because, he said, she is aligned to this policy and this deal personally. as you were explaining, the prime minister will now go to brussels, see what concessions she can win, see what concessions she can win, see what concessions she can win, see what clarifications she can get to allay the concerns of mps who
we re to allay the concerns of mps who were going to vote against this deal. as far as the stodge brexiteers in the conservative party are concerned, they made it clear this evening that anything less than a change to the withdrawal agreement itself would not cut it. just seeing stephen barclay, the new brexit separately taking questions this evening. not easy for him who is new in the role. let's go to gavin lee. thursday the becomes a brexit summit, that is not something they wa nted summit, that is not something they wanted to do. they are not prepared to open the withdrawal agreement. what can they help the prime minister with? two things, there are two days before thursday's summit where brexit is on the agenda. right now theresa may and her team are stiffening the sinews and it is once more into the breach to try and convince european leaders, perhaps one by one, whether they can move an inch on this issue of trying to make sure there is some form of writing
that allows to reza made to go back to britain to say that preventing a border with northern ireland and the republic, to suggest some wording that makes westminster not bound to that. i am told by sources on both sides of the water that that is not happening now at the moment. they are trying to work out when she can see mark rutte. it has been suggested that at the moment it is like a political tender at the moment, she is swiping right and left to find it and she can meet in the next few days. that is where she thinks she can get some traction, meeting them one by one first allows her to deliver at least on something
if she goes that far. brexit tender, can you get any more surreal? the diaries have been shifted over the next few days. with me now to discuss what the government might be thinking and planning is mohammed hussein. he's head of public affairs and campaigns at plmr communications, and a former special adviser to amber rudd, when she was home secretary. also with me is the times columnist, jenni russell. she is trying to get someone to help her out with a conundrum. she is trying to get someone to help her out with a conundrumlj she is trying to get someone to help her out with a conundrum. i do not know what she thinks she is doing. the real objection the brexiteers up to the plan is not a backstop, they we re to the plan is not a backstop, they were either like to replace her as a prime minister or to have a harder brexit. that is what they were holding up for. i do not believe for a minute she can get any cosmetic change in brussels that will change the dynamics of this deal. the enormous problem we have got is brexit was sold on the basis of a
lie by brexiteers who never intended to deliver it. they had no plan to end after years ago because they we re end after years ago because they were trying to position themselves personally and politically and they did not think the brexit book would be one. this is why the country is ina be one. this is why the country is in a mess. you have got half the country thinking we can get some glorious future which was never possible and the prime minister ought to be saying to the nation, you were sold a fantasy. if you want to make compromises and want britain to make compromises and want britain to be weaker and poorer, take my deal. if you do not want that, you should vote to remain. i think she should vote to remain. i think she should have said parliament will not pass my deal and i will go to the country and say it is i do my deal remain and a second referendum. i see the problem, but the fact is there would be no majority in parliament for no deal because they know what a disaster it would be. we would destroy agriculture and the food business in this country under
two years after two years. we would become so poor and so unimportant andi become so poor and so unimportant and i do not think people who wanted brexit have the faintest idea that thatis brexit have the faintest idea that that is what could lie ahead. they do not believe such a disaster would be feasible. it would be utterly responsible for the government to put that on the ballot paper. jenny has a point. jacob rees mogg has already said this evening that u nless already said this evening that unless there was a new detail in the withdrawal agreement, legally binding, it is no good for him. if she takes the backstop of the programme altogether, no problem. you can see the eurosceptics and the backbenchers setting down a red line ahead of negotiations that might not even ahead of negotiations that might not eve n ta ke ahead of negotiations that might not even take place. what is very confusing for most people, who are probably quite rightly focusing on christmas and expecting the politicians to sort it out, i think
the writing has been on the wall for a while. the government has been slow off the mark and what we see is an attempt at damage limitation and an attempt at damage limitation and an attempt at trying to take control of this situation. the conversations the prime minister yesterday with the prime minister yesterday with the european leaders, i do not believe that number ten would come back with exactly the same deal whatever date they choose to come back with it with. that is a high risk strategy, so there must have been some kind of signal. if it conversations with donald tusk last night was the decision? she sent michael gove out this morning to say 100% this will go ahead. then later on she pulls it. i think that is a pa rt of on she pulls it. i think that is a part of it. there is also the reality of looking out over into the abyss. the government wants to win votes, that is the nature of
governing. you do not want to lose votes. the prospect of leading by a three figure margin is unprecedented. sometimes if you miss judge something then you do have to doa judge something then you do have to do a bit of hands up, we have got this wrong. ultimately this is not about a date in the government grade, this is about people's lives and jobs. i think she believes that and jobs. i think she believes that and she believes the deal. if you ta ke and she believes the deal. if you take a bit of a hit on this is the only deal, and you come back with something different, it is worth it. we had five mps appear from the conservative party in the last hour and not one of them talked about the leadership challenge, which is interesting given they did not call a leadership challenge after the election in 2017, nor after chequers and now this. the difficulty is there are lots of people who want to lead the conservative party, but they want to lead it when this mess
is over. it does not matter who becomes prime minister at the moment, they would still face the problem that britain could not leave the european union on theresa may's dyla n the european union on theresa may's dylan farrow giving up a lot of say. how does it persuade the country that remain would be better for it? there are a lot of people who want to undermine theresa may and criticise her, but they do not want to be left holding this impossible conundrum which they do not know how to solve. they would like to blame her and criticise her, but as one conservative mp set to borisjohnson last week, you are full of grievances, where is the solution? the brexiteers have no solution. that is the challenge that theresa may put down today. and just a reminder of those key brexit deadlines coming up. theresa may told the commons she would be speaking to eu leaders this week about mps' concerns surrounding the northern ireland backstop. that meeting of the eu council is expected to take place on thursday this week, but the council's leader,
donald tusk, says the eu would not renegotiate the draft deal or the backstop. crucially, the prime minister has refused to say when the mps would now be able to vote on her deal, saying it would depend how long any new talks with the eu last. some mps have asked for the vote to be held before christmas, but mrs may says the final deadline for the vote is the 21st of january. and, she said the government was committed to delivering a brexit deal before the deadline for the uk's departure date from the eu, which is the 29th of march next year. here's our deputy political editor jon pienaar with more on what might happen next. theresa may has retreated. listened to cabinet colleagues and advisers urging herto to cabinet colleagues and advisers urging her to delay the vote. why? that is easy. the sign is she was facing a crushing defeat in the
commons, the deal could leave her uk locked into eu rules. the dup also hate the idea of northern ireland being tied even closer than mainland britain for the sake of avoiding a hardline border. there are tory remainers who say there is no point leaving the eu only to follow its rules with no say in writing them. now theresa may is off to brussels. what is next? the political perils facing theresa may are still there, still waiting. her cabinet is split and some ministers want openly what they call manage no deal. leave the eu before any trade deals in place but with time to prepare and avoid as much disruption as possible. critics insist leaving with no deal would carry a heavy economic price. others in the cabinet want a softer brexit, the norway solution, with free movement of people, though with some control over migration. there
is also talk among ministers and mps over consulting parliament on what it would be prepared to support. most mps are pro—european so that might lead to a sub brexit. thanks to the european court britain could stop the clock on brexit while it decides. the hard brexiteers would hate that. it would split the tories and maybe labour as well and there is no guarantee theresa may would stay as prime minister. there is no guarantee of using a fresh referendum to break the deadlock. but people are going confident that they might get their way in the end. labour is split, some mps want a softer brexit, but the party once the general election. could they win a vote of no confidence against the governor? not likely because the dup would have to side against the prime minister. a lot of the tories are angry enough to have a vote of no confidence against her. if she won,
she would be safe in the job for a year. conservative mps might consider that too long lease on number ten and it is time for someone number ten and it is time for someone to take on a mission impossible that brexit seems to have become. irish prime minister leo varadkar said preparations for a no—deal brexit should intensify. leo varadkar said in a statement that he had spoken to european council president donald tusk and agreed that the withdrawal agreement was the best option and could not be renegotiated. the european commission has said that uppermost thoughts are with the irish side, so close liaison with leo varadkar. mark rutte says he is
better prepared in the uk for a no deal. those preparations are still going on within the european union. those preparations are still going on within the european union. with me to discuss the possible options for the government to take its next steps isjoe owen, associate director of the brexit programme at the independent think—tank, the institute for government. welcome. just looking atjohn‘s welcome. just looking at john‘s peas and all the various spectrum of options there are, what do you think is the most likely scenario over the coming weeks after christmas? we know the vote is not happening tomorrow and we note the prime minister will go back to brussels to look to try and renegotiate and get some assurances that will help smooth the passage of that. what we do not know is when any meaningful vote welco m e do not know is when any meaningful vote welcome because under the legislation that was passed earlier this year there must be a meaningful vote in orderfor this year there must be a meaningful vote in order for any this year there must be a meaningful vote in orderfor any deal to be ratified. there is a period of time
where it is not clear how long this negotiation will go on for. will it be short and sharp, let's try and get something that will help persuade parliamentarians hear that this deal is the right deal and the backstop will not be used? by will the prime minister try and insist on substantively reopening later part of that agreement for which she will get significant resistance? you would get the french and the spanish saying they want a bit more out of this because they went into that tunnel when they negotiated the final pass. they said they did not like bits of it, but they were told to put up and shut up. exactly, when you reopen something your back is against the wall again as people try and extract concessions from the uk. the 29th of march is the date we are still ticking down to. that is within the legislation by the time we leave the eu. parliament can say
we leave the eu. parliament can say we do not like this or that, but the time is ticking and there needs to bea time is ticking and there needs to be a majority for something in order to avoid that date. until that happens no deal preparations will have to ramp up. sorry to cut you short, we have got a lot to fit in before our special at half past the hour. let's go to the european counterpart. what do you see of what you have seen in london today? we have a clear position in the european parliament in the council, in the 27 member countries and we see there is no re—negotiation possible. the european parliament, which has a decisive vote, will not
ratify an agreement which does not have a clear commitment for avoiding the hard border in ireland and therefore this cannot be changed. but the european union has already said they do not know if the backstop is legal and there is no appetite for implementing the backstop in the european union and maybe they could have those extra yea rs of maybe they could have those extra years of transition. can you not just take out? no, there is a clear assurance that the irish want to have and therefore it is a condition. this withdrawal agreement, including the backstop, isa agreement, including the backstop, is a principally great condition. this is what both sides negotiated. the problem is the house of commons, after the comments we got from the french president last week who said, we wa nt
french president last week who said, we want a deal on fishing, they do not trust the european union will act in good faith if the backstop is triggered. that is the problem, a lack of trust. it is also the other way around. you have to see that. this european parliament will not ratify the deal. it is very clear. it should be seen that that was agreed by the british government several times that such a backstop is needed. we had other proposals for them, we wanted to have a customs union. now let's try to do that and make it clear and make a commitment. afterwards that can be donein commitment. afterwards that can be done in order to get a far free—trade agreement and other agreements on security, or even a norwegian solution, but we need their withdrawal agreement as a condition to come to this transition period. always good to get your thoughts. thank you very much for
being with us. it changes minute by minute, hour by hour. in the last few minutes we had the meeting the prime minister was due to have with mark rutte, the dutch prime minister, that does not seem to be going ahead. it seems difficult to get a date in the directjean—claude juncker at this moment in time. we know all the leaders will be together on thursday in brussels. donald tusk has dedicated thursday asa donald tusk has dedicated thursday as a brexit summit day. it will be interesting to see what the reaction of the other 27 eu leaders will be in brussels on thursday. donald tusk visalia we can talk, but we certainly will not be able to reopen the withdrawal agreement. are they able to buy something, legal text, alongside the withdrawal agreement that might satisfy the very vocal here in the house of commons. theresa may has got a lot on her plate and there is a lot of
confusion out in the country. now it is time for a brexit special. march, or will we be asked to think again? will we leave with a deal or with no deal? and either way, can theresa may survive? we were told again and again that the commons would vote on the prime minister's brexit deal tomorrow. we were told the only choice was between her deal and no deal or no brexit. welcome to westminster on a night when theresa may is still in office but not really in power, on a night when this country seems as far as ever from deciding what our future relationship with europe will be.