PM could delay final vote on Brexit (BBC): The prime minister told MPs she would lift a requirement for a 21-day period before any vote to approve an international treaty. It opens up the possibility she could delay the final Brexit vote until days before the UK is due to leave the EU. No 10 insists Mrs May will hold a vote on her deal as soon as possible. But Jeremy Corbyn accused her of “running down the clock” in an effort to “blackmail” MPs into backing her deal. Note that Theresa May has promised MPs a final, decisive vote on her Brexit deal with the EU – but not until she has secured changes to the Irish backstop clause (here).
Yvette Cooper unveils new plan to allow MPs to block no-deal Brexit (Guardian): The new Cooper bill would give May until Wednesday 13 March to get a deal through parliament. Assuming the bill passes through parliament (a big if, given the difficulty it might have in the Lords, where bills cannot be rushed through), if the PM has not got a deal through parliament by 13 March, MPs would either have to vote to agree a no-deal Brexit – or else they would have to vote to require the PM to seek an extension of article 50. It would be up to the government to decide how long the article 50 extension it would request would be. (Cooper’s previous bill on this specified a nine-month extension.) Cooper says she will press for a vote on an amendment creating time for her bill on Wednesday 27 February, if Theresa May has not passed a deal by then. That means 27 February is the next crunch deadline for the PM. Tory pro-Europeans who have not rebelled on this issue yet are hinting that they will rebel then to vote for the Cooper plan.
MPs criticise chancellor over Brexit ‘deal dividend’ claim (FT): The Treasury select committee’s report into the October Budget accused the chancellor of failing to give the independent Office for Budget Responsibility sufficient information to produce accurate forecasts and then presenting them in “odd” and “non credible” ways. The frustration from MPs of all parties in the report published on Tuesday stemmed from the chancellor’s fondness for promising a “deal dividend” of more rapid economic growth from increased business confidence and investment if parliament agreed the Brexit withdrawal agreement. The report also criticised the chancellor for loose statements, saying that austerity was coming to an end without any definition of what that meant.
Labour MPs demand workers’ rights bill to secure Brexit backing (Guardian): Labour MPs have told Theresa May that a fresh bill on workers’ rights, not just an amendment, would be the minimum they could accept in order to secure their backing for her Brexit deal. On Tuesday, May told the House of Commons after the meeting that she was prepared to consider legislating to ensure her commitments on workers’ rights had legal force – though it stopped short of a commitment to a standalone bill. MPs have said the guarantees should include a “regression lock” to ensure UK standards did not slip below those of the EU as well as opportunities for MPs to vote on raising UK standards when future EU laws are implemented. Unions are also understood to have demanded other legal changes from the prime minister in return for their backing, including the right to conduct electronic workplace ballots rather than relying on postal voting.
Treasury accused of ignoring plight of small business under no-deal Brexit (FT): Three senior bankers said the Treasury had ignored requests from banks to provide support for small and medium-sized enterprises, despite fears that a disorderly exit would disrupt SMEs’ cash flow, triggering a sharp increase in loan defaults across the sector. The Treasury and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have been working with trade group UK Finance and representatives from other industries to create a centralised source of advice and information for small businesses, according to two people familiar with the plan. Details are set to be announced in the coming weeks, but it is not expected to include more radical financial provisions.
Business leaders demand May answers 20 questions on trade (Guardian): Business leaders have demanded the prime minister answer 20 crucial questions before the 29 March deadline to prevent a chaotic no-deal Brexit. The British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), the UK business trade body, said that without greater clarity over import and export duties, border controls and customs procedures, Theresa May risked thousands of companies suffering a potentially catastrophic shock when the UK quits the European Union.
No-deal plan for Channel Tunnel operations (BBC): Trains will be permitted to use the Channel Tunnel for three months if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, under a proposed European Commission law. The planned legislation, published on Tuesday, will give the UK and France time to renegotiate the terms under which the railway service operates. The law must be agreed by the European Parliament and EU member states.
Macquarie warns on Europe licence backlog (FT): Macquarie Group has warned that backlogs in licence applications with European regulators are forcing it to implement contingency plans to cope with the fallout in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The Australian investment bank said on Tuesday that it may not receive licences from regulators in Ireland and Luxembourg until the second quarter of the year, beyond the date when the UK could crash out of the EU without a transition deal. Macquarie blamed the delays on a logjam created by the large number of companies applying for licences to enable them to provide financial services across Europe following Brexit.