Theresa May dealt Brexit blow as Parliament seizes control

By Rob Picheta and Bianca Britton, CNN
1545 GMT (2345 HKT) March 26, 2019
6:54 a.m. ET, March 25, 2019

Boris Johnson nods towards May's resignation

When there's speculation over a British prime minister's position, it seems ex-foreign secretary Boris Johnson is never too far away.

The Conservative pro-Brexit MP has been linked with the role on numerous occasions, and an opinion piece he's written for today's Daily Telegraph newspaper suggests he may be throwing his hat into the ring once more.

"We have blinked. We have baulked. We have bottled it completely," Johnson writes in a front-page piece for the newspaper. "We are not leaving this Friday because the government has chickened out."

Johnson, who quit as foreign secretary last year, has been a longstanding critic of Theresa May's deal. But he suggests it could pass if she sets out how the next phase of negotiations "will be different from the first," a point some are taking as a none-too-subtle call for May to stand aside.

"Extend the implementation period to the end of 2021 if necessary; use it to negotiate a free trade deal; pay the fee; but come out of the EU now – without the backstop. It is time for the PM to channel the spirit of Moses in Exodus, and say to Pharaoh in Brussels – LET MY PEOPLE GO," Johnson concludes.

Such a plan has been explicitly ruled out by the EU. Both May and EU leaders have said it is unfeasible to remove the backstop -- an insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland -- from the deal, and the UK will not have an implementation period if it leaves without an agreement.

Meanwhile, Johnson's column has been poorly received by some MPs, including Labour's Jess Phillips, who says it made her "feel sick."

6:25 a.m. ET, March 25, 2019

No-deal Brexit is "increasingly likely," says European Commission

The European Commission has completed its preparations for a no-deal Brexit, warning that the prospect is "increasingly likely" on April 12.

The body says it has contingency planning in place to tackle the fallout of a no-deal exit, but says such a scenario will cause "significant disruption for citizens and businesses."

"In a 'no-deal' scenario, the UK will become a third country without any transitionary arrangements. All EU primary and secondary law will cease to apply to the UK from that moment onwards. There will be no transition period, as provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement. This will obviously cause significant disruption for citizens and businesses," The European Commission notes.

6:21 a.m. ET, March 25, 2019

Here's what parliament could vote on today

Hundreds of thousands march through London on Saturday demanding a second referendum, which will be among the amendments put to the Speaker of the House later.

The House of Commons will debate an amendable motion on the Brexit deal today, giving them the chance to vote this evening on whichever proposed amendments are selected by the Speaker of the House, John Bercow.

Here are the seven amendments tabled by Monday morning which the Speaker will consider.

Indicative votes: A cross-party plan, backed by Tory Remainers Oliver Letwin and Dominic Grieve and Labour's Hilary Benn, calls for a series of votes on alternative Brexit plans to take place on Wednesday, essentially taking control of the Brexit process from government.

Reject no-deal: Labour's Yvette Cooper is calling on the government to rule out a no-deal exit from the EU on April 12, and to set out by Thursday how it will make sure a crash-out won't happen.

Let MPs find an alternative: The Labour Party is asking the government to set out time for MPs to debate and find a majority for an alternative Brexit plan. That could include Labour's own plan, a customs union, common market membership or a second referendum, the party says.

Plan for a second referendum: The breakaway Independent Group, made up of former Labour and Conservative MPs who quit over Brexit, are calling for the government to make the "necessary preparations" for a second Brexit referendum. The plan comes after one million people, according to organizers, marched in London demanding another vote.

There are three other amendments tabled by backbenchers or smaller parties. They include a call for the government to ask the Commons whether it approves a no-deal or extending Article 50 again, a pro-Brexit amendment asking the government to reaffirm its commitment to leave the EU, and a plan for a two-year extension to hold a second referendum.

5:51 a.m. ET, March 25, 2019

Time's Up, Theresa: What the papers are saying

One of Britain's most-read tabloids has dedicated its front page to an editorial calling on Theresa May to resign.

"Theresa May must announce today that she will stand down as soon as her Brexit deal is approved and Britain is out of the EU," The Sun says "with regret."

The paper suggests hardline Tory Brexiteers and the Democratic Unionist Party, the party that props up May's minority government, should then back her bill to get it over the line. May "will then go down in history as a great public servant, as the leader who delivered Brexit and proved to the British people that our democracy is robust and far, far more important than any individual," it says. "PM, it's time to move on."

It's not the only newspaper to focus on the speculation swirling around May's position this week.

The Guardian features pictures of four prominent leave-backing MPs arriving for a meeting with May at her country house retreat, Chequers, on Sunday. "Brexiters pile on pressure as May's deal drifts away," the paper's headline reads.

The pro-leave Daily Express is more sympathetic to the prime minister, calling those reportedly trying to oust her "Remainer plotters" and urging May to sack them. "Get behind PM and sort out Brexit!" reads their headline.

Meanwhile, The Times' headline reads: "May clings on and defies call to set No 10 exit date," while the i newspaper goes with: "Lonely May refuses to stand down."

6:24 a.m. ET, March 25, 2019

Can Theresa May survive as Prime Minister?

Theresa May has defied long odds to hold onto her position before.

The UK Prime Minister has withstood a disastrous snap election, a flood of cabinet resignations and two historically significant defeats to her Brexit deal during her nearly three-year-long stint.

But her post is in jeopardy once more. The Sunday Times newspaper reported that almost half of her cabinet will confront her today, urging her to stand aside in return for support for her Brexit deal.

The paper reports that her de facto deputy and close ally David Lidington is being lined up to take over, while The Mail on Sunday says Environment Secretary Michael Gove is the "consensus choice" for the job. Both have since stressed their loyalty to the PM.

Speculation was heightened further when George Freeman, a Conservative MP and former policy adviser to May, said on Saturday evening that it was "all over" for May.

Downing Street told CNN that it would not comment on speculation from newspapers, and that the rumors have not affected the schedule for the upcoming week.

But the speculation and reported positioning from her rivals makes for an intriguing subplot to today's events in parliament and will only be heightened if her Brexit plan is finally killed off later.

5:47 a.m. ET, March 25, 2019

May faces crunch week as hopes for her deal fade

Analysis by Jane Merrick for CNN

This could be the week that everything comes together on Brexit -- or everything falls apart.

After months of refusing to cede barely any ground on her plans for leaving the European Union, UK Prime Minister Theresa May is likely to find control of Brexit is taken from her hands.

Amid talk of a Cabinet coup against her and hundreds of thousands of people marching to demand a second referendum -- as well as a petition to cancel Brexit altogether reaching 5 million signatures -- the Prime Minister would be forgiven for wanting to relinquish some control.

Lawmakers will vote Monday night on whether to come up with alternatives to the Prime Minister's Brexit deal, which has twice been defeated in the Commons. If this motion succeeds, they will take part in a series of indicative votes on as many as seven options on Wednesday -- including a second referendum and a hybrid of May's existing deal that would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU.

Incredibly, while Brexit has dominated the British political agenda for months, Wednesday -- two days before the original leave date of March 29 -- will be the first opportunity Parliament has had to choose from a menu of alternative options to May's widely-criticized deal.

Read more from Jane Merrick here.

5:44 a.m. ET, March 25, 2019

Today's schedule

Cabinet members leave 10 Downing Street last week.

Monday will be a long day for UK lawmakers. Here's what's coming up:

10 a.m. (6 a.m. ET): Prime Minister Theresa May holds a crucial cabinet meeting with her ministers. Reports over the weekend suggested several of those in her own government will confront the PM at this session, with The Sunday Times newspaper claiming as many as 11 -- almost half of her cabinet -- will urge her to quit in return for support on her Brexit deal.

Lunchtime: May will hold talks with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour Party head was invited to cross-party talks with May and other lawmakers last week, but reportedly left because breakaway MP Chuka Umunna was present.

3:30 p.m.: The PM will head to the House of Commons to face lawmakers, where she'll make a statement on last week's European Council summit. At that meeting she was granted a conditional delay to Brexit -- but if her deal fails, Britain could still crash out of the EU on April 12.

5 p.m. onwards: Politicians debate the next steps of the Brexit process.

10 p.m.: Votes on any amendments selected by the Speaker of the House earlier in the day will take place. They could significantly alter the government's plans and give more power to parliament.

5:47 a.m. ET, March 25, 2019

It's another big Brexit week

Monday marks the start of another crucial week in the Brexit process.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will likely be spending much of today once again trying to persuade Members of Parliament to back the deal she agreed with the European Union.

The task of flipping 75 lawmakers to win a parliamentary vote is a difficult one, especially after she alienated many by blaming them for the Brexit chaos in a speech last Wednesday.

There's also the chance that a third vote on May's Withdrawal Agreement won't even take place, if she cancels the vote due to a lack of support.

May will be holding a crucial cabinet meeting this morning, where reports suggest a number of her own ministers will urge her to quit in return for support for her deal.

There are also plans for MPs to press for votes on alternative Brexit options this week, such as a softer Brexit -- which could seek a Norway-style deal with the EU, giving the UK full access to the single market and the European Free Trade area. A second referendum and a Canada-style free trade will likely also get a hearing, as well crashing out with no deal.

Today, the Speaker of the House will select a number of amendments laying out a possible way forward. Votes on the selected amendments will take place tonight.