Theresa May's Brexit deal defeated for third time

By Rob Picheta, Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Bianca Britton, CNN

Updated 6:40 a.m. ET, April 1, 2019
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8:47 a.m. ET, March 29, 2019

Dominic Raab quit over May's Brexit plan. Now he's changed his mind

Dominic Raab tells the House Friday's vote is a finely balanced judgement call.
Dominic Raab tells the House Friday's vote is a finely balanced judgement call. Parliament UK

In a stunning move, former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab says he will support the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement in a fresh vote on Friday.

"I will vote for the motion. I will do so without prejudice ... to achieve two essential outcomes: stave off a longer extension and prevent European elections in May. And I hope the government can more vigorously pursue the reassurance we need on the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration and make the deal more acceptable to this House."

Raab resigned as Brexit Secretary back in November, saying at the time he could not “in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.” 

8:21 a.m. ET, March 29, 2019

London gears up ahead of planned protests

Trucks carrying concrete blocks arrive in central London on Friday.
Trucks carrying concrete blocks arrive in central London on Friday. Nic Robertson/CNN

London's Metropolitan Police are pulling in extra officers to assist with several planned protests due to take place on the day the UK was supposed to leave the European Union.

Westminster Council said it is aware of up to 13 separate scheduled protests for Friday and the Metropolitan Police said "appropriate policing plans are in place," Britain's Press Association reported.

Preparations are underway in the British capital with heavy-duty concrete blocks for barricades being brought in on trucks along Whitehall. CNN teams also saw an increased police presence with additional vans and officers wearing high-visibility jackets.

8:26 a.m. ET, March 29, 2019

DUP leader on why party won't back May's deal

Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster on February 8.
Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster on February 8. Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster has written an opinion piece in the Belfast Telegraph outlining why her party will vote against Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement on Friday.

She reiterates that she wants a deal that works for all and that the party "cannot vote for a deal, including a backstop arrangement, which could undermine the Union."

Foster says the long-term consequences must be considered.

"This is about looking at the impact of placing a trade barrier between Northern Ireland and our biggest market in Great Britain. These decisions are weighty," Foster writes.

She says European leaders -- including Jean-Claude Juncker, Michel Barnier and Leo Varadkar -- have recognized that a hard border can be avoided, thus undermining the argument for a backstop in the first place.

"I hope in the coming days that we can reach an outcome which respects the referendum result and which protects the Union ... We can, but it will require pragmatic minds in Dublin, Brussels and London," she concludes.

The party's Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson, repeats in the Commons that the DUP has not changed its position.

"We have sought to, over the last number of weeks, to work with the government, to try and find a way of either getting legal assurances or legislative changes to enable us to move this process on," Wilson says.

"We want to see a deal. We want out of the European Union and we want to have a clear path as to how to do that. But it's not been possible because the Withdrawal Agreement itself so ties the hands of this government that it is impossible to find a way of securing the kind of assurances which are required."

8:28 a.m. ET, March 29, 2019

Britain is getting a new anti-Brexit party

Independent MP Heidi Allen participates at an abortion demonstration in central London on February 26.
Independent MP Heidi Allen participates at an abortion demonstration in central London on February 26. NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images

Britain is getting a new political party opposed to Brexit.

The Independent Group (TIG), a cross-party bloc of anti-Brexit MPs, has formally applied to be registered as a fully-fledged political party. They will be called Change UK and have appointed the former Conservative MP Heidi Allen as interim leader.

The group was created in mid-February when seven lawmakers broke from the opposition Labour party over its handling of Brexit, the anti-Semitism scandal and Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. Another Labour MP and three former Conservatives, including Allen, later joined them.

“Today marks a huge step forward on The Independent Group's journey to becoming a fully-fledged political party," Allen said in a press release announcing the move.

There had been much speculation over who will lead the group. A former Labour MP, Chuka Umunna, had been widely tipped. “There is clearly an appetite for an alternative to our broken politics which needs fundamental change, as shown by the disastrous Brexit process which has occurred under the watch of the two main parties,” Umunna said in the statement.

TIG made the application to UK's Electoral Commission – the country's elections regulator – in case it needs to field candidates in European parliamentary elections in May. That scenario would arise if Britain is forced to seek a long extension to the Brexit process – a distinct possibility, if the House of Commons fails to agree Theresa May's Brexit deal later today.

The Electoral Commission could not say how long it would take to process the application, but it “does take some time,” spokesman Karim Aziz said.

7:03 a.m. ET, March 29, 2019

SNP: PM is obsessed with power but powerless

SNP's Westminster Leader Ian Blackford addresses the House on Friday morning.
SNP's Westminster Leader Ian Blackford addresses the House on Friday morning. Parliament UK

Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party's Westminster leader, is speaking in the debate now and he starts by expressing his disappointment that Theresa May has opted to leave the chamber.

He then launches into a furious diatribe on the Prime Minister "who has come to Parliament defeated and desperate.

This is a Prime Minister that is willing to break every promise to this House and the people of the United Kingdom. This is the Prime Minister who has had to offer her own resignation to get her own party to support her bad Brexit deal. This is a Prime Minister obsessed with power but powerless. 

He says May has failed to engage with opposition MPs and devolved administrations, and that the process "has always been her way or the highway."

"The Prime Minister cannot draw her fractured party together. We in this House and the rest of United Kingdom will pay the price of that failure to seek a broader consensus," Blackford continues. "It is time they were stopped.” 

6:47 a.m. ET, March 29, 2019

Sturgeon calls Boris Johnson a "shameless charlatan"

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has reacted to Boris Johnson's confirmation that he will back the UK Prime Minister's Withdrawal Agreement in Parliament on Friday.

6:32 a.m. ET, March 29, 2019

Delivery for Mrs. May

From CNN's Milena Veselinovic at Downing Street in London

A delivery man brings flowers to the door of the Prime Minister's residence on Friday.
A delivery man brings flowers to the door of the Prime Minister's residence on Friday. CNN

While Theresa May watches lawmakers wrestle once again with her Brexit divorce deal in Parliament, she'll get a nice surprise on her return home...

A large purple bouquet has been sent to Number 10 with the delivery man telling waiting journalists they're from "well-wishers, a support group from Jersey and the Channel Islands."

6:17 a.m. ET, March 29, 2019

The EU doesn't think May's deal will pass

From CNN's Erin McLaughlin in Brussels

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier
The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier

In Brussels, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier has been briefing diplomats on the situation in the UK. The EU's assessment is stark, diplomats told CNN: It doesn't think May will get her withdrawal agreement through the UK Parliament. Here's what one diplomat said:

"No one believes (today's vote) will bring it home."

In that scenario, diplomats believe, Britain faces a choice: Leave without a deal, or request a long delay to Brexit.

In the event of a no-deal exit, the EU will demand strict terms for any negotiation on a future relationship between the two sides. And they look remarkably like the terms agreed by the EU and the UK in the Withdrawal Agreement.

This is what that means for the UK:

  • Honoring the Good Friday Agreement, which demands no return of border posts between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. In effect,  the UK would have to sign up to the Irish backstop, the most controversial aspect of the current agreement
  • Guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK must be guaranteed,
  • Making good on outstanding financial obligations (aka the EU divorce bill).

Those were the conditions laid down by the EU right at the start of negotiations two years ago, and form the basis of the agreement which has already been rejected twice in Westminster. Regardless of whether the UK leaves with a deal or not, it must sign up to the backstop and divorce deal anyway -- that is, if it wants any sort of negotiated relationship with the EU.

6:14 a.m. ET, March 29, 2019

Boris Johnson officially announces he'll back Theresa May's "bad deal"

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has tweeted that he has been and remains "intensely critical" of Theresa May's deal and that "it is very painful to vote" for it.

"I have come to the sad conclusion that neither this government nor this parliament is willing to leave with no deal," Johnson tweeted. "We therefore run the risk of being forced to accept an even worse version of Brexit or losing Brexit altogether."

He added that it's better if MPs have the chance of improving a "bad deal" in the next stage of negotiations, rather than those alternatives.