But there are also hints of a possible deal between the two warring wings of the Conservative Party in what is being dubbed the “Malthouse compromise” after Tory MP Kit Malthouse, which advocates claim could be the key to cutting through the gridlock that has characterised the process so far. Speaking in the Commons, Prime Minister Theresa May dismissed former attorney general Mr Grieve’s amendment, as well as another submitted by Labour MP Yvette Cooper calling for the delaying of Article 50 and Brexit. Mrs May is urging MPs to back the Sir Graham Brady’s amendment which aims to replace the Irish backstop with so-far unspecified “alternative arrangements”.
She said she “understood the concerns” which led to both being tabled, but adding: “I have the most profound doubts about the consequences they would lead to.”
She said they “exploit a mechanism to usurp the proper role of the executive” in a way that would have “far-reaching long-term consequences for the way the United Kingdom is governed”.
Mr Grieve intervened to defend his amendment, saying MPs had ”never had a proper opportunity to debate options, and to do it in a reasoned way”, and claiming his plan was better than making members sign up the Graham Brady amendment which has been adopted by the Government at the “last moment”.
Former Cabinet minister Ms Cooper’s plan, which has cross-party support, including from senior Tory Nick Boles, as well as the backing of her own party, would allow MPs to call for the delay if no deal had been approved by February 26.
Reports late last night suggested European Reform Group (ERG) leaders Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker, together with Brexit-backing Housing Minister Kit Malthouse, had held talks with Remainers including Stephen Hammond and Robert Buckland, as well as Minister Nicky Morgan.
The two-stage proposal would first involve Mrs May being sent back to Brussels in a bid to renegotiate the backstop element of the withdrawal agreement.
If the bid fails, Mrs May would then ask the EU to honour the agreed Brexit transition period, in exchange for which the UK would in term honour its agreed financial contributions and commitments on EU citizens’ rights.
Such a move would give both sides time to prepare for a departure on WTO terms at the end of 2021.
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3.45pm update: Stormy clashes during Corbyn’s speech
Mr Corbyn’s speech was dogged by a row over his failure to take interventions from MPs, including from his Labour colleague Angela Smith.
Eventually he relented and allowed Michael Gove to interrupt him and speak from the despatch box, who then asked why the Labour leader was “scared” to allow Ms Smith (Penistone and Stockbridge) to come in on what he was saying.
Mr Corbyn ignored the question, instead mockingly thanking the Environment Secretary for his “brief statement of his leadership intentions”.
Commons Speaker John Bercow was forced to intervene several times, accusing the Conservative benches of an “orchestrated attempt” to try and “shout down the Leader of the Opposition”.
3.38pm update: Corbyn backs three-month delay to Brexit if Government fails to get deal through Commons in time
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Tuesday his party would back a three-month delay to if the government cannot get an exit deal approved by parliament before February 26.
An amendment put forward by Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper seeks to shift control of from the government to parliament. It could see parliament vote on whether to ask the EU to delay Britain’s exit to avoid leaving without a deal on March 29. It proposes a nine-month extension, to Dec. 31, but leaves the length of delay open to debate.
Mr Corbyn said: “The Labour party will back that amendment tonight because to crash out without a deal would be deeply damaging for industry and the economy.
“In backing her amendment, we are backing a short window of three months to allow time for renegotiation.”