BBC News (Pre-Round)

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Re: BBC News (Pre-Round)

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May secures new Brexit deal with EU
20 March 2019


Theresa May and EU leaders have hailed the new deal they have struck to take the UK out of the bloc on 12 April in an "orderly" fashion. The prime minister now faces a battle to get the deal through Parliament after having failed twice to get her previous deal through - with two historic defeats in the process.

European Council President Donald Tusk did not rule out an extension to the Brexit deadline if MPs rejected it, noting that the UK would likely need to participate in this spring's European elections if it failed to pass the deal. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker earlier said: "We have a deal so why should we have a prolongation." The EU and UK negotiating teams worked round-the-clock on the legal text of the deal, but it will still need the approval of both the UK and European parliaments.

Most of the deal is the same as the one agreed by Mrs May last year - the main change is the Northern Ireland proposal. In particular, the UK will continue to abide by EU rules until the end of March 2020 to allow businesses to adjust, the UK will still pay an estimated £33bn "divorce bill", and the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU, will be guaranteed.

The revised Northern Ireland protocol remains the most controversial aspect of the deal. While the backstop has been removed for the whole of the UK, Northern Ireland will be aligned to the EU single market, but continue to be a part of the UK's customs territory. The Province will, however, remain an entry point into the EU's customs zone, which will see the UK collect tariffs for the EU on goods that are bound for the common market. In remaining aligned to the EU single market, there will need to be regulatory checks in the Irish Sea on goods transiting between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Assembly - which has been suspended since January 2017 - will get a vote every four years on whether to continue with the new trading arrangements.

The reaction in the UK has been mixed. DUP leader Arlene Foster said that the deal would need to be studied intently. Brexiteer Cabinet ministers Andrea Leadsom and Michael Gove indicated their support for the deal, praising Mrs May for securing an improvement on the previous Brexit deal. Boris Johnson remained quiet following the announcement, saying that he would need to see the text of the deal and stating that he hoped to speak directly with Mrs May.

Opposition to the deal from other segments was swift. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the deal sounded "even worse" than the first deal negotiated by Mrs May, and "should be rejected" by MPs. Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: "this is a bad deal for the EU and a deal that shows that there are clearly no good outcomes for the UK - we must reject Brexit now." Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg indicated his opposition to the deal, but said he could be convinced if the DUP comes on side.

The government expects to bring forward its revised deal in the next week.

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Re: BBC News (Pre-Round)

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No majority for any options after MPs' votes
27 March 2019


Following a series of indicative votes, none of MPs' eight proposed Brexit options have secured clear backing in a series of votes in the Commons. The options - which included a customs union with the EU and a referendum on any deal - were supposed to help find a consensus over how to leave the EU.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the results strengthened ministers' view their revised deal was "the best option". The government's new deal, announced days ago, was not included in the eight options presented for indicative votes and will be put before the Commons in a third meaningful vote in two days.

MPs hoped Wednesday's unprecedented series of "indicative votes" would help break the parliamentary deadlock over Brexit. The failure to identify a clear way forward led to angry exchanges in the Commons with critics of the process saying it had been "an abject failure".

The proposal which came closest to commanding majority support was a cross-party plan - tabled by former Conservative chancellor Ken Clarke - for the whole of the UK to join a new customs union with the EU to ensure tariff-free trade after the UK's exit. Its supporters included five Conservative ministers: Mark Field, Stephen Hammond, Margot James, Anne Milton and Rory Stewart. All Conservative MPs - excluding cabinet ministers - were given a free vote, meaning they were not ordered to vote in a certain way.

Eight Conservatives voted for a referendum to endorse the deal, the proposal which secured the most affirmative votes. Labour controversially whipped its MPs to back the proposal but 10 shadow ministers abstained and Melanie Onn quit her job to vote against. Labour's own alternative plan for Brexit - including "close alignment" with the single market and protections for workers' rights - was defeated by 307 votes to 237. Five other propositions - including backing for a no-deal exit, the so-called Common Market 2.0 plan, a separate proposal to remain in the European Economic Area and one to stop the Brexit process by revoking Article 50 - all failed to secure the backing of a majority of MPs.

Mr Barclay appealed to MPs to back the PM's deal "in the national interest" when it returns to the House for a third time - which could happen as soon as Friday. "The House has considered a wide variety of options as a way forward," he said. "It demonstrates there are no easy options here. There is no simple way forward. The deal the government has negotiated is a compromise...That is the nature of complex negotiations. The results of the process this House has gone through today strengthens our view that the deal the government has negotiated is the best option."

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Re: BBC News (Pre-Round)

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May vows to resign in return for Brexit backing
27 March 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to resign should her revised Brexit deal be approved by the Commons in two days time. Mrs May made her offer at a meeting of Conservative MPs after a series of indicative votes revealed no majority for a Brexit deal in Parliament, but threatened Brexiteers aspirations as the two proposals garnering the most support were for a confirmatory referendum or a customs union with the European Union.

May told her party’s backbench 1922 Committee: “I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party. I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won’t stand in the way of that. I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.”

Mrs May's announcement came in the hours following a dramatic series of indicative votes that showed just how fragmented Parliament was over Brexit, but also offered hope for her deal to achieve a majority on 29 March, when the third meaningful vote (the first on this deal) is scheduled. Shortly after the indicative votes showed no consensus, Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith, two prominent Brexiteers, announced their support for May's deal. Likewise, DUP leader Arlene Foster said that this deal "might be the only option". Several members of Jeremy Corbyn's frontbench resigned following instructions to vote in favour of a second referendum.

Under a tentative agreement, if May's new deal is approved in a third meaningful vote, legislation will be fast-tracked through Parliament and the United Kingdom will leave the EU at 11pm on 12 April 2019. Sources close to the government whips suggest that there are "about 300" MPs ready to vote for the deal on the Conservative side, with some additional support expected from leave-leaning Labour MPs. The deal will be put two a vote in two days time.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that this was just further evidence of dysfunction in the government and that Mrs May had an obligation to step aside now and call for an election or back a referendum on any deal to leave the EU. However, his support for an election was not universal, with some Labour MPs in northern leave-leaning seats saying that an election "looks okay now, but can become a fiasco quickly...there's no way we get another miracle like 2017."

Analysis from Laura K.

This is the biggest, and final, gamble of Mrs May's premiership. At this point, there is no way we can expect her to be prime minister for more than three more months, depending on the length of the Conservative leadership contest. If her deal passes, she will follow through on her pledge to step down. And if her deal fails, she likely won't have the authority to lead anymore. So we're looking at a Conservative leadership election and a new prime minister over the coming months.

What's also interesting is the extent to which we're seeing Labour fragment on the Brexit issue. Twenty-seven MPs defied a three-line whip and refused to back a second referendum - an event that led to three shadow cabinet resignations. Now we see Labour MPs briefing against Mr Corbyn's position on an election. It certainly is a tense time in Westminster.
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Re: BBC News (Pre-Round)

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"Rebel alliance" of Conservative MPs say its time to back the deal
March 2019

A group of Conservative MPs, consisting of both senior and junior government ministers and prominent backbenchers, have said it's time to support the Mrs May's Brexit deal or face the country in an election. The group is believed to include numerous senior ministers, including Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, justice secretary David Gauke, business secretary Greg Clark, and work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd.

Dominic Grieve, a former Attorney General and not a senior backbencher, made the position of the group clear, stating, "There is a clear belief that there would not be a governing majority in Parliament for a Conservative leader who would pursue a harder Brexit. It's the Prime Minister's deal or an election. Those are the stakes."

Responding to Mr Grieve's remarks, former education secretary Justine Greening said she was broadly in agreement with them. Sir Oliver Letwin, a leader of Conservative opposition to a no deal Brexit said Mr Grieve's remarks were "an eloquent reflection of reality."

Mr Grieve's statement comes as polling shows that prominent Brexiteer Boris Johnson is the runaway favourite to replace Theresa May amongst Conservative Party members. Sources close to Mr Hammond and other ministers indicated that they were uncertain they could lend Mr Johnson their support in a confidence vote. "I'd rather go to an election," said one member.

There are believed to be thirty Conservative MPs that are actively involved in the "Rebel alliance", taking their name from the plucky group of Star Wars heroes that took on the Empire. Others believed to be involved include Rory Stewart, the prisons minsiter, immigration minister Caroline Nokes, digital minister Margot James, and skills minister Anne Milton.

Labour shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the the renewed briefing, which was no longer limited to backbenchers and not involved senior allies of Mrs May, demonstrated just what a shambles that the Conservatives made of Brexit. "It's clear that the government have no credibility on this matter. It's just mess after mess after mess."

Labour has not been united in their position. Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and Don Valley MP Caroline Flint said it might be time to back Mrs May's deal, as they see risks on the ground in their northern constituencies if Labour continues to block Brexit without outlining a positive vision to honour the 2016 referendum. "This may be the least objectionable Brexit possible," said Ms Flint. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, and Mr Starmer ruled out support for Mrs May's deal.

Analysis from Laura K.

The statement that it's either Mrs May's deal or an election is a dramatic escalation of tensions in the Conservative Party. Current polling suggest that, were an election held today, the Conservatives would fall below 300 seats, Labour would remain around 260 seats, and the Liberal Democrats and SNP would be the main beneficiaries. In Northern Ireland, the DUP stands to be the biggest loser, with the fragmentation of the unionist vote allowing big gains for nationalist parties.

This is a calculated risk for the so-called "rebel alliance". They see the current whip count, forty-eight hours before the third meaningful vote on Mrs May's revised Brexit deal, at approximately 290-300 votes in favour. If they can bring more Conservatives on side, plus bring in some Labour members that are concerned about their position, this deal might have a majority. And there are many MPs who could be brought on side. For the Brexit wing of the Conservative Party, there's a real risk that an election now would result in no majority at all for Brexit in Parliament. For Labour MPs in leave seats, there's a risk that continued blocking could see a surge in Brexit Party support in their seats.

The question of whether this is enough to get Mrs May's deal over the line is one that remains to be answered.
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Re: BBC News (Pre-Round)

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May succeeds in third meaningful vote, Brexit set for 12 April
29 March 2019

Prime Minister Theresa May succeeded in her third meaningful vote, securing her place in history as the United Kingdom now stands to leave the European Union at 11pm GMT on 12 April 2019. Several additional votes will be held in the coming days to secure passage of legislation giving legal authority to the UK's departure. It also kicks off a year-long transition period, during which time the government will need to negotiate a trade agreement with the EU.

Conservative MPs applauded Mrs May as she told the House that they "made a historic decision to honour the result of the 2016 referendum and deliver a Brexit that will work for all in the United Kingdom." Mrs May further announced that she would formally resign as Conservative Party leader on 13 April, once the UK formally left the European Union.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that the party would respect that there is a majority for this Brexit in the House, "no matter how bad it may be." He was joined by shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer, who said that Labour would now prioritise holding the government to account during trade negotiations. "There is still much left to be decided on," said Sir Keir. "We intend to ensure that the United Kingdom maintains a close, productive relationship with the European Union with a trade deal the guards labour rights and ensures environmental protections."

Spotted after the vote, Rebel alliance member Rory Stewart the the BBC that "we did what we had to do to get the best result possible for the British people." Several members of the group were seen congratulating each other, as well as Mrs May, as the result was announced.

The vote: as it happened

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Voting began with the result very much in doubt. Conservative whips reported that they expected 10-20 MPs to violate the whip and 10-20 Labour MPs to break their whip, with it unclear the extent to which the "Rebel alliance's" statement would impact MP votes. DUP leader Nigel Dodds, during the debate over the vote, said that the DUP "did not intend to bring forward an election", though they remained opposed to the deal.

As MPs filed into the vote lobbies, several moving pieces became apparent. First, the number of Conservative defections were higher than the whips anticipated, particularly amongst European Research Group MPs, whom Boris Johnson was not able to bring on side prior to the vote. Second, there were a large number of Labour defections, led by firm leavers such as Kate Hoey and Ronnie Campbell and joined by a "northern alliance" of MPs from leave-leaning constituencies who wanted to see Brexit done, including Caroline Flint, Lisa Nandy, Melanie Onn, Gloria De Piero, and others. Third, there was a last minute shuffle, as DUP MPs initially voted against the deal, but seeing more Conservative defections than expected, crossed into the 'Aye' lobby (effectively abstaining) at the last minute to prevent an early election, as threatened by the Rebel alliance.

When the tellers went to report the final votes there was palpable tension, as many were unclear about what exactly the DUP had done and whether there would be a majority for the deal. The final result was 322 in favour and 310 against, with 21 abstentions.

A new political landscape

Dominic Grieve, one of the leaders of the Rebel alliance, stated that the group would not back an election before the completion of the transition period. "We are committed to doing our part to ensure that Brexit is managed responsibly and that will extend to trade negotiations with the EU." Mr Grieve's statement effectively means that, under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, the future Conservative prime minister will need the backing of the Labour Party to see an election take place before the UK complete's it's transition period.

Leading Brexiteers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker said that, "this was not the deal the British people voted for, but we need to celebrate the fact that we're leaving the EU in just two weeks." In the aftermath of the vote, ERG MPs found themselves shunned by a number of their colleagues, who said that, "their attempts to wreck the UK with a no-deal Brexit failed and they need to learn to live with it - hopefully from some seats on the backbenches."

In Labour, fierce recriminations are flying around, particularly between remain leaning urban MPs and the members of the "northern alliance" that backed Mrs May's deal. One MP, asking for anonymity, said that the rebels spit in the face of a three-line whip and denied the British people a real choice on Brexit. Don Valley MP Caroline Flint, more bluntly, responded that she "won't be a loser who loses [her] seat because she tried to help the losing side of the referendum."

Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, said she was "devastated" by the vote and said that the scale of Labour defections showed that only the SNP will be a European voice for Scotland. Former first minister Alex Salmond said that Scotland needs new leadership if it is to rejoin the European Union as an independent country, adding that Sturgeon regularly failed to leverage Scotland's power as the debate over Brexit raged on in Westminster.

Northern Ireland's political landscape is likely to be upended, as the shock DUP abstention is expected to have severely damaged the party's credibility. Prior to the vote, fissures were occurring in the unionist vote, with polling showing the DUP losing support to the UUP and TUV, trends likely to be exacerbated by today's vote.

Analysis by Laura K.

This is a historic moment for the United Kingdom. All parties have big challenges in the weeks and months ahead. The Liberal Democrats and Change UK have an existential challenge: with Brexit off the table, what do they stand for and where do they go from here? Labour and the Conservatives still face stark internal divisions that they will need to heal. The Conservatives are bound by the need to negotiate a new trade agreement, but Labour has more flexibility to try and unite the party around a common agenda that, for the first time in three years, isn't dominated by Brexit. In the nations, leading parties like the SNP and DUP face major threats to their dominance and, in Northern Ireland, there will be quiet discussions about whether the regulatory border in the Irish Sea means a border poll is inevitable in the coming years.

Of course, there will be dramatic changes over the next few weeks. The Conservatives are certainly facing a leadership election, with Theresa May formally kicking off the process on 13 April. The new Conservative leader will set the tone for the remainder of this Parliament. Likewise, Labour faces a continued reckoning over antisemitism, which saw several MPs resign the Labour whip over the past year to sit as independent MPs or join Change UK. The steps Labour takes in the coming days to heal divisions, not just in the parliamentary party, but with the Jewish community will take centre-stage as the Brexit psychodrama that gripped Westminster for the past several months dies down.

So where we do go from here? Nobody is quite sure. But it won't be Brussels.
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Re: BBC News (Pre-Round)

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Teachers facing weekly violence from pupils, says survey.
March 2019


Many teachers are experiencing violence and abuse from pupils, a survey of teachers across the UK suggests.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of teachers say they face violence once a week, while over four in ten (42%) have been threatened verbally by pupils, according to a poll of members of the NASUWT teachers Union.

“Teachers are, it seems, now expected to tolerate verbal abuse and threats as ‘an occupational hazard’ rather than an urgent issue that needs tackling. There has been a demonstrable and seeming unstoppable deterioration in pupil behaviour, and it is teachers that are bearing the brunt of it”, one teacher told NASUWT researchers.

Another said, “school corridors have become a frightening place for myself and many of my colleagues. We feel helpless to stop the threats we face, and we assume we will be stampeded, pushed or sworn at. Many of us are reconsidering if teaching is a worthwhile and a safe career choice.”

There is evidence to suggest that violence against teachers and other staff is on the rise. Official figures from the Department for Education showed that in the 2016/17 academic year, 655 pupils were permanently excluded for a verbal assault against an adult, while 745 were permanently excluded for a physical assault. The statistics show that 59,675 were given a fixed-term exclusion for a verbal assault against an adult, while 26,695 were excluded for a fixed period for a physical assault. These figures were higher than the previous academic year, 2015/16.

The NASUWT, which represents teachers across the UK, discussed the issue of pupil discipline and pupil behaviour at its annual conference in Belfast. Delegates passed a motion calling on the government to “tackle threats against teaching staff and treat it as urgent crisis” and agreed the union would “defend members through all legitimate means, up to and including industrial action”.
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Re: BBC News (Pre-Round)

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Crowds celebrate Brexit and the looming investments in dental care that will come with the £350 million per week NHS spending promise

UK leaves the European Union
12 April 2019


The UK has officially left the European Union after 46 years of membership - and more than three years after it voted to do so in a referendum. The historic moment, which happened at 23:00 GMT, was marked by both celebrations and anti-Brexit protests. Candlelit vigils were held in Scotland, which voted to stay in the EU, while Brexiteers partied in London's Parliament Square. Theresa May has vowed that the country will "move forward together."

In a message released on social media an hour before the UK's departure, the prime minister said: "For many people this is an astonishing moment of hope, a moment they thought would never come. And there are many of course who feel a sense of anxiety and loss. But we will stay a united country, a precious union that aspires to greatness, as we move forward into a new era."

Brexit parties were held in pubs and social clubs across the UK as the country counted down to its official departure. Thousands gathered in Parliament Square to celebrate Brexit, singing patriotic songs and cheering speeches from leading Brexiteers, including Nigel Farage. The Brexit Party leader said: "Let us celebrate tonight as we have never done before. This is the greatest moment in the modern history of our great nation."

Pro-EU demonstrators earlier staged a march in Whitehall to bid a "fond farewell" to the union - and anti-Brexit rallies and candlelit vigils were held in Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, the campaign group Border Communities Against Brexit staged a series of protests in Armagh, near to the border with the Irish Republic. The Irish border - now the UK's land border with the EU - was a major sticking point in the Brexit divorce talks. NI and the Irish Republic "will continue to remain neighbours", said NI First Minister Arlene Foster on RTÉ.

At 23:00 GMT, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted a picture of the EU flag, adding: "Scotland will return to the heart of Europe as an independent country - #LeaveALightOnForScotland". Ms Sturgeon is calling for a new referendum on Scottish independence, arguing that Brexit is a "material change in circumstances". Speaking in Cardiff, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said Wales, which voted to leave the EU, remained a "European nation".

Labour MP Hilary Benn, who chairs the Brexit select committee and backed Remain, said he was "sad last night... but we have to accept it". He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the UK was always a "reluctant" EU nation, adding: "We joined late and we left early."

UK citizens will notice few immediate changes now that the country is no longer in the European Union. Most EU laws will continue to be in force - including the free movement of people - until 31 March 2020, when the transition period comes to an end. The UK is aiming to sign a permanent free trade agreement with the EU, along the lines of the one the EU has with Canada. But European leaders have warned that the UK faces a hurdles to get a deal by that deadline.

The European reaction

In an open letter to the British people, French President Emmanuel Macron said he was "deeply sad" but: "The channel has never managed to separate our destinies; Brexit will not do so, either." He also defended the way France acted in the negotiations, saying neither the French nor anyone else in the EU was "driven by a desire for revenge or punishment".

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that "this was always going to be a difficult day, but now this era in our history is done. We will not revisit it, we will not reopen it, we will move forward in Europe and we hope Britain will as well." She noted that, if Britain ever wishes to rejoin Europe, she will welcome the UK back.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament's Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt said he would "look after your star and work to ensure the EU is a project you'll want to be a part of again soon". European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has said Britain and Brussels will fight for their interests in trade talks. He paid tribute to UK citizens who had "contributed to the European Union and made it stronger" and said the UK's final day in the EU was "emotional".

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