BREXIT LIVE: May fights to SAVE deal - Merkel threat to DERAIL split as EU summit LOOMS

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BREXIT LIVE: May fights to SAVE deal - Merkel threat to DERAIL split as EU summit LOOMS

The Prime Minister met with the European Commission President in a bid to secure commitments that will appease Brexiteers ahead of an emergency EU summit on Sunday, where the EU27 are expected to approve the plan. But Germany has now threatened to scrap Sunday’s summit unless a political declaration outlining the future UK-EU relationship is completed tonight. Meanwhile, Spain has warned it will vote against Britain’s Brexit deal unless it is given assurances over the future of Gibraltar.

And France has demanded more guarantees on access to the UK’s waters after Brexit - a move likely to prompt fury amongst British fishermen.

The threats to Mrs May’s Brexit plan from abroad come as she is facing major issues with her draft deal at home.

Brexiteers have demanded the Prime Minister secure further concessions from Brussels while opposition parties have vowed to vote against her deal. 

Chief whip Julian Smith has warned the Prime Minister she must attempt to negotiate more favourable terms if she hopes to secure the votes needed to pass her draft deal through the Commons.

A source said: “The chief whip’s view is that fear of no deal will not be enough to win this one.

“The numbers are terrible and he needs something sufficiently different from what people currently think they are voting for in order to get this through.”

Keep up to date with all of today's Brexit news with Express.co.uk's live updates below:

Brexit news: Theresa May in Brussels

Brexit news: Tonight's talks will focus on the UK's future relationship with the EU (Image: REUTERS)

6.50pm: ‘Very good progress’ in crunch talks but deal NOT finalised

The European Commission (EC) has said “very good progress” was made during tonight’s talks between Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker.

But an EC spokesman said “work is continuing” to finalise the UK’s Brexit deal.

Mrs May is expected to provide an update on the talks before flying back from Brussels this evening. 

6.40pm: DUP will support to May - for now

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) will continue to prop up Theresa May’s minority Government, DUP leader Arlene Foster has said.

Mrs May struck a ‘confidence and supply’ deal with the DUP following her disastrous election in 2017 which sees the Northern Irish party support the Tories on key legislation in exchange for £1 billion in extra funding.

But the arrangement has been thrown into doubt in recent weeks over the terms of Mrs May’s Brexit deal and the DUP has pledged to vote against the draft agreement unless changes are made to the Irish border backstop. 

However Ms Foster said today that the confidence and supply agreement is “very much still in existence”.

And asked if she would consider pulling DUP support for the Tories - which could see the Government collapse - she said: “We are not there yet”.

6.20pm: May leaves talks with Juncker

Theresa May has left with European Commission headquarters after meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker for nearly two hours.

The pair were reportedly scheduled to speak for an hour. 

They stopped briefly to shake hands in front of photographers before heading into the meeting earlier this evening but did not answer any questions. 

Arlene Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster said she will continue to support the Tory minority Government - for now (Image: GETTY IMAGES)

5.50pm: ‘No Merkel, no summit’

Sunday’s emergency EU summit to sign off Britain’s divorce deal will only take place if the agreement is completely finalised beforehand, according to reports.

EU diplomats say the German leader will not attend the meeting unless a deal is wrapped up - and the whole thing will be cancelled if she does not show up.

Theresa May's Brexit blueprint could be thrown into chaos if the summit is scrapped as the timetable is based on EU leaders signing off a deal in November at the latest. 

Brussels-based journalist Nick Gutteridge tweeted discussions had with two European envoys.

He wrote: “EU diplomat 1: 'Merkel will only come if deal is done. No Merkel, no summit. It's nobody's intention to make it a negotiation.'

EU diplomat 2: 'It needs to be finalised or Merkel won't attend. We don't want changes to the text making it even harder for May to agree.’”

READ MORE: Germany threatens to SCRAP Sunday summit amid EU row over May's deal

5.30pm: Italy could hold Brexit summit HOSTAGE as EU budget row erupts

Furious Italians could lay siege to crunch Brexit talks this weekend in protest at the European Commission’s decision to reject Italy’s budget.

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte will resort to disrupting Brussels decision making – including Brexit – unless Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker climbs down in the budgetary row.

The pair will meet in Brussels for showdown talks on Saturday but failing to reach a consensus could have catastrophic ramifications for the Brexit negotiations.

But the Italians could resort to disrupting the entire EU policy dossier if the bloc’s most senior official refuses to back down, according to a source within Rome’s coalition government.

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel will reportedly not attend Sunday's summit unless the Brexit deal is complete (Image: REUTERS)

5.10pm: Will Sunday’s special Brexit summit go ahead?

Tory MP Mark Francois has asked for confirmation on whether a special summit of EU leaders scheduled for Sunday will go ahead as planned.

Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon, Mr Francois said reports from Brussels suggest the European Council meeting could be cancelled.

He said: “Given the importance of that potential meeting for the future of this country, have you had any indication from the Government that a minister might be prepared to come to this house?”

Ms Laing said the Government will inform MPs of any developments.

She said: “I have every confidence that as soon as a relevant minister has something of importance to say, he or she will come to the chamber to say it.”

4.45pm: What is the Brexit political declaration?

Tonight’s talks in Brussels will focus on the post-Brexit relationship between the UK and EU. But what exactly is the political declaration and how does it differ from the withdrawal agreement?

Britain’s Brexit deal is made up of two parts: The withdrawal agreement and the political declaration.

The 585-page withdrawal agreement sets out the details of the UK’s departure from the EU and includes legally binding terms on issues like the transition period and Irish border backstop.

The political declaration sets out plans for the future relationship on areas such as trade, security and financial services.

It is not legally binding but negotiators from both sides will use it as guidance during the next round of talks.

4.35pm: May arrives in Brussels

Theresa May has arrived at the European Commission for crunch talks with Jean-Claude Juncker. 

The pair will work to finalise the political declaration, which sits alongside the withdrawal agreement and outlines what the future UK-EU relationship will look like.

Brexit news: Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker

Theresa May is in Brussels for crunch talks to finalise the UK's Brexit deal (Image: REUTERS)

4.30pm: Parliament will NOT allow no-deal Brexit, John McDonnell claims

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has insisted MPs will intervene to block a “cliff-edge” Brexit with the UK leaving with EU without a trade deal in place.

The Labour MP said there is an “overwhelming majority” in parliament to stop “anything that smacks of being no-deal”.

Theresa May needs to get her draft withdrawal agreement through a vote in the Commons before it can become law, but there are major doubts over whether she can convince a majority of MPs to back it.

If the Commons rejects the draft deal, Britain would leave the EU on March 29, 2019, without a transition agreement and World Trade Organisation rules would kick in - a ‘no-deal Brexit’.

But Mr McDonnell said MPs would not let that happen.

Speaking earlier today, he said: "There is an overwhelming majority opposing anything that smacks of being no-deal.

"I think that the concerns that people have of falling off a cliff-edge - there is no majority for it. There will be a majority against it.

"We cannot countenance no-deal. It gives you some security that we will not fall off the cliff-edge.

"There is a will in Parliament to prevent that happening."

John McDonnell Brexit

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said parliament will intervene to block a no-deal Brexit (Image: EPA)

4.15pm: ‘Brexit negotiations will take as long as they need to’

Theresa May’s spokesman says talks over Britain’s future relationship with the European Union will take as long as they need to in order to secure the right deal for the UK.

3.30pm: Tory MP attacks Government’s Brexit fisheries bill - ‘Why should we trust you on this?’

Conservative MP Mark Francois has demanded to know why he should believe Theresa May’s pledge that Britain will take back control of its fishing waters after Brexit when the Government has already shifted stance on some of its other negotiating "red lines".

During a Commons debate on the fisheries bill this afternoon, Mr Francois told MPs he has found it “difficult to take seriously the commitments the Prime Minister gives to this House”.

Quizzing environment secretary Michael Gove on the pledges set out in the bill, Mr Francois said: “The Prime Minister has told the house of numerous occasions that we would leave the customs union and yet the withdrawal agreement envisages very clearly that we would remain in the customs union under the backstop and that we couldn’t leave, the so-called Hotel California arrangement.

“The Prime Minister also assured this house in very strong terms that she would never contemplate a border down the Irish Sea and yet in the agreement including the Northern Ireland protocol, exactly that is envisaged.

“I regret to say given that I find it difficult to take seriously the commitments the Prime Minister gives to this House.

“If I have trouble believing her, why should I believe him?"

But Mr Gove insisted the Government had delivered on its pledges to Britain’s fishing industry.

He said: We were told at different times that we would have to bend or buckle when it came to fishers. The PM and the negotiating team have absolutely not.”

He said “other countries have expressed their dissatisfaction with the withdrawal agreement” because of the favourable terms it offers the UK.

Mr Gove added: “If other countries are complaining that they have lost out, that is a sign that this country has secured an advantage.”

Harvey Gavin taking over from Katie Harris on live reporting.

Mark Francois Brexit

Mark Francois questioned why he should trust the Government's pledges over fishing after Brexit (Image: PARLIAMENT TV)

2.05pm update: Spain warned over Brexit block

Theresa May has warned Spain that Gibraltar will not be excluded from negotiations on the UK's future relationship with the EU.

Mrs May told the Commons that she was negotiating a deal that "works for the whole UK family and that includes Gibraltar".

The comments come after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he would reject the draft Brexit withdrawal deal without a clarification of the text on future talks on the status of Gibraltar.

She said: "We are absolutely steadfast as he is in our support for Gibraltar, its people and its economy and we've always been clear that Gibraltar is covered by our exit negotiations and we've been committed to fully involve them as we exit the European Union.

"We are seeking a deal that works for the whole UK family and that deal must work for Gibraltar too."

1.40pm update: Vince Cable slams 'reckless' withdrawal agreement 

Liberal Democrats leader Vince Cable has accused the withdrawal agreement of leaving key national decisions down to the “toss of a coin”.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Cable said: “Article 171 of the withdrawal agreement says that in the events of deadlock in the arbitration panel on any dispute on any aspect of the treaty, the chair who has the decisive vote will be chosen by lots.

“Now I know the Government is close to the gambling industry but isn’t it rather reckless to leave crucial decisions of national importance down to the toss of a coin.”

Vince Cable

Vince Cable has slammed the draft deal (Image: GETTY)

12.40pm update: PM warns of no Brexit

Mrs May has warned that rejecting her deal could mean there would be no Brexit at all in a House of Commons showdown.

The Prime Minister said: "The point that has been made by a number of my colleagues in relation to the vote that will come before this House on a meaningful vote on a deal from the European Union is very simple.

"If you look at the alternative to having that vote with the European Union it will either be more uncertainty, more division or it could risk no Brexit at all."

12.00pm update: Liz Truss delivers shock warning

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss warned Tory MPs that the UK could never leave the EU if they do not back Mrs May's Brexit deal.

Ms Truss told BBC Radio 5 Live's Emma Barnett Show: "If my colleagues in Parliament don't vote for this then we're in grave danger of not leaving at all.

"I am very very worried about what the alternative looks like, because I'm a democrat. I believe that people voted in good faith to leave the EU and we need to deliver that."

Liz Truss

Liz Truss warned that the UK could never leave the EU (Image: GETTY)

11.35am update: Angela Merkel says UK should not be given independent right to end backstop

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken out against any change to the Brexit deal to give the UK the independent right to end the backstop.

Ms Merkel said in German Parliament: ”We have placed value, and I think this is right, on the fact that Britain cannot decide unilaterally when it ends the state of the customs union, but that Britain must decide this together with the EU."

11.10am update: Government faces "rude awakening" over Brexit deal

The DUP has warned that the Government faces a “rude awakening” over its draft Brexit deal.

Strangford MP Jim Shannon said: "If you don't cast your net wider and seek opinions of other people and stop seeking the... one blinkered opinion, which it is clear to me that some people are pursuing, then you are going to get a very rude awakening."

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel said the UK should not ben given the independent right to end the backstop (Image: GETTY)

10.30am update: John McDonnell denies second referendum would be “death of democracy”

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has rejected claims that a second Brexit referendum would be the “death of democracy”.

But the Labour MP admitted that another vote could lead to the same result again.

Mr McDonnell said: "No, it's not going to be the death of democracy. We just have to bring the country back together again

“My fear is that if we did have another referendum we might get a same or similar result and the country would still be divided."

John McDonnell

John McDonnell has rejected claims that a second Brexit referendum would be the “death of democracy” (Image: REUTERS)

9.45am update: PM’s no-deal threat 'torpedoed'

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has been accused of “torpedoing” Mrs May’s no-deal Brexit threat.

Labour MP Tulip Siddi said: "Amber Rudd appears to have just torpedoed the PM's threat of no deal.

“The Prime Minister's flawed strategy to sell her bad deal has been critically undermined.”

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer added: "Amber Rudd seems to have ignored Number 10's spin by admitting that Parliament would stop a no-deal Brexit.”

Theresa May Brexit

Spain has demanded assurances on the future of Gibraltar after Brexit (Image: GETTY IMAGES)

9.30am update: Spain repeats threats to reject Brexit deal

Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell has echoed calls that the country could reject the Brexit deal in a row over Gibraltar.

Spain has demanded that the Brexit agreement must make clear the future of the disputed British territory of Gibraltar would be settled through direct talks between Madrid and London.

Mr Borrell said: "We will not give our agreement until we have seen both and we are assured that they make clear that the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union will not include Gibraltar, that this would be a separate negotiation which Spain would need to agree on.”

Theresa May

Mrs May is facing a battle to finalise her Brexit deal (Image: GETTY)

8.50am update: Amber Rudd insists Brexit deal will get through Commons

The Work and Pensions Secretary has insisted that the withdrawal agreement will pass through the Commons.

Ms Rudd, who was appointed to the Cabinet last week following the resignation of Esther McVey in protest of Mrs May’s Brexit deal, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think the likelihood is, despite what people say, that the withdrawal agreement will get through."

And the Prime Minister's ally added that Parliament would prevent a no-deal Brexit.

She said: "It is my view that the House of Commons will stop no-deal. There isn't a majority in the House of Commons to allow that to take place."

Amber Rudd

Amber Rudd has insisted the Withdrawal Agreement will get through the Commons (Image: GETTY)

8.35am update: Tory MP reveals he will not back PM’s deal

Damian Collins has said that he will vote against Mrs May’s Brexit deal as it stands, in another blow to the Prime Minister ahead of her meeting with Mr Juncker later today.

The chair of the Commons Culture Committee revealed he wanted further negotiations to ensure the deal gives the UK the right to decide independently when it wants to leave a transition or backstop arrangement.

Mr Collins said: "I don't accept that this is a deal we have to accept or face the cliff-edge.”

He added that a second referendum should be held if MPs cannot agree on a Brexit deal.

8.15am update: Justice Secretary warns rebel MPs risk “suspending” Brexit

Justice Secretary David Gauke has warned Brexiteers that they risk “suspending” Brexit if they vote against Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement.

Speaking to Good Morning Britain, Mr Gauke said Brexit rebels risk the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal or delaying Brexit if they block the Prime Minister's deal.

The Justice Secretary said: "What happens if this deal is defeated is that we are left with two very, very difficult options.

"One is a crashing out, no-deal Brexit which will mean jobs will be lost and living standards will be reduced, or we are put in a position of deferring or suspending Brexit which wouldn’t be respecting the referendum results.”

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