Theresa May grilled by senior MPs on her Brexit deal

Liam McBurney – WPA Pool/Getty Images

LONDON – Theresa May was grilled on her performance as prime minister and her controversial Brexit deal on Thursday morning as she appeared before senior MPs on the House of Commons Liaison Committee.

Business Insider followed proceedings live as the prime minister took questions from a super-committee of 35 MPs who each chair their own separate Commons committees. The MPs represent parties across the House of Commons and include both staunch Brexiteers and passionate Remainers.

Home Office Committee Chair Yvette Cooper, who has been a thorn in the side of the government’s Brexit plans, is on the committee. As are leading pro-EU MPs Brexit Committee Chair Hilary Benn, Treasury Committee Chair Nicky Morgan, and Sarah Wollaston, the pro-second referendum MP who chairs the liaison committee.

Arch Brexiteers PAC Committee Chair Bernard Jenkin and European Security Committee Chair Bill Cash also put questions to May. The prime minister faced barbed questions from all sides of the Brexit debate.

Scroll down to find the latest developments. All times are in GMT.


10:30 AM — Another referendum needs Article 50 extension, May says

Alex McBride/Getty Images

Theresa May tells Liaison Committee Chair Sarah Wollaston that a new referendum, which she opposes, would require an extension to the Article 50 negotiating process.

“Any second referendum, should that be the case, would not be able to held before March 2019… We’d need to extend Article 50,” the prime minister said.

She also said that extending Article 50 and holding another referendum would “reopen negotiations” on the Brexit deal, despite her previous claim – and that of the EU – that the deal on the table is the only deal available…


10:13 AM — MPs might not see immigration plans before Brexit vote, May says

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

In more serious matters, the prime minister has just refused to confirm that the white paper on post-Brexit immigration will be published before MPs vote on the Brexit deal on December 11.

In a response to a question from Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb, May said: “We are still in discussion as to the date as to when the immigration white paper will be published.”


10:10 AM — “Friends with benefits?”

Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat gets the first laugh of the liaison committee hearing. He asks May whether the EU will be the UK’s “friends with benefits” after Brexit.

Sadly, the prime minister didn’t hear Tugendhat’s quip. Here’s a clip.


09:51 AM — Yvette Cooper tells May: You’d never accept no deal

Home Affairs Select Committee Yvette Cooper, renowned for her forensic questioning, tells the prime minister that she “isn’t being straight with people” about the reality of Brexit.

“Here’s your problem. You’re saying to some people that we are going to get frictionless trade and something close to Norway, and you’re saying to others that you’re going to get something close to a Canada-style trade deal. And in your head you’re resting on max fac which has already been rejected. You’re not being straight with people,” the Labour MP said.

Cooper suggests that May would never actually accept a no deal Brexit, despite her claims that it would be better than a bad deal.

“Knowing you for 20 years, I don’t believe you are the kind of person who can contemplate no deal, I think you’d take action to avert it. Am I wrong in my judgement of you?”


09:35 AM —May accused of “obsession with immigration”

YouTube/Pete Wishart

The SNP’s Pete Wishart accuses Theresa May of sacrificing the rights of young British people in order to fulfil her vision of a much more restrictive immigration policy.

“Isn’t it the case, that the rights you & I had to live, work and love across a continent of 28 nations is going to be deprived to our young people because of your obsession with with immigration?” Wishart asked May.

The prime minister said “no” and explained that under her plans, young British people will continue to have access to the EU through schemes like the Erasmus Programme for students.


09:20 AM — May and Labour MP Rachel Reeves clash over economic impact of her deal

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Rachel Reeves, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, has a frosty exchange with the prime minister on the economic impact of her Brexit deal.

Reeves asks May to confirm that government analysis published on Wednesday says the UK will be poorer under every possible form of Brexit.

The prime minister doesn’t accept this. She tells Reeves: “What the analysis shows is there will be an impact on the rate of growth. But there are many variables that will change. It doesn’t deal with all the decisions that the government might take.”

On the UK’s future relationship with the EU, May says that EU member states are yet to be convinced that the UK can continue to have frictionless trade with the EU after Brexit.

Reeves replied: “I think the EU is in favour of frictionless trade. That’s why we are in the single market and customs union, prime minister.”


09:11 AM — May dodges questions on Brexit alternatives

Brexit Committee Chair Hilary Benn is the first MP to quiz May on her Brexit deal.

The Labour MP asks May whether her government is drawing up contingency plans in case her deal is voted down on December 11, such as extending the Article 50 process, or staying in the single market via the European Economic Area (aka “The Norway Model.”)

The prime minister refuses to say whether such planning is taking place. She repeats “I am focused on the meaningful vote” on her deal, much to Benn’s visible frustration.

“I think we get that prime minister,” he replies.


09:00 AM — The Liaison Committee gets underway

YouTube/Sky News

Conservative MP and Liaison Committee Chair Sarah Wollaston has got us underway in Westminster. Theresa May will take questions from 35 MPs.

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