Crucial Brexit vote tonight - watch it live

Jigsaw of EU flag saying Brexit in middle and with one piece coming out

Tonight between 20.00 and 22.00 French time British MPs will be casting their so-called ‘meaningful vote’ on the Brexit deal agreed between the UK and EU in the culmination of five days of debate.

People will be able to watch today’s proceedings live on the internet at this link. 

This will be MPs’ chance to vote on the deal that came out of a year-and-a-half of talks that only properly got under way after the British general election of June 2017.

The vote was originally meant to take place before Christmas, but Prime Minister Theresa May put it off fearing that it would be voted down.

It comes as Mrs May told MPs in a statement to the House of Commons that they would be “letting the British people down” if they voted against the deal, asking them to have a “second look” at it. In a speech in Stoke-on-Trent yesterday she said that if the deal is voted down no-Brexit is now the more likely outcome than no-deal, which many MPs believe would be disastrous for the UK.

European Commission and Council presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk have written to Mrs May saying they will not change the agreement at this stage but giving a “firm commitment” to “work speedily” on concluding the UK/EU future relationship during the transition period allowed for by the deal so that the controversial “backstop” arrangement relating to the Northern Ireland border “will not need to be triggered”. If it was to be triggered nonetheless, “it would only apply temporarily”, the leaders said.

Meanwhile more than 100 MEPs from all EU countries apart from Cyprus wrote an open letter urging the UK to reconsider the decision to leave so as to prevent an “unfolding Brexit disaster”. They said: “…we cannot help but notice that the opinion polls show a growing number of voters who want an opportunity to reconsider the Brexit decision, now that it is clear that Brexit is very different to the promises made by the Leave campaign nearly three years ago.”

The MPs will tonight vote on both the withdrawal agreement, which includes measures safeguarding many rights of Britons abroad in the EU, as well as outline plans for the future UK/EU relationship which would have to be fleshed out in more concrete terms during a transition period until the end of 2020.  If there was no deal there would be no transition period.

If the deal is voted down Mrs May must come back before Parliament by Monday next week to explain her ‘Plan B’. It is thought that if that happens she may go back to the EU again in the meantime in hopes of obtaining more concessions to win over the MPs.

MPs would however then have the opportunity to vote to change the ‘Plan B’, with some favouring a soft-Brexit ‘Norway option’, others a new referendum on leaving with the deal or remaining in the EU.

Meanwhile Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants another general election if the deal is voted down and will be hoping the EU would agree to put off Brexit while a Labour-led government renegotiates the deal.

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