Brexit LIVE: Jacob Rees-Mogg in SHOCK U-turn to BACK May as PM REJECTS Article 50 revoke

As MPs prepare to vote on what to do next just two days before the UK’s intended departure, the prominent Brexiteer appeared to back-pedal when he said “Mrs May’s deal is better than not leaving at all”. The influential backbencher has twice rejected Mrs May’s deal but spoke of a “hierarchy of choice” faced by Brexiteers. He said amid multiple “threats” to Brexit, Eurosceptics should reluctantly back the Prime Minister at the third meaningful vote to make sure Britain does leave the EU.

His shock U-turn comes after the Department for Exiting the EU said it “remains the Government’s firm policy not to revoke Article 50” after more than 5.75million people signed the petition calling for Article 50 to be revoked. 

The statement said: “We will honour the outcome of the 2016 referendum and work to deliver an exit which benefits everyone, whether they voted to Leave or to Remain.

“Revoking Article 50, and thereby remaining in the European Union, would undermine both our democracy and the trust that millions of voters have placed in Government.

The petition will be debated by MPs on April 1, after smashing the 100,000 threshold for consideration and becoming the best-supported proposal in the history of the House of Commons and Government’s e-petitions website.

We will honour the outcome of the 2016 referendum and work to deliver an exit which benefits everyone

Department for Exiting the EU

The Article 50 letter can be withdrawn by the UK unilaterally, without the need for EU agreement, leaving Britain free to continue as a member on its current terms.

The petition will be debated by MPs in the Commons’ secondary chamber Westminster Hall. A Government minister will be required to respond to the petition, but there will be no vote on the action it demands.

MPs will today be asked to consider a range of alternative Brexit options on Wednesday, after Parliament seized control of the Commons agenda to force a series of “indicative votes”.

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8.58am update: Verhofstadt attacks Brexiteers 

The European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator attacked claims that the EU had tried to humiliate and punish the UK.

He told the European Parliament: “You know what the problem is? The problem of the humiliation and punishment is because of the mess in the Tory Party – there is the humiliation of the British people.”

8.45am update: Guy Verhofstadt mocks Nigel Farage 

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator tells the former Ukip leader he is surprised to see him in the EU Parliament in Strabourg because he should be out marching on his Brexit march. 

He compares Farage to Field Marshal Haig in Blackadder.

Mr Verhofstdat says: “You remind me more and more of Field Marshal Haig in Blackadder – he was so sitting in the First World War in his office in London.

“And you’re sitting here in Strasbourg while your own people are marching through the rain and cold – that is the way you’re taking your responsibility.” 

The EU chief then went on to quote Winston Churchill, who once famously said that “success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no less of enthusiasm”. 

He added: “I think this quote was absolutely applicable today to British politics, the Commons and Prime Minister Theresa May.” 

8.31am update: Tusk is heckled by anti-EU MEPs

Mr Tusk is mocked by Brexit-backing MEPs when he says Remainers in Britain “may feel that they are not sufficiently represented by their UK Parliament, but they must feel they’re represented by you in this chamber because they’re Europeans”.

8.22am update: Tusk attacks MEPS 

Donald Tusk attacks MEPs complaining about prospect of UK taking part in EU elections. 

He said: “Such thinking is unacceptable. You can’t betray 6million people who signed petition to revoke Article 50, the 1million people who marched for a People’s Vote or increasing majority who want to remain in EU.” 

8.02am update: Government’s statement in full over Brexit petition 

The Department for Exiting the EU said: “The Government acknowledges the considerable number of people who have signed this petition. However, close to three-quarters of the electorate took part in the 2016 referendum, trusting that the result would be respected.

“This Government wrote to every household prior to the referendum, promising that the outcome of the referendum would be implemented.

“17.4 million people then voted to leave the European Union, providing the biggest democratic mandate for any course of action ever directed at UK Government.

“British people cast their votes once again in the 2017 General Election, where over 80% of those who voted, voted for parties – including the opposition – who committed in their manifestos to upholding the result of the referendum.

“This Government stands by this commitment.

“Revoking Article 50 would break the promises made by Government to the British people, disrespect the clear instruction from a democratic vote, and in turn, reduce confidence in our democracy.

“As the Prime Minister has said, failing to deliver Brexit would cause ‘potentially irreparable damage to public trust’, and it is imperative that people can trust their Government to respect their votes and deliver the best outcome for them.”

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