MPs vote to reject no-deal Brexit: MPs have tonight voted to reject leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement by a majority of 43. The government initially tabled a motion to prevent the UK from exiting the EU on 29 March without a deal. Before MPs voted on the government motion, they backed an amendment tabled by Labour’s Yvette Cooper rejecting a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances by 312 votes to 308. This led to the government ordering Conservative MPs to vote against its own motion, despite earlier promising them a free vote. The amended government motion was passed by 321 votes to 278. Another motion has been tabled for Thursday, allowing MPs to vote on delaying Brexit. That vote will take place tomorrow; if it is passed and the EU agrees to it, the UK will not leave the EU on 29 March. However, the wording of the motion allows the prospect of a third “meaningful vote” on Mrs May’s deal by 20 March. (BBC News) (BBC News live feed) 

MPs vote down Malthouse Compromise: MPs voted down another amendment tonight – known as the Malthouse Compromise – which called for a delay to Brexit from 29 March to 22 May to give time to leave without a deal. (BBC News live feed) 

EU makes clear no deal remains on the table unless an agreement is reached: Brussels is pushing for a strict approach towards any British request to delay Brexit, despite marked differences between EU Member States. Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said the risk of a no-deal exit had never been higher and that the UK could leave the European Union without an agreement “by accident”. He also asked why the bloc should approve any postponement of the UK’s current March 29 exit date when discussions on a withdrawal treaty were “done and dusted” and could go no further. Meanwhile, a European Commission spokesman stated: “There are only two ways to leave the EU: with or without a deal. The EU is prepared for both. To take no deal off the table, it is not enough to vote against no deal – you have to agree to a deal. We have agreed a deal with the prime minister, and the EU is ready to sign it.” (FT) (The Guardian) 

UK Government publishes temporary tariff regime for no-deal Brexit: The UK Government has published details of the UK’s temporary tariff regime in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The UK is proposing to cut tariffs to 0% for the majority of imported goods, while retaining duty rates on certain other goods (in more “sensitive” industries, such as agriculture and textiles). The aim of reducing the duty rates is to mitigate some of the economic impacts to the UK from increased costs of imports from the EU for businesses and consumers. In line with the World Trade Organisation Most Favoured Nation principle, the UK’s tariffs will apply to all the UK’s trading partners with whom the UK has no alternative arrangements, such as Free Trade Agreements, whether the EU or third countries. (BBC News) (see our separate blog post here) 

Pound rises against US dollar and Euro: Sterling briefly hit $1.3380 against the dollar, the highest level since June 2018, and $1.18 against the euro – a 22-month high – after Parliament rejected a no-deal Brexit this evening. (BBC News) 

EU acts to cut UK clearing house risk after Brexit: The EU has given itself powers to press one of the City of London’s flagship businesses to move to the bloc as part of efforts to ensure financial stability after Brexit. The European Parliament and national governments reached provisional agreement on Wednesday to set tough conditions for UK-based clearing houses, including the London Stock Exchange Group’s LCH, to maintain business with EU-based clients once the UK leaves the bloc. The measures agreed in Brussels require clearing houses to stick closely to EU capital requirements and other core regulations if they want to continue handling large volumes of euro-denominated trades for EU customers. (FT) 

UK faces prospect of taking part in European elections: If Brexit is delayed by more than two months, the UK would have to participate in May’s European Parliament elections unless the government repeals domestic legislation mandating that the polls take place, according to the body that overseas British electoral law. Britain’s Electoral Commission noted that the Prime Minister’s official position continues to be that the European elections will not take place in the UK. In Brussels, the European Commission has also indicated that if Britain were still in the EU on May 23 it would have to take part in the European elections. (FT) 

Philip Hammond adds to pressure on Theresa May to back soft Brexit: Chancellor Philip Hammond suggested that Theresa May might have to pivot towards a soft Brexit to end the impasse over her withdrawal agreement and to unlock a public spending “deal dividend” of up to £26bn. Mr Hammond used his Spring Statement to signal he believed parliament could have to back a so-called Norway-plus Brexit – involving a customs union with the EU and membership of the bloc’s single market – in order to break the deadlock. He also pledged an end to austerity if parliament approves an agreement for the UK to leave the EU. (FT) (FT)

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