Philip Hammond: Leaving the EU on 29 March ‘now physically impossible’…
This morning, the Chancellor sat down with Andrew Marr following a week in which his Spring Statement was overshadowed by other events, including a series of critical Brexit votes in the Commons, and an appalling terrorist attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. With the government suffering another heavy defeat on its withdrawal deal, this time by a margin of 149 votes, Marr expressed the widespread concern that Brexit may never happen:
AM: When are we going to leave the EU?
PH: If the Prime Minister’s deal is able to muster a majority this week and get through, then we will need a short extension [of Article 50]. It is now physically impossible to leave on the 29th March, but we’d be able to leave very soon… But if we are unable to do that… then we will have to look at a longer extension, and we’re in uncharted territory. I can’t tell you how long.
…Third vote on May’s deal might not happen…
Despite the withdrawal deal suffering a second significant defeat on Tuesday, the government has kept open the possibility of a third vote this week. With the Commons also rejecting the prospect of a no deal Brexit, the government hopes this may alter the balance in its favour. Marr asked Hammond whether a third vote was on the cards:
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) March 17, 2019
PH: We will only bring the deal back if we are confident that enough of our colleagues and the DUP are prepared to support it… But what’s happened since last Tuesday is that a significant number of colleagues… have changed their view on this, and decided that the alternatives are so unpalatable to them that they on reflection think that the Prime Minister’s deal is the best way to deliver Brexit.