- Government reverses policy in one of the most dramatic Budget U-turns in recent memory
Hammond 'hung out to dry' after spending days defending controversial policy
- Brexit Secretary says Nicola Sturgeon is exploiting Brexit for political gain
- David Davis says Britain should not be 'frightened' of a 'no deal' Brexit
- 57 per cent of Scottish voters currently back staying in UK
- Nicola Sturgeon abandons bid to remain in EU
- PMQs: Jeremy Corbyn vs Theresa May
Philip Hammond has abandoned plans to raise national insurance for self-employed workers in this Parliament after admitting that it breached the "spirit" of the manifesto.
The Chancellor provoked a furious reaction from Tory back-benchers after using his Budget to announce plans to raise NI contributions for the self-employed by 2 per cent.
Mr Hammond has written to Tory MPs saying that while the changes are justified the Government has chosen not to go forward with the rise in "class 4" national insurance contributions.
It represents a huge blow to Mr Hammondand is one of the most significant Budget u-turns in modern times.
He said in the letter: "It is very important both to me and to the Prime Minister that we are compliant not just with the letter, but also the spirit, of the commitments that were made.
"In light of what has emerged as a clear view among colleagues and a significant section of the public, I have decided not to proceed with the Class 4 NIC measures set out in the Budget. There will be no increases in NICs from April 2018."
The announcement will leave a £2billion black hole in Mr Hammond's Budget plans which he plans to fund with new measures in his Autumn Budget.
Up to 100 Tory MPs were said to be prepared to rebel over the issue and even a Tory minister said that the Government had to apologise to Conservative voters.
Mr Hammond's credibility was further undermined when he appeared to admit in the Commons that he had only realised the NI policy breached a manifesto pledge when it was pointed out by the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg.
Asked when he first knew the manifesto was an issue, he told a fellow MP: "Since he asks me the question who first raised the issue of the manifesto I think credit where credit is due. I think it was actually Laura Kuenssberg on the BBC, shortly after I said it in the Budget speech."
Aides later said Mr Hammond was aware of the manifesto pledge and considered it carefully but had decided legislation to prevent rises in Class 1 NI contributions had solved the problem.
The announcement was welcomed by some MPs but other who have been defending it have been left surprised.
Blimey. I've been vigorously defending it... https://t.co/WQKXZYWgaK— Ed Vaizey (@edvaizey) March 15, 2017
Theresa May, the Prime Minister, told the Commons: "We made a commitment not to raise tax and measures we put forward in the Budget last week were consistent with those [tax locks].
"As a number of my Parliamentary colleagues have pointed out in recent days the trend towards greater self-employment does create a structural issue within the tax base on which we will have to act. We have to maintain fairness within the tax system."
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said that the decision to abandon the tax rise was made on Wednesday morning and had acted "quickly" in response to concerns.
The Prime Minister retains confidence in Mr Hammond, the spokesman said.
'A bad error of judgment'
Tory former chancellor Lord Lamont said the original proposal had been a "bad error of judgment" by the Government.
I welcome the Chancellor's withdrawal of the proposal to increase self-employed NICs. This was a bad error of judgment and should never have been proposed.
But this sad affair raises questions of process and how such a decision came to be made in the first place.
Tory MP: 'Can I retract?'
Tory @DesmondSwayne has House in stitches -he's written an article defending Nics which can't be retracted bc it's already gone to printers!— Kate McCann (@KateEMcCann) March 15, 2017
Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, is in Mogadishu.
Minister caught off guard as Hammond makes U-turn
Rory Stewart, a Tory Minister, was caught live on air as the Government backtracked on changes to NI.
It is important to understand that the majority of self employed people will not be worse off as a result of this measure. So if you're on £17,000 a year, like the majority of my constituents, you would be £309 better off in terms of your tax at the end of this change.
But he was interrupted by Andrew Neil, who revealed the Chancellor had announced that there will be no increases in national insurance contributions in this parliament.
To which Mr Stuart said:
You put your finger on it, which is that this was a very difficult decision.
On the one hand, as you said, these were sensible changes that a lot of economists have been asking for many years, and on the other hand... there was an issue around the manifesto... and it sounds to me as thought the government has made a difficult decision, which I think is the right decision, which is that we have to keep to the spirit of the manifesto.
I think its the right decision.
Did Hammond know manifesto pledge was broken?
Has the Chancellor just admitted that he didn;t realise a manifesto promise had been broken until the BBC reported it?
Following a question from Alex Salmond, he tells MPs:
Since he asks me the question who first raised the issue of the manifesto?
Credit where credit is due I think it was Laura Kuenssberg on the BBC shortly after I said it in the Budget speech.
'It was my decision'
Rachel Reeves, the Labour MP, says it was Theresa May's decision to U-Turn.
Philip Hammond denies this and says the final decision was made just after 8am this morning.
Chris Leslie, the former shadow chancellor, asks if he will apologise to the Tory MPs who were rolled out to defend the changes last week.
Hammond says he has spoken to MPs over the past few days.
'This is chaos'
Philip Hammond is now speaking in the Chamber where he is outlining his arguments for U-turning.
He says he will use the Autumn Budget to set out how he will cover the shortfall.
McDonnell 'large numbers of selfemployed people have been put through the mangle'— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) March 15, 2017
McDonnell wants answers over £2bn cost: "This blunder has consequences. We need to know where these desperately-needed funds will come from"— Jack Blanchard (@Jack_Blanchard_) March 15, 2017
John McDonnell is responding on behalf of Labour.
This is chaos, it is shocking and humiliating that the chancellor has been forced to come here and reverse a budget announcement made less than a week a go.
Lets be clear, this was a £2 billion tax hike for many middle and low earners and it was clear cut and cynical breaking of a promise of their manifesto.
Nobody should be too arrogant to use the words sorry when they blunder.
His blunder has consequences. We need to know where these desperately-needed funds will come from.
Labour MP hits out at Corbyn
Tom Blenkinsop, a Labour MP, tweeted a video of Liverpool footballer Ronnie Rosenthal famously failing to score when presented with an open goal in a 1982 game, with the comment: "Can't imagine why I recalled this Ronnie Rosenthal miss."
In another tweet, Mr Blenkinsop added: "May was poor, as usual, but she hasn't suffered her worst £PMQs serious questions about holding the Govt to account need to be asked."
Can't imagine why I recalled this Ronnie Rosenthal miss https://t.co/JJeth7XTrz— Tom Blenkinsop (@TomBlenkinsop) March 15, 2017
But a senior Labour source insisted Mr Corbyn had held the Government to account.
"He highlighted the fact that the Government had U-turned in the most dramatic fashion on a central part of its Budget," said the source.
"I think we are clearly holding the Government to account. Throughout the past week, we have been hammering away on the attack on the self-employed... Labour has been central to the opposition to this."
Mr Corbyn decided to use one of the six questions allocated to him at PMQs to talk about grammar schools, leading to speculation that he had not fully torn up the line of attack he had prepared before learning about the U-turn.
The Labour source said: "We had very brief notice before PMQs that the Government was U-turning. He asked the questions that he wanted to ask and they focused on the key issues of the day.
"Jeremy is his own kind of leader and he has demonstrated a new kind of political leadership.
"Of course PMQs matters. I think he has tried to do it in a different way than other political leaders."
'A screeching embarrassing U-turn'
Angus Robertson, the SNP Westminster leader ,described the move as a "screeching embarrassing U-turn" to cheers and shouts from MPs in the Commons.
He said: "We once had a prime minister who said that the lady is not for turning. My goodness."
Businesses welcome U-Turn
Business groups which had opposed the National Insurance measures announced in the Budget welcomed the Chancellor's U-turn.
Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses chairman, said:
We are delighted for our members and all the nation's self-employed that the Chancellor has recognised the strong opposition to this measure, admitting it was against the spirit of the Tory manifesto on which his party stood, and has now decided to scrap it for the duration of this parliament.
McDonnell responds to NIC U-Turn
John McDonnell MP, Labour's Shadow Chancellor, said:
This is a humiliating reversal for the Chancellor forced upon him by Labour’s opposition. His authority is now shredded after just one Budget, and he tore up a manifesto commitment to do it.
We welcome the Government's decision to finally listen to Labour's calls made in Jeremy Corbyn’s Budget response along with those of business groups like the Federation of Small Businesses to not go ahead with an unfair £2bn tax rise on low and middle earners.
But they should never have been placed in this position to start with, and now we face yet another Tory Budget only a year on with a blackhole in the billions. In 2015, we had the tax credit shambles.
In 2016, we had Personal Independence Payments reversal. Now in 2017 we have the u-turn on National Insurance Contributions.
There will be millions of working people who are now breathing a sigh of relief, but it is the Chancellor who should be holding his breath as this episode throws up urgent questions that he and the Cabinet must now answer.
'Government lumbering from one U-turn to another'
Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, has put on this statement on the NICs U-turn:
The Conservatives have bodged every budget since the election and have lost the right to call themselves the party of business.
They are simply not thinking about the ‘just about managing’ who are struggling with the Brexit squeeze.
They are lumbering from one U-turn to another and are clearly panicking.
'They just keep ripping them up'
Yvette Cooper hits out at the Government's dramatic NIC U-Turn.
The PM’s just done a £2bn budget U-turn in the space of a week; last year the Government did a £4bn U-turn in the space of five days. Is that why they want to abolish spring Budgets? Because they just keep ripping them up?
Great question by @YvetteCooperMP pity she couldn't have had six today.— Mike Gapes (@MikeGapes) March 15, 2017
I welcome the measures that were in this Spring Budget - to ensure we're putting money into schools, into skills and into social care and I'd have thought the Right Honourable Lady would have accepted that money for schools, skills and social care is good for this country.
2017 £2bn u-turn in a week. 2016 £4bn PIP u-turn in 5 days. No wonder they're abolishing Spring Budgets, they keep ripping them up pic.twitter.com/ZPrmdjCbE8— Yvette Cooper (@YvetteCooperMP) March 15, 2017
'Does the PM believe politicians should stick to manifestos'
Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, the SNP MP, asks Theresa May if she believes that governments should stick to their manifesto promises – "and if so she cannot object to the First Minister sticking to hers.”
Good Q from @TasminaSheikh 'does PM believe politicians should stick to manifesto promises'— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) March 15, 2017
May notes that Sturgeon did not win a majority last year:
I of course recognise there was a vote that took place for the Scottish Parliament and the First Minister was returned as the First Minister of a minority government.
I would refer the Honourable Lady to two other votes- in September 2014 the Scottish people were given the opportunity to vote as to whether or not they wish to remain in the UK- that was described by the Right Honourable Gentleman the member for Gordon as a 'once in a generation vote'.
The other vote to take note of is that on 23 June last year the people of the UK voted to leave the European Union and that is what we're going to do.
'Stick the knife into the ridiculous European Court'
Tim Loughton, the Tory MP, calls on Theresa May to “stick the knife into the ridiculous European Court” which ruled that employers could stop workers wearing expressions of religious faith.
We have a strong tradition in this country of freedom of expression.
Of course this case came up particularly in relation to the wearing of the veil - there will be times when it's right to ask for a veil to be removed, but it is not for government to tell women what they can and cannot wear and we want to continue that strong tradition of freedom of expression.
May: Scotland will be leaving the EU
Theresa May has insisted that Scotland will leave the European Union whether or not it becomes an independent country.
Scotland will be leaving the European Union, it will leave the European Union either as a member of the United Kingdom or were it independent. It's very clear with the Barroso (doctrine), it would not be a member of the European Union.
What we need now is to unite, to come together as a country and to ensure that we can get the best deal for the whole of the United Kingdom.
'We have listened to Scotland'
Mike Weir, an SNP MP, says the Scottish Government has been sidelined.
May insists she has not been ignoring the Scottish Government:
The compromise proposal has not been ignored, it has been discussed by ministers with ministers in the Scottish government, there are many areas on which we agree, such as security, crime and terrorism and securing workers' rights.
'PM wants to rip us away from single market'
Stephen Doughty, a Labour MP, blames calls for a second Independence Referendum on Theresa May's unwillingness to discuss the possibility of Scotland staying in the single market.
It is our two single markets that are the backbone of our economy, and yet the PM wants to rip us away from one and they want to rip us away from the other.
May hits back:
The Honourable Gentleman is wrong when he uses the term that I want to 'rip the UK away from the Single Market'.
We want to make sure we get maximum possible access to the single market to enable us to trade with and operate in the single market.
'We have been one country for 300 years'
Angus Robertson, the SNP's leader in Westminster, challenges May on Brexit:
Only days remain until the PM is going to invoke Article 50 on leaving the European Union and last July she promised to secure a UK-wide approach, an agreement between the devolved administrations... and the UK government before triggering Article 50. When will the PM announce the details of the agreement?
May hits back:
We will trigger Article 50 by the end of March, there will be an opp for further discussions with the devolved administrations over that period - but when the Right Honourable Gentleman looks at membership of the EU, I say this to him, he is comparing membership of an organisation we've been a member of for 40 years with our country.
We have been one country for 300 years, we've fought together, we've worked together, we've achieved together and constitutional game-playing should not be allowed to break the deep bonds of our shared history and our future together.
Last year she made a promise; she promised an agreement. I asked her about it yesterday, she didn’t answer; I asked her about it now, she hasn’t answered.
When will she reach an agreement with the Scottish Government before triggering Article 50? She has another opportunity."
May: We want to maintain fairness in the tax system
'Single worst performance in PMQs history'
Jeremy Corbyn has now moved on from NICs and is talking about schools.
Theresa May is getting off the hook and she knows it, says Christopher Hope.
Tory MPs are cockahoop. A compete abrogation of the duty of the Leader of the Opposition.
Not since the Westland affair has a Labour leader failed to push home an advantage at PMQs.
The Neil Kinnock messed up the Labour response after Heseltine walked out of the Cabinet and resigned.
This is a disgrace. Jeremy Corbyn has failed to land a single blow on Theresa May over the NICs U-turn. #PMQs— Christopher Hope (@christopherhope) March 15, 2017
Typical of Corbyn's compassion and sense of decency that, when confronted by someone desperately struggling, he leapt to her aid— Michael Deacon (@MichaelPDeacon) March 15, 2017
SNP's Angus Robertson teetering on the edge of his bench shaking his head as Corbyn speaks. He's Theresa May's real opposition. #pmqs— Kate McCann (@KateEMcCann) March 15, 2017
PM announces biggest most humiliating u-turn of her short career in No10 and she still wins PMQs. Quite incredible— steve hawkes (@steve_hawkes) March 15, 2017
the single worst performance in the history of PMQs— Chris Deerin (@chrisdeerin) March 15, 2017
OK, enough now. Corbyn's got to go. This was the most shambolic performance by a party leader in House of Commons history.— (((Dan Hodges))) (@DPJHodges) March 15, 2017
Corbyn asks this on Grammar schools:
The difference is we want a good school and a good place for every child in every school in every community.
Selective education, reintroduction of grammar schools does not achieve that. We want a staircase for all, not a ladder for the few...
What she has to do is address the issues of injustice and inequality in our society and a Government that’s dedicated to widening the gap, not helping the hard-up or those who are working self-employed to try and make ends meet and not getting access to any benefits.
'Businesses forcing workers to become self-employed'
Jeremy Corbyn says businesses are forcing their workers to become self-employed.
He says it is a "grossly unfair system "where those in self-employment pay some NI, employers do not and benefit from it.
The Right Honourable Gentleman obviously hadn't noticed that one of the first things i did when I became PM was to commission Matthew Taylor from the RSA to conduct a review to look at the employment market, at employment rights and status precisely because we recognise that the employment market is changing.
Corbyn: 'Government in chaos'
The Labour leader attacks the Government over the U-Turn.
It seems to me like a government in a bit of chaos here.
A Budget that unravels in seven days, a Conservative manifesto with a very pensive PM on the front page saying there would be no increase.
May hits back:
When it comes lectures on chaos, he'd be the first person I turn to.
Corbyn says that this reversal in NICs is going to leave a black hole in the Budget.
What is she going to do to fill that black hole?
If the Right Honourable Gentleman is so concerned about balancing the books why is it Labour party policy to borrow £500bn and bankrupt Britain?
May: We will not bring forward rises to NICs in this parliament
Theresa May kicks off PMQs by wishes everybody a happy St Patrick's Day this Friday.
Huw Merriman, a Tory MP, makes the unavoidable move of raising the Government's U-turn on NICs.
Will the PM agree with me that as we move towards balancing the books we ensure that we have a fair and sustainable tax system in place?
We made a commitment not to raise tax and we put our commitment into the tax lock and the measures we put forward in the Budget were consistent with those locks.
But as a number of my parliamentary colleagues have been pointing out in recent days the trend towards greater self-employment does create a structural issue in the tax base on which we will have to act and we want to make sure we maintain fairness in the tax system.
We will consider the Government's overall approach to employment status and rights, to tax and entitlements, we will bring forward further proposals but we will not bring forward increases to NICs in this Parliament.
'Chancellor looks absolutely deflated'
Philip Hammond was first his seat on the Commons frontbench, reports Christopher Hope.
Theresa May squeezes in next to him. The Chancellor looks absolutely deflated. Amber Rudd sits next to Mr Hammond.
Will she be the next Chancellor?
Theresa May abandons plans to raise national insurance
Theresa May has abandoned plans to raise national insurance for self-employed workers in this Parliament after admitting that it breached the "spirit" of the manifesto.
Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, provoked a furious reaction from Tory back-benchers after using his Budget to announce plans to raise NI contributions for the self-employed by 2 per cent.
Mr Hammond has written to Tory MPs saying that while the changes are justified the Government has chosen not to go forward with the rise in "class 4" national insurance contributions.
It represents a huge blow to Mr Hammond and the most significant Budget u-turns in modern times.
Very pleased to hear that the Government has sensibly decided not to go ahead with the proposed Budget changes on National Insurance— Tim Loughton (@timloughton) March 15, 2017
Blimey. I've been vigorously defending it... https://t.co/WQKXZYWgaK— Ed Vaizey (@edvaizey) March 15, 2017
White Paper on Repeal Bill 'published soon'
David Davis has just revealed the white paper on Great Repeal Bill will be published in the near future.
He says the Government are waiting for the situation in Northern Ireland to be resolved before they publish it.
And that's the end of the select committee.
Timetable for Brexit: Article 50, Then Great Repeal Bill to put EU law into Eng law, then 2nd phase of bills on immigration, financial etc— lisa o'carroll (@lisaocarroll) March 15, 2017
Davis dismisses OBR warnings
David Davis is asked if he agrees with teh OBR's Brexit warnings.
I'm not going to worry about mathematical models that are very rarely accurate.
Michael Gove, the former Brexit Secretary, asks the Brexit Secretary to make a list of the "most exciting" things about leaving the EU.
He refuses to make a list, but suggests Britain will be free to change a number of laws.
The ever-forensic Michael Gove asks DD to list the "most exciting" things about leaving the EU. Honestly I'm not making this up— Jack Blanchard (@Jack_Blanchard_) March 15, 2017
Davis: We've yet to assess economic impact of Brexit with no trade deal
Davis says SNP failed to work with Government over Brexit
David Davis has suggested Nicola Sturgeon is exploiting Brexit for political gain and has no interest in reaching a deal with the Government.
If one side doesn't want to agree, which I'm afraid has been the position of the Scottish Government, then there is no way seek to agree can turn into agree.
I'm afraid the stance of the Scottish Government has been frankly a very political one and not in the interests of the people they represent.
He suggests the Scottish Government "doesn't want to agree" a common position with the UK for political reasons.
He says the Government believes it is "difficult" that the SNP has called for Scotland to remain inside single market and hints they could reject the proposal.
Davis says @scotgov has had "detailed response" to White Paper - doesn't sound like he's planning more than that— Nick Eardley (@nickeardleybbc) March 15, 2017
The Brexit Secretary suggests that there "may not be" another Joint-Ministerial Committee meeting before Article 50 triggered.
He only makes it clear that there will be "discussions."
He says there will be a conversation with the Scottish Government before Article 50 is triggered.
Labour accuses Government of 'recklessness'
Keir Starmer MP, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, has responded to David Davis’s admission that the Government has not carried out an assessment of the economic impact of leaving the EU without a deal.
The Government is recklessly talking up the idea of crashing out of the EU with no deal. They have repeated the mantra that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’.
But we now know they have made no assessment of the economic impact of the Prime Minister failing to secure a deal.
What's clear, from the CBI and others, is that there is no result that would be worse for the British economy than leaving with no deal; no deal would be the worst possible deal.
The Government should rule out this dangerous and counter-productive threat before Article 50 is triggered.
'Northern Ireland peace will not be jeopardised'
On border arrangements for Northern Ireland, David Davis says the Government " are not going to do anything that jeopardises the peace process".
He says he is confident the two nations and the commission between them will be able to come to a resolution, adding that the common travel area is something both the Irish and British Government want to continue.
'Free movement changes will be about control'
David Davis tells MPs that the Government's new immigration policy will be about control, but it won't be done in a way that damages the economy.
He says numbers will not drive migration policy:
The issue will be of principle - free movement vs control - rather than number.
Brexit Secretary David Davis: this is not a slam the door shut, not pull up the drawbridge, this is an issue of control <<< on immigration— Olly Barratt (@ollybarratt) March 15, 2017
'Tough doesn't mean spiteful'
David Davis says that over the next two years he will have to challenge himself to beccome more diplomatic.
He admits that there will be times when the negotiations get tough, "but tough doesn't mean spiteful".
The Brexit Secretay says:
I am not one of those who don't like the European project...
He says "our friends" across Europe are disappointed we're leaving and so "I allow considerable amount of slack."
And he calls on MPs to be "as calm as possible and as amicable as possible".
'Mortgaging the country’s future to a soundbite'
Pat McFadden, the Labour MP, has accused the Government of “mortgaging the country’s future to a soundbite”.
He questions how the Government can say 'no deal' is better than a 'bad deal' when they haven't carried out an economic assessment.
He points out that John Major said the WTO is the worst possible outcome. David Davis says this isn't right.
DD dismisses John Major's warning that no deal is the worst possible outcome. "No. No. There are ways of making it much worse than that."— Jack Blanchard (@Jack_Blanchard_) March 15, 2017
The Brexit Secretary is asked if MPs and peers would get a vote before the country defaults to WTO rules.
He says, yes, the government would make a statement to Parliament.
Mr Davis says:
I have a fairly clear view of how it will work out, I just haven't quantified it yet. We will get a quantification later on, but it is quite plain how it will work out.
On the one hand, we have the aim of a good comprehensive free trade agreement. In the event we don't get that or there is no conclusion, we will have a fairly extensive contingency plan, which is already under way.
And we will have, whatever happens, a sharply improved access to the rest of the world off the back of a large number of free trade agreements which will be coming into effect shortly after we leave - or some of them will be.
McFadden: And if you come back with no deal?— lisa o'carroll (@lisaocarroll) March 15, 2017
Davis: "We will no doubt make a statement and it's up to parliament to decide what to do"
Jeremy Corbyn Tweets...
'We are a science super-power'
Davis Davis tells MPs he is not sure about the future of science funding, but he insists: "We are a science super-power".
He says the "golden triangle" of London, Oxford and Cambridge attract top talent and that he doesn't intend to allow the Brexit process to stop that.
David Davis says UK's global dominance in science is directly due to immigration of scientists, says Brexit must not stop that.— Matthew Holehouse (@mattholehouse) March 15, 2017
'UK will meet obligations to EU budget'
Dominic Raab, a eurosceptic Tory MP, asks if other EU leaders are acting more positively.
Davis replies that he thinks European countries are keen for a good Brexit outcome.
He is asked about future payments to the EU and replies that the UK will meet its obligations.
David Davis asked about the £50bn Brexit divorce bill: "We have rights and obligations. Will insist on one and meet the other."— Alex Spence (@alexGspence) March 15, 2017
Davis downplays need for transitional deals
David Davis suggests that in most cases he hoped the UK can move straight into new arrangements without the need for transitional deals.
Best answer in most cases if not all cases is to get something that does not require transition.
'Trade deal possible in 2 years'
David Davis says it is accurate that the European Commission has not agreed to negotiate a trade deal and Brexit at the same time.
He says the Government hopes to secure a free trade deal within two years and that he will discuss the issue of independent agreements with his counterpart Michel Barnier.
The Cabinet Secretary says he wants to secure a more ambitious deal than the EU-Canada deal.
Brexit Bill will receive Royal Assent on Thursday
David Davis is challenged on why Theresa May has delayed triggering Article.
He says the Government only ever committed to triggering the Bill by the end of the month.
He tells MPs that the Article 50 bill will receive its Royal Assent on Thursday.
'It's not as frightening as some people say'
David Davis is asked if leaving the EU without a Brexit deal would be a bad thing.
He says that no assessments of the economic impact of failure to reach a deal had been carried out since his appointment as Brexit Secretary.
Any forecast you make depends on the mitigation you make, and therefore it would be rather otiose to do that forecast before we have concluded what mitigation is possible."
You haven't asked me about the upsides - for roughly 60% of our trade we could relax things the other way.
Explaining Mrs May's "no deal is better than a bad deal" mantra, Mr Davis said:
She said that because in the emotional aftermath of the referendum, there were lots of threats of punishment deals and all the rest of it.
We had to be clear that we could actually manage this in such a way as to be better than a bad deal, and that is true.
I can't quantify it for you yet. I may well be able to do so in a year's time. It's not as frightening as some people think, but it's not as simple as some people think.
He says "it's not possible to calculate" the economic cost of leaving the Customs Union without a Brexit deal.
The Cabinet Secretary also suggests that government wants to extend electronic customs checks after Brexit.
When we have finished making the lego blocks, we will build the house. And then we will have the forecast you are talking about.
He says he does his job on the basis of facts and analysis- "not throwaway lines in interviews".
David Davis asked whether leaving the EU without a Brexit deal would be a bad thing: "We cannot quantify the outcome."— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) March 15, 2017
Davis: No economic assessment of a no deal
David Davis is speaking before the Brexit select committee with Olly Robbins, the permanent secretary at the Brexit department.
He is asked by Hilary Benn if there has been an assessment of the economic impact of leaving without of deal.
Mr Davis says there hasn't been since he took the post.
He also conforms he spoke to the cabinet about the prospect of leaving the EU without a deal.
Asked if there would customs checks between Northern Ireland and Ireland, Mr Davis says there are already light checks.
EU President Tweets...
Europe will not be "intimidated" by British threats to walk away from trade talks if it cannot get a good deal, European Council president Donald Tusk has said.
In a statement to the European Parliament, Mr Tusk dismissed suggestions that a failure to reach agreement in Brexit talks would be worse for the EU than for Britain, telling MEPs: "A 'no-deal scenario' would be bad for everyone, but above all for the UK."
Prime Minister Theresa May has said "no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal" in negotiations under Article 50 of the EU treaties, which she is due to trigger at the end of this month.
We will not be intimidated by threats that no #Brexit deal is good for UK & bad for EU. No deal bad for everyone, above all for UK.— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) March 15, 2017
Sturgeon abandons bid to remain in EU
Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum plans were rapidly unravelling last night as it emerged she is to abandon the SNP’s policy of rejoining the EU immediately amid record Euroscepticism in Scotland.
Just a day after the Scottish First Minister demanded a second vote on independence, senior Nationalist sources told The Daily Telegraph that Ms Sturgeon would instead try to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), whose members include Norway and Iceland.
Ms Sturgeon fears that the SNP’s long-standing policy of an independent Scotland joining the EU would put off the 400,000 voters who backed independence in 2014 and also voted Leave in last year’s EU referendum. They represent one quarter of all those who voted for independence.
SNP could backtrack on referendum campaign
Angus Robertson, the SNP deputy leader, has admitted the party could backtrack on a second independence referendum.
In an interview with The Guardian, he said:
There may only be days, may only be weeks, but where all of our efforts are currently focused is trying to convince the UK government to come to a compromise agreement protecting Scotland’s place in Europe.
If that road runs out and if we have to have that referendum, we will be turning our attention to making sure that we are making the case publicly, intellectually and in every other way so people understand the choice of a hard Tory Brexit or a Scotland able to maintain its relations with the rest of Europe.
Scots back Union
A poll by YouGov for the Times newspaper has revealed 57 per cent of Scottish voters currently back staying in the UK, its highest level for two and a half years.
The dramatic 14-point gap indicates that enthusiasm for independence side has declined since the last referendum, where 55 per cent backed remaining the union to 45 per cent who voted in favour of leaving.
It came as the annual Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, published on Wednesday, highlighted a surge in Euroscepticism, prompting the authors to warn that “focusing on EU membership may not be the best way to swing voters in favour of Yes”.
Although the authoritative study found record support for independence at 46 per cent, it also said 25 per cent of voters want Britain to leave the EU, with another 42 per cent wanting EU powers to be reduced, totalling 67 per cent of people holding Eurosceptic views.
The equivalent figure was 53 per cent in 2014 and 40 per cent when devolution started in 1999.