Theresa May to face PMQs after Cabinet members hold talks in Brussels

Theresa May will face questions from MPs after two members of her Cabinet held fresh talks in Brussels in a renewed effort to secure changes to the controversial Irish backstop.

The Prime Minister is likely to be pressed on the negotiations, after the trip by Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, when she appears before the Commons for PMQs.

Mr Cox and Mr Barclay were seeking to allay fears that the backstop could leave the UK trapped in a customs union with the EU, in a bid to win over Tory MPs ahead of further votes next week.

Mrs May is set to bring her deal back to the Commons for a vote by March 12.

If it is rejected, MPs will get the chance to either back a no-deal Brexit or call for the UK’s departure from the EU to be delayed beyond the current March 29 deadline.

On Tuesday evening, the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales joined together to tell the Prime Minister her “reckless” behaviour over Brexit “must stop now”.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford spoke out after politicians in Edinburgh and Cardiff took a “united and historic step” to vote against both Mrs May’s withdrawal deal and the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

Stephen Barclay and Geoffrey Cox
Stephen Barclay and Geoffrey Cox held talks in Brussels on Tuesday (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Meanwhile, a senior medic warned that delays to cancer testing and treatment were “inevitable” as a result of Brexit.

Dr Richard Graham, of the Royal College of Radiologists, told BBC Two’s Newsnight: “Of course now there will inevitably be delays to treatment as a result of the Brexit process because we need to start booking our lists for the post-Brexit date.

“We will need to book clinics less heavily so that we’ve got more wriggle room if we don’t have the radioisotopes in order to diagnose and treat the patients.”

Mrs May’s hopes of winning over Tory Eurosceptics hinge on Mr Cox being able to change his legal advice about the indefinite nature of the backstop, which is intended to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland in the absence of a future free trade agreement.

However, French President Emmanuel Macron signalled that he would firmly resist any measure that might diminish the security and integrity of the EU’s external border and internal market.

He also accused Brexiteers of lying about the consequences of leaving the EU and suggested Britain would end up being part of a reformed Europe in the future.

And European Council president Donald Tusk suggested that “external anti-European forces” had tried to subvert the Brexit referendum in 2016.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels with the Armenian prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, Mr Tusk said he backed Mr Macron’s initiative, adding: “There are external anti-European forces, which are seeking – openly or secretly – to influence the democratic choices of Europeans, as was the case with Brexit and a number of election campaigns across Europe.

“And it may again be the case with the European elections in May.”

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