• Article 50 extension would lead to ‘humiliation’ for UK, says Eustice as he resigns as minister – The agriculture minister George Eustice has resigned from the government, saying Theresa May’s decision to allow a vote on article 50 would be “the final humiliation of our country ”. Eustice said on Thursday that he would still vote for the prime minister’s Brexit deal but the loss of yet another minister will come as a fresh blow to May, after a revolt in parliament on Wednesday night by Conservative Eurosceptics, 20 of whom voted against an amendment setting out the schedule of votes, with more than 80 abstaining. Government sources had expressed hope that the threat of a possible article 50 extension would be likely to focus minds among the European Research Group (ERG), the hardline Brexiters chaired by Jacob Rees-Mogg. any of the Brexiters who abstained on the amendment on Wednesday night have privately suggested that the threat of a delay to article 50 could make it more likely that May’s deal could pass. (The Guardian)
  • Labour moving towards plan to let May’s Brexit deal pass if it faces public vote – Labour is moving towards a compromise plan that would allow Theresa May’s Brexit deal to pass but make clear that parliament “withholds support” until it has been put to a public vote, according to multiple party sources. Those involved in talks said the Labour leadership was in favour of a redrafted amendment proposed by backbenchers Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, which would see the party abstain on the Brexit deal if a second referendum were promised on those terms. Kyle said he was now confident the Labour leadership would back his rewritten amendment, along with a number of Conservative MPs, meaning there was an increasing prospect it would succeed. “I have every reason to believe that this will get the necessary support when the time comes,” he said. Senior Labour figures were unhappy that the original Kyle-Wilson amendment implied backing for May’s deal and a Tory Brexit. But Kyle said his amendment had now been recast in a way that commands the support of the Labour frontbench. (The Guardian)
  • Any extension of article 50 must be a one-off, Brussels to insist – Brussels is to insist that any Brexit delay is a one-off, according to senior EU diplomats, setting the stage for Theresa May to present MPs with the choice of her deal or a chaotic no-deal exit this summer. The prime minister has suggested that she will seek a two-month extension if MPs vote down her deal again in mid-March to allow further time for negotiations. But EU-27 heads of state and government are said by senior sources to hate the idea of the UK then asking for a further delay when the initial extension proves to be insufficient for renegotiations. Key member states are understood to be planning to put pressure on the European council president, Donald Tusk, to rule out a second extension in writing. “Some member states will insist on that being on paper,” said one diplomat. May is expected to put her deal to the Commons again on 12 March, and then seek an extension of article 50 if it fails to pass. (The Guardian)
  • Labour will table bid for second Brexit referendum within a fortnight, says John McDonnell – Labour will put forward an amendment calling for a fresh EU referendum within a fortnight, John McDonnell has revealed. After the party’s alternative Brexit plans were emphatically rejected during a series of late-night votes in the Commons, the shadow chancellor said Labour will make its pitch for a public vote when the next “meaningful vote” is held. Theresa May has made clear she will bring her deal back for MPs to vote on by 12 March. Mr McDonnell said this will be when Jeremy Corbyn puts the party’s amendment forward for a Final Say referendum on Brexit. But speaking on ITV’s Peston programme, the shadow chancellor and close ally of the Labour leader, also stressed: “We are still going to argue that we want a general election, we are still going to argue we think our deal that we have put up was the best option.” (Independent)
  • Post-Brexit migration rules disastrous, say manufacturers – Proposed new post-Brexit immigration rules will “decimate” factory workforces, the UK’s main manufacturing association has warned. Plans to introduce a £30,000 minimum salary threshold would have “disastrous impacts”, said Make UK. Some 88% of skilled workers would not be receiving that level of pay, said the organisation. Currently skilled roles such as engineering technicians are largely filled by EU nationals. In December the government published a White Paper on immigration proposing a £30,000 salary requirement, which would apply to skilled migrants seeking five-year visas. Make UK said the move would cause shortages of welders, robotics workers, toolmakers and maintenance technicians. (BBC)
  • Republic to recruit 600 new customs staff – The Irish minister for finance has told the Dáil there will be 400 extra customs staff recruited before the end of the March. The hiring of some 200 more would follow soon after, minister Paschal Donohoe told the Irish parliament. These workers will be required to deal with a new customs systems resulting from Brexit. The minister insisted that the new staff will not be placed at or near the border with Northern Ireland. He said this was down to the Irish government not developing infrastructure there. Mr Donohoe insisted he would provide extra resources to the Republic’s revenue service if needed. The minister said work on this scale has not happened in the economy for decades. Earlier this week, the chief executive of Dublin Port said that if there is a hard Brexit on 29 March, the number of lorries travelling through the port from outside the EU would increase by 800,000 a year. Work is currently under way on new customs checkpoints in the port – the first to be built there in decades. (BBC)
  • FCA gives finance firms 15-month reprieve in case of no-deal Brexit – The UK financial regulator confirmed that firms will have a 15-month grace period to comply with rule changes in the event of a cliff-edge Brexit in 29 days’ time. The Financial Conduct Authority on Thursday published a series of “near-final” rules around Brexit, although they still need approval from the Treasury. They include a waiver for firms around changes that the FCA has had to introduce as a result of the UK leaving the European Union and therefore the bloc’s rule book. The FCA has completed a massive exercise of “lifting and shifting” Brussels rules and introducing them into domestic legislation but the changes made as a result have a knock-on effect on firms’ reporting systems and so the regulator has given them some breathing space. (FT)