Theresa May has told the cabinet she will not agree a Brexit deal "at any cost" amid a fresh row over the vexed issue of the Irish border.

The prime minister's spokesman said there remains "a significant amount of work to do" and sought to reassure twitchy ministers that she would brief them before agreeing any deal.

Addressing journalists at a briefing on Tuesday, Ms May's spokesman said:“The prime minister said she was confident of reaching a deal. She said that, while the UK should aim to secure a withdrawal agreement as soon as possible, this would not be done at any cost.

“The prime minister said that, once agreement was reached on a withdrawal agreement, it remains the case that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and it will be subject to securing an acceptable full future framework.”

It comes Ms May had to call Irish premier Leo Varadkar yesterday, after Brexit secretary Dominic Raab angered Dublin by appearing to backslide on a commitment the UK had made to preventing a hard border.

"There can be no expiry date and there can be no unilateral exit clause, and if it were to be either of those things, the backstop would not be worth the paper it was written on," Mr Vardakar added on Tuesday.

"If we do have a backstop and if it is used, it may be to our advantage or necessary to have a review - which is very different to the exit clause that would let the UK withdraw, and that has been Irish government stance all along."

This liveblog is now closed, but see how the day in Westminster unfolded below

Welcome to The Independent's liveblog, where we will be bringing you all the latest updates from Westminster throughout the day.

Theresa May called the Irish prime minister on Monday in order to calm anger in Dublin over comments made by her Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab.

Mr Raab reportedly tried to backslide on a commitment the UK had made to prevent a hard border with the Republic, suggesting the “backstop” policy should expire after just three months.

The taoiseach’s office said the prime minister had “sought” the call after the comments, said to have been made in a private meeting with officials, emerged. 

More here: 

Theresa May is expected to set out further information about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit when she speaks to her Cabinet later today.

Justice Secretary David Gauke, one of the more pro-EU ministers, told a Channel 4 Brexit debate show: "If we leave on no-deal terms there's no good shying away, it will be very bad for us economically.

"If we can get a good deal, and that means removing all the frictions.... the Chequers-type deal, as I say, if we don't have friction with trade, then, economically, I don't think it's going to make a particular big difference one way or the other."

John McDonnell has defended his controversial backing for tax cuts for top earners, telling rebel Labour MPs they risk defeat in another Tory “tax bombshell” election campaign.

The shadow chancellor was rocked by a revolt by 20 Labour MPs in a Budget vote last week, angry that he was failing to fight a shake-up that “overwhelmingly benefit the rich”.

More here: 
Mims Davies has been appointed as the new sports minister after the resignation of Tracey Crouch, Downing Street has announced.
 
Crouch was well-liked and well-suited to her brief - as a football coach and qualified referee - but she resigned last week over a delay to plans to curb use of highly addictive gambling machines.
 
Davies was a junior minister at the Wales Office for only a matter of months, before being promoted to DCMS. The Eastleigh MP is a May loyalist - and a keen long distance runner.
Breaking news - Brexit campaign group Leave.EU and the Eldon Insurance company owned by its founder Arron Banks face fines totalling £135,000 over breaches of data laws, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has confirmed.

The report states that Leave.EU and Eldon - trading as GoSkippy - are being fined £60,000 each for "serious breaches" of the law which governs electronic marketing.

More than a million emails were sent to Leave.EU subscribers over two separate periods which also included marketing for GoSkippy services, without their consent, the report says.

Leave.EU also faces a £15,000 fine for a separate "serious" breach after almost 300,000 emails were sent to Eldon customers containing a newsletter for the Brexit campaign group.

A final decision is still to be reached on an alleged breach relating to the company's overall handling of personal data.

DUP chief whip Jeffrey Donaldson says the UK is 'heading for no deal' if Irish government doesn't compromise. Important intervention as the DUP props up Theresa May's government. 

Here's the latest on the Information Commissioner's decision to fine Arron Banks and Leave.EU:

Gemma White QC has been appointed to lead a new inquiry into bullying against staff employed by MPs and peers, as reported by the Independent at the weekend.
 
The inquiry will proceed in two stages. The first will consider issues relating to the treatment of staff and others working directly for MPs, either in the Commons or in constituency offices now and in the past.
 
Interestingly, the second stage will consider issues relating to the treatment of MPs by each other and by staff.
 
Ms White has written to more than 7,000 staff past and present, encouraging them to come forward.
 
The letter says: “It is important for the restoration of faith in the way the House and its members treat those working for us that as wide a range as possible of testimony is offered to the Inquiry.
 
"The parliamentary community must ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect and we hope that the outcome of Gemma White’s Inquiry will help us to do that”.
The Commons is about to sit for the day, beginning with Treasury Questions - and Philip Hammond and his team are ready for action. He's clearly trying to up his social media game, a la his deputy Liz Truss. 
 
Most of Theresa May's cabinet are still at Number 10 after more than two hours, says BBC's political editor. Philip Hammond is now in the Commons for Treasury questions.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has told MPs there were "problems" with how Facebook attempted to ensure users' data was deleted by organisations like Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook required signed confirmation the data had been deleted from "the heads of organisations" which obtained it, she said, but that was not always the case.

"We've found some problems with the signing of those authorisations - some of them weren't signed at all," Ms Denham told the Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee.

In addition, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has evidence Cambridge Analytica still held some of the data "as recently as spring 2018" despite claiming it had previously been deleted.

"The follow-up was less than robust and that's one of the reasons we fined Facebook £500,000," she added.

Ms Denham told the fake news inquiry: "The major concern that I have in this investigation is the very disturbing disregard that many of these organisations across the entire ecosystem have for the personal privacy of UK citizens and voters.

"If you look across the whole system, that is really what this report is about and we have to improve these practices for the future."

Asked to which organisations she is referring, Ms Denham replied: "Facebook, data brokers, political campaigns, data companies.

"As you know we're looking at political parties and their use of data so we really need to tighten up controls across the entire ecosystem because it matters to our democratic processes."

From Treasury Questions, Philip Hammond has been talking about Brexit.
 

It is not feasible to go back on the roll-out of universal credit, Whitehall's financial watchdog has said.

Sir Amyas Morse told MPs he thought the time had passed to reverse the decision to roll six working age benefits into one, which Labour has promised to scrap.

National Audit Office (NAO) head Sir Amyas told MPs: "We wrote a report recently on universal credit where one of the comments in the report that I explicitly, personally, inserted into it was that I didn't think there was any feasible possibility of going back on the universal credit project at this time.

"I believe there were lots of things that could be done, possibly, better in it, but I didn't think one of those things was a meaningful discussion about going back to seven or eight different forms of benefit.

"I'd thought we'd got past that point. The change process had gone too far for that to happen.

"When it started there was a very ambitious approach of trying to do everything in an agile basis which clearly didn't work out well and which I think the department had great difficulty executing."

A deal on the Irish border to break the Brexit deadlock is not close, the EU's chief negotiator has said.

Michel Barnier told Belgian broadcaster RTBF: "For now, we are still negotiating and I am not, as I am speaking to you this morning, able to tell you that we are close to reaching an agreement, since there is still a real point of divergence on the way of guaranteeing peace in Ireland, that there are no borders in Ireland, while protecting the integrity of the single market."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Theresa May on Monday that he was ready to consider a review mechanism as part of a "backstop" arrangement to keep the border with Northern Ireland open after Brexit.

But he made clear he would not accept an arrangement which gave the UK unilateral powers to ditch the customs union without the agreement of Brussels.

Emmanuel Macron has called for the creation of a “true European army” to allow the EU defend itself from threats ranging from Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin.

The French president has pushed for closer EU defence union since coming to power last year but has been so far met with limited success amid foot-dragging by other member states.

More here from our Europe correspondent Jon Stone

The "growing epidemic" of cheap drugs such as spice and black mamba is turning Britain's town centres into "places that people fear to go", a Tory MP has said.

Ben Bradley urged the government to reclassify synthetic cannabinoids as class A drugs, warning their prevalence was becoming a "serious national problem".

The MP for Mansfield laid bare the "devastating impact" on communities, saying: "Synthetic cannabis is one of the cheapest drugs on the market but also one of the strongest.

"The effects of these drugs can leave users resembling zombies slumped in a state of semi-consciousness sometimes foaming at the mouth, sometimes passed out in the street.

"This is clearly having a negative impact on town centres and local economies, it's causing anxiety amongst shoppers and business owners, decreasing footfall and discouraging families from spending the day in the town centre."

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate, Mr Bradley said the current class B classification was limiting the action that local services and the police could take, with forces "struggling to deal with it on a local level".

Such drugs, he added, were placing an "absolutely huge" resource drain on the NHS with extra strain being put on ambulance services, while prison officers were having to go home sick having inhaled fumes from people taking the drugs.

Mr Bradley said one prime spot for users was right outside his constituency office and one of his staff members had regularly resuscitated people.

Labour's Ruth Smeeth said one woman had a drug user jump into her car outside her house and refuse to get out, adding: "My constituent's four-year-old daughter was in the car. She was forced to leap out in terror and is now terrified."

A deal between Britain and the EU on the Irish border is not “close” despite hopes of a breakthrough, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has warned.

Michel Barnier said there was “still a real point of divergence” on the Northern Ireland issue, after Theresa May called for a “review” mechanism to be attached to the EU’s planned backstop that would guarantee no hard border.

More from our Europe correspondent Jon Stone



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