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  1. ITV Report

Theresa May compromises on Brexit date to avoid second Commons defeat

Theresa May appears to have struck a compromise within Conservative ranks over her plans to set the date of Brexit in law as she looks to avoid a second humiliating defeat in the Commons.

The Prime Minister was forced to engage with rebels amongst her own MPs after Tory rebels voted down the government on Wednesday by backing an amendment to its Brexit bill.

They supported a change to the legislation which calls for MPs to have a "meaningful vote" on any Brexit deal.

Now Mrs May has agreed to offer more flexibility over the date of the UK's exit from the EU in an effort to win doubters among her MPs.

She wants the planned date of Brexit - 29 March 2019 - to be written into the government's legislation.

However, she had now agreed to measures allowing the date to be changed if negotiations with Brussels look set to stretch beyond that date.

Conservative rebel Nicky Morgan has backed the compromise. Credit: PA

Rebels who helped inflict Mrs May's first Commons defeat on Brexit legislation have backed the compromise, which was put forward by prominent backbenchers on both sides of the EU referendum divide.

The government has not formally supported the move but it would appear certain to back the measure if it presented a way for Mrs May to avoid another Commons reverse.

Nicky Morgan, one of the Conservative MPs who voted against Mrs May on Wednesday, said the amendment "demonstrates how all Conservative MPs can work together" to deliver the best possible Brexit.

But a senior Leave-supporting Tory said the deal showed that rebels had now accepted that government ministers are in control of setting the Brexit date.

"It is very reasonable for the Bill to mirror Article 50 more closely, but they have had to give up scrapping the date altogether and to accept that the Government remains in control of the date," the MP said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the second round of talks will be ‘even tougher’ to resolve. Credit: PA

Mrs May also faced calls from prominent Brexiteers not to accept EU guidelines that suggest that the UK must continue to abide by the bloc's rules for the entire two-year exit transition period.

Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg insisted she must reject the outline plans set out by European leaders on Friday.

"We cannot be a colony of the European Union for two years from 2019 to 2021, accepting new laws that are made without any say-so of the British people, Parliament or Government," he told BBC's Newsnight.

"That is not leaving the European Union, that is being a vassal state of the European Union, and I would be very surprised if that were Government policy."

Jacob Rees-Mogg is pushing Mrs May to reject the EU's Brexit guidelines. Credit: PA

There have also been warning from the UK and EU side of the divide that a new phase of talks agreeing the basis for Brexit and a future trade deal are set to be tough.

Former Cabinet minister Sir Oliver Letwin warned that the "extraordinarily difficult" second stage of the Brexit negotiations would be harder than the first.

European Council President Donald Tusk has also said it will be "dramatically difficult" to meet Mrs May's target of an exit by 19 March 2019.