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  1. ITV Report

Theresa May scraps £65 fee for EU nationals applying to stay in UK after Brexit as PM outlines 'Plan B' to MPs

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

Theresa May has announced the £65 fee for EU nationals to secure the right to live in the UK after Brexit will be scrapped.

The reversal was part of her "Plan B" address to the House of Commons following a crushing defeat of her Brexit plan last week.

She told MPs: “The next phase of testing of the scheme for EU nationals to confirm their status has launched today.

"And having listened to concerns from members and organisations like the 3 Million Group, I can confirm today that when we roll out the scheme in full on the 30th March the Government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay and anyone who has or will apply during the pilot fee will have their fee reimbursed."

The Prime Minister yet again reiterated her stance against a second referendum or extending Article 50 to rule out a no-deal Brexit, stating it would "undermine faith in our democracy".

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Peter Smith on Brexit's impact on Northern Ireland's future

"I fear a second referendum would set a difficult precedent that could have significant implications for how we handle referendums in this country", she said.

"Not least, strengthening the hand of those campaigning to break-up our United Kingdom. It would require an extension of Article 50. We would very likely have to return a new set of MEPs to the European Parliament in May.

"And I also believe that there has not yet been enough recognition of the way that a second referendum could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn launched an attack on Mrs May's cross-party talks, labelling them as "a sham".

Jeremy Corbyn has said 'nothing has changed' since last week's defeat. Credit: PA

"The Prime Minister's invitation to talks has been exposed as a PR sham", he said.

"Every opposition party politician came out of those meetings with the same response.

"Contrary to what the Prime Minister just said there was no flexibility, there were no negotiations - nothing had changed."

ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand tweeted a summary of her address.

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The next test for the Mrs May will be a “neutral” motion to be debated and voted on, along with any amendments tabled by MPs, on January 29.

Government sources said she would be holding further talks with MPs, as well as business leaders and trade unionists, throughout the week in an attempt to find a way forward.

The Prime Minister acknowledged continuing concern about the Brexit backstop, telling MPs: "I will be talking further this week to colleagues, including in the DUP, to consider how we might meet our obligations to the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland in a way that can command the greatest possible support in the House.

"And I will then take the conclusions of those discussions back to the EU."

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney was adamant over the weekend the backstop – intended to ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic – was an essential part of the Withdrawal Agreement.

However there has been signs some Brexiteers could reluctantly back Mrs May’s deal amid concerns a cross-party grouping of MPs are plotting to impose a “softer” Brexit – or derail it altogether.

Writing in The Mail on Sunday, leading Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “Even Mrs May’s deal would be better than not leaving at all.”

There was anger among pro-Leave MPs at moves to enable backbenchers to take control of the Commons business from the Government – in breach of normal conventions – through a series of amendments to the neutral motion.

One group including senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper and Tory former minister Nick Boles is seeking to give time for a bill to suspend the Article 50 withdrawal process if there is no new deal with Brussels by the end of February.

Another more radical amendment drawn up by former attorney general Dominic Grieve would allow a motion by a minority of 300 MPs – from at least five parties and including 10 Tories – to be debated as the first item of Commons business the next day.

Mr Grieve said it would enable the Commons to stage a series of “indicative votes” on the various alternatives, such as a “soft” Norway-style deal or a second referendum to establish which could command a majority.

He denied claims he was seeking to prevent Britain leaving the EU after International Trade Secretary Liam Fox accused pro-Remain MPs of trying to “hijack” the 2016 referendum vote.