Thursday briefing: Brexit goes through the looking glass

Thursday briefing: Brexit goes through the looking glass

Theresa May suffered another day of humiliating defeats in parliament. Photograph: Mark Duffy/AFP/Getty Images

May warns rebels to back her or lose Brexit after night of Tory splits ??? Beto O???Rourke???s 2020 bid ??? and the return of the humble headband

Main image: Theresa May suffered another day of humiliating defeats in parliament. Photograph: Mark Duffy/AFP/Getty Images

Top story: Cabinet ruptures three ways in PM???s humiliating defeat

Good morning, this is Alison Rourke welcoming you to Thursday???s briefing in this blockbuster week of politics.

Could Brexit get any stranger? A prime minister humiliated in chaotic scenes in parliament in which four cabinet ministers (Amber Rudd, David Mundell, David Gauke and Greg Clark) defied the whip on a government motion that the prime minister wanted to lose. Confused? Read our guide to what happened last night here. The upshot is the Commons ruled out a no-deal Brexit altogether (321-278) in a vote that is not binding. But buckle up; there???s another debate and vote today on a government motion seeking an extension to article 50, which May said would ???set out the fundamental choice facing this house???. If MPs agreed a deal, the PM said the government would request a ???short, technical extension???, a hint that she plans a third meaningful vote on her twice-defeated deal next week. Without an agreed deal, she said, there would be a ???much longer extension??? that would require the UK to take part in European parliament elections.

Theresa May says clear majority against no-deal Brexit ??? video

It???s a brave person who would make predictions at this point, but what is clear is the PM???s credibility has taken a heavy battering, and her attempt to stare down Tory rebels into backing her deal or losing Brexit altogether, is a high-risk strategy.

European reaction to the no-deal vote was largely one of incredulity, with one senior EU negotiator describing it as ???the Titanic voting for the iceberg to get out of the way???.

You can see how the papers reacted to the Commons chaos and you can keep up with everything that???s happening today on our live blog.

Beto???s bid ??? Texas???s Democratic rising star Beto O???Rourke is expected to announce his plans to run for president today, according to a source close to him. ???I???m really proud of what El Paso did and what El Paso represents,??? O???Rourke said of his hometown in a text to TV station KTSM, which first reported his entry into the race. ???It???s a big part of why I???m running. This city is the best example of this country at its best.??? In November???s midterm elections, O???Rourke narrowly failed to unseat Republican Ted Cruz from the Senate, but is considered one of the darlings of the ever-growing Democratic field of contenders for 2020.

???Maths anxiety??? ??? Children as young as six feel fear, rage and despair over maths, according to a new study of 2,700 primary and secondary students in the UK and Italy. Researchers at Cambridge University???s neuroscience unit say it should be treated as a ???real concern??? because of the damage it does to learning. ???Maths anxiety is very much an emotional reaction,??? according to the study???s co-author, Dr Ros McLennan. It warns teachers and parents that their own anxieties about maths might have a negative influence and so urges them to tackle these first.

Coca-cola???s plastic footprint ??? The drinks giant has revealed for the first time that it produces 3m tonnes of plastic packaging a year. That???s the equivalent of 200,000 bottles per minute. The figures, in a report published today by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, show the company is responsible for more than a fifth of the world???s PET bottle output per year. Other companies, including Pepsi Co, H&M, L???Or??al, Walmart, Marks & Spencer and Burberry, still refuse to publicly disclose their plastic packaging production.

Netflix ratings ??? The US streaming giant has been given the power to set its own official age ratings for its films and TV programmes. In a move that could spell the end of the British film censor, Netflix will essentially be able to mark its own homework. ???Because of the sheer amount of material that???s out there it???s not logistically viable for the BBFC to view everything in the traditional way,??? said the head of the British Board of Classification, Craig Lapper.

Art heist gone wrong ??? Thieves who broke into an Italian church to steal a ???3m painting by the 17th-century Flemish artist Pieter Brueghel the Younger, made off with their loot without a hitch. Or so they thought. Police, aware that the painting was under threat, had swapped in a fake copy of The Crucifixion a month before. Churchgoers who noticed the change held their tongues as the police???s sting operation, including surveillance cameras, played out.

The Crucifixion by Pieter Brueghel the Younger is considered a masterpiece of Flemish art.
The Crucifixion by Pieter Brueghel the Younger is considered a masterpiece of Flemish art. Photograph: Santa Maria Maddalena

Today in Focus podcast: Greta Thunberg: how her school strike went global

Greta Thunberg???s school strike against climate change has spread to 71 countries, and this Friday???s action could be one of the largest global climate change protests ever. She tells our environment editor Jonathan Watts how it all began. Plus: Gary Younge on how Brexit overwhelmed British politics.

Greta Thunberg leading a climate change protest in Hamburg.
Greta Thunberg leading a climate change protest in Hamburg. Photograph: Morris MacMatzen/Reuters

Lunchtime read: How headbands leapt from classroom to catwalk

There aren???t many school-uniform items that graduate into adult wardrobes, but this season the humble headband has made the grade. Long associated with boarding schools and Sloane Rangers, the one-piece accessory is in the midst of a renaissance thanks to several influential brands and style icons proving that the headband is more than a device to keep your hair off your face.

Making the case for headbands at the Oscars was best supporting actress nominee Rachel Weisz, 48, who topped off her Givenchy haute couture red gown with a thin beaded style made from two vintage (circa 1903) Cartier diamond and platinum brooches.
Rachel Weisz topped her Givenchy haute couture red gown at the Oscars with a thin, beaded headband made from two vintage Cartier diamond and platinum brooches. Photograph: Andrew H Walker/BEI/REX/Shutterstock

It was in September at the Prada spring/summer 2019 fashion show when Miuccia Prada sent every single one of her 50 models down the catwalk wearing thick studded and satin styles and must-have status was bestowed. ???Once you???ve seen something on the Prada catwalk, you just know it???s confirmation,??? says Miss Vogue editor Naomi Pike, adding it???s a trend women in their late 20s, 30s and 40s ???can own because enough time has passed [since wearing them at school]???.


An elated J??rgen Klopp claimed that Liverpool had put themselves back on the map of world football with their hugely convincing victory against Bayern in Munich on a night when Virgil van Dijk???s composure proved decisive. A Lionel Messi masterclass in a 5-1 win over Lyon at the Camp Nou ensured Barcelona will join four English clubs in Friday???s draw for the quarter-finals.

The FIA race director, Charlie Whiting, has died as a result of a pulmonary embolism three days before the first race of the new Formula One season in Melbourne.

Sky Brown, a 10-year-old skateboarder from Japan, is set to become Britain???s youngest ever competitor at a summer Olympics after switching her allegiance to the UK.

At the other end of the scale, 46-year-old James Cracknell, the two-time Olympic champion, could become the oldest Boat Race competitor in the event???s history when the crews are named on Thursday.

CVC Capital Partners??? bid to invest in the Six Nations ??? which would appear to kill off World Rugby???s proposed global league ??? could lead to a conflict of interest, according to a leading sports lawyer.

And Sir Anthony McCoy has spoken of his disgust with racing???s ruling body, expressing in vivid terms his unhappiness about bans handed out to jockeys who rode in the National Hunt Chase on Tuesday.


The US grounded Boeing???s money-spinning 737 Max fleet late yesterday over safety fears following the Ethiopian Airlines crash. It leaves the world???s largest plane manufacturer facing its worst crisis in years. Boeing said it had ???full confidence in the safety of the 737 Max??? but ???out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public??? it had decided to temporarily suspend the entire fleet.

The pound hovered near nine-month highs after the no-deal Brexit vote. It was buying $1.324 and ???1.169.

The papers

The front pages lead on ???meltdown??? in the Commons and ???humiliation??? for Theresa May. The Daily Mail says ???Chaos reigns???, the Mirror and the i run the same headline, ???Meltdown???, and the Times goes for something similar with ???Brexit meltdown???. Other papers focus on what is next is the process.

Guardian front page 14 March
Photograph: The Guardian

The Guardian has: ???May???s final warning to Tory rebels: back me or lose Brexit???, the FT runs: ???May forced to issue ultimatum after Commons vote rules out no-deal Brexit???, the Daily Telegraph says: ???Brexit delayed until further notice after gang of four rebels???. The Express is the only paper defending May, whom the paper describes as ???defiant???, saying: ???Don???t let EU bullies win the day???. The Sun does have Brexit news on its front page - ???2 more years of Brexit??? ??? but leads with a story about Madeleine McCann.

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