UK Labour deputy backs second referendum

Tom Watson, the opposition Labour deputy, will be his party's only leading light on the second People's Vote march in London. The rally has gathered cross-party support as the prime minister offers to talk to MPs.

Speaking on commercial radio in London on Friday, Tom Watson said he would support Prime Minister Theresa May's deal, or a revised deal going through parliament, but only if the public was allowed to vote on it too.

He also said he would take part in Saturday's second People's Vote march. The last such march was the country's second-biggest protest since more than a million people turned out for the 2003 Stop the War demonstration against the invasion of Iraq.

"Brexit is stuck in the parliamentary pipework," Watson wrote on Twitter. "The impasse works for neither Leavers or Remainers. I have come to the reluctant view that the only way to resolve this is for the country to have the final say. Tomorrow I will join the #PutItToThePeople march."

Read moreMerkel on Brexit after summit: 'We are dealing with short deadlines'

Corbyn in the north

Labour delegates voted overwhelmingly at the September 2018 party conference in favor of a second referendum as an option. Last month, party leader Jeremy Corbyn was reported to have said it would "put forward or support an amendment in favor of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country."

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

June 2016: 'The will of the British people'

After a shrill referendum campaign, nearly 52 percent of British voters opted to leave the EU on June 23. Polls had shown a close race before the vote with a slight lead for those favoring remaining in the EU. Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had campaigned for Britain to stay, acknowledged the "will of the British people" and resigned the following morning.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

July 2016: 'Brexit means Brexit'

Former Home Secretary Theresa May replaced David Cameron as prime minister on July 11 and promised the country that "Brexit means Brexit." May had quietly supported the Remain campaign before the referendum. She did not initially say when her government would trigger Article 50 of the EU treaty to start the two-year talks leading to Britain's formal exit.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

March 2017: 'We already miss you'

May eventually signed a diplomatic letter over six months later on March 29, 2017 to trigger Article 50. Hours later, Britain's ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow, handed the note to European Council President Donald Tusk. Britain's exit was officially set for March 29, 2019. Tusk ended his brief statement on the decision with: "We already miss you. Thank you and goodbye."

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

June 2017: And they're off!

British Brexit Secretary David Davis and the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, kicked off talks in Brussels on June 19. The first round ended with Britain reluctantly agreeing to follow the EU's timeline for the rest of the negotiations. The timeline split talks into two phases. The first would settle the terms of Britain's exit, and the second the terms of the EU-UK relationship post-Brexit.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

July-October 2017: Money, rights and Ireland

The second round of talks in mid-July began with an unflattering photo of a seemingly unprepared British team. It and subsequent rounds ended with little progress on three phase one issues: How much Britain still needed to pay into the EU budget after it leaves, the post-Brexit rights of EU and British citizens and whether Britain could keep an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

December 2017: Go-ahead for phase 2

Leaders of the remaining 27 EU members formally agreed that "sufficient progress" had been made to move on to phase two issues: the post-Brexit transition period and the future UK-EU trading relationship. While Prime Minister Theresa May expressed her delight at the decision, European Council President Tusk ominously warned that the second stage of talks would be "dramatically difficult."

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

July 2018: Johnson, Davis resign

British ministers appeared to back a Brexit plan at May's Chequers residence on July 6. The proposal would have kept Britain in a "combined customs territory" with the EU and signed up to a "common rulebook" on all goods. That went too far for British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis, who resigned a few days later. May replaced them with Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Raab.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

September 2018: No cherries for Britain

May's Chequers proposal did not go down well with EU leaders, who told her at a summit in Salzburg in late September that it was unacceptable. EU Council President Tusk trolled May on Instagram, captioning a picture of himself and May looking at cakes with the line: "A piece of cake perhaps? Sorry, no cherries." The gag echoed previous EU accusations of British cherry-picking.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

November 2018: Breakthrough in Brussels

EU leaders endorsed a 585-page draft divorce deal and political declaration on post-Brexit ties in late November. The draft had been widely condemned by pro- and anti-Brexit lawmakers in the British Parliament only weeks earlier. Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab resigned along with several other ministers, and dozens of Conservative Party members tried to trigger a no-confidence vote in May.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

December 2018: May survives rebellion

In the face of unrelenting opposition, May postponed a parliamentary vote on the deal on December 10. The next day, she met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to seek reassurances that would, she hoped, be enough to convince skeptical lawmakers to back the deal. But while she was away, hard-line Conservative lawmakers triggered a no-confidence vote. May won the vote a day later.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

January 2019: Agreement voted down

The UK Parliament voted 432 to 202 against May's Brexit deal on January 16. In response to the result, European Council President Donald Tusk suggested the only solution was for the UK to stay in the EU. Meanwhile, Britain's Labour Party called for a no-confidence vote in the prime minister, her second leadership challenge in as many months.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

March 2019: Second defeat for May's deal

May tried to get legal changes to the deal's so-called Irish backstop in the weeks that followed. She eventually got assurances that the UK could suspend the backstop under certain circumstances. But on March 12, Parliament voted against the revised Brexit deal by 391 to 242. EU leaders warned the vote increased the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit. Two days later, MPs voted to delay Brexit.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

March 2019: Extension after second defeat

Following the second defeat of May's divorce deal, the European Council met in Brussels on March 21 to decide what to do next. EU leaders gave May two options: delay Brexit until May 22 if MPs vote for the withdrawal deal or delay it until April 12 if they vote against the deal. If the deal were to fail again in Parliament, May could ask for a long extension.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

March 2019: Brexit deal rejected a third time

On March 29, the day that the UK was supposed to leave the EU, British lawmakers voted for a third time against May's deal — rejecting it this time with a vote of 344 to 286. Following the latest defeat, May approached the main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in an attempt to find a compromise, angering hardline Brexiteers in her own Conservative party.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

April 2019: Brexit delayed until Halloween

With the April 12 deadline looming after the third defeat of May's deal, EU leaders met again in Brussels to discuss a second delay. The only question was how long should it be? In the end, the UK and EU agreed to a "flexible" extension until October 31 — which can end sooner if the Brexit deal is approved. The UK had to take part in EU elections in May because their exit wasn't secured in time.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

May 2019: Prime Minister Theresa May resigns

Weeks of talks between Prime Minister Theresa May and the Labour party to reach a deal proved unsuccessful and further eroded her political capital. She triggered an angry backlash from her party after she tried to put the option of a second referendum on the table. The series of failures led May to announce her resignation, effective June 7, in an emotional address.

Brexit timeline: Charting Britain's turbulent exodus from Europe

June 2019: Leadership battle begins

After Theresa May left office on June 7, other members of her Conservative party began clamoring for the top job. After two rounds of voting, the field has been narrowed down to Environment Secretary Michael Gove (left), former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (right), Former Development Secretary Rory Stewart, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

However, neither Corbyn nor the shadow chancellor John McDonnell will attend the People's Vote march in London. Corbyn will be in Morecambe, Lancashire, campaigning for local elections scheduled for next May, and McDonnell said he would not be marching.

Tensions have been rising this week, with a number of politicians reporting they had received threats because of the positions they have taken over Brexit. Independent Group MP Anna Soubry discussed on Channel 4 news the abuse she has received: "I can't go home this weekend," she said. "I had a really nasty death threat."

Cross-party march

The march has attracted support from across the house and beyond. Former Conservative cabinet minister Michael Heseltine explained via the pages of The Spectator. "The Put it to the People march will give voice to the growing concern in the nation that Brexit is going horribly wrong," he wrote.

"A final defeat for the prime minister's deal should be the signal for MPs from across the political divide to work together to find first the political will and then the time and space to hold a People's Vote."

Scotland voted in favor of remain in the 2016 referendum and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will also attend the London march: "I'll be proud to speak at the @peoplesvote_uk march tomorrow," she wrote on Twitter. "Scotland voted to remain in 2016 but people across the UK must have the chance to get out of this Brexit mess. Whatever Scotland's future — I hope independent — it is in all of our interests for UK to be in the EU."

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A letter from the prime minister

For her part, the prime minister wrote to all MPs on Friday, offering talks with MPs and setting out the options for Brexit following her presentation to the European Council on Thursday. In her occasionally repetitive, and sometimes threatening three-page letter, she said it would be "wrong" to participate in European elections and that revoking Article 50 would be to "betray the result of the referendum."

Should her withdrawal agreement be presented to parliament and fail for a third time, then by April 12, "[the UK] would either leave with no deal or 'indicate a way forward before this date for consideration by the European Council," May wrote.

On Friday there were already reports of motions being tabled in the House of Commons on Monday for a series of indicative votes to be held on Wednesday, to whittle down options for a Brexit decision which would gain the support of a majority in the house.

jm/aw (Reuters, AP)

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