The day of reckoning… the darkest hour for democracy… one last chance…
The return to the Commons of the Brexit withdrawal agreement Theresa May negotiated with the EU inspires some dramatic front-page headlines on what the Daily Mail says was the day when the UK was supposed to become a “proud sovereign nation once more”.
Or, as the Daily Express puts it, the day Britain was to be “freed from the shackles of the EU”.
And several papers urge MPs to back the prime minister’s deal and deliver the result of the 2016 referendum.
“This is it. The final curtain. High noon. The last chance saloon,” reads a thunderous, full-page Daily Mail editorial.
MPs have one last opportunity to stop faith in democracy dying, it says: “Spurn this chance and we could move into a deep, dark place.”
For the Daily Express what was meant to be a day of “celebration and liberation” has become the “darkest hour for British politics” since King Charles I entered Parliament in 1642 and arrested four MPs.
The message from the Sun’s leader column is simple: “Don’t betray UK.”
Meanwhile, the paper’s front page urges the DUP and its leader Arlene Foster to “save Brexit”. The headline reads: “Come on Arlene!”
However, the Belfast Telegraph says that won’t happen because of the Unionists’ continuing unhappiness with the backstop – the “insurance policy” designed to avoid the return of customs posts on the Irish border.
It leaves Mrs May needing opposition support if the agreement is to pass, an “extremely unlikely” scenario, the Guardian suggests, because of Labour’s opposition to a “blindfold Brexit”.
According to the Times, Downing Street appears to know as much.
“For two hours it looked like we were finally getting there”, a No 10 source says ruefully, before the DUP made its announcement.
Downing Street sources have warned the Daily Telegraph defeat could trigger an immediate general election to break the current deadlock.
It’s a prospect the paper is sanguine about. It is time to let the deal die, its editorial says: “The Tories cannot legislate by chicanery, manipulating convention or repackaging motions.”
“Deadlocked Britain faces further year before Brexit” is the headline in the Times.
It reports that EU leaders are preparing to force Britain either to accept a delay lasting as long as 12 months or “crash out without agreement.”
BuzzFeed News has seen a diplomatic note from an ambassadors’ meeting which also says the UK will face that same “binary choice”.
The Guardian acknowledges the “unique symbolism” of Theresa May’s deal seemingly facing its final defeat on what was meant to be Brexit day.
Its significance is to demonstrate that the process once “jealously guarded as the exclusive property of the prime minister and Tory hardliners” has ended, and that parliament must now “look for another way”.
The Daily Mirror reflects bitterly on all that hasn’t been done while politicians have spent “two years arguing about Brexit”.
That time could have been used to improve our schools, mend our NHS and tackle social care, it argues, adding: “We pay for the PM’s delay.”
Away from Brexit
The Guardian reports on research into the most “dangerously unsupported” demographic – those aged 65 and above with no children. There are a million such people in the UK, a number that’s expected to double by 2030.
Campaigners tell the paper it’s a group which is very at risk of isolation, anxiety and poor health outcomes but is “hardly ever mentioned”.
The Mail, meanwhile, points out that couples in their 60s are fuelling a “silver marriage boom”.
Data from the ONS shows the number of older people marrying has doubled since the millennium, at the same time as the marriage rate among men and women in their 20s and 30s has fallen.
A relationship counsellor welcomes the figures but points out those aged 50 and above are also the most likely to get divorced.
The business papers analyse the $24bn dollar valuation given to the taxi-hailing app, Lyft, ahead of its flotation on the stock market.
The Wall Street Journal says it’s a “remarkable turnaround” for a firm which many considered “doomed” because of its “cut-throat” battle with its rival, Uber.
The listing has “raised eyebrows” among analysts, London’s City AM suggests, given that Lyft’s never come close to making a profit.
“This is one gravy train I won’t be jumping aboard,” one of them tells the paper.
Riding a gravy train was exactly the accusation levelled at the former vice-chancellor of Bath University, Dame Glynis Breakwell, who – the Times reminds readers – was forced to resign after it was revealed she received a £470,000 pay package.
Now students are protesting again after it emerged the university paid a further £16,000 for a portrait of a woman they’d once pelted with fig rolls and shortbread after discovering she’d claimed £2 on expenses for a packet of biscuits.
The university says a normal procurement process was conducted, though the Times notes out the oil painting has now “mysteriously disappeared”.