May sets January date for Brexit vote

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MPs will vote on the UK’s Brexit deal in the week beginning 14 January, Theresa May has told Parliament.

The vote was due to be held last week but was put on hold after Theresa May admitted she was set to lose.

Announcing a new date, Mrs May said the EU had made it clear the Irish backstop was “not a plot to trap the UK” and urged MPs to see Brexit through.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would table a motion of no confidence in the PM for delaying the vote.

He told the Commons it was unacceptable that MPs would have to wait another month before having their say on Mrs May’s deal and the PM had “led the country into a national crisis”.

He said a month would have been wasted since the original 11 December vote was postponed, with “not a single word renegotiated and not a single reassurance given”.

“The deal is unchanged and is not going to change,” he said.

“The House must get on with the vote and move on to consider the realistic alternatives.”

Labour had threatened the confidence vote before Mrs May’s statement but its leader had initially appeared to have backed down from the move.

But the party confirmed it would now table a motion that “this house has no confidence in the prime minister due to her failure to allow the House of Commons to have a meaningful vote straight away on the Withdrawal Agreement and the Framework for the Future Relationship between the UK and the EU”.

The motion, which is likely to be tabled on Tuesday, will increase pressure on the prime minister.

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The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 – the deal sets out the terms of exit and includes a declaration on the outline of the future relations between the UK and the EU.

But it only comes into force if the UK and European parliaments approve it.

In a Commons statement, Mrs May said MPs would resume the debate on her Brexit deal – which was halted last week – in the week of 7 January with the “meaningful” vote taking place in the following week.

“It is now only just over 14 weeks until the UK leaves the EU and I know many members of this House are concerned that we need to take a decision soon,” she said.

She said she had won fresh guarantees at last week’s EU summit over measures to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and hoped to secure additional “political and legal assurances” in the coming weeks.

Earlier on Monday, an EU spokesman said it had provided the “clarifications” requested on the contentious issue of the Northern Ireland border backstop and “no further meetings were foreseen”.

During her statement, Mrs May faced calls from across the House for the vote to be held immediately.

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The SNP’s Ian Blackford said the government was a “laughing stock” and Parliament needed to “take control of the situation and find a solution”.

Former education secretary Justine Greening said Mrs May had led the UK down a “political cul-de-sac” and suggested criticising alternatives to her deal was “pointless” given the level of opposition to it among MPs.

“She now isn’t just not listening, she is not allowing debate,” she said.

Former cabinet ministers Dominic Raab and Esther McVey urged the PM to accelerate planning for a no deal exit while another, Andrew Mitchell, urged her to consider suspending the Brexit process to allow for further negotiations.

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But she won support from one “previously sceptical” Brexiteer, Sir Edward Leigh, who said her efforts to secure a legally-binding protocol on the Irish backstop might pay off, urging her to “keep calm and carry on”.

Earlier, No 10 said it had “no plans” for votes on other Brexit outcomes if the PM’s deal is rejected after it emerged David Cameron had given advice to his successor.

The BBC understands Mr Cameron has been in touch with Mrs May about how a series of “indicative votes” on various different Brexit outcomes could be handled if there was deadlock over the terms of the UK’s exit.

Potential “Plan B” options include:

The PM is coming under pressure from ministers to “test the will of Parliament” through a series of non-binding votes – which would see MPs pass judgement on the options available in the hope of identifying the most popular.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said he backed Mrs May’s deal but if Parliament was implacably opposed, it should be “invited to say what it would agree with”.

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“Businesses expect MPs to take responsibility rather than just be critics,” he told Radio 4’s Today.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd made the same point, saying “all options” should remain on the table and if the deal was rejected “let’s think about how we test the will of Parliament to find out where the majority is”

Calls for another referendum have grown in recent weeks amid signs a majority of MPs are opposed both to the deal on the table but also leaving the EU without any kind of agreement.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said a new referendum would be the “first opportunity for people to vote on the facts, not on the fantasy and the fabrication”.

But Mrs May said another vote would do “irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics” and not settle the issue.

“Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum,” she said.

“Another vote which would likely leave us no further forward than the last. And another vote which would further divide our country at the very moment we should be working to unite it.”

There were reports in the Sunday newspapers that two of Mrs May’s key allies were planning for another referendum, in the event that her deal cannot get MPs’ backing.

Both men – Downing Street chief of staff Gavin Barwell and Mrs May’s de facto deputy David Lidington – distanced themselves from the reports.

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Separately, more than 60 MPs from various parties have written to the PM urging her to rule out a no-deal Brexit, saying it would do “unnecessary economic damage” to manufacturers in their constituencies.

Speaking in the Commons, ex-minister Jonathan Djanogly said the UK was “haemorrhaging support and investment” while Oliver Heald said the EU’s “patronising” attitude to the UK betrayed a lack of urgency to prevent the disruption of a disorderly Brexit.

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