Theresa May denies key Brexit vote will be delayed again
Prime Minister hints MPs could vote multiple times on withdrawal agreement if it is rejected next week
Theresa May has insisted the crunch Commons vote on her Brexit withdrawal deal will go ahead next week as planned, but hinted she could force MPs to vote multiple times if it is rejected as expected.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, the prime minister confirmed the vote would take place on 15 January or “that sort of timing”, but repeatedly refused to rule out bringing back the vote “again and again and again” to get it through.
In a bid to pressure MPs into supporting her deal, May used an article in the Mail on Sunday to issue a patriotic rallying cry, telling her opponents that they “must realise the risks they are running with our democracy”.
In a not-so-veiled threat she also warned that MPs thinking of voting her deal down should consider the effect on “the jobs our constituents rely on to put food on the table for their families”.
The Guardian says it comes “amid growing speculation that it could be delayed”, having already been pushed back once from December after it became clear May would suffer a humiliating parliamentary defeat.
The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday that “aides are believed to be drawing up a plan to make MPs' approval of the deal conditional on the European Union providing further concessions”.
“The move is intended to help limit the scale of opposition to the vote, while buying time amid ongoing negotiations with European Union leaders,” the paper adds.
The Mail on Sunday’s Harry Cole writes that Tory whips are plotting a backup plan which would see a backbench amendment forcing the government to delay the vote to allow more time for negotiations with Brussels.
Yet despite her promise to push ahead with the vote, “strikingly, May appeared unable to point to any significant progress in persuading the EU to give ground on the Irish border backstop, since last month”, says The Independent.
In her last-minute pitch to win a no-confidence vote last December, the prime minister vowed to secure a new “legally binding” power for the UK to break free of the backstop, if implemented.
But when grilled by Marr, she said she was still seeking “further assurances from the EU on the issues raised”, as well as on how to give parliament a stronger role over future trade negotiations.
There is also little sign that she has won over wavering Tory MPs, or that the Christmas break has dramatically changed the parliamentary arithmetic.
Tory Brexiteers argue that, far from softening in their opposition to the withdrawal agreement, opposition has actually cemented over the holidays, with party members using festive social events to convey their scathing view of the prime minister’s exit terms.
Reuters reports that “May’s inability so far to get her deal for a managed exit through parliament has alarmed business leaders and investors who fear the country is heading for a damaging no-deal Brexit”.
Britain is set to crash out of the EU on 29 March without a deal, unless legislation is passed by the House of Commons.
With reports the prime minister is set to “take personal charge of no deal planning”, Tim Shipman in The Sunday Times writes that “an all-party group of senior MPs will launch an audacious attempt to derail a no-deal Brexit this week by starving the government of cash and creating a Donald Trump-style shutdown”.
The paper reports that MPs will vote on Tuesday on two amendments to the Finance Bill “that would lead to a gridlock in Whitehall unless Theresa May wins approval from parliament for a deal with Brussels”.
This would effectively rob the Treasury of its no-deal powers if minister pressed ahead without the support of MPs, something two members of May’s team have admitted could lead to “total paralysis” at the top of government.