Theresa May has pushed back a meaningful vote on the government’s Brexit deal, in a bid to buy a bit of extra time to secure concessions from the EU that she hopes will win over wavering MPs.
Speaking en route to the first ever Arab-European summit in Egypt, the prime minister said she would bring her deal back to Parliament for a second time by 12 March, a mere 17 days before the UK is set to leave the EU.
With no meaningful vote this week, MPs will instead vote on a series of amendments that could delay Brexit and effectively rule out the possibility of the UK crashing out without a deal.
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Politico’s Charlie Cooper says “the date 12 March does not appear to be arbitrary”.
Under Labour MP Yvette Cooper’s plan to give parliament the power to force a Brexit delay, 13 March is the deadline by which, if the government has not ratified its Brexit deal, it must allow MPs to either vote for a no-deal Brexit, or for an extension of Article 50.
“What are the chances that May calls the vote on 12 March itself, giving Brexiteers an ultimatum: get behind my deal or, the very next day, see the UK’s departure delayed?” Cooper writes.
However, the move “will deepen splits in the cabinet”, says The Guardian.
The Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd, is one of three cabinet ministers who have publicly threatened to defy the prime minister by backing an effort to force the government to extend article 50 if no deal is agreed by mid-March.
Over the weekend, she, along with the Justice Secretary David Gauke and Business Secretary Greg Clark published a joint statement warning about the risks of a no deal Brexit.
It triggered calls from Brexiteers for the trio to resign or be forced to stand down, however The Daily Telegraph says “May refused to say whether the Cabinet ministers should be reprimanded in any way for saying they plan to rebel against the government – and did not refute suggestions they have become unsackable”.
She will have been boosted by a new poll for the Mail on Sunday which suggests the Tories would win a 34-seat majority if a general election were held today.
After a week of drama in which both of the main parties lost MPs to the new Independent Group, the poll puts the Conservatives on 39% and Labour on 31%.
Behind them come The Independent Group (TIG) on 11%, with the Liberal Democrats on 5% and Ukip on 4%.
“However, the picture changes dramatically upon voters being asked about their preferences if Jeremy Corbyn was no longer Labour leader,” says the Mail.
Without him the opposition would take 40% of the vote, a 3% lead over the Conservatives and enough to make them the largest party in a hung parliament.
Labour has condemned May's decision to postpone the meaningful vote, with shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer calling the delay the “height of irresponsibility”.
It comes as senior figures in the party have indicated it was moving closer to supporting another Brexit referendum “and could do so as soon as early as this week”, reports Reuters.
When asked whether this would be the week Labour comes out in support of a second public vote, the party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, told the BBC: “It might be... We are getting closer to that point.”
Meanwhile shadow chancellor John McDonnell told Pienaar’s Politics: “We’ve said to break the deadlock we’re going to have to now start thinking about moving towards a public vote... that will mean amendments coming up over this week.”
Another amendment has been tabled for Wednesday by Labour backbenchers Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, which if passed would see the party back May’s deal as long as it was put to a public vote.
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