Labour backs three-month Brexit delay to avoid ‘deeply damaging’ no deal

Jeremy Corbyn has backed a three-month delay to Brexit in an effort to avoid crashing out of the European Union without a deal.

He confirmed Labour support for a plan tabled by senior backbencher Yvette Cooper which would result in the extension of Article 50 to keep the UK in the EU beyond the expected March 29 Brexit date.

Former Cabinet minister Ms Cooper’s plan has cross-party support, including from senior Tory Nick Boles, and would allow MPs to call for the delay if no deal had been approved by February 26.

It would allow for Brexit to be postponed until the end of the year – but Mr Corbyn said he wanted a shorter delay until the end of June.

The Prime Minister said that Ms Cooper’s plan would not succeed in ruling out a no-deal Brexit but merely “delays the point of decision”.

Theresa May also warned about the constitutional dangers of seeking to “usurp” the Government.

Labour had been cautious about officially throwing its weight behind the plan, with the party’s leadership nervous about alienating Leave-supporting voters in some of its heartlands.

But Mr Corbyn told the Commons: “The Labour Party will back that amendment tonight because to crash out without a deal would be deeply damaging for industry and economy.”

He added that he was “backing a short window of three months to allow time for renegotiation”.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the plan “will allow Parliament to fill the void of leadership left by the Prime Minister”.

Under Ms Cooper plan, the Commons would consider her European Union (Withdrawal) (No 3) Bill on February 5 ahead of any Government business.

The legislation would give MPs the chance to instruct Theresa May to seek an extension to Article 50 until the end of 2019 if she has not secured a deal by February 26.

Ms Cooper has insisted her Bill is not an attempt to prevent Brexit but it “gives Government and Parliament a chance to avert no deal in March if time has run out”.

Any extension to Article 50 would have to be approved by all 27 remaining EU states, something Mrs May cast doubt on.

Speaking in the Commons, the Prime Minister said Ms Cooper’s plan would “allow Parliament to usurp the proper role of the executive”.

“Such actions would be unprecedented and could have far-reaching and long-term implications for the way the UK is governed and for the balance of powers and responsibilities in our democratic institutions,” she said.

Ms Cooper’s plan would also not resolve the difficulties faced in getting any solution through Parliament – it “does not rule out no deal, it simply delays the point of decision”, she said.

Mrs May added: “The EU are very unlikely to agree to extend Article 50 without a credible plan for how we are going to approve a deal.”