Still not enough support to get Brexit deal through Commons, May admits

Prime Minister Theresa May has acknowledged that there is not enough support in the House of Commons for her to bring back her Brexit deal for a third "meaningful vote".

But Mrs May said she would continue her efforts to build support for the deal – defeated by 230 votes in January and 149 votes in March – and stage a vote before the end of the week.

The European Council has set a deadline of Friday for the PM to secure parliamentary approval for her Withdrawal Agreement if the UK is to leave the EU with a deal on May 22.

If she cannot get it through the Commons, then the UK has until April 12 to propose a different approach or crash out of the EU without a deal.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Mrs May said she regretted having to delay Brexit beyond the scheduled date of March 29.

But she cautioned MPs against seeking to obstruct a statutory instrument tabled on Monday which will remove the date from Brexit legislation, warning that this would "cause legal confusion and uncertainty but it would not have any effect on the date of our exit".

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MPs are expected later on Monday to debate and vote on a proposal to force a series of indicative votes on alternatives to her Withdrawal Agreement.

Defeat for the Government over the plan – tabled in an amendment by former ministers Sir Oliver Letwin and Dominic Grieve and Labour MP Hilary Benn – would be a further humiliation for Mrs May.

The proposal seeks to pave the way for a series of indicative votes in the Commons on Wednesday, effectively taking control of the Brexit process out of the hands of the Government.

But Mrs May made clear the Government will oppose the plan and will not regard the outcome of any votes as binding on it.

She said that ministers would provide their own mechanism for indicative votes to take place, but said she was "sceptical" of the process producing a useful outcome and would not promise to implement its results.

"No Government could give a blank cheque to commit to an outcome without knowing what it is," she told MPs.

"So I cannot commit the Government to delivering the outcome of any votes held by this House. But I do commit to engaging constructively with this process."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would back the Letwin amendment, declaring: "It is time for Parliament to take control."

Theresa May Brexit statement
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responds to Prime Minister Theresa May's statement on Brexit (PA)

But Mrs May told the Commons the proposal would set an unwelcome precedent which would "overturn the balance of our democratic institutions".

She said: "The Government will oppose this amendment this evening, but in order to fulfil our commitments to this House would seek to provide Government time in order for this process to proceed."

Setting out the choices facing MPs, Mrs May said: "Unless this House agrees to it, no deal will not happen.

"No Brexit must not happen.

"And a slow Brexit, which extends Article 50 beyond May 22, forces the British people to take part in European elections and gives up control of any of our borders, laws, money or trade, is not a Brexit that will bring the British people together."

She said her deal was a compromise which respected both sides of the argument and "if this House can back it, we can be out of the European Union in less than two months".

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