MPs attempt to force Theresa May to stop no-deal after she vows to seek delay
A cross-party group of senior MPs will attempt to force Theresa May to stop a no-deal Brexit by tabling legislation requiring the Prime Minister to delay Britain’s withdrawal beyond April 12.
Mrs May said on Tuesday that she would seek an extension beyond next week to allow talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn aimed at ensuring the UK leaves the European Union “in a timely and orderly way”.
But a group of MPs – including Conservative grandee Sir Oliver Letwin and Labour’s Yvette Cooper – aim to fully pass a Bill through the Commons on Wednesday to stop the UK crashing out of the EU.
The move comes after another dramatic day in Westminster saw Mrs May offer to hold talks with Mr Corbyn in an attempt to “break the logjam” – following MPs’ rejection of her Withdrawal Agreement three times and failure to back any of the alternative proposals considered so far.
Mr Corbyn said he would be “very happy” to meet the Prime Minister in a bid to offer “certainty and security” to the British people – but Tory Brexiteers reacted with fury.
Jacob Rees-Mogg described the offer as “deeply unsatisfactory” and accused Mrs May of planning to collaborate with “a known Marxist”.
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson said: “It is very disappointing that the Cabinet has decided to entrust the final handling of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.”
And Conservative MP Henry Smith said Mrs May represents a “monumental failure of British leadership, a betrayal of the majority who voted to leave the EU and Conservative Party membership” – and said he could not “countenance her Corbyn/Brexit process”.
The DUP said it “remains to be seen if sub-contracting out the future of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn, someone whom the Conservatives have demonised for four years, will end happily”.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he backed the talks with Labour because he wants to leave the EU.
He told BBC Two’s Newsnight: “One of my concerns has been that there are people within the House of Commons who want to frustrate that referendum mandate – there are people who want to do everything possible to prevent us leaving – and I wanted to ensure that minds are concentrated so that we do leave.”
Instead of initiating a third round of indicative votes on Wednesday, when Parliament once more has control over the Commons timetable, Sir Oliver will table a paving motion to allow debate and votes on Ms Cooper’s Bill. An amendment to his motion would set aside April 8 for indicative votes.
The single-clause Cooper Bill requires the Prime Minister to table her own motion seeking MPs’ approval for an extension to the Article 50 process of Brexit talks to a date of her choosing.
The group behind the Bill, which also includes former Tory chair Dame Caroline Spelman, Commons Brexit Committee chair Hilary Benn, former attorney general Dominic Grieve and Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb, hopes once it has passed the Commons it could be approved by the House of Lords and granted Royal Assent in time for the emergency EU summit on April 10.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the European Union will hold the first of a series of briefings on Brexit preparedness, while European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will speak about the UK’s withdrawal in Brussels.
If the European Council proposes an extension beyond May 22, it is understood that it would be possible for the UK to take the steps necessary to prepare for European Parliament elections on May 23, but then cancel them at the last minute if the withdrawal deal was ratified.
Following the mammoth Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, one source said ministers were split 14-10 against asking for a long extension to the Brexit process.
But a second Cabinet source said ministers spoke 17-4 in favour of the limited extension sought by the Prime Minister, with just Gavin Williamson, Penny Mordaunt, Chris Grayling and Liz Truss opposed to the measure.