Monday 21 January 2019

British MPs urged 'to work together' to prevent no-deal Brexit, as May's plan facing defeat in crunch vote

  • British MPs embark on second day of the resumed debate on Theresa May's Brexit deal
  • Widespread expectation that the government is heading for a defeat in Tuesday's crunch vote
  • UK Business Secretary calls on MPs to work together to prevent no-deal Brexit
Uphill battle: UK Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street for the House of Commons to face Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday. Photo: PA
Uphill battle: UK Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street for the House of Commons to face Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday. Photo: PA
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May pictured during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. Photo: HO / UK PARLIAMENT / AFP
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A senior UK government minister has urged British MPs to work together to prevent the "disaster" of a no-deal Brexit.

UK Business Secretary Greg Clark said that after the government suffered two Commons defeats over its Brexit plans in the space of 24 hours, it was clear that there was no majority for leaving the EU without an agreement.

As MPs prepared to embark on the second day of the resumed debate on Theresa May's Brexit deal, Mr Clark said he would support a series of "indicative votes" to establish what sort of agreement could command a majority in the House.

"It is my strong view that we need to come together. We need to act to avoid a no-deal because I don't think there is anything remotely like a majority in Parliament that will tolerate this," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

His call came as Nick Timothy - who was formerly one of Mrs May's closest advisers - said that he did not believe the British Prime Minister would "willingly" allow a no-deal Brexit.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he said: "No 10 is trying to give the impression that no deal remains possible but, after many years of knowing the Prime Minister, I do not believe that she would willingly take Britain out of the EU without a deal."

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May pictured during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. Photo: HO / UK PARLIAMENT / AFP
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May pictured during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. Photo: HO / UK PARLIAMENT / AFP

Mr Clark's intervention comes amid a widespread expectation at Westminster that the government is heading for a defeat in Tuesday's crunch vote on the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with Brussels.

In the Commons on Wednesday, the Prime Minister refused a call from Jeremy Corbyn to take the prospect of a no-deal break off the table.

However, with no apparent majority for any of the mooted alternatives to Mrs May's plan, Mr Clark warned there was a danger the country could "fall into" a no-deal unless MPs came together to agree a way forward.

"The default is in law that unless we have a deal, then we will fall into no-deal," he said.

"What Parliament needs to do is recognise that we need to put differences aside and establish agreement on a deal. It is something that has to involve the whole of Parliament."

He suggested there could be a series of "indicative votes" on the various alternative proposals which had been discussed to see if any could command a majority.

Some ministers believe that such an approach could see Mrs May's plan - or something close to it - emerge as the only viable way forward.

Mr Clark said: "I have said in public and in discussions that to establish what Parliament wants and what Parliament supports can be a useful step.

"You need, it seems to me, to move from Parliament being just a scrutineer, but to be active participants and that means discovering Parliament's mind."

Mr Clark is widely seen, along with Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, as one of the senior ministers most strongly opposed to a no-deal.

Asked if he would resign rather than see a no-deal, he said: "I would always work and fight to make sure that the policy of the government is to have a good deal, to avoid what I think would be a disaster which would be no-deal."

Press Association

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