Wednesday 19 June 2019

May's 'bold offer' on Brexit is rejected as 'retread' of ideas

Countdown: Clock is running on Theresa May’s tenure as UK prime minister. Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Countdown: Clock is running on Theresa May’s tenure as UK prime minister. Photo: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

Gordon Rayner, James Davey and David Young

Prime Minister Theresa May's final attempt to get a Brexit deal through the British parliament appeared doomed last night as a leaked document suggested it was nothing more than a "retread" of old ideas.

Mrs May claims she has a "bold offer" to put to MPs next month, but it is understood it contains nothing new on customs arrangements and retains the backstop.

To stand any chance of winning the vote, Mrs May must persuade Brexiteer Tory MPs who opposed her deal in the previous three votes to change their minds. However, leading Eurosceptics last night said there was "nothing new" to tempt them.

If Mrs May loses the vote in the first week of June, she will be expected to announce her resignation plans immediately and call a leadership election to find her replacement.

Boris Johnson, the favourite to replace Mrs May, is being given daily advice by Tory election guru Lynton Crosby, who helped Scott Morrison, Australia's prime minister, to a "miracle" win at the weekend.

In a sign of the dramatic demise of the Conservative Party, just 13pc of over-70s told a YouGov poll that they would vote Conservative. In the 2017 general election 69pc of over-70s backed them.

Talks collapsed: UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn ended discussions. Photo: Jeff Overs/BBC/Handout via REUTERS
Talks collapsed: UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn ended discussions. Photo: Jeff Overs/BBC/Handout via REUTERS

Mrs May announced yesterday that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, the legislation needed for Britain to leave the EU with a deal, would "represent a new, bold offer to MPs across the House of Commons, with an improved package of measures that I believe can win new support".

But a five-page summary sent to the Cabinet last week appeared to contain no new ideas. Instead, it promises to incorporate Tory MP Hugo Swire's January proposal to give parliament the final say on implementing the backstop as well as obliging the UK government to seek alternative arrangements to the backstop by the end of 2020.

Bill Cash, the Brexiteer Tory MP who has consistently voted against Mrs May's deal, said: "This is pretty cosmetic stuff. It will not have any effect on Leave-supporting MPs and in fact there are votes coming back to our side from people who backed the deal last time."

David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, said he would vote against the Bill to prevent MPs trying to pass amendments that would tie Britain into a customs union or a second referendum. A Whitehall source told the 'Daily Telegraph': "It is simply a retread of old ideas."

In an article in 'The Sunday Times', Mrs May wrote: "Whatever the outcome of any [indicative] votes, I will not be simply asking MPs to think again. Instead I will ask them to look at a new and improved deal with a fresh pair of eyes - and to give it their support.".

She said she still believed "there is a majority in parliament to be won for leaving with a deal".

Brexit talks between Mrs May's Conservatives and the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn collapsed on Friday, hours after the prime minister agreed to set out in early June a timetable for her departure.

Last night, Tánaiste Simon Coveney warned that, no matter who is the UK's next prime minister, the EU would not renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement. "The personality might change but the facts don't," he said.

Irish Independent

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