Friday 26 April 2019

MPs vote to seize control of Brexit as May suffers fresh humiliation

No-deal planning: New customs posts under construction at Dublin Port. Photo: PA Wire
No-deal planning: New customs posts under construction at Dublin Port. Photo: PA Wire

Gordon Rayner

British MPs have dramatically seized control of the Brexit agenda from Theresa May - potentially paving the way for a "softer" deal that keeps the UK closer to Brussels.

The Commons voted by 329 to 302 - a majority of 27 - for a cross-party amendment to enable MPs to stage a series of "indicative votes" tomorrow on alternatives to the prime minister's deal.

MPs will vote tomorrow on options such as staying in a customs union or single market, holding a second referendum or even revoking Article 50. The Prime Minister will be powerless to stop the votes going ahead, and if she tries to resist the outcome, Parliament could overrule her again by tabling its own Brexit Bill.

The result is another humiliation for Mrs May, who earlier warned MPs not to "overturn the balance of our democratic institutions" which means the Government normally controls business of the House.

She made clear she would not feel bound by the result of any indicative votes - which could include a "softer" Norway-style deal, or a second referendum. No government could give a blank cheque to commit to an outcome without knowing what it is," she said.

"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."

Mrs May yesterday said that a "slow Brexit" was the only alternative to her deal as she ignored calls from her cabinet to consider other plans.

She cancelled plans to hold a third "meaningful vote" on her Brexit deal today after admitting she did not have enough support to get it through parliament.

She infuriated Eurosceptic ministers by suggesting that a no-deal Brexit was no longer a viable outcome.

Mrs May promised MPs would be given time to debate alternatives to her Brexit deal later this week after Remain-supporting MPs called for the so-called "indicative votes" in the House of Commons to find what sort of plan might command a majority.

But she told the Remainers that she reserved the right to ignore parliament's recommendation because she could not sign a "blank cheque" over the future of Brexit.

Britain will leave the EU on May 22 if Mrs May's deal is passed by parliament before the end of this week.

But if the deal is not approved, the UK will leave without a deal on April 12 unless she asks the EU for a longer extension.

Her hopes of winning parliament's backing for her Brexit deal - already defeated twice by huge margins - appeared to be fading last night after the DUP, whose votes are seen as pivotal, said it still could not back it.

During an emergency cabinet meeting yesterday, Eurosceptic ministers rounded on the prime minister's dismissal of a no-deal Brexit as a third of the ministers present told her a no-deal exit was better than no Brexit at all.

Irish Independent

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