The government has sought to buy Theresa May more time to put together a workable Brexit deal by promising MPs another say by the end of the month, as business leaders said the process was now in the “emergency zone”. The communities secretary, James Brokenshire, said that if no finalised deal were put to the…
The government has sought to buyTheresa Maymore time to put together a workable Brexit deal by promising MPs another say by the end of the month, as business leaders said the process was now in the “emergency zone”.
The communities secretary,James Brokenshire, said that if no finalised deal were put to the Commons by 27 February, MPs would again be given an amendable motion to consider. This would give them the chance to block a no-deal departure or make other interventions.
Thursday had been billed as a crunch moment, when MPs would seek to take control, but those behind a series of amendments thatfailed topassat the end of Januaryhave said they want to delay againto give May full opportunity to talk further to the EU and consider Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit proposal.
Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Brokenshire said MPs should be assured this would not be their last opportunity to shape the process.
“If the meaningful vote has not happened, so in other words things have not concluded, then parliament would have that further opportunity by no later than February 27,” he said.
The announcement comes after the shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, used an interviewin the Sunday Timesto say Labour would table an amendment to force another meaningful vote on a deal before the end of this month.
Downing Street’s official position remains that a new deal will be presented to MPs as soon as possible, but the looming prospect of majorBrexitdecisions being taken little more than a month before departure has alarmed business leaders.
The head of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn, said the UK was “in the emergency zone of Brexit now” and that more delays could not just affect jobs and investment, but harm the UK as a business destination in the long term.
“We know that businesses are leaving the country, we know that businesses are making plans that would damage communities across the country,” she told Sky’s Sophie Ridge on Sunday show. “I think that the bigger thing that is going on is that there is also a real recalibration, if you like, of what the UK is like as a place to invest.”
May has yet to formally respond to Corbyn’s proposed Brexit solution, tabledby the Labour leader last week, which seeks five binding commitments, notably permanent membership of a customs union.
Fairbairn said firms would welcome plans that secured frictionless trade, access to services and the cross-border movement of staff. “Any deal that delivers along those lines will work for business,” she said. “The issue now is time, and we are heading towards that cliff edge, so we need that deal.”
It seems inconceivable, however, that Downing Street will accept Labour’s proposals, given that customs union membership – which would tie the UK in to EU trade deals with other countries rather than agreeing its own – is seen as unacceptable.
The chief secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss, hinted strongly that she would resign if a customs union was adopted. Asked on the Ridge show if this was happen, she said: “I want an independent trade policy. I think that’s incredibly important, so I don’t think we would command the support of parliament if we had such a policy. I absolutely do not think that should be our policy.”
Corbyn’s plan has agitated many pro-remainLabourMPs, who have argued it pushes away the idea of a second Brexit referendum, but two leading shadow ministers insisted on Sunday it was still an option.
Labour’s plan to push for such a vote if parliament was deadlocked had not changed, the party’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, told Marr: “John McDonnell said that this week,Keir Starmersaid it consistently, and I’m saying it today as well.”
The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, told Ridge this was the case, but that the chances of such a vote were “looking unlikely”.
Onenew cross-party planbeing hatched would be to guarantee May support in parliament for her revised plan in return for the PM agreeing to put it to a referendum, in which the other choice would be to remain in the EU.