Hardline Brexit supporters are threatening to inflict yet another Commons defeat on Theresa May over their fears the government is effectively ruling out leaving the EU with no deal. Members of the European Research Group are unhappy with the wording of a No 10 motion because it endorses parliament’s vote against any Brexit without a…
Hardline Brexit supporters are threatening to inflict yet another Commons defeat onTheresa Mayover their fears the government is effectively ruling out leaving the EU with no deal.
Members of the European Research Group are unhappy with the wording of a No 10 motion because it endorses parliament’s vote against anyBrexitwithout a withdrawal agreement.
The motion for debate on Thursday simply affirms “the approach to leaving the EU” backed by the Commons on 29 January, when an amendment was passed in favour of an attempt to replace the Northern Ireland backstop with “alternative arrangements”.
The motion was thought to be fairly uncontroversial until pro-Brexit supporters realised it also encompassed a second amendment passed on that day, which ruled out a no-deal Brexit. The amendment, tabled by Dame Caroline Spelman, “rejects the United Kingdom leaving theEuropean Unionwithout a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship”.
The ERG group, led by arch Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg, is planning either to vote against or abstain on Thursday’s government motion, potentially causing another embarrassing parliamentary loss for the prime minister.
An ERG MP said many of its members were “not minded to support such a clumsily worded motion” that effectively ruled out a no-deal Brexit. The group was due to meet later on Wednesday afternoon.
Mark Francois, vice-chair of the ERG, told the BBC: “We cannot vote for this as it is currently configured because it rules out no deal and removes our negotiating leverage in Brussels. The prime minister, if she went through the lobbies for this tomorrow night, would be voting against the guarantees she has given in the Commons for months [that no-deal remains an option]. It is madness.”
No 10 insisted that May was still leaving open the possibility of Brexit without a deal but could not explain how this was compatible with parliament’s support for the Spelman amendment.
The prime minister’s spokesman said: “What MPs are voting for is in line with government policy which is to leave the EU with a deal and to secure the changes that we need to allow the house to support that. But if you’re asking me whether no deal remains on the table, the answer is yes.”
It comes at a time when hard-Brexit supporters are already furious about comments from Oliver Robbins, the government’s chief negotiator, suggesting No 10 intends to bounce them into support for May’s deal by threatening a longer transition period as the only alternative.
Robbins was overheard outlining the strategy in a Brussels bar by an ITV reporter. He suggested parliament would rule out no deal and therefore MPs would be faced with a stark choice between accepting May’s withdrawal agreement or a long delay to Brexit.
Theresa May and her Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, played down the remarks but neither ruled out the possibility of applying for an extension of article 50, meaning the UK would not leave the EU on 29 March after all.