London Downing Street has described as “deeply concerning” a reported plot by lawmakers to take control of Brexit negotiations from UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
“Any attempt to remove the government’s power to meet the legal conditions of an orderly exit at this moment of historic significance is extremely concerning,” a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said.
“The British public voted to leave the European Union and it is vital that elected politicians deliver upon that verdict.”
The spokesperson warned: “This news should serve as a reminder to those MPs who want to deliver Brexit that they need to vote for it — otherwise there is a danger that Parliament could stop Brexit.”
An influential cross-party group of MPs was moving to wrest the initiative over the Brexit process and were planning to introduce legislation on Monday that would scupper the government’s Withdrawal Bill and block a “no-deal” Brexit.
The word in the Westminster corridors Friday was that an unprecedented cross-party “insurgency” of MPs was gaining strength.
The government’s “Plan B” — which is due to be set out on Monday and debated in the House of Commons the following week — would be rendered null and void if the MPs legislation were passed.
May’s spokesperson said the Prime Minister was due to have a conference call with her Cabinet Sunday afternoon.
MPs ‘are trying to sort out May’s mess’
Among the MPs behind the measure are the Conservative Nick Boles and Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn.
However on Sunday Benn, who chairs the Commons Brexit committee, denied reports that MPs were “plotters,” telling BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show that politicians were merely “doing their job.”
“MPs doing their job are not plotters, they are trying to sort out the mess the Prime Minister has created,” Benn said.
The Prime Minister’s original Brexit deal was shot down by a historic margin of 230 votes last week, with 118 MPs from her own party voting against it.
And despite May being due to return to Parliament on Monday to present a revised plan, it’s hard to see what concessions or amendments she could propose that would erode that huge majority against her.
Benn told Marr that May’s “mind appears to be completely closed” to compromising on her deal.
The Sunday Times reported that Conservative lawmaker former attorney-general, Dominic Grieve was planning to introduce a measure to suspend the article 50 process (the mechanism by which a member state leaves the EU), in leaked emails obtained by the newspaper. As things stand, Britain’s Article 50 period expires on March 29.
The newspaper reported that Grieve had secret exchanges with a Commons clerks via email whereby they discussed how legislation for such a suspension could be crafted.
‘Hijacking’ the Brexit process
Meanwhile, Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC Sunday that MPs have no right to “hijack the Brexit process.”
“What we are now getting are some of those who were always absolutely opposed to the result of the referendum trying to hijack Brexit and in effect steal the result from the people,” Fox said.
However, Fox acknowledged that in order to try and attract support for her deal, May would need to make some compromise on the backstop — a controversial insurance policy created to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
“The question is how we find a way to do that … it’s getting an agreement with Ireland for an alternative mechanism ensuring we don’t get friction across the Northern Ireland and Ireland border,” Fox said.
May has been “clear on the principles guiding negotiations on Brexit,” a Downing Street spokesperson reiterated on Sunday.
The spokesperson added: “We want a smooth and orderly Brexit with a deal that protects our union, gives us control of our borders, laws, and money and means we have an independent trade policy.”