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Mon, 28 September 2020

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Brexit Secretary drops fresh hint that MPs could vote on Boris Johnson's Brexit plan before EU talks

Brexit Secretary drops fresh hint that MPs could vote on Boris Johnson's Brexit plan before EU talks
4 min read

MPs could be offered a vote on Boris Johnson's latest EU plans ahead of crunch talks later this month, the Brexit Secretary has said.

Stephen Barclay said the Government was "considering" giving MPs a vote on the latest Brexit offering - in order to meet the "two tests" set out by the EU.

The European Council summit is currently slated to take place on 17 October, and comes after Mr Johnson unveiled his latest bid to replace the EU deal's Irish backstop and strike an agreement.

Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, Mr Barclay refused to rule out a vote on the plans ahead of that meeting.

And he suggested that there could be further changes to the proposals before MPs would be asked to approve the text.

"The Prime Minister was asked this question by Frank Field in the House of Commons this week on Thursday and he said he would consider that and decide in due course," Mr Barclay said.

And he added: "We will consider it."

The Prime Minister, who has likened his Brexit proposal to "jumping to the island in the middle of the river", has warned EU leaders he is still be prepared to walk away without a deal on 31 October if they refuse to compromise.

But Mr Barclay said there were still "intensive negotiations" to be had between EU and UK officials on the terms of any deal.

"There are usually two tests put to me by the EU," he said. 

"The first is whether we can agree a deal. The second is whether that deal is deliverable in the House of Commons.

"The key issue is to address what the deal itself is, and in order to nail that down we need to get into the intensive negotations with the Commission... and across government we are ready to do that.

"But we do need to get into the intensive discussions on the text to clarify what the deal is, because until we know what that deal is - and we've set out the broad landing zone - then we can't even get into the question of having discussions in Parliament."

Meanwhile, Mr Barclay made clear that the Government was continuing to try and convince Labour MPs in Leave-backing constituencies to support any EU deal that comes before the Commons for a vote.

"We are speaking to Members of Parliament from across the House because I think many Members of Parliament want to avoid no-deal, in particular those MPs with Leave constituencies who have voted against no-deal, have voted against a deal three times, then they will need to address that when they return to their electorate," he added.

But in a fresh blow for Mr Johnson's hopes of receiving Commons backing, Labour MP Lisa Nandy - who represents the heavily Leave-supporting seat of Wigan - made clear that she was not on board with his proposals.

Speaking on Sky News' Ridge on Sunday, Ms Nandy said: “What we've got is a proposal which stands virtually no chance of being accepted by the EU which creates two borders on the island of Ireland which is completely incompatible with existing international law and which rips up the workers' rights and protections and the environmental protections that we spent several months at the start of this year negotiating with the former Prime Minister [Theresa May].”


Elsewhere, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick insisted Mr Johnson would not move to delay Brexit, as he revealed that ministers had "no plan" for what they would do if Parliament thwarted attempts to leave the EU on 31 October.

"This government has no intention of extending Article 50," he told Sky's Ridge on Sunday.

"Boris Johnson and this government will do absolutely everything in our power to deliver Brexit on October 31st but we have no plan as to what might happen if Parliament doesn’t allow us to get Brexit done.

"That's the sole purpose of the Government, at the moment."

And he called for EU leaders to engage with the new Irish backstop-replacement propsals, saying it would be "extremely disappointing" if they rejected the plans.

He added: "They would be quite wrong if they think that by rejecting these proposals that we would change tack, offer soemthing materially different from what we have put forward here.

"We have put forward something that does represent a very significant compromise and we want them to engage in turn."

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