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Theresa May pledges to enshrine EU withdrawal date in law to 'stop Brexit rebels'

Agnes Chambre

3 min read

Theresa May has pledged today she will enshrine the Brexit date in law, in a bid to stop MPs trying to “block” leaving the EU.

Last night, the Government tabled an amendment which commits Britain to leaving at 11pm on 29 March next year.

Mrs May urged parties to “come together” over Brexit bill but warned against any Remain-supporting MPs to use the legislation to slow down exit from the EU. 

The amendment would force any pro-European MPs to come out publicly against the bill in March 2019. 

It would also prevent any Tory MPs from siding with opposition parties in trying to vote down the final Brexit deal.

The move comes follows a tumultuous eight days for Mrs May in which she has lost two Cabinet ministers, Priti Patel and Michael Fallon. 

The Government has also been rocked after a gaffe by Boris Johnson left British national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe at risk of serving five more years in an Iranian jail.

Damian Green, the Prime Minister's de facto deputy, is also under investigation over claims he sexually harassed a female journalist, and that pornography was found on his work computer during a police raid in 2008. He denies both allegations.

On top of this, Brexit negotiations appear to remain deadlocked following the sixth round of talks this week. 

Writing in today's Daily Telegraph, Mrs May said: "We will not tolerate attempts from any quarter to use the process of amendments to this Bill as a mechanism to try to block the democratic wishes of the British people by attempting to slow down or stop our departure from the European Union.

"The British people have been clear. Parliament itself voted for Article 50 - and for this Bill at its Second Reading. We are leaving the European Union on 29th March 2019."

She added:  "Let no-one doubt our determination or question our resolve, Brexit is happening. 

"It will be there in black and white on the front page of this historic piece of legislation. The EU Withdrawal Bill is the single most significant piece of legislation in this Parliament because it is fundamental to delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit."

Brexit Secretary David Davis added: “Our amendment makes it crystal clear that the UK is leaving the EU at 11pm on March 29 2019.

"We've listened to members of the public and Parliament and have made this change to remove any confusion or concern about what 'exit day' means." 

Open Britain, a pro European think tank, said the move looked like “window dressing” from a “desperate Government”. 

Spokesman James McGrory said: “Though it is positive that Ministers will not be able to unilaterally decide the day we leave the EU, the Withdrawal Bill is full of further hidden nasties that must be similarly dealt with for the House of Commons to even consider passing it.

“This makes it all the more important that the British people can keep an open mind about Brexit, and that Ministers acknowledge that Article 50 can be withdrawn, and that the option for the public to make a choice at the end of this process remains.

“This looks like window dressing from a Government desperate to look like they are making progress on Brexit while the negotiations remain firmly stuck in the mud.”

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