Theresa May 'set to delay second Commons vote on her Brexit deal' as she pleads with EU
Theresa May is preparing to delay the second Commons vote on her Brexit deal until the end of the month as she races to secure changes from the European Union, it has been reported.
The Prime Minister will head to Brussels today to urge European leaders to grant a series of changes to the controversial backstop plan to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.
But, according to the Telegraph, chief whip Julian Smith has already indicated that the second so-called "meaningful vote" on her deal will not take place until the week of 25 February - barely a month before the UK's planned exit date of 29 March.
Such a move would likely increase calls for the UK to seek an extension to Article 50 in order to avoid a no-deal departure.
Labour on Wednesday dropped the clearest hint yet it would back such a move, with Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry saying a "sensible" extension was required.
The Prime Minister's deal was rejected by MPs last month as she suffered the largest House of Commons defeat on record.
Ministers shelved a scheduled Parliamentary recess due to start next week in anticipation of significant votes on her deal.
But a minister told the Telegraph that Mrs May was likely to need more time to try and persuade the EU to allow changes to the Northern Ireland backstop, a key demand of her Eurosceptic backbenchers.
"We are not there yet with the negotiation," the minister said. "From the EU's point of view, it hasn't even started. Theresa May has not yet gone to Brussels."
However, Mr Smith is also said to have warned colleagues that Commons Speaker John Bercow could try to force the vote to be held sooner.
MPs are meanwhile still expected to hold a fresh round of non-binding votes next week on amendments spelling out their own Brexit demands.
'SPECIAL PLACE IN HELL'
The report came as Mrs May prepared to hold talks with Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission as well Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament.
She will also sit down with European Council chief Donald Tusk, who stunned Westminster on Wednesday when he said there is a “special place in hell” for Brexiteers who pushed for Britain to quit the EU without a plan for how to do so.
In a sign the pair could be in line for a frosty meeting today, a spokesman for Downing Street said: "It's a question for Donald Tusk as to whether he considers the use of that type of language to be helpful and I appreciate that was difficult this morning as he didn't take any questions."
He added: “We had a robust and lively referendum campaign in this country in what was the largest democratic exercise in our history.
"People voted to leave the European Union and what everybody should be focused on now is delivering on the verdict of the British people soo we can leave the EU in an orderly way and with a deal that is in the best interests of the UK and the European Union.”