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Theresa May tells MPs she might not hold third Brexit vote if not enough support for her deal

3 min read

Theresa May has told MPs that she may not bring her Brexit deal back to them for a third vote next week if there is not enough support for it.

In a direct letter to MPs after EU leaders agreed to a short Brexit delay, the Prime Minister said: "If it appears that there is not sufficient support to bring the deal back next week, or the House rejects it again, we can ask for another extension before 12 April."

And she sought to dampen down a row with MPs by making clear her "respect" for what they do - just days after appearing to blame them for the current deadlock.

The move comes after Brussels threw the Prime Minister a lifeline by agreeing to delay Brexit up to 22 May if MPs get behind her agreement.

But if the blueprint is rejected for a third time, the EU made clear Britain would only have until 12 April to set out its plans or leave without a deal.

Mrs May said MPs now faced four options - but warned that one of them, revoking Article 50 to cancel Brexit, would "betray the result of the referendum".

Others, she said, included leaving without a deal on 12 April, although the Prime Minister noted that MPs had "previously said this is not something it will support".

The third option laid out by Mrs May is to ask for another Article 50 extension - a move she pointed out would "involve holding European Parliament elections".

Finally, she added: "If it appears that there is sufficient support and the Speaker permits it, we can bring the deal back next week and if it is approved we can leave on 22 May."

The letter came hours after the DUP - who Mrs May relies on for her Commons majority - signalled it would again vote against her Brexit deal at any third attempt, and blasted the Prime Minister for a "disappointing and inexcusable" failure to stand up to EU leaders.

Mrs May also used the letter to try to defuse tensions which were ratcheted up earlier this week when she appeared to use a Downing Street statement to blame MPs for the delay to Brexit.

Striking a notably softer tone, the Prime Minister said: "I expressed my frustration with our failure to take a decision, but I know that many of you are frustrated too.

"You have a difficult job to do and it was not my intention to make it any more difficult. People on all sides of the debate hold passionate views and I respect those differences.

"I would like to thank all of those colleagues that have supported the deal so far and also those that have taken the time to meet me to discuss their concerns.

"I hope we can all agree that we are now at the moment of decision. If you would like to speak to me over the coming days as Parliament prepares to take momentous decisions, please contact my office."

Cabinet minister Greg Clark earlier made clear that the Commons would be allowed to vote on alternatives to Mrs May's deal if they vote it down at a third attempt - a move that has already caused anger among Brexiteers, who have accused the Prime Minister of ceding control to Remain-supporting members of the Government.

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