Theresa May agrees to water down key Brexit date pledge to avoid second Commons humiliation

Posted On: 
20th December 2017

Theresa May has agreed to water down a key Government pledge on the date of Brexit in order to avoid another humiliating Commons defeat. 

Theresa May faced MPs today in the final Prime Minister's Questions of the year
Credit: 
Sky News

The Prime Minister told MPs she will accept a new plan - put forward by former minister Sir Oliver Letwin - which will still include the UK’s exit date in legislation but also allow crucial room for manoeuvre.

It’s a significant climbdown after Mrs May announced just last month that a Government amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill would stamp the Brexit date of 29 March 2019 at 11pm on the face of the bill.

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She caved to pressure after threats of a fresh rebellion by Tory backbenchers who last week defeated the Government in their bid to secure a 'meaningful vote' on the final Brexit deal.

She told MPs at Prime Minister's Questions today: "We are going to leave on 29 March 2019. That is what we are working to.

"But we do want to make sure we have the same legal position as the EU and that is why amendment 400 [tabled by Sir Oliver] has been accepted."

The new amendment would allow MPs a vote on extending the Brexit negotiations at the last minute if more time is needed.

She added that any extension would only be used “in exceptional circumstances" and last for "the shortest possible time".

The concession comes after it emerged Brexit Minister Steve Baker had already put his name to Mr Letwin’s amendment.