Theresa May accused of 'sinking into quicksand' over Brexit bills delay

Posted On: 
10th May 2018

Theresa May's government was accused of "sinking into quicksand" after it emerged its flagship Brexit bill may not return to the Commons until next month.

Theresa May's Brexit problems are mounting.
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PA Images

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom also refused to give any indication to MPs when ministers will bring forward the Trade Bill and Customs Bill, which are also tied to the UK leaving the European Union.

Setting out the Government's business for the next two weeks, Ms Leadsom would only say they would come before the Commons "in due course".

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But with Parliament due to rise on 24 May for a 10-day recess, it means the legislation will not be considered by MPs until the beginning of June at the earliest.

Critics said that was further proof that the Cabinet was bitterly divided over the best approach to Brexit, and that the Prime Minister fears her plans will be defeated when put to a vote in the Commons.

Mrs May has already suffered embarrassment after the House of Lords inflicted 14 defeats on the Government's over its EU Withdrawal Bill.

Rebel Tories have also threatened to join forces with Labour to amend the Trade Bill and Customs Bill to effectively keep the UK in the customs union and single market after Brexit.

A Downing Street spokesman denied that the Government was running scared, and insisted the key legislation would be passed in time for the UK leaving the EU next March.

But Labour MP Wes Streeting, of the People's Vote campaign for a second EU referendum, said: "The Government is sinking into the quicksand of Brexit, and the more they struggle, the deeper they sink.

"Key pieces of Brexit legislation have disappeared into a parliamentary black hole, with no indication of when they will re-emerge. The Government know they have no majority in Parliament for their hard Brexit plans, and they have no idea how to solve the Irish border question.

"The country is waiting for a plan, but all we are seeing is chaos. Brexit is turning into a shambolic mess that could not be further from what has been promised. That’s why need a People’s Vote on the terms of the final Brexit deal.”

Darren Jones, the Labour MP for Bristol North West and a supporter of the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, said: "The Government need to be getting on with this but instead they are just kicking the can down the road. It is a government without leadership.

"The Prime Minister should put her Brexit deal to the public if she believes she is right. At the moment her policies are just a blank sheet of paper and a warring Cabinet."

Mrs May's Brexit war Cabinet is due to meet again next Tuesday to assess whether any progress has been made on agreeing a new type of customs deal with the EU.

The Prime Minister's preferred option, a so-called 'customs partnership' which would see the UK collect tariffs on behalf of the EU, was dismissed as "crazy" earlier this week by Boris Johnson.