Brexit Secretary denies Theresa May could shelve Commons vote for last-ditch talks with Brussels

Posted On: 
9th December 2018

Theresa May will not head back to Brussels to demand changes to her EU deal or delay this week's crunch Commons vote to stave off a defeat, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has insisted.

Stephen Barclay also refused to shut down claims MPs could be forced to stay in Westminster over Christmas if they reject Mrs May's Brexit deal.

Amid reports the Prime Minister could mount a last-ditch effort to get Brussels to tweak the agreement, potentially postponing this week’s vote by MPs, Stephen Barclay said: "The vote is going ahead.”

According to the Sunday Times, Mrs May has been persuaded by aides and ministers to reopen talks and seek changes to the controversial Northern Ireland backstop element of the agreement.

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The paper said an announcement could come on Monday, just a day before Mrs May endures a crucial Commons vote she is widely expected to lose.

She faces a widespread rebellion by her own MPs, as well as the Democratic Unionist Party whose support she relies on. 

But Mr Barclay pushed back at claims Mrs May would seek fresh talks in a bid to stave off a Commons bruising.

Asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr whether the Prime Minister would head to Brussels either this week or next week to try to tweak the deal, he said: “No.”

The Brexit Secretary added: “The vote is on Tuesday. That is what we're focused on. 

“I mean, the Prime Minister will go to the December [EU] Council on Thursday as has always been the case. But that has a full agenda. 

“But the vote is on Tuesday - that is what we are focused on.”

Elsewhere the top Cabinet minister - who took on the job following the dramatic resignation of his predecessor Dominic Raab - urged MPs to vote for a deal that “delivers” on the 2016 Brexit vote and said Mrs May could “absolutely” stay on as Prime Minister after a Commons defeat.

But Mr Barclay refused to hose down speculation that MPs could be forced to stay in Westminster over Christmas to hear ministers set out their plans if Mrs May’s deal is killed off.

The Brexit Secretary added: “Now, there's a process that would then follow in terms of the Government would need to come back within 21 days, calendar days, with a statement.

There'd be then a further seven days, sitting days, in terms of bringing forward a motion. So there's a process that would follow.”

Asked whether that could include Parliament sitting on Christmas Day, Mr Barclay said: "I saw those stories - but the point that you're alluding to is if the deal doesn't go through we will enter uncharted waters and a period of uncertainty.”