WATCH: Theresa May insists crunch Commons Brexit vote will not be delayed again

Posted On: 
6th January 2019

The crucial House of Commons vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal will not be delayed again, the Prime Minister has insisted.

Theresa May said the vote would go ahead as planned in the week of January 14.
Credit: 
BBC

Amid reports that Downing Street could again postpone the parliamentary showdown - which was pulled from its original slot before Christmas in the face of overwhelming opposition - Mrs May said it would not slip further.

But she repeatedly refused to rule out asking MPs to vote again on the deal if they end up rejecting it.

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The Sunday Telegraph today reported that Downing Street could seek to amend the so-called meaningful vote to make clear that MPs' final approval of the deal would be conditional on the UK getting further concessions from the EU on the Northern Ireland backstop.

The move would be designed to buy Number 10 more time to secure changes from European leaders.

But asked whether the vote would go ahead as planned on the week of January 14 in an interview with the BBC's Andrew Marr, the Prime Minister said: "Yes. We are going to hold the vote."

She added: "The debate starts next week and the debate will carry on into the following week. But we will be holding the vote."

Asked to confirm it would take place around the 14th or 15th of January, the PM said: "That sort of timing, yes."

The insistence the vote will go ahead could raise eyebrows in Westminster, however, as a string of Cabinet ministers toured the airwaves giving similar assurances just days before the December vote was yanked.

'THIS IS THE DEAL ON THE TABLE'

Elsewhere in her interview, the Prime Minister refused three times to rule out bringing the deal back to the House of Commons if she fails to win the backing of MPs the first time around.

And she said rejecting the agreement - which Brexiteers and the DUP have argued risks leaving UK indefinitely bound to EU rules - would leave the country in "uncharted territory".

Asked whether MPs could be asked to vote again if they reject her deal, Mrs May would only say: "Look the European Union's made clear that this is the deal that is on the table. There are further assurances we're seeking from them in relation to the specific issues and concerns that members of parliament have."

Pressed again, she said: "Look. I'm working on getting this vote through parliament."

And, asked for a third time whether Number 10 would push for a fresh Commons vote on the deal if MPs reject it, the Prime Minister replied: "The deal is on the table."

With a fresh House of Commons debate on the EU agreement kicking off next week, Mrs May said she would be trying to win MPs around with a series of "assurances", including "specific" guarantees on Northern Ireland; a "greater role for parliament"; and "further assurances from the European Union.

But she admitted Number 10 was "still working on" convincing European leaders to give ground on Britain's call for a clear way to exit the backstop, which will see the UK join a customs unions with the EU if future trade talks do not produce a way to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.

In a direct message to those MPs thinking about voting against her deal, the PM said: "If the deal is not voted on at this vote that's coming up then actually we're going to be in uncharted territory. I don't think anybody can say exactly what will happen in terms of the reaction we'll see in Parliament."

And she added: "What we have in the House of Commons is a Labour leadership and Labour Party that is playing politics with this, that is opposing any deal in order to create... the greatest chaos that they can.

'We've got people who are promoting a second referendum in order to stop Brexit. And you've got people who want to see their perfect Brexit. And I would say: don't let the search for the perfect become the enemy of the good."

BID TO BLOCK NO-DEAL

The PM's interview came as a cross-party group of MPs teamed up in a bid to make it harder for the UK to leave the European Union without a deal.

An amendment to the Finance Bill, due to be discussed on January 8, would stop the Treasury from using emergency spending powers in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

It says that a no-deal spending would only be possible if leaving the bloc without an agreement has "been approved by a resolution of the House of Commons on a motion moved by a Minister of the Crown" or MPs have extended Article 50, which triggers Britain's exit from the EU and is due to expire in March this year.

The amendment is signed by senior MPs including Labour's Yvette Cooper, Hilary Benn, Rachel Reeves, Harriet Harman and David Hanson, as well as top Tories Nicky Morgan, Sir Oliver Letwin, Nick Boles and Sarah Wollaston. Independent MP Frank Field has also put his name to the bid.

Launching the move, Home Affairs Committee chair Yvette Cooper said: "The risks to our economy and security from 'no-deal' are far too high and it would be irresponsible to allow it to happen.

"I do not believe Parliament would support 'no deal' and Ministers should rule it out now.

"Time is running out and this is too serious for brinkmanship. Parliament needs to make sure there are opportunities to stop the country reaching the cliff edge by accident.

"This amendment helps to do just that.

Treasury Committee chair and Conservative former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan meanwhile said: "Many of us have been clear that Parliament will not allow a 'no-deal' situation to unfold, and with less than 12 weeks to go until 29 March it is time for Parliament to show our opposition to a 'no-deal' exit."