MPs could get just 90 minutes to debate Theresa May's alternative Brexit plan if they reject her deal

Posted On: 
10th January 2019

MPs could be given just 90 minutes to debate Theresa May's alternative Brexit plan if the deal she has struck with Brussels is defeated next week.

MPs will vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal next Tuesday.
PA Images

In a move sure to infuriate politicians across the Brexit divide, Downing Street said that according to their legal experts, no more time needs to be allotted for the crunch debate.

And only one amendment to the motion will be chosen, in a move likely to anger MPs and senior ministers, who believe there should be a series of so-called "indicative votes" to find out what Brexit plan the Commons can possibly support.

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But in a sign of the ongoing chaos at the top of government, Chief Whip Julian Smith later contradicted No 10 to say MPs would be consulted on the length of the debate, meaning they could be given more time.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said the 90-minute timescale was "contemptible" and that MPs would not stand for it.

The latest row follows MPs' decision yesterday to back an amendment by Tory MP Dominic Grieve giving the Prime Minister three sitting days to come back with a new plan if her deal is voted down next Tuesday night.

With Parliament not sitting next Friday, that would give her until the end of 21 January to produce a new motion for MPs to debate. Downing Street sources said it was "reasonable to assume" that the vote on it would happen later that week.

But the Prime Minister's spokesman said: "There would only be 90 minutes minutes to debate the motion is our understanding, and only one amendment could be selected."

Mr Starmer made clear his anger on Twitter.

Meanwhile Tom Brake, the Lib Dems' Brexit spokesman, said: "This is yet another shameful attempt from Theresa May and her cronies to shut down the right of MPs to debate the unraveling consequences of this Brexit mess.

"Clearly the Conservatives have learnt nothing from the last two defeats if they believe Parliament will accept a measly 90-minute debate with only one amendment."

But in a rare appearance at the Commons despatch box later, Chief Whip Mr Smith told MPs "no decision has been made" on the length of the debate.

He added: "The Government will do everything that in can to ensure that the House is fully consulted on every eventuality next week."