WATCH John McDonnell drops strongest hint yet that Labour will back cross-party bid to extend Article 50

Posted On: 
23rd January 2019

Labour is "highly likely" to back a cross-party push to halt a no-deal Brexit by extending Article 50, John McDonnell has said.

The Shadow Chancellor said it was "highly likely" Labour would back Yvette Cooper's amendment next week.

The Shadow Chancellor praised the "sensible" amendment tabled by Labour MP Yvette Cooper which would pave the way for a bill ordering ministers to delay Brexit if they cannot get a withdrawal agreement through the Commons by February 26.

The bid has been backed by senior Conservatives Nick Boles, Nicky Morgan and Sir Oliver Letwin, while Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey has already described it as "fantastic".

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Mr McDonnell told BBC Newsnight: "Yvette Cooper's put an amendment down, which I think is sensible...

"I think it's increasingly likely already that we'll have to take that option because the Government's run the clock down."

Asked directly whether Labour would vote for the amendment, Mr McDonnell said: "It's highly likely. We have to go through our own processes though within the party. That's how we've held people together.

"So I think it is sensible... We already backed Yvette on the amendment to the Finance Bill which was against a no-deal.

"So it's highly likely, but we'll go through our normal process of consultation with our members."

Formal backing from Labour would significantly increase the likelihood that the amendment - if selected for a vote by Commons Speaker John Bercow - will pass next week.

Explaining the move, Ms Cooper - who chairs the cross-party Home Affairs Committee - has said: "If the Government needs more time to sort this out and come up with a better plan they should be honest enough to admit it and take the steps needed in the national interest to make sure we don’t end up with a chaotic and damaging No Deal.

"If they won’t, then Parliament needs to be able to step in and put a more sensible process in place instead.”

The intervention from Labour's Shadow Chancellor came amid a fresh Cabinet row over whether or not Theresa May should allow Tory MPs a free hand if the Cooper amendment does come to a vote next week.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has warned the Prime Minister she will face a flood of ministerial resignations if she orders MPs to vote against it.

But that has reportedly sparked an angry backlash from other members of the Cabinet, with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said to have branded the warning "unhelpful".