Theresa May mocked as it emerges EU Withdrawal Bill may not be passed by the summer
Theresa May has been accused of "kicking the can down the road" after it emerged her flagship Brexit bill may not even be passed in time for the summer.
House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom confirmed to MPs that the EU Withdrawal Bill will not be considered by MPs again until after the upcoming week-long Whitsun recess.
But Downing Street also refused to confirm that the landmark legislation - which will transfer European law onto the UK statute book on day one of Brexit - will be passed before the Commons rises for the summer at the end of July.
If that were to happen, ministers would then face a race against time for the Bill to be law before October, when the Prime Minister hopes to agree her final Brexit deal with Brussels.
Peers have passed 15 amedments to the bill, leaving the Government with a massive headache as it tries to persuade the Commons to overturn the changes.
Shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman told PoliticsHome: "Theresa May’s flagship Brexit legislation has gone from being the Great Repeal Bill to the Great Delayed Bill.
"It is frankly embarrassing that nearly two years since the referendum ministers have failed to pass a single piece of Brexit legislation and are now kicking the can further down the road on crucial Commons votes.
"Theresa May needs to face down the extreme Brexiteers in her party and start putting the national interest first."
Labour MP Alison McGovern, of the People's Vote campaign calling for a second EU referendum, said: "Theresa May is becoming so expert at kicking the can down the road on Brexit that it’s a surprise Jürgen Klopp isn't taking her to Kiev.
"The Prime Minister cannot keep ducking the difficult issues she has created for herself with her ludicrous Brexit policy: at some point she will have to face the music.
"With the Government’s approach to Brexit descending increasingly into chaos, it only strengthens the need for clarity, and therefore the argument in favour of a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal."
Meanwhile, Mrs May has denied reports of a government climbdown over the customs union, after ministers threw their weight behind a plan that could see Britain keep close ties with Brussels long after the Brexit transition period expires.
It was reported this morning that the Prime Minister's Brexit 'war Cabinet' of top ministers had signed off on a new 'backstop' plan to avoid a hard Irish border should the UK fail to agree a solution on customs in time for the end of the Brexit transition period in 2021.
Top UK officials have said getting customs systems in place for Brexit could take up to 2023.
According to the Telegraph, the fresh UK back-up plan was approved despite strong objections from key Cabinet Brexiteers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
Speaking as she arrived at the EU western Balkans summit this morning, Mrs May pushed back at suggestions from reporters that the plan represented a "climbdown" on proposals to leave the EU's customs union.
"No, we are not [climbing down]," she said. "The United Kingdom will be leaving the customs union, we are leaving the European Union. Of course, we will be negotiating future customs arrangements with the European Union and I have set three objectives; the government has three objectives in those.
"We need to be able to have our own independent trade policy, we want as frictionless a border between the UK and the EU so that trade can continue. And we want to ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland."
The reported backstop option has already won the support of a key ally of Mrs May, with ex-deputy Prime Minister Damian Green saying getting UK customs arrangements right would be worth the wait.
But the plans have been given a frostry reception by key eurosceptics, with Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg warning they could leave the UK in "perpetual purgatory".
A Downing Street spokeswoman insisted there would be no extension to the transition period and added: "Once the implementation period is over we will sign and implemet our own trade deals."
However, she stopped short of saying that the UK would immeduately be able set a different external trade tariff from the EU.