Beleaguered Theresa May begs MPs not to 'duck' their duty by voting down Brexit bill

Posted On: 
22nd May 2019

Theresa May today begged MPs not to “duck” their duty on Brexit by voting down her controversial plan which has sparked a furious backlash from across the political divide.

Prime Minister Theresa May addressed the Commons today
Credit: 
Parliament TV

The Prime Minister admitted she would not be in office for much longer as she warned the House against continued “arguing and getting nowhere”.

But Jeremy Corbyn said his MPs could not “vote for a deal on the promise of a Prime Minister who only has days left in her job”.

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And Downing Street insisted the Commons will vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the first week of June - despite Michael Gove hinting that the plan could be ditched.

Mrs May laid out a “new” Brexit deal yesterday, which is set to be published as draft legislation on Friday.

She insisted she had compromised on areas such as workers' rights, environmental protections and a second referendum in order to woo Labour MPs.

But Tory MPs who had previously backed her plans immediately lined up to condemn the new bill, arguing they could not vote for a vehicle that could lead to a fresh referendum.

Addressing the Commons, Mrs May implored warring MPs to put their doubts about the bill to one side to make sure the UK leaves the EU.

She said: “In time, another Prime Minister will be standing at this despatch box. But while I am here, I have a duty to be clear with the House about the facts.

“If we are going to deliver Brexit in this Parliament we are going to have to pass a Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

“And we will not do so without holding votes on the issues that have divided us the most – that includes votes on customs arrangements and on a second referendum.”

She added: “We can pretend otherwise and carry on arguing and getting nowhere. But in the end our job in this House is to take decisions, not to duck them.”

'TIME IS UP'

But Mr Corbyn said: “No Labour MP can vote for a deal on the promise of a Prime Minister who only has days left in her job.

“Even if the Prime Minister could honour her promises, the deal she is putting before us doesn't represent a genuine compromise."

He said her plan was “riddled with contradiction and wishful thinking” and argued it was “little more than a repackaged version” of the deal which has been rejected by the Commons three times already.

Promises on working rights were unclear, while plans to maintain environmental protections did not go far enough, Mr Corbyn insisted.

And he fumedadded: “This Government is too weak and too divided to get this country out of the mess they have created.”

Elsewhere, Mr Corbyn renewed his calls for a general election, arguing Mrs May "has been focused only on keeping her divided party together".

"It hasn’t worked, and now her time has now run out," he added. "She no longer has the authority to offer a compromise and cannot deliver.

"That is why it is time for a general election to break the Brexit deadlock and give the country a say."

A Downing Street spokesman later urged all MPs to "familiarise themselves with the detail" of the bill when it is published on Friday.

But acknowledging that Mrs May is currently heading for defeat, he added: "We've got a job of work to do and that won't be easy."